Here's a sequel to my previous post:
In this post I'm commenting on Carrier's self-serving debate postmortem:
he argues these Gospels must be telling the truth because they “exhibit extensive and compelling verisimilitude,” which is the same thing as saying Mike Hammer novels are really realistic and get all sorts of cultural and historical facts right, therefore Mike Hammer existed. The fallacy is palpable.
It’s entirely possible John correctly describes the location of the pool, that it was indeed five porticoed, was named as he said, was a healing site, and near the sheep gate (the location of which archaeology has not identified). But this information would have been available in reference books and histories of Judea, and in other stories and legends of events there, and known to countless persons who had lived there in later decades (like Josephus, for example). That the authors of John knew the layout of Jerusalem therefore tells us nothing about whether they had any eyewitness information pertaining to Jesus, or any historical information about Jesus at all.
But even what little verisimilitude the Gospels have is moot. To get Jewish culture and geography right only requires being Jewish or knowing or reading any informed Jew, especially someone who grew up in that time and place, or wrote about it—like Josephus, who did both.
That the Gospels, like many myths and legends and other varieties of historical fiction in antiquity, get some incidental cultural and historical details right, is not evidence that Jesus existed.
Matthew knew these better and repairs Mark’s mistakes, but not from being a better witness to Jesus, but just being a more informed Jew. Hence correcting these errors and getting them right has no connection to having any special knowledge of Jesus. It just means an author knew the Holy Land and Jewish laws and customs better. Luke, meanwhile, gets his details of the region from the Jewish historian Josephus (and probably, in the same way, other historians now lost, for other regions discussed in Acts). And John has been edited out of order so hopelessly it’s actually of little use geographically (see OHJ, Chapter 10.7), and he says nothing about customs that wasn’t common knowledge among Jews. So there really isn’t anything remarkable about these books using common knowledge and reference books to set their scenes.
i) That poses a central dilemma for Carrier. On the one hand, to discount the historicity of the Gospels, he must insist that these were written too late to be in touch with living memory. On the other hand, to account for the historical accuracy of the Gospels, he must insist the authors did have access to informants from that time and place. Carrier can't straddle that fence. He will falling over one side or the other.
ii) Sure, it's possible to write accurate historical fiction. There are two or three ways to do that. If the novelist lived at that time and place. But Carrier denies that with respect to the Gospel writers.
Or if the author had access to informants who lived at that time and place. But if Carrier concedes that in reference to the Gospel writers, then he can't exclude testimonial evidence to the historical Jesus.
iii) I'm also curious about his casual appeal to "reference books and histories of Judea". Really? He thinks a Gospel writer, after the Jewish War, could just go a local library or local bookstore to consult a tour book on Jerusalem or Palestine before the fall of Jerusalem?
Already the non sequitur is obvious. But it’s worse, because there is little else in the Gospels that is so specific. And indeed much that is erroneous.
His Argument from Second Century Historians is basically that historians a century after the fact say Jesus existed, therefore he did. The same historians who did not know anything about Jesus except from what Christians told them—Christians who were relying on the Gospels. So his argument is: later historians repeat the fact that Christians a century later said Jesus existed, therefore Jesus existed. This is a non sequitur. No second century historian gives any indication they had any means of knowing whether the man depicted in the Gospels actually existed or not.
What makes Carrier assume that someone like Papias or Polycarp had no direct knowledge of Christ's disciples? Likewise, the chain from John to Irenaeus.
They were two or more lifetimes removed from the pertinent events, and mention no access to any documents or witnesses or memoirs to guide them.
As a teenager, my mother knew a great-aunt who came to live with her parents in her old age. Her great-aunt was born in 1842. I'm writing in 2016. In that respect, there's just one link between me and my great-great aunt. Likewise, my father's grandfather was a Civil War vet. I know because he used to tell my father war stories about his experience. In that respect, there's just one link between me and my great-great grandfather. Because generations overlap, living memory can span a considerable interval.
We have no eyewitnesses to the historicity of Jesus, and no author who claims he existed on earth has shown that they had any credible access to eyewitnesses. In fact, none even claim they did—except the authors of the Gospel of John, and their witness is a fabrication (OHJ, pp. 500-05; fabricating witnesses was common in ancient mythography: Alan Cameron has a whole chapter on it in Greek Mythography in the Roman World).
Richard Bauckham will be publishing an expanded edition of his classic monograph on Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.
Paul, the only source we have who definitely wrote in less than an average lifetime after when Jesus would have lived…
The "average lifespan" is a statistical mean that's diluted by high child mortality in the ancient world. But people who survived childhood could have a normal lifespan. Consider the church fathers (excluding those who died prematurely from martyrdom).
One (Luke) outright denies it and conspicuously does not mention having access to any eyewitnesses, only to the previous Gospels, none of which written by eyewitnesses nor citing any.
Luke doesn't say his research was confined to previous Gospels. And it's clear from Acts that Luke had a wide range of contacts, including founding members of the Jerusalem church.
The earliest (Mark) cites no sources at all, and was clearly not himself an eyewitness, and never mentions knowing or speaking to any.
i) How is it "clear" that Mark was not an eyewitness to any of the events he narrates? And if he was an eyewitness, then we wouldn't expect him to cite sources.
ii) Moreover, Carrier is duplicitous. Even if Matthew, Mark, or Luke either claimed to be eyewitnesses or cite eyewitnesses, Carrier would preemptively discount their testimony as fabricated.
And Matthew just copied Mark verbatim…
Matthew sometimes simplifies Mark to make room for Matthew's supplementary material. So it's not verbatim. The fact, though, that Matthew is so conservative in his use of Mark demonstrates his fidelity to his sources. He doesn't take historical liberties with Mark.
and expanded and revised him with more speeches many of which many scholars agree were composed afterward and thus did not come from eyewitnesses (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount is an original composition in Greek written after the Jewish War: OHJ, pp. 465-67).
That's nothing more than a tendentious assertion. Incidentally, it's funny how Carrier reprimands Evans for appeal to scholarly consensus, yet Carrier is quick to invoke scholarly consensus when it serves his own purpose.
Nor would an eyewitness just copy verbatim the book of a non-witness and pass it off as their own testimony…
A strawman inasmuch as Matthew doesn't just copy verbatim Mark's account. In addition to the material that Matthew and Luke derive from Mark, they include some distinctive parables. Yet the parables of Jesus constitute evidence for the historical Jesus:
And much of what Matthew adds to Mark is sufficiently ridiculous as to rule out his having or using eyewitness sources at all (like magical stars: 2:9-11; virgin births: 1:18-25...
That's only ridiculous of you presume miracles are ridiculous
zombie hordes: 27:52-53;
These are no more "zombies" than Lazarus restored to life (Jn 11). "Zombie" instantly triggers associations with Hollywood horror films. That's not an accurate comparison. It's just an applause line for Carrier's sycophants.
flying monsters from outer space: 28:1-8; etc.).
An angel is a "flying monster from outer space"? That's hardly an accurate description. Rather, it's another applause line for his groupies.