by Neil Godfrey
This is a reasonable question that was unfortunately asked by one who is searching for the one question that mythicism cannot answer. (Earl Doherty responded in detail but this was simply ignored by the questioner who found another question to set up in its place in a game of cat and mouse. Or maybe Earl Doherty has conspired with James McGrath for James to pretend he hasn’t read or understood Doherty’s book and to keep dropping the Dorothy Dixers so that he can use his blog as a platform for a clear and unopposed exposition of mythicism.
I have had my own thoughts on the question, however.
For Paul there is one central focus of his faith and that is Christ crucified. There is not a complex detailed mythological narrative attached to this as far as we can tell. And this stands to reason. For one thing complex mythical tales of gods are traditionally the result of centuries of cultural mixing and matching and evolution responding to changing social and cultural interests. What we appear to have in the case of Pauline “Christianity” is something of a theological-philosophical development with emphasis on the theological. It is a faith that is founded not in a rich literary tradition of mythical tales but in revelation and vision-mysticism. Revelation is spiritual and its matrix appears to be the Jewish sacred writings. And this was an era of flourishing religious and philosophical mutations.
But the research of scholars like Engberg-Pedersen and Niko Huttunen open up the indebtedness of Paul’s theology to Stoic philosophy. I am not referring to Stoic ethics but to the philosophical framework itself. (I’ve posted on some aspects of Engberg-Pedersen before and will be doing more posts on Huttunem soonish.) Paul’s Christ crucified is a theological version of Seneca’s (and Stoic’s) Reason or Logos. It converts and saves the individual — transforms the individual into a new person — by virtue of being grasped, apprehended. (more…)