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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:29 pm 
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Catching up on this thread I'm staring at a book on my bookshelf dedicated to philosophical issues surrounding the Frequentist vs. Bayesian debate. While it's been away since I read anything on the issue, something I clearly remember is:

1) There are questions where taking a Frequentist or Bayesian approach yields different answers with the same data.

and

2) These are marginal cases for the day to day inferences we make. Ordinarily this does not matter.

All Bayesian analysis does is try to mathematically formalize a sense of how proper reasoning with observational evidence to form degrees of certainty in propositions occurs. It's as good as its approximation of sound reasoning is, which is subject to extensive debate. If you accept it, then like any analytic tool the vast majority of the time the analysis should tell you what you would expect by non-quantitative means. Only on occasion should it work by surprising your ordinary intuitions regarding reasoning with evidence and yield a different answer. But those exceptional cases is why it's potentially useful.

I'm generally wary of any person who enters a field and tries to prove an exotic point using Bayesian notation. Usually what that person does is make arbitrary, though superficially reasonable-seeming assumptions in various priors to yield results that get them to their exotic conclusions. Rather than Jesus-mythicists, where I'm most familiar with this is Swinburne style apologetics for theistic justification. The mathematical notion gives these kind of arguments a sheen of rigor and complexity, but that's often masking rather poor, and rather ordinary, arguments. It's lipstick on a pig.

When it comes to a subject like history, I would expect a full, detailed account why Bayes is illuminating, rather than obfuscating ordinary historical methodology on a question. My initial stance will be a healthy skepticism and a suspicion a person is trying to cheat in dubious ideas through questionable assignments of probability.


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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:37 pm 
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MrStakhanovite wrote:
What I'm trying to drive home is that none of the development had ancient history and philology in mind, so if someone wants to do that they have to go back and make major additions to account for a totally new purpose. Instead of trying model a relationship between a given hypothesis and scientific observation via instruments, we have to work with ancient textual witnesses, testimonia, and the fragmented remains of material culture.


Hey MrSkakhanovite,

It's been challenging to engage most of your points here because they are so esoteric. But three questions come to mind:

1- Carrier literally wrote an entire book justifying his use of Bayesian analysis for this question. Have you read that book?

2- When I look at Bayes' formula, my intuition is that this is in fact the best approach to address this issue. While I agree it isn't perfect, what is better? Is there a better formula that serves as a model for framking an analysis of whether Jesus was a historical figure? Or are you arguing that we shouldn't use any actual statistics when making statements about what the evidence implies about the probability of Jesus existing?

3- Sean Carroll is just as high on Bayesian analysis as Carrier is. Do your criticisms of Carrier for thinking Bayesian analysis is widely applicable also apply to Carroll? For example, Carroll said:

Sean Carroll wrote:
Bayes’s Theorem can be thought of as a quantitative version of the method of inference we previously called “abduction.” (Abduction places emphasis on finding the “best explanation,” rather than just fitting the data, but methodologically the ideas are quite similar.) It’s the basis of all science and other forms of empirical reasoning. It suggests a universal scheme for thinking about our degrees of belief: start with some prior credences, then update them when new information comes in, based on the likelihood of that information being compatible with each original possibility.

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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:10 am 
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I haven't been following this thread closely - to my regret, as there have evidently been some very strong contributions - but I wanted to comment on this point:

Analytics wrote:
2- When I look at Bayes' formula, my intuition is that this is in fact the best approach to address this issue. While I agree it isn't perfect, what is better? Is there a better formula that serves as a model for framking an analysis of whether Jesus was a historical figure? Or are you arguing that we shouldn't use any actual statistics when making statements about what the evidence implies about the probability of Jesus existing?


I don't think this is the right question, because it presupposes that Bayes enjoys the status of the theory in possession, so to speak. The question I would wish to pose is who uses Bayes to resolve any question in ancient history other than this one? I have come across numerous theoretical models for handling ancient texts - Marxist, structuralist, Freudian, deconstructionist, feminist, evolutionary-psychologist and others - but I have never once encountered someone using Rev. Bayes' method as a means of clarifying a disputed point about classical or biblical antiquity.

You could answer this point by saying that the sort of people who are interested in this stuff tend not to be educated in statistical methods, or even numerate. That is certainly so for a lot of us (I can't count to 20 without taking my socks off), but it isn't true across the board. Some ancient historians do make use of quantitative methods. It may, in fact, be that it is advocates of Bayes who are being misled by a preference for the hard, objective-seeming properties of mathematics and numbers.


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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:31 am 
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Johannes wrote:
I haven't been following this thread closely - to my regret, as there have evidently been some very strong contributions - but I wanted to comment on this point:

Analytics wrote:
2- When I look at Bayes' formula, my intuition is that this is in fact the best approach to address this issue. While I agree it isn't perfect, what is better? Is there a better formula that serves as a model for framking an analysis of whether Jesus was a historical figure? Or are you arguing that we shouldn't use any actual statistics when making statements about what the evidence implies about the probability of Jesus existing?


I don't think this is the right question, because it presupposes that Bayes enjoys the status of the theory in possession, so to speak. The question I would wish to pose is who uses Bayes to resolve any question in ancient history other than this one? I have come across numerous theoretical models for handling ancient texts - Marxist, structuralist, Freudian, deconstructionist, feminist, evolutionary-psychologist and others - but I have never once encountered someone using Rev. Bayes' method as a means of clarifying a disputed point about classical or biblical antiquity.

You could answer this point by saying that the sort of people who are interested in this stuff tend not to be educated in statistical methods, or even numerate. That is certainly so for a lot of us (I can't count to 20 without taking my socks off), but it isn't true across the board. Some ancient historians do make use of quantitative methods. It may, in fact, be that it is advocates of Bayes who are being misled by a preference for the hard, objective-seeming properties of mathematics and numbers.

A couple of points. First, you can implement Bayesian reasoning in an informal way without actually making up numbers and then plugging them into a formula. As EAllusion said, it's just a way of formalizing how proper reasoning with observational evidence happens anyway.

The second part is a bit ironic, though. You can't be a good Bayesian without being a bit of an iconoclast. That's because a Bayesian approach to problem solving isn't very popular in the statistitcs department, either. Most statisticians feel uncofmortable bringing their own a priori beliefs to the table, and much prefer "letting the data speak for itself." Lead by R.A. Fisher, 100 years ago the "frequentists" beat out the Baesians as the prefered paradigm of mainstream statistics.

However, the Bayesians have the tenancity of pitbulls, and have never conceded the fight. It seems that over the last 15 years we are making some headway within the statistics department, but it is still a minority approach of solving problems. That is why when somebody like Sean Carroll spends 2 chapters in a mainstream book on science preaching that he is a true-beleiver of Bayes' Theorem, it is a big deal.

I wouldn't expect to win this debate in the ancient history department before we've won it in the statistics department. But that doesn't mean we are wrong.

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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:12 am 
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Ah, I see. I hadn't realised that this was an exercise in iconoclasm. By all means, then, carry on fighting the good fight!


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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:36 am 
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Johannes wrote:
Ah, I see. I hadn't realised that this was an exercise in iconoclasm. By all means, then, carry on fighting the good fight!

Death or glory!

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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:37 am 
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Just re-reading this thread.... There are a couple of things here that are worth commetning on:

Res Ipsa wrote:
I read a couple of articles on the history of New Testament studies a while back, and was bothered by the fact that it didn't look like the field of study had ever seriously considered the historicity question. Early on, it was assumed Jesus was a real person because the claims in the Bible were accepted on faith. Later, it became permissible to assert that portions of the New Testament were not literally true. But the field of study didn't seem to ever make room for serious consideration of a mythicist position.

Personally, I'd trust historians on this issue more than those within the field of New Testament Studies. As long as the same standards are applied to Jesus as a historical figure as are applied to other figures (real and mythological) of the same period, I'm happy. But it seemed to me that the "criteria" used by New Testament scholars to determine what is factual in the New Testament seemed to be something different than methods used by historians.


Very briefly, in relation to the first para, historical Jesus studies developed out of Enlightenment Deism. True, they started with the assumption that Jesus existed - the emphasis was on stripping away religious doctrine from him - but Christ-myth theories were already around at the time of the French Revolution. Once higher criticism got going on the N.T., they appeared in the work of 19th century scholars like Bruno Bauer. They were more plausible then than they are now because scholars of that era were more willing to stretch the datings of the gospels and other N.T. texts into the 2nd century (which is really an essential precondition of the Christ myth theory, and the key reason why it doesn't work). Then, around the turn of the 19-20th centuries, it became fashionable to say that Jesus was a Jewish iteration of a dying-rising god archetype; an idea which has largely been driven from mainstream scholarship by the realisation that the archetype is an entirely modern construct. Anyway, the point is that there is something of a history to this idea.

As for trusting N.T. scholars... well, there are N.T. scholars and there are N.T. scholars. There is a definite constituency of biblically conservative Christian professors - but they are easy to spot, and most pracitioners know who the main ones are. Most mainstream academics in the field, whatever their personal beliefs, would accept that we need to play this game by the rules of secular historiography, much as, say, Richard Bushman tries to write within the canons of secular biography, notwithstanding his obvious faith commitment. One of the great historical Jesus scholars, John Meier, wanted to solve the problem of who the historical Jesus was by imprisoning a Protestant, a Catholic, a Jew and an Atheist in Harvard Divinity School library until they come up with some answers. That attitude is not untypical in the field.


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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:44 am 
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Symmachus wrote:
In general, I could imagine statistical analysis to be more useful if it were deciding between interpretations that competent scholars from across the different methodological zones of the field already agree are valid—if it doesn't pointlessly destroy the ecosystem. Mythicism doesn't fit the picture, but there are still different interpretations of the evidence within the larger general framework that has been reconstructed. For example, was Jesus a social revolutionary, a political insurgent, an apocalyptic prophet, or a miracle-worker? The usual way to escape this, for those who aren't committed to one or the other (and most today I think would say apocalyptic prophet) is to argue for some combination without specifying much beyond that. In other words, it's just a rhetorical trick to avoid tackling the issue more concretely. I can see that maybe a Bayesian approach would be useful in trying to settle this and other questions of this sort, and I can see that some of the evidence would lend itself well to statistical analysis.


You're right, Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet is still the most widely favoured paradigm. The social revolutionary view is associated with John Dominic Crossan, and I would tend to be sympathetic to it, although without bringing in all of Crossan's baggage. The nationalist insurgent interpretation has always been stronger in popular culture than in academia. But then no-one has really said anything new about the historical Jesus since the 70s, when Geza Vermes noticed that he was Jewish.


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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:54 am 
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Johannes wrote:
Just re-reading this thread.... There are a couple of things here that are worth commetning on:

Res Ipsa wrote:
I read a couple of articles on the history of New Testament studies a while back, and was bothered by the fact that it didn't look like the field of study had ever seriously considered the historicity question. Early on, it was assumed Jesus was a real person because the claims in the Bible were accepted on faith. Later, it became permissible to assert that portions of the New Testament were not literally true. But the field of study didn't seem to ever make room for serious consideration of a mythicist position.

Personally, I'd trust historians on this issue more than those within the field of New Testament Studies. As long as the same standards are applied to Jesus as a historical figure as are applied to other figures (real and mythological) of the same period, I'm happy. But it seemed to me that the "criteria" used by New Testament scholars to determine what is factual in the New Testament seemed to be something different than methods used by historians.


Very briefly, in relation to the first para, historical Jesus studies developed out of Enlightenment Deism. True, they started with the assumption that Jesus existed - the emphasis was on stripping away religious doctrine from him - but Christ-myth theories were already around at the time of the French Revolution. Once higher criticism got going on the N.T., they appeared in the work of 19th century scholars like Bruno Bauer. They were more plausible then than they are now because scholars of that era were more willing to stretch the datings of the gospels and other N.T. texts into the 2nd century (which is really an essential precondition of the Christ myth theory, and the key reason why it doesn't work). Then, around the turn of the 19-20th centuries, it became fashionable to say that Jesus was a Jewish iteration of a dying-rising god archetype; an idea which has largely been driven from mainstream scholarship by the realisation that the archetype is an entirely modern construct. Anyway, the point is that there is something of a history to this idea.

As for trusting N.T. scholars... well, there are N.T. scholars and there are N.T. scholars. There is a definite constituency of biblically conservative Christian professors - but they are easy to spot, and most pracitioners know who the main ones are. Most mainstream academics in the field, whatever their personal beliefs, would accept that we need to play this game by the rules of secular historiography, much as, say, Richard Bushman tries to write within the canons of secular biography, notwithstanding his obvious faith commitment. One of the great historical Jesus scholars, John Meier, wanted to solve the problem of who the historical Jesus was by imprisoning a Protestant, a Catholic, a Jew and an Atheist in Harvard Divinity School library until they come up with some answers. That attitude is not untypical in the field.


Thanks, Johannes. That was helpful.

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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:51 pm 
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Johannes
But then no-one has really said anything new about the historical Jesus since the 70s, when Geza Vermes noticed that he was Jewish.


True that. And Jesus scholarship has not moved an iota in finding evidence, yet continues to squeal with delight when new archaeological evidence comes up that might possibly make him a wee tad more historical, yet they still use the same convoluted logic and ingrain their conclusions with the same untenable assumptions as I found in the book that Dr. Peterson was so thrilled with. That would be Robert J. Hutchinson's new book "Searching for Jesus," which tries so very, very hard to come up with something....anything new to archaeologically and historically support the Jesus church raised us to believe in. And it fails miserably. It demonstrates that scholarship has allowed itself to morph into apologetic pap. I can see why Peterson is slobbering all over hisself pontificating that this.... this is sensational stuff! Hutchinson makes great noise, but generates for little of actual value other than assuming everything found in the Holy Land is automatically Jesus. It's Jesus! HEY! QUICK! LOOKIE HERE WORLD, we found a house and someone says it MIGHT BE Jesus'S!!!!!!! HOLY GOOD GAWD MAN THIS IS PROOF!

And the silliness just does not stop. Hutchinson fails to connect the dots and instead is invested with faith promoting guessing that actually demonstrates to me why I truly no longer trust scholars or archaeologists for Jesus. Their agenda absolutely warps their ability to reason or think through much of anything anymore.

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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:11 am 
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Philo Sofee wrote:
Quote:
Johannes
But then no-one has really said anything new about the historical Jesus since the 70s, when Geza Vermes noticed that he was Jewish.


True that. And Jesus scholarship has not moved an iota in finding evidence, yet continues to squeal with delight when new archaeological evidence comes up that might possibly make him a wee tad more historical ...
Nit-pick: it may be worth noting that Johannes' clever Vermes reference seems address historical Jesus research, which mostly concerns itself with identifying historical kernels amongst surviving traditions and developing ideas about the individual upon whom those traditions are based. It is more interested in 'textual archaeology' than in dirt archaeology. Proving Jesus' existence (contra mythicist notions) is not its primary focus.

Historical Jesus research largely concerns itself with stripping away myth -- it's a far cry from arguing for a fundamentalist reading of the gospels.


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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:28 am 
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Bret Ripley wrote:
Nit-pick: it may be worth noting that Johannes' clever Vermes reference seems address historical Jesus research, which mostly concerns itself with identifying historical kernels amongst surviving traditions and developing ideas about the individual upon whom those traditions are based. It is more interested in 'textual archaeology' than in dirt archaeology. Proving Jesus' existence (contra mythicist notions) is not its primary focus.

Historical Jesus research largely concerns itself with stripping away myth -- it's a far cry from arguing for a fundamentalist reading of the gospels.


Well said. And Philo, if I may be so bold, I wonder whether you might be getting an inaccurate picture of what's going on in scholarship by focusing on what some religious apologists and their critics are doing. There seems to be three strands in your reading: 1) the apologists, 2) the response to them by people like Carrier, and then 3) the response to both the apologists and Carrier by people like Ehrman.

What these people are discussing obviously has a lot of value because it tackles the ways that most non-scholars tend to think about the issues, although I think they are a far cry in terms of quality from an older generation of popularizers like Dominic Crossan. But I think going to savory meat is best, so why sip on spoiled milk? I'm sure you know N. T. Wright, but what about James Dunn, John Meier, Amy-Jill Levine, John Collins, Dale Martin, Paula Fredriksen, Gerd Theissen, Helmut Koester, and—my absolute favorite—E. P. Sanders? That's just a name a few. They are all accessible writers, solid scholars, and none are apologists. They are more representative of the field than some blowhard like Hutchinson or even Ehrman. They might make you rethink a statement like "And it fails miserably. It demonstrates that scholarship has allowed itself to morph into apologetic pap." Quite the contrary! Someone like E. P. Sanders always restores my faith in the ability of judicious reasoning to sort through the mess of ideology wrapped in cobwebs of data.

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...I found in the book that Dr. Peterson was so thrilled with...


Your first clue that something is not worth reading.

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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:13 pm 
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Symmachus wrote:
E. P. Sanders


One best book title, to start, please.

And thank you all again for the thread.


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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:06 pm 
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Morley wrote:
Symmachus wrote:
E. P. Sanders


One best book title, to start, please.

And thank you all again for the thread.


Best book? Hmmm....that's a tough one because it depends on where you're starting from. His The Historical Figure of Jesus is published by Penguin (see here) and marketed to general audiences rather than to other scholars, but it has all the virtues of his scholarship—honesty, judicious reasoning, complete mastery of the primary material, a clear sense of how the secondary scholarship has developed—and none of the vices that I see so in so much "popular" history. I'm sure someone reading this will trot out the cliché in their mind or in a comment that it's "out-of-date" (perhaps even "woefully out-of-date"), but I would point them to Johannes's point, that not much has changed about how Jesus is viewed as a historical figure since the 1970s. There was a push in the 90s to see him as a social reformer (Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg), and I guess now this revival of mythicism, but the basic picture weathered the first storm and I suspect will weather the second, and for much the same reasons.

My own favorite of Sanders's is Judaism: Practice and Belief, but his most significant book is Paul and Palestinian Judaism, a book that dramatically reshaped how Paul is viewed. Although it is not really about Jesus and doesn't have anything to say about mythicism (if I remember rightly), it is a book that makes the mythicist position very difficult to entertain, because it shows how deeply Paul was engaged with contemporary Judaism. It's hard to imagine how a mythicist Paul fits into that paradigm.

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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:18 pm 
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Thanks guys for the wise words and reading recommendations!


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:28 am 
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Kishkumen wrote:
Thanks guys for the wise words and reading recommendations!


Yes. And thank you, Rev.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:30 am 
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Symmachus wrote:

Best book? Hmmm....that's a tough one because it depends on where you're starting from. His The Historical Figure of Jesus is published by Penguin (see here) and marketed to general audiences rather than to other scholars, but it has all the virtues of his scholarship—honesty, judicious reasoning, complete mastery of the primary material, a clear sense of how the secondary scholarship has developed—and none of the vices that I see so in so much "popular" history. I'm sure someone reading this will trot out the cliché in their mind or in a comment that it's "out-of-date" (perhaps even "woefully out-of-date"), but I would point them to Johannes's point, that not much has changed about how Jesus is viewed as a historical figure since the 1970s. There was a push in the 90s to see him as a social reformer (Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg), and I guess now this revival of mythicism, but the basic picture weathered the first storm and I suspect will weather the second, and for much the same reasons.

My own favorite of Sanders's is Judaism: Practice and Belief, but his most significant book is Paul and Palestinian Judaism, a book that dramatically reshaped how Paul is viewed. Although it is not really about Jesus and doesn't have anything to say about mythicism (if I remember rightly), it is a book that makes the mythicist position very difficult to entertain, because it shows how deeply Paul was engaged with contemporary Judaism. It's hard to imagine how a mythicist Paul fits into that paradigm.


Thank you for taking the time to do this, Symmachus.


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 Post subject: Re: Craig Evans v Richard Carrier Did Jesus Exist SUPERB
PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:30 am 
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Analytics wrote:
Hey MrSkakhanovite


Sorry about the late reply! I'm going to answer your questions in a different order than you asked:


Analytics wrote:
Carrier literally wrote an entire book justifying his use of Bayesian analysis for this question. Have you read that book?


The 'Proving History' title? Borrowed it, read the bibliography to see how much of the current literature he used and poked around for a few days before I decided the book wasn't going to be much use to me.


Analytics wrote:
Sean Carroll is just as high on Bayesian analysis as Carrier is. Do your criticisms of Carrier for thinking Bayesian analysis is widely applicable also apply to Carroll?


I'd need more information, does he see Bayes as being normative for science or does he mean it is descriptive of science? Is he talking about a form of objective Bayes or is he assuming the Personalist view? Is he talking about Bayes being used for the purpose of confirmation or does he mean using Bayes as a way to pick between competing theories?

My guess is that he doesn't really stake out a position on any of that and if that book is for a general audience I wouldn't expect him to. When someone decides to use Bayes for a complicated non-stochastic problem, by necessity they begin to take on a lot of conceptual baggage. Because Bayes can take on so many different forms, objections to it are going to be dependent on how Bayes is articulated in any given situation.


Analytics wrote:
When I look at Bayes' formula, my intuition is that this is in fact the best approach to address this issue. While I agree it isn't perfect, what is better? Is there a better formula that serves as a model for framking an analysis of whether Jesus was a historical figure? Or are you arguing that we shouldn't use any actual statistics when making statements about what the evidence implies about the probability of Jesus existing?


I think this really gets to the heart of the matter.

I'm very skeptical about philosophical analysis because uncritical thinking is endemic to it and Bayes is no exception; it is simply a tool one has in their kit that works well in certain situations. People will adopt Bayes because it has the illusion of quantifying evidence and then just feed various problems through it like one would feed lumber through a saw. At that point any meaningful intellectual activity is done and only rote labor is required.

When you ask what is better than Bayes when it comes to framing to the problem of the historical Jesus my reply would have to be that Bayes doesn't even allow you to frame it at all. To even try to do so would be a mistake.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:41 am 
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For the record I'm a Neusner man and if my word was law I'd have E.P. Sanders horsewhipped and his fans persecuted.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:59 am 
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MrStakhanovite wrote:
For the record I'm a Neusner man and if my word was law I'd have E.P. Sanders horsewhipped and his fans persecuted.


So I looked though his book on Amazon. There are quite a few. Is there one in particular you recommend? Not your favorite perhaps but one that would be accessible to a lay person like me?

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:37 am 
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Fence Sitter wrote:
MrStakhanovite wrote:
For the record I'm a Neusner man and if my word was law I'd have E.P. Sanders horsewhipped and his fans persecuted.


So I looked though his book on Amazon. There are quite a few. Is there one in particular you recommend? Not your favorite perhaps but one that would be accessible to a lay person like me?



Yeah, me too. Any so-called primers would be appreciated. I hadn't realized what a deep hole I'm in regarding this subject.



ETA: The 'so-called primers' request is directed at any and all who have recommendations. Please.


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