Dr McGrath’s “reviews” (sic) of Earl Doherty’s book are what you get when a reviewer has made up his mind beforehand that he is going to read nothing but nonsense — except for any tidbits that happen to be repeats of mainstream scholarly views anyway — written by an ignorant charlatan whom he (the reviewer) is convinced has never engaged with the scholarship, is poorly read and only ever uses scholarly works tendentiously and dishonestly.
Approaching a book with this conviction will make it impossible to read the book on its own terms. One will be expecting to find rubbish and this expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will lead the reviewer to jump scornfully on sentences here and half paragraphs there and scoff before he has even taken the time to grasp what anyone else without “attitude” would read.
I know. I have done the same myself.
When I was beginning to leave a religious cult I picked up a book on how cults psychologically manipulate their members. I was still sensitive enough to be offended by such a suggestion and I read the book with hostile intent and wrote all sorts of objections in the margin. Years later I picked up the book again, with my pride having mellowed, and shook my head in amazement at how my notes betrayed a mind that was completely shut to what the author was really saying. My notes were testimony to my closed mind, not to any inadequacies in the book at all.
I list here McGrath’s objections to Doherty’s work with quotations from Doherty’s book that belie anything McGrath thinks he sees in it.
A year ago I posted the Ascension of Isaiah and highlighted the passages that demonstrate the thrust of Earl Doherty’s argument that this text is an example of the sorts of beliefs we find in Paul’s letters about Christ not being crucified on earth. Interested readers of this post will find that earlier post of some benefit in understanding the argument that follows. It is a complex subject and it is good to have some clear overview of the basics before one takes on the opposing arguments.
One man’s picture-frame is another man’s scaffold
McGrath begins by misinforming readers that the Ascension of Isaiah is “central” to Doherty’s argument that the crucifixion of Jesus took place in a dimension beyond earth and history.
Also central to Doherty’s argument is a work known as The Ascension of Isaiah . . . .
This brings us to the crux of Doherty’s views. Doherty’s entire argument for mythicism can be viewed as an attempt to regard some parts of the Ascension of Isaiah as both the key to understanding the New Testament, and the fountainhead of what eventually became Christianity.
Wow, now that makes the Ascension of Isaiah really critical. Surely sounds like if the AoI goes so does Doherty’s entire argument.
But read what Doherty’ himself says about the place of the Ascension of Isaiah for his argument and wonder how McGrath could so fundamentally misrepresent his use of this text. read more