In his review of Maurice Goguel‘s attack on Jesus mythicism Earl Doherty writes (with my emphasis):
It was at the opening of the 20th century that the first serious presentations of the Jesus Myth theory appeared. The earliest efforts by such as Robertson, Drews, Jensen and Smith were, from a modern point of view, less than perfect, lacking a comprehensive explanation for all aspects of the issue. Pre-Christian cults, astral religions, obscure parallels with foreign cultures, even the epic of Gilgamesh, went into a somewhat hodge-podge mix; many of them didn’t seem to know quite what to do with Paul. It wasn’t until the 1920s that Paul-Louis Couchoud in France offered a more coherent scenario, identifying Christ in the eyes of Paul as a spiritual being. (While not relying upon him, I would trace my type of thinking back to Couchoud, rather than the more recent G. A. Wells who, in my opinion, misread Paul’s understanding of Christ.)
More recently on this blog Earl Doherty stated in relation to this 1920’s French mythicist (again my emphasis):
Prior to Wells, the mythicist whose views were closest to my own was Paul-Louis Couchoud who wrote in the 1920s, though I took my own fresh run at the question and drew very little from Couchoud himself.
I have recently acquired a two volume English translation of Couchoud’s work titled The Creation of Christ: An Outline of the Beginnings of Christianity, translated by C. Bradlaugh Bonner and published 1939.
Today I did a very rough and dirty bodgie job of scanning the introductory chapters of this book and making them word-searchable. But if you are not a fuss-pot for perfection and are curious about how Couchoud opens his argument I share here the opening pages of this two volume work.
I question Couchoud’s insistence that the Jews for many generations were obsessed with a hope for deliverance by means of a messiah or divinity. Such fervour, if it existed at all, I believe, never outlasts in tact the generation it possesses, with each subsequent generation dwindling exponentially. What is critical, in my view, is the shock of the events of the Jewish war that culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple and Mosaic cult which brought with it the desperate need for a replacement identity.
What I find of special interest in these opening pages of Couchoud is
- (i) the personality that shines through;
- (ii) the delineation of the literary-theological record leading to the birth of the Son of Man and Saviour, Jesus Christ and the Christian religion itself.
These pages are not Couchoud’s argument but introductory to it. But they are worth consideration:
- Consider the events that led to the composition of the Book of Daniel; then consider in this book the very first imagery of “one like the Son of Man” and its surely metaphorical character;
- Consider then how the author of the Book of Enoch took this symbolic figure of Daniel and another metaphorical figure found in Isaiah that represented the people of Israel who suffered so cruelly before being delivered to offer salvation to the world and combined these two to create the image of a literal Son of Man figure sitting beside God and preparing to judge and save the world. — The Book of Enoch deserves close study by Christians, says Couchoud, because he believes it is the beginnings of what became Christianity. To this end one might also consider the works of Margaret Barker on the same book.
- Finally the Assumption of Moses with its introduction of the concept of the Heavenly Man is discussed.
I would love to discuss some of this book, including these chapters, in some detail in future posts. But till I get that opportunity I offer here the opening pages of Couchoud’s two volume work for anyone interested to read for themselves.
Foreword (approx 2.2 MB pdf)
Apocalypses (168 b.c. – a.d. 40)
I. Preliminary (approx 1.8 MB pdf)
II. Profaned Temple (approx 2.2 MB pdf)
III. The Dream of Daniel (approx 3.3 MB pdf)
IV. Revelations of Enoch (approx 6.7 MB pdf)
V. Revelations of Moses (approx 2.8 MB pdf)