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Author Topic:   Did Jesus Exist? by Bart Ehrman
Jon
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Message 1 of 68 (658137)
04-02-2012 2:03 PM


Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth by Bart D. Ehrman

In Ehrman's most recent book, released just last month, he presents what he believes are the best arguments for the existence of an historical Jesus. The book is primarily geared toward the refutation of an increasingly popular ahistorical line of argumentation against the existence of Jesus known as 'Jesus Mythicism'. Jesus mythicists argue not only that Jesus did not exist but that the character Jesus was invented based on the traditions of pagan gods that supposedly share characteristics in common with Jesus.

I got this book in the mail about a week ago and have only read through the first half of it or so. I was quite pleased with what I read in the beginning, especially Ehrman's review of Freke & Gandy's The Jesus Mysteries, as I myself had written a review of the book shortly after reading it about a year ago. I have not yet gotten to what I hope are the better parts of the book, where Ehrman knocks down the Mythicist argument and lays out the argument for Jesus' existence based on early Jewish views of Messiah.

At present, I'm reading Ehrman's review on sources about Jesus aside from the Gospels. And for this section, I have to say, I am rather disappointed with the direction Ehrman has taken. I believe he has seriously put far too much weight into the claims of early Christian writers. Regarding Papias, Ehrman says:

quote:
Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? (2012):

Papias explicitly states that he had access to people who knew the apostles fo Jesus or at least the companions of the apostles (the "elders": it is hard to know from his statement if he is calling the companions of the apostles the elders or if the Elders were those who knew the companions. Eusebius thinks it is the first option). When these people would come to his city of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, Papias, as leader of the church, would interview them about what they knew about Jesus and his apostles. Many conservative Christian scholars use this statement to prove that what Papias says is historically accurate (especially about Mark and Matthew), but that is going beyond what the evidence gives us. Still, on one point there can be no doubt. Papias may pass on some legendary traditions about Jesus, be he is quite specificand there is no reason to think he is telling a bald-faced liethat he knows people who knew the apostles (or the apostles' companions). This is not eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus, but it is getting very close to that.
...
This then is testimony that is independent of the Gospels themselves. It is yet one more independent line of testimony among many we have seen so far. And this time it is a testimony that explicitly and credibly traces its own lineage directly back to the disciples of Jesus themselves.  (pp. 100101)


This last statement, "... explicitly and credibly traces ...", really troubles me, because Ehrman provides no evidence or reasoning whatsoever for why anyone should believe Papias' testimonies to be credible in tracing back to apostles of Jesus. Given how common it was for early Christian groups to claim apostolic succession, any claims of information going back to the apostles themselves should be taken with a half ton of salt; Ehrman doesn't do this, however, and instead seems to blindly accept the report that Papias had met folk who had met apostles. Scandalous!

On Ignatius, Ehrman sums up the situation as follows:

quote:
Ehrman (2012):

Ignatius, then, provides us yet with another independent witness to the life of Jesus. (p.103)


Say what? The sections of Ignatius that Ehrman quotes are little more than typical Christian apologetics against the docetists of Ignatius' daythat Jesus was born in 'flesh', that he 'truly' suffered and died, etc. This can hardly bee seen as representing actual witnessing to Jesus' life. Ehrman's only reason for supposing this to be of any value (the only reason he gives, that is) is that Ignatius was bishop in Antioch, "the city where both Peter and Paul spent considerable time in the preceding generation, as Paul himself tells us in Galatians 2".

These are just two examples, but I believe they demonstrate clearly that Ehrman has seriously put far too much trust in his sources without giving any explanation at all as to why anyone should trust them. And I could definitely say more on this, but I should probably read more of the book before commenting too much on it.

I will be back with updates; for now, though, feel free to discuss!

Jon


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Jon
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From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
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(1)
Message 4 of 68 (658163)
04-02-2012 6:31 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by crashfrog
04-02-2012 2:52 PM


The Crucified Messiah
Jon writes:

Ehrman knocks down the Mythicist argument and lays out the argument for Jesus' existence based on early Jewish views of Messiah.

I don't understand how this can be an argument (and I understand I'm arguing about a book I've not yet read, so, take it as you will.) Historical existence has to be substantiated with historical evidence. Whatever views early Jews may have had about Messiahs, that can have no relevance that I can see as to whether there were any messiahs.

You and I have been around this circle before, and we filled many posts with our arguments. So I'm gonna be waiting until I read the relevant portions of the book and then I will respond here with the arguments Ehrman uses. It should be within the next couple of days.

I'm really hoping Ehrman does justice to the arguments. I have found in the past that even when I agree with him, I get frustrated by his regular failure to really drive his points home and build a solid argument from the evidence he presents.

Jon


Love your enemies!

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Jon
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From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
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(1)
Message 6 of 68 (658172)
04-02-2012 11:01 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Theodoric
04-02-2012 3:17 PM


It sounds like Earl Doherty uses evidence much better than Ehrman does in this book.

I think I will email Earl to see if he has read it yet.

Earl Doherty is a regularly-posting member over at FRDB; I am not sure if he's read Ehrman's book yet, but you can find some of his comments in this thread: Abe reviews Ehrman's "Did Jesus Exist?".

He acts at time likes a creationist. he already has the conclusion and he searches for evidence to support his conclusion.

In a sense. None of his evidence is fabricated, though. It's all there, and it all says what he says it says; his conclusions, however, occasionally put more weight on the evidence than it can actually support. This isn't true in every case; for example, when reviewing non-Christian writers who mention Jesus, Ehrman is much more level with his criticisms. On Tacitus he says this:

quote:
Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? (2012):

At the same time, the information is not particularly helpful in establishing that there really lived a man named Jesus. How would Tacitus know what he knew? It is pretty obvious that he had heard of Jesus, but he was writing some eighty-five years after Jesus would have died, and by that time Christians were certainly telling stories of Jesus (the Gospels had been written already, for example), whether the mythicists are wrong or right. It should be clear in any event that Tacitus is basing his comment about Jesus on hearsay rather than, say, detailed historical research. (pp. 5556)


Don't get me wrong, while I think Ehrman has done a rather lousy job demonstrating the validity of some of his 'evidence', I think the mythicist position is far worse in terms of honest scholarship and actual evidence.

It will be interesting to see what else Ehrman has to say...

Jon


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Jon
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From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
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(1)
Message 8 of 68 (658448)
04-05-2012 2:50 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by crashfrog
04-02-2012 9:43 PM


Less than Impressed
I have read through Ehrman's argument for the existence of Jesus based on Jewish expectations of Messiah and have to say that I am quite dissatisfied with what he had to say.

He starts out well, quoting at length texts detailing early Jewish expectations of Messiah. The Mythicist position here is weakit's the same position taken by evangelicals and fundamentalists: that the Jewish sacred texts predict a suffering Messiah. As anyone who's ever read these supposed references to a suffering messiah knows, there's absolutely no merit to the claims that they say anything about a suffering Messiah; the notion that first-century Jews were looking for a suffering Messiah is pure fiction. Ehrman's got it pretty easy... or so you'd think.

Where Ehrman goes wrong, in my opinion, is in his failure to address any but one Mythicist argument. The one he addresses is an argument made by Richard Carrier, who claims (according to Ehrman, I've never read Carrier's work) that Daniel 9:2527 clearly demonstrates an OT prediction of a suffering Messiah. Here's the passage:

quote:
Daniel 9:2527 (NRSV):

Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.'


The passage looks pretty solid. The argument Carrier supposedly makes appears to be a good one. Even after a couple of readings, it's really difficult to see how this doesn't refer to a future 'anointed one' (= messiah) who is to be 'cut off'. It's a good case; it requires a good counterargument. What does Ehrman say about this passage, though? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He just cites the 'consensus' of 'Hebrew Bible scholars'.

quote:
Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? (2012):

And so, in one of the definitive commentaries written on Daniel, by Louis Hartman, a leading scholar of the Hebrew Bible (Carrier does not claim to be one; I don't know offhand if he knows Hebrew and Aramaic [it's a troublesome sign, I admit, that Ehrman knows so little about his opponents], the languages in which the book was written), we read about verse 25:

Although in the preexilic period [the period in Israel before the Babylonian exile of 586 bcefour hundred or more years before Daniel was written] the Hebrew term masiah, the "anointed one," was used almost exclusively of kings, at least in postexilic period [after the people returned to the land years later] the high priest received a solemn anointing with sacred oil on entering his office.... It seems much more likely, therefore, that the "anointed leader" of 9:25 refers to the high priest, Joshua ben Josadak.
 (p. 169)

Ehrman then elaborates on this quote and gives us a little background for Hartman's interpretation. That's it. That's all Ehrman has to say against this rather good argument for Jewish expectations of a suffering Messiah. And Ehrman addresses no other arguments by Mythicists on the matter of Jewish expectations of Messiah. None.

Very disappointing. Very.


Love your enemies!

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Jon
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Posts: 4254
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 19 of 68 (658505)
04-05-2012 2:10 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Theodoric
04-05-2012 12:25 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
The whole Pilate issue is very telling of the quality of Ehrman's ability to deal with hard history. This is a long excerpt from Carrier but I think it important in order to understand the magnitude of the error.

Carrier wrote that 'review' before actually reading the book; and he should have been much more cautious in his attack against Ehrman for apparently 'forgetting (or not knowing?) about Philo (or even Josephus) mentioning Pilate'. Let's turn to the book to see what's really on Ehrman's mind.

Ehrman's discussion of Roman records is precisely that: a discussion of Roman records. Writings by historians are not government records; Ehrman had no reason to include them in his discussion of Roman records for Pilate's existence. After addressing the issue of Roman records, Ehrman addresses the attestations to Pilate in the writings of Josephus and Philo. Here is a more complete quote of Ehrman's work:

quote:
Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? (2012):

In that connection, 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. 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. We know from the Jewish historian Josephus that Pilate ruled for ten years, between 26 and 36 ce. It would be easy to argue that he was the single most important figure for Roman Palestine for the entire length of his rule. And what records from that decade do we have from his reignwhat Roman records of his major accomplishments, his daily itinerary, the decrees he passed, the laws he issued, the prisoners he put on trial, the death warrants he signed, his scandals, his interviews, his judicial proceedings? We have none. Nothing at all.

I might press the issue further. What archaeological evidence do we have about Pilate's rule in Palestine? We have some coins that were issued during his reign (one would not expect coins about Jesus since he didn't issue any), and oneonly onefragmentary inscription discovered in Caesarea Maritima in 1961 that indicates that he was the Roman prefect. Nothing else. And what writings do we have from him? Not a single word. Does that mean he didn't exist? No, he is mentioned in several passages in Josephus and in the writings of the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo and in the Gospels. He certainly existed even though, like Jesus, we have no records [referring to official Roman records, remember] from his day or writings from his hand. And what is striking is that we have far more information about Pontius Pilate than about any other governor of Judea in Roman times. And so it is a modern "myth" to say that we have extensive Roman records from antiquity that surely would have mentioned someone like Jesus had he existed. (pp. 4445)


Ehrman is addressing the Mythicist claim that there should be official records for Jesus (e.g., birth certificate, execution order, etc.) by pointing out that even for someone like Pontius Pilatewho clearly existed as attested in the archaeological and historical recordwe have no such records.

Carrier's review was premature. He should have waited to actually read the book before trying to write a review on the arguments Ehrman uses in it.

Jon


Love your enemies!

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Jon
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Message 20 of 68 (658511)
04-05-2012 2:16 PM


OFF-TOPIC
Phat's post about his family history, and all the replies to it, are completely off-topic in this thread.

Please; keep this to a discussion about Ehrman's book, or at least Jesus in general.

Edited by Jon, : oofta


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Jon
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Posts: 4254
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
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Message 23 of 68 (658537)
04-05-2012 9:38 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by Theodoric
04-05-2012 2:56 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
Bullshit. The blog post was clearly stated as a response to the attack piece Ehrman posted on Huffpost. Lets read Carrier's first two paragraphs.

Yet Carrier doesn't stick to what Ehrman says on Huffington Post; he doesn't accuse Ehrman of forgetting to mention something, but instead accuses him of not knowing something. It's Carrier's mistake to make the assumption that Ehrman only knows what he has written in this one blog. Carrier even admits that his knowledge of Ehrman's position is incomplete; he attacks it unwittingly nonetheless:

quote:
Richard Carrier:

Perhaps these arent mistakes, and just very, very, very badly worded sentences. When I receive his book in a few days Ill be able to check.


He's fully aware that what he's responding to does not represent Ehrman's entire argument, yet chooses to accuse Ehrman of not knowing things simply because he left them out of his blog. Hell, you yourself admit that Ehrman's blog was an outline of the arguments in his book. How can anyone who responds to an outline of an argument instead of the argument itself expect to be taken seriously?

That's like writing a book report from Sparknotes.

This whole argument is specious and logically flawed. First of all the mythicist argument is not based upon lack of birth certificate or execution order. Those are pieces to the puzzle but are not at all a central pillar.

That's nonsense; our very own Crashfrog made a huge deal out of the lack of official records back when the historical Jesus thread was still open. What Ehrman describes may not be a popular Mythicist argument, but it is certainly an argument used by Mythicists and it requires some addressing.

neither you or Ehrman can hand wave that away and say that the lack of evidence is evidence for a historical Jesus.

Good thing Ehrman and I have attempted to do no such thing.

Lying doesn't help your position. Have you even read what carrier wrote? It is not a review of the book. It was a response to the attack in the HuffPost.

Carrier is writing as though the blog represents the entirety of Ehrman's position even though he admits that it does not and admits to having an incomplete knowledge of Ehrman's argument.

That's dishonest.

Question for you: Have you read Ehrman's book?

Jon


Love your enemies!

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Jon
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Posts: 4254
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
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Message 28 of 68 (658544)
04-05-2012 10:23 PM
Reply to: Message 25 by crashfrog
04-05-2012 9:57 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
Carrier is entirely right to point out that Ehrman is being disingenuous - you can't respond to that argument by saying "well, there's no Roman documentation of Pilate, either, by a hair-splitting narrow definition of 'Roman documentation.'" Mythicists aren't asking for documentation of Jesus Christ via an incredibly narrow definition of "Roman documentation." We're asking for the exact sort of evidence that exists for Pilate, which includes a large number of contemporary mentions, an inscription that Pilate himself most likely commissioned, and a myriad of other sources.

But you don't have to use a 'hair-splitting narrow definition'. If you want to make the conversation about any possible source, then that's perfectly fine. But you must then also admit that Ehrman is fully aware of and cites those other sources. Carrier is wrong to claim Ehrman doesn't know about these things; Ehrman clearly does.

Ehrman wants to argue that if we don't count all the evidence we do have, we have as little evidence for Pilate as we do for Jesus.

No. That's not what Ehrman is arguing. Ehrman's statement about official records is meant to address a very specific Mythicist claim. Maybe not all Mythicists make that claim, but Ehrman addresses it anyway. For the sake of being round, Ehrman also mentions all the other historical sources on the life of Pilate.

Instead we get the incredibly logically-perverse argument that since we don't have certain kinds of evidence for Pilate, we shouldn't demand any kind of evidence for Jesus.

Not what Ehrman says. Ehrman says that since we don't have certain kinds of evidence for Pilate, it is silly to expect that same kind of evidence for a man like Jesus. As to the other evidence relating to Jesus and Pilate, that is a different matter, and Ehrman addresses it elsewhere in his book.

All Carrier is doing is refusing to do Ehrman's homework for him.

Carrier admits that the blog he is replying to is not likely to be a full and accurate pic of Ehrman's position. Yet he responds to that blog by claiming that anything Ehrman didn't mention in it is clearly something Ehrman did not know.

Carrier has written a reply to an outline of the arguments Ehrman uses in his book. But you wouldn't know that by reading Carrier's review, which reads as though he is arguing against everything Ehrman has ever said.

And this is really the unfortunate thing of this all: there are far too many people talking about Ehrman's arguments without ever having actually read them.

Jon


Love your enemies!

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Jon
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Posts: 4254
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 29 of 68 (658545)
04-05-2012 10:24 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by Theodoric
04-05-2012 10:04 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
I think it's pretty clear that you are '[f]orgetting (not knowing?)' that Barack Obama is the president of the United States, because you failed to mention as much in your post.

Pooh on you. Why not get your facts straight?


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Jon
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Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 33 of 68 (658559)
04-06-2012 10:34 AM
Reply to: Message 31 by Wounded King
04-06-2012 4:35 AM


Re: Less than Impressed
If Ehrman decided to lobotomise his thesis so much in the article that it was essentially inchoherent without reading the book as well, which seems to be what you are saying, then Carrier is right to characterise it as a bad article.

And I agree with that. The article isn't very good; as I've mentioned before, Ehrman has a problem driving arguments home.

My main point, however, was that Carrier was being dishonest to claim that Ehrman didn't know about Philo of Alexandria simply because he didn't mention him in a short article that Carrier admits did not represent the entirety of Ehrman's position. In addition, I was attempting to show that Carrier's claim that Ehrman didn't know about Philo's mention of Pilate was 100% false, as evidenced by Ehrman's mention of it in his book. Since Theo had sad he would not be reading the book based on that review, I felt it necessary to show how that review does not capture the true nature of the arguments used in the book.

Then perhaps the blame lies with Ehrman for publishing an article as a way of advertising his book which represented his ideas in a very incomplete and unclear manner. If the article doesn't make arguments that stand on their own merits within the article then it is a bad article.

Perhaps. But the article has the same title as his book and deals with the same issue. It's pretty clear to anyone that the article is a summary of the arguments found in the book. And summaries are not expected to stand on their own merits... or even to stand at all. They are meant only to give a rough idea of the material in the larger work so that people can decide whether to read that larger work and then address the arguments made there. This summary is like an abstract for the book; and basing your opinion of what someone knows about a certain issue on a reading of an abstract is a pretty unscholarly thing to do.

If the article doesn't stand up on its own then it is a bad article, which is what Carrier said.

Only if it's meant to stand on its own. If it's just a book advertisement (which is all it is), then we don't need it to stand for nothing.

I think if you actually read Carrier's post then it would be pretty clear that he is only addressing the abridged arguments that Ehrman put forward in his article. He can't know the extent to which they have been abridged without reading the book and the choices in how they have been abridged are all Ehrman's.

Which I have said. Carrier knows full well that the article doesn't represent all of Ehrman's position. Yet he draws conclusions about Ehrman as though it does, for example, declaring Ehrman ignorant of something just because it wasn't mentioned in his admittedly 'abridged' article. Carrier needs to be careful not to draw hasty conclusions about what someone knows after reading only a short article on their position.

The 'wait-and-see' approach would have been his friend.

Is Carrier attacking a strawman version of Ehrman's arguments? Maybe, but is a strawman that Ehrman constructed himself and posted on a high profile site.

But it's not a strawman, because Ehrman never claims it to represent his entire argument. I am not sure how any honest person could see Ehrman's article as anything other than a short advertisement for his book. Anyone who assumed it might represent everything Ehrman knew about the historical Jesus is just plain stupid.

Jon


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Jon
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Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 34 of 68 (658560)
04-06-2012 10:46 AM
Reply to: Message 32 by crashfrog
04-06-2012 7:46 AM


Re: Less than Impressed
The issue of Carrier's blog is getting old, so this will be my last response to it. It's not overly important what Carrier thinks since we all need to judge the book on its own.

Yet he responds to that blog by claiming that anything Ehrman didn't mention in it is clearly something Ehrman did not know.

A falsehood, Jon. Ehrman is not being attacked for what he didn't say, but for what he did say.

Of course he's being attacked for what he didn't say. He's being attacked for not mentioning Philo of Alexandria. Did you read even the quote of Carrier's blog that Theo posted? Carrier's criticism of Ehrman is specifically directed toward the things he didn't mention in his article about his book.

But you must then also admit that Ehrman is fully aware of and cites those other sources.

The amazing thing is - no, he doesn't:

The 'sources' in question that Carrier belittles Ehrman for not mentioning relate to Pontius Pilate; not Jesus.

Ehrman says that since we don't have certain kinds of evidence for Pilate, it is silly to expect that same kind of evidence for a man like Jesus.

Right, and by successive iterations of this argument, you can escape the burden of proof to supply any evidence for the existence of Jesus: We don't have any of evidence-type A for Pilate, thus we cannot expect it for Jesus; we don't have any of evidence-type B for Socrates, thus we cannot expect it for Jesus; we don't have any of evidence-type C for Caesar, thus we cannot expect it for Jesus. Repeat until you've covered all types of evidence, and you've created an argument that you can expect people to accept the historical existence of Jesus on the basis of absolutely no evidence at all.

Ehrman doesn't make this argument at all since he is only concerned with the historicity of figures in first-century Palestine. Please, try to read Ehrman's arguments before caricaturing them so.

Just like a historicist - talking about evidence without actually showing it. Even the esteemed Bart Erhman is not immune to the bizarre evidence lacuna that seems to infect all Jesus historicists.

I can only recommend that you read the book to get a complete pic of Ehrman's argument. It is quite impossible to address every criticism against his position without essentially retyping the entire book and posting it on the forum here. What I can say is that the same textual criticism methods that Mythicists employ when declaring anything that mentions an historical Jesus an 'interpolation' are the methods Ehrman uses to reconstruct various source materials within larger documents. If this is problematic, then the methodologies of both historicists and Mythicists need to be seriously reevaluated.

Jon


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Jon
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Posts: 4254
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 39 of 68 (658581)
04-06-2012 3:17 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by crashfrog
04-06-2012 11:18 AM


Re: Less than Impressed
I'm sorry but in addition to being incomprehensible, this statement bears no relationship to the mythicist position. Mythicsts aren't using "textual criticism methods", they're using evidence methods.

Mythicists most certainly make use of textual criticism methods when concluding, for example, that the passages of 1 Cor. dealing with Jesus' death and resurrection are interpolations and not original to the work of Paul.

Mythists are not asking for specific types of evidence for Jesus - they're asking for all evidence of Jesus.

And in his book, Ehrman addresses all the evidenceone type at a time.

Do not think Ehrman's entire argument rests on the lack of official Roman records for the existence of Pontius Pilate.

The fact that they appear in Ehrman's book is immaterial to the fact that they are specifically omitted in Ehrman's article.

But it's not immaterial to the issue of whether or not Ehrman was aware of them; which is precisely the point Carrier makes against himthat he didn't know of these other sources. It's very clear that Ehrman is aware of them. Carrier needs to base his opinion of what Ehrman knows on more than one article.


Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 35 by crashfrog, posted 04-06-2012 11:18 AM crashfrog has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 40 by crashfrog, posted 04-06-2012 3:33 PM Jon has responded

  
Jon
Member
Posts: 4254
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 41 of 68 (658585)
04-06-2012 5:01 PM
Reply to: Message 38 by Theodoric
04-06-2012 2:52 PM


Re: Read this nonsense?
Here is the key line in his Huffpost article(advertisement according to Jon) that made me deicide it was crap and not worth reading.

quote:
With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life in the sources lying behind the Gospels (and the writings of Paul) -- sources that originated in Jesus' native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves). Historical sources like that are is pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind. Moreover, we have relatively extensive writings from one first-century author, Paul, who acquired his information within a couple of years of Jesus' life and who actually knew, first hand, Jesus' closest disciple Peter and his own brother James. If Jesus did not exist, you would think his brother would know it.

This is all crap.

Ehrman puts way too much weight on the gospels and the 'reconstructed' sources behind them. His arguments aren't always very sound, either. For example, his mention of Paul that you quote above is based on a somewhat circular reconstruction of Paul's activities based on his letters and a traditional date for the death of Jesus.

quote:
Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? (2012):

Since Paul sometimes provides a time frame ("three years later" or "after fifteen years"), it is possible to put together a rough chronology of Paul's life. To give us a rock-solid start, we can say that Paul must have been converted sometime after the death of Jesus around 30 ce and sometime before 40 ce. The latter date is based on the fact that in 2 Corinthians 11:32 Paul indicates that King Aretas of the Nabateans was determined to prosecute Paul for being a Christian. Aretas died around the year 40. So Paul converted sometime in the 30s ce . When scholars crunch all the numbers that Paul mentions, it appears that he must have converted early in the 30s, say, the year 32 or 33, just two or three years after the death of Jesus.  (p. 131)


How has the date of Jesus' death been established? The larger argument being made is for the existence of an historical Jesus. How can we be asserting things about his life as though they were facts when it is precisely his life that is in question?

There is nothing to look at to see if it was in Aramaic or tell when it originated. This is so deceptive it is either incompetence or out and out lying. Ehrman knows his mass market readers do not understand that Q is not a real document but he poses it as such.

There is Q material (the text Matthew and Luke have in common against Mark), and Ehrman makes a couple of interesting arguments for supposing some of the Gospel material to have originally been Aramaic. About a story in Mark, Ehrman says:

quote:
Ehrman (2012):

One of the clearest examples is in Mark 2:2728, where Jesus delivers a withering two-liner to silence his critics. His disciples have been walking through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and since they were hungry they started eating some of the grain. The Pharisees see this (the Pharisees seem to be everywhere in Mark) and protest that the disciples are breaking the Sabbath. For Jesus, though, as Mark portrays him, human needs (in this case hunger) take priority over strict interpretations about the Sabbath. And so he informs his opponents, "Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

That last line doesn't really make sense in the context, for two reasons. For one thing, even if Jesus, who is the Son of Man in Mark's Gospel, is the Lord (master) of the Sabbath, what has that to do with his critics' objection? They are objecting not to what he has done but to what his disciples have done. Even more, the last line doesn't follow at all from the first line. I sometimes tell my students that when they see the word therefore in a passage, they should ask, what is the therefore there for? The therefore in this case doesn't make sense. Just because Sabbath was made for humans and not the other way around, what does that have to do with Jesus being the Lord of the Sabbath?

Both problems are solved once you translate the passage back into Aramaic. As it turns out, Aramaic uses the same word for man and for son of man. It is the word barnash. And so the two-liner originally said, "Sabbath was made for barnash, not barnash for the Sabbath. Therefore barnash is lord of the Sabbath." Now the therefore makes sense. The reason that humans (barnash) are the lords of the Sabbath is because of what he just said: Sabbath was made for humans, not the other way around. Moreover, now the last line makes sense in the context of the story. The disciples (the barnash) are masters of the Sabbath, which was created for their sake.

Originally, then, this story circulated in Aramaic. When it came to be translated into Greek, the translator decided to make it not just about the disciples but also about Jesus. And so he translated barnash in two different ways, twice to refer to "humans" in general ("man") and once to refer to Jesus in particular ("the Son of Man)," [sic] creating a problem in the Greek that was not there in the Aramaic. The story stems from an Aramaic-speaking community of Christians located in Palestine during the early years of the Jesus movement. (pp. 8990)


Even if the writings did mean an actual blood brother, this is not evidence. It is hearsay at best.

I personally don't think the whole James thing is that big of a deal. But if Paul really is referring to an actual sibling relationship, it would certainly seal the argument that Paul believed Jesus to have been an historical figure. Recall that many Mythicists claim that Paul himself didn't even think Jesus had been historical. Yet, if Paul is talking about a Jesus with flesh and blood siblings, it is difficult to conclude that he didn't think of Jesus himself as a flesh and blood historical figure.

Is this evidence for an historical Jesus? Not for certain. But it can be evidence that the earliest Christian writings treat Jesus as an historical figure, making us all wonder where the mythicism is on which Christianity was originally based according to Mythicists. And I don't see that Ehrman ever makes that argument, unfortunately.

But this is the real issue that Mythicists are trying to address when they claim that Paul wasn't talking about an actual sibling, because they know that if he was, their claims that Paul didn't believe in an historical Jesus are all sunk.

Also Doherty examines it in his book.
Jesus: Neither God Nor Man
pp 60-63

Unfortunately I can buy two Ehrman books for the price of a single Doherty book, making Doherty's work rather inaccessible.

Jon


Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 38 by Theodoric, posted 04-06-2012 2:52 PM Theodoric has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 44 by Theodoric, posted 04-06-2012 5:17 PM Jon has responded

  
Jon
Member
Posts: 4254
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 42 of 68 (658586)
04-06-2012 5:05 PM
Reply to: Message 40 by crashfrog
04-06-2012 3:33 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
You really need to familiarize yourself with more of the Mythicist arguments.

Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 40 by crashfrog, posted 04-06-2012 3:33 PM crashfrog has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 43 by crashfrog, posted 04-06-2012 5:14 PM Jon has responded
 Message 45 by Theodoric, posted 04-06-2012 5:21 PM Jon has responded

  
Jon
Member
Posts: 4254
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 46 of 68 (658590)
04-06-2012 7:05 PM
Reply to: Message 43 by crashfrog
04-06-2012 5:14 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
You really need to familiarize yourself with more of the Mythicist arguments.

Jon, there are no mythicist arguments, because mythicists are not required to advance any position. The default conclusion is that Jesus is a figure of mythology unless sufficient evidence can be brought forward by historicists.

The burden of evidence lies all on historicists. I'm not required to make Earl Doherty's arguments; I'm not even required to make any of my own. All that is required to support the mythicist position is the utterly inadequate evidence brought forward to try to substantiate the existence of Jesus.

Sorry if you feel like that's unfair, but then, we're not the ones making the extraordinary claim that Jesus Christ was anything but a legend.

Sorry, Crash. But as in the other thread, you show a complete ignorance of the issues being debated.

Like I said before, please investigate the Mythicist position. I think you will find it is much more than 'Jesus didn't exist'.


Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 43 by crashfrog, posted 04-06-2012 5:14 PM crashfrog has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 53 by crashfrog, posted 04-07-2012 8:08 AM Jon has not yet responded

  
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