I just watched the video from the Evans/Ehrman debate from 19th January 2012 (posted below, for those of you who wish to suffer through it). The only reference to mythicism in it is during the Q & A, when Ehrman took a question/comment from an audient: (I paraphrase) '*Using the same arguments that you are using to disprove the historical reliability of the NT, one could argue that Jesus didn't even exist.*'
Ehrman called the question a "softball." A softball, he says, because … well, because, wouldn't you know it, he just wrote a book about this (so he should know, right? ) Is it me, or do I detect some hubris in Ehrman's flippant posture here? I mean, he IS the best-selling author in the field at the moment, but […]
Which is not to say that he shouldn't address the logical fallacy in the mythicist kid's question. No. The mere fact that a document might be historically unreliable need not preclude the existence of the subject it purports to report.
Ehrman offers a topical example: If asked to describe the life and times of Barrack Obama, he says, the four remaining GOP contenders for the presidency would very likely give decidedly inaccurate descriptions of the man; but this of course does not mean that Obama does not exist! (This was one of the debate's "zinger" lines, inducing a ripple of laughter in the audience that night.)
Now, he's right to correct the would-be mythicist on his logic, of course, but Ehrman's delivery here, and the subsequent reaction that he got with this answer, makes me wonder if the "mythicism" that he "refutes" in his next best-seller might not be a straw man in waiting. Can he name a single proponent of the Christ-Myth theory who argues his case from biblical unreliability? I can't think of any.
Moreover, his example regarding the four portrayals of Obama is not quite an appropriate one as a mythicist analogy for the simple reason that we don't have to guess at the source of their unreliability. In fact,why don't you ask them instead to write descriptions of someone considerably less-reviled. I think we'd be surprised at how much people can retain about an individual they know and admire.
I'll probably read Ehrman's book— it's what I do— but I am hoping like heck that it rises above this kind of specious nearmiss.