2012-04-29

Bart Ehrman bans this comment from his Public Forum

by Neil Godfrey

Questions I had posted to Bart Ehrman’s Public Forum have disappeared more than once into thin air. So I decided to keep copies of whatever I posted to his Public Forum.

But first, let’s be charitable and be clear about the comments of mine he has allowed to appear on his site.

I posted the following comment to his Forum but it sat there in his “moderation queue” for some days before it finally appeared. So that when it did finally appear there were many more subsequent post already on the page and mine was lost way back in the middle of a long chain somewhere. Who would ever notice it? But here it is:

Neil Godfrey  April 26, 2012

It looks like Earl Doherty is damned if he doesn’t engage with the scholarship and now he is damned if he does. I find it curious that the one example Bart refers to that supposedly makes him look dishonest or somehow implying that Morna Hooker is supporting his interpretation of a celestial crucifixion is identical to the one example advanced by James McGrath — and which was answered by Doherty himself as follows:

She stated a principle (Barrett once stated a possible meaning in regard to a Greek phrase which I was able to make use of, though in a manner he did not). It is completely legitimate for me to appeal to such observations when they can be applied to a mythicist interpretation, even if the scholar himself or herself does not choose to make the same application of their observations. Hooker pointed out the principle involved in counterpart guarantees: “Christ becomes what we are (likeness of flesh, suffering and death), so enabling us to become what he is (exalted to the heights).” That principle stands, it works in both cases, whether it is applied to a Christ perceived to be acting on earth, or a Christ perceived to be acting in the heavens. I am well aware that Hooker applies it to the former; she understands it in that context. That doesn’t necessitate her being right. I can take the same principle and understand it in the context of a heavenly death and rising. Because I don’t conform to Hooker’s context does not necessitate me being wrong. This is simple logic . . . .

I submit that it is simply absurd to suggest that Doherty at any point misleads anyone to think the scholars he engages with support his mythicist view. Of course they don’t, and Doherty at no point hides that fact. Right from the opening page he makes it clear what is already clear to everyone — that is argument is “radical” and obviously contrary to the mainstream view. And as I point out in my post, Doherty regularly acknowledges and addresses the fact that scholars do not draw the same conclusions as he does.

Doherty has handled the scholarship in a scholarly manner, and has never pretended to be a professional scholar himself — he explains why he writes in the style he does, and for whom, and what his educational background is — so it is quite unfair to fault Doherty for appearing to be a scholar among scholars.

Is it wrong for an amateur to seriously engage with the professional scholarship and draw different conclusions through that serious engagement?

Well, at least it finally appeared. Bart is not afraid to have dissident voices heard after all, at least as long as they can only faintly be heard from the middle of a large room.

But at the same time I had posted another comment, so understand how doubly excited I was to see that it, too, had appeared there at long last in the middle of a long chain, most of which consisted of more recent comments:

Neil Godfrey  April 26, 2012

Dr Ehrman

I appreciate that you have acknowledged that some of your statements were ambiguously worded. But there is one wording that I have a difficult time understanding and I would appreciate a clarification about it.

You quote Doherty as saying that there was only “one view” of the universe among the ancients, and in this context quote page 97 of his revised edition of his book. But page 97 of that book says “views”, plural, and the remainder of the sentence also expresses plurality. He also addresses the Stoics, Epicureans as well as Neo-Platonists. And of course, Platonism was a strong influence through Stoicism itself. Doherty’s entire argument is premised upon the variety of ancient views extant at the time.

So I was wondering if you could clarify why you appeared to make a sustained argument (repeated several times) that Doherty wrote that their was only one view of the world among ancients?

Thankyou

I was especially excited about this one because it’s a question I have forwarded him more than once before, though by personal email, and he had never replied. (He did, however, reply to other emails I sent at the same time asking him if he did really read all of all of the books by mythicists he reviewed in his book.)

But lo, the only response to my comment was from another everyday person like me, Claude:

Claude  April 27, 2012

Neil,

This is disingenuous. I know you know the quote came from p. 95 of Jesus Puzzle!

Well, Claude had indeed in another venue offered me that source as the quotation in question, but I wanted to hear it from Bart Ehrman himself. The reason? He had assured me in an earlier email he had read Doherty’s more recent book where he corrected that wording. Why would he quote an older book when he knew in the revised version the particular wording had been corrected? So this is what I posted, and this is what sat in the moderation queue for some hours, and then was trashed into the delete-bin. Ehrman, or his employees, deemed this post should not appear on his Public Forum — The Banned Post:

No Claude, I do not know that. I asked Dr Ehrman if he specifically read the whole of Jesus:Neither God Nor Man and in his reply he assured us he certainly did. Now if Dr Ehrman read that book as he says, and if he also read page 97 which he cites immediately prior to asserting Doherty makes this claim for a single world view among the ancients, then I fail to understand why he repeatedly made this claim that was clearly false.

So we know Dr Ehrman read both Doherty books. We must take his word for it. So perhaps he can explain why he repeatedly claimed Doherty wrote what he did not write in the revised version.

I want to hear from Dr Ehrman his explanation for this. If he really was quoting from The Jesus Puzzle page 95 then will he explain why he did so after reading what he read on page 97 of Jesus: Neither God Nor Man?

This is not a one-off, by the way.

Dr Ehman also quotes from G. A. Wells more than once and then asserts that Wells says the very opposite of what he argues on those very same pages. I have pointed this out in my latest blog post, “The Facts of the Matter, Carrier 9, Ehrman 1.”

I would advise Bart Ehrman that he would be guaranteed to increase the donations to his charities from people keen to enter his more “private blog” if he could demonstrate that they could see that even critical questions will be aired and dealt with seriously.

Perhaps others who have accessed his private blog might raise the question and give me any feedback on his response.

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  • 2012-04-29 20:51:52 UTC - 20:51 | Permalink

    Your post is quite innocuous and AFAIK Ehrman had no good reason for withholding it, so I’m prepared to assume good faith in this case. Perhaps it was just overlooked? I’m still waiting for two posts to be approved myself.

    On his own blog Carrier deliberately kept a post in the moderation queue until he’d written a reply, which he posted immediately after the post was approved. Now THAT is cheating…

    You say,

    >>
    Dr Ehman also quotes from G. A. Wells more than once and then asserts that Wells says the very opposite of what he argues on those very same pages. I have pointed this out in my latest blog post, “The Facts of the Matter, Carrier 9, Ehrman 1.”
    >>

    Yet as someone has pointed out on James Hannam’s forum:

    >>
    Let’s put this paragraph next to Wells’ own words, as quoted by Neil himself.

    1. Ehrman: ‘Wells contends Paul understood Jesus to have been a supernatural being’. Wells: ‘Paul believed in a supernatural Jesus’

    2. Ehrman: ‘who lived in utter obscurity’. Wells: ‘he was convinced that Jesus lived an obscure life on earth’.

    3. Ehrman: ‘who was crucified not by the Romans but by the demonic forces in the world.’. Wells: ‘who assumed human flesh and was crucified on earth at the instigation of supernatural powers’.
    >>

    So it’s difficult to see what you’re upset about.

    • Bob Carlson
      2012-04-29 23:11:51 UTC - 23:11 | Permalink

      On his own blog Carrier deliberately kept a post in the moderation queue until he’d written a reply, which he posted immediately after the post was approved. Now THAT is cheating…

      Huh? Carrier explained how he does things in this response to a commenter:

      To be fair, I run full moderation, so many duplicate questions are posted before the others are visible, and it isn’t a poster’s fault they don’t know the same question had been asked already. True, sometimes commentators are ignoring already-posted comments, so you’re not wholly wrong. But that’s not always the cause.

      The responses appear in batches, and none have yet been posted to the April 27 post titled “Ehrman’s Dubous Replies (Round One).” One commenter on the Carrier blog made this comment on April 21:

      Also posts by Bart do not carry date and time stamps which is something that annoys me!

      Do you think that Is that cheating?

      • Bob Carlson
        2012-04-30 04:15:48 UTC - 04:15 | Permalink

        Neil: What has happened? The response that I replied to and pasted the remark from that ends with “Now that is cheating” appears to be gone.

  • stevenbollinger
    2012-04-30 00:00:51 UTC - 00:00 | Permalink

    Deleting critical comments or holding on to them for hours or days so that when they appear they’re much less visible: that’s what happens in Huffington post’s Religion section. (Perhaps less so since AOL bought HP. AOL tends to destroy the companies it swallows up by going cheap. I’m picturing many HP moderators having been downsized.)

    “I would advise Bart Ehrman that he would be guaranteed to increase the donations to his charities from people keen to enter his more “private blog” if he could demonstrate that they could see that even critical questions will be aired and dealt with seriously.”

    Words like “guarantee” should be used very sparingly when predicting things like human behavior. Ehrman would increase his credibility with serious people if he posted critical comments promptly and responded to them reasonably. But I think that ship has sailed. As far as the charities are concerned: despite the extraordinary amount of damage he has done to his reputation, Ehrman still has a large and loyal fan base, and they may possibly prefer to pay for an echo chamber.

  • GodAlmighty
    2012-04-30 01:07:50 UTC - 01:07 | Permalink

    Fair enough, but given that both Carrier and Ehrman are busy fellows, I can see why posts wait in queue. I’ve noticed they typically only approve new posts once a day. I even have a comment still waiting in queue (as does everyone else who commented) on Carrier’s most recent response, but he did say in that response that he wouldn’t post again until Sunday.

    Now, if other comments posted at approximately the same time as your own were approved but yours was the only one that was kept in queue, then I do agree with you, that’s not fair.

    However, Neil is the third person I’ve heard who has had a comment censored on Ehrman’s site. One of them even included a private member who paid the fee. As he appropriately asked, paying customers deserve better, no? The third person was me, I also had a comment deleted as well.
    I’m sure we’re not the only ones.

    • stevenbollinger
      2012-04-30 01:26:21 UTC - 01:26 | Permalink

      “if other comments posted at approximately the same time as your own were approved”

      That’s what Neil said happened.

      “but yours was the only one that was kept in queue”

      Neil can’t tell how many other comments are being held back, can he?

      “paying customers deserve better, no?”

      Charging money for participation in such a forum is a bad idea to begin with. And charging money that goes to charity is just more of Bart’s extremely-transparent “Look-at-what-a-nice-guy-I-am” rhetoric.

      • GodAlmighty
        2012-04-30 01:52:13 UTC - 01:52 | Permalink

        Oh, my apologies Steven. I wrote that reply to Bob’s post about people complaining that Carrier also holds posts in queue. So when I wrote “if other comments posted at approximately the same time as your own were approved” I wasn’t referring to Neil but to the charge that Carrier was “cheating”.

        • stevenbollinger
          2012-04-30 02:03:03 UTC - 02:03 | Permalink

          “I wasn’t referring to Neil but to the charge that Carrier was ‘cheating’.”

          I know. I suppose my reply wasn’t clear. Yes, Carrier moderates all comments on his blog, but to my knowledge, unlike Ehrman, he moderates them in the order they came in. There’s none of the waiting around and seeing many newer comments appear before yours finally shows up, way back in the midst of others the public has seen for a while, where it’s much less likely to be noticed. Also, Carrier lets comments through which are much more critical than the one Neil shows above which Ehrman didn’t let through, and on the rare occasions when Carrier deletes comments he tends to post a comment explaining why.

          • GodAlmighty
            2012-04-30 06:44:59 UTC - 06:44 | Permalink

            Ah, okay, I gotcha.

  • GakuseiDon
    2012-04-30 04:45:01 UTC - 04:45 | Permalink

    My post in Ehrman’s blog was held in moderation for about 2 days, and it was critical of Carrier’s position and (by implication) supportive of Ehrman.

    • 2012-04-30 18:04:48 UTC - 18:04 | Permalink

      And after 2 days did it disappear into cyberspace as more than one of my comments have?

  • mcduff
    2012-04-30 08:39:42 UTC - 08:39 | Permalink

    Looking at the larger picture, the general context of the engagement, or lack of, between HJ and MJ theory, I suspect we have just witnessed a ‘tipping point’ in the context of the debate.

    Until now the HJ camp have, thanks to a millenia long monopoly of the means of transmission of rhetoric, had the field to themselves. They have been able to discourse, apparently learnedly, without significant challenge, at least in their eyes which are the only lenses, essentially, that has been used. Past critics of the tenets of HJism have been confined to small segments of the issue, was “Mark’ knowledgable about Palestine, why does Paul know so little about the real life of an aleged HJ, how come the supposed disciple witness of an HJ, that is “Matthew’, has been found to base his material on one ["Mark"] who tradition such as it is, claimed was not a witness? And numerous other vexing little problems that have been treated in isolation whilst the elephant in the room, was there actually an HJ, has been largely simplistically taken for granted and iterated and reiterated without meaningful explanation.

    Thanks to internet blogs etc the means of transmission of this debate has widened outside the monopoly of the religiously dominated academic institutions of learning.

    Now, in the past decade or so, an unsubstantiated assertion by an HJ proponent can be subjected to analysis and shown to have weaknesses.

    Doherty is a prime example of this, expert knowledgeable analysis of previously unchallenged assertions that is now within the public domain to an extent far beyond the narrow academic field of those interested in this esoteric question thanks to the net.

    Enter Ehrman. A respected popular writer from academia.

    He made the mistake of presuming [I chose that word carefully] that a simplistic, even sloppy, re-hash of past assertions and apologetics with a dash of snide anti MJ polemic would satisfy the masses and settle the issue.

    But he was wrong.

    It has resulted in the emperor’s clothes being put under the microscope by informed people eg Doherty, Carrier, Neil at this site, and others elsewhere.

    And the result is not pretty.Cherished assertions of the HJers have been found to be baseless or, at best, weak. Its [mostly] all there in one bundle, the HJ book that was supposed to settle the issue once and for a while at least.

    But it hasn’t.

    I suspect this disenchantment with the apparent ‘proofs’ of the HJ camp, the awareness that their claims to authority and expertise are insufficent, that their sneering polemic and rhetorical tricks betray a fundamental insecurity, will grow more rapidly now.

    Several persons have commented at Ehrman’s site that they were ‘agnostic’ [paraphrasing and using the term loosely] until they read his book and that the book has increased their doubt.

    The MJ people are unimpressed, the HJ people have circled the wagons, those in the middle, the previously ‘skeptical’ are now able to see the whole jigsaw [at least more of it in one place] better than previously.

    My perception is that this book has in Vorkosigan’s words [ I think it was him] done the MJ analysis a positive service.

    Unwittingly so.

    A tipping point?

    • stevenbollinger
      2012-04-30 09:05:45 UTC - 09:05 | Permalink

      Some people who have extensive personal contact with mainstream academics in “the relevant fields” (Ehrman’s phrase. I’m going to keep quoting it until I no longer find it funny.) (Not nearly there yet.) say that privately, the academic support of HJ is not nearly as unanimous as it seems publicly. A tipping point I would very much like to see is for mainstream Biblical scholars to go on the record with their doubts about historicism.

    • 2012-04-30 18:09:47 UTC - 18:09 | Permalink

      I agree with you both, mcduff and stevenbollinger. I notice more people who were once fence-sitters now swinging against the historicist argument since Ehrman’s book. I would be interested to know if any ‘don’t knows’ have swung to Ehrman’s side.

      And yes, I do know from personal emails that there is a lot more scepticism about the historicity of Jesus in academic circles than Ehrman would want readers to think. Hoffmann himself has effectively admitted as much publicly but he seems to be going through some personal issues with Carrier in particular at the moment and is making himself as irrelevant as McGrath in this debate.

      • stevenbollinger
        2012-04-30 23:52:42 UTC - 23:52 | Permalink

        “Hoffmann himself has effectively admitted as much publicly”

        Hoffmann co-founded the Jesus Project, and was or is one of its leaders — the Project is currently in limbo due to lack of funding — because as a member of the Jesus Seminar he was disturbed that the Seminar’s barely acknowledged that anyone had ever doubted Jesus’ historicity. His current behavior toward mythicists, including several members of the Jesus Project, is hard to explain, but in turn in may help explain the Project’s financial difficulties. (Would you want to fund a ship with a captain like that?)

      • 2012-05-01 04:46:18 UTC - 04:46 | Permalink

        “I do know from personal emails that there is a lot more scepticism about the historicity of Jesus in academic circles than Ehrman would want readers to think”

        Another point of departure from the Mythicists = Creationists rhetoric.

  • 2012-04-30 11:11:49 UTC - 11:11 | Permalink

    On his facebook page Ehrman ignored all of my substantive comments/questions about DJE? I’m no biblical scholar or ancient historian but I have read Doherty, Price, and Zindler, among others. Ehrman did respond to those comments of mine where he could invoke an “appeal to reputation.” Typical comments were along the lines of “If you knew me as a scholar you wouldn’t say such and such.”

    • 2012-04-30 18:11:30 UTC - 18:11 | Permalink

      This is the thing. Ehrman also responded almost immediately to my posts asking him whether he read the books he discussed or not. But at the same time I asked him why or how he came to say Doherty says the exact opposite of what he writes and why and how he came to even misquote him. No reply.

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    • 2012-04-30 13:00:49 UTC - 13:00 | Permalink

      McGrath no longer makes any pretence of trying to mount any sort of argument. He can do nothing but repeat the same old proof-texts and insults. He has long made himself irrelevant to any discussion – apart from attempting to garner the tactics of character attacks, intimidation and ridicule to crush honest dissent.

  • 2012-05-03 09:24:10 UTC - 09:24 | Permalink

    Very good work!! You are not the first one to discover that Ehrman–regardless of all the views out there, paints anyone who (and in my view, very good reason and data) believes this New Testament which is “assured” to us by the discipline he touts as his own, textual criticism, into one stereotype and then builds straw men arguments against his stereotype. Anyone can do that. It does not take a PhD.

    Thanks again for your work on these details. This is enlightening.

    God bless you!!

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