One of the several sources in the Carrier-Holding dispute whose contents is disputed is the scholarly work Portraits of Paul by Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey. Let's look at how Holding uses it.
First, scholars aren't infallible
At one point in Carrier's reply to Holding, Carrier says "Malina and Neyrey made a serious mistake here (which in turn betrays the fact that Holding is ill-qualified to assess the value of his sources for ancient history)" and provides some reasons for thinking so. Holding's response: "Amazingly enough, Carrier even has the nerve, after prostituting Malina and Neyrey for his own purposes, to say they "made a serious mistake" (and I made one in trusting them) for their claim that women were not trusted in court as witnesses... Let Carrier's bark at these credentialed scholars speak for itself." Holding also sorta gives specific replies to Carrier's criticisms of M&N, though all he can say about a key source that Carrier cited is that he'll check it in the future, which hasn't happened yet, even though Holding's response to Carrier appears to have been written some time ago. What's really galling about Holding's response though is that he appears shocked at the very idea of challenging his scholarly authorities. It's as if he doesn't realize that scholars criticize each other all the time and that's how scholarship gets done. It's one more piece of evidence that Holding is in over his head here.
The converse of my position here is that if one of Holding's sources undermines his thesis, and he's willing to flat out say they're wrong on the particular point, that in itself is unobjectionable, though his criticism would have to be legitimate. However, I've yet to see him do that. He seems to simply misunderstand or ignore his sources.
The need for a venerable history
In Holding's original piece, the first place where he cited Malina and Neyrey was in section four, which argued that Christianity would be at a serious disadvantage because it was innovative. I'm a little unsure what to say about this section. From my reading of Malina and Neyrey I can't see how they support Holding's case, but perhaps I should not accuse Holding of misrepresenting them because I can't see how Holding supports Holding's case either. Basically, Holding says that Christianity was attacked in the ancient world on the grounds of novelty, while noting that Christians defended themselves by arguing that Christianity was the fulfillment of the ancient and respected Jewish tradition. That much, to the best of my knowledge, is correct. Holding thinks this somehow shows Christianity could not have succeeded without miraculous proof of its truth. As far as I can tell, it's actually a good example of early Christians meeting diffuculty through purely human means. I don't know of any record of early Christians saying, "So what if our doctrines are new? We have proof." Rather, they used exactly the strategy Holding acknowledges in his article. Holding's response to this point is to say that critics said that the Christians were wrong, but so what? Does he deny that people who converted to Christianity tended to accept its claim to Jewish roots? Does he think that miracles would be the best way to change people's views about the religion's pedigree? If so why? It's a giant non-sequitur.
Just to emphasize the point, it's worth throwing in some quotations from Malina and Neyrey:
What must be judged by Israelite and Roman judges alike is the legitimacy of Paul's main question, God's having raised Jesus from the dead... Paul presents himself as a person loyal to Israel's tradition. Far from being deviant, he claims to defend God's honor by heralding the great deeds of God, namely, God's raising of Jesus. (pp. 85-86)This refers to some speech making by Paul in Acts chapters 23-26, from which the authors quote heavily. When these quotes are read in context, it's perfectly clear that much of Paul's rhetorical strategy (as portrayed in Acts) had to do with playing the Pharisees and Sadducees against each other and positioning himself as legitimately within the Pharisitic tradition by connecting Jesus' resurrection with the Pharisees' belief in the resurrection.
I suspect pointing out every misrepresentation of Carrier's position by Holding will get tedious very, fast (indeed it is already doing so), but I'll continue on that effort for the moment. In Holding's response to Carrier, Holding says, "Carrier insists that it 'isn't really true' that for these people, innovation was bad." Here's what Carrier actually said:
James Holding argues next that for the Romans, "Old was good. Innovation was bad," and "this was a big sticking point for Christianity, because it could only trace its roots back to a recent founder." But that isn't really true. From the very beginning in the letters of Paul, every Christian text aimed at persuasion connects Christianity intimately and profoundly with the Jewish scriptures, regarded even by pagans as among the most ancient oracles of man...Carrier more or less agrees that for the ancients, innovation was bad. When he says, "that isn't really true," he's talking about Holding's claim that everyone would have seen Christianity as innovative. Once again, he's misrepresented his opponent.
Holding is right, however, that as long as Christianity appeared to be a complete innovation, too few would have accepted it.