2012-04-27

Carrier versus Ehrman: Reflections

by Neil Godfrey

I have decided to do my own review, or series of reflections, on Bart Ehrman’s book. I think it could be worthwhile writing about it through the context of both Richard Carrier’s response to it and Bart Ehrman’s replies to Carrier. It is interesting, perhaps instructive, to see the way Bart Ehrman’s tone has changed in his most recent posts. The context of that change is equally interesting. But let’s start at the beginning — in this case Carrier’s initial reaction.

Richard Carrier expressed the disappointment of many when Bart Ehrman’s book finally appeared:

I was certain this would be a great book, the very best in its category. And I said this, publicly, many times in anticipation of it. It’s actually the worst. . . . I was eagerly hoping for a book I could recommend as the best case for historicity (but alas, that title stays with the inadequate but nevertheless competent, if not always correct, treatment in Van Voorst’s Jesus Outside the New Testament and Theissen & Merz’s The Historical Jesus). I was also expecting it to be a good go-to rebuttal to the plethora of bad mythicism out there . . . .

No doubt many who have favourably considered mythicism agree. We were looking for a serious challenge. But one thing Bart Ehrman made clear in his Introduction was what he thought of mythicism and mythicists. Mythicism is on a par with Holocaust and moon-landing denial (p. 5). Mythicists are driven by anti-Christian agenda and are not interested in historical inquiry for its own sake. They will not be convinced by anything he writes so the rest of the book is not even an attempt to engage with them. It is to inform “genuine seekers who really want to know how we know that Jesus did exist” and the answers will come from scholars who, supposedly unlike mythicists, have no vested interest in the question.

That is the tone Ehrman sets in the opening pages of his book. He is essentially telling mythicists to step outside, or at least to the back of the room, while he talks to those who (unlike mythicists) think evidence matters. This is not the book that mythicists and those who are curious but undecided were waiting for.

So Ehrman opens up the game by patronizing and insulting mythicists and muddying the very idea of mythicism.

I sympathized with Carrier’s heated response to Ehrman’s book. It’s a sure sign that I’m less young than I used to be but I do feel uncomfortable with some of Carrier’s abrasive language. It is not only Ehrman whom Carrier severely chastised. He was downright offensive with the way he spoke of Freke and Gandy, too.

It’s almost as bad, in fact, as The Jesus Mysteries by Freke & Gandy (and I did not hyperlink that title because I absolutely do not want you to buy it: it will disease your mind with rampant unsourced falsehoods and completely miseducate you about the ancient world and ancient religion).. . . ., I was also expecting it to be a good go-to rebuttal to the plethora of bad mythicism out there so I could just refer people to this book every time they ask me why (for example) Freke & Gandy suck.

That is also insulting. It is a more youthful and blunt form of how Ehrman himself behaved in his Introduction. I can understand Carrier being impatient. No doubt he gets fed up with the same sorts of questions over and over. But his post is a formal response to Ehrman’s book. Carrier can distinguish himself from anyone he wants to with calmer but equally trenchant language.

I don’t mean that one should feign a dispassionate air. Nothing wrong with letting one’s biases and feelings show.

At the same time, however, is it so hard to be civil and explain what you believe are the deficiencies of books without speaking of “disease” and the tone that accompanies that? Diseases can be contagious and now Hoffmann is spreading his dengue and malaria carrying mosquitoes. I fully understand Carrier speaking to his generation and preference for using common jargon, but as I have said in other contexts, I think public intellectuals also have a responsibility to set an example of how public discourse should be conducted. If Freke and Gandy write something as bad as Carrier says, then let him express that opinion in a way that opens up the debate to a calm and honest discussion. Let the evidence and logic win the day. Dissing “bad mythicism” through intellectual bullying and intimidation is reassuring no-one but the choir. If we want to lift the quality of mythicist arguments we don’t do it by insulting anyone.

Carrier followed up by thrusting the blade into Ehrman. Much of it I think Ehrman deserved. But is it always a good idea in a public debate to give what YOU know your opponent deserves? It’s also a wise move to side-step any stones if you are not fully sure they won’t wobble.

So it is not a happy start. I sympathize and agree with much of what Carrier has said about Ehrman’s book. And I have no reservations about what Carrier said in his response to Ehrman’s Huffpo article. Calling a spade a spade is very often just the right thing to do. Ehrman was engaging in outright intellectual bullying and suppression of open debate, and making many fundamental factual errors in the process.

But if Ehrman started out very badly with that Huffpo piece and then again in his book with his imputing of motives and offensive mental states to mythicists, I did not feel fully comfortable with how “our side” followed up.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree with most of the content of Carrier’s criticism of Ehrman’s book. Ehrman has played it cool since then. His blog advisors have even counseled him to play it cool:

I think you [to Erhman] have two main choices at this point. . . . . .
The two choices are:

a) Admit error where the error has been pointed out and is plain to see. You can probably explain why you did not give this subject the attention it apparently demands. This will salvage what, from what I have read, is an ignominious work. Everybody makes mistakes. You admit error and everybody moves on. Most of these “facts” can be checked because information is much more accessible nowadays and is no longer the preserve of a few. Like those cases where you declare “no scholar…” Those are eggs. Eggs must not be allowed to sit on your face.

b) Allow your ego to check in and dig in like James McGrath and maintain that black is white and white is black, deploy abstruse obfuscation, muddy the waters, dangle red herrings, poison the well, attack personalities, impute malevolent motives to your opponents (this, alack, alas! you have already done), continue appealing to authority and further enlist the support of the no-true-scotsman-fallacy and other tactics that clarify nothing and fail to improve understanding of the subject and lose your reputation as you wade in this mud.

Amateurs like myself and experts alike are watching and waiting.
The choice is yours.

Bart Ehrman replied with a thanks for the advice and his fuller reply followed.

Now reading that “fuller reply” one can be charmed into forgetting the ad hominem attacks, the muddying of the waters, the falsehoods, of his book’s Introduction. This is a different Bart speaking here, and one that Bart no doubt hopes will deflect attention away from the faults of his book that Carrier partly exposed.

Now the game is for the hearts and minds.  If Ehrman is now seducing the hearts, it is up to mythicists to use the advantages of their superior arguments to win the minds.

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45 Comments

  • sahansdal
    2012-04-27 10:38:39 UTC - 10:38 | Permalink

    Uh-oh. If Van Voorst is the best they’ve got, there’s trouble in River City. He’s terrible.

  • sahansdal
    2012-04-27 10:47:15 UTC - 10:47 | Permalink

    Neil,

    Keep with this sort of approach:

    http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/6-earl-dohertys-response-to-bart-ehrmans-case-against-mythicism-jewish-sources/#more-27635

    This post is the one that I hold up as gold-standard. Ehrman is way short of countering it. I’m coming to your side, if the other can’t do better than Ehrman.

  • eheffa
    2012-04-27 11:51:48 UTC - 11:51 | Permalink

    I understand the frustration and anger expressed by Carrier in his review; but, I suspect that the impression that his aggressive panning of Ehrman’s book was personal and overtly insulting will be enough for the Historicists to justify their disregard for the substance of his very valid criticisms of Ehrman’s fatally flawed thesis. (In contrast, it is a marvel to observe at how calmly and gracefully Earl Doherty has patiently and convincingly refuted Ehrman; point by point and against some pretty awful and insulting prose.)

    The ad hominem attacks have been quite evident from the Historicist side as they refuse to engage the the question of Jesus’ historicity using tools of evidence and logic. That tactic, in the absence of good arguments, will only continue; now that they can label one of the chief spokespeople for the Mythicist case as hostile & insulting. It’s too bad, as I expect that Carrier’s book on the Historicity of Jesus will be excellent and devastating to the widely held consensus of the so called experts on this subject. Any excuse for his Bible Guild opponents to dismiss Carrier will allow them to continue to avoid engaging the real issues at hand.

    -evan

    • 2012-04-27 12:49:26 UTC - 12:49 | Permalink

      I was much more free and easy and flippant in my remarks before more than a handful of people noticed my blog. But we have seen how McGrath will broadcast the slightest mildest sarcasm on my own part, even if only made in jest, as proof that I have a tail, pitchfork and horns. He has even used comments from strangers on my blog as evidence of my own attitudes. But when asked why he says nothing to those who utter the foulest personal abuse towards mythicists he will indicate that he prefers to lead by the example of his own more refined personal insults.

      That’s how the game is played. We can’t change it. That’s a main reason I try to moderate comments here.

      We know worse is to come from Hoffmann’s blog. Especially from Steph and Maurice, since we have seen the way they play the game, too.

      We have some fine exemplars in laymen like Doherty, Salm and Parvus. Let’s leave the dirt to the professionals and let the onlookers decide.

  • Badger3k
    2012-04-27 12:02:13 UTC - 12:02 | Permalink

    One thing that struck me as funny-sad, is that Ehrman replied (IIRC) on the lack of sources/footnotes that he didn’t write the book for scholars. Yet, Vic Stenger, when writing his book God and the Folly of Faith, also written for lay people, also lacks resources…oh, wait, no, it doesn’t (http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2012/04/26/book-review-god-and-the-folly-of-faith-by-victor-j-stenger/)

    “But while he provides few rhetorical flourishes, he more than makes up for it in terms of depth of knowledge. He has read widely and provides copious references to the sources of his information and arguments.”

    Whoops – so it is possible to write a book for lay audiences that also provides sources for the material you assert is correct. Who’d a thunk it?

    • 2012-04-27 12:56:07 UTC - 12:56 | Permalink

      Ehrman has demonstrated contempt for the topic he wrote about. He even admitted he found the effort painful and most unpleasant. Every other page shows evidence of it all being a slap-dash work. He hated addressing mythicism, did so only under suffrance, and appears not to have cared if he said anything misleading or even false. What more do mythicists deserve? — is presumably his thinking.

      To get a clearer follow up idea of his thinking since the book, don’t read his public blog posts. Read his comments replying to the usual suspects. The spots hidden from view in the posts surface in the comments again.

  • GakuseiDon
    2012-04-27 13:26:22 UTC - 13:26 | Permalink

    Carrier: I was also expecting it to be a good go-to rebuttal to the plethora of bad mythicism out there, so I could just refer people to this book every time they ask me why (for example) Freke & Gandy suck.

    I’m not sure the onus should be the scholar here. Ehrman’s book covers the most popular mythicist theories, though from what I hear, not in much depth. It would have been good if he could have gone into one of the more reasonable ones (Wells’ or Doherty’s) and left the kookier ones out of it.

    I think mythicists should beat down that kookier conspiracy theory side themselves, esp the Zeitgeist movie and Acharya S. Mythicists should work together, to build the strongest mythicist case as possible. Of course some in the Acharya S crowd will never be convinced, and they will as happily dump on mythicists who argue against them as anyone else; but without mythicists getting behind one meta-theory and building from that (maybe even some parts peer-reviewed), you will continue to get books like Ehrman’s that doesn’t distinguish between mythicists.

    But this is something that I’ve been saying for a long time. Carrier’s books will be the first along that line, so no excuse for historicists to ignore mythicist arguments after that. But no excuse also for mythicists to give the conspiracy crowd side little attention, and then be surprised when they are grouped in with them.

    • 2012-04-29 03:38:17 UTC - 03:38 | Permalink

      GakuseiDon: “I think mythicists should beat down that kookier conspiracy theory side themselves, esp the Zeitgeist movie and Acharya S…”

      LOL, never going to happen because as much as the anti-Zeitgeist and anti-Acharya S trolls like you would like to paint them as kookie conspiracy theories the primary sources and scholarly commentary on them cannot be dismissed.

      Zeitgeist Part 1 & the Supportive Evidence
      http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2997

      The New Zeitgeist Part 1 Sourcebook Transcript (2010)
      http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/zeitgeistsourcebook.pdf

      Rebuttal to Dr. Chris Forbes concerning ‘Zeitgeist, Part 1′
      http://truthbeknown.com/chrisforbeszeitgeist.html

      There were over 200 million views of Zeitgeist counted by 2009. I’m not sure what it’s up to now but, people are obviously interested and want more information along those lies. I’m disappointed that Neil Godfrey is afraid to mention her or bring up her work. I like reading Neil’s blogs but wish he’d do one on Acharya’s mythicist position articles and video. Despite the claims otherwise, her work is some of the very best on this subject.

      Neither Carrier nor Ehrman can prove her wrong with making sloppy and egregious errors of their own in th process. She’s far better than she gets credit for.

  • mcduff
    2012-04-27 13:57:08 UTC - 13:57 | Permalink

    You know the old school yard excuse used by the brawling kids – “it was him what started it”.
    Well I thought Ehrman’s HuffPo piece was a disgrace – crude and rude polemic that demanded a strong response.
    Carrier’s respose was strong, albeit more muted than Ehrman’s polemic and it differed to that of Ehrman in that his review of both the HuffPo piece and the book is detailed and scholarly in approach.
    Its well past time that somebody called a spade a spade and Carrier has simply correctly described the stuff that Ehrman wrote as such.

  • 2012-04-27 16:59:50 UTC - 16:59 | Permalink

    Ehrman took the tone of Carrier’s article to avoid answering the most serious charges.

    Which was the most serious charge against a historian?

    That of inventing sources and using false stories as evidence.

    That is a really serious charge that Carrier brought.

    And Ehrman stopped defending his stuff before he got on to the serious charges Carrier brought.

    ‘ Instead, I will here address his strange method of inventing sources and witnesses…..We don’t in fact have those sources, we aren’t even sure they exist, and even if we were, we have no way of knowing what they said. ‘

    And Ehrman never touched that charge of ‘inventing sources and witnesses’.

    Because Ehrman knows his hypothetical independent sources are invisible documents.

    He cannot defend the existence of invisible documents or say what was written on them or defend their historicity.

    Ehrman actually uses a story of a girl being raised from the dead as evidence for the historicity of Jesus because, (wait for it) some of the story is in Aramaic.

    Did Ehrman defend that story against Carrier’s charge that he used false stories as evidence?

    No. He didn’t.

    You have to ask yourself why Ehrman’s fuller reply did not talk about the bit that was the most insulting to his reputation as a historian – somebody who uses real sources, and evaluates stories to see if they are true or false.

    • Ben
      2012-04-27 17:48:57 UTC - 17:48 | Permalink

      Yeah, the best way to see Ehrman’s farce is to read his “fuller response” and then go back and read Carrier’s criticisms and see if the warmed over response is as cozy.

      • 2012-04-27 18:37:29 UTC - 18:37 | Permalink

        I’m preparing a couple of posts to cover just that theme. Stick around.

        • Ben
          2012-04-27 18:43:08 UTC - 18:43 | Permalink

          **gets popcorn**

          • 2012-04-29 16:45:32 UTC - 16:45 | Permalink

            And some hot roasted cashews. My favorite.

  • 2012-04-27 17:27:53 UTC - 17:27 | Permalink

    I posted the following on Bart Ehrman’s public blog, which perhaps indicates why Carrier thinks Ehrman is misinforming the public…..

    I emailed Dr. William Lane Craig to ask for his comments on your claim ‘With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life in the sources lying behind the Gospels (and the writings of Paul) — sources that originated in Jesus’ native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves). Historical sources like that are pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind.’

    It is interesting that the Gospels were based on such astounding historical sources – sources that could be dated so early. Thank you for bringing that to the attention of the general public, who sometimes think of the Gospels as not being based on sources that can be dated so early.

    Do you plan to debate Dr. Craig again? I would be interested to hear a debate on the reliability of the Gospels.

    • Ben
      2012-04-27 17:47:36 UTC - 17:47 | Permalink

      lulz, I hope Craig takes advantage of it.

    • 2012-04-27 18:36:30 UTC - 18:36 | Permalink

      It would be of interest to those of us less familiar with Craig — and Ehrman — where they differ here so we can share in the joke.

      • Ben
        2012-04-27 18:38:59 UTC - 18:38 | Permalink

        That line of Ehrman’s on the independent, multiple, early attestation garbage is virtually lifted right out of every William Lane Craig debate in defense of the magical Jesus.

        • 2012-04-27 19:15:09 UTC - 19:15 | Permalink

          Paul says the very brother of Jesus saw Jesus resurrected. To quote Bart ‘”If Jesus didn’t exist, you would think his brother would know about it,’

          So if Jesus wasn’t resurrected, you would think his brother would know about it.

          Paul says 500 people saw Jesus resurrected. To quote Bart, ‘“When Paul swears he is not lying, I generally believe him…’

          • mcduff
            2012-04-27 19:49:20 UTC - 19:49 | Permalink

            1 Cor 15.6
            ” And that He was seen by over 500 brethren at once ….”

            I try to get my head around that bit.
            500 ‘brothers’.
            We are assured that ‘brother’ means, and can only mean, kin sibling, that is [male] children of the same parents.

            Now try to figure out how you can get ‘over 500 brethren’ in the same place at the same time.
            500 fellas who are ‘brothers’ to each other.

            They can’t all have the same mum and dad cos that would mean just one mum had to have a 100 or so pregnancies resulting in a successful upbring of 5 males average per pregnancy.
            [No daughters or if so they don't get counted.]
            So I reckon that’s out, not logistically possible.
            Maybe they had the same dad but different mums.
            That could work. Something like one dad gets a hundred different women to raise 5 male children of his each – hence ’500 brethren’ – or one dad and 200 mums with 2 and 1/2 males per preganacy – something like that.
            OK they are actually half brothers to each other but we’ll cut Paul some slack in his wording.
            Thats possible, maybe not plausible, but possible.
            Strange that Paul doesn’t mention the name of this prolific father.

            • Ben
              2012-04-27 22:10:08 UTC - 22:10 | Permalink

              It’s probably why you don’t hear about Joseph again. He was very very “busy.”

            • mP
              2012-04-28 15:09:18 UTC - 15:09 | Permalink

              I would suggest that you learn some ancient Hebrew, brothers can also mean half brothers. Its obvious that Mary and Joseph were part of a free love cult, and Joseph or Big Joe as the ladies call him had many many wives. Over a few cold winters they all got pregnant and Jesus literally had hundreds of brothers. This is the reason why Jesus didnt want to go home after his trip to the Temple at age 12. He was sick of crying babies and dirty nappies.
              :)

  • 2012-04-28 00:23:02 UTC - 00:23 | Permalink

    Page 88 of Did Jesus Exist? is amazing.

    ‘There is very little dispute that some of the Gospel stories originated in Aramaic, and they therefore go back to the earliest stages of the Christian movement in Palestine.’

    ‘Very little dispute’?

  • stevenbollinger
    2012-04-28 03:37:20 UTC - 03:37 | Permalink

    First things first: this is my first time on your blog, Neil, and I like it lots! I’ve long been decidedly undecided on the hj/mj question, but more sympathetic to the mythicists because I’ve found the historicist dismissal of dissent unconvincing, unprofessional, rude and quasi-Medieval. The vortex of the brouhaha over DJE? has finally sucked me in and got me reading mythicist — or should I just say non-historicist? — blogs.

    To business: I have no idea whom you are quoting here:

    “I think you [to Erhman] have two main choices[...]“

  • Bob Carlson
    2012-04-28 07:50:46 UTC - 07:50 | Permalink

    A few hours ago, Carrier put up a post titled Ehrman’s Dubious Replies (Round One).

    • 2012-04-28 08:13:10 UTC - 08:13 | Permalink

      Darn it! I was half way through my own post on Ehrman’s “dubious replies”. For better or worse I will hold off reading Carrier’s response till I complete my own. Though my own thoughts can hardly have the same relevance as Carrier’s, I know.

      • 2012-04-28 08:21:12 UTC - 08:21 | Permalink

        You should listen to the Homebrewed Christianity recording from about 20:30 minutes onwards.

        Ehrman flat out agrees with the interviewer who says Murdock drew the statue and that it was completely made up.

        Only a few days later, for Ehrman to write that the statue ‘does appear to exist’.

        Oh, that looks bad, bad, bad.

        • 2012-04-28 08:24:02 UTC - 08:24 | Permalink

          What’s the link?

          • 2012-04-28 08:28:28 UTC - 08:28 | Permalink

            http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2012/04/03/bart-ehrman-on-jesus-existence-apocalypticism-holy-week/

            Ehrman laughs about this ‘completely made up’ statue. It sounds really bad….

            And then complains about personal attacks when it is pointed out to him that saying something is made up, when the author has provided references of it existing, is incompetence, and that he is the only scholar in the village and mythicists just don’t have his ability as a historian….

            • sahansdal
              2012-04-28 10:49:52 UTC - 10:49 | Permalink

              He’s a textual critic, not a historian. eye roll

            • GakuseiDon
              2012-04-28 11:55:25 UTC - 11:55 | Permalink

              I listened to the mp3. The interviewer mentions how Acharya S associates “Peter” with “cock” (penis) and “then the author draws a picture”. Ehrman laughs and says “Yes, draws a picture of Peter with a nose that is in fact an extended penis, an erect penis. And the author indicates that this is a statue that is kept in the basement of the Vatican museum (laughs). It’s just made up. There’s no such [thing?], it’s just completely made up.”

              • 2012-04-28 21:31:40 UTC - 21:31 | Permalink

                Exactly, GDon. The whole thrust of the interview at that point was scoffing at the idea of Murdock drawing a statue of Peter and claiming it was hidden in the Vatican — the whole thing was made up. Yes. it was “of Peter” — guess what, that made it relevant to the discussion. In my next latest post (Facts of the Matter) I quote others who likewise understand the plain gist of Ehrman’s words.

                Ehrman is trying to weasle out of it by lawyering with words, the way you do. I agree fully with Carrier’s assessment of Ehrman’s original original claim and strained efforts to extricate himself. It’s a Clintoneque effort to be very particular about the meaning of certain words in order to assure the public he was not lying — hoping people will overlook the message itself.

                As for Ehrman’s honesty, it is again open to question in my latest post, Facts of the Matter. Ehrman tells his readers that G. A. Wells argues something he actually argues against with Doherty. Ehrman tells readers Wells argues Jesus appeared on earth as a spiritual being and was crucified by demons. And he quotes pages in Wells where Wells really says Jesus was a spiritual being in heaven who came down to earth as a flesh and blood human, born of a woman, and was crucified by people, Jews let’s say, at the instigation of demons.

                And Ehrman has solemnly declared he really did read the books he wrote about!

                And you think we are being unfair to question Ehrman’s honesty?

                Or perhaps you can parse Ehrman’s discussion about Wells in a way to extricate him again.

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-04-29 04:58:42 UTC - 04:58 | Permalink

                I’m not sure if you are being unfair in questioning Ehrman’s honesty. If you think he is being dishonest, then question it. He doesn’t seem to be the type that would be dishonest on such a peripheral matter though. He reads Acharya S as claiming that a penis-nosed statue **of Peter** was hidden away in the Vatican, and he says no such statue **of Peter** exists. From what I can tell, Ehrman knew about the existence of statues of Priapus. And he doesn’t care two hoots if some statue of Priapus existed or not, at least from a “Christ Myth” perspective. I believe Ehrman when he writes:

                “[Carrier] mistakenly thought I was arguing that no such statue existed, but that was not my intention or concern. I can see how my wording could be (mis)read that way, however.”

                Had Acharya S written something like “this is a statue of Priapus, that some believe is related to Peter somehow”, Ehrman would have responded differently, don’t you think? He certainly wouldn’t have claimed “no such statue **of Priapus** exists”. But Ehrman was responding to his reading her referring to it as a penis-nosed statue **of Peter**, as he makes clear in the mp3.

                Personally I suspect he believes that Acharya S or her source made the whole thing up about the statue **of Peter** “hidden” in the Vatican (“hidden” obviously making it sound like the Vatican is concerned about its existence), including the drawing. And that’s because he knows no such penis-nosed statue **of Peter** exists, in the Vatican or elsewhere. So what else can it be but made up? But as Ehrman writes, he was not concerned about some statue that was **not** of Peter.

                I think it is fair for Carrier to bring this up, if this is something he feels is more important than any number of other things in Ehrman’s book. However:
                (1) It is clearly a “nitpick” that affects nothing in Ehrman’s case
                (2) It is not worth the hundreds of words Carrier has spent on it, given it was a bullet point response to one of a number of bullet points.

                If you truly think Ehrman is being dishonest here, then you should pursue this. Dishonesty should not be tolerated. But I don’t think Ehrman is being dishonest here, and I think Carrier has made a big mistake in pressing this. A more focussed approach, dealing with his actual arguments against mythicism (I’m glad to see Doherty taking this approach in his posts here), might have been more productive.

            • 2012-04-28 11:33:32 UTC - 11:33 | Permalink

              You are right. Bart Ehrman laughs at Murdock drawing a picture of a statue with an erect penis for a nose and then claiming the statue was hidden in the Vatican — There’s no such statue, Ehrman laughs — “She just made it up.”

              There is no question. Ehrman is scoffing at Murdock for manufacturing the idea of the statue itself.

              Now he is turning to the lawyer’s quibble in his defence and wanting us to re-read his words against their grain.

              But Ehrman is a scholar. So he is definitely not a liar. He is as honest as a scholar and a gentleman can ever be.

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-04-28 12:14:44 UTC - 12:14 | Permalink

                Neil: Bart Ehrman laughs at Murdock drawing a picture of a statue with an erect penis for a nose

                Listening to the mp3, Ehrman laughs at Murdock drawing a picture of a statue **of Peter** with an erect penis for a nose, which is the same as his comment in his book. Ehrman writes in his response to Carrier’s critique: http://ehrmanblog.org/fuller-reply-to-richard-carrier/

                “The bulk of Carrier’s harsh critique involves a set of “Errors of Fact” – including one that I have already dealt with in an earlier post, whether a bronze Priapus that is allegedly in the Vatican (but not actually, as one of the posts on this blog shows) was of Peter. I stated it was not, and Carrier agrees. He mistakenly thought I was arguing that no such statue existed, but that was not my intention or concern. I can see how my wording could be (mis)read that way, however.”

                Carrier responses at length on “The Priapus Affair” (as he calls it), so I recommend people read the whole thing. Here are some of the things Carrier says on this:
                http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1117

                “… here I believe there is reason to suspect he is lying about the Priapus statue… ”

                “… of course he now claims that he never said the statue didn’t exist. He only said a statue of Peter didn’t exist. That’s right. He parses his words hyper-literally to argue that he said the exact opposite of what he said. You see, when he said the statue didn’t exist, that it was made up, he meant a statue of Peter, and since the statue that Murdock references and presents a drawing of isn’t a statue “of Peter,” the statue doesn’t exist. Get it?” …

                “… even granting his excuse, the fact that the wording is completely misleading and will misinform the public still confirms my point in citing this example, that we can’t trust his book. If he so badly miswrote here that he meant the opposite of what he said, then how many other sentences in this book are as badly written and mean the opposite of what they say?” …

                “I don’t actually believe him when he says he didn’t mean to say the statue didn’t exist. I suspect that is a post-hoc rationalization that he cooked up in an attempt to save face, after his careless and irresponsible scholarship on this matter was exposed.”

              • KevinC
                2012-04-29 05:48:46 UTC - 05:48 | Permalink

                OK, GDon, let’s continue applying your logic. The Gospels are narrative tales **of a miracle-working demigod named Jesus** who healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, and then resurrected himself after his own crucifixion. All of the major players in this little drama can agree that no **miracle-working demigod named Jesus** actually existed. Therefore, Jesus is a mythical character, right?

                Since it is not possible for Murdock to have written a partially mythical interpretation of an “historical statue” without being correctly assessed as guilty of having “completely” “made the whole thing up,” it is also not possible for the Gospel writers to have written a partially mythical interpretation of an “historical Jesus” without similarly being guilty of having “completely” “made the whole thing up.” Right?

                Unless you believe in **a miracle-working demigod named Jesus,** congratulations, you’re a mythicist.

  • KevinC
    2012-04-28 10:54:24 UTC - 10:54 | Permalink

    So, wow. The mighty historicists are now reduced to tone trolling. The link is to The New Oxonian, where Hoffman uses a giant essay to say nothing more than, “Ah, I remember the days when scholars sat around in tweed jackets sipping cognac in mahogany-paneled rooms and smoking pipes while being indubitably British to one another! *Sigh* Those were the days!” The subtext, brought out explicitly in the comments: “Richard Carrier used the word ‘fucked.’ Therefore, he is a meany-poopy-head and a disease-carrying mosquito. Because we Real, True Scholars would never insult anybody.”[1]

    Never mind that their favorite argument, by far, leaving even “James, the brother of the Lord” far behind in the dust, is to attack the credentials of their opponents (and, in Ehrman’s case with Carrier, get it wrong) and poison the well by attributing nefarious motives to them. So when someone like Carrier fires back, focusing not on Ehrman as a person, but the vast pile of egregious errors in his book, the historicists go for the pearlclutch and reach for their smelling salts.

    I keep trying to give the Scholarly Consensus(tm) the benefit of the doubt, but the more they try to “argue their case,” the more they convince me they really don’t have anything in the holster.

    NOTE:

    1. These are not intended to represent exact quotes. They are both paraphrases of Hoffman’s quote and the supporting comments in the thread.

    • Bob Carlson
      2012-04-28 11:25:21 UTC - 11:25 | Permalink

      In case you hadn’t noticed, Carrier says this in his latest post:

      Ehrman evidently doesn’t know that in my opinion Hoffman has gone insane. I’ve documented the evidence of this before.

      • Squirrelloid
        2012-04-28 12:13:48 UTC - 12:13 | Permalink

        Are you meaning to imply: (1) People do not ‘go insane’ in any sense ever (say, the clinical), (2) It is impossible to document evidence of this, (3) It is impermissible to ever discuss the evidence and reach the conclusion (that they are insane), (4) it isn’t permissible to hold opinions about people, (5) Ehrman shouldn’t examine evidence for apparent mental deficiency when he asks for help in refuting people, (6) Ehrman shouldn’t care about whether the people has asks for assistance will be capable of coming up with cogent argument with any reasonable likelihood (assuming insanity precludes the likelihood of cogent argument), (7) Ehrman shouldn’t care whether he manages to persuade his opponent while responding to the arguments of his opponent (where enlisting the aid of people that opponent isn’t going to find credible will be a non-starter).

        Seriously, you seem to be insinuating something, but I’m really not sure what.

      • GakuseiDon
        2012-04-28 14:54:49 UTC - 14:54 | Permalink

        Carrier also says that Ehrman “gets insanely and invalidly hyper-specific about what qualifies a person to speak on this subject”
        http://exposingreligionblog.tumblr.com/post/20640643982

    • KevinC
      2012-04-28 13:54:54 UTC - 13:54 | Permalink

      Timestamp of Richard Carrier’s blog post mentioning Hoffman:

      April 27, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Timestamp of the first comment on Hoffman’s tone-trolling post (the post itself gives only the date):

      April 27, 2012 at 3:48 am

      If the timestamps that appear on my screen are in synch with one another and not local to different time zones, Hoffman’s post was up more than ten hours before Carrier’s. As for Carrier’s comment about Hoffman’s sanity, I haven’t read the documentation that Carrier refers to in enough detail to have an opinion on that. I think he does make a pretty good case that Hoffman is acting a bit strangely, saying that Carrier “vanity published” a work for which he, Hoffman, was the editor (Carrier’s essay in The Sources of the Jesus Tradition, under the aegis of Prometheus Books, the same publisher that published Proving History:

      In the post Ehrman punts to, Hoffman tells another lie about me, a really weird one in fact: “He [i.e. me] is about to re-publish (he had vanity published it already) his ‘research’ on this subject with Prometheus Books.” I can’t fathom what book he means, as there are only two he could mean: one (On the Historicity of Jesus Christ) that hasn’t even been completed and won’t be published until next year (I have never published a book arguing Jesus didn’t exist; that will be my first one), which does not consist of material I have published before but is almost entirely new research; and Proving History, which was scheduled for late April release but dropped early and is available now.

      If he means the first of these, he would be lying about its contents, since he has no way of knowing what those contents are, or that they duplicate anything I’ve published before (and since I haven’t published on the historicity of Jesus before, that would be impossible). If he means the second of these, then he is really shooting himself in the face here. Do you know what the “vanity press” was that previously published my work before I published it with Prometheus? Prometheus. That’s right. And you know what book that was? Sources of the Jesus Tradition. Do you know who edited that book, and selected the chapters to include in it? R.J. Hoffman.

      How do you go about criticizing somebody for “vanity publishing” something when it was you that published it as part of an anthology you edited?

  • mP
    2012-04-28 14:18:00 UTC - 14:18 | Permalink

    Following all the news and posts on vridar and similar blogs im amazed just how few learned scholars are actively involved on both sides of the argument. I appreicate that most scholars are too busy and wont get involved in discussions like this in places like here but still its amazing just how few actually have something to say, both in relations to Barts new book and in the general media. From what I can tell the constant statement from Bart in the book, that scholars dont think much of the mythist claim basically amounts to a short list of less than a dozen. If two get hit by the bus or change opinions the consensus changes dramatically.

    • mP
      2012-04-28 15:14:16 UTC - 15:14 | Permalink

      Is it just me or is it Barts new writing style to spend more time introducing someone and noting more about their education than actually detailing the argument or details about why its right or wrong. It would seem if you dont have qualifications then your automatically wrong and theres no need to even point out why they are wrong.

      I am amazed that through out his book, Bart barely gives a definition of the what mythists claim or any background of why theses myths were formed. Does Bart have any knowledge on the solar dying saviour at all ?

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