2011-05-11

Is McGrath facing front or back in his review of Doherty’s chapter 3?

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by Neil Godfrey

Doherty laid out the evidence that all knowledge of a Jesus in the historical past was said to have come to the NT epistle authors by revelation. (So much for the “oral tradition” hypothesis!)

McGrath responds in his review of chapter 3 of Doherty’s Jesus Neither God Nor Man that Doherty’s argument falls flat because Jewish literature speaks of future (mythical?) events as coming by revelation!

What does it take to become a professor at Butler University?

See also my comment in response to Steven Carr on the What McGrath Forgot post.

Incidentally, I have been preparing for some time a post on a book by Robert G. Hall, Revealed Histories: Techniques for Ancient Jewish and Christian Historiography (1991). Hint for what is to be included — even “historical events” in the Odes of Solomon and Ascension of Isaiah, such as Jesus walking on water and descending from heaven, are “revealed”.

Where genuine past events are written about, the revelation is exclusively in the “correct interpretation” or “meaning” of those events. But in the New Testament epistles it is the event itself that, as Doherty makes clear, is revealed.

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0 thoughts on “Is McGrath facing front or back in his review of Doherty’s chapter 3?”

  1. It looks like McGrath has invalidated his own religious experience while reviewing the latest chapter of Doherty’s book:

    Next, Doherty seems to attribute to Paul an actual miraculous revelation. He notes that Paul claims to have received his Gospel by divine revelation (Galatians 1:11-12), and takes this to be the Gospel which Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. That Gospel, Paul emphasizes, was the same one that other apostles preached (1 Cor. 15:9-11). And so if Paul had the same exact Gospel as them, without learning it from them, would that not suggest that Paul did indeed receive a divine revelation? However, since I am approaching this using the methods of history, which is skeptical of claims to have received revelation, I am forced to consider a more mundane explanation, namely that Paul did indeed know things via human contacts, and his claim to not depend on any human being is apologetics rather than factual reporting. Indeed, he may well have persecuted the Christian movement because he already had some information about what it was proclaiming. If Doherty wishes to posit miracles, that is his business, but it will be yet another hurdle that will prevent his treatment being taken seriously by historians and mainstream scholars.

    From here:

    I promised to recount my own testimony, and so here it is, reposted almost but not entirely verbatim from a place where I had it on my old blog (I figure there is no point in typing it again, and I’ve already spent quite a bit of time on this post):

    At age 15, I was at a stage in my life when I had begun thinking about matters of faith. I had been raised Catholic, but had drifted away from attending church with any frequency (and had a tendency to miss religious education classes in the evening because they were on at the same time as Charles in Charge). But I continued to believe in God, and clearly recall debating a friend of mine who didn’t believe in God about this subject (when we were both seriously drunk). Anyway, I had spent many years being something of a loner, a nerd, and can’t say I was particularly happy – indeed quite the opposite. Once I started high school, however, it had been something of a new start, and since I was also very much involved in music at this point in my life, that helped me make friends and start having something of a different experience, but it didn’t eliminate my inner sense of feeling that I hadn’t found the meaning of life yet, that something was still missing. It was at this point that I happened to tune to a college radio station during an hour when they broadcast contemporary Christian music. I was struck by the music, because although I believed in God, I didn’t find myself able to actually sing about it – it was as though these people had something real that they had experienced and yet I had not. I even tried forming a Christian band with a friend of mine, and when we asked another student, she thought it was weird because, from her perspective, we weren’t even Christians. She did, however, invite us to a concert at her church (a Pentecostal church). To make a long story short, we went, and I was very moved by it. I went to the morning service the next day (Sunday), and as so often in stories like this one, I cannot remember what the sermon was about. What I do remember is that, after the service, I called out to God in my heart and said something like “God, I don’t know what your way of living is, but mine isn’t working, so whatever your way is, I want to try it”. At that moment, a sense of peace washed over me.
    So there you have it – the experience that started it all. I’ll end here, since I’m sure that we’ll be talking about this more over coming days. But I will repeat the wise observation of a Lutheran pastor in Latvia, who observed that it is those who’ve had a genuine religious experience who tend to be less resistant to finding new ways of talking about and expressing it in a new setting, context and language. Or in terms of the parable, the point is not to pass on theories about a treasure, but to put it to use and let it transform lives, even if that means changing the balance (literally or metaphorically), converting into a new currency, and so on.

    So according to the “methods of history”, this event never happened.

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