Friday, September 23, 2011

Bart Ehrman - No Serious Scholar Doubts that Jesus Actually Existed

In this audio interview Bart Ehrman thinks it's strange that some associate him with the idea that Jesus never actually existed. It's strange, says Bart, because he wrote an entire book on what he believes Jesus said and did. "For Jesus to say and do anything, he had to exist."
Ehrman says: "I don't think there's any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus. But there are a lot of sensationalist people who want to make a lot of money by saying that Jesus didn't exist. I don't know any serious scholar who doubts the existence of Jesus."
This is a cool interview, and Reginald Finley sounds as if he's having his "nonexistence of Jesus" theory shattered by Ehrman the historian.
Ehrman says, "I know thousands of historians who agree that Paul wrote Galatians." This astonishes Finley. Simply put, Finley is not a scholar; Ehrman is.
Finley asks Ehrman, "What do you think of Robert Price?" (Price argues that there is good reason to think Jesus never existed.)
Ehrman: "I don't know of him."
Finley (seemingly astonished): "You don't know of him?"
Ehrman: "No. Why would I?"
Finley presses Ehrman, bamboozled that Ehrman doesn't buy into his "Jesus didn't exist" theory, and Ehrman's certainty that Paul wrote Galatians.
Ehrman responds: "I know thousands of biblical scholars. I know all the important scholars in this area."
Finley, feeling very, very pressed, says, "I guess it depends what circles you are in."
Ehrman: "It sounds like you're grasping at straws. You can doubt anything you want to." But, again, no serious scholar Ehrman knows of doubts that Jesus existed.
Finley seems very uptight and agitated. He's seems like an example of someone who knows nothing about the actual field of New Testament scholarship (Ehrman indirectly keeps suggesting this) but has picked up internet stuff to justify his own ideas. Ehrman just destroyed one of them. Finley can't accept it. He brings up the "doubt" and "skeptic" card, which Ehrman repeatedly says anyone can do. Any inductive claim can be doubted. It does not take a rocket scientist to raise a possible doubt. But for Ehrman the historian this is all Finley has, and while doubt has a place in the historian's toolkit, it is not the weapon the non-scholarly Finley thinks it is. Inductive, historical reasoning is always probableistic.