12 OCT 2014 
#106 Carrier made a case against his theories in OHJ on Rastafarian faith and Haile Selassie

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Carrier's piece on the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie and the Rastafari religion (pages 18-20 of OHJ) is priceless and goes against Carrier's mythicist theory in a big way, despite his objections. It certainly would cancel out his conclusion from the Rank-Raglan hero scale (pages 225-253: entities, if highly mythologized, are fully mythical). Next I'll reproduce Carrier's writing with my embedded comments:

It's quite common for historical persons to become surrounded by a vast quantity of myth and legend, and very rapidly, too, especially when they become the object of religious veneration.

My comment: I could not have said it any better: as I see it here, Carrier throws out by the window his so-called evidence from the Rank-Raglan hero scale supposedly pointing to a completely mythical Jesus.

Thus, the fact that this has happened never in itself argues that the person in question didn't exist.

My comment: Absolutely!

One relatively recent example is the elevation of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie to the status of a god . . . by people he never asked this favor from and even repeatedly begged to stop. His deification (and continued worship to this day) is the foundation of the modern Rastafarian faith, which claims hundreds of thousands of adherents worldwide. It's telling that we know he professed to his death his own Christian faith and his continual despair at the fact that he had been elevated into a revered divinity so quickly—despite his protests (and one would think if your own god protested your worshiping him, you'd listen—and yet here we are). Myths and legends about him quickly grew—even within his own lifetime, and all the more rapidly in the two decades after his death in 1975. And yet none had any basis in fact. At all. Yet still they remain the central affirmations of a living faith.
The parallel with Jesus ought to be cautionary: if this could happen to Selassie, it could even more easily have happened to Jesus, there being no universal education or literacy, or even media per se in the ancient world. fn 1

My comment: So far, so good.

Perhaps Jesus himself continually begged his followers not to worship him. Yet they did anyway.

My comment: None of the gospels, despite their outrageous embellishments and claims, have Jesus asking to be worshiped by his followers.

We wouldn't know, because unlike Selassie, the only records we have of Jesus are written by his devoted worshipers. So perhaps everything told about Jesus is just as made up as everything now told about Selassie.

My comment: Yes, very similar cases.

Yet it's told anyway. And not just told, but believed completely by every adherent of the faith, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
But not merely the cautionary, but the factual parallels are numerous, too. Edmund Standing summarizes this point elegantly:
Looking at the status of Haile Selassie in the Rastafari religion we find the following: (1) The coming to earth of a messianic figure who was prophesied in the Old Testament; (2) a birth accompanied by miracles; (3) a child with immense divinely given wisdom who possessed miraculous powers; (4) a messiah whose actions were prefigured in Old Testament writings; (5) a man who could perform miracles and in whose presence miracles occurred; (6) a man who was worshiped and held to be divine by thousands who had not even met him; (7) a man who was the incarnation of God and who continues to live on despite evidence of his death; (8) a man who is prayed to and communicated with by his followers; (9) a savior who will one day return to gather up a chosen people who will live under his rule in a kingdom of God. Despite the facts related to the actual historical figure of Selassie, as we see, Rastafarians have built an extensive religious mythology around him, and even did so within his lifetime.

Imagine if at some point in the future . . . the vast bulk of the historical record was lost . . . [and] that the only records of Selassie's existence that had survived were the devotional accounts of Rastafarians. [Then . . .] the only story historians would have to work with would be made up of layers of mythology. The story of Selassie, a man who arose in a time in which Ethiopians were excitedly awaiting the coming of a Messiah, would be filled with references to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, stories of miracles, tales of God walking the earth, and the denial of the reality of the Messiah's death. They would read that Selassie is still alive and that part of the proof of this is that followers can 'communicate in spirit' with him. As a result of this, surely there would be some who would adopt a 'mythicist' position with regard to the historical Selassie. fn 2

And yet, of course, if they did, they would be wrong. Because there really was a Selassie. He just wasn't anything even remotely like the 'narratives' his worshipers wrote and told about him. In the scenario Standing imagines, the truth about the 'historical' Selassie would have been completely lost. Fragments of the truth would remain in the surviving devotional texts of his worshipers,

My comment: Yes, and about Jesus, these fragments can be found in the gospels (more so in gMark & Q), even in Paul's epistles (a Jew, poor, of no reputation, humble, with brothers (one named James, still alive in Paul's times), minister/servant to Jews, crucified in the Jewish heartland. See post #91).

but without any independent sources to check them against, we would have no way to know which details were historical and which mythical. We are hardly in any better position with respect to Jesus, for whom all direct sources (if ever there were any) have been completely lost, and all we have are the devotional claims and tales of his fanatical worshipers. This means reconstructing the historical Jesus may simply be impossible. fn 3

My comment: First, I do not think the gospels authors were fanatical worshipers. Second, by a process of sorting out the fiction & embellishments, following Paul's indications pointing to a "not much" (earthly/human) Jesus, it is possible to recover a true historical Jesus, uneducated Jew, not divine, not a teacher, not charismatic, not a rebel, not a cynic sage, not a magician, benefiting & then victim of (political & religious) circumstances, with reasons on why he got crucified as "King of the Jews" (see post #46), and still was very likely to trigger the development (by others, but not his followers) of a new cult/religion (see here).

But that in no way means there was no historical Jesus.

My comment: Next, Carrier goes into damage control mode.

There are significant differences, however, that break down Standing's analogy. First are the letters of Paul, which actually precede the Gospels by decades and are the nearest evidence we have to the original Jesus (if such there was), yet these letters only know a cosmic man and contain no real history of him at all (as I will demonstrate in Chapter 11) [85 pages!].

My comment: No, the letters of Paul are not only about a cosmic man (rather a spiritual deity), but also do state the existence of an earthly/human Jesus who lived in the near past (see earlier comment on this matter), despite Carrier's efforts to eliminate the evidence. Actually, Carrier had to admit, on the epistles (pages 594-595):
"So on this account the evidence of the Epistles, as strange as it is, is still more likely on h than on 'h, by just over 3 to 1 (and thus about three times more likely if Jesus existed, than if he didn't)."

Second are the methods of the Gospels' construction, which are so thoroughly mytho-symbolic that their composition actually argues against their containing any true historical data at all (a point I will examine in Chapter 10) [112 pages!].

My comment: Many fictional & mytho-symbolic elements, certainly. But Carrier is far for having proven that all elements in Mark's gospel and Q material belong to these categories. And arguing against is different than proving. Furthermore, at the end of his long chapter on the gospels, Carrier concluded "For now, my conclusion is that we can ascertain nothing in the gospels that can usefully verify the historicity of Jesus. But neither do they prove he didn't exist."
Also there are many signs in Mark's gospel showing the author had to counteract the testimony and silences of eyewitness(es) which were against his agenda: see post #28

And finally, Standing's assumption that we can expect independent records to have vanished in the case of Jesus is actually not quite as likely as he thinks. If Jesus was as famous as Selassie, it would be strange to hear nothing about him—almost as strange as it would be in Selassie's case now (as I'll explain in Chapter 8).
To avoid this oddity we must conclude that the real Jesus was a virtual nobody.

My comment: Well, as I found out, Jesus was a virtual nobody, and certainly no emperor or king. Just a rustic, admirer of John the Baptist, alleged (accidental) healer among rural Galileans, with a short-lived local fame, and not important enough for details of his life to be mentioned by historians, including Josephus.

But there are still problems with the evidence that suggest he wasn't even that (as I'll explain in Chapters 8, 9 and 10) [228 pages!]. Nevertheless, Standing's methodological proposals are sound: only if the differences I allege are actually there will the comparison fail. Otherwise, it's perfectly possible that a real Jesus underlies all the extant myths about him. Just as is the case for Haile Selassie. It's happened before in Christian tradition, both to real, and to fictional persons (as I suspect any survey of the plethora of saints worshiped in late antiquity and the Middle Ages would discover). fn4 So which was it for Jesus?

fn 1. On the differences between antiquity and modernity and the significance of this for legendary growth see Richard Carrier, Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed (Raleigh, NC: Lulu.com. 2009), pp. 161-218 (also 329-68, 385-405).
fn 2. From Edmund Standing. `Against Mythicism: A Case for the Plausibility of a Historical Jesus'. Think 9 (Spring 2010). pp. 13-27.
fn 3. As I demonstrated in Chapter 5 of Proving History, all attempts to do this so far have failed to maintain any logical validity; and as I also show in Chapter 1 there, every scholar who has seriously examined the methodologies involved agrees with me on that.
fn 4. For discussion of different kinds of 'myth-making' phenomena that quickly envelop historical characters in Christian tradition (whether they were ever real or not) see Bart Ehrman, Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); Rose Jeffries Peebles, The Legend of Longinus in Ecclesiastical Tradition and in English Literature, and its Connection with the Grail (Baltimore, MD: J.H. Furst Company, 1911); Thomas Hahn, `Judas: The Medieval Oedipus', Comparative Literature 32 (Summer 1980), pp. 225-37; and Paul Franklin Baum, 'The Medieval Legend of Judas Iscariot', Proceedings of the Modern Language Association of America 31 (1916), pp. 481-632; and Dennis MacDonald, 'A Conjectural Emendation of 1 Cor 15.31-32: Or the Case of the Misplaced Lion Fight', Harvard Theological Review 73 (January—April 1980), pp. 265-76.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {Carrier} {Carrier's OHJ} {Jesus' historicity} {mythicism} {Rank-Raglan}
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