Showing posts sorted by relevance for query richard c. miller. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query richard c. miller. Sort by date Show all posts

Richard C. Miller's New Book On the Resurrection Threatens to Undermine the Whole Christian Apologetic

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Given Justin Martyr's Apology (seen left),
This book offers an original interpretation of the origin and early reception of the most fundamental claim of Christianity: Jesus’ resurrection. Richard Miller contends that the earliest Christians would not have considered the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ resurrection to be literal or historical, but instead would have recognized this narrative as an instance of the trope of divine translation, common within the Hellenistic and Roman mythic traditions. Given this framework, Miller argues, early Christians would have understood the resurrection story as fictitious rather than historical in nature. By drawing connections between the Gospels and ancient Greek and Roman literature, Miller makes the case that the narratives of the resurrection and ascension of Christ applied extensive and unmistakable structural and symbolic language common to Mediterranean "translation fables," stock story patterns derived particularly from the archetypal myths of Heracles and Romulus. In the course of his argument, the author applies a critical lens to the referential and mimetic nature of the Gospel stories, and suggests that adapting the "translation fable" trope to accounts of Jesus’ resurrection functioned to exalt him to the level of the heroes, demigods, and emperors of the Hellenistic and Roman world. Miller’s contentions have significant implications for New Testament scholarship and will provoke discussion among scholars of early Christianity and Classical studies.
Richard C. Miller, Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity, 2015.

Richard C. Miller's Book On the Resurrection Is Original and Significant

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M. David Litwa recently reviewed the book Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity, by Richard C. Miller, calling it both original and significant.
Description: This book offers an original interpretation of the origin and early reception of the most fundamental claim of Christianity: Jesus’ resurrection. Richard Miller contends that the earliest Christians would not have considered the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ resurrection to be literal or historical, but instead would have recognized this narrative as an instance of the trope of divine translation, common within the Hellenistic and Roman mythic traditions. Given this framework, Miller argues, early Christians would have understood the resurrection story as fictitious rather than historical in nature. By drawing connections between the Gospels and ancient Greek and Roman literature, Miller makes the case that the narratives of the resurrection and ascension of Christ applied extensive and unmistakable structural and symbolic language common to Mediterranean "translation fables," stock story patterns derived particularly from the archetypal myths of Heracles and Romulus. In the course of his argument, the author applies a critical lens to the referential and mimetic nature of the Gospel stories, and suggests that adapting the "translation fable" trope to accounts of Jesus’ resurrection functioned to exalt him to the level of the heroes, demigods, and emperors of the Hellenistic and Roman world. Miller’s contentions have significant implications for New Testament scholarship and will provoke discussion among scholars of early Christianity and Classical studies. Full review here.

Famous Jesus Stories Keep Taking Direct Hits

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A review of Richard C. Miller’s Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity
Christian theologians have admitted for a long time—despite the anguish of church folks who believe in ‘the gospel truth’—that many Bible stories, always assumed to be history, really aren’t. “Well, you can’t take that literally,” we’re told; farfetched stories are re-categorized as metaphor or symbol, and we’re assured that they convey “deep spiritual truth” —even when they don’t all. But we can admire the ingenuity, although we do wonder if they don’t have better things to do with their time.

But this is a minefield: When you scrap one story, another that you
don’t want to scrap falls apart too. I have long argued that this is what happens with the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven. We know that Jesus floating up through the clouds to heaven didn’t happen because heaven isn’t up there. So we can be one hundred per cent certain that the body of newly alive Jesus never left the planet…unless he’s in orbit to this day?

"How the Gospels Became History", A Review by Dr. Richard C. Miller

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The Ancient Christian Gospels as Historiae: A Secular-Critical Evaluation of M. David Litwa's "How the Gospels Became History".

Miller writes: "In the article I contend, contra Litwa, that the Gospels were not written or originally read as chronicles of factual historical events."

To provide him some feedback you can find him here: https://m.facebook.com/Dr.RichardCMiller; or email him at: dr.richard.c.miller@gmail.com

Dr. Richard C. Miller On Fantasy, Bayes and the Impossibility of Miracles

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Dr. Miller recently began blogging at Hume's Bible, an important resource for the rest of us. In his most recent post he writes On the Impossibility of Miracles. This is something I've been addressing.

Miller starts by saying, "We measure human rational sanity by one’s consistent success in distinguishing clearly between fantasy and reality" and then gives an example with regard to alleged miracle claims. "Miracles, by very definition, are natural, rational impossibilities." "For, if a claim had empirical support, would we not classify such a proposal as indeed natural, not supernatural?" So he goes on to say, following Hume,
Here we may choose to end the argument, claiming a quite reasonable conclusive victory. Miracles, by very definition, are natural, rational impossibilities. When someone claims a miracle has occurred, we respond by saying that “there must be some rational explanation.” By doing this, we are implicitly recognizing as a society that miraculous claims are essentially irrational, i.e., a miraculous proposition contains one or more a priori contradictions with regard to its constituent terms (Italics mine).
This last phrase of his is very interesting. If we wish to assign a non-zero mathematical prior probability to a miracle claim, we cannot do it. For doing so means assigning a mathematical probability to something that is contradictory. Reading his explanation is worth the price of a click and a share.

The Parameters of Bayes' Theorem, Part 2

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I've been debating the uses and abuses of Bayesian quantitative analysis on Facebook with my atheist friends. What started it all was a recent comment I made about Bart Ehrman's debate against William Lane Craig, where Craig used Bayes to argue against Ehrman. This is what I wrote:
I've mostly been persuaded by Louise Antony and Dan Lambert that Bayesian analysis doesn't help when it comes to historical one-of-a-kind events, especially of the miraculous kind! If correct, Christians are using this math illegitimately. We must not follow suit. If correct, this kind of analysis of "miraculous" historical events is faddish and will pass.

Second, while it's technically true that every claim, no matter how bizarre, has a nonzero probability to it, some claims can be said to be so far out of bounds the most accurate thing we can say is that such an event is impossible. This is something mathematician James Lindsay has persuaded me about. To continue to act and speak as if a certain miracle has a degree of probability to it, out of the numerous multitudes believed to have taken place, is a misuse of normal language. So when Ehrman says the miracle of the resurrection is impossible, he's correct. What other word are we to use? When does a 99.9999% improbability (or some other higher than high percent) become a possibility?

Possibilities count if an omniscient omnipotent god exists, you see. We encourage the mind of the believer to continue believing if we grant it's possible, when everything we know says it's impossible. We should avoid Bayesian analysis in historical events and stick to normal language and say it truthfully as Ehrman does, that it's impossible. Yep, impossible. The reason Christians use Bayesian math is because they can force us into admitting miraculous events are possible, and that's all they need to keep on believing. Get it?

Third, to go on to compare other bizarre alternative explanations of the resurrection hypothesis (aliens, seriously?) is an exercise in futility, since bizarre stories are by definition bizarre. Even owning an interstellar spacecraft is far more reasonable in this day than an impossible event, by far!. Are we really going to stoop so low that we have to argue the resurrection hypothesis has less explanatory power than alien interference, before we've made our point? Nonbelieving scholars have adopted this Christian language game in response to the dominance of Christianity in academia. This must stop. The best explanation of the data, BTW, is Richard C. Miller's.

Fourth, there are no posteriors that can make an impossible event (see above) a probable one. Ehrman was correct even if he fails to understand Bayesian math. In other words, Ehrman doesn't have to know Bayes Theorem to know it's impossible that Jesus raised up from the dead. He's a historian. A good one. And he's absolutely correct. So why are some nonbelieveing scholars nitpicking him to death on this issue when he's right? Or, are we saying only philosophers of religion who have been trained in this Christian language game can properly reject the resurrection hypothesis? Surely we don't want to say that. Otherwise, let these philosophers reign too. ;-)
Since that initial comment I've been in a debate about Bayes for most of this month on Facebook. To set the record straight, I was initially wrong to say "it's technically true that every claim, no matter how bizarre, has a nonzero probability to it." More on that in a moment.

My Talk at the GCRR e-Conference on the Historical Jesus

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The conference was fantastic! You should attend other virtual eConferences put on by the GCRR! You should also help support what it does by becoming a member.
Below is the first part of my talk, in note form. The rest of my talk was a summation of why reasonable people shouldn't believe any of the miracles in the Bible. Hint: There's no objective evidence for any of them.

Announcing The Blurbs for Our Anthology "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism."

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Dr. Robert M. Price and I have co-edited a new anthology, titled "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism", published by Hypatia Press.

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The essays contained within this anthology draw their readers out on a provocative adventure, a quest certain to yield many treasures. Yet, this quest is altogether different than that described by Albert Schweitzer in his landmark work The Quest of the Historical Jesus over a century ago. Despite the seeming nobility, such an academic pilgrimage to uncover the originary kernel of the Gospels, now having played out for decades in the halls of academia, has proven little more than a fool’s errand. We now face the obvious: these cultic tales are not and were never given as historiographical “footage” of live first-century events in time and space.

-- Richard C. Miller, Ph,D, author of Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity, 2014.

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The New Testament Jesus did not exist, but was there a historical figure on whom the legend was based? This anthology will adjust your assessment of the probability. It's a rollicking ride through a biblical battlefield.

-- Dan Barker, co-president of Freedom from Religion Foundation and author of Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists.

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For a long time mainstream Bible scholars have known that the gospels are not, in fact, reliable histories of Jesus. Even so, there is a consensus that Jesus existed, and doubting that he was a real person is seen as eccentric or fringe. But respected secular scholars—not beholden to what Hector Avalos has called the ecclesial-academic complex—have questioned that consensus. This new anthology is a welcome addition to the growing library of works that invite close inspection of the issue. These essays explore the diverse amalgam of theologies and superstitions in the ancient world, showing that the origins of Jesus-belief are far more complex than devout scholars have been willing to grant. The previous Loftus anthologies have thoroughly documented the falsification of Christianity—and this one adds dramatically to the case against it.

-- Dr. David Madison, author of Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief.

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The expert arguments in this book seek to understand how Christianity could have begun without a historical Jesus. All these Mythicist authorities; make very compelling arguments for their respective theories. Which one is correct? Can all of them be correct? Let us think of each contribution as being a description of an evolving thread of religious traditions. If each thread intertwined—at various times and in various places--with all the other threads of tradition described in this book, it should be possible to produce a “grand unifying theory” of how the various forms of earliest Christianity began. Reading this book will be sine qua non for any scholar seeking to trigger a paradigm shift by showing how all these threads braided together to create a Christianity that did not begin at any single point in space or time. This book will be absolutely necessary for any future Jesus mythicist scholar.

-- Frank R. Zindler, author of The Jesus the Jews Never Knew (2003).

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Mainstream experts mostly already agree the miraculous Jesus didn’t exist, but what about a merely human Jesus? This anthology usefully exhibits the full gamut of doubting even that, from the absurd to the sound. Some contributions are not credible, but some are worth considering, and several are brilliant, indeed required reading for anyone exploring the subject. The book will be absolutely necessary for any future Jesus mythicist scholar.

- Richard Carrier, Ph.D., author of On the Historicity of Jesus.

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This is an important and intellectually adventuresome collection of articles, well worth considering, reflecting the wide spectrum of views of those challenging the traditional conservative paradigm on the historicity of Jesus.

-- Russell Gmirkin, author of Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible.

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Of all the books written on Jesus mythicism, there are just a rare few that are scholarly and that hope to contribute something new to your understanding of the new testament texts. This book checks both boxes, and is definitely a must read for all those who want to keep up with mythicist thinking today.

-- Nicholas Ryan Covington (on Amazon) 5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read Mythicist Anthology.

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When Dr. Price was asked about our book at the the GCRR e-Conference on the Historical Jesus, he said, "it's sure to be a classic."

Was Jesus born of a virgin?

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You would think that if Jesus was born of a virgin, and that such a belief is important to Christianity, the Christian clergy would all believe it. But significant numbers of them don't:

http://www.wnd.com/2015/12/christian-preacher-nativity-story-just-fairy-tale/

According to a 1998 poll of 7,441 Protestant clergy in the U.S., the following ministers said they didn’t believe in the virgin birth:

American Lutherans, 19 percent
American Baptists, 34 percent
Episcopalians, 44 percent
Presbyterians, 49 percent
Methodists, 60 percent

Yet another poll, in 1999, surveyed 103 Roman Catholic priests, Anglican priests and Protestant ministers in the U.K. That poll found 25 percent did not believe in the virgin birth, according to ReligiousTolerance.org. A 2004 survey of ministers in the Church of Scotland found 37 percent don’t accept the virgin account.

The clergy are educated Christians and they have much more at stake in maintaining their faith as traditionally believed. We would not expect so many of them to reject the virgin birth. The fact so many of them do so shows the evidence for the virgin birth is not there.

The Evidential Value of Conversion/Deconversion Stories. Reviewing Mittelberg's "Confident Faith" Part 7

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I'm reviewing Mark Mittelberg's book Confident Faith. [See the "Mark Mittelberg" tag below for others].

I want to digress a bit for this post to discuss the value of personal conversion/deconversion stories. [Nomenclature: A conversion story is one which an atheist or nonbeliever becomes a Christian. A deconversion story is one in which a Christian becomes a non-believer or atheist.] In Mittelberg's book, conversion stories seem to play an important role. He discusses the apostle Paul's Damascus Road conversion experience, who was a persecutor of the church then a believer. Then there's Augustine of Hippo's conversion, from out of the pagan religion of Manichaeism. Jumping to our time he tells us of Lee Strobel, an atheist who turned evangelical, and the late Nabeel Qureshi, who was a Muslim but later became an evangelical after discussions with David Wood, who has his own shocking conversion story from atheist to evangelical Christian (which has 825K hits so far!). There is Mark Mittelberg's own story in this book, from a doubter to a confident Christian. He mentions other nonbelievers who became Christians, like Simon Greeleaf, Frank Morison (A.K.A. Albert Henry Ross), C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell. Mittelberg also exploits the late Antony Flew's story (pp. 144-145), who was an atheist philosopher but came to believe in a deistic creator of the universe (but nothing more).

Mittelberg never tells any Christian-to-atheist deconversion stories. He just tells atheist-to-Christian conversion stories (plus Antony Flew's story). Should we fault him for not telling any deconversion stories? Yes, I think so! For it means he's not offering readers any evidence to consider, but rather trying to persuade them to believe based on the conclusions others reached. His faulty line of reasoning goes this: since atheist person X became a Christian, you should too. Why should that matter? He had asked readers to follow the evidence for themselves. But by putting forth several stories of skeptic/atheist conversions to Christianity he's not actually presenting any objective evidence for the readers to consider. Instead, he's presenting the conclusions of others about the evidence, which is arguing by authority, the very thing he questions later. He had also asked readers to follow logic. But by adopting the conclusion of others just because they adopted it is not logical. Why not just present the evidence? The stories are a propaganda technique designed purposefully to persuade.

What Apologetics And Counter-Apologetics Books Do I Recommend?

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I was asked for books I might recommend that would fall into the category of "best arguments for God/Christianity" and "best arguments against Christianity." I was asked because "I know you read and analyze these books fairly often, so I want to see the best both sides have to offer." My response follows. You may be surprised by it!

Romulus and Jesus Compared

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Richard C. Miller's "Mark's Empty Tomb and Other Translation Fables in Classical Antiquity," Journal of Biblical Literature, v. 129, no. 4 (2010) is a good read. According to Miller the story of an empty tomb as found in the earliest Gospel owes more to similar Hellenistic stories than Christian scholars have been wont to admit.

Dr. David Madison, Debunker Par Excellence!

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I'm a big fan of former Methodist minister and biblical scholar Dr. David Madison, who no longer believes. He understands how best to debunk Christianity. It has to do a great deal with the Bible. Since the Bible makes atheists out of readers--doing so will shock you to the bone--then how much more does reading what Madison says about the Bible. He honors us at DC by writing weekly essays on Friday, plus so much more, as he's also an administrator.  He honored me by asking for a Foreword to his book three years ago, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief (2nd ed. 2018). With his permission, here it is:

Finalized Table of Content of "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism"

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Here is Bob and I for a program we did together in 2007.
Here we are in about 2007.
Contents:
Foreword by Richard C. Miller
Preface “The Jesus of the Gospels Didn’t Exist” by John Loftus 
Introduction  “New Testament Minimalism” by Robert M. Price
Part 1 Varieties of Jesus Mythicism
1 Why Mythicism Matters, by Dave Fitzgerald. 
2 Jesus, by Barbara G. Walker 
3 Dying and Rising Gods, by Derreck Bennett.  
4 Christianity is a Western Branch of Buddhism, by Michael Lockwood 
5 The Roman Provenance of Christianity, by Joseph Atwill.
6 Pauline Origin of the Gospels in the Wake of the Jewish-Roman War, by R.G. Price 
7 Under the Mushroom Tree, by Michael Hoffman 
8 Star-Lore in the Gospels, by Bill Darlison 
9 The Mythic Power of the Atonement, by Robert M. Price
10 A Sacrifice in Heaven: The Son in the Epistle to the Hebrews, by Earl Doherty
11 The Jewish Myth of Jesus, by Stephan Huller 
12 Jesus: Pre-Existent and Non-Existent, by Robert M. Price 
13 Mark's Gospel: A Performed Play in Rome, by Danila Oder
Part 2 Mythicist Rejoiners to Biblical Scholars
14 Is There a Man Behind the Curtain? A Response to Bart Ehrman, by Robert M. Price
15 A Rejoinder to James McGrath’s Case for Jesus, by Neil Godfrey.
16 Everything is Wrong with This: The Legacy of Maurice Casey, by Tim Widowfield.

Jesus wasn't the only son of a god in ancient times

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Christians are either ignorant of this fact or they unreasonably deny its impact. Why should anyone in today's society believe the virgin birth of Jesus since the so-called testimony of it comes from the same ancient superstitious world that believed in other virgin births? The fact is, Jesus wasn’t the only son of a god in ancient times, as biblical scholar Richard C. Miller previously argued here at DC: 'Tis the Season to Debunk Ridiculous Claims . . .

Facebook Discussion About Atheism with Matt McCormick, Alonzo Fyfe, David Eller, Richard C. Miller, Spencer Hawkins and Myself

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It's a good one. I'll just link to it.

In Defense of "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism"

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I knew this anthology of ours would suffer from the criticisms of the uninformed and the informed. So let me share the back-story of how it came to be, and how it was envisioned, in order to stave off some unjustified criticisms. Here's a link that introduces the book, which includes the contents, blurbs, and something about the authors. Here's an Amazon link to it.

Robert M. Price and I had talked about doing such a book earlier, and I knew he had been working on it with other contributors. Then he shot me an email on Nov 23, 2019, saying:

Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist?

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I'm done writing and editing books, so I'm highlighting each one of them in thirteen separate posts. This time it's Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? [See Tag Below].

Here is the Amazon link to get this "sure to be a classic" book, right here!

You should read the text of my talk at the Global Center for Religious Research eConference on Jesus Mythicism, which includes my Preface at the end of it. 
There were a few challenges in this book. 
Zuckerman: Phil Zuckerman asked me why I chose to co-edit a book with Robert M. Price, a known supporter of Donald Trump. Well actually, Bob choose me to co-write it. After editing an anthology on The Empty Tomb more than a decade ago, he didn't want to do that again. So Bob asked me. He already had most of the authors. What I did was to acquire two additional authors and get it published. He already knew this is the kind of thing I do well from previous anthologies.

Andrew Loke on the Resurrection: A Skeptic's Review, by Eric Bess

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Andrew T. E. Loke 2020, Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A New Transdisciplinary Approach [New York: Routledge]
Despite the great fanfare for this book I observed in some quarters, this book didn't live up to its hype.
Loke's original contribution in this book is to condense all naturalistic alternatives to Jesus's supernatural resurrection to a few categories, then attempt to rebut them as viable explanations of our historical data, leaving the resurrection as the only alternative available. However, if his arguments against naturalistic explanations were poor, or if he couldn't cover all arguments one might offer for a given alternative (for example, by only refuting bad arguments) this would defeat the stated purpose of the book.
As it stands, I believe that's exactly the case. There's much I could say about this volume in terms of many individual arguments it makes that I perceive to be seriously wrong. But for the purpose of this review I'll focus on the following list of five criticisms: 1) Loke's book is extremely repetitive. 2) Loke is uncritically biased in ways that are patently obvious. 3) Loke misrepresents opposing scholarship. 4) Loke relies superficially on a book on rumor psychology when he should have looked more into the psychology of religion. 5) Loke thinks persecution solves almost any deficiency in his argumentation that results from his lack of evidence.
I will now elaborate on each of these points.

People Who Shouldn't Be Trusted As Experts in Religious Matters. Reviewing Mittelberg's Book "Confident Faith" Part 13

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Earlier I had offered up Five Things That Disqualify People From Being Experts. Now it's time to mention several indicators showing who shouldn't be trusted as experts in religious matters. These are indicators, some of which are strong indicators, but on their own they don't necessarily disqualify people from being experts in religious matters, although they can. I've categorized them in four groups of indicators: Ignorance, Faulty Reasoning, Faulty Research, and Dishonest or Ulterior Motives. (I'm not going to provide examples in several cases so suggest them as you can.)