The Torturous Death of Richard Carrier’s Dying Messiah

Richard Carrier has confidently stated that in some of the comments on his blog he has “refuted” “most” of my critique of his claims about a pre-Christian Dying Messiah (he says so here and here). I read his comments, and all I can say is, “refuted,” eh? Perhaps he just doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Allow me to demonstrate for Carrier’s sake what a refutation looks like.

A FALSE DICHOTOMY

Before we get into his “refutations” of my criticisms, I want to comment on something else he said in one of his threads. He wrote:

This entails a catch-22: either a dying-and-rising personal-savior son-of-god was an obvious “fulfillment of all the Old Testament covenantal promises through the long-awaited Jewish Messiah” (and therefore already Jewish and thus not a unique Christian development, contra Ehrman) or it was borrowed from pagans (where it existed widely and publicly all around and among the Jewish towns and diaspora communities). Take your pick.

This is what renowned philosophers like Carrier refer to as a false dichotomy. Carrier presents two alternatives as if they are the only ones, and it’s a win-win for him, because he actually argues for both alternatives (he argues that some pre-Christian Jews expected a dying Messiah, and he argues that the dying/rising god idea was borrowed by Christians from Greco-Roman mythologies). The problem is, there’s a third alternative. The third alternative is the one argued for by Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin in his recently published book, The Jewish Gospels, in a chapter entitled, “The Suffering of Christ as a Midrash on Daniel.” Now some who apparently haven’t read the chapter are hailing this as a vindication of Carrier’s Dying Messiah thesis. Well, I’ve read it, and it isn’t. What it is, however, is a third alternative to Carrier’s false dichotomy above (and despite Boyarin’s rhetoric, it isn’t really original to him). What Boyarin argues (quite rightly) is that even though we don’t see the idea of a dying messiah in pre-Christian Jewish texts, that doesn’t mean it’s uncharacteristically Jewish.

He argues this in two ways: (1) The Talmud speaks of a suffering Messiah, so we can’t really say it’s not at home in Jewish thinking. But of course, as he notes, these ideas didn’t circulate among some Jews until a few centuries after Christianity. (2) The hermeneutical methods that Jewish Christians used to establish their idea of the dying Messiah were thoroughly Jewish methods, employed in their own day by other Jews. Now, don’t mistake that for a claim that other Jews pre-dating or contemporaneous with Christians developed the idea of a dying Messiah. He rightly avers that this idea was probably a Christian innovation. What (and all) he’s arguing is that the interpretive methods Jewish Christians employed to come up with this idea from their scriptures were the same interpretive methods employed by many Jews in their day to come up with different ideas about whatever. His argument is simply that the hermeneutic which produced a “dying Messiah” from the Hebrew Bible was a Jewish, not a non-Jewish, hermeneutic. It’s in that sense that Boyarin says that the idea of a dying Messiah is perfectly Jewish.

So Carrier confidently presents this false dichotomy, and it’s almost as if he believes the claims made by Jesus in the Gospels (in a post-resurrection appearance of all places!):

“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27)

Jesus is like, “How could you not see that the Old Testament says the messiah would die, numbskulls!” Carrier is making the same statement. But of course, this is simply propaganda from the perspective of those who do read the texts that way and are trying to convince others to read them that way as well. In reality, most good scholars have rightly maintained for quite some time now that it wasn’t at all obvious to Jews from their scriptures that the Messiah would die, until it became “obvious” to one sect of Jews who were dealing with some cognitive dissonance, but at the same time that early Christians were authentically Jewish interpreters. And I mean, Carrier knows this is what scholars argue, so I am left scratching my head as to why he would lay out this false dichotomy as if it were Gospel.

One caveat: don’t hear me saying that there isn’t any syncretism in the Epistles and the Gospels. There obviously is quite a bit of that. And Carrier has that side of things basically right. Syncretism doesn’t mean they were selling out their Jewishness. It was a way of competing in the marketplace of religions. They took ideas, put Jewish vernacular on them, and conformed them to their own scripts, and so evolved the religion. (That’s my way of putting it, but I’ve read Carrier make similar statements in places.) This was of course taking place in the Hebrew Bible as well. I mean, every religion that has ever existed is syncretistic to some extent. Whether, of course, the idea of a dying and rising god found in non-Jewish mythologies was applied to Jesus is its own question, and I haven’t been persuaded by the arguments that it is.

For starters, I don’t believe early followers of Jesus believed he was God at all. I don’t think Paul thought Jesus was God either (and here Carrier assumes a reading of Philippians 2 that is heavily contested by serious Paul scholars like Jimmy Dunn et al.). Moreover, Jewish belief in resurrection, coupled with some experiences that Jesus’ disciples interpreted within their apocalyptic matrix, is more than sufficient to explain how the idea that the messiah would die and rise emerged among them. Maybe there was some conscious or unconscious influence by certain non-Jewish myths, but we have no good evidence that there was, and there is enough already to explain this phenomenon without recourse to such influences. Of course, I won’t be upset or shocked if I become convinced otherwise. Like I said, I already believe that early Christianity was syncretistic in some ways. I just don’t think at the moment that it was (or must have been) on this particular issue. Just because an idea developed that was similar to some other ideas already developed doesn’t automatically mean the later development was derived in any significant way from the earlier ones. While there may be no original ideas, that doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as independent thinking.

TARGUM OF JONATHAN

Carrier claims he has “refuted” my critique of his use of the Targum of Jonathan. The response he has given in the comment threads on his blog, however, does not address my actual criticism. Here’s what he has written to “refute” me:

I didn’t claim the Targum passage supported the dying messiah theme, but that it supported a variant reading of this passage that recognized it as about the Christ. In other words, it is evidence that some pre-Christian Jews were already seeing this as a messianic passage. It thus corroborates what we see in the Melchizedek pesher, which does not cite this Targum, but the original Biblical text; yet like the Targum, it too clearly recognizes it as messianic.

A commenter responded to Carrier:

It’s pretty clear from the Google cache of your Dying Messiah blog post that you meant for the Targum to be an example of Jews associating the Suffering Servant with the Messiah. That’s especially clear when you begin by discussing the Talmudic interpretation of Isaiah 53 as being about how “the messiah was expected to endure great suffering before his triumph,” and then segued from this to the Targum by saying, “But one might claim that this, being a late text, could reflect a late belief. Well, for such doubters we have even better evidence to add.” It’s only after McGrath brought up the issue of what the Targum actually said about the Messiah that you brought up the matter yourself in the comments, and then later altered your blog post to make a note of it.

Indeed, and as I noted in my first critique of Carrier, his response to McGrath seemed to indicate that he was previously unaware of the content of the Targum. He said, “I have no opinion on that (I’m assuming you conclude this by come means other than retroactive telepathy.)” In other words, Carrier didn’t know what the Targum actually said in its content; he just knew it added the word “Messiah” to its “translation” (wrong), “textual variant” (wrong), midrashic paraphrase (right, but not Carrier’s description).

That’s fine. But then he goes on over a month later and tells a commenter that he knows the Targum doesn’t support a picture of dying messiah, and he says that’s why he didn’t explicitly cite it as such. Even if he isn’t lying here (and it seems to me he is, but I don’t really care either way), he still misses the point that his argument was very misleading and sounded a great deal like he was using it as evidence for a pre-Christian dying messiah.

So the commenter above points out these inconsistences, and Carrier responds:

An example of associating the man there described with the messiah, yes. I never said anything about the Targum talking about a dying messiah. I only used it as evidence that the passage was understood by some Jews then as messianic. You shouldn’t read into my words what isn’t there. Especially since I made the meaning clear when asked about it (and have now added a link to that so there can be no mistake).

Right. It’s our fault that he was misleading. Nevertheless, if Carrier thinks this refutes my critique of his use of this targum, I guess that means he didn’t read my critique of his use of this targum. Here’s what my critique actually was:

If that’s the point, it’s entirely moot in an article trying to show that some pre-Christian Jews believed in a suffering and dying messiah. This targum is clearly not evidence for this; in fact, it is evidence of precisely the contrary. It’s not enough just to show that some saw Isaiah 52-53 as a messianic text. In this period, virtually any text could be read as messianic. Their hermeneutic wasn’t exactly a science. What matters is what the interpretation says about the character of the messiah, and clearly, in this case, the messiah is characterized as a conquering warrior who does not suffer or die, but rather inflicts suffering and death on his enemies. Carrier just needs to admit that he should not have used this targum as evidence.

. . . .

My argument is not just that Targum Jonathan doesn’t support the dying Messiah thesis. My argument is that Carrier’s point that it shows that some Jews saw Isaiah 52 as messianic is totally useless. . . . The point is this: almost any text could be read as messianic in the Second Temple period. That’s not news. What matters is how they characterized the messiah when they interpreted their texts, and clearly Targum Jonathan doesn’t support a dying Messiah tradition. The point Carrier wishes to make with this text is so trivial as to be useless, but he presents it as if it helps his case. It really doesn’t. It’s kind of like padding a bibliography. It’s possible some read Isaiah 52 as referring to a dying messiah, but we have no evidence that anybody did. That’s the point. Carrier is trying to make something out of nothing.

Carrier hasn’t responded to this, and I can only imagine what his response would be. Maybe, “Nuh-uh!” Or something to that effect.

DANIEL 9 AND THE MELCHIZEDEK SCROLL

Now, with all due respect to Carrier (whom I really do agree with on quite a lot, and from whom I really have learned quite a lot), I’m about to give him an education.

For Christs’ Sake, Read a Book

[24]Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. [25]Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. [26]After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.[27]He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator. (Dan 9:24-27, NRSV)

Now, when I said earlier that Carrier said he had refuted most of my arguments in his blog threads, what that meant was that he had “refuted” similar (though not always identical) arguments made by one or two commenters on his blog. In one of those threads, Carrier argues back and forth with somebody named J. J. Ramsey over whether Daniel 9:25 and 9:26 are referring to two different “anointed ones” or one and the same “anointed one.” Ramsey argues there are two “anointed ones”; Carrier that there is only one. This is important because if 9:25 is talking about a completely different anointed one than 9:26, then the anointed one in 9:25 isn’t “cut off” (i.e., executed). That means that 11Q13, if it originally quoted 9:25 (ant not v. 26), is certainly not making any reference to an executed “messiah.” Carrier must defend his reading at all costs. He writes:

Every expert concludes there is no other passage that can complete the fragment except one of the two Christ verses in Daniel 9 (and it doesn’t matter which one it is, since both are adjacent verses constituting the same passage and speaking of the same person). . . . It doesn’t matter which part is being referenced. . . . It’s the same Christ spoken of in both.

While it’s true that every expert concludes that only vv. 25 or 26 of Daniel 9 can be the ones referenced in the original composition of 11Q13, it is certainly not true that, for those same experts, “it doesn’t matter which one it is, since both are . . . speaking of the same person.” In fact, as Carrier was clearly entirely unaware, the vast majority of critical scholars have always identified, and to this day identify, the “anointed ones” in v. 25 and v. 26 as two separate people, removed in time by hundreds of years. We’ll get to that.

But first, Ramsey responds:

It’s not clear at all that the “anointed prince” and the later “anointed one” are one and the same. They are separated by sixty-two “weeks” [of years]. . . . Also, the expert opinion seems to be that the “anointed prince” was originally referring to either Zerubbabel or high priest Joshua, and the later “anointed one” is referring to the high priest Onias III.

Ramsey is 100% correct. So of course, here’s Carrier’s informed response:

Really? That’s what you’re going with? That’s how desperate you are to deny the obvious, that you are now acting like a Christian fundamentalist and making the Bible say exactly the opposite of what it obviously says and what everyone in history has until now understood it to say? That pretty much shows which of us is correct here. That you have to stoop to that…

Which when translated means: “I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, but by God I know I’m right!”

Note that Carrier says, “what everyone in history has until now understood it to say.” In other words, Carrier is utterly unaware that the majority of scholars have long argued precisely what Carrier says no one in history has ever been stupid enough to argue until Ramsey.

Oops.

Ramsey’s response is appropriately dismissive:

You say I’m like a fundamentalist because I find it credible that two anointed ones spaced over sixty [times seven] years apart are not the same person and then point to a common critical interpretation to bolster my case.

I suppose that I could put up another long response, going point-by-point, but it’s getting tiring, and you are already putting up red flags.

Red flags indeed.

Here’s another informed response from Carrier:

Now I have no idea what you are talking about. What do you mean by “two anointed ones spaced over sixty [times seven] years apart”? When did that come up here?

When did that come up here? Hmmm. Let me see. Shall we quote what Ramsey had just said in the comment directly prior to this one? “It’s not clear at all that the ‘anointed prince’ and the later ‘anointed one’ are one and the same. They are separated by sixty-two ‘weeks’ [of years].” Oh. Right. That’s where it came up. Carrier once again displays his superlative reading comprehension.

And you have yet to cite a single scholar as supporting anything you have argued against me, so what you mean by “a common critical interpretation” remains mysterious.

Yes, I can see how that would be a big mystery, to someone who hasn’t read the scholarly literature on Daniel. You know, someone like Carrier.

Ramsey’s reply is polite:

Sorry, that should be 60 x 7 seven years apart, or to be precise 62 x 7 years apart. My bad. I was a bit slow to figure out what exactly the “weeks” meant.

But Carrier is still confused:

That doesn’t help. What “two anointed ones” are you talking about that are hundreds of years apart?

Carrier is totally lost.

Ramsey continues:

Good grief! It’s in my quote of Daniel 9:25-26, NRSV translation. The JPS translations render the text in a similar fashion. It’s the translations that try to render Daniel 9 as messianic (e.g. the NIV) that have only one Messiah after 69 “weeks,” rather than an anointed prince after seven “weeks” and an anointed one 62 “weeks” after that.

And you have yet to cite a single scholar as supporting anything you have argued against me, so what you mean by “a common critical interpretation” remains mysterious.

Ehrman himself got it from Louis Hartman. As for me, I first found it in a more humble source: a HarperCollins Study Bible, and as far as I can tell, Hartman is not one of its contributors. Judging, too, from the JPS translations, that critical interpretation is indeed common.

Ramsey is correct here. The NIV, which is a conservative Evangelical translation, does mistranslate the passage in such a way as to identify only one “anointed one.” They do this, of course, because they believe it is speaking about Jesus. The way they mistranslate it is by adding the definite article (“the”) before “anointed one” as it occurs in both vv. 25 and 26. But of course in both the Hebrew and in the LXX Greek, there is no definite article prior to “anointed one.” It should be rendered in both cases, “an anointed one.” The NRSV and the JPS (among others) have it correct here.

And note that Ramsey has cited two scholars in support of a two-messiah reading: Bart Ehrman, and Louis Hartman. He also cites his critical HarperCollins Study Bible, which is one of the two best critical study Bibles available (the other being the Oxford Annotated). With the majority of scholars, it identifies the “anointed one” in 9:25 with either Joshua or Zerubbabel (two leaders commissioned by Cyrus to restore worship in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, both of whom are identified as “anointed ones” in Zechariah 4). The commentary for Daniel in the HarperCollins Study Bible was written by Pamela J. Milne. So that’s three scholars Carrier must think are “acting like Christian fundamentalists” and who also clearly don’t qualify to be included within the ranks of “everyone in history.”

Carrier’s response:

I don’t know who [sic] you are reading. Try the leading expert: Lacocque.

There are so many things to say in response to these two sentences. I don’t know where to begin. I guess I’ll start with the first sentence. “I don’t know who you are reading.” Really? Because I thought Ramsey had just plainly stated whom he was reading—Ehrman, Hartman, the HarperCollins NRSV Study Bible, and the Jewish Publication Society Bible. Or does Carrier mean that he’s never heard of them?

Second sentence: First, with Lacocque’s name, Carrier linked Ramsey to the Amazon page for Lacocque’s commentary on Daniel, published in 1979 (33 years ago), and now out of print. Second, Carrier refers to André Lacocque as “the leading expert.” Which when translated means, “I don’t know who the leading experts on Daniel are.” Lacocque wrote on a number of subjects, and two books on Daniel, the last of which was published 24 years ago. Is Lacocque important? Of course! Did he do good work? Yes he did. Is he the “leading expert”? Not really. His work is dated. His theory of the seventy weeks in Daniel 9 is often referenced, but seldom followed. If anybody is “the leading expert” on Daniel, it’s John J. Collins, who wrote the commentary on Daniel for the Hermeneia series, and has written and edited several other volumes just on Daniel, not to mention many, many books on Apocalyptic Judaism which include sections on Daniel, and dozens of journal articles on Daniel. But there are so many working in Daniel today whose work is superior to Lacocque’s, I’m just astounded here. No disrespect at all to Lacocque. But what Carrier has displayed is his staggering ignorance of the state of the field he’s trying to navigate. The poverty (or total lack?) of his education in the field is, of course, amply made up for by overconfident and condescending rhetoric and assertions. Anyway, Carrier clearly hasn’t read the Daniel work of Collins or Fitzmyer or a dozen other Daniel scholars I could name off the top of my head, because if he had, he would not have been utterly confused when Ramsey noted that critical scholars identify two separate anointed ones in vv. 25 and 26 of Daniel 9, nor I assume would he have said that “everyone in history” until Ramsey has seen only one messiah there.

But there’s another huge irony in all of this, with reference to Carrier’s appeal to Lacocque here. We’ll address that later, but keep it in your pocket for when the time comes.

Continuing with Carrier’s response:

The text says “there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,” not “seven weeks.” The same anointed one is meant in both verses. This is obvious in the LXX. And again, the Jews who translated the LXX knew Hebrew better than you do (and better than the translators of the RSV, apparently, which I suppose is your source; try the ASV, KJV, NIV, and the Vulgate…Jerome being yet another person who knew Hebrew better than you do). This is obvious from the original intended meaning (this was supposed to be Onias III, not two different guys).

Woe is me. Time for another teachable moment.

First, Carrier says, “The text says, ‘there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,’ not ‘seven weeks.’” Actually, Ramsey didn’t say the text said merely, “seven weeks.” What he’s saying is that the NRSV and the JPS put a sentence break between “seven weeks [of years]” and “sixty-two weeks [of years].” And they are correct in doing so, for a number of reasons, most of which we’ll get to later, but one of which I’ll mention now, and it is grammatical. If Carrier knew Hebrew and had a copy of the Masoretic Text that he was able to read, he’d see that the Masoretes put what’s called an atnach between the “seven weeks” and the “sixty-two weeks.” An atnach is the strongest disjunctive punctuation marker in MT Hebrew. What that means is that the Masoretes (who knew Hebrew better than any of the ciphers Carrier listed, and certainly better than Carrier) stipulated that there should be a sentence break between the two sets of numbers. Thus, the NRSV and the JPS agree with the Masoretic Hebrew Text and have it right.

Second, no. The Jews who translated the LXX did not necessarily know Hebrew better than the translators of the RSV or NRSV. And here I’m quoting from the Introduction to the 1998 edition of the Brenton LXX:

The variety of the translators is proved by the unequal character of the version: some books show that the translators were by no means competent to the task, while others, on the contrary, exhibit on the whole a careful translation. The Pentateuch is considered to be the part the best executed, while the book of Isaiah appears to be the very worst. (iii)

So, no, the translators of the LXX did not necessarily know Hebrew better than modern scholars, who have much more available to them than did some diaspora Jews translating away on a secluded island (if that part of the story is to be believed). But when it comes specifically to the book of Daniel, this whole point is moot, but I’m saving that tidbit for last.

Third, Carrier suggests we try the “ASV, KJV, NIV, and the Vulgate.” (!) It’s almost as if Carrier’s credentials have nothing to do with biblical studies. The ASV was a translation produced between 1872 and 1901. It is far from anything like a decent critical translation of the Bible, not least because in the past 100 years, we’ve made a few archaeological discoveries here or there that have, you know, revolutionized our understanding of the transmission of the various recensions of the biblical corpora. And of course, in this case, the ASV’s translation of the Daniel 9:25 is wrong. It adds the definite article before “anointed one” in both vv. 25 and 26, even though the definite article isn’t there in either the Hebrew or the LXX. And it doesn’t follow the MT in adding a sentence break between “seven weeks of years” and “sixty-two weeks of years.”

The KJV I’m not even going to respond to. I assume Carrier was jesting.

The NIV, in addition to translating this verse incorrectly in the same ways as the ASV, is, as mentioned, a translation produced by conservative Evangelicals who have routinely obscured the original text in service of their own theological agenda. I’ve documented this before, and it’s been shown all over the place.

So we come to the Vulgate, translated by Jerome. According to Carrier, Jerome knew Hebrew better than Ramsey knows Hebrew. That may very well be the case. But of course, Jerome’s Hebrew is notorious for its incompetence, and, moreover, modern scholars know that Jerome used the Greek Hexapla as a cheat sheet for his translation of the Hebrew Bible into Latin.

Fourth and finally, Carrier says, “The same anointed one is meant in both verses. This is obvious in the LXX. And again, the Jews who translated the LXX knew Hebrew better than you do (and better than the translators of the RSV, apparently).”

We’ve already pointed out that this isn’t necessarily true, as a number of books in the LXX are very poor translations. But in the case of Daniel, it doesn’t even matter how good the LXX translation was because, as apparently Carrier is unaware (or is again hiding from his interlocutors), the translation we have in our Septuagint is not the LXX translation! When we buy an LXX today, we’re actually getting a translation of Daniel made by the second century CE Hellenistic Jewish scholar by the name of Theodotion.

You see, Origen believed that the original LXX translation of Daniel was not a very good translation (go figure), and so whenever he referenced Daniel, he referred to Theodotion’s translation. (And in the case of the Old Greek’s translation of Daniel 9:25-26, Origen was actually right. It totally changes the Hebrew we have preserved in the MT; the passage reads very differently.) By the time of Jerome, Theodotion’s translation had replaced the original LXX in the churches (and the Jews had long ago abandoned use of the LXX themselves). So now what we have in our Septuagint is a second-century CE translation by Theodotion, not a second-century BCE translation by the original LXX translators.

But that’s not all. Modern scholars have concluded that Theodotion had a penchant for omitting conjunctions, substituting the singular for the plural, replacing indefinite with definite articles, and vice versa, and dropping parts of verses as he saw fit. Not only that, he is also known to have added brand new statements (of piety and such) into the text. Scholars today refer to him wryly as an “elaborator.” And as if that weren’t enough, scholars have shown that his translation of the Hebrew into the Greek was actually in large part a translation of Greek into the Greek. In other words, the book of Daniel Carrier has in his Septuagint is predominantly a Greek revision of an unknown Greek translation of an unknown Hebrew recension.

So Carrier insists (based on his reading of Theodotion) that “the same anointed one is meant in both verses. . . . This is obvious from the original intended meaning (this was supposed to be Onias III, not two different guys).” To sum up why Carrier has no idea what he’s talking about, I’ll quote at length from John Collins’s seminal commentary on Daniel:

Probably the reference [in Daniel 9:25] is to the high priest Joshua, who ranks, with Zerubbabel, as one of the two “sons of oil” in Zech 4:14. The anointed one in v 26 is also a high priest. This identification is found in Hippolytus and is common in patristic literature. Zerubbabel has also been proposed and even Cyrus, who is called “messiah” in Isa 45:1. Here again there is a long-lived messianic interpretation, which finds support in the Vulgate and Peshitta and is still defended by some conservative scholars.

will be seven weeks: The MT places an atnah between the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks. Theodotion, however, reads “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,” so that sixty-nine weeks would elapse before the coming of the anointed prince. This understanding of the passage was followed by Jerome and became a mainstay of the messianic interpretation, as it allowed the identification of the anointed one of v 25 with the one in v 26. There can be no doubt that the MT punctuation is correct. There is no other reason for dividing the period into seven and sixty-two. The MT understanding of the passage is well attested in early Christianity before Jerome, as well as in Jewish tradition.1

His penultimate point is important. If the seven weeks and sixty-two weeks are to be understood as one timespan, as Carrier would have it, there is no reason they should be separated. Why not just say, “sixty-nine weeks”? But, apart from the grammar and the indefinite articles and all the other indications we’ve discussed why they are two separate timespans, there’s also the fact that v. 26 picks up with, “After the sixty-two weeks . . .” If the seven plus sixty-two were really meant to be of a piece, then it is very odd for the next sentence to pick up with a reference just to the latter, rather than the two combined. What this indicates is that within the umbrella scope of the seventy weeks, we have one timespan of seven weeks, one timespan of sixty-two weeks, and one timespan of one week. The first (seven weeks) refers to the shorter period in which the Jews returned from exile and rebuilt and reconsecrated the temple, and anointed the high priest Joshua (the anointed one). Then there was a period of several hundred years (“sixty-two weeks” of years) in which the temple was built but the nation still underwent troubles. Then, after that long period of time, there would be the shortest timespan (one week = seven years), which began with the execution of an “anointed one” (Onias III) in 171 BCE (v. 26). Half a “week” (three-and-a-half years) later in 167 BCE, Antiochus IV ordered that no more Jewish sacrifices could be made in the temple and in their place instituted sacrifice of unclean animals to Greek divinity. Hence, “for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates” (v. 27). Then another “half of a week” later in 164 BCE, Antiochus died, hence, “until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator” (v. 27). That brings us to the completion of the seventy weeks. Thereupon, the writer of Daniel 9-12 believed, the new age was imminently to be ushered in. The timespan of seventy weeks takes us from the first of the legitimate “anointed ones” (i.e., high priests), namely Joshua (or perhaps his partner Zerubbabel), to the very last of the legitimate “anointed ones,” namely Onias III. And again, Zechariah 4 identifies Zerubbabel as one of two “anointed ones” from the same period, the other of which scholars identify as his contemporary Joshua.

Joseph Fitzmyer also fairly represents the scholarly consensus here:

A person, however, is clearly envisaged in Dan 9:25, where mshyh ngyd [‘anointed leader/prince’] occurs. Because ngyd, ‘leader,’ can mean either a king (as in Ps 76:13[Eng.12]; 1 Sam 9:16 [Saul]; 13:14 [David]) or a priest (as in Neh 11:11 [three High Priests]; Jer 20:1; 1 Chr 9:11 2 Chr 35:8), it might seem difficult to say whether this expected Anointed One is a king or a priest, for mshyh has been used for the postexilic ‘anointed priest’ (Lev 4:3, 5, 16; 6:15[22]). It may be preferable, however, to understand mshyh ngyd in Dan 9:25 as a kingly Messiah (someone like Zerubbabel), in this second-century context. In any case, the words ykrt mshyh w’yn lw, ‘an Anointed One shall be cut down with no one to help him’ (9:26a; cf. 11:45), cannot refer to the same Anointed One of 9:25, because the Anointed One of v. 26 appears later, ‘after sixty-two weeks,’ and that undoubtedly means the already mentioned Onias III.2

But as if we haven’t rubbed it in enough already, we’ll continue to quote Carrier making the same mistakes over and over again, with ever-increasing self-confidence and ever-escalating condescension toward Ramsey. Ramsey says of Carrier’s insistence that there is not a break between seven weeks and sixty-two weeks:

That’s one reading. Another, seen above in my quote of the NRSV translation of Daniel 9:25-26 and in a JPS translation, is that “there shall be seven weeks” is the end of one sentence, and “and sixty-two weeks” begins another. If you simply do not agree with the reading, that would be one thing, but you act as if you never even heard of it, despite it being fairly common.

Carrier’s priceless reply:

That’s the Jewish reading, as proved by the Septuagint translation. This isn’t my reading. It’s their reading.

Well, he sure sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. But then he continues:

(That’s also why the 62 weeks is repeated in verse 26, since if the sentence ended after the 7 weeks in verse 25, it would make no sense to then explain that what happens next happens after the 62 weeks, since those 62 weeks have then already passed according to your reading; whereas on the obvious reading, the reconstruction is what happens at the seven weeks and the anointed one appears after the 62 additional weeks, which explains the order of verses.

This is total gobbledygook. I’ve already explained above why the opposite is in fact the case. Carrier’s “argument” here just makes no sense, asserts arbitrary rules that have no basis in anything substantive at all.

I’ll use an analogy to show why Ramsey’s (and the scholarly majority’s) reading makes perfect sense:

A man lived for seventy years. He was a child prodigy and had become ridiculously wealthy by age seven. And for sixty-two years he lived off his wealth, but he had many corporate enemies. After those3 sixty-two years, his treasurer was murdered and one of his biggest corporate enemies took him for everything he had. But in his final year, he fought back in court and ultimately got a successful conviction against his enemy. Then he died and lived happily ever after in the afterlife. The end.

As is clear, there is absolutely nothing difficult at all about the way these timespans are discussed and ordered on the consensus reading. As I’ve shown above, it’s Carrier’s reading that proves difficult against the actual text. Moreover, obviously the “obvious” reading for Carrier was not the “obvious” reading for the tradition preserved by the Masoretes, nor was it the “obvious” reading for the pre-Jerome Christians mentioned by Collins, who took this reading as well.

But Carrier isn’t finished bungling this. After his desperate, gobbledygook attempt to prove, um, something or other, he goes on immediately to say this:

that’s also why in verse 24 only one anointed one is mentioned, not two.

This is a very strong point, with one minor caveat: there is no “anointed one” mentioned in verse 24. Just a minor problem is all. Here’s verse 24:

Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.

Yes, the word “anoint” is here, but it refers to the anointing (i.e., consecration) of the altar in the temple. The “most holy [place]” is literally in Hebrew, “holiness of holinesses,” a construction used most often to refer to the altar or the inner part of the temple where the altar resides. And if Carrier isn’t convinced that the temple or altar is meant here, he can ask his comrade-in-arms Hector Avalos about it. He’ll set him straight.4 But to sum up: strong point, except for the point part of it. Just more self-serving eisegesis from Carrier.

But he’s not done changing the text to suit his own purposes:

I also suspect the original meaning of “Christ prince” in verse 25, otherwise a strange construction, means two people, the Christ and the Prince, since those two are then mentioned together again in verse 26.

Hmmm. . . . “Otherwise a strange construction.” I’m pondering for a moment. . . . Oh right! It’s a strange construction for Carrier because he doesn’t know how to read Hebrew. Now it makes sense. I couldn’t figure out why it was a strange construction. But, yes. Now I agree. It is a strange construction if you don’t know what you’re talking about. (I imagine there would be many such strange constructions in that condition.)

Of course, “Christ prince” is actually just, “anointed leader.” I.e., any priest, prophet or king in the ancient Near East. In this case, of course, it’s probably either Joshua or Zerubbabel. But rather than consult a commentary or, you know, get a formal education in the field you’re writing books about, Carrier would prefer to add words to the text so that it makes sense to him, which also has the nice added benefit of establishing Carrier’s misreading of the entire passage over against the passage itself.

Moving on, Ramsey picks up with Carrier’s fallacious rejoinder that his reading of 9:25-26 is “the Jewish reading.” Ramsey writes:

No, that’s your interpretation of a Jewish reading, and as a reading of a JPS (Jewish Publication Society) translation would indicate, not necessarily the only or obvious way that a Jew would interpret it. The Septuagint, while a potentially useful source, doesn’t prove anything here. It’s merely a Greek translation of Jewish texts, and the style and quality of the translations within it is known to vary, sometimes very literal, other places quite free. It is not authoritative or the last word on anything, nor necessarily an indication of the “obvious reading.”

Ramsey is correct here, as we’ve seen, that many books in the LXX are poor translations. Of course, as we’ve also noted, the LXX Daniel Carrier is reading is not actually the LXX Daniel. It’s the Theodotion Daniel. But Carrier “refutes” back:

The JPS is a modern text. I’m talking about what ancient Jews understood the text to mean (since those are the only ones who count for the present point). And my other points only corroborate what the Jewish translators of the LXX demonstrate they understood.

Fail.

and likewise, Lacocque’s analysis corroborates the same (and he is a leading expert on Daniel).

This is in fact how fundamentalists do “scholarship.” They find a scholar who they think can support their agenda with the text, and stick with that scholar come hell or high water. But as is often the case with fundamentalists, they read their pet scholars rather selectively. More on Lacocque when the fullness of time has come. But first, more vintage Carrier:

I must conclude you are just intent on gainsaying anything I say that tends to challenge your assumptions. You cannot allow the text to read as I say, so you refuse to admit it ever was or ever could have been read that way, all evidence be damned, and you will just quote mine the scholars who side with you and conveniently ignore the scholars who don’t, as if arguments and evidence don’t matter, and aren’t relevant to deciding between competing scholarly opinions. If this is the kind of reasoning historicity must stand on, then as a logically valid position, historicity is simply dead. The establishment just hasn’t gotten the memo.

¿Como se dice, “irony meter”?

Hang on. I’ll throw up Ramsey’s response while I go get my popcorn off the stove:

Carrier said, “The JPS is a modern text.”

The translation is a modern text, but it is translated by experts in the ancient texts being translated, who ought to know quite a bit about “what ancient Jews understood the text to mean.” The age of the translation itself is somewhat of a red herring.

As for the rest of your rant, well, an old saw about logs and eyes come to mind.

OK. I’m back. What did I miss? . . . . Oh, score!

Carrier:

No, it’s not a red herring. When we are talking about how pre-Christian Jews were reading the text, how pre-Christian Jews were reading the text is our most important concern.

I know, right? That’s the issue. So why is Carrier depending on a post-Christian translation? #doesnotcompute

Carrier continues:

(Moderns likewise have theological and ideological agendas unique to our time that distort what ancient Jews would have cared about or thought. For example, modern Jews are often concerned to undermine Christian uses of OT scripture to defend their Christ. That would not have been a Jewish concern before Christianity even existed.)

Except in this case, even Christians up to about the third century CE agreed with the modern JPS translation of the text. They must have been really stupid, or driven by some anti-Christian agenda. Yeah. That’s it.

In response, Ramsey says that undermining Christianity is not on the agenda for the translators of the NRSV, or Louis Hartman, who is Catholic. (We could pile on names here. Let’s not and say we didn’t need to.) Ramsey then directs Carrier to an infidels.org article by Chris Sandoval who follows Lacocque in saying that the view Carrier is opposed to is the view of “mainline scholars.” Carrier responds:

As to why the RSV translators deviate from most other translations, I have not investigated their possible reasoning or motives.

Well, we know that’s true. Continues:

(but all bible translations deviate from each other to suit the interests and assumptions of those making them, which is why we should always just return to the original text).

And by “original text,” Carrier means . . . the second century CE Greek translation by Theodotion? Or the Masoretic Text which preserves the tradition of placing a sentence break between seven and sixty-two weeks? Wait, what? Carrier believes there’s an “original text”? When did this happen? Perhaps it happened at some point during the time Carrier did not spend reading the scholarship on the subject he’s arguing:

As for “majority view,” not of any specialists on Daniel post-Lacocque, to my knowledge (Sandoval means by “mainline” interpreters those published before Lacocque; check the dates).

It shouldn’t be this easy.

Carrier:

And it’s moot, since all we need is some Jews to see the text the obvious way, even if others read it differently. And the Melchizedek scroll makes it clear why the two passages are being linked, and therefore how its author was reading Daniel (and his seventy sevens). That’s all we need know.

No, 11QMelch makes clear no such thing. This is all in Carrier’s head, as we’ll see further down.

The Lacocque Lacockup

But finally we’ll turn to Carrier’s last argument to support his reading of Dan 9:25-26 as referring to just one “anointed one” and one concurrent seven and sixty-two weeks period. Here he thinks he follows Lacocque, who argues that the seven and sixty-two week periods are not consecutive (like the critical consensus maintains) but run concurrently. That is, the seven weeks occur within the sixty-two weeks, not prior to them. Carrier believes this definitively undermines the view that there are two different “anointed ones” in Dan 9:25 and 26.

But first we’ll note that Ramsey referenced an infidels.org article by Chris Sandoval in which Sandoval offers his own summary of Lacocque’s reading of the seventy weeks passage (Dan 9:24-27). Sandoval says that Lacocque argues that the “anointed one” mentioned in both vv. 25 and 26 is the High Priest Onias III. (Note that.) He also says that Lacocque’s schema for dating each of the three segments for the seventy weeks (seven week, sixty-two weeks, and one week) has the advantage of matching up with the literal number of years: seven weeks = 587 BCE – 538 BCE = 49 years; sixty-two weeks = 605 BCE – 171 BCE = 434 years; one week = 171 BCE – 164 BCE = 7 years. The numbers all add up correctly, even though the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks are concurrent, not consecutive. Sandoval points out that, in contrast, the majority view doesn’t add up so neatly: seven weeks = 538 BCE – 516 BCE = 22 years (not 49); sixty-two weeks = 516 BCE – 171 BCE = 345 years (not 434); one week = 171 BCE – 164 BCE = 7 years (accurate).

So when Ramsey referred to the mainstream view referenced in Sandoval’s article, Carrier responds thus:

Sandoval also points out why the old “mainline” interpretation can’t be correct (the date ends up sixty plus years off).

The problem is, Sandoval didn’t at all say that the mainline view “can’t be correct.” Carrier is either skimming Sandoval, or reading him tendentiously. Here’s what Sandoval actually says about the dating of the mainline view:

The Lacocque interpretation is more likely to be correct because the dates and numbers come out far more exactly, but the majority view is not impossible. . . . The advantage of this theory is that this arrangement is more natural and straightforward. However, the sixty-two-week period is sixty-seven years too long. Under this theory, one must assume the author either did not know any better, or simply did not care. The Jewish historian Josephus was thirty to sixty years off in his dating of events in Persian times, so it is equally reasonable to suppose that the author of Daniel was similarly hazy about the chronology of those times. His legends of Belshazzar’s feast in Daniel 5 and Darius the Mede in Daniel 6 demonstrate that he could indulge in creative anachronism when he wanted to.

What Carrier’s statement (that “Sandoval also points out why the old ‘mainline’ interpretation can’t be correct”) tells us is that Carrier is reading with an agenda. He doesn’t want it to be correct, because he believes Lacocque’s schema supports Carrier’s own Dying Messiah thesis. So instead of giving a measured response that takes account of ambiguity in the evidence, Carrier insists on a specific reading that he thinks supports his view that there is only one “anointed one” in Daniel 9. This is irresponsible scholarship. If someone else did this to him, he would certainly say they were being “emotional” and “irrational.” (I’ve seen him say this many times, in public and private debates.)

In truth, Sandoval is correct that the majority view makes more sense, despite the math problems. The math problems are not a problem with the majority view; they are only a “problem” at all because we impose a literalistic hermeneutic on an apocalyptic, numerological text. But critical scholars (who are trained in these texts, unlike Carrier) know that with apocalyptic numerology, exact numbers are not the point. The point with the numbers is symbolism, and the numbers are often round. This is not an “apologetic” justification; this is what critical scholars say about certain kinds of numbers in all ancient Near Eastern texts. For example, Collins writes, “In view of the schematic character of the seventy weeks and of the dating to the reign of Darius the Mede, the figure should be considered a round number rather than a miscalculation.”5

But let’s get on to the real issue. Carrier argues that there are not two anointed ones in Dan 9:25-26. He insists that there is only one. In support of this argument, Carrier repeatedly appeals to André Lacocque’s commentary on Daniel. Carrier argues that Lacocque’s interpretation of the seventy weeks puts the “anointed one” of v. 25 firmly and definitively at the end of the seven + sixty-two weeks. He also believes that Lacocque argues that the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks are not separate, distinct timespans. Here are the statements Carrier has made regarding Lacocque’s position and its significance for Carrier’s own argument:

Confirming all this is Lacocque’s demonstration that the original meaning the author intended was not two sequential periods but two overlapping periods, in order to get the timeline to match Onias III–so it really was supposed to mean “7 weeks in parallel to 62 weeks: Jerusalem gets rebuilt at the 7 week mark and Onias comes at the 62 week mark” but that interpretation entailed the rest of the prophecy didn’t come to pass, which later Jews could not allow to be possible, so they had to find some other meaning than that Onias was meant, and the rest is history.)

Directly in response to Ramsey’s pointing out that the majority of scholars identify two “anointed ones” in Daniel 9, usually Joshua in 516 BCE and Onias III in 171 BCE, Carrier says:

I don’t know who you are reading. Try the leading expert: Lacocque.

In response to Ramsey’s point that many scholars, and the NRSV and JPS put a break between “seven weeks” and “sixty-two weeks,” indicating that they are separate time spans, Carrier replies:

The JPS is a modern text. I’m talking about what ancient Jews understood the text to mean (since those are the only ones who count for the present point). And my other points only corroborate what the Jewish translators of the LXX demonstrate they understood; and likewise, Lacocque’s analysis corroborates the same (and he is a leading expert on Daniel).

So there we have it. According to Carrier, “leading expert” Lacocque undermines the idea that there are two anointed ones in Daniel 9, and he undermines the idea that the seven weeks and sixty-two weeks are broken apart and constitute two distinct timespans.

Now let’s let Lacocque speak for himself:

We can see in the “anointed chief” of 9.25 the personage of the High Priest of the Restoration, Joshua. This is probably the best interpretation of this allusive text for in the following verse another High Priest, probably Onias III, is also designated (similarly in 11.22). It is evidently not by accident that for the Author history is punctuated by supreme pontiffs.6

. . . .

By means of this internal ‘preparation,’ Daniel is a ‘favoured man’ and he receives the explanation of the divine mysteries concerning the end of time. He comes to understand that the seventy years spoken of by Jeremiah in fact signify seventy weeks of years; that is, not in sabbatical cycles (see supra), but ten times seven sabbaths of years, followed by the ultimate Jubilee, the Eschaton. It is near to hand. Of the seventy weeks (sic) from Jeremiah’s oracle, seven have passed from the beginning of the Captivity (587) to the enthronement of the High Priest Joshua (538; see Hag. 1.1,14; Zech. 3.1ff) (We might also think of Cyrus, called my ‘anointed’ in Isa. 44.28; 45.1. But the parallelism with v.26 where it is a question of the High Priest Onias militates in favour of Joshua here.) Sixty-two more weeks, or 434 years, correspond to the lapse of time between 605, the date of the oracle in Jer. 25.1,11, and 171, the year of the murder of the second ‘anointed one,’ the High Priest Onias III. Of the last week, half of it has passed, it encompassed the time between the death of Onias III and Antiochus’ coercive measures. A half week more (from 168 to 165) and ‘the decreed destruction will be poured out upon the destroyer.’7

. . . .

‘From the time the word went forth, etc.’: it is a question of Jeremiah’s oracle which stands at the centre of this chapter of Daniel. The beginning of the Exile, 587, is the point of departure for the calculation. ‘Seven weeks’ pass until the enthronement of Joshua (538). . . . We should understand that it is a question here of the return of the exiles and the reconstruction of Jerusalem. . . .

The second historical era is longer. It lasts ‘sixty-two weeks’ of years or 434 years, and runs from 605 (the date of Jeremiah’s oracle, see 25.1, 11) to 171 which is spoken of in the next verse. These 434 years are characterized by the Author as a time of restoration.

But at the end of this period, a series of catastrophes strikes the city, the sanctuary, and its head (v.26). . . . The ‘messiah’ in question here, we saw above, is Onias III, assassinated on the urging of the usurper High Priest, Menelaus, in 171. His death marks the beginning of the persecutions which lasted until 168.8

I’ll note also that Lacocque says that both the Old Greek LXX and Theodotion’s translation of v. 25 is “an impossible translation.”9

So, wait a minute. What happened? Did Carrier make an argument that depended in large part on a scholarly source without actually reading his source? Did Carrier reference a source to support a contention the opposite of which is the source’s actual contention? Did Carrier do in no uncertain terms precisely what he publicly accused and berated (actual renowned scholar) Bart Ehrman for doing?

Yes. Yes he did.

What’s the word Carrier used? Oh right. “Hack scholarship.”

So what happened here? My guess (and this is only a guess) is that Carrier hasn’t read Lacocque, but he had read Sandoval’s online article. Sandoval misunderstands Lacocque due to very sloppy reading and thinks Lacocque is saying there is only one “anointed one” in 9:25-26, and that it’s Onias III. Sandoval contrasts his misreading of Lacocque with the “mainline scholars” who argue that there are two anointed ones. So Carrier assumes Sandoval is correct and goes off on a grossly misinformed and abusive wild goose chase that he says “refutes” me.

What does Lacocque actually argue? As is plain as day above, Lococque argues that there are in fact two separate and distinct “anointed ones” in vv. 25 and 26, and that the first is most likely Joshua at the end of the sixth century BCE. The other, Lacocque argues, is Onias III at the top half of the second century BCE. In other words, Lacocque supports Ramsey (and the “mainline scholars”), and not Carrier at all.

Second, as we can see, Lacocque does in fact argue that the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks are two distinct periods of time marked by two distinct events (one is the anointing of Joshua as High Priest, the other is the execution of High Priest Onias III).

Moreover, contra Carrier, Lacocque’s position is that the “putting an end to sin, and the atonement for iniquity” referenced in v. 24 takes place at the end of the sixth century when the temple is rebuilt and a High Priest (Joshua) is anointed (as I argued in my original critique of Carrier). Carrier insists that the day of atonement in Daniel 9 refers to the execution of Onias III, and that Onias’s death is an atonement for sins. Lacocque refutes this ridiculous, grossly uninformed claim, as do all the “mainline scholars.” Lacocque argues that the anointing of the “Holy of Holies” in v. 24 (that Carrier wrongly said refers to a single messiah, which he says is Onias III) refers to the anointing of the temple, but also includes by extension, the establishment of the new High Priest, but the High Priest here is Joshua, not Onias. So even if we do understand the “Holy of Holies” to be a reference to an “anointed one” rather than an “anointed place,” it refers to Joshua, not to Onias. The fact that there is “only one” anointed in v. 24 does not, as Carrier seems to think, mean that there is only one in vv. 25-26. (There is only ever one High Priest at a given time.) As Lacocque argues with almost every Daniel scholar on the planet, the anointed one in v. 25 lived in the sixth century, while the anointed one in v. 26 lived in the second century.

The fact that Carrier seems to have never before heard of the idea of two anointed ones in Daniel 9 only further proves that he hasn’t actually read Lacocque and that he’s talking out of his ass. Carrier has the nerve to blast Ramsey time and again and to accuse Ramsey of all sorts of things. We’ll quote Carrier again:

I must conclude you are just intent on gainsaying anything I say that tends to challenge your assumptions. You cannot allow the text to read as I say, so you refuse to admit it ever was or ever could have been read that way, all evidence be damned, and you will just quote mine the scholars who side with you and conveniently ignore the scholars who don’t, as if arguments and evidence don’t matter, and aren’t relevant to deciding between competing scholarly opinions. If this is the kind of reasoning historicity must stand on, then as a logically valid position, historicity is simply dead. The establishment just hasn’t gotten the memo.

Epic, epic fail. I am overwhelmed by the power of Carrier’s arrogance and ignorance. It’s truly something to behold.

But, alas, Carrier isn’t finished “educating” us out of his vast store of fictive facts. Let’s put on our rubber gloves and pull out some more teachable moments.

An Atoning Death?

(It is only further obvious by the context: that passage [Dan 9:24-26] speaks of a death ending sin, as does the Isaiah passage it is immediately linked with in the scroll, and the Melchizedek scroll fragment itself begins by talking about a final atoning for sin on a specific day the calculation of which in the scroll matches the numbers calculated in that same passage of Daniel. You also evidently don’t know that the verse in Isaiah linked to Melchizedek in “11Q13 2:19-20” is the beginning of the suffering servant passage.

. . . .

Daniel says an end will be made of sin on that day (9:24: “seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place”), all of which is triggered at the beginning of the last seven-year period when the Christ dies (9:26).

. . . .

The scroll then says this Christ is the same figure as the one who dies to atone for the sins of Israel in Isaiah 52-53. Thus, the scroll is connecting Daniel’s Christ’s death with the atonement, by using Isaiah to interpret Daniel. That is what the pesher says. It’s not my own idea. I’m just saying what the pesher itself says.

. . . .

we have Daniel 9 being linked to Isaiah 52-53, in each of which there is a person who dies and an end of sin by atonement. The scroll’s author would not have linked the two passages but for that commonality. Add to that that the scroll says the end of sin and atonement will occur at the same time Daniel does (after 490 years), and there really is no way your desperate re-interpretation can possibly be correct.

. . . .

Also, the scroll says the day of atonement will occur after a period of time essentially identical to that stated as being when the Christ will die in Daniel 9; and so on; add all that to the fact that the scroll says Mechizedek “will atone for all the sins” at that designated time, and there really is no other meaning to take from this scroll.)

Carrier has certainly earned credit for his confidence in himself. Unfortunately, none of this is true. As we’ve already seen, Lacocque and all the rest of the majority correctly argue that the atonement in Daniel 9 refers to the establishment of the temple and a new high priest at the end of the sixth century. None of these scholars argues what Carrier argues, that the death of Onias III is in any way connected to the atonement for Israel’s sins. What it actually reflects, as Lacocque argues, is an interruption in atonement, because a legitimate High Priest is cut off and replaced with an illegitimate usurper.

Second, Carrier insists that because 11QMelch quotes from Isa 52:7, it must intend to refer all the way to the death of the Servant in Isa 53. We’ll get to that in a little while, but for now suffice it to say that Carrier has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to pesher interpretation. The scroll quotes Isa 52:7 out of context, as they frequently do. Carrier insists otherwise, which he can do because he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Finally, the scroll does not cite both Isaiah 52 and Daniel 9 because of some imagined connection over the idea of the atoning death of a messianic figure. Again, Carrier doesn’t understand pesher. It’s not connecting them. It’s building a collage of language to create a new picture—its own picture. This is what pesher did. We’ll get to that. But first, we’ll show why it’s totally ridiculous to read 11QMelch as referring to a dying messiah.

Melchizedek H. Christ! Belial Is a Human!

Carrier insists that 11QMelch identifies the figure of Melchizedek as the Christ in the text. He says,

The “hint” is when it says this Melchizedek is the Christ who dies in Daniel 9 to end sin and the servant who dies in Isaiah 53 to atone for sin.

Problem is, nowhere does the scroll say that “this Melchizedek is the Christ,” let alone that “this Melchizedek is the Christ who dies.” Carrier’s reasoning goes like this:

That messenger goes on to be killed (53:8-9) and thereby atones for all Israel’s sins (53:8-12). The Christ who dies in Daniel also ends sin (9:24). That is why the scroll says that this messenger is the Christ who dies in Daniel 9.

Carrier thinks that because Melchizedek is said to atone for Israel’s sins, Melchizedek must be the Christ, but he bases it on two claims, both of which are totally without warrant: (1) Isaiah 52 leads into Isaiah 53 and (2) the Christ who dies in Daniel 9 atones for sin with his death. We’ve already seen that the second claim is completely wrong, and as I’ve said with regard to the first claim, Isaiah 52 is quoted out of context by the scroll. Again, we’ll get to that in short order.

Carrier says:

The remaining context makes clear that Mechizedek is meant (although not that it matters, since either way we still have a Christ dying to atone for all sins on a Great Day of Atonement predicted to occur in a specific year in Daniel that clearly was believed not yet to have come in this scroll, and that’s all that matters for my point against Ehrman.)

Again, we do not have a Christ dying to atone for sins. Even if the scroll originally quoted v. 26 of Daniel 9 in reference to the death of Onias III (and we will never know for certain because it’s lost), it still definitively is not an atoning death. As Lacocque and the rest show, the atonement takes place with the rebuilding of the temple in the sixth century. Second, “the remaining context” does not, in my opinion, make clear that “Melchizedek is meant” to be the Christ in the text. I think the remaining context actually indicates the opposite. Here’s what the relevant portion of the text says (Vermes’s translation, and remember, words in brackets “[]” are reconstructed guesses, and scripture references in parentheses “()” are added by the English translator):

This is the day of [Peace/Salvation] concerning which [God] spoke [through Isa]iah the prophet, who said, [How] beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion: Your ELOHIM [reigns] (Isa. Lii, 7). Its interpretation [Thom’s note: the word for interpretation is “pesher”]; the mountains are the prophets . . . and the messenger is the Anointed one of the spirit, concerning whom Dan[iel] said, [Until an anointed one, a prince (Dan. Ix, 25)] . . . [And he who brings] good [news], who proclaims [salvation]: it is concerning him that it is written . . . [To comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion] (Isa. lxi, 2-3). To comfort [those who mourn: its interpretation], to make them understand all the ages of t[ime] . . . In truth . . . will turn away from Belial . . . by the judgement[s] of God, as it is written concerning him, [who says to Zion]; your ELOHIM reigns. Zion is . . . , those who uphold the Covenant, who turn from walking [in] the way of the people. And your ELOHIM is [Melchizedek, who will save them from] the hand of Belial. (11Q13, 2:15-25)

The reason I don’t think the “remaining context” supports the contention that Melchizedek is Christ is this: “The messenger is the Anointed one of the spirit . . . who brings good news . . . proclaims salvation . . . as it is written concerning him, [who says to Zion]: your ELOHIM reigns. . . . And your ELOHIM is [Melchizedek].” It seems to me that it is the anointed messenger who is saying to Israel, “Your ELOHIM [i.e., god] reigns.” And then Israel’s “ELOHIM” is identified as Melchizedek. In my mind, it would seem strange for Melchizedek to refer to himself as “your ELOHIM.” It seems more likely this is the voice of a distinct messenger, who is proclaiming to Israel that their deliverer is coming. Thus, the “anointed” messenger is to my mind a distinct entity from Melchizedek.

That said, Carrier is not alone in his insistence that Melchizedek is the “anointed” messenger in the scroll. Timothy Lim, for one, seems to agree with him, among a few others. But there’s not a consensus.

At any rate, if Melchizedek is the anointed one, Carrier has a problem. A big problem. Melchizedek is not a human being in the scroll. In the scroll, Melchizedek is a primary angel, referred to on more than one occasion as an “ELOHIM,” and is considered by the authors of the scroll to be the second power in heaven—Yahweh’s second-in-command among the heavenly entities. All scholars recognize this, and they also note that, although there is a human Melchizedek in Genesis (to whom Abraham paid a tithe), there is no connection to him in this scroll whatsoever, no indication that Melchizedek used to be human at all. The reason the name Melchizedek is chosen for this principal angel is because in Psalm 110, the one who is called “Lord” and is invited to sit at Yahweh’s right hand, and conquer in his name, is also identified as a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (v. 4). That’s where they got the name from, and in keeping with the apocalyptic penchant for angelology, Qumran interprets the “Lord” in Psalm 110 as a heavenly power, a celestial conqueror who battles in Yahweh’s name. Regardless, if Qumran’s Melchizedek ever was human, they give no indication of that, and he certainly isn’t human anymore. He’s one of the celestial beings. All scholars know this.

Well, I shouldn’t say “all scholars.” There is one exception, namely, Richard Carrier:

Yes, in the Yom Kippur ceremony, animals die as substitutes for humans (that was the whole point of the Isaac episode). But the scroll is implying humans will be substituted back for the animals: Belial will die, and Melchizedek will die, the latter thereby atoning for sin.

According to Carrier, not only Melchizedek, but Belial too (the prince of the dark angels), is a human being! Who knew?!

What this means of course is that if Melchizedek is to be identified as the Christ in this scroll (as Lim and a few other scholars assume, and as Carrier argues, though he allows he might be wrong), then there certainly is no “dying messiah” in the scroll, unless Carrier wishes to argue that Yahweh’s chief angel is going to be defeated in battle and killed, and that this angel’s death is going to atone for Israel’s sins.

But if Melchizedek is not the Christ, that still does not mean, as Carrier’s secondary argument goes, that Melchizedek will atone for sins by sacrificing a human Christ to God. That simply isn’t in the text (nor is it in Daniel 9); it’s Carrier’s fanciful eisegesis in both cases.

Carrier Talks a “Lot,” Understands Not a “Lot”

Carrier argues that 11QMelch alludes to an “atonement lottery.” His argument goes thus:

I could also point out that the “lot of Melchizedek” and “lot of Belial” (the web translation renders this loosely as “predestined,” disguising the actual meaning) are also references to the Yom Kippur atonement lottery, in which both are killed, sacrificed, one to atone for sin, the other to carry the sin.

Ramsey responded:

And I could also point out that on Yom Kippur, the lottery selected goats on behalf of “the Lord” (apparently identified here with Melchizedek) and one for Azazel (apparently identified with Belial). There’s no indication of humans dying here, let alone anointed ones.

And Carrier responded:

Yes, in the Yom Kippur ceremony, animals die as substitutes for humans (that was the whole point of the Isaac episode). But the scroll is implying humans will be substituted back for the animals: Belial will die, and Melchizedek will die, the latter thereby atoning for sin. Now, as I also said, it is possible the scroll’s author means Melchizedek will arrange the sacrifice, but in that case the sacrifice he arranges is that of the Christ in Daniel 9, who is the Servant in Isaiah 52-53. The scroll is very explicit about this. It’s just that this doesn’t make as much sense of all that the scroll says (e.g. Melchizedek is not Yahweh, so “lot of Melchizedek” can’t mean Melchizedek is Yahweh).

The problem is, Carrier is reading this “atonement lottery” scheme into the text. What the “lots” refer to in the text is very clear. I’ll quote it:

And concerning that which He said, In [this] year of Jubilee [each of you shall return to his property (Lev. xxv, 13); and likewise, And this is the manner of release:] every creditor shall release that which he has lent [to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother], for God’s release [has been proclaimed] (Deut. xv, 2). [And it will be proclaimed at the end of days concerning the captives as [He said, To proclaim liberty to the captives (Isa. lxi, 1). Its interpretation is that He] will assign them to the Sons of Heaven and to the inheritance of Melchizedek; f[or He will cast] their [lot] amid the po[rtions of Melchize]dek, who will return them there and will proclaim to them liberty, forgiving them [the wrong-doings] of all their iniquities.

And this thing will [occur] in the first week of the Jubilee that follows the nine Jubilees. And the Day of Atonement is the e[nd of the] tenth [Ju]bilee, when all the Sons of [Light] and the men of the lot of Mel[chi]zedek will be atoned for. [And] a statute concerns them [to prov]ide them with their rewards. For this is the moment of the Year of Grace for Melchizedek. [And h]e will, by his strength, judge the holy ones of God [Thom: i.e., the angels], executing judgement as it is written concerning him in the Songs of David, who said, ELOHIM has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgement (Psalm lxxxii, 1). And it was concerning him that he said, (Let the assembly of the peoples) return to the height above them; EL (god) will judge the peoples (Psalm vii, 7-8). As for that which he s[aid, How long will you] judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah (Psalm lxxxii, 2), its interpretation concerns Belial and the spirits of his lot [who] rebelled by turning away from the precepts of God to . . . And Melchizedek will avenge the vengeance of the judgements of God . . . and he will drag [them from the hand of] Belial and from the hand of all the sp[irits of] his [lot]. And all the ‘gods [of Justice’] will come to his aid [to] attend to the de[struction] of Belial. And the height is . . . all the sons of God. (11Q13, 2:1-15)10

There is no “atonement lottery” allusion here. We have “the Sons of Light and the men of the lot of Melchizedek” and we have “the spirits of his [Belial’s] lot.” That’s not a reference to the atonement lottery. It’s just a standard use of a standard word. What it means is that the angels in heaven are divided up into two factions: Melchizedek (the good angel) has his lot, and Belial (the bad angel) has his lot. Also included in Melchizedek’s lot are “men,” meaning the righteous remnant of Israel. It’s not an atonement lottery, where lots are cast and one animal is sacrificed to Yahweh while the other is sent out into the wilderness to appease the desert god Azazel. Who in this scenario is being given to Belial to appease him? No one. Who is being given to Yahweh to appease him? No one. The lot of each angel refers to those who are allotted to them under their command, and in fact, the scroll clearly says that the people of God will be taken away from Belial and the spirits of his lot, when Melchizedek with his angelic entourage defeat them in battle. It’s a typical example of apocalyptic dualism, where the whole world and all of heaven is divided up into two factions: the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

But equally importantly, note that the scroll begins with a statement about Jubilee and explains how that means it is time for the captives to return to their homes. This leads directly into the discussion of Melchizedek’s battle against Belial. What this is describing is the end of Israel’s captivity to foreign powers. The captives are set free at the end, and they can all return home. When they do so, then there will be a Day of Atonement. (Remember that the current regime in the temple was installed by foreign powers and was considered by Qumran to be corrupt.) In Jewish literature of the second-temple period, the “forgiveness of sins” signifies the end of foreign domination of Israel, because Israel was in that situation originally as a punishment for their national sins. Thus, the return of Israel’s sovereignty to itself (and the installation of a legitimate High Priest) means definitively that their sins have been forgiven.

There is no atonement lottery, no sacrifice of any human being, or any other such thing present anywhere in the text. Carrier is grasping at non-existent straws.

So it’s clear from a simple reading of the text that there is no indication anywhere that the text is talking about a dying messiah who will atone for Israel’s sins. What it describes is the standard apocalyptic Jewish picture of a final battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil in which the forces of good prevail. And that’s why the majority of scholars in fact identify Dan 9:25 as the missing quotation in the scroll, rather than 9:26, because the “anointed one” in 9:25 is a symbol of Israel’s restoration. It refers to Joshua who was high priest when the temple had been rebuilt. This is standard in pesher. The scroll is saying that the secret meaning of Dan 9:25 is that there will be a new anointed one at the end of time who will come to announce that salvation has come, and that it has come by the hand of Yahweh’s chief agent, Melchizedek. And that, not an imaginary connection between two dying messiahs who atone for Israel, is the real connection between Daniel 9 and Isaiah 52. The verse quoted from Isaiah 52 is one in which the servant proclaims “good news,” “salvation,” and the message that “your ELOHIM reigns.” The verse quoted refers to a restoration of Israel, and a defeat of the powers who have been reigning over Israel instead of God. In the same way, Joshua in Daniel 9 represents the restoration of Israel after exile, the reestablishment of the temple, so that Israel can again make sacrifices to atone for sins.

Context Is King in the Pesharim

Finally, I made the point that Carrier can’t assume the authors of the scroll mean to allude to the suffering of the Servant in Isaiah 53 just because they quote one verse from Isaiah 52. Pesher, I argued, regularly takes verses and words out of their context and gives them a whole new meaning. Ramsey made this point to Carrier as well. Here’s what Carrier has to say in response:

When the scroll says this is that Christ, it means the whole narrative about that Christ is being applied, not some isolated verse.

. . . .

Again, you don’t seem to understand. It does not matter what the author quoted. What the scroll says is that the Christ spoken of in Daniel 9 is the “messenger” spoken of in Isaiah 52-53 and the one who will be “the visitation” on “the Day of Salvation” at the end of the 490 days. The rest follows from seeing what is said in those passages. Pesherim do not function by quoting the entire passages they refer to. They only quote one line or phrase to indicate to the reader where to go to read the rest. When we do that, it becomes clear why this author was linking them and what he was saying by doing so.

. . . .

Again, pesharim do not “quote out of context.” They quote to indicate context. Since they didn’t have verse numbers and numerical citation methods like we do, they operated like this: they will say “the guy talked about where it says this, is the same guy talked about where it says this,” in each case giving just enough of a quotation that a reader can find the passage referred to, and then read the entire section there.

So, according to Carrier, “pesherim simply do not quote out of context,” which would mean they don’t quote the way Carrier quotes.

Carrier seems pretty confident in his understanding of pesher. Of course, he’s again talking out of his ass. He’s making definitive pronouncements, despite the fact that he has no training whatsoever in scrolls scholarship, whereas I studied the scrolls under Chris Rollston, whose Doktorvater at Hopkins was Kyle McCarter. McCarter, of course, worked side by side with Frank Moore Cross at Harvard when the scrolls were being examined for the first time after their discovery.

For a good laugh, I sent Carrier’s above quotes on pesher to a friend of mine who is currently doing his doctoral work at Hopkins under McCarter. My friend read them and responded, “That’s crazy.”

And it is. The fact is, anybody who has properly studied the scrolls knows that taking words and verses out of context is one of the most prominent features of persher hermeneutics. Here are some quotes from scholars who have actually studied the scrolls.

John Collins, in the seminal volume on apocalyptic Judaism, writes, “The method of citing the text by sections lends itself to atomistic interpretation with scant regard for the original literary context, much less the original historical context.”11 Note that Collins clearly states that they didn’t pay much attention to the original literary context when they mined their quotes at Qumran. Collins goes on to explain:

The interpretations are highly selective, and many features of the text are ignored. (This is more obvious in the pêsher on Isaiah.) Consequently what is found in the interpretations is never simply required by the text, although it is limited by the points of connection that can be found in a given lemma.12

Collins shows that pesher will even go so far as to rearrange the letters of a word being quoted, or divide a word into two or more parts.13 He concludes that, “from a modern critical viewpoint, the exegetical method of QL [Qumran Literature] involves the manipulation of the prophetic text to meet the needs of the community.”14

One of our most important scrolls scholars, Timothy Lim, concurs, identifying “the atomization of key words” as one of the unique features of the pesher genre.15 With specific regard to the scroll in question, 11Q13 (a.k.a. 11QMelch), Lim identifies it as “thematic pesher” and writes, “The thematic pesher draws its biblical proof texts from several scriptural sources in order to support a topic. Thus, for example, 11Q13 cites Isaiah 52:7; 61:1, 2-3; Leviticus 25:9, 13; Deuteronomy 15:2; Psalm 7:7-8; 82:1; and Daniel 9:25 to bolster its depiction of the mysterious biblical figure of Melchizedek as the eschatological redeemer.”16 He concludes, “The biblical texts are cited verbatim, but they were also modified and adapted to fit in with sectarian interpretation. Scripture, for them, was not the inviolable word of God, immutable and forbidden from change. Rather it was malleable in the hands of authorized interpreters.”17

I mean, I could go on quoting different scrolls scholars all day long. The results will be the same. The fact of the matter is that 11Q13 quotes from Isaiah 52:7 to help paint a portrait of an eschatological angelic redeemer who would bring salvation and deliver Israel from its celestial enemies. If it wanted to portray this redeemer as one who atones for sins by suffering and dying, it would have quoted those specific words. Pesherim simply does not work the way Carrier insists (against the scholars who actually work with the scrolls and, unlike Carrier, read them) that it works. Carrier is once again pulling claims out of thin air and compensating for his ignorance with insults and a confident demeanor.

CONCLUSION

One of the reasons it’s a good idea to get a formal education under the tutelage of experts in a field before one presumes to educate others about the field is that when we do so, we acquire a broad familiarity with the relevant material, the relevant primary and secondary literature, so that when quack hypotheses come along, we can spot them immediately. We don’t know everything there is to know, but we know enough that we have a sense of what kinds of things are plausible and what kinds of things are going to bear an overwhelming burden of proof.

Carrier has a good handle on his own field. I’ve read lots of his work, and when he talks about his Greek and Roman sources, he knows what he’s talking about, and he knows the literature. I totally agreed with and loved his chapter in one of the Loftus books, in which he soundly refuted those Christian apologists who argue that Christianity made science possible. It was a joy to read, and he was right.

But when we move over into his work in biblical studies, things start to get much less stable. Sometimes he makes interesting and strong arguments (and I do agree with him a lot). But a lot of the time, one finds Carrier spouting quack hypotheses based on extraordinarily weak evidence. The reason for this is not that Carrier isn’t intelligent or generally competent. The reason is that he’s not trained in this field by experts in this field. He doesn’t know what the literature says. Being an autodidact is a good thing (I have strong autodidactic tendencies), but it can also be a very bad thing, because when we teach ourselves, we only know to ask the question we think of by ourselves. We tend to only read the material that interests us, or answers our specific questions, and that means we haven’t read all those boring textbooks that are essential to providing us with an adequate grasp of the field. Carrier just makes so many hack mistakes. It’s very sad, because he has a great mind, and I wish it were being put to better use.

I’m not saying Carrier shouldn’t say anything about biblical studies. I’m just saying that when he does say something, it should have a question mark at the end, rather than his usual exclamation mark. I wouldn’t dare barge my way into a conversation about Roman religion (even though I’ve had some graduate training in Roman religion and have read primary and secondary literature) and start making confident arguments that challenge the assumptions of the scholarly consensus in the field. The reason is not that I don’t have the requisite intellect or reading comprehension. The reason is that I don’t have the training that Carrier has in that field. On the other hand, Carrier doesn’t have the training he needs to make the kinds of arguments he’s trying to make. But of course, if he did have the training, he wouldn’t be making the arguments. No doubt he’d be doing something quite a bit more productive in the field. So I see it as a tragedy.

But it’s also a tragicomedy. Because Carrier is also an arrogant person who regularly insults and berates anyone who disagrees with him and, as we’ve seen, is willing to insult people for disagreeing with an argument that Carrier hasn’t even properly studied. I think he just thinks that if he thinks it, it’s probably right. So it’s nice to expose the vacuousness underneath his mean-spirited self-confidence. Self-confidence is great. Yet the trouble with it is that, when you’re right, you’re right, but when you’re wrong—holy Onias III!—are you wrong.

Now that I’ve avenged reason and academic integrity for Carrier’s failed conquest of biblical studies, my ladies and I are going to go watch The Avengers save the world from yet another over-confident invader.

  1. John J. Collins, Daniel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), 355-56. [BACK]
  2. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The One Who Is To Come (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 63. [BACK]
  3. Yes, there is in fact a definite article here in the Hebrew text. [BACK]
  4. Hector Avalos, “Daniel 9:24-25 and Mesopotamian Temple Rededications,” Journal of Biblical Literature 117/3 (Fall 1998): 507-511. [BACK]
  5. Collins, Daniel, 356. [BACK]
  6. André Lacocque, The Book of Daniel (John Knox, 1979), 11. [BACK]
  7. Lacocque, The Book of Daniel, 178. Emphasis mine. [BACK]
  8. Lacocque, The Book of Daniel, 195-96. Emphasis mine. [BACK]
  9. Lacocque, The Book of Daniel, 188. [BACK]
  10. So you know, I’ve now quoted the entire Melchizedek scroll. I quoted the first half second and the second half first. [BACK]
  11. John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 268. Emphasis mine. [BACK]
  12. Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 275. [BACK]
  13. Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 272. [BACK]
  14. Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 276. [BACK]
  15. Timothy H. Lim, “The Qumran Scrolls, Multilingualism, and Biblical Interpretation” in Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. Collins and Kugler; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 60. [BACK]
  16. Lim, “The Qumran Scrolls,” 63. [BACK]
  17. Lim, “The Qumran Scrolls,” 72. [BACK]

28 thoughts on “The Torturous Death of Richard Carrier’s Dying Messiah

  1. That was very thorough–too thorough.  You probably didn’t need to be that thorough, but I’m glad that you were.

  2. good response response Tom..  I see this as potentially very useful because Carrier’s scholarship is typically very good.  So I hope he takes this as an opportunity to make corrections and sharpen his own case as it will relate to the semitic precidents to his particular mythicist model.  THis could be seen as a useful peer review for him before he releases his second volume.  nice work!

  3. Thanks, Billy. I hope he does find it within himself to admit his mistakes and rethink his position. The evidence demands it. I appreciate your comment.

  4. NW,

    Yes, I do find it incredible. You seem not to have read me very closely, so your rejoinders miss the mark. First of all, no, there has not always been two different traditions. We trace the non-consensus tradition back to the second century CE. The consensus tradition predates this one. Second, no one said the Masoretic punctuation was “decisive.” But don’t sell them short. They knew what they were doing; they preserved traditions much older than they were; they were serious scholars. Remember also that Theodotion’s second-century translation was actually a translation of a translation.

    Regarding Collins, your objection is completely unintelligible. What does the “prophetic imagination” (nice reference though) have to do with the logic of the text? Collins point is correct: The author divided up the seventy weeks into three periods, not two. If he wanted to divide it up into two periods, he would have divided it up into two periods. And you ignored the point I made, which complements that of Collins, that if the 7+62 were meant to be one timespan, then why does v. 26 only reference the 62? That makes no sense, and the obvious answer is that two separate
    periods were intended.

    Now to your numbered points:

    (1) I guess it only seems highly unlikely to you because (apparently)
    you’re not used to reading Hebrew texts. Authors frequently made reference
    to two or more individuals of the same title within close proximity to one
    another, distinguishing them only by context. The “eschatologically
    charged” context has nothing to do with it. The “anointed one” in both
    verses was a high priest, not a messianic figure. The author of Daniel is
    not saying that Onias III was the Messiah (quite obviously), so the
    eschatological nature of the text has no bearing on this. The eschatology
    says that these are the events leading up to the end, and in Daniel, the
    eschatological liberator is actually Michael (and angel), not a Davidic
    Messiah. So, no go on point number one.

    (2) First of all, I didn’t dismiss any problem “easily.” I showed that
    there isn’t actually a problem with the bad math at all. And this is what
    you’ve failed to recognize. I don’t argue that the author of Daniel made
    mistakes with his dating. I follow Collins and the majority in arguing that
    the stated numbers are symbolic. He gets 70 from Jeremiah. He then takes 7
    for its traditional symbolism to represent the period of rebuilding leading
    up to the institution of a new High Priesthood. He uses 1 for the last
    period because (a) he’s living in that time and (b) it’s meant to represent
    a short period of time. You probably already know that a standard feature
    of Jewish apocalyptic is the idea that the final persecution before the
    eschaton will be very intense but also very short (this feature is
    virtually ubiquitous). So what does he have left? 62. That’s how he got the
    numbers. He wasn’t doing accurate dating here; he was doing numerology.
    Calling the math a problem in this context is like saying Maya Angelou is
    wrong because she is not, in fact, a black ocean. Daniel 11 is entirely
    irrelevant because there is no numerology involved whatsoever. It is simply
    the recounting of the succession of kings and political events from the
    Persian period to the time of the author. No numerology. Apples and
    oranges. The reason the author does what he does with the numbers in Daniel
    9 is obvious, and has been stated clearly: his intention was to reinterpret
    Jeremiah’s 70 years prophecy. The 70 came from Jeremiah, and the author is
    working with it; it’s an artificial, symbolic number. The author is using
    allegory (see my book); he’s not recounting dates.

    There is in fact no interpretive scheme that makes the dates all come out
    right (not even Lacocque’s does—while it’s the closest, he’s still off by
    49 years). There’s a good reason for that: that wasn’t the author’s
    intention. But we know that the atonement for iniquity and the anointing of
    a most holy place took place in 516 BCE, not in 171 BCE as Carrier
    contends. Carrier is simply wrong.

  5. Thom,
    Incredibly enough, I have to say that in spite of his characteristic buffoonery Carrier is probably right about there being only one anointed figure in Dan 9:25-26.  To my mind, the critical consensus on vv. 24-27 is not even close to hitting the mark (not to mention the translation of the same).
    As mentioned in the entry above, there have always been two different traditions as to whether the anointed one in v. 25 is to arrive after 7 + 62 (=69) weeks or only 7 weeks, that the Masoretes sided with the latter is hardly decisive.  Moreover, Collins’ insistence that there could be “no other reason for dividing the period into seven [weeks] and sixty-two [weeks]” couldn’t convince less as it almost certainly underestimates the prophetic imagination of the person(s) who wrote these oracles.  These comments in mind, two points stick out for me:
    (1) A priori, the idea that we are looking at two different anointed ones within one verse of each other in such an eschatologically charged context as the latter half of Daniel seems highly unlikely.
    (2) On the reading that there are two different anointed ones separated by 62 weeks the math is so far off that it raises doubt about the reading itself, and while this point isn’t decisive for the reasons you mention it nonetheless can’t be dismissed as easily as you imply.  Can the people who nailed Dan 11:2-35 be this off about their own history?  I doubt it.
     

  6. NW,

    Yes, I do find it incredible. You seem not to have read me very closely, so your rejoinders miss the mark. First of all, no, there has not always been two different traditions. We trace the non-consensus tradition back to the second century CE. The consensus tradition predates this one. Second, no one said the Masoretic punctuation was “decisive.” But don’t sell them short. They knew what they were doing; they preserved traditions much older than they were; they were serious scholars. Remember also that Theodotion’s second-century translation was actually a translation of a translation.

    Regarding Collins, your objection is completely unintelligible. What does the “prophetic imagination” (nice reference though) have to do with the logic of the text? Collins point is correct: The author divided up the seventy weeks into three periods, not two. If he wanted to divide it up into two periods, he would have divided it up into two periods. And you ignored the point I made, which complements that of Collins, that if the 7+62 were meant to be one timespan, then why does v. 26 only reference the 62? That makes no sense, and the obvious answer is that two separate periods were intended.

    Now to your numbered points:

    (1) I guess it only seems highly unlikely to you because (apparently) you’re not used to reading Hebrew texts. Authors frequently made reference to two or more individuals of the same title within close proximity to one another, distinguishing them only by context. The “eschatologically charged” context has nothing to do with it. The “anointed one” in both verses was a high priest, not a messianic figure. The author of Daniel is not saying that Onias III was the Messiah (quite obviously), so the eschatological nature of the text has no bearing on this. The eschatology says that these are the events leading up to the end, and in Daniel, the eschatological liberator is actually Michael (and angel), not a Davidic Messiah. So, no go on point number one.

    (2) First of all, I didn’t dismiss any problem “easily.” I showed that there isn’t actually a problem with the bad math at all. And this is what you’ve failed to recognize. I don’t argue that the author of Daniel made mistakes with his dating. I follow Collins and the majority in arguing that the stated numbers are symbolic. He gets 70 from Jeremiah. He then takes 7 for its traditional symbolism to represent the period of rebuilding leading up to the institution of a new High Priesthood. 7 is frequently used to represent spiritual perfection or in contexts related to Yahweh’s covenant with Israel. Both of those fit here. He uses 1 for the last period because (a) he’s living in that time and (b) it’s meant to represent a short period of time. You probably already know that a standard feature of Jewish apocalyptic is the idea that the final persecution before the eschaton will be very intense but also very short (this feature is virtually ubiquitous). So what does he have left? 62. That’s how he got the numbers. He wasn’t doing accurate dating here; he was doing numerology. Calling the math a problem in this context is like saying Maya Angelou is wrong because she is not, in fact, a black ocean. Daniel 11 is entirely irrelevant because there is no numerology involved whatsoever. It is simply the recounting of the succession of kings and political events from the Persian period to the time of the author. No numerology. Apples and oranges. The reason the author does what he does with the numbers in Daniel 9 is obvious, and has been stated clearly: his intention was to reinterpret Jeremiah’s 70 years prophecy. The 70 came from Jeremiah, and the author is working with it; it’s an artificial, symbolic number. The author is using allegory (see my book); he’s not recounting dates.

    There is in fact no interpretive scheme that makes the dates all come out right (not even Lacocque’s does—while it’s the closest, he’s still off by 49 years). There’s a good reason for that: that wasn’t the author’s intention. But we know that the atonement for iniquity and the anointing of a most holy place took place in 516 BCE, not in 171 BCE as Carrier contends. Carrier is simply wrong.

  7. Wow..thanks for taking the time to refute Carrier untrained scholarship in biblical field.Please could you find it within yourself to write a book along this line.Human faces of God is one of my best book yet along side Bart Ehrman books.Also when is your book on God man Jesus coming out.

  8. Thom,

    Once again, I’m going to continue to push back on your analysis and the critical consensus just a bit here.

    My objection to Collins’ facile remark is not unintelligible, the substance of which is that the interpretation implied by the MT punctuation is the only possible reason for dividing the period into 7 weeks and 62 weeks.  In truth, there could be many possible “reasons” for the division as the Hebrew prophets were a creative bunch.  Moreover, I do not deny the existence of the division nor the fact that there are three distinct time periods in this oracle.

    With respect to your point that v. 26 only refers to the 62 week time period, it’s not clear to me why this should be a good reason for not thinking that the anointed prince comes after 7 weeks and 62 weeks in v. 25.  On the contrary, given that it seems so likely to me a priori that the anointed ones mentioned in vv. 25-26 are the same person that your observation should be turned around as evidence for the reading that sees the anointed one of v. 25 as coming after both time periods.  As to why v. 26 would only refer to the 62 week time period, it could simply be that it is both the lengthier and the more recent of the two time periods mentioned in v. 25.  For example, I can easily imagine a conversation where I tell my wife that I will mow the lawn after I finish a cold drink (7 minutes) and then pick up some groceries at the store (62 minutes) but that when I get back from the store (62 minutes) I want all her stuff removed from the garage so that I can have easy access to the lawn mower; mutatis mutandis, something similar could be going on in vv. 25-26.

    Back to my numbered points:

    (1) Alright, if the anointed one in v. 25 is different from the anointed one in v. 26 then why even mention the former in the first place?  On this reading, the anointed one in v. 25 serves no discernible purpose in the oracle and the reference to him becomes practically superfluous.  On the other hand, if v. 25 is merely introducing the anointed one who will show up again in v. 26 (and possibly v. 27) then that would make sense of why we’re told so little about him in v. 25.

    (2) Although I can’t prove that the numbers should not be treated symbolically as you suggest (sadly) my suspicion is that Collins and the rest only see the numbers as being largely symbolic because they’re already committed to a reading in which the math is not even close to working and that they would prefer the math to work all things being equal (hence, my original point).

  9. NW,

    I’m sorry but you simply and clearly are “pushing back” from a state of ignorance on these issues. You are completely wrong that the MT punctuation is “the only possible reason for dividing the period into 7 weeks and 62 weeks.” Do you read Hebrew? If not, why are you acting like you know the grammar here? If so, how are you missing the grammar here? The conjunction waw dividing the two timespans can be translated “and,” or it could be translated “for.” Again, do you know Hebrew?

    And you know full well the MT is not “the only possible reason.” I’ve provided two, neither of which you’ve adequately answered. Provide me one of the “possible ‘reasons’” that the “creative bunch” would have for dividing up a single timespan into two timespans? Do you have one, one that’s more plausible than that two timespans are simply intended? If scholars who work in these texts had a plausible reason, they’d weigh it. If, as you say, you do not deny that there are three distinct time periods, then why are you denying that there are? (You realize that’s precisely what you’re doing, right?)

    As for the fact that it’s not clear to you why the 62 weeks in v. 26 should be a good reason for not taking your reading, allow me to make it clearer: if the 7 and 62 are really meant to represent 69, then we would see 69 (or 7+62) in v. 26. Instead, we only see 62, because we are dealing with three different periods here. Your “a priori” justification for viewing the two anointed ones as one is useless and (as I’ve shown) entirely baseless. If the same anointed one was intended, the definite article would very likely have been used in at least the second occurrence. But both are indefinite. If they were meant to be the same individual, then the second one at least would use the definite article in order to refer back to the indefinite antecedent. Note that the author does precisely this with the two occurrences of 62 weeks. The first occurrence in v. 25 is indefinite, but the second mention in v. 26 is preceded by the definite article, indicating that it is referring back to the same 62 weeks just mentioned. But with the anointed one in v. 26, there is no definite article, likely indicating that it is not referring back to the indefinite anointed one in v. 25. (This is how we use language.) So once again, there are plenty of grammatical and textual reasons not to take the 7 and 62 as one time period, and not to see the two anointed ones as one individual.

    And thank you for establishing the consensus position with your modern-day analogy (apparently without realizing it). Note that in order to justify separating the two lengths of time (7 minutes and 62 minutes), you had to identify two separate events—namely, finishing your drink, then returning from the store (both of which happened in succession). The fact that you felt you had to do that in order to justify the mention of two lengths of time shows clearly that the consensus reading is the most natural reading of the text. Thus, we have two events (as Lacocque says as well): the seven weeks covers the time from the Edict of Cyrus to the point when the temple is rebuilt and the event of the establishment of the high priest (marking the end of the first length of time), and the death of an anointed high priest (marking the end of the second length of time), just as your 7 minutes concluded with the finishing of your drink, and your 62 minutes concluded with you returning from the store. (It’s not rocket science.)

    Back to your numbered points:

    (1) Why mention the former? I already said that in the post. Again, you’re not reading me carefully. The author is marking each end with the first and last of the legitimate high priests. And again you’ve missed Lacocque’s point. I’ll quote him again for you: “It is evidently not by accident that for the Author history is punctuated by supreme pontiffs.” Lacocque shows at great length in his commentary that this was a concern of the author. So yes, the first anointed one serves a very “discernible purpose,” and he is far from “superfluous.” That you haven’t seen it just means that you haven’t seen it; it does not mean that it isn’t there. And your last comment, that we are “told so little about him in v. 25,” is useless. We are told little about the anointed one in v. 26 as well, other than that he was killed. Why does the author have to provide a biography for individuals with whom his readers were already very familiar? And we are told enough about the first anointed one: he is connected to the rebuilding of the temple.

    (2) Your suspicion is (sadly) based in apparent ignorance of Jewish apocalyptic numerology. Armchair scholars are often suspicious of actual scholars when actual scholars disagree with their “a priori” judgments. As for “the math working out,” I should point out what I left out of the post for fear of distracting with too much information: Lacocque’s supposedly neat math doesn’t add up either. He uses 605 to 171 to get 434 years, 587 to 538 to get 49 years, and 171 to 164 to get 7 years. So we have a total timespan dating from 605 to 164. It’s supposed to total 490 years, but of course it only totals 441 years. So his math is wrong too. A second (and intractable) problem with Lacocque’s math is that he identifies 587 to 538 as seven-week period. The problem is, the text itself indisputably contradicts this. The text says that the seven weeks begins with the Edict of Cyrus (“from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks”), and it says that it ended with the anointed prince. That’s 538 to 516, not 587 to 538. And, by the way, if we take your reading that the 7 and 62 are one coupled timespan, you do realize that 538 to 171 is 367 years, not the requisite 434. The fact is that there is no hypothesis that has been offered that gets all of the math correct. The reason for this is that the author wasn’t doing math; he was doing symbolic numerology, which is pervasive in Jewish apocalyptic literature. It is not something scholars have said in an ad hoc way so they can justify their scheme. It’s something that scholars have said because they know what apocalyptic numerology is, and how common it is in second-temple Jewish literature, not to mention its not infrequent appearance in pre-second-temple Jewish texts. I’m sorry but your “suspicions” are misguided. That you say they would “prefer the math to work out all things being equal” just means you think you know what they’re thinking underneath what they’re saying. And the reason you think that is because you have brought your own a priori assumptions to a genre that doesn’t fit your expectations.

  10. Thom,

    First of all, you misunderstood me, it was Collins who indicated that there could be no other reason for dividing the period into 7 weeks and 62 weeks if not to suggest the reading implied by the punctuation in the MT.  These are his words according to the entry above:

    “The MT places an atnah between the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks…There can be no doubt that the MT punctuation is correct. There is no
    other reason for dividing the period into seven and sixty-two.”

    I find this bit of Collins’ reasoning to be wholly unconvincing and facile precisely for the reason you mention, namely, that the waw dividing the two periods can be translated “and” as well as “for.”  In particular, there’s no syntactic feature in the text that compels us to follow the punctuation in the MT.  What is Collins doing here if not making a bald assertion?

    Secondly, your observation that the second reference to an anointed one in v. 26 lacks a definite article proves nothing.  The ancient Hebrews were not nearly as concerned with syntactical consistency as we are today, which is partly why translating oracles like vv. 24-27 is so difficult.  I may not have the technical acumen of Collins or yourself, but I’ve spent enough time with the Hebrew in such oracles to appreciate this point.

    Back to my numbered points:

    (1) My question remains, if the critical consensus understands that vv. 24, 26, and 27 are primarily about events that took place in the 2nd century then why is high priest Joshua mentioned in v. 25?  Lacocque’s point that it is important to the author of this oracle for history to be punctuated by “supreme pontiffs” is pure conjecture and you know it, that he feels the need to go on at great length in order to justify his claim is also telling.  Lastly, contrary to your last comment v. 25 doesn’t say anything about the anointed one rebuilding the temple, the only time the temple unambiguously shows up in the oracle is in v. 26 when it’s destroyed.

    (2) It’s true, I can’t prove my suspicions about the nature of the critical consensus on this point; however, that a scholar like Lacocque evidently felt the need to creatively arrange all sorts of dates in order to get the math to “work” (at least in his mind) suggests that my suspicions are not as baseless as you suppose.

    Finally, allow me to return to the two time periods mentioned in v. 25.  The point of my analogy was to show how completely natural it is to say that “[something will happen] after a [shorter time period] and then a [longer time period] but after the [longer time period]…” which is precisely how the non-consensus tradition reads vv.25-26.  Of course, this begs the question as to why the two time periods in v. 25 aren’t combined into a single time period lasting 69 weeks in the first place.  It’s a good question that needs to be answered so I’ll give it a shot.

    The first observation I want to make is that the latter part of v. 25 should read “[Jerusalem] will be restored and rebuilt, and with gold streets, but in distressful times.” and not “[Jerusalem] will be restored and rebuilt with streets and moat but in distressful times.” as it is more commonly translated.  Moreover, once the reference to Jerusalem being rebuilt with gold streets is recognized we can observe that v. 25 is almost certainly the OT source for such statements as Rev 21:21, suggesting that at least one NT writer had a similar reading of the latter part of v. 25.  Given this translation of the latter part of v. 25, it then seems likely that v. 25 is referring to the true eschatological restoration of Jerusalem (e.g. “the Jerusalem above” of Gal 4:26, “the heavenly Jerusalem” of Heb 12:22, and “the new Jerusalem” of Rev 21:2 that the writers of the NT were all looking for).  However, the writer of Dan 9 does not see the post-exilic rebuilt city of Jerusalem as the true eschatological restoration of the city, so he relegates the first 7 weeks to the rebuilding of the city after exile but has 70 weeks for the true eschatological restoration of the city which he sees as still to come (along with the eschatological kingdom in 2:44; 7:14 and the awakening of the dead in 12:2-3).

  11. NW,

     

    Actually, it is you who
    misunderstands Collins. You wrote, “My objection to
    Collins’ facile remark is not unintelligible, the substance of which is that
    the interpretation implied by the MT punctuation is the only possible reason
    for dividing the period into 7 weeks and 62 weeks.” He did not say that the
    MT punctuation was the only possible reason for dividing the period into 7 and
    62. The “facile argument” is a straw man. What Collins said is that we can be
    sure the MT punctuation is correct because there is no other reason to divide 7
    and 62 other than that two distinct periods are intended. I’m sorry you
    misunderstood him. And you have yet even to attempt to provide a plausible
    alternative explanation for the division, other than your facile, “they were a
    creative bunch.”

     

    Second, yes, Hebrew is
    not always consistent on their use of definite articles, which is why I said “likely
    that” and did not say “proves that.” The fact that the definite article is used
    in the second instance of the 62 weeks to refer back to its first instance,
    however, shows that this author did use the article in this way, which makes it
    more likely that this author would have done so had he intended to identify one
    anointed one in two separate instances.

     

    The consensus is correct
    on this, and you haven’t provided one legitimate objection to their reading. 

    You wrote: “My question remains, if the critical consensus understands that vv. 24, 26, and 27 are primarily about events that took place in the 2nd century then why is high priest Joshua mentioned in v. 25?”

    Um, the critical consensus does not understand v. 24 to refer to the second century. I don’t know where you got that idea, and what this shows me is you don’t yet have a grasp on the position you’re attempting to critique. 

    You wrote, “Lacocque’s point that it is important to the author of this oracle for history to be punctuated by “supreme pontiffs” is pure conjecture and you know it, that he feels the need to go on at great length in order to justify his claim is also telling.”

    You’re being obtuse, ignorant, and yet again ignoring what I actually wrote. I pointed out that Lacocque spends a good deal of time showing this to be true of the author of Daniel. 

    You wrote, “Lastly, contrary to your last comment v. 25 doesn’t say anything about the anointed one rebuilding the temple, the only time the temple unambiguously shows up in the oracle is in v. 26 when it’s destroyed.”

    Again with the weird (and telling) ignorance. “Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time” (Dan 9:25). The rebuilding of Jerusalem included and was marked especially by the rebuilding of the temple. Are you really that unconscious of Jewish history? Or are you being pedantic? Or just obtuse?

    You wrote, “It’s true, I can’t prove my suspicions about the nature of the critical consensus on this point; however, that a scholar like Lacocque evidently felt the need to creatively arrange all sorts of dates in order to get the math to ‘work’ (at least in his mind) suggests that my suspicions are not as baseless as you suppose.”

    Once again, you prove yourself not to be a careful reader. Lacocque does not represent the consensus on the dating schema. As I clearly said in the original article, his schema for dating the seventy weeks is often referenced, seldom followed. The majority on this question rightly recognize that the bad math is not a problem because it is symbolic numerology.

    You wrote, “The point of my analogy was to show how completely natural it is to say that “[something will happen] after a [shorter time period] and then a [longer time period] but after the [longer time period]…” which is precisely how the non-consensus tradition reads vv.25-26.” Yes, your analogy supported the consensus reading. Well done. You wrote, “The first observation I want to make is that the latter part of v. 25 should read ‘[Jerusalem] will be restored and rebuilt, and with gold streets, but in distressful times.’ and not ‘[Jerusalem] will be restored and rebuilt with streets and moat but in distressful times.’ as it is more commonly translated.”So we’re arguing by assertion now? Collins and Lacocque both show that its meaning here is “entrenchment.” The rest of your fanciful and tenuous connections hang upon a translation that does not enjoy very much support. And your idea that the author sees the remainder of the seventy weeks to consist of the “true eschatological restoration of the city” has no basis in the text. There is no indication that the move toward the eschatological kingdom is going to be gradual, and this goes against the standard apocalyptic paradigm of this period, which sees conditions as unstable until a massive, but short, crisis, followed by the new age. Also, note the Hector Avalos article to which I linked in the footnotes, which compares Dan 9:24-25 with several Mesopotamian inscriptions each of which speaks of an unnamed future prince restoring a dilapidated temple culminating in the anointing of the temple. Dan 9:24-25 squares up nicely with these inscriptions, and others like them, indicating that in context the references here would have been very recognizable. That may in fact explain why the figure in v. 25 is identified as a prince while the figure in v. 26 is not. This is getting tiring, so that will be all. Thanks for the engagement. 

  12. That was an epic takedown. As you stated, it wouldn’t be so bad if Carrier was simply wrong, it’s his unbelievable arrogance in insisting that he’s always right .. and to hell with anyone who dares point out his many, many errors. This is the behavior of a petulant spoiled child, not a serious scholar. He’s the Bill O’Reilly of Jesus mythicism. 

  13. Thom, you know what’s needed? The Historicist counterpart to *The God Who Wasn’t There*. What we need are filmmakers like yourself who will do something like this!

  14. NW,

    (1) You don’t seem to be aware of how all critical scholars date the composition of the text. The author also got the death of Antiochus wrong. The author said Antiochus would be killed in Judea. But he wasn’t killed in Judea, or by Judeans. He died in Parthia. This is why scholars date the composition to the middle of this “final week,” a few years before Antiochus’s death. Obviously the author expected the temple to be yet destroyed by Antiochus at the time of his writing.

    (2) No. First, because “the coming prince” of v. 26 is not an “anointed one,” like Joshua, Onias, or even Cyrus. Thus, he is distinguished from both of the anointed ones in vv. 25 and 26. The term “anointed” is reserved for good guys. Obviously the prince who would defile the temple is not one of God’s anointed. Thus, the anointed prince in v. 25 and the coming prince of v. 26 cannot be the same figure.

    Thanks.

  15. Thom,

    This is it, I promise.

    (1) Fair enough.

    (2) Au contraire, it’s also possible to translate the relevant part of v. 26 as follows: “The city and the sanctuary will be destroyed with the coming prince.”  Some witnesses do understand text this way (e.g. the Syriac).  More importantly for my purposes, the second half of your argument against identifying “the coming prince” of v. 26 with the “anointed prince” of v. 25 is not supported by this translation.  Lastly, that “the coming prince” of v. 26 is not explicitly identified as being one of the anointed ones mentioned in vv. 25-26 does not mean that such is not the case nor does it have any bearing on the aforementioned grammatical considerations.

  16. NW,

    Au contraire contraire! That is not at all a possible translation. If the Syriac says that, it is wrong. Here is what the Hebrew says: and the city [weha'ir] and the sanctuary [wehaqoresh] they shall destroy [yashchit] the people of the prince ['am nagid] the one coming [haba'].

    As you know, Hebrew syntax puts verb before subject, so the translation is: “and the people of the coming prince shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” It cannot be translated, “The city and the sanctuary will be destroyed with the coming prince.” There is no preposition here; the subject of the verb is “the people of the coming prince” and the direct object is “the city and the sanctuary.”

    Finally, you’re incorrect. The fact that “the people of the coming prince” are identified as those who destroy the sanctuary indicates clearly that the prince referenced is not one of God’s anointed. Moreover, v. 27 uses the “coming prince” of v. 26 as the antecedent when it describes the activities of Antiochus IV (there is no noun-subject at all in v.27). There’s simply no question whatsoever that the “coming prince” of v. 26 is Antiochus. While grammatically it is possible that the “anointed prince” of v. 25 is the “coming prince” of v. 26, contextually this is definitively ruled out. Your argument fails.

  17. Thom,

    I’m trying to wrap this up, I swear.

    I’m not sure if you caught this or not but the proposed alternative translation reads עם as the preposition ‘im and not as the noun ‘am, that’s where the preposition is coming from, so if I can get a reaction from you about that wrinkle I’ll be a happy.

    Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun for me and, once again, thank you so much for the interaction and the correction.

  18. Ah. I see now. Here’s why it’s wrong: (1) if “with the coming prince” were intended (i.e., as another in the list of things destroyed), it would be included with the city and sanctuary before the verb; but the verb comes between them. (2) on that reading there would be no subject identified here, no one identified as the figure who is doing the destroying. The antecedent would be Onias III, who obviously didn’t attack Jerusalem.

  19. Yikes! I hadn’t expected that results of indulging too much in “Someone is wrong on the Internet” syndrome would end up quoted favorably on someone’s blog. As for me being “polite” when I said “I was a bit slow to figure out what exactly the ‘weeks’ meant,” that was just me owning up to a screw-up — and as I’m sure you noticed, I made a few of those when when replying to Carrier. (Not catching him on his misuse of “lot” was one error. As you pointed out,the lots mentioned in the Melchizedek scroll didn’t have to do with the atonement lottery that Carrier mentioned.)

  20. Yeah, you made a few mistakes, but obviously far fewer than Carrier and your position was by far the more informed. Thanks for taking the time to engage him. It was very entertaining!

  21. It seems to me that there is some misunderstanding here. As I see it, Doherty has his reasons for supposing that Jesus Christ started out as a God. Scholars then say, that can’t be right because no Jews ever thought of a dying Messiah, so the first Christians couldn’t have invented a dying Messiah. Then Carrier points to an Aramaic text (Targum of Jonothan) interpreting Isaiah, which begins “Behold my servant the Messiah shall be prosper ..” (52:13) and ends with “ … He shall divide the spoil because he has delivered his life unto death” (53:12). Carrier says this contradicts the assertion that no 1st century Jew could have thought of a dying Messiah.
     
    You replied (to me in an earlier post), that it doesn’t prove a first century Jew thought of a dying Messiah because (1) the word Messiah might have been added much later and (2) “delivered his life unto death” is an uncertain translation (though it is the one you gave). You claim the original is ambiguous (you can read Aramiac I assume); it might not mean dying and you say it can’t mean dying because a dead messiah couldn’t divide the spoils. So it doesn’t prove a 1st century Jew did think of a dying Messiah before Christians did.
     
    The point, as I see it, is that your argument doesn’t prove no 1st century Jew could have thought of a dying Messiah, because (1) maybe the word messiah was not added later but was in the first century version and (2) maybe your alternative translation is wrong, and it does in fact say the Messiah died, leaving the reader  to speculate about how he could divide  the spoils despite being dead.
     
    The result is that we can’t use the “no Jew would think of a dying Messiah” argument to say Doherty is wrong.

  22. Macroman,

    Yeah, there are misunderstandings, entirely on your part:

    “Doherty has his reasons for supposing that Jesus Christ started out as a God. Scholars then say, That can’t be right because no Jews ever thought of a dying Messiah, so the first Christians couldn’t have invented a dying Messiah.”

    No. The issue of the dying messiah and of the divinity of Jesus are two separate issues entirely. I’m not sure why you’re conflating them. The consensus does not say that Jesus was not a God in early Christianity because it conflicts with any assumptions about a dying Messiah. Wholly separate. If you want to know why scholars argue that Jesus was not God at first, read James McGrath’s The Only True God, or James Dunn’s Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?.

    “Carrier says this contradicts the assertion that no 1st century Jew could have thought of a dying Messiah.”

    This is wrong on several levels. First, that’s not what Carrier says he’s arguing. He says he’s simply arguing that this is evidence that some first-century Jews were reading the suffering servant passage as messianic; he is not arguing that they were reading it as evidence of a dying Messiah.

    Second, I have never argued the straw man position you’re attacking, namely, that “no first-century Jew could have thought of a dying Messiah.” I’ve consistently said that it’s perfectly possible that a first-century Jew could have thought this; the problem is, we have no evidence that any Jews other than Christians did think this. So please let’s get your facts straight.

    Third, you misquote the Targum when you quote it. It does not say, as you wrote, “He shall divide the spoil because he has delivered his life unto death.” What it says is, “Then I will divide for him the spoil of many peoples, and the possessions of strong cities shall he divide as prey, because he gave his soul up to death, and made the rebellious subject to the Law.”

    So your argument is “(1) maybe the word messiah was not added later but was in the first century version and (2) maybe your alternate translation is wrong, and it does in fact say the Messiah died, leaving the reader to speculate about how he could the spoils despite being dead.” You say that my argument “doesn’t prove no first-century Jew could have thought of a dying messiah.”

    Once again, Macroman, my argument has never been that “no first-century Jew could have thought of a dying messiah.” A first-century Jew could have thought of just about anything. But that’s speculation. What Carrier needs to prove is that there was a pre-Christian tradition about a dying messiah. If all he’s trying to prove is that “it was possible for someone to think this,” well, that would be a useless thing to prove, and there would be no need for any proof. Anything is possible. But just because it’s possible doesn’t mean there is evidence to support it. I don’t need to prove that no one ever thought of it. He needs to prove that someone did.

    Now, (1) pretty much all scholars date Targum Jonathan to the third century CE at the earliest in its written form, and fifth century CE at the latest. Let me check the math. . . . Nope. Neither the third century, nor the fourth, nor the fifth fall within the first century. So the point is, we simply don’t know how the tradition was transmitted in the first century, and we never will, unless we discover some new document dating to the pre-Christian first century which reflects a tradition like the kind Carrier is looking for. Real scholars don’t make radical arguments based upon texts that can’t be dated precisely within a scope of several centuries. Hack scholars with agendas, however, do this quite a lot. But real scholars have a responsibility to say no more than what can legitimately be said. And to Carrier’s credit, he admits that there are dating problems with Targum of Jonathan, and thus that his argument here is weak.

    And (2) yes, a reader would be left to speculate about how a dead person could divide the spoils of his conquest while at the same time being dead. Brilliant argument.

    In reality, the context of the whole passage, coupled with the fact that the supposedly dead messiah is both receiving spoils from God and dividing up spoils for himself, makes clear that the midrash does not intend to state that the warrior was killed in battle.

    The whole argument is incredibly weak. The third-to-fifth-century dating of the text just doesn’t allow us to make justifiable statements about what people in the first-century were thinking. It’s pure speculation, of the kind befitting a fundamentalist or a conspiracy theorist, not a credible scholar. If you continue to try to press this, we’ll know in which camp you reside.

    Finally, you keep mentioning Doherty, but I’m responding to Carrier.

  23. Thom,

    Thanks for clearing up my misunderstandings
    and perhaps I can return the favor. When you say that I keep mentioning Doherty I wonder if you are thinking of someone else?
     I did mention Doherty, but only once.

    I apologize if I
    said you argued that no first century Jew (before the Christians) could have conceived
    of a dying Messiah. I thought I said “scholars” had said this and if I have
    mistaken what scholars say, I apologize to them as well.

    I was interested in what
    were the chances that a first century Jew before the Christians had
    identified the suffering servant with the Messiah, or had thought of a dying Messiah.
    Since you quoted 15 or so verses from the Targum, and explained what it could
    not mean, I thought its content was relevant to my questions (which I now understand
    are not what you were discussing). But, in the context of your argument with
    Carrier, what does it matter what it says, when it is not a first century
    source?

    Not that it matters
    now, but I meant to quote from your translation of the Targum, but slipped up,
    quoting from a different one (and not one I trust). Your “gave his soul up to
    death” would have done just as well. 

  24. Michael,

    Actually, you mentioned Doherty twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of your comment.

    No, you said twice that my own argument was that no first-century Jew could have conceived of this, but that is neither my argument nor the argument of any scholar I know. It would be a silly argument; scholars aren’t in the habit of speculating about what individual people in the ancient world might or might not have thought of. Scholars are in the business of examining evidence we do have.

    Yes, Carrier’s argument is weak for two reasons: (1) the Targum shifts the suffering of the Servant to the suffering of the Servant’s enemies; and (2) as a written document, it is much later than the first century.

    No worries on the translation you used. Not a big deal.

    No need to apologize for any of this. Just wanting to make clear that you were objecting to an argument I haven’t made.

    Best,
    T

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