In 2015, Christina Petterson wrote a fairly scathing review of Richard Carrier’s attempt to prove that Jesus was a mythical figure. The review of On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt appears in Relegere vol. 5, no. 2 (2015), pp. 253-258.

As book review editor at the time, I did not make inquiries into Petterson’s personal religious stance. Her religious views are a personal matter, and unless confessional assumptions had formed the basis for her review (and they did not), I would not have cared what those personal views were.

How then has Carrier detected that Petterson’s review was a “highly evangelical review”? This was Carrier’s description in a recent reply to Daniel Gullotta’s similarly negative article on his book. Carrier frequently claims that he strictly follows historical reasoning and logic. So I ask him: by what logic and reasoning did he conclude that Petterson’s review is “highly evangelical”? Is this a matter of evidence and logic? Or does Carrier, the historian, have as much difficulty in interpreting a relatively recent (2015) source as he does interpreting Philo? I just want Carrier to make clear his evidence and reasoning for concluding that Petterson’s review is “highly evangelical”.

I doubt that he can.

Perhaps Carrier’s ‘reasoning’ amounted to “I just feel it in my gut”?

I sincerely hope not. As Carrier rightly notes,

“Feeling it in my gut” is a dubious alternative, too easily hijacked by bias, and impossible to critique. Historians need to do better. They need to explain to us why their assertions of probability are valid. And “I feel it in my gut,” isn’t an explanation.

This isn’t an isolated (mis)reading. In a reply to Petterson (7 February 2017), Carrier described her as “fawningly Christian”:

fawningly Christian

Again, by what logic and reasoning did he conclude that Petterson was “fawningly Christian”? As I said, in accepting her review for publication, I did not detect any evidence in her review concerning her religious views.  So how did Carrier detect them? Please let me know.

And if Carrier reached his conclusion about Petterson’s “highly evangelical” review and “fawningly Christian” views on the basis of probability, I ask him to calculate his probability using Bayes’ Theorem. To quote Carrier again,

History is about reaching conclusions in probability. That requires competence in understanding probability.

So, I challenge Carrier: defend your categorization of Petterson as “fawningly Christian” and her review as “highly evangelical”, please. Make clear the evidence and logical reasoning on which you based these conclusions. And if you think your conclusions are only “probable”, please provide specific calculations of the probability based on Bayes’ Theorem.

I’m waiting…

See also: Richard Carrier’s Reading Problems: An Example