Richard Carrier Recaps the Bart Ehrman-Historicity of Jesus Exhanges

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by Neil Godfrey

Richard Carrier has compiled a “summary of the current state of the debate after the mini blog war between [himself] and Bart Ehrman over his latest book, Did Jesus Exist?, which attempted to argue against various scholars . . . who have concluded, or at least suspect, that Jesus never really existed, but was an invention in myth, like Moses or King Arthur or Ned Ludd. . . .  I will give a state-of-play for everything.”

Carrier is keen to distance himself from those he labels “crank mythicists” and I sometimes think he is committing some of the same hasty misrepresentations of some of these that other scholars do. I’d feel much more comfortable with Carrier if he demonstrated more patience and ability to share his skills with others who lack his specialist training in the field. He only covers his own exchanges of course. Others have dabbled with general comments, most recently Larry Hurtado who seems to indicate that his entire knowledge of mythicism has been filtered to him through a 1938 Student Christian Movement publication mainly addressing the views of J. M. Robertson.

Carrier links to his past responses (March to April this year) to Bart Ehrman and James McGrath and then provides a point by point synopsis of the arguments he made and the responses to each from Ehrman and McGrath.

It’s the sort of outline I sometimes had a mind to do after my own exchanges with McGrath and a few others. What is humorous is the classic responses of both Ehrman and McGrath to the various points made as the exchange unfolded. It’s reassuring to see that the responses from McGrath in particular is no different from what they have been with me. So Carrier dots his epitome with:

• EHRMAN: No reply.

• MCGRATH: Repeats the fallacy.


• EHRMAN: No reply.

• MCGRATH: Repeats the fallacy.


• MCGRATH: Claims only government officials erected inscriptions.

• CARRIER: Calls bullshit.

• MCGRATH: Wisely pretends he never said that.

• MCGRATH: Claims Ehrman was only talking about native Latin-speaking Italians.

• CARRIER: Explains why that’s stupid.

• MCGRATH: Wisely pretends he never said that, either.


EHRMAN: No reply. (On his treatment of this same subject in his book, see below.)

• MCGRATH: Claims Ehrman’s poor wording doesn’t matter because experts will know what he meant and agree with it.

(Of course McG conveniently overlooks that Ehrman explained that he is not writing for specialists but for the general lay reader.)


• EHRMAN: No reply.

• MCGRATH: Repeats the fallacy. Only changing the claim up from “no Jews expected a dying messiah” to “all Jews expected a conquering messiah,” unaware that these are not the same thing and do not entail each other.


• MCGRATH: Accuses me of burying the lead (sic).

• CARRIER: I explain why that’s stupid.

• MCGRATH: Wisely pretends he never tried to argue that.


That’s from Carrier’s experience.

Closer to here we could add the following —

To Earl Doherty’s point by point rebuttals we can probably add so far 28 times:

• EHRMAN: No reply.


Mercifully the recent Hoffmann fiasco was short-lived and there is no need for a similar summary — though the same sorts of nonsense or nil responses could easily be garnered.

No wonder Larry Hurtado sighs that the thought of answering mythicists is wearying. Nothing could be easier than answering healthy questions asking how we know anyone else existed in ancient times. It’s the Jesus one that causes all the troubles because his existence has — by the admission of a number of scholars themselves — always been assumed. One day I may do a post tackling Ehrman’s floundering efforts to explain how we know anyone existed in ancient times. He writes as if he is making it all up off the top of his head as if it’s a question he has never stopped to consider before.







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6 thoughts on “Richard Carrier Recaps the Bart Ehrman-Historicity of Jesus Exhanges”

  1. For those who are not sure why Ehrman failed at silencing the Jesus deniers, or those who simply haven’t had enough of kicking that football, Rene Salm has compiled a list of 72 articles produced in response to Did Jesus Exist?


    Here are the numbers:

    Richard Carrier [5]
    Jerry Coyne [2]
    Hermann Detering [1]
    Earl Doherty [28]
    Neil Godfrey (Vridar) [16]
    Ben Goren [1]
    Kenneth Humphreys [2]
    Eric MacDonald [1]
    D.M. Murdock (Acharya S) [6]
    P. Z. Myers [1]
    Robert M. Price [1]
    Jeff Querner [1]
    René Salm [1]
    Léon Santiago [1]
    Steven M. Stiles [1]
    Thomas L. Thompson [1]
    G. A. Wells [1]
    Frank Zindler [2]

    Each listing comes with a link, so that it’s easy to spend a full day going through them.

    Has any other NT scholar ever been subjected to such a flurry of protests in such a short time?

    Considering that Ehrman’s book does not deliver anything substantial, unlike his previous books, except the amusement caused by the discovery of those famous traditions going back to within one or two years after the death of innocent Jesus (and in Aramaic too! This should keep Casey busy for some time), and it only demonstrates his superficial research, (Carrier, with his hyper-logical mind, likes to list all the “fallacies” Ehrman committed in his analysis), this is a most startling and unique development, something like a textbook case of how sloppy scholarship can be greeted with universal condemnation.
    Somebody brave enough could theoretically review all those responses and present a statistical account of all the arguments involved. This would be more waste of time, and we can easily guess that all those responses may pretty much ridicule the same horrendous deficiencies.

    It is hard to believe that Ehrman may have thought for a second that he had done a great job with this book. A case of academic hubris.

    Nonetheless, Ehrman deserves a medal from the mythicist community for having provided the field with such excellent fodder for rumination and sparked a spring flowering of articles.

  2. I would not believe anything Richard Carrier says: he does not even know that Jesus is mentioned many times in the Talmud. But Jesus is mentioned as Yeshu the Nazarene in Sanhedrin 43, and called Balaam in many other locations. If Carrier does not even know this, then of what value are his other pronunciations?

    If you want to find the real historical Jesus – the person, not the demigod – the complete evidence for this is contained in the books ‘King Jesus’ and ‘Jesus, King of Edessa’.

    Jesus was a king of Edessa called King Izas-Manu (while Jesus was called King Jesus Em-Manu-El). And all the kings of Edessa wore a ceremonial Crown of Thorns.

    1. The name attached to this comment, Ralf Ellis, is also advertized as the author of the books mentioned here. If this indeed posted by the author of the books we are given a poor impression of his logical processes.

  3. >>If this indeed posted by the author of the books we are
    >>given a poor impression of his logical processes.

    This is the author, so why are my logical processes described as ‘poor’?

    Have you read the books, or do you propose to critique the books without reading them, as did Verenna et al?


    1. I have not proposed to critique the books. My quibbles arose the moment you said Carrier “does not even know that Jesus is mentioned many times in the Talmud”. I don’t know what Carrier knows about the Talmud, but I do know a little of the debates over the supposed mention of Jesus in the Talmud, and I would suggest that it is you who “does not even know that the supposed references to Jesus in the Talmud” are debatable. Just because someone does not accept that Jesus is referenced in the Talmud (as Jeschu or whatever) does not mean he or she “does not know” that Jesus is so mentioned. Your claim is a pre-judgment, not a fact.

      I have not indicated that I intend to review the books. So if you interpret my post as inferring this you have once again fallen into another logical error.

  4. Here are Richard Carrier’s other errors.

    I was commenting about this on Pr Carrier’s site here, with what I thought was reasoned commentary. But Pr Carrier took exception to it.

    He claimed the following:

    >>Carrier says:
    >>No mention is made of any arms being taken (onto the Mount of Olives).
    Eh? Has Dr Carrier ever read the New Testament? Jesus ordered swords to be purchased in Luke 22:36. They were delivered to Jesus in Luke 22:38. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives in Luke 22:39. And those same swords were used on the Mount of Olives in 22:50 to cut off an ear. So why does Prof Richard Carrier not know of this?

    >>Carrier says:
    >>Jesus is not the high priest in any Gospel narrative.
    Yet Hebrews 7 details how and why Jesus became High Priest. The explanation is complex, because Jesus was not a Levite and needed an excuse, but luckily Hebrews 3:1 and 8:1 give a summary. The first of these says: “Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” That sounds like a High Priest to me.

    >>Carrier says:
    >>There is no revolt in the Gospels.
    Yet Mark 15:7 says, quote:
    “And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made revolution with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.”
    In what way is that not a revolution?

    >>Carrier says:
    >>Barabbas was the leader of the revolt, not the
    >>Gospel Jesus. And Barabbas … is not crucified.
    It appears that Richard Carrier does not know that Barabbas was also called Jesus; and that the Koran, the Talmud and the Gospel of Barnabas all say there was a switch of characters, and so Jesus was not crucified.

    >>Carrier says:
    >>The only Jesus the Talmudic rabbis know about died
    >>before the Romans arrived in Judaea.
    In addition to the quotes already given in Chapter IX, the Jewish Encyclopaedia says:
    “the pseudonym ‘Balaam’ is given to Jesus in Sanh. 106b and Giṭ. 57a”
    So Jesus is to be found in the Talmud, under the name ‘Yeshu the Nazarene’ and under the pseudonym ‘Balaam’. Why does Richard Carrier not know of this?

    >>Carrier says:
    >>The Vulgate Cycle misidentifies Vespasian as the son of Titus.
    If this was not so sad, it would be funny. Here is a professor of history who does not know that the Vulgate Cycle has the opposite naming convention for the Flavian emperors, to that given by modern scholarship. (Because Vespasian and Titus have exactly the same names – Titus Flavius Vespasianus Augustus – they can be easily confused). Please see the book King Jesus for details.

    >>Carrier says:
    >>The Vulgate Cycle (calls) Vespasian a leper rather than the emperor.
    It would appear that Richard Carrier does not know that lepros (a leper) refers to someone with scales (of a fish). Thus Vespasian (ie: Titus) was being identified as a supporter of Christianity, because the symbol of Christianity was and is the fish (the Christian Ichthus).

    I cannot imagine any professor, especially one with the ego the size of Richard Carrier’s, not knowing any of this.

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