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How Bart Ehrman thinks atheists make themselves look foolish

January 7, 2016

I saw this video by Bart Ehrman speaking at an atheist convention responding to the question, “I can’t see any evidence in archaeology or history for an historical Jesus”:

It is devastating critique of the Jesus mythicist position.

Ehrman says,

“There is so much evidence that….this is not even an issue for scholars of antiquity”

“There is no scholar in any college or university in the western world who teaches Classics, Ancient History, New Testament, early Christianity, any related field who doubts that Jesus existed”

Ehrman recocognises that “that is not evidence…but if you want to know about the theory of evolution vs the theory of creationism and every scholar in every reputable institution in the world believes in evolution. It may not be evidence, but if you have a different opinion you’d better have a pretty good piece of evidence yourself.”

This is very similar to the position Matt Dillahunty takes – which I’ve outlined here.

The key piece of evidence for Jesus’ existence?

“The reason for thinking Jesus existed is because he is abundantly attested in early sources”

“Early and independent sources certainly indicate that Jesus existed”

“One author we know about knew Jesus’ brother”

“I’m sorry, I respect your disbelief, but if you want to go where the evidence goes…I think that atheists have done themselves a disservice by jumping on the bandwagon of mythicism, because frankly, it makes you look foolish to the outside world”


From → Bible, History, Jesus

  1. Well said by Ehrman.

    I’ve often thought to myself that this fact- that so many self proclaimed atheists subscribe to Jesus mythisicm- is actually very telling. It shows us that atheists often aren’t the rationalists they claim to be.

  2. I’ve often thought to myself that this fact- that so many of the loud, self proclaimed atheists subscribe to Jesus mythicism- is very telling. It tells us that these atheists aren’t the rationalists they claim to be.

  3. As an atheist, I and my atheistic friends are not atheists because of evidence for or against the existence of a historical Jesus. We are atheists solely because we have no belief in the existence of a god or gods.

    • Sure, but if the historical Jesus claimed to be God (or was raised from the dead) wouldn’t that be a challenge to your atheism?

      • Friendly Atheist permalink

        Er… no… It’s a dominant scholarly view that the historical Jesus did not claim to be God. But even if he did, I don’t see how that would be a problem. Believing in someone’s existence and believing in someone’s message are two completely different, unrelated things. For instance, Julius Caesar was also deified after his assassination. I don’t think it challenges anyone’s atheism.

      • Hi there Friendly Atheist. Thanks for the comment. I agree that it’s not a dominant view that the historical Jesus claimed to be God – but this isn’t the issue in dispute here. Ehrman is responding to atheist Jesus mythicists who claim that an historical Jesus never existed at all! This is the specific matter of contention.

        There is a lot of robust (and healthy) debate about who Jesus really was and what he said – as you point out. But his existence shouldn’t be a matter for serious debate as Ehrman shows.

        Although, to respond to the issue you raise in this post, I think there are serious methodological problems in accepting an historical Jesus but rejecting primae facie what is written about him – e.g. his claims to divinity, which I think is precisely the reason many atheists attempt to claim he never existed in the first place.

        Thanks for the comment and I hope that’s helpful.

        Kind regards,
        Robert (also hoping to be friendly)

  4. Unfortunately for Ehrman, there are no source outside the Gospels attesting Jesus’ existence. The “testimonium flavianum” can be shown to be an interpolation and Tacitus (if true) is too late (116) and from Rome, most likely from Christian sources who might started to believe in a historical founder.
    And there are many reasons to believe that ‘brother of the lord’ by Paul means “brethren” as everywhere else in the Epistles, which makes the Epistles ignorant of the man they are supposed to preach.

  5. Don Flood permalink

    I am an agnostic atheist and there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Jesus of Nazareth existed as an historical figure. All that the Jesus-myth mysticism within atheism proves is that atheism can be infected by memes, just as innumerable religions can. But, as Professor Ehrman points out, this is a meme which needs to be expunged from the atheist consciousness.

  6. updated video for the post:

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