Busy Bee

Starting this weekend I begin a crazy schedule in which I have appearances or travel-related events every weekend until June and in some cases I am away from home for a week or more at a time (a couple of these events I haven’t even blogged yet, but will in the coming month), and in nearly every case I travel the Friday and Monday framing each weekend. In addition to this I have a number of other obligations to meet, personal and work related. The result of which is that I will be uncommonly scarce on my blog for a month and a half, posting maybe as little as once a week, and I will often have to take more than a day or two to approve comments (I commonly take weekends off already, but because of travel and all the work I have to do I will be short on time even during the work week). And email I will hardly be able to look at at all (for urgent matters, contact me by texting only). I will be back to normal in June. But in the meantime, I want you to know what’s up. This is particularly important because tomorrow I will be posting my review of Bart Ehrman’s new book Did Jesus Exist?, but then immediately I’ll be in transit with back-to-back engagements until Saturday afternoon, so comments on tomorrow’s post won’t even get my eye until then. So please be patient. And stick around for what’s to come!


  1. John says

    Good luck with the review of Bart Ehrman’s “Did Jesus Exist.” To me, Ehrman seems inconsistent at times. He says Jesus as a suffering messiah can’t be a midrash on Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and Psalm 69, because no jews ever thought of these passages to be describing the messiah. But at the same time, Ehrman allows that Jesus’ return from Egypt to Israel in Matthew 2:16 is using Hosea 11:1 (“Out of Egypt I have called my son”) as a midrash even though the “son” referred to in the Hosea passage was the nation of Israel, not the messiah, and not even a person. Why can Ehrman allow a midrash out of context in the latter case, but not the former?

    • John says

      It’s not just mythicists who are discussing midrash and the New Testament. A recent SBL meeting that highlighted “The Jewish Annotated New Testament” and “The Jewish Jesus: Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation” made Midrash one of its major themes. Robert M Price essentially makes the same argument about midrash and the crucifixion as Rivka Ulmer in her essay “Psalm 22 in Pesiqta Rabbati: The Suffering of the Jewish Messiah and Jesus.” Dr. Alan Avery Peck, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Midrash, says that, on the whole, Robert M Price is correct in his Midrash and the New Testament argument, and that “The Jewish Annotated New Testament” develops the concept in a fruitful way. The first problem, in terms of method of historical research, as the editors of the “Jewish Annotated New Testament” realize, is that if we encounter midrash, does this mean the writers started with facts about Jesus and then shaped them to resemble stories from the old testament, or the writers started with stories from the old testament and simply invented stories about Jesus reflecting their pattern? It’s a methodological nightmare.

  2. G.Shelley says

    I’ll look forward to it. It does seem to have had mixed reviews, apologists and people with little familiarity with mythicist arguments claiming it demolishes them and shows them to be essentially intellectually bankrupt, while those who have followed the real arguments saying it misrepresents them, ignores them, dismisses some with little more than “because I said so” and applies double standards to how things can be interpreted, depending on whether they support his thesis or argue against it.
    Which is a shame

  3. Geoff says

    I told my wife this morning (the 19th), that a key indicator that one is a total geek is that they are anxiously awaiting the posting of a review of an HJ book by a fairly obscure(to the the great masses of the population) reviewer. This is the polemic of our ages. So…anxiously waiting.

    In actuality, as I posted at the Huffington Post, I do think we are at a watershed moment in the history of Jesus studies. Ehrman, by offering what can only be considered the best scholarly argument for the HJ hypothesis thus far (or more aptly put the best argument by a scholar), has opened the door to an examination of that position.

    While Richard’s review will certainly be important, and I think will set the parameters of discussion, I am also anxiously awaiting reviews from historicists of Ehrman’s work. Does anyone know of any other reviews out there?

    • says

      I will link to some of the critical reviews I know, but I would be keen to know of more (please, though, post links to them in comments on my Ehrman post later today, and not here; I want them all in one place).

    • John says

      Dr. Carrier has a tough battle in taking on Ehrman. I wish him the best.

      Mythicists are fighting a terribly difficult battle against Ehrman’s central argument about the suffering Messiah and the relation of that concept Judaism.

      Scholarly consensus has, for over a century, said that Jesus could not have foreseen his suffering, death, and resurrection because the concept of a slain savior who rises from the dead was alien to the Judaism of his time.

      Some scholars disagree.

      Israel Knohl, on the basis of hymns found at Qumran among the Dead Sea Scrolls, argues that, one generation before Jesus, a messianic leader arose in the Qumran sect who was regarded by his followers as ushering in an era of redemption and forgiveness. This messianic leader was killed by Roman soldiers in the course of a revolt that broke out in Jerusalem in 4 B.C.E. The Romans forbade his body to be buried and after the third day his disciples believed that he was resurrected and rose to heaven. Knol says this formed the basis for Jesus’ messianic consciousness, at least in Israel Knohl’s argument. For Knohl, it was because of this model that Jesus anticipated he would suffer, die, and be resurrected after three days.

      Similarly, Rivka Ulmer challenges the ideas that the Messianic expectation of Jesus was something imposed later, and she disagrees with the claim that the idea of a suffering servant as a messiah was not part of Jewish thinking. To her it seems reasonable to assume Psalm 22 was hermeneutically reconstructed by early Christian writers to portray a Davidic heir, namely Jesus while analogously the rabbinic interpretation in Pesiqta Rabbati applies the suffering of King David in Psalm 22 to the future Messiah Ephraim (son of Joseph), who is not viewed as a descendant of King David.

      It’s a difficult argument for mythicists to make, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility.

  4. Bernd says

    I would love to see a discussion between Bart and Richard. There seem to be no historians who are mythicists and are scholars at a reputable university. But if the evidence is strong on the mythicists side, this should change.
    I have found a short talk from Ehrman presenting his book:


    Can’t wait for the review of Richard…

    • geoff says

      Hector Avalos at Iowa State might be regarded as a mythicist…? At least a skeptic as to the actual historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

  5. Jason Patton says

    Cant wait for this…
    As a non historian, I have to rely on those who I consider top historians for this information. Not that it truly matters to me in any way, but the question of whether or not Jesus existed seemeed to me to be fairly solid in the affirmative until I became familiar with your work Dr. Carrier. Facinating, well learned arguments made against the historicity of Jesus (the most compelling of which stem from the book of Acts) completely shook my common belief that he actually existed as the almost obscure rabbi that Ehrman references. While I am anxiously following this ongoing and important saga of historicity(im biting my nails for this review, and hopefully a response from Ehrman), I must say it’s slightly painful watching my two absolute favorite duke it out like this. Painful, but awesome at the same time. Keep up the good work guys, Carrier vs Ehrman in a formal debate would be epic

    • says

      Only if he has no regard for the truth and doesn’t believe in owning up to his mistakes and correcting them. And if that is who he is, that’s precisely the kind of enemy I want to have. Because they always lose. But if he is a better man than that, then he won’t like me, but he won’t be so petty and immature as to make himself my lifelong enemy. He’ll just do a better job next time. And admit that he did a lousy job this time.

    • says

      I’m aware of his rebuttal. It is not very intelligible, and when it even makes sense it fails to respond to what I actually argued. I think anyone who reads my article and then his rebuttal won’t need to be told which is sound.

  6. Roo Bookaroo says

    This question is not directly related, but it has its value for us all followers of your blog.
    On BibleGateway, which version of the text do your prefer, and why?
    Or are there a couple of versions you particularly like, for different reasons or different purposes?
    You may have discussed this topic somewhere else, then a link would suffice.
    If not, I am sure that many of us would like to read your comments.

    I developed a liking for the ESV, English Standard Version, but have tried others, finding it difficult to choose because I can’t appreciate the subtle differences between them as a professional would.
    Any guidance or explanations would be tremendously appreciated.

    • says

      They all suck in various ways. There simply is no translation that can substitute for reading the original language. But I tend to prefer the ASV and NIV, because they are usually (but not always) more literal and researched. Sometimes it doesn’t matter (as when I can confirm that what, say, the RSV says is correct, I might cite it just for convenience).

  7. says

    One can always judge a scholar by the language he uses. If he says that another scholar’s work “sucks”, he’s simply dismissed himself from being taken seriously thereafter. Sorry, Carrier, but you’ve just lost all credibility. Ehrmann wins hands down.

  8. George says


    You have introduced to a rigor in history that I have never understood previously. Certainly, this all mostly new to me. But it is very interesting to read a thorough and intellectually honest case.