Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Did Jesus Exist?" (8): Paying for Ehrman's Responses

Bart Ehrman has a new blog with a special Members Only area where readers can get access to Dr. Erhman's insights for a fee.  All proceeds will go to charity.  Despite my liberal political leanings, I am enough of a capitalist to say that if people are willing to pay Ehrman for blog content, more power to him!  I might do the same if I thought that I could make any money at it.

I am a little disturbed, however, that Ehrman has announced on his Facebook page that he is planning to put his responses to critics in this Members Only area.  After all, I already paid for Did Jesus Exist?   If there is some critique that merits a clarification or explanation from Erhman, I question the necessity of additional payment.  I rather feel that the arguments in the book should still be under warranty.

Ehrman has already used the Members Only area to respond to Robert Price's allegation that he had his graduate assistants read the books that he discusses in Did Jesus Exist?  (You can read about this hubbub on Ehrman's Facebook page as well as at the Uncredible HallQ and Vridar.)  I'm frankly not worried about this response since I never thought that Price's source for this was particularly credible--a podcast listener supposedly heard it from an unnamed student of Ehrman.  Moreover, I really don't care where Ehrman gained his understanding of the case for mythicism.  If his understanding was accurate and his responses were persuasive, it doesn't matter to me whether he read the books himself or a grad student summarized them for him.  If they weren't, reading the books for himself doesn't make them any better.

On the other hand, I think that Richard Carrier raises a number of points that someone who purchased the book might reasonably expect to have addressed without the need to shell out any more money.

Update:  Ehrman has posted his first response to Carrier in his Public Forum, but indicates that further responses will be posted in the Members Only area.


  1. What do you make of this reply from Ehrman. He says "I'm not saying there's no penis nose statue. I'm saying it's not a statue of Peter. I wonder if Richard agrees." Of course Carrier agrees. He said in his critique he doesn't share Murdock's view that it's Peter. Did Ehrman miss that? Ehrman's book seems to imply that there's no penis nose statue at the Vatican, but now he says he only means it's not Peter. OK, but maybe he didn't communicate that very well. And was the point from Murdock really that the statue was Peter or was it just the fact that there's a "Savior of the World" penis statue at the Vatican? My reading is that Ehrman should at least own up to poor communication here, but maybe I'm mistaken.

  2. Jon,

    I have argued with a lot of internet apologists using Erhman's books as references and I don't think that I have ever found myself with egg on my face as a result of overstating the evidence or misrepresenting the range of scholarly opinion. This is because Ehrman is usually very careful to say things like "few scholars think this" and "the evidence for this is not persuasive" rather than "no scholars think this" and "there is no evidence for this."

    While Ehrman's statement may be technically correct in that there is no penis nose statue of Peter, it lacks the precision which has always made me value his writing so highly. I think that anyone who ventures into an argument with a mythicist based on what he read in Did Jesus Exist? will find himself having to back pedal again and again.

    Even when I have disagreed with Ehrman, I always felt like I had an accurate picture of the evidence and arguments on both sides. He doesn't do that with this book.

  3. On a related note I don't think I've ever seen Price as hostile as this. Even with "The Jesus Legend" he seemed kind of pleased to get an effort at rebuttal, though he disagreed with the arguments. The guy was gracious with James White for crying out loud. That's not easy. When Ehrman was dismissive of Price on Finley's show Price totally took it in stride and said it was not a big deal. But now he seems quite ticked. To even express a second hand allegation like this regarding Ehrman not reading the sources is pretty incredible.

    I've been reading your reply and now I'm working my way through Carrier. Is this book so bad that outrage is the appropriate response?

  4. I would go with disappointment rather than outrage. I disagree with most evangelical Christian scholars, but the good ones like Dan Wallace and Darrell Bock can still increase my understanding of the issues and evidence when they aren't engaged in outright apologetics. I think the reason that Price and Carrier are so frustrated is that Ehrman has left his readers less well informed after reading his book and no one expected that. I think that is Carrier's main point.

    BTW, I think Price owes Ehrman an apology. Frustrated or not, I don't think he was justified in reporting that as fact.

  5. I don't see how he ever thought the charity thing was going to work since he'd be constantly in this position.

    1. Ben,

      I figured out how to allow some to subscribe to comments without first commenting, so I am removing the comments that you made on other posts for that purpose.

    2. Cool! Thanks! Sorry if it was bothersome. I like to see how lots of these discussions go.

    3. Not at all. I've wanted to enable subscribing to comments without commenting for a while, but I just never got around to figuring out how to do it.