On Bart Ehrman Being Pot Committed

I shall continue my series on early reviews of On the Historicity of Jesus next week. But for the weekend I’ll just post a little embarrassing bit about Bart Ehrman I’ve just not found a spot to fit it in until now. Bart Ehrman has so far been refusing to engage with my book or its argument, and instead just complains about being criticized, without ever responding to any of my more serious criticisms, in a most suspicious and conspicuous fashion. And since my last commentary on this, he has avoided ever responding to me, until this April…sort of.

Ironically, while I was at ReasonCon in Hickory, North Carolina, giving an extensive and entertaining lecture on the evidence in my new book, Bart Ehrman was at FFRFCon just over in Raleigh, North Carolina lecturing on his. That would be, of course, his newest title How Jesus Became God, which I am reading and will review eventually (I’m already up to page 250 but have too many other demands on my time so I won’t likely finish it soon), although I can already say, for all its flaws, it’s a much better book than DJE. [That review is now available here.]

Notably, someone who was present has reported to me something that happened during Q&A. They also told me they thought it curious how many of the points Ehrman raised [in his talk] seem to support myth over history (as I can verify the book does, too–ironically Ehrman even defends a position throughout it that he once attacked me for holding: that in fact the earliest Christians preaching a risen Christ did think of Jesus as like a god, even in fact a pre-existent divine being). But during Q&A, someone in the audience asked him why he still thinks Jesus existed, given all he himself has argued that casts doubt on it, and apparently he got defensive, saying something like (and this is not an exact quote) “All serious biblical scholars in the field are convinced the historical Jesus existed, and you don’t want to look like a fringe idiot by denying the hard work of the experts, who know more than you do” and then something to the effect of “we have documents written by people who knew him, and by people who knew his brother.”

[This paraphrase turns out to have been fairly accurate. See bottom of this post for an exact transcript from the video, which became available after I originally wrote this.]

Of course, the first statement is false and he ought to know by now that it is false, and the second statement is disingenuously circular (as it is only true if you assume it is true–the evidence itself is ambiguous: Paul never says anyone he spoke to “knew Jesus” in any way differently than Paul did, and he is not at all clear that he met actual biological brothers of Jesus), and deeply problematic. I cover what’s wrong with these claims in chapters 1, 2 and 12 of OHJ (and his whole argument from consensus is further challenged by chapters 1 and 5 of Proving History). I won’t make too much of this because brief remarks during Q&A can often omit nuance, and [when I originally wrote this I didn’t] have his exact words anyway. But the questioner was apparently shocked at how rudely and defensively Ehrman reacted to their question; apparently it seemed a button had been pushed and emotion got the better of him.

This is telling because I have heard a number of stories like this: whenever Ehrman is asked about me or my book he flips his lid and rants about how awful a person I am because I use words like “sucks” (note: that is an ad hominem fallacy), and how dare I accuse him of lying and of making serious mistakes. But the curious thing is that never in any of these explosions does he ever mention or address the evidence I presented that in fact he has lied and that in fact he has made serious mistakes (I documented at least thirty, including serious mistakes of both logic [from the most to least serious: items  28, 5, 10, 4, 7, 8, 26, 2, 6, 9, 1, 12, 27, 3, 25, and, of course 30 and 31, and indirectly, 29 and 23] and fact [from the most to least serious: items 13, 11, 15, 19, 18, 16, 22, 17; item 14 I retracted as being an unfair criticism, and item 21 is to date the only error he has publicly corrected and apologized for that I know of], and directly contradicting himself twice in the same book [items 20 and 24].

Ehrman’s practice has always been to snipe at minor points, and not even mention the major errors I caught him at, or his lies. Indeed, he consistently pretends that I made no other points, and that if he can explain away a few minor points, then he has fully responded to me so why don’t I shut up already. (He is evidently unaware that this is a scientifically established cognitive error: the illusion of thinking that if you can defeat the weak arguments in a collection of weak and strong arguments, that you have also defeated the strong arguments as well–a mistake Christians and politicians make all the time; see The Christian Delusion, p. 68.) Most telling is his pretending that I never caught him lying, that I merely “accused” him of lying, as if I had not presented damning evidence of it but was just making a baseless accusation. It is his refusal to admit his dishonesty, correct it, and apologize for it that most of all damns him in my eyes. I consider him disgraced as a scholar. His colleagues just haven’t taken the trouble to look at the evidence damning him. If they did, I suspect most would agree with me his behavior is genuinely disgraceful and he should be ashamed of it (the remainder would try to defend him with even more embarrassing apologetics, like we get from James McGrath [items 4 and 5]).

This is all most elegantly demonstrated in his latest “response” to me, which he begrudgingly and angrily spewed onto his blog just a few months ago: “Attacks from the Other Side: An Ill-Tempered Richard Carrier” (21 April 2014). Much of it is behind a paywall, so when I quote later portions of it those who don’t want to pay to read the original will just have to rely on my quotations. It begins with self-congratulatory smugness that requires no comment, laced with hyperbole like that I have “shown more vitriol, hatred, and mean-spiritedness toward [him] than almost any of the fundamentalists who attack [him] from the other side,” a remark that suggests Ehrman doesn’t actually read most of what fundamentalists write about him. By contrast, this and this are the worst things I’ve said about him, which is what he is calling “vitriol” and “hatred” and “mean-spiritedness,” as an excuse to avoid admitting it is all entirely true–excepting one criticism I’ve agreed was, though true, nevertheless unfair. Instead Ehrman implies I said things like “Ehrman is an idiot!”, evidently thinking up more vulgar and insulting ways to say what I actually said, and then claiming I’m therefore the one being vulgar and insulting. Right.

But watch what happens in this latest blog post of his–the only response he has made (to my knowledge) since I summarized dozens of claims he still has never responded to: he responds to only one of those items, and that one of the least important (and notably, not one of the two I showed he later lied about).

The following is in reference to my point that we do not have any references to Pontius Pilate in any (non-Christian/non-Jewish) pagan sources of the first century – a point I make in order to put into perspective the fact we don’t have any reference to Jesus in any non-Christian/non-Jewish sources of the first century (my point being that if the most important figure – historically, culturally, politically — in all of Palestine during Jesus’ adult years, the Roman governor of Judea, is never mentioned, what are the chances that Jesus would be? This point is made to counter the common but erroneous claim that if Jesus really existed, a lot of sources would have mentioned him. Really? When they don’t mention even someone like Pilate???) Read Carrier’s critique, and then read the statement beneath it taken straight from my book, Did Jesus Exist.

He then quotes one small paragraph from my argument in my critique of not his book, but his Huffington Post article, which came out before I read his book, and in which I explicitly said his book might do a better job–and indeed after I reviewed his book, I agreed it did indeed do a better job on this point. But notice that here he asks you to compare my critique of the HuffPo article to what he wrote in his book! This is one of the most dishonest things I’ve seen him pull. And I know it’s dishonest because the article he pulls my quote from explicitly says:

Perhaps these aren’t mistakes, and just very, very, very badly worded sentences. When I receive his book in a few days I’ll be able to check. Possibly he does a much better job there, and gets his facts right. We’ll see. But for now, I have to address this article…

Yep. And in my critique of his book, I do not in fact say this error is in it. The error is only in the article…and indeed, it is in that article (and so far as I know remains uncorrected to this day, despite that being in a news periodical, in which factual corrections should be ethically expected). He also gets to accuse me of misrepresenting his book, by quoting me correctly representing his article, and then forgetting to tell his readers that I did not make this claim against his book but even admitted the error is not in the book, and indeed in my very critique of the article he is quoting I even allowed that that might be the case!

This is scholarly dishonesty on his part, by any objective measure.

Ehrman does note that “to be fair to Carrier, his comment was posted on his blog about a short piece that I wrote for the Huffington Post,” and repeats in his defense the same appallingly disingenuous argument McGrath attempted for him, that he didn’t mean by (quote) “Roman sources of his day” Roman sources of his day.


Many Romans wrote in Greek, and Philo was a Roman, twice over: a subject and inhabitant of the Roman empire, and a Roman citizen. As was Josephus. And, of course, Pilate himself, who not only attested his own existence to us directly, but even in Latin. And, BTW, Jews can be Romans as easily as they can be Germans or Americans…being Jewish doesn’t delete your nationality, citizenship, or geographical residence, any more than being Christian or Zoroastrian would. So for him to claim he did not consider Pilate, Philo, or Josephus to be “Roman sources” now makes him look even more incompetent, or even more deceptive, than his original article did. He now looks like a pathetic apologist trying to weasel out of a mistake with specious semantics, throwing the general reading public under the bus…because, I guess, “fuck ’em if they don’t know that ‘no’ Roman sources actually means three Roman sources and therefore there is more evidence for Pilate than for Jesus, negating the whole point of my using Pilate as an example in the first place.”

Who thinks that is acceptable behavior? Using the word “sucks” (or any particular language or dialect) does not negate one’s status as a scholar. Acting like a disingenuous weasel, though, kind of does.

Ehrman now smugly says “But if [Carrier] had simply waited to read my book before blasting off at me, he would have seen what I meant,” evidently not getting the point that the article as written remains grossly erroneous and misleading to the public, and I was commenting on the article not the book, and that the article should therefore have a correction issued. And also ignoring that the very article he is complaining about actually already said “perhaps these aren’t mistakes, and just very, very, very badly worded sentences” and “possibly he does a much better job…and gets his facts right” in the book so that we should wait and see, “but for now, I have to address this article.” And then I did. For him to complain about my ethical standards here is appalling. I was diligent in being careful about what I said. He is not.

It is just all the richer that Ehrman concludes by insisting, “at the least I think Carrier should have retracted his vitriolic comments once he actually got around to reading my book.” Hmm. You mean like I actually did? Only, I did not have to retract what I said, because I already said in the original article that what I was saying there might not apply to his book. Hey. You know what should be retracted? His false statements in the Huffington Post article. All of them should be corrected, officially, in a paragraph following the article online, where retractions and corrections typically go, so that anyone who reads the article will no longer be misled…although the tens of thousands who already read it, and thus won’t have seen that correction, will just have to go on being wholly misinformed, and people like me will have to go on continually correcting them every time they tell me Bart Ehrman said there is no evidence corroborating Pilate’s existence “so why don’t I say Pilate didn’t exist?,” and then Ehrman will keep posting disingenuous garbage like this rather than admit he screwed up and miseducated the public (more of whom will have read his article than his book).

It is even richer when Ehrman says his “point is that it is very easy to take someone’s words out of context and then start sending in the nukes, if your goal is to ridicule those who have the temerity to disagree with you.” Because that is not what I did (as just demonstrated above). Rather, that is what he just did.

And the irony is lost on him.

Thus, while he pulls weaselly bullshit like this, and only addresses the least significant errors I’ve called him out for (this point is one of the few in his article that I pointed out he corrected in the book…and is thus not even close to the most serious of his mistakes), and instead avoids ever even discussing the serious errors I’ve called him out for (or, on two occasions, lies about not having made them), he is the one who tries to claim I am the one who is “not civil” and “not a generous scholar” and “mean-spirited and out for blood, the kind of scholar who prefers mockery to the reasoned exchange of ideas.”

Ehrman can’t comprehend how lying practically to someone’s face might piss them off. Or grossly misleading the public. Or horribly botching the facts. And then refusing to respond to, or even acknowledging, calls to correct them, and only discussing instead the relatively trivial, and being contemptuously disingenuous and misleading even then. Or how he is actually the one who launched the tirades against the competence and qualifications of what are actually in fact bona fide scholars, misrepresenting their credentials, misrepresenting their significance, and then lies about what they said, and lies to them about what he said, and threatens them. And now he has the gall to claim he is the one being mistreated. As if he is “shocked, just shocked” that I would voice my indignance over his contempt for the truth.


Update (October 2014): Video of the original exchange is now available. The exchange I talk about above starts at minute 51:16. The questioner asks, “I do not see evidence in archaeology or history for a historical Jesus.” He does get testy, and appears visibly agitated. He answers:

Well, I do.  I mean, that’s why I wrote the book. Okay, yeah, I have a whole book on it! So, there is a lot of evidence. I mean, there is so much evidence, that … it is, it is not … look, I know, in the crowds you all run around with it’s commonly thought that Jesus did not exist. Let me tell you, once you get outside your conclave, there’s nobody who, I mean, this is not even an issue for scholars of antiquity. It is not an issue for scholars… There is no scholar in any college or university in the Western world, who teaches classics, ancient history, New Testament, early Christianity, any related field, who doubts that Jesus existed. Now, that is not evidence. That is not evidence. Just because everybody thinks so doesn’t make it evidence. But, if you want to know about the theory of evolution vs. the theory of creationism, and every scholar in every reputable institution in the world thinks and believes in evolution, it may not be evidence, but if you’ve got a different opinion, you better have a pretty good piece of evidence yourself.

The reason for thinking Jesus existed is because he is abundantly attested in early sources. That’s why. And I give the details in my book. Early and independent sources indicate that, certainly that Jesus existed. One author we know about knew Jesus’s brother. And knew Jesus’s closest disciple Peter. He’s an eyewitness to both Jesus’s closest disciple and his brother. So, I mean, I’m sorry, but, again, I respect your disbelief, but I, I, you know, if you want to go where the evidence goes, I think that atheists have done themselves a disservice by jumping on the bandwagon of mythicism. Because, frankly, it makes you look foolish to the outside world. If that’s what you’re gonna believe, you just look foolish. You are much better off going with historical evidence and arguing historically, rather than coming up with the theory that Jesus didn’t exist.

Ironically, his answer to the next question, why fundamentalist biblical scholars can’t see reason, is almost an exact description of Bart Ehrman on historicity.


  1. Will says

    Wow! I’m starting to get embarrassed for Ehrman. That is truly a shifty move. He needs to just own up or completely withdraw from the discussion before he digs himself any deeper I think. lol

  2. adamk says

    I’m waiting for your review before I try Ehrman’s book. I’m in the final chapters of On the Historicity of Jesus right now, and it’s very good.

  3. Chuck says

    I felt betrayed enough by the garbage that was “Did Jesus Exist?” that I’m very reluctant to purchase another book by Ehrman. I feel like, as a layman, I just can’t trust either his grasp of the material or his ability to synthesize it in a logical fashion any more.

    • M-Source says

      So you criticize Ehrman, a scholar who teaches at an accredited University and praise an online scholar who thinks his theory is correct?

    • says

      I don’t follow you.

      You think a professor at an accredited University can never be horribly and embarrassingly wrong about topics in his subject field? (cough…Michael…cough…Behe…cough)

      You think I think someone I find horribly wrong about a lot of things can’t also be right about a lot of things at the same time?

      And what online scholar are you referring to?

  4. Steve Watson says

    Bart Ehrman, Five Surprises That Hit Me When Writing “How Jesus Became God” at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2014/06/five-surprises-that-hit-me-when-writing-how-jesus-became-god/

    “Paul understood Jesus to be a divine being before he became a human, and more specifically, Paul thought that Christ was originally an angel—probably the Chief Angel of God—who became a human and then, at his resurrection, was rewarded by God for his faithfulness by being exalted to an even higher rank as one who was actually equal with God.”

    He appears to be almost there. What odds next year he will an full-blown Ahistoricist? And saying he got there under his own steam? Can’t say I have seen what he writes here in anything prior that has his name associated with it. Can say I have seen most of this either in your work, on your blogs, raised by your commentators or came to it via following the same. You got here under your own steam; but you freely acknowledge those, Doherty et al, that prompted the spadework. I somehow doubt we will see the same humility from Professor Ehrman. I seem to recall you predicting this trajectory for him.

    I would argue that right at the core of his being he remains a Christian, as do his confreres who allege atheism/agnosticism from similar conservative faith backgrounds. Not that they are dishonest; but it seems to be a common cognitive blindspot. Like the entry to the optic nerve; there appear to be no receptors for reason in the part of the brain they default to using on this question.

    ‘What a piece of work is Ehrman! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!”. Sorry; couldn’t resist. I will read How Jesus Became God. Whether it is before your review or not will depend on how quickly I get through OHJ, which I collected from the Post Office this morning. The first thing I did with it was look-up what you had to say about Papias. Two Shipwrecked Gospels arrived at the same time; a few pages in I’m thinking: “Here we go again! Down dating and a preference for third-hand or reconstructed, virtual texts.” What is this immediate recourse to making things up or reading things that simply aren’t there? Oh!…Silly me; the real texts, complete or nearly so, don’t tell the story you came into class with.

    I don’t want to be continually checking the spoons; but many thanks for making it so much easier to do so and educating me at the same time.

  5. says

    Did he really use three question marks in a row? And his blog is behind a paywall, aside from teasers? (The ALL CAPS and the triple exclamation points don’t help, either.)

    It’s as if he demands that I don’t take him seriously. Even disregarding the actual content which I can’t take seriously. (But saying “sucks” totally blows one’s cred as a scholar. OK!)

  6. Ben Holman says

    Dr. Carrier,

    Reading through Ehrman’s new book now, I look forward to hearing your thoughts about it! Maybe you can shed some light on a question I’ve had…Christians often claim that Jesus was executed for “claiming to be God”, but typically scholars seem to think its pretty clear he was executed for claiming to be King of the Jews (assuming he existed), and I’ve heard it said Rome wouldn’t have cared what divinity he thought was embodied in him.

    Hypothetically, had Jesus claimed equality to God, or claimed to be YHWH in the flesh (Gospel-of-John-Style), is there any reason to think the Romans may have taken this in a threatening/treasonous way? That is, would “claiming divinity” be similarly interpreted (by Romans) as a claim of usurping authority and a crime of high-treason, just as claiming to be King would, and as such, still be a crime worthy of crucifixion in their eyes?


    • says

      Not as such.

      The only way claiming to be a god would get Roman attention was if it was being associated at the same time with claiming to be ruler of the world. And it’s only the latter claim the Romans would take issue with. And even then only if they deemed it a realistic threat. Some random crazy, they wouldn’t care. Sometimes they’d even endorse you (e.g. Glycon).

      Note also that merely claiming to be a royal descendant wasn’t illegal. The Romans wouldn’t care about that, as long as a party accepted the legal status quo (thus, the Romans didn’t crucify the sons of Herod the Great just because they were no longer kings once Judea was annexed). One might try to “off” such a person (not under the law; just knifing them in the street and running away or whatever), but usually only if it was worth the bother. Herod Antipas would have had more reason to care enough to do that than the Romans would (since any new kingship opportunity he wouldn’t want competition for). And even then it’s pretty iffy (why would he honestly care that much about Jesus?).

      Normally, you’d expect facts on the ground like those proposed by Reza Aslan (Jesus as an actual or in-effect armed insurrectionist). But most scholars agree the zealot thesis is not all that plausible (it can only be gerrymandered to fit the evidence; and most damning is that there is no evidence Romans were rounding up Christians as insurrectionists, even though they claimed in public to still be receiving marching orders from Jesus…if the Romans didn’t see such Christians as a threat, they would not likely have seen Jesus as one).

      The most I might guess, if we were to suppose an actual Jesus was crucified by the Romans, is that Jesus was a madman preaching an apocalypticism that sounded threatening to the Romans (claiming “God’s angels” will burn the world, and then claiming you are “God’s angel,” could easily be “heard” as “we are going to start torching cities”) and by virtue of gathering large crowds illegally (you needed a license to assemble; violating that law was a death penalty offense, because it was assumed you’d only defy that law if you were planning insurrection). But normally in that case the Romans would march a cohort on or execute the lot, not just Jesus. It’s hard to explain why they were so afraid of Jesus they executed him, but didn’t care about even trying to round up his followers (who were just as much in violation of the law, and by virtue of numbers the greater threat). Those two facts are somewhat contradictory.

      An internally more plausible story is the one in the Talmud: that the Jewish Sanhedrin executed Jesus, for witchcraft, which would have ended in his being crucified (as a corpse; the vocabulary is the same). Then the story involving the Romans just evolved later for symbolic use. But of course that’s not what the Gospels depict.

      In the end, the problem is the sources are so distorted that we really have no actual idea what happened. So it’s speculation all the way down.

  7. =8)-DX says

    Yes, well. Ehrman has the Christian Bible Scholar Kudos for saying Jesus was totes real. So your criticisms MUST be envy at all the speaking engagements and click-money he is getting for being all controversial as an atheist. Or something.

    As a layman (who has tried to read and listen to several scholars about Jesus historicity), you do often come off as kind of arrogant, even to the point of vitriolic. But then that’s because you actually make points based on the historical evidence and original languages and textual criticism that I as a layman have no way of verifying. And that’s the problem – if all your actual points were only vitriol then Ehrman (as a scholar) should have no problem debunking them in detail. He is the person that should discuss the meat of the matter, not us.

    Rephrasing what one dude posted on FB today: The slippery slope only exists in relation to other logical fallacies: once you’ve made one, cognitive bias leads you to continue to use other logical fallacies in your argumentation.

    I’ve been waiting for a Richard Carrier – Bart Ehrman debate on Unbelievable with Justin Brierley, but I guess it probably wouldn’t be very productive..

    Great article though =)

    • Slimy Man says

      Even if Dr. Carrier was the most arrogant scholar ever to have existed (watch his public appearances; I don’t see much arrogance in them), this would say absolutely nothing about his arguments; that would just be ad hominem. Much like what the people on Ehrman’s fan pages have spouted. And yes, even if we did think he was the God of arrogance, it be quite possible that his arrogance was directly derived from getting things right (pride is only a sin if you have nothing to be proud of). As for Carrier being envious of Ehrman, I think such a claim is dubious… At my most lenient, I could only say Carrier’s thoughts of Ehrman’s scholarship reflect disbelief, not envy, as envy would suggest that Richard somehow wished he could also make money from terrible argumentation and research. The fact that Richard argues with determination for an unpopular theory automatically refutes this in my opinion. I would be stunned too if a poorly argued idea was getting undue attention. That’s why I’m a nonbeliever I guess, lol.

  8. Slimy Man says

    Perhaps a dumb question. I have read the back-and-forth responses between you and Ehrman regarding his book ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ Having read your work (slowly getting through OHJ, which really is brilliant scholarship; thank you), and the responses you made to one another, would you recommend that anyone read his book, even if only as a sceptic? I was going to buy his book before reading the arguments you made against it… You make a damning case good sir, and so I can’t determine whether the book is even worse reading. My studies in psychology note how easy it is for people to accidentally internalise poor arguments and recall them later as truth (just for having recalled reading them ‘somewhere’), which is what makes me tentative here, lol.

    • says

      Yeah. Sadly, I think it’s too awful to recommend. I really wish there were a good book to recommend to fill that need. Van Voorst is the best so far, but it is lacking in that its focus is on evidence outside the NT. The only thing comprehensive that is close to recommendable is Theissen & Merz, but it’s argumentation is extremely weak (not illogical, just indecisive and vague…I think maybe they weren’t trying to assert conclusions so much as juxtapose arguments), and its content extremely verbose (a bizarre contradiction). So, I would say read either both, or the latter. If nothing else, anyway. Ehrman doesn’t contribute anything worth the cost of absorbing tons of false or badly worded or poorly reasoned claims.

    • Slimy Man says

      Indeed. I thought that would probably be your verdict on DJE. I will take your advice and give it a miss. Thank you.

  9. says

    Sometimes I wonder if ole Bart is actually a secret mythicist: that is, he knows in his rational side that the character of Jesus in the New Testament has been constructed out of whole cloth, but in his emotional side he desperately wants to believe, since he has a more than considerable psychological and emotional investment in an historical Jesus. I just finished reading his Forged, and towards the end he dismisses with the wave of his hand the possibility that Jesus never existed, committing the No True Scotsman fallacy (“no credentialed, serious scholar…”). More recently he’s gotten even shriller, combining NTS with an argumentum ad authoritarionem in my estimation, and repeating it to the point of ad nauseam!

  10. BlueEidolon says

    There’s so much that I wish I had the ability to properly articulate with respect to my own opinion of Dr. Ehrman and his work.

    Personally, I believe Dr. Ehrman has much to be proud of with respect to bringing the current consensus of New Testament scholarship to the masses. For me and many others, he helped demystify the bible and made textual criticism somewhat accessible to those that don’t run in academic circles. To that extent, I feel indebted to him. That said, this ongoing row with critics is positively unseemly and grossly ironic given his reception among evangelicals.

    I would have thought that Dr. Ehrman, who as I recall self-identifies as an agnostic/weak-atheist, wouldn’t feel like he had a horse in this race and is therefore free to go where scholarship leads. Other than trying to make support book sales, what is the net benefit to Dr. Ehrman in defending the indefensible logical and factual errors pointed out? Why is honestly approaching the historicity of Jesus anything more than trying to set the historical record straight. Christianity and textual criticism isn’t going to disappear (although I can envision an eventually metamorphosis) were the academic community to come down on the side of the mythicist position any more than philosophy would disappear were is widely accepted that Socrates never actually existed.

    The manner in which Dr. Ehrman has attacked his critics appears very much like the way I have come to undertand that many believers react when they’ve had their faith-based worldview called into question and who is is going through the stages of grief. I just hope that he gets around to “acceptance” before he has done too much more damage to his own scholarly reputation.

  11. James in the West says

    Ever consider that he won’t respond to you because A) you treat critics with contempt; B) the basic unit of each one of your arguments is that they disagree because of some logic fallacy you think applies? After the way you treated him in 2012, it comes as no surprise he remains silent. And yes Carrier, using profanity and insults in an academic review of a book does detract from credibility because it’s disrespectful and unbecoming of any scholar. It’s also disingenuous to interpret criticism of your work as a personal attack on you.

    Notice: Point goes to Ehrman for making news and delivering a pretty good book, as well as not attacking critics so viciously; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/bart-ehrman-jesus-god_n_5029457.html

    News for OHJ: a faith organization that pretty much says “[…] if Carrier actually says that he thinks the reference to James is the “only real evidence” in favor of the conclusion of almost all historians and scholars in relevant fields, then we are going to find the book a real disappointment.” Seems to me that even the liberal christians can’t take you seriously; http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/06/review-of-two-mythicist-books.html

    In all honesty, I frankly agree with your ideas on the historical Jesus. I do think it’s highly improbable that he existed on account of the fact that there are no known eye-witness accounts to date and the gospels (and gnostic gospels) each paint a different portrait of Jesus, leading me to conclude it was a myth that various cults were devoted to. Here’s the problem with what you do: it’s not that you take criticism poorly, it’s that you seem to refuse that you can be legitimately criticized, on all accounts. Let’s be honest, you don’t have to ridicule, demean and condescend to critics. Your arrogant and egocentric tone will always bar you from being a part of the larger and more serious conversations, unless you’re willing to reevaluate your current approach.

    (If you’re wondering, yes I will make show up every so often when your discourtesy is wholly unwarranted and detrimental to atheism and the goal of debunking religion on the whole)

    All the best,

    James in the West

    • says

      If someone commits a logical fallacy, and I show this to be the case, that is called doing my job.

      It would be silly to complain that your critics keep finding fallacies in your arguments. Um, that’s usually because there are fallacies in your arguments. So you are being quite disingenuous here when you cite my doing this as a negative.

      In fact, I don’t treat critics with contempt. I treat liars with contempt. And I treat people who treat me with contempt, with contempt. Ehrman has done both. I have responded as that behavior deserved.

      But let’s center the focus:

      …using profanity and insults in an academic review of a book…

      Give me an example of “profanity and insults” in my review of his book. We’ll start there.

      (BTW, I am assuming you are not a sock puppet for James McGrath. Although, if you are not, it’s hard to fathom why you’d cite him here as representative of Christian opinion, knowing that I’ve caught him in extraordinarily embarrassing errors. Links are in the article you claim to be commenting on.)

    • James in the West says

      You know full well that I’m no one’s sock puppet or bot. So if you’ll allow it, I’ll suggest that we not bother with speculation on the subject as it distracts from the actual argument. After all, what purpose does it serve other than to discredit me and what I say?

      It is one thing to point out a logical fallacy. It is an entirely different thing to do so as the cornerstone and foundation of most or all of your arguments. Believe it or not, you can have a difference of opinion whilst committing no logical errors. Most especially in subjective fields such as mythology, religious studies, ancient history, etc… I should remind you that even in mathematics, it is possible to arrive at different answers from the same starting point. I wonder, have you ever taken differential calculus? Take a look at Kummer’s hypergeometric differential equation; there are 24 different solutions one can derive with Frobenius method, none of which are necessarily wrong. They simply describe different conditions.

      The point I want to illustrate there is that having different answers does not necessarily entail faulty logic. And if in mathematics we can have multiple “right” (as in, mathematically sound), then I don’t think it’s impossible that two historians could arrive at different conclusions using sound logic.

      So when someone disagrees with you Carrier, that does not necessarily mean they committed a fallacy. And rarely do I see you actually demonstrate a fallacy. If anything, I only see you using “that’s fallacy [x, y, z, etc]” as your go-to rationalization for how anyone could disagree with your opinions.

      “Again, Ehrman exposes himself as completely uninformed, and incompetent as a scholar (like any hack, trusting a single biased scholar and not checking any of the evidence or reading any of the other literature), and as consistently misinforming his readers on the actual facts, and thus hiding from them almost everything that actually adds strength to the mythicist thesis.” (http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1026, section titled “The Dying-and-Rising-God thing”, last paragraph).

      Uninformed, incompetent, misinforming, hack, etc, are demeaning or accusatory. Calling him a liar exacerbates the problem. By the fourth paragraph of that article, you labeled him incompetent. Even if, for the sake of argument, 2 out of 3 statements in his book are wrong, he is not necessarily incompetent and nor were the insults warranted. If he is wrong, offer corrections without condescension and insult. Peer review is not a process designed for petty bickering. It is for critique of facts and methodology. And I’ll tentatively retract “profanity”, I haven’t the time to comb through each word of your original review and accompanying rounds of “discussion”. I won’t criticize your use of “bullshit” in this entry (as it’s not an academic review of a book) but it doesn’t help the case. Not to mention, when you say that he says something “smugly”, I have to give you the Dave Silverman look. Are you serious?

      If you wanted to sway him towards your position, this would have been better accomplished if instead you had simply posted what you saw as incorrect and asked him to address it. Instead of starting a spat that has resulted ultimately in his continued ignoring of you, you could have been the bigger man and displayed the courtesy and professionalism that you would have hoped for. And the dialogue would have instead been constructive. You could have used the dialogue to get him to revise the book into the book you wanted it to be, that is the book that was the best pro-historicity book to replace the one you so loathe. It would not have devolved into diatribe and insult-trading. Ehrman is by no means an angel and innocent on those counts, but you could have used the opportunity you HAD to make mythicists (and atheists by proxy) look reasonable and fair-minded.

      You had legitimate criticism. And to the best of my knowledge, for the most part, you were correct. But you wasted a perfect opportunity not only for a good discussion and better recognition of your view, but also the opportunity to actually give voice to those of us who agree with you. Now the Erhman fans think we’re either idiots or liars. Clearly, there are those of us atheists who feel the same way about them. What does this accomplish, Carrier? Nobody, not even you, benefitted from that bitter argument.

      Obviously, Erhman insulted you in his book. I won’t deny it. But think of it this way: had you responded opposite to how you did, you would have instantly invalidated any pre-conceived notions he would have had regarding yourself or your scholarship. By taking the high road and responding civilly and asking for redress, you win the moral high ground automatically, and you build more credibility along the way.

      To be genuine towards you, I take whatever you say with a heavy dose of skepticism. But if you had been polite and sincere, I’d have lent you the benefit of the doubt on the entire issue, regardless of his reaction to a polite and sincere review. This is why manners are important Carrier; it is how you defeat or win over critics and skeptics. Respect for one’s own opponents is the beginning of leadership. You need not concede ground to have respect and courtesy.

      Lastly, I did not say that McGrath was representative of Christian opinion. Frankly, I don’t know much about the man. What I was doing with those links was illustrating the impact of Ehrman’s book vs. the impact of your book. The point was that Ehrman made it into the Huffington Post, a very visible newspaper. The best I could find for your book was on Patheos, a Christian website, and your book was not even received as remotely threatening. With that in mind, do you not see how it is Ehrman “won”? (in the sense that he took flak from you but still came out ahead) You will have to work harder if you want your book to make a bigger splash. And you will most certainly have to work harder should you want to persuade others.

      All the best,


    • says

      You know full well that I’m no one’s sock puppet or bot. So if you’ll allow it, I’ll suggest that we not bother with speculation on the subject as it distracts from the actual argument. After all, what purpose does it serve other than to discredit me and what I say?

      You have heard the line about protesting too much?

      Uninformed, incompetent, misinforming, hack, etc, are demeaning or accusatory.

      And yet 100% true. If you act like a hack, you cannot legitimately complain when someone says you acted like a hack.


      This isn’t posh 19th century aristocratic England. You can’t claim “privilege” should protect you from plain statements of the truth because the truth is “vulgar.”

      Note that this is exactly the same standard Ehrman employed: he called people hacks who acted like hacks. That he didn’t use the exact same vocabulary of the common people is irrelevant. Then when he acts like the very thing he accused them of being, indeed by his very own standards for what counts as such, then oh no, how dare anyone say something so impolite!

      Calling him a liar exacerbates the problem. B

      When we catch someone lying, what else are we supposed to call them?

      It sounds like you want some sort of PC language that never says what one actually means but hides the truth behind polite euphemisms. To…what, protect the feelings of the privileged elite?

      Even if, for the sake of argument, 2 out of 3 statements in his book are wrong, he is not necessarily incompetent and nor were the insults warranted.

      Um, yeah, that is pretty much what incompetent means…by definition.

      By your standards, no one on earth could be considered incompetent at anything.

      As I said:

      It is his incompetence in classics (e.g. knowledge of ancient culture and literature) and ancient history (e.g. understanding the methodology of the field and the background facts of the period) that trips him up several times. In the next part of this article I will document several examples.

      That is a plain statement of truth. Backed with evidence.

      (Notably, this came after he accused me, and several other bona fide experts, of being incompetent. But since he used an elite dialect to say it, you are okay with that.)

      You seem to want the truth to be concealed and not stated…because you think the truth is “rude” {I almost imagine you picturing Ehrman clutching a dainty handkerchief to his mouth as he begins to swoon at the presence of facts}.


      He made two astonishing errors here that are indicative of his incompetence with ancient source materials.

      Indeed. Those errors are so extreme they are characteristic of incompetence…a college student’s paper would get marked as such. A professor shouldn’t even be making such mistakes at all. But apparently professors are members of the elite and therefore it is beyond their dignity to be treated by the same standard as everyone else?

      And so on.

      You don’t seem to have any valid complaint. You just don’t like language that plainly says what is true. You least of all like it when it is thoroughly backed with evidence.

      You want us to go back to the aristocratic culture of the 19th century in which nothing is plainly said and the truth is concealed behind euphemisms and innuendos, all to protect the delicate feelings of the elite. Or in which we actually don’t tell the truth, but weave false stories about “unfortunate accidents” and “tragic slights.”

      Indeed, your elitism and contempt for ordinary people is evident in your use of Ehrman’s getting published in Huffington Post as somehow a relevant argument against me. Um, a guy who has a gigantic multi-million-dollar international publishing corporation shilling his work, who makes a salary of a quarter million dollars a year (that’s salary…and thus before we add royalties and speaking fees), obviously is going to get published in the Huffington Post. Most experts in this field (and that’s most by far) have neither privilege, and consequently don’t get published in the Huffington Post.

      That you are so impressed by wealth and privilege, and so disgusted by how ordinary people speak, and their audacity to speak the plain truth when they ought to be more polite to their betters, does not paint a very nice picture of you.

    • James in the West says

      Yes, I have heard that irritating Shakespeare quote (It irritates me because I dislike all things Shakespeare). In reply, have you ever heard heard the word insinuation?

      Here’s where you are wrong: he cannot be 100% incompetent or hack if he acknowledges errors he made. Moreover, I doubt a bonafide hack would apologize for getting your credentials wrong.

      Let the record show that I never mentioned privilege or aristocracy. At best, you can interpret what I said as saying that you (Carrier) had privilege in that you are able to participate in these discussions on account of the kind of work you do. But I wouldn’t say you’re privileged in a pejorative manner, rather you have earned the right to be a part of the scholarly discussion because you have studied the field extensively and proven your knowledge to earn your PhD. You have the privilege to speak on the matter with authority of expertise; would you not agree?

      I did not see where you proved him to be a liar. And arguably, you too could be proved to be a liar with your own logic. Make no mistake however, I am not accusing you of lying; I’m pointing out how it is possible you could be called one if someone were to take the fact that you curiously omit to your readers his clarification:

      Also, a strange omission in this: “Ehrman wrote “he fails to point out that not a single one of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis” and now claims that that sentence meant “I am not denying that Doherty sometimes acknowledges that scholars disagree with him.” You do the math on that.” (Carrier, “Erhman’s Dubious Replies”, April 29 2012). The last quote is only part of a sentence, so here is the other part (same Erhman citation): ” I am saying that he quotes them as though they support his views without acknowledging that in fact they do not.”

      That is to say that Doherty is misleading in his quotations.

      Incompetent (adj.) from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incompetent
      1: not legally qualified
      2: inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose
      3a : lacking the qualities needed for effective action
      b : unable to function properly

      I am unconcerned with the first definition (listed here solely because it was written that way). Making mistakes not necessarily make one unsuitable for a task, nor does it show a lack of quality. I would say he is incompetent if he is unable to realize error and rectify mistakes. If making a lot of mistakes makes one incompetent, than no one was ever competent in anything. Can you honestly tell me that you have not made many errors in your career? If you did not, I wonder how you would have ever learned to avoid them.

      It is not truth I find rude, it is your behavior that I find distasteful. You entirely missed the point I was making. I did not deny the veracity of your criticism. It was indeed the truth. Your discourtesy, however, detracted from your effectiveness in opening a constructive dialogue. It is why he will not engage you.

      If you had treated him with respect, you would have owned the moral high ground and you could have fostered a discussion of both sides on your terms. It would have strengthened your position. It might have made his book better in the sense that he could revise it to make it what you wanted it to be: the best argument for historicity and the argument you wanted to challenge.

      Forgive me but I’ll not be accused of elitism by someone with an Ivy League PhD, someone who constantly touts that fact. You even had to make the point in your review of his book, making it clear what exactly you have a PhD in. I am working towards a graduate degree so I do not hold myself to be elite in any sense. Nor do I have contempt for “ordinary” people. The quotes are there because I do not believe that there is an elite class that somehow makes other people less than them. So-called ordinary people I have found are rather polite on average. Plenty of so-called ordinary people have been rude, which I also do not care for.

      I am lost with regards to why you think wealth impresses me. I don’t recall ever mentioning anyone’s salary. If you are concerned, wealth is relatively irrelevant to me and extravagance is overrated in my opinion. Frankly, I do not see how money is relevant to the topic. Again, you missed my point about the news impact comparison: you did not get the same recognition because you have behaved so crudely, it has caused others to dismiss you.

      This is my point Carrier. Courtesy will win you converts to your view. Courtesy will win you respect from your opponents. Manners will win you greater impact. Being polite does not require omitting plain truth.

      Here is plain truth: I do not have to like you in order to recognize that you champion a view I believe in. In fact, I am sure by now that you are aware that I do not like you. But you champion a view I’d like to espouse. It is difficult to cite you in a discussion I have where I defend that view if I know the person I’m talking to has already dismissed you. In short, you’re failure to have a better dialogue and public image costs me (and anyone who agrees with mythicism) valid talking points and arguments. I am not a historian so my conversations are rather casual with people around me. You are the one with expertise; it helps your case to be heard if laypersons like myself can cite you without fear of instant dismissal.

    • says

      Yes, I have heard that irritating Shakespeare quote (It irritates me because I dislike all things Shakespeare).

      That’s almost a crazy uncle.

      he cannot be 100% incompetent or hack if he acknowledges errors he made.

      He didn’t.

      Or were you not keeping up on current events? Most of his errors he never admitted to making; the others he lied about and claimed weren’t his errors (which I then disproved).

      But even your principle is fallacious. Hacks can admit to making mistakes. That doesn’t suddenly make them competent. It just makes them honest.

      A competent person gets his sources and facts right. The first time.

      Ehrman himself uses the same principle: any time a mythicist makes a horrible mistake using a source, he denounced them as incompetent. But when he makes exactly the same kind of mistake, he can’t possibly be incompetent.

      The double standard is his. Not mine. I’m the one being consistent.

      I did not see where you proved him to be a liar.

      Then you don’t understand how hyperlinks work. Every time I mention his lies in the article you are commenting on, I hyperlink directly to the summaries of evidence.

      You somehow instead ignore all those and, like Ehrman, pick at a relatively trivial example instead, and then even get that wrong.

      Indeed, you even play Ehrman’s game:

      Also, a strange omission in this: “Ehrman wrote “he fails to point out that not a single one of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis” and now claims that that sentence meant “I am not denying that Doherty sometimes acknowledges that scholars disagree with him.” You do the math on that.” (Carrier, “Erhman’s Dubious Replies”, April 29 2012). The last quote is only part of a sentence, so here is the other part (same Erhman citation): ” I am saying that he quotes them as though they support his views without acknowledging that in fact they do not.”

      Um, huh? There is no such statement in the book. That was my point. You can’t just completely say the opposite of what you said in the book, and thus avert criticism of what you said in the book. The book still makes a false (indeed defamatory) statement. Worse, Ehrman simply isn’t being honest when he says “he quotes them as though they support his views.” Doherty does not. And Ehrman provided no examples of him doing that. Doherty quotes scholars only as supporting the points he quotes those scholars for. As is the standard practice of every expert since ever.

      It’s all the worse that Ehrman in the book goes on insisting Doherty gets the facts of ancient cosmology wrong…in OHJ, I extensively document (both in primary facts and cited scholarship) that Doherty was correct, and Ehrman the one who appears completely uninformed of the facts in the matter. For which Ehrman would deem any mythicist incompetent. But Ehrman’s own standards can’t be applied to himself. Oh no. His dignity forbids it!

      You think the truth is rude.

      I think the truth is all that counts.

      People can decide which of us has the correct values.

      Because you can only mean by “courtesy” not telling the truth. Otherwise, what are we supposed to say when someone lies egregiously, threatens people, and behaves incompetently, and acts exactly like those they themselves regard as hacks? That they did a really bully job and just, oh gosh me, just pipped themselves at their own post, tut tut?

    • James in the West says

      I can actually understand how you can conclude that I think the truth is rude. If I read my post over and then read yours over, I can replicate arriving at your conclusion by simply ignoring multiple statements I made saying that I do not think the truth is rude. Basically, all I’d have to do is refrain from reading large portions of my responses. Take note, if you would be so kind:

      “To be genuine towards you, I take whatever you say with a heavy dose of skepticism. But if you had been polite and sincere, I’d have lent you the benefit of the doubt on the entire issue, regardless of his reaction to a polite and sincere review. This is why manners are important Carrier; it is how you defeat or win over critics and skeptics. Respect for one’s own opponents is the beginning of leadership. You need not concede ground to have respect and courtesy.” (comment 11.2, 2nd to last paragraph)

      “It is not truth I find rude, it is your behavior that I find distasteful. You entirely missed the point I was making. I did not deny the veracity of your criticism. It was indeed the truth. Your discourtesy, however, detracted from your effectiveness in opening a constructive dialogue. It is why he will not engage you.” (comment 11.3, 7th paragraph)

      “This is my point Carrier. Courtesy will win you converts to your view. Courtesy will win you respect from your opponents. Manners will win you greater impact. Being polite does not require omitting plain truth.” (comment 11.3, 2nd to last paragraph)

      “Here is plain truth: I do not have to like you in order to recognize that you champion a view I believe in. In fact, I am sure by now that you are aware that I do not like you. But you champion a view I’d like to espouse. It is difficult to cite you in a discussion I have where I defend that view if I know the person I’m talking to has already dismissed you.” (comment 11.3, conclusion)

      Notice, in each case I refute your assertion that I just think the truth is impolite and should go unspoken. I even go on to tell you what I think is true. I’m curious then: Now that it’s been made readily visible that I do not think the truth is just rude, and that I do not think we should withhold it, what does that make of you? After all, you persist in your assertions, despite previous comments in stark opposition. Would you say you’re a liar? Would you say that you were mistaken and therefore a complete hack? Are you incompetent?

      I should hope you can see the error in thinking like that. The answer is none of the above. You are simply mistaken in your claims.

      A competent person gets their facts right BUT ALSO can recognize when an error is made. That is, being able to recognize the error when someone points it out to you is a sign of competency. If you cannot accept that in research/academia, you are incompetent when it comes to objective review. Also, nowhere did I see Ehrman threaten you. Again, I read the hyperlink. All two paragraphs-worth about how he lied. From where I sit, it’s your word against his.

      “So you tell me. Is Ehrman now lying about what he actually thought when writing the above?” (http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1151 ; section “Did Ehrman Screw Up His Citation of Pliny?”)

      Question begging ad populum? I must say, it’s an interesting hybrid. Also, what I was referring to was the fact that you quoted half a sentence and conspicuously left out the qualifying other half. Trivial, perhaps. But really to make the point that in that instance, your reply is selective and dubious. Might I suggest Occam’s razor in this case? You have to assume much more if you conclude he was lying than you have to assume to conclude it was a typo.

      Typo assumptions: unintended, common mistake for anyone to make, editor missed it.
      Deceit assumptions: malicious intent, uncommon mistake for any writer, editor ignored it, lying about that makes his case stronger, he had to have known otherwise in order to lie.

      As I understand the definition of a hack (writer), it is a writer who routinely puts together poorly written and inaccurate pieces, and that such a writer does so without apology, acceptance of critique or any attempt to correct. So I disagree. I posit that he is not a hack. He makes mistakes, surely. We all do, yourself included.

      I also must take your word with regards to the claim that the points you outline make him a poor scholar and incompetent historian. Forgive me if I’m skeptical of that, I simply don’t believe that one bad book invalidates one’s entire scholarly career. Just as when peer review rejects a research submission, in say Chemistry, it means that the experiment was faulty in some area. It is not necessarily a reflection on one’s person, barring evidence tampering or selective methodology (etc).

      No Carrier, that is not how to be truthful and polite. Whatever exaggerated snobbery you’re referring to in order to ridicule the point, that is simply not how it is done. If you’re so inclined, consider a thought experiment:

      Person A: I believe X is a liar due to the fact that [x, y, z] claims are wrong for [a, b, c] reasons, which offends me; Y has documented and confirmed this, and X still states them. Therefore, X is a liar and must admit dishonesty and apologize.
      Person B: I believe X was mistaken on claims [x, y, z] for [a, b, c] reasons, and I feel slighted by this. Y also makes the case that [x, y, z] is false on [a, b, c] grounds. I ask X if he/she can address this and retract where appropriate.

      Tell me: who do you think wins the moral high ground, A or B? Who do you think is more likely to get their point across? Who do you think gets a better outcome? Notice that the variables and structures are the same. The difference is that one is making accusations and demands, the other makes points and asks for reply. Same theme, different manner of positing. Nothing is omitted in either and the truth remains the same.

      A few minor details to conclude on: I’m not sure what you’re referring to with “crazy uncle”; I simply dislike all things Shakespeare. Call it whatever you wish, I simply don’t care for any of it, famous quotes and all. Again, I never said the truth is less important than courtesy (and nor am I suggesting that being polite means not telling the truth). All I have posited in that regard is that you win converts and foster better scholarly discussions when you at least refrain from being rude whilst telling the truth. You failed to do so and that is why Erhman is being taken more seriously.

      All the best.

    • says

      Notice, in each case I refute your assertion that I just think the truth is impolite and should go unspoken. I even go on to tell you what I think is true.

      Which shows you aren’t listening to me.

      You want the truth concealed behind euphemisms and falsehoods. That you claim this is respect for the truth is precisely what I’m calling out as hypocrisy.

      Just repeating the claim doesn’t get you out of that.

      If someone lies, they get to be called a liar. If someone manifestly displays incompetence in handling a source, they get to be described as doing so.

      You want me to do neither.

      And that’s just a veiled contempt for the truth.

      All two paragraphs-worth about how he lied. From where I sit, it’s your word against his.

      Um, no, if it were just my word against his, it would just be my word. I have actual evidence. You are now pretending I don’t. You focus on the fact that it takes me only a paragraph to present that evidence, as if it requiring only a paragraph means it can’t possibly be evidence. You don’t even mention the evidence. Or address it. (We know you love to do that…)

      That is even more contempt for the truth.

      Instead of addressing the evidence (in the citation case, my evidence that “it was a typo” is impossible), you offer a completely irrelevant handwave to some other sentence that has nothing to do with the evidence I presented that Ehrman botched the source (he did not read the source, and completely incorrectly described it, and completely incorrectly cited it, which are both impossible–literally impossible–for anyone who actually read it).

      This is common practice with you. You assiduously avoid ever even mentioning much less addressing the evidence I adduce for a conclusion, and handwave instead about irrelevancies.

      That is contempt for the truth, not respect for the truth.

      I posit that he is not a hack. He makes mistakes, surely. We all do, yourself included.

      (a) I already said “myself included” (in my very critiques of Ehrman) and made an explicit distinction between occasional mistakes and mistakes that rise to the level of hackdom (a distinction Ehrman himself endorses, in his treatment of mythicists like Murdock: so again I am just using his own standard against him) and (b) I did not say he “was” a hack (as if indicting his whole career), but that in particular cases he acted like a hack. And he did.

      For example:

      If Ehrman had acted like a real scholar and actually gone to the sources, and read more widely in the scholarship (instead of incompetently reading just one author–the kind of hack mistake we would expect from an incompetent myther), he would have discovered that almost everything Smith claims about this is false.

      That sentence is 100% the truth.

      And yes, Ehrman should be embarrassed by it.

      This was not just some minor professorial mistake. This was an enormous bungle, the kind expected only from Freshmen college students whom Ehrman would give failing grades for it, not the kind expected from professors with six-figure salaries.

      The truth may suck. But it’s still the truth.

      I simply don’t believe that one bad book invalidates one’s entire scholarly career.

      I never said his errors do. In fact, I have consistently upheld much of Ehrman’s other work as sound. He only behaved incompetently on this one project. That’s an embarrassing failure.

      What has tainted his entire career is his lying. Blatant dishonesty is far more unprofessional than calling someone who acts like a hack someone who acted like a hack.

      But I have never said “all his work everywhere” is incompetent. I have to the contrary very carefully said it was not.

      So please don’t show even more contempt for the truth by lying about what I actually said.

      Just as when peer review rejects a research submission, in say Chemistry, it means that the experiment was faulty in some area. It is not necessarily a reflection on one’s person, barring evidence tampering or selective methodology (etc).

      Now you ignore again how in my review of his book I carefully and in detail demarcated common errors from the scale and depth of the errors in DJE. You are thus now delivering a false analogy. I am not saying Ehrman just made some mistakes that invalidate his results (if you want to see what that looks like, look at my treatment of nearly every other historicist, e.g. Bermejo-Rubio or Goodacre). No. I am saying he displayed such a scale of carelessness and irresponsibility that DJE is as bad as the very works he himself declared incompetent garbage in DJE.

      So, a correct analogy would be this: a bit of pseudoscience submitted to a chemistry journal that demonstrably did not read the sources it cited, did not check half of its facts, and contained numerous manifestly basic errors. The peer reviewers would rightly question the competence of the study’s author. They could be charitable and say the study author only behaved wholly incompetently that one time….but…oh wait, that’s exactly what I did: I, too, have said, again and again, that it appears Ehrman only hosed this one work, that his other work appears still to be competently done. I’ve said this repeatedly from day one.

      The way pseudoscience gets rightly thrashed in public critiques is how it deserves to be treated.

      So Ehrman cannot complain when he is treated the same way as everyone else who drops the ball just as far.

      Because he is not better than everyone else. When he behaves the same way, he should be treated the same way.

      Unless, as I said, you think he has some sort of special elite privilege that renders him immune from being told the truth.

      And that’s pretty much all you are really arguing.

    • James in the West says

      Whilst you’re still rather abrasive, at the very least your improved vocabulary pleases me. Do not take that as sarcasm, I mean to say that I appreciate a more sophisticated choice in wording. It reflects better on your education. Your manners I’ll work on over time.

      courtesy |ˈkərtəsē|
      noun ( pl. -sies)
      the showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behavior toward others

      As you can see, politeness does not come at the cost of telling the truth. It has nothing to do with telling the truth. When I say courtesy, I mean to say treating peers and opponents alike with respect. Civility, if you will. I do not suggest that you must conceal intent, meaning or facts behind euphemism and empty mannerisms. It is not rude to say that you found fault in a book. It is not rude to state what you thought was inaccurate or wrong. It is not rude to say that a book was of poor quality and lacks merit on par with good scholarship.

      It is rude, however, to insinuate that someone is incompetent while you are reviewing their work as a fellow professional. It is rude to declare them a liar in subsequent responses. It is rude to insult them with the accusation or even insinuation of hack writing. Hack writing is inept and dishonest fundamentally; saying one’s peer is a hack or acted as such is an insult to character, not criticism. It is especially insulting if you say they acted like a hack before they’ve had a chance to read critique, adjust, and defend.

      In short: It is impolite and unprofessional to insult your peer. It is not impolite to expose the faults in their arguments.

      Take care that you do not lecture me about how I personally want ideas expressed. You risk misrepresenting my ideas and statements, and at a certain point your misrepresentation becomes deceit. You stated that I have contempt for the truth and that I equate being polite to respecting truth. That is dishonest and I’ll not accept it, Carrier. I did not once say that being polite somehow respects the truth, nor can you draw any such inference from what I said. The only time I mentioned respect in relation to making a case (for something true) was when I said you win the respect and support of others when you show your opponents respect and courtesy. Not once did I say that being polite respects the truth or that in order to be truthful, one must be polite.

      So what I do have contempt for is your blatant misrepresentation of my statements with quotes that don’t even support your contrived claims. Moreover, I have contempt for your use of the aforementioned premises to support the assertion that I’m being hypocritical, contemptuous and dishonest. Bart Ehrman and other scholars may have no time for you or give up dealing with you entirely; my time is sorted and I have plenty of it to deal with the likes of you and defend my good name indefinitely. So disabuse yourself of the notion that gradually distorting my views beyond recognition will frustrate me into conceding the point.

      It is your word I must take that he is lying when he says the citation was a typo. Going back to an earlier point I made, you have the privilege of participating in the scholarly discussion of these topics. As such, you have access to the source material. I do not. As such, I’m unable to determine for myself if I should indict him as dishonest because Book 10 is so vastly different from Letter 10 and/or that using one or the other is misusing sources. In other words, in order to conclude he’s dishonest about that, I must rely on your account of the material and your reasoning. If you can point me to the Letters of Pliny, I’d be much obliged and more than happy to evaluate the relevant section of his book against the Letters. And it is to your advantage to do this as I very well may be convinced.

      You can have the analogy as far as I am concerned. It is an admittedly a weak analogy but not all that important to me either.

      Here is the different between you and I Carrier: I gave you plenty of time and opportunity to defend yourself in this commentary before accusing you of being dishonest and taking jabs at you. In this commentary at least, more on the other in a moment. Hypothetically, if I published something (on whatever topic) and you reviewed it, I doubt I’d have been afforded the same courtesy. Can you honestly say that if I published something relevant to your interests that you found fault with, you would grant me benefit of the doubt long enough to clarify, retract, adjust, and/or defend? That is before you insulted and otherwise rudely criticized what I published.

      No Carrier, I am not just arguing you should be, or should have been, polite to Ehrman. My overarching point has been that your rude behavior and ill-will towards even the most benign polite criticism has cost you support. Your poor manners have cost you supporters in the wider atheist community. Your discourtesy has impeded your ability to convince others of mythicism. Because of that, I cannot credibly cite you in casual discussions without being dismissed entirely.

      And more importantly, I have for years watched you and others shamelessly reduce any semblance of an organization of atheism/skepticism/rationalism to bickering and petty in-fighting. Quite frankly, I’m tired of it. So I’ll start holding you and other people like you to higher standards. I can almost hear the semi-incredulous sneer you make when you read this. Why, I hear you remark sarcastically. The reason why is that whole New Atheism movement helped me at the lowest point thus far in my life. My world-views, my place within a broader social context, and my character, were all under siege by religious fanatics who seriously sought to brow-beat me into submission to their dogma. When I learned the mechanics of what they were doing from people like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Mason, I could better avoid semantic traps and outpace the overwhelming tide of idiocy. I learned how to debunk and refute evangelical preaching from people like Hitchens, Dawkins, Mason, etc. The most prominent of the New Atheists gave me the voice I needed to defend the ideas and views I held, and the ideas and skills I learned brought me out of that philosophical pit.

      Hence, I let you have in the thunderf00t blog entry. And I’ll not apologize for it either. You can’t have evidence because you’re not a mental healthcare professional. You are entirely ignorant of the field of psychiatry. And even if you were knowledgeable, you couldn’t make a valid assessment online. Frankly, you’re rather fortunate not to be a qualified professional. Because if your business card said “Richard C. Carrier, MD – Psychiatry” instead of “PhD – Ancient History”, I promise you that if I had not done it myself, someone else would have filed a formal complaint with the AMA and had your medical license revoked for medical malpractice. So by extension, I’ll not allow you to run around practicing pseudo-psychiatry either. Not only is it misleading and libelous, it denigrates real people with real mental illness and trivializes the extremely difficult job that is psychiatry.

      So if you insist on complaining that I did not address evidence in that case, there is my final answer on that particular topic. It won’t change, no matter how many times you whine about it. For all of your whining, you may as well say a prayer since that will achieve just as much. In this particular entry, I have addressed evidence. You, on the other hand, have completely ignored that and more. I can’t help but notice that around 80% of what I’ve said in the exchange thus far has gone either unnoticed or completely ignored. If anyone is nitpicking details to criticize and counter, it is most certainly you.

      Don’t worry however, it does ultimately work out for you. Over time, I wager your manners will improve. After all, no one lives in a vacuum and all are subject to influence over time (to whatever degree(. And you get paid for it: I’m more than willing to click around your blog, as well as FTB, and contribute to your ad revenue in order to engage is massive dialogues like this. And I’ll wager you aren’t unhappy that I do so either.

      All the best.

    • says


      You are still saying telling the truth is rude and to be avoided. You are just couching it in soviet style rigmarole.

      If someone does something incompetently, telling the truth means saying they did it incompetently.


      There is no getting around this.

      Except to argue that we shouldn’t tell the truth.

    • says

      You can’t have evidence because you’re not a mental healthcare professional.

      That’s false. We can have evidence of a heart condition without being a heart doctor. We can have evidence someone is suffering from depression or schizophrenia without being a mental health care professional.

      And we can say this is good reason for the person to get checked out by an expert. And that is indeed what I said: Thunderf00t exhibits all the signs of sociopathy, quite conspicuously and disturbingly, so until he gets checked out, we should avoid him and treat him as potentially toxic and dangerous.

      And in that thread I even cited multiple sources (including a book) by health care professionals explicitly saying this: that lay people need to know how to recognize sociopathy on their own so they can adjust their behavior when they find themselves in the company of someone at risk for sociopathy.

      So, you were just spinning wheels and handwaving with bullshit, in order to avoid actually addressing all the evidence I had that warrants a sound suspicion that Thunderf00t is a sociopath.

      That is yet more contempt for the truth from you.

      And even contempt for common sense!

    • James in the West says

      Ignore and distort my statements to your heart’s content. It will not change what I in fact said. You cannot deceive me about my own statements. You’re simply professing self-deception at this point.

      I suppose, then, that I am grateful that medicine is not founded on your “strong suspicions”. Rather, it is based on scientific testing to support or refute a hypothesis, the diagnosis. Further, I am grateful that if I see a physician, I can be almost entirely certain that they’re competent in their field. That is because they graduated medical school and completed (or completing) a residency program, which demonstrates they know what they’re doing.

      That is the reason why MD’s and DO’s have authority to diagnose and you do not. They know what they’re looking at. Yes, it doesn’t require one to have a medical degree in order to suspect illness. But look at your heart example: if you find yourself with a very fast heart-rate and unable to bring it down, it could be several things. I bet you don’t diagnose yourself as having sinus tachycardia resulting from acute myocardial infarction or pulmonary embolism or hypoxia; I wager you get to a hospital ASAP to get worked up and diagnosed by a physician.

      I say that with absolute certainty because you couldn’t possibly rule out pulmonary edema without a d-dimer test and CT scan, the possibility of acute myocardial infarction without an ECG showing 2 or more elevated leads (peaks on the graphical report of your heartbeat, of which there are 6 distinct parts), or the possibility of hypoxia without showing blood-oxygen saturation to be below acceptable threshold. I can also say that with absolute certainty because even you aren’t stupid and obtuse enough to insist on diagnosing and treating your own cardiac emergency.

      The best you can say in that scenario is that you’re experiencing tachycardia of one sort or another. Tachycardia being the word for elevated heart rate.

      By extension, you can suspect yourself or another of having mental illness. But without assessment, you cannot diagnose anything, meaning you can make no definitive statement on the state of someone’s mental health. Yes, evidence of schizophrenia can be noticed by a non-psychiatrist. But do you know the difference between schizoid personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and the differences between the classifications of schizophrenia itself? The former two conditions are separate and distinct from schizophrenia, and schizophrenia itself is further subdivided into several classifications. What about depression: Clinical depression, manic depression, major depressive episode, drug-induced depression? Can you, Richard Carrier, diagnose anyone with any of the above without formal assessment and education on the differences?

      Here’s a good example: Borderline personality disorder if often confused with Type II manic depression (commonly referred to as bipolar disorder). Tell me, do you know how to distinguish between the two? How about what mania looks like vs hypomania? Psychosis?

      You’re a liar if you answered yes to any of the above. And the fact remains that sociopathy is not an accepted psychiatric diagnosis. No amount of waving a book (by anyone) in my face, styled after bible-thumpers, will change that. Until that book is some future edition of the DSM that includes such a diagnosis, you’re simply a liar Carrier. And even if it does eventually include sociopathy as a diagnosis, you’ll still be a liar since you are not a bona fide expert.

      And you have made quite a big deal about how important it is that people get your history credentials correct and that you have the bona fides to talk about the historical subjects that you do. So, if you insist on the importance of your history credentials, I will maintain that you do not have the credentials to make any kind of psychiatric diagnosis, or medical diagnosis at all. Deal with it.

      I’m not unreasonable however: when MD has been legally added to your name and you can say you’re board-certified in psychiatry, I’ll take you seriously. Until then, you have nothing, and your claims have no merit. So if this upsets you, I suggest getting a therapist and hashing it out. Otherwise, I’m not particularly sympathetic to your whining and general protesting.


    • says

      Wow. When you go off the rails, you really go off the rails. I mean, this conversation train was heading for Chicago and you just went straight off to San Jose.


    • says

      And then James in the West proves he’s a total fucking hypocrite by doing exactly the opposite of everything he has been arguing here people should do, by delivering a far more childish, rude, and belittling response to his opponents, than ever I have of Ehrman. By. Far.

      To all my readers: Enjoy.

  12. douglasmcfarland says

    I was totally not understanding the title. It dawned on me as I went to close the browser and the blog post was still open on it. A poker reference.

  13. says

    I attended the FFRF even in Raleigh and he didn’t put it like that. I do recall the exchange between him and the woman. He wasn’t defensive, but he was a bit miffed and dismissive of her comments (which, how she put it, came off dismissive of Ehrman so he was likely responding in kind).

    He did respond with dismissive brevity, essentially stating, that there was evidence. His inflection wasn’t one on par with defensiveness though. The tenor of his response thereafter was one that suggested that most historians would agree that the historical Jesus existed, but he then referred her (yes, dismissively) to his former book where he goes into detail about the evidence for a historical Jesus. He said he wouldn’t go into details then (due to time constraints) but that there was evidence for said position.

    Perhaps he gets miffed at the throng who don’t do adequate studies and instead attach their cognitive sails to hearsay, memes and biases which bolster atheistic beliefs sans critical appraisal. I can understand that, if that’s the case. I know some (many?) atheists who simply parrot things people tell them and, due to it jiving with current convictions, they adopt said stance or notion without considering the matter further. This frustrates me as well.

    I actually recorded Ehrman’s talk in its entirety (sans the Q&A) if you were interested in it…I can put it on Spreaker and submit the link to the audio.

    • says

      Thank you. It’s good to have multiple perspectives on that!

      I would only be interested in posting here a transcript of the exact wording of his reply to that one question (only so as to correct the record; I always prefer someone have their actual words representing them). Otherwise, I think your comment suffices to clarify things.

  14. MrMike says

    You should have a debate with Bart Ehrman, William Lane Craig, or Tim Callahan on the historicity of Jesus.
    You debated Craig before, but on the resurrection, that is a different topic.

    So please try to organize an event for a big debate.

  15. says

    I think Bart is the perfect middleman to get the believer’s foot in the proverbial “skeptic’s” door. Bart will bring them to the entrance and provide them with a healthy level of skepticism without directly denying Jesus’ existence outright… From there, Richard takes them by the hand and leads them the rest of the way into the room.

  16. says

    “the questioner was apparently shocked at how rudely and defensively Ehrman reacted to their question; apparently it seemed a button had been pushed and emotion got the better of him.”

    This is not surprising to me. I used to work at Oxford University Press as an office service assistant and met Bart Ehrman a couple of times. Once I asked him (around 1992) on one of his visits to the offices if he believed in a historical Christ and he gave me a disgusted look as if he were offended that I would even dare to question that. He then replied that he believed in an historical Jesus. He seems to become offended when anyone challenges his views and he has a hang up with university titles etc. If you don’t have one in biblical studies or a relevant field it seems like in his eyes your opinion just doesn’t matter.

    • says

      So I see. And still using the No True Scotsman fallacy, too. It also works as Argumentum Ad Authoritoniem and Argumentum Ad Baculum, too; because to get those positions in a university you have to have the credentials. And if you’re a grad student who’s already identified himself as an out mythicyst, and arguing for the ahistoricity of Jesus, how are you going to get your credentials? And if you already have the credentials but are an out mythicist, how are you going to get the position? It’s impossible! Look what happened to Thomas Brodie. As soon as his Memoirs came out, he was sacked from his university position and was put under investigation by the Catholic Church organization that used to be the Inquisition.

  17. Chris West says

    Just one very late comment to this discussion. I feel it is very hypocritical and gutless for “James in the West” to accuse Richard Carrier of being rude and having bad manners, while hiding behind the protection of a pseudonym.