Many of us have seen Dr James McGrath’s statements that Bart Ehrman was quite within the bounds of acceptable New Testament scholarly procedure not to read mythicist books that he was reviewing for the public:
It doesn’t strike me as inappropriate that someone who has graduate assistants make use of them, especially speaking as someone who has plowed through significant amounts of mythicist literature and can testify that it is a frustrating waste of time. If Ehrman was able to get assistance that left him with more time to do actual scholarship, good for him! (Blog comment)
McGrath even proudly boasts that he needed only to read the first few pages of Earl Doherty’s 800 page Jesus: Neither God Nor Man in order to write a review of the entire book for public consumption on Amazon.
He has also denounced Thomas L. Thompson’s arguments for mythicism without having read The Messiah Myth. He doesn’t need to since, he says, TLT’s expertise is in the Old Testament, not the New.
Several of Bart Ehrman’s “friends and fans” on his Facebook page (I can’t get my head around the idea of biblical scholars having “fans!” — is this another of those “only in America” things?) have also strongly supported the idea of him not having read Doherty’s work, at least.
Tom Verenna, one on his way to joining the ranks of these scholars, has likewise in personal correspondence assured me that he has no need to read Rene Salm’s book about the archaeology of Nazareth in order to “know” the book is supposedly a hostile rant against mainstream scholarship. It is not.
I’ve always understood it is standard practice among biblical scholars. If a work is not peer-reviewed then it is fair game for attack and the scholar doing the attacking has no obligation to know anything about the work — except that it’s not peer-reviewed and whatever the general conclusions of the arguments are. Ehrman has the same approach and on his Facebook page boasts of treating Price and Carrier with respect — with the clear implication he feels quite justified in treating non-scholars differently. Like McGrath, he will treat a fellow scholar with some respect. McGrath, for example, is quite willing to apologize to Richard Carrier if he is caught out misrepresenting them, but there is no way he will do the same for Earl Doherty.
Besides, Ehrman made it quite clear he had no need to read all of each of the books. His reason for writing Did Jesus Exist? was not to convince or even engage in debate with the mythicists themselves since he said nothing would change their minds. It was, rather, to explain to the public why he believes Jesus did exist contrary to the claims of the mythicists. So there was no need to engage with any of the detailed arguments themselves. Just explain that mainstream scholars interpret things differently.
So what’s the problem? Why is Bart Ehrman so outraged that anyone should think he is conforming to what some of his peers and followers find quite acceptable?
But now that Bart Ehrman has assured us he did read all of the books himself, very carefully, I am hoping he will find the time to explain how he came to get the title of Doherty’s book wrong, how he came to misquote Doherty, how he came to say mythicists claim the “words of the Lord” passages in Paul are interpolations, how he came to say Doherty said the opposite of what he writes about the mystery cults, . . . . . . .
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