Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? to be published in hardback

Thanks to Tim Henderson for pointing out that Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth will be published in hardcover and not only in ebook form, as originally planned.

  • http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2011/06/finding-bigfoot-jim-bobo-mccoy-is.html “Bobo”

    Thanks for the notice on that one!  Sure to annoy the mythcist crowd. :-)

    • Itech_long

      I think I’ll pass on this one. I’m waiting for the book that explains how a movement that began in Judaism and that was thoroughly Jewish in orientation became a religion separate and apart from if not opposed to Judaism.

      • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        There have been many of those. Are you familiar with James D. G. Dunn’s The Partings of the Ways? Jack T. Sanders’ Schismatics, Sectarians Dissidents, Deviants: The First One Hundred Years of Jewish-Christian Relations? What about Claudia Setzer’s Jewish Responses to Early Christians? These would be good places to start, if you have been waiting for a book on this topic and somehow missed the ones already out there.

      • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        A few more came to mind that are worth mentioning. Stephen G. Wilson’s Related Strangers, the multiple volumes SCM Press published Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, and others on specific aspects of the topic, such as Siker’s Disinheriting the Jews, Within Context edited by Efroymson, Fisher and Klenicki; Baum’s Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic, Smiga’s Pain and Polemic, and of course various books by Sanders, Dunn, Vermes and others about Jesus and Judaism.

        I hope this information is helpful and provides you with what you’ve been looking for. 

        • Anonymous

          You left out the Epistles of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles!

  • http://twitter.com/easonjos Joseph Eason

    When I glanced at this post, I thought it read “Did Bart Ehrman’s Jesus Exist?” Also a great discussion topic!

  • Stevencarrwork

    I had a little bet on how many of Earl Doherty’s Top 20 Silences would be directly addressed in Bart Ehrman’s book. 

    My money is on zero – that not one of those Biblical verses will be discussed in Ehrman’s book.

    My prophesy may be wrong. We shall have to wait and see.

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Arguments from silence are bad in principle, but Doherty’s are worse because many of his silences are imaginary.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think that there is anything wrong with arguments from silence in principle.  The problem is making a reasoned argument for what we should have expected the author to mention had he known about it.  Too often this step is simply omitted.  

  • Landon Hedrick

    Steven,

    My guess is that Ehrman will, to some extent, grapple with Doherty’s work.  He knows about Doherty’s books, and knows that Doherty is widely considered the mythicist who has put forward the best case for the other side.  If Ehrman fails to interact with him, that would be a significant failing on his part, I think.

    But now you’ve got me interested.  I wonder how many of the alleged “silences” will be discussed.

  • Landon Hedrick

    James,

    “Arguments from silence are bad in principle…”

    I hope that’s not the case!  I recently turned in a paper that utilized an argument from silence.  Why do you think they’re bad in principle?

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      @e06cefc1c8494479260b9199b3ace02b:disqus : Because “absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence” as the saying goes. There are certainly instances where one would expect substantial evidence to be found and none is, and so in such cases the absence of evidence does indeed tell us something important. But before one can put such absence of evidence to positive use, one has to make sure that substantial searches for relevant evidence have been undertaken, and that there is a significant body of evidence making the lack of evidence for that particular event/person/city/etc. striking.

      To put it another way, if we have a person who is supposed to have lived in period X, and we have very few texts from that place and time, then that absence of evidence doesn’t indicate that the person most likely did not exist. If we have a wealth of texts that it is reasonable to expect to have mentioned the individual, then that might indeed raise reasonable doubts.

      Does that make sense? This is a hurried comment before class – sorry!

      • Landon Hedrick

        James,

        It does make sense.  But I’m wondering why you thought that implies that arguments from silence are bad in principle.  What you seem to say here is that, in some cases, arguments from silence are bad–but that in other cases arguments from silence can be good.

        • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Perhaps what I should have said is that arguments from silence in the sense of absence of evidence proves nothing, whereas when we have evidence but it is silent where we would expect a mention of something, there are legitimate conclusions that may be drawn from that?

          • Landon Hedrick

            Basically:  The bad kinds of argument from silence are bad in principle, but the good kinds of argument from silence are good.

            • Anonymous

              I think the problems with the argument from silence are similar to the problems with the criterion of embarrassment.  Just as it is hard to get inside an ancient writer’s head to know what he would have considered so embarrassing that he couldn’t have invented it, it is hard to know what an ancient writer would have deemed so important that he necessarily would have mentioned it if he knew about it.

              Unfortunately, both the argument from silence and the criterion of embarrassment get called upon to carry a lot of weight in historical Jesus studies due to the problematic nature of the sources.

            • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Sure, Lndon, but I think the distinction between the two is important. Where we simply do not have evidence, or the kinds of evidence or genre of texts that we would expect to record something, it would be a bad idea to make much of it.

              But as Vinny points out, when we are dealing with another time and culture we must be even more cautious, since our attempts discern what people would or would not have considered it important to mention may face challenges. The lack of interest in childhood/upbringing and motivation/psychology in ancient Greco-Roman works about famous individuals is a case in point. They do tend to tell fabulous stories of their childhood, of course, but lack any genuinely historical interest of the sort we have in their parents, education, etc.

  • Geoff Hudson

    James, what about the argument from silence profferred by the DSS?  This argument is as follows: The DSS are silent on the issue Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes.  Therefore Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes did not exist during the time the scrolls were written up to the first century CE.  You would have thought that at least one of these would have been mentioned.  So have they been fabricated and interpolated into the writings of Josephus?      

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Geoff, the Dead Sea Scrolls fit the description that outsiders give of the Essenes. The fact that they did not call themselves that is scarcely an issue, since many groups had labels that were imposed on them by outsiders. Even “Christians” may have come about in that way. And in later rabbinic times, we find the term “pharisee” still used as a denigration, even though the sages whom those later rabbis looked back to as part of their movement are referred to as “pharisees” by others.

      The “seekers of smooth things” (halaqot) in the DSS are most likely the pharisees – a pun, having in view their emphasis on halakot. 

      • Geoff Hudson

        James you wrote: The “seekers of smooth things” (halaqot) in the DSS are most likely the pharisees – a pun, having in view their emphasis on halakot.
        The seekers of smooth thing would hardly be what we understand Pharisees to be, supposedly strict on the law.  Josephus is supposed to have written: “the Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their laws”. (War 2.8.14)  The group referred to in derogatory terms in the DSS seem to be ones who “despise the law”. (4Q163)  The writers were not joking.  

        “This saying concerns the congregation of those who seek smooth things in Jerusalem… [who despise the] law and do not [trust in God] … As robbers lie in wait for a man… they have despised [the words of] the law.” (Vermes)  Despising the law is equated with being a seeker of smooth things.  If the writers were joking it would have backfired, because they of all folk were more than keen on keeping the law.   

        • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          But Geoff, from the perspective of those who thought that the Law needed to be interpreted more rigidly than the Pharisees and later rabbis did, their halakot did indeed seem to be despising the Law, seeking “smooth things.”

          • Geoff Hudson

            James, the fact is that Josephus (a supposed Pharisee) is supposed to have written “the Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillfull in the exact explication of their laws”.  You believe Josephus as an independent witness to the existence of Pharisees, indeed as most academics do.  According to you, Josephus would have known very well what these ‘Essenes’ who supposedly wrote the DSS were like.  

            So you are implying that from Josephus’s perspective the Pharisees were keener on keeping the law than ‘Essenes’. On the other you are saying that from the ‘Essenes’ point of view, Josephus was not quite telling the truth, and that in fact the writers of the DSS were keener on keeping the law than the Pharisees.  This is an academics get-out.    

            The writers of the DSS described their opponents as ‘robbers’ who lie in wait, not trusting in God, despising the law.  This is not a description of Pharisees.  Given Josephus’s description one would have certainly expected more moderate language.  Your only connection of the DSS to Pharisees, seemingly co-incidental language, does not hold water.  I don’t see jokes in the DSS.  I don’t even see the Essenes described by Josephus in the DSS, although there are some similarities.

             

      • Geoff Hudson

        James you wrote: “the Dead Sea Scrolls fit the description that outsiders give of the Essenes”.

        Was there a difference between the ‘Essenes’ as described in the scrolls and the ‘Essenes’ in the writings attributed to Josephus?  When you say ‘fit’ the description that outsiders give, do you mean exactly?  Both descriptions contain priests.    

        • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          The descriptions by Pliny! Philo, and Josephus seem close enough that we can know whom is being referred to – significantly closer than some of the descriptions of Christians by outsiders when compared to textual evidence.

          • Geoff Hudson

            But there is little or no description of Pharisees (separatists) in the writings attributed to Josephus.  What were the people who wrote the scrolls if they were not separatists?  It is perfectly possible for there to be two very similarly organised groups with big differences in how they behaved.  The writings attributed to Josephus describes ‘Essenes’ as being friendly and co-operative willing to share their experiences with others.  The people of the scrolls on the other hand were were separatist and critical of others.

             
            The writings attributed to Josephus speak of ‘orders’ not just sects. Using ‘order’ was probably the writer letting his guard down neglecting to correct the script.  So were these groups merely a different version of the same sort.  You wrote: “The descriptions by Pliny! Philo, and Josephus seem close enough that we can know whom is being referred to”  You seem uncertain yourself.    

            • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              I’m not sure what uncertainty you are referring to. The Dead Sea Scrolls and outsider sources both provide indication that there were Essenes who lived in what we might call a monastic setting, and others who lived within the wider society. And so there are discrepancies, but not more than in other comparable instances, and not so many as to make it unclear who and what is being referred to.

              • Geoff Hudson

                I was referring to your use of ‘seem’ which seems to indicate uncertainty. 

                I prefer to think of the ‘Essenes’ of the Scrolls living, not a monastic life, but a life in which they had separated themselves (or been made separate) from others as in 4QMMT.  Of course, they would have said that they had separated themselves, but they had probably been separated. It was probably a question of move or be moved. Where they lived would have made no difference.  They could have lived in any village, as they probably did. Their mission in the late first to early second century was non co-operation with those in-charge in Jerusalem.  They, the priests (both sons of Aaron and the sons of Zadok), had withdrawn, or rather been kicked-out of, the temple.    

                • Geoff Hudson

                  Correction:
                  Their mission in the late first century BCE  to early first century CE was non co-operation with those in-charge in Jerusalem.  

              • Geoff Hudson

                It is clear who is being referred to.  

                4QMMT (4Q397) has: ‘[And you know that] we have separated from the mass of the peo[ple] …and from mingling with them in these matters’ (Vermes)

                The matters they were referring to was the goings-on in the temple. This did not restrict them from contact with others on other day-to-day matters. 

                You yourself said Pharisee means separatist. This separation defined the group.  

                And there is no mention of a place of separation either.  In fact nowhere in the Scrolls literature is a place (apart from the figurative Damascus) to be found.     

              • Geoff Hudson

                The writers of the Scrolls had only to abstain from attending the temple.  There was no need to go anywhere, such as Qumran.  That they continued to talk to and deal with their opponents is shown by 4QMMT.  

  • Geoff Hudson

    How many scholars have their theories based on the existence of Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes before the middle of the first century?  Lawrence Schiffman is one of most scholars. 

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    You might want to try exploring the interactions among people of different viewpoints within a living religious tradition today. You will find that not only do such differing insider and outsider perspectives persist, but they will illustrate even this very point you see as a problem: that insiders can be fully persuaded that they are interpreting Scriptures faithfully and even strictly, while another group may accuse them of twisting and betraying those same scriptures.

    • Geoff Hudson

      I don’t want to be confused.  I prefer to go with source documents, particularly when they are like the DSS and have been buried for 2000 years.  I know that they at least have not been twisted since.   

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    They are indeed twisted at times by modern readers of them. That’s why making efforts to understand how religious polemic functions and what it looks like is important, so as to avoid confusion.

    • Geoff Hudson

      James, I have been thinking about how religious polemic functions.  A simple but dramatic example is what happened between the English and Catholic churches during the late middle ages.  A visitor from outer space would have scratched his head in amazement, wondering why these people were burning each other. They both appear the same, with the same organisation of ministers, monks, nuns etc. yet they were at loggerheads.  I can visit local houses with priest holes, or a local church with doors that have been shot at, all evidence of man’s inhumanity.  Just as in the second temple period, when the scrolls found in the Judean desert were written, the conflict was not just religious, but political also. 

      Referring to those who seek smooth things, the writer says: “Interpreted, this concerns those who lead Ephraim astray, who lead many astray through their lying tongue, and deceitful lips – kings, princes, priests, and people, together with the stranger who joins them”. (Vermes, 4Q169)  This was the writers view of the other party. But what would the opposite view be? Would it have been similar? I think it would. The writers group would have been interested in manipulating kings, princes, priests and people too.     

  • Geoff Hudson

    James, to the ‘Essenes’, the seekers of smooth things were outsiders.  So why didn’t they use the term Pharisees to describe them?  The term just never entered their heads. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Now that is s good question. It seems to me that there are several possible answers, in theory, including the one you seem to prefer. But another that deserves serious consideration and may be preferable as doing better justice to the evidence, is that the nicknames “pharisees” (separatists) and “sadducees” did not catch on or were not coined until later.

      Perhaps one might usefully refer at this point to the fact that our earliest Christian texts do not use the terms “Christianity” or “Christian.” Nicknames take a while to stick and to spread.

  • Geoff Hudson

    Pharisees are to the sons of Aaron as
    Sadducees are to the sons of Zadok as
    Essenes are to prophets as
    Jesus is to James

    The former were invented post 70

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Geoff, you seem to hold a great many views that involve little more than rewriting the evidence or positing interpolation so as to be able to conclude whatever you wish. You are free to do so if you choose, but it would be kind if you were to at least stop asserting your beliefs as though they were self-evident.


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