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Richard Carrier has responded to a couple of my posts in a comment thread on his blog. I guess I should not be surprised that he thinks I am someone who, “needs the truth to be different than it is, so they invent implausible conspiracy theories to explain how the evidence got the way that annoys them,” as that too often seems to be Richard’s default reaction to anyone who disagrees with him.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however. I don’t care at all what the outcome of my exploration here is. I’ve followed the Doherty thesis, and Richard’s blog, for years. At one point I was pretty gung-ho in favor of the thesis. My current stance has changed slightly to the negative; it is a hesitancy rather than a resistance, however. I would gladly accept it if I think it is warranted. That doesn’t mean I want to believe things that aren’t true in support of it.
I had been waiting to read On the Historicity of Jesus (OHJ) for a few years now. Because of that, I read it through in a handful of days after its arrival; there was no way I was going to go through it slowly and examine each claim. Now that the initial reading is done that is what I intend to do. The two items in question just happened to be among the handful I wanted to look into first, because I found them interesting.
Life of Adam and Eve (original post)
I’ll start with the Life of Adam and Eve and keep things simple. There is one passage in particular that seems to me to be conclusive; Adam (and Abel) were buried in the earth of our world. This passage is far from the only one in support of my view, but it is the most direct. Without an explanation of it I don’t see me changing my mind. You might say the consequent so favors my view that it would take a lot of evidence the other way to change the posterior, yet there are other passages pointing in the same direction.
Before I quote the passage I want to note that I’m not alone in my overall conclusion. As I noted in my original post it was the conclusion of the translator in “Life of Adam and Eve, A New Translation and Introduction” (1985), in JH Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Volume 2. Richard cites no one else supporting his take when he introduces the idea, and I haven’t been able to find anyone either.
So here goes:
40.3 When they finished preparing Adam, God said they should bear the body of Abel also. And they brought more linen and prepared him for burial.
40.4 For he was unburied since the day when Cain his brother slew him; for Cain took great pains to conceal (him) but could not, for the body sprang up from the earth and a voice went out of the earth saying:
40.5 “No other body can be covered until –with respect to the first creature who was taken from me — the earth from which he was taken is returned to me.” And the angels took at that moment and put him upon a rock until Adam, his father, was buried.
Neither Cain nor Abel were ever in paradise, where ever it is located. The murder of Abel happened in our world. Cain tried to conceal Abel’s body in our world. Variant readings replace conceal with bury but it should already be clear that is what is meant by conceal when it says the body sprang from the earth. Then that earth said,“No other body can be covered until –with respect to the first creature who was taken from me — the earth from which he was taken is returned to me.”
On the face of it the consequent for a passage like that on the theory that Adam was taken from soil in the heavens is essentially zero. The only inference required is to realize Cain and Abel were never in paradise and therefore this speaking earth has to be of our world. Hardly a stretch.
As for the parts Richard highlights in his response they don’t actually support his theory. The angels are told to go the third heaven and “carry away” three cloths. Go to, as in somewhere you aren’t right now, as in they aren’t in the third heaven. Carry away, as in away from the third heaven where they were just sent to get the cloths. Somehow Richard missed my comments to that effect? Pseudepigrapha has “and bring me” fine linen cloths. Why he thinks this supports the notion Adam was in the third heaven is beyond me.
Then Richard highlights the passage that says to bear the body of Abel as well. Yes, but bear him where exactly? That is not evidence for his view. Then he conveniently skips highlighting the passage I gave above since it would give away the game. In the final highlighted section is a statement to bear up the body of Abel to paradise. Unlike Richard I did at least acknowledge that ‘up’ might be against my view but it turns out that might not have been necessary. I should have checked back with Pseudepigrapha which only has “and both were buried according to the
command of God in the regions of Paradise in the place from which God had found the dust”. No ‘up’. Since I’m saying there was an earthly paradise (and other sections of the book require that to be the case) this isn’t a problem.
Now I welcome an explanation for the 40:3-40:6 passage, but I don’t see what it is, nor what it could be. So by all means enlighten me, but there are several other passages which I highlighted that point in the same direction, and an entire story line that requires Adam to have been in an earthly paradise at some point. I can mention all that later if an explanation of this passage is forthcoming. For now I’m sticking with what the scholar other than Richard has said. There are two scenes, one dealing with Adam’s soul which gets sent to the third heaven, and another dealing with his burial on earth.
Epiphanius (original post)
Richard’s complaint that the Talmud confirms the belief that Jesus lived under Jannaeus is not relevant to my post. He clearly says in his book, “Epiphanius then says a curious thing: these Christians say Jesus had live and died in the time of Alexander Jannaeus. This is what he says they preach:”1 He then quotes the passage I gave in the original post and goes on to say (in reference to the Talmud passages about Jesus under Jannaeus), “the Jews east of the Roman Empire (where this Talmud was compiled, assembled from the third to fifth centuries) were reacting to this Nazorian Christianity.”2
The claim that Epiphanius was ascribing views to the Nazorians is completely separate from the (correct) claim that the Talmud mentions a Jesus living under Jannaeus. If the Epiphanius claim is wrong, it is wrong! That something similar appears in the Talmud doesn’t suddenly make it right. Or is Richard perhaps “invent[ing] implausible conspiracy theories to explain how the evidence got the way that annoys” him?
Let’s be clear here. The passage Richard quotes in the book does not say anywhere that it is describing the views of the Nazorians. Neither does any other portion of Chapter 29 of the Panarion. Richard cites no scholarship in support of his claim nor does he advance any argument whatsoever in its favor. Even in his blog response he provides no evidence, only a plea for a low prior probability. But we need to look at the evidence Richard!
What is the prior probability Epiphanius would make a non-orthodox apologetic? Well in one location he says Jesus was born in a cave so it does happen, but let’s be as generous, absurdly generous, as possible here. Let’s give P(h), the probability Epiphanius is stating the Jannaeus claim himself, a very low value 0.01.
Now what is our evidence ‘like’. It lacks certain things like any mention the Nazorians are the source of what he writes about Jannaeus, and any correction of the claim. I haven’t read all of the Panarion but I did sample a handful of chapters and I found no instances where both of those things were missing. We don’t want to be too harsh here so lets be absurdly generous and say that 10% of the time Epiphanius tells us a belief of a group without mentioning he is telling us a belief of the group and without correcting their erroneous view. Of course those items will always be missing if he is stating the claim for himself, so:
So P(h)=0.01, P(~h)=.99, P(e|h) = 1.00, P(e|~h)=0.1 for a posterior of 0.0917.
So that’s what the passage doesn’t have, what about what it does have? Well it does have a direct statement of what Epiphanius is responding to! It is a hypothetical challenge a skeptic might make.
2:6 But now that I have gotten to this passage and am asked about this text and the reason why the prophecy about sitting on David’s throne has not been fulfilled physically in the Saviour’s case—for some have thought that it has not—I shall still say that it is a fact. No word of God’s holy scripture comes to nothing.
Immediately ! following is the passage Richard quotes in the book. I have to wonder, did Richard even read the entire chapter here or did he just go fishing for the part he needed for his “case”?
So how often do you supposed Epiphanius would introduce a passage that’s supposed to describe the beliefs of the Nazorians but instead frame it as an answer to a hypothetical skeptic? And not only that but specifically say that it is he, Epiphanius, that will still say it is a fact! Zero? Nada? Zilch? None? Negative four? I mean really! Let’s be preposterously generous and say he’ll do something that idiotic 1/10th as often as he would if he, rather than the Nazorians, is saying it. Using the outcome of the previous calculation for this round’s prior we have:
P(h)=0.09, P(~h)=.0.91, P(e|h) = 1.00, P(e|~h)=0.1 for a posterior of 0.5.
Well look at that, even being insanely generous things are coming out dead even. But we aren’t done yet.
If Epiphanius is ascribing this view to the Nazorians, how often do you think he will repeat in another chapter, in the middle of giving his own timeline of the birth of Jesus, the strange statements about Jannaeus and Alexandra, and even cite the same exact scripture as being fulfilled by their “ceasing” and Jesus being born? Again, nada? Zilch-o? Let’s be embarrassingly generous to Richard here (I’m feeling sorry for him for not bothering to investigate the source he used) and again say he’ll do it 1/10th as often.
P(h)=0.5, P(~h)=.0.5, P(e|h) = 1.00, P(e|~h)=0.1
And the answer is…. 91% in favor of my hypothesis.
Now, to be fair, I haven’t evaluated Richard’s evidence yet, but that’s because he hasn’t given any! Not in the book. Not in the form of a citation. And, not in his blog response. He appeals only to a low prior which I incorporated above and easily overcame. There is no other conclusion I can come to other than Richard is wrong here.
There is one final piece of info I’ve left out. I started out only giving my hypothesis a 1% prior. However, as I noted in the original post, Epiphanius also included this gem as part of a defense of Mary’s perpetual virginity, in his Chapter 78 (7)
Joseph was the brother of Clopas, but the son of Jacob surnamed Panther; both of these brothers were the sons of the man surnamed Panther.
Well what do you know, surname Panther, from the Jewish polemic against Jesus. (Naw, that’s just crazy conspiracy talk right? To heck with that evidence stuff.) So, we can clearly see 1% is far too low for the prior probability that Epiphanius would make unorthodox apologetic claims. I won’t go back and account for that. The evidence is already enough as it is, but keep this in mind lest anyone wants to gainsay the generous estimates I’ve given above.
Ball’s in Your Court
Now I’ve had a bit of fun above, but in the end I’m more than happy to be shown to be wrong. I just don’t want to accept faulty or un-evidenced claims. It is going to take more than knee-jerk slanders on my character and motivations, and shoddy reading of source materials however.
The canonical books of the Old and New Testament are just a fraction of the religious literature that circulated in early Jewish and Christian circles. Some works were very popular and received wide distribution. The Life of Adam and Eve was one such book. It tells the story of Adam and Eve after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden including their deaths. I encourage everyone to read it as it is pretty interesting.
There are several (ancient) translations with variable tellings; the Greek (called the Apocalypse (Revelation) of Moses, and the Greek Life of Adam and Eve) and the Latin are the primary two. The composition dates of what we have now are not known with any certainty, but it is generally thought they are based on an original Hebrew version from the first century AD (or possibly even BC).
In On the Historicity of Jesus (OHJ) Richard Carrier cites the Apocalypse of Moses in support of his background knowledge Element 38 (the heavens were filled with structures and objects), and later in a footnote in the chapter covering the epistles. He makes the following references in Element 38.
note 97. Revelation of Moses 37.4-5; 40.1-2. This text is otherwise known as the Greek edition of the Life of Adam and Eve, an early-first-century Jewish document, possibly translating an even earlier account in Hebrew or Aramaic. …
note 105. Revelation of Moses 32-41 (esp. 32.4, 37-40); …
Reading M.D. Johnson, “Life of Adam and Eve, A New Translation and Introduction” (1985), in JH Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Volume 2, raises some question about the latter claim as Johnson thinks all the references to paradise but two mean the earthly paradise not the heavenly one. Perhaps he is wrong, and I certainly can’t translate the Greek myself, but some elements of the story, which I’ll review below, strongly suggest he is right.
I should say that in the bigger scheme of things this isn’t a huge deal. Carrier doesn’t lean heavily on this one citation. It should also be noted that this very popular story contains other intriguing parallels to the mythicist version of early Christianity. However, I have heard Carrier cite this idea of burial in heaven in other venues and it appears to me to be wrong.
Of special interest is the conception of soul and body, seen most clearly in the Greek text, in which at the death of Adam the soul is taken into the third heaven (ApMos 37) while the body is buried in the ground (ApMos 40). Restoration of full life waits the resurrection, when the soul and body will be reunited.
32.3 Even as Eve prayed on her knees behold, the angel of humanity came to her, and raised her up and said:
32.4 “Rise up, Eve, from your penitence, for behold, Adam your husband has gone out of his body. Rise up and behold his spirit borne aloft [to heaven] to meet his Maker.”
33.1 And Eve rose up and put her hand on the face (of Adam), and the angel said to her, “Lift up your hand from that which is of the earth.” [Adam’s body is “of the earth”, and she needs to let go of earthly things, so to speak, because everything she and Seth see through 37:6 is taking place in heaven. The first heaven it seems to me.]
33.2 And she gazed steadfastly into heaven, and beheld a chariot of light, borne by four bright eagles, (and) it was impossible for any man born of woman to tell the glory of them or behold their face and angels going before the chariot
33.3 and when they came to the place where your father Adam was [in the heavens], the chariot halted and the Seraphim were between the father and the chariot.
33.4 And I beheld golden censers and three bowls, and behold all the angels with censers and frankincense came in haste to the incense-offering and blew upon it and the smoke of the incense veiled the firmament.
33.5 And the angels fell down to God, crying aloud and saying, “JAEL, Holy One, have pardon, for he is Your image, and the work of Your holy hands.”
34.1 And then I Eve beheld two great and fearful mysteries before the presence of God and I wept for fear, and I cried aloud to my son Seth and said,
34.2 “Rise up, Seth, from the body of your father Adam [Seth has been looking at Adam’s body on earth while Eve was watching him in heaven], and come to me, and see a spectacle which no man’s eye has yet beheld and how they supplicate on behalf of your father, Adam.”
35.1 Then Seth arose and came to his mother and said to her: “Why do you weep?”
35.2 (And) she said to him: “Look up and see with your eyes the seven heavens opened, and see how the body of your father lies on its face and all the holy angels are praying on his behalf and saying: ‘Pardon him, Father of All, for he is Your image.'”
35.3 Pray, my child Seth, what shall this mean? And will he one day be delivered into the hands of our Invisible God?
35.4 But who are, my son Seth, the two [dark persons] who stand by at the prayers for your father?”
36.1 And Seth said to his mother, “They are the sun and moon and themselves fall down and pray on behalf of my father Adam.”
36.2 Eve said to him: “And where is their light and why have they taken on such a black appearance? ”
36.3 And Seth answered her, “The light has not left them, but they cannot shine before the Light of all things, the Father of Light; and on this account their light has been hidden.”
Assumption of Adam to Paradise
37.1 Now while Seth was saying this to his mother, behold, an angel blew the trumpet [still in heaven here], and all the angels who were lying on their faces rose up, and they cried aloud in an fearsome voice and said:
37.2 “Blessed (be) the glory of the Lord from the works of His making, for He has pitied Adam, the creature of His hands.”
37.3 But when the angels had said these words, behold, there came one of the seraphim with six wings and snatched up Adam and carried him off to the Acherusian lake [interesting tidbit: Johnson notes this is the river over which the dead must cross in Greek myth and that the angel Michael is said to wash repentant sinners here in the Apocalypse of Paul 22], and washed him thrice, and led him before God.
37.4 And he stayed there three hours, lying down, and thereafter the Father of all, sitting on his holy throne stretched out his hand, and took Adam and handed him over to the archangel Michael saying:
37.5 “Lift him up into paradise unto the third Heaven [God decides to have mercy and has Adam’s spirit taken from the first heaven to the third], and leave him there until that fearful day of my reckoning, which I will make in the world.”
37.6 Then Michael took Adam and left him where God told him [to the third heaven]. And all the angels sang an angelic hymn being amazed at the pardoning of Adam.
Adam and Abel’s Funerary Rites
38.1 But after this joyous event of Adam, the archangel Michael cried to the Father concerning Adam.
38.2 And the Father commanded him that all the angels should assemble before God, each in his order, some having censers in their hands, and others lyres, bowls and trumpets.
38.3 And behold, the Lord of Hosts entered and four winds drew Him and cherubim mounted on the winds and the angels from heaven escorting Him and they came on the earth, where was the body of Adam. [His spirit has been dealt with and now it is time to deal with his body]
38.4 And they came to paradise and all the leaves of paradise were stirred so that all men begotten of Adam slept [The offspring of Adam are on earth not in heaven; this is the earthly paradise God is entering.] from the fragrance save Seth alone, because he was born according to the appointment of God.
39.1 And God came to the body of Adam and grieved greatly over him and God said to him: “Adam, what is this you done? Had you kept my commandment, those who born you down to this place would not have rejoiced.
39.2 Yet, I tell you that I will turn their joy to grief and your grief will I turn to joy, and I will return you to your rule, and seat you on the throne of your deceiver.
39.3 But that one (the one who sat on it prior to his becoming arrogant) shall be cast into this place [Satan is going to be punished by being cast into the third heaven? No.]with that he may see you seated upon it. Then he himself shall be condemned along with those who obeyed him and he shall grieve when he see you sitting upon his throne.
40.1 Then God said to the archangel Michael: “Go away to Paradise in the third heaven [you don’t send someone to where they already are], and carry away [away, and back to earth] three fine linen clothes.”
40.2 And God said to Michael and to Gabriel and Uriel: “Spread out the clothes and cover the body [which has not been said to have been moved from earth] of Adam.” And they bore the sweet olive oil and poured it upon him. And the three great angels prepared him for burial.
40.3 When they finished preparing Adam, God said they should bear the body of Abel also. And they brought more linen and prepared him for burial.
40.4 For he was unburied since the day when Cain his brother slew him; for Cain took great pains to conceal (him) but could not, for the body sprang up from the earth and a voice went out of the earth saying: [Cain tried to bury him but the body popped right out and the earth, certainly not in the third heaven, said:]
40.5 “No other body can be covered until –with respect to the first creature who was taken from me — the earth from which he was taken is returned to me.” And the angels took at that moment and put him upon a rock until Adam, his father, was buried. [Abel is being buried with Adam and up until now the earth would not accept him. What would be the point of saying this if the burial was taking place in heaven?]
40.6 And God commanded that after they had prepared the body of Abel for burial that they bear Abel up also to the area of paradise [Up could be important I suppose but, I think, the rest of the story shows it doesn’t mean to the third heaven] , to the spot where God had taken the earth and fashioned Adam [The same earth the voice came out of in 40:4-5, who said Adam was taken from it]. And God made them dig the spot for two.
40.7 And God sent seven angels to paradise and they brought many fragrant spices and placed them in the earth, and afterward they took the two bodies and placed them in the spot which they had dug and built (a sepulcher).
41.1 And God called and said, “Adam, Adam. “And the body answered from the earth and said: “Here am I, Lord.”
41.2 And God said to him: “I told you (that) earth you are and to earth shall you return.
41.3 Again I promise to you the Resurrection; I will raise you up in the Resurrection with every man, who is of your seed.”
42.1 After these words, God made a three-fold seal and sealed the tomb, that no one might do anything to him for six days [Who is going to do something to him in the third heaven?] till his rib should return to him.
42.2 Then the Lord and his angels went to their place [back to the heavens].
Eve’s Prayer to Join Adam
42.3 And Eve also, when the six days were fulfilled, fell asleep. But while she was living, she wept bitterly about Adam’s falling asleep, for she knew not where he was laid. For when the Lord came to paradise to bury Adam all were asleep [which would have been unnecessary if it had been happening in heaven] until he finished the burial of Adam except Seth alone. And no one knew (this) on the earth, except her son Seth.
42.4 And Eve prayed while weeping that she might be buried in the place where her husband Adam was. And after she had finished her prayer, she said:
42.5 “Lord, Master, God of all virtue, do not alienate me from the body of Adam, from whose members you made me.
42.6 But deem me worthy, even me who is unworthy and a sinner, to enter into his tabernacle. Just as I was with him in paradise, both of us not being separated from the other;
42.7 just as in our transgression, we were (both) led astray and transgressed your command, but were not separated, even so now, o Lord, do not separate us.”
42.8 But after she had prayed, she gazed heavenwards and groaned aloud and smote her breast and said: “God of All, receive my spirit,” and she delivered up her spirit [again, spirit up to heaven, body still on earth].
Eve’s Funeral and Epilogue
43.1 And Michael came and taught Seth how to prepare Eve for burial. And there came three angels and they bore her body and buried it where Adam and Abel’s bodies were.
43.2 And afterwards Michael spoke to Seth saying; “Lay out in this manner every man that dies until the day of the Resurrection.”
43.3 And after giving him this rule he said: “Mourn not beyond six days, but on the seventh day, rest and rejoice on it, because on that very day, God and we the angels rejoice with the righteous soul, who has passed away from the earth.”
43.4 After the angel said these things he ascended into heaven, glorifying (God) and saying: “Allelujah, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father, Amen.”
Adam Made in Heaven
Carrier mentions the Apocalypse of Moses again in a footnote in the chapter covering the epistles.
He has in mind here the statement in the Apocalypse of Moses that says Adam was buried in the same soil he was made from, which Carrier has said was in heaven. If I’m right though Adam was buried (and therefore made) on earth so this support evaporates.