Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Critique of Bart Ehrman's Jesus Interrupted by Ben Witherington

New Testament scholar Ben Witherington (blog, wiki) has an insightful look at Bart Ehrman's book Jesus Interrupted. His detailed analysis is worth reading; in five parts:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Enjoy.

12 comments :

Lee said...

Maybe a book to add to my list :-)

Any book that has a review that includes lines like...

“[Bart D. Ehrman] has never done the necessary laboring in the scholarly vineyard to be in a position to write a book like Jesus, Interrupted”and

”…but even in this realm he does not represent what might be called a majority view on such matters”Attacking the person - nice logical fallacy that one.

So the book must be good :-)

Lee

Brian said...

The ad hominem falls into the category of fallacies of relevance. If it is relevant, then it is not fallacious. For instance, if a biologist wrote a book about nuclear physics, it would not be fallacious to point that out when critiquing his book.

It seems that Witherington is correct in pointing out the fact that Ehrman is writing outside of his field on this one. Of course, that is not the entire argument - but it is a significant point to make. Being a textual critic does not make one a theologian.

emmzee said...

See also Stephen Colbert's recent interview with Bart Ehrman :)

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/224128/april-09-2009/bart-ehrman

Or for those in Canada:

http://watch.thecomedynetwork.ca/the-colbert-report/full-episodes/april-9-2009/#clip159897

Eric said...

"The ad hominem falls into the category of fallacies of relevance. If it is relevant, then it is not fallacious."

Brian, the ad hominem fallacy is, as you say, a fallacy of *relevance*, but even more importantly, it is a *fallacy* of relevance. In other words, since it is a fallacy, something can be correctly labelled an 'ad hominem' if and only if it's first an argument. However, it seems to me, as I read Witherington's critique, that his words about Ehrman's area of specialization weren't part of any *argument* against the quality of the book (he goes on to make such arguments in detail), but were rather meant as an *explanation* for why the book is so bad. In other words, Witherington didn't say, 'Ehrman isn't an expert in these matters, therefore his book is bad'; rather, he said, 'Ehrman isn't an expert in these areas, which might explain why his book is bad.'

So, while I would agree with you that Witherington has committed no fallacy here, I disagree about why he hasn't.

Brian said...

Eric,
You are right.
Thanks for pointing out this distinction. I appreciate it!

Lee said...

OK let's try again...

I quoted:

“[Bart D. Ehrman] has never done the necessary laboring in the scholarly vineyard to be in a position to write a book like Jesus, Interrupted”A quick look at wiki…

"Poisoning the well (or attempting to poison the well) is a logical fallacy where adverse information about a target is pre-emptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing everything that the target person is about to say."Never been good at naming the fallacy, but I can smell them a mile away :-)

Lee

Matthew said...

Hey, in one of his interviews, where J.P. Holding attacked the Jesus-myth, he mentioned that for a long time that the leading book on the Jesus-myth was written by a kidney doctor.

AD HOM! That proves that Jesus never existed because the book was so awesome!

Lee said...

Hi Matthew,

I've personally no problem with people insulting one another - it just isn't an argument so when a review starts with a logical fallacy, I just cannot be bothered to read the rest.

Lee

Brian said...

Part 5 has now been added to the series.

Lee, so if they leave the insults till the end of the review do you read it? :)

Just thinking that a more balanced approach would be to just sort the wheat from the chaff and try to get at the arguments. You know, the whole "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" thing.

Leslie said...

"with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing everything that the target person is about to say.Also Lee, wouldn't you have to know Dr. Witherington's intentions in order to call it a fallacy?

Lee said...

Lee, so if they leave the insults till the end of the review do you read it? :)Yes, because I would have read the review BEFORE the insults.

Once I get to the insult though, the argument is weaker for it in my view

Lee

Matthew said...

Lee, I would go on to say that Ehrman doesn't even haave the honesty to write such a book.

Do me the favor and read the following:
http://www.tektonics.org/ezine/contradsample.html

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