Richard Carrier’s Reading Problems: An Example

After Christina Petterson had reviewed his book, On the Historicity of Jesus (2014), Richard Carrier concluded that Petterson’s review was “highly evangelical” and that Petterson herself was “fawningly Christian”.

As I was book review editor at the time that Petterson submitted her review, I asked Carrier how he had concluded that Christina Petterson was “highly evangelical”, and what evidence he had for calling her (elsewhere) “fawningly Christian”.

Given that Carrier is an historian who places a high value on the logical use of historical evidence, I wanted to see how he had treated this recent piece of historical evidence: a 2015 review of his book. How did he reach his conclusions about Petterson?

So I sent him a question on his website, and he has now kindly answered it.

DEANE DECEMBER 16, 2017, 10:25 PM

Dear Richard,

From the specific content of Christina Petterson’s review of your book, I wonder what evidence you have for calling it “highly evangelical”, and (elsewhere) what evidence you have for calling her “fawningly Christian”? If there is evidence of this in her review, I am sure that, like any good historian, you will not fail to produce it.

I eagerly wait to see your evidence.

Deane Galbraith


  1. You can see for yourself. I link to her article. It’s open access, so anyone can read it. Clues include her disparagement of the Jesus Seminar, and praise for James McGrath; her review in general reads like a James McGrath style poohpoohing of any challenge to orthodoxy, and never engages with the actual arguments of the book, which only a believing Christian would think to do. She’s defending orthodoxy. And assuming she need do no work to do it. While never once conceding the actual orthodoxy is that the Gospel Jesus is a myth (and the historical Jesus not like him). That’s all you need to know her agenda is defending Christianity, not scholarship (her Christian belief is likewise evident from her other writings).

    Although I think it’s fair to cut the word “evangelical” here, since it’s true, she doesn’t evangelize a kerygma in that article. So I’ve made that correction. I’ve gone back to its main descriptor: weird.

Carrier’s basis for calling Petterson “highly evangelical” and “fawningly Christian” was: her negative criticism of the Jesus Seminar, her positive appraisal of a piece written by James McGrath, combined with her negative review of Carrier. Based on this evidence, Carrier concludes that Petterson had behaved as “only a believing Christian would think to do”. Carrier further alleges that Petterson is “defending orthodoxy”, and that “her agenda is defending Christianity, not scholarship”. Furthermore, from Petterson’s “other writings”, he concludes that “her Christian belief is likewise evident”. Yet, he does now acknowledge that Petterson isn’t actually evangelizing in her review: “she doesn’t evangelize a kerygma”.

There is a good reason why Petterson wasn’t “evangelizing a kerygma” in her review of Carrier. She is not a Christian, and not religious, and never has been. She is an atheist.

This provides a good test, however, of Carrier’s inability to interpret his sources, and his ability to draw inferences from them that are simply not there. Carrier consistently assumes that anyone who disagrees with him must have an evangelical “agenda”. Sadly, this is conspiracy-theory thinking, not scholarly thinking.

Carrier has completely failed to interpret his source, taking inferences from it that simply were not there, and which were quite incorrect.


Does Richard Carrier use Bayes’ Theorem to detect Evangelicals?

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…


Matthew Chrulew on Nephilim (Genesis 6:1-4)

Matthew Chrulew, author of The Angælien Conspiracy
Matthew Chrulew, author of The Angælien Apocalypse

Matthew Chrulew’s short novel The Angælien Apocalypse (Twelfth Planet Press, 2010) reads as though it may have been written as a collaboration between Erich von Däniken (Chariots of the Gods?) and Garth Ennis (Preacher). It’s a fun and clever account of what transpires when the world finds out that the ancient-aliens-in-the-Bible conspiracy theorists were right all along. Chrulew is a philosophical ethologist at the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University, where he leads the Posthumanism and Technology research program.

One of the highlights of The Angælien Apocalypse is this summary of Genesis 6:1-4, in the mouth of one of the main characters, Miguel:

“I’m sure they’ve gone through the regular scriptures with you: Ezekiel 1, Matthew 24, Revelation 4. But did they mention Genesis 6? The flood? The Nephilim, Joke [Joachim]. Did they mention them? It’s all there in the Bible: how the sons of God fucked the daughters of men and their kids busted arse all over the joint. Giant freaks, Joke. That’s why there was the flood: once they were around, God in His holiness had to do it, to purge those unholy powerful motherfuckers….

“The angælians almost got what they wanted that time, Joke. All of the Earth was wiped out – except for Noah and his crew. God decided to save a human remnant – and I bet that mightily pissed them off. So this time – this time they mean for him to take out the whole lot. That’s the Cherubim’s real plan, Joke. To cross-breed mongrel Neo-nephilim so when Jesus comes in divine judgement he can’t help but get all wrathful on our corrupt and violent arses…

“They’ve been jealous ever since we were created, ever since Lucifer was first banished to this star system. They want their favourite spot back, right next to the big guy. And so they mingle with the seed of men, manipulate the races, just like it says in Daniel 2.”

The idea that demonic seed has corrupted the human lineage is widely discussed in ancient alien lit, such as in the works of Zecharia Sitchin.

The idea that Lucifer/Satan/’Azaz’el was jealous of God’s creation of humanity, and conversely that the angels resented their resulting loss of status, may be found in ancient interpretations of Genesis 6:1-4, such as the Life of Adam and Eve (12-16) and Questions of Bartholomew 4.53-57.


CERN Large Hydron Collider: Science or Portal To Hell Allowing Access To Nephilim? YOU be the judge

The CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest, most powerful, and (at $10 Billion) most expensive particle accelerator.

Or is it?

Mike from around the world suggests otherwise. In an interview with Paul Begley, Mike from around the world claims that CERN has opened up portals to Hell through which Nephilim are now manifesting. Here’s a pic:


Satan lives in the dark matter. But he comes in and out…. I know the scientist guys don’t really want to go there.
– Paul Begley

You can listen to the interview on YouTube:

Believing in the Nephilim with L.A. Marzulli: On The Trail of The Nephilim

L.A. Mazulli, On The Trail of The NephilimProphecy in the News recently interviewed L.A. Marzulli about his book On The Trail of The Nephilim. It is interesting to consider what drives a theory which many would dismiss as conspiratorial or, conversely, to consider the contextual and social factors which make it compelling to Marzulli and to many of his readers.

According to Marzulli, discoveries of giants skeletons in Ohio and Indiana have been covered up by the scientific community, because it contradicts the presuppositions of their Darwinistic worldview:

It comes down to this: that we are – academia, and the scientific community runs under a Darwinian worldview, a Darwinian paradigm. Everything is filtered through that… through Darwinism. And unfortunately, or, I should say, fortunately for us, as Christians, these skeletons go against the Darwinian paradigm. It makes no sense.

Similarly, on the L.A. Marzulli website, the summary of the book describes scientists and archaeologists as involved in a “cover-up”:

This book is the culmination of a lengthy search for the physical evidence of the Nephilim, the Giants of Old Testament lore. A significant cover-up has taken place over the years, reducing these double-digit, gigantic hybrids to the dustbins of history. You’re going to read about the organizations behind this Darwinian-flavored scheme and why they hate the bones and skulls of the Nephilm so much. They’ll go to incredible lengths to make this evidence disappear!

So there is a double thrill of secret knowledge: both in the ‘knowledge’ of giant skeletons and the confirmation that the Bible reveals the truth about the past.

Another comment by Marzulli shows how his theory reduces the dissonance caused by Yahweh’s genocide of entire nations, during what the book of Joshua presents as the Israelite settlement of the land. How does he reconcile the image of the Israelite God in Joshua – disregarding the lives of entire peoples and killing men, women, and children alike – with the Christian conception of a loving God who wishes to save all people? You, quite literally, demonize the enemy:

The theory is, as Joshua and Caleb pushed into the Promised Land, we see all those different tribes: Nephilim tribes – Nephilim, Anakim, Rephaim, the Canaanites, Perizzites – all these Nephilim tribes. And I believe each one had, perhaps, a different physical charactistic.  So as Joshua and Caleb come into the Promised Land, what we see, in my opinion, is this diaspora. The giants realise, the Nephilim realise,  the mandate has gone out to wipe them all off – men, women, children. And remember, these are demonic, hybrid beings, they are Nephilim. And no grace and mercy is shown by a loving – the same loving God in the Old Testament that we serve today – no difference. The judgement is severe, its final, and the giants see this, know this.

The explanation not only takes account of the Anakim and Rephaim mentioned in Numbers 13-14 and Deuteronomy 1-3, but other peoples usually not considered giants – even the Canaanites. And so the theory that the people of the land were all demonic hybrids safeguards the Christian God’s loving nature.

A further impetus for Marzulli’s theory comes in the form of the widely held idea that elements from the beginning of time will be repeated at the end of time: the Urzeit/Endzeit association. One reason these ancient ideas are so thrilling to Marzulli and his readers is that they foreshadow, and appear to provide evidence for, the end of time, including the expected return of Jesus, God’s destruction of all enemies (including the demons and Darwinians):

Jesus says, sorts of admonishes us, gives us a very clear warning: it will be like the Days of Noah when I return – I’m paraphrasing – it will be like the days of Noah when the Son of Man returns – which immediately begs the question: what differentiates the Days of Noah from any other time in history. And of course it’s the presence of the Fallen Angels coming down, having – doing the unspeakable – having sex with the women, and creating this hybrid entity or being known as the Nephilim. In my opinion, this has happened all through our history. The first incursion, of course, is Genesis 6. But then there’s another incursion. We see the same penalty meted out to Sodom and Gomorrah: wipe them all out; there’s not a shred of grace or mercy with Sodom and Gomorrah. We see the same thing again when they push into the Levant, when Joshua and Caleb go into the Promised Land, the same idea: there’s not a shred of grace or mercy.

Here the eschatological expectation is combined with a further apologetic explanation for God’s lack of grace or mercy shown towards the original inhabitants of the Promised Land.

Although regularly dismissed as a fringe or conspiracy theory, we can see ways in which L.A. Mazulli’s theory gains credibility by appealing to other important beliefs of the wider Christian community and offers dissonance resolution in respect of conflicts and doubts regarding evolutionary science and ethical doubts concerning the conquest narratives which have also concerned a much wider section of contemporary Christians.

The Ideological Unconscious: Bruce Malina echoes Zionist Discourse but Circulates Holocaust Denial “Joke”

The Giant with Feet of ClayAn interesting article appears in Bible and Interpretation today:

Robert J. Myles and James G. Crossley, “Biblical Scholarship, Jews and Israel: On Bruce Malina, Conspiracy Theories and Ideological Contradictions”, The Bible and Interpretation (December 2012)

The article explores a caesura in the ideological views and practices of Bruce Malina, New Testament scholar and founder of The Context Group. On the one hand, Malina takes a firm stance against the modern state of Israel and for Palestinians, going so far as to deny any Semitic ancestry for most modern Israelis – a stance based on the discredited Khazar hypothesis propagated by far right conspiracy theory groups. On the other hand, in his academic work on the meaning of the term ‘Jew’ or ‘Judean’, Malina “actually ends up buying into a Zionist discourse he so dislikes” in defining first-century Jews/Judeans in relation to an orientalising ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Mediterranean’  stereotype.

The examples provided in Myles and Crossley’s article elucidate the complex workings of ideology, in which proponents “know not what they do”. This complexity is important in assessing Malina’s work on the meaning of Ioudaios, which has been very influential in recent mainstream New Testament scholarship, which is largely (if superficially) pro-Jewish. For while Malina may unconsciously practise a pro-Zionist discourse, he personally holds to some highly suspect views. This was no more evident than when he sent an email to a list of 88 biblical scholars in 2006 which contained a pro-holocaust-denial “joke” written by a far-right holocaust denier with the pen-name of Michael James. The “joke” circulated by Malina, entitled “Big Pharma Pushes ‘Miracle Cure’ For Holocaust Denial Syndrome”, is a spoof news story about a drug called Holozac which the establishment attempts to employ against holocaust deniers. The gist of the “joke” is that the establishment is trying to suppress free thought (i.e. holocaust denial conspiracy theories): “the drug works by closing down the brain’s center of intellectual inquiry. It also blocks the re-uptake of politically incorrect neurotransmitters involved in critical thought processes, making it more difficult to distinguish between truth and lies”. The “joke” defends David Irving and other prominent holocaust deniers, as “People Who Read Books” and as people who “ask lots of questions and … have an unnatural and very unhealthy obsession with finding out the truth”. The drug causes holocaust deniers to put aside holocaust denial literature such as Juergen Graf’s The Giant with Feet of Clay and to read only “government-controlled newspapers”. One of the drug’s main side-effects, however, is that it causes “a pathological hatred of Palestinians and Muslims in general”.

By exposing the inconsistency which subsists between Malina’s beliefs and practice, Myles and Crossley unveil the illusion of the illusion: “the illusory status of the illusion itself”. Despite Malina’s joking claim to unveil a vast holocaust “conspiracy”, what is unveiled – through suspicion of suspicion itself – is the inconsistency between Malina’s conscious views and unconscious practice.