For a very long time, I had considered Bart Ehrman to be the foremost Bible scholar, especially as pertains the question of an historical Jesus. I thought Ehrman’s position, that it’s impossible to separate the historical man from the mythological parts, and therefore completely unnecessary, to be the most nuanced and all-encompassing position to take. His disdain for mythicists like the guys behind the terrible movie Zeitgeist (the one perpetuating the amythological myth, to coin a phrase, that Mithras was a virgin birth who was killed and resurrected) was well founded, and therefore he was the first guy I would turn to, if ever anyone asked me about the existence of Jesus as a real person.
Not any more. Richard Carrier, fellow FtBer, just tore apart Ehrman’s latest book Did Jesus Exist? for being a sloppily researched and off-the-cuff rebuttal of the “Jesus is nothing but myth” crowd, with such a poor understanding of the original texts, that I’m almost embarassed for Ehrman.
But I cannot recommend books that are so full of errors that they will badly mislead and miseducate the reader, and that commit so many mistakes that I have to substantially and extensively correct them. Did Jesus Exist? ultimately misinforms more than it informs, and that actually makes it worse than bad. Like the worst of mythicist literature, you will come away after reading it with more false information in your head than true, and that makes my job as a historian harder, because now I have to fix everything he screwed up. This is why I don’t recommend anyone ever read bad mythicist literature, because it will only fill your head with nonsense that I will have to work harder to correct. Ehrman’s book ironically does much the same thing. Therefore, it officially sucks.
This makes me want to read Proving History quite a bit. I realize that this is essentially a pissing contest between two Bible scholars, and that as someone only slightly interested in Bible history I don’t have a lot of skin in the game, so I might find the book dry or otherwise difficult to get through. But when I see someone for whom I had held such a high opinion get royally and rightly smacked down for terrible research, I can’t help but rethink my personal pantheon of atheist scholars.