Apr 27 2012

Ehrman’s Dubious Replies (Round One)

Bart Ehrman has finally composed an extensive response to my critical review of his book. But before that came out, he composed two briefer responses, one to my review of his Huffington Post article and another to my subsequent review of his book. He also briefly punted to another blogger, R.J. Hoffman. In this post I’ll address those latter items. Next I’ll reply to the longer piece (I’ve nearly finished my reply to that, but as I’m now at the  Madison Freethought Festival with tons of amazing speakers and excellent liquor, I won’t be able to proof that and post until Sunday evening).

The strangest thing about those latter items is not the alarming-enough fact that they ignore nearly every substantive point in what they are responding to, and focus each on only a single issue, and that one of the least importance (the Hoffmann piece likewise doesn’t address anything I actually said). That is strange. But stranger still is that they do not look entirely honest to me. But I’ll just present the evidence and you can decide.


The Deflection Tactic

Ehrman does appear to want to hide the substantive errors and mistakes and fallacies I document, and one strategy he uses to do that is to deflect it all by reframing the debate as being about personal attacks and my being mean to him (when he was so nice to me). This of course has nothing to do with what really matters and just serves the purpose of trying to convince people that all my substantive points about his scholarship are really just personal attacks and since personal attacks are fallacious (being the fallacy of ad hominem), all my points can be dismissed as fallacious. Which may be the first time I’ve ever seen an actual ad hominem fallacy used to rebut a non-existent ad hominem fallacy. He attacks me personally, by claiming I attacked him personally, which I didn’t, and has the gall to then say (correctly) that personal attacks can be ignored as fallacious. Yeah.  Think about that for a minute.

As Dan Finke (Camels with Hammers) observes in “Ehrman Evades Carrier’s Criticisms,” “Ehrman is misrepresenting Carrier’s criticisms as merely personal in nature,” when in fact they were all professional in nature. I pointed out failures of wording, failures of fact, and failures of logic, and showed why these all entail his book cannot be trusted, that his research and writing of it was sloppy and careless, that it fails at its every professed aim, and that he (professionally) doesn’t know what he’s doing here–ironically, considering how much hay he tries to make over the point that the rest of us can’t know what we’re doing because we have the wrong degrees (see the very next point on the Thompson Affair: making hay of this is practically the whole point of that post).


The Thompson Affair

In “Richard Carrier on The Huffington Post Article (1)” (I can no longer find an active link) Ehrman accuses me of being outraged by his daring to defend historicity, which is silly (it’s not like I was surprised he was going to, or that I haven’t read such defenses before from scholars no less prestigious; to the contrary I was, as I said, happily anticipating a really good defense of historicity). This I suppose cures his cognitive dissonance by allowing him to pretend I wasn’t outraged by what I actually said I was outraged by, which was his factual errors and gross misstatements, and how these ensure his article can only seriously misinform the public, the one thing a scholar should aim never to do and should care most about correcting. That he won’t even own up to his errors says more than my article did about our ability to trust him on this issue.

But the main thrust of his piece is an extended chastisement for suggesting Thompson was a New Testament scholar. Let me quote to you Ehrman’s exact words (and those of you who read my article might already notice something odd about this; emphasis added):

Me: “there is not a single mythicist who teaches New Testament or Early Christianity or even Classics at any accredited institution of higher learning in the Western world.” Carrier: Ehrman’s claim “is false: mythicist Thomas Thompson meets every one of Ehrman’s criteria.”
 So on a very simple level, one might just ask: is it true that Thomas Thompson teaches NT or Early Christianity at an accredited institution? Well, no, he does not. He is an expert on the Hebrew Bible. His books are on the Pentateuch, the history of Israel in the Bronze Age, the alleged lives of the Jewish patriarchs. Now, I suppose someone from outside the field of NT or Early Christian studies might mistake someone with those kinds of expertise as being qualified to address, authoritatively, something having to do with early Christianity. But no one actually in the field would make that kind of mistake. Carrier too, of course, is not trained in these fields and is an outsider to them, so possibly that is why he doesn’t understand the difference.

Okay. Get his point? Now, read the sentence he quotes from me…the full sentence, including the half he mysteriously left out (I have marked it in bold; I provide the rest to show the context, which was more than just this sentence):

[M]ythicist Thomas Thompson meets every one of Ehrman’s criteria–excepting only one thing, he is an expert in Judaism rather than Christianity specifically. And I know Ehrman knows of him. So did he just “forget” when he says he knows of no one who meets his criteria? Or is he being hyper-hyper specific and not allowing even professors of Jewish studies to have a respectable opinion in this matter?

So Ehrman writes an entire article attacking me for not knowing a difference that in fact I explicitly stated in my article and thus clearly fully understood; and Ehrman predicates this attack on a quotation of me that conveniently omits the very material that proves his point moot, or at least misdirected.

Perhaps he has deliberately misquoted me, to make me appear to not know something that in fact I actually stated. My alternative hypothesis is that he misspoke and (yet again) really meant to say that I did indeed recognize and concede this diffence and had instead asked Ehrman for why we should dismiss everything Thompson says on such an account, to which this article is Ehrman’s answer to that question. But then he repeats his misrepresentation of my credentials, suggesting I don’t know the period in question, or the languages, or the documents or the literature on early Christianity. Which is all false. I am adequately trained in all of these. And it is disingenuous of Ehrman to assume Thompson is not, simply because he has a different specialty than Ehrman.

Indeed, contrary to Ehrman’s claim, every historian in my field that I know publishes on all manner of diverse subjects. The idea that (to use Ehrman’s own example) hyper-specializing in “Herodotus” disqualifies you from being competent to research and publish on other authors or subjects is ridiculous, and easily refuted by perusing the teaching subjects and cv’s of prominent historians like W.V. Harris, Erich Gruen, Alan Cameron, or, to pick actual specialists in Herodotean studies, Donald Lateiner or James Romm. Romm, for example, is a specialist in Herodotus and Arrian (among much else), authors 600 years apart, one Greek, one Roman. According to Ehrman, we should ignore Romm’s work on Arrian as being out of his field. Which would be news to Arrian specialists, who all value Romm’s work. When my dissertation advisor, William Harris, wanted to publish a book on Roman anger, he did not say to himself “I have never published on that before, or taught it before, and did not specialize in it when I got my degrees, therefore I am not competent to research and publish on this subject so I should just shut up then.” No, he applied his skills, degrees, and background knowledge to the task of thoroughly researching the subject and publishing a major authoritative work on it. That’s what ancient historians do.

What is alarming is that Ehrman doesn’t know that. For him to claim I don’t “know” that it’s the other way around is just appallingly rich: he is simply proving my point for me, that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and prefers instead to disparage almost all modern scholarship in my field because it is produced by people who don’t specifically teach those subjects and have not gotten hyper-specific degrees in them. His depiction and denunciation of nearly the whole of historical academia is simply absurd. All in his desperate attempt to justify the fact that he misleads his readers and misrepresents his opponents, all in defense of a dogma that he is certain cannot possibly be false, therefore he doesn’t need to take us seriously (despite pretending to). If Romm can do good work in both Herodotus and Arrian, Thompson can (in principle) do good work in both OT and NT studies (the study of the OT does, after all, involve knowledge of second temple Judaism, the very context in which Christianity arose).

Never mind, of course, that all this looks like one big evasion: choosing to respond to my rebuttal to his HuffPo article by addressing this and only this point, which wasn’t even a major point I raised but merely a single aside in my remarks about Ehrman’s chilling remarks against academic freedom (the issue of that section, how his remarks can threaten academic freedom, he completely ignores). What is most galling about this is that my article demonstrates that it is Ehrman who hasn’t done the work necessary to be qualified to discuss this question competently, and unlike Ehrman I did not base this conclusion on what degree he has (I think his degrees should be fully sufficient to make him competent to research and write authoritatively on this), but on the actual evidence of his incompetence. In other words, he has the qualifications, he just didn’t use them. His book is carelessly and irresponsibly and illogically written. But instead of addressing my evidence and arguments proving that, Ehrman keeps harping on the matter of what degrees people have, making distinctions that do not carry his point, and now making claims about the publishing practices of historians that aren’t even true.

Whether he is honest and well meaning or not, he’s just digging his grave deeper with this kind of reply. It is making him really look like he doesn’t know what he is talking about, can’t reason logically, avoids every substantive issue possible, and isn’t keen to accurately represent what his opponents have said. At least he redeemed himself by publishing a subsequent fuller reply to my review of his book; but still nothing in reply to my critique of his article, which far more people will read, and thus whose mistakes and misstatements will do far more damage to public understanding of the facts and issues.


The Priapus Affair

In his second reply he addressed one single point in my review. And here I believe there is reason to suspect he is lying about the Priapus statue. In my review of his book I called him out for saying (certainly very clearly implying) that Murdock “made up” the statue at the Vatican that she presents a drawing of and says is a symbol of Peter. He clearly did not call the Vatican about it or research the claim at all. Because if he had, he would have said what any responsible scholar would have said, which is that yes, the statue she depicts is real and the drawing she provides is reasonably accurate, but her argument that it symbolizes Peter is not credible. It’s just a pagan statue of the god Priapus.

Now in his reply on this point, in “Acharya S, Richard Carrier, and a Cocky Peter (Or: “A Cock and Bull Story”),” he claims I misread him, that he never denied the statue existed nor implied that Murdock made it up. Now let’s look at what he actually wrote in the book. You be the judge:

[Acharya says] “‘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.

That’s the sum total of what he says about this. It is quite evident to me that when he wrote this, he doubted the drawing came from any source, and believed (and here implies to the reader) that she just made it up. There is no such statue. That is what he is saying. But you can judge that for yourself. Certainly, the one thing this paragraph doesn’t say is that the statue she references does exist, is (or at one time was) at the Vatican, and looks essentially just as her drawing depicts it. It also does not say that she is merely wrong to interpret this statue as being of Peter. To the contrary, all it says is that there is no such statue, she made this up. Which is false. And betrays his failure to even check.

But he now claims he did check. Sort of–he says he saw her citations and assumed there were priapic statues; he did not actually say he checked her sources, or contacted the Vatican. Some commentators on his site have also tried claiming the statue was never at the Vatican, but their misinformation and mishandling of the sources is thoroughly exposed in an extensive comment by an observer at Murdock’s site. The object may have been moved (as I implied was possible in my original review), but Ehrman said it didn’t exist anywhere, so its location is moot. And I should add, this is precisely the kind of source analysis that Ehrman should already have worked through and be able to discuss informedly, yet in comments there he said the original commentator’s findings were “very interesting” and “very hard to get around” (and he likewise mistakenly affirms they are correct in his subsequent post), indicating he didn’t in fact do any of this research and isn’t familiar with the source materials on the statue.

Of course he now claims that he never said the statue didn’t exist. He only said a statue of Peter didn’t exist. That’s right. He parses his words hyper-literally to argue that he said the exact opposite of what he said. You see, when he said the statue didn’t exist, that it was made up, he meant a statue of Peter, and since the statue that Murdock references and presents a drawing of isn’t a statue “of Peter,” the statue doesn’t exist. Get it? This is an amusing case of faux metaphysical deepness being used as an excuse to read a sentence as saying a statue simultaneously does and doesn’t exist, depending on what one calls it. Even if that is really what he was doing when he wrote the book, this is just a variant of a masked-man fallacy (“The statue exists. She says it is a statue of Peter. No statues of Peter exist. Therefore the statue doesn’t exist.”).

It’s bad enough that, even if this is true and he really meant to say the opposite of what he appears to say, he obviously wrote it so badly he not only sucks as a writer but can’t even tell that he sucks as a writer (indeed only after repeated goading in comments did he confess that “maybe I should have phrased it differently”). But trying to use the “I suck as a writer” defense against the much worse crime of careless scholarship requires him to claim the masked man fallacy isn’t a fallacy but a perfectly reasonable way to argue. Which only convicts him (yet again) of not understanding how logic works.

Before I get to the punchline, I really must emphasize this point: even granting his excuse, the fact that the wording is completely misleading and will misinform the public still confirms my point in citing this example, that we can’t trust his book. If he so badly miswrote here that he meant the opposite of what he said, then how many other sentences in this book are as badly written and mean the opposite of what they say? Indeed, that he had to be repeatedly goaded before even admitting that this sentence does that, means he is not even capable of detecting when a sentence he has written says the opposite of what he meant. That entails we should trust his book even less. Because whatever filter is supposed to prevent him making these kind of mistakes is clearly not working in his brain.

As Kim Rottman says, an observer of this whole affair:

The issue is what the average reader of Ehrman’s book is going to think he means. Ehrman’s statement may be strictly true but I sincerely doubt that a lay person reading that sentence is going to take it to mean something like “there is such a statue but it’s not a statue of Peter.” They’re going to think he means there is no such statue. Period. They’re probably also never going to see Ehrman’s rebuttal of Carrier’s review and thus never know he corrected himself. … Then he acts like this is representative of all the examples Carrier gave; as if the rest can also be explained away as poor wording and that none of them were anything that’s relevant to his overall argument. This response wasn’t successful at all. If anything, he’s dug himself in deeper.

Indeed. Ehrman is basically saying “I was never wrong. I’m just such a phenomenally lousy writer that things I wrote appear to say what they don’t, and everyone who reads this book will often be misled in result.” Others have noted the problem entailed by his repeatedly careless and irresponsible wording of things, which can completely mislead lay readers of his book. Ophelia Benson (Butterflies & Wheels), for example, found many problems with the way Ehrman’s choice of words misleads, as well as his questionable logic (see: What Ehrman Actually Says, The Unseen, A Small Town Guy).

But I fear it may be worse than that. Because I don’t actually believe him when he says he didn’t mean to say the statue didn’t exist. I suspect that is a post-hoc rationalization that he cooked up in an attempt to save face, after his careless and irresponsible scholarship on this matter was exposed. I suspect this not only because his excuse is implausible on its face (read his original paragraph again, and ask yourself how likely it is that someone who wanted to say “the statue she depicts does exist, but it’s not a statue of Peter” would say instead what he did), and not only because he still doesn’t claim to have researched her sources or contacted the Vatican (in other words, to do what he should have done), but also because, as several people have since pointed out to me, he said in a podcast (before my review and before Murdock herself exposed him on this) that the statue did not in any sense exist.

That’s right. On Homebrewed Christianity, April 3 (2012), “Bart Ehrman on Jesus’ Existence, Apocalypticism & Holy Week,” timestamp 20:30-21:10: at this point in that podcast, Ehrman says Acharya talks about Peter the cock and shows a drawing of a statue with a penis for a nose and claims this is in the Vatican museum, at which Ehrman declares, with laughter, “It’s just made up! There is no such s[tatue]… It’s just completely made up” (emphasis mine). In context it is certainly clear he is saying there is no such statue of any kind, that her drawing is not of any actual object. (Note that I put the word “statue” in partial brackets because he speaks so quickly he didn’t complete the word but started saying what is obviously the word “statue”; he doesn’t pause to correct himself, though, he just quickly segues to the next phrase in animated conversation.)

Now, I must leave it to you to decide what’s going on here. From both his own wording in the book and this podcast, it certainly seems that Ehrman had no idea the statue actually existed, until Murdock and I hammered him on it. Notably, I had emailed him about this weeks before my review, asking what his response to Murdock was, because I was concerned it didn’t look good. I had not yet read his book, so I didn’t know the whole thing would be a travesty of these kinds of errors. Ehrman never answered me (even though he has in the past). Only after my review did he come out with the explanation that he meant to say the statue existed but wasn’t connected to Peter. And on that point I suspect he is lying.

I can give more leeway to a podcast interview, where we often forget to say things or say things incorrectly, and we don’t get to re-read and revise to improve accuracy and clarity (though this excuse doesn’t hold for a book). But here this does not look like an accidental omission or a slip of the tongue. He really does appear to think (at the time of that podcast) that the statue was completely made up, and that certainly appears to be what he says. Did he really also “mean to say” in that podcast that the statue wasn’t “completely” made up, that in fact it existed, but that Murdock was only wrong about what it symbolized? In other words, did he once again say, as if by accident, exactly the opposite of what he meant? You tell me.

[P.S. After publishing this post, it occurred to me to mention as well, that in fact he gives no argument at all in his book for why Murdock is wrong to conclude this is a statue of Peter. His only argument is that the statue doesn't exist. Which only makes sense as a rebuttal if indeed he meant the statue wholly did not exist. Otherwise, why is she wrong to conclude it symbolizes Peter? Ehrman doesn't say. This seems to me strong evidence that he is now lying about what he really thought and meant when writing the book. Because surely he would give a reason why she is wrong. So what reason did he give?]


The Hoffmann Madness

While still composing his fuller reply to me, Ehrman punted to R.J. Hoffmann. Ehrman evidently doesn’t know that in my opinion Hoffmann has gone insane. I’ve documented the evidence of this before. Hoffmann has a history of lying about me, for example once claiming I am in the financial employ of his enemies and was paid to attack him (arguably an outright libel). Hoffmann also has a history of reversing his opinions without explanation. He praised and loved my work before, but now says the very same work sucks. With no acknowledgment of having changed his mind or why.

Quoting myself from my previous blog on the Hoffmann matter:

It’s strangely amusing (and exactly how he started behaving once I started criticizing him–he never acted this way toward me before) that he now slags off my chapter as vacuous and irrelevant when in fact he invited me to deliver that very talk at the conference, read it in advance of the talk, and it received a standing ovation at the conference, with nary an objection from him. Quite the contrary: his response was to say “I think personally you should be the conscience or historiographer in chief!” (email of 10 Dec. 2008) and “It would be to my liking if you would take the lead-role in the historiography area…in my opinion we need someone with fresh ideas who can keep them honest about the kind of history they (often) are doing” (email of 18 Dec. 2008). (The conference was held the weekend of December 5.) He never said a negative word until now.

Hoffmann also once insisted Jesus didn’t exist. In a podcast of 2007, talking to D.J. Groethe about the Jesus Project (on Point of Inquiry), Hoffmann said “I happen to believe that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist–I happen to believe that” (timestamp 22:44; see also his remarks at timestamp 14:13-16:15). Now he insists such a notion is absurd and no respectable scholar could believe it (which evidently means he wasn’t a respectable scholar five years ago). He also in that podcast defended the dying and rising god mytheme: “gods and sons of gods populating the world, dying, rising, saving the world, which we’ve known about now for the better part of 200 years…it’s not new” but is established scholarship (timestamp 4:20).

In the post Ehrman punts to, Hoffmann tells another lie about me, a really weird one in fact: “He [i.e. me] is about to re-publish (he had vanity published it already) his ‘research’ on this subject with Prometheus Books.” I can’t fathom what book he means, as there are only two he could mean: one (On the Historicity of Jesus Christ) that hasn’t even been completed and won’t be published until next year (I have never published a book arguing Jesus didn’t exist; that will be my first one), which does not consist of material I have published before but is almost entirely new research; and Proving History, which was scheduled for late April release but dropped early and is available now.

If he means the first of these, he would be lying about its contents, since he has no way of knowing what those contents are, or that they duplicate anything I’ve published before (and since I haven’t published on the historicity of Jesus before, that would be impossible). If he means the second of these, then he is really shooting himself in the face here. Do you know what the “vanity press” was that previously published my work before I published it with Prometheus? Prometheus. That’s right. And you know what book that was? Sources of the Jesus Tradition. Do you know who edited that book, and selected the chapters to include in it? R.J. Hoffmann.

Yep. That’s right. Do the math on that. That chapter was also, incidentally, a paper I delivered at an academic conference organized by R.J. Hoffmann and to which I was invited by R.J. Hoffmann.

It’s shit like this that convinces me Hoffmann is off his rocker. Ehrman might want to steer clear of him in future.


Rhetoric as a Means to Avoid Argument

In his article on the Priapus case, Ehrman says things like this:

One of the things Carrier laments is that I don’t deal with the various mythicists all at length – even (this is a special point he presses) those who cannot be taken seriously (he names Freke and Gandy). My view is that there is no reason to take seriously people who cannot be taken seriously: a few indications of general incompetence is good enough.

First, note that about his scant treatment of bad mythicists I actually said “That alone I could live with (although I would have rather he not addressed them at all if he wasn’t going to address them competently).” Notice how the paragraph above assumes I didn’t say this, and fails to address what I actually said (that if he was going to just dismiss them so briefly, he should have done so competently or not at all).

But then notice how he asserts a principle in his own defense (“a few indications of general incompetence is good enough” reason to dismiss an entire book as unworthy of further attention) which is precisely the principle I applied to his book (I found more than a few indications of general incompetence). Which leads me to wonder: does he regard his treatment of them as an inappropriate personal attack that they didn’t deserve? Or as simply a demonstration that the books he examined are incompetently researched and incompetently written, a perfectly valid thing to point out and say, and exactly what I did (but that he in his response attacks me for doing).

But even more alarming than his misrepresenting what I said, avoiding answering what I did say, and applying a double standard in his own defense, is the rhetorical trick he just pulled here. Did you notice it? Let me walk you through it. He says “One of the things Carrier laments is that I don’t deal with the various mythicists all at length,” and then adds an aside that I “even” say so regarding the bad mythicists (although, as we just saw, that is not exactly what I took him to task for). Then he gives a defense for not addressing the bad mythicists (beyond cursorily). And then…he moves on. Wait a minute. Where is his defense for failing to properly address the good mythicists?

Here is what I said, regarding the good mythicists:

He treats our arguments only selectively, never comprehensively, and I never once saw him actually engage directly with any single mythicist case for their theory of Christian origins–as in, describing the theory correctly, listing the evidence its proponent offers for each element, and then evaluating that evidence and the logical connection between it and their conclusion. You won’t find this done once, anywhere in this book, for any author.

On his failure to do that, Ehrman has nothing to say. But the one failure of this book I said I could live with, that he defends. Really.

Is this where historicity is going? Is this how we are to be treated? And Ehrman has the gall to say we are the ones behaving inappropriately?


Closing Nonsense

Ehrman ends his defense of the Priapus debacle with some rather astonishing remarks. First, he says:

Let me say, in addition, that this comment of mine was made very much in passing.  No major point was being made, other than that Acharya S was not a scholar who could be trusted (in part because she is not a scholar) in the context of eleven rather egregious mistakes that I picked out, more or less at random, in her book. Carrier does not object to any of the other ten. Which means that he appears to be on board with all eleven. That means that his cavil has no effect on my overall argument at this point.

First of all, dismissing this as a remark in passing that didn’t make a major point is extremely disingenuous. It is not a passing remark but an integral piece of evidence he produces to argue a conclusion so significant it justifies him dismissing the rest of Acharya’s work. That is not only a major point, it’s the major point of his entire treatment of her. Secondly, I explicitly said I was only producing examples, not comprehensively vetting every statement he made, so for him to conclude I agree with everything else he said about Acharya is obviously fallacious reasoning, and again demonstrates he doesn’t know how logic works.

I actually found two other misleading statements among his list of evidence of Acharya’s incompetence. I do agree with his conclusion (I do not think her work can be trusted on this subject, as I also conclude now of Ehrman’s work on this same subject), but I am already well known for saying that, and that wasn’t the issue I was raising in my review. Rather, my point was that, if he was going to treat the bad mythicists at all, we needed a book that did a competent job demonstrating the unreliability of work like this. And he did not give us one.

Since he brings it up, let me list the other problems I found here (written in the margins of my copy of his book, p. 24):

(1) Ehrman’s statement that there weren’t “many councils” to decide the NT canon is, read literally, false. There were in fact several councils ruling on the canon, and indeed the canon was never truly settled until the 16th century. Someone who tutored under Metzger, who extensively documented these facts, should know that. I can only assume he meant to say that the canon proposed by Athanasius in 367 (in a letter, not a council ruling) was repeatedly affirmed by every subsequent council convened to decide on the canon (although the fact that they had to keep meeting to do that means there were repeated attempts to change it). Acharya’s own characterization of the matter might also be accused of being misleading. But Ehrman’s wording is going to seriously mislead and misinform the public even more, not only as to the actual history of the canon, but also as to Acharya’s knowledge of the facts.

(2) Ehrman correctly says the Acts of Pilate was never canonized, but this conceals from the reader the fact (which could be what Acharya’s argument was actually premising) that it was by many regarded as authoritative. Tertullian, for instance, cites it as authoritatively establishing facts about Jesus, which is late second century, and thus relevant to the matter of how well Christians could be trusted at the time to really tell the difference between reliable and unreliable source materials when aggregating their canon. Thus here Ehrman doesn’t say anything that’s literally false, but his statement does mislead the reader on the most relevant point Acharya may have actually been making.

Note also that these are just details I detected right away. His other remarks against her are true as stated, but I did not actually check in each case whether he accurately represented what she said. From my experience here and with the whole book, I cannot implicitly trust that he has. Which only further illustrates the overall point of my review.

Ehrman concludes with this:

Carrier appears to want to show that he is very much a better historian than I am. This is a repeated theme throughout his scathing critique. I, frankly, did not realize that this was supposed to be a contest between the two of us, and am not interested in the question of who wins. My interest in the book is to discuss whether Jesus existed. I give mounds of evidence to show why he did, and to show why mythicists’ views are almost certainly wrong. The majority of Carrier’s ”errors in fact” are this kind of cavil, in which he sees trees (often incorrectly) while missing the forest.

Notice the rhetorical trick here: “the majority” of my points are a list of errors, therefore I missed the point of all the evidence he presented. Go read my review. You will notice I made a particular point of addressing the latter by demonstrating the doomed fallacies in his methodology. So in fact I did not miss the forest. I deal with the trees in part one, the forrest in part two, all in the same post. He says nothing about that. You decide who then to trust on this issue.

It is also amusing that he uses the quantity of my examples of his mistakes as an argument to dismiss them as taking up too much of my article, when in fact I am sure he would have accused me of having too few examples if I’d given fewer. In other words, I made a general point about the unreliability of the book and gave a large enough number of examples to make sure the point was solidly proved. And he then charges this as a failing in my review. Once again demonstrating that he doesn’t know how logic works.

He also returns to the ad hominem deflection here, by alleging I am making this into a pointless contest over who is the better scholar. Yet he is the one who made it about that. As we saw in his article about the Thompson affair (and as I showed regarding his HuffPo piece), he attacked my credentials and argued that he is qualified to discuss this issue and I am not (likewise Thompson and others). For him to now say he is not interested in this comparison is massively disingenuous. It’s his comparison, which he has pressed several times, and it was that that forced me to respond by pointing out that the facts seem to point to the reverse. For him to claim I am the one who brought this comparison up is simply absurd. All I did was take his own argument and defend it properly: instead of making fallacious and irrelevant points about the hyper-specifics of what degrees we have (as he did), I tested the comparison he himself started by actually looking at the quality of our work on this subject. A comparison in which he came out very badly.

I do not see this as a competition between us as to who is the better scholar, but as simply a matter of who to trust: someone who presents carefully researched, carefully worded, carefully reasoned work on this subject, with a minimum of mistakes (because as I’ve said, I make them, too), or someone who doesn’t.

[For my reply to his "fuller response" see Round Two.]


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    Just be glad his book was published now – a year or so before your own Historicity book. You’ll have time to apply Bayes to his arguments – and demonstrate their invalidity.

    1. 1.1
      Richard Carrier

      He doesn’t really have any arguments, though. He straw man’s his opponents (all of which arguments can be disregarded, being addressed to no valid theory) and applies an illogical methodology (e.g. many versions of a story = many contemporary eyewitnesses to the events relayed in that story). Even when he says anything that’s worth addressing (e.g. his remarks about the James passage in Galatians) he says nothing new and therefore I didn’t need his book. It really is that much of a disappointment. It’s unfortunate. I did expect I would have to revise or expand my book to address his, but it’s not looking like I will need to.

  2. 2

    Holy poop, he quoted my comment. *is irrationally pleased*

    It is also amusing that he uses the quantity of my examples of his mistakes as an argument to dismiss them…

    I too was amused that his reason for not addressing all your examples was that there were just so damn many of them. Really Bart? That’s not a point in your favor, champ.

    I read his fuller reply and was further amused at his excuse for getting your credentials wrong. He thought he remembered at some point in the past being told your degree was in classics. So what you’re saying, Bart, is that instead of doing the research which would have taken all of 2 minutes, you assumed your memory was flawless? But Richard Carrier is a big ole meanyhead for calling you careless. Seems reasonable… -_-

    1. 2.1

      When I was looking over Ehrman’s new book at Barnes and Nobel, I noticed that Dr. Ehrman used “Classics” as the field of Dr. Carrier’s Ph.D and that agreed with what I had read online elsewhere from another source. Somewhere back when Richard first finished and obtained his Ph.D, it was stated at a couple of places “Ph.D in classics”. I remember wondering if that field could involve early Christianity as I knew Richard wanted to be “IN” with the others who have a Ph.D and write about the historical Jesus/New Testament origins/Christian origins. Dr. Ehrman must have noticed or been told by someone close to him who had seen the same as me that Richard’s Ph.D was in classics. But if I had been Ehrman, I would have Emailed Carrier to double check! I get the impression that Dr. Ehrman has long been involved with other Ph.D professors and authors who hold similar views to himself and the list is rather long. That led to Dr. Ehrman thinking that anyone who held the view Jesus never existed was some kind of amateur hack and indeed many are as Kenneth Humphreys comes to mind. Ehrman originally gave the impression that Bob Price was a loose canon even though Price has a PhD in the same field. As a sidebar, Dr. Price recently had Dr. Miller of the Jesus Seminar on his show and Miller gave a reasoned view of who the historical Jesus must have been and to my surprise Price didn’t say a word that he, Price, thinks Jesus probably never lived. But Price introduced Dr. Miller has a great skeptical scholar and great friend from the Jesus Seminar so Bob was probably being polite.

      Anyway I also read on the web back when Dr. Carrier got his PhD that it was in “classics” and that was ALL it said about the title. So that mistake pre-dates Ehrman but still, Ehrman should have taken the time to Email Dr. Carrier to be sure.

      Price thinks that Ehrman is so unimpressed with and uninterested in persons who hold Jesus didn’t live, that he got his graduate students to actually read the books and report to him. And it seems Ehrman was so sure of himself, he wrote most of this book from memory rather than doing actual research. In other words, Ehrman didn’t really take this book seriously as he felt it was a “no contest” kind of situation against an unworthy premise. In other books Ehrman seems to have done the research but as you must know, the Roman Catholic Church, several conservative Christian scholars and William Lane Craig, PhD find Ehrman’s other books to be sorely lacking and unimpressive. Indeed the Roman Catholic Church has a website defending Pauline authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus and they have some of their best scholars on it. It makes some interesting points and does show some weaknesses but so many scholars hold that Paul did not write those letters that one would be inclined to agree with the majority here just as personally I agree that the “TF” from Josephus is not a forgery but slightly changed (view of Goldberg, Feldman, Whealey and other Josephus scholars) and I agree with the majority that the Tacitus passage is authentic and once I thought Tacitus was mistaken about Pilate’s title but Carrier and a couple of additional scholars have convinced me that Tacitus did NOT error and simply used one of Pilate’s titles and it was the one his readers in 110 CE would be use to seeing.

  3. 3
    Brad Self

    I have no horse in this race.

    My initial reaction was to side with Ehrman. I thought the lengthy challenge put forward by Carrier was heavy handed and borderline personal.

    I am now finding Ehrman suspect in this whole exchange. I did some homework and ‘The Thompson Affair’ is accurately portrayed by Carrier above.

    Carrier mentions in passing he can no longer find the Ehrman response. It now seems probable to me that Ehrman pulled his initial response off his blog. Why? Anyone willing to actually examine the Thompson related claims by Carrier would be exposed to Ehrman’s questionable quote mining. I have a hard time charitably reconciling what Ehrman did here.

    As I had no reason to trust Carrier (no offense), I needed to know he was not taking liberty with Ehrman’s missing blog post (Richard Carrier on The Huffington Post Article (1)) of 4/21/12. I was able to retrieve a google cached version that, in my mind, clearly confirms the Carrier position stated above.

    I have no idea if the cached site will remain available but I retrieved it here:


    I can’t say I’ve become a mythicist (or even know how to spell it) but Ehrman has lost credibility in this exchange.

  4. 4

    Nice review. So it seems that Ehrmann is concern trolling. Ironic given he threw grenades left, right and centre in the HuffPo article, and to a lesser extend in the book. I particularly like his claims of not wanting a pissing contest regarding degrees or scholarly credentials when he attacked all mythicists on that front. Butter could not melt in his mouth. Still, his other books are good, I won’t fallaciosly conclude that one bad, all bad.

    Careful with Hoffman, he’ll find a shrink who says he’s sane, then write a blog post calling you uncredentialed as a psychologist, as you think he’s crazy. From which he’ll conclude all your work is unreliable. Nah, he’ll probably eat your brains with a nice chianti. (disclaimer: just a bad joke)

  5. 5

    Glad to see you respond to this – on some blogs and discussion groups, his fanbois are going ape-feces. They seem to miss the obvious, which you point out in your first paragraph.

    I started reading but wanted to bring up one point – on not using sources and footnotes. Vic Stenger has a new book out, and someone at FTB reviewed it, and wow – they made a point of saying how many footnotes and sources he documents, and he is also writing for a lay audience, not scholars. If Vic can do it, why can’t Bart? And, I may have to go back and look, but if Ehrman gives his sources in his other books, but not in DJE, then that is doubly suspicious. Now, if he doesn’t, then that would be in his favor indicating he doesn’t cite in his popular books. I haven’t gone back and looked to see if this was a pattern or a break in the pattern.

    Anyway, just wanted to get that out…now back to reading your work. Keep up the good work – and, is there any plan to put your books on the Apple iBooks store? I do use the kindle app, but since most of mine are in my iTunes library it makes it easier. Not a big point, since I’ll be getting them when they are out in ebook format no matter what I have to use.

    1. 5.1
      Richard Carrier

      His other pop books vary in the extent of their notes, but those books convey established mainstream scholarship and thus don’t need much annotating. He isn’t arguing anything novel in Jesus, Interrupted, and insofar as he argues anything novel in Forged (and it isn’t much), the latter has more extensive notes to reflect that.

      The problem here I think is that he is treating Jesus Is Dead as if he were simply conveying already established scholarship, but that’s not true. No one has ever addressed the mythicists like this before (even the few he mentions barely address them at all). So there is no established scholarship to summarize. And since all previous scholars have largely just dismissed mythicism (devoting a few pages or paragraphs to it at best, and none until now ever mentioning Thompson or Doherty or even, to any significant extent, Price), no one has ever really argued “for historicity” before. They have simply taken it for granted. And even insofar as any arguments have been published (usually on isolated claims about Jesus and not his historicity as a whole) the literature has come out against the entire methodology so far employed to do that. Which literature Ehrman didn’t find because he didn’t look for it because he assumed he can’t be wrong and thus didn’t need to check.

      This is a whole cascade of errors born of arrogant presumption.

      (On the availability issue: iBooks are nearly impossible for freelancers to create. Their formatting requirements are so complicated and difficult to satisfy it isn’t worth the labor of creating one. So my own books will never appear there. But I would expect Prometheus has paid someone to effect conversions to sell on iBooks. Check to see if that’s the case for The End of Christianity by Loftus; if it is, then I suspect Proving History will be available on iBooks as well within a few months. In any event, I have no control over that.)

    2. 5.2


      “… no one has ever really argued ‘for historicity’ before. They have simply taken it for granted.”

      That is the value in this whole affair. The assumption on which NT scholarship rests is being opened and examined. Naturally, there is a great deal of resistance to that. One expects that when a paradigm is challenged. Hoffmann is excited about the three papers that are being produced to refute Carrier. That, in itself, is a huge step beyond where this issue has been in the past (even if one is from the shrill sycophant Stephanie Fisher). So far what I have seen is a Zahn-like strategy, for example, Stark says the targum that explicitly compares the suffering servant to the Messiah figure doesn’t have the Messiah “die” therefore it is disqualified as evidence that Jews could relate the Messiah figure to the suffering servant figure.

      This is a good thing and hopefully will lead to beneficial advances in the field. “Mythicism” scholarship, in my opinion, should be writing papers that challenge the research that has been based on the old paradigm. I think a place to start is to re-look at Romans 13, which scholars admit is difficult to resolve. Keck called it “thin ice.” Right there, the Jesus to Christ Hypothesis falls. Re-evaluating that piece, in a scholarly way, from a perspective that Paul did not have a memory, even second-hand, of a crucifixion under Pilate, helps resolve this piece. In fact, it is not perplexing at all to a “mythicist” case.

      by the way, I think the term “Mythicist” is confusing and not entirely accurate. I think “mythicism” falls into at least 2 camps: the Jesus-idea evolved out of pre-existing concepts, or the Jesus-idea was fabricated. The latter camp is on the same ground as the Jesus to Christ camp in one way: they both believe the Jesus story was fabricated.

  6. 6

    Oh my. At this point Ehrman probably needs to surrender with what little dignity he has left. If this article made anything clear, it’s that any further argument with Carrier is not going to help Ehrman’s case.


  7. 7
    Jason Goertzen

    I posted on the Hoffman post making many of the points you do here, pointing out his false accusations, and so on. I was careful to be extremely courteous. He deleted the comment anyway. Classy.

    1. 7.1

      I’ve found if you can find some mean things to say about Carrier and then throw in some nice things about Hoffmann, he’ll allow the comment.

  8. 8
    Jason Goertzen


    “[N]otice how he asserts a principle in his own defense (“a few indications of general incompetence is good enough” reason to dismiss an entire book as unworthy of further attention) which is precisely the principle I applied to his book (I found more than a few indications of general incompetence). Which leads me to wonder: does he regard his treatment of them as an inappropriate personal attack that they didn’t deserve? [Etc.].”

    This was the thing I most noticed. There seems to be, from historicists in general, and from Ehrman in particular, the active principle “it’s ad hominem when they do it to us.”

    I say this as someone who is skeptical of mythicism. I haven’t found the arguments convincing (yet?), as they seem to be speculative and circumstantial–too light to meet the burden of proof I see the position as having. But I have to say that, seeing just how weak the historicist case is, I have concluded that an agnosticism on the matter is appropriate (for now).

  9. 9

    Ouch, ouch, ouch! There’s an animation of this post on YouTube. It’s called “Bambi Meets Godzilla.” The part about Hoffman was especially hilarious. I too wondered how he could think of mythicists as disease-carrying mosquitoes when he apparently was one just five years ago. Since he was prominent enough as a scholar to be invited to talk on Point of Inquiry about the topic, I think there’s a pretty high prior probability that he couldn’t have learned about “James, the brother of the Lord” somewhere in the intervening time and had a conversion (to historicism) experience.

    Anyway, have fun at the conference!

  10. 10

    This is really embarrassing.

  11. 11
    Bob Wahler

    Being outside Academia should be given the credit it reserves. Sometimes those at a distance can see the forest. Ehrman is among those who boldly claim that the Gospel of Judas shows little that we don’t already “know” about the Bible, so it is of little consequence, when nothing could be further from the truth. I told him, and Marvin Meyer, and many other of the principle players in the gnostic studies arena that they have it all wrong when they say that the new discovery shows Jesus telling Judas that he will “hand him over”. It shows nothing of the kind. Any practicing Mystic like myself will tell you that it is “Jesus” telling “Judas” that he he will “sacrifice” HIMSELF — the “man that bears me”. Christianity is a fraud, and even though Ehrman knows it, he needs their audience.

  12. 12

    Are you planning on responding to Thom Stark’s critique of your Suffering Messiah argument? I think he negates it pretty well.


    1. 12.1
      Richard Carrier

      Most of his points have already been refuted in comment threads on my blog. But I won’t have time to assemble a summary for a few weeks. I have too many events and travel days coming up. (It’s taken me days now even just to get through comment moderation.) Maybe in June.

    2. 12.2

      Those links seem to eventually go back to the original essay. This criticism, though, reminds me of the creationist argument “Where’s the missing link?” Autralopithicus is just an ape. Homo Erectus just a human with a birth defect.

      Clearly, the targum that Stark goes on about identifies the Messiah with the Suffering Servant. Does that Messiah suffer in that targum? No. But if we are considering the evolution of Jesus-belief, association of Isaiah 52 with Messiah expectations is a significant step forward.

  13. 13

    It’s difficult to read this — not because of the detailed account (well, a bit of that too), but because of the potential damage it does to Ehrman’s work. I have several of his books and quite enjoyed them and even though I am not a scholar my “radar” has been set off by some of what seems like exaggerated emphasis or an agenda. I understand the temptation to dramatise as a writer of history, but overall I have been inspired and have learned from his writing. (My sense of this potential mistrust was even stronger in Freeman’s New History of Early Christianity, even though I appreciate the work, and again was inspired to follow up certain themes.) I will be interested to read Ehrman’s latest as to how much of a case can there be for an historical Jesus? But, I also gotta love Richard’s dedication to rigour, and his laser-mind.

  14. 14
    RW Ahrens

    I’ve said before that I’d be more respectful of Ehrman’s book if he’d waited until Carrier’s second book was released. Then he’d have been able to take the entire universe of Carrier’s methodology AND evidence to answer him, and write, as Carrier has noted he was hoping for, the definitive argument for the historicity of Jesus.

    Instead, by pushing his book out so fast in an effort to get it out first, he was forced to cut the amount of research into his case to the bone, and has instead, shot himself in the foot. – while putting that foot in his mouth!

    Truly, it makes me wonder just how complete his other research is, if he is willing to publish this kind of writing.

    1. 14.1
      Richard Carrier

      That’s an unfair criticism. He can’t be expected to wait for unpublished scholarship to hit the press. Granted, he could have asked me for a precis of my case and discussed my upcoming work with me (and I did send him a draft of Proving History well in advance), but he is a bit paranoid about sharing his own scholarship and doesn’t seem to take us seriously enough to want to engage in any dialogue or debate ahead of publication.

      He wanted to get another book done (on when Christians started equating Jesus with Jehovah) and saw this as a necessary preliminary study. So he obviously wanted to get this one done without delay. And we should not begrudge him that (it’s precisely why I published Proving History in advance of On the Historicity: I had the same problem he did, I saw I needed to do a preliminary study on methods before moving to application, and so I did that).

      He could certainly have done a more careful and thoughtful job and still published when he did. He didn’t need to see my upcoming work. Indeed, I would have been happy with a good and thorough case against Doherty’s complete theory of Christian origins, for example, even if it was a successful take down (since I also think there are problems with it and it might not survive a thorough critique as-is; it was for that reason that I developed a much simpler and less ambitious variant of his theory that’s easier to defend). I could then have identified where any of Ehrman’s take-down would still be relevant to my theory and thus whether my theory survives it. And then after I published, Ehrman could have produced a follow-up work addressing mine.

      That would be a perfectly reasonable sequence of events. He just screwed the pooch on step one is all.

  15. 15

    You continually fail to understand Ehrman’s point about the lack of NT scholars who support mythicism. He isn’t claiming that a person who doesn’t have the proper credentials can’t make a valid argument. Instead, he is making the inductive case that the fact that very, very few in the most relevant fields have been convinced by mythicist arguments should give a person pause to examine why they don’t find the arguments convincing. It is for that reason that Thompson isn’t included. He doesn’t fit into the list of those who specialize in the most relevant fields. But again, and this has to be stressed, not once has Ehrman, despite your many attempts to imply otherwise, said that a scholar (or anyone else, for that matter) can’t have anything relevant to say if they aren’t specifically NT scholars. But if their arguments are persuasive, we would expect that a few NT scholars would find them convincing and say so. Very, very few have.

    1. 15.1
      Richard Carrier

      Very, very few are even aware of them, much less have read them. Thus that is an invalid inductive argument. “All scholars who have not read Doherty conclude Doherty is wrong” is not even remotely a logical argument.

      Ehrman also does indeed disparage the credentials of mythicists. He doesn’t just inductively argue that the consensus is against them and we should side with the consensus (an argument that is only valid when the consensus has been formed validly and informedly; but Ehrman’s own book proves it still hasn’t been, thus his appeal to consensus is still fallacious even when taken as nothing but an appeal to consensus; nevertheless, I agree with that argument in principle and have said so many times: we should side with the consensus until that consensus changes, but that can only happen if scholars take seriously any challenges to that consensus, otherwise the consensus becomes a circular argument, a mere dogma; we can’t rule out challenges to the consensus simply because “they challenge the consensus”).

      As evidence that Ehrman does indeed do what you claim he doesn’t:

      Ehrman said in his HuffPo piece that mythicists are “as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land on in a bona fide department of biology.” That is not an inductive argument to a conclusion. It’s a disparagement of competence, and a threat to academic freedom (as I explained in my original response).

      And in his reply to my critique of his HuffPo article he says this, point blank:

      …someone from outside the field of NT or Early Christian studies might mistake someone with those kinds of expertise as being qualified to address, authoritatively, something having to do with early Christianity. But no one actually in the field would make that kind of mistake. Carrier too, of course, is not trained in these fields and is an outsider to them, so possibly that is why he doesn’t understand the difference.

      That is not an inductive argument from consensus. It is a claim that we are not qualified to discuss this matter. He gives specific examples (e.g. that Herodotus experts can’t speak authoritatively on later authors, which example I refuted in my blog post above), thus he is making no bones about it.

      He goes on to say:

      …what qualifications does [Thompson] have to make these judgments? Well, his expertise is in a different field, in a different time period, involving different texts, written in different languages. I would never consider myself expert enough to make authoritative pronouncements about the historicity of the biblical Moses, unless I was simply citing someone who was an authority.

      That is very clearly claiming “that a person who doesn’t have the proper credentials can’t make a valid argument.”

      So, Quanta, you are simply wrong. I have not failed to understand him.

    2. 15.2

      But you are conflating “valid argument” with “authoritative statement”. Suppose, for example, that I have done definitive experiments in my basement that provide a cure for cancer. While I would hope that the data I produced would eventually be evaluated by doctors, it would be wrong for anyone to take anything I say as authoritative, even if it turns out I am correct. Nor would I expect to get a job as a doctor, even though I may have made the greatest medical discovery of all time. (If I recall, you have previously made these distinctions as well, but for some reason fail to apply them to this situation, even though they are clearly applicable.)

      Your inference about the creationist example misreads what he said. His claim is that the arguments for mythicism are so unconvincing and on that basis, they are unlikely to get a teaching job. You assume that it is based purely on their position, not methodology. But Ehrman specifically claims that it because mythicist arguments are “so extreme and so unconvincing”. Which is the reason why don’t want creationists in biology departments. So I think the parallel is applicable.

      In the end, I think all that you have with regard to the lack of expert support is an appeal to bias. The entire field of NT scholarship reject Doherty, for instance, because they haven’t read him. I do think that the question of bias is an important consideration with regard to NT scholarship or early Christianity (or indeed, scholarship of any religious text or movement). But it is the extent of the consensus that is relevant, because while most may be Christian, not all are and there are plenty nonbelievers in the field that nevertheless conclude Jesus existed. And, as he explains in his book, the appealing to consensus is to encourage readers to be informed about what experts have to say (p. 4). So no, expert consensus isn’t a “valid argument”, but it’s not intended to be. It’s meant as a way of encouraging people to become informed and at least understand why experts hold the positions they do.

  16. 16
    Chris Hallquist

    Link to “Richard Carrier on The Huffington Post Article (1)” (Behind a paywall, which I think is a mistake on Ehrman’s part, but if you signed up for the paysite, your problem may be that you need to re-log in.

    But with that detail out of the way:

    Richard, I’m completely horrified by your responses to Ehrman, first and foremost because you seem insistent on reading into his statements things he never said, when there are much more reasonable ways to interpret the intent behind his remarks.

    To take an example from this post, Ehrman never says that all your points should be dismissed as examples of the ad hominem fallacy, and in context I think it’s quite clear that’s what he meant. In “Fuller Reply to Richard Carrier” he writes:

    Carrier, as many of you know, has written a scathing review of Did Jesus Exist on his Freethought Blog. He indicates that my book is “full of errors,” that it “misinforms more than it informs” that it provides “false information” that it is “worse than bad” and that “it officially sucks.” The attacks are sustained throughout his lengthy post, and they often become personal. He indicates that “Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about,” he claims that I speak with “absurd” hyperbole, that my argument “makes [me] look irresponsible,” that I am guilty of “sloppy work,” that I “misrepresent” my opponents and “misinform the public,” that what I write is “crap,” that I am guilty of “arrogantly dogmatic and irresponsible thinking,” that I am “incompetent,” make “hack” mistakes, and do not “act like a real scholar.”

    Most of his review represents an attempt to substantiate these claims. Some readers may find the overblown rhetoric offensive, but I have no interest in engaging in a battle of wits and rhetorical flourishes. I would simply like to see if the charges of my incompetence can be sustained.

    To my ear, “personal attack” does not necessarily mean a fallacy, and anyway in context it’s clear that he’s referring to charges of “incompetence,” etc. He doesn’t say that the fact you’re saying these things means you’re wrong, rather he acknowledges that you try to substantiate these charges, and then indicates he is going to show that these charges are unsubstantiated (which I think they were).

    It sounds like you may partly be thinking that the term “personal attack” is inaccurate because when you talk about “incompetence,” etc. you’re talking about Ehrman professionally. Perhaps you would restrict the term “personal attack” to “your mother was a hamster” type remarks? I don’t think that’s what the word “personal attack” means, but anyway it’s irrelevant to the question of whether Ehrman is accusing you of arguing fallaciously, because both “you’re incompetent” and “your mother was a hamster” can be used as premises in fallacious arguments. (“you’re incompetent, therefore your views are false” and “your mother was a hamster, therefore your views are false” – not that I think you made arguments in any way like either of those arguments).

    1. 16.1
      Richard Carrier

      An ad hominem is when you attack the man’s character rather than his argument or credentials (it is a way to avoid doing the latter, by saying something that is irrelevant to whether his conclusions are true or false).

      Showing evidence that he didn’t do his homework and didn’t become informed about the subjects he discusses is not an ad hominem. It’s a logically valid argument. Likewise showing he lacks competence in logical reasoning and in the subjects he claims authority in is a logically valid argument. It is not an ad hominem, and it is not a personal attack. It is a relevant demonstration that his work on this subject is unreliable.

      And indeed throughout his replies he tries to reframe every issue as me not being fair to him. He thustries to turn everything into a personal attack instead of a valid demonstration of his carelessness and mistakes. I am not the only one to notice this. I linked to Dan Finke’s blog because he saw it, too.

      Even Ehrman’s tactic of smashing together all the critical words I used, as if I strung them together like that out of context just to belittle him, is an example of this tactic: making it seem as if I’m just slinging epithets at him. This conceals the context and nuance of every occasion in which those words appeared (in other words, it deletes all the evidence I used to establish them, most of which he still has not addressed, even in his fuller response).

      The way he concludes his articles likewise reiterates his attempt to reframe the issue as one of personal attacks (claiming such silly things as that I am trying to market myself as a better historian than him, for example, so that he can then claim the high road by insisting he doesn’t care about that, even though he is the one who started that comparison and forced me to address it, making his reply now a rather nasty rhetorical trick that should be beneath him).

      So, no, I don’t agree with you.

    2. 16.2
      Xanthë, Amy of my threads

      Chris, if you’re really “completely horrified” by the robust nature of Richard’s recent bloggings on Ehrman’s book and his HuffPo article, then I wonder what sort of hyperbolic response would be left open to you in order to describe the ranting diatribes of say, R. Joseph Hoffman over at the New Oxonian, or those of his supporters (I notice there is even a convenient example of one of the latter’s fulminations, right here in this thread).

      My (confessedly amateur) background is more slanted towards being a student of ancient Roman history, so the level of heat (without generating light) in the New Testament studies world is rather surprising to me. What I’ve seen here is that:
      • Richard has been quite thorough in documenting numerous examples of what (and why) Ehrman got things substantively wrong, but more importantly, why it matters;
      • many of the objections levelled at Richard in return have mistaken the wood for the trees, and gotten bogged down in logomachist pedantry and other irrelevancies;
      • the tone of Richard’s bloggings, while not chummy towards Ehrman, is nonetheless far above the level of vituperation that is regularly being employed by various others who seem to ‘get off’ on this historicist versus mythicist grudge match – so if there is an argument for maintaining an academic or friendly tone no matter what the venue, then it has to be observed by all parties. Good luck with that!

      As I mentioned on the next thread (i.e. Round Two) I’ve yet to read this book; I’m probably pre-judging it to be inclined to think this new book is not going to be a highpoint of Ehrman’s œuvre – but that says nothing at all about his other books.

  17. 17

    In reading about this ruckus between you and Ehrman, I am learning a little ancient history. Thanks And I agree with you. Ehrman is not using logic.

  18. 18

    Richard, you are still too charitable to Ehrman on Peter and the rooster.

    A typical ancient Roman sculpture of Saint Peter is at http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2172/1798312630_76c7d98674.jpg sourced from http://www.rome101.com/Topics/Christian/Magician/

    Peter has a rooster at his feet, a device used to say to us ‘this is Saint Peter’. (He is also using a magic wand, but that is another matter.) If we see another ancient Roman statue of a rooster, it is perfectly fair and reasonable to assume that it references Saint Peter in some way, especially if it contains a man or anthropomorphic details. If someone says it has nothing to do with Saint Peter, they really have no basis unless there is some related evidence excluding Peter.

    Perhaps the sensitivity around this arises from people who wish to maintain respect for Saint Peter as the claimed rock of the Roman Catholic Church, and who see links to symbols of virility as somehow distasteful and out of character. But then there would be many victims of clerical sexual assault who would disagree, in view of the behaviour of Peter’s successors.

    This debate does reference sexual politics, and I would suggest much of the scorn directed towards Murdock is because of her promotion of feminist readings that are regarded as culturally unacceptable. As seen in her most recent rebuttal of Ehrman’s comments on Justin Martyr – http://www.freethoughtnation.com/contributing-writers/63-acharya-s/679-does-justin-martyr-quote-the-gospels.html
    – this line that Murdock is just incompetent won’t wash.

    Re Freke and Gandy, you may have seen Neil Godfrey’s recent commentary at http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/carrier-versus-ehrman-reflections/

    I think Neil has a good point regarding robust discussion and politeness, but also, as one who gave The Jesus Mysteries five stars in my review – http://www.amazon.com/review/R2UVE1IPRUQIXA – I feel you miss the point they are making. In my review I state “The question here turns on the most plausible explanation for the rise of Christian faith. Freke and Gandy argue there was originally an inner church that only revealed part of its secret teachings to the public outer church. The ignorant masses called for signs and wonders before they would take any interest in new ideas. The early church serviced this mass demand for a new wondrous religion with the allegorical story of a historical messiah. The aim was to attract members to the cult, so secret mysteries could then be revealed to initiates. The Gospels as we have them were written for the outer church, as a simplified and `dumbed-down’ historicized account of the inner spiritual myth. As Christianity spread, Freke and Gandy argue the outer church took on a life of its own, gradually losing contact with the secret mysteries. The `orthodox’ soon found a source of temporal power in denial of the inner church teaching that the story of Christ was a cosmic myth. By allying with the ignorant, the Church Fathers isolated and suppressed the cosmic mysticism of the old inner church, which they branded as Gnostic heresy.”

    This seems to me to provide a coherent and plausible support for Freke and Gandy’s broader arguments on how Christianity evolved within its wider pagan milieu. Just disparaging them as ‘bad’ looks like a distaste for analysing the cosmological aspects of the Christ Myth, and fails to engage with this sound analysis.

    Regards, Robert Tulip

    1. 18.1
      Richard Carrier

      My problem with Freke and Gandy is that they repeatedly burn us with false claims (I started fact checking them and found so many errors I gave up bothering; I no longer trust the book). Murdock, likewise, indiscriminately conflates 19th century scholarship with contemporary and makes implausible inferences left and right. So, no, I do not see them as able to persuade professionals. They only make mythicism look ridiculous and that only makes my job harder. If they were more rigorous and constructed their arguments with more care, attending to modern methods and logic and recent scholarship, they might do better. But that hasn’t happened.

      That’s a separate matter, though, from whether Ehrman misrepresented her arguments or position on Justin Martyr, for example. See the contrary view. But Ehrman’s statement is, I agree, hyperbolic: “quotes” the Gospels is arguably inaccurate, and “the” Gospels is open for debate, since we don’t actually know which Justin was employing of the three dozen Gospels there were. But then Murdock piles on to these reasonable points too many speculations (that his calling these memoirs “gospels” is an interpolation; that he can’t possibly be paraphrasing the canonicals; etc.).

      I doubt Ehrman is at all motivated by her feminist angle (there are plenty of those within established academia). Indeed, from how badly he handles her material, I would doubt he is even aware of any of her feminist content. He was too careless and cursory in reading her to have even a superficially correct view of what she said, much less one deep enough to get its feminist points.

      On the statue, the cockerel is also a symbol of Priapus (this isn’t the only example), and none of the examples you give depict Peter as being the cockerel, but as being in the presence of one, which makes sense as that is what the Gospels say. It is a wholly invalid inference to go from “Peter near a cock depicts a Gospel scene” to “Peter would be depicted as having the head of a cock and the nose of a penis and would be called the savior of the universe,” the latter being a wholly inappropriate title for Peter (it would only be true of Jesus), but typical of Priapus, who was also associated with cock and penis imagery. The conclusion is that this is far more likely a statue of Priapus and had nothing to do with Peter or Christianity.

  19. 19

    With regard to the Priapus statue, this is where it certainly appears to me as a layperson that you are engaging in “gotcha” scholarship. Yes, I think it is fairly obvious that Ehrman didn’t think that the statue existed. (But I say that based on the podcast, not on what he said in the book.) What I don’t understand is, given the fact that it wasn’t and couldn’t be what Acharya S was claiming it was (a symbol of Peter), why whether it exists or not would be significant. Regardless of what he may have thought about the statue, his claim as it reads is still factual. Now, if he had known for sure that the statue existed, he might have worded things differently. He probably did think that it doesn’t exist at all but ultimately, and I think rightly so, he was indifferent, and he worded his claim in his book so that it would be correct regardless. If the reader comes away with the impression that the object doesn’t exist at all, it would be unfortunate but certainly wouldn’t affect his criticism in the least. I’m not going to dismiss a book altogether because some claims might be misinterpreted, even if it were the case they were written without precision. I don’t know how you can draw the conclusion that he was “lying”, though. That to me just seems over the top (and gives him more reason to conclude that you are engaging in nastiness, this time I think correctly.) I think your other two criticisms also miss the mark, but I will comment about them later if you would like to discuss.

    1. 19.1
      Richard Carrier

      I agree…if it were only a few instances.

      I even said this outright in my original critique, that one or two errors would not be an issue, that even the best works can have those.

      Thus I wouldn’t make an issue of this instance if it were a one-off thing (I would just correct him in an otherwise adulatory recommendation that people read this book who want a good scholarly refutation of mythicist work). But instead this is just one example of routine carelessness throughout the book. He isn’t checking his claims. Again and again. Thus, we can’t trust that he checked anything he claims in this book.

      Moreover, he does not provide any valid rebuttal to what Murdock argues. He says she is wrong to say this statue represents Peter because the statue doesn’t exist. That’s fallacious. As the statue exists, its non-existence cannot be a valid argument for her interpretation being incorrect. So what is the argument against her view? You get none from this book. This is, again, typical of the whole book. It does not give us any useful knowledge or arguments. It so badly treats its opponents that it is worthless as a go-to book for people who want to know why to distrust most mythicist literature.

      And then, of course, its positive case for historicity is a shambles of fallacies and misstatements, too. But that’s a separate matter.

      As to his deception, Ehrman is the one who chose to make up the story that he knew the statue existed all along. He could have just admitted that yes, he didn’t check, and admits now that the statue does exist, exactly as her drawing depicts, but even so it’s still not a symbol of Peter (because of x, y, and z, in other words the argument he should have made in the first place). Instead of owning up to what I think the evidence clearly shows really happened, it certainly looks like he chose to tell a tall tale so as to rescue himself from admitting he made a careless and irresponsible mistake. That’s on him.

    2. 19.2

      Ehrman never claimed that he knew that the statue existed all along, nor was his argument based on the the non-existence of the statue. It was based on whether it had anything to do with Peter. He doesn’t make an argument against it because the framing of the argument (“cock” = “penis”) was so poor to begin with that any attempts at a refutation would be superfluous.

      I think the threshold for accusing a person of lying should be set pretty high, and I think your accusation is careless here. I have read his response, and nowhere does he claim to have known all along that the statue existed. He didn’t. He was indifferent. What he did care about was whether it had anything to do with Peter, and the fact that it doesn’t isn’t even in dispute.

    3. Richard Carrier


      Ehrman never claimed that he knew that the statue existed all along.

      I don’t follow you. Are you saying he didn’t know the statue existed?

      Or that when he said “It does not take much research to dig out this juicy bit of museum lore. Acharya S herself gives the references in her footnotes. And yes, they are both right. The statue does appear to exist.” that he was confessing that he never checked because he assumed it existed and decided not to tell his readers that nor give an argument for why it isn’t a statue of Peter?

      Because either way, your defense of him doesn’t work.

    4. 19.3

      Correct. I’m saying that he didn’t know that the statue existed and never claimed otherwise. I assume that you are reading his response to you as a claim that he knew all along. But that isn’t warranted. He is acknowledging that your point is correct (it does exist) based on what you told him. (No, he doesn’t say explicitly that it is because you told him, but I think it is implied.) But, he argues, it is irrelevant because it has nothing to do with Peter.

      That he never checked (or at least not until you replied) isn’t in doubt, in my opinion. Where I disagree with you is the relevance of his not checking. My claim is that his indifference was justified given that the statue couldn’t be of Peter and the argument by Acharya is so absurd on its face that it is essentially self-refuting. His argument in the book remains correct: there is no penis-nosed statue of Peter.

    5. 19.4
      Richard Carrier

      Then my original point is confirmed: he never checked. I already acknowledged that he is now arguing he meant something other than that it didn’t exist when he said it didn’t exist. So you don’t seem to have any valid complaint here. You are just validating my every point.

    6. 19.5

      So your argument is that when Ehrman claims “there is no penis-nosed statue of Peter in the Vatican…”, he must have meant something other than “there is no penis-nosed statue of Peter“. I’m not following you.

  20. 20

    Good job. Looking forward to Sunday’s post. If Ehrman thinks your harsh wording in your reviews smacked of ‘personal attack’, I have to wonder if he thinks you were likewise engaging in ‘personal attacks’ on Freke & Gandy as well. ;)

  21. 21

    Uh, the Priapus/Orpheus/Peter statue existence or non-existence has nothing to do with the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, do I get that right ?

    It was only a crass argument by Ehrman to diss the scholarship of others in the [historicity] field ?

    1. 21.1
      Richard Carrier

      Yes. To be precise, it was a reason he gave to dismiss Murdock’s work so he could proceed to ignore it for the rest of the book.

      Other errors and fallacies I documented in my critique pertain to historicity. The rest pertain to demonstrating that his research and writing of the book is so unreliable we can’t trust it without a thorough fact-check, which eliminates the point of reading the book (if you are going to have to redo all his research and rewrite all his sentences, you are no longer reading his book, you are writing the book he should have written…which I encourage someone to do, hopefully someone as competent in the field as he is, and as competent in logic as he appears not to be).

  22. 22

    This is why I love reading your blog, thank you!

  23. 23
    Jesse M.

    In “Ehrman on Jesus: A Failure of Facts and Logic”, Carrier wrote, “part of Ehrman’s argument is that mythicists are defying all established scholarship in suggesting this [passage about Christians in Tacitus] is an interpolation, so the fact that there is a lot of established scholarship supporting them [as documented by Herbert W. Benario] undermines Ehrman’s argument and makes him look irresponsible.”

    In his “Fuller Reply to Richard Carrier”, Ehrman presents the situation this way: “[Carrier] indicates [...] that my argument ‘makes [me] look irresponsible’” (the first and second bracketed materials are mine, the third is his). Notice that the phrase “my argument” has no meaning except as supplied by the context. Ehrman made the entire book, and thus the entire argument for historicism, the context, which makes it seem as though Carrier thought that the mere act of making an argument for historicism is what made him look irresponsible, as opposed to one specific passage about Tacitean scholarship.

    If you do not see the problem there, then perhaps an analogy will serve to make it clearer. Suppose that you wrote in your online journal, “Ugh, I hate red morning horizons because they indicate that dryer weather is probably coming [because the redness is caused by suspended dust particles, which are suspended due to low humidity].” Now suppose that I quote you in my online journal in this way: “Ugh, I hate red”. That would make it seem as though you disliked red roses, loathed cartoon drawings of hearts, and generally despised everything about Valentine’s day. In this analogy, I universalized your statement in a way that it cannot legitimately be universalized, just as Ehrman illegitimately universalized Carrier’s statement about Tacitean scholarship.

  24. 24

    Just a guess, I’m thinking Ehrman’s shooting for a Templeton Prize with this example of how not to produce an argument based on logic and evidence. Either he’s in debt, or has gone a full 360 to return to his theistic roots.

  25. 25

    I read Ehrman’s original statement as denying that the statue actually exists, and I read his subsequent statements as an unconvincing attempt to reframe his original sentence in order to avoid a complete retraction. So I am not defending Ehrman, or Ehrman’s original claim, or Ehrman’s subsequent claims about what he really meant. What I am doing is criticizing Murdock’s claims.

    I neither misrepresented nor mishandled the sources I cited, and I note you didn’t tell your readers that the ‘observer’ on Murdock’s forum agreed with these key points in my argument:

    * They agree with me that the statue is not hidden in the Vatican treasury: ‘Mr. Burke was correct when he wrote “the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury”’, ‘And with this we are agreed, for I have demonstrated Knight attesting to as much’

    * They agree with me that Knight is the only independent source that it was ever at the Vatican: ‘this leaves us with only one independent source affirming the fact that the statue was once located at the Vatican’, ‘most likely that would be correct, as the later scholars stating as much do appear to be dependent on Knight’

    * They agree with me that Murdock is wrong about it being currently hidden in the Vatican treasury, and her own source is evidence that she’s wrong about it ever being in the Vatican treasury, hidden or otherwise: ‘I agree with Burke’, I even explicitly agreed with him on that’, ‘I have already agreed more than once’

    This has been my argument:

    1. There is no statue of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, either ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’ or anywhere else

    2. The statue to which Murdock appeals for this claim does exist, but is not of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, and is not ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’

    3. There’s no evidence that it was ever ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’

    4. The only source which says anything about it being anywhere in the Vatican says it was displayed publicly, not hidden

    All of these facts are verifiable, and disprove Murdock’s original claim.[1]


    [1] Although it is possible that the only independent source which says anything about the statue being in the Vatican is correct, and that the statue was later moved to the Gabinetto Segreto, there’s no record of any such thing happening and Knight had a motive for claiming the statue was displayed at the Vatican; there is no corroboration of this claim at all, including in the source which Knight cites for his illustration of the bronze. Regardless, even if this is what happened, it does not address the fact that I have already disproved Murdock’s claim.

    1. 25.1
      Richard Carrier

      I agree. At least, all of that does appear to be correct. I haven’t thoroughly vetted the matter, because I don’t care; where it is is irrelevant, not only because Ehrman said it doesn’t exist anywhere, but also because its present or past location is not pertinent to her use of it (except perhaps through her innuendo that the Vatican is keen on hiding it, but I would expect that to be true in any case, not because it is a secret but because it is pornographic).

      Don’t get me wrong, though. I find Murdock to be just as bad at the sins of hyperbole and fallacy and dubious innuendo and failing to fully research her facts or represent them accurately. But it is for exactly that reason that it is Ehrman’s responsibility to do the very things she doesn’t, so as to show people the difference between professional and careless reasoning and scholarship.

    2. 25.2

      Given that Murdock claims it is in the Vatican treasury, when it actually isn’t, I’m as concerned with correcting Murdock’s false claim as I am with pointing out that Ehrman did indeed give every impression that he believed the statue didn’t exist. I don’t believe it’s ok to point out Ehrman’s error and then let Murdock’s claims go unchallenged. I also think it’s unwise of you to give the impression that although you dispute her interpretation of the statue, you support her claim that it’s in the Vatican treasury, when in fact it isn’t and there’s no evidence it ever was.

      That aside, Ehrman treats Murdock’s work exactly as you have done; he provides a long list of her errors and then says it’s pointless even discussing her efforts any further. Singling out an individual error of Ehrman’s in that long list without mentioning his debunking of her case, gives the impression Ehrman could only find one thing wrong with Murdock’s claims, and was wrong even about that. Which is exactly how Murdock and her followers are using your critique of Ehrman (though that’s hardly your fault).

    3. Richard Carrier

      I actually consistently expressed uncertainty about where the statue was. So your complaint seems moot.

    4. 25.3

      “I actually consistently expressed uncertainty about where the statue was. So your complaint seems moot.”

      Well let’s see what you said:

      * “Some commentators on his site have also tried claiming the statue was never at the Vatican, but their misinformation and mishandling of the sources is thoroughly exposed in an extensive comment by an observer at Murdock’s site”

      Here you explicitly claim my statement that the statue was never at the Vatican is wrong. That’s not uncertainty. Leaving aside the fact that you didn’t tell people that the person to whom you referred actually agreed with every key point in my argument, and leaving aside the fact that I didn’t misrepresent or mishandle any of my sources, you gave people the impression Murdock’s claims had been vindicated when they had been disproved. Specifically, you left the impression that her claim regarding the location of the statue was correct.

      * “The object may have been moved”

      Here you suggest that the statue ‘may have been moved’, indicating that you clearly believed it was in the Vatican treasury at one time, when the reality is that there’s no evidence it was ever at the Vatican treasury at all, and there’s only one independent source claiming it was ever at the Vatican. Please don’t ‘do an Ehrman’ and try to claim you meant something different.

    5. Richard Carrier

      I was talking about my original post, where I said: “it apparently exists (or did exist) exactly as she describes.” Later I was even clearer. I never claimed to know where the statue was. You evidently can’t tell the difference between a scholar stating what he should state (uncertainty, if that is the case), and a scholar saying exactly the opposite of what he meant.

    6. 25.4

      I’m pretty sure I know what ‘exactly as she describes’ means; it doesn’t mean ‘not exactly as she describes’, or ‘substantially different from what she describes’, or even ‘basically as she describes but in a different location’. Don’t do an Ehrman.

      I note you didn’t actually address the statements of yours which I quoted directly.

  26. 26
    Paul Doland

    I look forward to the next part. You say your previous piece wasn’t a personal attack, and I know you offered many substantive points. But, saying that he is arrogant, doesn’t know what he is doing, didn’t bother to look up stuff he says, and his book is crap, well, that certainly comes off as a personal attack. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do the same thing myself. But the fact is, there are a lot comments on Ehrman’s and Hoffman’s blogs where people seem to agree that you are being a hot-head, and they think therefore they can ignore you.

    Now, sure, anybody saying something like that on Hoffmann’s blog is an idiot, given that Hoffmann’s piece was nothing but a “rant”. But, be that as it may, it may have worked better if you had toned it down a notch.

  27. 27

    Hoffman has gone “insane”, Richard?

    Is that a clinical judgment?

    Whatever, it is probably libelous.

    1. 27.1
      Richard Carrier

      Opinions are not libelous. Saying I was paid by CFI to attack him is. That means he is the one who would go down in a lawsuit if it ever came to that.

      As to whether he is insane, I have presented the evidence. Each can decide for themselves whether it makes the case.

  28. 28

    Dear Richard,

    I think most people who visit you are no historians. It think it would be helpful for us all if there was a list presenting all the evidence point by point known about that time and the relevant place. (May be both bart and you make a list and then you discuss if you both agree about your facts)
    As I understand the place is also important. F.e. it does not matter if romans kept records of their actions in egypt if they didn’t keep them in palestine or if we have no evidence of such a record.
    But if we could see all the evidence that is there and we had both of your theories to explain that evidence then we would see the things much more clearer.
    I must confess I am lost at the moment, really lost :)).

    Thank you very much for every answer….

    1. 28.1
      Richard Carrier

      Ironically, what you are asking for is precisely what he should have done in his book. But alas, he didn’t.

      As to the rest, listing our points of disagreement is precisely what I did. It is Ehrman who is muddling the matter by throwing in side issues and deflections and ignoring half of what I said. I can’t do much about that.

      Someone else did give it a shot though (see Jacob Aliet’s comment in the original thread).

  29. 29

    Is there an “ego fallacy”? At this stage Bart should do one of two things, or possibly combine them.

    1: Shut up

    2: recall the book, edit and re-release.

    Possibly a third thing if there is any integrity left within him, is an acknowledgement that his book was below the standard expected of an historian who specialises, and in his opinion is the only one qualified to comment on, this specific field.

  30. 30

    I will read this tomorrow, but I’m still flabbergasted by the way you attack the person of Ehrman. It doesn’t give me much confidence. This is not written in a way close to a scholarly debate. I will have to take distance from your style, then try to make sense of the points you are essentially (not just rhetorically) trying to make.

  31. 31

    This just keeps getting better and better.

  32. 32

    Carrier’s post is full of despicable falsehoods and ridiculously bitter nonsense.

    Carrier’s claim is deluded and pathetic. There is absolutely no doubt that Hoffmann is completely sane. I didn’t realise Carrier was a qualified psychiatrist as well. He’s not. He does not have “evidence” – that is ridiculous and untrue from beginning to end. I wonder if he knows what evidence is given the quality of his analysis of historical evidence. He does however have an extraordinarily high opinion of himself as having a multitude of areas of expertise – just read his ‘profile’. This extraordinary sort of fantastical egotism is not normal in intelligent society. He’s just bitter that he has not been embraced by critical scholarship. Does he realise that without qualification to diagnose he is liable to be accused of libel? Does he realise that critical thinking people change their mind with critical argument and evidence? That’s how scholarship works. It’s called skepticism, and it’s about being self critical, something Carrier is not. Instead Carrier boasts “I am no less a philosopher than Aristotle or Hume. My knowledge, education, and qualifications are comparable to theirs in every relevant respect… For you cannot be successful in anything of importance if you have a poor or even incorrect grasp of yourself”. Does he have evidence of Hoffmann ‘praising and loving’ his work? As far as I am aware his book ‘Proving History’ was vanity published first and was advertised to be released by Prometheus in April. I received my copy which was supposed to be vanity published but it arrived as a Prometheus edition a couple of weeks ago. Hoffmann never claimed to have read Proving History. He never claimed to be responding to Carrier’s points directly – in fact quite the contrary which he makes clear in this comment thread. This post is an overall impression from his previous ‘work’ and posts on his atheist blog. Carrier’s inability to distinguish between an error and a lie is astonishing. It is unfortunate that he always finds it necessary to use such vile language and falsehoods to express himself publically, and I think it might be helpful to his credibility if he started being a little more careful and honest. Carrier’s ridiculous rant is full of falsehoods from beginning to end.

    1. 32.1
      Richard Carrier

      Nice crazy rant.

      And good going doubling down on the libel. I cannot fathom on what basis you ever concluded Proving History was ever slated for a vanity press (much less actually published at any vanity press!). Not least because that title was chosen by Prometheus (so if you have some copy of the text with that title, then it was already contracted with Prometheus and in peer review at the time; indeed, Prometheus circulated some review drafts under another title, but still again, only Prometheus, after I was in contract with them and my work was already undergoing peer review through them). That book was never published anywhere else, in any form, but through Prometheus, and I never had any plans to publish it anywhere but through a real publisher who could (and did) contract a formal peer review (as Prometheus did). So apparently you are a liar. And I guess liars like company.

      And yes, I do have evidence of Hoffmann loving and praising my work. I quoted it in this very blog post (above).

    2. 32.2

      It appears you can be as rude as you like and consider yourself professional. However when others critique your style and unwillingness or inablity to engage in academic dialogue, you condemn their critique as ‘rant’ or efforts to engage as ‘deflection tactic’. You give the impression of being so unfamiliar with language that you haven’t grasped the concept of ‘vanity publishing’. It is considered obsolete in the popular audience but it is a term perfectly alive in the publishing world, synonymous with the more common term ‘self publishing’. The bookseller advertised the book as self published. The publication page in the copy that arrived had ‘Prometheus’ in a peculiar print which appears slightly smudged. The bookseller provided no explanation. As for quoting old emails out of context without links, you ought to know better than that. And only people with fundamentalist convictions are incapable of changing their minds. I think it’s time to recognise that your slapping of abuse such as ‘liar’ and ‘insane’ on people is not just ridiculous but libellous too, and I wonder if perhaps you don’t understand the meaning. It’s truly astonishing you consider yourself ‘professional’.

    3. Richard Carrier

      Wow, Steph, I think you might be even crazier than Hoffman. Still making stupid arguments, and still telling absurd lies like “The bookseller advertised the book as self published. The publication page in the copy that arrived had ‘Prometheus’ in a peculiar print which appears slightly smudged. The bookseller provided no explanation.” Either someone punked you (which is unlikely) or you are just making this shit up.

    4. 32.3

      Fact. We googled Amazon.com and the copy was not available til later in the year and it was advertised as published by Richard Carrier. The UK bookseller advertised the same. We pre-ordered a copy and it arrived earlier than promised with the publisher Prometheus printed on the publication page and it is quite clear to our good eyes that it is slightly smudged. Why would I make that up? You might not like the truth Carrier, but I am tell no lies. You should keep yourself better informed of how your own book is advertised. Be careful Carrier.

    5. Richard Carrier

      Now it sounds like you bought a pirated book. Why not post online a picture of this book and where in that strange copy of our book anything is said about it having been previously published by anyone but Prometheus?

    6. Bob Wahler

      Why the concern about self-publishing? Is this some sort of demerit?

    7. 32.4

      You might have noticed also, Carrier, that we are not the only ones to have noticed that your book was advertised originally as published by Richard Carrier. You let yourself lie by denying the truth.

    8. Richard Carrier

      Advertised where?

      You are really straining the preposterous here.

    9. 32.5

      “Wow, Steph, I think you might be even crazier than Hoffman. Still making stupid arguments, and still telling absurd lies …Either someone punked you (which is unlikely) or you are just making this shit up.”

      Punked? He really does not like the truth. His reaction is astonishing and laughably un ‘professional’. It is not an ‘argument’ to state how the book was advertised. It is an account. Maurice Casey is writing to the bookseller for written confirmation that Richard Carrier’s ‘Proving History’ was advertised as published by Richard Carrier.

    10. Richard Carrier

      What bookseller?

    11. 32.6

      One of your comments makes no sense. It was advertised as I said on Amazon.com as published by Richard Carrier, and it was also advertised as published by Richard Carrier, by the bookseller on the Amazon.com site. The documentation is coming from the bookseller. The book is a perfectly respectable looking copy. Just be patient Carrier, and wait for the documentation.

    12. Richard Carrier

      Steph, if “It was advertised as I said on Amazon.com as published by Richard Carrier, and it was also advertised as published by Richard Carrier, by the bookseller on the Amazon.com site” then the bookseller is lying and you’ve been punked. But even so, I await the evidence that this prank occurred.

    13. 32.7
      Andrew G.

      Just going to add some data points here, since I believe Steph is in the UK (as am I):

      When the book first showed up as available on Amazon UK (sometime in mid-Jan or earlier) there were a number of errors in the listing (misspelled title being the most obvious); I do not recall if the publisher or other details were correct or not. Also the availability date was changed several times (from May, to June, to unavailable, to June again, and then the book was actually shipped in April).

      None of this ever looked to me like anything other than someone being careless about typing in details, and the usual variability in scheduling. (I don’t think I’ve yet received any pre-ordered book on the originally stated date.) My experience has also been that availability dates for Prometheus books in particular ordered via Amazon UK have been somewhat more variable than for other publishers; as I recall, I got my copies of both TCD and TEoC several weeks earlier than originally stated. However, in all cases the actual delivery date has been somewhat after the US publication date.

      My copy of Proving History ordered from Amazon UK arrived on about April 19th; it’s the US printing, with no printing defects of any kind, and the title page and publisher info match other Prometheus books as expected.

      So this all looks to me as though Steph has built some ludicrous theory on top of scraps of misinterpreted evidence. If the Amazon UK listing for the book ever showed something incorrect for the publisher, then it’s vastly more likely to be innocent error than anything else, especially given that there were other errors in the listing.

    14. 32.8

      Why not just post the name of the bookseller? Or an image of the questionable page?

    15. 32.9

      Hi Andrew, I am living in the UK at present. We had great difficulty ordering the book through Amazon.com. We first looked sometime in January. The availability date did change and seem unable to make up its mind. It went from April to June and April again as far as we remember. When we tried ordering it at the end of March, Amazon.com said they would send it to the US, and the US would send it back for 30 pounds extra! But the publisher was Richard Carrier. As far as I know Carrier’s other books are self published under usual self publishing names such as Lulu and AuthorHouse etc, so this didn’t concern us at the time. A week later we managed to order it through the Book Depository, who are on Amazon.com’s list, who said it would arrive in a few days. All the trouble with Amazon.com just seemed like typically muddled bureaucracy. The copy that arrived in early April is perfect in every way but the title page with publisher, now clearly Prometheus, is odd. I described it as smudged but Professor Casey has suggested it’s more appropriately described as “a peculiar highlighting” behind the words ‘BAYES’S THEOREM and the Quest for the HISTORICAL JESUS.’ For all intents and purposes this could be an artistic intention, but it is just unexpected. Neither of us have ordered books from Prometheus before. We normally deal with well known academic publishers, but we often order from the Book Depository as they have been completely reliable so far.

    16. 32.10
      Andrew G.

      So, Steph, are you now satisfied that (a) the book had not previously been self-published and (b) your assertion that it was was just a misinterpretation of someone else’s mistake?

      If you require further evidence, you might consider that Richard announced many months back that it would be published by Prometheus, and that at no time during the entire project has there been any suggestion of self-publishing it.

      As for the variations in availability dates, these are by no means confined to Prometheus – in fact just this week I received from Amazon UK a book (Rosenhouse’s Among The Creationists) published by OUP USA which was not scheduled to arrive for another month, and which is still listed as “available for pre-order” on Amazon UK at the time I write this. I’ve had this happen often enough that it ceases to be surprising.

      (The artistic choices on the title page are presumably down to Prometheus’ designer, since the same effect appears for example on Vic Stenger’s most recent books. Reading anything significant into that would therefore be a mistake.)

  33. 33

    Any chance of linking to Ehrman’s response so we can read the whole thing?

    1. 33.1
      Richard Carrier

      I already link to the one that’s accessible. The other is (I suppose) still behind a pay wall and therefore inaccessible to the public. Brad Self found an available link at a web cache, but there is no telling if that will remain accessible to the public.

  34. 34

    I read Ehrman’s reply and was most unimpressed with its quality. It seemed to boil down to “Carrier’s being a big meanie so you should be believe me.” All while being quite nasty. It’s interesting to note how many people have fallen for it though, even some on FTB.

    1. 34.1

      Seems to me that the biggest problem is the whole

      you should believe me

      approach. The point of reading works written by academics is not that their arguments are authoratative “because” of who they are, but because they follow academic standards, if one examines their arguments and explore the evidence that they present, one can understand (and presumably be convinced) by their arguments. “Belief” should have nothing to do with it…

      As for the commenters – I assume that Ehrman’s followers can sign up for FTB accounts as easily as anyone else – given the personal twist that the argument seems to have taken, it is unsurprising that some of his advocates should have made their way here.

    2. 34.2
      Steven Bollinger

      usagichan, I think your first paragraph (“Seems to me that the biggest problem is[...]“) underscores a problem not just with Ehrman but with Biblical studies generally on the question of Jesus’ historicity. They’ve done better on other topics, but when they compare mythicists to global-warming deniers or Holocaust, the comparison only holds if they are behaving like reputable meteorologists or historians. And on the subject of Jesus, they’re not. Not that meteorologists or historians never appeal to authority, but they follow it up with data. Here, the Biblical scholars appeal to authority and they’re done: they agree that Jesus existed, and that’s that.

  35. 35
    Jordan Day

    I must say that, although I have been an huge Ehrman fan for years, I truly believe he is being dishonest about the Priapus statue. I would loose much less respect for him if he just came out and said, “I was wrong…it just sounded so silly it had to be false…so I didn’t even bother to research it”. But instead, he is adding deception/dishonesty on top of a mistake that a world class scholar should not have made. I have good reason to believe that, although he is sometimes humble, he will occasionally go far out of his way to “save face”. In my first comment on his blog (after becoming a paying member) I praised his new blog and latest article, but I also pointed out that, in his article on the 1st century Mark fragment, he refers to “our earliest fragment of Mark” being “P46″. He said this 3-4 times throughout his article. Seeing that P46 doesn’t contain Mark, I assumed he meant to say P45. About an hour after my comment was approved by moderation, the mistakes were corrected, but my comment was deleted! Even the nice things I said! I guess when your “expertise” is in NT MSS and you make a mistake like this, and it gets pointed out by someone who barely made it through High School, it can be rather…embarrassing? I don’t know. Heck, my expertise is in plumbing, but I have screwed things up that a real dummy could have done right the first time. We all make mistakes. But it pissed me off that I didn’t even get a “Thank you” before he deleted my comment. Fragile ego…

    1. 35.1
      Bob Wahler


      Reputation is everything. I can show him the whole reason, as yet unperceived by him, for the writing of the NT, with plenty of support and many new insights which become readily apparent with a little reflection, but since it comes from outside the halls of Academia he will not accept it. Only if they within the halls think it up will it be acceptable. I have run into this attitude more times than I can count with Theology scholars.

  36. 36

    I hope that this prizefight goes on for four, five, or six rounds; the finished transcript of both sides’ expositions could be made into a totally awesome book in its own right. I honestly believe that many people get more enthusiastic about learning arcane material if it is presented as a heated contest between fiercely opposed gladiators (that’s how I got my feet wet learning about political theory, evolutionary biology and philosophy of religion).

  37. 37
    Ben Schuldt

    On his blog, Hoffmann is lying about the 2007 Point of Inquiry interview (http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/news-from-the-freethought-ghetto/#comment-5616):

    “I wouldn’t put too much stock in a Point of Inquiry interview, in any event, since I have been fairly public about the degree of my skepticism, but it is not as radical as it may have “sounded”: “The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of heaven upon earth and died to give his work its final consecration never existed….” ch 20 of Albert Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus. It doesn’t mean that Jesus did not exist but that the Jesus of Church teaching and doctrine did not exist. Sorry to disappoint you but there has been no game change or flip flop here. Just radical conclusions that have been around for more than a century.”

    However, for the extended context of the quote Carrier provides in the above post (http://www.pointofinquiry.org/r_joseph_hoffmann_the_jesus_project/ at timestamp 22:44) Hoffmann said: “I happen to believe that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist–I happen to believe that…but I’m completely persuadable. You just have to sort of sit me down and show me the historical elements in the gospels which point me in the direction of a plausible historical figure who is more plausible than the alternative explanation for the origins of Christianity.”

    The entire context of the interview is mythicism vs. historicity, not magical historicity vs. non-magical historicity.

    1. 37.1

      Carrier appears not to like the truth. Ben Schuldt, his loyal follower and ironically recent regular ‘subscriber’ (troll?) at New Oxonian, appears not to like the truth either. Carrier has failed to approve my response to his flippant allegation of ‘liar’. Fact: his book was advertised as self published and this fact is inconvenient to Carrier. Ben ludicrously accuses Hoffmann of lying as well, merely demonstrating his inability to grasp reality. Neither Carrier nor Schuldt understand the concept of evolution, following evidence and changing ideas, and neither, regrettably have the remotest concept of actual context. Context context context, everything has context. These fantasizers however live in their own self made fantasy world which has no historical context other than themselves.

    2. Richard Carrier

      Still selling the crazy, I see.

    3. 37.2

      Steph, I like a lot of what you say when you stay with the facts. What you wrote was not only unnecessary, but was thin on facts. It also contained a level of invective which doesn’t really have a place in this discussion, regardless of the fact that both Carrier and Hoffmann are using it.

    4. 37.3
      Ben Schuldt

      I also contacted DJ Grothe who confirmed that everyone at CSI believed Hoffmann was a mythicist at the time of the interview.

      Also Neil Godfrey and Steven Carr point out that Hoffmann wrote the forward to GA Wells mythicist book “The Jesus Legend” without mentioning how bogus the theory must have been.

      It’s no crime to change your mind. But why lie about it?

      BTW, Steph, Carrier has published all of your comments here (and many others of similar attitudes towards him), but has Hoffmann published my one comment on his blog that gives more context on the Point of Inquiry quote? *Who* doesn’t like the truth?

    5. 37.4

      Actually Ben, Carrier only publishes my comments he responds to. He has not published others including a comment on his vegetarian post. I don’t think Hoffmann needs to publish comments which slander him as liar. Not doing so, saves you from looking more of a fool. DJ Grothe? That’s funny. The problem with alot of people who hold strong convictions is that they can only understand things in black and white terms. Has Hoffmann ever written that ‘Jesus did not exist’? No. Sure, the mythicists can be light relief in contrast to some of the crazy theories of believers. You’re flogging a dead horse.

    6. Richard Carrier

      BTW, I am not aware of any post Steph made to my vegetarian thread. And I recall rejecting only one comment of hers, which contained only slander and invective and no argument. And that was posted to this thread.

      I searched my spam folder and my trash folder for comments by a “Steph” and found nothing but the above.

      It is funny, though, that Steph defends deleting comments that only contain slander, then complain when I do it.

      It’s also funny that she rejects Hoffman’s own spoken words, that he does not believe Jesus existed, and insists he has to have written those words for them to count. Yeah. Because that’s logical.

    7. 37.5

      Slander and invective and no argument? You are free to make up your own description. You are free not to publish comments which you do not wish to publish and cannot respond to. You didn’t publish one on this thread and two discussing the so-called ‘Aramaic hypothesis’ and so-called ‘Aramaisms’ which neither you, Porter nor Ehrman understand because neither you, Porter nor Ehrman know Aramaic, on a previous post regarding Ehrman (whose latest book I have read and would not defend). You’re correct about the vegetarian post. I was with a friend on their computer and the comment was signed in under another name, Delilah.

    8. Richard Carrier

      For the record, I have approved every comment submitted to my blog by Steph except one. And no comment by a “Delilah” has been recorded as submitted to my blog.

    9. 37.6
      Ben Schuldt


      “And I recall rejecting only one comment of hers, which contained only slander and invective and no argument.”

      Oh, my bad. All her comments you did publish seemed pretty stupid so I figured that must be all of them.

      And Steph,

      Thank Hoffmann for saving me from showing that he’s a fucking liar. Always appreciated.

    10. 37.7

      Carrier slanders Hoffmann by calling him a liar and insane. He slanders me with the same. It’s also funny that he insists on taking words out of context and interpreting them literally. It’s similar to a fundamentalist’s narrow view of language and logic. If I said ‘God does not exist’ you might call me an atheist, but you’d be wrong because you don’t have the context. What is God. Not everything can be reduced to simplistic formulas. Reality is more complex than that.

    11. 37.8
      Ben Schuldt

      And I could say, “I agree that Hoffmann isn’t a liar,” but what would that mean anyway unless I define “agree” and “Hoffmann” and “isn’t” and “liar” right?

  38. 38

    OK, so what we have here is more than 6,000 words from Carrier on the following subjects:

    * Ehrman’s writing style
    * The exact qualifications of Thomas L. Thompson
    * The priapic statue touted by Dorothy Murdock
    * R.J. Hoffmann’s alleged insanity
    * Ehrman’s writing style (again)
    * Murdock’s mistakes about the NT canon

    I came here expecting some engagement with Ehrman’s argument for the historicity of Jesus. Instead Carrier gives us 33 pages of tit-for-tat quibbling over irrelevant peripherals, with a few molehills inflated into mountains for good measure.


    As an aside, Ehrman is absolutely right to say that Murdock is wrong when she claims there were ‘many councils’ held to determine the Biblical canon.

    Of the 19 church councils held between the 1st and 11th Centuries, only 4 of them mention the canon. One of them (Laodicea AD 363) alludes to the canon without defining it. The remaining three (Hippo AD 393, Carthage AD 397, Carthage AD 419) affirm the list proposed by Athanasius in his festal letter of AD 367.

    There is no suggestion that these councils were convened to repudiate a competing canon.

    Carrier opines:

    the fact that they had to keep meeting to do that means there were repeated attempts to change it

    No. It was common practice for local councils to ratify the decisions of earlier councils (particularly those held in other areas). As consensus grew, orthodoxy was established.

    1. 38.1
      Richard Carrier

      You evidently ignored half of my original review of Ehrman’s book. Nice.

      On the councils, your explanation doesn’t explain why those councils and not others bothered to ratify the canon, or why it had to ratified multiple times. I think perhaps you are also ignoring everything we know about those councils and why they actually raised the issue of the canon. Your facts also don’t quite agree with what is stated in Metzger’s Formation of the New Testament Canon. You might want to do more homework on this.

    2. 38.2

      “On the councils, your explanation doesn’t explain why those councils and not others bothered to ratify the canon, or why it had to ratified multiple times.”

      But that’s ok, because he didn’t need to do that in order to demonstrate that your original claim was wrong.

      “I think perhaps you are also ignoring everything we know about those councils and why they actually raised the issue of the canon.”

      You’re still not addressing the issue under discussion; even if every council was responding to a local challenge to the canon, it wouldn’t prove what you’re claiming. These councils were all ratifying the same canon, they weren’t sitting down trying to figure out what the canon should be. They are evidence that the canon had been widely agreed on centuries before the date Murdock claims.

      Remember, you are defending Murdock’s claim about the role of the church councils in the formation of the New Testament canon. You of all people should know better than to leap to her defense simply on the basis of her own claims. It doesn’t look like you’ve even read up to see if what she says is true.

      “Your facts also don’t quite agree with what is stated in Metzger’s Formation of the New Testament Canon. You might want to do more homework on this.”

      This is a transparent bluff. If Metzger supported Murdock’s description of the formation of the canon, I’m sure you would have quoted him by now. If you had evidence supporting Murdock’s claims, I’m sure you would have presented that as well.

      Your responses to Ehrman look highly convincing on the surface, but give way somewhat when your claims are examined closely (the Tacitus/procurator issue is a case in point). There’s enough wrong in what Ehrman wrote for you to focus on without trying to make claims of error which can’t be supported. Stick with the facts and the evidence instead. The deeper you dig yourself in with unsupported and demonstrably false claims, the less authority you have when pointing the finger at Ehrman.

    3. Richard Carrier

      Actually, Fortigum, I was not defending her claim, I actually specifically said I took issue with it, too. You are clearly losing track of the facts and arguments in this case.

    4. 38.3

      “Actually, Fortigum, I was not defending her claim, I actually specifically said I took issue with it, too.”

      Careful, the claim in question is the claim that “many councils” were required to determine the New Testament canon. Remember what you said?

      * “Ehrman’s statement that there weren’t “many councils” to decide the NT canon is, read literally, false.”

      That’s your statement, your assertion that Ehrman’s specific criticism of Murdock’s claim of ‘many councils’ to ‘decide the NT canon’ (your words), is ‘read literally, false’. I note you didn’t address any of the points I raised. You should retract your statement; Ehrman was right, Murdock was wrong. If you take issue with her claim, as you say you do, I’m sure you will nave no difficulty in doing that.

    5. Richard Carrier

      Fortigum, you are ignoring everything I have said. For example, this is what I said in the post you are quoting out of context: “Acharya’s own characterization of the matter might also be accused of being misleading.”

      See what I mean? If you ignore everything I say, what’s the point in arguing with you?

    6. 38.4

      You are trying to change the subject. I am not saying you defended Murdock. I am pointing out that your claim that Ehrman’s criticism of her was false, is itself unsupportable. Here’s the statement of yours under examination.

      * “Ehrman’s statement that there weren’t “many councils” to decide the NT canon is, read literally, false.”

      That’s your statement, your assertion that Ehrman’s specific criticism of Murdock’s claim of ‘many councils’ to ‘decide the NT canon’ (your words), is ‘read literally, false’. You claim I took it out of context. Does that mean that in context it DOESN’T say that Ehrman’s criticism of Murdock’s claim is, ‘read literally, false’?

      Do you still claim that Ehrman’s statement is false? Yes or no? It’s a simple question. If you do still claim Ehrman’s statement is false, will you present some evidence for your claim at any point in the future?

    7. Richard Carrier

      Fortigum, this is getting tiring. Now you claim “I am not saying you defended Murdock.” Yes, you did.

      As to what I said about Ehrman on this point, that is plain for all to see in the original post. Your attempts to spin it as having said something else is just lame and annoying.

    8. 38.5

      I have been very careful with what I wrote, and I would ask you to be careful reading what I wrote. I did not claim you were defending Murdock (a statement you have made so you can charge me wrongly with saying you have defended all she wrote on the subject under discussion). I said specifically you were defending one specific claim she made. I said this.

      * ‘Remember, you are defending Murdock’s claim about the role of the church councils in the formation of the New Testament canon’

      You defended her claim against Ehrman’s criticism, saying “Ehrman’s statement that there weren’t “many councils” to decide the NT canon is, read literally, false”. You provided no evidence for your own claim. Do you have any evidence for it? That’s what I’m interested in. You can answer ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘I don’t know’, ‘I don’t want to answer the question’, or something else. You could also simply to fail to answer the question, and I’ll leave the matter for others to judge.

    9. 38.6


      You evidently ignored half of my original review of Ehrman’s book. Nice.

      No I didn’t. I read it and chose not to comment on it. The comments I’ve made in this thread refer solely and specifically to your blog post entitled ‘Ehrman’s Dubious Replies (Round One).’ What’s your point?

      If you want a comment on your original review, here’s one: it’s not very good.

      On the councils, your explanation doesn’t explain why those councils and not others bothered to ratify the canon

      It doesn’t need to. My explanation proves that Murdock’s claim was false. That’s all I intended to do.

      or why it had to ratified multiple times.

      On the contrary, as I said before: it was common practice for local councils to ratify the decisions of earlier councils (particularly those held in other areas). As consensus grew, orthodoxy was established.

      The Wikipedia article you linked to in a previous reply shows there was virtual unanimity in the West by the 4th Century, and in the East by the 5th.

      When only four out of 17 councils mention the canon, one doesn’t even bother to list it, and the other three agree with the canon proposed by Athanasius, it’s difficult to make a case for controversy.

      I think perhaps you are also ignoring everything we know about those councils and why they actually raised the issue of the canon.

      Oh really? What specifically am I ignoring? Strange that you make this claim without substantiating it. Looks like a bluff to me.

      Your facts also don’t quite agree with what is stated in Metzger’s Formation of the New Testament Canon.

      Another unsubstantiated claim and one that doesn’t concern me in the slightest. Even if true, so what?

      ‘Don’t quite agree’ sounds pretty weak to me, and whatever you have in mind it’s clearly not something that impacts on my argument, otherwise you would have mentioned it. Another bluff, Richard?

      You might want to do more homework on this.

      I might want to, but you haven’t shown that I need to.

      Bottom line: you haven’t refuted a single one of my points, and Ehrman is still absolutely right to say that Murdock is wrong when she claims there were ‘many councils’ held to determine the Biblical canon.

    10. 38.7

      Silly boy Ben.

  39. 39

    “I follow Bart. I follow Richard. I follow Christ (if he existed).

  40. 40
    steve byrne

    I will comment here because im reading something hoffman wrote at the new oxonian. i know you have questioned his sanity. but here here he sounds lucid. i do know that eusebius called papias lucid, but dumb. i think this is the crux of the argument. i know this is strictly rhetorical and i have no instruction in the science of rhetoric but i know what it is. i am reminded of your lecture “the christian delusion”. i am an antitheist former catholic with an intense interest in ancient history, my sister is a world renowned catholic motivational speaker. as you can guess weve had many discussions regarding this question. i would never question her lucidity. in our conversations she,s granted several of my historical points which you can bet i thought were airtight. she,s not swayed ,doesnt consider me the devil’s agent, or tell me im going to hell. it just seems to me that dismissing faith claims without empathy is wrong. i think your logical charity argument should be expanded to charity to someones beliefs.

    1. 40.1
      Richard Carrier

      It’s not Hoffman’s beliefs that concern me. It’s his bizarre, manifestly paranoid, and contradictory behavior.

  41. 41
    steve byrne

    that was probably poorly worded. all im saying is we are all on our own journey, and yes organized religion is a poisonous(per hitch rip} delusion, we cannot be as dogmatic as they. it kills discourse. and in conclusion he says read seneca, yeah as if he wasnt as prejudiced in his own assumptions as we.i would say understand socrates-examine within.

  42. 42

    I can’t believe you stoop to such ridiculous falsehood. What does it matter? You have not published more than one of my comments, and you are completely free not to. One of my unapproved comments even sits beneath the one you’ve just left, telling untruths about having approved all but one. Why be untruthful about it Carrier? What’s the point?

    1. 42.1
      Richard Carrier

      I have searched my spam folder and trash folder and see no more than one post by you in either of them. So if you sent others, they didn’t make it to our server.

  43. 43

    Andrew, Indeed it seems the amazon.com website contained more than one error – not just release dates but publisher too. The reason why we didn’t question the original advertising of amazon.com that the book was self published, was because all Carrier’s previous books have been self published under Lulu, Create Space and AuthorHouse. It is for these unprofessionally published books he appears to have become ‘renowned’.

  44. 44
    jacob aliet

    Hi Carrier,

    It is ironic that steph is complaining about you censoring her posts yet its the same thing that Hoffman, her sidekick in the so-called “Jesus Process”, has now resorted to censoring posts he considers damaging to their positions. Casey himself retreated to silence when he could not handle the arguments.

    If you can follow the exchange in the link below, you will find some interesting arguments about the failings of Maurice Casey’s Aramaic Sources for Mark. I sum up my view on the matter as follows (spin reproduced his censored post in FRDB):

    I stated four problems for Casey’s theory that the author of Mark (hereafter AMark) was (a bilingual) translator who wrote the gospel by translating from Aramaic source.

    For the purposes of elegance, I will drop the contention that Casey’s argument entails the assumption that AMark was a native of Galilee, which steph has stridently maintained is a misrepresentation of Casey’s argument. So that is off the the table. In any case, steph agrees with me about the geographical errors in Mark. What we disagree on is the conclusions we can draw from that.

    That leaves us with three problems: Insufficiency of Casey’s case, Greek translations that are unexplainable as transliterations and lastly Latinisms in Mark.

    For all these three, I and spin have provided specific examples and expected specific answers dealing with these examples.

    The professor who developed the argument(s) in question provided a brief response which entailed blatant guesswork. When his mind-reading stunt was highlighted and his questionable appeal to DSS (data fudging reloaded) exposed as unsupported, he chose a studious silence as the safest response and has since maintained an unfathomable silence, leaving steph to do the opaque task of being his spokesperson. The good professor chose to leave most of the grunt work to Hoffmann (I got that right this time. Right?) and of course, the zealous and exuberant steph doing support work. In the meantime, his hyperbolic “orthography of the Dead Sea scrolls makes this a perfectly intelligible misreading” remains hanging, like a wallet clutched in a pick-pocketing hand detected before it can vanish.

    How has the dynamic duo fared in the wake of the militating silence from Casey?

    Hoffmans response has comprised an admission of failure to comprehend some of the arguments, lacking competence in Aramaic and promising that Casey will one day address the gathering difficulties, his hapless confusion over words like “Boanerges,” asking for “sources” of non-specific arguments and sharing the various possibilities swimming in his mind with regard to the provenance of Mark. He has also gone into tangents about lacking a GPS and being in Ithaca, how to spell his own name correctly and generally not dealt with the arguments in a focused fashion.

    As for steph, oh steph. Well, steph has attempted a spirited defense even though steph has not been altogether able to avoid being overly scornful and dismissive in her efforts. We are talking about someone who calls Casey “Csaey” making it her task to remind me that “Hoffmann has two enns” The irony is so thick you can lean on it. When the bible mentions about splinters in other peoples eyes against the logs in our own, this is a walking, breathing example.

    Stephs responses contain expressions like “stupidly attempts”, “He could be related to Buckaroo Roo”, “Excuse me but where were you ‘trained’?”, “Your cowardly over confidence is astonishing” and so on and so forth. It appears that steph lacks the inner resources necessary to handle an argument she finds disagreeable without also being derisive towards the opposition. But I digress. Please let us look at her body of defense, shall we? Or, rather, to use Casey’s expression, lets assess the state of her play. Or is it her state of the play?

    For Latinisms in Mark, after finding that she lacks the competence necessary to explain cogently the “straight transliterations of Latin lexical items and translations of Latin idioms, [and] indications of grammatical and syntactical influence from Latin in the gospel of Mark” that spin enumerates, steph allows, rather feebly (after also promising that one day Casey will respond), against Casey, that Mark may have been a trilingual speaker. Casey instead argues, as Carr points out, that the same Aramaic source that AMark (the poor bilingual translator that AMark was!) was translating contained the Latinisms (Jesus of Nazareth , page 341). No problem here for steph. Lack of internal coherence for Casey. Next.

    As for the insufficiency, steph does not address the specific arguments presented in any effective manner. She is largely dismissive and simply says ‘go read his book.’ Please. Spin has cited specific pages in Casey’s book!

    For the difficulties in Greek translations, steph helpfully refers me to Casey’s work on ‘translation studies’ which talk about mistakes that translators make from the phenomenon known as interference. Interference or interlanguage entails a translator reading his translation with original text still in his mind. So he(the translator) doesn’t read the text in the same way a monolingual reader would. Then there is “overliteral translation” and “displaced communication” (translating a text written from a different culture for an audience in a different time and place/culture) and “skopos theory of translation” and so on and so forth among others. These are simply the brush and paint that Casey uses to whitewash his theory where there are holes.

    This is called drawing the eye where the arrow has hit and its what spin described earlier as an uncritical attempt to retrofit an Aramaic source to suit Casey’s theory. It would be a classic case of plausible deniability in ‘scholarship’ that renders Casey’s theory unfalsifiable.

    At any rate, the least I expect is for steph or Casey to classify each of the awkward or inconceivable translations into one of the ‘categories’ rather than heap all the identified difficulties onto the mountain of “translation problems” then burnish the few non-problematic Aramaicisms that are largely trivial and ornamental and hold them aloft as proof of his case. And this is even made worse when we consider that Casey only chose some four passages in Mark to base his case upon!
    I rest my case. Thanks for playing.


  45. 45

    Garbage like Ehrman unfairly does damage to his thesis.

    1. 45.1
      Richard Carrier

      That’s unfair. Ehrman is not garbage. He normally does very good work. I still recommend Jesus Interrupted to anyone who wants the best primer to the mainstream consensus in NT studies and Forged is the best lay-accessible book there is on the topic of forgery in the NT.

      This particular book is garbage. And that does make the position of historicity look bad. But it would be a straw man to assume historicity is discredited by this one terribly illogical and error-prone defense of it.

    2. 45.2
      Bob Wahler

      And “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” is book number one for any critical examination of the New Testament, right along with Eisenman and Maccoby and Del Tondo. He is a very good researcher, but biased just like the Christians (which he use to be) to thinking that there could have been only one savior, whether real or not. They are real (maybe not this one) and they are always here, MK.


  46. 46

    Bart Ehrman is doing this for money. This man says the gospels were forged but Jesus existed? Where is his grave? Where is his carpentry? We dont havet one word written by him. If we are to believe Papias that Jesus died in 30 and Peter actually told Mark and he actually wrote it down in 70 thats 40 years later. And Papias doesnt give us at that detail until 120? If Peter told Mark and the others copied from Mark, the other 3 are clearly embelishments of Mark. The oldest gospel begins with Jesus as an adult. Which means it mentions no childhood for Jesus or miraculous birth or his parents at all. And he got it from Peter himself? Mark also doesnt mention a resurrected Jesus. Even in the other 3 gospels there are 18 years missing from the details of his life from age 12 to age 30.

    1. 46.1
      Richard Carrier

      Bart Ehrman is doing this for money.

      I don’t accept that as a valid criticism generally. It’s possible he compromises his integrity and professionalism for book sales, but one would have to prove that, not just allege it. Everyone needs to earn a living. That fact should never be held against anyone.

      This man says the gospels were forged but Jesus existed? Where is his grave? Where is his carpentry? We dont havet one word written by him.

      All just as true of Socrates. And most people of note in antiquity. This is simply not a valid argument from silence.

      If we are to believe Papias…

      Just FYI, no sensible person believes Papias.

      Mark also doesnt mention a resurrected Jesus.

      Yes, he does (Mark 16:6). Maybe you mean he doesn’t describe the resurrected Jesus. But in any event, Jesus can still have existed historically and not have been resurrected. In fact, that’s what most scholars already propose (Ehrman included).

      Even in the other 3 gospels there are 18 years missing from the details of his life from age 12 to age 30.

      That’s an observation worth making, but not conclusive in itself.

  47. 47

    I am puzzled.

    Given the absence of any reliable evidence of his existence why isn’t the “no historical Yeshua” the default position?

    1. 47.1
      Richard Carrier

      Because “the absence of any reliable evidence of his existence” is the claim in dispute.

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