Book Plunge: The Christian Delusion Chapter 11

What do I think of Richard Carrier’s case against the resurrection? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Richard Carrier’s chapter is here. Remember readers that when you read Richard Carrier, it’s appropriate to have fitting music playing. I recommend this little tune.

Carrier starts by appealing to Herodotus and some miracles contained in his accounts. The problem is he never states where in Herodotus these miracles occur. I had to do some of my own looking and such to see where he was talking about.

Anyway, he talks about the Temple of Delphi defending itself with animated armaments. If you read this, you would probably think of these glowing weapons rising up as if held by ghosts and swinging at the opponents who were approaching. Not really. Let’s see what book eight has to say.

The other division took guides, and proceeded towards the temple of Delphi, keeping Mount Parnassus on their right hand. They too laid waste such parts of Phocis as they passed through, burning the city of the Panopeans, together with those of the Daulians and of the Aeolidae. This body had been detached from the rest of the army, and made to march in this direction, for the purpose of plundering the Delphian temple and conveying to King Xerxes the riches which were there laid up. For Xerxes, as I am informed, was better acquainted with what there was worthy of note at Delphi, than even with what he had left in his own house; so many of those about him were continually describing the treasures- more especially the offerings made by Croesus the son of Alyattes.

Now when the Delphians heard what danger they were in, great fear fell on them. In their terror they consulted the oracle concerning the holy treasures, and inquired if they should bury them in the ground, or carry them away to some other country. The god, in reply, bade them leave the treasures untouched- “He was able,” he said, “without help to protect his own.” So the Delphians, when they received this answer, began to think about saving themselves. And first of all they sent their women and children across the gulf into Achaea; after which the greater number of them climbed up into the tops of Parnassus, and placed their goods for safety in the Corycian cave; while some effected their escape to Amphissa in Locris. In this way all the Delphians quitted the city, except sixty men, and the Prophet.

When the barbarian assailants drew near and were in sight of the place, the Prophet, who was named Aceratus, beheld, in front of the temple, a portion of the sacred armour, which it was not lawful for any mortal hand to touch, lying upon the ground, removed from the inner shrine where it was wont to hang. Then went he and told the prodigy to the Delphians who had remained behind. Meanwhile the enemy pressed forward briskly, and had reached the shrine of Minerva Pronaia, when they were overtaken by other prodigies still more wonderful than the first. Truly it was marvel enough, when warlike harness was seen lying outside the temple, removed there by no power but its own; what followed, however, exceeded in strangeness all prodigies that had ever before been seen. The barbarians had just reached in their advance the chapel of Minerva Pronaia, when a storm of thunder burst suddenly over their heads- at the same time two crags split off from Mount Parnassus, and rolled down upon them with a loud noise, crushing vast numbers beneath their weight- while from the temple of Minerva there went up the war-cry and the shout of victory.

All these things together struck terror into the barbarians, who forthwith turned and fled. The Delphians, seeing this, came down from their hiding-places, and smote them with a great slaughter, from which such as escaped fled straight into Boeotia. These men, on their return, declared (as I am told) that besides the marvels mentioned above, they witnessed also other supernatural sights. Two armed warriors, they said, of a stature more than human, pursued after their flying ranks, pressing them close and slaying them.

Feel free to read it for yourself here.

It’s not inconceivable also to think of lightning bolts and powerful waves coming at this time as well. This could be interpreted as the temple defending itself. It doesn’t mean that’s what was happening. One could agree with the phenomena without agreeing with the explanation.

What about an olive tree that grew a new shoot?

I will now explain why I have made mention of this circumstance: there is a temple of Erechtheus the Earth-born, as he is called, in this citadel, containing within it an olive-tree and a sea. The tale goes among the Athenians, that they were placed there as witnesses by Neptune and Minerva, when they had their contention about the country. Now this olive-tree had been burnt with the rest of the temple when the barbarians took the place. But when the Athenians, whom the king had commanded to offer sacrifice, went up into the temple for the purpose, they found a fresh shoot, as much as a cubit in length, thrown out from the old trunk. Such at least was the account which these persons gave.

And that’s it. How exactly is one to fact check this kind of thing? Beats me.

I could not find the story of the mare giving birth to a hare in Herodotus, but it is there. Others have referred to it. Apparently, it took place in the Persian camp and was received as a bad omen.

Finally, a whole town saw a resurrection of cooked fish, it took awhile, but I found it.

Then, it is said by the men of the Chersonese, as one of those who guarded them was frying dried fish, a portent occurred as follows,–the dried fish when laid upon the fire began to leap and struggle just as if they were fish newly caught: and the others gathered round and were marvelling at the portent, but Artayctes seeing it called to the man who was frying the fish and said: “Stranger of Athens, be not at all afraid of this portent, seeing that it has not appeared for thee but for me. Protesilaos who dwells at Elaius signifies thereby that though he is dead and his body is dried like those fish, yet he has power given him by the gods to exact vengeance from the man who does him wrong. Now therefore I desire to impose this penalty for him,–that in place of the things which I took from the temple I should pay down a hundred talents to the god, and moreover as ransom for myself and my son I will pay two hundred talents to the Athenians, if my life be spared.” Thus he engaged to do, but he did not prevail upon the commander Xanthippos; for the people of Elaius desiring to take vengeance for Protesilaos asked that he might be put to death, and the inclination of the commander himself tended to the same conclusion. They brought him therefore to that headland to which Xerxes made the passage across, or as some say to the hill which is over the town of Madytos, and there they nailed him to boards and hung him up; and they stoned his son to death before the eyes of Artayctes himself.

So we have some fish placed on a fire and they leap a bit. Nothing indicates that they came back to life. Nothing indicates they were not cooked like normal. This is hardly a resurrection. It’s interesting that Carrier didn’t say where all of these can be found or state what they originally said himself.

Carrier says that if someone was asked about them, they would say these things don’t happen because they don’t happen today. No. I wouldn’t. You don’t need to be a scientist or have modern science to know that horses give birth to horses for instance. It’s amusing to hear him say tree limbs don’t grow back entirely after a single day.

Let us all rejoice people that we have centuries of scientific research. That’s all it took to realize that. Those stupid people back in the time of Herodotus obviously believed that they could.

Or they didn’t and they recorded it because they knew this isn’t what normally happens and would count as a miracle of some sort. It’s really sad that Carrier thinks you need modern science to know this kind of thing. It’s as if you would expect a scientist to run out of a lab in the 1800’s and say, “I have made a brilliant discovery! It takes sex to make babies! The virgin birth (Which I do affirm) must be false!”

Note if I am presented with stories like this, I am skeptical, but I am also open. I do not rule stories out before examining the claims because they disagree with my worldview. I leave that to atheists. Some stories would be harder to check than others. Suppose the story of a hare giving birth to a mare. How do I verify that? Do you show me the mare and the hare? How am I to know that one came from the other? This is hardly on par with the resurrection.

Carrier goes on to tell us that the Gospel of Peter was widely accepted in the second century. Hardly. It was popular largely among one community and that was it. It didn’t last long. Again, no source is given on this.

Carrier looks at Matthew 27:51-54 and asks why no one reported the earthquake or the walking dead. With the earthquake, why should everyone have reported it? We don’t know how big the earthquake was and how far it would have been felt. With the walking dead, we don’t know what really happened. The text is really vague at this point. Were these just spirits? Were these bodies? What happened to them? This would be a small group in Jerusalem most likely and if they disappeared, skeptics would not be able to come and check and would not take the original story any more seriously than Carrier does.

Carrier later talks about hearing all of these claims and wanting to put an end to the pompous rhetoric. (Yes. The irony is dreadfully funny.) Now with all of this research he says and a PhD in ancient history, no one can say he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Well, don’t be too sure of that. For my purposes, I have learned to pretty much fact check Carrier on everything he says.

Carrier tells us that Paul reveals early Christians were hallucinating on a regular basis and outsiders thought they were lunatics. The reference is 1 Cor. 14, but the whole context is about speaking in tongues and saying that if people hear a language they don’t know, they will say they are mad. He leaves out that if they hear the secrets of their own heart poured out in their own language, they will say that God is really among the Christians. Details. Who needs them? He also says the book of Revelation is an acid trip. Real professional scholarship here.

He goes to the 1 Cor. 15 passage about learning the Gospel and says Paul received it from no man but it came through a vision. Strangely, the world of scholarship has not been convinced and more are inclined to think this is the language of oral tradition. When we hear about the vision Paul had, I don’t think it’s the content that was revealed, but that the truth of it was confirmed. It’s up to Carrier to show this is a hallucination if that’s his claim.

When we get to the Gospels, we hear about added parts like the woman caught in adultery and the long ending of Mark. Carrier tells us these were snuck in by dishonest Christians. How is this known? That they are later additions is not really questioned. That the people who did it were dishonest and snuck it in is beyond what we can really establish. It’s possible, but Carrier needs to show it. Perhaps this is just a comment made by dishonest atheists.

Carrier also says we know masses of people hallucinating can believe they’re seeing the same thing. No examples are given. Perhaps he means Marian apparitions. I am suspicious, but Carrier needs to show these are hallucinations. It’s awfully easy to say that if multiple people have a religious experience of some sort then it must be a hallucination. It’s a great way to make sure your position is never challenged.

Carrier also talks about their expectation that the world was about to end soon. Perhaps some did, but as an orthodox Preterist, and there’s plenty on this blog about that, I don’t think this is what’s going on. Again, Carrier gives no references.

Carrier also says that for people being willing to die, if you stood by your story even in death you would gain honor. Perhaps, but why would one want the honor of this group anyway? This is not explained.

Carrier then says he has known enough ‘Liars for Christ’ to make this possible. This is quite amusing. Read any criticism of Richard Carrier by any professional scholar and you will see how Carrier responds. “Liar, didn’t read, didn’t understand.” These are par for the course for Carrier and is why many of us just don’t take him seriously any more. (That whole going polyamorous and embracing mythicism deal didn’t help either.)

About Paul, Carrier appeals to Paul having guilt and said that Paul had grown to despite the Jewish elite he was serving as a nobody under played a part. Evidence of this? None given. It’s just a story made out of thin air, but as we can expect, his atheist audience will believe it entirely.

Carrier then says if Jesus really was a God and wanted to save everyone, He would have appeared to the whole world? Why? He wanted to answer a trivia question? Are we to think Carrier would believe such a story 2,000 years later anyway? Carrier gives a remarkable defense though of how he knows this is true.

“If I were God, I would appear to everyone and prevent any meddling with my book, and since I can’t be cleverer or more concerned for the salvation of the world than God, this must be what he would do, too.” Yes. Remember what Carrier said earlier about people being pompous? Obviously, Carrier is the peak of being clever and knows this is the very best idea and God couldn’t have a better one. If you looked up narcissist in the dictionary, Carrier’s picture should be next to it. It’s hard to imagine someone with more of an ego. Even more than the editor of this volume, John what’s-his-name.

You can stop listening to Yakety Sax now.

In Christ,
Nick Peters