Why do I not buy Carrier’s “refutation” of the resurrection story? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
As we continue through Richard Carrier’s “Sense and Goodness Without God” we come to a favorite piece of mine. In this, Carrier compares the evidence for the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar to that of the evidence for the resurrection.
Now to be sure, I am not making any claim about the quality of the evidence for Caesar crossing the Rubicon in 49 B.C. I am simply looking at Carrier’s argument to see if it holds up or not and I contend that it does not.
So what are the points? Carrier’s first is that this event is a physical necessity. Rome’s history would not go as it had without it. Yet is this the case? Caesar did have to move his troops into Italy of course, but did he have to cross the Rubicon? We can say that would be the most convenient way to do so, but it was not the only way that it could have happened.
Carrier says all that is needed to explain Christianity is a belief, but this is not the case. Of course one would need to believe in a resurrection, but what events would have to happen for there to be a belief in the resurrection?
First, you would need a historical Jesus, which Carrier does not accept
Second, you need to have it known that he died.
Third, you need something to explain that this death was not the end.
This isn’t even counting all the social factors that go into play with Christianity.
The next piece Carrier points to is physical evidence. To begin with, what kind of physical evidence does Carrier want to see? He really thinks the evidence for a crucified Jew in Palestine should be compared to that of a major event by Julius Caesar?
Well actually, we do have some physical evidence. We do in fact have documents. We have the Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, Acts, and of course the rest of the New Testament. We also have writings outside of the NT such as Tacitus, Josephus, Suetonius, etc.
We also have the claim that the tomb was empty, which would be a physical claim that could be checked, and the claim that one could talk to eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. Carrier also says it has been proven the Shroud of Turin is a forgery. Unfortunately, he does not say by who or when this was done. Perhaps he wants me to take it by faith.
Carrier also says we have unbiased or counterbiased corroboration for Caesar. Well not really. His enemies could attest to this in fact to show that Caesar was a threat. It is also interesting that Carrier says we have unbiased sources when he says his friends wrote about it. How are those unbiased?
Yet what does he expect for the resurrection? Obviously, if someone believes Jesus was raised, then they are going to be biased. Who will write a testimony saying Jesus was raised and still reject Christianity in Jesus’s day? (I say then because today, Pinchas Lapides is a Jew who holds that Jesus was raised but does not believe He was the Messiah.)
On the other hand, if someone writes against the resurrection, we can just as well say they are biased. The resurrection would focus on the claims Jesus made for Himself so you could not approach the subject or speak about it without some bias.
The fourth one is my favorite. In this, Carrier says the crossing of the Rubicon appears in almost every history of the age, and this is by the most prominent scholars. Who are these guys? Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, and Plutarch.
What about the resurrection? It’s not mentioned until two to three decades later. There’s also the point that the ones who wrote about the Rubicon were quite scholarly and show a wide range of reading and citation of sources, whereas the historians of Christianity in the first century did not.
Yes. Paul was definitely a slouch in scholarship. Only trained under the best of his time and his writing shows a great skill in Greco-Roman rhetoric and argumentation.
Also, the Gospels do cite eyewitnesses in their own way. For an example, in Mark’s Gospel, Peter is the first and last disciple mentioned. What’s the point of this? It shows it’s an inclusio account whereby Peter is thus known to be the source. Aspects like this can be found in “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham.
But what’s most interesting about this is the fact of every scholar of the age. Let’s use a site like this.
Here we find Suetonius was born in 71 A.D. At the start, this puts us at 120 years+. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Suetonius waits until he’s 30 to begin writing. That would mean this reliable account is 150+ years later.
He was born in 95 A.D. That puts us at 144 years+. Let’s suppose he waited until the age of 30, and it’s more likely he waited until later. If we give 30, then that means he wrote 174+ years later.
Cassius Dio? He was born in 164. This puts at at 213 years+. He started writing the Roman Histories at the earliest in 211. That puts us at 260 years+.
Someone had said something about the accounts of the resurrection being two to three centuries later….
But strangely enough, Cassius Dio two to three centuries later is okay.
Plutarch would be the earliest being born in 46 A.D., but this puts us at 95 years+ and if he waits till thirty, well that’s 125 years+.
That means not ONE of these sources could have talked to an eyewitness of the event. Not one of them was a contemporary of Caesar either. Not one of them would have been a firsthand account.
And yet they’re all accepted.
And you know what? I have no problem with that. That’s the way ancient history is done, but when Carrier gives these names, he doesn’t tell the audience when these people lived and wrote. It’s a double-standard.
The final piece of evidence is that apparently, we have Caesar’s own words. Unfortunately, we have no such statement of “I crossed the Rubicon” or “I crossed the river” that I know of in relation to this event. So how do we have Caesar’s own words?
Carrier then says we don’t have any writings of Jesus. This is true. We also don’t have writings of Socrates. As is pointed out in “The Lost World of Scripture” most teachers did not write out their works. Instead, they left it to their disciples. Most teachers also did not care for writing their works since they feared their works could be misunderstood. For those interested in where to find information on this, see here and here.
Carrier also says the names of the Gospels were applied later and on questionable grounds. What were these grounds? Well he doesn’t tell us. Here you can listen to Tim McGrew answering this question and if one is interested in charges of forgery, go here.
Carrier also says Paul saw Jesus in a vision. Evidence of this given? None. Of course, if Jesus did not rise, it would have to be a vision, but what if He did rise? And further, did Paul really think He had just had a vision, or did he think that Jesus physically appeared to him?
In the end, I conclude that Carrier’s argument is just based on false assumptions all throughout and at times, not entirely honest.
We’ll wrap up on history next time.