Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
Via Bart Ehrman
Even though Ehrman is agnostic, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his book online. He seems to very clear and concise to the point. I hope to read Casey’s book :-).
Whose book do you find better or more convincing?
I think each has its strengths and weaknesses. Ehrman tends to remain respectful throughout; Casey has little patience with the mythicists. Ehrman I think gives a better broad overview for a general audience; but Casey interacts more directly with the mythicists bloggers.
And so I am glad that we have both, although I think that even together they are unlikely to shift many die hard mythicists. Rather like “John came neither eating nor drinking…”
hahaha true true. It’s unfortunate that many mythicists would rather stick with conspiracy rather than “fact” .Maybe more scholars will see Carrier’s book when it’s released and in result write against it like Casey and Ehrman.
The best thing we can do is pray for Mythicists that God would open their minds and hearts:-)
I think Carrier’s book will put an end to mythicism. What I didn’t realise until recently is that Carrier is sticking to his two-body theory of the resurrection. The two-body theory is absolutely incompatible with mythicism. If he is trying to combine the two things then his theory will fall apart before it even gets off the ground.
Speaking of Carrier’s book…I think if it’s released before his debate with Professor Zeba Crook, then Crook could actually use his book against Carrier in the debate. In that case since Carrier’s book will be demonstrably false, then Crook could point out the two-body theory as well as the other mythicist junk Carrier is written.
That’s exactly what Dr. James White, a theologian and NT scholar, did in his debate with Dan Barker over Jesus existence..lol
That’s an excellent idea, using Carrier’s own arguments against him in the debate. Another thing that Zeba Crook should focus on is the timeline. According to Carrier, no one believed that Jesus was a historical person when Paul was writing. He also thinks, if I’m not mistaken, that Mark didn’t believe in a historical Jesus either. In Carrier’s opinion, Mark’s Gospel is an extended parable about Jesus. Now, we know that Matthew and Luke, who copied Mark, did believe that Jesus was a historical person. So, according to Carrier, there must have been the most extraordinary misunderstanding in human history. Mark’s parable about Jesus was immediately and widely misinterpreted as a biography of an actual historical person. This is hugely implausible.
Thanks for the link. I’ll have to watch that.
1. His arguements kind of remind me of those arguements that Conspiracy theorists use. Conspiracy theorists usually avoid overwhelming evidence and then they come up with some radical extreme position that’s so implausible and false, they end up believing it as true. I hate to say it like this, but Carrier is no different than those that deny Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon. As if 6 groups of astronaut l, NASA, Several Hundred Thousands of News Broadcasters, and the Governemnt would hoist some sort of Conspiracy in order to beat the Russians in space…smh. If Mythicists have to go to extreme whacky implausible lengths to try and argue their point, then that just shows how intellectually dishonest they are.
2. Hahah, yes, Anything you publish is fair game. I think that this would be an excellent oppurtunity since debating your opponent’s work shows the audience of voters what they have written. Not so that you can win, but just to show the audience the guilt or error in your opponent’s work. Especially since Carrier’s new book will be over the topic they’re debating.
Exactly! This is indeed a conspiracy theory. We need to consider what’s going on here. According to Carrier, the idea of a historical Jesus was completely different from the original understanding of Jesus. But such a radical reinterpretation of Jesus would have met with opposition, just as gnosticism did.
Carrier wants us to believe that a fundamental misunderstanding of Jesus was able to creep in and take over everywhere without leaving any trace of disagreement. This is like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers! This is the alien takeover theory of Christian origins.
I think Carrier would say that the traces are there (and so would I). Our earliest Jesus is the one preached by Paul and found in the other early epistles who manifests himself to his followers in the scriptures and by revelation and who didn’t say or do anything prior to the night before his crucifixion that was worthy of any mention. What makes Jesus significant in this view is that after his death God chose to exalt him by raising him from the dead. The historical Jesus shows up later in the Gospels, but through the end of the 1st century, we still have letters like 1st Clement that don’t seem to be at all interested in or aware of him.
Where I disagree with Carrier is that I don’t think that this is enough to establish that there never was a human Jesus who was crucified outside Jerusalem. It seems at least as plausible to me that stories were invented about the life of a man who was believed to have returned from the dead as that stories were invented to historicize an entirely supernatural being.
Just to clarify, what I meant was that there is no trace of the upheaval that might be expected as the view of Jesus changed so radically. This may be because the evidence of the upheaval has been suppressed, but I would regard that as special pleading.
I won’t question whether there is evidence of a different understanding of Jesus that may or may not have prevailed at an earlier time.
We have so little evidence of anything from the first few decades of Christianity that I’m not sure how much we should expect, but it does seem to me that the invention of stories about a man who had really not done much of significance during his life would leave less of a ripple than the invention of stories about a man who was originally thought to be a supernatural being who hadn’t existed on earth at all.
Facts mean little to those proselytizing.
Prof. Erhman’s book on whether “Jesus existed” is an assault on every world religion, but most especially upon Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and the 2 billion Christians who practice it. For the Nicene Creed recites that JESUS IS DIVINE AND OF ONE SUBSTANCE WITH GOD AND THE HOLY SPIRIT>
Any other statement is heretical–and while Prof. Ehrman can purport to cite facts, the truth is that there are very very very few facts known about Jesus’ historical life. There is an apocryphyal reference in Josephus, although that is thought to be a gloss added by a monk years later, referring to Jesus as having lived, and another historical note. And you have the gospels themselves. As well as the extra-canonical apocryphal gospels, which Ehrman himself has attacked in other books, or admitted some and excluded some depending on the polemical tack he was taking.
It’s really irrelevant. St. John the Baptis was the forerunner of Jesus, Jesus came to earth, then Paul was his apostle. This is the pattern of the New Testament. The Church, not the words of Christ, are the salvation of man. Being as Ehrman is either an agnostic or a lapsed fundamentalist christian from the heart of the Bible Belt in Lawrence Kansas (go Jayhawks), its hard for him to understand that on the East Coast, the Northeast Corridor of the US, where life and finance actually emanate, and where we read the NY times every day, we normally don’t ask if you are Catholic or Jewish–we ask what parish you belong to, or what synagogue you go to. Protestantism is dying here. The only sect growing around these parts is the Mormon Temple. Not going there.
Anyhow, Ehrman’s book and talk reveal he has axes to grind. He was recently granted a commision by Loeb to translate a work by the early Greek Fathers. Frankly, this is a misplaced commission–Ehrman is not an expert in Greek, is not a classical scholar, is unfamiliar with the advanced rhetorical devices of the early Greek fathers (who used attic, not koine greek), and he has axes to grind regarding Catholicism and the early Church Fathers, whom he openly accused of “forgery” in an earlier book.
Prof. Ehrman has several axes to grind, and is biases in a fundamental way. First, he has acknowledged openly that he is an agnostic. This, I think, fundamentally disqualifies him from serious biblical and theological research. And, it gives him a serious axe to grind, because he wants to show us that these are mere words, and not the received word of Christ, God and the Holy Spirit. Second, Prof. Ehrman was brought up as an Evangelical Protestant Christian. Yet he specializes in Early Christianity. He especially has an axe to grind against the Emperor Constantine, the Church Fathers and the Establishment of the Church. Every single one of his writings and lectures focus on these issues. Ehrman’s entire academic output is essentially an insult to the nearly two billion Catholic and Orthodox Christians who believe in the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the divinity of Christ, God and the Holy Spirit, and in the Seven Sacraments. And, in the received word of God. Third, no one who is a member of the Catholic or Orthodox Churchs believes that salvation is through the Bible–that is a Protestant idea. Salvation is through the church. Consequently, it is utterly irrelevant if books of the bible were changed or mis-attributed. Having said that, Saint Athanasius, a Saint, essentially did the cataloguing of what was canonicical in the 300s (as well as drafting the Nicene Creed and having it adopted at the first Ecumenical Council), and to criticize St. Athanasius, is to criticize the Church and a Saint. So here again, Ehrman has an axe to grind, and is insulting the entire Catholic and Eastern Christian Communities in a sense that is utterly befuddling.
Finally, Ehrman seems to have little sense that the Bible used by the official Church was the Septuagint, in Greek. There was no Masoretic text until 500 AD and no English bible until 1400 AD and no King James Bible for longer than that. the Canonical bible of the Official Church was the Septuagint, containing all of the Apocryphal Books. In addition, the non-canonical books, while not in the bible, ascribed to the Church Fathers, were not banned or condemned as Ehrman suggests. Rather, they were suggested to be read as good reading, and in some churches, they were clearly canonical–the Ethiopian, Coptic, Armenian, Syriac and Nestorian Churches each had their own versions of what the canon was. Thus Enoch 1 & 2 made it into the Ethiopian Bible, along with the Coptic. Most of Supernatural is based on events in Enoch 1 & 2. Apparently Ehrman, a biblical scholar, does not watch Supernatural. Even after ten seasons. Maybe he thinks Enoch 1 & 2 are “forgeries”.
The Syriac church had important ramifications for western civilization. the Syriac scholars translated Greek philosophical treatises into Syriac, then into Arabic. Thus Al-Farabi and Al-Kindi were able to read Aristotle and Plato and Euclid and transmit Greek medicine, science, geometry and physics over to Cordoba and Avicenna during the Middle Ages. It’s doubtful those were forgeries. If the Medieval church was given over to forgeries, as Ehrman suggests, then all of Aristotle, Plato and the greek philosophers we have received thru the Arabs must also be forgeries.
Doesn’t seem bloody likely. Rather, the Church fathers were careful scholars, and the most educated men of their time. Anyone who has spent any actual time reading the works of St. Basil on the ancients, or St. Clement, or Eusebius’ history of the Church, knows these were good, decent men and scholars of the highest order, trained in the greek rhetoric of late antiquity, and using not koine greek but classic attic greek and rhetorical devices in their letters and speeches. Again, not very likely to have forged anything.
I find Prof. Ehrman’s thesis, conclusions and book to be unpersuasive, and motivated by personal biases of an unconsionable level. Add to that that he has a background as championship HS debater from Kansas (I was a championship NDT debater from Harvard) and well, you have the sense that his work has a certain tendency, to quote to the late Thatcher Longstreth, to “polemicize” rather than be a dispassionate work of academics.
Perhaps the difference between us is that I have faith–faith in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, faith in our church, and faith in the beauty of the Greek words of the Septuagint and New Testament. I am not a religious scholar–i am a molecular biologist actually–but the more I see of the world’s complexities–the more I am convinced of the need for our church and our salvation.
First, he has acknowledged openly that he is an agnostic. This, I think, fundamentally disqualifies him from serious biblical and theological research.
I have to wonder why you are intent on making Catholics look like ignoramuses with this hysterical, uninformed rant. “I am not a religious scholar”–you can say that again.
Do you find it helpful to copy and paste the same polemical rant on two different blog posts at the same time?
Thanks for pointing that out. Not merely unpersuasive but, worse still, a spammer.
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