Carrier slices and dices Ehrman, second course

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by Neil Godfrey

For those few who do not know already Richard Carrier has now posted his second round response to Bart Ehrman’s “Fuller Reply”.

On the Was Pilate a Procurator issue, Carrier writes:

Ehrman finally does what he should have done originally (take note of this trend: it confirms the entire point of my original critique), and asks an expert. But what he didn’t do was read the scholarship I pointed him to. . . .

I . . . reference the scholarship on it. . .  I would ask that Ehrman have his informant read that piece . . .  and then relay what they say in reply. Notice what happens.

On the Tacitus scholarship:

Ehrman has to make excuses for repeatedly saying misleading things, and for not having checked to confirm the things he claims. . . .  Instead he gave the impression that no expert would ever think that, that only mythicists came up with it. And again, do not mistake this for a one-off goof. This is typical of how Ehrman treats the mythicists; I only gave representative examples of each kind of error. And that was my review’s central point.

. . . . Instead he made it look like mythicists have no support from published scholarship and are the only ones thinking these things. And it’s that that is the problem.

On the Dying and Rising Gods question:

Ehrman says his views are the standard in the field, but in defense of the claim he still only names one advocate (Smith). In the link above, in support of my view, I name eight. And in my chapter on resurrection bodies in The Empty Tomb I cite more, including abundant primary evidence. So you decide who to follow on this point.

On sources attesting a Christian belief that Jesus lived a century before Pilate:

it can’t just be ignored. Ehrman would prefer to ignore it. Possibly he would even prefer you not to know of it.

The Romans kept no records issue:

All we can say is what I myself said, that (as Ehrman correctly phrases it now, but not in his book) we have no reason to expect such records to survive. Although that requires admitting that no early Christians ever had any interest in preserving or using them.

In short, everything I said originally remains the case. Ehrman has no actual rebuttal.

Did Ehrman libel Doherty?

Yes. . . . Ehrman simply lies about this–or, again, is such a godawful writer he accidentally said the exact opposite of what he meant to say, and thus completely misrepresents Doherty and misinforms the reader.

The Pliny citation gaffe:

More importantly, I do not believe he’s telling the truth here. Because the wording in the book does not look even remotely like he knew that two different letters were being discussed, or that their connection was a scholarly inference . . . . 


In the end Ehrman ducks behind the “it was just a pop book, you shouldn’t expect it to be all accurate and the like” defense. . . . .  He also tries to play the victim card and claim I violated my own principle of interpretive charity. But in fact I did not. I gave him the benefit of a doubt everywhere an innocent explanation was conceivable . . . 

. . . his attempt to twist a rule of interpretive charity into a monstrous absurdity doesn’t cut it, and only exposes how poor a grasp he has of logical reasoning. . . .

Authors don’t get to say things that clearly indicate they badly mishandled their sources, and then claim we are always to assume they never do that. Authors don’t get to say things that clearly indicate they didn’t check their facts, and then claim we are always to assume they nevertheless did. Indeed, as his own quote of me says, if you cannot reconcile a contradiction or error in my work, you should call me on it so I can correct myself. Well, I called him on it. . . .

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Neil Godfrey

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9 thoughts on “Carrier slices and dices Ehrman, second course”

    1. Bart does do public debates, for a fee, while Earl i believe said he is not a polished public speaker on this topic. You can find their emails and comments on this blog if you search. I apologise if my paraphrasing does a bad job of conveying their whether a debate may be possible. After all that they are writing essays and posting them but thats not really the same, as essays like books often follow their own paths without addressing real questions that cannot be easily avoided in a public debate.

      1. I have no problem with reading the debates online. I might even create a page of links on vridar.info covering FRDB, Carrier’s blog, Hoffmann and co’s contributions, posts from here, Vork’s blog and others — as some sort of clearinghouse for all the info about it.

        When one side wanders off or tries deflection tactics it is less easy to hide behind the rhetoric and presence of the speaker if it’s all in writing.

        But will Ehrman be dabating for a scholarly or a popular audience? 😉

        1. Personally i believe its much harder to avoid direct questions in person, while essays provide the opportunity to think that bit more when one is in a difficult position. Think call center, its almost impossible to get any real resolution when something is a bit outside the prepared custom responses and problem scenarios.

    2. Public debates allow for too much sophistry & evasion.
      (In fact, that is the very reason that the format was created: to sharpen lying skills. A “good” debater can argue wither side and win. That’s unalloyed bullshit if one wishes to gain insight into reality.)

      I don’t like them.
      They produce only hot air & friction, no resolution.

    1. Im surprised how dishonest most are about what the Jews actually believed at the time of Jesus. Scholars, theologians always present all jews as generally being faithful and monotheistic, when a little investigating reveals they were anything but. Im surprised how little is ever shown or discussed about just how alike the Jewish religion and community was compared to their neighbours and others in the empire. Before anyone jumps on me, i appreciate the Jews were of course different, but they were surprisingly alike believing in astrology for example. Nobody ever says how often temples and other religious places had zodiacs including the temple in Jerusalem. Everyone says that Matthew is primarily targeted at a Jewish audience and yet they never comment on the astrological connection with the Magi, the star and other similar motifs.

      Back on Barts book, he never mentions anything about these viewpoints in anyway. Is it honest to pretend that the Jews in general were not believers in myths about saviour gods and heroes but only believed in the one god in all cases ?

      1. Margaret Barker’s book, “The Great Angel: a study of Israel’s second god”, is a must read. Her other works on the relationship between early Christianity and the Book of Enoch are also valuable. I have posted on some of Barker’s insights before — http://vridar.wordpress.com/category/book-reviews-notes/barker-the-great-angel/ — and would love to continue with those posts. Also have a look at some of Thomas L. Thompson’s work such as “Our Mythic Past” which in part looks at history or origin of the God of the Bible.

        1. Thanks ill have to grab that.

          The book of Enoch is a very strange book in terms of comparing it with the traditional view of the Bible, with its giants or watchers and other mythical creatures. Unfortunately the Bible is filled with mythical creatures and concepts that the jews copied from their neighbours, like flying snakes, customs and designs and more. Its a shame that Bart didnt even attempt to write up anything about what the typical Jew probably believed. The more I have learnt about their beliefs the more i realize the unlearned view is dramatically wrong and completely manufactured. Bart did a very poor job in communicating the beliefs of these gods, he always repeats the same thing. In fact from reading the book, the reader learns next to nothing about these characters. From reading his commentary i cant help but wonder if he really understands why even these heroes are connected. Does he understand why the solar heroes are telling us the same story ?

          Another book “Secret origins of the Bible” by Callahan and it too, shows just how pagan the characters in the OT are. Just examining the etymology of the names of many of the characters paint quite a different picture to the mono faithful view. Many of their beliefs would shock as in just how surprisingly different they are as compared to what the unread believe. Unfortunately most of us assume certain definitions and thoughts about characters and stories and are completely unaware of the true meaning. I dont claim to know it, but my superficial knowledge shows the BIble is actually telling a very different story.

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