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Carrier and KATA

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  • Jeffrey B. Gibson
    Dear Dr. Carson, I ve been spending some time over the holidays (for my sins, I think) on the Internet Infidels Discussion board taking on a few of the main
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 14, 2006
      Dear Dr. Carson,

      I've been spending some time over the holidays (for my sins, I think) on
      the Internet Infidels Discussion board taking on a few of the main
      proponents of the "Jesus Myth" school (i.e., Earl Doherty and Richard
      Carrier) by noting that they have a distinct tendency in some of the
      arguments they offer in support of their views to cook and misrepresent
      the evidence they appeal to.

      When asked by IIDB members to support this claim, I pointed to the
      particular section, quoted below, in Richard Carrier's review of Earl
      Doherty's _The Jesus Puzzle_ [see
      where Carrier discusses the meaning of KATA and applies his conclusions
      on this matter to the question of what KATA SARKA means in Rom. 1:3,
      and then noted that the linguistic analysis put forward there not only
      shows a woeful incompetence in matters Greek, but is a text book example
      of someone cooking the evidence of the source one has used for the data
      one discusses -- in this case, the entry on KATA in LSJ
      (http://tinyurl.com/7hbks), which I also pointed to (and quoted in
      full)-- in order to support a particular (and apparently a preconceived)

      Curiously, some denied that the LSJ article on KATA was the source that
      Carrier had employed as the basis of his remarks. More importantly, and
      even more curiously, those who admitted that LSJ **was** the source and
      basis of Carrier's remarks claimed that they were unable to see what, to
      my eyes and those of others, is transparent when one holds up and
      compares what Carrier says about KATA against/with what is said about
      KATA in LSJ, namely, that Carrier's remarks are those no one skilled in
      Greek would make, that they were contradicted by much of the data
      contained in the very source he uses as the basis for his remarks, and
      that to make his case, Carrier has not only neglected to tell anyone
      this; he has also distorted, misread, and/or misrepresented the evidence
      from LSJ that he does quote and appeal to.

      And so I have been asked to support my claims that the linguistic
      analysis put forward in Carrier's discussion of KATA and KATA SARKA in
      Rom. 1:3 does indeed shows a woeful incompetence in matters Greek and is
      indeed a text book example of someone cooking the evidence of the source
      one has used for the data one discusses to get to a conclusion that the
      evidence does not warrant (and even denies).

      Now I know how I am going to do this. I'll be pointing out such things
      as how the issue is skewed from the beginning in a misrepresentation on
      Carrier's part of what it is that scholars have actually claimed Paul's
      point in Rom 1:3 was (that Jesus has Davidic ancestry), that Carrier has
      engaged in the root fallacy, and that he ignores of all the evidence in
      LSJ (and for that matter elsewhere!) that both conflicts with what he
      says about the usage of KATA with the accusative and that demonstrates
      that KATA with the accusative did not have only one basic ("literal")
      meaning or implication.

      But given your work on exegetical fallacies I'd very much like to see
      how you would demonstrate what is wrong in Carrier's "argument". I'd
      like to see both how you would show that he has indeed cooked his
      evidence and how you would note that the way he argues and presents the
      "data" shows that he has no idea what he is talking about.

      With thanks in advance for anything you'd care to say on thse matters,

      Yours sincerely,

      Jeffrey Gibson
      Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
      1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
      Chicago, Illinois
      e-mail jgibson000@...

      Central to Doherty's thesis is his reinterpretation of the nature of the
      Incarnation as held by the earliest Christians (including Paul and some
      other epistle authors), such as by rereading the strange yet
      oft-repeated reference to kata sarka, "according to the flesh" (as
      usually translated). Doherty does confuse readers, I think, when he
      denies the Incarnation here and there, equating that word with the
      earthly sojourn. However, his theory actually entails that Jesus did
      undergo incarnation--just not on earth. So though you might get the
      opposite impression from Doherty 's rhetoric (and he needs to reword
      several passages to remove the confusion), his theory is entirely
      compatible with Jesus "becoming a man of flesh and blood," that is, in
      the sublunar sphere of heaven, since, as Doherty explains several times,
      he had to in order to die and fulfill the law (only flesh can die, and
      be subject to the law, and blood was necessary for atonement).

      The actual phrase used, kata sarka, is indeed odd if it is supposed to
      emphasize an earthly sojourn. The preposition kata with the accusative
      literally means "down" or "down to" and implies motion, usually over or
      through its object, hence it literally reads "down through flesh" or
      "down to flesh" or even "towards flesh." It very frequently, by
      extension, means "at" or "in the region of," and this is how Doherty
      reads it. It only takes on the sense "in accordance with" in reference
      to fitness or conformity (via using kata as "down to" a purpose rather
      than a place), and thus can also mean "by flesh," "for flesh,"
      "concerning flesh," or "in conformity with flesh." I have only seen it
      mean "according to" when followed by a cited author (e.g. "according to
      Euripedes," i.e. "down through, or in the region of Euripedes"), so it
      is unconventional to translate it as most Bibles do (a point against the
      usual reading and in favor of Doherty's). Even the "usual reading" is
      barely intelligible in the orthodox sense, especially since on that
      theory we should expect en sarki instead. The word kata can also have a
      comparative meaning, "corresponding with, after the fashion of," in
      other words "like flesh." In short, all of the common meanings of kata
      with the accusative support Doherty's reading: Jesus descended to and
      took on the likeness of flesh. It does not entail that he walked the
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