17 Jul 2014 
#95 Comments on Carrier's explanations in OHJ on "woman" in Galatians 4:4

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On page 577 of OHJ, Carrier starts his argumentation as such:

"Paul also never names Jesus' mother, and only mentions Jesus having a mother in a strangely vague passage, in a chapter where Paul otherwise speaks of mothers being allegorical [of course I will strongly object to that]; he says nothing about Jesus' mother otherwise. The passage in question reads:

"If you are Christ's, then you [like him] are the sperm of Abraham, heirs according to the promise. And I say that as long as the heir is a child, he's no different from a slave. Even though he is lord of all. he is under guardians and stewards until [the day] the father has foreordained. And so we too. were enslaved under the elements of the universe when we were children. But when the fullness of time came. God sent his son, made from a woman, made under the law, in order to rescue those under the law, in order that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons. God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying 'Abba, father!' As a result, you are no longer a slave, but a son: and if a son, then also an heir by God.... [So, Paul asks, why are you returning to the elements that had enslaved you, whom you know aren't really gods? Remember how things were when we met? Why re-subject yourself to the Torah law all over again?]

[here Carrier omits 14 verses, making it looks that the allegory follows closely "God sent his son, made from a woman, ...", which is not the case]
 
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one from a slave woman and one from a free woman—but the one from the slave woman was born according to the flesh, and the one from the free woman by the promise.
 
[no allegory so far. These women are presented as real, earthly & human, and having lived in the past. The allegory will start at the next verse]
 
Which things are said allegorically, for these [women] are the two testaments,
[the two women are associated each to a testament. That does not make them "allegorical"]
 
the first being the one from Mount Sinai, which gives birth to slavery. That's Hagar—Hagar meaning Mount Sinai in Arabia, which corresponds to Jerusalem now, for she is enslaved with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother ... [as scripture says].
 
[so Hagar is corresponding to mount Sinai (where the Law came from) and the Jerusalem now (still existing and enforcing the Law). Sarah, the free woman represents the heavenly Jerusalem of Christians, the (figuratively) spiritual mother of (earthly & human) believers]
 
So now, [my] brothers, we are the children of the promise, like Isaac [the son of the free woman, i.e.. Sarah]. But as in those days the one born according to the flesh [i.e. Ishmael]persecuted the one according to the spirit [i.e. Isaac], so it is now. But what does the scripture say? Cast out the slave girl and her son, for the son of the slave girl will not be heir with the son of the free woman [= Genesis 21.10]. Accordingly, [my] brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free one. For freedom did Christ set us free [so don't go back to being a slave to the elements.]
(Gal. 3.29-4.7 and 4.22-5.1)."

It's clear that Paul is speaking from beginning to end about being born to allegorical women, not literal ones.
 
[not really, the women here are not allegorical. They are understood to have existed in the past. Their biblical stories are used in the allegory to personify the Law and freedom from the Law. There are no allegorical Sarah and Hagar!]
 
The theme throughout is that Christians are heirs of 'the promise' (to Abraham), and as such have been born to the allegorical Sarah, the free woman, which is the 'Jerusalem above', mean­ing the heavenly city of God. Jesus was momentarily born to the allegorical Hagar, the slave woman, which is the Torah law (the old testament),
 
[where did Paul say that? Carrier is imagining things here in a big way, Furthermore, according to Ro 1:3 ("from the seed of David according to the flesh"), & Ro 9:3-5 (from Israelites) & Ro 15:12 (from Jesse), Paul thought Jesus was a descendant of Sarah, not Hagar]
 
which holds sway in the earthly Jerusalem, so that he could kill off that law with his own death, making it possible for us to be born of the free woman at last.
 
[Carrier is acting like a theologian, interpreting the text in order to draw the conclusion he wants. Paul never associated Jesus' crucifixion with a (symbolistic) rebirth from a different woman]
 
This is what Paul means when he says Jesus was made 'under the law' and 'from a woman'; he means Hagar, representing the old law; but we now (like Jesus now) have a new mother: God's heavenly kingdom.
 
[totally unevidenced in the quoted text. So now Jesus would change allegorical mother after his death! Paul never wrote about that. Carrier then continues on the same idea ...]
 
... 
 
And then he claims:

It's obvious to me that by 'born of a woman, born under the law' Paul means no more than that Jesus was, by being incarnated, placed under the sway of the old covenant, so that he could die to it (and rise free, as shall we).
 
[back to Carrier's maverick theological explanations! Also he admits his interpretation is personal]
 
So the 'woman' here is simply the old covenant, not an actual person. Paul does not mean a biological birth to Mary or any other Jewess. Indeed, that would make little sense here. Other than to reflect his upcoming alle­gorical point, why would Paul mention Jesus having a mother here at all? What purpose does that fact serve in his argument?
 
[according to my understanding, and what precede "made from a woman" (and NOT from verses located some sixteen ones later!), that can be explained very simply and straightforwardly: see here]
 
It cannot be that this made Jesus a Jew, as in antiquity that fact would have been established by patrimony or circumcision (Exod. 12.48), not the identity of his mother (except in mixed marriages, which cannot have been the circumstance of Jesus—much less what Paul had in mind, as if he was implying Jesus did not have a Jewish father).
 
[but who needs that woman to make a Jew out of Jesus? Patrimony by descendance from Jesse, David & Israelites, as evidenced in Paul's epistles, is good enough. And how was Paul implying Jesus did not have a Jewish father?]
 
As we have seen, Paul already says (even in this very argument: Gal. 3.16) that Jesus is of the seed of Abraham and DavidIf all he wanted to establish was that Jesus was a Jew, that would have suf­ficed. Indeed, Paul cannot be citing Jesus' birth 'to a woman' to establish he was a Jew, for he does not even specify that this woman was Jewish—she is simply 'a woman'.
 
[now Carrier is contradicting himself: Paul did establish Jesus was a Jew! So why does Carrier insist the woman of Gal 4:4 could not have been cited by Paul for the purpose of making Jesus a human being and a Jew ("under the Law")? And who said Paul featured that woman in order to prove Jesus was a Jew? It looks Carrier made his own straw man and then refutes it]
 
That isn't even specific enough to certainly mean a human woman—gods, angels, spirits and demons could also be women, and give birth.
 
[one of these female "gods, angels, spirits and demons" would need to be also real "flesh & blood" in order to generate a "flesh & blood" Jesus in the celestial realm: that's getting insane! And why would Paul need to be specific if Jesus was then thought to be normally conceived and born? Female spirits can give birth? As also Jewish gods (rather goddesses!), and female angels & demons? And go through nine months of gestation! with Jesus needing some twenty years to grow up to adulthood in the celestial realm! And Carrier forgot to mention his allegorical Hagar in the mix!]

Even if we just assume he means a human, that is already a rather odd thing to say of a historical man—aren't all men born to a woman? What woman does Paul mean? Why mention her? And why mention her only in such an abstract way—as simply a generic 'woman'?
 
["born to a woman" or similar expressions are used in the Old Testament to indicate human earthly mortal persons (Job 14:1, 15:14 & 25:4) as also in the gospels (Mt 11:11 & Lk 7:28).
And "woman" is not abstract. And yes, Paul needed only a generic woman in order to make his case, as explained here]
 
The only plausible answer is the answer Paul himself gives us in the completion of his argu­ment: he is talking about allegorical women. Hence the generic term 'a woman', and hence the paralleled concepts of being born enslaved to the law and being born free, and hence the whole point of even mentioning this detail about Jesus here in the first place. The assumption that he means Jesus had a human mother simply doesn't make sense of the text as we have it.
 
[Carrier's convoluted interpretation and explanation are far from being plausible. The parallel concepts are Carrier's own invention & straw man]

So Paul's reference to Jesus being 'made' (genomenos) of the 'seed' (sperma) of David and being 'made' (genomenos) from a woman are essen­tially expected on minimal mythicism and thus do not argue against it. In fact, that Christians were aware of the distinction between Paul saying 'made' rather than 'born' is proved by orthodox attempts to change what he said from one to the other. And in fact we know many Christians did conceive of these things celestially. Irenaeus documents this extensively in his first book Against All Heresies, where we learn of celestial 'seeds' impregnating the celestial 'wombs' of celestial 'women' (e.g. 1.1.1; 1.5.6; 1.8.4), and of Jesus being fully understood as having been born to a 'woman' of exactly that sort (e.g. 1.30.1-3). Irenaeus also documents how these Christians saw the Gospels as allegories and not histories. Irenaeus himself assumes the Gospels are histories, of course, but it does not look like they did.
 
["genemenos" usually means "become" and is very well suited in order to indicate a change of forms, such as incarnation from a spiritual entity to a human being (Paul had Jesus as pre-existent). And the "many" Christians referred to by Irenaeus are actually 2nd century Gnostics]

How many other Christian sects had thought the same? How many of their ideas date back to the beginning? We have no way to be sure the answer is none (Element 22). All the sects Irenaeus speaks of are as late and evolved as the 'orthodoxy' Irenaeus was defending against them, and thus all as divergent from original Christianity (Chapter 4, §3). But they may have retained kernels of the original faith that Irenaeus's sect had aban­doned or suppressed. So the question is which kernels are the more original, and which the later inventions? We cannot answer this from the armchair as Irenaeus did, and certainly not with his specious apologetical methods and biases. Instead, if we start with minimal mythicism, we can easily predict the original kernel to most likely have been that Jesus was indeed made from a celestial sperm that God snatched from David, by which God could fulfill his promise to David against the appearance of history having broken it. That this fits what we read in Paul therefore leaves us with no evidence that Paul definitely meant anything else. As for Jesus having a mother, Paul never says any such thing—he only speaks of women allegorically in that context.
 
[again straw man, assumptions, speculations, suppositions, repetitions ... The rest of Carrier's rambling is confusing and complicated, but he does admit (grudgingly) "become of the seed of David according to the flesh" and "become from a woman, become under the Law" fit historicism at 100% (and mythicism at 50%)]

"Minimal mythicism practically entails that the celestial Christ would be understood to have been formed from the 'sperm of David', even literally (God having saved some for the purpose, then using it as the seed from which he formed Jesus' body of flesh, just as he had done Adam's). I do not deem this to be absolutely certain. Yet I could have deduced it even without knowing any Christian literature, simply by combining minimal mythicism with a reading of the scriptures and the established background facts of previous history. And that I could do that entails it has a very high prob­ability on minimal mythicism. It is very much expected. So my personal judgment is that its probability is as near to 100% as makes all odds. At the very least, the probability that Paul would only ever speak of Jesus' parents so obliquely and theologically on minimal historicity is no greater than the probability that he would imagine Jesus was incarnated from Davidic sperm on minimal mythicism, making this a wash. But arguing a fortiori, I shall set the latter probability at 50%, against a 100% probability on minimal historicity. Thus, although I do not believe this counts as evidence for histo­ricity at all, I am willing to allow that it might, in those proportions. In other words, although I doubt it, these vague passages might be twice as likely on historicity.

"The same follows for Paul's saying that Jesus was 'made from a woman, made under the law'. I showed how even in context that reads as an allegorical statement, not a literal one. And I am personally certain that's how Paul meant it. So I believe it has a 100% probability on minimal mythicism, given that such allegories are completely expected (Element 14), and given the context of the whole chapter in which he says it (and the preceding chapter as well, where Paul repeatedly talks about the law as a cosmic force and not a biological inheritance, and about assuming identities allegorically and not literally). But since all this is not yet commonly accepted (I am looking at the text without the presuppositions of historicity that all previ­ous scholars have done), I will argue a fortiori by saying it has only a 50% chance of being what we'd expect given those facts. And for comparison I'll assume that this bizarre and inexplicable way of talking about Jesus' mother is 100% expected on minimal historicity—even though it isn't. So again, although I doubt it, this passage might also be twice as likely on historicity.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {Carrier} {Carrier's OHJ} {Galatians} {Galatians 4:4} (Jesus' historicity} {mythicism} {woman/women}
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