2012-04-20

Richard Carrier’s Review of Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?

by Neil Godfrey
Updated an hour and again seven hours after original posting.

This is a serious error, because it makes Ehrman’s book into nothing more than falsified propaganda. It is his responsibility as a scholar to have read these writings and accurately represent them to his readers so they don’t have to read them themselves. That he doesn’t do that erases any scholarly value this book could have had. Here, for example, the key point is that Doherty engaged himself like a competent scholar, used mainstream scholarship extensively, and correctly identified where his conclusions and interpretations differed from the scholars he cites and from mainstream scholarship generally. Ehrman hides this fact from his readers, and even misleads his readers by declaring exactly the opposite. Where else does Ehrman completely hide and misrepresent the views, statements, and methods of the mythicists he criticizes? If we cannot trust him in this case (and clearly we can’t, since what he says is demonstrably exactly the opposite of the truth), why are we to trust anything he says in this book?

.

Richard Carrier has now posted his own review of Bart Ehrman’s book: Ehrman on Jesus: A Failure of Facts and Logic. (This links to the review.)

This is his introduction:

Having completed and fully annotated Ehrman’s new book Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (Harper 2012), I can officially say it is filled with factual errors, logical fallacies, and badly worded arguments. Moreover, it completely fails at its one explicit task: to effectively critique the arguments for Jesus being a mythical person. Lousy with errors and failing even at the one useful thing it could have done, this is not a book I can recommend.

Happily Richard acknowledges the extensive series of rebuttals of Ehrman’s book by both myself and of course Earl Doherty as among those worth reading.

In his “Errors of Fact” section he selects the following for discussion. I have added brief excerpts from Carrier’s review to each:

  • The Priapus Bronze
    • In response to D.M. Murdock’s claim that there is a statue of a penis-nosed cockerel (which she says is a “symbol of St. Peter”) in the Vatican museum, Ehrman says that “there is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up” (p. 24). Ehrman evidently did no research on this and did not check this claim at all. Murdock quickly exposed this by providing numerous scholarly references, including actual photographs of the object (see The Phallic Savior of the World).
  • The Doherty Slander
    • Ehrman says Earl Doherty “quotes professional scholars at length when their views prove useful for developing aspects of his argument, but he fails to point out that not a single one of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis” (p. 252). This claim is so completely false I cannot believe Ehrman read the work of Doherty with any requisite care. Neil Godfrey documents the fact (in Devious Doherty or Erring Ehrman?) that Doherty repeatedly points out exactly what Ehrman claims he doesn’t. This is actually a typical error I found in Ehrman’s book. He often makes blanket false statements that make mythicists look incompetent, thus the reader is misled into thinking they are.
    • This is a serious error, because it makes Ehrman’s book into nothing more than falsified propaganda. It is his responsibility as a scholar to have read these writings and accurately represent them to his readers so they don’t have to read them themselves. That he doesn’t do that erases any scholarly value this book could have had. Here, for example, the key point is that Doherty engaged himself like a competent scholar, used mainstream scholarship extensively, and correctly identified where his conclusions and interpretations differed from the scholars he cites and from mainstream scholarship generally. Ehrman hides this fact from his readers, and even misleads his readers by declaring exactly the opposite. Where else does Ehrman completely hide and misrepresent the views, statements, and methods of the mythicists he criticizes? If we cannot trust him in this case (and clearly we can’t, since what he says is demonstrably exactly the opposite of the truth), why are we to trust anything he says in this book?
  • The Pliny Confusion
    • Ehrman almost made me fall out of my chair when he discusses the letters of Pliny the Younger. He made two astonishing errors here that are indicative of his incompetence with ancient source materials.
  • The Pilate Error
    • Now, one or two mistakes like this would be excusable. We all make them. And we can’t all know everything. But my point is that this is an example of a pervasive number of similar errors throughout the book that indicate Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about. And since a lay reader won’t know that, they will come away from this book with more false information in their heads than true. And as I said, that makes this book worse than bad.
  • The “No Records” Debacle
    • I cannot believe he said this. How can he not know that we have thousands of these kinds of records?
  • The Tacitus Question
    • the fact that he doesn’t know of the many classical scholars who have questioned it suggests he didn’t check
  • The “Other Jesus” Conundrum
    • Ehrman says the fact that “the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were recent events” is “the view of all of our sources that deal with the matter at all” (p. 251). This is false. And it’s astonishing that he would not know this
  • That Dying-and-Rising God Thing
    • He relies solely on Jonathan Z. Smith, and fails to check whether anything Smith says is even correct. If Ehrman had acted like a real scholar and actually gone to the sources, and read more widely in the scholarship (instead of incompetently reading just one author–the kind of hack mistake we would expect from an incompetent myther), he would have discovered that almost everything Smith claims about this is false.
  • The Baptism Blunder
    • Ehrman says “we don’t have a single description in any source of any kind of baptism in the mystery religions” (p. 28). That is outright false, and one of the most appallingly incompetent statements in this book.
  • The Dying Messiah Question
    • Ehrman declares “there were no Jews prior to Christianity who thought Isaiah 53 (or any other ‘suffering’ passages) referred to the future messiah” (p. 166), yet he does not even mention much less address the Dead Sea pesher (11Q13) or the 1st century targum that both explicitly evince this belief. And he knows about all this, so I cannot explain why he doesn’t even . . . mention this evidence, which can only misinform the reader, who will think there is none, and mistakenly conclude his assertion has not been disputed. That is simply irresponsible. See my discussion of this in The Dying Messiah. Which I know he had read well in advance of publishing his book, so it appears like he is suppressing arguments and evidence presented by mythicists, in order to make our claims look weaker than in fact they are.
  • The Matter of Qualifications
    • Ehrman can’t have learned my degree is in classics from any reliable source. He can only have invented this detail. I am left to wonder if this was a deliberate attempt to diminish my qualifications by misrepresentation. Or if he is really so massively incompetent it never even occurred to him to check my CV, which is on my very public website. . . .

Other section headings give the idea:

  • Why These Factual Errors Matter

Proving History also illustrates how Ehrman is out of touch with the extensive work in his own field discrediting the very methods he assumes are still valid (and naively relies on throughout). . . .  every expert who has published a study of these methods has concluded they are invalid. Ehrman doesn’t seem to be aware of any of this literature, even though it is now quite extensive.

  • The Methodologically Absurd

We know he made so many factual errors, we can’t trust any of his factual claims. And in light of that even a perfect method couldn’t have rescued this book. But the failure of his methods remains important precisely to the extent that other historians in this field might be fooled into trusting them and continuing to use them. And lay readers might similarly be duped into trusting and using them themselves.

  • Faking It

Omitting mention of these kinds of facts is irresponsible. Because most readers won’t know these things. Yet concealing this information from them makes Ehrman’s case seem stronger than it is. His readers should rightly feel betrayed by this. It also seems to me that Ehrman did not do any discernible research into ancient literary or educational methods. And to illustrate this (this being another glaring error of omission; these are by no means the only ones) I will close with just one example . . . . 

And here is Richard Carrier’s tragic conclusion:

It is for all the reasons documented in this article (which are again just a sample of many other errors of like kind, from false claims, to illogical arguments, to self-contradictions, to misrepresentations of his opponents, to errors of omission), especially this book’s complete failure to interact with even a single complete theory of mythicism (which alone renders the book useless, even were it free of error), that I have no choice but to condemn this thing as being nothing more than a sad murder of electrons and trees.

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103 Comments

  • 2012-04-20 16:36:04 UTC - 16:36 | Permalink

    Carrier didn’t mention Bart Ehrman’s strange claim that Zeus was the father of Zeus.

    But I did like Carrier’s ‘kick the book across the room’, after Bart pointed out how Jesus must have existed because Mark’s Gospel translated a line from Psalm 22 into Aramaic.

    Ehrman calls this ‘the punch line’.

    Gosh, how did Doherty overlook that you could prove Jesus existed by translating the Bible into Aramaic, because that is the language Jesus spoke.

    • Jason Goertzen
      2012-04-21 02:04:06 UTC - 02:04 | Permalink

      Haha… I also laughed at the bit about kicking the book across the room!

      The post went up relatively late, when I already had a headache. I had to close one eye because it had become so photo-sensitive. But, damn it, I had been looking forward to reading what Carrier had to say about it (though I was pretty sure I knew what it would be…), and I was going to do just that!

      There was one bit that Carrier mentions–and I’ve asked him about it in the comments (aware that he won’t be back to read them for a while). Perhaps someone here knows. He makes reference to “Epiphanius, in Panarion 29, sa[ying that] there was a sect of still-Torah-observant Christians who taught that Jesus lived and died in the time of Jannaeus”. But I looked up Panarion 29 online and read the text. I couldn’t find any indication in this text that these “Natzraya” believed Jesus to have lived and died at a different time than was believed by other Christians.

      Does anyone have any insight into this?

      • 2012-04-21 06:40:17 UTC - 06:40 | Permalink

        “For at Christ’s arrival the rulers in succession from Judah came to an end. Until his time the rulers were anointed priests, but after his birth in Bethlehem of Judaea the order ended and changed with Alexander, a ruler of priestly and kingly stock. After Alexander this heritage from the time of Salina—also known as Alexandra—died out under King Herod and the Roman Emperor Augustus. (Though Alexander was crowned also, since he was one of the anointed priests and rulers. (Panarion 29:3:3–4).

        Alexander is Alexander Jannaeus (king of Judea 103–76 BCE and at the same time High Priest) and Salina, also known as Alexandra, must be his wife Salome Alexandra (139–67 BCE). I think Epiphanius connects Jesus to Alexander Jannaeus also in Panarion 78:7:5.

        • Jason Goertzen
          2012-04-21 06:48:48 UTC - 06:48 | Permalink

          Thank you! I (mis!)understood this passage to mean that Alexander was the last of the line of succession which died with Herod–right when Christ was born.

  • 2012-04-20 17:15:20 UTC - 17:15 | Permalink

    I really hope this debate takes off.

    • 2012-04-20 21:07:52 UTC - 21:07 | Permalink

      If I can ever find the time I would love to do a post comparing Albert Schweitzer’s responses to the mythicists of his day and Bart Ehrman’s effort. It will be like comparing a head of gold with feet of yellow clay and iron.

    • Jason Goertzen
      2012-04-21 03:46:17 UTC - 03:46 | Permalink

      I hope so too, but given Ehrman’s aloof attitude about it, I don’t hold out much expectation of him seriously engaging with the criticism of his work. He has already expressed his lack of surprise that mythicists are reacting negatively to his work, chalking it up to their stubbornness (from a facebook reply of his: “My experience is that NO argument is convincing to a mythicist, even one that is a slam dunk for everyone else. And so it goes….”).

      His fans are fawning over the work, encouraging him to ignore the foolish mythicists and their nonsensical arguments. Between this and the fact he presented this work as an annoying obstacle to getting on with the work he’s actually interested in doing, I’m sure he’s quite content to leave this work as a fire-and-forget weapon. He seems to think we are lucky he bothered to treat the subject at all, and he definitely thinks he has already done a thorough “slam dunk” job of refuting mythicism. He’s oblivious to just how inadequate a job he has done. So I don’t hold out much hope of any future serious effort on his part to engage the subject.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-21 05:18:11 UTC - 05:18 | Permalink

        It would be interesting to check if he’s ever going to read Richard Carrier’s review.

        My feeling is that Ehrman bit more than he could chew.
        
He became aware of current mythicism as the result of his blog readers, who started asking questions.
        He came soon to realize that the debate “Jesus: Myth of History” had become a new instant vogue, with all major religion authors publishing books, articles, videos, films.
And he didn’t want to be left out.
        
His problem was that he was confronting an issue he had never studied in depth, by contrast with writers who’ve devoted all their lives to the matter.
        
In addition, he had the especially bad luck to be confronted to a professional expert of Greco-Roman history like Richard Carrier, who has also devoted all his life to the subject.
        
So Ehrman took a fantastic risk, mostly out of self-confidence and sheer ignorance of the difficulties of producing real scholarship in such a complex field dotted with landmines in every direction.
        
There’s no way Ehrman could have tackled the subject of this book starting from scratch without a long preparation, at least 5 to 10 years. That’s the amount of time that major mythicists have devoted to their own preparation: G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty, Robert Price. Bruno Bauer had devoted 40 years to the question.

        Confidently believing that this could be brought to market as a rush job, be it an e-book or a hardcover, was sheer naivety.
        
His method became finessing tough issues with statements like “I don’t know of any scholar who does not think that…” or inventing imaginary written sources and oral traditions, or seeing indisputable evidence in a few Aramaic words. Carrier couldn’t let him get away with such superficial, casual, even amateurish stuff.


        Ehrman, if he had wanted to produce high-quality work, would have been more prudent to stick to what he’s been doing best, textual criticism of the NT, take a step back, give himself a couple of years for further in-depth preparation before embarking on a venture in terra incognita. Knowing that Carrier was soon due with his own book on the subject, it might have been wiser to wait until its publication.
 The extra books sales expected from coming to market as soon as possible did not justify the risk to his reputation.
 The spirit of warfare between both camps must have altered his judgment on his own abilities.
        In a way, I feel sorry for Ehrman, because of his demonstrated professionalism in his estabished domain, and because of the vicious backfire he’s had to endure as the price of his unjustified hyperconfidence.
        This is perhaps another case of academic hubris that has not been left unpunished.

        • Jason Goertzen
          2012-04-21 06:50:58 UTC - 06:50 | Permalink

          He’s already read the review. From his facebook: “Ha! That’s a good one. But apart from that, can we assume that he really liked the book? :-)”

          Then, more seriously, “Yes, I agree he deserves to be answered (though possibly with not the same kind of inflammatory rhetoric that he seems to prefer!) I will be dealing with his comments on my Blog — but not all at once.”

          Finally: ” What I would say from reading Carrier’s review is that it looks far more devastating when you see him summarize what I say than it would look if you saw (or remembered) exactly what I *did* say!!”

          The last, of course, is terribly ironic.

  • Henk..
    2012-04-20 18:41:36 UTC - 18:41 | Permalink

    Hang on..Is it really Bart Ehrman?? Does this one have a top sun tan, an excellent manicure and a really nice suit??

  • Pingback: Richard Carrier’s Review of Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? « Geoff's Blog

  • Bob Carlson
    2012-04-20 23:16:40 UTC - 23:16 | Permalink

    I recall that Ehrman was originally planning to publish DJE? only as an ebook. That seemed to hint at the possibility that the book would be a sort quickie as opposed to a thorough, careful effort. Evidently, the publication strategy changed because of the prospect of making more money without a change in the quality strategy. In other words, it would appear that the desire to make money on on the project appealed to Ehrman more than the desire to put forth a quality effort. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on his university or the students studying under him.

  • vorpal
    2012-04-21 04:52:41 UTC - 04:52 | Permalink

    In the long run (sadly, perhaps after they are dead) Price , Carrier , Zindler, Doherty ..etc. will go down as prescient and seminal thinkers in this area. I think they all know that this is the case and draw great comfort from it.

    If Bart chooses to leave no mark in the world of thought, I guess that’s his prerogative.

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-04-21 08:17:41 UTC - 08:17 | Permalink

    This is a monumental review: 10,500 words.

    Something else is worth noting: It’s the style in Richard Carrier’s striking essay.

    Its great merit is that every thought is clearly delineated, sharply put in focus. This text, in spite of its length, is never suffocating or confusing. Every sentence stands out and is immediately intelligible. This is an example of clear, logical writing, a sharp discussion of points and counter-arguments.
 Some might say even lawyer-like, too logical and analytical. As a result, this style may feel “dry” to many, and lacking feeling and facile emotionalism. Carrier does not pull his punches, calling a mistake, a mistake, and sparing no criticism when he feels it’s due.

    This style is not drowned in a lot of prolix prose that many writers on religion love to produce to embellish their sentences, make them sound more “literary” and contrived, with cute metaphors, or complex words, as if they were writing a novel or telling a story that has to be enriched with words.
    A lot of readers, especially newcomers to the field, are more attracted to pre-digested popularizations, and are not ready for precise scholarly discussions. They prefer a smooth novel-like style that creates excitement without forcing their brains to pay close attention to the thread of the demonstration. A lot of nonsense can be pushed that way on uninformed readers.
    Interestingly, Carrier mentions this more literary style about his book “Not the Impossible Faith,” written in “a deliberately colloquial [style] designed to be entertaining.” Many writers favor this “colloquial, entertaining” style, to remain attractive to their readers and get positive reviews valuable for marketing purposes.

    But to reach excellence in scholarly examination, Carrier points to stricter requirements:
    - a clear and focused style, closer to lawyer argumentation than novel-like prose, where the argument is immediately comprehensible and not disguised by embellishing rhetoric,
    - a large “extent and content of endnotes” to buttress references,
    - tough, uncompromising arguing,
    - close “attention to method and its logical soundness,”
    - and citing of a “diverse range of scholarship” (not just one or two favorite sources, while neglecting all different or opposite views).

    This review of Ehrman’s book is a good example of the merits of this demanding style.

  • Blood
    2012-04-21 11:58:53 UTC - 11:58 | Permalink

    Carrier’s review would have been more effective without the snarky comments and personal bile. Just state where Ehrman erred and let the reader decide would be a better tactic. Why does everything now have to immediately devolve to personal attacks? It doesn’t make for pleasant reading, that’s for sure.

  • 2012-04-21 12:14:14 UTC - 12:14 | Permalink

    “The Methodologically Absurd”

    Sophia will you marry me ?

    “Obviously” turning water into wine is the first miracle every seeker on the way must perform. Of course all sentient beings urinate however few transform the 2 chakra of blind endless passions into equanimity.

    Perhaps his- story is left brain and her-story is right brain dominate but history is brainless.

    Theodore,Theodore , the literal meaning must be suspended as the blindness of Philo caused Didymus to see an unspeakable mystery.

    Six water jugs and a tarot full of lover’s hugs for a wedding at Cana where kundalini becomes unplugged.

    Abraxa’s two tails
    cause indecision to wail.
    A mystery to see
    the serpent energy
    as the pineal gland
    dances with dmt.

    Alchemy is hidden for all to see, when one looks with symbology. For every letter that’s written has a number that’s been bitten by a shape that’s smitten……

    metta

  • mcduff
    2012-04-21 13:04:57 UTC - 13:04 | Permalink

    Flitting idly around the web a while ago I revisited the Journal of Higher Criticism and delved into Robert Price’s reviews including this one on “Luke Timothy Johnson. The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels.”

    http://depts.drew.edu/jhc/

    It struck me that it seems to describe much that has happened with Ehrman’s book.

    • Jer
      2012-04-22 05:14:18 UTC - 05:14 | Permalink

      I don’t think so, really, except in a more abstract way. Price’s criticism of Johnson is that Johnson knows better (when it comes to the construction of the Bible) but that his Christian faith won’t allow him to accept what his rational brain is telling him. That can’t be the excuse for Ehrman, who is an atheist (at least as far as Christianity and the Christian God goes) and who has already rejected that Scripture is anything but a human construction.

      In a more abstract way, I can see that Ehrman might be making every excuse he can to maintain the idea that there is a real historical person at the core of the religion because it’s been the basis of his scholarship and publications for most of his life. It’s a tough nut to swallow when you’re confronted with the idea that a good chunk of what you know about the world is, in fact, wrong. That’s similar to what Price is saying about Johnson, but in my mind much less defensible. Scholars are supposed to be able to take new ideas, study them objectively, and keep the wheat and discard the chaff. Ehrman’s book shows that as far as this topic is concerned, he’s not interested. He just wants to burn the field. To me that’s something that is excusable in a believer (because the worldview of a believer is not about empirical observation of the world and revision of a model based on evidence but instead on blind faith and logical justification of that faith were possible) but is completely inexcusable in a scholar – especially an atheist scholar who shouldn’t have the conflict of interest that a theist scholar has when studying this stuff.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-22 05:34:36 UTC - 05:34 | Permalink

        Jer:

        So true, Ehrman put himself in a bind. No way he could be impartial to his past and his reputation, and no way he could examine the question of mythicism in an objective, scholarly way. Carrier’s dismissal is justified. Bart Ehrman would have been better off not touching the subject, grazing in his own pasture, or waiting a few years, to see how the wind was blowing.

  • 2012-04-21 22:49:59 UTC - 22:49 | Permalink

    “The Methodologically Absurd”
    Act 2:

    When Mulla Nasruddin was asked how many stars there are in the sky he replied that it’s the same number as hairs on a donkeys tail, and if you don’t believe me just go and count them. Absurd logic however there is a method to this madness.

    Gone, gone to the wind
    the symbolism of a Gnostic’s
    grin

    The ouroboros does spin
    as literalism
    Clashes with kin

    Creatively imagining
    a past that be

    an endless exercise
    in futility

    Sisyphus bound
    all rock hounds
    as freedom flees
    all worded
    realities

    profess this
    study that
    then find it all
    under your hat

  • GakuseiDon
    2012-04-22 10:54:41 UTC - 10:54 | Permalink

    The Priapus Bronze In response to D.M. Murdock’s claim that there is a statue of a penis-nosed cockerel (which she says is a “symbol of St. Peter”) in the Vatican museum, Ehrman says that “there is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up” (p. 24). Ehrman evidently did no research on this and did not check this claim at all. Murdock quickly exposed this by providing numerous scholarly references, including actual photographs of the object

    So D.M. Murdock is correct and Ehrman is incorrect? There IS a penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or somewhere else? Because Carrier appears to agree with Ehrman here. If the statue of Priapus is not related to Christianity, what does it matter whether it exists or not? Why is Carrier suggesting that Ehrman should verify the existence of a statue that has nothing to do with Christianity? Carrier appears to be misreading Ehrman to claim that the statue of Priapus doesn’t exist. But Ehrman is precise about what he is claiming didn’t exist.

    The “No Records” Debacle I cannot believe he said this. How can he not know that we have thousands of these kinds of records?

    “These records” refers to “birth notices, trial records, death certificates or other standard kinds of records that one has today”.

    Carrier claims that Ehrman “really seems to think, or is misleading any lay reader to think, that (a) we don’t have any such records (when in fact we have many) and that (b) our not having them means Romans never kept them”.

    Does Ehrman state that Romans never kept such records in his DJE??? That is an extraordinary claim by Ehrman, or a very bad reading by Carrier.

    • Nikos Apostolakis
      2012-04-22 23:06:10 UTC - 23:06 | Permalink

      Here is the quotation:

      If Romans were careful record keepers, it is passing strange that we
      have no records, not only of Jesus but of nearly anyone who lived in
      the first century. We simply don’t have birth notices, trial
      records, death certificates—or other standard kinds of records that
      one has today. Freke and Gandy, of course, do not cite a single
      example of anyone else’s death warrant from the first century.

      DJE?, chapter 1, section about the Jesus Mysteries.

      It seems clear to me that Carrier’s interpretation is right. YMMV.

      • GakuseiDon
        2012-04-23 04:30:39 UTC - 04:30 | Permalink

        Nikos, thanks for that. Let me add the word “the” into Ehrman’s comment and remove the hyphen:

        “If Romans were careful record keepers, it is passing strange that we have no records, not only of Jesus but of nearly anyone who lived in the first century. We simply don’t have the birth notices, trial records, death certificates or other standard kinds of records that one has today. Freke and Gandy, of course, do not cite a single example of anyone else’s death warrant from the first century.”

        First, note that Ehrman writes “nearly anyone”, which implies we DO have records for SOME people. Second, Ehrman writes “WE simply don’t have” and not “THEY simply didn’t have”. Carrier reads Ehrman to be claiming that “our not having them means Romans never kept them”. Do you think Ehrman is claiming that the Romans never kept records?

    • KevinC
      2012-04-23 07:32:42 UTC - 07:32 | Permalink

      The problem is that Ehrman is denying the existence of the statue, rather than disputing Murdock’s interpretation of it. Carrier is careful enough to make that distinction in his blog post (the existence of the statue vs. the interpretation of it as a symbol of Peter), why can’t Ehrman be expected to be at least that careful in his book? If he wants to come out into the traces as the champion of the much-vaunted Scholarly Consensus, then he ought to be, well, you know, scholarly. If his approach to mythicism is “Bah! it’s crazy and stupid, I can’t be bothered to debate that shit!” then he shouldn’t have written his book. He should have left it to someone else willing to make the effort to produce a genuinely scholarly and accurate defense of the mainstream position.

      Carrier’s main point stands. If Ehrman can’t even get things like Carrier’s CV (when criticizing said CV as inadequate) or the title of Doherty’s book right, how can we trust his scholarship when he starts citing hypothetical manuscripts as things that we “have” and making other claims that laypeople can’t easily fact-check? The sloppiness of his work, which Carrier demonstrated rather abundantly, shows that he didn’t bother to put in the care and scholarship he did for his other works.

      Sure, you and McGrath can lawyer his words (“of Peter”) to try to patch things over, but the thing is, you shouldn’t have to. Ehrman is a noted scholar, representing the mainstream scholarly consensus. He has a responsibility to represent that position without doing such a hack job that people like you have to scramble to save his bacon instead of doing end-zone dances and clobbering mythicists with citations of his well-crafted and scholarly arguments. Given the hyperbolic confidence of historicists, plus the generally-assumed trustworthiness of a consensus of peer-reviewed scholarship (even Carrier points out in Proving History that the historicists have met their prima facie proof burden, and the burden of proof is now with the mythicists, and gives several arguments for why a scholarly consensus should be trusted), it should be the mythicists who are squirming right now.

      I was hoping that Ehrman was going to produce a powerful and well-written case for historicism so I could buy it and pit it against Carrier’s books and decide who had the better argument. I am currently agnostic leaning toward a “both-and” position (Christianity as a merger between followers of a historical Jesus and Hellenized Jewish mystics worshiping a spiritual Messiah/Divine Intermediary/Logos), and I would like to get access to the best arguments and evidence for both sides. I was hoping (heck, I think even Carrier was hoping) that Ehrman would step up to the plate and deliver for the historicist side. Instead, he’s hit himself with the bat, leaving fellow historicists like you and McGrath to say, “He meant to do that!”

      • GakuseiDon
        2012-04-23 08:29:32 UTC - 08:29 | Permalink

        KevinC: The problem is that Ehrman is denying the existence of the statue, rather than disputing Murdock’s interpretation of it.

        KevinC, can you quote Ehrman denying the existence of **the statue of Priapus**? Why should he care about the existence of a statue that has nothing to do with Christianity? Why should he contact the Vatican to see whether there exists a statue that, even if it exists, adds nothing to the topic under discussion any way?

        Ehrman’s response is that there are no “penis-nosed statues of Peter the cock” in the Vatican nor **anywhere in the world**. He is making a stronger claim than just Acharya S’s interpretation about this statue.

        It is an odd point for Carrier to start with in his “Error of facts” section. The fact is, Ehrman’s response is not an error.

        • KevinC
          2012-04-23 09:01:19 UTC - 09:01 | Permalink

          Murdock was able to respond to Ehrman by producing references to the statue and pictures of it, and say, in effect, “See? This is the statue I was talking about.” The question of whether it’s a statue “of Priapus” or “of Peter the Cock” is the issue of interpretation, not the existence of the statue in question. Why couldn’t Ehrman, the mighty scholar, be at least as clear as you are and say, like you did, “Who cares if there’s a statue of Priapus in the Vatican? It’s not a statue of Peter!”? He accused Murdock of making up the statue, rather than making up a lousy interpretation of what it represents. That’s his error. Because he couldn’t trouble himself to be as clear and accurate as you and Carrier are in internet posts, he gave Murdock the chance to post pictures of the statue and make him look like a fool. So now her devotees are (metaphorically) dancing in the streets and people like you are having to lawyer Ehrman’s words to try and patch his case up for him. If he had been as clear as you and Carrier are in posts on the internet, he could have rammed home the evidence against her interpretation and left her with no easy ‘gotcha!’ to respond with.

          I don’t know if you have scholarly credentials or not, but if you do, could you please do us all a favor and write the book Ehrman should have?

          • GakuseiDon
            2012-04-23 10:08:46 UTC - 10:08 | Permalink

            KevinC, can you quote Ehrman denying the existence of **the statue of Priapus** please?

            • KevinC
              2012-04-23 12:16:57 UTC - 12:16 | Permalink

              GDon, you’re lawyering. Murdock was talking about a particular statue in the Vatican. Ehrman said she made it up. She produced pictures. I know this isn’t difficult for you to understand. You have to deliberately avoid understanding, solely to retcon Ehrman’s ham-fisted “scholarship” to be something better than it is. My key point is, you shouldn’t have to do this. He should have either ignored Murdock as beneath his concern (with maybe a huff and a puff and a harrumph of dismissal), or, choosing to engage her claims, he should have done so with real scholarship to provide an unequivocal demonstration of why she’s wrong. Instead, he chose to write his book half-assed, full of hyperbolic claims of certainty, and howling errors, forcing people like you to come along and put lipstick on the pig. He’s Bart Freaking Ehrman. He shouldn’t have produced a pig to begin with.

  • 2012-04-22 16:14:48 UTC - 16:14 | Permalink

    Master caviller GDon at his pettifogging best again. Yes, GDon, we can draw attention to the words “of Peter” slipped unobtrusively into Bart’s sentence and by this means remove ourselves from that annoying matter of the rhetorical message of a larger paragraph. Of course any lay reader of this book who knows no better will assume Ehrman is saying no such statue exists. Period. Only the learned astute who need all of Ehrman’s errors and oversights and misquotation to be mere “imprecisions” would notice that these two words were ‘really’ the primary focus of all that Ehrman was intending to convey.

    And no, Mr Caviller, Ehrman does not say specifically that the Romans kept no such records. He only wrote something to debunk this claim: “The Romans were “renowned for keeping careful records . . . ” What he says is to inform readers that Carrier’s claim is false. So he says “IF the Romans” really were so carefully keeping such records, “IT IS PASSING STRANGE THAT WE HAVE NO SUCH RECORDS”. If your excuse for Ehrman were correct, GDon, Ehrman would have said it is NOT passing strange that we have no such records. Clearly Ehrman is ignorant of the facts and is spreading his ignorance among his readers.

    This is nothing but typical pettifogging by GDon in a desperate effort to salvage Ehrman’s book as containing nothing worse than a few “imprecisions”.

    • GakuseiDon
      2012-04-23 04:23:32 UTC - 04:23 | Permalink

      Neil, this is not “a desperate effort to salvage Ehrman’s book”. Where Ehrman is wrong, Carrier should point that out. Where Carrier is wrong, let’s point that out as well. In both items I brought up, it needs to be kept in mind that Ehrman is responding to comments made by mythicists Acharya S and Freke & Gandy (respectively). The first one relates to comments made about a statue that appears to link Peter with the statue of Priapus. The second one is in response to the comments that the Romans were “careful record keepers” so it is strange that we don’t have any Roman records about Jesus.

      The statue is the “Error of fact” that Carrier leads with in that section. But Ehrman’s statement “there is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else” is precisely correct. Carrier writes that Ehrman should have contacted the Vatican to see if the statue referred to by Murdock exists or not. But once he confirmed its existence, what then? He would still be left with a statue that wasn’t of Peter, something Carrier himself agrees is the case. So why care? The bottom line is that there is no such statue of Peter, the very comment that Ehrman makes.

      On keeping records, Carrier reads Ehrman to claim that “Romans never kept them”. Ehrman, a textual scholar, is claiming that the Romans never kept records! Quite incredible. But Ehrman response to the claim that we should have records of Jesus is that the Romans were not “the careful record keepers” that kept the “standard kinds of records that one has today”. I suppose one could argue that the Romans WERE the careful record keepers that kept the standard kinds of records that one has today, since Ehrman highlights birth certificates, trial records, etc; but Ehrman is clearly responding to a broader claim of comparitive record keeping between Roman times and ours. Arguably more records are kept in modern times!

      Carrier writes on p.5 of his book, “Sense and goodness without God”:

      “I ask that my work be approached with the same intellectual charity that would be applied to anyone else… ordinary language is necessarily ambiguous and open to many interpretations. If what I say anywhere in this book appears to contradict, directly or indirectly, something else I say here, the principle of interpretive charity should be applied: assume you are misreading the meaning of what I said in each or either case. Whatever interpretation would eliminate the contradiction and produce agreement is probably correct.”

      I think that those two items, using intellectual charity, aren’t “Errors of fact”. Ehrman apparently blew off Carrier’s response as misrepresenting what he actually wrote. Hopefully he will respond to Carrier’s review at some time. I honestly can’t see him confirming Carrier’s reading that Ehrman is claiming “our not having [Roman records] means Romans never kept them”.

      Finally: Neil, why these little digs: “Pettifogging”? “Mr. Caviller”? What is being accomplished? I advised Doherty on FRDB to let his evidence stand for itself, rather than give Ehrman “the treatment”. He declined my advice. That’s unfortunate, since little digs can only escalate bad feeling and distract from actual arguments. We can disagree, without it meaning anything else other than disagreement. Let’s let the evidence speak for itself!

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-23 05:40:23 UTC - 05:40 | Permalink

        This is a total distortion of the reality of human thinking.
        GakuseiDon is assuming that emotions don’t play a part in human inter-reactions. We are not logical robots, nor computers. The evidence will never “speak for itself”, it always needs a speaker, and in religion interpretations, this speaker comes along with very strong emotions. No way to erase the emotional dimension, especially on a subject dripping with emotional connotations. GakuseiDon is dreaming of some celestial sphere of pure rationality, where no scholar ever lived. Again Daniel Kahneman presents a more realistic picture. Reason never imposes itself naked, it always comes on a background of faith and emotions.
        The owl of Athena takes off on her flight only at dusk, after the sounds and fury of the day’s battles have had their play.

        • GakuseiDon
          2012-04-23 08:17:51 UTC - 08:17 | Permalink

          Roo: GakuseiDon is assuming that emotions don’t play a part in human inter-reactions.

          Roo, they are fine for blogs and such. But emotions shouldn’t play a part in [i]scholarly[/i] interactions. Let the evidence speak for itself.

          • ROO BOOKAROO
            2012-04-23 08:26:52 UTC - 08:26 | Permalink

            Where does the “shouldn’t” come from? Whose diktat? No bias? No preference? No weighing of realities?
            A useless wish, as emotions can’t be eradicated. Any brain is anchored to reality through emotions. No way to plane in the pure sky of ideas. No scholar lives there.
            Try Bayes’s theorem. As soon as you attribute a probability, you’re anchoring your judgment on emotions. No way to escape them.

            • KevinC
              2012-04-23 09:13:45 UTC - 09:13 | Permalink

              No, emotions and biases can’t be eradicated, but we can work to compensate for them. That’s why we invent tools like peer review and Bayes’ Theorem, and set up scholarly and scientific communities to encourage criticism of differing viewpoints. It’s the whole point of having scholarly and scientific methodologies in the first place. No, such methods don’t “eliminate emotion,” but they do work fairly well to channel a bunch of poo-flinging, status-seeking, souped-up savannah primates to converge on more accurate understandings of reality. The methods aren’t perfect, and they do not represent “planing in a pure sky of ideas,” but they work well most of the time.

              • ROO BOOKAROO
                2012-04-23 09:29:48 UTC - 09:29 | Permalink

                To me, this sounds much more realistic than GakuseiDon’s Platonic dreams.
                And I like your prose much better, too.

                After reading this kind of motto for imperturbable scholarly discussion, nothing is more entertaining than reading Dorothy Murdock/Acharya’s interactions with her critics. She is at her best when giving vent to her outbursts of disgust at her opponents. Some of her passages are anthology pieces on the value of emotions in defending ideas.

  • tarheelballer
    2012-04-23 10:42:48 UTC - 10:42 | Permalink

    In case you all aren’t aware, Bart Ehrman is planning on posting a reply to Carrier’s review on his blog in the near future. There may also be a debate between Ehrman and a yet to be named opponent. Hopefully that will indeed happen

  • GakuseiDon
    2012-04-23 12:38:27 UTC - 12:38 | Permalink

    Ehrman responds to Carrier’s criticism of the Priapus statue on his blog here:
    http://ehrmanblog.org/acharya-s-richard-carrier-and-a-cocky-peter-or-a-cock-and-bull-story/

    • 2012-04-23 16:41:38 UTC - 16:41 | Permalink

      It appears Ehrman is claiming he does not need to read Archarya carefully before slandering her.

      He insinuated she drew a picture of a statue, which was a lie, and is now hiding behind the fact that he also lied about what it was a statue of. Archarya said a rooster (an American euphemism for the word cock) was a symbol of St. Peter.

      Has Ehrman actually apologised for insinuating that Archarya drew the picture herself?

      • 2012-04-23 17:00:36 UTC - 17:00 | Permalink

        EHRMAN
        What Carrier wants us to know is that in fact this statue does exist and that it is in the Vatican. It does not take much research to dig out this juicy bit of museum lore. Acharya S herself gives the references in her footnotes. And yes, they are both right. The statue does appear to exist.

        CARR
        It is took so little research, and Acharya gave the reference herself to see that there really was the statue, pictured in the book why in the name of all that is good did Ehrman begin to think that Acharya had drawn the picture of the statue herself?

        How could he have thought that when it too so little research to see that the statue ‘does appear’ (ahem) to exist?

        How?

        • 2012-04-23 17:14:01 UTC - 17:14 | Permalink

          I’m reminded of Lionel Hutz of the surprise he expressed when he finally actually took the trouble to read what was in a book he was supposed to know: “How about that! I looked something up! These books behind me don’t just make the office look good, they’re filled with useful legal tidbits just like that!”

      • 2012-04-23 17:07:04 UTC - 17:07 | Permalink

        Whether it is to defend Ehrman or attack Doherty GakuseiDon is the master of cavil and drawing readers’ attention away from the clearest context.

        Here is Ehrman’s passage in full:

        “‘Peter’ is not only ‘the rock’ but also ‘the cock,’ or penis, as the word is used as slang to this day.” Here Acharya shows (her own?) hand drawing of a man with a rooster head but with a large erect penis instead of a nose, with this description: “Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasure of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter” (295). [There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up.]

        The meaning for the everyday reader is clear: Ehrman is accusing Acharya of making up the existence of a statue, a statue that happens to be associated with Peter. Anyone reading that would understand this is what Ehrman is saying — that the statue itself that is identified by Acharya as representative of Peter is what was made up.

        How many readers (let’s be honest — “fans” is what Ehrman himself calls them) are going to be alert enough to see the technical possibility of another interpretation of Ehrman’s words? They are reading Ehrman as their authority and Ehrman must know as well as anyone that the tone of a book, the message of its rhetoric, is what readers will understand.

        I am not at all impressed with Ehrman’s explanation. It was meant for lawyers.

        I find it appalling that Ehrman goes to the trouble to point out that he was not at all insulting towards Carrier or Price, and indicates that the reason is they are both scholars. So if someone is not a scholar Ehrman does not appear to believe they are worthy of the same personal respect.

        GDon’s attempt to explain Ehrman’s “imprecision” (McGrath’s term for Ehrman’s errors) over the Romans being great record keepers also failed to address the context and rhetorical message of what Ehrman said: If Carrier’s claim was true, “It is passing strange”, he said, that we don’t have these records surviving today. “It is passing strange” says it all.

        GDon wants to use as a defence the same logic Ehrman uses to attack Salm’s book. Ehrman, GDon points out, doesn’t actually say the Roman records did not exist or that there were no records. That’s his defence. Ehrman says Salm points out the evidence for the settlement of Nazareth before the time of Jesus and after the time of Jesus but “that does not mean there was no settlement” — the lack of evidence does not actually say that there was no settlement.

        I see that Ehrman says he will address other criticisms to those who pay to join his blog. I asked him what his sources were for claims about mythicist arguments I never knew any mythicist made, and to explain his misquotation of Doherty and his reasons for saying Doherty argued things he did not. No reply even though at the same time I sent those questions he twice replied to my questions about whether he really read the books, and did really read all of “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man”, too.

        • GakuseiDon
          2012-04-23 18:53:12 UTC - 18:53 | Permalink

          Neil, Acharya S’s defence is that she was only claiming that the rooster (non-penis nosed!) was the symbol of Peter. But if that is the case, why does she spend so much time talking about the connection of Peter with “penis” and then show a **a penis-nosed rooster statue** with the words “symbol of St Peter”, instead of just a regular rooster statue with the words “symbol of St Peter”?

          • 2012-04-23 19:10:47 UTC - 19:10 | Permalink

            That is up to her. As Carrier points out , her interpretation is shall we say unlikely.

            Still, Ehrman looked at the references Acharya gave, read them carefully, concluded that the statue existed, saw (and quoted) that she had described a rooster as a symbol of Peter, not that the statue was Peter himself.

            And then said she drew it herself and lambasted her claim that it was a statue of Peter.

            If Ehrman knew all along that the statue existed, why in the name of God did he claim that she drew it herself?

            • Nikos Apostolakis
              2012-04-23 19:31:28 UTC - 19:31 | Permalink

              I agree with the gist of this, but for the sake of clarity, Ehrman didn’t claim that she drew it herself. At best he insinuated that she did, by wondering whether she drew it herself.

              Of course your point still stands.

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-04-23 20:30:45 UTC - 20:30 | Permalink

                Ehrman claimed “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else”. And he is right! I know that Carrier reads him to say that it is the statue that Acharya S referred to doesn’t exist, but that’s not what Ehrman wrote. What he wrote is correct.

                Ehrman repeats his comment several times in his blog (link above). Ehrman writes:

                “My comment on this entire discussion was simple and direct: “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up.”

                “Carrier attacks my comments with a rather vicious set of comments: “Ehrman evidently did no research on this and did not check this claim at all…. Indicative of the carelessness and arrogance Ehrman exhibits in his book.” But alas, I am unrepentant and will say it again: “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican.”…

                “… And so my offhand statement about this particular one was that the Vatican does not have a statue of Peter as rooster with a hard cock for his nose. Carrier’s response was that the statue does exist. Let me put the question to him bluntly: Does he think that the Vatican has “a penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock” in its collection? I think we can say with some assurance that the answer is no.”

                There is little doubt that Ehrman’s comment as expressed is correct. There is little doubt that Ehrman has stated he meant what he said. He repeated it three times in his response to Carrier! I don’t know why this is not enough to close the matter on what Ehrman meant. He tells us himself.

                Neil Godfrey, if you think Ehrman is a liar, call him a liar. Because he meant what he wrote, or he is a liar.

              • 2012-04-23 20:40:58 UTC - 20:40 | Permalink

                So Ehrman knew the statue existed, accused Archaya of drawing it herself (why?, when he knew it existed) swapped out her clear statement that he himself quoted that a rooster was a SYMBOL of Peter, not Peter himself, so he could claim she was making things up by saying it was a statue of Peter.

                When she never said it was.

                And GDon defends this…..

                Choose another battle……

              • 2012-04-23 20:47:59 UTC - 20:47 | Permalink

                Bart says the statue ‘does appear’ to exist,

                He is just too honest to claim that he knew it existed when he wrote the book. He will never say that.

              • 2012-04-23 23:42:48 UTC - 23:42 | Permalink

                I posted a comment on Bart Ehrman’s blog asking why anybody would research and find out the statue existed, just as depicted in Acharya’s book and then insinuate that she had drawn it herself.

                The post has not made it through moderation….

              • 2012-04-24 11:47:13 UTC - 11:47 | Permalink

                What is the address you used for his blog? I did post questions for it, too, and have not been back to see if they made it through moderation, but I can’t see where the public blog is on http://ehrmanblog.org/ — I am sure there was some other address but have forgotten it.

                (Why would I pay to join his blog if I cannot be sure any of my questions would make it through moderation there, and when I’d rather put my resources in charities serving communities closer to my home than in America?)

              • 2012-04-24 00:05:51 UTC - 00:05 | Permalink

                Come on Don, you know Acharya just drew the picture herself! Why not come out and say so? Bart insinuated it. Don’t you have the courage to say it out loud? Why all the coyness?

                We all know Bart carefully checked all the footnotes and references Acharya gave (cause he is a scholar, innit?) and then felt free to insinuate that she drew it herself.

                He even quoted her claiming a rooster was a symbol of Peter (which it is ) and then switched out that word and switched in a claim that she had said the statue was Peter himself.

                Not only did Ehrman never manage to find a quote by Acharya , saying it was Peter himself, but you now claim that Ehrman’s inability to find any evidence of her doing so is because she is ‘backtracking’.

                Keep it up. There must be a bit of your reputation that is not in tatters. I reckon you could do the rest of your reputation in less than a day if you try hard.

              • 2012-04-24 12:00:59 UTC - 12:00 | Permalink

                I have asked Bart Ehrman several times to explain a number of claims of his that I pointed out to him contradict the actual evidence or for which I knew of no supporting evidence, asking him to clarify and explain. But he simply does not reply to those questions (he does reply if I ask him if he read the whole of “Jesus Neither God Nor Man”, though,but not when I ask him how he came to misquote it or how he came to say Doherty says what he does not say.) I just think this is the sort of thing that happens when one reads with hostile intent or if one is so bound in one perspective that all one can do when encountering other ideas is look like you’ve hit a rock and simply say “That’s not how we see or understand it. Here’s how we see it. . . .” And if the person is a scholar he will address him like a gentleman. But if the person is not, then he will apply another standard. Ehrman says he found reading the books a painful exercise. I expect he was not able to maintain full concentration or seriously read very much of what he hated and found painful. Schweitzer does not give the impression he found reading mythicist books “painful”. I wonder why.

                I don’t care what Ehrman is or what his motives are. He’s disappointed a lot of people who really had expected a far more honest response from him than they found in this book. No-one expected him to agree with mythicism. Nor did anyone expect him to write something that fell so far short of the sort of treatment Schweitzer or even Goguel were able to produce in their day.

              • 2012-10-22 10:06:43 UTC - 10:06 | Permalink

                I think if we are disappointed with Ehrman, it is only because we were hoping there was a serious case for an historical Jesus to be made.
                Ehrman did about as well as anyone could. It is kind of like criticizing a magician for not performing real magic. “Hey, but you said you really going to pull a real rabbit out of your hat, how come there still a false compartment in your hat for a rabbit?”

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-04-23 17:11:13 UTC - 17:11 | Permalink

    BART EHRMAN TOTALLY JUSTIFIED IN THE “PRIAPUS GALLINACEUS” IMBROGLIO

    The highlight of the reviews of Bart Ehrman’s new book, “Did Jesus Exist” must be the entertaining controversy surrounding the bronze statue of the Priapus Gallinaceus, bearing on its base the inscription SOTER KOSMOU, Savior of the World, allegedly hidden in the deep recesses of the Vatican.

    
It is also indicative of a certain way of using quotes to support a slanted conclusion.
    We have the blogs of the three parties
    
1. Full description on Dorothy Murdock’s blog: The phallic ‘Savior of the World’ hidden in the Vatican

    2. The paragraph “the Priapus bronze” in Richard Carrier’s hard-hitting review: Ehrman on Jesus: A Failure of Facts and Logic | Richard Carrier Blogs
    
3. And Bart Ehrman’s response to Carrier’s critic: Acharya S, Richard Carrier, and a Cocky Peter (Or: “A Cock and Bull Story”) « Christianity in Antiquity (CIA): The Bart Ehrman Blog

    This looks a bit like a tempest in a teapot. Murdock, posing as the aggrieved party, intimated that she could sue Ehrman for libel, accusing her of making up the story of the Gallinaceus statue.

    Ehrman did write: “Here Acharya shows (her own?) hand drawing of a man with a rooster head but with a large erect penis instead of a nose, with this description: “Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasure of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter”. There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up.”

    Carrier immediately lambasted Ehrman for not having conducted a scholarly research before jumping to the conclusion that the bronze did not exist and the story made up by Murdock.

    Murdock, for her part, produces a long essay replete with quotations, references and one additional picture of another “priapus gallinaceus”, (which is not really the identical twin of the drawing shown first, but a less striking variation), proving that a multitude of books have mentioned the existence of the famous gallinaceus in the Vatican, hence that the story of the bronze was not invented by her.

    Ehrman calmly retorts that his claim that “ There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else” stands true.

    The problem results from the caption created by Murdock, a consummate creative writer, saying “Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter. Inscription reads “Savior of the World.”

    And, as an impeccable scholar, she shows her reference, straight from Barbara G. Walker’s great book, “The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects”. Walker has been Murdock’s mentor in matters of mythology, religions, and feminism. Her other book, “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets” is often quoted by Murdock as a major source.
 And the critical description of “the bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican of the Cock, symbol of St Peter” comes straight from Walker. Murdock, following Walker, got dragged into this imbroglio, and was stuck with the need to defend the “symbol of Peter” description.

    Ehrman remains adamant: “SOTER KOSMOU” was never applicable to Peter. This statue has nothing to do with Peter, or Jesus, or Christianity. It is irrelevant to the discussion of the origins of Christianity or the existence of Jesus.

    But Murdock, a veteran fighter, embarks on a tight disputation, using the kind of far-fetched etymology that delights Barbara Walker, and already practiced by Godfrey Higgins in Anacalypsis. “ “Peter” is not only “the rock” but also “the cock” or penis, as the word is used as slang to this day. As Walker says, “The cock was also a symbol of Saint Peter, whose name also meant a phallus or male principle (pater) and a phallic pillar (petra). Therefore, the cock’s image was often placed atop church towers.” This is what Walker does a lot in her far-out derivations in comparative mythology and religions.

    But this does not show if English slang (Peter = rock = cock = penis) is also reflected in ancient Greek usage or Latin usage. Walker is a master of such linguistic legerdemain, and Murdock her skilled disciple.

    And see how this nice derivation puts the cock on top of church steeples as a symbol of St Peter. The justification of making the cock the symbol of Peter is a the passage of the denial of Peter in Matthew 26:
    “Jesus Says That Peter Will Fail
 31 Jesus told them, “This very night you will all turn away because of me. It is written that the Lord said, ” ‘I will strike the shepherd down.      Then the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ —(Zechariah 13:7) 32 But after I rise from the dead, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”  33 Peter replied, “All the others may turn away because of you. But I never will.”  34 “What I’m about to tell you is true,” Jesus answered. “It will happen this very night. Before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you don’t know me.”  35 But Peter said, “I may have to die with you. But I will never say I don’t know you.” And all the other disciples said the same thing.”

    Then Murdock displays her deep erudition. She has access to the immense collection of old books amassed by Barbara Walker for her two huge encyclopedias. She describes consulting her books for the right quotes in her library as if leading a crew in some Indiana Jones enterprise : “Doing our scholarly due diligence,…Continuing the hunt,…Tracing the image…we discover..Here we learn…Continuing our search,…”. Eureka! She finds the bronze, no, many bronzes!

    One source, Knight (1865), affirms that the head of the cock in the “celebrated bronze” is the emblem of the sun, conflated with the penis as “the generative power of Eros whose center is the sun”. No trace of any Peter there.
    
Williams only mentions “the relationship of cock and phallus”. 

    Lang (1994): “It is possibly of Gnostic import”. 

    The book “Public Characters of 1803-1804” adds that “…of a date much more remote antiquity than the birth of Christ”.
    
In De la Chaussee’s Romanum Museum,” (1692), a cute Latin quote confirms that “Gallum Soli sacram avem diximus”, the cock is the sacred bird of the sun, which is the source of the generating power of the penis.
    
Conyers Middleton says the same thing in Latin: “Gallum scilicet, avem Soli sacram esse; solemque generatricis facultatis praesidem” and adding a cute reference to old Aristotle.

    Otto Augustus Wall adds something new: “…a bronze figure of Priapus…was found in an ancient Greek temple”. No mention of when and where.

    A study published at Northern Kentucky University provides some more information: “…exhibited for a time in the 17th and 18th centuries”…one offended cardinal requested that the object be removed”.

    In short, none of those references mentions any connection with Peter. The bronze could be dated to the Hellenistic period B.C., or it could be a modern copy that appeared some time after the Renaissance, to ridicule the Christian cult.
    Ehrman, unrepentant, is entirely justified to claim that this bronze has nothing to do with Peter or Christianity, and can be in no way “a symbol of Peter.” And so his accusation stands: “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up”.

    Carrier simply did not pay close enough attention to Ehrman’s wording. Ehrman is an old pro at textual criticism: “careful reading can solve a lot of problems of misunderstanding.” He concludes “I, frankly, did not realize that this was supposed to be a contest between the two of us, and am not interested in the question of who wins. 

    To protect herself, Murdock is now backtracking: “Note that I do not say here or elsewhere that the bronze sculpture itself is a symbol of St. Peter, but only the cock or rooster, as in the story of Matthew 26:34, etc., in which Peter denies Christ three times before the cock crows. In several places elsewhere in my book I provide the citation for the cock/rooster being a symbol of St. Peter. I apologize for the ambiguity, but I was not in error here, despite the constant attempts to make me appear as such.”

    Some of Murdock’s supporters, coming to the rescue of the damsel in distress, are now clamoring for “apologies”, a usual happening in her disputes.
    Murdock ends with her habitual lachrymose complaint about her crtics:” It is unfortunate when other scholars engage in libelous accusation and gross misrepresentation, of which there are a number of other instances in Ehrman’s book vis-à-vis my work.” 


    Ehrman knows also something about “gross misrepresentations.” Which is why Murdock’s lawsuit could be a very interesting affair for the spectators to this dispute, making this circus show even more complete.


    • 2012-04-23 17:29:49 UTC - 17:29 | Permalink

      It really isn’t hard to find Christians, even today, using a rooster (an American euphemism to avoid saying the word cockerel) as a symbol for St, Peter.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-23 18:16:59 UTC - 18:16 | Permalink

        It matters not. In this item, Ehrman is totally justified. He may be wrong in other places, but, as Carrier himself pointed out, it does not mean that he is wrong in everything. Here, I feel that the controversy goes his way. Never mind the confused idea the average reader may conceive. The object of this debate is not for the average reader, only the presentation of it.

        The bronze object has nothing to do with Peter, with Jesus or with Christianity.
        It is something that Barbara Walker, a world expert in knitting, dug out from her collection of old books when putting together her Dictionary and her Encyclopedia of oddities in spiritual matters.
        Murdock is simply gleaning the fruits of this collecting, and is stuck with Walker’s original and bizarre connotations.

        Nobody in his right mind would use the information in those books without double or triple checking, or better, not touch it with a 20′ pole. To study the history of comparative mythology and religions with this kind of intuitive, fanciful word connections is absurd, for anybody who’s done any graduate work. No committee in the history department at Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge would ever accept this kind of rigmarole. it’s fun to discuss this kind of presentation here on this blog as a free examination of all the angles, but those folk-etymological derivations, popular and fun as they are, still have no objective value of any kind. We are not in a cult, all having to reflect the same degree of understanding. In spite of many wishes, atheism or mythicism are not communities, or brotherhoods. Murdock wishes it were so, but it won’t happen, ever. Why do we have to swallow nonsense?
        And there even was somebody on this blog who claimed that emotions don’t play a part in discussions!

        Go and visit Murdock’s blog and see the kind of people she writes for and who delight in this kind of pseudo-analysis and mythology-fiction. It’s nearly back to the age of magic and alchemy in a modern style.

        I’m always reminded of the lines of Jerome, who was thinking and speaking much more clearly than many of us: “Assurance often explains that of which it knows nothing; and when it has convinced others imposes on itself. My teacher, Gregory of Nazianzus, when I once asked him to explain Luke’s phrase σάββατον δευτερόπρωτον , that is “the second-first Sabbath,” playfully evaded my request saying: “I will tell you about it in church, and there, when all the people applaud me, you will be forced against your will to know what you do not know at all. For, if you alone remain silent, every one will put you down for a fool.” There is nothing so easy as by sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation: such most admire what they fail to understand.” (Letter To Nepotian, 52-8)

        • 2012-04-23 18:28:28 UTC - 18:28 | Permalink

          ‘In this item, Ehrman is totally justified. ‘

          You mean Ehrman was totally justified in reading Murdock’s book, doing the research, checking her footnotes, finding out that there is a statue, and claiming that she drew it herself.

        • 2012-04-24 11:35:53 UTC - 11:35 | Permalink

          Never mind the confused idea the average reader may conceive. The object of this debate is not for the average reader, only the presentation of it.

          What the average reader may conceive is exactly what I see is the point of the criticism. Ehrman is writing for the average readership who are looking to be assured the mythicists are wrong. Educated people like Ehrman know how to be careful with their words and the impression they are likely to convey. Ehrman has been careless with the facts here. His innuendo is clear: Acharya made up the whole thing. The average reader is swept along by context, rhetoric, the tone of the words. Acharya is depicted as a fraud who makes up things. Ehrman could quite easily have said that there was no reason to think that the statue was originally or ever officially attributed to Peter, but he did not say that. He created a quite different impression.

          If this were the only fault in Ehrman’s book no-one would care and I’d be willing to cut him all the slack in the world. But as Carrier points out, it’s one pebble in a very large pattern.

    • GakuseiDon
      2012-04-23 23:56:06 UTC - 23:56 | Permalink

      “To protect herself, Murdock is now backtracking: “Note that I do not say here or elsewhere that the bronze sculpture itself is a symbol of St. Peter, but only the cock or rooster, as in the story of Matthew 26:34, etc., in which Peter denies Christ three times before the cock crows.”

      That’s a good point. She is definitely backtracking. What I wonder is, if she only meant to demonstrate that the rooster as a symbol of Peter — why use the **penis-nosed** rooster head statue? Were there no regular statues of roosters that she could have used as a symbol of Peter? Very strange indeed.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-24 02:52:32 UTC - 02:52 | Permalink

        GakuseiDon:

        Murdock is doing this kind of backpedaling often. She advances a far-out statement, then piles up a ton of citations to corroborate the idea. Then, after enduring the volley of criticisms that denounce the validity of a citation, or the incongruity of her hypothesis, she will answer: Ah, but it’s not her doing, it’s kersey Graves, it’s Massey, it’s professor so and so, she, Murdock, is only the quoter, the retriever of citations from other people.
        Carrier has noted that Murdock likes to use this response technique, and he has insisted on her bearing the absolute responsibility of her quotes. He outlined, among the major requirements of sound methodology of scholarship, that any quotation used as support by a writer is de facto meant as being endorsed by the writer and its validity accepted by him or her. It’s an essential principle of citation.

        Or Murdock will backtrack on the meaning of the quotation itself. As Carrier explains: ” She then does this a lot, citing this or that Egyptologist saying one thing (with which I have never disagreed), then claiming it means what she says, but the quote doesn’t say that. You can’t cite an authority as affirming x, by quoting them saying y. Indeed, you shouldn’t even want to.” (“That Luxor Thing Again”).

        Here, in “The Christ Conspiracy,” the quotation is the global story of the “priapus gallinaceus” bronze with its whole commentary, that comes straight out of Barbara Walker’s Dictionary. The discussion is not between Murdock and Ehrman, but between Barbara Walker, as the originator of the story and its meaning, and Ehrman who denies the imputed meaning: This bronze figure is meant to be the symbol of Peter, and he objects, claiming that no, there is no such bronze representing or being the symbol of Peter.
        Murdock here is only the conduit, the messenger, the scribe who copies and reproduces.
        Then, only then, when it later comes to defense, does Murdock intervene to save face and re-enters the discussion herself: Ah no, we didn’t mean the whole bronze, only the cock portion as being the symbol of Peter. And then “I apologize for the ambiguity, but I was not in error here”.

        But when you go back to the text, you go back to the caption, it reads clear as daylight that the whole thing is meant as “a symbol of Peter”. And Ehrman has no qualms denouncing this impossible claim.

        As all the other six sources retrieved by Murdock plainly explain: the cock is the symbol of the sun rising in the morning, and the sun is the source of all vitality and generation of the universe. This is in fact very close to the belief of Akhenaten and his Sun-God Aten, the source of all creativity and existence. The inscription SOTER KOSMOU is pure Aten worship.
        And among humans, so is the erect penis, hence the amusing conflation of both figures, and the creation of the priapus rooster.

        Injecting Peter in this picture is pure fantasy, as well as the folk etymology invoked to support it.
        And finding a “regular statue of roosters that she could have used as a symbol of Peter?” was never in consideration, because the fun and shock value (against Christians) were in borrowing Barbara Walker’s retrieved oddity. The rooster alone was boring and inconsequential. No “SOTER KOSMOU” in a simple rooster.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-25 00:11:51 UTC - 00:11 | Permalink

        BEWARE THE PHONY FOLK PSEUDO-HISTORY PEDDLED BY BARBARA WALKER TO THE NAIVE AND IGNORANT.

        Not only is there no bronze statue of a “Priapus Gallinaceus” symbol of Peter inscribed with SOTER KOSMOU, but the cock itself is not as such “a symbol of Peter”.

        The brave editors of Wikipedia try their best by indicating that “In the 9th century the Pope issued an edict that all churches must show the symbol of a cock on its dome or steeple, as a symbol of Jesus’ prophecy of Peter’s betrayal (Luke 22:34)…. Many churches started using this symbol on its weathervanes.”. However they provide no mention of name of Pope, of date of Edict, and give no source of this dubious information.
        In fact, a search of European sources for this famous “Edict” comes up empty. Wikipedia is not above providing its share of dubious historical data. There’s no identification I could trace for the source of this medieval legend.
        It is noted that the first cock appeared on a church in Brescia, Italy, in the 9th century. But there are no cocks in the South of Italy or in the Near East.

        Among various books consulted, a good one seems to be “Observations on Popular Antiquities, Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of Our Vulgar Customs, Ceremonies and Superstitions, by John Brand, M.A., Revised and Enlarged by Sir Henry Ellis, Principal Librarian of the British Museum” (London, Charles Knight & Co, 1841). This book benefited from access to the largest library in the world at that time. It offers historical information of immeasurably superior quality than anything the knitting expert can offer.

        The book devotes five densely packed pages to Cock-crowing (p. 31-35) and a few more to Cock-Fighting. The main feature attached to the cock is its morning crowing, the herald of the RISING SUN.
 It is thus primarily linked to the flying away of the wandering spirits roaming during the Night.

        This makes also the cock the emblem of watchfulness. Weathervanes on steeples were installed to “remind the clergy of watchfulness”, says an early source. The Jesuits are said to offer the explanation of steeple cocks being a reminder of alertness of the community to its sinful existence and the need to obtain mercy.

        Others see a possible association with Peter resulting from his denial of the Christ, with the cock becoming a warning to avoid all such denials, and to “forbid all schism in the Church…and denying the established principles of her Faith”. “In all probability [this link is] of popish original”.

        Some writers point out that the cock was also the emblem of French vanity and inconsistency, as in the word “weather-cock”.
        Another historian noted that “the manner of adorning the tops of Steeples with a Cross and a Cock is derived from the Goths, who bore that as their warlike ensign.”

        In short, a mutltitude of ancient and medieval citations are offered. But again, nowhere is the cock considered a symbol, or an emblem of Peter. The suggesstion that the cock could become the symbol of a Peter designated as SOTER KOSMOU seems simply a gratuitous “figment of the imagination”.

        There’s nothing to learn from the old wives’ tales collected by Barbara Walker, and that Dorothy Murdock swallows without questioning. There’s no real history to be based on such tales, only a collection of odd bits that may amuse, but have no value for a professional historian.
        Dorothy Murdock seems happy in her role, never asking herself this critical question: Is what I write really true? Have I checked all the sources and all the angles of that story? She never seems to follow one key rule of scholarly criticism which Carrier likes to emphasize — citing a “diverse range of scholarship” (not just one or two favorite sources, while neglecting all different or opposite views).

        Her mission is simply to resurrect and propagate the ideas of Higgins, Taylor, Blavatsky, Massey and Barbara Walker. Reader, beware!

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-04-23 18:46:06 UTC - 18:46 | Permalink

    You too have a wonderful way of not paying attention to what’s written. Then you can inject all your imaginations, and exclaim: “Ah, that’s all this stuff that you meant?”
    Barbara Walker dredged out every bizarre stuff she could find what would serve against Christianity. This bronze object had nothing to do with the Christian cult, and the association with Peter is pure imagination, verbal legerdemain, however many words she can find for a dick. Of the dozen references, none but Walker saw Peter written on it.
    The bronze is obviously a virility, fertility symbol. Injecting Peter in this is Walker’s fervid imagination. Her books are full of this stuff, and it’s a shame that Murdock got entangled in the old woman’s elucubrations. She was younger, and needed a mentor and a library to get out of the secretarial life. It is an accident of fate that she hooked up with a merchant of fallacies. That allowed her to pursue her passion for New Age spirituality, and become a Blavatsky of our time. Judging from her students/devotees, she is not going to attract a new Massey or a new Mead, that’s for sure.

    • Blood
      2012-04-23 23:17:00 UTC - 23:17 | Permalink

      Heh, heh. Archaya as Madame Blavatsky, I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right!

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-24 03:47:47 UTC - 03:47 | Permalink

        Blood:

        Dorothy Murdock/Acharya is above all a New Age enthusiast and a would-be TEACHER of modern “Spiritualism” and Theosophist Wisdom, not a real rationalist. She is a true disciple of Higgins, Taylor, Blavatsky, and Barbara Walker.

        In all her work, we can see Murdock always busy building and self-marketing her image as a preacher and passionate advocate of her “spiritual” Theosophist wisdom. She is a popularizer of forgotten ideas of the 19th and early 20th centuries, a compiler more than a true scholar discovering new facts and throwing new light on them.

        Most of her key ideas come from the extraordinary books of:

        - Godfrey Higgins: “Anacalypsis: An Attempt to Draw aside the Veil of the Saitic Isis or An Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions” (2 vol., 1833-6)
        - Robert Taylor: “The Diegesis: Early History Of Christianity”, (1829) and “The Devil’s Pulpit: containing 23 Astronomical-Theological Discourses” (2 vol., 1832)
        - Kersey Graves: “The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Christianity before Christ” (1875)
        - Dear old Helena Petrovna Blavatsky: “Isis unveiled: a Master-key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology” (2 vol.) (1877), “The Esoteric Character Of The Gospels” (1888), and “The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy” (1888).
        - Gerald Massey and his ponderous tomes on Egyptology
        - Alvin Boyd Kuhn, who, inspired by Higgins and Blavatsky, received his history PhD at age 50 from Columbia University with “Theosophy: A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom” (1930), and as an aging Theosophist, became the living “luminary” of New Age.
        - and Barbara G. Walker, her initial mentor, who provides all the fascinating tidbits concerning spirituality in various mythologies and ancient religions in her “Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets” (1983), and “Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects” (1988), all viewed in a decided feminist perspective.

        Most of Murdock’s research in all her books, articles, blogs, interviews, and videos, essentially consists in mining the existing literature for supporting quotes of the key ideas borrowed from her “pioneers” of the 19th-early 20th centuries. This re-opening of the perspective is the main impact of Murdock’s provocative books.

        But, to give her her due, Murdock brings in some fresh air in the stale atmosphere of religious studies – never mind if dated or exotic – and adds a welcome female addition to a stage far too crowded with aging, gray, “dull and dogmatic” white men, always busy arguing about the same rehashed chapter-and-verse numbers of the New Testament.

        So Dorothy Murdock is a different, refreshing kind of figure — a throwback to the spirit of the 19th century in a modern, New Age context. She is clearly an interesting character, with a marked artistic sense, much more appealing and articulate than her mentor Barbara Walker. So, let’s open the windows, and bid welcome to a renewed look at the cults and religions of ancient India, Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome.

        And, in the process, rediscover the fun irreverent bronze sculpture of the “Priapus Gallinaceus” of Ancient Hellenistic style buried in the deep dark basements of the Vatican.

        • Blood
          2012-04-24 22:51:41 UTC - 22:51 | Permalink

          “But, to give her her due, Murdock brings in some fresh air in the stale atmosphere of religious studies – never mind if dated or exotic – and adds a welcome female addition to a stage far too crowded with aging, gray, “dull and dogmatic” white men, always busy arguing about the same rehashed chapter-and-verse numbers of the New Testament.”

          I agree. I rather like the unorthodox approach of going back to 19th Century and revisiting some of the people/ideas that were floating around back then, as opposed to the typical process of today whereby only books from recent times are cited or acknowledged. Scholarship has advanced greatly but it has also become much more restricted and conservative — stifling creative ideas and forever pushing a “scholarly consensus” which is in fact built on sand.

  • 2012-04-24 17:33:05 UTC - 17:33 | Permalink

    IS it true that behind his Paywall, Bart said he gets his graduate students to check the sources he references in his scholarly works, but in his popular writings, he does all the fact-checking himself?

    That would explain the strange reference in ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ to Pliny’s Letter number 10.

    Bart didn’t get one of his students to check out what he had written, as he would do for a scholarly work.

  • Fortigurn
    2012-04-25 23:40:58 UTC - 23:40 | Permalink

    I haven’t seen it mentioned here yet that the statue Murdock kept insisting is hidden in the Vatican treasury, is actually in the Gabinetto Segreto of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples.[1] Murdock’s key source, Knight, says it was displayed openly in the Vatican palace, whereas Murdock claimed it is hidden in the Vatican treasury.

    One of Murdock’s own followers has not only acknowledged ‘Mr. Burke was correct when he wrote “the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury”, but has also acknowledged that Knight himself says the complete opposite of Murdock’s claim; Knight says the sculpture was displayed publicly in the Vatican Palace for over a century, whereas Murdock claimed it is ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, and she continued to defend this claim that it is ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’ in her initial response to Ehrman.

    Murdock was wrong to claim the statue is hidden in the Vatican, and failed to read her own key source properly; Knight is apparently the earliest source claiming the statue was ever in the Vatican, he says it was displayed publicly, not hidden in the Vatican treasury. This is what happens when we punch phrases hopefully into Google Books and copy/paste them without reading the source properly, instead of doing research.

    ______________
    [1] ‘notorious “Vatican Bronze”‘ (p. 121), ‘a phallic monument in the Gabinetto Segreto, Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli, supposedly recovered at Pompeii/Herculaneum’ (p. 122), Panzanelli & Scholosser, ‘Ephemeral bodies: wax sculpture and the human figure’ (2008). Although caution is expressed concerning its origin, the authors state without reservation that it is in the Gabinetto Segreto, the collection of sexual and erotic artifacts found in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

    • 2012-04-25 23:54:23 UTC - 23:54 | Permalink

      Gosh, the statue might have moved since Murdock’s source was written. Who would have thought that possible?

      Do you want to hear Bart going on the radio and claiming the statue was completely made up and laughing about mythicists making up the existence of statues? I have a link to that, if you like.

      • Fortigurn
        2012-04-26 00:15:00 UTC - 00:15 | Permalink

        It’s entirely possible that the only source which says anything about the statue being in the Vatican is correct, and that the statue was later moved to the Gabinetto Segreto, even though there’s no record of any such thing happening. Certainly, we can build arguments on speculation instead of evidence, if that’s the way you prefer to roll. However, that’s not the point. It wouldn’t save Murdock from being wrong on these counts:

        * Claiming that that the statue is hidden in the Vatican treasury: the reality is that it isn’t hidden in the Vatican treasury, and the only source which says anything about it being in the Vatican says it was displayed publicly there, not hidden; she’s wrong about it being currently hidden in the Vatican treasury, and her own source is evidence that she’s wrong about it ever being in the Vatican treasury, hidden or otherwise

        * Claiming that the statue is of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’: by ‘the Cock’ she is not referring to simply a rooster, but specifically to a phallic statue representing Peter, as she helpfully made clear in her text (‘‘Peter’ is not only ‘the rock’ but also ‘the cock,’ or penis, as the word is used as slang to this day’, ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’); in reality the statue is no such thing

        There is no statue of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, either ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’ or anywhere else. The very statue to which she appeals for this claim is not of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, is not ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, there’s no evidence that it was ever ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, and the only source which says anything about it being anywhere in the Vatican says it was displayed publicly, not hidden. She cites a source, ignores what her source actually says, and makes up a bunch of stuff for which she provides no evidence whatsoever, some of which her own source contradicts flatly. Then she is applauded by Carrier and Godfrey, both of whom simply assumed she was correct without checking the facts. As Don has pointed out, Carrier should have known better given his own experiences with Murdock’s peculiar brand of ‘scholarship’ and ‘research’.

        • Evan
          2012-04-26 01:56:38 UTC - 01:56 | Permalink

          Yet, oddly, Bart Ehrman states that the statue “appears to exist.” Why would he concede this if you are correct, Fortigurn?

          • Fortigurn
            2012-04-26 02:07:57 UTC - 02:07 | Permalink

            I’m sorry, how does that relate to what I wrote? You appear to be under the impression that I believe no statue at all exists, which is not what I said. In fact I referred specifically to ‘The very statue to which she appeals’, and noted that it’s in the Gabinetto Segreto. A statue does exist, but it isn’t what Murdock claimed it to be, it isn’t where she said kept saying it is, and her own source contradicts her by saying it wasn’t hidden in the Vatican (as she had claimed), it was put on public display. Please read what I wrote, it’s verifiable.

            • Evan
              2012-04-26 02:27:11 UTC - 02:27 | Permalink

              Again, Jonathan, why would Bart Ehrman state that the statue “appears to exist” if there was no question that the statue existed from his book? It relates to what you wrote by the fact that you are clearly defending his statement, almost quoting it verbatim.

              • Fortigurn
                2012-04-26 02:34:20 UTC - 02:34 | Permalink

                If you’re wondering why Ehrman appears to question the statue’s existence in his book, but later stated it ‘appears to exist’, I suggest you ask Ehrman. That has nothing to do with what I wrote, which is an analysis of the claims of Murdock. Do you believe that the image shown by Murdock is of a ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’ as she claims?

              • Evan
                2012-04-26 03:30:10 UTC - 03:30 | Permalink

                You are a great apologist for the historical Jesus, Jonathan. I respect all the hard work you do. I just remain unconvinced by your arguments. If you are going to virtually quote Ehrman in your defense of his book on this web page about his book I’m going to continue to assume you are defending his argument, one which he appears to have backtracked on. Ehrman clearly believes that the statue he said didn’t exist anywhere and was made up “appears to exist.”

              • Fortigurn
                2012-04-26 09:47:04 UTC - 09:47 | Permalink

                Evan I am not a great apologist for anything, but thanks for the compliment. I am not writing in defense of Ehrman’s book either. I am writing in criticism of Murdock’s claims. It is my contention that she is wrong on the following matters.

                * Claiming that that the statue is hidden in the Vatican treasury: the reality is that it isn’t hidden in the Vatican treasury, and the only source which says anything about it being in the Vatican says it was displayed publicly there, not hidden; she’s wrong about it being currently hidden in the Vatican treasury, and her own source is evidence that she’s wrong about it ever being in the Vatican treasury, hidden or otherwise

                * Claiming that the statue is of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’: by ‘the Cock’ she is not referring to simply a rooster, but specifically to a phallic statue representing Peter, as she helpfully made clear in her text (‘‘Peter’ is not only ‘the rock’ but also ‘the cock,’ or penis, as the word is used as slang to this day’, ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’); in reality the statue is no such thing

                If you are unconvinced that she is wrong on these following matters, please let me know why. I have demonstrated that there is no statue of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, either ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’ or anywhere else. There is a statue matching the visual description she gave, but it is not of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, is not ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, there’s no evidence that it was ever ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, and the only source which says anything about it being anywhere in the Vatican says it was displayed publicly, not hidden. If you believe I am wrong to say this, then please present the evidence for your case.

                I ask you again, do you believe that the image shown by Murdock is of a ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’ as she claims?

              • 2012-04-26 10:22:44 UTC - 10:22 | Permalink

                One thing I liked about Bart Ehrman’s latest reply to Carrier is that twice Ehrman had the good grace to acknowledge how two of his statements could be read the way a good many of us did read them. I am sort of prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

                Would that other scholars — and anyone who takes a position on this — be as gracious and stop pig-headedly trying to defend or attack all the time. There’s a rumour Ehrman didn’t read the books? We’re on Ehrman’s side so we’ll say it’s okay not to read the stupid books. (Woops, Erhman doesn’t like that sort of cheer-leading.) Ehrman’s statements read in a certain way that makes them false? But we support Ehrman so they don’t read like that at all. (Woops, Ehrman acknowledges how they can be taken to be read that way after all.)

                Ehrman has a long way to go. But I don’t think he’s going to bother going as far as he needs to. It is pretty clear he does not have the time to address seriously anyone who is not a professional scholar. And he has no time to address mythicism in a scholarly manner. So the mythicist arguments are, in effect, left unaddressed. At least they are not addressed seriously.

              • ROO BOOKAROO
                2012-04-26 10:51:57 UTC - 10:51 | Permalink

                In answer to Neil Godfrey:

                I don’t think that it is a matter for Bart Ehrman of not having the time.
                Having closely studied the history of the historicists/mythicists debate since the end of the 18th century, I am convinced that Bart Ehrman is not capable of producing an objective study of the debate. He is solidly ensconced in the fortress of historicism, and he cannot develop the objective view to look at both sides of the controversy from a neutral position.
                Do note that mythicists have been, historically, the natural allies of historicists, and have been their offshoot, the. Mythicists just followed the trail of historicists and went one step further.
                We cannot expect all historicists to take that final step. It is a matter of personal existential situation in life, and it is vain to expect it from Bart Ehrman. And even less so in the public arena, on command, or as a result of a well publicized book.
                Such convictions, if authentic, are formed as a result of personal, intimate, conviction, not of public prodding. Unlike TV evangelist Billy Graham, we can not proclaim: “Come to us, abandon Jesus and find peace and happiness!”

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-04-26 11:33:35 UTC - 11:33 | Permalink

                Evan, I think he covers this in his blog page on the topic:
                http://ehrmanblog.org/acharya-s-richard-carrier-and-a-cocky-peter-or-a-cock-and-bull-story/

                >>
                This statue was considered to be of Peter because of crass and irrelevant modern idle wanderings that have nothing to do with real research (cock/rock; Peter and the cock crows; peter = penis = cock; and so on). It in fact is simply a rather unusual Priapus. There are lots of Priapi that have come down to us from the ancient world, and they tend to arouse the giggles of the middle school students with their first exposure to a classical collection in a museum. Off hand I don’t recall any others quite like this, but they may indeed exist. None of them has anything to do with Jesus’ disciple Simon Peter.
                <>
                My comment on this entire discussion was simple and direct: “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up.”

                Carrier attacks my comments with a rather vicious set of comments: “Ehrman evidently did no research on this and did not check this claim at all…. Indicative of the carelessness and arrogance Ehrman exhibits in his book.” But alas, I am unrepentant and will say it again: “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican.”

                What Carrier wants us to know is that in fact this statue does exist and that it is in the Vatican. It does not take much research to dig out this juicy bit of museum lore. Acharya S herself gives the references in her footnotes. And yes, they are both right. The statue does appear to exist. But it has nothing to do with Peter, as any sophomore in college with one semester of Greek under his belt and a course or two in religious studies could tell you.”
                <<

                How can it be plainer? He didn't care whether a statue of Priapus exists or not (he obviously knew such statues existed), only whether it was connected to Peter or Christainity. Thus his comment: “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up.” He was addressing a number of bullet points, making comments on each one. Even so, his comment is 100% correct! As he writes in the blog, "Maybe you’re right: maybe I should have phrased it differently. Everything looks different in hindsight!"

              • 2012-04-26 12:07:39 UTC - 12:07 | Permalink

                And the same set of comments includes several from others who likewise read Ehrman as saying what I have said is the way any lay-reader would understand it: that he was saying there is no such thing as the statue itself (that happened to be associated with St Peter.) He did not say such and such a statue is not associated with Peter — he made it sound in normal everyday language like the statue itself did not exist. That is what others have also pointed out. Only a lawyer looking for a loophole would see it differently. But I am glad Ehrman is willing to go as far as acknowledging that his wording was justifiably interpreted the way many of us did.

                I think Ehrman still has questions to answer on the whole passage, but I really don’t care that much. He has said his work is not for scholars. So it is not the scholarly treatment of mythicism we were hoping for at all.

              • Fortigurn
                2012-04-26 13:13:53 UTC - 13:13 | Permalink

                My reading of Ehrman is that his original statement dismissed the very existence of the statue, and that his later comments were a hasty back and fill to avoid a retraction of an unguarded and inaccurate comment. Having said that:

                “He has said his work is not for scholars. So it is not the scholarly treatment of mythicism we were hoping for at all.”

                This is a non-sequitur. A scholarly treatment of a subject may still be written for non-scholars. Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ was written explicitly for non-scholars, but I doubt you would dare tell him that his treatment of the subject was non-scholarly.

              • 2012-04-26 14:29:36 UTC - 14:29 | Permalink

                It appears you have not read Ehrman’s post. He writes:

                Carrier seems to expect Did Jesus Exist to be a work of scholarship written for scholars in the academy and with extensive engagement with scholarship, rather than what it is, a popular book written for a broad audience. There is a big difference. I write both kinds of books. My scholarly books would never be mistaken for books that would be read by a wide, general public. But Carrier indicates that the inadequacy of Did Jesus Exist can be seen by comparing it to two of his own recent books, which, he tells us, pay more attention to detail, embrace a more diverse range of scholarship, and have many more footnotes.

                I did not write this book for scholars. I wrote if for lay people who are interested in a broad, interesting, and very important question. Did Jesus really exist? I was not arguing the case for scholars, because scholars already know the answer to that question. I was explaining to the non-scholar why scholars think what they do. A non-scholarly book tries to explain things in simple terms, and to do so without the clutter of detail that you would find in a work of scholarship. The book should not be faulted for that. If I had wanted to convince scholars (I’m not sure whom I would then be writing for, in that case) I would have written a different kind of book.

              • Fortigurn
                2012-04-26 14:32:29 UTC - 14:32 | Permalink

                Ehrman says just what I’ve already said; he didn’t write for scholars (‘I was not arguing the case for scholars’, ‘If I had wanted to convince scholars… I would have written a different kind of book’). He does not say ‘My treatment of the subject is unscholarly’. You haven’t addressed what I wrote.

              • 2012-04-26 15:44:52 UTC - 15:44 | Permalink

                ‘“There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican or anywhere else except in books like this, which love to make things up~

                CARR
                So Ehrman demands to see a statue which is half-Peter, half-rooster, like a creationist demanding to see a transitional fossil which is half-fish and half-monkey.

                And when it is pointed out to him that nobody ever claimed it was a statue of Peter, like any good creationist, Ehrman crows that he is 100% correct – there is no transitional fossil which is half-fish and half-monkey.

                DON

                ‘(he obviously knew such statues existed)’

                CARR
                If Ehrman knew such statues existed, why did Ehrman insinuate Acharay drew it herself and then go on radio and claim the statue was completely made up? Only a few days later to write that the statue ‘does appear to exist.’

                Even when shown a picture of a statue, Ehrman says it ‘is completely made up’, and that it is mythicists who reject evidence.

        • ROO BOOKAROO
          2012-04-26 02:15:16 UTC - 02:15 | Permalink

          Fortigum:

          Bravo for throwing additional light on this messy affair, where everybody’s mind gets twisted up and confused.

          The point is about historical method, and respect of primary sources, and checking and reviewing all sources, not just one’s favorite ones, as Carrier himself often repeats.
          Even Richard Carrier was carried away (if i’m allowed to say) by the crowd fury of attacking Ehrman with zest: We always admired you for your scholarship, how could you have produced such a sketchy, hack, rush, sloppy work? You have disappointed everybody who expected a stellar analysis, of which you’ve shown yourself incapable on this subject..
          Although Fortigum does point out that especially Carrier should have been a little more careful due to his own experience of Murdock’s shoddy and phony “scholarship”.

          Bart Ehrman, who is an expert textual critic, knows the value of every word in any statement, and issued his rejection of Murdock’s claim very carefully, admonishing Carrier for not paying close attention to the text he, Carrier, was criticizing. Ehrman accused Carrier of making a mistake of MISREADING, and as Carrier is always honest enough to acknowledge his mistakes, we can be pretty sure that he will do so in the near future.

          It is remarkable how most commentators in the “mythicist camp” have been too eager to rise up like a single judge and issue a moral condemnation of Bart Ehrman. All his points were criticized as faulty, without any nuance or exception. I have always maintained that there is no such “camp”, the individuals involved having too strong personalities and idiosyncracies, that mythicism is not a mass movement, nor a fellowship among elite scholars, that condemning Ehrman “en bloc” is a knee-jerk reaction to his paltry job of historical criticism about Jesus’s existence.
          It is understandable that, facing the gigantic block of Christianity, the puny handful of mythicism advocates feel that they gain strength by showing unanimity of conviction. But the key duty is not organizing a united front against Christianity, or a united front against Bart Ehrman and his latest book because it is such a weak analysis, it is a duty of historical method and respect of sources.

          Another key point: You mention that Murdock “makes up a bunch of stuff for which she provides no evidence whatsoever, some of which her own source contradicts flatly.”
          The reality is that she does not even “make up” her stuff. It’s all BORROWED from a handful of key writers, the only living one being Barbara G. Walker, and Murdock simply copied her tale about the “Priapus Gallinaceus” from Barbara Walker’s famous “Woman’s Dictionary”, which says:
          “It is no coincidence that “cock” is slang for “penis…The cock was also a symbol of Saint Peter, whose name also meant a phallus or male principle (pater) and a phallic pillar (petra). Therefore, the cock’s image was often placed atop church towers.”

          I was intrigued that Murdock had provided EIGHT citations for this story, not a single one asserting that the cock had any direct, intimate relation to Peter. I made an attempt to verify if “The cock was also a symbol of Saint Peter” had any historic foundation in old European books.
          All the books I was able to consult described the cock as being the emblem, or symbol of many things, some “explaining” the placing of cocks on top of steeples:
          First, the herald of the RISING SUN, announcing the flying away of all the spirits and devils of the night, but also sexual virility (covering all the hens), vanity and flamboyance (plumage), inconsistency and change (no faithfulness, weathervane), courage in combat (emblem of Goths), etc…
          Again, NONE specified any inherent symbolism attached to Peter. Of course, anybody can make up any interpretation, projecting any imagined intuitive connection. Some theologians imagined seeing in the cock on steeples a reminder of Peter’s denial of Christ, and a warning never to indulge in this rejection of the Faith, etc..You sure can read a lot of things in that cock, but not any “symbol of Peter” himself.
          The drama for Murock is that Barbara Walker imagines a lot of things in the same fashion, using fancy etymological derivations, or intuitive connections all invented by her. When Murdock uses Barbara Walker as a major source of historical facts, that is bound to create problems. The whole “Priapus Gallinaceus” fiasco is due to Murdock slavishly copying Barbara Walker. That was the foundation of Murdock’s sloppy research.

          Barbara Walker was first an expert knitter who wrote a dozen of books on the subject. Then she saw in the New Age movement a huge market for writings on subjects of female spirituality — tarots, crystals, sacred stones, rituals, fairy tales, the “age” of the prehistoric “Goddess”, etc — and her big books of “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets” (1983) and “The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects (1988)”.
          Barbara Walker became the mentor of Dorothy Murdock, who swallowed Walker’s main ideas wholesale, uncritically, and systematically used many of Walker’s tidbits and curiosities in her own books. In Murdock’s blog “Freethouthnation” you can see a banner series of portraits of famous thinkers, Thomas Paine, Gerald Massey, Helena Blavatsky, etc…with the portraits of the two famous female thinkers, Barbara Walker and Dorothy Murdock. Speak of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement. Necessary for the ordinary public which is Murdock’s basic market.

          Nobody interested or trained in “historical methods” can accept Barbara Walker’s kind of “historical facts” without risking supporting some kind of fraud or fantasy. The general outcry of the mythicist “camp” against Bart Ehrman overcame any critical doubts about the validity of any story borrowed from Barbara Walker.

        • ROO BOOKAROO
          2012-04-26 02:55:04 UTC - 02:55 | Permalink

          Sorry for my own mistake in Fortigum as a result of misreading “Fortigurn”
          .
          I follow Richard Carrier’s strict discipline in acknowledging any mistake ASAP. As he explains, when it comes to history, mistakes abound, and the best historian is not above making some. Professional honesty consists in recognizing them and accepting refutations by opponents when founded. Neither Bart Ehrman, the establishment pundit, nor Dorothy Murdock, the prophetess of New Age theosophy, are much inclined to respect this rule. Too self-damaging for their images.

          • Fortigurn
            2012-04-26 02:57:32 UTC - 02:57 | Permalink

            Thanks, no big deal; different fonts and font sizes can make that confusion easy.

            • ROO BOOKAROO
              2012-04-26 03:20:01 UTC - 03:20 | Permalink

              What strikes me most in this convoluted story is the THEREFORE used as a key tool of historical demonstration by Barbara Walker in “Therefore, the cock’s image was often placed atop church towers.” Unflinchingly copied by Dorothy Murdock.
              This THEREFORE is worth a million dollars. It should be her motto: “Barbara G. Walker, THEREFORE”.
              This also covers the whole style of Murdock’s research. Therefore…the key tool of historical inventions.

    • ROO BOOKAROO
      2012-04-26 10:18:34 UTC - 10:18 | Permalink

      The book mentioned by you, by Panzanelly & Schlosser (ed. Getty Museum) gives the answer to the enigma.
      Sir Richard Payne Knight published “Discourse on the Worship of Priapus, and its Connexion with the Mystic Religion of the Ancients” (London,1786). Knight initiated the comparative anthropological investigation of ancient sexual symbolism. Knight’s personal collection of more than a hundred ancient bronzes contained phallic objects.
      They were purchased by him in the early 1790s from Britain’s longtime envoy at Naples, the archeologist Sir William Hamilton, and eventually made their way to the British Museum after Knight’s death. Knight was the most eminent, or perhaps notorious, Hellenist and Latinist in the society in the heyday of its sponsorship of classical scholarship in the 1780s and 1790s. Hamilton was not a scholar, but he had a long been a distinguished patron, collector, and advocate of the study of Greco-Reoman antiquity.
      Knight’s putative starting point for his book on the “Worship of Priapus and its Connexion with the Mystic Religion of the Ancients” — a supposed Ur-cult of cosmic principles of attraction and generation — was a set of wax ex-votos of phalli presented by Hamilton to the British Museum and the society in his Discourse of 1786 along with Hamilton’s short epistolary report describing the discovery of the phalli.

      The Priapus Gallinaceus object came from finds in Pompeii, like the many Priapi also collected by the British envoy in Naples.
      The Priapus Gallinaceus is of pre-Christian origin, and has no connection with Christian beliefs and even less so with Peter.
      So much for the quality of Barbara Walker’s research and her phony conclusions about the connection to Peter.
      Murdock got mired into that pit opened by Barbara Walker’s mythological elucubrations and sank into it. She should have stayed away from the old lady’s fancy facts of fiction.
      And those two have their portraits in the same gallery of “great freethinkers in history” on Murdock’s site. Another great story sold to the unsuspecting and gullible public.

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-04-26 04:26:48 UTC - 04:26 | Permalink

    I cannot help mentioning an incident that happened just right now, somehow related to this whole discussion of the historical validity of Murdock’s “research”.

    Amazon just sent a notification of a new comment to a review by “Will” to the famous book, Murdock’s “Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection”.

    “Greetings from Amazon.com Customer Discussions,
    Because you requested to be notified when people commented on the “interesting but problematic” review of “Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection”, we are sending you this e-mail.

    Apr 25, 2012 11:07:51 AM PDT
    M. Cat. says:
    Acharya is an uneducated fraud. She calls herself a “Scholar”, she is not. She does say she communicates with aliens tho, wow, ok. No wonder she won’t debate a real scholar, she would be crushed. And no wonder no one except her small followers of eneducated sheep who don’t know any better, no one of “Real” scholarship takes her seriously. She will just fade away.”

    Now, just checking a couple of minutes later by responding to “See this post”, we find the message:

    ‘Posted on Apr 25, 2012 11:07:51 AM PDT
    [Deleted by Amazon 4 minutes ago]”

    You are allowed to criticize Murdock if you are invoking clear solid arguments, (and, even better, recommending more books in the process), but you cannot simply denounce and negate the validity of Murdock’s books with simply a naked personal condemnation. The formula of “her small followers of uneducated sheep” is just a no-no. It is unacceptable to Amazon, and is immediately red-flagged. It’s slightly insane on ‘M. Cat.”‘s part to describe buyers of Amazon books as “sheep”.

    Bart Ehrman is right. We’re dealing with texts here, and are subject to textual criticism from all sides. We have to choose your words very carefully, and not just speak out of passionate indignation or moral certitude, or make frivolous snide remarks which want to pass for profound criticisms, but are simply hot air.

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-04-26 15:29:27 UTC - 15:29 | Permalink

    Another intriguing development today, April 26, 2012
    Searching for “Priapus Gallinaceus” on Google. All the usual suspects are listed,
    The page “The phallic ‘Savior of the World’ hidden in the Vatican” of Freethoughtnation appears as first listing on page1. Then come the other players in the comedy: Vridar, Carrier, Ehrman, and many good sources for the cock as emblem of sexual energy, its role in fertility and eroticism in Greco-Roman antiquity (combined with Priapus) and medieval times. Not a single reference for poor Peter, though. Cry, oh cry, my beloved country!

    However there’s a notice at the bottom of each page:
    “In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA [clickable] complaint that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.”
    Clicking on “read the DMCA complaint”, we get the following text from “Chilling Effects”:

    “Notice Unavailable
    DMCA (Copyright) Complaint to Google
    Sent by: Dorothy Murdock
    To: Google
    The cease-and-desist or legal threat you requested is not yet available.
    Chilling Effects will post the notice after we process it.”

    So it looks as if Dorothy Murdock is trying to block the listing of one result on Google from the “Priapus Gallinaceus” search, by the use of a legal threat. Which page can that be? And why?
    This is curiouser and curiouser, as Alice exclaimed in Wonderland.

    • Fortigurn
      2012-04-26 15:36:58 UTC - 15:36 | Permalink

      Funny, I did the same search today out of interest and pulled up the same results, including the DMCA request. Looks like Murdock is trying to cover her tracks.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-27 03:21:39 UTC - 03:21 | Permalink

        Fortigurn:

        First of all, it’d be instructive to know how you located the Panzanelly & Schlosser Getty book where the bronze is identified as located in the Naples Museum and not in the Vatican? What search, using what key words? Why did I miss that book (and Murdock and everybody else too, for that matter.)

        Your perspicacious investigation skills are still requested for another enigma in Internet “textual” criticism.

        The complaint to Google is a request for takedown of material by Google of links to material which would create “users’ possible copyright infringement”.
        If Google respects the demand in Murdock’s complaint by “expeditiously” removing the link to the material listed by Murdock, Google is protected against any suit for damages resulting from such possible copyright infringement.

        I have seen this happen in a few more Google pages, where the complainant was Dorothy Murdock, all cases involving search terms related to the topics of her books, articles, etc…which have sparked off serious criticisms or objections.
        Murdock in this manner manipulates and manages what links to her work are made available by Google, by forcing Google to remove the links to her controversial material. She can thus manage her public image.

        So when I checked “Priapus Gallinaceus”, I was wondering if Murdock’s page on Freethoughtnation describing “The phallic ‘Savior of the World’ hidden in the Vatican” would appear. I was surprised to find the link still listed.
        But on another hand, when I saw the notice of removal of “1 result” in italics at the bottom of the page, I instinctively knew that it concerned Murdock’s material. And “ChillingEffects” did confirm that rightly so it was.

        However, it remains that the material most likely to involve such “possible copyright infringement” would seem to be Murdock’s own page in Freethoughtnation.
        Removing the link to this page would remove public traces of the fiasco of the controversies about the bronze being “hidden in the Vatican” and about being “the symbol of Peter”. From Murdock’s viewpoint this would seem to make most sense.

        However the notification by Google reads “We have removed one result”. Is it then a link to another page?
        Note that Murdock can request removal of a link to any other page, even if not her own, if that page does contain material subject to Murdock’s copyright. “The person whose information was removed can file a counter-notification if he or she believes the complaint was erroneous.”

        She does not seem to have attacked Ehrman, Carrier, or Vridar, since their pages are still listed and linked. Which “result’ could then have been removed by Google?
        Or could this be an internal confusion: the demand of removal would have effectively been for the critical page in Freethoughtnation “The phallic ‘Savior of the World’ hidden in the Vatican”, and the routine alert automatically printed at the bottom of the page, while in fact the complaint had not yet been processed internally by Google and the removal not yet executed?
        Would that be too far-fetched a scenario? What is your guess, expert researcher Fortgurn?

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-27 04:10:04 UTC - 04:10 | Permalink

        Fortigurn:

        I think I may have an answer, at least a guess.
        In the search for “Priapus Gallinaceus” one page appears for Ehrman, but it is a Facebook page that does not link to his article on his response to Carrier freely accessible to the public. So I was wrong there.

        The freely accessible article is titled “Acharya S, Richard Carrier, and a Cocky Peter (Or: “A Cock and Bull Story”)” and it is accessible through the following link:

        http://ehrmanblog.org/acharya-s-richard-carrier-and-a-cocky-peter-or-a-cock-and-bull-story/

        This link does not appear in the “Priapus Gallinaceus” search, surprisingly.
        But it is still quoted by Google under “Cocky Peter”.
        That is the trick. Nobody is going to think of such a title or a search word to find Ehrman’s article.
        So this could be the “1 result” removed by Google under the DMCA complaint.
        Do you agree with this guess?

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-04-28 12:57:07 UTC - 12:57 | Permalink

        Fortigurn:

        EPILOGUE

        The same complaint to Google for removing of a listing also appears in response to a search in GOOGLE BOOKS for “Priapus Gallinaceus”. Murdock is blocking the listing of one book in which she has copyright.
        Hence it must be “The Christ Conspiracy” which is removed from the listing, in both the ordinary Keyword GOOGLE Search and the GOOGLE BOOKS search.
        This is her own book she does not want to appear in the listing. She is doing damage control, and protecting her image as a “scholar”.

        Note that my GOOGLE BOOKS search did not pull up the book you had mentioned, by Panzanelly & Schlosser.

        Note also that there a detailed discussion of your input (as Jonathan Burke) on Murdock’s Freethoughtnation Forum, p. 22 of April 23, 2012.

        http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=25634#p25634

        Apparently the bronze is effectively in the Naples Museum. And it was already cited in Louis Barré’s “Herculaneum et Pompeii, Recueil général des Peintures, Bronzes, Mosaiques, ect…Vol. 8, Le Musée Secret (Paris, Didot 1839-40) pl. 137, and which is the source of the Panzanelly & Schlosser Getty book you brought out to everybody’s attention.

        But Knight had already mentioned in 1786 that the bronze had been exhibited at the Vatican for a century before the Gabinetto Segreto, Museo Archeologico Nazionale Napoli received it, after its opening in 1821. So it existed well before excavations started at Pompeii in the 18th century, as confirmed in the citation by Michel Ange de la Chausse in his “Museum Romanum (Volume One)”, published in 1690.
        So this object was a Greco-Roman bronze of the god Priapus obtained by the Vatican from earlier sources, possibly the pillaging of Greco-Roman temples.

        Amusingly, the guy posting all this info on Murdock’s Forum, a certain “GodAlmighty”, repeats your spelling mistake of “Scholosser”, when the real name is, of course for anybody who knows German, “Schlosser”. Murdock, who claims to know all those languages, didn’t pick up this mistake.

        Note that Dorothy Murdock, on the same p. 22 of her Forum, continues with her clever backtracking, backpedaling, and covering up her errors. She says:

        “And, yes, again, I HAVE NEVER CLAIMED THE STATUE WAS PETER.
        Are these people obsessed?
        Ehrman was wrong, period, and continues to be.
        Moving on.”

        Yes, she is eager to have that fiasco of the phallic bronze, symbol of Peter, ASAP behind her and forgotten.
        Meanwhile, as the shrewd manipulator she is, she is forcing GOOGLE TO REMOVE HER BOOK “THE CHRIST CONSPIRACY” FROM ANY “PRIAPUS GALLINACEUS” SEARCH LIST IN GOOGLE BOOKS.
        And nobody on her Forum, or even here, mentioned the fact that the “Priapus Gallinaceus, a symbol of Peter” imbroglio was originally created by Murdock uncritically using spurious interpretation directly borrowed from BARBARA G. WALKER, her mentor and inspiration. “”Peter = rock = cock = Penis, hence the cocks on steeples”. Such absurd way of doing historical research! what could be more preposterous as an example of “history methodology”?

        Most of the stuff in Murdock’s work is uncritically borrowed from other sources, titles, contents, illustrations, and its quality depends on the quality of the source. The problem, as Carrier repeats, is that you can’t trust this information without redoing the checking yourself. So Murdock’s statements cannot be taken at face value as an established piece of scholarly work others can rely on and trust.
        In that sense, she is a compiler — a reviewer of her book on Amazon called her a “sponge” — but not a true scholar. As Carrier warned, you always need to redo the checking after her.
        And this whole discussion about the “Priapus Gallinaceus”, even if only an amusing one, is a textbook lesson of Carrier’s warning.

        • ROO BOOKAROO
          2012-04-28 13:37:49 UTC - 13:37 | Permalink

          I finally got the Getty book on Google, directly by a search of the title, and the authors’ names, but not by a search of “Priapus Gallinaceus”. And for a good reason, the authors, Roberta Panzanelli and Julius von Schlosser NEVER use this phrase in the whole book!
          The reproduction is superb, and the text says:

          “The ancient analogues for these [phallic] objects included…even monumental objects — for example, sculptures such as the notorious “Vatican Bronze” (fig. 7), inscribed SOTER KOSMOU (Savior of the World), showing an erect phallus projecting from the head of a ROOSTER, EMBLEM OF THE SUNRISE, supported by the neck and shoulders of a man and, according to Knight, representing the mystic “generative power of the Eros, the Osiris, Mithras, or Bacchus, whose center is the sun, incarnate with man.”

          Yes, this again confirms that presenting the rooster as a symbol of Peter is a low-grade falsification of history by Barbara Walker and Dorothy Murdock. No wonder Murdock wants to “move on”, forget about the whole thing, and erase all traces in Google searches. Another one of her spurious interpretations of sources.

        • Joseph
          2012-04-28 13:37:50 UTC - 13:37 | Permalink

          Do you not understand that people don’t read words one letter at a time? It’s quite possible for someone who knows German to see “Scholosser” and read it as “Schlosser”. These misreadings are especially likely to happen when someone is fluent. My partner speaks English as a second language and frequently picks up on misspellings and incorrect grammar that I simply miss. In fact, I just noticed that I spelled “German” as “Greman” and only thanks to the spell checker in Firefox. What does that imply about my English fluency? I don’t even like Acharya. I haven’t read her work and probably never will. But you really are grasping at straws on this one.

          • ROO BOOKAROO
            2012-04-28 14:01:54 UTC - 14:01 | Permalink

            Joseph:

            Your example is not valid.
            You may make your misspellings. And Fortigurn, who produced this book first, may have made the original misspelling, as you suggest.
            But the problem was not in this misspelling. No, over there, at Murdock’s site, the mistake was religiously copied many times, without anybody wondering about the strange name, even Murdock who claims to “know” German. How come they didn’t re-misspel it again into “Schlosser”. Nobody did. They followed the original scrupulously.

            This happened in copying of manuscripts all the time. One scribe made a mistake, and after that, for 1,000 years, subsequent scribes repeat it religiously, flooding all of Europe with this mistake.
            Here our initial scribe was Fortigurn, and the subsequent ones were the guys at Murdock’s forum, who would have blithely recopied any erroneous spelling.

            Listen, this is what we are discussing here, all of us.
            It is the stupid copying of Walker’s etymology of “Peter = rock = cock = etc..” that created this fantastic sparring of commentators: dozens of individuals participated, thousands of lines were written, all because of one small act of mindless copying by Murdock never wondering for herself “But can this be really right, or is it some more fantastic nonsense?”.
            Can “Scholo..” be a real German name? To us, in the US, it sounds Yiddish, not German.

            • Joseph
              2012-04-28 14:22:53 UTC - 14:22 | Permalink

              You said you find it incredible that someone like Acharya, who claims to know German, could fail to notice the spelling error. I pointed out that fluency actually contributes to misreadings of this sort, rather than the opposite. It doesn’t matter if many other people who don’t know German failed to notice the error. It’s possible that Acharya didn’t notice for a different reason.

              • ROO BOOKAROO
                2012-04-28 15:31:58 UTC - 15:31 | Permalink

                Joseph
                No, I never said that. You are pleading for yourself, simply thinking of your own mistakes and the good excuse you have for them, which you are turning into an excuse for scholars who misread.

                But that is not what we are discussing here. Fluency, quick reading, mistakes, etc..This kind of argument does not fly here, it is not acceptable.
                It is not a question of “noticing” misspellings, but a question of blindly recopying many times the same wrong stuff, without ever blinking, without ever asking oneself a question, is that really right?

                Because in this crowd here, we pay great attention to words and text. There’s nothing else to work on. So we are exquisitely sensitive to language. “Fluency” and its hazards are not a factor, I’ll make as many mistakes as you in the current of ordinary communication.
                But analyzing a given historical document that is the object of close examination and exercising critical sense — that is completely different from the mistakes due to fluency and quick reading. Here we are practicing slow, very slow reading, repeated many times.

                If you’ve followed the present debate that has involved huge articles on the blogs of Ehrman, Murdock, Carrier, Jerry Coyne, Vridar, Eric MacDonald, and many more, the whole dispute was about the interpretation of the language of a document.

                It’s the senseless recopying which is in question here. And any recopying which shows lack of critical acumen is terribly disquieting.
                What did we have here: a bronze labeled by all experts as “Priapus Gallinaceus”. Did anybody even stop and wonder what do those words really mean?” Murdock “knows” Latin, but paid no attention.
                (In addition, I suspect that Murdock did not do much more than glancing at the whole thing, letting her fanboys do all the legwork, with her coming in at the end, to say: enough boys, let’s move on!)

                Now, if you “know” Latin, you have to just stop for a second and ponder on the meaning of what you’re reading.
                “Priapus” is the name of a Greek god, the god of fertility and generation. “Gallinaceus” means “in the form of a gallinaceous bird (from “gallus”, rooster). So we have a bronze representing the Greek god Priapus in the shape of a rooster.

                How on earth, even if you have fluency in Latin, and read the words very quickly, do you fail to reach the correct meaning? It must be because you’re not paying attention while you’re copying stuff from your mentor’s “Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Secret Objects”, where you read that you’re dealing with a “Sacred Object” of Christianity which is a “symbol of Peter”. After twenty readings of this interpretation, you’re satisfied with yourself, and think you’ve contributed a lot to the decrypting of an important Christian “sacred object”.

                Working on your book, you have plenty of time to copy the Latin words and the English interpretation you type in your manuscripts, you proofread your galleys, you show them to your close friends, to your mentor, to other proofreaders, you peruse your first printed copy of the book with pride, all this without ever noticing that you’ve misread the words “Priapus Gallinaceus” and given a phony interpretation as “a symbol of Peter”. It is not “incredible” as you call it, it’s absurd.
                And why, because you never paid attention to the Latin words, but you got distracted by a phony chain of equivalents invented by your mentor, “Peter = rock = cock = penis = Priapus = petra = column = cock on steeple” !
                This is not scholarship, it is…I think I’d let Carrier find the right word for it. I would venture “hallucination”.

              • Joseph
                2012-04-28 20:30:32 UTC - 20:30 | Permalink

                You can produce as much evidence as you like that Acharya is a sloppy scholar–I don’t even dispute that she is–but it’s all entirely beside the point. All I excused was her failure to notice the misspelling of someone’s name, which you implied was evidence she doesn’t know German. It doesn’t imply any such thing. End of discussion.

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-04-28 22:24:32 UTC - 22:24 | Permalink

    Not so fast ,sir.
    You transform my words into a sweeping indictment that I never made. You’re really one to make huge leaps of generalization.
    I simply said:

    “Amusingly, the guy posting all this info on Murdock’s Forum, a certain “GodAlmighty”, repeats your spelling mistake of “Scholosser”, when the real name is, of course for anybody who knows German, “Schlosser”. Murdock, who claims to know all those languages, didn’t pick up this mistake.”

    Of course, Murdock must have a smattering of German, you can’t study the history of Christianity without consulting the top erudition of the German scholars, and at least read the titles of their book and their names.
    And of course, she does have a smattering of other languages. It’s a must for the territory. Some Greek, some Latin, some French, some Italian. But she simply does not have enough to spot mistakes or avoid errors.

    Here, we are not speaking of the ordinary kind of communication or writing, general, fast, fluid conversation where we all will make mistakes. W all do. That’s why editors employ professional proofreaders.
    Here we are discussing the text of a document, which stays under our eyes for hours. The reading is static, not fluid. The name of the source, the title of the book, the names of the authors, the text on the page, etc…all stay under our eyes for hours, if need be. Every word is important, and we need to check that each detail is correct. There is no flow of conversation, no moving forward, etc…no opportunity for the kind of mistake you’re speaking of.

    Well, nobody on Murdock’s site, after getting the info on that essential book from Fortigurn, by Roberta Panzanelli and Julius Ritter von Schlosser, bothered to look up the book to check what Fortigurn had been claiming. They had plenty of opportunity to do so. But nobody, nor Murdock, ever bothered.
    I did, confirming that Fortigurn, the initial scribe, had made the misspelling, which had been blithely recopied many times without anybody checking by Murdock and her team.
    Not only did I check, I opened the book, got to the page, and copied extra text illuminating the Priapus bronze, that I posted above.
    This was one example of sloppiness, in spite of Murdock claiming that she “knows” German. She could have sensed the misspelling, or in any event, bothered to get to the book.

    I enlarged this minor criticism by showing that this minute detail reflected a more general carelessness about practically every aspect of the presentation. In the same manner, Murdock never bothered once to stop and wonder what was the exact meaning of “Priapus Gallinaceus” and how she could allow this to be metamorphosed into something called “a symbol of Peter” and published in her book “The Christ Conspiracy”. This is a more egregious case of sloppiness, and much more important.
    She is fully aware of this, because she is not a smart cookie, after all. To the point of sending legal notices of no listing of her book for any “Priapus Gallinaceus” search.

    To me, all this is a sign that many of her claims “knowing German,” “knowing Latin” are suspicious, even downright phony. There’s a lot of charlatanism in this woman. The servile copying from a rank fiction fabricator like Barbara Walker is another telltale sign that should alert every reader.
    Ehrman was vaguely aware that a lot of stuff in Murdock’s books are invented. But he was not sure where it was, how it showed, which explains his own mistake by immediately jumping to the conclusion that the statue had been “made up”. He too should have checked, which he didn’t do.

    Another example, where I bothered to check.
    Recently, there was an article on her site concerning the discovery of a pre-Christian temple remnant in Norway. She produced an elegant article, all in English, with a caption saying “Translated from the Norwegian by Acharya S”. I was willing to bet anything that she does not know enough Norwegian, if any at all, to produce such a detailed article.
    The name of the Norwegian paper was shown, and I went back to its Norwegian site, showing the original Norwegian article. There was a button to click to get an English version. And there the English article appeared, offered by… “Google translation”. That was the very same English article she had offered to her readers on her site as translated by herself. Her image lost many points in my respect for her.
    So be it German, Latin, or Norwegian, like Carrier remarked, once you’ve noticed salient mistakes, you don’t know how far you can trust her, and you have to re-check everything.

    Now on this same site, Vridar, there has been an examination of Ehrman’s book, and its many mistakes. Notably, “THE FACTS OF THE MATTER”, going on right now.
    A great deal was made of Ehrman not mentioning properly Doherty’s book’s name or its edition.
    A great deal is made of Ehrman claiming that Carrier has only a PhD in “classics”, when in fact it is in history.
    A great deal is made of Ehrman mentioning Pliny’s Letter 10 and Trajan’s reply, when in fact the discussion is of letters in Book 10, letters 96-97, etc…

    For you, those are banal mistakes due to the flow of writing, the pressure, the lack of time, etc…But in a top-rated scholar debating against others about important facts, those trivial errors betray a fundamental lack of care, and they are not admissible. They betray a lack of focus and alertness which are disturbing because they raise a red flag, putting you on alert that you don’t know anymore how far you can trust the scholar at all.

    That is the exact feeling we get from dealing with Murdock’s style of dealing with facts. Not bothering to check the exact German name of the authors of the key book presenting key evidence about an essential point is in the same spirit as never stopping to ponder about the exact meaning of the Latin description of the object. They all reflect the same kind of carelessness that is unacceptable in a quality scholar.
    If you don’t understand this, I don’t know how to say it more clearly.

  • Pierce
    2012-07-13 03:01:14 UTC - 03:01 | Permalink

    Doesn’t Ehrman know German as well? Did he ever point out Fortigurn’s mispelling to Fortigurn over on his own blog?
    How often do either Ehrman, Acharya, or Carrier ever even correct mispellings and grammar in posts made on their forums/blogs?
    Honestly, they seem like they are too busy for that and that they leave that responsibility in the hands of the poster.

    I’ve seen Murdock’s name misspelled as Murdoch, ending in “h”, numerous times, even on her own forum, yet I’ve never once seen her correct people who do that. I hardly think that’s valid evidence that Murdock doesn’t know her own name, or the English language (I’m not sure if Murdock is an English name though), or that this serves as an “example of sloppiness” on the part of anyone other than Fortigurn and the person who cut & pasted his words. BTW, Fortigurn has continued in that mispelling on his own blog even after you had already corrected him here. – http://christianstudies.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/ehrman-carrier-the-historical-jesus-2/

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  • 2014-04-22 05:19:36 UTC - 05:19 | Permalink

    Ehrman seems to be revisiting the “ill-tempered Richard Carrier’s review”.
    [I am not a subscriber to his blog; so, I read just the teaser.]

    Ehrman brings up his point about not having any Roman references to Pontius Pilate. Here is what Ehrman actually wrote (on Huffington Post):
    “It is true that Jesus is not mentioned in any Roman sources of his day. That should hardly count against his existence, however, since these same sources mention scarcely anyone from his time and place. Not even the famous Jewish historian, Josephus, or even more notably, the most powerful and important figure of his day, Pontius Pilate.”

    However, in Ehrman’s latest retelling of this spat, ‘Roman sources” become “any (non-Christian/non-Jewish) pagan sources”. He also seems to forget that the referenced review was his Huff Post article and not his book.

    He writes:
    “The following is in reference to my point that we do not have any references to Pontius Pilate in any (non-Christian/non-Jewish) pagan sources of the first century”

    http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-ehrman-carrier-spat-round-2.html

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