An Update on Richard Carrier's Book, "On the Historicity of Jesus"

The subtitle and table of contents are now available. The subtitle is "Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt." It's scheduled to be published in June of this year with a whopping 700 pages! The hardback list price is $95 and the paperback list price is $35. Below is the book description and table of contents:
The assumption that Jesus existed as a historical person has occasionally been questioned in the course of the last hundred years or so, but any doubts that have been raised have usually been put to rest in favor of imagining a blend of the historical, the mythical and the theological in the surviving records of Jesus.

Carrier re-examines the whole question and finds compelling reasons to suspect the more daring assumption is correct. He lays out extensive research on the evidence for Jesus and the origins of Christianity and poses the key questions that must now be answered if the historicity of Jesus is to survive as a dominant paradigm.

Carrier contrasts the most credible reconstruction of a historical Jesus with the most credible theory of Christian origins if a historical Jesus did not exist. Such a theory would posit that the Jesus figure was originally conceived of as a celestial being known only through private revelations and hidden messages in scripture; then stories placing this being in earth history were crafted to communicate the claims of the gospel allegorically; such stories eventually came to be believed or promoted in the struggle for control of the Christian churches that survived the tribulations of the first century.

Carrier finds the latter theory more credible than has been previously imagined. He explains why it offers a better explanation for all the disparate evidence surviving from the first two centuries of the Christian era. He argues that we need a more careful and robust theory of cultural syncretism between Jewish theology and politics of the second-temple period and the most popular features of pagan religion and philosophy of the time.

For anyone intent on defending a historical Jesus, this is the book to challenge.

Richard Carrier (PhD Columbia in ancient history) lives in the San Francisco area. His previous book is Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus (2012).

978-1-909697-35-5, hardback / 978-1-909697-49-2 paperback
Publication June 2014 (not yet published)


1. The Problem

Isn’t This Just Bunk?
The Debate Today
Myth vs. History
Mythicists vs. Historicists
The Aim of This Book
Summary of Remaining Chapters
Applying Bayes’ Theorem
Elements and Axioms

2. The Hypothesis of Historicity

Myth from History
The Basic Problem
Hypothesis Formation and Prior Probability
The Minimal Theory of Historicity

3. The Hypothesis of Myth

From Inanna to Christ
The Basic Problem
The Minimal Jesus Myth Theory

4. Background Knowledge (Christianity)

A Romulan Tale
Background Knowledge
Elemental Definitions
Elemental Background Knowledge
Elements of Christian Origin
Elements of Christian Religion
Elements of Christian Development

5. Background Knowledge (Context)

Elements of Political Context
Elements of Religious & Philosophical Context
Elements of Literary Context

6. The Prior Probability

Heroes Who Never Existed
Determining Prior Probability
Using the Rank-Raglan Reference Class
The Causal Objection
The Alternative Class Objection
The Complexity Objection
Rapid Legendary Development

7. Primary Sources

What Counts as Evidence?
Breaking Down the Evidence
The Epistles
The Gospels
Extra-Biblical Evidence
The Problem of Compromised Evidence
The Role of Consequent Probabilities

8. Extrabiblical Evidence

Jesus When?
The Socrates Analogy
Missing Evidence
Missing Christian Evidence
Clement of Rome
Ignatius of Antioch
Papias of Hierapolis
Josephus and the Testimonia Flaviana
Pliny & Tacitus
Suetonius & Thallus
Missing Evidence: Contra Myth
Weighing the Evidence

9. The Evidence of Acts

Acts as Historical Fiction
What Happened to the Body?
The Mysterious Vanishing Acts
The ‘Trial Transcripts’ of Paul
Stephen’s Trial Speech
The Possibility of ‘Aramaic’ Sources
Weighing the Evidence

10. The Evidence of the Gospels

How to Invent a Gospel
What Is Myth?
Examining the Gospels
The Mythology of Mark
The Mythology of Matthew
The Mythology of Luke
The Mythology of John
Weighing the Evidence

11. The Evidence of the Epistles

The Passion of Pliny the Elder
The Peculiar Indifference of Paul and His Christians
Epistles from the Pillars
The Earliest Gospels
The Gospel in Hebrews
Things Jesus Said
The Eucharist
Things Jesus Did
Women and Sperm
Brothers of the Lord
Weighing the Evidence

12. Conclusion

The Final Calculation
On Trying to Avoid the Conclusion
What We Should Conclude
The Last Desperate Objection
What Now?