Bart Ehrman vs. Robert Price & Richard Carrier vs. Justin Bass: The Debates Are On! (Get Your Tickets Now)

Mythicist Milwaukee logo.Two debates are happening next year (2016), sponsored by Mythicist Milwaukee as part of their Buzzed Belief debate series. Details here. You can get tickets now, through links there, and start making plans to travel and lodge where you can for these momentous debates.

First up…

Saturday, March 19, 2016 – 7-10 pm
Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Richard Carrier and Justin Bass
Are There Reliable Sources for the Miraculous Resurrection of Jesus?

FREE admission with advanced reservation. $5 at the door.

The resurrection of Jesus is the Christian religious belief that, after being put to death, Jesus rose again from the dead. It is the central tenet of Christian theology and part of the Nicene Creed. His resurrection is covered in the Scriptures; but are these writings reliable? 

That’s right. We aren’t doing that tired old “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” debate that’s been done to death and resurrected a million times. This time, we are debating what we should always have been debating first before that, yet never have before now: Are the sources we have for that even sufficiently reliable to establish that claim?—even if the claim itself happened to be true! The letters of Paul and the Gospels. Can we even count on them for this? Should we just not even?


Next up…

Friday, October 21, 2016 – 6-9 pm
Turner Hall, 1034 N 4th St, Milwaukee, WI 53203
Dr. Robert Price and Bart D. Ehrman
Did Jesus Exist?

$30* Early bird (tickets limited reg. price $60) ends 3/20/16
$47* Mythicist Milwaukee members at the door
$60* Regular Price after 3/20/16

$105* Early Bird Debate & VIP Meet-and-Greet (Reg. Price $160) ends 3/20/16
$160* Debate & VIP Meet-and-Greet after 3/20/16

*All tickets include FREE entrance to the Mythinformation Conference III

One of the most anticipated debates in the secular and theist realm alike realm is finally here! These two New Testament scholars are coming together to discuss the hotly debated topic of the existence of a historical Jesus Christ.

This was that debate they asked to get funded earlier, and they got the funding! This will actually help Robert Price make ends meet (Ehrman, already well off, will donate his honorarium to charity). And it will be the first time Bart Ehrman has ever debated the historicity of Jesus. This will be a historic event. I won’t be debating, but I will likely be included in the VIP crew. And of course I’ll be available for a post-debate analysis.


For either or both, get your tickets now!


  1. Hi Richard,
    I’ve read PH and OHJ and am listening to your reading of the latter in addition. So I’m taking the opportunity of this post to ask this question, as I don’t know where else it would go.

    Is it possible within Bayes Theorem to give weightings to variant elements of evidence? For example, the little hints of possible historicity of Jesus in Paul’s epistles are ambivalent, at best. But what if there were, say, really good evidence for a historical Jesus? Say, a letter from Pontius Pilate. I’m just using this for illustrative purposes. In that case, wouldn’t that evidence then outweigh some vague sentences in Paul? Could we not then say it would be 10 times more important (assuming it’s considered authentic)? Of course, this could apply to any other application of BT. I don’t recall you mentioning this in your writings.


    Richard Martin

    1. In that case, wouldn’t that evidence then outweigh some vague sentences in Paul?

      Yes. (Assuming we could authenticate it at least as well as the letters of Paul. But I’m assuming that’s what you mean. Because otherwise, there are fake letters of Pilate, e.g. this.)

      Hence my examples of how this happens for other highly mythologized but historical persons like Haille Selassie, Alexander the Great, Socrates, Etc.

      I actually do discuss this effect, in both PH and OHJ. The entire argument of OHJ Ch. 11 is about what would have been in Paul if Jesus existed, which thus would strongly verify historicity if it were in Paul. It just happens not to be. I also discuss what evidence we could have had that would do the same in Ch. 8. Likewise my discussion in Chs. 6 and 10 of how the order of stories is the wrong way around from what we would need to verify historicity: we would prefer to have sober memoirs and accounts, then gradually morphing into the ridiculous hagiographies of the Gospels, or both in parallel (as we have for Alexander). Had we that, historicity would be a lock.

      And so on.

    2. Ok. I get it. If say a letter from Pilate (to use that example again) is 100% probable on historicity and only 10% on mythicism (or vice versa), then that is how you would capture the weighting difference? Is that correct?

      What about if that one letter, were (or any other unique piece of evidence) were 100% probable on historicity whereas ALL the other evidence together were only 10% on historicity and, say 50% on mythicism?

      What I’m trying to get at is what Orwell said in Animal Farm: “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” Sort of like companies with multiple voting shares. They “weigh” than regular single-vote shares.

      Richard Martin

      1. As to the first question:

        Yes. If it were 100% to 10%, then such a letter would increase the probability of history ten times.

        Though I would expect such a find to be really hard to explain on mythicism. So the ratio is more likely to be 100, or even 1000 or more, to one.

        As to the second question:

        The simplest procedure would be to use the posterior probabilities I generated in OHJ as the prior probability in a new run of the equation, with the new Pilate letter as new evidence, and just update the prior, by running it through that equation.

        But I also think what you mean to be asking is what happens if we start with a combined P(e|h) of .1 and P(e|~h) of .5 (which is not what I find in OHJ, so we are already imagining some sort of radical change in the evidence even besides the new Pilate letter), and then add the new letter, whose P(e|h) is 1. I can’t answer that question without knowing the P(e|~h) for that same item of evidence. So I will assume you mean it to be as proposed in the first question: .1.

        Then, if we start from my a fortiori prior probability of 0.33, which in the odds form equals 1/2, the 0.1/0.5 scenario updates that prior by 1/5, giving us 1/10, or an a fortiori posterior probability of historicity of one chance in ten (a much more destructive result to historicity than I reached). This then becomes the updated prior probability. Adding the new Pilate letter then does this:

        P(h|e) = 1/10 x 10/1 = 10/10, or a straight up 50/50 chance Jesus existed.

        Though I think such a letter would, as I noted, be at least a 100/1 or even a 1000/1 game changer, so either:

        P(h|e) = 1/10 x 100/1 = 100/10 = 10/1, for a total reversal (now a one in ten chance Jesus didn’t exist)


        P(h|e) = 1/10 x 1000/1 = 1000/10 = 100/1, for a hundred to one odds against mythicism.

        Any of those results would kill mythicism. The last, all but decisively.

    3. Thanks Richard!

      Even with your a fortiori posterior probability of historicity as only 33%, that means any new piece of evidence would have to be 3 times more likely on H than not H to even bring the probabilities to even money. With your ad judicantiori posterior of 1 in 12,000 that means any new evidence of historicity would have to be damn convincing, right?


      1. Yes. A 3-to-1 historicity-supporting item of evidence would bring the a fortiori probability of historicity to even money, and raise the a jud. to 1 in 4,000, and those would be the margins of error either side.

        A single 1000-to-1 historicity-supporting item of evidence would bring the a jud. to 1 in 12 chance of historicity, but the a fort. to 1/3 x 1000/1 = 1000/3 = 333 to 1 in favor of historicity. So it would warrant provisionally believing Jesus existed, with just some doubts remaining. But two such items of evidence would bring even the a jud. to 1/12k x 1k/1 x 1k/1 = 1,000,000/12,000 = 83 to 1 in favor of historicity. That’s the a jud. even. And that’s a really high certitude for ancient history. Mythicism would be dead in the water.

  2. Randall Johnson December 18, 2015, 2:03 pm

    I wish both you and Dr. Price were confronting Ehrman- but I’ll take what I can get. I’ve been waiting to see him confronted since I heard his talk on line to a skeptic/atheist group in which he said mythicists were making fools of themselves.

    Anyone who rails against the reliability of the Gospels like Bart does and yet still finds what he “knows” to be kernels of truth proving the existence of JC houses some serious dissonance and could be easily lead to impeach his own testimony I would assume.

  3. llewelly December 18, 2015, 7:04 pm

    If you are not debating, why does the title contain: “Richard Carrier vs. Justin Bass” ? If it’s a presentation the two of you are doing together, it should be “Richard Carrier and Justin Bass” , because “vs” implies adversarial.

    1. I don’t understand your question. The article you are commenting on says I will be debating Justin Bass in March. And that I will not be debating Bart Ehrman in October.

      As to the idiom, this is how debates are described. And they are indeed adversarial.

  4. I think I’ve seen somebody debate Justin Bass before, and if he’s who I think he is, it was a difficult one to watch because he was so full of it, full of himself, dishonest and fake-nice all at the same time. If it’s that guy, I really want to see you take him apart.

    Price and Ehrman isn’t until October? Well, I guess that means they’ll have plenty of time to prepare and make it a good show.

    1. Bass is a presuppositionalist, and those debates are always maddening.

      He won’t be able to use a presuppositional argument in our debate.

      As to how he will conduct himself then, remains to be seen. I’ll charitably assume the best.

  5. Terry Bollea December 20, 2015, 8:10 am

    Let me tell you something brother, that sounds like a great event. Unfortunately. Milwaukee is too far for me to travel, so I will have to settle for the livestream for this one. Hopefully you will have another event in the future closer to me.

    Have you considered a debate with James McGrath? He is constantly making pathetic, absurd, ineffectual, and illogical critiques of your work. It would be awesome to see his horrible arguments exposed in a live setting by a scholar of your calibre. McGrath has yet again been talking smack about you on his blog ( and I noticed that some of the usual pathetic trolls showed up,in the comments. I really would love to see you destroy McGrath in a debate. It is so pathetic how people like him try to raise their profile by attacking more successful scholars.

    1. I’d debate him formally if he asked, or anyone arranged it.

      (And that last post is amusing. McGrath doesn’t realize that he needs to test the alternative hypothesis: that I’m right. Then, my critics will have to have made egregious mistakes, or been dishonest, as there is no other way to “rebut” what is true. In fact, the fact that rebutters consistently get what I say wrong or even lie about it—McGrath himself having lied several times—and I am able to prove this with evidence, not merely assert it—and notice McGrath’s post records the assertions but deletes and never even mentions all the evidence I presented for them—is evidence in favor of my being correct. I’m still waiting for an honest rebuttal to what I’ve actually argued. So far, all I hear is crickets.)

  6. Richard,

    I came across this site recently – describing the development (funded by DARPA) of a Bayesian Logic programming language (BLOG) and given your past work with Bayesian Logic I thought you might find it interesting.

  7. I am looking forward to both of these debates. I appreciate yours, Robert’s and Bart’s contributions to Jesus/ new testament scholarship. I hope the Ehrman / Price debate is not just a formal debate where each speaker has a prewritten speech. This debate needs to have a free dialog between the two debaters at least for the last half of the debate. I have no pony in this race and I am agnostic on whether Jesus existed or not. Your debate with Bass is going to end up with Bass having egg on his face. Christian apologetical, arguments are bad and downright horrible. I find these speakers frustrating not only because of their bad arguments but because of some of their attitudes. I find Tim Mcgrew the most annoying of the bunch. Thanks for your wonderful scholarship and contribution to this field.

  8. gshelley December 22, 2015, 1:27 pm

    I will try and follow the Ehrman/Price debate, though it is too far to go.

    I did read his “Did Jesus exist” book, and have just finished Lataster’s summary of it and it seems he does accept many of the main points of mythicism (more I think, than he did when he wrote it, perhaps a little intellectual honesty forced it’s way in).

    While I doubt Price will be able to get him to actual compare the two hypotheses, it would be nice if he can get him to admit that there is not really anything that comprehensively rules out the mythical/celestial Jesus. And also, if he can get Ehrman to accept that going from “the Gospels are largely fictions written to push a theological viewpoint and there is no reliable way of identifying any historical material in them” to “Jesus existed and the people who knew him would have recorded some stories that eventually found their way into the gospels in some form, therefore we know he existed” (paraphrasing, but IMO, that was basically his argument) is not sound.


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