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Author Topic:   Did Jesus Exist? by Bart Ehrman
Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 3 of 131 (658144)
04-02-2012 3:17 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-02-2012 2:03 PM


First let me say I have read a few of his other books and I find a number of arguments in them are quite compelling.

This book seems like it crystallizes my biggest criticism of Ehrman. He acts at time likes a creationist. he already has the conclusion and he searches for evidence to support his conclusion. He does not weigh all of the evidence and then come to a conclusion. He has made comments in other books about his disdain for mythicists.

His scholarship can be very impressive at times, but it seems like he may have thrown that out the window in order to attack his archenemy; the mythicists.

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.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 11 of 131 (658488)
04-05-2012 12:25 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Modulous
04-05-2012 10:28 AM


Re: Less than Impressed
He has recently written a little (or rather a lot) about Ehrman here and also here.

In which he savages Ehrman's article in the Huffpost that out ined his arguments in his book. Not sure how Ehrman is going to recover from this. I won't read the book after reading the reviews, but it sounds like a classic issue of someone writing outside of their filed of expertise. Ehrman seems to be sadly lacking in training in historical research. He makes what seem to be freshman college mistakes of making assumptions without actually doing the research to confirm at least some evidence for your assumptions.

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.

quote:
Mistake #1: Ehrman says “not even … the most powerful and important figure of his day, Pontius Pilate” is “mentioned in any Roman sources of his day.” False. Philo of Alexandria was a living contemporary of Pilate, and wrote a whole book about him (or rather, against both Sejanus and Pilate, documenting the ways they had persecuted Jews contrary to prior imperial edicts, cf. Schürer and Eusebius, History of the Church 2.5, who had read this book), which we don’t have (it is one of the missing volumes of the Embassy to Gaius), but we do have Philo discussing one event involving Pilate in another book we do have, written in the 40s A.D., probably while Pilate was still alive, in his retirement (Philo, Embassy to Gaius 299-305).

We also have discussions of Pilate in Josephus’ Jewish War, written in 78 A.D., the same distance from Pilate’s life as the earliest Gospels are assumed to be from Jesus. But perhaps Ehrman is being hyper-specific again and only talking about contemporary attestation, although that would be disingenuous, since it is precisely this kind of early secular reference to Pilate that we don’t have for Jesus, and Ehrman is trying to say Pilate is an example of a famous person for whom we don’t have this–but, alas, we do. But even if we assume the disingenuous limiting of relevance to texts composed in “his day” we have Philo. If Ehrman is being hyper-specific as to his use of the word “Roman,” that would be even more disingenuous (as Philo’s cititizenship would hardly matter for this purpose; and at any rate, as a leading scholar and politician in Alexandria and chief embassador to the emperor, Philo was almost certainly a Roman citizen).

Forgetting (or not knowing?) that Philo attests to Pilate’s service in Judea is a serious error for Ehrman and his argument, because the absence of any mention of Jesus or Christianity in Philo is indeed very odd. In fact, the loss of his book about Pilate’s reign is a very curious omission–even though Christians preserved over three dozen other books of his, amounting to nearly 900 pages of multi-columned small type in English translation, Christians chose not to preserve the book on Pilate, and that despite preserving other volumes in the very same treatise. Why? Maybe the loss was just accidental (I suspect it was because no mention of Jesus was in it, but obviously we can debate that). Christians were evangelizing in Alexandria during Philo’s lifetime. If Acts is to be believed, Jewish leaders were very concerned to oppose this and took active effort to persecute Christians. If that is at all true, we can be certain Philo knew of Christians and their claims and stories, and thus knew of Jesus. He was a leading scholar, who wrote on various Jewish sects, and a significant political figure plugged into the elite concerns of Alexandrian Jews, who even chose him to lead their embassy to the emperor of Rome. (He also made regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem: Philo, On Providence 2.64.)

The only explanation for why Philo never mentions Christianity is that it was not as important to Jews as Acts depicts, but was a tiny fringe cult of no significant interest to the Jewish elite. And that is an important conclusion. Mythicists will say he doesn’t mention Jesus because there was no Jesus, but that does not explain why he doesn’t mention Christianity. Certainly, if Jesus was as famous and controversial as the Gospels and Acts depict, then Philo’s lack of interest in either the man or the threatening and grandiose claims made about him becomes improbable, but if we accept that the Gospels and Acts hugely exaggerate his fame and importance, then Philo’s disinterest goes back to being probable again. The consequence of this is that you must accept that Philo’s silence argues against the existence of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels. One must therefore conclude the Gospels substantially fictionalize the story of Jesus. I don’t think Ehrman disagrees with that conclusion, but he loses sight of it in his attempt to mock the importance of this kind of evidence, the silence of external sources.

But that is not the extent of his mistake. Forgetting (or not knowing?) about Philo (or even Josephus) mentioning Pilate is bad enough. Worst of all is the fact that Ehrman’s claim is completely false even on the most disingenuous possible reading of his statement. For we have an inscription, commissioned by Pilate himself, attesting to his existence and service in Judea. That’s as “Roman” an attestation as you can get. And it’s not just contemporary attestation, it’s eyewitness attestation, and not just eyewitness attestation, but its very autograph (not a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, but the original text, no doubt proofed by Pilate’s own eyes). And that literally carved in stone. How could anyone not know of this, who intended to use Pilate as an example? Even the most rudimentary fact-check would have brought this up. And one of the most fundamental requirements of Ehrman’s profession is to check what sources we have on Pilate, before making a claim that we have no early ones. Ehrman thus demonstrates that he didn’t check; which is an amateur mistake. I’ve occasionally made errors like that, but only in matters of considerable complexity. We’re talking about something he could have corrected with just sixty seconds on google.

The lack of comparable inscriptions erected by any Christian churches or any wealthy convert at any time throughout the first century is indeed a curious thing. It can be explained (apocalyptic expectations, poverty, humility, the extremely small size of the movement). But it is still a fact, and it is not disingenuous to at least concede that we don’t have this or any comparable evidence. Explaining why we don’t have any evidence (like we have for Pilate: an inscription; a neutral contemporary text, and a neutral near-contemporary text) does not permit us to ignore the fact that we still don’t have it. And where evidence is missing, the possibilities multiply. Again, this entails things about early Christianity (whatever explanation you have for this lack of evidence, you must then accept as true about early Christianity as a whole, and that means accepting all the consequences of that fact as well).

So this certainly does not prove Jesus didn’t exist. Because we can retreat to the hypothesis that he was not anywhere near as famous as the Gospels portray, and the Christian movement not anywhere near as large as Acts implies. But Ehrman didn’t make that valid argument; he made the invalid argument instead, and premised it on amateur factual mistakes. Emotion seems to have seized his brain. Seeing red, he failed to function like a competent scholar, and instead fired off a screed every bit as crank as the worst of any of his opponents. Foot, mouth.

This is simply not how to argue for historicity. It’s a classic example of boner mistakes made by historicists, which calls into question their competence to speak on this issue. Usually I see this claim made of Socrates or Alexander the Great, for each of whom we have vastly more contemporary attestation than we do for Jesus, despite actual claims to the contrary made by Jesus scholars who incompetently didn’t bother to check. Thankfully Ehrman didn’t make that foolish a mistake. But making the same mistake in using Pilate puts him right in their company.


Source


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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Replies to this message:
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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 21 of 131 (658517)
04-05-2012 2:56 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by Jon
04-05-2012 2:10 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
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

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.

quote:
Yesterday Bart Ehrman posted a brief article at the Huffington Post (Did Jesus Exist?) that essentially trashtalks all mythicists (those who argue Jesus Christ never actually existed but was a mythical person, as opposed to historicists, who argue the contrary), indiscriminately, with a litany of blatant factual errors and logical fallacies. This is either the worst writing he has ever done, or there are far more serious flaws in his book than I imagined (Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth). Amazon just reported that it shipped my copy of his book yesterday as well, so I will be able to review it soon.

I am puzzled especially because this HuffPo article as written makes several glaring errors and rhetorical howlers that I cannot believe any competent scholar would have written. Surely he is more careful and qualified in the book? I really hope so. Because I was expecting it to be the best case for historicism in print. But if it’s going to be like this article, it’s going to be the worst piece of scholarship ever written. So stay tuned for my future review of his book. For now, I will address this brief article, not knowing how his book might yet rescue him from an epic fail.


Ehrman is addressing the Mythicist claim that there should be official records for Jesus (e.g., birth certificate, execution order, etc.)

Strawman much?

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.

The point is there is contemporary evidence for Pilate. neither you or Ehrman can hand wave that away and say that the lack of evidence is evidence for a historical Jesus. The whole thing reminds of the creo/evo debate. The creos think if they can disprove the evo arguments then it makes creationism true. Attacking the Mythicists arguments will not make a historical jesus a reality. Positive evidence will make HJ a reality.

Try reading what carrier wrote instead of assuming what he wrote.

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.

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.

Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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 Message 19 by Jon, posted 04-05-2012 2:10 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 23 by Jon, posted 04-05-2012 9:38 PM Theodoric has responded

  
Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


(1)
Message 27 of 131 (658543)
04-05-2012 10:04 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by Jon
04-05-2012 9:38 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
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.

Evidently comprehension is difficult for you. Carrier explicitly states(and you quote it) that this is not a response to the book.

It doesnt matter if he clarifies arguments in the book. His arguments in the article are what Carrier addresses. Kind of hard to address arguments that have not been presented yet. If you read Carriers posts you will see he addresses the same issues you bring up.

That's dishonest.

No it is not. He never represents it as addressing all of Ehrman's arguments because he had not read the book.
Maybe capitals will help.

CARRIER IS ADDRESSING THE HUFFPOST ARTICLE NOT THE BOOK.

Dishonesty is misrepresenting the arguments of the Carrier, Price and Doherty. There has been plenty of evidence showing that Ehrman completely misrepresents arguments of Earl Doherty.

That's dishonest.

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

Why would after the crap he posted in the Huffpost? If this is the level he has sunk to I will not waste my time.

Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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 Message 23 by Jon, posted 04-05-2012 9:38 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 29 by Jon, posted 04-05-2012 10:24 PM Theodoric has responded

  
Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


(1)
Message 30 of 131 (658546)
04-05-2012 10:42 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by Jon
04-05-2012 10:24 PM


WTF?
Is your next argument going to be nana nana boo boo?

If you don't have a response probably best if you don't say anything.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

This message is a reply to:
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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 36 of 131 (658570)
04-06-2012 11:20 AM
Reply to: Message 33 by Jon
04-06-2012 10:34 AM


Actually read what Carrier wrote
If it's just a book advertisement (which is all it is), then we don't need it to stand for nothing.

Bullshit
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....

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.

Freaking Wow!!! Now you claim Carrier is unscholarly. Maybe you need to read carrier he addresses everything you state here quite clearly.

quote:
McGrath just can’t bring himself to admit that Ehrman so badly miswrote that he stated in a public article that will be read by millions of people a factually false claim. I agree that is not a lie or evidence of ignorance. It’s just terrible, terrible, terrible writing. Which is just as incompetent, just as careless, and just as warranting a correction.

Source

Care to address the whole brother of Jesus issue?


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

This message is a reply to:
 Message 33 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 10:34 AM Jon has acknowledged this reply

  
Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 38 of 131 (658580)
04-06-2012 2:52 PM


Read this nonsense?
Jon seems to want to make a big to do because I haven't read this book.

I was planning on reading it and was looking forward to reading it. I have read Ehrman's other books. I have found some fault with his other books but on the whole thought they were well written well reasoned books geared toward the mas market.

Ehrman seems to be quite good at the textual criticism and makes some remarkable observations. His weakness has been in the past and now been in the hard historical aspects.

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.

quote:
sources that originated in Jesus' native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life

Really? He would be lauded the world over if he could produce them. Oh he is talking about Q? Q is a hypothetical source. There is no evidence it actually existed, or that it was one thing or when it originated. It is a hypothesis. 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.

quote:
and his own brother James. If Jesus did not exist, you would think his brother would know it.

You ready do discuss this howler Jon? Even if the writings did mean an actual blood brother, this is not evidence. It is hearsay at best.
I will let the experts address that issue.
Read Carrier it is a bit complex but I think you can follow.

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

Here is Robert Price addressing the issue.

This is thin gruel to build a book upon.

Edited by Theodoric, : No reason given.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

Replies to this message:
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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 44 of 131 (658588)
04-06-2012 5:17 PM
Reply to: Message 41 by Jon
04-06-2012 5:01 PM


Re: Read this nonsense?
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.

Do you understand what the Q material is? Do you agree with Ehrman's statement?

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

This is an utter falsehood. What are these numerous, independent accounts that date from a year or two of this life?

Come on show them to us. You and Ehrman will be praised the world over when you produce them.

Even if I give you Q, which I won't because it is a HYPOTHETICAL document. what are these other documents?


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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 Message 41 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 5:01 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 48 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 7:10 PM Theodoric has responded

  
Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 45 of 131 (658589)
04-06-2012 5:21 PM
Reply to: Message 42 by Jon
04-06-2012 5:05 PM


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

The crux of the Mythicist argument is that there is no historical evidence. Show us the evidence Jon.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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 Message 42 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 5:05 PM Jon has responded

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 Message 47 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 7:07 PM Theodoric has responded

  
Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 49 of 131 (658600)
04-06-2012 11:13 PM
Reply to: Message 47 by Jon
04-06-2012 7:07 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
Then please explain the mythicists arguments.

The mythicist arguments are responses to the historicist arguments. The mythicist take those arguments and explain why the arguments are flawed.

The mythicists cannot provide evidence showing there was no Jesus. To expect so is silly. They can and do demand evidence for jesus and explain why the "evidence" presented is not actually evidence.

Maybe you should familiarize yourself with the debate.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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 Message 47 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 7:07 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 52 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 11:46 PM Theodoric has responded

  
Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 50 of 131 (658602)
04-06-2012 11:23 PM
Reply to: Message 48 by Jon
04-06-2012 7:10 PM


Re: Read this nonsense?
So your backing off your comments about the Q material?

Do you agree Ehrman is speaking crap when he talks about

quote:
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
?

Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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 Message 48 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 7:10 PM Jon has responded

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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


(1)
Message 59 of 131 (658620)
04-07-2012 9:36 AM
Reply to: Message 52 by Jon
04-06-2012 11:46 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
And that's where all the nonsense gobbledygook comes in about dying-rising god-men and other silly goofiness.

Personal incredulity is no argument. All it shows is a close mindedness. Now if you want to present arguments against mythicist arguments please do. Maybe you will be more convincing then Ehrman.

Isn't it amazing that christianity is devoid of all the influences of myth that most other religions are.

Was Buddha a real person? Was Confucius? Modern scholarship puts there existence into question also. This is not an anti-christian proposition. The mythicist argument is following where the evidence leads. It is not an attack on a particular relgion or worldview.

As far as the matter goes here, I'm going to try to keep this thread more geared toward a discussion of Ehrman's book as it was intended.

That is what we are discussing. As you admit this book is sorely lacking. You seem to have some sort of personal animus toward people that are criticizing arguments you yourself have criticized. That seems a bit weird.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

This message is a reply to:
 Message 52 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 11:46 PM Jon has not yet responded

  
Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 60 of 131 (658621)
04-07-2012 9:37 AM
Reply to: Message 47 by Jon
04-06-2012 7:07 PM


Re: Less than Impressed
The argument from silence is old.

Please show that this was made.

Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

This message is a reply to:
 Message 47 by Jon, posted 04-06-2012 7:07 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 61 by Jon, posted 04-07-2012 11:20 AM Theodoric has responded

  
Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 63 of 131 (658632)
04-07-2012 1:00 PM
Reply to: Message 56 by Thugpreacha
04-07-2012 9:04 AM


Re: Why Do Atheists Invest So Much Emotion?
I never was impressed much with "absence of evidence equals no King Arthur as default position.
I never was impressed much with "absence of evidence equals no Loch Ness Monster as default position.

For an argument supposedly based only on facts or the lack of same, there is quite a bit of emotionalism from either side...and it seems to me that there has to be a reason why the atheist side invests so much emotion into these arguments. Just what feels so good about your (not you personally,Crash) position, exactly?

Of course there is emotion. What other subject do people accept unquestioningly with a total lack of evidence.

As I have challenged Jon, show us the historical evidence. Not the nonsense gobbledygook, as Jon would say.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 6951
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 64 of 131 (658633)
04-07-2012 1:05 PM
Reply to: Message 61 by Jon
04-07-2012 11:20 AM


Re: Less than Impressed
Jon writes:

Jon writes:

The argument from silence is old.

Please show that this was made.

quote:
Theodoric in Message 45:

The crux of the Mythicist argument is that there is no historical evidence.


LOL!

Are you serious. This is the level or your argumentation and understanding?

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but absence of evidence is not evidence of anything.

I se amid the many calls for evidence no one shows any. So I assume you believe the Loch Ness Monster is real as there is no evidence for that either.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts

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