Another way to argue against mythicism

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by Neil Godfrey

Here’s another little gem from Jesus Not A Myth by A. D. Howell Smith (1942). Recall from my previous post that he is arguing against mythicism. It is refreshing to see someone tackle the arguments seriously and with respect for both the persons and the arguments of the mythicists of his day.

Howell Smith is addressing Couchoud’s interpretation of Philippians 2:5-11, in particular in this passage verses 9-10:

 9. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10. that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow

Of Couchoud’s argument Howell-Smith writes:

On this remarkable piece of Christology Couchoud observes:

The God-Man does not receive the name Jesus till after his crucifixion. That alone, in my judgment, is fatal to the historicity of Jesus. M. Loisy maintains, in opposition to the text, that the name given after the crucifixion is not Jesus, but only the title of the Lord. Unfortunately for that the argument is perfectly clear.”¹

Couchoud’s view that “the name which is above every name” is “Jesus” seems only common sense; had the name been “Lord” (Κυριος), Paul would have written “that in the name of Κυριος every knee should bow.” But though the use of the word “wherefore” seems to indicate that the Saviour, who had doffed the form of God for the form of a slave, received his name only after his exaltation, a closer attention to the elasticity of Paul’s thought and diction will suggest that he need not have meant more than that the name Jesus gained its significance from the work of redemption.  .  .  .

¹ The Creation of Christ, p. 438.

(p. 134 — reformatted text layout)

Gosh, Howell-Smith is arguing against mythicism but at the same time he shows a clear respect for his readers, enabling them to make up their own minds about the strengths of the respective arguments without any recourse to insult and with a full disclosure of both sides of the question.

But it takes a certain amount of security to be able to able to approach a challenging idea like this.

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Neil Godfrey

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5 thoughts on “Another way to argue against mythicism”

  1. Neil: “But it takes a certain amount of security to be able to able to approach a challenging idea like this.”

    I’ve never quite understood why cordiality, respect, and constructive engagement should ever be considered signs of weakness. If you engage in the debate, restate your opponents’ claims, and demolish them one by one — without resorting to name-calling or dishonesty — you’ve not only won the argument, but you’ve also gained respect.

    If, on the other hand, (and of course this is purely a hypothetical example) you write a scathing, one-paragraph Amazon review of a book you haven’t finished and do not comprehend, dismissing the case without discussion and treating the author without courtesy, you’ve lost far more than the argument.

    When public intellectuals resort to verbal abuse and base their case largely on the appeal to authority they look weak and insecure. When they treat strangers with scorn and abuse in place of actual substantive arguments they look small and petty.

  2. ‘Gordon D. Fee argues in his book “Pauline Christology” that the phrase “at the name of Jesus” should be understood as “at the name which has been given to Jesus” every knee will bow etc’

    NT scholars of today simply refuse to accept any possibility that the text means that Jesus got the name Jesus after the crucifixion.

    It is an apparent contradiction with the Gospels. And the Bible only apparently contradicts itself. There are no real contradictions…

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