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Attacks from the Other Side: An Ill-Tempered Richard Carrier

Sometimes I think that if I’m “getting it from all sides,” I may be doing something right. The religious conservatives seems to be up in arms about my book How Jesus Became God – both conservative evangelical Protestants and conservative Roman Catholics like the Very Reverend Robert Barron. In fact, as I’ve said, I do not think anything in the book is inimical to Christian faith, unless it is completely committed to a view of the infallibility of the Bible and its full, historical accuracy. The Christianity I admire is not like that.

But I get it from the non-religious left as well. Yesterday a member of the blog sent me the following critique – delivered in terms of mocking incredulity – by Richard Carrier, the mythicist (i.e., one who does not believe that Jesus existed) who has shown more vitriol, hatred, and mean-spiritedness toward me than almost any of the fundamentalists who attack me from the other side.

The following is in reference to my point that we do not have any references to Pontius Pilate in any (non-Christian/non-Jewish) pagan sources of the first century – a point I make in order to put into perspective the fact we don’t have any reference to Jesus in any non-Christian/non-Jewish sources of the first century (my point being that if the most important figure – historically, culturally, politically — in all of Palestine during Jesus’ adult years, the Roman governor of Judea, is never mentioned, what are the chances that Jesus would be? This point is made to counter the common but erroneous claim that if Jesus really existed, a lot of sources would have mentioned him. Really? When they don’t mention even someone like Pilate???)

Read Carrier’s critique, and then read the statement beneath it taken straight from my book, Did Jesus Exist.

Richard Carrier is the author of On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt and Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith, among others.
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Response to the Response: How God Became Jesus
More on the Very Reverend Robert Barron



  1. Avatar
    jmorgan  April 21, 2014

    Very bad, but probably nowhere near the worst of your detractors. Richard Carrion doesn’t think you’re going to burn in hell.

    • Avatar
      willow  April 24, 2014


      Richard Carrion doesn’t think you’re going to burn in hell.

      lol. No. But he would if he believed there was a hell to burn in, no doubt.

  2. Avatar
    Jim  April 21, 2014

    I really don’t follow Carrier much (his blogs are long and boring). However a scholarly protocol would have been for him to first contact you and get clarification from you directly before publishing his comments. I’m not sure if he holds an academic position or not, but his strategy may backfire if he is trying to get one.

  3. Avatar
    SHameed01  April 21, 2014

    Thank you very much for addressing this issue. Also was Philo a contemporary of Pontius Pilate? And please do excuse my ignorance, but how do we know that there were other Roman governors of Judea besides Pontius Pilate who were never mentioned?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 22, 2014

      Philo lived (in Alexandria, Egypt) from 20 BCE to 50 CE; Pilate was the governor of Judea from 26-36 CE. We know that there were because … they are never mentioned!

      • Avatar
        SHameed01  April 23, 2014

        Did Philo mention Jesus? If not, then why mention Pilate and not Jesus?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

          No. Because Pilate was important to the Jewish world at the time, and Jesus was not.

    • Avatar
      ottomobile  April 23, 2014

      Perhaps we don’t have names to match up with all the dates???

  4. Avatar
    mary  April 21, 2014

    Robert Barron and Richard Carrier have something in common. They both demean the writer. Then, rather than taking the time to make sure they understand the context, announce their correct and you are obviously wrong.

    There is a lot of that going around, It must be contagious.

  5. Avatar
    Joshua Gordon  April 21, 2014

    Funny how fundamentalist Carrier is in his views isn’t it? That type of thought has little to do with religion, just people that have to be right at any cost…….

  6. cheito
    cheito  April 22, 2014

    I guess Carrier ‘jumped the gun’. Or he just wants to make you look amateurish in the eyes of those who follow him even if he has to lie about it. Will he retract? Only if he’s noble of mind. Your point is a very good one. If Roman records scarcely mentioned Pontius Pilate why would they mention Jesus.

  7. Avatar
    Mikail78  April 22, 2014

    Bart, you have to understand that this is typical behavior of Carrier and the “free thought” blogs cult. Carrier and his comrades from “free thought” blogs ( I put free thought in quotes because they are not free thinking at all) have explicitly said that they seek to banish, shame, and make a pariah of those with views that are contrary to theirs. In fact, some years ago, Carrier and crew attempted to start a movement called “atheism +” which supposedly prided itself on being the truly “progressive” and “open-minded” atheist movement out there. Carrier went so far to say that those whose views do not line up with “atheism+” need to “GTFO”, which, in case you don’t know, stands for get the F_____ out. I’m not exaggerating here. This is really what Carrier said. How “free-thinking” and “progressive” of Mr. Carrier and his “free thought” blogs comrades, eh?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 22, 2014


    • Avatar
      Petter Häggholm  January 26, 2016

      I realise that this is old, but I want to set the record straight by saying that this needs more nuance.

      The Atheism+ initiative was specifically a reaction to a series of unfortunate and unpleasant events that happened on the atheism/freethought conference circuit and related kerfuffles in the blogosphere. Fed up with the insistence that atheism should be about atheism only, and not concerned about petty details like feminism, conference codes of conduct and anti-harrassment policies, et cetera, some people basically said “Sure, fine, atheism per se only means a lack of belief in gods, you win the dictionary battle; we’ll call ourselves Atheism+, by which we mean that we speak up for atheism AND we think that once you turn down the Bible as a source of morality, this has implications on ethics and conduct, and feminism, anti-harrassment policies, and all that jazz will come out of that”. So Atheism+ is basically atheism plus an acknowledgement of secular/humanist awareness of social justice issues…years and years ago before “social justice warrior” became a thing.

      I certainly don’t agree with all the A+ bloggers on everything, but denigrating and demonising them as a bunch of exclusionist fascists is blatantly unfair. They’re a reaction to the problem that a number of people in the atheist community lead to serious problems with sexism and harrassment (for unpleasant details, feel free to research Thunderf00t, The Amazing Atheist, “Elevatorgate”, or the unfortunate “Dear Muslima” letter by Richard Dawkins, who has written such wonderful books but also…that thing).

      And frankly, although I’m hardly a member of the Richard Carrier fanclub, I’m entirely sympathetic with saying: “People who oppose the mention of feminism and who are against anti-harrassment policies at conferences can indeed GTFO”.

  8. TracyCramer
    TracyCramer  April 22, 2014

    I agree Bart. Your time is too valuable to spend it engaging Carrier. Let others do it on your behalf.

    Specifically, I am thinking of the articulate scholar James F. McGrath. (“James McGrath is an Associate Professor in the Religion and Philosophy department and has taught at Butler University since the fall of 2002.”) He regularly takes Mr. Carrier to task for his slippery scholarship and lack of civility in his blog, Exploring our Matrix. One example is here:

    Just type in “Richard Carrier, Bart Ehrman, Exploring our Matrix” in the Search box and you will see a lot!

    His blog, and many others on religion, can be found at:

    And congratulations on hitting the 100 K mark! tracy

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 22, 2014

      Thanks. And thanks!

      • Avatar
        willow  April 23, 2014

        As an aside – $100,000? Wow! Good job, people! Only, me thinks it should be a bit more.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 23, 2014

          I wish it were a *lot* more. Everyone should feel free to donate as they are able and willing!

    • TracyCramer
      TracyCramer  April 23, 2014

      I am just concerned that you will overwork yourself when we need you here on the blog to answer questions that bug us/me like the following.

      The word “glory” has always confounded me. I am on page 272 of your new book, and in the last paragraph you use the word a lot, e.g., “But he has been glory equal to that of God the Father”. So it is an important term.

      This website
      gives these definitions:
      “In the Old Testament, the most common word for glory is the Hebrew kabod, meaning “heavy in weight.” When you glorify someone, you recognize his importance, or the “weight,” of some desirable uniqueness he possesses. Beauty, majesty, and splendor are the main ideas the word seeks to convey. In the New Testament, the Greek word for glory is doxazo, and its usage is meant to convey a sense of brilliance, or radiance.”

      So, “… he has been glory equal to that of God the Father” means…?

      Thank you!

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  April 23, 2014

        I think it means that he has been given all of God’s magnificence and status and is equally worthy of worship.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  April 23, 2014

        The question answered itself but it was an informative question, to me.

    • Avatar
      willow  April 23, 2014

      I want to link to the video for those who won’t read the article:


      Ya just gotta love it!

  9. Avatar
    rlboles  April 22, 2014

    Apparently you are not the only target of Carrier’s attacks. In Maurice Casey’s book “Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths” he quotes some of Carrier’s rants against Christian fundamentalists which are similar in tone to what he says about you and comments “I cannot see any point in unscholarly writing like this.” I once read Carrier’s book “Why I am not a Christian” and thought it was a reasonable defense of atheism. But lately I have lost much respect for him. Would like you to know how much I have learned from your books and blog about the historical Jesus and early Christianity and am not interested in the mythicists’ illusions (as Casey calls them).

  10. Avatar
    shakespeare66  April 22, 2014

    I totally agree with you. Life is too short for vitriolic fools like Carrier. It is no fun dealing with people like that. It is too bad he just rants without reading the book!

    • Avatar
      Steefen  April 23, 2014

      I disagree. I have a brother who used to be as upsetting as Carrier, but I did well to value what he said and read The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, accept his gift of Early Christianities by Bart Ehrman, and listen to him talk about Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman.

      MY MAJOR QUESTION is what is the difference between standards for History and standards for debating.

      I guess Dr. Ehrman has read Gorgias by Plato, a dialogue in which Socrates speaks with an orator. The orator could be as convincing as a legitimate member of a profession but moreso because he would be applying the instruments of oratory.

      That said, the debator/orator must avoid fallacies, must use evidence.

      I’ll put the question to Carrier since he’s written a book about historical evidence.

      Bart, what would you say about fact checking of orators/debaters vs. the historian?

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

        I’m not sure what you’re asking. Debaters should not make up facts any more than historians should. (And yes, the Gorgias is one of my favorite Platonic dialogues, and has been for over thirty years!)

  11. Avatar
    Xeronimo74  April 22, 2014

    Carrier is so full of himself.

  12. Avatar
    toejam  April 22, 2014

    Go get ’em, Bart LOL. I just watched your Skeptical Fence interview. Good stuff. I agree that Carrier’s not worth your time. That said, I would love to see some sort of published correspondance between yourself and Robert Price, be that in the form of a debate, or have him as a guest on your blog, or go on his ‘Bible Geek’ podcast.

    Actually, a better request: Now that you seem to be doing the ‘atheist/skeptic community’ podcasts promo-ing your new book, I’d highly recommend trying to get on “The Thinking Atheist” podcast. That’s the best quality and probably the most popular one (in terms of ‘hits’). He’s had Price and Carrier on the show before. I think it’s important not to let those two be the sole representatives of Christian Origins to the atheist/skeptic community.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 22, 2014

      Thanks for the suggestion. I don’t actually choose where I do interviews; I have requests and accept the ones that seem plausible.

  13. Avatar
    jhm  April 22, 2014

    I’m unclear if mythicists in general or this one in particular, are described here as on the ‘left.’ As an unabashed political lefty, I see just as many, if not more, atheists, or non-religious, who are reactionary trolls, IMHO. Of these, it is my anecdotal impression that those on the right are, if anything, more likely to go whole hog and deny the historical Jesus (as well as buy into many, many other conspiratorial fantasies [q.v. http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/03/20/science-journal-retracts-paper-showing-how-climate-change-sceptics-were-conspiracy-theorists-after-sceptics-shout ])

  14. Avatar
    theundyingfire  April 22, 2014

    Carrier still makes a point though, how much more Roman source can you get than Pilate commissioning the thing himself and it being displayed for all of Israel/Rome to see?

    I say this only half-jokingly, but I have a theory that you might actually be some kind of advanced real-life troll. It seems the trolling plan is write something that somehows ticks off both sides and causes them both to come around to your way of thinking indirectly. You’ve got the mythicist indirectly defending the historocity of Jesus while you have the believers bringing deeper truths to light in a more public arena by refuting your theories, that I again posit, might only be a form of trolling. Genius!

  15. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  April 22, 2014

    Egads! Hang in there! You have more courage than I. You do, indeed, get it from both sides. I guess one thing this might mean is that you write about subjects that are extremely important to people. I always do a double take when a critic claims that you have not studied this subject or have not really read your Bible. How can that be? Ridiculous! Totally ridiculous!

  16. Robertus
    Robertus  April 22, 2014

    Personally, I consider Flavius Josephus to be both Jewish and a Roman source, writing in Rome, supported by Emperor. That is not meant as a nitpick, and I certainly would never endorse Carrier, but I think it is important to understand the extent to which many Jews of the time were fully integrated into the Roman Empire. We can debate Josephus’ earlier allegiance, we can even use Josephus to debate Josephus, but he and many of his priestly relatives were most likely already Roman sympathizers from the beginning.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 22, 2014

      Yes, good point. When I talk about sources for Jesus I usually differentiate them as Roman (and Greek), Jewish, and Christian. The first group includes everyone who was a “pagan.” That’s the only reason I don’t include Josephus in the group, but you’re right, it’s an arbitrary distinction. As are all distinctions!

  17. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  April 22, 2014

    By the way, I don’t read your blogs to either agree or disagree with you. I read your blogs and books and listen to your debates and Teaching Company tapes because it is the best way that I have yet found to learn stuff about a subject that really interests me.

  18. Avatar
    Ronck1  April 22, 2014

    Professor Bart, I’m the member of your blog who suggested some time ago that one day you could comment on the best way to communicate with an extremely conservative person, as I have a friend who thinks the earth is 10K years old and believes every word in scripture is to be taken literally. I have not been able to engage with him. Since you are now being “attacked” by one of those types, maybe now is a good time.

  19. Avatar
    Joel_Lisboa  April 22, 2014

    Carrier seems to be an unpleasant scholar, time should not be wasted in guys like that. On the other hand, I found similar arguments out of context in the “response book,” (especially in Michael F. Bird and Christ Tilling chapters) even when they read your book completely.

    • Avatar
      willow  April 23, 2014

      How many “critics” actually “read” the book, rather than just having skimmed through the pages?

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  April 23, 2014

        Ha! Not a lot….

      • Avatar
        Petter Häggholm  January 26, 2016

        At least he’s not Richard Dawkins. He wrote a book called “The Selfish Gene” and has spent the next 40 years being attacked by critics who give every indication of judging his book entirely by the title. (It’s actually quite a brilliant book; Dawkins has said unfortunate things, especially on Twitter and similarly brief media, but his books are excellent.)

  20. Avatar
    Diane  April 22, 2014

    You’re far better off to ignore Carrier and his ilk, Bart.

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