The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
neilgodfrey
Posts: 3067
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:22 pm

toejam wrote:
With no Philo or Pilate Stone, we would still have Josephus and the gospels to verify Pilate's existence beyond reasonable doubt, yet neither of those sources were contemporary.
If re Pilate all we had were Josephus we would have good grounds to consider Pilate historical for the following reasons:
  • Josephus is writing in a genre that is compatible with an author's intention to communicate what we think of as historical events of the past;
  • The contents of Josephus's writings can in key respects be confirmed by archaeology;
  • The contents of Josephus's writings are in key respects also confirmed by other independent writings;
  • We therefore (on the basis of the above three factors) can find reasonable grounds to place general trust in those details in Josephus that cannot be confirmed in the above ways;
  • Our trust in Josephus is always balanced against our knowledge that he was writing according to the norms of ancient historiography which did allow for myth at times to be considered valid historical past and especially relied upon what "seemed would naturally have happened" to justify a good story.
So yes, if we had only Josephus as testimony to Pilate we would have reasonable grounds for accepting Pilate as historical.

In the case of the gospels, however, none of the reasons we accept Pilate's existence from Josephus's writings apply.

Roger Pearse
Posts: 383
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 10:26 am

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by Roger Pearse » Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:49 pm

neilgodfrey wrote:We don't use that method directly but indirectly it does factor in...
I think this is discussing a different issue. The point being made, to which I responded, is that we must use contemporary and archaeological evidence as our criterion of whether people exist. This is mistaken. It doesn't advance that claim to point out that, if we have contemporary and archaeological evidence, we use it. Of course we do. But the appeal was to that as more or less exclusive, and to its absence as an argument.
We don't have any primary evidence for Publius Vinicius the Stammerer, ...
By "primary" we usually mean "ancient". I'm afraid I don't know who Publius Vinicius the Stammerer was - mentioned somewhere in Seneca? But if he was, as I think, perhaps someone otherwise unknown, then your point is that we accept the existence of people mentioned in "reliable" sources. Which sounds reasonable.

But ... I am rather wary of where this is going. Because ...
But when we see that that literary evidence is in the form of a genre that we know generally indicates an intent to report something "factual" however much else it also reports and however the facts are coloured. We assess the reliability of the literary evidence according to the extent its contents can be verified. So the writings of Cicero, Caesar, Tactitus, Suetonius, despite their vagaries, count far more than the Historia Augusta.
Although the only two writers in that group who are writing in the same genre are Suetonius and the Historia Augusta, tho. :-) And I sense the idea that "no testimony need be considered unless present in more than one source", which of course won't do.

While genre must be taken into account, appeals to genre are dangerous because they privilege a modern classification over ancient evidence. (The same applies to whether we consider an author "reliable" or not. If we are not careful, this allows us to ignore testimony by arbitarily marking it as "unreliable"; which is why much 19th century criticism is worthless). We would need to start with ancient testimony about forms of literature, and go from there. Thus we know that it was acceptable for dialogues to be written using the names of others in the recent past, because Cicero tells us so in his letters discussing the construction of his Tusculan Disputations. We know that it was acceptable to compose speeches in the body of histories, because the epitome of Pompeius Trogus preserved by Justinus tells us that Livy overdid it. That sounds objective to me, in a way that no modern opinions about the subject can be.

Unless, of course, someone finds it convenient to assert that that letter of Cicero was forged, and that Justinus is a later composition; in which case .... does that affect our argument? (Not to me it doesn't, since I privilege ancient data over theory; but consider whether it would affect it for you).

All the best,

Roger Pearse

stevencarrwork
Posts: 225
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:57 am

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by stevencarrwork » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:05 am

Roger Pearse wrote: I think this is discussing a different issue. The point being made, to which I responded, is that we must use contemporary and archaeological evidence as our criterion of whether people exist. This is mistaken. It doesn't advance that claim to point out that, if we have contemporary and archaeological evidence, we use it. Of course we do. But the appeal was to that as more or less exclusive, and to its absence as an argument.
I think Ehrman's claim is that we should accept that people exist, even if nobody ever said they existed.

And if nobody says somebody existed, that is not at all an argument for that person not having existed.

But perhaps I don't understand Ehrman's point , which seems to be that we don't have any sources at all for Pilate (if you discount the sources we do have) and we accept that Pilate existed, despite nobody ever mentioning him.

Of course, I am going by Ehrman's Huffington Post article , which apparently underwent a mysterious redaction by person or persons unknown, ruining the clear logic of Bart, by introducing all kinds of errors that he never made.but which appeared in the article.

stevencarrwork
Posts: 225
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:57 am

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by stevencarrwork » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:11 am

manoj wrote: Ehrman seems to be forgetting that Carrier referenced this point when reviewing his Huffington Post article, not his book.
Ehrman quotes from Carrier's review of his Huffington Post article, and rebuts this review by pointing out what Bart wrote in his book 'Did Jesus Exist?' - a book which , of course, had not been shipped when Carrier wrote his review of the Huffington Post article.


Carrier had expressly written ' For now, I will address this brief article, not knowing how his book might yet rescue him from an epic fail.'


You may think this is somewhat naughty of Bart.

Still the people who pay to read Bart's thoughts probably won't notice this blatant switch. They will assume that Ehrman is honest.

neilgodfrey
Posts: 3067
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:34 am

Roger Pearse wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:We don't use that method directly but indirectly it does factor in...
I think this is discussing a different issue. The point being made, to which I responded, is that we must use contemporary and archaeological evidence as our criterion of whether people exist. This is mistaken. It doesn't advance that claim to point out that, if we have contemporary and archaeological evidence, we use it. Of course we do. But the appeal was to that as more or less exclusive, and to its absence as an argument.
What interests me is what I would call the "sloppy" assumptions many biblical scholars seem to use to justify the "reliability" of their sources. Gospels are just assumed to have some historical intent. When pushed we find many of them have no clearer grasp of why we accept classical historians as reliable or otherwise.

Archaeology IS important as a control at some point to help us assess the validity of our written sources.
We don't have any primary evidence for Publius Vinicius the Stammerer, ...
By "primary" we usually mean "ancient". I'm afraid I don't know who Publius Vinicius the Stammerer was - mentioned somewhere in Seneca? But if he was, as I think, perhaps someone otherwise unknown, then your point is that we accept the existence of people mentioned in "reliable" sources. Which sounds reasonable.
I don't mind what terms we use so long as we agree on their meaning for the sake of communicating. My point is to think through how we come to conclude some sources are reliable and others not.
But ... I am rather wary of where this is going. Because ...
But when we see that that literary evidence is in the form of a genre that we know generally indicates an intent to report something "factual" however much else it also reports and however the facts are coloured. We assess the reliability of the literary evidence according to the extent its contents can be verified. So the writings of Cicero, Caesar, Tactitus, Suetonius, despite their vagaries, count far more than the Historia Augusta.
Although the only two writers in that group who are writing in the same genre are Suetonius and the Historia Augusta, tho. :-) And I sense the idea that "no testimony need be considered unless present in more than one source", which of course won't do.
My point is that we can't have one without the other. It's not either genre or archaeological testimony. My point is that Historia Augusta has pitifully little by way of independent supporting testimony. It has as much support, comparably, as an ancient Greek novel that also portrays historical persons in its plot. Suetonius does have more reliability because of a number of factors I covered, including -- ultimately at some point -- archaeology. We can't verify every detail but the more we can verify the more confidence we can have (making the allowances I mentioned) in its historical reliability.
While genre must be taken into account, appeals to genre are dangerous because they privilege a modern classification over ancient evidence.
Which is why it is important to understand how ancient historiography worked. Genre is not a black and white thing but authors sometimes mix genres, new ones emerge -- etc. I am not suggesting we believe something that looks to us like history -- my point is quite different.

(The same applies to whether we consider an author "reliable" or not. If we are not careful, this allows us to ignore testimony by arbitarily marking it as "unreliable"; which is why much 19th century criticism is worthless).
My point is that we rarely stop to think through the processes involved when we do make judgements about reliability. Your statement here is the one I am trying to pin down. We need some criterion, some "thing" to help us decide what is "reliable" or "unreliable". So many biblical scholars seem to me never to have thought this through and rarely questioned their assumptions about why they take some works as reliable and others not. (I'm thinking of conversations I've had with several as well as my readings of some of their published works.)
(We would need to start with ancient testimony about forms of literature, and go from there.
Exactly. But ultimately if all we have is literature and no external controls at some point then we have a problem. I don't know that this problem exists in pretty much any area of historical inquiry outside biblical studies.

Thus we know that it was acceptable for dialogues to be written using the names of others in the recent past, because Cicero tells us so in his letters discussing the construction of his Tusculan Disputations. We know that it was acceptable to compose speeches in the body of histories, because the epitome of Pompeius Trogus preserved by Justinus tells us that Livy overdid it. That sounds objective to me, in a way that no modern opinions about the subject can be.

Unless, of course, someone finds it convenient to assert that that letter of Cicero was forged, and that Justinus is a later composition; in which case .... does that affect our argument? (Not to me it doesn't, since I privilege ancient data over theory; but consider whether it would affect it for you).
And you trust Cicero in this because for a start you have some idea of who Cicero was. And that goes back to independent controls outside the writings of Cicero himself. And we know about some of the events, the circumstances, the persons, Cicero wrote about because of archaeology as well as independent literary works. I suspect much of this is taken for granted -- almost operates subliminally when we just "know" we can trust certain things said in the writings of Cicero.

User avatar
toejam
Posts: 695
Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2014 1:35 am
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by toejam » Wed Apr 23, 2014 1:01 am

stevencarrwork wrote: Of course, I am going by Ehrman's Huffington Post article , which apparently underwent a mysterious redaction by person or persons unknown, ruining the clear logic of Bart, by introducing all kinds of errors that he never made.but which appeared in the article.
There's nothing "mysterious" about it. The Huff Post article is an edit/summary of the book. So Ehrman made a minor gaff whilst putting it together. So? ... It's clear when you read the book that the point about the lack of sources for Pilate was in reference to Pagan literary sources, not archeological ones. He spends a separate paragraph discussing the Pilate Stone and Philo.
My study list: https://www.facebook.com/notes/scott-bignell/judeo-christian-origins-bibliography/851830651507208

stevencarrwork
Posts: 225
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:57 am

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by stevencarrwork » Wed Apr 23, 2014 1:07 am

toejam wrote:
stevencarrwork wrote: Of course, I am going by Ehrman's Huffington Post article , which apparently underwent a mysterious redaction by person or persons unknown, ruining the clear logic of Bart, by introducing all kinds of errors that he never made.but which appeared in the article.
There's nothing "mysterious" about it. The Huff Post article is an edit/summary of the book. So Ehrman made a minor gaff whilst putting it together. So? ... It's clear when you read the book that the point about the lack of sources for Pilate was in reference to Pagan literary sources, not archeological ones. He spends a separate paragraph discussing the Pilate Stone and Philo.
So it was Ehrman who claimed there were no Roman sources for Pilate in the Huff Po article.

Had he not read his own book?

Did he not realise he was giving misleading information to tens of thousands of people?

Can't he get his graduate students to check what he writes?

And now he is slamming Carrier for pointing out a mistake in the Huff Po article, while pretending Carrier was reviewing the book.

Dishonest and slimey.

Why can't Ehrman just admit he made a mistake? Is they guy infallible? Can he not admit to one mistake ever,without accusing people of vitriol for pointing out his mistakes?

User avatar
toejam
Posts: 695
Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2014 1:35 am
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by toejam » Wed Apr 23, 2014 1:57 am

Wow. It seems you have some serious fire in the belly against Ehrman.
stevencarrwork wrote: Had he not read his own book?
Have you never stated/written something that you later realised didn't really reflect your view or point as well as you could have?
stevencarrwork wrote:Did he not realise he was giving misleading information to tens of thousands of people?
Obviously not if it's a mistake.
stevencarrwork wrote:Can't he get his graduate students to check what he writes?
Nothing substantial here. Just smear.
stevencarrwork wrote:And now he is slamming Carrier for pointing out a mistake in the Huff Po article, while pretending Carrier was reviewing the book.
Nope. He's not "pretending Carrier was reviewing the book".

From Ehrman's blogpost: "Now to be fair to Carrier, his comment was posted on his blog about a short piece that I wrote for the Huffington Post. In that (very!) condensed version of my views, I pointed out that Pontius Pilate is not mentioned in any “Roman sources of his day.” This sent Carrier ballistic: we have the inscription! We have Philo! We have Josephus! Ehrman is an idiot! But if he had simply waited to read my book before blasting off at me, he would have seen what I meant"


Ehrman's beef with Carrier is regarding his 'unprofessionalism' - an issue I don't give a toss about. That's between them.
stevencarrwork wrote:Dishonest and slimey.
I don't see that.
stevencarrwork wrote:Why can't Ehrman just admit he made a mistake? Is they guy infallible? Can he not admit to one mistake ever,without accusing people of vitriol for pointing out his mistakes?
As a subscriber to his blog, I can think of several times where he's admitted to making a mistake and/or changing his mind on issues.
My study list: https://www.facebook.com/notes/scott-bignell/judeo-christian-origins-bibliography/851830651507208

stevencarrwork
Posts: 225
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:57 am

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by stevencarrwork » Wed Apr 23, 2014 2:34 am

toejam wrote: From Ehrman's blogpost: "Now to be fair to Carrier, his comment was posted on his blog about a short piece that I wrote for the Huffington Post. In that (very!) condensed version of my views, I pointed out that Pontius Pilate is not mentioned in any “Roman sources of his day.” This sent Carrier ballistic: we have the inscription! We have Philo! We have Josephus! Ehrman is an idiot! But if he had simply waited to read my book before blasting off at me, he would have seen what I meant"
I see.

So Ehrman makes a major, amateurish blunder and nobody is supposed to comment? We are all supposed to wait for the book to see 'what I meant'?

And Carrier expressly writes 'So stay tuned for my future review of his book. For now, I will address this brief article, not knowing how his book might yet rescue him from an epic fail.' and Ehrman fails to tell his readers that.


Ehrman's Huffington Post article starts off by comparing mythicists to Holocaust deniers, and we are all supposed to be ultra forgiving when Ehrman can't even summarise his own book without making major blunders? Can you imagine what Ehrman would say if Carrier summarised Ehrman's book by making the mistakes Ehrman himself made? I can't imagine either, but I bet Ehrman would have a few choice words to say if Carrier's review of Ehrman's book made such major mistakes as Ehrman's own summary did.


I take it that if all of us start saying that Professor Ehrman says there are no inscriptions which mention Pilate, this would be 'a minor gaffe' and perfectly forgivable :-) (and not at all a grave slur on Ehrman's reputation)


Ehrman's Huffington Post article also made the astonishing claim :-

'With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life in the sources lying behind the Gospels (and the writings of Paul) -- sources that originated in Jesus' native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves).'

And Ehrman slams Carrier for 'unprofessionalism'? After Ehrman had made such a ludicrous statement as that?

And, of course, Ehrman's logic is still that if we ignore all the sources we do have for Pilate, we find that there are no sources which mention Pilate, not one single one, so why should we expect sources to mention Jesus?

Are we allowed to laugh yet?

User avatar
toejam
Posts: 695
Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2014 1:35 am
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Re: The Ehrman - Carrier Spat - Round 2?

Post by toejam » Wed Apr 23, 2014 3:02 am

Well, Ehrman calls it as he sees it. He wholly accepts the Q hypothesis. I lean towards the existence of some sort of Q also, but am not as convinced as he. But I agee that it is problematic to use a hypothetical source as "evidence". I agree with you on that one. But I think you have to read the Huff Post piece for what it is - an edit/summary of his views - the idea being that you read the book to find out how he comes to those conclusions. Whether you agree with him is a different issue. I agree with Ehrman on some things, and not on others. But I think these accusations of "slimey dishonesty" are uncalled for. As to the accusations of vitriol and unprofessionalism, it's like "Who shot first, Greedo or Hans?" ... I couldn't give a toss.
My study list: https://www.facebook.com/notes/scott-bignell/judeo-christian-origins-bibliography/851830651507208

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bernard Muller, Bing [Bot], Blood, Google [Bot], JoeWallack, Kapyong, Steven Avery and 43 guests