Today I received an email that is typical of what I often receive. It deals with a book by Earl Doherty entitled the Jesus Puzzle. In this book Doherty makes 12 points to argue that Jesus did not exist and that Christianity was originally a mythic religion. I will precede through his points one at a time in future blogs. For now, here is his list of points.
Today I received an email that is typical of what I often receive. It deals with a book by Earl Doherty entitled the Jesus Puzzle. In this book Doherty makes 12 points to argue that Jesus did not exist and that Christianity was originally a mythic religion. I will precede through his points one at a time in future blogs. For now, here is his list of points. Hopefully these responses will be helpful to you. Here is the list:
1) Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospel story cannot be found in Christian writings earlier than the Gospels, the first of which (Mark) was composed only in the late first century.
2) There is no non-Christian record of Jesus before the second century. References in Flavius Josephus (end of first century) can be dismissed as later Christian insertions.
3) The early epistles, such as Paul and Hebrews, speak of their Christ Jesus as a spiritual, heavenly being revealed by God through scripture, and do not equate him with a recent historical man. Paul is part of a new "salvation" movement acting on revelation from the Spirit.
4) Paul and other early writers place the death and resurrection of their Christ in the supernatural/mythical world, and derive their information about these events, as well as other features of their heavenly Christ, from scripture.
5) The ancients viewed the universe as multi-layered: matter below, spirit above. The higher world was regarded as the superior, genuine reality, containing spiritual processes and heavenly counterparts to earthly things. Paul’s Christ operates within this system.
6) The pagan "mystery cults" of the period worshiped savior deities who had performed salvific acts which took place in the supernatural /mythical world, not on earth or in history.
7) Paul’s Christ shares many features with these deities. The prominent philosophical-religious concept of the age was the intermediary Son, a spiritual channel between the ultimate transcendent God and humanity. Such intermediary concepts as the Greek Logos and Jewish Wisdom were models for Paul’s heavenly Christ.
8) All The Gospels derive their basic story of Jesus of Nazareth from one source: whoever wrote the Gospel of Mark. The Acts of the Apostles, as an account of the beginnings of the Christian apostolic movement, is a second century piece of myth-making.
9) The Gospels are not historical accounts, but constructed through a process of "midrash," a Jewish method of reworking old biblical passages and tales to reflect new beliefs. The story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion is a pastiche of verses from scripture.
10) "Q", a lost sayings collection extracted from Matthew and Luke, made no reference to a death and resurrection and can be shown to have had no Jesus at its roots: roots which were ultimately non-Jewish. The Q community preached the kingdom of God, and its traditions were eventually assigned to an invented founder who was linked to the heavenly Jesus of Paul in the Gospel of Mark.
11) The initial variety of sects and beliefs about a spiritual Christ shows that the movement began as a multiplicity of largely independent and spontaneous developments based on the religious trends and philosophy of the time, not as a response to a single individual.
12) Well into the second century, many Christian documents lack or reject the notion of a human man as an element of their faith. Only gradually did the Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Gospels come to be accepted as historical.
Now the responses beginning with Point 1: Point 1 is very misleading. We have writings of the apostle Paul from the late fifties that are autobiographical and show his belief in a historical Jesus who was physically raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:1-3). More than that this view of the line of tradition he discusses there has to go back into the mid-thirties at the latest because Paul has to have had enough of the Christian message to have responded to the vision of the risen Jesus he tells us about in Galatians 1. So to leap to the gospels and their reputed dates (more on this to come) is to ignore other important evidence.