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On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt Paperback – June 3, 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 712 pages
  • Publisher: Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1909697494
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909697492
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 3, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book contains over 600 pages of text and notes (the notes are at the bottom of the pages) and those pages are very content dense so it reads like a much longer book. In fact it is so content dense at times it was almost a painful read. This is Richard Carrier at his best when he is making scholarly and logically rigorous arguments, as opposed to his blog where gets defensive with rants and spends too much time on his progressive politics. I wish he would focus more on this kind of writing.

Whether you agree with him or not, you have to give him credit for the tremendous effort this book must have taken. It is heavily footnoted and sources are very well documented. Unfortunately the choice to present a comprehensive case that must be *considered as a whole* will lead to a problem that Carrier notes in the book itself. Critics will be taking shots at various targets, and there are a massive number of them in this book, without considering the case as a whole. They will not offer better arguments, they will just hack away at individual trees, while at the same time failing to notice that an impenetrable forest remains standing.

There are some terrific parts to this book and for the most part it is excellent. I've always considered the silence of Paul a powerful argument against a historical Jesus and in the first 20 or so pages of his Epistles chapter, Carrier presents a beautiful and devastatingly powerful argument based upon the silence of Paul. I think it is almost unanswerable. I wish I could take several paragraphs out of that chapter and frame them and hang them on the office walls of various advocates of a historical Jesus to remind them of how incredibly weak their excuses really are.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Everest might be the highest mountain, but to climb it, you get to start high up in the Himalayas. Kilimanjaro is the longer climb, starting close to sea level. I draw this analogy because Carrier's book doesn't start at the bottom, but rather close to the top. For example, Carrier's target reader will already be aware that Daniel was written closer to the second century BC, long after the purported events it depicts, rather than being written during the rise of the Persian Empire (rendering the 'prophecies' rather less spectacular). A reader unfamiliar with the general trends in biblical scholarship will likely balk at many of the points Dr. Carrier takes for granted. Likewise, a member of the faithful might balk at the casual dismissal of miracle stories and the like as being simply absurd or obvious fabrications. I don't mention this to discourage anyone from tackling this book, but if you're coming from a faith-based method of reading the Bible, you'll find a lot of points require additional study in order to evaluate the claims of this book - or just a really good ability to compartmentalize while you read (accepting some things as given, just 'for the sake of the argument').

In general, I found Carrier's thesis worth serious consideration. I'm borderline persuaded, though there's a few things I want to do some additional reading on before I give in completely. One thing Dr. Carrier is quite good at is reading scripture without importing extra 'context' that might not be there. I'll give one example: all the times when Paul says that such and such event in the life of Jesus happened 'according to scripture'.
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This is an excellent book, highly recommended for anyone interested in the historical vs mythical debate over Jesus.

Firstly - my paperback version is of generally good physical quality, both in the printing and the binding - and survived a first read and some wide opening for scanning just fine.

The book is well argued and his points are logical and well supported with plenty of foot-notes, and a comprehensive bibliography. It is a companion volume to his work "Proving History" where he argues for using Bayesian probability in the study of history, especially Jesus. This methodology is breath of fresh air in Jesus studies - instead of ad hoc or even apologetic arguments, Carrier has a method that is based on probability and not just possibilities and wishful thinking.

First carrier sets up two mininal Jesus theories to test :

Mythical :
1. At the origin of Christianity, Jesus Christ was thought to be a celestial deity much like any other.
2. Like many other celestial deities, this Jesus 'communicated' with his subjects only through dreams, visions and other forms of divine inspi­ration (such as prophecy, past and present).
3. Like some other celestial deities, this Jesus was originally believed to have endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection in a supernatural realm.
4. As for many other celestial deities, an allegorical story of this same Jesus was then composed and told within the sacred community, which placed him on earth, in history, as a divine man, with an earthly family, companions, and enemies, complete with deeds and sayings, and an earthly depiction of his ordeals.
5.
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