Note: This is a post written by Chris H. (@unicornwiz) in response to comments made by Richard Carrier (see note #1 below). Chris can be reached on Twitter or at his email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Carrier apparently responded to my article in a text message to a fellow on Facebook claiming that my knowledge and reading of the Inanna myth was incorrect and that I did not address all of his main charges. This struck me as odd, given that it was verified by an expert of ancient Sumerian (Digital Hammurabi). But I guess Carrier has now gone from saying that experts in New Testament (which he has no credentials in) experts are wrong to saying that Sumerian (which he has no expertise in) experts are wrong. Wouldn’t be a first. He primarily just responded by referencing On the Historicity of Jesus chapters 3 and 4 where he defines and deals with types of crucifixion. I will not bother with chapter 3 because it involves having to try and show how poorly Carrier reads the Ascension of Isaiah, his rather strange tactic of highlighting particular elements he wishes to be more noticeable. First, I will simply note, as I noted in my previous post on Inanna, that Inanna resurrects at some undisclosed point. The Third day only begins the mourning rituals, as Mettinger noted (see previous post). He draws an outrageous parallel between the Water of Life and Food of Life fed to Inanna (meant to revive her) and the Eucharist (these rituals are for entirely different purposes and to place them remotely in the same category for parallel is simply a category error). It is also worth noting, as Mettinger’s work has noted, that the rituals that began as a result of the Inanna Descent mythos were not of her Waters of Life and Food of Life… they actually were ritual mourning for Tammuz/Dummuzi. Furthermore, in the account closest to Jesus life, as previously noted, no such event occurs in the Ishtar variant.
What Qualifies as Crucifixion?
Carrier’s entire case on this part rests entirely on him creating an oversimplified definition of crucifixion as encompassing two parts: 1) a body is suspended by anything except a noose around one’s neck and 2) this constitutes a “punishment.” The examples that he gives, however, show just how little he has actually studied his sources though.
Using Carrier’s own sources (plus a few additional ones) I will venture into what qualifies as crucifixion here. First let’s look at some of Carrier’s examples. First, he uses Haman and his family’s execution in the Book of Esther 8:7 as an example of crucifixion.
Carrier specifically says:
“The shape of the cross or fixture, the position of the body, whether the victim is killed first or hung while alive and left to die, even the manner of hanging, whether nailing or lashing, or whether to a rock or tree or stake or doorway or anything else, all of that can (and certainly did) vary, and yet the act still constitutes crucifixion if (a) a body is hanged by anything other than a noose around the neck and (b) this hanging is a punishment.”
None of this applies to Carrier’s example of Haman. They are not “hung” from the pole (despite what Carrier claims). The spike is driven through them, they are impaled on it. He is not lashed, nor nailed, nor is he suspended in any way approximating anything Carrier describes, unless he is defining the term so incredibly loosely that it encompasses virtually any kind of execution except hanging. If so, then the term is worthless and does not actually grant one a single valuable method for establishing any realistic parallels. Using Carrier’s own source, which he apparently did not read carefully we find that Haman should be characterized as a SUSPENSION not a crucifixion.As Samuelsson defines it in a section labeled “how has the punishment of crucifixion been described, and how should it be described in the light of the present investigation?”:
“First, that it was an executionary suspension. Second, that after being scourged Jesus (and/or Simon) carried a σταυρός, whatever that might be, to the execution place. Third, that Jesus was undressed and attached to a σταυρός, perhaps by being nailed. Fourth, that a sign probably indicated the nature of the crime. Features beyond these are not to be found in the New Testament or the older literature of the Greco-Roman world.
Other punishments should not be characterized further than that they were some kind of suspension on some kind of suspension device of a whole human in some condition or a part of a human.”
As such, by Carrier’s own source, Inanna would not qualify as a crucifixion, since she lacks several of those features (is not nailed up, is not executed by the suspension, is not actually scourged, no sign indicates her crime, etc). Carrier incidentally did not read his own source very carefully. Neither Haman nor Inanna qualify as a crucifixion but as a suspension.
What Carrier did was to reduce Crucifixion to the second level definition that Samuelsson gives, that of Suspension, so as to artificially create parallels. In Carrier’s other cases it is more problematic. Numbers 25:4 describes an entirely unknown form of suspension or execution that is unable to be discerned. So, Carrier’s position is conjecture. The only case he has is in 2 Samuel 21:6, 9 where the term crucifigere is used directly. While Carrier may be correct in saying that the terminology of suspension was ambiguous in the ancient world (it was, as Samuelsson notes), the term crucifixion is not and is a more specific type of suspension. If Carrier wanted to make a parallel that Jesus and Inanna were both suspended, fine. It is an ambiguous and rather worthless parallel, but it is at least a legitimate allegorical parallel. However, to say they were both crucified, by Carrier’s own sources, would be incorrect since Inanna is missing some of the core elements that describe Crucifixion.
I will end with this sentiment from Samuelsson, which I agree with.
“There were probably suspensions in ancient times that cohered well with the suspension of Jesus. Yet that is not the problem. The problem is to determine with a decent level of probability that a text describes such a punishment. The overwhelming majority of texts are simply not comprehensible enough for that.”
 Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014), p. 47
 Ibid., p. 61, continued on 62
 Ibid., 61
 Anthony Tomasino, Esther, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2016), p. 313
 Gunnar Samuelsson, Crucifixion in Antiquity (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), p. 101, 224-226. As he states on 226, “The problem is that the ‘crucifixion terminology’ appears not to be a crucifixion terminology – only a suspension terminology” [Emphasis original]
 Ibid., 306
 Ibid., 234
 Ibid., 306
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.