Friday, June 10, 2011

Jack of all trades

Not only is Richard Carrier a probability theorist, he's also a NT textual critic!

Striking how often he appeals to what “most scholars” say without citing any comparative documentation. Where are the bibliographical references? Name, title, pagination?

The latter is surely authentic (it’s in 1 Cor. 11), not least since it's one of those things too strange to imagine any later Christian wanting to put it in. The context is that in the Middle East pious women were expected to wear head scarves (that wasn’t a modern invention)

Was Corinth in the “Middle East”? Is mainland Greece the Middle East?

Did only “Middle Eastern” women attend the church at Corinth? What about Greek women, Roman women, &c.?

What period evidence does he have about headscarves back then and there?

Wouldn’t we also expect dress codes to vary according to the social class of the woman in question?

Later Christians chucked that as being too liberal minded (Tertullian, for example, harrumphed at this notion and insisted women will remain subordinate in heaven, in fact in his eyes that's why their flesh had to be raised, to ensure their inferiority would be perpetuated).

I'm not a patrologist, but wasn’t Tertullian a Montanist? And wasn’t Montanism fairly egalitarian, what with leading prophetesses like Prisca and Maximilla?

Which means if experts can’t agree and all are wrong about many things (as must they be), then we can't trust their reconstructed text either (since it's a product of the same fallible opinions and meets with all the same disagreements)...

Doesn’t Carrier claim that Greek historians like Herodotus are more reliable than Luke? But if Carrier is that sceptical about the NT text, surely the text of Greek historians like Herodotus is far less well attested.

...except with varying shades of probability, none of which is enough to overcome any natural probabilities (so you can't use any NT passage to prove a miracle occurred, because textual corruption is always more probable).

What a bizarre comparison. I could understand, from his viewpoint, why he’d say a naturalistic alternative is always more probable than a miracle. But what sense does it make, even from his perspective, to say a textual corruption is always more probable than the urtext reporting a miracle?

Doesn’t he believe the Bible reports miracles? He doesn’t believe the reported miracles actually happened, but presumably he doesn’t deny that Scripture reports the occurrence of miracles. Surely he doesn’t chalk up all Biblically attested miracles to mistranscriptions.

He’s apparently confusing the probability of an actual miracle with the probability of a reported miracle (i.e. the probability of somebody reporting a miracle). And thereby reasons that if an actual miracle is always less probable than a naturalistic alternative, then a reported miracle is always less probable than a garbled report.

But that’s hardly a logical inference. He thinks Bible writers were superstitious. Or simply made things up whole cloth.

So how is it improbable for a Bible writer to say a miracle happened?  

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