09 May 2013 
#70 Carrier's use of 2 Samuel 7 in order to demonstrate it was believed God had a cosmic sperm bank in outer space in order to make an eternal heavenly Messiah from David's seed.

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In this video at 41:20, Richard Carrier used 2 Samuel 7 in order to dispel that Romans 1:3 ("concerning His Son, (who is come of the seed of David according to the flesh") implies a human & earthly origin for Jesus. 

Carrier contends that here in '2 Samuel' God appears to say, to king David himself: I will take a sperm from your belly, I will make a king who will rule forever. 
Carrier adds that any Messiah (including a mythicist one!) was expected then to have his flesh to be Jewish and Davidic. 
For Carrier, since there had been no immortal King/Messiah yet, early Christians would understand the passage from 2 Samuel as implying (or justifying) God has a cosmic sperm bank (with David sperms) in outer space in order to make a Messiah who will rule forever. 

Is it really in the realm of possibility? 

Of course, this seems to be pure speculation: we have no evidence anyone in antiquity interpreted 2 Samuel 7 that way. 

But let's look as the relevant part of 2 Samuel 7 (Septuagint): 

7:1 And it came to pass when the king [David] sat in his house, and the Lord had given him an inheritance on every side free from all his enemies round about him; 2 that the king said to Nathan the prophet, Behold now, I live in a house of cedar, and the ark of the Lord dwells in the midst of a tent. 3 And Nathan said to the king, Go and do all thatis in your heart, for the Lord is with you. 

4 And it came to pass in that night, that the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying, 5 Go, and say to my servant David, Thus says the Lord, you shall not build me a house for me to dwell in. 6 For I have not dwelt in a house from the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt to this day, but I have been walking in a lodge and in a tent, 7 wheresoever I went with all Israel. Have I ever spoken to any of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to tend my people Israel, saying, Why have you not built me a house of Cedar? 

8 And now thus shall you say to my servant David, Thus says the Lord Almighty

... 

12 And it shall come to pass when your days shall have been fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, that I will raise up your seed after you, which goes out from your bowels
 [or belly] , and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build for me a house to my name, and I will set up his throne even forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. And when he happens to transgress, then will I chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the sons of men. 15 But my mercy I will not take from him, as I took it from those whom I removed from my presence. 16 And his house shall be made sure, and his kingdom forever before me, and his throne shall be set up forever

17 According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. 


First, it is obvious "I will raise up your seed after you, which goes out from your bowels" refers to David providing his seed ('sperma' in the LXX) in order to conceive Solomon, the son and successor of David. The future tense is used here because, at that point of time, Solomon is not born yet, not even conceived (that will be done at 12:24). 

Solomon is the one who will build the temple (1 Kings 5-6) "He shall build for me a house to my name" which David did not: "you shall not build me a house for me to dwell in". 

It would be most difficult for anyone to interpret that passage as referring to an eternal Messiah to come. 

And "his throne" (symbol of royal authority) and "his kingdom" lasting "forever" do not refer to Solomon's lifetime but to the Davidic dynasty,  which, when '2 Samuel' was written, was still ruling over Israel (as during the reign of Josiah, some four hundred years later). 

That is corroborated in 1 Kings 9:5 "[God to Solomon] Then I will establish the throne of your kingdom upon Israel forever, as I promised to David your father

Nowhere, it is said that new king (from the seed of David) will live forever

Once again, Carrier is imagining things to serve his own agenda. 

And, if God truly had a live sperm of David in heaven, what would be its use if not to impregnate a real woman in order to generate that Messiah? (after a gestation period of nine months and then about twenty years to reach adult age! and all of that in heaven!). However Richard denied that the woman in Galatians 4:4 is real, only allegorical (Haggar, the maid servant of Abraham's wife): see here 

Furthermore Carrier made a point about the strangeness of the word used by Paul for made/became/born in Romans 1:3.  

I already addressed that on this blog: 

Why would Paul use 'ginomai' (become, be made, come; as in Romans 1:3 & Galatians 4:4) instead of 'gennao' (born)? 

Probably to take into account an incarnation from a pre-existent heavenly being: if 'gennao' had been employed by Paul, that would imply Jesus started his life as a baby, rather than as a divine entity a very long time before.

Furthermore, 'ginomai' has been translated as "born" in cases involving human origin, as in:
- Plato's Republic, 8.553 "... When a son born ['genomenos' (root 'ginomai')] to the timocratic man at first emulates his father ..." (Paul Shorey's translation)
- Josephus' Ant., I, XIX, 8 "... and when she [Lea] had born ['genomenou' (root 'ginomai')]a son, and her husband ... reconciled to her, she named her son Reubel ..." (Wm. Whiston's translation)
- Josephus' Ant., VII, VII, 4 "... the child that was born ['genomenw' (root 'ginomai')] to David of the wife of Uriah ..." (Wm. Whiston's translation)
- Pausanias' Description of Greece, 1.5.2 "... Antiochus, one of the children of Heraclesborn ['genomenos' (root 'ginomai')] to him by Meda daughter of Phylas ..." (W.H.S. Jones & H.A. Ormerod's translation) 

I guess Carrier will make also a point on the fact " I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son" appears also in 'Hebrews' (1:5b), where the son is suggested to refer to Jesus (but not to any angel).
However, the author of 'Hebrews' was a master for using out-of-context quotes. And his use of 2 Samuel 7:14a does not imply he (and any other Christians then) thought 2 Samuel 7:1-16 features a non-earthly Messiah (in place of Solomon). More so when it is written "when he [Solomon] happens to transgress, then will I [God] chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the sons of men" (7:14b).
Note: Solomon is said to transgress in 1 Kings 11 and is subsequently punished by God. 

Update: from Carrier's new book, "On The Historicity Of Jesus" (page 576) (bolding mine): 

"Scripture said the prophet Nathan was instructed by God to tell King David (here following the Septuagint translation, although the Hebrew does not substantially differ): 

"'When your days are done, and you sleep with your fathers, I will raise up your sperm after you, which shall come from your belly, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build for me a house in my name, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son' (2 Samuel 7.12-I4a)." 

If this passage were read like a pesher (Element 8), one could easily con­clude that God was saying he extracted semen from David and held it in reserve until the time he would make good this promise of David's progeny sitting on an eternal throne. For otherwise God's promise was broken: the throne of David's progeny was not eternal (Element 23). Moreover, the original poetic intent was certainly to speak of an unending royal line (and not just biologically, but politically: it is the throne that would be eternal, yet history proves it was not); yet God can be read to say here that he would raise up a single son for David who will rule eternally, rather than a royal line, and that 'his' will be the kingdom God establishes, and 'he" will build God's house (the Christian church: Element 18), and thus he will be the one to sit upon a throne forever—and this man will be the Son of God. In other words, Jesus Christ (the same kind of inference Paul makes in Gal. 3.13-4.29, where he infers Jesus is also the 'seed of Abraham' also spoken of in scripture).
 
My note:
Gal 3:16 "Now to Abraham and his seed ['sperma'] were the promises made. He said not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to your seed ['sperma'], which is Christ."
It is clear here that Paul did not use the word "seed" to indicate "sperm", but "descendant".
 
Ro 11:1 "I say then, Has God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed ['sperma'] of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."
2Cor 11:22 "Are they Hebrews? *I* also. Are they Israelites? *I* also. Are they seed ['sperma'] of Abraham? *I* also"
The same goes here. Certainly Paul did not pretend to have been conceived (according to the flesh!) with a sperm from Abraham. He simply indicated his belief he was a descendant of Abraham (like many others).
 
Therefore Carrier's literal interpretation of "seed" = "sperm" in Romans 1:3 is rather stupid, as "corrected" in the RSV:
"the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David ["become from David's seed"] according to the flesh"
 
Sperms were not discovered and observed before 1677. So there is no way that 'sperma' could be translated by "sperm" (the same goes for Romans 1:3). This is a minor point, because 'sperma' can also mean "semen". Regardless, Carrier's translation cannot be right.

About translations, I checked 20 of them for 2 Samuel 7:12 (from the Hebrew 'zera') and for Romans 1:3 (from the Greek), and none of them has "sperm" (or "semen") for 'zera' or 'sperma'. Most translations have "seed", offspring(s), descendant(s), etc. My question: from where did Carrier get his "sperms", except from his own biased imagination?

Without considering 2 Samuel 7:12, there are eight occurrences of 'zera' (all of them showing as 'sperma' in the LXX) in 1 Samuel & 2 Samuel: 1 Samuel 1:11, 2:20, 8:15, 20: 42 (twice) & 24:21 2 Samuel 4:8, 22:51.
None of them can be translated, according to the context, as "sperm" or "semen". Why would that be different for 2 Samuel 7:12?
In the LXX:
- 'sperma' means "semen" only nine times (once in Genesis (38:4) and eight times in Leviticus (15:16,17,18,32, 18:20,21, 19:20 & 22:4)).
- Out of the two hundred & two verses where 'sperma' occurs, it means descendant(s) in around three quarters of them, in twenty-five different books (other meanings are either "semen" (as previously mentioned) or plant seed).
- 'sperma' means descendant(s) of David in seven verses (1 Samuel 20:42, 24:21, 2 Samuel 7:12, 22:51, 1 Kings 2:23 & 1 Chronicles 17:11).

And Carrier ventures on page 579:
"As we have seen, Paul already says (even in this very argument: Gal. 3.16) that Jesus is of the seed of Abraham and David."
So now the sperm from David is also the one from Abraham!
Ridiculous, but understandable if "seed" means "descendance" (or "descendant"). 

"It would not be unimaginable that God could maintain a cosmic sperm bank.

My note: why something which "would not be unimaginable" be the truth?

After all, God's power was absolute; and all sorts of things could be stored up in heaven (Element 38), even our own future bodies (2 Cor. 5.1-5). Later Jewish legend imagined demons running their own cosmic sperm bank, even stealing David's sperm for it, to beget his enemies with, so surely God could be imagined doing the same. When the prophecy of Nathan is read in conjunction with subsequent history, this would be the most plausible way to rescue God's prophecy: God could not have been speaking of David's hereditary line (as no one ever established or sat on an eternal throne), so he must have been speaking of a special son who will be born of David's sperm in the future, using the sperm God took up 'from his belly' when David still lived. For the prophecy does not say God will set up an eternal throne for the one born of sperm from a subsequent heir's belly, but of sperm from David's own belly. 

"The notion of a cosmic sperm bank is so easily read out of this scripture, and is all but required by the outcome of subsequent history, that it is not an improbable assumption. And since scripture required the messiah to be Davidic, anyone who started with the cosmic doctrine inherent in minimal mythicism would have had to imagine something of this kindThat Jesus would be made 'from the sperm of David' is therefore all but entailed by minimal mythicism."

With the "prior" in the Pauline epistles (2 Cor 11:22, Gal 3:16, Ro 4:13, 16, 18, 9:7, 9:29 & 11:1), where "seed" (='sperma') means "descendance" or "descendant" (by blood or, for Gentiles, adoption) and not "human sperm", how would Carrier's theory fare when put in one of his Bayes theorems? Miserably

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {Carrier} {Carrier's OHJ} {earthly & human Jesus} {Jesus' historicity} {mythicism} {seed of David}
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