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Fuller Reply to Richard Carrier

      Richard Carrier is one of the new breed of mythicists.  He is trained in ancient history and classics, with a PhD from Columbia University – an impressive credential.  In my book Did Jesus Exist I speak of him as a smart scholar with bona fide credentials.   I do, of course, heartily disagree with him on issues relating to the historical Jesus, but I have tried to take his views seriously and to give him the respect he deserves.
      Carrier, as many of you know, has written a scathing review of Did Jesus Exist on his Freethought Blog.   He indicates that my book is “full of errors,” that it “misinforms more than it informs” that it provides “false information” that it is “worse than bad” and that “it officially sucks.”   The attacks are sustained throughout his lengthy post, and they often become personal.  He indicates that “Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about,” he claims that I speak with “absurd” hyperbole, that my argument “makes [me] look irresponsible,” that I am guilty of “sloppy work,” that I “misrepresent” my opponents and “misinform the public,” that what I write is “crap,” that I am guilty of “arrogantly dogmatic and irresponsible thinking,” that I am “incompetent,” make “hack” mistakes, and do not “act like a real scholar.”
      Most of his review represents an attempt to substantiate these claims.   Some readers may find the overblown rhetoric offensive, but I have no interest in engaging in a battle of wits and rhetorical flourishes.  I would simply like to see if the charges of my incompetence can be sustained.
      Let me say at the outset that I am not perfect, that as a full-blooded human being, I do make mistakes, and that nothing I say is an inerrant revelation from above.  I sometimes try to convince my wife otherwise, but, frankly, I’ve made very little headway there.   When I do make mistakes, I am not afraid to admit it.   I don’t *like* admitting it, but my interest really is in discussing what we can know about history, not in proving that I’m always in the right.
      One of the mistakes I make in the book I should state up front, because Carrier found it particularly offensive.  I indicated in the book that Carrier’s degree was in Classics.  I was wrong about that.  His PhD is in Ancient History.   I am not sure where I got the wrong impression he was a classicist; I think when I first heard of him I was told that he worked in ancient history and classics, and the “classics” part just stuck with me, possibly because I have always revered the field.   In any event, I apologize for the mistake.  His degree is in Ancient History, although he is trained as well in classics.
           Contrary to what Carrier suggests, this mistake was not some kind of plot on my part, in his words: “a deliberate attempt to diminish my qualifications by misrepresentation.”   I frankly don’t know why a classicist is less competent to talk about the ancient world of Rome than an ancient historian is, since most Romanists I know are in fact Classicists; and it seems odd that Carrier wants to insist that he is not “just a classicist.”   My classicist friends would probably not appreciate knowing that they were “just” that.  But in any event, it was an honest to goodness mistake, for which I apologize.
      The bulk of Carrier’s harsh critique involves a set of “Errors of Fact” – including one that I have already dealt with in an earlier post, whether a bronze Priapus that is allegedly in the Vatican (but not actually, as one of the posts on this blog shows) was of Peter.  I stated it was not, and Carrier agrees.  He mistakenly thought I was arguing that no such statue existed, but that was not my intention or concern.  I can see how my wording could be (mis)read that way, however.   The other charges against me and my book are more damning – or at least they certainly seem to be on the surface.
      I will not answer each and every single point Carrier raises (on this, see my closing comments), but will deal with the most serious ones in which he charges me with scholarly incompetence.  I am always happy to answer questions about any of the others, should I be asked.

The Pilate Error
      In my book I take the Roman historian Tacitus to task for claiming that Pontius Pilate was a procurator rather than a prefect.   The question has little to do with my overall point – that Tacitus is one of the first Roman authors to refer to Jesus – but Carrier takes great offense at my assertion and indicates that it shows that I do not know what I’m talking about.  According to Carrier, provincial prefects were often also imperial procurators.  He indicates that “recent literature on the subject confirms this, as would any consultation with an expert in Tacitus or Roman imperial administration.”
      I have to admit that I was surprised to see this objection – as I had never heard of this before, that procurators could be prefects.   I am certainly not an expert on Roman imperial magistrates.  But I do try to get my facts straight and work hard to make sure I do not get things like this wrong.   But it was news to me.   So I decided to look into it.   I have acquaintances and colleagues who are among the world’s leading authorities on Roman history.   I emailed one of them the following: 

My question: The New Testament indicates that Pontius Pilate was a procurator; the inscription discovered in Caesarea Maritima indicate that he was a prefect. Is it possible that he could have been both things at once?

His answer was quick and to the point.  I quote:  ‘Not really’ has to be the answer to your question, because prefect and procurator are simply two possible titles for the same job.  The initial growth of equestrian posts in the emperor’s service was a gradual, haphazard process, and there was little concern to fix titles for them [see, e.g., Talbert’s chap. 9 in CAH ed. 2 vol. X].  PP could just as well have had the title procurator, but evidently he didn’t …   PIR (ed. 2, 1998) P 815 sums it up neatly: “praeses Iudaeae ordinis equestris usque ad Claudii tempora non procurator, sed praefectus fuit….”  [This comes from the Prosopographia Imperii Romani (i.e., The Prosopography of the Roman Empire);  I translate the Latin as follows: “Up until the time of Claudius [i.e., 41-54 CE], the provincial governor of Judea, a man of the equestrian order, was not a procurator but a prefect.”].

     That would seem to settle it.  This email acquaintance of mine is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Roman history, so I trust his judgment.  He asked not to be identified by name, I think because he too does not want to be subject to the kinds of attacks one faces on the Internet no matter what one says and on what grounds or authority.  In any event, I think the quotation from PIR sums it up. 


The Tacitus Question
      While I’m on the Tacitus reference.   At one point in my book I indicate that “I don’t know of any trained classicists or scholars of ancient Rome who think” that the reference to Jesus in Tacitus is a forgery (p. 55).   Carrier says this is “crap,” “sloppy work,” and “irresponsible,” and indicates that if I had simply checked into the matter, I would see that I’m completely wrong.   As evidence he cites Herbert W. Benario, “Recent Work on Tacitus (1964-68) The Classical World 63.8 (April 1970) pp. 253-66, where several scholars allegedly indicate that the passage is forged.
      In my defense, I need to stress that my comment had to do with what scholars today are saying about the Tacitus quotation.   What I say in the book is that I don’t know of any scholars who think that it is an interpolation, and I don’t.   I don’t know if Carrier knows of any or not; the ones he is referring to were writing fifty years ago, and so far as I know, they have no followers among trained experts today.  In that connection it is surprising that Carrier does not mention Benario’s more recent discussions, published as “Recent Work on Tacitus: 1969-1973,” “Recent Work on Tacitus: 1974-1983,” “Recent Work on Tacitus: 1984-1993,” “Recent Work on Tacitus: 1994-2003.”   Or rather it is not surprising, since the issue appears to have died on the vine (one exception: a brief article in 1974 by L. Rougé).   I might also mention that there is indeed a history of the question that goes before the mid-20th century.  I first became aware of it from one of the early mythicists, Arthur Drews, whose work, The Christ Myth (1909) raises the possibility.  But Drews did not invent the idea; it goes  back at least to the end of the 19th century in the work of P. Hochard in 1890, De l’authenticité des Annales et des Histoires de Tacite.   I’m not sure if Carrier is familiar with this scholarship or not.  But my point is that I was not trying to make a statement about the history of Tacitus scholarship; I was stating what scholars today think.
      But Carrier’s objection to my view did take me a bit off guard and make me wonder whether I was missing something, whether there were in fact scholars of Tacitus who continue to think the reference to Jesus was an interpolation in his writings.   I am a scholar of the New Testament and early Christianity, not of Tacitus!  And so I asked one of the prominent scholars of the Roman world, James Rives, who happens now to teach at UNC.  Anyone who wonders about his credentials can look them up on the web; he’s one of the best known experts on Roman religion (and other things Roman) internationally.    He has given me permission to cite him by name, as he is willing to stand by what he says. 
      My initial email question to him was this:   

I’m wondering if there is any dispute, today, over the passage in Annals 15 where he mentions Jesus (whether there is any dispute over its authenticity).

His initial reply was this:
I’ve never come across any dispute about the authenticity of Ann. 15.44; as far as I’m aware, it’s always been accepted as genuine, although of course there are plenty of disputes over Tacitus’ precise meaning, the source of his information, and the nature of the historical events that lie behind it.  There are some minor textual issues (the spelling ‘Chrestianos’ vs. ‘Christianos’, e.g.), but there’s not much to be done with them since we here, as everywhere in Tacitus’ major works, effectively depend on a single manuscript.

I then asked him about the article Carrier mentioned with respect to Benario, and this was his reply:
Benario’s article cited below is one of a series he did over a period of decades, in which he summarizes other people’s work on Tacitus; they’re an extremely useful bibliographical resource (although there’s no reason that a non-specialist would be aware of them!).  I’ve just checked this particular article, and can only assume that the particular work to which your adversary makes reference is mentioned on p. 264: Charles Saumagne, ‘Tacite et saint Paul’, Revue Historique 232 (1964) 67-110, who according to Benario ‘claims that the Christians are not mentioned in 15.44, that there is an ancient interpolation, taken from book 6 of the Histories, which were written after the Annals, and that Sulpicius Severus was responsible for the transposition’.  So I’m wrong that no classicist has argued that the passage is not authentic.  Saumagne may not be alone: Benario cites another article on the same page whose author ‘recalls that Christians are not linked with the fire before the time of Sulpicius Severus’.  Nevertheless, I would still point out that 1) Saumagne does argue that this is an interpolation, but only from another of Tacitus’ works; 2) the whole thing sounds like a house of cards to me, since Histories Book 6 doesn’t exist and so can’t provide a firm foundation for an argument; 3) this is clearly a minority opinion, since I’ve never encountered it before.

He then pursued the matter further (he’s a *great* colleague!), and wrote me this:

I’ve had a quick look at the two articles in question.  Saumagne does think that the text has been interpolated, but also that the reference to Christ being killed under Pontius Pilate comes from a lost portion of Tacitus’ Histories.  His argument seems very shaky to me, but in either case it doesn’t affect your own, since Saumagne thinks that Tacitus knew about and referred to Jesus, which is the main thing for you.  The other article, by Koestermann (an editor of Tacitus), argues that Tacitus made a mistake in associating the Chrestiani with Christ, but doesn’t say anything about the reference to Christ not having been written by Tacitus himself.  There may be scholars who’ve argued that the reference to Christ is a later interpolation into the text, but neither of these two did, and I certainly don’t know of any others.

I think that’s enough to settle it.  I really don’t think what I said was “irresponsible,” “sloppy,” or “crap.”

The Dying and Rising God:
      In my book I argue that there is very thin evidence indeed for anything like a widespread pagan belief in a dying-rising god, on which Jesus was modeled.  In the context of showing the shortcomings of Freke and Gandy’s book The Jesus Mysteries, I make a passing comment on the Egyptian god Osiris, first by asking a series of questions: “What, for example, is the proof that Osiris was born on December 25 before three shepherds?  Or that he was crucified? And that his death brought atonement for sin?  Or that he returned to life on earth by being raised from the dead?  In fact no ancient source says any such thing about Osiris”
      Carrier does not seem to disagree with most of this statement, but he takes very serious issue indeed with the claim that Osiris was not raised from the dead to return to life on earth.  He indicates that I received this information entirely from an article by Jonathan Z. Smith, and that if I had been “real scholar” I would have looked up the ancient sources themselves.   As it is I made a “hack mistake” showing that I was “incompetent.”  His counter claim is that “Plutarch attests that Osiris was believed to have died and been returned to earth… and that the did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body.”  He gives as his reference Plutarch “On Isis and Osiris,” 19.358b.
      Carrier is wrong on all points.   I did not get this information just from J. Z. Smith (who, by the way, is one of the most eminent and distinguished historians of religion walking the face of the planet, and certainly no hack) and his charge that I have not behaved as a “real scholar” is completely unfounded.  I have read Plutarch’s account of Osiris many times.  For years I used this text in the graduate seminars I taught on Graeco-Roman religion.  In my reading of the myth of Osiris, he does not rise from the dead back to life here on earth.
      One of our principal sources of knowledge of the myth of the gods Isis and Osiris, brother and sister but lovers, is the famous second century pagan philosopher and priest Plutarch.   The myth as Plutarch recounts it is not long; most of his treatise De Iside et Osiride consists of a range of ways people had interpreted the myth, in particularly the various allegorical interpretations.   A convenient translation of the treatise can be found here: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Moralia/Isis_and_Osiris*/
      I do not need to relate all the details of the myth in this context.  Suffice it to say that Osiris is killed by an enemy and hidden away in a chest/coffin that was lost.  Isis finally finds it and mourns the loss of her dead lover.   But (another) enemy finds the body and does something unspeakable.  Here is the passage from Plutarch, in the Babbitt translation of the Loeb Classical Library:

18 As they relate, Isis proceeded to her son Horus, who was being reared in Buto, and bestowed the chest in a place well out of the way; but Typhon, who was hunting by night in the light of the moon, happened upon it. Recognizing the body [of Osiris] he divided it into fourteen parts and scattered them, each in a different place. Isis learned of this and sought for them again, sailing through the swamps in a boat of papyrus. This is the reason why people sailing in such boats are not harmed by the crocodiles, since these creatures in their own way show either their fear or their reverence for the goddess.  The traditional result of Osiris’s dismemberment is that there are many so called tombs of Osiris in Egypt; for Isis held a funeral for each part when she had found it. Others deny this and assert that she caused effigies of him to be made and these she distributed among the several cities, pretending that she was giving them his body, in order that he might receive divine honours in a greater number of cities, and also that, if Typhon should succeed in overpowering Horus, he might despair of ever finding the true tomb when so many were pointed out to him, all of them called the tomb of Osiris. Of the parts of Osiris’s body the only one which Isis did not find was the male member, for the reason that this had been at once tossed into the river, and the lepidotus, the sea-bream, and the pike had fed upon it; and it is from these very fishes the Egyptians are most scrupulous in abstaining. But Isis made a replica of the member to take its place, and consecrated the phallus, in honour of which the Egyptians even at the present day celebrate a festival.  19 Later, as they relate, Osiris came to Horus from the other world and exercised and trained him for the battle.

     In this telling of the myth – the one the Carrier refers to – Osiris’s body does not come back to life.  Quite the contrary, it remains a corpse.  There are debates, in fact, over where it is buried, and different locales want to claim the honor of housing it.   It is true that Osiris “comes back” to earth to work with his son Horus:  ἔπειτα τῷ Ὥρῳ τὸν Ὄσιριν ἐξ Ἅιδου παραγενόμενον.   Literally, he came “from Hades.”  But this is not a resurrection of his body.  His body is still dead.  He himself is down in Hades, and can come back up to make an appearance on earth on occasion.  This is not like Jesus coming back from the dead, in his body; it is like Samuel in the story of the Witch of Endor, where King Saul brings his shade back to the world of the living temporarily (1 Samuel 28).   How do we know Osiris is not raised physically?  His body is still a corpse, in a tomb. 
     Evidence to that comes from various places in the treatise.  For example, section 20, 359 E

not the least important suggestion is the opinion held regarding the shrines of Osiris, whose body is said to have been laid in many different places. For they say that Diochites is the name given to a small town, on the ground that it alone contains the true tomb; and that the prosperous and influential men among the Egyptians are mostly buried in Abydos, since it is the object of their ambition to be buried in the same ground with the body of Osiris. In Memphis, however, they say, the Apis is kept, being the image of the soul of Osiris, whose body also lies there. The name of this city some interpret as “the haven of the good” and others as meaning properly the “tomb of Osiris.”

      It is his soul that lives on, in the underworld.  Not his body in this world.  Carrier wants to argue that the body comes back to life, and points to a passage that speaks of its “revivification and regenesis.”  But that is taking the Plutarch’s words out of context.  Here is the relevant passage:

35 364F-365A Furthermore, the tales regarding the Titans and the rites celebrated by night agree with the accounts of the dismemberment of Osiris and his revivification and regenesis ὁμολογεῖ δὲ καὶ τὰ Τιτανικὰ καὶ Νυκτέλια 5 τοῖς λεγομένοις  Ὀσίριδος διασπασμοῖς καὶ ταῖς ἀναβιώσεσι καὶ παλιγγενεσίαις.  Similar agreement is found too in the tales about their sepulchres. The Egyptians, as has already been stated, point out tombs of Osiris in many places, and the people of Delphi believe that the remains of Dionysus rest with them close beside the oracle;

Note: whatever his revivification involves, it is not a return to his physical body, which remains in a tomb someplace.   It is his soul that lives on, as seen, finally in a key passage later:

54  373A It is not, therefore, out of keeping that they have a legend that the soul of Osiris is everlasting and imperishable, but that his body Typhon oftentimes dismembers and causes to disappear, and that Isis wanders hither and yon in her search for it, and fits it together again; for that which really is and is perceptible and good is superior to destruction and change.

     Carrier and I could no doubt argue day and night about how to interpret Plutarch.   But my views do not rest on having read a single article by Jonathan Z. Smith and a refusal to read the primary sources.  As I read them, there is no resurrection of the body of Osiris.  And that is the standard view among experts in the field.
The Other Jesus Conundrum
      In my discussion of G.A. Wells’s work I have occasion to consider his claim that Paul did not think Jesus was a person who lived just a few years before his conversion, but 150 year or so earlier.  In that context I indicate that Paul thought that “the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were recent events.”   I go on to “stress that this is the view of all of our sources that deal with the matter at all” (p. 251).
      Carrier jumps on this last statement, stating that it “is false” and that by making it I “arrogantly and ignorantly” mislead my readers.  As evidence he points out that in the writings of Epiphanius there is reference to a group of Christians who held that Jesus lived in the days of the Jewish king Jannaeus (103-76 BCE), and that this was the view as well in the Jewish writings of the Talmud and the Toledot Yeshu.
      In this case Carrier has attacked one of my statements by taking it completely out of its context – as would be clear had he simply quoted my next sentence.  After speaking of Paul and the other sources, I say “it is hard to believe that Paul would have such a radically different view from every other Christian of his day, as Wells suggests.  That Jesus lived recently is affirmed not only in all four of our canonical Gospels…. It is also the view of all of the Gospel Sources – Q…M, L – and of the non-Christian sources such as Josephus and Tacitus.”
     When I refer to “all of our other sources” in the sentence that Carrier attacks, I was referring to the sources I then enumerate, those of “every other Christian of [Paul’s] day.”  Iin other words, As a careful reading of this entire section of my book makes crystal clear, in this context I am talking about our earliest sources of information about Jesus: Paul, Q, the Synoptics and their sources, and the non-Christian sources.   I am not referring to every source that ever existed at any time whatsoever.   Epiphanius, whom Carrier cites as an alternative source, was writing at the end of the fourth Christian century; the Talmud and the Toledot Yeshu were later than that.    
     Maybe I could have made this a bit more clear by saying that the view I was referring to could be found in “all our sources from Paul’s time and in the decades that followed, not sources written 300 years later that have no bearing on Paul’s thinking.”  But frankly, I didn’t think it was necessary since I went on to enumerate the sources that I was referring to.  What I meant, of course, was that all of the relevant sources have this view.  

“No Roman Records” 
      In the course of my discussion of Freke and Gandy’s The Jesus Mysteries, I fault them for thinking that since the Romans kept such detailed records of everything (“birth notices, trial records, death certificates”), it is odd indeed that we have no such records from Roman hands about Jesus.  My response is that it is a complete myth (in the mythicist sense) that Romans kept detailed records of everything.   Carrier vehemently objects that this is altogether false, indicating that in fact we have thousands of such records, and that he has “literally held some for these documents in my very hands.”  And he points out that some of them are quoted and cited in ancient books, as when Suetonius refers to the birth records for Caligula.
      What Carrier is referring to is principally the documentary papyri discovered in Egypt, which I am in fact very familiar with and some of which I too have held in my hands.   Over the years I have frequently referred my PhD students to these important records, and have often perused accounts of them, such as the many volumes of the Oxyrynchus Papyri, in the course of my research.   We do indeed have many thousands of such documents – wills, land deeds, birth records, divorce certificates, and on and on — from Egypt.
      Several points need to be made about these documentary papyri.  First, they are, in fact, largely from Egypt – in no small measure because climactic conditions allow for their preservation there.  Second, most of these are not in fact records of Roman officials, but made by indigenous Egyptian writers / scribes.  And third, this is not what I was talking about.
      In this case the misunderstanding is understandable, but easily explained, and shown by considering my comments in their larger context.   My book is about Jesus, a Palestinian Jew of the first century.   Throughout this entire book, I was thinking about Jesus, in everything I said.  And his environment and context.  That is why, as I pointed out in an earlier post, when I was disputing that an bronze ithyphallic rooster represented the disciple Peter, I could say “There is no penis-nosed statue of Peter the cock in the Vatican.”   I wasn’t even thinking about whether there was a penis-nosed statue in the museum; I was thinking about whether it had anything to do with Peter.  No, it doesn’t.  (And it turns out, it is evidently not even in the museum; but I have no first-hand knowledge of that one way or the other.)
      When I denied that we had Roman records of much of anything, or any indication that there ever were Roman records of anything, I was thinking of Palestine.   That becomes clear in my other later reference to the matter where I explain in detail what I was thinking, and that Carrier, understandably, chose not to quote in full:  “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 [Note: I’m talking about 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…” (p. 44)
      I go on to detail what we have no record of about Pilate from Roman records: “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 interview, his judicial proceedings.”   In talking about Roman records, I am talking about the Roman records we are interested in: the ones related to the time and place where Jesus lived, first-century Palestine.  It’s a myth that we have or that we could expect to have detailed records from Roman officials about everything that was happening there, so that if Jesus really lived, we would have some indication of it.  Quite the contrary, we precisely don’t have Roman records – of much of anything – from there.
      We do indeed have lots of records from someplace else that doesn’t matter for the question I’m interested in (Egypt; even though even there most of the records are not Roman or from Roman officials).  I can see how my first statement on the matter could be construed (without my fuller explanation of what I meant some pages later) and how it could be read as flat-out error.  But yes, I do indeed know about our documentary papyri.   A better way for me to have said it is that we do have records for other places – at least Egypt – but it’s a complete myth that we have them, or should expect to have them, for the time and place Jesus lived.

The Doherty “Slander”
      Carrier finds fault with my claim, about Earl Doherty, that he “quotes professional scholars at length when their view prove useful for developing aspects of his argument, but he fails to point out that not a single one of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis” (p. 252).  He points out that Doherty does in fact indicate, in various places throughout his book, that the argument he is advancing at that point is not accepted by other scholars.  As a result, Carrier states, my claim is nothing but “falsified propaganda.”
      I am afraid that in this case Carrier misses my point.  It is true that Doherty acknowledges that scholars disagree with him on this, that, or the other thing.  But the way he builds his arguments typically makes it appear that he is writing as a scholar among scholars, and that all of these scholars (with him in the mix) have disagreements on various issues (disagreements with him, with one another).  One is left with the impression that like these other scholars, Doherty is building a tenable case that some points of which would be granted by some scholars but not others, and that the entire overall thesis, therefore, would also be acceptable to at least some of the scholars he engages with. 
     The reality, however, is that every single scholar of early Christianity that Doherty appeals to fundamentally disagrees with his major thesis (Jesus did not exist).  This is completely unlike other works of true scholarship, where scholars are cited as having disagreements on various points – but not, universally, as an entire body, on the entire premise and virtually all the claims (foundation and superstructure).  I was urging that Doherty should come clean and inform his readers in clear terms that even though he quotes scholars on one issue or another, not a single one of these scholars (or indeed, any recognized scholar in the field of scholarship that he is addressing) agrees with the radical thesis of his book.
      This criticism of Doherty applies not just to his overall argument but to his argument in the details, at the micro level.   The way Doherty uses scholars is just not scholarly, since he often gives the impression that the scholars he quotes agree with him on a point when they expressly do not.  Just to give a typical example:  at one place in my book I discuss Doherty’s claim that Jesus was not crucified here on earth by Romans, but in the spiritual realm by demonic powers (p. 252).  In his book Jesus: Neither God Nor Man Doherty quotes New Testament scholar Morna Hooker in support of his view. In the sentence before he introduces her, he says: “this self-sacrificing divinity (who operates in the celestial spheres, not on earth) is a paradigm for believers on earth” (p. 104).   In other words, Christ was sacrificed in heaven, not on earth.  Then he quotes Hooker: “Christ becomes what we are (likeness of human flesh, suffering and death), so enabling us to become what he is (exalted to the heights).”  Here he cites Hooker to support his claim that Christ was paradigmatic for his followers (a fairly uncontroversial claim), but he does not acknowledge that when she says Christ became “what we are (likeness of human flesh)” she is referring to Christ becoming a human being in flesh on earth – precisely the view he rejects.   Hooker’s argument, then, which he quotes in favor of his view, flat-out contradicts his view.
     In short, I am not denying that Doherty sometimes acknowledges that scholars disagree with him; I am saying that he quotes them as though they support his views without acknowledging that in fact they do not.  

The Pliny Confusion
      Carrier indicates that he almost fell out of his chair when he read my discussion of the letters of Pliny.  Sorry about that!   He points out that when I talk about letter 10, I really meant Book 10; and when I summarize the letter involving Christians, I provide information that is not found in the letter but is assumed by scholars to apply to the letter based on another letter in Book 10.
      To the first charge I plead guilty.  Yes, when I said letter 10 I meant a letter in book 10.  This is what you might call a real howler, a cock-up (not in the Peter sense).   I meant Book 10.  This is the kind of mistake I’m prone to make (I’ve made it before and will probably make it again), that I should have caught.   A more generous reader would have simply said “Ehrman, you say letter 10 but you mean a letter in book 10,” and left it at that.  Carrier takes it to mean that I’m an idiot and that I’ve never read the letters of Pliny.
      I may have moments of idiocy, but I have indeed read the letters of Pliny, especially those of Book 10.  I’ve taught them for years.  When he accuses me of not knowing the difference between a fact and a hypothetical reconstruction, though, he is going too far.  I do indeed know that the context scholars have reconstructed for the “Christian problem” is the broader problem outlined elsewhere in Pliny’s correspondence with Trajan.   The problem here is simply that I was trying to summarize briefly a complicated account in simple terms for readers who frankly, in my opinion (right or wrong) are not interested in the details about Pliny, Trajan, provincial disorder, and fire brigaids when the question is whether Pliny knows about Jesus or not.
      This relates to a bigger problem.   Carrier seems to expect Did Jesus Exist to be a work of scholarship written for scholars in the academy and with extensive engagement with scholarship, rather than what it is, a popular book written for a broad audience.  There is a big difference.  I write both kinds of books.  My scholarly books would never be mistaken for books that would be read by a wide, general public.  But Carrier indicates that the inadequacy of Did Jesus Exist can be seen by comparing it to two of his own recent books, which, he tells us, pay more attention to detail, embrace a more diverse range of scholarship, and have many more footnotes.
      I did not write this book for scholars.  I wrote if for lay people who are interested in a broad, interesting, and very important question.  Did Jesus really exist?  I was not arguing the case for scholars, because scholars already know the answer to that question.  I was explaining to the non-scholar why scholars think what they do.  A non-scholarly book tries to explain things in simple terms, and to do so without the clutter of detail that you would find in a work of scholarship.   The book should not be faulted for that.  If I had wanted to convince scholars (I’m not sure whom I would then be writing for, in that case) I would have written a different kind of book

      I have not dealt with all the myriad of things that Carrier has to say – most of them unpleasant – about my book. But I have tried to say enough, at least, to counter his charges that I am an incompetent pseudo-scholar.   I try to approach my work with honesty and scholarly integrity, and would like to be accorded treatment earned by someone who has devoted his entire life to advancing scholarship and to making scholarship more widely available to the reading public.
      I am absolutely positive that Carrier and his supporters will write response after response to my comments here, digging deeper and deeper to show that I am incompetent.  They will expect replies, so that then they can write yet more comments, to which they will expect more replies, so that they can write more comments.  I am finding, now that I am becoming active on the Internet, that engaging in discussion here can mean entering into a black hole: there is no way out once you hit the event horizon.   Many critics of my work have boundless energy and, seemingly, endless time.   I myself have lots of energy, but not lots of time.  I have had my say now, in an attempt to show my scholarly competence.  I do not plan on pursuing the matter time and time again in this medium.  My main energies – and my limited time – need to be devoted to the two ultimate goals of my career: to advance scholarship among scholars and to explain scholarship to popular audiences.  That requires me to write books, and that takes massive amounts of time.   That is where I will be putting the bulk of my energies, not to writing lengthy responses defending myself against unfounded charges of incompetence.
      I close by quoting a passage that Carrier himself wrote in one of his earlier books, as provided to me by a sympathetic reader.  In the Introduction of his book Sense and Goodness Without God (pp. 5-6), Carrier makes the following plea:

“For all readers, I ask that my work be approached with the same intellectual charity you would expect from anyone else…. [O]rdinary language is necessarily ambiguous and open to many different interpretations.  If what I say anywhere in this book appears to contradict, directly or indirectly, something else I say here, the principle of interpretive charity should be applied: assume you are misreading the meaning of what I said in each or either case.  Whatever interpretation would eliminate the contradiction and produce agreement is probably correct.  So you are encouraged in every problem that may trouble you to find that interpretation.  If all attempts at this fail, and you cannot but see a contradiction remaining, you should write to me about this at once, for the manner of my expression may need expansion or correction in a future edition to remove the difficulty, or I might really have goofed up and need to correct a mistake.”

     I like very much the idea of “intellectual charity,” and I think that it is a good idea to contact an author about problems that might be detected in her or his writing.  I wish Carrier had followed his own advice and contacted me, in fact, rather than publish such a negative and uncharitable review.  But I do hope, at least, that fair minded readers will see be open to the arguments that I make and the evidence that I adduce in Did Jesus Exist, and realize that they are the views, in popular form, of serious scholarship.  They are not only serious scholarly views, they are the views held by virtually every serious scholar in the field of early Christian studies.

The Text of the New Testament: Are the Textual Traditions of Other Ancient Works Relevant?
Response to Carrier



  1. JPatton  April 25, 2012

    Integrity defended…..

  2. JiveKata  April 25, 2012

    Well, that settles that, then. Judging by Carrier’s tone in his criticism of you and your newest book we can probably expect an appropriately contrite response and perhaps a few mea culpas. Or he’ll read this blog, find some more stuff that makes him fall out of his chair (an inner ear issue? he should get that checked out), and, since he doesn’t appear to have much else going on, compose another shrill diatribe.

  3. jimmo  April 25, 2012

    Bingo!!! Very well done, Bart! That’s just what was needed. Personal insults and questioning your integrity aside, I was completely appalled at seeing him make claims about the book which are demonstrable untrue, while at the same time calling your scholarship sloppy. Especially considering he quoted you, but left out the previous sentence which makes your point clear, I think the tone and the content of the review was completely unprofessional. Despite the errors, I think you have been vindicated.

  4. vinnyjh57  April 25, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Let me suggest an analogy:

    I think I know from your popular works that Papias refers to writings composed by Matthew and Mark, but that he does not quote from them, does not make it clear that he has seen them, and does not describe them in a way that allows us to identify them as canonical Matthew and canonical Mark.

    Thus it might be accurate to say that no one before Irenaeus in 180 AD identifies the authors of the canonical gospels as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Nevertheless, it is very helpful to me to know about Papias because every conservative Christian apologist is going to cite him as proof of the traditional authorship of the gospels and I’m not going to be able to evaluate their arguments without knowing about Papias.

    I don’t think that Did Jesus Exist? is as helpful:

    If I am trying to evaluate an article by a mythicist, it would be helpful for me to know that Acharya is misinterpreting a statue that exists rather than inventing one from whole cloth. It would be helpful for me to know that there are sources that place Jesus several decades earlier, but that there is no evidence of that belief in Paul’s time. It would be helpful for me to know that there were extensive records kept in some parts of the Roman Empire, but not in Palestine. These are the kind of nuances that I think I usually find in your books.

    Even though I have never read any of your scholarly works, I believe that the precision with which you make your case in your popular works has equipped me well to think about and discuss the issues these books address. This has been confirmed by many discussions in the blogosphere. I think, however, that you have been less precise in Did Jesus Exist? and that its readers will not be so well equipped to think about and discuss mythicism.

    I think that your response has successfully defused much of the concern I felt after reading Carrier’s review, but not quite all of it. Thank you for efforts and for making this information available to me without additional charge.

    • jimmo  April 26, 2012

      Hey Vinny!

      In reference to your comment:
      “Nevertheless, it is very helpful to me to know about Papias because every conservative Christian apologist is going to cite him as proof of the traditional authorship of the gospels and I’m not going to be able to evaluate their arguments without knowing about Papias.”

      I just found a few places with writings from Papias (e.g. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/papias.html). From what I see the references are vague and I don’t see any connect between what Papias wrote or what anyone quoted as being real evidence for a claim by apologists that what Papias mentions are the same gospels we have today. (not that this is what you are saying) Could you tell me some specific writings to look at? Thanks!

      • vinnyjh57  April 26, 2012


        I am not quite sure what kind of writings you are looking for.

        • jimmo  April 27, 2012

          Specifically where “Papias refers to writings composed by Matthew and Mark”.

          • vinnyjh57  April 27, 2012

            Click the first link under “Online Text for Fragments of Papias” on the page you linked. It’s at the end of paragraph VI. I thought maybe you were asking for examples of apologists who cite Papias.

    • Christian Lindtner  April 26, 2012

      Who was Papias?
      Much has been written about Papias, said to have been bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, see e.g. Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament, Oxford 1987/1997, pp. 51-56.
      Papias, who is said to have learned from the daughters of Philip (ibid., p. 53), can safely be traced back to the early and famous Buddhist legend of Papîyas and his three daughters.
      It is a great pity that NT scholars have ignored this important Buddhist source. See now, for more, professor Michael Lockwood´s learned book, “Buddhism´s Relation to Christianity”, Chennai 2011.
      Dr. Chr. Lindtner

    • kwame ajamu  February 5, 2013

      You are both wrong, Joe Atwills work is explaining where the Jesus engineered myth comes from while you guys are still can’t decide if he actually lived or not.

      The Jesus Myth was created by the Flavian court to curtail the Militant messianic movement that was waging war on the Roman empire, from proselytizeing Jews throughout the empire. New discoverts back that up, you guys gotta know this.

      I would love to see you or Richard debate Atwill, will debate him, and not just shrug im off as empty, debate him. for if more people are exposed to his book Caesar’s Messiah then they will the truth in it.

      I am too busy right now, but if asked in these comments or emailed, I will go into lengthy discussion of the facts in his book, and other facts brought to bear on this. There is no reason to keep begging the question was Jesus real we already have proof of the how, where, what, who.

  5. Mike Gantt  April 25, 2012

    Concerning your last block quote of Carrier, that would be good advice for skeptical scholars with regard to the New Testament. (Of course, prayer would have to be substituted for the request solicited in the last sentence.)

    • Mike  April 26, 2012

      Carrier is saying it’s somewhat unlikely that he is directly contradicting himself and more likely that he is being misunderstood through poor phrasing, poor editing, etc. That’s a claim that is understadable coming from one person. However, the NT and the Bible in general is written by multiple authors. The only reason to grant such charity would be a presupposition which skeptics obviously do not share with you.

    • jimmo  April 27, 2012

      if you are talking biblical inerrancy then certainly *not*. If the NT is supposed to be the inerrant word of God, then the phrasing he used would have been as inerrant, as well. God *should* have known there would have been conflicts in interpretation creating thousands of different denominations and *should* have seen that the phrasing would be contradictory. Besides which of the thousands of denominations should we ask for clarification? Catholics? German Lutherans in the Veste city of Coburg? Appalachian snake handlers? If we “pray” and get the same message as the Appalachian snake handlers is that then confirmation that all of the Catholics and Lutherans are wrong?

    • satan augustine  April 28, 2012

      Mike – I think it would be quite impossible, inappropriate even, to use Carrier’s advice for reading a well researched book in the case of the Bible, given that it is full of genuine contradictions which cannot be accounted for as a misreading of the text. If such a method were applied to Biblical criticism, no progress would ever be made. And of course those who are aware of the copious contradictions and indecipherable passages in the Bible are not limited to skeptics, Christian Biblical scholars are well aware of these, also.

  6. adam panacci  April 25, 2012

    Thanks for this. Very pertinent.

  7. John Oines  April 25, 2012

    Carrier suffers from the disease, common in scholars, hubris.

  8. Bernard Muller  April 25, 2012

    I congratulate you about making public your answers to Carrier’s critique.
    The tactics of Mythicists: blow out of proportion any mistakes you make (even on inconsequential minor details), make personal attacks against their opponents in order to discredit them, use bullying overly affirmative rhetoric, interpret anything seemingly ambiguous you write in a way which make you look stupid, etc …
    Some comments about your answer:
    1) On ‘The Tacitus Question’, you should refrain to say Tacitus referred to ‘Jesus’ specifically.
    2) On ‘The Dying and Rising God’, according to Plutarch, Osiris was another name for Hades. Also Plutarch deplored Osiris was thought by his contemporaries to have become a soul residing a few feet under earth, where the bodies of dead people were buried. Instead, just like Hades, Plutarch put Osiris as the ruler of the underworld (“the realm of the invisible and the unseen”) where souls of the dead would migrate. In any case Osiris does not ascend to heaven.
    So Carrier is wrong here.
    3) I agree on your comments on Doherty. I went through that for my critique on his initial book ‘the Jesus puzzle’
    Despite all the errors and the most dubious methodology used by Doherty, Carrier did write fairly recently:
    “Earl Doherty’s Jesus Puzzle is the only one really worth reading (as it argues a coherent thesis throughout, in a systematic and scholarly way …)”

    • Viracocha  May 20, 2012

      Why do scholars just cite Osiris? It doesn’t matter if he really came to earth or not, what counts is that, according to the myth, he really resurrected in a way or another. I know some “called scholars’ wrongly quotes those forced comparisons of ancient gods to Jesus, but the fact is that during those periods of early Christianity there was a spread of this belief over death-and-rising gods such as: Heracles (who did come to Heavens according to the legend), Attis (who resurrected as a tree), Osiris (who after death resurrected as the Lord of Hades), etc. This must be in evidence that the resurrection myths were spread during this period what and that such belief opened space to the beliefs of early Christians, also including to eat and drink a god’s body and blood (such as Bacchus, Osiris, Mithra).
      And about Tacitus he refers to the already spread belief that Christus was crucified by Pontius Pilatus, such story based on the Gospels only, such argument has no value at all since what Tacitus is quoting is a belief spread as true after 86 years form the supposedly occurred death of Jesus Christ. Such belief first based on Mark and adopted by later Christians (including the rest of the Gospels authors), according to the valuabe arguments offered by Doherty let us aware that it was a Jewish style to create fictional and allegorical stories using real happenings from History, such as all the Pentateuch, that shows many historical elements presenting the fictional elements as factual ones.

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  May 21, 2012

        In my book I show that there was not a widespread belief in a god (or demi-god) being resurrected, in the sense that Christians claim Jesus was (brought back to life in his body). And I obvoiusly deal with Tacitus at some length as well. If you read the book, feel free to let me know where you think I went wrong!

  9. Kentucky Packrat  April 25, 2012

    “In the course of my discussion of Freke and Gandy’s The Jesus Mysteries, I fault them for thinking that since the Romans kept such detailed records of everything (“birth notices, trial records, death certificates”), it is odd indeed that we have no such records from Roman hands about Jesus.”

    The Jews would have recorded their births locally, since Rome wasn’t interested in records of non-citizens. Genealogical records would have been kept in Jerusalem, most likely in the Temple complex. Since the Temple complex (and most of the city) was burned to the ground and then completely ransacked for the melted precious metals, it’s not surprising that all records are gone.

    Pilate probably would not have mentioned Jesus to the Emperor; the priest’s jab at Pilate was to point out that the Emperor didn’t want to hear about problems with revolutionaries. There were a lot of Jewish mystics and revolutionaries that popped up in the time. Jesus wasn’t particularly interesting to Rome; he appears once and then disappears immediately as far as they were concerned.

    Assuming that the Theudas of Acts 5 isn’t the same Theudas of Josephus (IMHO, a safe assumption), Acts is the only mention of him in history, and he was much more interesting militarily. If it weren’t for Josephus and Luke, we would know practically nothing about the Judean rebellions now. Even Josephus’ writings were preserved more out of fortune; had Titus not needed Josephus’ propaganda (or had lost his effort for the empire), we wouldn’t have his writings now.

    The story I find most consistent concerning people knowing about Jesus was Pilate in The Procurator of Judaea . In his old age, Pilate is asked about having a Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. Pilate can’t even remember him.

    Jesus didn’t become interesting until his followers became a thorn in the flesh, and that was well after Judea had become Palestine and the relevant records (and early witnesses) were long gone.

  10. Jaymanindy  April 25, 2012

    I think Ehrman has appropriattely and adequately responded to his critics. He has pointed us to Carrier’s concept of intellectual charity, which readers should use when reading any of Carrier’s further comments on Ehrman’s work. Eherman indicates that he will be stingy with his time related to further responses to his critics. I personally commend to Eherman the following for any future responses. “Piss off.”

  11. drmightie  April 25, 2012

    Beautifully written rebuttal.I have always respected Prof. Ehrman scholarship and will continue to do so has he has proven himself over the years.It is OK to disagree but do not fight dirty.Just look at the way Bart responded to the issues Dr Carrier raised.He did not attack his person nor his work but interacted with the issues.This shows why Dr Carrier is not an historian that teaches in a reputable institution.Deal with issues do not be nasty.
    Thank you Dr Ehrman

  12. Paul Avery  April 25, 2012

    Dr. Erhman,
    You already devoted more of you valuable time to this silliness than it deserves.
    I see you have plenty of supporters educated enough on these topics to carry on the flame wars.
    Your choice not to involve yourself further is a wise one.

  13. Raymond Wood  April 25, 2012

    After reading your short comment, then your “Fuller Reply,” along with R. Joseph Hoffman’s “Mythtic Pizza and Cold-cocked Scholars”, I think Richard Carrier is going to need a flak vest.

    • rbrtbaumgardner  April 26, 2012

      Dr. Hoffman provided beautifully crafted flak.

    • satan augustine  April 28, 2012

      Hoffman is an arrogant, self-important, narcissistic crank who is skirting the boundaries of delusion. I would advise against taking him at his word. Oh, and he clearly hates Carrier, so take his criticisms with a grain of salt.

    • ntuser  April 28, 2012

      Thanks for leading me to Dr. Hoffmann’s blog.
      The rules for discourse there are a good standard:

  14. John  April 25, 2012

    Great response; It was professional and respectable. As a religious studies student, and someone on the fence about whether or not Jesus was a myth or a person behind myth and lore, I would like to see a scholarly rebuttal of Dr. Price’s latest book on the Christ myth. Would you consider writing book rebutting Price’s book “The Christ Myth Theory and its Problems”, and focus on why Dr. Price’s assertions are unjustifiable?

  15. Christian Lindtner  April 25, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman,
    You write that you are not aware of any scholars today that think that the Tacitus quotation (“Testimonium Taciteum”) is an interpolation.
    In Europe there are such scholars today. See, most recently, Hermann Detering, Falsche Zeugen. Ausserchristliche Jesuszeugnisse auf dem Prüfstand, Aschaffenburg 2011, pp. 43-74. Dr. Detering argues – in my view convincingly – that we are here dealing with a Christian interpolation.
    Nor can any NT scholar to ignore what Dr. Detering has to say about Pliny, op.cit. pp. 75-121.
    Dr. Christian Lindtner (Denmark)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 26, 2012

      Thanks so much for this information! It’s good always to learn….

    • Viracocha  May 20, 2012

      Even if this quotation is true it is not worth of any credit since Tacitus quotes a belief already spread from Christians via the Gospels, which means that historically it’s not worth at all.

  16. joe piecuch  April 25, 2012

    in a podcast interview posted on 4/3/12 at homebrewedchristianity.com, you were asked about the quickly-becoming-infamous ‘cock’ statue, and said, “It’s just made up. There is no such statue. It’s completely made up”. i’ve spent the last couple of days arguing with critics of your book ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ that your remarks about the statue in your book, and in response to richard carrier’s review of it, while perhaps not clearly stated, were nevertheless honest and, strictly speaking, accurate. the radio interview and its date tend to make it appear that you were in fact mistaken and have subsequently been dissembling. i would appreciate it very much if you would address the issue; it seems to have gained with many people immense importance with regard to your credibility. thanks very much,

  17. J. J. Ramsey  April 25, 2012

    I was hoping to see you treat Carrier’s case that some pre-Christian Jews had anticipated a dying Messiah, which he’s detailed on his blog: . As you can see from the comments on that blog post, I thought Carrier’s case was pretty shoddy (though I made quite a few mistakes, too), but it would be interesting to see input from a real scholar on the matter.

    • J. J. Ramsey  April 25, 2012

      Sorry, looks like the URL on my earlier post got “eaten.” Anyway, here it is: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/667

    • J. J. Ramsey  April 27, 2012

      I guess I spoke a little too soon. FYI, Carrier’s claims about pre-Christian Jews anticipating a dying Messiah have been debunked by Thom Stark in a blog post from last night: http://religionatthemargins.com/2012/04/the-death-of-richard-carriers-dying-messiah/

      • Raymond Wood  April 27, 2012

        I have not read Carrier’s views on “pre-Christian Jews anticipating a dying Messiah”, but anyone wishing to debunk the general idea has better take a look at Daniel Boyarin’s new “The Jewish Gospels.”

        • Thom Stark  April 28, 2012

          Raymond, thanks for that link. I love Boyarin, so I went right to Amazon and bought the book on Kindle. I just read his chapter on this subject, entitled, “The Suffering Christ as a Midrash on Daniel.” Boyarin’s argument, actually, is that because there is so much about the suffering Messiah in the Talmud a few centuries AFTER Christianity, we have good reason to think the idea wasn’t so foreign to Judaism. He actually admits there’s no real indication that anyone held belief in a dying Messiah prior to Christianity. His main argument is that when Christians interpreted scripture in light of Jesus’ death, they were using appropriate Jewish-type hermeneutics. He does not say that anyone beat them to the idea, and he says it is likely a Christian innovation. I actually like the chapter and agree with most of it. So thanks again!

          • Viracocha  May 20, 2012

            This idea about a dying Messiah was not any inovation since that period was full of people asserting themselves to be the Messiah and being murdered since they were riot causers (Simon son of Joseph), and what Paul inovated was the idea based on scriptural work of the Old Testament (there you can see many quotations of the “sufferring innocent” that was crucified, as it is written in the book of Daniel). Most of Jesus aspects as the Messiah is based on this figure that is not officially given a name and served to mold the Jesus of Paul, the real creator of Christianity. Source: Earl Doherty’s works and http://www.history.ca/ontv/titledetails.aspx?titleid=117603

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  May 21, 2012

            There is no reference to a dying/rising messiah in any Jewish text prior to Christianity. You need to read my book!

        • Thom Stark  April 28, 2012

          Quote: “This point of the ‘Jewishness’ of the vicarious sufferings of the Messiah can be established in two ways: first by showing how the Gospels use perfectly traditional, midrashic ways of reasoning to develop these ideas and apply them to Jesus, and second, by demonstrating how common the idea of a suffering and dying Messiah was among perfectly ‘orthodox’ rabbinic Jews from the time of the Talmud and onward. My reasoning is that if this were such a shocking thought, how is it that the rabbis of the Talmud and midrash, only a couple of centuries later, had no difficulty whatever with portraying the Messiah’s vicarious suffering or discovering him in Isaiah 53, just as the followers of Jesus had done?”

  18. Jonathon H  April 25, 2012

    I’d actually love to see the two of you in the same room debating this issue. But, then that is probably much to much to ask for!

  19. Ken Humphreys  April 25, 2012

    Bravo Bart! Intellectual charity is accorded. Carrier would serve his own cause better if he served up his bile in smaller portions. But you seem to be back-tracking here and – gracefully – leaving the stage. The debate has barely begun and has touched on a few, rather marginal, details. The priapic cockerel has had way too much attention (and the really interesting thing about it is the (apparent) inscription “Saviour of the Worlld”. Who would that have been then?). You rely rather too much on the “all serious scholars” plea, which isn’t engaging with the arguments. I would really like to understand why you assume honesty from the first Christian writers when, as you have yourself documented, fraudulent writing was a commonplace in all subsequent generations?

    • Kalvin  April 26, 2012

      II agree, appeals to authority and popular opinion are not enough to make a case that Jesus was a historical figure. Poisoning the well, and crawfishing on what he stated(Erhman) in his previous books, simply avoids the issue. It is also inconsistent as well.

    • Christian Lindtner  April 26, 2012

      A clear question from Ken Humphreys that requires a clear answer Dr. Ehrman !
      Of course, the “all serious scholars” plea proves nothing – especially so if it can be pointed out that “all” actually means “some”, as opposed to others, cf. my April 25 comments on the Tacitus quotation. Some – not all – scholars see a Christian interpolation, others do not.
      Chr. Lindtner

      • blackey  May 11, 2012

        The only persons I’ve encountered who hold that the Tacitus passage is a interpolation are the scholar you mentioned, now you yourself, that PRICK Ken Humphreys who has NO degree in anything except blowing hot air and Frank Zindler. Zindler has NO Ph.D either and finds a damn interpolation everywhere he looks. Even the passages about John the Baptist in Josephus are interpolations to this anti-christian zealot! Like Earl Doherty, Humphreys and Zindler find Christianity very offensive and in the WAY of man developing into bigger and better things! Christianity is a mild problem next to Islam yet nobody levels their guns at that religion. Why. Because they don’t want to get their nuts cut off!!

        The Tacitus passage is NOT an interpolation and that is confirmed by almost ALL experts in the field who find NO reason to throw it out. That damn passage even calls Christianity an evil superstition. Even Richard Carrier finds no reason to throw it out and he hates Christianity as much as any of you!

        Also the “TF” in Josephus is NOT a forgery either. I’ve been up and down this question years ago with several of the best Josephus scholars in the U.S. Louis Feldman, Ph.D who is Jewish and not Christian suggested to me Alice Whealey, Ph.D whom I had not heard of before and BOTH hold that the passage is from Josephus but suffers I minor interpolation. Gary Goldberg of wwwDOTjosephusDOTorg has solved the problem anyway. Josephus copied from a source document as he did often in his work which frankly is not that impressive to me. No good Jew gives a damn about that traitor Josephus except Feldman. Originally Josephus wrote that Jesus “was thought to be the Messiah” by the Christians. This offended some Christian scribe who rubbed out enough where he read “was the Christ/Messiah”. See wwwDOTjosephusDOTorg for Dr. Goldberg’s solution to this problem.

        I’m agnostic but unlike those who promote the Jesus myth theory, I’m not interested in insulting or shoving Christianity or any other religion off the world stage. Atheism is silly anyway. The only atheists I’ve met are 1) not really atheists after all as the finally admit that it is possible that god could exist but it’s a small chance (that is agnosticism) or the atheist is just a idiot who is usually about 20 years old & a prick to boot!

  20. Jonathan Burke  April 25, 2012

    An impressive responses, and very well restrained.

  21. Rick  April 26, 2012

    I’m not a scholar on any of these topics, and have but a passing interest in the existence of Jesus. I’ve read both Carrier’s critique and this reply, and I think in this matter you’ve definitely behaved better. Your responses, to my untrained eye, seem to me to win the argument, and your refusal to engage in the name-calling seems the more scholarly approach.

  22. Tim Martin  April 26, 2012

    I’m still working my way through all the arguments on both sides of this, but personally I was hoping you (Dr. Ehrman) would explain your assertion that we have numerous, independent accounts of Jesus’ life in the sources behind the Gospels. According to Carrier (and others I have read), we have no such sources.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 26, 2012

      I explain all that in my book. Adequately, I hope!

  23. Neil Godfrey  April 26, 2012

    It looks like Earl Doherty is damned if he doesn’t engage with the scholarship and now he is damned if he does. I find it curious that the one example Bart refers to that supposedly makes him look dishonest or somehow implying that Morna Hooker is supporting his interpretation of a celestial crucifixion is identical to the one example advanced by James McGrath — and which was answered by Doherty himself as follows:

    She stated a principle (Barrett once stated a possible meaning in regard to a Greek phrase which I was able to make use of, though in a manner he did not). It is completely legitimate for me to appeal to such observations when they can be applied to a mythicist interpretation, even if the scholar himself or herself does not choose to make the same application of their observations. Hooker pointed out the principle involved in counterpart guarantees: “Christ becomes what we are (likeness of flesh, suffering and death), so enabling us to become what he is (exalted to the heights).” That principle stands, it works in both cases, whether it is applied to a Christ perceived to be acting on earth, or a Christ perceived to be acting in the heavens. I am well aware that Hooker applies it to the former; she understands it in that context. That doesn’t necessitate her being right. I can take the same principle and understand it in the context of a heavenly death and rising. Because I don’t conform to Hooker’s context does not necessitate me being wrong. This is simple logic . . . .

    It submit that it is simply absurd to suggest that Doherty at any point misleads anyone to think the scholars he engages with support his mythicist view. Of course they don’t, and Doherty at no point hides that fact. Right from the opening page he makes it clear what is already clear to everyone — that is argument is “radical” and obviously contrary to the mainstream view. And as I point out in my post, Doherty regularly acknowledges and addresses the fact that scholars do not draw the same conclusions as he does.

    Doherty has handled the scholarship in a scholarly manner, and has never pretended to be a professional scholar himself — he explains why he writes in the style he does, and for whom, and what his educational background is — so it is quite unfair to fault Doherty for appearing to be a scholar among scholars.

    Is it wrong for an amateur to seriously engage with the professional scholarship and draw different conclusions through that serious engagement?

    • Dave Burke  April 29, 2012


      Is it wrong for an amateur to seriously engage with the professional scholarship and draw different conclusions through that serious engagement?

      Not at all, provided he doesn’t mind making a fool of himself in the process.

  24. NSalim  April 26, 2012

    At the SBL’s annual meeting you said that experts should write for the popular market. Perhaps if there were more experts writing for those of us who are not in academia, there would be fewer Carriers.

  25. Neil Godfrey  April 26, 2012

    Dr Ehrman

    I appreciate that you have acknowledged that some of your statements were ambiguously worded. But there is one wording that I have a difficult time understanding and I would appreciate a clarification about it.

    You quote Doherty as saying that there was only “one view” of the universe among the ancients, and in this context quote page 97 of his revised edition of his book. But page 97 of that book says “views”, plural, and the remainder of the sentence also expresses plurality. He also addresses the Stoics, Epicureans as well as Neo-Platonists. And of course, Platonism was a strong influence through Stoicism itself. Doherty’s entire argument is premised upon the variety of ancient views extant at the time.

    So I was wondering if you could clarify why you appeared to make a sustained argument (repeated several times) that Doherty wrote that their was only one view of the world among ancients?


    • Claude  April 27, 2012


      This is disingenuous. I know you know the quote came from p. 95 of Jesus Puzzle!

  26. Haltz  April 26, 2012

    This is what has irritated me about Carrier for a long time–his being so insufferably full of himself. His intemperate way of engaging other scholars is always expressed as if he is the benchmark against which every other scholar of the subject will be compared–usually unfavorably. A most unscholarly demeanor!

    • Kalvin  April 27, 2012

      That does not attack the issue of whether jesus was a historical figure or not. That is an attack on Carrier, and nothing more.

  27. David Chumney  April 26, 2012

    Bart, thank you for taking the time to write this extended response. I had completed Did Jesus Exist prior to reading Carrier’s critique and wondered whether he and I had read the same book! Despite his totally unprofessional tone in that critique, I remain very interested in the issue. I’ve read his published work on the subject as well as most of what Robert Price has written.

    You will perhaps not be disappointed to learn that his scathing attack has led me to your blog, to which I plan to subscribe. Your goal of making the results of scholarship more widely available to the reading public is much appreciated. Keep up the good work!

  28. Rocky  April 26, 2012

    I love the smell of atheists bashing each other in the morning.

    You both are agenda driven, and it isn’t by a love of “objective scholarship”.

  29. Derek  April 26, 2012

    Carrier is one of a “new breed” of mythers? Meh. He’s been floating around the net for years spreading this nonsense. Yawn. Thanks for engaging these guys Dr. Erhman. You’ve more patience than most.

  30. Nikos Apostolakis  April 26, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman,

    The criticism I would like seing you, or an other expert on the field, address is that of your methodology. Carrier in his review argues that your methodology is invalid–essentially based on circular logic. This is not the first time that I have come across this criticism, but I have never seen a reply that enganges with the arguments. You seem to be arguing that your methodology can produce certainty about the existence of Jesus, or at least enough confidence to justify comparing those who doubt the existence of Jesus to Holocaust deniers. This, to my lay eyes, seems a pretty strong claim since the evidence that the Holocaust did happen is so overwhelming.

    I understand that you’d rather devote your time doing your actual research, and I know only too well what a sinkhole of time the internet can be. You said though that you would address furter questions from your readers, and I would really appreciate hearing your side of the story in this, very important IMO, criticism.

    Thank you for your time.

    • ntuser  April 26, 2012

      I agree with Nikos. Carrier’s attack on Prof. Ehrman’s methodology was not answered.
      I always cringe when someone uses Q for evidence. I am persuaded by Mark Goodacre’s arguments that Q is unnecessary and not needed for the synoptic problem and this was referenced by Carrier:
      Occam always wins.
      Same with M and L and the hypothesized edited collection of Paul’s letters. We have a lot of documents from early Christianity so why make up documents that we don’t have and are not mentioned by any ancient source?

      • Raymond Wood  April 29, 2012

        James M. Robinson presents a cogent argument for the existence of a *written* Q in his “A Written Greek Sayings Cluster Older than Q: A Vestige” (Harvard Theological Review 92: 1 (1999) 61-77 — unfortunately no longer online). And William E. Arnal’s “Jesus and the Village Scribes: Galilean Conflicts and the Setting of Q” limns a detailed social analysis of a first-century Galilean setting that supports a written Q.

        • ntuser  April 29, 2012

          Q is a reasonable hypothesis sure. But what Carrier pointed out in his rant was that Q can’t bear the weight of being used as evidence in arguments. This isn’t new, Mark Goodacre’s treatise is just the latest in a long line of scholarship that shows the No Q is at least as good as Q and Luke could use Matthew as a source. No one has Q. It may well just not exist. We can cite Matthew and Luke – we have those documents (copies anyway.)

          What’s goofy about Carrier’s review is that he then goes on to do exactly the same thing that he criticizes Prof. Ehrman for with the Aramaic sayings in Mark. Carrier suggests that Mark’s source for these is a targum – one we don’t have!

          • Viracocha  May 20, 2012

            Doherty has proved that many of Mark’s elements is found in Paul’s letters, such as Jesus sayings that were originally spoken by Paul in his letters that “strangely” never quotes Jesus sayings and deeds, and be in evidence that Paul was the first to talk about Jesus “no Nazareth involved”.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  May 21, 2012

            Yes I deal with Doherty at length in my book.

  31. Landon Lockhart  April 26, 2012

    Just look at the reviews on Amazon Dr. Ehrman. I have read every book you have written, and I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed them…until this one. Doherty, Carrier, Price, Murdock…etc really do have the better argument here in my opinion. I try to be as objective as possible. I think you are a brilliant scholar. I do not think you are incompetent, nor is your book “crap.”. It is, in fact, the best defense of the historical Jesus to date. With that said, you didn’t have much competition in the category. I think (one man’s opinion) that you simply would like there to have been a Jesus and literally every good review you had was from biased Christians. It honestly reads like a light apologetic work and your amazon reviews reflect this view. There is simply not enough evidence to confirm the existence of an historical Jesus. The burden of proof is upon you and I’m sorry to say…it still is. Extraordinary claims, my friend, require extraordinary evidence. I enjoyed reading your arguments and I most certainly learned a few things.

    • ntuser  April 26, 2012

      What exactly is so extraordinary about an apocalyptic preacher in first century Palestine who was executed by the Romans? This does not need extraordinary evidence at all.

      • Kalvin  April 27, 2012

        Because, the Romans kept documents of every crucifixion. However, no documents exist for a messianic Jewish figure having been crucified during the allotted time period.

        • ntuser  April 28, 2012

          I’m game Kalvin – where’s the list with Jesus omitted?

        • TimONeill  April 28, 2012

          “the Romans kept documents of every crucifixion. However, no documents exist for a messianic Jewish figure having been crucified during the allotted time period.”

          Okay, now can you point us to where this extensive collection of Roman records of crucifixions can be found? Are they solely in your imagination or can they be consulted somewhere or other? And why do no scholars know of them? Have you unearthed them recently?

          And then these people whine when they aren’t taken seriously …

      • Viracocha  May 20, 2012

        Nothing at all, if this preacher weren’t Jesus of Nazareth, that as I said before, is completely omitted by Paul, the first person who talked about Jesus whose sayings come originally from Paul (Earl Doherty), this way, Paul was the preacher not Jesus. Maybe Jesus the Nazarene (because Nazareth didn’t exist at Jesus’s time) was a historical man, but he wasn’t the Jesus of Paul and was just a figure to incarnate Paul’s Jesus.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  May 21, 2012

          Nazareth certainly existed in Jesus’ day, as I show in my book (and as every archaeologist of Palestine will tell you! If you want names, I’m happy to supply them). And Paul *does* talk about Jesus: all you need to do is ready his letters to see! Again, I talk about that in my book.

          • omo1020  June 5, 2017

            Could you please name these archaeologists? Also, how do respond to Rene Salm’s book arguing that Nazareth did not exist?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 6, 2017

            I have a lengthy discussion of this in my book Did Jesus Exist, where I actually give the bibliography of works by archaeologists who have dug in Nazareth, and where I show why those who are archaeologists have convincingly shown that Salm, who is not an archaeologist (and appears to know very little about archaeology) doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about.

    • Jonathan Burke  April 26, 2012

      There’s nothing extraordinary about the claim of an itinerant Jewish rabbi in the first century, or a first century Jewish messianic claimant. First century Judea had plenty of them, attested by writers such as Philo and Josephus. So claiming that all the other itinerant rabbis or messianic claimants recognized by historians were genuine figures but that Jesus was not, is the extraordinary claim.

      Jesus is different to these other figures in one respect; his life produced a massive historical effectwhich the others did not, as well as a very large and long-lasting following of disciples, which others did not. To remove Jesus from the historical record requires an extraordinary explanation of that historical effect, an explanation relying on principles of professional historiography and not the typical Mytherist arguments: hand waving, special pleading, made up meanings for Greek words and phrases which are not attested in any Greek literature, and claims that any text which appears to refer to Jesus must be an interpolation.

      • SAWells  April 27, 2012

        This argument would only be sound if it were the case that Jesus personally founded the Christian church. This is not the case. People like Paul founded the church; Jesus isn’t needed. Consider the case of Mormonism. There are millions of Mormons now and they have been and continue to be politically significant in the USA. Does this mean that the Angel Moroni and the Golden Plates are true? No. We know who founded Mormonism- Joseph Smith- and he did it by claiming to be a prophet. His success in founded a religion does not prove the claims of his religion true. Similarly, the success of Paul in founding a religion does not imply the reality of Paul’s Jesus, or any of the gospel Jesuses.

        To “remove Jesus from the historical record” is trivial because he isn’t _in_ the historical record, only in religious texts.

        • Dave Burke  April 29, 2012


          To “remove Jesus from the historical record” is trivial because he isn’t _in_ the historical record, only in religious texts.

          Aside from the Testimonium Flavianum, Jesus is mentioned explicitly as the object of Christian devotion by Pliny the Younger in his letter to Trajan. I am unaware of any historian who regards these two documents as religious texts which fall ‘outside the historical record.’

      • vinnyjh57  April 28, 2012

        I would say that Jesus’ life produced no historical effect whatsoever. During his life, there is no record of him being known outside of a small group of illiterate peasants until he came to the attention of the Romans who executed him as a troublemaker. Had it not been for a belief in events which occurred after his death, he might well have come and gone without leaving any mark in the historical record. With Alexander the Great, supernatural stories arose as a result of the accomplishments of a flesh and blood human. With Jesus of Nazareth, stories of his earthly life were only preserved and perpetuated as a result of the postmortem accomplishments of a supernatural being.

        • Dave Burke  April 29, 2012


          During his life, there is no record of him being known outside of a small group of illiterate peasants until he came to the attention of the Romans who executed him as a troublemaker.

          I presume you arrive at this conclusion by completely dismissing the gospels, which clearly show that Jesus was known by wealthy, highly educated members of Jewish society, some of whom were high ranking members of the religious establishment.

          • vinnyjh57  April 29, 2012


            The gospels were a product of the belief that he was raised from the dead. I think their claims that Jesus interacted with the prominent people of his day have to be taken with a grain of salt.

    • Sam Harper  April 26, 2012

      “Extraordinary claims, my friend, require extraordinary evidence”

      The claim that Jesus existed is hardly extraordinary.

    • zakiechan  April 26, 2012


      I am in a similar boat as you. I have read 9 of Ehrman’s books and enjoyed all of them very much. However, unlike you, I thought this book was just as good as the others (actually, I liked it more than Forged). Like yourself, I try to be as objective as possible (I was even convinced of the mythicist position while I was in college, but then later changed my mind).

      You say that literally every good review is from a biased Christian. But couldn’t it also be that every negative review is from a biased atheist? A Christian could say the same thing of his other books, “all the positive reviews are from biased atheists.”

      Ehrman said he is more than willing to take on the burden. Though, I don’t see how the existence of one guy is an extraordinary claim. Saying he raised from the dead, sure… but Ehrman doesn’t think or argue that.

      I am curious though, what about chapter 5 did you not find convincing?

  32. Andrew  April 26, 2012

    (1) “In my discussion of G.A. Wells’s work I have occasion to consider his claim that Paul did not think Jesus was a person who lived just a few years before his conversion, but 150 year or so earlier. In that context I indicate that Paul thought that “the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were recent events.”

    And Paul states that the resurrection of Jesus was the first fruits of those who had died (1 Corinthians 15:20) which initiated the last days of the world: this suggests that Paul did think that the death and resurrection of Christ was a recent event. The mythical death of Jesus in a timeless heavenly world does not seem to be consistent with his expectation of an impending parousia and the idea that the eschatological times had been begun by a recent event: the first resurrection of the dead throughout history.

    More discussion here:


    (2) You say:

    “In my book I take the Roman historian Tacitus to task for claiming that Pontius Pilate was a procurator rather than a prefect.”

    This question is a bit more complicated.

    In terms of official titulature, Tacitus’s error is straightforward: when Tacitus was writing in the early 2nd century AD the equestrian governors usually carried the official title “procurator.” Before the empeor Claudius, equestrian governors were generally officially called prefects.

    See B. Levick, Claudius (Routledge, London, 2001), p. 48:

    “The second change concerns the titulature of equestrian governors. Equites sent to govern small provinces or districts such as Judaea or Raetia had been styled by the military title of Prefect. Prefects vanished from all provinces except Egypt, where the title was buttressed by law, and ‘praesidial’ procurators … replaced them.”

    In informal terms, however, prefects could still be called procurators as private financial agents of the emperor: for we have a letter of Claudius in 41 to Vitrasius Pollio the Prefect of Egypt (no doubt his offical title) where Claudius clearly calls him a “procurator” (B. Levick, Claudius, Routledge, London, 2001, p. 48ff.)

    More detailed discussion here:


  33. Michael Macrossan  April 26, 2012

    I like the measured tone you take, under fairly severe provocation – much better than the lame defense of the obscene statue remark.

    I think you did the right thing about the Tacitus interpolation issue – you gave your expert Carrier’s reference and it turned out to be correct, as far as it goes, and a surprise to your expert. I don’t think Carrier himself thinks it is an interpolation; he agrees with you that Tacitus mentioned Christ, but thinks Tacitus’s source is his friend Pliny and Pliny got his information from interrogating Christians.

    However I don’t think you gave your expert Carrier’s full argument (or even partial argument) about the procurator/prefect thing. Carrier thinks the entire context of Tacitus’s book makes it clear why Tacitus chose to use the lesser of two possible descriptions for Pilate. So it would have been better if your expert had seen the entire argument – it’s in Carrier’s blog somewhere “Herod the Procurator?” I think is the title of the essay, and I thought he backed up his claim that one could be a procurator as well as a prefect, but don’t remember the details well enough to repeat it here. Maybe your expert might would be surprised or maybe your expert would dismiss it as a student’s mistake.

  34. JordanDay  April 26, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman,
    Your response thus far has been very thorough and professional (I admire your restraint). I would however like to see you respond to the “Baptism Blunder” that Carrier addresses (seeing that he said this was possibly your most blatant error). I understand you cannot continue addressing every point he objects to, but I would personally like to see your response to this objection (even if very brief).

    Thank you sir.

  35. Claude  April 26, 2012

    Prof. Ehrman’s response is exemplary.

    And if I hear “No true Scotsman” one more time, I’m going to throw a priapic cockerel through the window.

    • Sam Harper  April 26, 2012

      I think the “no true Scotsman” fallacy is being misused by some of Ehrman’s critics. If Ehrman were saying that others were not real scholars because they subscribe to mythicism or deny the existence of Jesus, then he would be using the no true Scotsman fallacy. But saying that somebody is not a scholar because they don’t have advanced degrees in a field relevant to the historical Jesus, or because they aren’t published in academic journals, or they don’t teach on the subject, is not the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. If Ehrman used their lack of credentials to call their conclusions into question, that would be a version of the ad hominem fallacy, not the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

      • Claude  April 27, 2012

        Thanks for that. I doubt I made the distinction, associating the expression with the dreaded “appeal to authority” that Ehrman’s opponents often deploy to dismiss his claims. I’ll just note that, in the books I’ve read Ehrman is at pains to explain that the views he presents reflect the scholarly consensus. He clearly wishes to defuse any suspicion that he is an irresponsible renegade out to supply the heathen in their war on religion. And further, that professionalism matters.

        Unlike Carrier, who has apparently appointed himself chief separator of wheat from chaff, the scholarly consensus be damned.

        I normally enjoy observing intellectual combat (and would normally side with the insurgents), but in this case it’s been a depressing spectacle. The mythicists have demonstrated precisely how not to go about promoting a controversial perspective. If they become further marginalized they have no one to blame but themselves.

    • Kalvin  April 27, 2012

      I agree, it absolutely is a no-true scotsman. Not to mention the various appeals to popular opinion as well. Oh, and I forgot to mention Ad-Hominem statements about those who disagree with him.

  36. drmightie  April 26, 2012

    Thom stark of Religion at the Margin has a well written piece on Richard Carrier critique of Dr Ehrman titled ” The Death of Richard Carrier’s Dying Messiah”.

    here is the link http://religionatthemargins.com/2012/04/the-death-of-richard-carriers-dying-messiah/

  37. Eric Chabot  April 26, 2012

    Nice response Dr. Ehrman. Much appreciated.

  38. Mike  April 26, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I was really hoping you would address the question of methodology raised by Carrier in that critique and in his new book advocating a Bayesian analysis of historical claims. I was taught the sort of methodology you advocate by a former grad student of yours and have favored it until recently. From my investigation so far, it really does seem like Bayes’s Theorem can offer a much more robust framework than the popular methodology, which seems to lack rigour. What are your thoughts on applying a new standard (apart from whether these are thrust at you along with insults from Carrier)? It would seem to get us closer toward Hume’s goal of maintaining beliefs in proportion to the evidence.


  39. George Locke  April 26, 2012

    The attacks are sustained throughout his lengthy post, and they often become personal. He indicates that “Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about,” he claims that I speak with “absurd” hyperbole, that my argument “makes [me] look irresponsible,” that I am guilty of “sloppy work,” that I “misrepresent” my opponents and “misinform the public,” that what I write is “crap,” that I am guilty of “arrogantly dogmatic and irresponsible thinking,” that I am “incompetent,” make “hack” mistakes, and do not “act like a real scholar.”

    These are all criticisms of your work not you personally. You’ve mistaken strident rhetoric for ad hominem argumentation, which, despite his fervor, Carrier does not resort to.

    • Jonathan Burke  April 27, 2012

      Carrier makes a number of attacks which are personal rather than directed at Ehrman’s arguments; Ehrman is referred to as arrogantly dogmatic (not his argument), Ehrman is referred to as incompetent (not his argument), Ehrman is accused of not knowing what he is talking about (an accusation which cannot be applied to an argument), it is Erhman who looks irresponsible (not his argument), it is Ehrman who is accused of ‘irresponsible thinking’ (an accusation which cannot be applied to an argument).

      • George Locke  May 1, 2012

        So it’s ok to say “this work is shoddy”, but to say “this work is shoddy and reflects poorly on its author” is ad hominem?

    • Dan  April 30, 2012

      Thanks George Locke for providing us with an example of motivated reasoning.

  40. Fredrik Bendz  April 26, 2012

    Dear Dr Ehrman,

    I’ve read your books “Early Christianity” and “Misquoting Jesus” with great interest. I think you are doing a good job in bringing scholarship to a wider audience. I also think you are making a good defence against the personal attacks from Carrier. However, he who is without sin cast the first stone (as I’ve learned from your books that Jesus never said, at least not according to the “original” MSS. You wrote a whole book discrediting the mythicisits and frankly, calling them names. You should expect the same response from them.

    Personally I’m agnostic to whether Jesus existed. I’m not giving an alternative hypothesis, simply because I don’t know the subject enough. I do, however, think the evidence is insufficient. Most claimed evidence presupposes that Jesus actually lived at the time depicted in the gospels. If that is not the case, most hypothesis on his historicity seem to fail. (For example: “The gospels were written only a few decades after Jesus’ death” presupposes that Jesus actually died, and that he died under the reign of Pontus Pilate. To assume what you intend to prove is circular arguing, not evidence of the fact you intent do establish.)

    I most certainly agree with your and your colleagues right to believe that Jesus walked this earth. However, I think you should be more open with the fact that this is based on theory building, not on plain facts. We don’t have any hard evidence. It may be a viable hypothesis, but the fact is that nobody knows for sure. To conclude: I think you and your fellow scholars should be more open with this fact.

    I also would like to ask you, what, in your opinion, is the strongest evidence that Jesus existed as a historical figure?

    • ntuser  April 27, 2012

      I would compare this level of skepticism to the Obama birther arguments. What “hard evidence” is required and can be reasonable expected for the historical Jesus proposition? What level of proof is needed? Keep in mind what little we know about any ancient person – or even any person today! Anyone can take an arbitrarily skeptical position but it should be reasonable given the proposition.

      • vinnyjh57  April 28, 2012

        Had belief in his resurrection not arisen, it is entirely possible that historians would have no basis to know that Jesus ever existed. Only because of supernatural events that are thought to have occurred after his death does he appear in the historical record at all. I think that makes the case for his existence different than for anyone else in the ancient world who made their mark in the historical record as a result of events that occurred during their lives.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 28, 2012

          It’s a good point, and may be true. At the same time, we do have plenty of records of Jesus’ words and deeds that are unrelated to the miraculous. These are the things, I think, that historians can discuss, as to whether they are historically accurate/reliable or not.

          • vinnyjh57  April 28, 2012

            This is true, but it is at least highly unlikely that any of those records would ever have come into being but for their utility in propagating belief in the supernatural accomplishments of the risen Christ, which in turn creates doubts for me about whether the same consideration might have governed the creation of the stories themselves.

        • Dave Burke  April 29, 2012


          Only because of supernatural events that are thought to have occurred after his death does he appear in the historical record at all.

          Can you honestly say this about the Testimonium Flavianum and Antiquities 20.9.1? Josephus treats Jesus as a historical person but he does not mention the resurrection or any other supernatural events. It seems Jesus’ life as an influential itinerant rabbi had historical significance after all.

          • vinnyjh57  April 29, 2012


            Dr. Ehrman says in his book that it is most likely that Josephus’ source for that was the stories that Christians were telling about Jesus rather than anything independent. If he is correct, this is still a source that most likely would not exist but for the belief in Jesus’ postmortem accomplishments.

  41. Scott F  April 26, 2012

    Thank you so much for putting the questrion of Roman records in perspective. I often hear claims that Tacitus or so-and-so COULD have been researching in the Roman archives. I always strikes me as fishy. For one, as you detail, the ubiquity of ancient records is difficult to swallow in an age where even the internet does not always produce the desired result. A second doubt I have concerns the motivation of an early Roman official to laboriously comb the archives for proof of something that could be taken at face value from what Christians were saying. Why would they bother?

  42. Sam Harper  April 26, 2012

    I noticed something as I read both Carrier’s critique and Ehrman’s response. Several times in Carrier’s critique, after pointing out one of Ehrman’s “errors,” he would say, “What ELSE might he have been wrong about???” as if to say that because Ehrman was wrong about one thing, it threw everything else in his book into question. But I noticed most of the errors Carrier pointed out did not go to the heart of Ehrman’s case for the existence of Jesus or his case against the mythicist position. Carrier could’ve been right about everything, and Ehrman’s over all case would’ve still been unrefuted. If Carrier wanted to draw attention to “What ELSE might’ve been wrong” in Ehrman’s book, then why didn’t he use better examples? Why not, instead of citing mistakes that don’t undermine Ehrman’s case, use mistakes that DO undermind Ehrman’s case? Then it would not have been necessary to just hint around that Ehrman might’ve been wrong about something more important by saying, “What ELSE might he have been wrong about?”

    When Ehrman responded, he said right up front that he was not going to respond to every point Carrier made since his point was just to defend his competence. Ehrman pointed out several of Carrier’s errors, but not all of them. If he had wanted to, he could’ve used Carrier’s tactic. He could’ve said, after each correction, “What ELSE might Carrier have been mistaken about???” But he didn’t.

    A person who complains that Ehrman didn’t respond to Carrier’s every point should keep that in mind.

  43. cozmot  April 26, 2012

    Bart, your detailed response to your ugly critic has made your blog incredibly worthwhile. I appreciate that you tok the time and pain to address many of his charges against you. We’re effectively seeing a debate. Tis wouldn’t have happened on Facebook. You have deepened our knowledge beyond your book by not ducking this arrogant snob. I think it was worth every minute of your tie to write this. Thanks from your remote students!

  44. James  April 27, 2012

    I find it disappointing that despite Carrier being extremely harsh (in a manner that isn’t helpful to discourse) with his criticisms, he is not the one who made this “personal”. His response dealt solely with what he felt was a work that did not take his position seriously. Carrier has defended Ehrman’s scholarship from comments which seek to call into question Ehrman’s entire expertise and in return Ehrman posted a link to an article lacking substance but doing much to fan the flames of personal attacks. When you attempt to claim a moral high ground, take care not to sink the conversation to an even uglier level in the process.

  45. Steven Carr  April 27, 2012

    I emailed Dr. William Lane Craig to ask for his comments on your claim ‘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.’

    It is interesting that the Gospels were based on such astounding historical sources – sources that could be dated so early. Thank you for bringing that to the attention of the general public, who sometimes think of the Gospels as not being based on sources that can be dated so early.

    Do you plan to debate Dr. Craig again? I would be interested to hear a debate on the reliability of the Gospels.

  46. grifffingaddie  April 27, 2012

    The state of Internet discourse, is at a moment of odd indecision. Originally it was 1) all scholarly and technical; then for many years, under the influence of Shout radio and TV, and anonymity? It has become 2) the field of screaming egos and rudeness. But? Maybe 3) we’re getting back to occasional civility?

  47. hardindr  April 27, 2012

    I hope this doesn’t get lost in the long string of comments here, but Robert M. Price in his latest (2012-04-24) “Bible Geek” podcast has a very long response to Ehrman’s critique of his Mythicist position, he claims it will be published soon (I think it will be in Free Inquiry). Anyway, it is almost a half-hour long and starts at the beginning of the podcast:


    My reaction to Price’s complaints: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOOTKA0aGI0

  48. hardindr  April 27, 2012

    I’ve also picked up Carrier’s new book, “Proving History.” I haven’t read it, but I’ve skimmed it a bit. In the dust jacket, Carrier is described as an “independent scholar,” so I guess that means he’s given up on getting a teaching position somewhere. In the Preface, he states that funding for the book (~$20,000 USD) came from an atheist group in the Los Angeles area called Atheists United http://atheistsunited.org/article/595/special-event-proving-history-bayes-theorem-and-the-quest-for-the-historical-jesus . Carrier states that he has made maintained his independence and that Atheists United had no control over what he wrote in the book. Interestingly enough, Carrier also states that he does not care if Jesus of Nazareth existed or not, or at least, he has no ideological ax to grind however the question might be answered. Carrier also states that he does not answer the question of the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth in this book, that is for his second volume, “On the Historicity of Jesus Christ,” where he will apply the historiography outlined in this book. Positive blurbs for the book on the back dust jacket, come from Malcolm Murray, an author, and Hector Avalos, a scholar of the Old Testament. Leafing through the contents of the book, it looks like Carrier spends much of his time criticizing various historical criteria, in particular the Criterion of Embarrassment. I am curious to see what other historians think of Carrier’s ideas.

  49. hardindr  April 27, 2012

    Also, also, more from Richard Carrier (which doesn’t amount to much):


    • Claude  April 29, 2012

      Carrier hyperventilates for over 24 column inches on the priapic cock alone. Yes, I measured.

      • Claude  April 29, 2012

        Perhaps I should have rephrased…

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  52. Jesse W  April 30, 2012

    For some reason, my attempt to link to the review by Carrier to which this is a reply failed to show up. I’ll submit it again, maybe it will work this time.

    The original review: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1026
    Carrier’s response to this post: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1151

    I do find it puzzling that the previous comment is not visible — presumably it was a technical fault.

  53. John  April 30, 2012

    I am a Christian and believe Carrier’s attack was a low blow and intellectually dishonest. This is something I am trying to post to his board. I don’t expect it to be posted, as they haven’t posted my other question. Bart, I would be curious to know if you believe my question is a fair and well thought out one. While you and I disagree on many things, we are in sync I believe on this one.

    “I suppose we can debate whether or not Jesus existed. But if he didn’t exist Richard, how do we explain that the Apostles of the first century spread the word of Jesus and died believing that Jesus was the Son of God.? Now those that acknowledge that Jesus existed but deny that he was the son of God would say that the Apostles believed Jesus existed due to post “resurrection” appearances that were in actuality delusions. But if Jesus didn’t exist at all, how do we explain that Acts and Luke which were very early, (within the lifetime of many of those who would have been witnesses to Jesus life) spoke to Jesus existence. If he didn’t exist, wouldn’t we have expected to see early documents refuting the existence of Jesus? Additionally Richard, if Jesus didn’t exist, how do we explain the early and rapid rise of Christianity. It seems unlikely that there was enough time for mythology to arise of a historical figures mythological claims and works, never mind a figure invented from whole cloth.”

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 30, 2012

      Thanks John. My sense is that Richard will have an answer for this — and for anything else you (or anyone else) might throw his way! I’m sorry that he hasn’t included your question and given you his response though. Thanks for passing it along here. (Some of these questions are answered in the various writings by the mythicists, if you want to see how they would respond. You might start with Early Doherty’s massive tome.)

      • John  April 30, 2012

        Thank you Bart. I am honored that you would take a moment to answer my question. I will take a look into that. I think given the early rise of Christianity, the mythicists have a very steep hill to climb, and on one leg to show that Jesus never existed.

        • Maquiavelo  May 1, 2012

          how do you explain that the Church of Latter Day Saints grew to 1 million members within the first 100 years after the golden tablets had been revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith, unless the angel Moroni and the golden tablets really existed and were witnessed by the early followers of Smith? Both the prophet Smith and Paul were the ground-breaking founders of their respective cults and spread the Word. No doubt that both Paul and Smith existed in a physical sense. Therefore, anyone who claims that the angel Moroni was a mere myth has a steep hill to climb, don’t they?

          I’m still agnostic about the question whether there was, in early first century Palestine, a (single) preacher called Jesus whose reputation grew from that of a (probably illiterate) itinerant preacher hailing from rural Galilee to that of The Messias, no doubt helped by the extant expectation of many Jewish believers (not believers in Jesus) that a messias would arise and ignominiously die around the year 30CE – thus, the physical figure of Jesus would have been raised, post mortem, to a more and more godlike status; that’s how legends are woven around a physical core, which might have been a living human being that had attained a certain fame within his in-group of followers.
          Or else, if the variety of ideas of messianic figures, as promoted by various Jewish sects even before Jesus’ supposed birth, just coalesced into the idea of a Paulian/Christian Messias – thus, just another myth woven from existing ideas, but more successful because Paul expanded it from its original market niche of Jewish messianic sects to the much larger market potential represented by all the 60 million Gentiles of the Roman Empire.
          One factor which increased the competitiveness of Paul’s message – the imminent arrival of a messianic redeemer during the lifetime of those that heard the message and eternal life, no less – to the Gentiles might have been the waiver of circumcision, a painful and often dangerous procedure, whereas other Jewish messianic sects of the time, if they were at all open to potential non-Jewish believers, did probably not renounce such more difficult traditional entrance barriers to Jewish communities of faith. Consequently, the Paulian sect outcompeted iother messianic cults through missionary work among the Gentiles – though relatively slowly, over the course of more than 2 centuries, at a pace of 4%p.a. Each community of 100 Christian believers did not convert more than 4 new followers to their cult, year after year, during the first 2-3 centuries – if that was a miracle, then it was one progressing in slow-motion, unlike some other cults.

          • ntuser  May 2, 2012

            Does passing the founding hat from Jesus to Paul really work? In Paul’s letters there are other Christian missionaries to those particular gentile communities with which he both cooperates and competes. There are other communities that Paul doesn’t have anything to do with such as the very literate Johannine community http://www.xhchina.org/sxnk/annaul/A012k.htm . Paul wasn’t the first to preach to the gentiles and how do we know that he innovated uncircumcised membership? This might occur to any hard pressed Christian evangelist or Christian community that is struggling and at odds with the Jewish community.
            In Paul’s letters he claims there are more persuasive evangelists. Maybe we only know Paul best today because he wrote many letters so well and so usefully to the early gentile Christians and a follower/reader wrote a gospel with a companion piece. We also have to keep in mind that this early narrative history was retold, and the early writings selectively favored, by the victors in the inter-christian struggle.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  May 2, 2012

            Yes, I’m on your side on this one. Paul wasn’t the only — or maybe (who knows!) even the most important — missionary to Gentiles, and he inherited a whole lot from those who came before him. The idea that he was the “founder” of Christianity has to ignore all that. he didn’t invent the idea that Jesus died for sins and was raised from the dead. That’s what he came *in* with!

      • Jesse W  May 1, 2012

        Here are some useful links, John, if you’d like to read some of the answers that have been given to your question. Reviewing actual books is excellent, too, but these can provide a start and an overview.

        http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/partone.htm — **Earl** (not Early…) Doherty’s site
        http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/camel.html — Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism’s site, summarizing Doherty’s work
        http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/#history — Many of Carrier’s essays on ancient history

        This is not a topic I’m particularly familiar with (or interested in, for that matter), so I won’t be able to discuss these matters with you myself, but these links should provide you with quite a lot of material to look over, if you haven’t seen it before. If you have, sorry for wasting your time.

    • Maquiavelo  May 1, 2012

      Carrier has answered these questions before you asked them here. Read his book “Not the Impossible Faith – Why Christianity Didn’t Need A Miracle to Succeed”.
      In the third century CE, most scholarly estimates put the “market penetration” of the product Christianity at 10%, in a Roman Empire with 60 million inhabitants. Even the few most generous scholarly estimates don’t exceed 25%. Thus, the number of Christians even after 3 centuries of evangelism was no more than 6 – 15 million. What was the starting point? Acts mention 5,000 believers (otherwise unsupported, but let’s accept it). Therefore, the compound average annual growth rate of Christianity was between 3.6% and 4.1%: 5,200, 5400, 5600, 5900, …, 6-15 million after 2.5 centuries. That’s a growth rate not untypical for new cults. The one started by Joseph Smith in the 1820s, which has gathered 14 million members in less than 200 years, was even more successful if measured by its growth rate. Do you ask us to believe in the physical existence of the angel Moroni, because a movement that grew from a handful of followers to a million within its first 100 years and to 14 million within 200 years can’t possibly be founded on delusions, conmanship of the preachers and gullibility of the believers? If Moroni and the golden tablets did not exist, why would Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery have dedicated their lives to preach Mormonism? Why did Brigham Young accept the role of successor and cult leader after Smith’s assassination while awaiting trial, even though Young never met Moroni but ony the prophet Smith?
      Rastafarianism is a religious movement that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica and worhips the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie (died in 1974). Global number of rastafarians ~1 million according to some sources.
      Sikhism was founded in the 15th century and has grown to 30 million members, obviously at a similar rate as early Christianity did.
      Thus, the arguments
      1) that Jesus must have existed because some of the earliest preachers such as the apostles (of whose lives and deeds after the crucifixion we know next to nothing) must have met Jesus in the flesh, or else they would not have spent their lives preaching the gospels (unlike Paul, who only met a post-mortem apparition of Jesus, but was most effective in the dissemination of the new faith among the Gentiles);
      2) or that the all but astonishing growth rate of 4%p.a. proves Jesus’ phyiscal existence –
      does not really hold water. Most new cults have a physical core: one or more prophets who explained to the sheeple the holiness of the tenets of the new faith. In Mormonism, Joseph Smith, in Scientology, Ron Hubbard, in Sikhism, the guru Nanak Dev. The prophet who disseminated early Christianity was Paulus (to which extent the largely mythical 12 apostles contributed to Paul’s missionary work, is an open question). Paul himself never met the preacher Jesus during his earthbound sojourns, but that did not stop Paul from becoming the most fervent missionary of the new faith, based on a few post-mortem apparitions: bright lights and voices from the sky.

    • Andrew G.  May 1, 2012

      Obviously I’m not Richard, and I don’t pretend to have any answers, but your question seems to me to raise some more fundamental questions which would have to be answered first. For example:

      – How much do you think we know about what the “Apostles” believed? We have some insight into Paul’s beliefs from his letters, and likewise evidence from those letters that other conflicting beliefs were widespread (but not what those beliefs were), but what else?

      – How early do you think Luke-Acts was? (If it was as early as 85 AD, then even a 15-year-old eyewitness to Jesus’ death (assuming it happened in 30 AD) would only have a 10% chance at best of survival to that age. Peter, Paul and James were all believed to have been killed by then.)

      – Given that we know that Acts’ account of Paul disagrees with Paul’s own writings at every point of comparison, why would we assume it would be any more accurate about Jesus?

      – why would we expect any early documents refuting his existence to be written, or preserved if they were?

      – How “rapid” do you think the rise of Christianity was?

  54. Rick K  May 1, 2012

    I am by no stretch of the imagination a scholar, however, I have a several of the mythicist books by Price, Murdock and Doherty and I have always found your writings to more clearly state your theses. I have even had a few emails exchanges with D M Murdock due to one of her claims I found to be unsupported. Our exchange never led to any agreement. I respect your scholarship and integrity.

  55. Andrew Vella  May 2, 2012

    I don’t want to accuse Carrier of factual errors, but two years ago I wondered if an article by Richard Carrier really existed. He cites himself with two different years for writing an article for journal that had stopped publishing and it makes no reference to the volume Carrier’s article is meant to have appeared in: http://ravingsandranting.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/is-this-journal-article-by-richard.html

    If anyone can help me find this article I would very much appreciate it.

  56. Andrew  May 2, 2012

    In carrier’s recent post, he states

    “The view that Claudius changed the title of Judaean governors from prefect to procurator has long since been refuted (most conclusively by the work of Fergus Millar.”

    But Fergus Millar never refuted this. See here:


  57. blackey  May 9, 2012

    Richard Carrier attacks everybody including those who hold Jesus is a myth! The only people he is easy on are Earl Doherty and Bob Price but he has stated if would be better if Doherty’s book was coming from someone who has a PhD in the field rather than an amateur. As to Freke and Gandy, Acharya S. Atwill, Ken Humphreys etc, Carrier says all there books are laced with mistakes and sloppy errors and are GARBAGE!! Do NOT buy them!! Until he gets his book out on the Jesus myth question, only read Earl Doherty or Bob Price. I kind of like Richard Carrier. He has always responded in a fairly nice way to my questions. But if I met him in person, I might slap the shit out of him! Who knows?

    • ntuser  May 10, 2012

      The world needs gadflies, but I think this one has been swatted.

  58. Anon  May 13, 2012

    Carrier wrote a counter response to Ehrman’s article. I hope these two can have a public debate on this subject, that would be intriguing.

  59. Arkenaten  June 5, 2012

    Wonder what you make of this? Your thoughts?

    “There are some minor textual issues (the spelling ‘Chrestianos’ vs. ‘Christianos’, e.g.), but there’s not much to be done with them since we here, as everywhere in Tacitus’ major works, effectively depend on a single manuscript”.
    James Rives

    Minor textual issues?

    “The surviving copies of Tacitus’ works derive from two principle manuscripts, known as the Medicean manuscripts, which are held in the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy, and written in Latin. The second Medicean manuscript is the oldest surviving copy of the passage describing “Christians.” In this manuscript, the first ‘i’ of the Christianos is quite distinct in appearance from the second, looking somewhat smudged, and lacking the long tail of the second ‘i’; additionally, there is a large gap between the first ‘i’ and the subsequent ‘long s’. Latin scholar Georg Andresen was one of the first to comment on the appearance of the first ‘i’ and subsequent gap, suggesting in 1902 that the text had been altered, and an ‘e’ had originally been in the text, rather than this ‘i’.

    In 1950, at historian Harald Fuchs’ request, Dr. Teresa Lodi, the director of the Laurentian Library, examined the features of this item of the manuscript; she concluded that there are still signs of an ‘e’ being erased, by removal of the upper and lower horizontal portions, and distortion of the remainder into an ‘i’. In 2008, Dr. Ida Giovanna Rao, the new head of the Laurentian Library’s manuscript office, repeated Lodi’s study, and concluded that it is likely that the ‘i’ is a correction of some earlier character (like an e), the change being made an extremely subtle one. Later the same year, it was discovered that under ultraviolet light, an ‘e’ is clearly visible in the space, meaning that the passage must originally have referred to chrestianos, a Latinized Greek word which could be interpreted as the good, after the Greek word χρηστός (chrestos), meaning “good, useful”, rather than strictly a follower of “Christ”.


    “….minor textual issues….” Really?

  60. Bobby Garringer  June 9, 2012

    It would be a good idea for you to apply the Principle of Interpretive Charity to your own reading of ordinary language in the Gospels — with the necessary limitation that the authors cannot now be contacted when apparently conflicting statements cannot be recognized.

    • Bobby Garringer  June 9, 2012

      Oops! I meant “cannot be reconciled” in my last sentence, illustrating the mild hazards we meet in ordinary language.

  61. Bradley Steeg  June 25, 2012

    I’m a month late to the party but I wanted to say that I enjoyed this response by Dr. Bart Ehrman. I spent my early years as an atheist who thought Jesus was a myth and later became a conservative evangelical Christian. Thanks to Dr. Ehrman’s work and others like him I now label myself a liberal Christian. I explain my history only to show that I am willing to change my mind about things, yet Richard Carrier’s criticism of __Did Jesus Exist?__ gave me no reason to change my mind about respecting Dr. Ehrman’s integrity or work ethic. Personally, I feel that if you choose to criticize someone’s work you should start with the best they have to offer rather than nitpick for minor mistakes or inconsistencies. By nitpicking, Richard Carrier made himself look like he couldn’t contend with the major thrust of Dr. Ehrman’s book, which I believe to be that a historical Jesus is the best explanation we have for the existence of all these little bits of evidence Richard Carrier wants to squabble over. Consequently, I think that in order to write a decent criticism of Dr. Ehrman’s book Richard Carrier would have needed to create a Jesus-Myth-Model (I made that up because I didn’t know what else to call it) and then show why his model is better than a historical Jesus at explaining the existence and shape of the evidence.

  62. E. de Mas  August 10, 2012

    It’s not that you’re intentionally an incompetent pseudo-scholar. It’s simply that you have perverted rational methods of the study of history. You don’t begin with premises, you begin with conclusions and then you attempt to find facts that support your conclusion. It’s Christian Apologism.
    To any reasonable person who was not indocrinated into religion, there are too many blanks in the evidence supporting the historicity of Christ. You entirely ignore those blanks and go on to focus exclusively on hearsay, speculation and further speculation that supports your previous speculation.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 11, 2012

      Wow. Really? Well, I would suggest may you should read my book before passing judment on my scholarship. And, well, are you saying that every other expert on the planet is also an incompetent pseudo-scholar? It’s certainly an interesting point of view. I wonder if you have credentials for having it!

  63. blackey  September 1, 2012

    E. de Mas. What have you been smoking? Must be better than the weed I use to get straight out of Mexico! And YOU call yourself “a reasonable person”?? I assume you are completely convinced, without a doubt, that Jesus never existed. That IS as insane as the “holocaust” deniers. Or that George W. Bush flew to Florida on 9/11/01 so he would be out of Washington when the Islamic terrorists took over four U. S. airliners with two bound for the Twin Towers in New York, one for the White House or Pentagon and the fourth for the White House or the Capital!! Neil Armstrong recently passed away at age 82 and I know a man who is convinced that Neil was on a sound stage somewhere in California and the moon landing was faked.

    And this junk that Nazareth didn’t exist at the, as the myth crowd like to say, SUPPOSED time of Jesus’ life, isn’t even supported by Richard Carrier!!

    P. S. Carrier has admitted to me via Email that one can NOT be certain Jesus never existed. Where Carrier parts company with most scholars & historians is that he is convinced that it is LIKELY that Jesus did NOT exist but yet he (Jesus) could have.

    Carrier also disagrees with Acharya S and Ken Humphreys about Paul not existing either. Carrier says he has read a good argument that Galatians is a forgery but that it’s impossible to add ALL of Paul’s letters to the forgery list that also includes Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy etc.

    BTW, The Roman Catholic Church now as a website that takes to task those such as Carrier and even our hero here, Bart Ehrman, that there is NO real compelling evidence that Titus and 1 and 2 Timothy are second century forgeries. They provide reasons to accept ALL of the letters of Paul in the NT as FROM Paul! Acharya S, on the other hand, insists that ALL of Paul’s letters are forgeries because Paul never existed and is a “made up” character where they borrowed from other characters, some of whom actually existed… including JOSEPHUS and rolled them all together & BINGO those who made up Christianity and Jesus by borrowing from Egyptian rising/dying mythological gods such as Horus and virgin mothers such as Isis; NOW had a Paul who was made up like magic too and never really lived..just like Hercules.

    There are so many ideas from which to choose that one is left wondering if it is even worth spending time looking over all the varieties! Some examples is Atwill’s idea that Josephus wrote most of the NT and made up Jesus and wrote the “TF” just as it reads in all extant copies or Jewish expert Dr. Maccoby who certainly believes Paul existed but feels it’s likely Paul LIED about being a Jew in his genuine letters.

    Now who do YOU believe?

  64. amorfati
    amorfati  September 12, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman, you rock! Keep up the fantastic work!

  65. Paul  September 26, 2012

    I use to like Carrier as an atheist philosopher until I found out he joined Atheism plus and then start verbally attacking people who disagree with him (almost to the point that it’s like trolling). This surprised me because I thought Carrier would act like a mature intellectual who has decent background knowledge in philosophy and ancient history. I’m even more surprised that Carrier would call Bart a pseudo-scholar and use a lot of rhetoric to get his point straight; I get a bit mad when Carrier asks his readers to follow his advice but he doesn’t follow it when it comes to people he disagrees with. That really blew my respect for Carrier apart, I cannot see him the same way…I might still read some of his books occasionally but with a different attitude….

  66. Nittoditto  October 3, 2012

    Why should I believe Bart Ehrman? He’s produced no evidence at all that Jesus Christ existed as a physical historical person. Jesus Christ still remains a contrived Magical Religious Being.

  67. Nittoditto  October 3, 2012

    That’s right, produce a blog where the feedback is moderated. The argument for a historical Jesus Christ involve such cheating and underhand tactics of prolonging the arguments and claims through gangster methods. Give me 5 minutes live television airtime with Bart Ehrman. Forget his book, let’s challenge his credibility on this subject matter on live television airtime where there will be no moderation, no censorship, no defending of “accepted scholarship” without logical or rational justification. The claim that Jesus Christ existed as a physical historical person is as much an article of Faith as believing in The Nicene Creed.

  68. Nittoditto  October 3, 2012

    Oops, Bart Ehrman forgot to mention that the “Annals” by Tacitus were unknown prior to the 15th century. When classical scholars referred to Tacitus they were only aware of his “Histories” – and the same applies to Apologists of the Christian Faith – they knew nothing about the existence of “Annals” – Christian Apologists were only aware of the existence of the “Histories”. Ehrman is a typical Defender of the Faith resorting to Gangster Tactics.

  69. Greediguts  January 2, 2013

    I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read this yet:

    Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200 by Richard Carrier Journal of Early Christian Studies 
(vol. 20, no. 4, Winter 2012), 
pp. 489-514

    He states that the James/Jesus quote in Josephus is “probably an accidental interpolation or scribal emendation and that the passage was never originally about Christ or Christians. It referred not to
    James the brother of Jesus Christ, but probably to James the brother of the
    Jewish high priest Jesus ben Damneus.” (taken from the first paragraph of Carrier’s article).

    And he finishes the article with this understated proclamation:
    “The significance of this finding is manifold, but principally it removes this passage from the body
    of reliable evidence for the fate of Jesus’ family, the treatment of Christians
    in the first century, or Josephus’s attitude toward or knowledge of Christians.
    Likewise, future commentaries on the relevant texts of Origen and
    Josephus must take this finding into account, as must any treatments of
    the evidence for the historical Jesus. Most pressingly, all reference works
    that treat “James the brother of Jesus” must be emended to reflect this
    finding, particularly as this passage is the only evidence by which a date
    for this James’ death has been derived.” (Taken from the last page of the same article by Carrier)

    So everyone MUST take this finding into account and every reference work MUST be emended!

  70. Britt  January 16, 2013

    good job brent eardman!

  71. John E Paver
    John E Paver  March 2, 2014

    Dear Professor Ehrman

    I’m sorry if this is resurrecing old ground for you but I’ve only been a member of your blog for a couple of months (albeit a reader of your books for several years!), and I am still reading through several years worth of blog-posts!

    I had never heard of Richard Carrier (and I think I am beginning to see why) and so had to do some searches on the internet to find out about his comments on your book “Did Jesus Exist?” (which I found to be excellent and it changed my opinion on the matter!) I don’t recall your mentioning him in your book – I’ll have to re-read it!

    My question is a simple one! Is this the Richard Carrier of whom you speak?…


    To be honest, my immediate thoughts were that it was a spoof website. However, on reading further and clicking on some of the links, it does appear to be serious (with a very loose defininition of the word “serious”). He does not come across as scholarly in his interaction with those posting in the discussion (he calls one person “a jerk”), and his use of language and abuse towards posters are not what I would expect from a respectable scholar!

    He seems fond of naming various fallacious arguments he alleges you make but then he makes the fallacious argument of “Ehrman remained silent about my criticisms therefore he is wrong and I am right” – I am sure there is a fancy name for this fallacy but I don’t know what it is!!

    He also seems to criticise you for changing your opinion over time on some things. Surely changing your opinion in the light of further evidence and research is a good thing not a bad thing and shows you to be an honest scholar?

    Finally, one of my favourite sayings is, “Don’t argue with idiots. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience!”. I do wonder that you find the time to argue with somebody like Richard Carrier. Is it something you have to do as a Professor or could you safely ignore him if you chose?

    Best wishes, John.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      Yes, that’s the one. He’s a pain in the backside and, frankly, not a very nice person. I refuse to deal with him either in person or, any more, in writing. Maybe he’ll calm down and start acting more professionally.

  72. SHameed01  April 20, 2014

    Carrier claims that you say that there are not any references to Pontius Pilate except from sources after his life and that this notion is incorrect since there are contemporary records making references to him, what’s your take on this specific argument of his?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 20, 2014

      We have one partial inscription, some coins, a reference in Philo — and that’s it so far as I know. What else does he cite that was contemporary? (Josephus, of course, was later, as were the Gospels)

      • SHameed01  April 20, 2014

        “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.”

        I’m not sure if the above quote answers your question.

  73. rsieber  April 20, 2014

    Dr Ehrman,
    I am not a scholar but am one of those people who read just about everything I can get my hands on about a subject. I do have a background in theology but only an Mdiv from a catholic seminary. I have, of course, read everything you have written which is available to the public.
    I find Richard Carrier a wonderful scholar but cannot get past his arrogance at times. He’s not THAT good. I refuse to support his methods of confronting you or anyone else with whom he disagrees. He comes at you with more venom than the fundamentalists with whom you painstakingly debate. They actually think you are going to hell but are still less venomous than Doctor Carrier.
    I don’t like the need to have to add this disclaimer before I can actually say that I disagree with your findings on the historical Jesus. It appears to me that you have spent your entire career in pursuit of the truth wherever that might lead you. Dr Ehrman, it appears to me that if we were investigating the historicity of anyone else but Jesus the conclusion would be that unless we come upon new material the existence of this man is very much in doubt.
    Not that it matters but I am someone who has suffered for my beliefs in the goodness of God and have needed my faith in the scriptures through the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and into the present day. The chickens of being repeatedly beaten, gassed and jailed have come home to roost on my poor aching body. The only thing stronger than my faith in the God of the bible is my desire to pursue the truth. So far this has led me kicking and screaming from rock solid believe to open ended quest for the truth of it all.
    I am certainly open to your new book about the historical existence of Jesus but do not find it convincing right now. But please do not assossiate me with anyone whose methods appear to cancel anything he or she may or may not have to offer to this quest.
    Thank you
    Rick Sieber

  74. SHameed01  April 20, 2014

    Dear Professor,

    I do sincerely apologize for the inconvenience but I can’t help resisting from asking you regarding Richard Carrier’s allegation that you claimed the following in your book, “Did Jesus Exist?”:

    “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 pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind.”

    Did you really make such a statement (I haven’t read the book yet since I am reading another book right now)?

  75. willow  April 24, 2014

    Subject matter: Richard Carrier.
    First post: April 25, 2012.
    Last post: April 20, 2014.
    That’s two whole years, Bart!
    Surely he so well enjoys getting under your skin, if but for all of the attention it gains him.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      I was just responding to a questioner. Trust me, Carrier is not on my mind *at all* otherwise!!

      • willow  April 25, 2014

        Good, cuz he ain’t worth frettin’ over. As for the rest – trust you? Why, Sir! I hardly even know you! 🙂

  76. jdboyle8  July 5, 2014

    Would you consider doing an in person debate?

    As a layperson and student the argument was highly informative.

    I think in person debate would advance your interests in several ways:

    1. Inform the public – (Passionate debate draws people in who wouldn’t otherwise be interested)
    2. Find common ground – (Dr. Carrier loves your other works)
    3. Positive dialogue – (The internet is a bad form for positive conversation. You are both respectful debaters who value an informed public and historical accuracy.)

    Jeffrey D. Boyle

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 5, 2014

      No, I am not interested in sharing a stage with Richard Carrier. He has publicly insulted me, and I prefer allowing him to go his own way.

      • jdboyle8  July 7, 2014

        I understand,

        Mythicists are often portrayed as ridiculous, which may have driven some of the vitriol.

        Anyways, I learned a lot about history from your book and the disagreement.

        Thank you

  77. Wilusa  November 6, 2014

    Ehrman, you say “brigaids” when you mean “brigades.”

    Just kidding!

    “engaging in discussion here can mean entering into a black hole: there is no way out once you hit the event horizon.”

    Love it.

    Seriously, I was puzzled by your having a link to this old material show up on the screen, with no explanation. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

  78. walstrom  January 29, 2015

    This is a personal observation: Carrier would be so much more effective if he could pull back on the snide tone, the arch mockery, and the withering put downs. But, being young and wicked smart, he’s enjoying his season of hubris to the exclusion of intellectual charity. I like his rigor, but I’m put off by the core of bully-boy superciliousness. My guess is, there is a longing to be adored in the manner Bart is adored (oh go on–you know we adore you!) As Cain was driven to slay Abel, Carrier raises his cane to smash the adoration away if he is able. Just my dos centavos.

  79. john76  April 19, 2017

    Skeptics have long posited naturalistic explanations for Jesus’ resurrection appearances to Cephas and the Twelve. Maybe, out of terrible grief or some completely natural transcendent mental state, the disciples were hallucinating. On the other hand, maybe the disciples were inventing resurrection stories to lend divine clout to, and carry on, Jesus’ social ethic cause of “loving your neighbor and enemy,” a ethical cause the disciples may have been willing to die for (like Socrates).

    Historian Richard Carrier characterizes the possibilities in the following way in a recent blog post:

    “Of course Habermas tries to sell Strobel on the tired apologetic line that “no one dies for a lie.” Surely not, “if they knew it was a hoax,” we hear said. This is a classic straw man. And as such, another lie. It’s one thing to ask how likely it is the resurrection appearance claims were a hoax. It’s altogether another to ask how likely it is they were like every other divine appearance experience in the whole history of all religions since the dawn of time: a mystical inner vision. Just as Paul tells us. Our only eyewitness source. Of course, a case can be made for the apostles dying even for a hoax: all they needed was to believe that the teachings attached to their fabricated claim would make the world a better place, and that making the world a better place was worth dying for. Even godless Marxists voluntarily died by the millions for such a motive. So the notion that no one would, is simply false.” see: http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12263

    If you are interested, I have outlined the theory that the resurrection stories were “Noble Lies” here: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.ca/

    What do you think? Should we have a naturalistic or miraculous explanation for Jesus’ resurrection appearances?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 20, 2017

      Since I am not a believer, and do not think miracles happen, I myself cannot prefer a miraculous explanation!

  80. Bart
    Bart  May 3, 2017

    I’ve since run across a dispute! I am on a committee of a student at Duke arguing that the whole thing was forged by Eusebius. I’m not convinced yet, but it’s interesting.

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