On the Historicity of Jesus

  • by Richard Carrier
  • Narrated by Richard Carrier
  • 28 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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. Historian and philosopher Richard Carrier reexamines 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 posits 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 earthly history were crafted to communicate allegorically the claims of the gospel. 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 this 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 everyone intent on defending a historical Jesus, this is the book to challenge them.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Well thought out argument.

Being a long-time casual student of religion, legend, mythology and the such, as well as theology from a scholar point of view, I must admit that Mr. Carrier made a well thought out argument for a mythical Jesus. I've always wanted to delve deeper into this matter but dreaded the work. Mr Carrier did most of it for me. Although sometimes he explains things with dizzying analogical intellect, which can get a bit confusing, such as explaining probability equations and numbers, I managed to keep up. I would recommend this title to people with an open mind (religious or not). At the very least, it will spark a hearty repsectful debate, which Mr Carries advocates.
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- Insomniak1

Academia alert

I was very interested to listen to this book because it had never occurred to me that Jesus hadn’t existed as a historical figure and I was keen to find out what the evidence might be – for and against.

The first problem I encountered was that this book is actually a sequel. It builds on a first book in which the author describes a method of establishing the historicity (or lack of) of people (or myths) whose names have come down to us in ancient texts and by word of mouth. So this book assumes a bit of prior knowledge, but it is still reasonably intelligible without this.

The other difficulty with the book is that it is pitched at a pretty high academic level, and it refers to lots of material from scriptures etc. that I’ve never heard of.

However, despite both of these disadvantages it is possible to get the general gist of what the author is trying to discuss, although I would have to say that if he was talking a load of rubbish it might be difficult to recognise this, because he is an expert on the evidence which I know nothing about, and so I had to take his word for it.

Most of the arguments do make sense, but his method includes quantifying the probabilities of all the aspects of assessing whether Christ actually existed as a historical person, and these mathematical probabilities are a bit confusing. It isn’t easy to follow how he derives these figures and presumably this is explained more fully in the earlier book, which I haven’t read.

I won’t be a spoiler and tell you his conclusion, but I will say that despite the difficulty in following some of the very scholarly academic material in the book, it is nevertheless an interesting and worthwhile listen.
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- Mark

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-11-2015
  • Publisher: Pitchstone Publishing