2011-08-24

Why I don’t trust a scholar’s review of Doherty’s book

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by Neil Godfrey

I don’t mean “scholar” generically, but one scholar and his reviews in particular. The reason is, not to put too fine a point on it, that he blatantly misrepresents and suppresses what Doherty actually says. I even wonder if he bothers to read Doherty and merely skims, sees a few words that feed his prejudice, and sets to writing outright falsehoods.

I quote here what this reviewer has to say about Doherty’s argument in relation to the evidence of Origen for our understanding of what Paul meant by “rulers of the age” crucifying Christ. (My own emphases throughout.)

And perhaps Neil’s point over on his blog is correct, and I should indeed have pointed out what Doherty does with Origen. He finds evidence that Origen understood the “rulers of this age” as demonic forces. So? There are interpreters today who do the same, and just like Origen, do not understand this to be evidence against a historical Jesus.

I apologize for not mentioning this example of Doherty’s willingness to engage in apologetics-style prooftexting, citing a church father whose understanding of Paul and of Jesus he actually thinks is wrong, because he believes that he can appeal to him as an authority to bolster his case.

What do others think? Do I really need to mention every single one of Doherty’s claims in order to have demonstrated that he is engaging in apologetics for a predetermined view, rather than treating the evidence in scholarly, historical-critical manner?

How is it possible for any reviewer to write the above when Doherty’s whole argument in relation to Doherty is not about Origen understanding the rulers of the age as demonic forces at all, but about his being the pioneer to lay the basis of the modern interpretation that Paul meant the demons were working through earthly princes?

Here is what Doherty writes about Origen and the early interpretations of Paul’s meaning. Would a scholar ever be so careless with truth if he were addressing works of his scholarly peers?

Origen is another who interprets “rulers of this age” in 1 Corinthians 2:8 as referring to evil spirits. . . . He understands that the terminology he is discussing relates to the demon world, but he seems to want to make room for an alternate understanding which can encompass human figures . . . .

Thus, Origen is interpreting 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 in the context of the demon forces, humanity’s “invisible enemies”; these heavenly powers are said to have introduced “false knowledge” into the minds of men and (human) princes of the earth. He then enumerates the “princes” who “in the holy scriptures” are said to be over individual nations, such as Persia and Greece and Tyre; these, he notes, “are not human beings, but certain (heavenly) powers.”

He goes on to say that these very princes — the ones not to be seen as human beings — banded together to destroy the Lord and Savior. On the other hand, his quotation of Psalm 2:2, “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers assembled together, against the Lord and his Christ,” perhaps implies that they were earthly, although taken literally, this would hardly conform to the Gospel event, wich was far from involving the human princes of Persia, Greece or Tyre. Origen makes no attempt to resolve these vacillations and contradictions and concludes rather lamely that the snares of these princes were discovered when they crucified the Lord of glory, as stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8.

It would thus seem that Origen is trying to resolve or wed two contradictory outlooks, first being led to deal with Paul’s words in the obvious context in which they belonged, but at the same time seeking to position the demons one step removed by presenting them as introducing the false ‘wisdom of the world into earthly princes’ minds.

We thus see Origen struggling to present the demons as working through the earthly princes of this world to crucify Christ. He never definitely states that this is what Paul means, and in fact he is hard pressed to draw even such an implication from Paul. But one thing is clear: Origen is acknowledging that Paul’s phrase, “the rulers of the age,” is a direct reference to the demons, not to earthly rulers. In this he must be correct, since such a view is not likely to have arisen post-Paul and post-Gospels if it did not in fact exist in Paul’s time and mind. Nevertheless, Origen has taken it upon himself to try to explain that those demons crucified Christ by manipulating the earthly princes through their wiles of false wisdom. The other telling point to be made here is that Paul himself is oblivious to such a necessity. He never feels compelled to explain what Origen is bending over backwards to do: how did the demons effect their crucifixion of the Lord or glory if he was crucified on earth? Indeed, he shows no sign of any such difficulty, no sense of what should have been a natural question in his readers’ minds: if the Roman governor Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to the cross on the mount of Calvary at the instigation of the Jewish religious leaders, how could the demons be declared to be responsible? If Origen felt a compelling necessity to elucidate this problem, why didn’t Paul? That necessity, of course, continues to this day, with scholarship generally following Origen’s lead.

Before him, Tertullian had a different view of Paul’s meaning. He challenged the gnostic Marcion . . . who evidently maintained that Paul’s “rulers of the age” were the evil-spirit minions of the Creator god . . . . Tertullian countered — which would be in contradiction to Origen — that Paul’s “princes of this world” were meant as nothing but earthly; the apostle had been referring to Herod and Pilate. Tertullian arrived at this conclusion because the Gospels made it clear that the demon forces whom Jesus challenged during his ministry knew who he was. Therefore, had they crucified him it would have been with full knowledge of his identity, whereas the earthly rulers could be said not to have recognized that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. Such reasoning gave him Paul’s meaning. 

It is very telling that Tertullian shows no signs of Origen’s and the common modern-day explanation that Paul, while his phrase may have meant the demon spirits, saw them as working through earthly rulers. This would indicate that no such understanding of as that of Origen existed in Tertullian’s day or prior to it, and thus Paul was unlikely to have had such a thing in mind. Nor can it be claimed that Paul had failed to offer such an explanation on the ground that it was understood by his readers already; if there was such a prevalent understanding it should have survived to be used by Tertullian. . . . .

But we can assume [Marcion] did not employ Origen’s explanation that the demon worked through earthly princes to crucify Jesus. If he had, Tertullian would have dealt with the question on those grounds. (pp. 106-8 of Jesus Neither God Nor Man)

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0 thoughts on “Why I don’t trust a scholar’s review of Doherty’s book”

  1. To be fair to Dr James McGrath, he may yet find time to add a few words of clarification to what he “really meant to say” — while insisting that nothing he did say is inaccurate in the slightest — just as he did in his earlier defence against more black and white evidence that he has only skimmed Doherty’s book and simply not taken the time to read Doherty’s argument with any sort of caution at all.

  2. [Neil’s note: I paste here Dr McGrath’s response to this post. He preferred to make his response on his own blog and not here. But I think it belongs here.]

    @Neil, I suspect that because you misrepresent others so frequently, you assume that they are also doing it to you. If I misunderstood your meaning, I apologize. If I misremembered which church father Doherty psychologizes with no real justification in what they actually wrote, I apologize for that as well. I am starting to think that I meant to refer to what he wrote about Tertullian rather than Origen. It is hard to keep track of, when what Doherty writes about them bears so little connection to what they wrote, but involves him reading not only between or behind the lines but into those spaces with his own special brand of speculation. I do not read mythicist books for a living, and having suffered through reading the book and reviewing it, I do not from then on spend my waking hours pondering Doherty’s words and seeking to weave them into the fabric of my being and embed them in my memory. Is that perhaps why I don’t see things they way you do, perhaps?

    1. Can somebody explain what in the hell I just read? Is he admitting he got it wrong, but it’s partly Neil’s fault for projecting and partly Earl’s fault for not interpreting Origen the way he’s supposed to?

      This may be the first time I’ve seen somebody projecting Freudian projection on somebody else. It’s awe-inspiring.

  3. Dr McGrath’s response reminds me of how I responded to Edmund Cohen’s “The Mind of the Bible Believer”. When I first read it I was still very close to the faith I had just left. I was offended at almost every paragraph. I have kept my copy of the book. It is is filled on every page with my pencil notes venting outrage and declamations of what nonsense he was writing. He did not understand the fundamentalist mind-set at all. It was nothing like what he was saying. He was so superficial and relying on the popular stereotypes, etc etc etc.

    Quite some time later I had another look at that book and my notes scribbled all through it. I can now see how clouded my thinking still was the first time I read it and how right and spot on Cohen’s analysis was all along.

    At the time of my first reading I really believed I had “come out of” fundamentalist thinking — I am sure I had — and that I abhored what I had let myself into. But there was still a part of me that was still “there”, and though I thought I had a good objective and experience-based knowledge of all my wrong ways of thinking, I was still in some sort of need to protect my past identity from admitting to itself to being so totally wrong through and through.

    I don’t know of course, but I wonder if McGrath and many others like him might for a similar reason — inability to even contemplate that they could be so fundamentally wrong about something so important to them — that they simply cannot read Doherty or any mythicist’s words objectively and at a cool distance. Are they going off the rails as they read — not realizing it, of course, but just like I was at the time of my first reading of Cohen, believing I was coming from a position of certain and even first-hand knowledge to the contrary of all that I was reading?

    I could not read Cohen the first time with anything like the comprehension I read that book now. I simply could not acknowledge what he was saying. He was flat wrong and ignorant, misrepresenting, etc etc etc. Perhaps McGrath is reading Doherty with the same state of mind. That would explain his incoherent responses and his off the rails treatment of what Doherty and others are actually write. His reviews and comments remind me of all my indignant and “informed” notes I pencilled in the margins at my first reading of The Mind of the Bible Believer.

    1. I read L. Sprague de Damp’s The Ancient Engineers when I was an 11- or 12-year-old, and enjoyed it immensely until I came upon his rationalist interpretation of the Battle of Jericho. So shocked was I as a good little fundamentalist that I fired off an angry letter explaining in detail how “God gave them the city.”

      You may be right about McG’s inability to view mythicism at a cool distance. I can’t read minds, so I’ll never know. But in some ways it reminds me of Alford Korzybski’s adage, “The map is not the territory.” It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our model of the world is the world or that our reconstruction of the past is the past. In some unhealthy way, our way of describing and understanding history becomes intertwined with the way we describe and understand ourselves. Coming to grips with a new way of looking at the world can thus have damaging psychological consequences.

      For that reason I’m glad I left fundamentalism early in life. The scars are bad enough; I can’t even imagine how rough it must be for somebody who discovers the awful truth in his 20s or 30s.

  4. Doherty: We thus see Origen struggling to present the demons as working through the earthly princes of this world to crucify Christ. He never definitely states that this is what Paul means, and in fact he is hard pressed to draw even such an implication from Paul. But one thing is clear: Origen is acknowledging that Paul’s phrase, “the rulers of the age,” is a direct reference to the demons, not to earthly rulers.

    I actually see it the other way around. Doherty has badly misread Origen here. Origen writes in Ad 3: “I am of opinion, therefore, as I have stated above, that there is another wisdom of this world besides those (different kinds of) wisdom which belong to the princes of this world”. So the reading that Origen is discounting is the **face** reading. Origen is struggling to present the demons as being “the princes of this world”, which is why he has to explain his “opinion” on what Paul really meant. When we look at Paul, we can see why.

    Paul writes: 1 Cor 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness

    But if celestial saviour figures dying and rising were a common motif, why is this foolishness to the Greeks? Wouldn’t it actually make sense to the Greeks, if what Doherty writes is the case? Can anyone explain why it is foolishness to the Greeks?

    Paul goes on to write in 1 Cor 2:6 “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought…”

    Is Paul talking about demons here when he talks about “princes of this world”? If we substitute “demons” into that passage, we get: “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor [the wisdom] of demons, that come to nought…”

    Why would Paul need to tell people that he wasn’t talking about the wisdom of demons? Can anyone explain why?

    Instead, I think Origen gets it right when he writes: “The wisdom of the princes of this world, on the other hand, we understand to be… that [occult knowledge and] manifold variety of opinion which prevails among the Greeks regarding divine things”.

    The contrast works nicely between wisdom and foolishness. I.e. it is Greek philosophy that is the “wisdom of this world” and “the wisdom of the princes of this world”. But “Christ crucified” is “foolishness” to the Greeks.

    As Paul puts it in 1 Cor 1:20: Where [is] the wise? where [is] the scribe? where [is] the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

    “Wise” relates to Greek philosophers. As far as I know, it doesn’t relate to demons. There were no demon “scribes” either. And does it make any sense to have “wisdom of this world” mean “wisdom of demons”? Scribes and demons?

    Anyway, my two cents.

  5. Doherty’ discusses Origen’s De Principiis Book 1 chapter 5 @ http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04121.htm but especially Book 3 chapter 2 @ http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04123.htm

    But he also explains that “Save for parts of Books 3 and 4, De Principiis (“On the Principles”) exists only in a Latin translation of the original Greek, leaving us at times to question the vocabulary Origen used; unfortunately, the extant Greek passages do not include the ones quoted here.”

    Tertullian’s challenge is in Against Marcion, Book 5, chapter 6.

    I don’t think I have yet made any reference to Doherty’s discussion of the evidence of the Ignatius’s Smyrneans, 6:1

    1. Thank you, Neil. I also found a book on Google books called “Origen: Homilies On Luke” by Joseph T. Lienhard, in which Origen writes about the rulers (starting on p. 25).

  6. DON: Paul writes: 1 Cor 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness

    But if celestial saviour figures dying and rising were a common motif, why is this foolishness to the Greeks? Wouldn’t it actually make sense to the Greeks, if what Doherty writes is the case? Can anyone explain why it is foolishness to the Greeks?

    By this argument, it doesn’t make sense even in an historicist context. If the Greeks are familiar with dying and rising gods in general (as in the mysteries) and they placed their myths of savior gods on earth (Don’s claim), why would they find a crucified savior to be foolishness in an earthly context?

    In any case, what would it matter where the Greeks placed their myths: in a primordial time on earth or in the Platonic upper world? Drop the word “celestial” in the above quote: “But if savior figures dying and rising were a common motif [which was clearly the case], why is this foolishness to the Greeks?”

    Unless I’m missing something (it’s late), it would seem that Don’s question is unanswerable no matter what. Apparently, we do not have enough information from Paul to understand why the Greeks labelled his gospel “foolishness.” Don can’t claim that the “foolishness” was Paul’s placement of the crucifixion in the heavens, because Paul suggests no such thing. He tells us it was the ‘fact’ of the crucifixion, not its location. And note that another thing Paul never mentions or defends is the turning of a human man into the Son of God, a folly that would have been more than a stumbling block to Jews; it would have been blasphemy and they would have reacted with apoplexy.

    As for 2:6, I see no problem in understanding “rulers of this age” in this verse to be a reference to the “powers and authorities” in the heavens. Don is trying to scare us with the word “demons” which Paul is not using. The terminology is a little broader than that. This phrase is part of a context of reference (twice in the verse) to the idea of “age,” not “world,” and Paul says that these rulers are “passing away,” which is a thought belonging chiefly to the evil spirits in the epistles, and not to earthly authorities. There is nothing unusual about ascribing a ‘worldly wisdom’ to such heavenly authorities, especially in light of his claim that they were ignorant of God’s wisdom. But this does not require us to read every previous reference to worldly wisdom in that passage as meant to apply solely to the evil spirits. (Don’s attempt to link “scribes” to the demons is ridiculous, but typical.)

    As for Origen, Don’s counter-interpretation is anything but clear. I may or may not try to pursue it some other time.

  7. Earl, you claimed elsewhere that:

    “For the average pagan and Jew, the bulk of the workings of the universe went on in the vast unseen spiritual realm (the “genuine” part of the universe) which began at the lowest level of the “air” and extended ever upward through the various layers of heaven. Here a savior god like Mithras could slay a bull, Attis could be castrated, and Christ could be hung on a tree by “the god of that world,” meaning Satan”

    If that is the case, why is preaching “Christ crucified” considered “foolishness” by the pagans?

    But if Paul was preaching a crucified man (that is, a crucified MAN), then it makes sense that this is both a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness for the Greeks. Who would follow a crucified man? Don’t you say this in your book?

    If you are right about the beliefs of average pagan, then why does Paul consider that preaching “Christ crucified” would be considered “foolishness” to the Greeks?

    1. So a crucified Messiah on earth would be foolishness, but a Messiah crucified in Heaven would be acceptable to Greeks, as they are used to saviour gods dying?

      Paul was preaching a crucified Christ, to use Gdon’s words, not just a crucified MAN. Why was it not blasphemy to Jews to say that a crucified man was the agent through whom God had created the world?

      But if Paul’s Christ was a bad reading of scripture, then his bad readings of scripture would have been a stumbling block to Jews, who would have regarded him as a lunatic, while preaching that a convicted criminal was the agent through whom God had created the world would have been a death sentence.

  8. I don’t understand how the substance or location of Christ makes any difference to the foolishness of the Christ crucified message. Why should it?

    Isn’t the mere idea that Paul’s religion is a non-intellectual one, one that is not based on reason or wisdom (what Paul says the Greeks esteem) what makes it foolishness?

    1. Neil, Doherty writes in his book:

      “The second resemblance was to a wide range of pagan savior gods found in the “mysteries”, the dominant form of popular religion in this period, going back to ancient roots. Like Paul’s Christ, these savior gods were thought of as having performed acts in a mythical world, acts which brought sanctity and salvation to their believers. These cults had myths and rituals very much like those of the Christian movement. (Page 4)”

      Compare with Paul’s comment:

      “1 Cor 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness”

      I suppose it depends on why Paul thinks the Greeks would find “Christ crucified” foolishness while the Jews would find it a stumbling block. Can you expand on where you see that Paul’s religion is a non-intellectual one, one that is not based on reason or the wisdom esteemed by the Greeks?

  9. I don’t see the point of your reference to Doherty. As for Paul’s faith not being a matter of “wisdom” — its opposite, foolishness — I would have thought that Paul makes it clear himself. It’s about a proclamation, a revelation of a mystery that must be accepted on faith. It is a spiritual discernment that enables faith. Paul’s Logos is not the Stoic’s Reason.

    1. Neil, you’ve read Doherty’s book and his “World of Myth” section. According to what Doherty writes in his book, would Plutarch (to take an example) have regarded Paul’s celestial “Christ crucified” as “foolishness”?

      1. What sort of question is that?

        As far as I am aware the only meaningful question is what Paul meant or understood by saying that his gospel was foolishness to those who prided themselves in the pursuit of wisdom.

        You seem to be hung up over Doherty and celestial Christs. I already explained that I don’t see what difference it makes whether Paul’s Christ was a human or ghost, plastic or papier mache, siting on a cloud or in a UFO. What is foolishness is the faith — the faith (that non-reasoning, non-wisdom activity of the brain) — in a crucified whatever. And that “whatever” is “Christ” who is a Logos without “Reason”.

        The closest Paul’s Logos comes to “Reason” or “Wisdom” is its being an embodiment of a “secret wisdom” known only to those who have non-reason/Faith.

      2. GDON
        According to what Doherty writes in his book, would Plutarch (to take an example) have regarded Paul’s celestial “Christ crucified” as “foolishness”?

        CARR
        Don makes a valid point. If Paul claimed Greeks found his Gospel ‘foolishness’, what he means is that not one single Greek person anywhere accepted it as anything other than foolishness.

        So if we can find any Greeks who converted to Christianity, that must mean Doherty is wrong.

      3. Pagels’ gnostic interpretation sees the “Jews” as psychic Christians and the “Greeks” as pneumatic Christians. Thus the psychic cosmos was unable to know God through Sophia (wisdom) and God then sent the kerygma (which was foolish) to save those who believed. The pneumatics believe the psychic kerygma to be foolish as they have wisdom. The psychics view the kerygma as the power of God and the pneumatics view it as the wisdom of God.

  10. It’s been alluded to, but I think it’s important to make clear that Paul’s meaning is technical: “foolishness” as the antonym of “wisdom”. And the “wisdom” specifically of the Greeks was none other than philosophy. It’s also important to realize that the split for ancient people between philosophy and religion was different than the distinction we make today, where religion has come to take over much that was regarded by pagans as the domain of philosophy. To a philosopher (that is, technically, an adherent of one of the philosophical “schools”), ALL of the dying and rising gods of the eastern cults, and the very concept of a divine mystery before which the supplicant trembles in numinous fear and exultation, were “foolishness”. When ancient elites talked about “superstition,” this was what they meant: an orientation to the divine not as the good and noble superhuman patrons of ordered human society as a whole but as a mystical presence, fearful for its distance from the earthly realm and its irrationality, and a vehicle for personal salvation.

    One could perhaps better interpret Paul as saying “A blasphemy to the Jews and a superstition to the Greeks.”

  11. C.J. O’Brien, Doherty writes here: http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/parttwo.htm

    “For the average pagan and Jew, the bulk of the workings of the universe went on in the vast unseen spiritual realm (the “genuine” part of the universe) which began at the lowest level of the “air” and extended ever upward through the various layers of heaven. Here a savior god like Mithras could slay a bull, Attis could be castrated, and Christ could be hung on a tree by “the god of that world,” meaning Satan”

    In his book “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man”, Doherty writes:

    In 364F Plutarch refers to “the account of the dismemberment of Osiris and his revivification and regenesis.”… Here we have an almost exact equivalent to the mythicist view of Pauline Christ who descended to the lower part of the heavens, took on “flesh” and underwent death and rising. (Page 148)

    All of this suggests an intermediate sphere where subordinate gods can get close to the material world and do things which have an impact upon it.

    This is highly esoteric stuff, almost unintelligible to the modern mind–and , of course, totally unreflective of actual reality–which only the philosopher may have thought to understand… It tells us that in philosophical circles, and from the time of Plutarch, an application of the myths to a primordial earth setting was no longer in vogue. This may or may not give us a definite picture of how all the devotees of the cults looked upon such things, but it demonstrates that the thinking of the era had moved in an upward direction, and we have no contrary evidence to suggest that the interpretation of the myths in the cults as a whole did not follow. (Nor can we reject the likelihood that the initial Christ cult would have followed suit as well.)

    I’m not sure if you’ve read Doherty’s latest book, but I can’t help get an impression that his theories are terribly adhoc. Two markers can be found above: “we have no contrary evidence to suggest” and “Nor can we reject the likelihood”. But we do have a good idea what philosophers thought back then, and we can test Doherty’s theories against them to see if they make sense.z

    Do you think that Greek philosophers like Plutarch would have thought that Paul’s view of a celestial being who was crucified in the lower part of the heavens was “foolishness”?

  12. After relating the key points of the myth of Isis and Osiris, which, like every myth to which he gives any approval at all he then goes on to allegorize, here is what Plutarch has to say to those who would take it literally:

    These are pretty nearly the heads of the legend, the most blasphemous parts being omitted; for example, about the dismemberment of Horus, and the decapitation of Isis, because if these things people believe and say concerning blessed and incorruptible natures (by whose medium the idea of the deity is mainly conceived) as having been really done, and really having happened to them—then, as Aeschylus hath it:—

    “We must spit at the tale, and rinse the mouth:”

    and there is no more need of talking to you, in fact, you are yourself disgusted at people holding such absurd and uncivilized notions respecting the gods. Are not these things exactly like the fine-spun fables and empty tales that poets and story tellers, like spiders, breed out of themselves, without foundation from first to last, and weave and spread them out?

    –Plutarch, On the Worship of Isis and Osiris, XX

    Yes. “Absurd and uncivilized notions” he would call it, and note that his attitude here is exactly what I was characterizing as the ancient pagan elite conception of “superstition”. (Elsewhere in the same work he calls superstition “an evil no less great than atheism,” which was also a charge to which Christians were subjected.)

  13. C.J. O’Brien: BTW, no, I have not read Doherty’s book, and my interest in this question is not a matter of defending his particular views.

    In a way it’s good you haven’t read his book since I can ask you the following question about Attis and Osiris. Doherty writes that:

    “The Greek salvation myths inhabit the same mythical world. They too can spin stories about their deities, born in caves, slain by other gods, sleeping and dining and speaking. None of these activities were regarded as taking place in history or on earth itself. (The Jesus Puzzle, Page 122)”

    “Some of these circles–though again not all–envisioned this Jesus as having undergone self-sacrifice in the supernatural world, the same realm where the activities of other savior gods of the era were now seen as having taken place. (Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, Page 85)”

    “… this is a view that would have been perfectly at home in the philosophical and mythical thinking of the time. It was, in fact, a view shared by a whole range of pagan salvation cults, each of which had its own savior god who had performed deeds in the mythical world. Like Paul’s Christ, savior gods such as Attis and Osiris had been killed; like Paul’s Christ, Osiris had been buried (after being dismembered); like Christ on the third day, Adonis and Dionysos had been resurrected from death. It will be argued that in the cults all these things were not regarded as historical; they had taken place in the Platonic world of myth and higher reality (Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, Page 19)”

    Have you come across any of these ideas in primary or secondary literature? Any hint that ancient people around the time of Paul thought in this fashion: that their saviour gods literally carried out their acts in a ‘supernatural realm’, where Osiris could be dismembered, or Attis castrated, etc?

    So rather than Osiris having his body chopped out and thrown into the Nile, the ‘philosophical and mythical thinking of the time’ (as Doherty put it) had Osiris being chopped up in some ‘higher reality’. Or instead of Attis being the lover of Cybele and castrating himself on the river Gallus in Phrygia, this was actually done in a ‘higher reality’?

    I know that Plutarch preferred an allegorical view of these myths, but Doherty essentially rules this out (he sees the writers of texts like these as ‘presenting visions of heavenly realities which they regard as actual; they are not fashioning visions of allegories (page 151)’) So are you aware of any texts that treat the deaths of Attis and Osiris as **actually** occurring in a non-earthly location?

    1. GakuseiDon, like Jonathan Burke and James McGrath on the Matrix blog, regularly ignore what Earl Doherty (and several others including me) have ever said in response to their criticisms and continue to repeat their claims and challenges deaf to anything ever said to point out their invalidity. One can see Doherty’s own latest response to the sorts of thing GDon repeats ad nauseum at http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?p=6906254#post6906254 and http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?p=6906802#post6906802

      1. Neil: Yes, I do still quote that The Jesus Puzzle reference. Is Doherty correct? Is he wrong? Or did he really mean something else? I’ve often found that trying to pin Doherty down causes him to start to “hum and har” and equivocate.

        Here is that reference again:

        “The Greek salvation myths inhabit the same mythical world. They too can spin stories about their deities, born in caves, slain by other gods, sleeping and dining and speaking. None of these activities were regarded as taking place in history or on earth itself. (The Jesus Puzzle, Page 122)”

        I claim that Doherty is wrong. What do you say?

        1. What I say is irrelevant. What Earl says is relevant. He says:

          Whenever Don would come up with a rebuttal argument in his opposition to my mythicist theories, he could sometimes be very loath to let it go, to compromise it or deal with counter-arguments from me. He has preferred to keep repeating himself as though I have had very little if anything to say along the way in response to his criticisms.

          [This] has been especially true in regard to certain statements about the location of the myths of the savior gods in The Jesus Puzzle (and on my website) which he very early seized upon. I have admitted since the book was published that such statements were too blunt, too definitively stated, and needed better qualification (though a certain amount of qualification was given, such as on page 122). Subsequent to giving it that more in-depth qualification several years ago, he has nevertheless seen fit to continue to quote them in their original versions, and he has done so again in the present review of Jesus: Neither God Nor Man:

          (From the Jesus Puzzle website) For the average pagan and Jew, the bulk of the workings of the universe went on in the vast unseen spiritual realm (the ‘genuine’ part of the universe) which began at the lowest level of the ‘air’ and extended ever upward through the various layers of heaven. Here a savior god like Mithras could slay a bull, Attis could be castrated, and Christ could be hung on a tree by ‘the god of that world,’ meaning Satan.

          The last sentence here presents that unqualified, unnuanced version of things. Now, in discussions on the FRDB over the months preceding his review, I have complained to Don that, since he was commenting on my new book, he ought to deal with how I present things in that new book, how I have approached the above-quoted contention in the years since The Jesus Puzzle‘s publication, and not continue to simply quote from it as though I have never had anything further to say on the matter or to address his objections. So what does he do here? He does not quote the above from The Jesus Puzzle. Instead, he goes to my website, to an article written even earlier than The Jesus Puzzle (and I have admittedly been somewhat lax about bringing certain website passages up to date to reflect newer developments in my theory and its presentation), and quotes an identical statement from there!! I guess this is supposed to be a concession to my complaint about him casting the statement in The Jesus Puzzle in stone, but he just can’t let it go, or acknowledge any further development on it, and so he quotes it instead from the website. In a review of Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, this creates a misleading impression and completely skews his comments in this part of his review. It certainly implies that I am still making the same general and unqualified statements even in the new book. I regard that as basically dishonest.

        2. Don, is Ehrman wrong when he says: “Ancient people also had a more nuanced sense of truth and falsehood; they too had stories that they accepted as “true” in some sense without thinking that they actually happened. Most scholars today recognize that the majority of educated people in ancient Greece and Rome did not literally believe that the myths about the gods had actually happened historically. They were stories intending to convey some kind of true understanding of the divine realm and humans’ relationship to it.”

            1. So what substantive difference is there between what Ehrman is saying and what Doherty is saying? Doherty — the ancients believed the Gods operated in a mythical realm = crazy. Ehrman — the ancients believed the Gods operated in a divine realm = sober. Is that it?

        3. Neil: Yes, I do still quote that The Jesus Puzzle reference. Is Doherty correct? Is he wrong? Or did he really mean something else? I’ve often found that trying to pin Doherty down causes him to start to “hum and har” and equivocate.

          Here is that reference again:

          “The Greek salvation myths inhabit the same mythical world. They too can spin stories about their deities, born in caves, slain by other gods, sleeping and dining and speaking. None of these activities were regarded as taking place in history or on earth itself. (The Jesus Puzzle, Page 122)”

          I claim that Doherty is wrong. What do you say?

          GDon, if you also explain or quote the qualifiers Doherty wrote on the same page, and sum up what he himself has said in response (more than just saying he “hums and hars), then I will be prepared to tell you what I think.

          1. Neil, I’m happy to do that, but let’s start at the start. Doherty’s comment in “The Jesus Puzzle” is wrong. Yes or no?

            You can ignore my question if you like, but I find that when push comes to shove, mythicists walk away from direct questions. Up to you.

            1. It is you, GDon, who have simply ignored the responses that have been given to your query. To demand a yes/no answer to a certain presentation sometimes amounts to demanding one step into committing to a false proposition.

              Judas went out and hanged himself. (understood elsewhere in the text)

              Jesus said, “Go and do thou likewise.”

              Should we obey Jesus or not? Yes or no?

              1. Neil, I quoted Doherty from his old book, his website and from his new book. If any of those quotes are no longer accurately depict Doherty’s position, please let me know. I don’t think I am doing what you claim in your Judas-Jesus example, but if you can show me how I am doing it by quoting Doherty directly, please let me know.

                Here is Doherty’s statement again:

                “The Greek salvation myths inhabit the same mythical world. They too can spin stories about their deities, born in caves, slain by other gods, sleeping and dining and speaking. None of these activities were regarded as taking place in history or on earth itself. (The Jesus Puzzle, Page 122)”

                Does that accurately depict Doherty’s current view on the topic? Or has his view changed in “Jesus: Neither God Nor Man”?

              2. Oh my goodness. Read http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/why-i-dont-trust-a-scholars-review-of-dohertys-book/#comment-18593 again. And what Earl Doherty says in response to you in the comments linked at http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/why-i-dont-trust-a-scholars-review-of-dohertys-book/#comment-18588 — you really do ignore what Doherty has said in response to your query, don’t you. Your comments here, your refusal to accept the responses you have been given and fixation on that one sentence in his first book demonstrates exactly what Doherty has said about you.

                I could answer directly but Doherty has already answered directly and you have no intention of being satisfied with any answer but a “yes” or “no” to a loaded question about one decontextualized sentence that has been superseded in another publication since.

              3. Neil, I gave a range of quotes, from TJP, from his website, but most of all from his J:NGNM. Look at posts 15 and 18. It was YOU who highlighted the TJP reference in post 18, and ignoring my references to J:NGNM. Why did you not choose from one of the J:NGNM references?

                Anyone interested in checking what I’ve written out for themselves, check out posts 15 and 18 above. There is only one quote from TJP. There are at least 3 references from J:NGNM.

                Neil, if you want to talk about the TJP reference, lets talk about it. Or if you want to talk about one of the J:NGNM references I gave, let’s talk about that. I’m willing to discuss any of those comments

                Still, I’m curious about your comment just above on the TJP reference. You write that it has been “superseded”; what do you mean? How should it be expressed now? I quoted Doherty from J:NGNM and he seemed to be saying the same thing. Check out the quotes for yourself. How then has Doherty shifted views between the two books, in your opinion. Perhaps I am indeed being unfair to Doherty, in that case.

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