Ehrman Evades Carrier's Criticisms

Richard Carrier has now twice eviscerated Bart Ehrman for some seriously sloppy scholarly errors, first in a rebuttal to an Ehrman Huffington Post article and now in a full review of Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. Carrier’s attacks were wholly substantive in nature and not at all ad hominem. But rather than either defend the substance of his work and/or apologize for its egregious errors, on Facebook Ehrman is misrepresenting Carrier’s criticisms as merely personal in nature:

As many readers know, Richard Carrier has written a hard-hitting, one might even say vicious, response to Did Jesus Exist. I said nothing nasty about Carrier in my book – just the contrary, I indicated that he was a smart fellow with whom I disagree on fundamental issues, including some for which he really does not seem to know what he is talking about. But I never attacked him personally. He on the other hand, appears to be showing his true colors.

I don’t see those charges sticking at all. Read Carrier’s review and tell me if you see Carrier inappropriately attacking Ehrman for personal failings instead of professional ones.

H/T: The A-Unicornist

Your Thoughts?

  • Felix

    You can read it on the public part of his blog too:
    http://ehrmanblog.org/category/public-forum/

    Earlier he posted a brief response to Carrier’s critique of the HuffPo article, but that was behind his paywall.

    (Subscription fees go to charity, which is fine with me. I signed up for a month)

  • F

    Yep. Carrier is showing his true colors, being all well-reasoned in your face. Damn that Richard Carrier and his relentless logic based on facts.

  • Atheara

    Ehrman’s actual response, as opposed to the one-paragraph Facebook excerpt is here:

    http://ehrmanblog.org/acharya-s-richard-carrier-and-a-cocky-peter-or-a-cock-and-bull-story/

    It seems to change the picture a great deal.

    • aaron

      Not really. Carrier even points out in his article that this may have been what Ehrman meant by the statue sentence. So Ehrman picks the easiest critique to rebut, offers a rebuttal which Carrier even mentioned for him, and then claims that all the other objections are the same, when they aren’t at all.

      And his reason for not answering more? That there were simply too many to deal with in a quick one-off post. Well maybe that’s the problem……

    • Atheara

      Aaron, no good. The problem is that the sentence as Ehrman wrote it isn’t vulnerable to Carrier’s objection in the first place. Carrier looks sloppy, and his review begins to look like a Gish Gallop.

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ vinnyjh57

      Atheara,

      My problem is that in all of Ehrman’s earlier works, I feel like I could always tell when he meant that there was no evidence to support a claim and when he meant that someone had drawn the wrong conclusion from the evidence that did exist. I believe that I could tell this because he was always careful to make those kind of distinctions. His statement on the statue might have been technically accurate, but it didn’t give the kind of complete picture that I would have liked to get and which I have come to expect from him.

    • http://newstechnica.com David Gerard

      It’s good to assume good faith, as you do, but the original interpretation Dr Carrier put on Dr Ehrman’s words is the interpretation Dr Ehrman espouses elsewhere:

      Homebrewed Christianity: “Bart Ehrman on Jesus’ Existence” 2012-Apr-03, Timestamp: 20:45-21:10 in regards to the penis statue, Ehrman exclaims: “It’s just made up! There is no such – it’s completely made up. [laughs]”

      http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2012/04/03/bart-ehrman-on-jesus-existence-apocalypticism-holy-week/

      So his claims in his blog are not setting the record straight, but backpedaling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimmyrafter kimrottman

    I’ll be interested to see what Ehrman has to say in future installments since this one focused on arguably the least relevant point Carrier made. The whole “I’m always so nice to people on the big scary internet but they are always so mean to me” schtick is pretty tiresome. Address the actual substance of the review before you play the “hurt” card, please.

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ vinnyjh57

      You will have to pay for the future installments because Ehrman says those will be in his Members Only area.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kimmyrafter kimrottman

      Also, if this post was the first time he fully explained that the statue exists but isn’t generally considered to refer to Peter, then he hasn’t really helped his case there. The average reader would take from the sentence Carrier quoted (“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 Ehrman was denying the existence of the statue altogether, not just disputing the subject of it.

      He seems to think he’s adequately addressed Carrier’s accusation of factual inaccuracy with this. Like I said I’ll be interested to see if he goes on to a completely new topic in the next installment or if he confronts more of Carrier’s examples of factual errors.

    • Atheara

      Kim, I think the response is totally successful. The issue after all isn’t whether the Vatican has phallic art, but rather whether the Vatican has secret phallic art of Peter. There appears to be nothing to say on this point.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kimmyrafter kimrottman

      Atheara, I have to disagree. 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.

      Additionally, as Aaron pointed out, Carrier already made Ehrman’s excuse for him in his review. 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.

  • http://songe.me Alex Songe

    While I admire the charitable motive, I really think the paywall part of his blog is really worrisome. Talk about creating the potential for an echo chamber. Ehrman accuses mythicists of a scorched earth policy, then says that if we really wanted to do damage to fundamentalist Christianity, that his view of Jesus does more damage (I have met many atheists with this scorched earth Jesus policy, but many are curiously interested in the matter as truth or fiction). Apparently, he leaves no room for those historicity agnostics who are looking for arguments about the truth of the claims.

    It’s obvious among the mythicists discussed in the book that they feel misrepresented. There’s nothing mythicists want more than to be seriously critiqued, as that means that they’re worth critiquing. Instead, what I really see of Ehrman’s DJE is his attempts at axe-grinding Jesus as a weapon against fundamentalism for humanists and religious liberals. As he constantly repeats that “he is an agnostic”, he wants to play the role of impartial referee to further legitimize his HJ in the hands of atheists, humanists, and religious liberals.

  • Stacy

    @kimrottman

    The issue is what the average reader of Ehrman’s book is going to think he means.

    That isn’t the issue at all. The issue is whether or not Ehrman’s work in Did Jesus Exist? is sloppy.

    • Drivebyposter

      If the average reader will wildly misunderstand what he meant, I would think that implies sloppiness.

  • khms

    @Stacy

    @kimrottman

    The issue is what the average reader of Ehrman’s book is going to think he means.

    That isn’t the issue at all. The issue is whether or not Ehrman’s work in Did Jesus Exist? is sloppy.

    In this particular case, the two are one and the same. (If you prefer, exchange “average reader” for “average member of the intended audience”; I don’t think it changes anything.)

  • Steven Carr

    EHRMAN
    What Carrier wants us to know is that in fact this statue does exist and that it is in the Vatican. 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.

    CARR
    If it took so little research, and Acharya gave the reference herself to see that there really was the statue pictured in her book , why in the name of all that is good did Ehrman begin to think that Acharya had drawn the picture of the statue herself?

    How could he have thought that when it too so little research to see that the statue ‘does appear’ (ahem) to exist?

    How?

    You can see Ehrman’s thought processes here. I can see them and outline them, but I can’t grasp the internal logic from one thought to the next.

    Let me roughly map out Ehrman’s thoughts here…

    Here is a picture of a statue.

    It does exist – look Acharya gives the reference herself.

    This statue does exist , so she must have drawn the picture herself. There is no other explanation.

    Must put that in my book…..

  • Steven Carr

    I take it Ehrman never produced a quote of Acharya claiming it was a statue of Peter himself.

    So claiming it is not a statue of Peter himself simply demonstrates that Ehrman misled people as to what Acharya was claiming.

    Christians do use a rooster (an American euphemism) as a symbol of Peter.

  • Steven Carr

    EHRMAN
    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” [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.]

    CARR
    Here is Ehrman’s book where Acharya states clearly that a rooster is a symbol of Peter, not Peter himself.

    Just one sentence after Ehrman quotes Acharya claiming a rooster (ahem) is a symbol of St. Peter, Ehrman switches out the word ‘symbol’ and inserts the statement that it is a statue of Peter.

  • Will

    Yah, if you listen to some of Ehrman’s recent interviews where he references the statue issue, it just reinforces the criticism that he assumed it didn’t exist at all rather than it being wrongfully associated with Peter. I think Carrier is dead on! Ehrman is really looking desperate by pulling back to the strictly literal meaning of the sentence in the book while ignoring the context, tone and natural understanding to the reader.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ben.schuldt Ben Schuldt

      Hey Will,

      Any chance we get some quotes from those interviews or maybe some links and time stamps? That would be helpful.

    • Will

      Hey Ben.. sure no problem.

      on iTunes:

      Homebrewed Christianity; “Bart Ehrman on Jesus’ Existence…” 4/3/12
      20:30-21:10

      this was the only one i could dig up… i thought he mentioned it on another show from out of Chicago but i couldnt find it this time.. but this is what i had in mind.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ben.schuldt Ben Schuldt

      Thanks!

      Yup, he does say, “It’s made up! There is no such statue. It’s just *completely* made up. [laughs]”

      I’d be interested in the other link as well, if you have time.

    • Will

      Ben, I may have been mistaken.. that might be the only interview in which he mentions it.. i listened through the other ones and cant find it.. my bad. but there is that one anyway..lol

    • http://www.facebook.com/ben.schuldt Ben Schuldt

      Cool. I appreciate the link.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ben.schuldt Ben Schuldt

      And I sent it along to Carrier.

    • Will

      ok.. cool.. i’m sure he’ll get a kick out of it..

  • Atheara

    Check out Jonathan Burke’s comment here, at the bottom of the list:

    http://ehrmanblog.org/acharya-s-richard-carrier-and-a-cocky-peter-or-a-cock-and-bull-story/#post-comments

    If he is correct, then there is no such statue in the Vatican at all. And so the debate continues.

    Actually this isn’t a debate. It’s identity politics in intellectual form.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kimmyrafter kimrottman

      He cites a single source which says the statue is in some other museum. Ehrman stated that there is no such statue in the Vatican or anywhere else. Try again.

    • Terry
    • Fortigurn

      It’s entirely possible that the only source which says anything about the statue being in the Vatican is correct, and that the statue was later moved to the Gabinetto Segreto, even though there’s no record of any such thing happening. Certainly, we can build arguments on speculation instead of evidence, if that’s the way you prefer to roll. However, that’s not the point. It wouldn’t save Murdock from being wrong on these counts:

      * Claiming that that the statue is hidden in the Vatican treasury: the reality is that it isn’t hidden in the Vatican treasury, and the only source which says anything about it being in the Vatican says it was displayed publicly there, not hidden; she’s 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

      * Claiming that the statue is of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’: by ‘the Cock’ she is not referring to simply a rooster, but specifically to a phallic statue representing Peter, as she helpfully made clear in her text (‘‘Peter’ is not only ‘the rock’ but also ‘the cock,’ or penis, as the word is used as slang to this day’, ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’); in reality the statue is no such thing

      There is no statue of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, either ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’ or anywhere else. The very statue to which she appeals for this claim is not of ‘the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’, is not ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, there’s no evidence that it was ever ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, and the only source which says anything about it being anywhere in the Vatican says it was displayed publicly, not hidden. She cites a source, ignores what her source actually says, and makes up a bunch of stuff for which she provides no evidence whatsoever, some of which her own source contradicts flatly.

    • Fortigurn

      One of Murdock’s followers helpfully states ‘Mr. Burke was correct when he wrote “the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury”.

      The same source also acknowledged that Knight himself says the complete opposite of Murdock’s claim; Knight says the sculpture was displayed publicly in the Vatican Palace for over a century, whereas Murdock claimed it is ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’, and continued to defend this claim that it is ‘hidden in the Vatican treasury’ in her initial response to Ehrman.

    • Fortigurn

      What was amusing was that on Murdock’s own forum one of her followers attempted to claim that she hadn’t simply been using Google Books as a resource, and that she could certainly have owned all those books and read them, and used Google Books simply for the benefit of her readers. This attempt at helpful apologetic was promptly destroyed by Murdock herself, who acknowledged that she had actually been using Google Books for her ‘research’, and had actually quoted bits and pieces from works to which she had limited or virtually no access (only snippet view).

      Naturally there’s nothing wrong with using Google Books for research, but if you’re only using it to look for information to support a prior conclusion, if you’re only grabbing bits and pieces you can see from a limited view or snippet view (without being able to read in context), if you’re not searching for and citing works which actually provide evidence contradicting your view (and addressing it), and if you cite a source saying X and then make claim Y (which Carrier has noted is a standard tactic of Dorothy Murdock), then you’re not doing research.

  • Eric

    “The average reader would take from the sentence Carrier quoted (“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 Ehrman was denying the existence of the statue altogether, not just disputing the subject of it.”

    I disagree. Consider: There is no nude statue of Peter in the Galleria dell’Accademia. This proposition is true, and it in no way implies that there is not a rather famous nude statue of David there. Ehrman has it precisely right: “The problem appears to be that he sees something that strikes him as a problem, and he isolates it, dissects it, runs with it, gets obsessed with it, and…forgets how it was actually said in the first place. Careful reading can solve a lot of problems of misunderstanding.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/kimmyrafter kimrottman

      Eric: Your analogy is bad. Most people aren’t aware that there is a penis-nosed, rooster-headed statue of anyone, anywhere. Therefore, to most people, in terms of what they will perceive it to mean, the statement that there is no such statue of Peter is equivalent to saying there is no such statue. On the other hand, it’s a fairly well known fact that male nudity is common in ancient Greek and Roman art. Thus, the statement that there are no nudes of Peter in The Vatican is not going to (or shouldn’t, anyway) lead anyone to conclude that there are no nudes of someone else there.

    • gshelley

      It would to an extent depend on context, but the analogy doesn’t work. firstly, the statue of David is extremely well known,so claiming a nude statue of Peter is there wouldn’t mislead people, secondly, nude statues are common, so even if David weren’t so well known, people could possibly think, it was the “Peter” part, rather than the “nude” part that was being denied. Thirdly, he didn’t just say it wasn’t there, he said it only exists “in books like this, which love to make things up”, adding much stronger emphasis to the claim and increasing the degree to which he was misleading people.

      Even given that, if someone was claiming that David was a representation of Peter, the honest thing to do would be to state that the statue is David not Peter.

  • Michael Macrossan

    Eric,

    Your analogy about the statue of David is only correct if someone had said, this statue (picture of statue of David) represent Peter in the nude. The correct response is not “There is no nude statue of St. Peter in that Galleria, or anywhere else, except in books like this that love to make things up” but “This statue does not represent St. Peter (books like this that love to make things up). On the contrary it is known to represent David who fought Goliath (see a reference, such as the Museum catalog)”.

    The first answer is wrong because it implies 1) there is no such statue and 2) the author invented the story that this statue is in the Galleria (especially if you have already suggested the author drew the picture of the statue herself).

    Ehrman almost admits a mistake when he calls it an offhand comment. But if he isn’t going to fess up (Okay, Okay, I didn’t check because I was angry or tired of reading her drivel) he should answer some questions:

    Did he think, when he wrote that paragraph:
    1) that Acharya made up the whole thing?
    2) that Acharya might have sketched the object herself?

    Did he think, when he wrote that paragraph, that the object existed, in the Vatican or anywhere?

    Did he check Acharya’s reference for the object?

    Even Ehrman he gets lucky and Acharya’s reference is wrong, he still should admit he did the wrong thing here.

    • Steven Carr

      ‘ (Okay, Okay, I didn’t check because I was angry or tired of reading her drivel)’

      Yeh, why not just say he was tired of reading her drivel?

      So didn’t waste yet more time as her batting average was so poor up to then that he wasn’t going to hang around hoping she might actually connect every once in a blue moon?

    • Atheara

      Apologetics, sigh. If there is a statue but it is not of Peter, that’s irrelevant, right? This isn’t a book about phallic art.

    • Fortigurn

      Steven Carr says: ‘SO another abysmal failure to find a place where Acharya said it was a statue of Peter.’

      Which part of ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter’ is causing confusion? You seem to be reasoning thus:

      * Murdock says the Cock is a symbol of Peter
      * Murdock says statue X is the Cock
      * Murdock is therefore saying statue X is not a symbol of Peter

    • Steven Carr

      What you just said makes no sense on any level.

    • Fortigurn

      Steven Carr says: ‘What you just said makes no sense on any level.’

      Well is that how you are reasoning, or not? Let me walk you through it again.

      * Murdock says the Cock is a symbol of Peter
      * Murdock says statue X is the Cock

      What’s your conclusion: Murdock is saying this statue is a symbol of Peter, or Murdock is saying this statue is not a symbol of Peter?

    • Steven Carr

      Still a totally epic fail to find a place where Acharya said it was a statue of Peter.

      Bart went on the radio to say this statue was completely made up, laughed at mythicists for makingh things up, and then a few days later wrote that the statue ‘does appear to exist.’

      After insinuating that Acharya had drawn it herself.

    • Fortigurn

      Steven Carr says: ‘Still a totally epic fail to find a place where Acharya said it was a statue of Peter.’

      You didn’t answer my question, so I’ll ask it again.

      * Murdock says the Cock is a symbol of Peter
      * Murdock says statue X is the Cock

      What’s your conclusion: Murdock is saying this statue is a symbol of Peter, or Murdock is saying this statue is not a symbol of Peter?

      Here’s another statement by Murdock.

      * ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter.’

      What’s your conclusion: Murdock is saying this sculpture is hidden in the Vatican treasury, or Murdock is saying this sculpture is not hidden in the Vatican treasury?

      Bear in mind that one of Murdock’s own followers has acknowledged ‘Mr. Burke was correct when he wrote “the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury”.

    • Steven Carr

      I still have no idea what you are talking about.

      Why doesn’t Ehrman simply say that he was so tired of reading Acharya’s drivel that he didn’t bother to check her references, as the statue was irrelevant anyway?

      Then everybody would be on his side. After all, we all have read enough Acharya to know that what she is like.

      Instead, he insinuated that she had drawn the thing herself and that the statue was completely made up.

      That shot himself in the foot.

    • Fortigurn

      Steven Carr says: ‘I still have no idea what you are talking about.’

      Below are some sentences written in English. Please identify which of them you are unable to read or understand. You can copy/paste the ones you can’t read or understand.

      _____________________

      * Murdock says the Cock is a symbol of Peter
      * Murdock says statue X is the Cock

      What’s your conclusion: Murdock is saying this statue is a symbol of Peter, or Murdock is saying this statue is not a symbol of Peter?

      Here’s another statement by Murdock.

      * ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter.’

      What’s your conclusion: Murdock is saying this sculpture is hidden in the Vatican treasury, or Murdock is saying this sculpture is not hidden in the Vatican treasury?

      Bear in mind that one of Murdock’s own followers has acknowledged ‘Mr. Burke was correct when he wrote “the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury”.

    • Fortigurn

      Steve, if you are unable to read or understand those sentences, you can get one of Murdock’s followers to help you. One of Murdock’s own followers has acknowledged ‘Mr. Burke was correct when he wrote “the image is not hidden in the ‘Vatican Treasury”. Or perhaps Neil Godfrey can help you.

  • John Morales

    [meta]

    I note there were multiple criticisms, not just those regarding the putative statue.

    • Atheara

      True, John. Ehrman says he’ll get around to the others. If we use Carrier’s methodology of presenting sample errors to judge the quality and reliability of the overall scholarship, though, this is pretty problematic for Carrier.

  • Eric

    I think the point you’re all missing in my analogy concerns the use of the genitives, “of Peter” and “of David.” In Bart’s original statement (“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”), does “of Peter” modify the noun “statue” or not? If it does, then my analogy is apposite; if it doesn’t, then someone is going to have to show me what work the genitive is doing in that sentence. Ehrman never said that there is no penis nosed statue simpliciter in the Vatican; he said that there’s no penis nosed statue “of Peter” in the Vatican. Again, Ehrman is right: careful reading here dissolves the issue, and Carrier isn’t exactly known for being among the most careful readers of those he’s criticizing. (Now there may be a legitimate issue here concerning whether Murdock ever claimed that the statue was one “of Peter,” but that’s a separate issue.)

    • Michael Macrossan

      Eric, Can’t you see this is a puerile legalistic defense? Consider-

      Bart’s dad once caught Bart smoking an illicit cigar. Dad Ehrman asked little Bart, were you and Ron smoking upstairs? Bart said, “No, dad not me!” Dad Ehrman said something that stayed with Bart for a long time, forty years in fact. “Bart, I don’t mind if you sneak a smoke now and then. But don’t lie to me.” (see Forged by Bart Ehrman, p. 2, paperback edition, Harper One, 2011)

      Now, imagine if Bart had continued, “But I was not upstairs smoking with Ron!” and on investigation it turned out Bart was smoking upstairs with Ron’s elder brother Bob. Do you think, Dad Ehrman would say, “Excellent Bart, you told the literal truth, I’m so proud of you!”

    • J. J. Ramsey

      Eric, Can’t you see this is a puerile legalistic defense?

      It would be if Ehrman were arguing about whether pagan statues were in the Vatican, and the connection of a statue with Peter was incidental. The situation, though, is quite the reverse, since it’s the alleged connection to Peter that is most pertinent. If anything, it’s the attack on Ehrman that’s legalistic:

      Ehrman: “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.”

      Shorter Carrier: “But there is a penis-nosed statue in the Vatican! It’s not connected with Peter, probably, but the statue EXISTS!!!”

      Shorter-ish Ehrman: “But the discussion was about fabricated connections that mythicists make between paganism and Christianity, and the connection to Peter is very much made up. If the Vatican happens to have some phallic statue unconnected to Peter, so what? That is irrelevant to my point and contradicts nothing that I’ve said.”

      Shorter Carrier fanbase: “BUT THE STATUE EXISTS!!!!!!1!!!11″

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ vinnyjh57

    Atheara and Eric,

    Here’s the problem: A reader who understands that there is a penis nosed statue but that there is no reason to think that it’s Peter is much better informed than one who thinks that there is no such statue at all. The reader who knows that Acharya is prone to misinterprets a stature that really exists is better able to evaluate other arguments that she makes than the reader thinks that Acharya just invents such statues from whole cloth.

    The problem with Did Jesus Exist? is that it doesn’t provide the kind of clear picture of the issues and the evidence that all Ehrman’s other books have.

    • Eric

      “A reader who understands that there is a penis nosed statue but that there is no reason to think that it’s Peter is much better informed than than one who thinks that there is no such atatue at all.”

      Vinny, sure, but the issue, as I understand it, is whether Carrier was correct when he listed this among Ehrman’s errors of fact. As I’ve pointed out, only a very careless reading of Ehrman’s sentence, in which the genitive qualifier is ignored completely, could justify the conclusion that no such statue exists as such, whether of Peter or of anyone else. Could Ehrman have been even clearer than he was to help out the careless readers? I suppose, but there’s only so much space in a book, and only so much time in a day.

    • Atheara

      Vinny, I’m not at all sure that you are right. The issue — for Acharya and for Ehrman — is whether there is a rooster statue of Peter. There is not. The statue that Acharya discusses is inscribed, and it is not of Peter. That such statues in fact exist in the world isn’t the point, and really isn’t relevant to readers’ degree of information about the historical evidence regarding Jesus. Acharya’s blatant fudging/invention regarding the Peter connection with the rooster is, though.

    • Steven Carr

      Acharya never said it was a statue of Peter.

      Ehrman is like a creationist who says there are no transitionals , no animals which are half-bird and half-dog.

      When it is pointed out that there are transitionals, he then claims that he was utterly correct to say there are no animals which are half-bird and half-dog

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ vinnyjh57

      Atheara,

      The issue for me as a reader is not simply whether or not the mythicist is wrong. I want to know what is wrong with their reasoning and methodology. There is a huge difference between someone who is wrong because they are inventing statues that don’t exist and someone who is misinterpreting statues that do exist.

    • Atheara

      Vinny, it seems to me that there is a simple answer. Pretty much everything is wrong with Acharya’s reasoning and methodology.

    • Steven Carr

      Of course, which makes you wonder how a scholar like Ehrman managed to miss an open goal, by insinuating she drew the statue herself, and then demanding it be a statue of half-Peter, half-rooster, like a creationist demanding to see a half-bird, half-monkey fossil.

      But mythicists have got it all wrong.

      They foolishly, idiotically and frankly unforgiveably expected scholarship from Ehrman.

      EHRMAN
      Carrier seems to expect Did Jesus Exist to be a work of scholarship written for scholars in the academy and with extensive engagement with scholarship, rather than what it is, a popular book written for a broad audience.

      CARR
      Come on guys.

      You seem to expect ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ to be a work of scholarship and ‘with extensive engagement with scholarship’.

      Is that what you expected?

      Idiots. Ehrman explains that you got it all wrong, yet again.

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ vinnyjh57

      Atheara,

      That may be true, but when I buy a book by Bart Ehrman and I take the time to read it, I expect to be able to think about the problems in a bit more detail than that.

    • Fortigurn

      Steven Carr says: ‘Acharya never said it was a statue of Peter.’

      Dorothy Murdock says: ‘Bronze sculpture hidden in the Vatican treasury of the Cock, symbol of St. Peter.’

      Uh, ok.

    • Steven Carr

      SO another abysmal failure to find a place where Acharya said it was a statue of Peter.

      But hey, Ehrman has said his book was not a work ‘with extensive engagement with scholarship’.

      All those people who paid out money expecting a work of scholarship…

  • http://theex-christadelphian.blogspot.com Corky

    You have to wonder what the “cock of Peter” has to do with the existence of Jesus. Other than making fun of Murdock, it’s totally irrelevant. The idea is to tell the reader that Murdock (Archarya S) just makes stuff up out of thin air. From this, the reader is supposed to extrapolate that all “mythers” just make stuff up out of thin air.

    It’s a neat trick but, as has been pointed out by Carrier, this is the least of the problems with Ehrman’s book. As Carrier says, the book is garbage. I’ve seen amateur historicists who make a better argument for HJ than Ehrman has done in Did Jesus Exist.

    • Atheara

      Corky, Ehrman has now responded more fully to Carrier:

      http://ehrmanblog.org/fuller-reply-to-richard-carrier/

      This response is pretty impressive. The overall controversy is a disappointment to me. It’s upsetting to see fellow nonbelievers staking such a strong identity claim on such weak intellectual grounds as Carrier and his acolytes have done.

  • http://theex-christadelphian.blogspot.com Corky

    I don’t know about the “acolytes” part, though I do realize that Carrier has his fans and followers – just as Ehrman also does. I suppose everyone could just play “pick a scholar” and favor one or the other.

    What is obvious however, is the fact that it’s all called “the quest for historical Jesus” as it has been from the centuries old beginning of the controversy. This is where doubtful evidence is weighed against lack of evidence to see which is stronger.

    Historical “scholars” once had a consensus among themselves that the Hittites mentioned in the Bible didn’t exist. So, maybe a scholarly consensus of HJ isn’t so rock solid either.

    • Atheara

      Corky, really? That history progresses in one domain somehow wipes out the progress made in another domain?

    • http://theex-christadelphian.blogspot.com Corky

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say that.

  • Fortigurn

    Corky says: ‘You have to wonder what the “cock of Peter” has to do with the existence of Jesus.’

    Ask Murdock, she’s the one who raised it.

    • http://theex-christadelphian.blogspot.com Corky

      “She’s the one who raised it” ha-ha (wink wink). No, I was talking about Carrier and Ehrman arguing about it. I’m almost certain that it is irrelevant to the subject, “Did Jesus Exist”, but Ehrman brought it up in his book.

  • Katheleen Glazewski

    I´m loofing for new themes for several blogs. Firstable the design.

  • Michael

    Atheara,

    I thought at first Ehrman’s full response was very good, a first impression created by the fact that he doesn’t sound anrgy and agressive (something I wish Richard Carrier could learn, because first impressions do matter) and that he apologised over Rcalling Richard Carrier a Classicists rather than an ancient historian.

    However, looking again I am not so sure. Ehrman says everything has to be interpreted in light of the fact that he was writing abiout Jesus, with the implication that when he nakes sweeping statements we should know he really means something more restricted (I firmly believe that I should not have to invent for myself what a writer really means – how can I know for sure? No, he sure write correctly in the first or get the book reviewed by somneone else before publishing).

    Consider the Roman recrods discussion. First Ehrman says he knows of all the Egytptian records, and he knows that they survived because of the climate. He tries something a little dodgy by saying that since they were written by ethinic Egyptians, not ethinic Italians, they are not really Roman records and he wasn’t talking about them. But more important is this defence from the “fuller response” you linked to:

    I explain in detail what I was thinking, and that Carrier, understandably, chose not to quote in full: “I should reiterate that it is a complete “myth” (in the mythicist sense) that Romans kept detailed records of everything and that as a result we are inordinately well informed about the world of Roman Palestine [Note: I’m talking about Palestine] and should expect then to hear about Jesus if he really lived. If Romans kept such records, where are they? We certainly don’t have any. Think of everything we do not know about the reign of Pontius Pilate as governor of Judea…”

    The first thing to note is Ehrman quotes the book saying that the Romans in Palestine did not keep records (the very thing Carrier criticised) and Ehrman knows this because we don’t have any such records. That we don’t such records wis all he cares about for his argument but Carrier was infuriated by the faulty argument about why we don’t have them – Carrier is a perfectionist. Ehrman could have mentioned the effect of adverse climate or the possible effect of the Roman-Jewish wars on records, but he didn’t.

    The second small point is the first sentence quoted above which has a dig at Carrier (the very thing Carrier does a lot, I admit, and Ehrman largely avoids). In my view, the scholarly way to write that sentence is ‘I explain in detail what I was thinking, but Carrier did not quote it in full’. Now it is a pure statement of fact (which may be true or false); it is not a snide aspersion on Carrier’s motives.

    • J. J. Ramsey

      He tries something a little dodgy by saying that since they were written by ethinic Egyptians, not ethinic Italians, they are not really Roman records and he wasn’t talking about them.

      But that’s not quite what Ehrman said. He writes, “most of these are not in fact records of Roman officials, but made by indigenous Egyptian writers / scribes.” That’s not a distinction made by ethnicity per se. Rather, it’s more analogous to making a distinction between state records and federal records, with the Romans being the rough equivalent of the “feds.”

    • Michael

      Ok. State records not federal records. It is still dodgy. I woudl never think from what he wrote about Palestine that although the Romans kept no records of what went on there, the jews did. No he clearly implies that the reason we don’t have records from Palestine is that there never were any (they weren’t good record keepers then, which sounds plausibel to the layman). Misleading it seems, and I shouldn’t have to read Carrier’s criticism to understand that this is probably not correct.

    • J. J. Ramsey

      I woudl never think from what he wrote about Palestine that although the Romans kept no records of what went on there, the jews did.

      Let’s get back on point with a quote of what Ehrman actually said:

      I should reiterate that it is a complete “myth” (in the mythicist sense) that Romans kept detailed records of everything and that as a result we are inordinately well informed about the world of Roman Palestine and should expect then to hear about Jesus if he really lived.

      The reason that it is a discussion of Roman records and not Egyptian or Jewish records is because some mythicists themselves brought up the matter of Roman records, not Jewish ones, not Egyptian ones. Now if we had well-preserved Jewish records that would have recorded relevant facts about Jesus had he lived, then the focus on Roman records could be considered a dodge–but we don’t. Offhand, I’m not sure if the Jews even kept records as the Egyptians did. Anyway, it’s not as if Ehrman has misled anyone into thinking that we have no relevant surviving bureaucratic records when we actually do.

  • http://thewrongmonkey.blogspot.com/ Steven Bollinger

    I’m a newbie to this sort of blog. To the best of my recollection, it wasn’t until after Ehrman posted his blurb of Did Jesus Exist? on Huffington Post, and someone commenting on that posted a link to Richard Carrier’s blog, that I so much as read the term “mythicist.”

    I am not sure exactly how the terms “historicist” and “mythicist” are commonly used. It seems that people close to the academic consensus such as Ehrman and Crossan tend to state that it is certain that Jesus existed. (Not just that they are certain but that it is certain.) On the other hand, several of the most prominent people referred to as mythicists say they believe that it is possible that Jesus existed. Possible, although by no means necessary in order to explain the existence of Christianity.

    Does this mean that anyone who is not a strict historicist, anyone who allows for any doubt about the historical existence of Jesus, is a mythicist? Or do historicists include all who assert that it is probable, although not necessarily certain, that Jesus existed?

    Is there any term to describe those who, like myself, are not at all certain whether Jesus existed or not? Am I a mythicist because I allow for the possibility that mythicism is correct? Or would I more correctly be referred to as agnostic on the question? Or is there another term for people like me who lean strongly neither in one direction nor the other?

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ vinnyjh57

      Steven,

      If you think it more likely than not that Jesus was purely mythical, you are viewed as a mythicist who has “drunk the Kool Aid” in the eyes of those who affirm the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth even if you acknowledge the possibility of a historical Jesus. In my experience, there are only a few historicists who acknowledge mythicism as intellectually defensible in any form.

      If you think that the evidence is insufficient to establish that either a historical Jesus or a mythical Jesus is more likely than not, “historical Jesus agnostic” is probably the most generally accepted term and it is how I describe myself.

      If you profess agnosticism about a historical Jesus, you will get varying reactions from those who affirm historicity. Some historicists seem to accept agnosticism as an intellectually defensible position. Others think that agnostics may not have yet drunk the Kool Aid, but that they are definitely sniffing the fumes. Others make no distinction between people who fail to affirm historicity and view agnostics and mythicists as equally nutty.

      If you are careful to affirm your agnosticism, you will probably be generally treated with more respect by historicists, although you may periodically provoke their ire simply because it is hard to be agnostic without at least acknowledging the possibility that mythicism is true.

  • Michael

    JJ

    I think you overlook the difference between saying we have no records becasue they were never made, and we have no rcords because they have been lost. I understand that all that matters for Ehrman’s book is that we don’t have the records.

  • Michael

    In Ehrman’s longer response to Carrier, I notice something odd about the Plutarch-dying-resurrected-Osiris thing. Ehrman quotes Plutarch at length, including a passage that mentions the “revivification and regenesis” of Osiris, after his body was dismembered and scattered over the land. Ehrman doesn’t say what regenesis means, but says what “revivification” cannot mean. Thus “whatever his revivification involves, it is not a return to his physical body, which remains in a tomb someplace.” Ehrman had earlier given evidence that Egyptians believed the body remained in a tomb

    they say that Diochites … contains the true tomb; and that the prosperous and influential men among the Egyptians are mostly buried in Abydos, since it is the object of their ambition to be buried in the same ground with the body of Osiris.

    Here Ehrman seems to ignore a different version of the myth, which Plutarch mentions:

    … there are many so called tombs of Osiris in Egypt; for Isis held a funeral for each part when she had found it. Others deny this and assert that she caused effigies of him to be made and these she distributed among the several cities, pretending that she was giving them his body [emphasis added]

    So some would say the influential men were not buried with the body of Osiris. Ehrman continues “It is his soul that lives on, as seen, finally in a key passage later:”

    54 373A It is not, therefore, out of keeping that they have a legend that the soul of Osiris is everlasting and imperishable, but that his body Typhon oftentimes dismembers and causes to disappear, and that Isis wanders hither and yon in her search for it, and fits it together again;

    Ehrman gives no clue as to how this could be a recurring process if the body parts remained in the grave or graves. Are we to assume that Isis continually puts the body back together but it remains dead (despite the explicit statement of “revivification and regenesis”) ?
    It may have been a minority view, amongst Egyptians, that Osiris was resurrected in his reassembled body (and killed again and ressurecetd again?) but the issue is not what most Egyptians thought. Carrier claims that Ehrman wrote in DJE “no ancient source says any such thing [dying and resurrecting] about Osiris (or about the other gods)” (p. 26). Ehrman admits that he and Carrier could argue forever about this, which in my view confirms that “no source says any such thing” is dubious .
    Ehrman’s says his view is the “standard view among experts”. Was the purpose of Ehrman’s book merely to give the majority or standard view about the Christ myth? Maybe it was, but I was expecting some mention of other possible interpretations of the evidence, and good arguments against them. Ehrman’s blog is the first time I ever read Plutarch on this issue and the issues I raised above stood out. I don’t’ know if all his blog discussion about Plutarch was in DJE, but I would have expected it.