Thursday 29 March 2012

Great reflection on Ehrman's Jesus

John Shuck has packed an awful lot into his post on Bart Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist?  Nothing dogmatic (John isn't the dogmatic type), just some amazing double-edged sword-style questioning. A brief excerpt.
Dr. Ehrman's book deserves to be read.  He also provides a helpful bibliography of both mythicist literature and historical Jesus (and related topics) literature.   Dr. Erhman believes that he has provided a rock solid case.   It could very well be that Dr. Ehrman is right.

I find his apocalyptic Jesus really depressing.   That Jesus is hard to preach.  I am not sure if we have to have Jesus resemble Harold Camping to be a real guy.   We might be skeptical of a Jesus we admire, but we might also be skeptical of a Jesus we despise.  It may be equally hard to accept that Jesus is an onion.  Peel off each layer of fiction until you get to...nothing?  Give this country preacher a break!  I have to encourage the folks, you know?
I do think this book will open this debate wider, not settle it.  All I mean by saying that is that movements that are outside the academy grow when they get a response from someone "inside the beltway" like Dr. Ehrman.   The mythicist movement is certainly uneven.   Much of it as Dr. Ehrman points out is amateurish.  But there are credible academics (Carrier, Price, Thompson and others) whose arguments may get better, more refined, and more accepted over time.   More may join them.
Indeed, and in fact their arguments are pretty refined in the here and now (witness Price's latest book), even if not widely accepted.  That, I think, has less to do with the rigour of those arguments than the domination of the field by those driven by faith commitments. 

Meanwhile Bob Price has announced that an anthology of essays in rebuttal is being planned by the very same scholars who got slagged off in DJE, to be published by American Atheist Press.  This dust storm ain't dying down any time soon...


  1. Over the years, I've found much to admire about Bart Ehrman's work.
    I don't always necessarily agree with his premises, but he doesn't seem to try to make things fit into spaces where they cannot. That tends to give him credibility, just as do the honest, warts and all footnotes in the New American Bible, St. Joseph's Edition, and several other resources.

    We're all entitled to our opinions, but it has been quite laughable to me the sheer number, and outspokenness of our former brethren who have joined the mythicist camp. I blame the painbodies caused by Armstrongism for such polarization.


  2. Thanks for the kind words! I put up a review of Robert Price's book today. I will them both plus Dom Crossan on my radio show. Trying to think of a catchy Jesusy name for this series!

  3. I will *interview* them I meant to say!