Monday, February 16, 2015

The Behavior Of Richard C. Miller, Author Of Resurrection And Reception In Early Christianity

Richard C. Miller has recently written a book arguing against a traditional Christian view of Jesus' resurrection. Miller has significant credentials, which you can read about at the Amazon page just linked. The book has been getting some attention in skeptical circles, such as in John Loftus' post here. Steve Hays recently wrote a response to it. On one of his Facebook accounts, Miller writes about his upcoming role at an International Society of Biblical Literature meeting later this year:

"I am delighted to announce that I am to preside over the 'Allusions in the Gospels' unit at the International Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina this July 20-24." (February 3, 2015 post)

Given Miller's academic standing, the nature of his recent book, and the attention his book has received, readers may want to know that we interacted with somebody who seems to be Miller a few years ago. He went under the screen name Richard in the following threads:

Instant obituaries (Copy)
The Historical Nature Of Early Christianity
How Historical Were Early Christian Belief And Literature (Copy)
Fiction In Early Christianity: Some Preliminaries (Copy)
The Historical Nature Of Early Christianity (Part 1) (Copy)
The Historical Nature Of Early Christianity (Part 2)
The Historical Nature Of Early Christianity (Part 3) (Copy)
Richard Contradicts Himself (Copy)
To the Incorrigible Primates at Triablogue
Richard's Latest Unscholarly Comments

At the moment, you can still read some of Richard's posts. But you may notice that many of them are deleted. There's more than one reason for that. He often deleted his own posts when he was originally here in 2010. And he's been deleting more of them lately. I don't know how many more he'll delete. But some of his comments have been preserved in what other people quoted from him. (If you want to read more of his posts, access the threads above through Why would he want his posts deleted?

He didn't do well. His arguments were bad. He was self-contradictory. He misspelled words that should have been familiar to anybody who knows much about church history. He got facts wrong. He often lost his temper. And so on.

Why think the poster named Richard is Richard Miller? Their arguments and vocabulary are highly similar. In addition, the poster named Richard wrote the following about his academic background:

"By the way, Steve, I have not expressed here at tria any so called 'yale' perspectives. First off, the professors there do not have a concerted, single sketch of antiquity. They are diverse, free scholars. Second, I have studied at many high academies (Princeton, Oxford, Claremont). It is fair to say that my perspectives emerged out of those degrees and studies, but inaccurate to assume that my perspectives are the product of a 'papier-mâché artifact by insular, overbred scholars in self-referential dialogue with their peers'. My teachers, advisors, and mentors have been as diverse as could possibly be." (post at 2:22 P.M. on 10/19/10 here)

Here's the academic background of Richard Miller as described at Amazon:

"Richard C. Miller is a humanistic scholar of Christian origins in the ancient Hellenistic and Roman world. He undertook his graduate study at Princeton Theological Seminary, Yale University, and UCLA, completing his Ph.D. in Religion in 2013 at the Claremont Graduate University School of Religion in Los Angeles, California."

Then there's the following comment made by the poster Richard in 2010:

"They are all mythographies. Jesus and the apostles are used as literary vehicles propped up in various compiled episodes, composed for their rhetorical performance articulating the socio-political and philosophical distinctions and contestations of these early subaltern movements and communities. For instance, to embroider Q with a mythic birth and then a postmortem raised ascension was to decorate the tale with the standard honorific embellishments granted to others said to have been demigods. Here one thinks of the virgin birth of such towering individuals in the Greek orient as Alexander the Great (Plutarch et al) and the road appearances of Romulus, Aristeas, Proteus, et al. I have an article appearing in JBL in the fourth quarter that more fully documents the primary accounts." (post at 4:16 A.M. on 10/14/10 here)

The article he refers to seems to be this one.

It's doubtful that somebody in 2010 was impersonating Miller at Triablogue. He was even less well known then than he is now. And how likely is it that an impersonator would have known about an apparently upcoming article in the Journal of Biblical Literature? It's highly unlikely that anybody would have been going to such lengths to impersonate Miller in 2010, and it's even more unlikely that an impersonator would have known about and included such significant details about Miller.

But we wanted further confirmation that the poster named Richard was Richard Miller. So, we emailed Miller, using his email address listed at Amazon. (And, yes, we have multiple records in our files documenting that the email address we contacted was identified as Miller's at Amazon. We'll see if Miller tries to cover that up.) Initially, Miller was evasive and used highly misleading language, such as referring to how he "cannot claim to be your Richard". That may sound like a denial, but it's ambiguous enough to leave him an out. And as our email exchange with him continued, after we presented him with some of the documentation outlined above, he changed his approach. He started to make some threats. Supposedly, he knows some other person named Richard who had an academic background similar to Miller's, and that other person has a family with a lot of computer science experience. He explained:

"He would be able to find out nearly everything about each one of you and who knows what things might end up published online, exposing each of you, your careers, and families with unpleasant online materials, nothing untrue, mind you, just stuff that you would not want every person who googles your good names to see. He even may know how to make particular pages rise to the top of the google index. Wouldn't that be a nightmare? I think this can all be allayed, however, if you quietly persuade your triablogue compadres to tone back their tactless unprofessionalism." (email on file)

Notice that Miller isn't just threatening the entire Triablogue staff (even those not involved in the exchanges with Miller in any significant way). He's also threatening our families.

It was at that stage of the discussion that some of Richard's 2010 posts that had remained up for years started getting self-deleted (deleted by the author). Miller may want to claim that the Richard from 2010 was some other Richard who just happened to have a background so similar to Miller's, who just happened to start deleting posts right around the time when we were in contact with Miller, etc. That would be implausible enough. But it still wouldn't explain why Miller would be cooperating with that alleged other individual, such as by telling him what we'd communicated to Miller in email and by threatening us with what that alleged other person might do to us and our families. If some other Richard was responsible for the 2010 posts, why would that other person's life and behavior be so closely aligned with Miller's, and why would Miller be cooperating with him so much, even to the point of making threats to us on his behalf?

Skeptics might want to think twice before using Miller's material. And groups like the International Society of Biblical Literature may want to reconsider their relationship with Miller.

By the way, we'll be watching to see if Miller's threats are carried out. If they are, he can expect his behavior to be described publicly and prominently, with his name attached.


  1. You should send the SBL this.

  2. I have gone through all the above posts to which you linked in order to see the background. At least some of the comments by Richard were present when I first went through the posts. But now the comments made by Richard only say, "This comment has been removed by the author." I believe this is proof positive the commenter Richard = Richard C. Miller. Who else would both want these comments removed as well as have the ability to remove these comments?

  3. Wow! This is crazy,threatening to invade the privacy of you and your families? This guy is a piece of work

  4. Here is an interaction with him before I got bumped and then blocked from the SBL (non-official) Facebook Group (and I am a member of the SBL):

    RCM: "Why did SBL ever dignify faith-based participation? Faith orientation and scientific integrity are mutually exclusive. This is not the Evangelical Theological Society, guys. Nobody has "refuted" the Jesus Seminar [as claimed in an earlier post by someone else]. We've all just become members of the Seminar with varying results to the same question: What, if anything, is historical in the New Testament textualizations of Jesus? This book [the subject of the discussion] seeks to answer a similarly important question, endeavoring to reconstruct the historical Paul."

    Me: "Richard, the approach you close with is good and honorable and is to be championed. However, your second sentence belies the prejudice of your own point of view and approach to criticism. It is as unjustified and unequitable as your far-right opponents' criticisms are of you. To claim that would demand ignoring the centuries of scholarship that held (and continues to hold) both faith and reason together.

    RCM: No Aaron. Scholarship does not begin until the generally accepted strictures of humanistic methodology are applied, just as in every field of academic learning. These are our modern correct standards. "Belief" and unwarranted inference (faith) do not qualify as a valid scientific framework."

    Aghast at the criteria HE demands is necessary to scholarly work and the rejection of any person of faith from taking part in scholarship of a book of faith, I was beside myself at his response. I thought of responding to the comment in detail, defending the concept of 'faith' and open scholarship, pointing out the errors of his reasoning, but instead responded with the comment that got ME eschewed from the conversation and group:

    "Your narrow and limited definitions of scholarship and faith are the beginning points of your errancy."

    Which they are. But for this, I got booted from the SBL FB group.

    I am amazed that this attitude is not only present, but is pervasive in biblical scholarship - that the only ones able to study this book of faith are those who eschew faith itself. According to them, the only ones allowed to enter into scholarship of this work are those who rejects its claims out of hand. And for holding that people who do have faith can contribute to biblical scholarship, I was removed from fellowship.

    THIS... is what we are up against, gang. :(