Reading Ehrman Charitably

I have been criticized for my latest assessment of Ehrman’s response to Carrier; apparently I am not reading Ehrman with a grain of generosity towards his meaning.  But let’s be clear, here.  What we’re actually saying is, yes, Ehrman was not at all clear (so the initial criticism is not at all wrong), but since he has clarified his position after the fact, we should let this one slide.

But that isn’t what Ehrman is saying.  He is saying that he was clear–very clear–in his book on the statue and that Carrier misunderstood him.  But I am not convinced this is the case.  Reading the book without reading his response would not permit one to know what he meant.  And it seems as though Ehrman is suggesting we should criticize Carrier for not being able to read Ehrman’s mind.

That said, I would be willing to let this go as a misunderstanding if Ehrman admits some error here.  I do believe this is one of Carrie’s weaker points of contention (which is why I believe he listed it towards the top–not because it was the strongest, as Ehrman believes to be the case) and it is possible that Ehrman just got sloppy with his point on Acharya.  And in truth there is no real disagreement here between Ehrman, Carrier, and myself (as it goes).  Acharya S is wrong and she does make a lot of things up–so Ehrman isn’t necessarily wrong in his final conclusion, but he is wrong about the statue (or how he worded his argument about the statue).

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6 Responses

  1. I think that yours, and Carrier’s, point is that Ehrman should have taken his audience into account more than he did. A complete novice on the issue would more than likely read it and come away with a not-so-accurate conclusion about the artifact in the Vatican; Erhman shouldn’t assume that lay readers will read his mind. And it would be a pretty easy fix as well, just a sentence that says “there is an artifact in the Vatican, but it has nothing to do with Peter”.

    So even if Erhman considers it a minor quibble, he’s still doing his readership a disservice by not giving them completely accurate information.

  2. Absolutely.

  3. And if I may reiterate, Ehrman fails to do what he has always done so well in the past. After reading Misquoting Jesus, I felt that I could follow reasonably sophisticated discussions of textual criticism, ask reasonably intelligent questions, and recognize the difference between someone who knew their stuff and someone who was just bluffing. Anyone who is coming to mythicism for the first time will not come away from Did Jesus Exist? so well equipped.

    I think that this is what probably frustrates Price and Carrier so much. They knew Ehrman was going to come down in favor of historicity, but they were hoping to have a lot of people who were better informed about the essential issues and evidence.

  4. Ehrman was presented with an open goal with Acharya’s comments about this statue.

    Instead he scored in his own net, by insinuating she drew the thing herself.

    Now he claims it took only a little research to establish that the statue ‘does appear’ to exist.

    So why in the name of God did he insinuate that Acharya had drawn the thing herself? When he obviously had done his research and knew it existed,

    If he made such a hash on one of the weakest things in the mythicist books….

  5. Ehrman was not charitable towards Acharya. He calls her out on
    what he believes are howlers in her book. Fair enough. [His treatment of Doherty, Price and Carrier is increasingly respectful and in that order.]

    When he gets caught making a sloppy statement in his book, he backpedals. His claim is now that the statue in question may or may not exist, but it is not that of Peter! Yet that is clearly not what he says in his book.

    Apparently, he did not investigate this. So, how does he know that a statue whose existence he does not seem to be aware of, is not that of Peter? Does ’30 years of NT research’ give him omniscience? (I am not suggesting it is that of Peter.)

    He is not issuing a clarification on his blog. He is accusing folks like Carrier of misreading him!

    I do not see why you or anybody else should be charitable towards this behavior!

  6. [...] even cite Pliny correctly?  And should he really be surprised that others are calling him out on his mistakes?  Does he now think he is [...]

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