I’m probably just as annoyed by “Jesus relic” stories as Jerry Coyne. I’ve often enjoyed Coyne’s blog—but he does contribute his share of lamentable face-palms now and then. In the aforementioned article that includes this goose egg:
But no, the media simply assumes, and tells us, that Jesus lived. They’ve bought into the Bart Ehrman Fallacy, which is that the Bible must be true in part, at least in the existence of a Jesus Person, even if that Person wasn’t the son of God. (The sub-fallacy is that because most religious scholars think that Jesus was real, a Jesus Person must have lived.)
I certainly don’t buy into all things Bart Ehrman (by any means) but I must step to his defense on this one:
(1) I don’t consider what Coyne dubs “The Bart Ehrman Fallacy” an accurate summary of Ehrman’s claim about the historical Jesus.
(2) Coyne’s followup dismissal is as lame as it is silly:
(The sub-fallacy is that because most religious scholars think that Jesus was real, a Jesus Person must have lived.)
Firstly, I would have said that most historians specializing in Ancient Near Eastern studies think that Jesus was “real”, an actual historical person. Secondly, it is not simply a matter of what the history academy “thinks”—as some kind of baseless argument from authority. No, it is a matter of historical evidence. Thirdly, the religious studies academy and the history academy basically agree on the validity of that evidence. Fourthly, last time I checked, most major universities have both a Department of Religious Studies and a Department of History (if not multiple history faculties specializing in various geographic regions and eras.) Peer-review is the standard in all of them. So even if Coyne thinks that all of the world’s religious studies departments are steeped in pseudo-scholarship, does he similarly reject the peer-scholarship of historians? I don’t know. Perhaps he does. You will have to ask Jerry.
There’s a lot more historical evidence for the existence of a real first-century Jesus as the basis of the Christian religion than there is for the existence of the ancient mathematician Euclid. So I’d be curious to know if Coyne ever chides the media (and the media and the world mathematics academy) for assuming that Euclid was a real person.