Did Bart Ehrman read the books?

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by Neil Godfrey

Bart Ehrman assures us he did.

So what led to the doubts in the first place?

The Bible Geek broadcast of April 12, 2012: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/21808446

About four minutes in Robert Price says:

I and others have expressed that while we are not at all surprised that NT scholars don’t buy the Christ Myth hypothesis for various reasons, we were pretty surprised reading this book [Did Jesus Exist? by Bart Ehrman] at the poor quality of it, the blatant and systematic misrepresentation of Earl Doherty and Acharya and some others and utter failure to come to grips or even to understand certain theories and arguments by myself, by Frank Zindler and G. A. Wells and others where you wonder, “How can this guy who is so astute as he shows in so many of his writings do such a superficial and unfair hack job here?” (I’m sorry to say that but let’s be blunt though). Well, I think I found out today how this anomaly developed.

A Bible Geek who shall remain nameless just so he doesn’t get into as much trouble as I am about to do, though he can come forward and verify if he wishes, was talking to one of the graduate assistants or students of Professor Ehrman at Chapel Hill. What do you know! He didn’t even read the damn books. He just farmed them out to students who did reports on them on the basis of which he leveled his criticisms. Now I get it. I guess this doesn’t merit an appendix in the book Forged because it’s not exactly a forgery. . . .

Then on the broadcast of April 16, 2012, http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/21906896 he says about 29 minutes in:

Now he defends his not having read them because it has got out that he had his graduate students read the books and report to him. Well, he says, “Oh, that’s common procedure.” Bullgeschichte! If I assigned a paper and found that a student had had his team of people do the research for him he’d get an F. You can’t pretend to evaluate complex scholarly works based on the Monarch Notes provided by your students. . . . Well he had them to show him the parts of the books he needed to read. Well I’m sorry but you’ve got to read my whole damn book if you’re going to evaluate it as I would read all of yours. You can’t leave it to other people. It’s disgraceful, really, really disgusting. This guy is sinking in my estimation to the level of William Lane Craig.

I think it would be better for Bart Ehrman to have done what Robert Price understands he did than to insist that he read them all himself very carefully. The former gives him some excuse. The latter potentially leaves him open to the charge of incompetence or worse.

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Neil Godfrey

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36 thoughts on “Did Bart Ehrman read the books?”

  1. Ehrman has strenuously and indignantly denied ever doing any such thing (although , of course, James McGrath and Mike Wilson rushed to defend the practice of not reading books you claim to be refuting)

    I was astonished by Price’s claim. Apparently , Price was relying on rich oral tradition (That never fails 🙂

  2. I have since sent another email to Bart asking for specific clarification that he did indeed read all of all the books, including “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man”, as opposed to reading sections marked for him by students or others.

    1. Here is Bart’s reply:

      On 18 April 2012 06:18, Ehrman, Bart D wrote:

      > Yes, I did all my reading of all the books myself.
      > Bart D. Ehrman
      > James A. Gray Professor
      > Department of Religious Studies
      > University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
      > Official Website: http://www.bartdehrman.com
      > View the DID JESUS EXIST? book trailer
      > Join me on Facebook
      > —–Original Message—–
      > From: Neil Godfrey
      > Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 4:36 PM
      > To: Ehrman, Bart D
      > Subject: Re: The Bart Ehrman Blog Form Submission
      > Thanks, Bart. I have posted you denial on my blog. But can you assure us that when you say that you “read all the books” yourself, that you in fact read ALL of each book (including all of “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man”) as opposed to sections marked for you by students or assistants?
      > Thanks again,
      > Neil

  3. Graduate students usually do the mundane “research assistant” stuff, not the heavy scholarly lifting. And if they do do more heavy lifting, they usually get credit for it in the publication, possibly even as a co-author.

    1. Ehrman acknowledges students and research assistants Maria Doerfler, Jason Combs, as well as students from the Christianity in Antiquity reading group at the beginning of “Did Jesus Exist?”

      1. Here’s a theory: Ehrman read the books he said he read. He farmed out other books to grad students to see whether there was anything else he needed to look at. Maybe he even had grad students help him make the initial cut of books he would read. In either case, the grad students only knew what books had been assigned to them. They didn’t know what books Ehrman read for himself. One of the students talked to Price’s source.

          1. I am loving the “meta” conversation this has sparked, comparing the event (and the evidence about the event) to the historicity of Jesus arguments. It’s been so amusing!

  4. I simply do not believe Ehrman this time. There is just no way in hell he could’ve read the books and made the mistakes he made. If he did read the books, then, it’s far worse as Neil Godfrey in the original post because that means he has made a load of 4th grade level errors, repeatedly. It’s sloppy and egregious by any standard let alone coming from a New Testament scholar who’s written several popular books at this point. There is just no excuse. Dr. Price is right to call this book by Errorman a “hack job.”

    Errorman made many mistakes with Doherty’s book. The most blatantly obvious book Errorman absolutely did NOT read was Acharya’s as he accuses her of making stuff up when the sources and citations where right there all along.

    The phallic ‘Savior of the World’ hidden in the Vatican

    Does Josephus prove a historical Jesus?

    1. I guess if the authors known as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote their gospels the way Bart wrote his book, its no wonder they made the mistakes they did. Perhaps they also got mixed up when adding other details for dramatic effect with some other books.

    2. @Max lets not forget the Ra obelisk right in the center of St Peters. Why would the church need or place this in the center of its magnificent square if there was no connection between Jesus and Horus ?

  5. Neil, What Dr Price calls “blatant and systematic misrepresentation” illustrates that this book is a political polemic, not a scholarly work.

    Common courtesy and basic professional standards would have required that Dr Ehrman discuss his views with those he trashes before leaping into print with such shoddy derogatory comments.

    Over the centuries, the church has adopted an inquisitorial approach towards free thinkers. This has eased in more recent times, with the modern emphasis on free rational analysis and research. The tragedy here is that Bart Ehrman, having established a reputation for critical thought with his work on church fraud, does not see respectful dialogue as the ethical core of enquiry, but rather presents something of a throwback to how the early church persecuted people with diverse views, as institutional dogmas narrowed and hardened its theological framework.

  6. If The Center For Inquiry has any moral fiber, it will cancel Robert M Price’s “The Human Bible” podcast and dissociate themselves from Price for engaging in such libel and slander of Ehrman.

    1. a) Libel and Slander are two different things. One is written and one is spoken.
      b) Since it’s spoken, we’ll go with Slander. Did Price say untrue things about Ehrman? Not really: he said true things about *what he had heard* about Ehrman. He was VERY clear about the source of his claim and even qualified it with an “apparently.”

      Were those things true? Almost certainly not. Should he have said them? I don’t think so. But neither was it ‘slander.’ Let’s not blow this even further out of proportion than it has already been. Everyone is going mad about this, wanting one scholar or the other crucified for the perceived insults. It’s ridiculous.

      1. Just to clarify a little: what makes slander bad is when the person having uttered it knew–or should have known–that the statements weren’t true. What makes it really bad is when damages are done.

        If anyone thinks that Robert M Price could even scratch the surface of Ehrman’s high-profile career by saying something like this on his personal podcast for a handful of listeners, that person is living in a dream world. What’s more, short of showing that Price was LYING about his source, there’s no reason to think his statements were unreasonable from his perspective.

        Anyway, that’s my take on it.

        1. Slander isn’t simply mitigated if no damages are done. False statements made in a good faith and reasonable belief that they were true are generally treated the same as true statements; however, people may inquire into the reasonableness of the belief. The degree of care expected will vary with the nature of the accused: an ordinary person might safely rely on a single newspaper report, while the newspaper would be expected to carefully check multiple sources. Price should have known better and had no basis to say what he said, and Ehrman seemed quite upset with Price was saying about him as a professional and a scholar.

          1. You’ve quoted wikipedia’s definition. That’s good (though you probably should have sourced it). Now read further down: “No actual injury: If there is third-party communication, but the third-party hearing the defamatory statement does not believe the statement, or does not care, then there is no injury, and therefore, no recourse.”

      2. It’s also written on Facebook. Price wrote to Ehrman that “If anyone is lying in the matter, it is one of your own grad assistants who told this to Steven Styles. Should I regard it as true based on the criterion of embarrassment? Isn’t it too early for oral tradition to have gone so far astray? In any case, true or not, it is quite plausible given the astonishing level of your critique of our books.” Writing that Ehrman quite plausibly did not read the books sounds pretty close to libel to me. In any case, it’s libel against the grad assistant because Price has no evidence, at least none that he has presented.

        1. What part of that written statement is slanderous? It’s not libel to write that an unknown person might be lying. Nor is it slander to give an opinion of a written work, however strongly worded that opinion may be. He has essentially said nothing more than “this work is so bad that it’s plausible to think you didn’t even read the works you were criticizing.” That’s his opinion, not slander–especially when said directly to the person in question!

          Again, you are either exaggerating, or unclear about the meaning of the various forms of defamation. So far we have two scholars who have been somewhat less than courteous of each other’s work. It’s disappointing, but that’s all that it is.

          1. Bleh. Editing broke the first sentence, and made it as bad as one I’d criticized earlier! Oh well. Nothing like egg on my face to calm the debate down. 🙂

        2. I doubt a libel case would succeed.

          Price will simply call NT scholars – to wit, James McGrath and asked them if they posted comments saying that not reading mythicist books was a perfectly acceptable thing for Bart Ehrman to have done, and that he did not regard Ehrman’s reputation as damaged in any way if he had not read mythicist books.

          1. I agree. In fact, I think the strangest thing in all this was that James McGrath said it was okay that the graduate students did the reading. What does that tell you about how New Testament scholarship is done? It’s understandable though. The amount of texts on the new Testament is so large and vast it makes you wonder how future generations of scholars will keep up with their reading lists

  7. I would like to point out that the John who has been posting a few comments here recently about Ehrman and Price is not the same John who has commented here off and on over the last couple of years arguing for a Dead Sea Scrolls origin of Christianity. I have never until now seen anyone else comment here as “John,” and I wouldn’t want any of my past or future comments to be mistakenly attributed to this “new” John or vice versa.

  8. This entire thing is silly. The Jesus myth people are WRONG that Josephus didn’t write the “TF”. the “TF” of modified by a later Christian scribe who was offended that Josephus wrote the christians “believed” or “thought” he was the Christ/Messiah. Gary Goldberg at wwwDOTjosephusDOTorg shows this to be the case & also shows that Josephus only copied a source document written by Christians for is info on Jesus being executed by Pilate as Josephus did with most of his subjects including Hercules whom Josephus seems to think was historical.

    In short, the Jesus myth crowd has NO argument that Jesus didn’t exist that is a KNOCK OUT PUNCH! And that majority of scholars, experts & historians who all agree that Jesus did exist, have NO knock out punch either!! But given what slim problematic facts we do have, it is MOST LIKELY that Jesus did exist & was executed by Pilate. Tacitus, Josephus, the gospels, Paul & many other ancient writings say that he was!!!

  9. Z. O. G. It seems Tacitus thought that to be the case. Also Tacitus indicates the Romans thought the execution of Jesus removed Christianity from the scene entirely!! But to their disappointment and surprise, it broke out again and spread all the way to Rome itself. Tacitus thought Christianity was an evil superstition. Today Ken Humphreys of jesus never existed DOT com thinks the same thing.

  10. I can’t find any evidence on the internet or writing the Vatican museum/library that they have a statue of St. Peter with a 25 inch cock about to shoot sperm all over the room! The sources Acharya S provides are questionable to me plus the picture is a drawing. Even if it does exist, Richard Carrier, Ph.D who is the last word on any subject pertaining to Christianity & first century Israel (just ask him & see that I’m right) as agreed with Ehrman even after raking him over the coals & calling him a liar for claiming the statue doesn’t not exist, that it probably is not St. Peter & has nothing to do with Christianity. Also I get a chuckle out of Dr. Carrier kicking the shit out of Ehrman so hard that Dr. Ehrman couldn’t be any cleaner in the gut if he had just flushed with 20 ounces of olive oil for Dr. Ehrman cracking on ancient Roman historian Tacitus making a big mistake by using “procurator” as Pilate’s title when Tacitus should have known that Pilate was a PERFECT!! That is exactly the same attack on Tacitus I have seen from several Jesus myth supporters including Ken Humphreys (a complete prick and ignorant fool) as support that the Tacitus passage is a forgery!! But Dr. Carrier has RULED that the Tacitus passage WAS MOST LIKELY WRITTEN BY TACITUS AND IT IS CORRECT!!! That Pilate was GOVERNOR, PERFECT AND PROCURATOR ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!! So Tacitus did not make a mistake it was Dr. Ehrman and the Roman history professor who agreed with Ehrman at UNC at Chapel Hill!

    So lets NOT see any other person claim that Tacitus: 1) did not write the passage on Christ being executed by Pilate. and 2) that Tacitus did NOT make a mistake when he wrote Pilate’s title as “procurator”. Pontius Pilate was INDEED PROCURATOR in that part of the world when he signed the papers for Jesus Christ to suffer the horrible death of crucifixion!

    Dr. Carrier has ruled on this matter and Dr. Ehrman and that amateur hack over in England Ken Humphreys who needs his face slapped better shut up!!

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