Dr McGrath’s review of Chapter 9 of Doherty’s book Jesus: Neither God Nor Man conveys no idea to the uninformed reader what the chapter is about. So to make up that lack (surely scholarly reviews should give readers some clear idea of what exactly is being reviewed!) I outline the content of the Doherty’s chapter here in the process of responding to McGrath’s review, and in particular to a fundamental misreading on McGrath’s part that resulted in his post being an unfortunate travesty rather than a serious review.
In chapter 8 Doherty had argued that Paul’s source for his understanding of the gospel and Christ was primarily revelation through the Jewish scriptures. In chapter 9, the chapter being discussed here, Doherty addresses another influence that guided Paul’s interpretation of those scriptures – the dominant philosophical and theological ideas in the Hellenistic and Jewish worlds of his day.
(Where there are any quotations in bold type that is entirely my own emphasis — not Doherty’s. All or most of the scripture references are hyperlinked to see the full text. )
In online discussions and posts about “historical method” in connection with the study of Jesus and early Christian history I often encounter confusion about what history really is. New Testament scholar Scot McKnight notes that this confusion begins with many biblical scholars themselves:
In fact, the historiography of historical Jesus scholars is eclectic and often unconscious or uninformed of a specific historiography. (p. 20, Jesus and His Death)
An uninformed view of history is that it is “just one damned thing after another.” But a list of events and dates is really more like a chronicle or almanac. If one’s experience of history stopped in early high school then it is understandable for one to think this sums up what history is all about.
Who or what is a fact of history?
My introduction to some sort of philosophy of history was E. H. Carr’s What Is History? He startled me as an undergraduate by thinking to ask “What is a historical fact?” I had always taken “historical facts” for granted and it had never crossed my mind that there could be a question about it.