Richard Carrier takes on Bart Ehrman, who recently wrote a rather unfriendly HuffPo article on mythicists. I saw a talk by Ehrman years ago where he also dismissed mythicism out of hand; it struck me as his blind spot in an otherwise reasonable take on early Christianity. Unfortunately, it’s an oversight shared by many scholars. All scholars have a blind spot or two where their theories break down; I couldn’t tell you what mine are, as by definition I can’t see them, but I’m sure I have several.
Haven’t read his (Ehrman’s) new book yet, but I hope he makes a distinction between principled mythicists (yes, you can teach early Christianity and doubt a historical Jesus – wow, what a overstatement he makes) and the fringe that operates without method/evidence.
There are, certainly, “mythicists” that wouldn’t accept a historical Jesus without a birth certificate, and even then would claim it was forged. On the other hand, there are “mythicists” that are deeply concerned with the methodological issues associated with making a claim with scanty evidence.
Right now as I see it, there are two current ways to argue for a historical Jesus, and both are questionable. One is the Gospel of Mark. The other gospels are dependent on it to some degree, so they can’t be certain independent witnesses, and we don’t have a copy of the supposed Q, either. The real problem with Mark, though, is that it contains a plethora of details that seem unavailable to Paul. This opens the question of whether they are later inventions, in which case we must fall back to the second argument, by way of Paul – and Paul offers very little evidence beyond the creed of 1 Cor 15, which is secondhand.Â The ‘brother of the lord’ line in Galatians is suggestive, but Carrier does a good job of cutting it to pieces. There is a third route, through Josephus, but that’s been debunked to death.