Bizarre flap between Bart Ehrman and Robert M. Price

So in the comments yesterday, Steven Carr repeated a claim from Robert M. Price in this episode of Price’s podcast that Ehrman doesn’t read the books he criticizes, he has graduate students do it for him. Then Zak pointed me towards Ehrman’s responses here and here. Here’s Ehrman’s first response:

Friends and Fans,
I really don’t mind the rough and tumble of serious academic engagement, as some of you may have noticed. But I take serious offense when people are propagating false information about me or my work. In that connection I have had several persons tell me the following:

In his April 16th “The Bible Geek” podcast, Robert M Price says it has come out that Bart Ehrman never even read through any of the mythicist books he talks about in “Did Jesus Exist.” Ehrman just had his graduate students read them and report to Bart about what sections he should look at.

I have not listened to the podcast, but if Robert did say this, then it’s a flat-out lie. And that probably says something about the attacks being made against my book, and the people making them. I have no problems with Robert (at least I didn’t before now) and think that he is a rare scholar among the mythicists (since he is, in fact, a scholar). And I treat him with respect in my book. I expect the same treatment — and a healthy dose of honesty and integrity — in return.

If Robert did *not* in fact say this, then that would be worth knowing too.

And the second one:

Friends and Fans,

I decided to listen to Robert Price’s podcast (as if I have time for this kind of nonsense), and in fact it is even *worse* than I indicate in the post I made 30 minutes ago. He flat out accuses me of not reading the mythicists’ books and attacking what my students told me about them. He excoriates me for several minutes for this kind of irresponsible activity.
But in fact, it is a flat out lie. I do not do research like that and certainly did not in this case. I read all the mythicist books I talk about (which made, I’ve got to tell you, for a rather unpleasant summer…) including, in detail, both of his major works.
Again, I believe in engaging in academic back-and-forth with honesty and integrity. If Robert Price does not share the ideals, then I am sorry to hear it. If he wants to talk substance, I’m happy to do it at any time. If he wants to propagate lies and falsehoods, he will have to do it without me.

Now here’s Price’s response, in the Facebook comment thread:

If anyone is lying in the matter, it is one of your own grad assistants who told this to Steven Styles. Should I regard it as true based on the criterion of embarrassment? Isn’t it too early for oral tradition to have gone so far astray? In any case, true or not, it is quite plausible given the astonishing level of your critique of our books. In the case of Earl Doherty, you are grossly misrepresenting the poor fellow and his arguments. I hope he is not in a litigious mood. I can hardly believe you fail to grasp what I am saying re the criterion of dissimilarity and James the Just. Nor do I think the fault is lack of clarity on my part. I can only hope your readers will take the trouble to look up my books to see if I am truly the fool that you make me out to be. You see, on the very same podcast you so condescendingly deigned to listen to, I also recommended your fine book Forged, as I often have praised The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (and will continue to do so). In view of the excellence of these works, I cannot understand the hack job contained in Did Jesus Exist. A second-hand acquaintance with our books would explain that.

Maybe Price didn’t mean to lie, but this still strikes me as horribly irresponsible of him, making a serious accusation like that based on a second-hand report. This is something Price should have apologized for, rather than trying to defend his propagation of a falsehood. Falsehoods like this can do real harm, especially since it seems in this case that it got repeated widely before Ehrman could respond.

On a related note, there’s this blog post by Price where he claims that in Ehrman’s book “I am there painted as a blatant thought-criminal.” Personally, I didn’t get that impression at all reading Ehrman. This all really does not reflect well on Price, though I was never a big fan of his in the first place.