The Ostrich War On Mythicism

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by Neil Godfrey

head-in-sand-1024x808After opting to respond to Raphael Lataster in a less than fully civil or professional manner for daring to publicly raise legitimate questions about the evidence for the historical existence of Jesus, Christian gentleman and scholar Michael Bird has followed up with a two minute video-clip of Bart Ehrman addressing a mythicist’s question. Needless to say Bart Ehrman is once again vague and lost in his reply, doing nothing more than appealing to authority, incredulity, disinformation and false analogies to “make his case”.

If you have been wondering how Bart Ehrman has been able to avoid engagement with mythicist questions since his book Did Jesus Exist? so emphatically demonstrated that he had not even read with any seriousness the mythicist books he claimed to be addressing you can find his explanation for this disengagement in his most recent post, Defending Myself.

Ehrman simply keeps himself shielded from any serious critique that does not come through channels he modulates himself. His blog is set up to ensure mostly sympathetic readers only will engage with it and he chooses to avoid public engagement with critics as a rule. Curiously he can say that though he by and large avoids any serious communication with mythicists (he apparently will read the odd email from one, it seems) he can nonetheless affirm that:

And I know that the attacks by these conservative Christians pale in comparison with the attacks by the mythicists

The only mythicist critic that we know Ehrman has read is, of course, Richard Carrier. We know Carrier pulled no punches in exposing Ehrman’s lack of professional standards and for this crime Ehrman has wisely chosen to avoid any further engagement with him. It is evident to many observers that such an exchange would leave Ehrman’s poor showing in Did Jesus Exist? starkly exposed, and nor could he hide is ignorance of mythicist arguments or get away with amateurish ad hoc responses.

It would be futile to attempt to direct Ehrman’s attention to Earl Doherty’s responses or to a video belying Ehrman’s excuse that Carrier is too crude to debate with.

So Bird has joined some of his peers in the trench of ignorance, preferring to avoidance and denial to debate, and firing salvos of mud from time to time.

Meanwhile, increasingly well informed and educated readers are free to see what is happening, how the two sides are reacting, and make up their own minds.

I have been catching up with a couple of books by Michael Bird, one with him engaging with James Crossley on the origins of Christianity and another in which he contributes to a response to Erhman’s How Did Jesus Become God? I look forward to discussing his methodology (essentially a new form of biblical inerrantism) in a future post. I hope readers will find my treatment more professional than Bird himself has indicated he is willing to be thus far.



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Neil Godfrey

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15 thoughts on “The Ostrich War On Mythicism”

  1. Definitely more professional. 🙂

    Having genuinely sought references to the evidence for an HJ and received obfuscation, arguments from authority and comments about my poor level of intelligence my casual belief in an HJ has plummeted. Essays such as yours are far more useful in summarising the arguments and the level of evidence.

  2. Neil,

    It may be worthwhile asking Ehrman to identify the source(s) of the alleged vitriolic attacks. The fact is there is a mythicist spectrum, and you, Carrier and Doherty are on the respectable and respectful side of it.

    I once tried to paint Minimalists with a brush that Thompson felt was too broad, and he called me out on it. He basically gave me the same advice, i.e., you can’t paint all Minimalists with the same brush, so identify the Minimalists with whom you disagree instead of assuming a uniformity of opinion among them. It is only fair for Ehrman to take Thompson’s advice.

  3. LOL, I just stumbled across this video where Bart Ehrman makes a good case *AGAINST* a historical Jesus:

    Bart Ehrman: Gospels not written by eyewitnesses, no Jesus in historical record

    The quote is also provided in the information box of the video:

    “The truth may not be what you were taught, but if it’s true, you should believe it, not run from it!

    As I studied more and more, using my intelligence as an evangelical but also praying about it, I became convinced that the New Testament gospels were not written by eyewitnesses or by people who knew eyewitnesses.

    The first point to make is the rather obvious one that the gospels don’t claim to be written by eyewitnesses. They are all anonymous.

    The titles in your gospels – the Gospel According to Matthew and so forth – were added by later editors. They were not put there by the original authors.

    Second point, none of the gospels claims to be written by the person whose name it bears. They don’t claim to be written by eyewitnesses, and they don’t claim to be written by people named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Those are later traditions that were added to the gospels. These traditions do not start appearing for about 100 years.

    Some people think that there is an early Church father named Papias who attests to the witness of Mark and Matthew, but in fact there are very solid reasons for thinking that Papias, who lived around the year 120-140, is not referring to OUR Mark or OUR Matthew.

    The first time anybody refers to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John by name is Irenaeus in the year 180.

    But the unfortunate thing about Jesus is that we have such scanty documentation about his life. Most people don’t realize this, but Jesus is never mentioned in any Greek or Roman non-Christian source until 80 years after his death.

    There is no record of Jesus having lived, in these sources. In the entire first Christian century, Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references!”

    – Bart Ehrman

    1. Ehrman seems to have changed his tune since that debate with Craig Evans (March 2010?)

      Why was “Did Jesus Exists?” at odds with his previous works, and what he said in that debate???

    2. Do you know details of what that videoclip is taken from? It would be interesting to get the full tape of the entire debate to assess the context.

      (Fixed the link, too, thanks.)

  4. Richard Carrier wrote by far the most personally vindictive and hostile attacks I have ever read by anyone with a PhD, contrasting starkly with the substance of his criticisms. I don’t think Ehrman had a reasonable choice but to ignore him. The only thing that makes Richard Carrier a scholar is a PhD, and everything else about him makes him look like just another shrill ideological activist hack.

    1. Attacking Carrier the way you have would also be, at least, a most personal vindictive and hostile attack.

      It’s best to ignore personal attacks and address the primary issues.

    1. I think that sometimes, too, but it reminds me that a creationist told me that “Darwinism” would be overturned in the next 5 to 10 years and that was in 1995. I had heard that same claim in the mid-1970s when I was a believer. It has been pointed out that creationists have been claiming that uniformitarianism in geology would be rejected in 15 years and that was circa 1825.

      1. GregG,
        There’s a big difference between accepting that it is improbable Jesus ever existed (as depicted in the NT & by Christian doctrine) and ‘Darwinism’ would be overturned. Darwin’s Theory of evolution by natural selection has been shown to be true by known how DNA functions and changes from generation to generation.

    2. @RG Price

      It is a resilient paradigm. The critique from OT minimalists, though, helps. It is interesting to read the Dever-Davies, Lemche exchanges on B&I and reflect on the distance that has been covered since 2000 or so. There appears to be a growing focus on historical methodology in Jesus studies which should temper the overly emphatic positive statements in support of a historical Jesus.

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