This post addresses an argument that is found well beyond the covers of Eddy and Boyd. Nevertheless, I have been discussing in this blog bits of Eddy’s and Boyd’s case for refuting what they label the “‘legendary Jesus’ thesis” and defending the historicity of Jesus, and to mention them here seems an appropriate anchor. One of their discussions I have not yet covered is about Paul’s apparent silence about the life of the human Jesus.
Eddy and Boyd write:
In this [the “legendary-Jesus theorists”] view, Paul’s silence indicates that he did not view Jesus as a recent historical figure. (p. 201)
What E&B mean by “legendary Jesus theorists” covers a range of views including those who propose there was no historical person at all:
In this work, we will use “legend” in its more popular sense of a substantially nonhistorical/fictional story. (p.13)
Here is Eddy and Boyd’s list of Paul’s references (my numbering) to a “recent historical Jesus” (p. 209):
- he knew Jesus was born and raised a Jew (Gal. 4:4)
- he knew Jesus was a descendant of Abraham and David (Gal. 3:16; Rom. 1:3)
- he knew he had a brother named James (Gal.1:19)
- and perhaps other brothers as well (1 Cor. 9:5)
- he knew Jesus was meek, loving, humble and serving (2 Cor. 10:1; Phil. 2:5-7)
- he knew by their names disciples who ministered to Jesus (no reference supplied)
- he knew Jesus’s disciple Peter was married (reference supplied for a Cephas having a wife, only; not for Peter being a disciple of Jesus: 1 Cor. 9:5)
- he knew Jesus was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23)
- he knew Jesus was crucified (1 Cor. 1:17-18; Gal. 5:1; 6:12; Phil. 2:8; 3:18 — but he omits here Paul’s reference to the responsible party — archons, or “rulers of the age”)
- he knew Jesus was crucified “with the help of Jews in Judea” (1 Thess 2:14-15)
- he knew Jesus instituted a memorial meal the night before his death (1 Cor. 11:23-25)
- he knew Jesus was buried and resurrected three days later (Rom. 4:24-25; 1 Cor. 15: 4-8)
This list is interesting in that there is not a single item that I can see as pointing to a “recent historical” person.
Perhaps what Eddy and Boyd meant was what are in fact references in Paul’s letters to the concept of an “earthly Jesus”. This is not the same concept as an “historical Jesus”.
Another interesting thing happens when we return the above points to their original contexts. Following is what emerges about Paul’s belief in an earthly Jesus, at least by analogy.
Compare a report of a leprechaun who entered the human realm through being born of a woman.
This woman is, moreover and most appropriately for a leprechaun, said to have been descended from King Arthur. In other versions of the tale she remained a ‘sealed virgin’ after giving birth.
This leprechaun in human form was defeated and killed in combat by goblins.
But he did not remain dead. He revived and returned to the leprechaun world whence he originally came. Once back seated in his former glory beside his father, the ruler of the leprechauns, he gave his daddy the right, according to the rules of the Emerald Isle, to adopt as personal sons all humans who believed the story.
And many years later a letter was “discovered” by a leprechaunist-marcionite branch of this cult and some time after it had passed through the catholicist-tertullian branch it included a claim that the author had met a brother of the goblin-defeated leprechaun-human.
The difference between belief in an “earthly” Jesus and an “historical” Jesus ought never be considered overly subtle.
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