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‘This Pseudo-Historical Nonsense Is Over a Century Old’
Posted on Oct 11, 2013
A link to a press release announcing that a scholar will present evidence showing Jesus Christ to be a deliberate invention by first-century Roman elites drew huge attention when it appeared in the regular Truthdig feature known as “Larry’s List” on Thursday. Historian and atheist Richard Carrier, who also believes Jesus never existed, says O-ha!
Sort-of scholar Joseph Atwill proposes that “the Romans directed the writing” of the New Testament in order “to offer a vision of a ‘peaceful Messiah’ who would serve as an alternative to the revolutionary leaders who were rocking first-century Israel and threatening Rome.” For lovers of the quest for truth, Dan Brown mysteries and atheists alike, it is an exciting hypothesis, but it does not survive a rigorous going over by reason, contends Carrier, who holds a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University.
“Notice [that Atwill’s] theory entails a massive and weirdly erudite conspiracy of truly bizarre scope and pedigree, to achieve a truly Quixotic aim that hardly makes sense coming from any half-intelligent elite of the era. … All to posit that the entire Christian religion was created by the Romans (and then immediately opposed by it?), who somehow got hundreds of Jews … to abandon their religion and join a cult that simply appeared … on the Palestinian … book market without endorsement,” he says.
“Atwill’s is very much like Bible Code crankery,” he continues, “where he looks for all kinds of multiple comparisons fallacies and sees conspiracies in all of them, rather than the inevitable coincidences … that they really are. Everything confirms his thesis, because nothing could ever fail to. Classic nonfalsifiability. He just cherry picks and interprets anything to fit, any way he wants.”
“Multiple comparisons fallacy” occurs when a scholar, investigator or excited conspiracy theorist finds similarities between different bodies of evidence and then concludes, on the basis of a high number of similarities, that their existence supports or proves the hypothesis. “Nonfalsifiability” means that a hypothesis cannot be proven true or false, and is thus no longer a candidate for scientific investigation. On the basis of Atwill’s argument and evidence, then, his proposition can be treated neither as true or false, but either probable or improbable.
“There are at least eight general problems with his thesis, which do not refute it but establish that it has a very low prior probability, and therefore requires exceptionally good evidence to be at all credible,” Carrier continues. See a few of those problems below, then continue to Carrier’s site to read the fascinating rest, including a long exchange between him and Atwill. Additionally, Carrier’s arguments against the existence of a historical Christ can be found on his site as well.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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