If you do not know of Bart Ehrman, he is a popular author of many texts concerning New Testament theology--I even used one in my classes.  However, one of his recent works has me doubting as to his so-called proclaimed "agnosticism."  I also have doubts about his authority as a NT scholar.

Why you may ask?  Well, first he writes a text called "Forged"--claiming parts of the NT is forged (calling into question its reliability) and that the documents that became the Bible are of "scandalous origin."

I certainly do not have a problem with that, but I do with one of the books he recently had published titled, "Did Jesus Exist" where he "vigorously defends the historicity of Jesus."

So--what is it?  If the documents that we know of as the Bible are of "scandalous origin" and therefore unreliable, how does one come to "vigorously defend the historicity of Jesus??

Me thinks Ehrman has conflicting emotions, and still can't bring himself to the point of denying his "savior."  I perused the book yesterday in the book store and was appalled at his lack of scholarship--considering he is supposed to be one of the authorities on the subject.  I say--shame on you Bart.  Now, go take a logic class. 

Tags: Bart, Did, Ehrman, Exist, Jesus, New, Testament, christianity, historicity

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So, in layman's terms, the books of the NT can be of dubious origin while the historicity of the person of Jesus is still potentially valid.

The authorship of a book is neither here nor there, unless the authorship of the text is used as part of the argument--via argument by authority.  On the other hand, besides the fact that the sources are unknown and parts have been shown to be unreliable and inconsistent counts against its authority and its historicity.  For example, if someone is willing to forge a document, then their credibility is questionable. In such a case such as in court, if someone is shown to be a liar (i.e., a forger) then it calls into question their testimony, or anything else that they wrote. 

Let me provide you with an example using Bart Ehrman's logic.  My mother conveyed a story to me that she heard from my grandmother.  According to my grandmother, when she was a young girl and went to take care of the cows, she was cut into many pieces, and a master surgeon had to put her back together again.  According to the story, for a brief period when the master surgeon put her toes back together, he also put fish like gills between her toes which gave her the ability to breath under water.   These gills were given as a gift to her from a great human/fish woman named Mariam.  

Continuing to follow Ehrman's logic--Now, I have never heard this story before, nor anything close to it.  Why, I know of no other human who has ever even come close to such ideas.  If i had never heard of this story before, and no one else has ever thought of it, then it must be true, and Marian the human/fish woman must exist--and has historicity.  No human, including my grandmother, would develop such a belief and story of a human fish woman named Mariam who has the ability to give gills that can be placed between peoples toes and help them breathe underwater, since no one has expressed this before, then it must be true.  Again, this is not my logic--this is based on Ehrman's reasoning.  

To put it another way, as Carrier has already pointed out:

"Besides his false (or at least debatable) statement, there is a logical fail here as well, since he bases his conclusion that no Jews would develop a belief in a dying messiah on the premise that no Jews had a belief in a dying messiah, which apart from being a circular argument (all novel beliefs start somewhere; you can’t argue that x would not arise because x hasn’t arisen), and apart from the fact that the inference is refuted by the fact that Jews later did develop such a belief (independently of Christianity, as I also demonstrate in the preceding link) so clearly there was no ideological barrier to doing so, but besides all that, his premise requires knowing what all Jews, of all sects, everywhere, believed or imagined, which knowledge Ehrman doesn’t have."

On the contrary, Ehrman would toss out the miracle parts of the story. Doing so is one of his criteria for deciding what to toss out. He might conclude that your grandmother was probably injured by a cow at one point--if he had heard similar stories about her being injured from multiple sources.

Claiming that Ehrman's logic and methods requires belief in a miracle working Jesus, which Ehrman emphatically does not assert, is a strawman.

You do not understand where he is coming from.

I am not claiming that Ehrman's logic and methods requires belief in a miracle working Jesus. I am making a simple point.  I am making reference to his conclusion that no Jews would develop a belief in a dying messiah on the premise that no Jews had a belief in a dying messiah. The fact that no one had developed the belief in Marian the human/fish, did not  keep my grandmother from developing  belief in Marian the human/fish woman. My grandmother's belief in Marian the human/fish woman was a novel belief.  Her belief was actually the  result of her heart condition as it had caused her to be low on oxygen and over time she had developed a form of Alzheimer disease.

@Cathy - RE: "in court, if someone is shown to be a liar (i.e., a forger) then it calls into question their testimony, or anything else that they wrote." - it absolutely negates the likelihood that he (or she) would be believed, but it doesn't necessarily mean that there is no grain of truth in what he (or she) says.

Exactly my point. My main point and argument as presented in my comments (the post was a mere question) was not to prove that Jesus did not exist, but to show that Bart Ehrman's defense for the historicity of the existence of Jesus is weak and fails as such. It is based on forged material that is unreliable in the two sense I just mentioned. Ehrman gets far too many facts wrong. The arguments fail, are in many cases illogical, and his methodology is bad.

First, the forged material is unreliable in the relevant sense as in the court case in your example. Second, the forged material is unreliable in the relevant sense that it is also inconsistent, that is contradictory.

As I said just below: I was thinking, first step, that the sense of forged is relevant here, but,  as you said:  "...then it may be anything from utterly unreliable up to quite reliable notwithstanding issues of authorship."  Second step, offer evidence that besides being forged, it is also unreliable. A significant sense of unreliable I mean that the forged material is not consistent, that is they contradict each other as to the relevant facts.  Now you can make any conclusion you like from a contradiction.  Suppose I offer as an authority on unicorns a text, U, that consists of two documents on unicorns.  Documents A states unicorns are Q and document B states unicorns are not Q. From this I can make any conclusion I like. I chose to conclude that the document, U, provides historicity for  existence of unicorns.

This does not mean that Jesus did not exists, it just means that Ehrman's defense for the historicity of Jesus is weak, or if it is strong, then it is too strong as it also holds for those he claims mythicists “just made this up” about.

As I quoted Carrier  above, again, Carrier said (and I emphasize logical fail):

"Besides his false (or at least debatable) statement, there is a logical fail here as well, since he bases his conclusion that no Jews would develop a belief in a dying messiah on the premise that no Jews had a belief in a dying messiah, which apart from being a circular argument (all novel beliefs start somewhere; you can’t argue that x would not arise because x hasn’t arisen), and apart from the fact that the inference is refuted by the fact that Jews later did develop such a belief (independently of Christianity, as I also demonstrate in the preceding link) so clearly there was no ideological barrier to doing so, but besides all that, his premise requires knowing what all Jews, of all sects, everywhere, believed or imagined, which knowledge Ehrman doesn’t have."

I agree with you, what determines a sources value as a source includes authorship but is not solely about authorship. In my original question, I misplaced a therefore that should not have been there.  I meant to say: So--what is it?  If the documents that we know of as the Bible are of "scandalous origin" and unreliable, how does one come to "vigorously defend the historicity of Jesus??

I was thinking, first step, that the sense of forged is relevant here, but,  as you said:  "...then it may be anything from utterly unreliable up to quite reliable notwithstanding issues of authorship."  Second step, offer evidence that besides being forged, it is also unreliable. A significant sense of unreliable I mean that the forged material is not consistent, that is they contradict each other as to the relevant facts.  Now you can make any conclusion you like from a contradiction.  Suppose I offer as an authority on unicorns a text, U, that consists of two documents on unicorns.  Documents A states unicorns are Q and document B states unicorns are not Q. From this I can make any conclusion I like. I chose to conclude that the document, U, provides historicity for  existence of unicorns.

I have used this tactic before at this link: http://conversationswithchristians.blogspot.ca/2011/07/atheists-and...

I argued that the unicorn argument is a good correlation to the argument for god’s existence. The strength of the unicorn correlation is to remind Christians that there is as much evidence for their god, as there is for unicorns, and that their lofty claims of “knowing” god exists, has no foundation or support. Likewise, the fact that there are competing gods and goddesses and hypotheses and interpretations, is again to illustrate to the Christians, that they can offer no more proof for Yahweh, than a unicornist can for unicorns, or the Greeks can for Zeus, or the Hindus can for Brahman, etc. "

The same can be said for Ehrman's defense for the historicity of Jesus. If we accept Ehrman's logic and bad methodology then I can provide a defense for historicity of the existence unicorns, or the existence of characters that are similar to Jesus such as Osiris and Dionysus that Ehrman claims mythicists “just made this up” about.

This does not mean that Jesus did not exists, it just means that Ehrman's defense for the historicity of Jesus is weak, or if it is strong, then it is too strong as it also holds for those he claims mythicists “just made this up” about.

Above I said, "A significant sense of unreliable I mean that the forged material is not consistent, that is they contradict each other as to the relevant facts."

So, now I have argued that the forged material is unreliable in a relevant sense that it was forged, and that the forged material is unreliable in the relevant sense that it is inconsistent.

Now, one might argue that while the forged material is not consistent, that is they contradict each other as to the relevant facts.--They are consistent with regards to the proposition that Jesus exists, thereby providing a strong defense to the historicity for the existence of Jesus.

But then we could apply the same logic to the written material that implies the proposition that unicorns exists, or that the characters that are similar to Jesus, such as Osiris and Dionysus exist, that Ehrman claims mythicists “just made this up” about.

Again, this does not mean that Jesus did not exists, it just means that Ehrman's defense for the historicity of Jesus is weak, or if it is strong, then it is too strong as it also holds for those he claims mythicists “just made this up” about.

I also agree with you that: there's no logical problem with saying that the NT contains forgery while also saying that it may contain a historical core.

When I said, "I am appalled at his lack of scholarship--considering he is supposed to be one of the authorities on the subject.  I say--shame on you Bart.  Now, go take a logic class." I was making reference to the examples of the logical problems I saw in his arguments and his bad methodology as well as all of the mistakes and false claims that he makes.

Please go to the aforementioned link to read the details. I cite a few more examples where Carrier says that there's a logical problem with Ehrman's  logic:.

"I could call out many examples of his use of ordinary fallacies and self-contradictions, too, but I will have to leave those for perhaps a later blog (if I even care to bother). I will just give one example that simultaneously illustrates both: Ehrman attacks Robert Price for using the “criterion of dissimilarity” negatively (on p. 187), insisting that’s a “misuse” of the criterion, and then defends using it negatively himself (on p. 293), a blatant self-contradiction."

"As bad as those kinds of self contradictions and fallacies are (and there are more than just that one), far worse is how Ehrman moves from the possibility of hypothetical sources to the conclusion of having proved historicity."

Dr. Ehrman is not conflicted on the issue. He's simply arguing that while someone may have existed, that person is not necessarily a god, and the religious texts written about him may have been forged and embellished. The question of whether a Jewish carpenter existed in the first century is different than whether said carpenter is the Jewish god. Likewise, texts used to tell this individual's tale may be embellished (and contradictory) while still centered on a historical figure.

Dr. Ehrman argues that Jesus, in fact, existed, but that many of the claims and books written about him are not necessarily accurate.

I just love watching a mythicist (one who insists there was no living, breathing, ape carpenter-cum-itinerant preacher named Jesus that all this shit is based on) present to an atheist audience his arguments--and 3/4 of it is arguments against the miracles and divinity of  Jesus.  In front of atheists.  Well DUH.  So basically 3/4 of their material, trying to convince atheists there was no Jesus at all, argues against strawmen.

I have seen videos of people speaking to skeptic conferences with this sort of content.  Now they don't go so far as to say "the miracles are bullshit, therefore Jesus is too" but they spend most of their time debunking the stuff the audience already thinks is bogus.  Then towards the end they present very quickly some actually relevant arguments--mostly glossed over in fact.

It would certainly be nice if they spent more time--as in almost the whole hour--on arguments that actually might address the audience's concerns.  Doing what they do instead makes me wonder just how much "meat" is there.

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