Friday, April 15, 2016

Richard Carrier has more waffles than IHOP

Richard Carrier has made another comment about my post. Before I respond to his latest comment, observe his evolving claims. He originally said:

And all specialists on John agree this was written in the early to mid second century, by authors unknown (yes, plural: John 21:24).

Subsequently, in response to my post, he said:

Richard Carrier saysApril 13, 2016 at 4:11 pm
I especially like how he insists there are specialists on John alive today who date it before 100 AD. And then doesn’t name a single specialist on John alive today who dates it before 100 AD. 
I will assume he means fundamentalists. I don’t count fundamentalists as reliable scholars. Any more than I count astrologers as reliable astronomers.

Notice how his comment moves the goalpost–twice!:

i) He now restricts his claim to specialists "alive today."

ii) He now restricts his claim to "specialists" who aren't "fundamentalists". 

Today he made an additional comment:

Richard Carrier saysApril 14, 2016 at 2:31 pm
(P.S. I should allow that some non-fundamentalist specialists do at least allow the possibility John was written in the 90s. But not as a definite conclusion. And they generally all agree John used Luke as a source, so the specialist dating now of Luke to the 90s puts John unlikely so early.)

i) Notice how this moves the goalpost yet again by his belated concession that all specialists on John don't agree that this was written in the early to mid-2C. So he's now reversed himself. Carrier has more waffles than IHOP.

And let's consider some other things he added:

ii) Since the internal evidence doesn't contain any data that would allow us to date it definitively, it comes down to a range of plausible dates. Given present evidence, the date will be inconclusive. However, we can rule left field dates like the mid-2C. One problem with Carrier's 2C date is that John accurately depicts the conditions of Jerusalem before the fall. That requires the narrator to be in touch with living memory. 

iii) How can scholars "generally all" agree? If it's generally, that falls short of all, and if it's all, that's more than generally. This is an indication that Carrier is just winging it. He doesn't actually have fix on which scholars say what. 

iv) To say the specialists date Luke to the 90s is a serious overgeneralization. Many Lukan scholars assign a pre-70 date to that Gospel. 

v) To say the scholars "generally all" (whatever that means) agree that John used Luke as a source is another serious overgeneralization. 

vi) There are some striking coincides between Luke and John. But it doesn't follow that John used Luke as a source. After all, right in his prologue, Luke says he used informants. Well, what if John was one of his informants? In that event, John's Gospel might sometimes seem to echo Luke, not because his Gospel is dependent on Luke's Gospel, but because Luke (the author) was dependent on the Apostle John for some of his information. Even if John's Gospel is later than Luke's Gospel (which I take to be the case), the Apostle John can be a source of information for an earlier Gospel (i.e. Luke's Gospel). Carrier fails to distinguish between a literary source and a personal source. 


  1. One problem with Carrier's 2C date is that John accurately depicts the conditions of Jerusalem before the fall.

    The following is probably old news to Steve and Richard, but it's just one example of what Steve is talking about.

    Andreas Köstenberger in his article HERE states, "In several previous publications Daniel B. Wallace, professor at Dallas Seminary, has argued for a pre-AD 70 date of composition for John’s Gospel on what may appear to be a fairly inconspicuous feature: the use of the present tense form of the verb “to be” (eimi) in John 5:2: “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.” According to Wallace, the present tense indicates that the structure here described was still standing at the time of writing. Since archaeological evidence suggests that the structure was destroyed in AD 70 [referring to 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans- AP], John’s Gospel must have been written prior to AD 70."

    Köstenberger continues in his article to argue against a pre-AD 70 date. Regardless of who is right on the issue, it's interesting that the author of John KNOWS about the pool at all and knows it has exactly 5 porches. The author(s) even knows its Hebrew (or Aramaic) name to boot! It's often claimed that John is an anti-semitic book, yet it is so intimately familiar with Jewish customs, Palestinian geography, Hebrew or Aramaic terms etc. that it's likely the author was Jewish rather than a Gentile with a Gentile agenda or as posing as Jewish when in reality a Gentile. You can almost hear the Jewish pride in the author of John when He records Jesus' statement, "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we KNOW, for salvation is FROM THE JEWS" (John 4:22). This is not a Hellenized Gnostic Jesus in the garb of Judaism.

    Thirty years after 9/11 how many people would be able to describe the interiors of the twin towers without looking it up on the internet? Very few. Those who could would likely be people who actually had seen the interiors in person before they fell. All this suggests that the Gospel of John was written by at least one Jew who lived in Jerusalem before 70 AD. Which would be in keeping with that same person being an eyewitness.

    1. Very insightful AP, thanks for sharing. That's a delightful point that I hadn't personally considered or came across until now.

  2. Carrier (and others like him) has a nice 'heads I win, tails you lose' manner of scholarship.

    If two accounts have many elements in common, that's literary dependence.

    If two accounts are quite different, that's proof it's all a spurious legend.

    If two accounts are similar but different, that's still literary dependence but the later author redacted the earlier account for the needs of their reading community.

    FWIW, their very different accounts of the giving of the Spirit suggests to me that Luke and John are independent, and that they are simply relaying the same events. Steve, do you think there is any reason to believe there is interdependence, whether literary or of eyewitnesses?