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

Brilliant. Can’t wait for a worthy rebuttal!

This is exactly what those interested in this period of history have been waiting for.

Carrier appears to address all the relevant evidence. He has an honest and logical approach, a seemingly unique quality for an author on this subject. Never claiming certainty where there is none but giving evidence its fair evaluation. He puts fallacious arguments in their place and has the wisdom of Solomon when laying judgement on the unknowable. Why does this feel like the exception when it should be the rule.

I only hope Carrier’s call for a response doesn’t go unanswered. Officially you will want to remain on the fence until we hear a qualified critique - but its an understatement to say Carrier is convincing. He seems fair and unbiased (albeit convinced of his position) so if he does turn out to be manipulating the data I will lay the blame on other academics in the field and thank Carrier for a very well narrated, thoroughly entertaining 41 hours of 'what if?’.

This laymen’s final verdict; Carrier might just have written the most influential book in history, on the most influential book in history. No wonder he needed two volumes.
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- Shane

Very detailed analysis with a clear conclusion

Would you consider the audio edition of On the Historicity of Jesus to be better than the print version?

As an Information Technology Engineer, I am regularly tasked with assessing a problem, identifying the cause, providing and implementing a solution to that problem, and finally, performing a root-cause-analysis which typically results in implementing other changes that will prevent that type of problem from re-occurring given our current environment.For each incident, that process involves analyzing 10's to 100's of details and variables, considering the effect on any one system in our highly complicated environment when changing any one of those, as well as considering the cause and effect of one variable on one another.

Simply put, this process is called "troubleshooting". In simple environments and implementations, it can be very simple. The more complex the environment, with multiple system in place and the less you know about each one of those, the more and more complicated this process becomes... My point is that the question of Jesus' Historicity is an extremely complex question and just the process of finding any kind of reasonable answer is an enormously complex undertaking. This is exactly what Richard Carrier has done.

Every one of the most popular, oldest, most obscure, and even the irrelevant, arguments and defenses to the claims of Jesus having been a real person have been analyzed in depth by Richard Carrier, who is well versed an educated in the language, history and culture surrounding the origins of Christianity. You don't want me (an IT Engineer) working on your car, and you don't want a mechanic fixing your computer. You also don't want a preacher giving you advise about history, they are trained in interpretation of allegory, get your history from an expert.

Each point of argument is torn apart piece by piece, approached from every angle, and compared both individually and along with other arguments of consequence and then given a percentage of probability "for" the historicity in a fashion that NO Christian apologist would ever allow to be assigned to the position of mysticism.

In other words, Carrier is VERY generous toward the Christian claims with his position on each point.Even after all of that, the absolute BEST possibility of Jesus having been a real person only has about 33% chance of probability, which is not very probable at all. And that probability is calculated with the most generous allowances toward the Christian position, even leaving certain factors out of the equation that would bring it down further. Ultimately the realistic level of probability that Jesus was a real person is less than one percent given our current knowledge and all elements there in.

"Could" there have been a guy named Yeshua (Jesus) who was identified as a leader of one of the earliest cults that eventually evolved into what we identify as modern day Christianity??? Sure. Given the popularity of the name Yeshua and the vast number of early Christian cults, chance ALONE gives that a fairly significant probability. But in absolutely no way does that lean any amount of probability that the Jesus of Christianity existed. "That" Jesus not only lead an early cult, but also worked miracles while alove and preaching, as well as having returned from the dead after being crucified. In all fairness, those are the bare minimum requirements the "Jesus" claimed by Christianity to have existed historically. And any Christian with an apologetic response which does not require the supernatural act of returning from the dead... this means that you accept that "IF" some guy named Jesus who lead an early Christian cult actually existed, then you are also accepting that he was a regular human being and not the supernatural deity claimed by Christian Doctrine. And at that point, what argument do you have left to make your claim that Christianity is true? (I'll not argue about the esoteric idea of "truth" that religious people love to use, it's simply a cop-out)


What other book might you compare On the Historicity of Jesus to and why?

Bayes' Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus - Highly recommended to truly understand the pain staking process that Richard Carrier employed in order to give as most accurate as possible probability to the existence of an historical Jesus. And why the field of History in general really needs a method that is more scientific than our current system of inference, induction and bias.


Which scene was your favorite?

Two parts actually... I forget which chapters these are but.... First, the in depth analysis of the Testimonium Flavianum, claimed to be written by Josephus. Richard clearly shows that this is an interpolation given all other factors known about Josephus and his writings. And that the Jesus mentioned later in his writings was in reference to somebody completely different for whom we do have evidence and can easily correlate with that passage in question. And Second, the analysis of Paul's letters in which Jesus is ONLY ever mentioned being known "through revelation", never being mentioned in any manner that clearly identifies him as having been a real live human being (or, for you apologists, at least in human form on Earth).


Any additional comments?

If you are on the fence and really want to understand what we actually have as "evidence" for the reality of the core of the Christian claim... this is the book to read that will help you understand that it's all just myth, just like every other religion that has ever existed. If you are still deep in your convictions of faith for Christianity, I wish you the best of luck on your way through life in hopes that one day, your doubt becomes strong enough to actually allow real knowledge of real truth and the reality of our world to penetrate the protected areas of your mind where your religious faith resides. There is so much more to our natural world than religion lets on, so much to be amazed by. Breaking free from from the mental binds of religion is the first step, and education is the key.

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- E. Moore

Book Details

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