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Old 06-04-2001, 08:48 AM   #1
Richard Carrier
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Lightbulb Of Empty Tombs and Alexandrian Libraries

On “The historicity of the empty tomb” comparison with the Arab sack of the library of Alexandria (made by Nomad, May 31, 2001 10:20 AM, under “RC on the Great Library”), this is a good example, since it shows degrees of belief. First, I believe the Muslims sacked the library, but I admit the degree of my belief is not as great as it is for other claims (e.g. that Caesar crossed the Rubicon). But however it happened, it is absolutely certain that the library was destroyed. Second, I believe the empty tomb is a legend, but I admit the degree of my unbelief is not as great as it is for other claims. But that there was an empty tomb is not at all certain, as the destruction of the library is. Neverthelss, I actually allow in all my essays that the empty tomb could have been genuine (I actually say so in more than one place). So all I have to explain is why I put significantly more belief in the Arab sack of the library than in the empty tomb. My reasons will be instructive, showing how to properly apply historical method. The following remarks refer back to Nomad’s post above. What is important to emphasize is that the distinction is not black and white, but a clear difference in the weight and quality of evidence. None of what I say below ensures there was no empty tomb, but it certainly justifies some doubts, in a way that the evidence does not justify in the case of the Muslim sack. Moreover, it is only when all five lines of evidence come together that the conclusion is reached: no one point alone is sufficient in either case.

Against (1) Paul never mentions an empty tomb, nor do any epistles, and his conversion, compared to the others as the same, is not from a physical encounter. All the circumstantial evidence from our earliest sources fails to support an empty tomb. We have no such evidence against a Muslim sack of the library. Worse, the fact that scholarship ceased just then entails the loss of a library, whereas an empty tomb is not required to have begun Christianity. Only visions were needed, as we know first hand from Paul, and there are ready reasons why the legend would arise. See Craig's Empty Tomb and Habermas on the Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus, and the lecture version of Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story.

Against (2) the book of Mark is clearly the source for all other sources, post-dating Paul who never mentions such a story, yet Mark is written by an anonymous source and has no hallmarks of historical writing, but is in the genre of hagiography, the least reliable source document one can have. Worse, there are plenty of strong reasons why Mark would invent an empty tomb (at the very least: to link Jesus with Elijah in death as he already had in life), but fewer and weaker reasons why the story of a Muslim burning of the library would be made up.

Against (3), the resurrection did not occur in a Dark Age, but in an age of high culture, where many talented, educated men were travelling about and writing, and Palestine in particular had several historiographers, Josephus and Philo being the only ones to survive intact, but despite the constant need to find evidence in pagan sources, Christians fail to cite any other Palestinian historian for the event, even Josephus (who is not cited to this end until Eusebius the Liar). We have far more evidence for the crucifixion of Jesus than for the empty tomb, and our evidence for the Muslim sack of the library is as good or better than that for the crucifixion of Jesus.

Against (4), the claim that the authors of the Gospels are actually Mark, Matthew, Luke and John is not universally attested by all early sources, and is unhelpful since we don’t really know who these men were even if these were their names. All early manuscripts lack the attribution altogether, and that is a far superior witness than anyone’s second hand claims. Moreover, the earliest sources of quotations from the Gospels (Ignatius, Justin, Polycarp, the Didache) do not name them at all, and the first to name them (Papias) is notorious for believing the most ridiculous stories (like that Judas’ head swelled to the size of a wagon trail), and what he tells us about the Gospels is in fact ambiguous and does not actually fit very well the Gospels we have.

Against (5) the evidence Nomad presents has no parallel even with the form of my argument. It is plausible that the Muslims as they were in the 7th century would not care about destroying a library, and the way they are depicted in the account of doing so fits their character at the time. Therefore, the story rings true. In contrast, the first account of an empty tomb is in a hagiography aimed at impressing readers with the divinity of its main character, later greatly embellished by having a bogus ending added on to it, and then in other texts having even more fantastic stories attached to it, all in a span of but one or two generations of each other. All the while, somehow none of the earlier epistles ever mentions the detail. This does not ring true. There are several clouds of suspicion hanging over the story from the start. Worse, there are problems with the story when placed in context: Mark never mentions several important Jewish Laws, such as that the tomb of a deceased man had to be visited on the third day to ensure he was not buried by mistake, and that criminals had to be buried in a special graveyard reserved for the condemned. And thus Jesus could not have been in Joseph’s tomb Sunday morning: it would have been illegal. Though there are good reasons why this would not be known by the women, the women would surely suspect, from repeatedly obeying the visitation law in past funerals, that an empty tomb meant Jesus was not really dead and was buried by mistake, but that reaction is never attributed to them. Mark never has the women do what real women would do, such as go ask Joseph where the body was (or at least inform him that it was now empty), yet Joseph never again appears in history. None of this proves the account is false, but it certainly makes it very fishy, in a way that the Muslim sack account is not.

Nomad concludes that, using my words, “certainly, there is no good reason to insist the story is false.” Well, fair enough: I never do insist the empty tomb story is false, I merely say it is doubtful, in five particular ways that the Muslim sack of the library is not.
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Old 06-04-2001, 09:27 AM   #2
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Richard Carrier:
On “The historicity of the empty tomb” </font>
Richard - I was wondering if I could get
you to comment on something. I don't know
much about the story of the Libary at Alexandria (any links to it would be appreciated) but I can't help but wonder.
When the comments are made about lack of
pagan texts refering to NT related incidences, they seem to be based on the fact
that there are an "amazing" amount of ancient
texts that have survived. What is the general
thinking on just what was destroyed in the
Libary of Alexandria? Could there have been
many [pagan] writings in there which confirmed Jesus'
historicity, details of the NT, etc? If such
documents did exist, it would make sense that
they be considered as important as the Josephus references, and therefore protected
at the Library?

Thanks.

Thanks.

 
Old 06-04-2001, 09:33 AM   #3
Ernest Sparks
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What is your opinion of a 'wrong tomb' explanation?

[Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man. He took the body of Jesus so it would not be hanging there during the Passover Sabbath. How many tombs did Joseph own? Did anybody among Jesus' followers know where it was
(they were)? Was the winding sheet changed to a clean one and the old one left in another tomb?]

That sort of thing.

Ernie
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Old 06-04-2001, 12:50 PM   #4
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Richard,

Regarding your comments on Paul's tradition and the empty tomb. Does it make any difference to your assessment whether Paul is referring to a bodily resurrection or a spiritual resurrection? Why or why not?

Thanks
 
Old 06-04-2001, 02:58 PM   #5
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Richard Carrier: None of the earlier epistles ever mentions the detail.

ChristianSkeptic: Hello Richard

Your argument from silence on this point is rendered invalid, by the fact that the epistles are letters regarding theological issues to other Christians. Therefore, we do not expect them to mention such details.

Since we are dealing with letters to fellow believers, they are marked by what they presume. Also the letters do make allusions to historical events detailed in the Gospels.
 
Old 06-04-2001, 04:30 PM   #6
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This is an easy puzzle to solve. Pilate wanted a bribe and
did not get one. The soldiers were involved. Who commanded
the soldiers? Was it Longinis? According to Antiquities
of the Jews
, Book 20-1. Longinis was promoted to
president of Syria after king Agrippa's death. The Gospel
of Nicodemus says
, XVI-7. Longinis was the soldier
that pierced his side with a spear. Of course Jesus
bled profusely, because his heart was still pumping! Now,
Jesus' legs were not broken and he spent but six hours on
the cross. He is placed in a cave that is large enough for
several people to stand in. There is a mysterious person in
the cave and this person is called an angel which means that
he was at some time in his life a chief priest. This life
time can be in the past or in the future. The angel informed
Mary that Jesus left. Now, if angels have healing powers and
Jesus was wounded in the side and had his hands pierced (the
bible says nothing about his feet being pierced), then why
couldn't he walk from the cave under his own power. There
was also a mysterious package of herbs left by Joseph, the
owner of the tomb. The Lost Gospel of Peter says that
Jesus was seen leaving the tomb under his own power.
-----------------------------------------------------
also; this is from St. Matthew ...

MAT 28:11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the
guard came into the city and reported to the
chief priests all the things that had happened.

MAT 28:12 When they had assembled with the elders and
taken counsel, they gave a large sum of money to
the soldiers,

MAT 28:13 saying, Tell them, 'His disciples came at night
and stole Him away while we slept.'

MAT 28:14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we
will appease him and make you secure.

MAT 28:15 So they took the money and did as they were
instructed; and this saying is commonly reported
among the Jews until this day.



There are several questions that arise. Where did the money
come from? Who were (was) the soldier(s). Who is the governor?
Pilate? It sounds to me like the tomb was empty because Jesus
walked out and somebody is being paid hush money.

Paul, in his writings, will not want to mention the
Resurrection because his peers know he associates
with Jesus using nicknames for him like "the Word of God".
Besides, how did Paul become an Apostle unless Jesus
appointed him?

The bible tells you why the tomb was empty. Just read it
without pre-drawn assumptions.

thanks, offa


 
Old 06-04-2001, 08:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Richard Carrier:
On “The historicity of the empty tomb” comparison with the Arab sack of the library of Alexandria (made by Nomad, May 31, 2001 10:20 AM, under “RC on the Great Library”), this is a good example, since it shows degrees of belief. First, I believe the Muslims sacked the library, but I admit the degree of my belief is not as great as it is for other claims (e.g. that Caesar crossed the Rubicon). But however it happened, it is absolutely certain that the library was destroyed. Second, I believe the empty tomb is a legend, but I admit the degree of my unbelief is not as great as it is for other claims. But that there was an empty tomb is not at all certain, as the destruction of the library is. Neverthelss, I actually allow in all my essays that the empty tomb could have been genuine (I actually say so in more than one place). So all I have to explain is why I put significantly more belief in the Arab sack of the library than in the empty tomb. My reasons will be instructive, showing how to properly apply historical method. The following remarks refer back to Nomad’s post above. What is important to emphasize is that the distinction is not black and white, but a clear difference in the weight and quality of evidence. None of what I say below ensures there was no empty tomb, but it certainly justifies some doubts, in a way that the evidence does not justify in the case of the Muslim sack. Moreover, it is only when all five lines of evidence come together that the conclusion is reached: no one point alone is sufficient in either case.[/b</font>


Meta =&gt; The problem here is that even if you are applying historical method properly and even if there is greater weight to be given to the sack of the library than to the empty tomb, that still in no way means that the evidence for the empty tomb is not strong enough to justify belief.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Against (1) Paul never mentions an empty tomb, nor do any epistles, and his conversion, compared to the others as the same, is not from a physical encounter. All the circumstantial evidence from our earliest sources fails to support an empty tomb. We have no such evidence against a Muslim sack of the library. Worse, the fact that scholarship ceased just then entails the loss of a library, whereas an empty tomb is not required to have begun Christianity. Only visions were needed, as we know first hand from Paul, and there are ready reasons why the legend would arise. See Craig's Empty Tomb and Habermas on the Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus, and the lecture version of Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story.</font>
Meta =&gt; There are good reasons why Paul never mentioned the empty tomb. That in no way indicates that no such tomb existed. First, he wasn’t telling them the Gospel story for the first time. They knew about the tomb, there’s no reason why he would go into it. Secondly, the story of the 500 may well assume the tomb. It’s merely arbitrary as to why the tomb must be mentioned in an epistle when no one ever denied it and no alternate version of the story ever existed. In over 150 sources of extra-canonical Gospels, acts and other writings from the 1st century to the 4th, there is no mention of any other alternate ending to the Jesus story. No versions where he is stabbed, no versions where he escapes death (minus the Gnostic idea of his death being illusory, which still accepts the basic story but just re-interprets it. Moreover, most scholars retain the resurrection in the core passage of Josephus. The Gospel of Peter provides an independent source for the empty as well.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Against (2) the book of Mark is clearly the source for all other sources, post-dating Paul who never mentions such a story, yet Mark is written by an anonymous source and has no hallmarks of historical writing, but is in the genre of hagiography, the least reliable source document one can have. Worse, there are plenty of strong reasons why Mark would invent an empty tomb (at the very least: to link Jesus with Elijah in death as he already had in life), but fewer and weaker reasons why the story of a Muslim burning of the library would be made up. </font>
Meat =&gt; That argument was based over the head on Easter when I posted my argument against Louder, “The Louder they Protest.” Koster and Brown as well Crossan and several others demonstrate a Pre-Marcan passion narrative which dates to AD 50. It ends with the empty tomb, including it. Mark did not invent it.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Against (3), the resurrection did not occur in a Dark Age, but in an age of high culture, where many talented, educated men were travelling about and writing, and Palestine in particular had several historiographers, Josephus and Philo being the only ones to survive intact, but despite the constant need to find evidence in pagan sources, Christians fail to cite any other Palestinian historian for the event, even Josephus (who is not cited to this end until Eusebius the Liar). We have far more evidence for the crucifixion of Jesus than for the empty tomb, and our evidence for the Muslim sack of the library is as good or better than that for the crucifixion of Jesus.</font>
Meta =&gt; How many overall Palestinian historians have survived the first century? Jesephus does allude to the claim of the resurrection. That implies the empty tomb well enough.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Against (4), the claim that the authors of the Gospels are actually Mark, Matthew, Luke and John is not universally attested by all early sources, and is unhelpful since we don’t really know who these men were even if these were their names. All early manuscripts lack the attribution altogether, and that is a far superior witness than anyone’s second hand claims. Moreover, the earliest sources of quotations from the Gospels (Ignatius, Justin, Polycarp, the Didache) do not name them at all, and the first to name them (Papias) is notorious for believing the most ridiculous stories (like that Judas’ head swelled to the size of a wagon trail), and what he tells us about the Gospels is in fact ambiguous and does not actually fit very well the Gospels we have.</font>
Meta =&gt;Red Herring. It hardly matters who they were. The mere fact of the claim is enough to suspect that there was such a tomb. Since to make the claim itself invites counter charges that no one remembers a tomb, no one ever saw it. Moreover, the communities are authors and the witnesses, why must they bare the names in order to be taken seriously as witnesses? The fact of their names is unimportant. What matters is the tradition itself goes back to just 18 years after the events and was claimed in the same city where it happened. Had the mass populace had no recollection of the event the faith would have died at that point.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Against (5) the evidence Nomad presents has no parallel even with the form of my argument. It is plausible that the Muslims as they were in the 7th century would not care about destroying a library, and the way they are depicted in the account of doing so fits their character at the time. Therefore, the story rings true. In contrast, the first account of an empty tomb is in a hagiography aimed at impressing readers with the divinity of its main character, later greatly embellished by having a bogus ending added on to it, and then in other texts having even more fantastic stories attached to it, all in a span of but one or two generations of each other. </font>
Meta =&gt;Sure its Hagiography, so what? That can be based upon historical fact, there’s no reason to assume it is false just for that reason. I’m sure there are embellishments. None of that is a reason to reject the claim. There are tons of examples in history of folklore and embellishment in the midst of core facts which historians assume. Every ancient tomb of every king form Egypt to India gives a mythological account of his battles and his triumphs and no historian decides that the king didn’t exist for that reason.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
All the while, somehow none of the earlier epistles ever mentions the detail. This does not ring true. There are several clouds of suspicion hanging over the story from the start. Worse, there are problems with the story when placed in context: Mark never mentions several important Jewish Laws, such as that the tomb of a deceased man had to be visited on the third day to ensure he was not buried by mistake, and that criminals had to be buried in a special graveyard reserved for the condemned. And thus Jesus could not have been in Joseph’s tomb Sunday morning: it would have been illegal. </font>
Meta =&gt;Why should Mark mention all the laws? That is a misuse of the argument from silence. Moreover, it is a fallacious assumption that Jesus could not be in the tomb, since he was not tried on criminal charges, but for sedition. As a seditionist against Rome he would have had the respect of the peple and qualify for his place in an honored tomb. You are also assuming that Roman law applied to Jews. It is well established (Brown, Josephus, others) that this was not the case. The Romans allowed Jewish custom to prevail in such matters.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Though there are good reasons why this would not be known by the women, the women would surely suspect, from repeatedly obeying the visitation law in past funerals, that an empty tomb meant Jesus was not really dead and was buried by mistake, but that reaction is never attributed to them. Mark never has the women do what real women would do, such as go ask Joseph where the body was (or at least inform him that it was now empty), yet Joseph never again appears in history. None of this proves the account is false, but it certainly makes it very fishy, in a way that the Muslim sack account is not.</font>
Meta=&gt;They would hardly think that if they knew there was no one to move the body, and if the above reasons were not the case.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Nomad concludes that, using my words, “certainly, there is no good reason to insist the story is false.” Well, fair enough: I never do insist the empty tomb story is false, I merely say it is doubtful, in five particular ways that the Muslim sack of the library is not.
Quote:
</font>
Meta =&gt;Well, I’m not sure what to think about your approach to merely disputing the strength of the evidence without trying to deny it. On the face of it that seems like a fine strategy but it really just means that you are trying to shift the burden of proof. But the burden of proof is yours if the apologist does not try to insist that the empty tomb is certain proof of the resurrection. In that sense it just qualifies as a ground for faith. You have done nothing to shake that and I think to even suggest that you have might actually contradict your position about who does have the burden of proof.

There is some decent reason to think we know the tomb today. There is certainly reason to believe that the tomb was marked since the first century. So if they had a tomb in the first century that is probably the case that they had an empty tomb from the beginning. That’s not proof, but it does increase the probability
 
Old 06-05-2001, 12:19 AM   #8
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Richard Carrier:
On “The historicity of the empty tomb” comparison with the Arab sack of the library of Alexandria (made by Nomad, May 31, 2001 10:20 AM, under “RC on the Great Library”), this is a good example, since it shows degrees of belief.</font>
Hello Richard

From reading your original post, and my response to it, I did not see that you were talking about "degrees of belief" at all. No matter, you have done so in this thread, so let's see where it takes us.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> First, I believe the Muslims sacked the library, but I admit the degree of my belief is not as great as it is for other claims (e.g. that Caesar crossed the Rubicon). But however it happened, it is absolutely certain that the library was destroyed.</font>
Since you never dispute my opening claim (that parallels the one you have just made here) that Christianity was started c. 30AD, then we are both on equal terms. We need to explain this historical fact. BTW, I will also state for the record that I do not care about the issue of the Muslim sacking of the Library of Alexandria. Whether it happened or not is irrelevant. What I wanted to do in my original post was show how Richard's arguments, if applied with the same standards as he used them for the sacking of the Library, could be used just as easily to show that the tomb was, in fact, empty.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Second, I believe the empty tomb is a legend, but I admit the degree of my unbelief is not as great as it is for other claims. But that there was an empty tomb is not at all certain, as the destruction of the library is.</font>
And this was a false dichotomy. Your post showed that you accepted the historical reasons commonly given to us as the best prima facia explanation for the sacking of the Library.

The empty tomb similarily explains the formation of the Christian movement. Since the sacking of the Library and the foundation of Christianity are historical certainties, the only thing left to discuss is the reasons to believe the commonly given historical story. Your post did that for the Library, mine did the same for the empty tomb.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Neverthelss, I actually allow in all my essays that the empty tomb could have been genuine (I actually say so in more than one place). So all I have to explain is why I put significantly more belief in the Arab sack of the library than in the empty tomb.</font>
Again, this is not quite right. If you doubted the foundation of Christianity c. 30AD, then you would be on the same ground as those that deny the "fact" of the sacking of the Library. What you have to prove, in both cases, is why you accept, or reject the common historical story for each historical fact.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> {Snip}

Against (1) Paul never mentions an empty tomb, nor do any epistles, and his conversion, compared to the others as the same, is not from a physical encounter.</font>
And this is an argument from silence. If we look at the story of the sacking of the Library, do all sources say that it happened? Or are many simply silent on the matter?

What Richard needs to offer, to prove his point is that some other credible story did exist that countered the empty tomb. The simple truth of the matter is that there is no alternative story until at least the 3rd or 4th Century and we have no reason to treat them as more reliable than the original 1st and 2nd Century accounts (like from the Gospels, including Peter)

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> All the circumstantial evidence from our earliest sources fails to support an empty tomb.</font>
It also fails to deny the empty tomb. Those stories simply tell us (1 Cor. 15) that Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead. Simple deduction can tell us that this implies an empty burial place. Trying to project an hypothetical "spiritual resurrection" through a selective translation of the text hardly helps Richard's case.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">We have no such evidence against a Muslim sack of the library. Worse, the fact that scholarship ceased just then entails the loss of a library, whereas an empty tomb is not required to have begun Christianity.</font>
Well, Christianity began right after the tomb was reported to be empty, so no worries.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Only visions were needed, as we know first hand from Paul, and there are ready reasons why the legend would arise.</font>
Since here Richard has merely assumed that his own reading of the Greek is correct, and that Paul cannot be reporting a physical resurrection, then this is assumptive and conclusory, but hardly proof.

For a detailed refutation of the theory that Paul did not believe in a physical resurrection, see the thread Paul and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus. That discussion is outside the scope of this thread however, since we are not talking about a resurrection here, but merely an empty tomb.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Against (2) the book of Mark is clearly the source for all other sources, post-dating Paul who never mentions such a story,</font>
And once again we have Richard presenting his opinion as if it is established fact. Offer evidence that the Passion Narrative was invented by Mark, since the best evidence we do have shows very clearly that it predated him, probably to the early 50’s, if not sooner. Further, actually show us proof that John was dependent upon Mark, since this too is not an established fact. Such sloppiness in presenting ones arguments, where opposing views are not even addressed, but merely dismissed with the wave of a hand (or worse still, by ignoring them) leaves open the possibility that Richard has not fully explored this issue, but has preferred to buy into one side without exploring all of the evidence and arguments.

Now, Richard’s original point (2) stated:

(2) the story is no less prima facie reliable than any other: the story that describes the destruction is actually found in several sources, not just one, and it is fairly reasonable to conclude from source analysis that all the extant authors are drawing on a common history of Alexandria written centuries earlier.

I added to this:

The story of the empty tomb is no less prima facie reliable than any other. The story that describes this event is found in several sources, not just one, and it is fairly reasonable to conclude from source analysis that all extant authors are drawing on a common history of the death and burial of Jesus of Nazareth.

Richard fails to address my argument directly, and hopes to avoid doing so by merely ignoring it. There is no reason to reject the empty tomb out of hand, even Richard admits this. There is no other story that actually contradicts the empty tomb found in ANY tradition, not just from Christian sources. There are multiple sources of this tradition, and they do appear to draw from a common history (Carrier argues that this common source is Mark, which is preposterous and unsupported assertion), and this history dates to very close to the event itself, closer, in fact than do the sources for the Arabic destruction of the Library.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> yet Mark is written by an anonymous source and has no hallmarks of historical writing, but is in the genre of hagiography, the least reliable source document one can have. Worse, there are plenty of strong reasons why Mark would invent an empty tomb (at the very least: to link Jesus with Elijah in death as he already had in life),</font>
Now the argument moves to the absurd. Elijah, of course, had no tomb, he ascended straight into heaven. See the story in 2 Kings 2. Obviously if Mark wanted to connect Jesus to this prophet, he would have had Jesus ascend without ever dying at all. In fact, I am left to wonder how Carrier made this connection at all, since he does not say here.

As for hagiography being weak history, there is little reason to treat any ancient source as being any more reliable in its reporting of the facts. Very often verification of anything beyond the bare minimum of facts can be proven in such a fashion. In Carrier’s case the bare minimum we can know is that the Library was sacked. In my own, that Christianity was founded c. 30AD. The level of confidence that either happened for the reasons given in the record (at least the naturalistic reasons, like an empty tomb) should be very high, and remain so until better evidence is offered for a countering view. If Carrier wishes to offer such actual evidence, as opposed to just his speculations on the matter, then we can look at it.

Finally, as for Mark’s need to invent the story, if the motive is to link Jesus to Elijah, then there is no empty tomb. Jesus merely ascends into heaven. Mark never has the ascension at all, of course, just an empty tomb and some scared women who think they have seen a mysterious man.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Against (3), the resurrection did not occur in a Dark Age, but in an age of high culture, where many talented, educated men were travelling about and writing, and Palestine in particular had several historiographers, Josephus and Philo being the only ones to survive intact…</font>
It is my hope, from this name dropping, that Carrier is not asserting that either Philo or Josephus had any reason to report on the resurrection of Jesus. He does not make this argument, so I am unsure what he is saying here. Since we don’t have any surviving writings from any other 1st Century sources (outside of Christian ones, of course, and Carrier does not wish to address these), then it is not useful to make much of an argument from this silence. And since the accounts we do have from the 1st Century all point to an empty tomb, and this was my entire point here.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Against (4), the claim that the authors of the Gospels are actually Mark, Matthew, Luke and John is not universally attested by all early sources, and is unhelpful since we don’t really know who these men were even if these were their names.</font>
Since Carrier’s point in (4) was that the claim that the "John" in the story is John Philopon, and therefore anachronistic, is based on scholarly speculation and my response was that the argument that the Gospels were not authored by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was based on nothing more than “scholarly speculation” against all of the early witnesses, then my point stands.

The point that we do not know much about these individuals is irrelevant. We know enough to know that Matthew and John were eye witnesses to the events described (in John’s case, this included the empty tomb), and that Mark and Luke derived their information from reliable sources (Peter for Mark, numerous others for Luke).

Given that Carrier did not elaborate on the reason the name John Philopon was important to his case, then my own point that we have at least as good evidence for the authorship of the Gospels as we do for this man writing about the sacking of the Library stands.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> All early manuscripts lack the attribution altogether, and that is a far superior witness than anyone’s second hand claims.</font>
Actually, none of the MSS contain an author’s signature, but even in the cases where this is the case (see, for example the pseudonymous Pauline’s,. the epistles of James and Peter and many non-Canonical texts), I fail to see why this is important. Scholar speculation hardly stops just because someone signed the original.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Moreover, the earliest sources of quotations from the Gospels (Ignatius, Justin, Polycarp, the Didache) do not name them at all, and the first to name them (Papias) is notorious for believing the most ridiculous stories (like that Judas’ head swelled to the size of a wagon trail), and what he tells us about the Gospels is in fact ambiguous and does not actually fit very well the Gospels we have.</font>
And this is simply a red herring. Either we accept some of the things given to us by these sources, or we reject them all out of hand. Selective use of sources, especially based on their reporting of supernatural of fantastic events, disqualifies all ancient sources, including Philo, Tacitus, Josephus, ect.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Against (5) the evidence Nomad presents has no parallel even with the form of my argument.</font>
Here it looks like we need to present the argument again:

Richard: (5) the Muslim armies were by and large illiterate hill-dwelling briggands, not scholars--even their leaders were not scholars but mainly foreign-speaking members of a mercantile class. The Muslim intellectual movement did not even begin until the 8th century. It is therefore prima facie plausible that they would not care one whit for what was in a library.

Nomad: 5) The first Christians were largely not among the most educated classes of the Roman Empire (Paul excepted of course). They relayed a simple story, that Jesus died on a cross, was buried in a tomb, and that this tomb was found empty 2 days later. We need not accept their explanation for these basic naturalistic events (namely, the Res.), but there is no reason to question them on these mundane details of the facts as reported.


Carrier has chosen to question the Gospels only because they contain supernatural events, and possibly some errors. Of course, he fails to mention that using this criterion eliminates all ancient sources as evidence of anything. This is hardly sound methodology from one who claims to study ancient history. After all, we can say that we don’t really know anything about history (beyond the bare minimum, like Rome existed, Christianity was founded, the Library was sacked), but after this is said, then we might as well just pack our bags and go home. This strikes me as excessively pessimistic.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> It is plausible that the Muslims as they were in the 7th century would not care about destroying a library, and the way they are depicted in the account of doing so fits their character at the time. Therefore, the story rings true. In contrast, the first account of an empty tomb is in a hagiography aimed at impressing readers with the divinity of its main character,</font>
And this is where I wish that sceptics could get their stories straight. On the thread, The Criterion of Embarrassment, I have just finished listening to Earl tell me that Mark never argues for a divine Jesus. Even though I (and presumably Carrier as well) reject this, it is simply a fact that Mark does not report any real details beyond the fact of an empty tomb. The women flee in terror, and that is that. This is hardly the grounds to argue that Mark is arguing for a divine Jesus, who ascends to heaven like an Elijah (interestingly, Elijah is never presented as being divine either, but that is probably a matter for another discussion).

If Carrier could offer a reason to show why the reporting of Jesus dying, being buried, and then the tomb being empty is unlikely, then we would have more to talk about. Yet all the evidence we have available to us is that all three of these things happened. If he wishes to be consistent in his use and acceptance of the evidence, then there is no reason for Carrier to be sceptical here, at least beyond ideology.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">later greatly embellished by having a bogus ending added on to it, and then in other texts having even more fantastic stories attached to it, all in a span of but one or two generations of each other.</font>
I just hope that Carrier is not blaming Mark for these additions, and the embellishments are so obviously drawn from the other Gospel accounts as to not be a serious issue.

The truth of the matter here is that Carrier wishes to accept the truth of the mundane facts reported by the sources on the sacking of the Library. I think that this is very reasonable. At the same time, he wishes to reject the reporting of mundane facts in the Gospels. The empty tomb has explanatory power, it accounts for the foundation of Christianity, and it has no competing traditions from the first 200-300 years after the event. In the absence of conflicting evidence, rejecting the latter while accepting the former strikes me as selective scepticism.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Worse, there are problems with the story when placed in context: Mark never mentions several important Jewish Laws, such as that the tomb of a deceased man had to be visited on the third day to ensure he was not buried by mistake, and that criminals had to be buried in a special graveyard reserved for the condemned.</font>
Meta has already dealt with this objection, and very simply, it is hopelessly naïve to offer it.

Jewish laws required even a criminal to be buried. I and others have already dealt with this subject extensively in the thread Jesus Christ: Worth Burying in a Tomb?. The only reason I can see Carrier offering these arguments as if they were conclusive is because he is unfamiliar with the counter arguments in favour of the burial tradition, and the empty tomb.

From that thread I will offer a few of arguments put forward by three very respected scholars in the field:

”That Jesus was buried is historically certain. That Jewish sensitivity would have wanted this done before the oncoming Sabbath (which may also have been a feast day) is also certain, and our records give us no reason to think that this sensitivity was not honored. That this burial was done by Joseph of Arimathea is very probable, since a Christian fictional creation of a Jewish Sanhedrist who does what is right is almost inexplicable, granted the hostility in early Christian writings toward the Jewish authorities responsible for the death of Jesus. Moreover, the fixed designation of such a character as "From Arimathea,” a town very difficult to identify and reminiscent of no scriptural symbolism, makes a thesis of invention even more implausible… While probability is not certitude, there is nothing in the basic preGospel account of Jesus’ burial by Joseph that could not plausibly be deemed historical.”
(R.E. Brown, "Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2 [New York: Doubleday, 1994], pg. 1240-41).

”This is an historical account which creates no impression of being a legend apart from the women who appear again as witnesses in v. 47, and vs. 44-45 which Matthew and Luke in all probability did not have in their Mark.”
(R. Bultmann, “History of the Synoptic Tradition”, [New York: Harper & Row, 1963], pg. 274).

"A straightforward reading of the Gospels' portrait of the burial has been
challenged by revisionist scholars, who theorize that Jesus died in a mass crucifixion: the body was thrown into a common, shallow trench, to become carrion for vultures and scavenging dogs. This makes for vivid drama but implausible history. Pilate, after all, had been forced in the face of Jewish opposition to withdraw his military shields from public view in the city when he first acceded to power. What likelihood was there, especially after Sejanus' death, that he would get away with flagrantly exposing the corpse of an executed Jew beyond the interval permitted by the Torah, and encouraging its mutilation by scavengers outside Jerusalem?
"Revisionism can be productive. But it can also become more intent on explaining away traditional beliefs than on coming to grips with the evidence at hand, and I think this is a case in point. It is worth explaining why I go along with much of the Gospel's account of Jesus' burial, because doing so will help us grapple with the vexed question of what happened three days after his crucifixion.
"Time and again, the Gospels reveal the tendancy of the first Christians to shift the blame for Jesus' death away from Pilate and onto the Sanhedrin. Yet when it comes to taking on the weighty responsibility of burying Jesus, we find members of that same council taking the lead, while most of Jesus' disciples had beaten a hasty and ignominious retreat. Joseph's and Nicodemus' public act cost them: they donated mortuary dressing and ointment as well as use of the cave. They also contracted uncleanness for seven days after the burial. On each of those seven days they would have had to explain to curious colleagues where and why they had come into contact with a corpse, a powerful source of impurity.
"Joseph's act went beyond mere display of ordinary decency. He ensured that Jesus was interred in one of the caves he had recently dug for himself and his family. The significance of this gesture is plain: there were those wihtin the council who had not agreed with Caiphas' condemnation of Jesus to Pilate."
(Chilton, Bruce. "Rabbi Jesus: The Jewish Life and Teaching that Inspired Christianity", [New York: Doubleday, 2000] p. 270-272).


The overwhelming evidence available to us tells us that Jesus was buried in a tomb, and from that, the tomb must have been empty. We have no reason to doubt this historical report, and the reasons for accepting it are the same as those given by Carrier to accept the commonly held story for the sacking of the Library of Alexandria.

That was the whole purpose of my post. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this question in greater detail, and invite questions.

Thank you,

Brian (Nomad)
 
Old 06-05-2001, 01:37 AM   #9
Bede
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Kosh,

Based on analysis of the primary sources: The Fate of the Great Library. Email me any comments (bede@bede.org.uk) as I'm not here much at the moment. If you want to see something similar from a non Christian, then you'll have to wait for Carrier to put his long awaited paper together.

Yours

Bede
 
Old 06-05-2001, 06:26 AM   #10
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No versions where he is stabbed, no versions where he escapes death (minus the Gnostic idea of his death being illusory, which still accepts the basic story but just re-interprets it. Moreover, most scholars retain the resurrection in the core passage of Josephus. The Gospel of Peter provides an independent source for the empty as well.

Meta, why do you keep saying this nonsense? The fact is that in several of the non-canonical writings, the story is different. In one he is buried in the sand, in another someone else takes the cross and Jesus does not die. The truth is that, while the majority of writings reflect the passion story as Mark recorded it, a few do not.

Michael
 
 

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