Response to Richard Carrier on the 'ZEITGEIST Sourcebook'
Below we find a response by Richard Carrier about the "ZEITGEIST Sourcebook
." Here I'll be addressing his claims one at a time. As we can see, it appears that Carrier merely skimmed the Sourcebook prior to commenting on it. Carrier just cannot find it in himself to acknowledge that Acharya may be right about anything at all. His biases against her is obvious.
Dr. Richard Carrier said...Scholars citing their own work
Examine those "defenses" critically:
Most of it consists of Murdock citing herself (as if you didn't know, Acharya S is D.M. Murdock);
Much of it consists of backtracking (making excuses for why the claims in the movie aren't quite exactly correct but nevertheless one can infer such things from largely unrelated data, provided you ignore their original context and chronological disparities and the general unintelligibility of the connections once the accurate data is grasped; and pretend things like that there was no difference between Osiris and Horus so you can just assume anything said of either applies to both, etc.);
And the rest is bogus (outdated or non-scholarly authors are cited for facts that there is no real evidence of, which one can only learn by trying to hunt down their sources--the most amusing example being any resurrection story for Mithras: follow that trail and you'll find nothing but a dry well).
Some of it also omits crucial details that cast suspicion on any real connection (e.g. Did you know Dionysus died as a baby, being then hacked up, and was resurrected as a baby, before he even grew up or had a ministry or anything else? You won't learn that from the carefully cropped quotes in their materials).
After all that, what remains that's correct, doesn't entail any of the conclusions made in the movie. Like the constant emphasis on December 25 as a common divine birthday. That never existed in Christian tradition, until centuries later when it was assimilated to popular pagan practice. Thus this fact can't have in any way influenced or inspired the original Christian myth. "
August 05, 2010 2:51 PM
Richard Carrier: "Most of it consists of Murdock citing herself (as if you didn't know, Acharya S is D.M. Murdock)"
False. From my count, her work only constitutes 78 out of the 345 footnotes, or about 23% of the overall citations, which means that 77% - almost 4/5ths - of it is not
her citing herself. To say that "MOST of it consists of Murdock citing herself" is therefore quite inaccurate and unscientific.
Nevertheless, as someone with a PhD should know, scholars DO cite their own work often. There's just no need to re-hash several pages of material repeatedly when one can cite where they've already addressed specific issues. This is a ludicrous argument.
As a major example, the scholar Dr. Ramsay MacMullen is arguably the best Roman historian in English alive today. In this 331-page book, published by Yale University, he cites his own work at least 60 times, sometimes four or more on a page:Corruption and the Decline of Rome by Ramsay MacMullen
RC: "Much of it consists of backtracking (making excuses for why the claims in the movie aren't quite exactly correct but nevertheless one can infer such things from largely unrelated data, provided you ignore their original context and chronological disparities and the general unintelligibility of the connections once the accurate data is grasped; and pretend things like that there was no difference between Osiris and Horus so you can just assume anything said of either applies to both, etc.);"
There is no "backtracking" or "excuses" - quite the opposite. What there is
, however, represents further substantiation from the most highly respected scholars, along with more primary sources and the further explanation of these issues. As concerns his comments between the parentheses, Carrier seems utterly unable to conceptualize how myths are made - if one believes that the gospel story of Christ is a myth, then one surely knows that whoever made it up took bits and pieces of other stories, not whole stories in perfect chronological order. What culture has ever done that?
Is Carrier saying that there are NO borrowed myths or mythical motifs in Christianity? If not, then he either believes that gospel story happened or that its authors just made everything up whole cloth - either way would demonstrate a supernatural and unrealistic view. If so, were these borrowed in perfect chronological order or as separate elements?Interchangeability of Egyptian gods
Also, as professional Egyptologists know, many ancient Egyptian texts are quite specific about the interchangeability of the Egyptian gods, including and especially Osiris and Horus:
"...the deceased in the Coffin Texts also represents Osiris, as at CT Sp. 475 and the interchangeability of the deceased with Osiris—and Horus—is likewise illustrated at CT Sp. 215, in which the speaker states: '…he [Osiris] says: He is his son, he is his heir; He is Horus, and I am he
- Murdock, Christ in Egypt
, p. 38
"In the Book of the Dead, the deceased is made to take a variety of roles, demonstrating the interchangeability of the characters in these recitations, utterances or spells. For example, in BD 69, the dead king is made to say, '…I am Horus the Elder on the Day of Accession, I am Anubis of Sepa, I am the Lord of All, I am Osiris.
' The unity of divine and mortal personalities is also recognizable in the Coffin Texts, as at CT Sp. 485, in which the deceased says, '…I am Horus and Thoth, I am Osiris and Atum
.' In this regard, the fusion of the deceased and the many deities—not a few of whom possess solar attributes—also needs to be kept in mind as we attempt to outline the Egyptian mythos and ritual."
- Murdock, Christ in Egypt
, pp. 55-56
"So interchangeable are Osiris and Horus that there is even a hybrid god Osiris-Horus or Asar-Heru
. Indeed, the two are so close that one sees discussion of the 'Horus-Osiris king,' referring to the pharaoh, who is both Osiris and his son, such as by [Egyptologist Dr. Rudolf] Anthes, who repeatedly refers to 'Horus-Osiris' as a single entity
"...as the sun progresses through the day and night, 'he' becomes a number of characters—or changes his epithets and characteristics, as it were, as he merges with other gods—beginning with the rising sun, Horus, who at noon becomes Re, who at sunset becomes Tmu or Atum, who at midnight becomes Osiris, who becomes Horus at sunrise, and so on."
- Murdock, Christ in Egypt
, p. 56[/b]
"As Dr. [Claude] Traunecker also states, 'Rare are deities who make do with having a single function, and many are those who declare themselves to have been the Sole One at the first moment of creation.' This contention for the multiplicity of function and interchangeability of roles will be understood more so for the Egyptian religion
than for, say, the Greek or the Roman, with their distinct deities and well developed myths. In Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt
, [Egyptologist Dr. Erik] Hornung discusses Egyptian syncretism, remarking:
"'…The natures of the individual gods are not clearly demarcated
, so that aspects of one god can be identical with those of another. Here we encounter a phenomenon that is of the greatest importance for Egyptian religion and its deities: "syncretism."'"
- Murdock, Christ in Egypt
, p. 58
"The 'confounding' of deities so abundant within Egyptian religion constitutes not an error but may be deliberate since, as stated, the myths and characteristics of gods and goddesses frequently blend into and overlap each other. The interchangeability of Osiris and Horus, for example, becomes evident on a daily basis, as the night sun Osiris at dawn becomes Horus, as we have already seen. Regarding Osiris’s transformation into Horus, [Egyptologist Dr.] James Allen states:
"'Within Nut’s womb, he embodied the force through which the Sun received the power of new life, to appear at dawn as Osiris reborn in his own son, the god Horus
- Murdock, Christ in Egypt
, p. 62
Clearly, professional Egyptologists disagree with Carrier. There's much more on this subject throughout Christ in Egypt
. Also, in the Roman Empire by the time Jesus supposedly lived, the Greeks and Romans themselves were combining their gods with each other and with others in the empire, like the Egyptian. So, they equated Osiris with Dionysus, and Horus with Apollo, for example. Acharya's not just conflating gods all over the place - she's very specifically discussing gods that the ancients themselves syncretized.
RC: "And the rest is bogus (outdated or non-scholarly authors are cited for facts that there is no real evidence of, which one can only learn by trying to hunt down their sources--the most amusing example being any resurrection story for Mithras: follow that trail and you'll find nothing but a dry well)."
"The rest is bogus?
" That is not a very scientific, scholarly or accurate statement at all. What "rest?" While Acharya does use a relatively few sources from an earlier period, these older scholars are supported by other evidence, which she also provides, and shows that dismissing them as "outdated" and "non-scholarly" is really just calumny.
Of the some 170 sources in the bibliography, only 25-30 are of this older generation, and out of the 345 footnotes, these are cited about 50-60 times. That's 15-18% in the bibliography, and 14-17% of the citations. And, again, these are backed up by other evidence, either here in the Sourcebook or in Acharya's other works. Some of this percentage is from professional Egyptologists like Budge, Lenormant and Sharpe, and they are not necessarily "outdated" just because they wrote in the 19th or early 20th centuries.Sources in the "ZEITGEIST Sourcebook"
Most of the Sourcebook is from highly credentialed modern
scholars from relevant fields like the following. To reiterate, the new ZG1 Sourcebook actually contains many NEW sources, as explained in the Preface:
"...the best and most thorough, scholarly and modern sources wherever possible, with the result that many authorities cited here possess credentials from respected institutes of higher learning, and their publishers are some of the most scholarly in English (and other languages), such as:
Oxford University/Clarendon Press
Princeton University Press
Cambridge University Press
Cornell University Press
Yale University Press
University of Chicago Press
University of Pennsylvania Press
University of Wisconsin Press
Johns Hopkins Press
Harcourt, Brace & Co.
MacMillan & Co., etc."
Those who really know what academia is will recognize the list above as the best of the best respected institutes of higher learning. Hand-waving dismissals will not suffice. And saying, "the rest is bogus outdated or non-scholarly authors
" is sloppy, irresponsible and unbecoming of a serious scholar with a PhD. Not only is the material NOT "bogus," but it also comes from sources who are NOT "outdated" or "non-scholarly authors" at all - that's an insult to them and to Acharya.
Here's a taste of those "outdated" and "non-scholarly authors" Acharya cites in the ZG Sourcebook:
Dr. Miranda J. Aldhouse-Green, a professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University
Dr. Lee I.A. Levine, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary
Dr. Edwin C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory
Dr. Emund S. Meltzer, American Egyptologist
Dr. James P. Allen, curator of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dr. Erik Hornung, professor emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Basel
Dr. Henri Frankfort, Dutch Egyptologist
Dr. Jan Assman, professor of Egyptology at the University of Konstanz
Dr. Badrya Serry, director of the Antiquities Museum at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt
Dr. Bojana Mojsov, Egyptologist
Dr. Reginald E. Witt, Egyptologist and professor at the University of London
Dr. G. Johannes Botterweck, professor of Old Testament and Catholic Theology at the University of Bonn
Dr. Alfred Wiedermann, Egyptologist and professor of Oriental Languages at the University of Bonn
Dr. John Gwyn Griffiths, Welsh professor of Classics and Egyptology
Dr. Raymond O. Faulkner, English Egyptologist
Dr. Tryggve N.D. Mettinger, professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Lund
Rev. Dr. Alfred Bertholet, a theologian and professor at the University of Göttingen
Dr. Herman te Velde, a chairman of the Department of Egyptology at the University of Groningen
Dr. Andrew T. Fear, professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester
Dr. David Adams Leeming, professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut
Dr. Patricia A. Johnston, Brandeis University professor of Classical Studies
Dr. David John Tacey, professor at La Trobe University
Dr. Edwin F. Bryant, professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University
Dr. Hugo Rahner, Jesuit theologian, dean and president of Innsbruck University
Sir Dr. Edmund Ronald Leach, Cambridge professor and anthropologist
Dr. Donald White, professor emeritus of Classics at the University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Martin Schwartz, professor of Iranian Studies at the University of California
Rev. Dr. Harold R. Willoughby, professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago
Dr. Mary Boyce, professor of Iranian Studies
Dr. Payam Nabarz, Iranian scholar
Dr. Marvin Meyers, a professor of Religious Studies at Chapman College
Dr. Theony Condos, professor at the American University of Armenia
Dr. Aviram Oshri, senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority
Dr. Chris Dolan, American astronomer
Rev. Dunbar T. Heath of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
Dr. John L. Heilbron, professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley
Dr. K.A. Heinrich Kellner, a professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Bonn
Dr. David Ulansey, philosopher professor at California Institute of Integral Studies
Dr. Robert M. Schoch, geologist and professor at Boston University
Dr. Henricus Oort, Dutch theologian and professor of Hebrew Antiquities at the University of Leiden
Rev. Dr. J. Glen Taylor, an associate professor of Old Testament at the University of Toronto
And that's not all of her sources, the rest of which are listed in the Sourcebook bibliography. Maybe we should email some of these people - all of them are modern
scholars - and ask them what they would think about Carrier's comment that they are "outdated" and "non-scholarly authors."
RC: "no real evidence
Actually, Acharya's provided a HUGE amount of evidence, but Carrier wouldn't know that because he hasn't studied it. She provided the evidence in this very Sourcebook, in which she quotes or cites the following primary sources and ancient testimony
Ancient artifacts and archaeological sites such as:
Lascaux, Altamira and Trois Freres cave paintings
Tassili N'Aijer figures
Mohenjo-daro, Indus Valley site
Thirteen Towers, Chankillo, Peru
Nabta Playa, Egypt
Greek pottery, paintings, mosaics, temples
Roman mosiacs, paintings and statuary
Early Christian artifacts, etc.
And writings such as:
Egyptian hymns, hieroglyphs, papyri and carvings
Book of the Dead
Julius Firmicus Maternus
Epic of Gilgamesh
Assyrian, Babylonia, Akkadian tablets
Dead Sea Scrolls
More of the "non-existent" evidence can be found here:Documented Sources for Zeitgeist Part One
(much of it comes from Acharya's books and her sources)Zeitgeist Part 1 & the Supportive Evidence
As we can see, there is plenty of evidence
RC: "trying to hunt down their sources
" - with the long list above, the only "hunting" one needs to do is to be able to read English. But isn't "hunting down sources" what scholars are supposed to do, as Acharya
has done here? And, in fact, in her books, especially Christ in Egypt
and Who Was Jesus?
, she's hunted down some amazing sources in a bunch of languages and provided the translations as well. But, only someone who had actually read her work would know that.Mithra and resurrection
Also, Acharya has already been working on an article about "Mithraism and Resurrection." So, in the meantime, here is just one of the quotes at the beginning representing the premise of the article:
"In the rites of Dionysus, Attis, Serapis, and above all in the Mithraic ritual
, the death and resurrection of the god were central feature of the myth....
"...the central element in all the various Mystery-cults is some form of rite de passage
by which the initiate passes from a state of darkness and sin to light and freedom. In many of the cults this element is a symbolic identification of the devotee with the death and resurrection of the god, whose passion and triumph is related in the myth...
"...a closer examination points to the presence of this element of identification with the death and resurrection of the god in the Mithraic mysteries
- Dr. Samuel H. Hooke, The Siege Perilous
, pp. 80-81, 85.
Wiki says that Dr. Samuel Hooke (d. 1968) was a scholar of Comparative Religion and a professor of Old Testament Studies at London University. I see also that Christian apologist F.F. Bruce edited his work. Apparently, this long-term professional scholar and professor knows more about this supposed "dry well" than does Carrier.
RC: "Some of it also omits crucial details that cast suspicion on any real connection (e.g. Did you know Dionysus died as a baby, being then hacked up, and was resurrected as a baby, before he even grew up or had a ministry or anything else? You won't learn that from the carefully cropped quotes in their materials)."
Carrier apparently skimmed through the new ZG1 Sourcebook a little too quickly - if at all - because the issues he brings up regarding Dionysus ARE addressed in no. 21, pp. 42 to 47:
"In the common myth about the birth of Dionysus/Bacchus, Semele is mysteriously impregnated by one of Zeus's bolts of lightning—an obvious miraculous/virgin conception. In another account, Jupiter/Zeus gives Dionysus's torn-up heart in a drink to Semele, who becomes pregnant with the 'twice born' god this way, again a miraculous or 'virgin' birth. Indeed, Joseph Campbell explicitly calls Semele a 'virgin':
"'While the maiden goddess sat there, peacefully weaving a mantle on which there was to be a representation of the universe, her mother contrived that Zeus should learn of her presence; he approached her in the form of an immense snake. And the virgin conceived the ever-dying, ever-living god of bread and wine, Dionysus, who was born and nurtured in that cave, torn to death as a babe and resurrected
That's Joseph Campbell's word, "resurrected."
RC: "before he even grew up or had a ministry or anything else
Dionysus is born again and then as an adult travels around in his "ministry." There are loads of images of Dionysus as an adult. The point here is that Dionysus dies and is reborn or resurrected. Carrier apparently thinks this myth is a real story and really happened, if he is not understanding how mythmaking goes, taking one element and combining it with others, not necessarily in that order. Nobody's claiming that this story took place in real, linear time.December 25th/winter solstice
RC: "After all that, what remains that's correct, doesn't entail any of the conclusions made in the movie. Like the constant emphasis on December 25 as a common divine birthday. That never existed in Christian tradition, until centuries later when it was assimilated to popular pagan practice. Thus this fact can't have in any way influenced or inspired the original Christian myth. "
Wow, where to begin? This sounds like something out of the Christian apologist playbook. First of all, "After all that
?" All what? It's blatantly obvious that Carrier didn't even read the Sourcebook before making these sweeping generalizations and dismissals. Everything that's "left" is certainly relevant to the subject matter - because it all
is to begin with. But, again, he wouldn't know that because he obviously didn't read it.
Furthermore, Carrier of all people should know that the Dec 25th motif is an ancient Pagan solar motif that was borrowed by Christianity. If there's a "constant emphasis" it's because all these Pagan gods were said to have been born on that date!
"The December 25th birthday is not given in the gospels; rather, it is a traditional date assigned to the birth of Jesus based on prior Pagan traditions. ... If we factor in the other solar and astrotheological motifs within Christianity, both in the New Testament and in Christian tradition, along with the highly important Pagan festivals of the day such as celebrations of the solstices and equinoxes, we can understand why Christians later appended the December 25th/winter-solstice holiday to their religion."
- ZG Sourcebook, #23, p. 52
"The well-known solar feast…of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date [for Christ’s Nativity]."
- "Christmas," Catholic Encyclopedia
"Thus, Christ's birth at the winter solstice was not formalized until the fourth century—and this fact demonstrates a deliberate contrivance by Christian officials to usurp other religions, as we contend the entire Christian religion was specifically created by human beings to do.
"It should be kept in mind also that this December 25th date was related to the Nativity of John the Baptist at the summer solstice, or June 24th, per the Catholic calendar of festivals. The placement of Christmas and St. John's Day as six months apart is based on biblical scripture at Luke 1:24-27, in which the Baptist's mother was said to have conceived six months before the Virgin Mary did likewise. The astrotheological nature of this tale is evidenced further at John 3:30, in which the Baptist is made to say mysteriously in reference to Christ:
"'He must increase, but I must decrease.'
"While this peculiar statement would make little sense if applied to human beings, it may provide a clue that the gospel writers in fact knew that they were discussing the winter and summer sun as it moved from solstice to solstice."
- Murdock, Christ in Egypt
, pp. 81-82John the Baptist and Jesus's Birthdays
Nobody has said that the winter solstice birthday or "Christmas" was part of the original Christian myth, so that's a straw man. The point here is that it demonstrates Christian tradition in glomming onto Pagan themes and using them to enhance their god, godman and religion. We can trace loads of other themes like this one - many of them solar or astrotheological - in the gospel story and other Christian tradition. This shows a pattern - and a very obvious one at that. Is Carrier seriously arguing that we should ignore this blatant and huge parallel in comparative religion studies?Conclusion
Again, it doesn't appear Carrier even read the Sourcebook, or he skimmed it in haste (as he has done before with his Luxor article, which has been addressed here Luxor
and in the FAQ's
) as many of the points he claims weren't addressed actually were addressed.
It also appears that Carrier is stuck in his rigid adherence to knee-jerk reactions to anything by Acharya S - even if he agrees in the end. It just seems like he has no intention of ever being objective or friendly towards her or her work - even though we're all really on the same team. He really comes off as jealous and unprofessional. I'm not sure how he got the idea that he was the king of religious history and that nobody can do it right except him. There's always room for legitimate and constructive criticism; surely, Carrier can do better than knee-jerk reactions? It should be pointed out that Acharya has never done anything to Richard Carrier to warrant any of his derogatory comments over the years, which has influenced others to do the same. His behavior sets a bad example, bad influence and lowers the level of discourse. And, to the best of my knowledge, Richard Carrier still hasn't read a single book by Acharya S/Murdock!!!!!
Here we are trying to gather attention to the MYTHICIST POSITION
, and atheistic and freethinking scholars like Carrier are making sure that this material doesn't get into the academic circle and continues to be dismissed and ridiculed. This sort of thing is pretty much the same as what the Christian apologists have done for nearly 2,000 years. Whose side is he on? Is he just in this for himself? We are trying to get this fantastic information out to the masses, because they have a right and responsibility to know the origins, evolution and history of religious concepts. Carrier appears to side with Christian apologists in trying to continue to suppress, censor and keep buried this information for another 2,000 years. We find this suppression to be appalling. We're working hard here to present the facts and evidence that really exists, and to try to make it easier for the public to digest. And that's where Zeitgeist part 1 has succeeded like no other form of medium in history.
People tend to forget that Zeitgeist part 1 was not our movie - we didn't create it. We would've presented it differently but until something better is created it does serve as a basic introduction.
Basic factoids concerning the creation of Zeitgeist part 1:
Zeitgeist part 1 is only around 25 minutes long and was never created to serve as a scholarly documentary. The transcript and subtitles have been translated into nearly 3 dozen different languages, and the film has been viewed over 100 million times worldwide. All one has to do is read the Q & A at the Zeitgeist website to see how ZG came into existence:
"Zeitgeist came into existence as a personal project which was shown in New York as a free public awareness expression. After the event was over, "The Movie" was tossed online with little thought given to a public response. Within a month, the film was getting record views. Months later, the "Final Edition" was completed. In total, the views for "Zeitgeist, The Movie" have exceeded 50,000,000 on Google video alone. Considering the other posts in different formats, along with public screenings, it is estimated that the total world views are well over 100 Million."
- Peter Joseph from here