Let’s sit down and look at the score sheet. Richard Carrier kicked 11 “errors of fact” at the net of Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?
Carrier says he could have kicked many more but that it was getting dark and the referee told him he had limited time.
Since beginning to write this post I have learned Richard Carrier has posted his own reply to Ehrman. But I have avoided reading his response so as to continue with my own thoughts for my own “review” of Ehrman’s book.
Here are the “errors of fact” Carrier kicked at Ehrman’s book, in order:
- The Priapus Bronze
- The Doherty Slander
- The Pliny Confusion
- The Pilate Error
- The “No Records” Debacle
- The Tacitus Question
- The “Other Jesus” Conundrum
- That Dying-and-Rising God Thing
- The Baptism Blunder
- The Dying Messiah Question
- The Matter of Qualifications
Here are the “errors of fact” Ehrman attempted to defend, in order:
- The Priapus Bronze, or Cocky Peter (Or: “A Cock and Bull Story”) (in a separate post)
- The Matter of Qualifications
- The Pilate Error
- The Tacitus Question
- The Dying and Rising God
- The “Other Jesus” Conundrum
- “No Roman Records”
- The Doherty “Slander”
- The Pliny Confusion
That means goalie Ehrman stood there texting on his mobile while two went through uncontested:
- The Baptism Blunder
- The Dying Messiah Question
Keep in mind that these “Errors of Fact” in Carrier’s critique of Ehrman’s book are not the only, nor even necessarily the most, serious faults in Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? But I cannot cover everything in one post so I deal with these before moving on in a future post to the even more significant errors and fallacies of Ehrman’s work.
The Priapus Bronze
Carrier accused Ehrman of leading readers to think that D. M. Murdoch (aka Acharya S) had published a fantastical invention that there was a penis-nosed cockerel in the Vatican that some people have thought might represent Saint Peter.
Just to give a sense of the level of scholarship in this sensationalist tome, I list a few of the howlers one encounters en route, in the order in which I found them. 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)
Here are three responses on Bart Ehrman’s public forum informing Bart how they interpreted his words:
JordanDay April 25, 2012
I too interpreted it that way when reading the book. The wording made it sound as if the whole thing had been pulled out of thin air.
Acharya claims that . . . “‘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.]
Ehrman pleads that he was only making “a comment very much in passing”, and that “no major point was being made”.
Baloney. Ehrman was presenting a dot list of howlers that “established” Murdock simply “made things up”.
Some readers will no doubt disagree, but in my books Ehrman here is being disingenuous in his defence. If he wanted to inform his lay readers of the true understanding of scholars he would have said that that statue is not reliably attributed to Peter. He did not say that but implied quite something else.
I give this contested point to Carrier. 1:0
Since writing the above Steven Carr has alerted us to Bart Ehrman’s radio interview in Homebrewed Christianity. There is no doubt at all. Ehrman is scoffing at the idea that Murdock simply drew a picture of a penis-nosed statue and “made up” the claim that there was such a statue in the Vatican. Ehrman’s defence collapses utterly.
The Doherty “Slander”
Let’s take these goal shots in the order they were made, not in the order they were defended. Ehrman puts off his defence of this to near-last. But Carrier kicked it second. And Ehrman was caught flat-footed and didn’t even see the ball fly past him. Here is Bart Ehrman’s attack on Earl Doherty:
It is true that Doherty acknowledges that scholars disagree with him on this, that, or the other thing. But the way he builds his arguments typically makes it appear that he is writing as a scholar among scholars, and that all of these scholars (with him in the mix) have disagreements on various issues (disagreements with him, with one another). One is left with the impression that like these other scholars, Doherty is building a tenable case that some points of which would be granted by some scholars but not others, and that the entire overall thesis, therefore, would also be acceptable to at least some of the scholars he engages with. The reality, however, is that every single scholar of early Christianity that Doherty appeals to fundamentally disagrees with his major thesis (Jesus did not exist).
Oh my goodness. Doherty, an amateur who sets out his qualifications at the beginning of his book, and who sets out from the beginning the motherhood claim that his thesis is at odds with the whole of current scholarship, is now being faulted by Bart Ehrman for engaging with the mainstream scholarship to make his case and for actually having the audacity to present a case that sounds scholarly! The hide! Why, some scholars like Dr Price and Dr Carrier and Dr Thompson and Dr Detering and Dr Avalos (and a few others whom I know would prefer not be named in this context) might actually find Doherty’s thesis worthy of consideration and further debate! What’s more shameful on Ehrman’s behalf, is that the only defence he can mount in this context just happens, quite coincidentally, to be the very same argument Dr James McGrath aimed at Doherty. That is, Doherty had the hide to argue “a mere point”, and NOT an “overall thesis”, that was supported by Morna Hooker. To wit, in Doherty’s own words:
[Morna Hooker] 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 . . . .
Bart Ehrman’s accusation that Doherty is mischievously creating any illegitimate impression is unfounded. The double irony here is that other scholars have ignorantly accused mythicists of failing to engage in the scholarship extant. That is simply untrue in the case of the likes of Doherty, Price, Thompson and others, of course. But what we have here is a situation where some (e.g. James McGrath) ignorantly accuse Doherty of not engaging with mainstream scholarship while others (e.g. Ehrman) accuse him of engaging with it with too much familiarity! Again, I give this point to Carrier. So the score is:
Carrier 2, Ehrman 0
The Pliny Confusion
Carrier points out several errors of fact in Ehrman’s discussion of the letter of Pliny to Trajan:
- Twice Ehrman incorrectly cites the key letter as “letter number 10” and “letter 10”
- Ehrman wrongly states that in the same letter itself Pliny discusses the problem of illegal gatherings and fire brigade assemblies
- Ehrman wrongly claims the law against fire brigade assemblies was specific to Pliny’s province
- Ehrman wrongly states as a fact (not as a scholarly hypothesis which it is) that Pliny’s concern over the Christians was that their gathering contravened the law against illegal assemblies
Ehrman offers in his defence that:
- His wrong citation was an innocent oversight
- Error 2 — no defence: Here is what Ehrman originally wrote in Did Jesus Exist?:
- In his letter 10 to the emperor Pliny discusses the fire problem, and in that context he mentions another group that was illegally gathering together. As it turns out, it was the local community of Christians. (p. 52)
- Error 3 — no defence. He originally wrote in his book, Did Jesus Exist?
- In Pliny’s province a law had been passed making it illegal for people to gather together in social groups. (p. 51)
- He was trying to explain a very complex situation in a very simple and easy-to-understand manner for non-scholarly readers. He speaks at length of the difference between a work for scholars and one for popular audiences.
One of many web sites containing Pliny’s letter and Trajan’s reply is Fordham’s University, Pliny on the Christians.
Ehrman is using tactics here so familiar to us from Dr McGrath. Ignore the central point of the charge, misrepresent the remainder, and paint yourself as the well-meaning victim of an unfair attack.
What lay people love to read in popular works by professionals is an explanation of complex information in simple and accurate terms. Evolutionists don’t try to tell popular readers that we evolved from monkeys because the term “hominid” is too technical and hard to understand. It is as plain as day to any lay reader who has read Pliny’s letter that Ehrman is relying on his vague memories and not bothering to take the effort to be sure he has the details right.
The evidence is against Ehrman making any effort whatever to explain in simple the facts of “a complex situation” for his readers. He is feeding readers blatantly false statements.
He has admitted to hating the effort of writing this book and it shows.
Even Ehrman’s plea for forgiveness on the citation error has to fall on deaf ears in this context. Ehrman made the very specific identification of the letter as “number 10” twice in different contexts. It was a long time since he read the letter and he was not bothered to give his readers anything more than some vague recollection.
Carrier’s ball has pounded the back of the net.
Carrier 3, Ehrman 0
Earl Doherty is probably reading this with some agitation. As he points out in his own recent review of this section of Ehrman’s book Ehrman’s conclusion that Pliny is evidence “that the idea of Jesus having existed was current by the early second century” (p. 52 of DJE?) is quite misplaced. See A Roman Trio for a plausible argument that Pliny is evidence that the Christ being worshiped was understood as an entirely mystical or heavenly figure.
The “No Records” Debacle
Here is what Ehrman wrote in Did Jesus Exist?, pages 28-29 (my emphasis):
here too the factual errors abound at an embarrassing rate. As some examples, in the order one finds them (this is by no means an exhaustive list): . . . .
- The Romans were “renowned for keeping careful records of all their activities, especially their legal proceedings,” making it surprising that “there is no record of Jesus being tried by Pontius Pilate or executed” (133). [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.]
And again on page 44:
I should reiterate that it is a complete “myth” (in the mythicist sense) that Romans kept detailed records of everything and that as a result we are inordinately well informed about the world of Roman Palestine and should expect then to hear about Jesus if he really lived. If Romans kept such records, where are they? We certainly don’t have any.
I am sure I am not the only reader who understood those words to mean that if Romans kept such types of records then “it is passing strange” that we have none of them today — for literally no-one in the first century.
Carrier responded with two points:
How can he not know that we have thousands of these kinds of records? Yes, predominantly from the sands of Egypt, but even in some cases beyond.
which leads us to ask why no one in Jesus’ family, or among his disciples or subsequent churches, ever troubled to preserve any of these records, or any records whatever, whether legal documents, receipts, contracts, or letters.
He insists he was not talking about the records in Egypt but the ones in Palestine. Look again at that quote on page 44 above. He even uses the word “Palestine”. That proves all those generic statements that about not having records for virtually anyone who lived in the first century, and it being passing strange that we don’t have any such records if the Romans really did keep such — were entirely about Palestine alone!
Oh my goodness! How so very like the plaintively indignant excuse of a high school student that sounds when the teacher scrawls red ink across the erroneous paragraph.
Ehrman was speaking globally and at no point qualified his assertions. He hated writing this book and did not bother to take any of the care with getting his facts right as he normally would.
Carrier 4, Ehrman 0
The Tacitus Question
Here is Ehrman’s original assertion in his book. He is accusing mythicists of wilfully declaring, against all scholarship, the passage in Tacitus as a forgery simply because it is inconvenient for “their agenda”:
Some mythicists argue that this reference in Tacitus was not actually written by him—they claim the same thing for Pliny and Suetonius, where the references are less important—but were inserted into his writings (interpolated) by Christians who copied them, producing the manuscripts of Tacitus we have today. (We have no originals, only later copies.) I don’t know of any trained classicists or scholars of ancient Rome who think this, and it seems highly unlikely. The mythicists certainly have a reason for arguing this: they do not want to think there are any references to Jesus in our early sources outside the New Testament, and so when they find any such reference, they claim the reference was not original but was inserted by Christians. But surely the best way to deal with evidence is not simply to dismiss it when it happens to be inconvenient. (p. 55, DJE?, my emphasis)
Ehrman is again very clear. Mythicists are dishonest. They simply make up a claim that any inconvenient evidence is a later interpolation. There is no scholarly warrant for dismissing such evidence like this so mythicists do so solely because it is “inconvenient”.
(Incidentally, Ehrman extends the same argument to supposed mythicist claims about Pliny and Suetonius. I have never read a single mythicist arguing the passage in Suetonius is a forgery or interpolation. Ehrman should be challenged on this claim, too. Nor do I know of any mythicist suggesting the possibility (never an argument that it was) that the Pliny correspondence — even the entire of book 10 — is a forgery unless they at the same time refer to mainstream scholarship that has raised the possibility.)
Carrier’s critique is à propos:
That the overall consensus of scholarship, myself included, sides with Ehrman on the conclusion is true (I am sure the passage is authentic and has not been relevantly altered), but that does not change the fact that readers are being seriously misled by Ehrman’s characterization of the matter. For him to claim that mythicists “just made this up” because it was convenient for them is false. But more alarming to me is the fact that this demonstrates that he didn’t even check. (my emphasis)
Ehrman does not even try to defend his goal against this ball.
He wanders over to kick instead at a balloon that has floated into the field. His mind is simply not on the game.
All he does is turn to one of the most prominent scholars of the Roman world to insist that there is today no scholarly dispute over the authenticity of the Tacitus passage.
Ehrman wants us to believe that he really did read all of Earl Doherty’s Jesus: Neither God Nor Man but at the same time he wants readers to believe that Doherty would simply declare the Tacitus passage to be a forgery entirely for his own convenience and without any argument of merit.
Yet Doherty is quite prepared to make his case for mythicism with the passage in Tacitus being authentic. He adds as an extra, however, other very good arguments why it could well be a forgery and Ehrman nowhere addresses a single point within that 25 page argument. See Doherty’s summary of his arguments on the Tacitus passage in his recent review on this blog.
I’m not going to give a score either way on this one because I don’t have at hand the scholarly references to which Carrier was originally referring. I can’t check those. But at the same time Ehrman’s major point, that mythicists glibly make up the charge of interpolation solely for convenience and don’t even want to accept the passage as genuine is false. They do (at least the ones I have read) argue with it as a genuine passage. Some additionally raise — with sound arguments — the possibility of forgery. Ehrman is clearly wrong here. He is misinforming his readers.
So let’s be charitable and assume he was right on point one, though clearly he is wrong on point two. No score either way on this one.
(There was also the question of whether or not Pilate could have been both a prefect and a procurator but on that one I am not qualified to make a judgment — Ehrman’s appeal to authority notwithstanding.)
Carrier 5, Ehrman 0
The “Other Jesus” Conundrum — Ehrman should be shown the red card!
Bart Ehrman wants us to believe he read the mythicist books he reviews but I cannot believe him. Otherwise how could he possibly write what he has about G. A. Wells’ argument here?
Ehrman accuses mythicists, in particular G. A. Wells, of fabricating the idea that Paul thought of Jesus as a supernatural being who was crucified by demons some time in the distant past.
Instead, Wells contends, Paul understood Jesus to have been a supernatural being who lived in utter obscurity some 150 years or so earlier, who was crucified not by the Romans but by the demonic forces in the world. (p. 247, my emphasis)
Ehrman cites as the source of this assertion page 97 of Wells’ first book on this topic, Did Jesus Exist?, the same title as Ehrman’s own book.
No, Bart Ehrman. G. A. Wells says in the same book you cite, and in every other book he was written on the Christ myth, that Jesus came to earth as a physical human being and was crucified as a physical flesh and blood human by humans at the instigation of (not by) evil spirits.
In fact, G. A. Wells has argued against Doherty’s argument that Jesus was crucified as a spiritual being and by demons.
How can you expect us to believe you when you demand that we believe you read all the books yourself?
Here is what Wells wrote on the page of the book you cite:
Paul believed in a supernatural Jesus who assumed human flesh and was crucified on earth at the instigation of supernatural powers. Paul was utterly unconcerned with when or where this happened — he does not give it a historical setting — because he was convinced that Jesus lived an obscure life on earth. . . . Paul insists . . . Jesus was ‘born of a woman, born under the law’ (Gal. 4:4). Paul does not know who Jesus’ enemies were and how they had him crucified. Even in the synoptics, only the later layers of the tradition . . . identify Jesus’ opponents as scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, or Herodians. In the earlier layers the opponents figure merely as ‘they’ or ‘the Jews‘ (see Bultmann’s evidence. . .)
All this is what the spectator (yours truly) notices. Carrier does not even address any of this outrageous error of fact by Ehrman. Where was the referee looking? Ehrman cannot possibly have read the page he cites.
The next page Ehrman cites in the same book by Wells’ is 18. Here is what Wells writes on page 18:
Paul supposes that he existed as a supernatural personage before God ‘sent’ him into the world to redeem it. (Such pre-existence on the part of the agents of God’s activities on earth — such as Wisdom and the Logos — was part of the Judaic background.) He assumed human flesh sometime after the reign of David, from whom, Paul says, Jesus (as man) was descended (Rom. 1:3) — a Jew ‘according to the flesh’ (9:5), the scion of Jesse to govern the gentiles (15:12) predicted by Isaiah.
Ehrman is writing outright disinformation about Wells’ argument.
Ehrman cannot possibly have read the pages in Wells’ book that he cites.
Carrier faulted Ehrman for asserting that all our sources confirm that all early Christians believed Jesus lived around the time of Pilate. Ehrman counters this by saying he only meant the sources of the Gospels and epistles and that any other later source that indicates that there Christians in a later time who thought otherwise is irrelevant. But note what he in fact wrote, page 251 of DJE?
I should stress that this is the view of all of our sources that deal with the matter at all.
Ehrman does not demonstrate or point to any evidence that confirms Paul thought of Jesus was crucified in a recent historical setting. He argues the point. But that is all he can do: argue a debatable point.
Ehrman fails to explain how any Christians believing Jesus was crucified around 70 b.c.e. could have emerged in the later record unless the Pilate setting was a construct that appeared after Christianity itself was born.
One could also bring in to this discussion other early evidence (Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria, the Gospel of Peter) who do not even agree that Pilate was the one responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, or that Jesus was crucified 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. Early Christianity was clearly struggling to settle on a historical setting for the events. For a time some claimed it was the Jewish king Herod who crucified Jesus, and even that immediately following his crucifixion and resurrection the Romans swept in and destroyed Jerusalem and removed the Herodian dynasty as instant punishment.
Ehrman falsely attributes to Wells the argument that 1 Thessalonians 2:15 (in which the Jews are accused of crucifying Jesus) of being an interpolation.
In Wells’s view, this passage is an insertion into Paul’s letter, not something Paul himself wrote. (p. 247)
Ehrman is a scholar and specialist in the New Testament. He has written a book on interpolations and changes to the books in the New Testament. He cannot be unaware that a good number of his own scholarly peers themselves argue that this passage is an interpolation that must be dated some time after the destruction of Jerusalem. The passage violates all the other thoughts Paul has about the Jews in his letters. I have posted several times on the scholarly arguments in the peer-reviewed literature on this. A collection of those posts can be found here. (Some of those posts are old and I cringe a bit now when I see how harsh I was in my treatment of Eddy and Boyd. But the citations and links and quotations relating to the arguments of Ehrman’s peers are all correct.) Ehrman’s insinuation that Wells is making up a charge of interpolation to suit himself is denial of the scholarship on this question.
Ehrman so badly wants us to believe he read the books of mythicists. He would be much better off apologizing for not reading them and relying on hearsay.
He faults Wells for quoting Colossians as if it were genuinely written by Paul.
For Wells . . . indications that Paul did not think that Jesus had lived recently can be found in such passages as Colossians 1:15, which speaks of Christ as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” For Wells, “such passages do not read like allusions to a near-contemporary being.”
And Ehrman is quoting page 33 of The Historical Evidence for Jesus by Wells. Ehrman continues:
There are numerous problems with this view. To begin with . . . Paul did not write the letter to the Colossians, It can scarcely be used to establish Paul’s views.
Ehrman then argues that since the passage does not address “when” Christ appeared it cannot be used as evidence to support Wells’s view. This of course is a non-sequitur. Ehrman is merely sidestepping Wells’s argument. But the point I am making is more serious.
So did Ehrman only read that page and not anything else in the book? Did he not read why Wells spoke of Colossians as if it were Paul’s letter only a dozen pages earlier? Here is what Wells explained on pages 21-22:
This leaves the letter to the Colossians. Recently an increasing number of scholars have argued that it was written by a pupil of Paul, not by the apostle himself (Bornkamm . . . and Lindemann, . . . ). Conzelmann . . . summarizes un-Pauline features in the style of the letter, and he and other commentators argue that its author has modified the ideas expressed in Rom. 6:3-5 so as to suggest that Christians have already entered upon a kind of resurrection life. Paul had said that they have been buried with Christ in baptism and will be united with him in a resurrection like his. But in Coloss. 2:12 the past tense is used for both statements . . . . The writer does admittedly go on (in 3:3-4) to affirm the more Pauline view that “you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God,” and that only at Christ’s second coming “will you appear with him in glory.” Commentators who take the epistle as being genuinely one of Paul’s explain 2:12 as his accommodation to the gnostic views combatted there.
Colossians may well be pseudonymous, but it is nevertheless very close to Paul’s thinking. . . . It was presumably written, if not by Paul, then by a pupil very soon after him. I shall therefore treat it as genuinely Pauline.
Wells is less troubled than Ehrman by any compulsion to dumb down complex details for a popular audience. If I want to know what the diverse scholarly views are on a matter I have more chance of finding the facts in mythicist publications by Wells and Doherty than anything Ehrman has written.
Ehrman repeatedly claims that Wells argued Jesus began “appearing” to people in the “recent past” — in Paul’s own time. Much of Ehrman’s argument against Wells is over this particular point. But Ehrman never cites where Wells makes this claim and it’s not one I recall Wells ever making — though it is some years since I read his books. If I was more dedicated I would re-read them now to check, but I feel I have spent enough time and space on this section already.
Ehrman has not been honest with his readers, either with the range and nature of scholarly views on Colossians nor with Wells’ use of the letter.
Carrier 6, Ehrman 0
That Dying-and-Rising God Thing
Ehrman scarcely tries to defend himself against Carrier’s criticism.
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.
Ehrman can only reply that Smith is a very influential authority and not a hack (Carrier did not say Smith was a hack but that Ehrman was using Smith in a hack job one would expect from incompetent students. I object to Carrier’s use of the insulting term “myther” here. But I covered that theme in my last post.) Ehrman does not admit he has read more widely in the scholarship on this point.
I have read all of Jonathan Z. Smith’s books (expecting to come over to the view that Ehrman and many other scholars espouse — that there was no dying and rising god concept at the time of earliest Christianity) and would love to share a few discussions of some of them in posts on this blog. If one were to embrace Ehrman’s (and Smith’s) argument then one can scarcely make sense of the early Church Fathers when they claimed that pagans should believe in their dying and rising Jesus because he was a superior version of all the other gods and heroes they believed died and rose again.
But even easier to read are the popular novels of the day. The concept of a hero dying (even being crucified) and buried and then miraculously returning to life again was a well-known motif in the popular imagination. I have discussed some of these in older posts:
Resurrection appearances and ancient myths
Popular novels behind the gospels
Resurrection reversal — even a dog could be resurrected from the dead
The popularity of resurrection
Ehrman has done nothing more than repeat one scholarly interpretation of the evidence and misled readers into thinking it is the whole story.
Carrier 7, Ehrman 0
The Baptism Blunder
Ehrman had asserted that Freke and Gandy are flat wrong to suggest Christian baptism was preceded by a similar rite in mystery religions:
“Descriptions by Christian authors of Christian baptism are indistinguishable from pagan descriptions of Mystery baptism” (36). [How could we possibly know this? We don’t have a single description in any source of any kind of baptism in the mystery religions.] (p. 28 of DJE?)
Anyone who has read the popular fictional work of the day by Apuleius, Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass, knows this is false.
Ehrman was texting when Carrier kicked this one.
Carrier 8, Ehrman 0
The Dying Messiah Question
Ehrman unfortunately wrote the following:
there were no Jews prior to Christianity who thought Isaiah 53 (or any of the other “suffering” passages) referred to the future messiah. We do not have a single Jewish text prior to the time of Jesus that interprets the passage messianically. (p. 166)
There is a well publicized Dead Sea Scroll, identified as 11Q13, that contains the following interpretation of the Suffering Servant figure in Isaiah:
This scripture’s interpretation: “the mountains” are the prophets, they who were sent to proclaim God’s truth and to prophesy to all Israel. And “the messenger” is the Anointed of the Spirit, of whom Daniel spoke, “After the sixty-two weeks, an Anointed One shall be cut off” (Dan. 9:26).
The following verses explicitly identify this messenger with the one who proclaims the acceptable year of the Lord, who comforts all who mourn.
I have also written many posts on recent scholarship since William Scott Green that demonstrates the Second Temple concept of Messiah did indeed embrace a dying messiah. The first time the word for messiah, “anointed one”, appears in the Bible is to identify a high priest whose death liberates those who had become refugees because of an inadvertent sin (manslaughter).
This time Ehrman had wandered off to the side-line to have a chat with a fan.
Carrier 9, Ehrman 0
The Matter of Qualifications
This one Carrier kicked last. Ehrman dealt with it second. No wonder. It’s the only one for which he had a plausible case.
Not that Ehrman took the trouble to check to see if his vague recollection about Carrier’s qualifications was correct, of course. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that he does not think a classicist is any less qualified to talk about the Roman era than an ancient historian.
Besides. It’s cruel to see not even a single consolation goal go the way of the opponents.
Carrier 9, Ehrman 1
. . . . to be continued
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