First, this post sparked a delightful commentary/discussion/popcorn feast for Jim West on my Facebook wall – a discussion I was unable to join as I was at a finance committee meeting.
Mythicists like Earl Doherty will accept the existence of Q – a hypothetical source the existence of which is deduced from the common material shared between Matthew and Luke – and even the even more hypothetical stratification of this source into layers by scholars like John Kloppenborg.
McGrath is correct – they are somewhat hypocritical with their selection of evidences and theories to pin their conspiracies on. By the way, I deny Q. It is as real as the mythicists’ historical expertise.
In the meanwhile, Dick has responded to McGrath’s review of his latest comic book, in part, with:
The question indeed is precisely what McGrath describes: what best explains the evidence (all the evidence) we have, that an actually executed man inspired it all (as the canonical Gospels claim), or revelations of a self-sacrificing archangel inspired it all (as Hebrews 9 and the earliest credible redaction of the Ascension of Isaiah claim)? That cannot be answered from the armchair, much less with dogmatic assumptions about the ideological bullheadedness of Jews, who (I guess we’re supposed to believe) could never innovate their way out of a paper bag, much less a real socio-theological crisis like the Roman occupation.
First, Hebrews 9 is set with a larger work called the Epistle to the Hebrews (perhaps Dick as head of it, but doubtful). It begins by referring to a son who follows the prophets, and while using Wisdom-mystical language, it still nevertheless grounds the argument in Platonic thought of pre-existence, contrary to Jewish ideal pre-existence, on the lines of the Psalms of Solomon. In badly using Hebrews 9 out of context, Dick attempts to present a choice of either/or. For instance, he supposes only two lexicons, “Thus, there were two systems of vocabulary in antiquity, and when translating from Jewish to pagan thought-concepts…”. Of course, anyone who has actually studied the historical reality understand the problems with the limitation of the Jewish and pagan concepts into two lexicons, as if they were the only two in existence – and better, as if there was but one Jewish and one Pagan world co-existing. This false DICKotomy puts Carrier in a corner, all the while he attempts to put actual scholarship in a corner. A myriad of explanations exist as to the historical impetus of writing such works as Hebrews, as well as the canonical gospels, but Carrier is unable to make proper use of them, due to his insistence that only certain evidences matter. This evidences, ironically enough, are mythical and out of context.
Hebrews 9 is extremely Platonic – because it describes the breaking of the boundaries between the heavenly and the earthly. If you miss this key point, as well as the key point of Hebrews (including time and location of composition), you will come up with some the craziest ideas, such as heavenly archangel named Jesus.
For more on Hebrews and how it fits well into Platonic/Wisdom literature, see here.