21 Dec 2012 
#17 A mythicist argument based on false evidence, about Philo of Alexandria calling his firstborn archangel Jesus

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On a debate with Mark Goodacre on Premier Christian Radio's Unbelievable here, at 47:45 in the broadcast,
Carrier said: We do have a reference to a pre-existent being named Jesus who was the first born son of God, who was the high priest of the celestial temple, just like Hebrews explains, and was also called the logos, the word of God, and this is in Philo… Philo refers to this deity several times, this - deity's perhaps the wrong word, he's an archangel in Philo's vocabulary - who’s named Jesus.”

In his book, Not the Impossible Faith, p. 250-1, Carrier quoted Philo's passage in question:
Behold, the man named Rises!” is a very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul. But if you look upon it as applied to that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image, you will then agree that the name of ‘Rises’ has been given to him with great felicity. For the Father of the Universe has caused him to rise up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn. And he who is thus born, imitates the ways of his father..."
This is a quote from Confusion of tongues, XIV 62-63
However Carrier conveniently did not quote the introduction to the passage:
"I have also heard of one of the companions of Moses having uttered such a speech as this:"
I'll come back on that later.

So where is "Jesus" in all that? Nowhere to be seen in the quote. However, some scholars remarked some similar wording between Philo's writing and the OT book of Zechariah, 6:11-12. And Carrier picked up on that according to what he wrote again in Not the Impossible Faith, p. 250-1:
"Likewise with Zechariah 6:11-13, which not only says Jesus will “build the temple of the Lord,” but “he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a priest upon his throne.”"
Next is a Septuagint translation of Zechariah 6:11-15:
"And thou shalt take silver and gold, and make crowns, and thou shalt put them upon the head of Jesus the son of Josedec the high priest; 12 and thou [Zechariah] shalt say to him [Jesus son of Josedec], Thus saith the Lord Almighty; Behold the man whose name is the Branch [better translated as "Rises" or "Rising" or "bud"]; and he shall spring up from his stem, and build the house of the Lord. 13 And he shall receive power, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and there shall be a priest on his right hand, and a peaceable counsel shall be between them both. 14 And the crown shall be to them that wait patiently, and to the useful men of the captivity, and to them that have known it, and for the favor of the son of Sophonias, and for a psalm in the house of the Lord. 15 And they that are far from them shall come and build in the house of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you: and this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God"
http://ecmarsh.com/lxx/Zacharias/index.htm

My first argument: Outside that alleged allusion to Zechariah 6:12, Philo quoted only nine writings by a prophet in all his books. Each time he introduced the quote as emanating from either a "prophet" or one of the "prophets".
- Questions and answers on Genesis II 43 --> Isa 1:9
- On dreams II XXVI 172 --> Isa 5:9
- On the change of names XXXI 169 --> Isa 48:22
- On rewards and punishments XXVII 156 --> Isa 54:1
- On flight and finding XXXVI 197 --> Jer 2:13
- On the Cherubim II XIV 49 --> Jer 3:4
- On the confusion of tongues XII 44 --> Jer 15:10
- Noah's work as a planter XXXIII 138 --> Hos 14:9
- On the change of names XXIV 139 --> Hos 14:9
And the words in question are spoken by God (not one of the companions of Moses!) in Zec 6:12.

My second argument: Philo said he heard of the saying, and not claiming he read it from the OT prophetic writings. However,
Philo might have plucked "Rises" from Zechariah 6, but he did not want to admit it, therefore avoiding "Rises" to be associated with its context in 'Zechariah' (as a man who will build the second temple).
That allowed Philo to apply the name ("novel appellation") to God's incorporeal firstborn.
OR
Philo, who in his writings rarely used the prophetic OT texts, was not aware that the saying is in the book of Zechariah. If he did, he would not have qualified "Rises" as a novel appellation.
Notes:
1) Who would be a Companion of Moses? according to "one of the followers of Moses" in Philo's "on Dreams" (where that follower is identified as a psalmist), and "the companions of Moses" in Philo's "On the Unchangeableness of God", "companion/follower of Moses" would mean any Jew, at any time.
2) Every time Philo brought the expression companions/friend/kinsman/followers/disciples of Moses, he also specified the quote is from a psalmist (also prophet or not), or/and from a psalm or hymn or sacred oracles, or a prophet. The only exception is in the passage from "On Dreams" (with "Rises) already quoted, heard by Philo as spoken in a speech.
My third argument: In Zechariah 6, God is asking "Zechariah" that Jesus the high priest (ch. 3), son of Josedec, to be the keeper of crowns (on his head) and wait for a still undeclared man ("Rises") to "spring up from his stem" and then rebuild the temple and becoming the king (the temple of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians and still not rebuilt yet).
Then the future (human) king (named the "Rises"), the one that Carrier thinks Philo referred to, is not Jesus (son of Josedec) but someone else. According to the context, Zechariah might have thought (or/and hoped) that Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, would be that one: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it;" (Zec 4:9).
And then we have Zec 3:8 (LXX), proving definitively that Zechariah was not declaring that Jesus, son of Josedec, is also named "Rises":
"Hear now, Jesus the high priest, thou, and thy neighbours that are sitting before thee: for they are diviners, for, behold, I bring forth my servant The Branch ["Rises", same word as in Zec 6:12, the Greek 'anatole']."

In any case, nobody would confuse a mortal Jesus, son of Josedec, for the eternal second deity of Philo (who certainly is not a man, but an archangel).

For a recapitulation, Philo did not name that Jesus or reference the saying to Zechariah, or a prophet, or something/somebody to be read. He only borrowed "Rises" ('anatole') from a saying as allegedly heard spoken from a Jew in order to apply it to his incorporeal being.

Carrier is again into the "imagine" mode and depending on false evidence in order to make his case.

Finally, a very diplomatic note from Doherty:
"By the way, on Richard Carrier’s Logos as Jesus, I do feel he did stretch things a bit. One can make that link through rather indirect channels, but the difficulties compromise the specific connection he seemed to be trying to make." which, according to Doherty, does not mean necessarily Carrier was wrong.

But which mythicist "evidence" is not stretched? or/and linked through rather indirect channels? or/and with difficulties compromising the specific connection?
The fact that Carrier uses that kind of evidence is telling a lot about his methodology. And I do not think he applied the Bayes theorem on that one!

PS: In OHJ (Element 6, pages 81-83), Carrier makes plenty of assumptions from a combination of Zechariah 3 & 6, Daniel 9 ("anointed prince") and the suffering servant of Isaiah 52-53 (because "these dots can be easily connected") in order to conclude:
The significance of this is that if such a connection had been made, the connector would have before him, in a simple pesher of Jewish scripture, a celestial being named Jesus Christ Rising, a high priest of God, in opposition to Satan, who is wrongly executed even though innocent, and dies to atone for all sins, is buried and subsequently 'raised', exalted to the highest station in heaven, appointed king with supreme heavenly power by God, and who will then build God's house (the church). That sounds exactly like Christianity. And all from connecting just three passages in the OT that already have distinctive overlapping similarities. Such a coincidence cannot be ignored; it must be included in our background knowledge. Would Christians really have been that lucky, that all this connected so obviously? Or are we seeing here where the whole idea of the Christian gospel came from in the first place?
Note:
How could any pesher not take in account "Zechariah" wrote his prophecies before the temple of Jerusalem (God's house) was rebuilt, preventing the supposition that temple was in heaven?
Zec 1:7 "Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,"
Zec 1:16 "Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem."
And how peshering on selected passages from three different books (& sometimes with tunnel vision) be declared "simple pesher of Jewish scripture" "connected so obviously"?
How could Carrier's biased pesher be considered as evidence?
In Element 40 (pages 200-205), Carrier comes back on the same, but involving Philo of Alexandria a lot more, and is quite affirmative from the very beginning:
"In fact, the Christian idea of a preexistent spiritual son of God' called the Logos, who was God's true high priest in heaven, was also not novel idea but already held by some pre-Christian Jews [I agree with this statement]; and this preexistent spiritual son of God had already been explicitly connected with a celestial Jesus figure in the OT (discussed in Element 6),
[Note: I certainly do not agree that Philo, or any others, connected Philo's Logos with a mortal or celestial Jesus from Zechariah. There is no evidence for that]
and therefore some Jews already believed there was a supernatural son of God named Jesus—because Paul's contemporary Philo interprets the messianic prophecy Zech. 6.12 in just such a way.
[Note: how would Carrier know that? Just through tenuous & convoluted series of suppositions, products of his tendentious imagination]

Later, Carrier was even more overly affirmative on the topic here (no more necessity to pesher!):
"Philo explicitly says the person in Zechariah 6 is that Logos. And that person in Zechariah 6 is named Jesus, in the very passage Philo quotes a portion of. He explicitly says that personage is the archangelic Logos (and all the other attributes matching Jesus). This is not an inference I am making. It’s what Philo is explicitly saying."
I say Carrier is very wrong here.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {Carrier} {Carrier's OHJ} {mythicism} {Philo of Alexandria}
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Comment from: gakuseidon

Good analysis, Bernard. This is another of the items that I am interested to see Carrier present in his new book. Surely he must have more than what he presented in the podcast? If not, I don't doubt he will get a lot of negative feedback on his argument.
2012-12-27
Comment from: mullerb

Thanks, gakuseidon. But you read my post when I was still editing it. Read it again, please.

Cordially, Bernard
2014-02-04