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Richard Carrier: A Fuller Reply to His Criticisms, Beliefs, and Claims about Jesus

Richard Carrier - My Response to His Criticisms Richard Carrier is one of the new breeds 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 give him the respect he deserves. Richard 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] [...]

Did Nazareth Exist?

One question I repeatedly get asked is about my opinion on whether the town of Nazareth actually existed.  I was puzzled when I started getting emails on this, some years ago now.  What I came to realize is that mythicists (i.e., those who think that there never was a man Jesus; he was invented, a “myth”) commonly argue that Nazareth (like Jesus) was completely made up. I still get the emails today – a couple within the past month.   I tried to deal with this issue at length in my book Did Jesus Exist?   But since I get asked the question still, apparently by people who haven’t read my book (!) – I thought I would repeat some of what I say there.  Here is an excerpt on the issue: Did Nazareth Exist - Jesus' Hometown One supposedly legendary feature of the Gospels commonly discussed by mythicists is that the alleged hometown of Jesus, Nazareth did not exist but is itself a myth.  The logic of this argument, which is sometimes advanced with considerable vehemence and force, [...]

2022-05-26T19:46:23-04:00April 1st, 2022|Historical Jesus, Mythicism, Reader’s Questions|

Would I Be Personally Devastated if the Mythicists Were Right? A Blast From the Past

For my mailbag this week I dug into one from the past -- almost exactly five years ago.  I would probably answer it the same today.  My thoughts here on how we go about knowing what actually happened in the past strike me as having very broad application (not just to the question I was asked), and (especially toward the end of my answer) to have even greater relevance now than they did then, given our current historical moment.   QUESTION: Was also wondering - and maybe you addressed this in your book ... would you feel an emotionally traumatic disappointment if it was conclusively proved that Jesus was indeed a mythical figure? In all honesty how would you feel if it were true beyond a doubt that all the arguments the 'mythicists' have presented were found to be correct (or mostly correct) regarding his assumed existence? This question is not meant to be offensive or unnecessarily provoking - I'm just curious. RESPONSE: I don’t address this in the book, and I think it is a terrific [...]

Mythicists and the Virgin Birth: Readers’ Mailbag May 6, 2017

I’ve been devoting the blog to some autobiography recently, so in this Readers Mailbag I’ll make a shift to a couple of academic questions, one about Mythicist claims on the virgin birth and the other about the usefulness of ancient translations of the New Testament for establishing the original text.   QUESTION: I often read mythicists argue that Jesus was a mythological figure because he (allegedly) has many parallels in pagan gods. One of the parallels, of course, is him being born to a virgin. My question is: do mythicists realize that the concept of the virgin birth is a much later development?   RESPONSE: I have spent time with Mythicist groups, and have always enjoyed myself, finding the people friendly, eager to talk, cordial, and interesting.  But the general lack of basic knowledge about the Bible is shocking, even among the most outspoken among them.  What is shocking is not that they don’t know much about, say, the New Testament – that’s true of most people on the planet  -- but that they have [...]

Bart Ehrman & Robert Price Debate – Did Jesus Exist?

As many of you know, this past October I had a public debate with Robert Price on the question of whether Jesus actually existed.  To my knowledge Robert is the only "mythicist" (one who thinks Jesus is a complete myth) who actually has a PhD in the relevant field of New Testament studies.   For years I've been asked by people to debate a mythicist; I've always resisted, in part because I've thought that by doing so I would lend credibility to their view, which, in my judgment, is not credible.   But Robert is a nice guy and I finally yielded and said OK.  This is the debate.  It was lively in places and -- to my surprise -- ended up being a nice experience. The event was part of the "Mythinformation Conference" Buzzed Belief Debate Series presented by Mythicist Milwaukee at Turner Hall in Milwaukee, WI on Friday October 21st 2016.  Mythicist Milwaukee focuses on educating the freethought/skeptic/atheist community about what the organization considers to be the mythological origins of religion.  The people [...]

Biblical Scholars – Don’t Typically Call Themselves a Biblical Historian

Biblical Scholars, are they Biblical historians....and will I create a book from my blog posts? Two interesting questions on this week's Readers Mailbag.  If you have a question, just ask away! Biblical Scholars - How are They Seen? QUESTION: I just had a debate with a Mythicist who had no idea that any biblical scholar could be a historian.  I have to admit, I was just as ignorant of this fact until a little less than two years ago. How mainstream is it that biblical scholars are also known as historians? Maybe people think of biblical scholar–historian as two entirely separate entities.   RESPONSE It’s a good question!  I would say that most biblical scholars in fact are not historians.  But some are.  It depends on what their interests and expertise are. In most PhD programs in biblical studies – for example, those provided in seminaries and divinity schools – the training is focused principally on the texts of the Bible and their meaning.  The emphasis, in those circles, is on “exegesis,” that is, the [...]

The Invention of a Crucified Messiah

This is a follow-up to my recent post in which I argued, against the mythicists who maintain that Jesus was not a real person but was invented by his earliest followers who had learned of a cosmic Christ who was crucified by demons in outer space, that it does not make sense, in my judgment, that first century Jews would make up the idea of a human messiah who got crucified.   I received a number of responses to that post, most of which were very positive.  But every now and then I got a response that said something like this:  “I would say inventing a God/man who was crucified *does* make sense in a 1st century context.” It’s an important objection and I want to take it very seriously.  First, recall my argument, the precise nature of which is important.  I am not arguing in a vague way that no one would make up someone who was crucified, or that no one would make up an important person who was crucified, or that no one [...]

2020-04-03T02:54:47-04:00November 16th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Historical Jesus, Mythicism, Public Forum|

Mythicists and the Crucified Messiah

In my previous post I explained what ancient Jews who were expecting the messiah were expecting.  I do not want to give the impression (one widely held today) that most Jews *were* expecting a messiah.  My sense is that most ancient Jews didn’t spend much time thinking about the matter, any more than most Jews today do.  But for those who did expect a messiah, there were certain expectations.   In this post I want to explain why those expectations relate to the question about whether Jesus existed. Recall: whatever the specifics of what this, that, or the other Jewish group thought, everyone thought the messiah would be a figure of grandeur and power, one who would be a mighty figure who would rule Israel, the people of God, as a sovereign people under no foreign oppression.  The most popular view was that he would be a mighty military leader and political ruler who would overpower the enemy and set up a kingdom for Israel like that of his ancestor David of old.  Another popular view [...]

Mythicists, Jesus, and the Messiah

I am now able to finish off this thread dealing with my debate with Robert Price on whether Jesus existed.  I have already laid out most of the arguments that I gave during my 30-minute presentation at the debate.  As I did in that talk, I now would like to set forth the argument that seems to me to be one of the most convincing of all. Mythicists say that the early Christians invented historical man Jesus, that there never was such a real person.  I think that view runs smack up against a brick wall.  The early Christians claimed Jesus was the messiah.  It was arguably the main thing they said about him – they said it so much that “Messiah” – or “Christ” – became Jesus’ last name.  They also claimed, incessantly, that he got crucified.  Why would Jews invent a messiah who got crucified? To explain the problem I have to provide a bit of background.  That will be this post.  Once that is done, in the post to follow, I’ll explain [...]

What If the Mythicists Were Right: Mailbag November 6, 2016

QUESTION: It must be difficult going into these types of debates knowing that if Robert Price is actually right, your entire career would be pointless and irrelevant. I certainly don’t believe this, but it must have crossed your mind before?   RESPONSE: This question arose from the debate I had a couple of weeks ago with Robert Price, on whether Jesus existed.  Price argued, as you know, that there never was a historical man Jesus, but that the earliest “Christians” believed in a cosmic Christ, a mythical figure who lived above in the heavenly realm who was crucified by demons in outer space.  This is the Christ attested, for example, he claimed, in Paul.  But later Christians invented a historical figure Jesus out of this Christ, and the Gospels portray this fictitious figure that was simply made up.  Jesus of Nazareth never existed. And so this question is whether I really can’t entertain this view as an option since, if it were true, I wouldn’t have a career.  My career is based on the history [...]

The Gospels and the Existence of Jesus

If you have only thirty minutes to build a case that Jesus of Nazareth really existed, how do you do it? That was the problem I was confronted with this past Friday at the Mythicist Milwaukee conference, in my debate with Robert Price.  Rather than mount a lot of arguments and say very little about each one of them (what we used to call “the shotgun approach” when I was in high school), I thought it would be better just to make a few points and pack them up with evidence and reasoning. The first and most obvious point, to me, is this.  Jesus is one of the two best attested Jews living in Palestine in the entire first century.   There were hundreds of thousands of Jews in some way connected with Palestine at the time  Only one is better attested than Jesus (with a proviso, which I’ll explain).  That one is the Jewish historian Josephus.  The reason he is better known than Jesus is because he has left us a large number of writings [...]

Mythicists and the Stories Told of Jesus

Back to my debate with Robert Price this past Friday.  I started this thread by indicating that the majority of my 30-minute talk was devoted to explaining the positive evidence that I think shows beyond reasonable doubt that there was indeed a man Jesus of Nazareth.  I’ll be discussing that evidence later in the thread.  I began my talk, however, by pointing out that Mythicists often adduce arguments that simply are not very convincing.  At least to me.  The first was the topic of my last post, the idea that there was no Nazareth at the time of Jesus, which is both wrong (archaeologists have dug it) and irrelevant (if you wrongly think I was born in Topeka that doesn’t mean I don’t exist). The second is argued with particular vim and vigor by Bob Price himself in several of his publications.  This is that virtually all the stories about Jesus (Bob would say all of the stories, I think) can be seen as modeled on stories known to early Christians, especially in the Old [...]

2020-04-03T02:57:06-04:00October 26th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Historical Jesus, Mythicism, Public Forum|

My Milwaukee Mythicist Debate

I have had several people ask me about how the debate went with Robert Price this past Friday evening.   For those of you who haven’t kept up with the blog or who don’t remember (no reason you should!): I was in Milwaukee to have a debate on the question Did Jesus Exist?  The event was sponsored by the Milwaukee Mythicists, a rather unusual group of local folk who are committed to the idea that there never was a man Jesus, but that he was completely made up by early Christians, a myth.  Hence their name.  Robert Price agrees with that view. The Milwaukee Mythicists are not a chapter of a larger nation-wide organization.  They are the only group like that that I know of (if there are others, I’m sure members of the blog will let me know).  They are a small group, but vibrant, committed, and, apparently, growing.   My view, of course, is that their very raison d’être is problematic, since Jesus, in my view, almost certainly existed.  Hence the debate. Despite our differences, [...]

2020-04-03T02:57:20-04:00October 24th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Mythicism, Public Forum|

Mythicists: Did Nazareth Exist?

I am interrupting my thread on the relationship of Jesus to the Jewish law (I haven’t gotten very far: I’m still on Marcion!) because of what is most pressing on my mind right now, the debate I’m having this evening with Robert Price.  It is here in Milwaukee sponsored by a group called the Milwaukee Mythicists.  It’s a small group of people committed to, or (for some of them) at least attracted by, the idea that Jesus was not a real human being but is a myth invented by his later followers.  I suppose roughly speaking, most Mythicists are a subgroup of people who are atheist. Originally, for most of these people, Jesus was understood to be a divine being who lived in the heavenly realm (“outer space,” as some of them put it) who was crucified by demonic powers.  Later followers of Jesus historicized him and made him, in their myths, into a human being.  And then the stories emerged about him that we now have in our Gospels.  They are based principally on [...]

2020-04-03T03:00:47-04:00October 21st, 2016|Bart's Debates, Historical Jesus, Mythicism, Public Forum|

Did Jesus Exist? My Debate with Robert Price

Right now, as we speak, I am en route to Milwaukee for my debate with Robert Price, one of the best known Mythicists on the planet (for those of you who don’t know, a Mythicist claims that Jesus was a myth made up by early Christians; there never was a historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth).   Of the many thousands of scholars in the world that have a PhD in New Testament or Early Christian studies he is the one, so far as I know, who takes this position. The fact that almost everyone thinks he is wrong does mean that he *is* wrong of course.  For a long time the vast majority of the world’s population thought that the earth was the center of the universe and that sun and stars revolved around it.  The fact they thought so had no bearing on whether it was true or not. For that reason, Mythicists have often gotten upset with me for pointing out that almost no one with any qualifications in the requisite fields of scholarship [...]

2020-04-03T03:00:58-04:00October 20th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Mythicism, Public Forum|

Debate with a Mythicist! And the Book of Revelation. Readers’ Mailbag September 25, 2016

In this week’s Mailbag I’ll be addressing two questions, one about me personally – my preparations for the upcoming debate with Robert Price on the question of whether Jesus even existed as a human being – and the other about the book of Revelation.  If you have a question you would like me to address on the Mailbag, simply ask it in a comment on this post or any other.   ************************************************************************ QUESTION It seems the debate between yourself and Robert Price will be going ahead next month, right? I follow Price on Facebook and he has evidently been re-reading all your books in preparation. How much of his books do you intend on reading prior to the debate? How will you prepare for the debate? I’m really looking forward to it! RESPONSE Right!  Yes indeed!  On October 21 I will be having a three-hour debate in Milwaukee with Robert Price, who has two PhDs from Drew University, one in New Testament Studies and the other in Theology, and who is an atheist who supports [...]

More on the Name “Nazareth”

My post on the archaeological proof that Nazareth did in fact exist elicited a number of responses, some of them asking for more details – especially about whether the name of the town could have been invented by someone who thought Jesus was a “Nazirite.”  I actually deal with that question in my response to mythicists in my book Did Jesus Exist?   There I deal with the arguments of mythicists Frank Zindler and G.A. Wells.  Here is what I say there: ************************************************************** Frank Zindler, for example, in a cleverly entitled essay, “Where Jesus Never Walked,” tries to deconstruct on a fairly simple level the geographical places associated with Jesus, especially Nazareth.  He claims that Mark’s Gospel never states that Jesus came from Nazareth.  This flies in the face, of course, of Mark 1:9, which indicates precisely that this is where Jesus did come from (“Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee”), but Zindler maintains that that verse was not originally part of Mark; it was inserted by a later scribe.   In my view, this making a [...]

2020-04-03T13:59:21-04:00March 3rd, 2015|Historical Jesus, Mythicism, Reader’s Questions|

Carrier, Bayes Theorem, and Jesus’ Existence

As most of you know, I’m pretty much staying out of the mythicist debates. That is for several reasons. One is that the mythicist position is not seen as intellectually credible in my field (I’m using euphemisms here; you should see what most of my friends *actually* say about it….) – no one that I know personally (I know a *lot* of scholars of New Testament, early Christianity, and so on) takes it at *all* seriously as a viable historical perspective (this includes not just Christians but also Jews, agnostics, atheists – you name it), and my colleagues sometimes tell me that I’m simply providing the mythicists with precisely the credibility they’re looking for even by engaging them. It’s a good point, and I take it seriously. In that connection I should say that I can understand how someone who hasn’t spent years being trained in the history of early Christianity might have difficulty distinguishing between serious scholarship that is accepted by experts as being plausible (even when judged wrong) and the writings of others [...]

2020-05-27T16:02:02-04:00November 7th, 2013|Bart's Critics, Bart's Debates, Historical Jesus, Mythicism|

Another Take on Jesus’ Existence

Some readers have objected to my insistence that New Testament scholars, on the whole, do not take seriously the claims of the mythicists that Jesus never existed.   I have always stressed that Jesus' existence is known (and can be demonstrated) by thousands of New Testament scholars.  But I have also always stressed that scholarly consensus on this issue is not in itself *evidence* (my detractors among the mythicists seem to overlook this little point, when they claim that I argue that since the consensus says something it must be true; that's not my view at all!).   At the same time, it is worthwhile knowing what the experts say -- whether talking about the age of our universe (13.8 billion years; but I wouldn't be able to calculate that myself); about the theory of evolution (Hey, it's just a *theory*!  yes, but so too is the "theory" of gravity!!); about the forgery of the Hitler diaries; or about anything else that involves expertise.  At the same time, it is worthwhile in all these cases to know what [...]

Q & A with Ben Witherington: Part 8

CONTINUATION!   Ben Witherington, a conservative evangelical Christian New Testament scholar, has asked me to respond to a number of questions about my book Did Jesus Exist, especially in light of criticism I have received for it (not, for the most part, from committed Christians!).   His blog is widely read by conservative evangelicals, and he has agreed to post the questions and my answers without editing, to give his readers a sense of why I wrote the book, what I hoped to accomplish by it, and what I would like them to know about it.  He has graciously agreed to allow me to post my responses here on my blog, which, if I’m not mistaken, has a very different readership (although there is undoubtedly some overlap).   It’s a rather long set of questions and answers – over 10,000 words.   So I will post them in bits and pieces so as not to overwhelm anyone.  The Q’s are obviously his, the A’s mine. Some of Ben Witherington’s most popular books are The Jesus Quest, and The Problem with [...]

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