Archive for the ‘Historical Jesus’ Category

Ehrman Spin Kicks Carrier in the Jaw

April 27, 2012

It seems safe to say that the Ehrman-Carrier fight is over. Ehrman very effectively demolished Carrier’s attempt to criticize his work. There are a number of interesting things that Ehrman has to say, but most of all this is the water in which Ehrman can safely swim. Carrier plays directly into Ehrman’s strengths, and Ehrman takes full advantage of Carrier’s weakness.

Key points that Ehrman addresses:

1) Was Pilate a procurator (as referred to in the NT) or a prefect (as referred to in Tacitus)? Answer: both titles referred to the same position – in Judea, that post was referred to as prefect at the time Pilate held it, but within the apostolic era began to be referred to as procurator.
2) Did Tacitus refer to Jesus? Answer: Yes. Even the relative minority of Scholarship that questions this either (a) suggests that the passage is an interpolation from another (now lost) work of Tacitus, or (b) thinks that Tacitus himself was making a mistake.
3) Was Osiris a dying and rising god? Answer: No. While in some Osiris myth Osiris comes back, he comes back from Hades. This is not a bodily resurrection.
4) Did Paul think that Jesus was a person who lived just before Paul’s conversion? Yes, and all the relevant sources support that. Ehrman has an amusing paragraph on this point:

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.

I should add that Paul’s reference at Galatians 1:19 to “James, the Lord’s brother,” as being someone he met, strongly suggests that Paul thought Jesus was a contemporary (as Albert McIlhenny recently pointed out).
5) Did the Romans keep scrupulous records of everything, such as births and deaths, in Judea? Answer: No. While there are some detailed records of this kind from Egypt, they were made by the indigenous population.

There was one embarrassing point for Ehrman. He remarks:

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.

But this is a criticism that could similarly be leveled at Ehrman’s own works, especially “Misquoting Jesus.” Now, granted, it’s probably not the case that Ehrman’s work falls prey to this: “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).” So, he’s not fully in the same boat with Doherty, and it is only fair to point that out. He didn’t quote exclusively from scholars who reject his major thesis.

I say that the Ehrman-Carrier fight is over. I stand by that. That doesn’t mean that Carrier or his crew know that. As Ehrman predicts, they may continue to launch web based attacks. Truly, though, the battle is over. The knock-out kick has been delivered, and any ref would be pulling Ehrman off of Carrier in mercy.

-TurretinFan

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: