Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Highlights From The Barthel/Van Kooten Book On The Star Of Bethlehem (Part 2)

You can read part one here. You can read my review of the book at Amazon here.

- As far as I recall, none of the authors who places a date on Matthew's gospel puts it before the year 70. Instead, we get many comments like Beck's assertion that it was written "about 90 CE" (287). There's no interaction with the many good arguments for dating the gospel earlier. Matthew's similarities with the other Synoptics and differences from John make more sense if all of the Synoptics were written close together, followed by a larger timeframe before John was written. The imprecision of the prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple make more sense if Matthew was written before those events in 70 rather than a scenario in which the prophecies were fabricated in 70 or later. The prominence of Matthew's gospel in the earliest centuries of Christianity makes more sense if the gospel was circulating under Matthew's name well before John's gospel was published. Extrabiblical sources suggest a date around the middle of the century for Matthew rather than a date at the close of the century. Etc. You can read more about these and other arguments in my collection of articles on Matthew here. It's striking how so many scholars accept and assert the later dating of Matthew without making any effort to interact with counterarguments that are so substantial.

Carrier's snow job, part 3

This is a sequel to my two previous posts:

My third and final post is a mopping up operation. In my first installment, I focused on Carrier's opening statement. In my second installment, I focused on Carrier grading his own performance. 

In the course of the debate, Carrier added to the case he laid out in his opening statement. I'm going to comment on that. 

Bergoglio’s Gig: Mixing it up

“Bergoglio Too Has His Nonnegotiable Principles”
… debates, controversies, diametrically opposed interpretations, polarizations, perplexities of faithful and priests, uncertainties in the episcopal conferences…

Monday, August 22, 2016

Highlights From The Barthel/Van Kooten Book On The Star Of Bethlehem (Part 1)

In October of 2014, a conference on the star of Bethlehem was held at the University of Groningen. A book came out of the conference, nearly 700 pages long and with contributions from twenty scholars in astronomy, New Testament studies, and other relevant fields. It's edited by Peter Barthel and George van Kooten, and it's titled The Star Of Bethlehem And The Magi (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015).

I've just posted a review of the book at Amazon. What I want to do here and in another post tomorrow is provide some highlights from the book.

Breaking into the circle

Recently, a Scripturalist cited this old post by Vincent Cheung:

This is supposedly a refutation of my critique. But Cheung misses the point. Given his setup, Cheung is not entitled to invoke God. How does Cheung know anything about God. How does Cheung know that God even exists?

Here's the dilemma: 

i) On the one hand, Scripturalists say the Bible is the only source of knowledge.

ii) On the other hand, Scripturalists deny sense knowledge.

iii) Yet the Bible is a physical object. So the object of knowledge exists outside the subject of knowledge. 

How, then, does a Scripturalist internalize the external message of Scripture? Where does he break into the circle? What's the port of entry?  

Appealing to "God's constant and active power" fails to appreciate the dilemma. Cheung can only invoke God if he is able to explain how God can be an object of knowledge in the first place. But that's the nub of the problem, because his epistemological dichotomy places an impenetrable barrier between us and the source of knowledge. 

I didn't block God from Cheung's epistemology. Rather, it's his own epistemology that puts God behind a wall. 

Keep in mind that in my experience, Scripturalists make a big deal about how you can't know anything unless you show how you know it. But Cheung hasn't shown that. 

Cheung also says:

This relates to another problem with the analogy that I will not discuss in detail — it represents my entire position in physical terms, even though my occasionalism is such that it can work in a dream, in a purely spiritual world, or in heaven, and the Bible is the physical representation of that portion of God’s mind that he has revealed to us. That is, if you destroy all physical copies of the Bible, you have not destroyed the “word of God” that is in my epistemology. 

His hypothetical scenario is a diversionary tactic. The reality of human existence on earth is that we're embodied souls, while the Bible is a physical object. So given the restrictions which Scripturalism places on knowledge, how do we access the word of God?

Occasionalism might do the trick if you knew ahead of time that occasionalism is true, but even if Scripture taught occasionalism (which it doesn't), Cheung can't know what Scripture teaches unless Scripture is an object of knowledge. So his appeal is backwards. At best, his occasionalism is a working hypothesis. If true, that might bridge the gap. But unless he can know the hypothesis is true independent of Scripture, he can't use it both to show Scripture is an object of knowledge and show that Scripture teaches occasionalism–for by his own account, Scripture is inaccessible to the human mind unless occasionalism is true. 

Because his conundrum has no exit, he deflects attention away from his conundrum by feigning pious disapproval. But that's only persuasive to undiscerning readers, who can't grasp the dilemma. 

Look ma, no hands!

This is a sequel to my prior post:

Sean Gerety8/21/2016 9:23 AM

How does Sean know he has hands?
I don’t. I opine it…

i) So, according to Scripturalist epistemology, we can't even know that we have hands. That's just an "opinion". Even though I can see my hands and feel my hands; even though I can touch one hand with another hand, even though I experience what it's like to use my hands, my belief that I have hands is just an "opinion". I don't know that I have hands. I can't know that.

ii) Given his denial of sense knowledge, how does Sean know (or does he?) what "hands" even mean?  How does he know what the word even means or refers to? 

and unlike Hays, I draw a distinction between knowledge and opinion.

i) And what is Sean's justification for claiming that I deny a distinction between knowledge and opinion? Can he quote me on that? If not, what is his evidence that I deny that distinction? Or is this just another case in which Sean makes uninformed imputations about people who disagree with him?

ii) The question at issue isn't whether there's a distinction between knowledge and opinion, but where to drawn the line. Specifically, are all beliefs based on sensory input nothing more than opinion? 

Does Sean believe we have sensory organs? If so, what's their purpose? What function did God design eyes and ears to perform?
I do believe we have sensory organs…

But since Sean rejects sense knowledge, why does he believe that we even have sensory organs? Isn't belief that we have sensory organs itself the result of sensory perception? We can sense our own senses. 

and it would seem God designed eyes and ears in order for men to better function in the world God created. 

And what function would that be if not, in part, to give us information about the physical world we inhabit? 

Then again, unlike Hays I don’t believe that beliefs alone qualify as knowledge. 

Once again, what is Sean's justification for claiming that I think beliefs alone qualify as knowledge? Can he quote me on that? If not, what is his evidence that I think beliefs alone qualify as knowledge? Or is this yet another case of Sean making uniformed imputations about people who disagree with him? 

Also, unlike Hays, I prefer not to beg the question and conclude that because God designed eyes and ears that they are therefore a means of cognition. 

i) Sean is fond of asserting that it "begs the question" to say sensory perception is a source of knowledge. But what does he mean by that? For instance, if I come home, and the furniture has been rearranged, I infer that someone rearranged the furniture in my absence. The furniture didn't rearrange itself (barring an earthquake).

But in the case of sensory perception, I don't infer that I have hands. I don't infer that there's a physical world. Rather, my senses constantly show me a physical world. That's not something I infer from experience; rather, that's something sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch present to my mind. Isn't that prima facie evidence for the existence of an external world? 

ii) If I have evidence that something is the case, and no evidence to the contrary, how is it begging the question to believe what I have evidence for? 

iii) Since Sean defines opinion as belief that falls short of knowledge, does Sean think some opinions are more reasonable than others? If so, what counts as differential evidence? Does Sean think some opinions are more likely to be true? Of does he think all opinions are equiprobable? 

iv) For instance, it's hypothetically possible that the woman Sean takes to be his wife is really an android. Maybe he married a human woman, but then the government, in a covert experiment, swapped his real wife for an android. The android appears to be his wife. The android's behavior is indistinguishable from his wife. 

Is it begging the question for Sean to believe the woman he lives with is his actual wife, and not an android? Or is Sean warranted in believing that Mrs. Gerety is his wife, absent evidence to the contrary? Likewise, unless I have reason to believe things are not as they seem to be, why is my belief that I typed this sentence using my hands mere opinion rather than knowledge? 

God made stomachs too in order to function in God’s world, but I don’t think stomachs are means to knowledge or that eating is cognitive. 

i) Surely that comparison is counterproductive to Sean's position. Our stomach doesn't show us the world in the way that our eyes and ears show us the world. 

For instance, the five senses bombard me with evidence that I'm not the only person in existence. There are other embodied persons. I can see them, hear them, touch them. 

That's not a function I assign to my sensory organs. Rather, that's feedback which my senses present to my mind. I don't infer that the purpose of my sensory organs is collect information about the physical world. Rather, that's something I directly experience. That's something my senses show me. That's an involuntary, irrepressible deliverance. 

The only alternative explanation is if this is simulated sensory input. That what I take to be the physical world is an illusion–a la idealism or virtual reality. But is it "begging the question" to think that's not the case? Or is there a presumption that what my senses present to me is real absent counterevidence? 

ii) Moreover, Sean missed the point of the analogy. Does Sean believe the function of the heart is to pump blood? Or is that "begging the question"? Does Sean believe the purpose of lungs is to oxygenate blood? Or is that "begging the question"? 

If he admits the vital function of organs like the heart and lungs, then what's the difference between that and the informative function of sensory organs? If he admits that the function of the heart is to pump blood, why does he refuse to believe the function of eyes and ears is to collect information about the physical world? 

iii) As a boy, I had a dog. Sometimes I played a game: as an experiment, I'd hide from my dog. I'd be out of sight. My dog couldn't see me. But my dog always found me. She found me by scent. It's demonstrable that different animals have different sensory acuities. How does Sean account for that if he imagines that there's no more reason to think we acquire knowledge about the world through the senses than the stomach? 

Instead, I believe “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Of course, that's metaphorical. And the meaning of figurative language is parasitic on literal language. 

What does Sean believe about the world? Does he think our organs and body parts actually exist? Or does he think God feeds delusive input into our minds to simulate the illusion of a physical world with bodies, eyes, ears, &c.?
I believe a lot of things about the world including the reality of hallucinations.

i) Since Sean denies sense knowledge, how does he detect hallucinations? What's his standard of comparison to distinguish veridical sensory perceptions from hallucinations?

ii) Is Sean insinuating that because the senses sometimes deceive us, therefore sensory perception never yields knowledge? If so, then by parity of argument, because reason sometimes deceives us, we can't ever trust our minds. So we can't know anything at all. 

I also believe that God indeed feeds delusive input into the minds of men to simulate all sorts of illusions, including the illusion that there is no God and no judgment. For a list of other delusive input God feeds into the minds of men, I think Hays can find a partial list starting in Romans 1:22ff.

That's equivocal. The question at issue isn't false beliefs about certain ideas, but whether our perception of a physical world is a global illusion. And this isn't about unbelievers in particular, but humans in general, including Christians. 

I would go a bit further and say that God’s word consists of all the propositions God has revealed to include all the necessary inferences as well. This is an important point because propositions are the meanings of a declarative sentences, the message, and while seemingly obvious, only propositions can be true or false. Sensations, whatever they may be, cannot be true or false, so it would seem that “sense knowledge” – a phrase Hays frequently uses – is either begging the question or just nonsense. I’m inclined to think it’s the latter.

i) Sean's objection is confused. To begin with, the question at issue is not whether sensations are true or false, but whether sensations can form the basis of true or false beliefs about the world we perceive. Is Sean unable to grasp that rudimentary distinction? If, say, I see a waitress pour a glass of milk, I believe the glass has milk because I saw her fill the glass. I don't think milk magically appeared in an empty glass. Does Sean think that's "begging the question" or "nonsense" If so, why so? 

ii) Can sensations never be true or false? Take signage. Suppose I see a male or female symbol on a public restroom. Even though that's not a verbal proposition ("declarative sentence"), it has semantic content. 

Take traffic signs. Suppose I see a sign of a deer. The sign is wordless. But it's a warning. It indicates a deer crossing. So even though it's just a "sensation" (rather than a "declarative sentence"), it's a meaningful symbol.

Take a traffic sign that says "one way" inside an arrow, pointing right or left (as the case may be). By itself, that's not true or false. If, however, it's positioned at an intersection, then it is true or false. Suppose the sign is misplaced. It indicates that's a one-way street, but it's actually a two-way street. Then the sign is false. The "sensation" is false. That's because, in this instance, the "sensation" has a semantic context. A semantic frame of reference. 

iii) What about sensations of sentences. That's symbolic discourse. Sensations organized into letters, organized into sentences, are true or false. Sensations can be structured to communicate assertions. Sensations of that kind have true value. So Sean needs to bone up on semiotics. 

Since, however, Sean denies sense knowledge, doesn't that mean he thinks colors are essentially ideas? The color red is just a concept of red?

Not sure what else colors might be other than ideas? I had a friend who couldn’t see any colors at all. Maybe he is the one seeing the world as it really is? How do I know? Unlike Hays, I try not to be so presumptuous concerning things I don’t know.

i) Sean confuses objectivity with relativity. For instance, some people suffer from food allergies. When some people eat certain foods, they have an allergic or anaphylactic reaction. Other people can consume the same food without any allergic or anaphylactic reaction. So that's person-variable. But the fact that it's relative to the person doesn't mean the food in question lacks objective properties which trigger allergic or anaphylactic reactions in some consumers. Likewise, some consumers don't have that reaction because their bodies have objective properties, like a particular enzyme. 

ii) By the same token, some physical things have a particular colorful appearance because the thing has certain objective properties, light has certain objective properties, and the visual processing system has certain objective properties. And that combination generates color. 

iii) A color can be an idea, or at least it can simulate an idea. For instance, I can imagine a red car. I can form the mental image of a red car. Likewise, if I used to own a red car, I can remember what it looked like. I can "see" the red car in my mind. In that respect, a color can be merely mental. Color can be conceptual rather than perceptual in that respect.

However, that's different than actually perceiving a red car in my field of vision. A car that's objective to me. A car that I physically observe. Color perception in that respect isn't merely mental. 

iv) If Sean thinks color is just an idea, does that mean he thinks we project the idea of color onto colorless objects? The difference between a red rose and a white rose is what color I project onto the rose?  

What does Sean make of all those Biblical commands to "write" down God's revelations, viz., Exod 17:14, 34:1,27; Deut 17:18, 27:3,8; 31:19, Isa 30:8; Jer 30:2; 36:2,28; Ezk 24:2; 43:11; Lk 1:3; Rev 1:11,19, 21:5. ? That means committing the word of God to writing. Paper and ink (or papyrus or velum or stone).
I would refer Hays to what he wrote above and that God’s word “isn’t paper and ink, but the message.” 

i) That misses the point. Why does God command prophets to commit his revelations to writing unless written words constitute a source of knowledge regarding what God revealed? If you want to know what God revealed, you need to read (or hear) the sentences. The sentences are physical objects. Perceptual objects. But they convey information to the mind.

Prophets are commanded to write, while their audience is commanded to read, or listen to what's read aloud. That's how people learn what God has said. That's how people know the word of God. By seeing sentences or hearing sentences.  

ii) That's the irony of Scripturalism. Scripturalists don't take Scripture as their point of departure. Their epistemology isn't based on Scripture. No one who began with statements like Lev 24:7; Deut 17:19; Josh 8:34-35; Neh 8:1,3; Mt 12:3,5; Mt 19:4; 21:6,42; 22:31; 24:15; 2 Cor 1:13; Col 4:16; 1 Tim 4:13, and Rev 1:3 would deny the possibility of sense knowledge. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Resource For Christian Analysis Of The Paranormal

ANNOYED PINOY recently directed my attention to a new podcast on paranormal phenomena that's hosted by Christians.

The great red dragon

And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth (Rev 12:3-4).

The traditional rendering of this passage is someone misleading because it transliterates the Greek designation rather than translates the Greek designation. The original text uses the Greek word dracon. The English rendering substitutes English letters. 

For a modern western reader, the word "dragon" triggers mental images that are conditioned by medieval art and Hollywood movies. The 1981 movie Dragonslayer, starring Ralph Richardson, is a good example. 

But that raises the question, what did the "dragon" in Revelation actually look like? Commentators draw comparisons with OT sea monsters and chaos monsters or Greco-Roman and ancient Near Eastern mythological monsters. That, however, simply pushes the question back a step, because we still don't know what mental image that conjured up in the minds of ancient people.  

There are some ancient artistic representations of dragon-like figures, such as the mosaic of the Mushhushshu "dragon" guarding the Ishtar Gate in the city of Babylon. Another example would be the Feathered Serpent in Mayan and Aztec art. Likewise, you have the Chinese iconography of dragons. This can be traced back at least as far as a Neolithic oyster shell "dragon". 

But while it's natural for modern viewers to identify these examples as a dragons, the recognition is circular inasmuch as we begin with a culturally-conditioned preconception of what dragons look like. These examples just happen to bear some resemblance to our preconceived notion of what dragons are supposed to look like. 

An ancient literary candidate is Leviathan, the fire-breathing monster in Job 41. In Egyptian mythology, the netherworld is guarded by fire-breathing cobras. I wonder if that's based on spitting cobras. 

In the astronomical setting of Rev 12, it's quite possible that the "dragon" represents an ancient constellation. In that event, the implicit imagery either derives from the actual appearance of the constellation, or from ancient artistic depictions of the constellation. 

A related issue is the question of how the idea of dragons originated. Does the prevalence of "dragons" in geographically diverse civilizations reflect cultural diffusion, or did these arise independently of each other?

In some cases these are hybrid creatures. In other cases, stylized snakes. 

Here's another possibility. This is speculation on my part. To some extent, dragons might be the product of nightmares. Suppose you live in a location frequented by pythons or crocodiles and the like. That's something you might dream about. And, of course, dreams can be surreal. 

In fact, one place I used to live had some big alligators in the rivers and ponds. I saw them from time to time, and I once had a bad dream about alligators or crocodiles. In my dream I was walking along a footpath between ponds or rivers infested by crocodiles. And in the dream, the area was flooded, so there was no margin between the footpath and the infested waters. I was surrounded. There was no escape.

Here's another consideration: I expect that pagan witchdoctors have nightmares that are even worse than ordinary nightmares. What if a witchdoctor lives in a location frequented by pythons or crocodiles, and the like. The fact that he's immersed in the occult will drench his imagination. Some of his dreams might be inspired by ordinary snakes or crocodiles, but that's distorted and magnified by the surreal nature of dreams, as well as his diabolical imagination. Perhaps dragons are, in part, a product of subconscious fears. There's some real information feeding into that, but other factors turn these into surreal monsters. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Carrier's snow job, part 2

Here's a sequel to my previous post:

In this post I'm commenting on Carrier's self-serving debate postmortem:

he argues these Gospels must be telling the truth because they “exhibit extensive and compelling verisimilitude,” which is the same thing as saying Mike Hammer novels are really realistic and get all sorts of cultural and historical facts right, therefore Mike Hammer existed. The fallacy is palpable. 
It’s entirely possible John correctly describes the location of the pool, that it was indeed five porticoed, was named as he said, was a healing site, and near the sheep gate (the location of which archaeology has not identified). But this information would have been available in reference books and histories of Judea, and in other stories and legends of events there, and known to countless persons who had lived there in later decades (like Josephus, for example). That the authors of John knew the layout of Jerusalem therefore tells us nothing about whether they had any eyewitness information pertaining to Jesus, or any historical information about Jesus at all.
But even what little verisimilitude the Gospels have is moot. To get Jewish culture and geography right only requires being Jewish or knowing or reading any informed Jew, especially someone who grew up in that time and place, or wrote about it—like Josephus, who did both.
That the Gospels, like many myths and legends and other varieties of historical fiction in antiquity, get some incidental cultural and historical details right, is not evidence that Jesus existed.
Matthew knew these better and repairs Mark’s mistakes, but not from being a better witness to Jesus, but just being a more informed Jew. Hence correcting these errors and getting them right has no connection to having any special knowledge of Jesus. It just means an author knew the Holy Land and Jewish laws and customs better. Luke, meanwhile, gets his details of the region from the Jewish historian Josephus (and probably, in the same way, other historians now lost, for other regions discussed in Acts). And John has been edited out of order so hopelessly it’s actually of little use geographically (see OHJ, Chapter 10.7), and he says nothing about customs that wasn’t common knowledge among Jews. So there really isn’t anything remarkable about these books using common knowledge and reference books to set their scenes.
i) That poses a central dilemma for Carrier. On the one hand, to discount the historicity of the Gospels, he must insist that these were written too late to be in touch with living memory. On the other hand, to account for the historical accuracy of the Gospels, he must insist the authors did have access to informants from that time and place. Carrier can't straddle that fence. He will falling over one side or the other. 

ii) Sure, it's possible to write accurate historical fiction. There are two or three ways to do that. If the novelist lived at that time and place. But Carrier denies that with respect to the Gospel writers.

Or if the author had access to informants who lived at that time and place. But if Carrier concedes that in reference to the Gospel writers, then he can't exclude testimonial evidence to the historical Jesus. 

iii) I'm also curious about his casual appeal to "reference books and histories of Judea". Really? He thinks a Gospel writer, after the Jewish War, could just go a local library or local bookstore to consult a tour book on Jerusalem or Palestine before the fall of Jerusalem? 

Already the non sequitur is obvious. But it’s worse, because there is little else in the Gospels that is so specific. And indeed much that is erroneous.
His Argument from Second Century Historians is basically that historians a century after the fact say Jesus existed, therefore he did. The same historians who did not know anything about Jesus except from what Christians told them—Christians who were relying on the Gospels. So his argument is: later historians repeat the fact that Christians a century later said Jesus existed, therefore Jesus existed. This is a non sequitur. No second century historian gives any indication they had any means of knowing whether the man depicted in the Gospels actually existed or not. 

What makes Carrier assume that someone like Papias or Polycarp had no direct knowledge of Christ's disciples? Likewise, the chain from John to Irenaeus. 

They were two or more lifetimes removed from the pertinent events, and mention no access to any documents or witnesses or memoirs to guide them.

As a teenager, my mother knew a great-aunt who came to live with her parents in her old age. Her great-aunt was born in 1842. I'm writing in 2016. In that respect, there's just one link between me and my great-great aunt. Likewise, my father's grandfather was a Civil War vet. I know because he used to tell my father war stories about his experience. In that respect, there's just one link between me and my great-great grandfather. Because generations overlap, living memory can span a considerable interval. 

We have no eyewitnesses to the historicity of Jesus, and no author who claims he existed on earth has shown that they had any credible access to eyewitnesses. In fact, none even claim they did—except the authors of the Gospel of John, and their witness is a fabrication (OHJ, pp. 500-05; fabricating witnesses was common in ancient mythography: Alan Cameron has a whole chapter on it in Greek Mythography in the Roman World).

Richard Bauckham will be publishing an expanded edition of his classic monograph on Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.

Paul, the only source we have who definitely wrote in less than an average lifetime after when Jesus would have lived…

The "average lifespan" is a statistical mean that's diluted by high child mortality in the ancient world. But people who survived childhood could have a normal lifespan. Consider the church fathers (excluding those who died prematurely from martyrdom). 

One (Luke) outright denies it and conspicuously does not mention having access to any eyewitnesses, only to the previous Gospels, none of which written by eyewitnesses nor citing any.

Luke doesn't say his research was confined to previous Gospels. And it's clear from Acts that Luke had a wide range of contacts, including founding members of the Jerusalem church. 

The earliest (Mark) cites no sources at all, and was clearly not himself an eyewitness, and never mentions knowing or speaking to any.

i) How is it "clear" that Mark was not an eyewitness to any of the events he narrates? And if he was an eyewitness, then we wouldn't expect him to cite sources.

ii) Moreover, Carrier is duplicitous. Even if Matthew, Mark, or Luke either claimed to be eyewitnesses or cite eyewitnesses, Carrier would preemptively discount their testimony as fabricated. 

And Matthew just copied Mark verbatim…

Matthew sometimes simplifies Mark to make room for Matthew's supplementary material. So it's not verbatim. The fact, though, that Matthew is so conservative in his use of Mark demonstrates his fidelity to his sources. He doesn't take historical liberties with Mark.

and expanded and revised him with more speeches many of which many scholars agree were composed afterward and thus did not come from eyewitnesses (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount is an original composition in Greek written after the Jewish War: OHJ, pp. 465-67). 

That's nothing more than a tendentious assertion. Incidentally, it's funny how Carrier reprimands Evans for appeal to scholarly consensus, yet Carrier is quick to invoke scholarly consensus when it serves his own purpose. 

Nor would an eyewitness just copy verbatim the book of a non-witness and pass it off as their own testimony… 

A strawman inasmuch as Matthew doesn't just copy verbatim Mark's account. 

And much of what Matthew adds to Mark is sufficiently ridiculous as to rule out his having or using eyewitness sources at all (like magical stars: 2:9-11; virgin births: 1:18-25...

That's only ridiculous of you presume miracles are ridiculous

zombie hordes: 27:52-53; 

These are no more "zombies" than Lazarus restored to life (Jn 11). "Zombie" instantly triggers associations with Hollywood horror films. That's not an accurate comparison. It's just an applause line for Carrier's sycophants. 

flying monsters from outer space: 28:1-8; etc.).

An angel is a "flying monster from outer space"? That's hardly an accurate description. Rather, it's another applause line for his groupies. 

Carrier's snow job, part 1

Last Spring, Richard Carrier debated Craig Evans:

In this post I'll comment on that debate. Carrier also posted a self-serving analysis of the debate which I will comment on in a sequel post: