Ehrman & Carrier: the historical Jesus (10)

This post continues from the original post in this series.

Carrier’s Roundup

Richard Carrier has posted his interpretation of the exchanges between himself and Bart Ehrman on the subject of the historicity of Jesus. Carrier’s description of these exchanges is open to criticism.

Doherty and scholars

Richard Carrier: “Ehrman wrote that Earl Doherty “quotes professional scholars at length when their views 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,” which is simply false.”

Carrier misrepresents Ehrmans by truncating what he wrote. Ehrman said Doherty cites scholars in support of his specific thesis that Paul thought Jesus was crucified by demons in a spiritual realm, without saying that these scholars disagree with Doherty’s overarching thesis that ‘Jesus was crucified in the spiritual realm’. There is abundant evidence that Ehrman is correct on this point. See more here.

Ehrman on Tacitus

Richard Carrier: “Ehrman falsely claims that no “trained classicists or scholars of ancient Rome” have ever questioned the authenticity of the reference to Christ in Tacitus.”

Ehrman did not claim that. Here is what Ehrman actually wrote.

Bart Ehrman: ‘Some mythicists argue that this reference in Tacitus was not actually written by him—they claim the same thing for Pliny and Suetonius, where the references are less important— but were inserted into his writings (interpolated) by Christians who copied them, producing the manuscripts of Tacitus we have today. (We have no originals, only later copies.) I don’t know of any trained classicists or scholars of ancient Rome who thinks this, and it seems highly unlikely’.

Erhman is referring explicitly to the specific interpolation theory he describes, and he says ‘I don’t know of any trained classicists or scholars of ancient Rome who think this‘. He does not say ‘No trained classicsists or scholars of ancient Rome have ever questioned the authenticity of the reference to Christ in Tacitus’. See more here.

Erhman on sources

Richard Carrier: “Ehrman falsely claims “the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were recent events” (of the 30s A.D.) is “the view of all of our sources that deal with the matter at all.””

This is misleading. Ehrman then goes on to list exactly which sources he is referring to; the four canonical gospels, the gospel sources, and the non-Christian sources such as Josephus and Tacitus. Ehrman was referring to the sources he was about to enumerate in the same paragraph as this sentence.

Carrier wrongly takes Ehrman to task for not mentioning writings which didn’t exist until 300 years and more after Jesus lived, and which are typically not regarded by scholars as sources for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The only scholars Carrier cites who treat these sources as valid sources for the historicity and history of Jesus, are those Carrier acknowledges himself are ‘fringe’. See more here.

Ehrman on Osiris

Richard Carrier: “Ehrman falsely claims that Osiris “return[ing] to life on earth by being raised from the dead” is a fabrication because “no ancient source says any such thing about Osiris (or about the other gods).” “

Actually Ehrman addressed Carrier’s claim that Osiris ‘did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body’. The specificity was Carrier’s; he said explicitly ‘in his resurrected body’. Erhman disproved this claim, and Carrier immediately abandoned this original claim for a new one.

Originally Carrier claimed Osiris is a legitimate parallel to Jesus because they both returned to earth in their resurrected body. When Ehrman proved Osiris didn’t return to earth in his resurrected body, Carrier dropped that claim and switched to a completely different claim, that Osiris is a legitimate parallel to Jesus because neither of them returned to earth in their resurrected body.

First Carrier said Osiris and Jesus are both said to have returned to earth in their resurrected body, and then he claimed neither of them are said to have done so. Then Carrier said that the difference wasn’t important anyway, despite the fact that this difference was a point he himself appealed to previously. See more here.

Well poisoning?

Richard Carrier: “Ehrman neatly combines a no-true-Scotsman fallacy with a fallacy of poisoning the well, by (perhaps unintentionally) misrepresenting my credentials (saying my Ph.D. is in “classics” and not, as it is in fact, “history” with a specialization in ancient religion and historiography), thus making it seem as if I’m less qualified to discuss this subject than I am.”

This is a highly misleading representation of what Ehrman wrote. Despite referring wrongly to Carrier’s degree as being in classics, Ehrman said the complete opposite of what Carrier claims. Here are Ehrman’s words:

Bart Ehrman:Richard Carrier, who along with Price is the only mythicist to my knowledge with graduate training in a relevant field (Ph.D. in classics from Columbia University)”

Carrier has represented Ehrman as saying the opposite of what he actually said. He did not commit a ‘no-true-Scotsman’ fallacy, nor did he commit the fallacy of poisoning the well. He identified Carrier as having graduate training in a relevant field. Carrier promptly represented him as saying the opposite.

Categories: Uncategorized

Ehrman & Carrier: the historical Jesus (9)

This post continues from the original post in this series.

Carrier defends Murdock on the canon

In his book (p. 24), Ehrman made the following response to a claim by DM Murdock (writing under the pseudonym ‘Archarya S’), concerning the canon of the New Testament (Murdock’s claim is in quotation marks, “” and Ehrman’s comments follow in square brackets, []):

Bart Ehrman: ―”It took well over a thousand years to canonize the New Testament,” and ―”many councils” were needed to differentiate the inspired from the spurious books (31). [Actually, the first author to list our canon of the New Testament was the church father Athanasius in the year 367; the comment about ―many councils‖ is simply made up.]

Carrier objected to Ehrman’s statement, charging him with error:

Richard Carrier: (1) Ehrman’s statement that there weren’t “many councils” to decide the NT canon is, read literally, false. There were in fact several councils ruling on the canon, and indeed the canon was never truly settled until the 16th century. Someone who tutored under Metzger, who extensively documented these facts, should know that. I can only assume he meant to say that the canon proposed by Athanasius in 367 (in a letter, not a council ruling) was repeatedly affirmed by every subsequent council convened to decide on the canon (although the fact that they had to keep meeting to do that means there were repeated attempts to change it). Acharya’s own characterization of the matter might also be accused of being misleading. But Ehrman’s wording is going to seriously mislead and misinform the public even more, not only as to the actual history of the canon, but also as to Acharya’s knowledge of the facts.

Carrier’s claim that ‘the fact that they had to keep meeting to do that means there were repeated attempts to change it’ is a non sequitur; the conclusion does not follow logically from the premise. He fails to take into account the fact that church councils often re-affirmed the decisions of previous councils regardless of whether the points affirmed were under challenge. He provides no evidence for his claim, and the facts are to the contrary.

When challenged on this point by a respondent on his blog, Carrier gave a response including the the following claim:

Richard Carrier: Your facts also don’t quite agree with what is stated in Metzger’s Formation of the New Testament Canon. You might want to do more homework on this.

This response appears authoritative on the surface, but on closer inspection it is transparently a bluff. Carrier makes a vague reference to Metzger (a recognized scholar on the history of the New Testament text), but fails to actually address any of the points raised by the respondent, and does not cite or quote any specific statements by Metzger relevant to the point under discussion. The reality is that Carrier has no answer to the challenge raised by his respondent, and is hoping that a casual reference to Metzger will convince them that they are wrong. This attempt at evasion is not the response of someone confident in a knowledge of the facts.

Additionally, Carrier’s reference to the work ‘Formation of the New Testament Canon’ is problematic, since he attributes this work to Metzger. There is a book entitled ‘The Formation of the New Testament Canon: an ecumenical approach’ (1983), by Farmer and Farkasfalvy, and another book by entitled ‘Formation of the New Testament Canon’ (1965), by Robert Grant, but Metzger did not make any contributions to either book. Carrier did not provide any details which would help identify specifically the work to which he was referring.

Metzger’s own work on the formation of the New Testament canon is entitled ‘The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance’ (1997), and when we examine what Metzger actually says in that book, we find nothing supportive of Carrier’s claims. Metzger does not say that numerous councils were held to decide on the canon. On the contrary, he notes that the canon suggested by Athanasius was promoted by Augustine in three provincial synods, all of which re-affirmed the canon of Athanasius.

Bruce Metzger: It was Augustine who, in three provincial synods, cast his weight for the twenty-seven books which we know as the Christian Scriptures. These synods were held, one of them in Hippo in A.D. 393, one in Carthage in 397, and the last of them again in Carthage in 419. The opening words of the statute on the canon are straightforward and forthright: ‘Besides the canonical Scriptures, nothing shall be read in church under the name of the divine Scriptures.’ Then there follows an enumeration of the canonical Scriptures. The order of the New Testament books is Gospels, Acts, Pauline Epistles, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, James, Jude, the Revelation of John. The only difference to be noted in the reiteration of the statute is that, in the synods of 393 and 397, the phrase runs, ‘Thirteen Epistles of Paul, and the Epistle to the Hebrews, by the same’, whereas the statute of 419 reads, ‘Fourteen Epistles of Paul’. (See Appendix IV. 12 below.)

Twenty-seven books, no more, and no less, is henceforth the watchword throughout the Latin Church.

None of the councils cited here by Metzger were held to determine the canon, they simply re-affirmed the canon as they addressed other issues. The 393 CE synod of Hippo was a general annual synod, the 397 CE synod of Carthage was a general synod addressing issues from the transfer of clerics between churches to the reconciliation of repentant actors (it states explicitly that it is simply confirming the canon already received), and the 419 CE synod of Carthage was held specifically to address appeals to Rome.

Metztger notes that this did not settle the issue of the canon once and for all in every Christian community, and does note that differences over the canon continued to be raised occasionally.

Bruce Metzger: Yet it would be a mistake to represent the question of the canon as finally settled in all Christian communities by the beginning of the fifth century.

Bruce Metzger: Thus, despite the influence of Jerome and Augustine and the pronouncements of three provincial synods, more than once in the following centuries we come upon evidence of divergences in the canon, either by way of addition or subtraction.

Nevertheless, Metzger provides no support for Carrier’s defense of Murdock’s claim that there were ‘many councils’ held to decide the New Testament canon.

Godfrey and Ehrman: the historical Jesus (2)

June 30, 2012 2 comments

Ehrman’s representation of Wells

Neil Godfrey charges Ehrman with misrepresenting the views of Wells so completely that it is not possible that Ehrman has even read the pages of Wells’ work that he cites.

Neil Godfrey: Bart Ehrman has indignantly declared he read all of the books he discusses in his book Did Jesus Exist? How, then, could he possibly have confused the mythicist argument of Wells with that of Doherty. The two are opposed to each other. But Ehrman appears to have picked up a garbled account and attributed half of Doherty’s argument to Wells!

Neil Godfrey: Ehrman is writing outright disinformation about Wells’ argument. Ehrman cannot possibly have read the pages in Wells’ book that he cites.

Godfrey’s claim is directed very specifically towards this paragraph by Ehrman.

Bart Ehrman: Instead, Wells contends, Paul understood Jesus to have been a supernatural being who lived in utter obscurity some 150 years or so earlier, who was crucified not by the Romans but by the demonic forces in the world.

Let’s put this paragraph of Ehrman’s next to Wells’ own words, as quoted by Godfrey himself.

* Ehrman: ‘Wells contends Paul understood Jesus to have been a supernatural being
* Wells: ‘Paul believed in a supernatural Jesus

* Ehrman: ‘who lived in utter obscurity
* Wells: ‘he was convinced that Jesus lived an obscure life on earth’

* Ehrman: ‘who was crucified not by the Romans but by the demonic forces in the world.’
* Wells: ‘who assumed human flesh and was crucified on earth at the instigation of supernatural powers

Godfrey claims that Ehrman ‘is writing outright disinformation about Wells’ argument”, and ‘cannot possibly have read the pages in Wells’ book that he cites’. Readers may decide for themselves if the evidence supports Godfrey’s claims.

Godfrey and Ehrman: the historical Jesus (1)

Erhman’s citation of Doherty

Neil Godfrey (owner of Vridar, a blog promoting the Mytherist view of Jesus), claims Ehrman made a ‘hostile error‘ in stating that Earl Doherty ‘speaks of a single ancient view of the universe’ in his book ‘Jesus – Neither God Nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus’ (2009):

Neil Godfrey: Either way, Ehrman has clearly done nothing better than skim Doherty’s book(s) and demonstrated he has not read the arguments he claims to be reviewing. Otherwise there is no way he could have made such a hostile error as to claim Doherty speaks of a single ancient view of the universe.

Contrast Godfrey’s claim with the following statements made by Doherty in his book.

1. ‘So much of the ancient view of things was determined by myth because that was essentially all they had.”, Doherty, ‘Jesus – Neither God Nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus’, p. 11 (2009).

2. ‘Part Four, “A World of Myth and Savior Gods” (chapters 10 to 14), enters the multi-layered universe of the ancients. It will examine their view that a vast unseen dimension lay above the earth, where all sorts of supernatural proceedings took place among gods and spirits.’, Doherty, ‘Jesus – Neither God Nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus’, p. 14 (2009).

3. ‘Ancient philosophy as a whole, its view of the universe and of God, was the product of purely intellectual contemplation.’, Doherty, ‘Jesus – Neither God Nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus’, p. 83 (2009).

4. ‘We will address the specific point about “being in the flesh” in a separate chapter to follow. But the question of heavenly trees and ground gets to the heart of the present matter, as an expression of modern literality and the inability to comprehend the ancient mind’s view of the universe.’, Doherty, ‘Jesus – Neither God Nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus’, p. 150 (2009).

Godfrey claims it is a ‘hostile error’ to claim Doherty speaks of a single ancient view of the universe. Yet there are four clear statements in Doherty’s book in which he does exactly that; ‘the ancient view [singular] of things’ (p. 11), their view [singular] that’ (p. 14), ‘view [singular] of the universe’ (p. 83), ‘the ancient mind’s view [singular] of the universe’ (p. 150).

Ehrman & Carrier: the historical Jesus (8)

May 27, 2012 1 comment

This post continues from the original post in this series.

Dying and rising gods

Carrier objected to Ehrman saying that the Egyptian god Osiris died and was raised from the dead (an issue related to Ehrman’s dismissal of claims that the gospel records of Jesus’ resurrection were literary creations based on previous myths of dying and rising pagan gods):

Richard Carrier: Regarding the claim that Osiris “returned to life on earth by being raised from the dead,” Ehrman insists that in fact “no ancient source says any such thing about Osiris (or about the other gods)” (p. 26). He relies solely on Jonathan Z. Smith, and fails to check whether anything Smith says is even correct. If Ehrman had acted like a real scholar and actually gone to the sources, and read more widely in the scholarship (instead of incompetently reading just one author–the kind of hack mistake we would expect from an incompetent myther), he would have discovered that almost everything Smith claims about this is false. In fact, Plutarch attests that Osiris was believed to have died and been returned to life (literally: he uses the words anabiôsis and paliggenesis, which are very specific on this point, see my discussion in The Empty Tomb, pp. 154-55), and that in the public myths he did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body (Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 19.358b).

Note the following claims made by Carrier:

* “He relies solely on Jonathan Z. Smith”: in fact Ehrman cites Jonathan Smith and Mark Smith (perhaps Carrier failed to differentiate between the two because they have the same surname), and in his reply to Carrier he demonstrates use of the relevant primary sources

* “almost everything Smith claims about this is false”: Carrier provides no evidence for this claim

* “in the public myths he [Plutarch] did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body”: as we shall see, Carrier later completely abandons this claim once Ehrman challenges it

Ehrman responded by proving Carrier wrong; Osiris did not return to earth in his resurrected body (emphasis mine):

Bart Ehrman: Literally, he [Osiris] came “from Hades.” But this is not a resurrection of his body. His body is still dead. He himself is down in Hades, and can come back up to make an appearance on earth on occasion. This is not like Jesus coming back from the dead, in his body; it is like Samuel in the story of the Witch of Endor, where King Saul brings his shade back to the world of the living temporarily (1 Samuel 28). How do we know Osiris is not raised physically? His body is still a corpse, in a tomb.

Carrier’s original claim was made with regard to the gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, claiming that the Osiris myth was a counterpart of the gospel resurrection accounts, which decribe Jesus as rising with the same body which was crucified. Carrier’s claim was that likewise, ‘Plutarch attests that Osiris was believed to have died and had been returned to earth‘, specifically ‘he did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body‘.

Ehrman disproved this; Osiris did not return to earth ‘in his resurrected body’. Osiris’ body was dismembered and remained in pieces, while his disembodied soul sometimes came to earth.

Carrier’s response was to change his argument; abandoning the clam that Osiris ‘did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body‘, he accepted that Osiris had not returned to earth in his resurrected body, and started to argue that Jesus had not done so either.

In order to continue to appeal to Osiris as a parallel, Carrier changed what he had previously said about Jesus and Osiris, now arguing that neither had returned to earth in their resurrected body, so the comparison was still valid (emphasis mine):

Richard Carrier: Of course the same is most likely true of Jesus (as I and several scholars have argued: see my Empty Tomb FAQ; even conservative scholar N.T. Wright has suggested the possibility), and obviously this is in fact how Jesus was originally believed to have appeared (in visions, not a walking reanimated corpse), so there is no clear difference from the Osiris case even as Ehrman describes it.

Note the complete change of argument. First Carrier claims Osiris is a legitimate parallel to Jesus because they both returned to earth in their resurrected body:

* “he [Osiris] did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body

Having been proved wrong on the claim that Osiris returned to earth in his resurrected body, Carrier then claims Osiris is a legitimate parallel to Jesus because neitherof them returned to earth in their resurrected body:

* “Jesus was originally believed to have appeared (in visions, not a walking reanimated corpse), so there is no clear difference from the Osiris case even as Ehrman describes it

In all this, Carrier never acknowledges he was wrong in the first place; he simply abandons his original argument, makes a new argument, and claims he is still correct.

Carrier then went on to claim that the difference between these two forms of returning to life wasn’t relevant anyway, despite the fact that he had originally based his entire argument on the difference between them (emphasis mine):

Richard Carrier: But even granting the difference, this is precisely the kind of distinction that isn’t relevant to the point: Osiris is a dead god who still “lives again” and visits and converses with the living.

Now that Ehrman has proved him wrong, Carrier is retreating to more vague language, saying ‘Osiris is a dead god who still “lives again” and visits and converses with the living’. But he has abandoned his original claim, no longer defending the statement that ‘Osiris was believed to have died and had been returned to earth‘, or that ‘he did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body‘. In fact he is now explicitly contradicting his original claim, saying that neither Jesus nor Osiris returned to life in a resurrected body.

Carrier also claimed to have greater scholarly support for his position than Ehrman:

Richard Carrier: On all of this take note: Ehrman says his views are the standard in the field, but in defense of the claim he still only names one advocate (Smith). In the link above, in support of my view, I name eight. And in my chapter on resurrection bodies in The Empty Tomb I cite more, including abundant primary evidence. So you decide who to follow on this point.

The link to which Carrier refers is this section of an FAQ he wrote. It does not actually address what Ehrman says about Osiris (emphasis mine):

Richard Carrier: Q: Is it true that many other scholars agree with you that the earliest Christians believed Jesus rose from the dead by switching to a new body and leaving the old one behind?

A: Yes. These include: James Tabor, “Leaving the Bones Behind: A Resurrected Jesus Tradition with an Intact Tomb” in Sources of the Jesus Tradition: An Inquiry (forthcoming); Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography (2005), pp. 57-58; Peter Lampe, “Paul’s Concept of a Spiritual Body” in Resurrection: Theological and Scientific Assessments (2002), edited by Ted Peters et al.: pp. 103-14; Gregory Riley, Resurrection Reconsidered: Thomas and John in Controversy (1995); Dale Martin, The Corinthian Body (1995); Adela Collins, “The Empty Tomb in the Gospel According to Mark” in Hermes and Athena: Biblical Exegesis and Philosophical Theology (1993), edited by Eleonore Stump & Thomas Flint: pp. 107-40; and C.F. Moule, “St. Paul and Dualism: The Pauline Conception of the Resurrection,” New Testament Studies 12 (1966): 106-23. Many others think it’s likely or at least possible (e.g. see answer to previous question).

This is talking about the view that ‘the earliest Christians believed Jesus rose from the dead by switching to a new body and leaving the old one behind’. Ehrman was talking about a completely different subject (emphasis mine):

Bart Ehrman: Carrier and I could no doubt argue day and night about how to interpret Plutarch. But my views do not rest on having read a single article by Jonathan Z. Smith and a refusal to read the primary sources. As I read them, there is no resurrection of the body of Osiris. And that is the standard view among experts in the field.

The ‘standard view’ to which Ehrman refers is that there is ‘no resurrection of Osiris’. Carrier responds saying ‘Ehrman says his views are the standard in the field, but in defense of the claim he still only names one advocate (Smith). In the link above, in support of my view, I name eight’, and links to a list of scholars addressing the resurrection of Jesus, not the resurrection of Osiris.

Carrier’s response is irrelevant to what Ehrman wrote.

Ehrman & Carrier: the historical Jesus (7)

May 25, 2012 3 comments

This post continues from the original post in this series.

Pilate: prefect, procurator, or both?

Carrier claims Ehrman was wrong to say Roman historian Tacitus committed an error by referring to Pontius Pilate as a procurator, instead of a prefect”:

Richard Carrier: This betrays ignorance of the fact that provincial prefects were often also imperial procurators, and from his treatment of the scandal of this fact throughout the Annals Tacitus has a particular motive to emphasize that fact here (see my discussion in Herod the Procurator, particularly the section “So Was Pontius Pilate a Prefect or a Procurator?”). In other words, Pontius Pilate was both a procurator and a prefect. And the recent literature on the subject confirms this, as would any consultation with an expert in Tacitus or Roman imperial administration.

In Carrier’s paper (to which he linked), there is a single brief section covering a few pages (pages 33-36), in which he discusses whether procurators could be appointed prefects simultaneously. This does not address directly the question of whether or not Pilate was a prefect who was also appointed procurator.

Responding to Ehrman, Carrier claimed ‘The view that Claudius changed the title of Judaean governors from prefect to procurator has long since been refuted (most conclusively by the work of Fergus Millar’. Reading Carrier’s paper, we find reference to two papers by Millar, one published in 1964, the other published in 1965. Did Millar indeed refuted conclusively the view that Claudius changed the title of Judaean governors from ‘prefect’ to ‘procurator’, as Carrier claims?

One commentator has examined Carrier’s claim by reading Millar’s work. He concludes that Carrier has misread Millar:

In Millar 1964, he says plainly on p. 181:

“It is clear that such procurators [sc. governing small provinces], originally called praefecti, exercised a criminal and civil jurisdiction in their areas, which was equivalent to that of senatorial governors, except in that it was only in special cases that they possessed the ius gladii.” (Millar 1964: 181).

He is clear that procurators who were governors of minor provinces were originally called prefects (praefecti in Latin), and Millar (1964: 181, n. 9) cites A. H. M. Jones’s Studies in Roman Government and Law (Oxford, 1960), and does not engage in any refutation of this idea. The rest of the article is an interpretation of Tacitus, Annales 12.60, and Millar argues that it refers to Claudius’s granting of increased jurisdictional power to those procurators who managed imperial properties, a different type of procurator from the type who governed small provinces.

In addition, Millar (1965) simply adds more evidence to the case that Tacitus, Annales 12.60 refers to the authority of procurators of imperial properties: there is no refutation of the view that Claudius changed the official titles of the minor equestrian or freedmen provincial governors from prefect to procurator.

Not only does Carrier fail to demonstrate that Millar refuted conclusively the view that Claudius changed the title of Judaean governors from ‘prefect’ to ‘procurator’, he has failed to realise that Millar never says anything against the view. On the contrary, Millar states specifically that the procurators to which he refers were ‘originally called praefecti‘, and attributes the change of authority to Claudius, the very opposite of what Carrier says.

Carrier’s statement that ‘view that Claudius changed the title of Judaean governors from prefect to procurator has long since been refuted’ rests on his citation of a single author writing over 50 years ago (Millar), who did not say what Carrier claims; in fact Millar said the opposite.

When this evidence from Millar’s own work was presented to Carrier on his blog, he gave the following enigmatic reply:

Richard Carrier: Millar 1965, pp. 364-65: “The legal evidence shows clearly that procurators never had a recognised right to exercise criminal jurisdiction.”

See also P. A. Brunt, “Procuratorial Jurisdiction,” Latomus 25.3 (July-September 1966): 461-89, with my analysis in Herod, pp. 34-35 (and in context, pp. 29-36.

This fails completely to address any of the points raised; it certainly presents no evidence that Millar conclusively refuted the ‘view that Claudius changed the title of Judaean governors from prefect to procurator’.

In response to Carrier, Ehrman commented that he had subsequently consulted a scholar of Roman history who indicated that Carrier was wrong, quoting ‘Prosopography of the Roman Empire‘ as evidence (‘PP’ in the following quotation refers to ‘Pontius Pilate’):

PP could just as well have had the title procurator, but evidently he didn’t … PIR (ed. 2, 1998) P 815 sums it up neatly: “praeses Iudaeae ordinis equestris usque ad Claudii tempora non procurator, sed praefectus fuit….” [This comes from the Prosopographia Imperii Romani (i.e., The Prosopography of the Roman Empire); I translate the Latin as follows: “Up until the time of Claudius [i.e., 41-54 CE], the provincial governor of Judea, a man of the equestrian order, was not a procurator but a prefect.

Carrier replied with the assertion that this source was outdated:

Richard Carrier: …contrary to what Ehrman’s quotation might seem to suggest, the PIR his colleague translates the Latin of on this point is a modern source, not an ancient one, and thus represents an outdated scholarly assumption and not what anyone in antiquity actually said…

The commentator I quoted previously corrects Carrier on this point:

The most recent edition of Prosopographia Imperii Romani saec. I. II. III. (2nd edn. part 6; eds. Leiva Petersen and Klaus Wachtel; De Gruyter, Berlin, 1998), revised in the 1990s, is quite clear that Pilate carried the title praefectus (PIR [2nd ed.] part. 6, no. 815, p. 348), on the basis of the Pilate inscription (see Année Epigraphique 1963 no. 104).

This source is not “outdated,” but represents the opinion of scholars from the 1990s, who had updated an earlier edition of the work.

Indeed, scholarly works written as recently as 2008 say either Tacitus made a mistake, or he was speaking proleptically.[1] [2] [3] [4] As the commentator quoted previously notes, this does not appear to be an outdated view ‘long since refuted’ as Carrier claimed:

In short, I see no evidence at all that the “view that Claudius changed the title of Judaean governors from prefect to procurator has long since been refuted.”

Rather, the view that, from the reign of Claudius, the equestrian governors who were called prefects (or praefecti in Latin) were now called procurators appears to be the common opinion: it is held by Syme (1962: 92), Jones (1960: 124), Weaver (1972: 267-268), Garnsey and Saller (1987: 23), B. Levick (Levick 2001: 48) in her biography of the emperor Claudius, and Schäfer (2003: 105).

In his paper, Carrier makes the argument that Tacitus didn’t make a mistake, but that Pilate was a procurator as well as a prefect. In support, Carrier cites Philo and Josephus referring to Pilate as a procurator (neither of them refer to him as a prefect).

However, standard scholarship on the subject understands Philo, Josephus, and Tacitus as adopting the new terminology established during the reign of Claudius after 41 CE, since all of them were writing after this date and since the only epigraphical evidence for Pilate (dated no later than 36 CE, before Claudius), identifies him as a prefect, but not as a procurator.[5] [6]

Carrier does not mention any of this scholarship. Nor does he cite any scholars saying that Tacitus didn’t make a mistake and wasn’t writing proleptically, except for himself.

_________________________________

[1] ‘Certain minor imperial provinces had equestrian governors, who were known first as prefects but from the time of Claudius as procurators (e.g., Pontius Pilate in Judaea; 15.44.3). Claudius evidently assigned certain judicial functions too to procurators, but T.’s report is unclear (12.60).’, Woodman, ‘The Annals’, pp. 359-360 (2004).

[2] ‘Pilate was appointed under Tiberius, and an inscription from Caesarea mentions his activities in regard to a Tiberieion (or imperial cult sanctuary to Tiberius). The text also gives his correct title as praefectus rather than procurator.’, Galinsky, ‘The Cambridge Companion To The Age Of Augustus’, p. 378 (2005).

[3] ‘Since Coponius was apparently dispatched as a prefect (praefectus, eparxos), Josephus’ nomenclature here seems incorrect, though the same problem is found in Tacitus (e.g. Ann. 15.44 on Pilate).’, Mason & Chapman, ‘Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary. Judean war’, p. 80 (2008).

[4] ‘Pilate actually held the lesser rank of prefect in Judea, something that Tacitus, who had access to the official records at Rome’s Tabularium and frequently quoted from them in his Annals, should have known.’, Dando-Collins, ‘The Great Fire of Rome: The Fall of the Emperor Nero and His City’, p. 8 (2010).

[5] ‘However, a fragment of a Latin inscription found in Caesarea gives Pilate the title “prefect”. This supports the deduction made from other evidence, most of it epigraphic, that up to the reign of Claudius, though the terminology was still fluid, the normal title for an equestrian provincial governor was “prefect”, and “procurator” must now be reserved for the governors of Judaea after 44.’, Smallwood, ‘The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian : A Study in Political Relations’, p. 145 (2001).

[6] ‘This change in title under Claudius goes a long way in explaining the confusion of the principal literary texts here. Philo, Josephus, the NT and Tacitus refer to various governors as eparxos (praefectus), epitropos (procurator), and hegemwn (governor), apparently indiscriminately.’, Bond, ‘Pontius Pilate In History And Interpretation’, p. 12 (2004).

Ehrman & Carrier: the historical Jesus (6)

May 23, 2012 3 comments

This post continues from the original post in this series.

Ehrman on Doherty’s use of scholars

Carrier objected to Ehrman’s statement that Mytherist Earl Doherty ‘quotes professional scholars at length when their views 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’ (emphasis mine).

This claim of Carrier’s makes no sense when we look at Ehrman’s entire paragraph:

Bart Ehrman: One of the staunchest defenders of a mythicist view of Christ, Earl Doherty, maintains that the apostle Paul thinks that Jesus was crucified, not here on earth by the Romans, but in the spiritual realm by demonic powers. In advancing this thesis, Doherty places himself in an ironic position that characterizes many of his mythicist colleagues. He quotes professional scholars at length when their views 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. The idea that Jesus was crucified in the spiritual realm is not a view set forth by Paul. It is a view invented by Doherty.

What ‘thesis’ is being spoken of, what ‘overarching thesis’, what ‘idea’?

* ‘the apostle Paul thinks that Jesus was crucified, not here on earth by the Romans, but in the spiritual realm by demonic powers. In advancing this thesis

* ‘his overarching thesis. The idea that Jesus was crucified in the spiritual realm

This is clearly not saying that Doherty cites scholars in support of his general Mytherist position without saying that they disagree with his general Mytherist position, it is explicitly saying that Doherty cites scholars in support of his specific thesis that Paul thought Jesus was crucified by demons in a spiritual realm, without saying that these scholars disagree with Doherty’s overarching thesis that ‘Jesus was crucified in the spiritual realm’.

And Doherty does do this. On page 89 he says this:

Earl Doherty: Perhaps Paul is using kata to refer to something like “in the sphere of the flesh” and “in the sphere of the spirit.” This is a suggestion put forward by C. K. Barrett.39 Such a translation is, in fact, quite useful and possibly accurate.

But what Doherty means by ‘in the sphere of the flesh’ is not what Barrett means by ‘in the sphere of the flesh’, and Doherty does not tell us that Barret’s use of ‘in the sphere of the flesh’ has nothing to do with Doherty’s thesis that Paul believed Jesus was ‘crucified by demons in a spiritual realm’, nor that Barrett does not hold this view.

Again, on page 104 (my emphasis):

Earl Doherty: As Morna Hooker puts it (“Philippians 2:6-11” in Jesus und Paulus, p. 15If):

Christ becomes what we are (likeness of flesh, suffering and death), so enabling us to become what he is (exalted to the heights).

All this fits into that most fundamental of ancient concepts outlined earlier: the idea that earth was the mirror image of heaven, the product proceeding from the archetype, the visible material counterpart to the genuine spiritual reality above. Heavenly events determined earthly realities. It follows that in such a philosophical system, the determining acts of divine forces which conferred salvation would of necessity be located not on earth but in the higher realm.

Doherty does not tell us that Hooker’s statement has nothing to do with Doherty’s thesis that Paul believed Jesus was ‘crucified by demons in a spiritual realm’ (the suffering of Jesus Hooker is speaking of takes place, for Hooker, on earth), nor that Hooker does not hold this view.

And again, on pages 105-106:

Earl Doherty: S. G. F. Brandon (History, Time and Deity, p. 167) is one scholar who faces unflinchingly the conclusion that though Paul’s statement “may seem on cursory” of this age’ does not mean the Roman and Jewish authorities. Instead, it denotes the daemonic powers who were believed to inhabit the planets [the celestial spheres] and control the destinies of men.. ..Paul attributes the Crucifixion not to Pontius Pilate and the Jewish leaders, but to these planetary powers.” However, Brandon (like everyone else) fails to address the question of how Paul could have spoken in such terms if he knew the tradition of Jesus’ death in Judea, providing no qualification to this supernatural picture.

The important point according to Doherty is that Brandon said ‘Paul attributes the Crucifixion not to Pontius Pilate and the Jewish leaders, but to these planetary powers’, and Doherty makes it clear that Brandon has no explanation for how Paul could have said this if he had known about ‘the tradition of Jesus’ death in Judea’. But Doherty does not tell us Brandon’s words were not intended to lend support to the thesis that Paul believed Jesus was ‘crucified by demons in a spiritual realm’, nor that Brandon does not hold this view.

Yet again, on page 106:

Earl Doherty: Robert M. Grant (Gnosticism and Early Christianity, p. 176) compares Paul with the Gospel of John, noting: “In Paul’s mind Satan was the archon of this age; but for John he has become the archon of this world” Paul’s focus is on the larger cosmos where the archons operate, embracing spiritual realms; it is they who are the rulers of this age, and it is on this cosmic scene where the mythical Christ himself operates. In the Gospels, the focus has been reduced to the world of humans, now seen as Satan’s theater of operations. Christ, with the advent of the Gospels, is now on earth, and the focus shifts to that perspective.

It’s clear why Doherty quoted this, with helpful phrase such as ‘Paul’s focus is on the larger cosmos where the archons operate, embracing spiritual realms’, and ‘it is on this cosmic scene where the mythical Christ himself operates’. But Doherty does not tell us that Grant’s statement has nothing to do with Doherty’s thesis that Paul believed Jesus was ‘crucified by demons in a spiritual realm’, nor that Grant does not hold this view.

Ehrman was correct. In advancing his argument that the apostle Paul thinks Jesus was crucified in a spiritual realm by demonic powers, rather than on earth, Doherty quotes professional scholars at length when their views prove useful for developing aspects of his argument, but fails to tell readers that none of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis that Paul thinks Jesus was crucified in a spiritual realm by demonic powers, rather than on earth. He does this repeatedly.