My Theory Of Christian Origins: Richard Carrier Reader Response

  • I can understand why Carrier is so upset.  He is a very smart fellow arguing a position that is, as a rule, argued most vehemently by people who are not, in fact, nearly as smart.  His view is not one that has a foothold – not even a toe hold – not even a toenail hold – not even… well, you get the picture – among respected academics who have devoted their lives to teaching the New Testament and early Christianity in accredited colleges, research universities, divinity schools, and seminaries throughout North America and Europe. (Bart Ehrman)

One of the perennially interesting issues in New Testament studies is What Happens When You Review Richard Carrier.

So, I’ve received a reader response about my approach to interpreting Christian Origins by Richard Carrier, who is a historian specializing in the intellectual history of Greece and Rome who holds the “minority” position that Jesus never existed but was originally believed to be a mythical entity who was never on earth but was crucified by sky demons in outer space. Carrier’s critique of me is here.

Since this critique I have done a sort of mini response post here. I’m not going to provide a fuller response to Carrier’s article about me as there is little reason in doing so. I think my arguments stand well on their merits, so I invite the reader to decide for themself. As Ehrman and McGrath say, unfortunately when you reply to Carrier all you seem to accomplish is initiating an endless cycle of Carrier repeatedly responding at twice the length.

As for Carrier calling my version of the defense of the historicity of Jesus “bizarre,” this initially bothered me, but now that I’ve thought about it, it really isn’t something to get offended at as this is how Carrier characterizes people who disagree with him: crazy and irrational. For instance, Bart Ehrman characterizes Carrier’s response to him in the following way:

  • Richard Carrier, as many of you know, has written a scathing review of Did Jesus Exist on his Freethought Blog. He indicates that my book is “full of errors,” that it “misinforms more than it informs” that it provides “false information” that it is “worse than bad” and that “it officially sucks.” The attacks are sustained throughout his lengthy post, and they often become personal. He indicates that “Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about,” he claims that I speak with “absurd” hyperbole, that my argument “makes [me] look irresponsible,” that I am guilty of “sloppy work,” that I “misrepresent” my opponents and “misinform the public,” that what I write is “crap,” that I am guilty of “arrogantly dogmatic and irresponsible thinking,” that I am “incompetent,” make “hack” mistakes, and do not “act like a real scholar.”

Throughout Carrier’s writing we see such energetic rhetoric, such as when he goes after McGrath:

  • I schooled McGrath on this, and that he in fact was shown to have blundered–badly–and to have not even understood basic facts about ancient history

In the end, it is aggravating Carrier labeled my research as “bizarre,” but this is the sort of thing he does, so it really isn’t something to lose sleep over. So, do check out his material and mine, and decide for yourself. I’ve tried to offer various paths I’ve taken through the forest of Christian Origins, some of which may not overlap and even may demonstrate tension and contrariety with others. I’m not trying to do systematic theology, but rather Heideggerian Pathmarks. As a teacher, my hope is that the reader will find interesting tidbits that nudge them along their own path, even if it disagrees with mine.


I mentioned to eminent New Testament expert James McGrath that Carrier labeled my research bizarre, and James replied:

  • You dared to disagree with him, and his only explanation for why people do so is that they are irrational, insane, and/or dishonest. This fact tells us more about him than anything else. Welcome to the club!