The Inevitable Catches Up With Thomas L. Brodie

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by Neil Godfrey

brodieBeyondI have posted a few times with reference to Dominican priest Thomas L. Brodie’s latest book, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus, which is something of an intellectual biography of how he arrived at his conclusion that Jesus did not exist. These posts are archived here — scroll to the bottom of the page to see the first one addressing his book most generally.

Now The Irish Sun has published the fallout:

A TOP priest has been forced to quit a Bible-teaching job after writing a book claiming Jesus did not exist.

Fr Tom Brodie makes the claim in Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus.

The publication sparked fury in his order and he was removed from his post at the Dominican Biblical Institute in Limerick, which he helped set up.

According to documents seen by the Irish Sun, the veteran scholar was also banned from any lecturing, teaching or writing while a probe is under way.

It is understood Fr Brodie has questioned the existence of Jesus since the Seventies but had until now been unable to make his views public.

For the full article go to http://www.thesun.ie/irishsol/homepage/news/4754775/Pulpit-Fiction.html [The Irish Sun link no longer accesses the article but IrishCentral still has a contemporary report: https://www.irishcentral.com/news/irish-priest-disciplined-after-claims-jesus-never-existed-in-controversial-book-187717531-237560221 Neil, 23rd July, 2019]

Is anyone surprised? But how many biblical scholars will be outraged over the ideological suppression of free critical inquiry? It is clearly Brodie’s conclusions that have upset people. I doubt there will be too much discussion of the details of his methods.

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64 thoughts on “The Inevitable Catches Up With Thomas L. Brodie”

  1. At least this will allow Bart Ehrman to claim that nobody with a teaching position believes Jesus didn’t exist…

    Not surprising…but still sad.

  2. Thanks Neil. I hope this latest piece of church self-destruction boosts sales of Brodie’s book, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Quest-Historical-Jesus-Discovery/dp/190753458X [Neil’s note — always check http://www.bookfinder.com — often you’ll find a copy cheaper than Amazon’s.]

    Tom Dykstra has published the following fine review at Amazon, showing how Brodie “blows Ehrman out of the water”.

    5.0 out of 5 stars A great counterpoint to Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist December 25, 2012

    The “discovery” in “Memoir of a Discovery” is Brodie’s realization that Jesus is a literary character and did not exist as a historical person at all. This is diametrically opposed to the thesis of Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth which answers that question with an unqualified “yes.”

    Ehrman’s book repeats over and over again the assertion that no reputable New Testament scholars deny the historicity of Jesus, and Brodie’s book certainly blows that assertion out of the water. Brodie is an established biblical scholar who heads an institution devoted to biblical scholarship and has published widely on topics in New Testament studies.

    Ehrman’s key point is the existence of multiple independent witnesses to the historical Jesus. Brodie argues that none of these are genuinely independent witnesses. All of the New Testament sources are actually dependent on Old Testament texts and each other, and later sources are dependent on the New Testament. Ehrman cites Josephus as another independent witness, and Brodie discounts that independence also. He points out that a genuinely independent witness generally provides information we don’t find elsewhere, but Josephus doesn’t. Moreover, Josephus could have had access to the gospels, and Brodie cites evidence making that plausible.

    Ehrman makes much of his criteria for historicity, but he virtually ignores all of the scholarly work being done of late on criteria for literary dependence. As a result, the Ehrman book “cannot deal adequately with Price and Thompson, and shows little awareness that — whatever some of their opinions — their work has a place in a central new field of biblical research.” (229)

    A key problem with Ehrman’s approach, which Brodie corrects, is that Rule One in any valid list of criteria for historicity would be to determine the literary context of a source, and this is missing from Ehrman’s approach. As Brodie puts it, “If a newspaper announces cheap flights to Mars, it is important to note whether the advertisement occurs in the Travel Section or in the Cartoons-and-Jokes Page. Clarity on the literary factor is Rule One.” (122) The gospels can be seen as having been intentionally written to look like history though most of their stories come from rewriting Old Testament texts. Given that understanding, the simplest interpretation that explains the literary data is to see the gospels as portrayals of a literary character. “In essence: once the literary connection is seen, the historical explanation is unnecessary; it goes beyond what is needed to explain the data.” (159)

    Brodie also addresses Ehrman’s insistence on the reliability of oral tradition and his assertion that early Christians would not have invented a crucified messiah. Literary connections make oral tradition unnecessary, and “when there was a need to express the ancient contradiction or paradox between God-based hope and life’s inevitable sufferings it was appropriate to express those sufferings in a clear contemporary image — Roman crucifixion. It was doubly appropriate in the context of a rhetorical world that sought dramatic effect and energeia (graphic presentation) . . .” (230-1)

    I highly recommend reading Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus after reading Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist. You’ll read something that comes off as absolutely certain and then read a counterpoint that calls into question everything you were just starting to take for granted. Even if you don’t agree with everything Brodie says, you can’t help but recognize the reasonableness and validity of most of his arguments, yet according to Ehrman such arguments are unreasonable and invalid.

  3. Paul Regnier will be pleased.

    Holocaust deniers are often sacked after their writings on Holocaust denial are published.

    That makes mythicism just like Holocaust denial! Ask Paul ( or Bart, for that matter….)

    1. As a teacher myself I gain absolutely no pleasure in seeing someone else lose their teaching job.

      And yes holocaust deniers are liable to be fired, fined, or imprisoned for their views. A quick Google search should provide a few examples.

          1. From the way he worded his point in a comment over on my blog it seemed that Steven was unaware that Holocaust Deniers were liable to end up in hot water for their views. That was what I was responding to.

            Does what happened to Brodie prove that mythers are like holocaust deniers? That’s not what I’m saying.

            My point is that you and Steven seem to think that what happened to Brodie shows the ideological suppression that goes on in Biblical Studies when people question the status quo. But the same (or worse) can happen to people who hold “beyond the pale” views in other fields too.

            Do you think that biologists or holocaust historians are also guilty of suppressing the opposition for ideological reasons? I doubt it.

            Do people who hold the fringe positions in these fields claim that ideological suppression is going on? Yes. They write conservapedia articles about it….


            1. So your defence of the Church’s treatment of Brodie is that other institutions do the same? (It would also be helpful if you named those other types of institutions so we could get a more clear idea of the comparison you appear to find acceptable. Or are you referring only to Creationists and Biologists?)

              I have no problem with an employer insisting employees support the values of a corporate body that employs them, but in this case we are talking about education, presumably as a concept opposed to indoctrination. Here we observe the inevitable incompatibility of a religious institution and genuine education (as opposed to indoctrination).

              Your comparison with Creationists is invalid since Creationism is itself the religiously based view opposing critical inquiry. So if there is a valid or qualitatie comparison at all it is that of Creationists with the Church.

            2. I think Paul’s point is not only that there are no mythicists in teaching positions, which is superb evidence that mythicism is false, but that if a mythicist is found in a teaching position, then it is only right to sack him, as mythicism is false.

              Meanwhile, Regnier also seems to think that Brodie’s points about so many stories about Jesus coming straight from stories about Elijah/Elisha should be suppressed, but obviously, not for ideological reasons. They should just be suppressed – period. Not refuted, just suppressed.

              1. “if a mythicist is found in a teaching position, then it is only right to sack him, as mythicism is false.”

                When have I said any such thing? As it happens, I might have a teaching vacancy coming up in my (non-faith) school. For the record, any mythicists with the necessary teaching qualifications are more than welcome to apply!

              2. Hairy palms. Eyes too close together. Howling at the moon. The usual symptoms.

                I’m joking of course. I wouldn’t know, unless it came up in conversation or I saw the name “Steven Carr” on an applicant’s CV. What’s your point?

  4. ‘According to documents seen by the Irish Sun, the veteran scholar was also banned from any lecturing, teaching or writing while a probe is under way.’

    Wow! What did he do to upset the Catholic church and get them to act so quickly? Molest a child or something?

    1. In the 1980s, the Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff was placed under a similar interdict by Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Inquisition) for his book Jesus Christ Liberator.

      This censorship of Boff by Ratzinger became a public scandal. Perhaps the media could comprehend a Marxist analysis of Jesus Christ in terms of class struggle with Jesus cast in the role of communist revolutionary.

      It seems Brodie’s mythicist interpretation of Jesus Christ as fiction is too incomprehensible for the general public, in view of the scale of psychological delusion it suggests in the invention of the Gospels. Given the widespread acceptance that the Jesus story is based on fact, denying Jesus challenges some big central assumptions and meets intense emotional resistance from believers. If the media and the public cannot cope with the mind-bending idea that Jesus was invented, the Brodie case will be ignored

  5. Inevitable, of course! Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Ph. D., daughter of former German President Gustav Heinemann, in her young years living with the Bultmann family, in the 1950s co-student and even friend of a certain Ratzinger (now Benedict) at Munich University, lost the ‘venia legendi’ for interpreting the Virgin-Birth story of Jesus symbolically. What then in Catholic Inquisition (Dominicans!!) to do with deniers of any historicity at all ?!!
    Poor optimistic Edwin Johnson wrote more than a century ago:
    “Unfortunately, so long as the impatient popular mind insists on begging the questions of history in its own favour, so long will ecclesiastics of ability be found to respond to the demand, and the corruption of intelligence must go on. Happily, we approach, if we have not already arrived at, a time when at least the same degree of freedom and candour that obtains in societies of men of science and letters will be encouraged, under the like conditions, in ecclesiastical communities.”
    Edwin Johnson, Antiqua Mater: A Study of Christian Origins, 1887

  6. One can appreciate in the light of this happening to Brodie why Brodie included in his book a plea to the faithful to accept that a nonhistorical Jesus need not mean the end of the Christian faith. See his case outlined at Mythicism and Positive Christianity. It is easy to be cynical and pour scorn on Brodie for such a stance (as Carrier has done). But we are talking about a man’s life history and turning point here. I don’t know if there is anything to be gained by impatient scorn when people’s lives and illusions face turmoil.

    1. Mythicists may disagree among themselves on minor details of their methods and conclusions. But I’m sure everyone stands in support of Brodie’s efforts overall; and his right to say what he has said. Over and against the Church.

    2. I mined this from the cited article:

      I am reminded of a story I have told several times already. I once asked a Jesus Seminar Anglican priest and scholar what he thought might be potential consequences for Christianity should we learn that Jesus was a mythical construct after all. After a moment’s thought he suggested that “If Judaism can survive without a literal Abraham . . . “

      Well Judaism doesn’t have an authority with an all-consuming need to uphold the historicity of a literary character in all that character’s alleged aspects, whether he was constructed around an actual person or not.

      And concerning mcduff’s comment below, what will it take to put an end to this HNTJ charade? World War III fought with all the nukes we have, and no Second Coming?????

  7. Just in case people haven’t seen this before.

    The censorship of T.L. Thompsom [c 1974]
    An extract:
    “As Hans Küng, with whom I had studied Systematic theology, was on leave for a research semester, I was assigned to take my examinations in dogmatic theology from the professor of systematic theology, Joseph Ratzinger. When I spoke with him concerning bibliography for the upcoming examination, he explained to me that a Catholic could not write such a dissertation as I had and that I would not be receiving my PhD from their faculty in Tübingen. I must point out that the shock with which I met this statement, at the time, caused me to fixate my thoughts on the first phrase: that a Catholic could not write it … but I had! … and what then was I, if not a Catholic? … and then: why couldn’t a Catholic write it? ”

    Deja vu – again.

  8. If you claim to teach as a Catholic theologian at an institution which claims to be Catholic, then you cannot complain if the Church authorities hold you to your commitment.

    1. Indeed: Catholicism = NT literalism and to change that is quite another thing than e.g. to allow evolution theory. Many a Catholic scholar had the choice: remain a member of the Roman Catholic Church OR a scholar. I feel with Brodie but he surely must have known what was going to happen.

    2. Yes you can, complain I mean.
      The key is in the word that you use – “teach’.
      That explicitly presumes the seeking of ideas, knowledge and meaning for teacher and learner[s] .
      If such is to be only done within proscribed limits by censorship imposed by central authority as dictated by their political demands for indoctrination then the teacher is no longer teaching
      but merely engaging in robotic indoctrination and propaganda and the students are not learning but being brainwashed.
      This is not desirable and, incidentally, not what the church authorities will admit to bluntly.
      They, the authorities, have an obligation, as do all learning institutions, religious or otherwise, to seek truth [whatever that may be] rather than demand its limiting.
      Complaint in this instance, is vital.

      1. Excellent point. It is the difference between education and indoctrination. This highlights the fact that what passes for religious education on the part of vested religious interests is generally little more than indoctrination. I imagine that most religion scholars won’t complain too loudly — as someone else has suggested in these comments — and that, too, will demonstrate that they, too, are in the business of upholding “correct thoughts”.

  9. Lets see if we get all these lovely christian scholars that usually jump in support of their peers when they get fired from an institution for their views. My guess is that won’t happen.

    1. Jimmy McGrath does not read the Doherty book he claims he is reviewing, he does not read the Wikipedia article he says all mythicists should read, he does not read the books on historical method or oral history that he quote-mines, he does not read my own mythicist arguments that he claims to debunk, he does not read the Irish Sun article about the Brodie removal from his teaching positions, and he does not read the headlines of my posts here that he faults. Which is all just as well or he would never be able to have nearly as much fun as he obviously is enjoying writing with reference to any of these.

      The headline of my post did not say Brodie was sacked, but I did go on to quote the lead paragraph of the Irish Sun article. If McGrath had ever bothered to read that article he would have himself seen there and then that Brodie resigned his Directorship post before publishing his book, but that he was nonetheless suspended from other teaching roles pending an outcome into an investigation of his book.

      And McGrath speaks of my “sensationalist headline” (“the inevitable catches up. . .”) — and McGrath is the one who recently posted a headline asserting I believed in “Divination” all on the strength of his own sexing up of the one word “divine” that I quoted from Prevenier and Howell on historical method — the primary meaning of this verb being “to infer” according to the Webster dictionary.

      Pots and kettles?

  10. If he doesn’t believe that Jesus existed, then what business has he in being a Catholic priest dedicated to Biblical Studies when appartently he believes this since the 1970s. With that he is opposed to everything held in the Christian Creed, all all the dogmas of the Church: Trinity, Incarnation, Redemptive death and resurreection, sacraments and a long etcetera. One wonders how someone who totally rejects the whole basis of Christianity could have remained at his post and not have been consequential with his beliefs and abandoned the Church decades ago.

    1. An interesting question. Though I suspect that quite a few bishops and up, don’t really believe themselves, what they encourage you to believe.

      Possibly, to give the devils their due, they believe that simple church services, are just an introduction or simplified version, of a more complex, higher theology.

  11. The unproved thesis that the historical Jesus is just a literary creation is as infantile as it is unreasoned.
    Father Brodie was taken in by a certain kind of selective scholarship that makes conclusions beyond the facts.
    Somehow he was deceived by a piece of false reasoning on some historical fact or event.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys town, Nebraska

    1. I would be most interested to hear what you mean, exactly, by that “certain kind of selective scholarship”. But especially do tell us what is the logical fallacy, what you describe as “a piece of false reasoning” to which Brodie succumbed.

      I am sure you don’t want anyone deluded so please do let us know.

    2. Hi Father Stevens!

      Interesting thoughts. I agree there was a historical Jesus.

      I was wondering what you think of the postmodern critique of the honesty of the original Christians? Here is the argument:

      The argument is that just as it is “mere speculation” to suppose the original Christians were being “dishonest” (making up the miracle stories about Jesus), so too is it “mere speculation” to suppose the original Christians were being “honest.”  Such is the nature of “The Postmodern Deconstruction of Religion.”

      The argument runs like this:

      Seneca famously said “Religion is true to the masses, false to the wise, and useful to the rulers.” For example, Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Doric Greek), was cleverly instituted as a Graeco-Egyptian god. The Cult of Serapis was cleverly introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm.

      It is not out of the realm of possibility to speculate that the miracle/resurrection tales about Jesus started as Noble Lies to assist in selling Jesus’ ethical teaching of “love your enemy and neighbor,” a cause the disciples may have been willing to die for.

      (A) There were certain instances of well thought of lies in Greco Roman literature, such as the Noble Lie of Plato, and the lie Cadmus advocates for about Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae.

      (B) As for the bible, there are numerous instances where lying was permitted:

      1. God rewarded the Egyptian midwives for lying to the Pharaoh:

      And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men-children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives. Exodus 1:18-20

      2. Rahab was “justified” when she lied about Joshua’s spies.

      And the woman [Rahab] took the two men and hid them and said thus: There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were; and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not; pursue after them quickly, for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house and hid them with the stalks of flax. Joshua 2:4-6

      Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?. James 2:25

      3. David lied to Ahimelech when he said he was on the king’s business. (He was King Saul’s enemy at the time.) We know that God approved of this lie, since 1 Kings 15:5 says that God approved of everything David did, with the single exception of the matter of Uriah.

      David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business…. 1 Samuel 21:2

      4. Elisha told King Benhadad that he would recover, even though God told Elisha that the king would die.

      Benhadad the king of Syria was sick … And the king said unto Hazael … go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? Elisha said unto him, go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die. 2 Kings 8:8-10

      5. In the Deuterocanonical book of Tobit, the angel Raphael lied to Tobias, saying “I am Azarias.”

      Tobias said to him: I pray thee, tell me, of what family, or what tribe art thou? And Raphael the angel answered … I am Azarias. Tobit 5:16-18

      6. Jesus lied when he told his family that he wasn’t going to the feast, but later went “in secret.”

      [Jesus said] Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast. … But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. John 7:8-10

      7. Even God lies now and then by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets.

      And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him … I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so. 1 Kings 22:21-22


      The permission of lying under special circumstances would not separate the Hebrew and Christian scriptures from other ancient spiritualities. It would actually put them all very much in line. The justification of lying hypothesis is very interesting. It resonates with much in spirituality … even shamanism …where the neophyte is taken in with ‘magic’ to attract their attention and then is taken to the Truth… and the understanding that what they initially thought was magic was simply deception … and the recognition of how early they were deceived.

      Justified lying occurs a lot in ancient spirituality. Confucius, in the ‘Analects,’ indicates:

      “The Governor of She said to Confucius, ‘In our village we have an example of a straight person. When the father stole a sheep, the son gave evidence against him.’ Confucius answered, ‘In our village those who are straight are quite different. Fathers cover up for their sons, and sons cover up for their fathers. In such behaviour is straightness to be found as a matter of course.’ (13.18)”

      The Noble Lie also has a history of societal structuring intentions. For example, The pious fraud or noble lie is present in Plato’s Republic in Book 2, Sections 414-7, where Plato says a functional stratified society could be realized if they could convince the people of the lie that everyone from different levels of society were created by God to exist in a certain level of society.

      Also, Euripides has Cadmus say in the Bacchae that “”Even though this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you say, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him the son of Semele, for this would make it seem that she was the mother of a god, and it would confer honour on all our race.”

      This is also true of the Code of Manu. Roger Berkowitz argues of the Manu based society, that its division of society into four castes, each with its own particular obligations and rights, is a desired end because it reflects the natural order of society. He says ‘“The order of castes, the highest, the most dominant Gesetz, is only the sanction of a natural-order, natural legal- positing of the first rank, over which no willfulness, no ‘modern idea’ has power. It is nature, not Manu or the Brahmin legislators, that divides the predominantly intellectual from those who are predominantly physically or temperamentally strong, and both of these from the mediocre, who are extraordinary in neither intellect nor strength. The Indian caste system is an artifice, a Holy Lie—but it is a lie that serves natural end.’

      Similarly, we see the permission of lying in Islam. In the Pro-Muslim book ‘The Spirit of Islam,’ Afif A. Tabbarah writes, concerning the mandates of Muhammed, “Lying is not always bad, to be sure; there are times when telling a lie is more profitable and better for the general welfare, and for the settlement of conciliation among people, than telling the truth. To this effect, the Prophet says: ‘He is not a false person who (through lies) settles conciliation among people, supports good or says what is good.’”

      So, it is perfectly reasonable to speculate that the miracle/resurrection stories about Jesus were lies that his followers told to sell Jesus’ ethical system of “loving your neighbor and enemy,” a cause his followers were perhaps willing to die for (like Socrates).

      And I don’t know if it is as helpful as most people think to turn to the writings of Paul to learn about Jesus. Paul was quite clear that he was an accomplished liar, modifying his message about Jesus to cast Jesus in the most “sellable” light possible, depending on whether Paul was presenting the message to Jews, or to Gentiles (1 Cor 9:20-21). Since Paul was modifying the message depending on whether it was going to Jews or Gentiles, and he was trying to present the most tempting Christ possible to win the most converts, who knows what he thought about the actual historical Jesus?

      And there is good reason to suspect that Paul was lying, since he was constantly protesting that he wasn’t lying (a sure sign of guilt). Paul wrote:
      1. “I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie (Galatians 1:20)”
      2. “I speak the truth in Christ; I am not lying, as confirmed by my conscience in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1).”
      3. “I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:23).”
      4. ” The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is forever worthy of praise, knows that I am not lying (2 Corinthians 11:31).”

      As Shakespeare wrote, methinks Paul “doth protest too much.” Paul clearly seems to present himself as a liar who is worrying about getting caught.

      Given what has been said (from the point of view of logic), just as it is “mere speculation” to suppose the original Christians were being “dishonest,” so too is it “mere speculation” to suppose the original Christians were being “honest.”  Such is the nature of “The Postmodern Deconstruction of Religion.”

      Any thoughts Father Stevens?

      Yours Truly,

      Darth Ballz (Dark Lord Of The Sith)

      1. … there is good reason to suspect that Paul was lying, since he was constantly protesting that he wasn’t lying (a sure sign of guilt)

        That’s a sure sign of interpolation. OTOH, cf. Eisenman’s connection of Paul to the “Spouter of Lies”.


          Eisenman is right.  There is no reason to trust Paul.  Paul obviously “lies” to support his arguments.  For instance, Paul claims the risen Christ appeared to “500 of the brothers AT ONCE (1 Corinthians 15:6).”  That’s ridiculous!  Paul is obviously making stuff up to persuade his readers that Christ really rose.

          In any case, you can picture Jesus and his followers running around the ancient world threatening and scaring people with the lie that “The World Is About To End, so you better get right with God and start loving one another!”  A healthy dose of made-up miracle stories and a resurrection story would have helped to sell the ethical message of loving one another, especially decades after Jesus was gone and it became apparent that the world wasn’t ending any time soon. 

          Anyway, there is no way to determine if the motives of the original Christians were honest or dishonest, so it is equally impossible to say whether the original Christians were scamming people, or if they were actually devoted to a man they believed was responsible for a plethora of miracles and a resurrection. 

          So, the long and the short of it is we can’t argue the original Christians were “honest” in their motives (because of the antinomy of undecideability between the “honest” theory and the “dishonest” theory), so contemporary Christian faith cannot be “rational” in its ground.  It requires a leap of faith to believe that the original Christians didn’t have dishonest motives.  There is simply no way to access the motives of the original Christians. 

          “I sense a plot to destroy the Jedi” (Mace Windu)

          1. I’m persuaded by the proposition — not new, but most recently well-put forth by Detering — that not one of the Pauline epistles is authentic. I view 1 Cor. 15:6 either as: an anti-marcionite interpolation designed to diminish Paul’s primacy, or; describing a purely non-corporal vision, such as Paul’s Damascene moment.

            Father Cliff speaks of the “complete unity” of the persona of Jesus in the sources. Yet Doherty (Jesus: Neither God Nor Man) has exhaustively detailed the ‘bio’ of “Christ Jesus” found in the Paulina, and it bears scant resemblance to the Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the canonical gospels. Add in the diverse portrayals of Jesus found in the apocrypha, and we have an utterly fractured and dissonant picture.

            Father Cliff can approach the “unity” he avows exists only by narrowing his focus upon the s.g. ‘synoptics’ and John — none of which can corroborate even the simplest of details, despite being derivatives of one another. And even then only by squinting. He derides us’ns for not immersing ourselves in the source material, yet himself ignores the vast majority of it — specifically, any and all sources that conflict with his a priori conclusion.

            1. 1. Seneca said religion is true to the masses, false to the wise, and useful to the rulers.

              2. In a way, Paul expresses a similar sentiment when he says “Brothers, consider the time of your calling: Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. (1 Cor 1:26).”

              3. Religion has always had as its proper place the duping of the unruly, gullible, superstitious, lower classes into thinking there is more to life than just their rotten circumstances. The masses are kept in line in this way.

              4. Religion truly is the opiate of the masses.

              1. The ruling class has always known the value of religion.  For instance, Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Doric Greek) was a Graeco-Egyptian god. The cult of Serapis was cleverly introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm.  As Seneca said, the wise rejected knowledge claims about gods.  For instance, pre Socratic philosopher Protagoras said, in his lost work On the Gods, that: “Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not, nor of what sort they may be.”  Some, such as Xenophanes, ridiculed the way we create Gods, saying “But if cattle and horses and lions had hands or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do, horses like horses and cattle like cattle also would depict the gods’ shapes and make their bodies of such a sort as the form they themselves have.  Ethiopians say that their gods are snub–nosed [σιμούς] and black, Thracians that they are pale and red-haired.”  Is it coincidence that the Christian God and Jesus exemplify “Love,” the most noble of the human traits?  Similarly, Socrates rejected the idea that we know what happens after we die, saying “death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness or a change and migration of the soul from this world to another.” While some might fear the nothingness, Socrates does not—he regards it as a great gain, like a sleep undisturbed even by dreams (The pre Christian Jewish belief echoes this first option of Socrates: Ecclesiastes 9:5 says “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.”) The other option, as Socrates sees it, is even better: what we would now regard as a heavenly afterlife in which one is judged by those “who were righteous in life” and is, for good measure, happy and immortal.  So Socrates rejects the idea that we have knowledge of life after death.  There is a continuum from annihilation to bliss, and no one knows what the truth is.  The Greeks saw the value of claiming knowledge and persuading people about the divine, but these were noble lies.

      2. The sterile denial that the Gospels and epistles of Paul are fabrications of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul overlooks the complete unity of the Person of Jesus in these writings. That is rather uncanny, considering some of them did not even know each other. Father Brodie was taken in by a weird theory of literary composition that overlooks the astonishing unity of the Person of Jesus in these writings from a variety of times and places. His theory is blown to pieces by the biographical writings of contemporaries or near-contemporaries, like Plutarch who could write biographies that stand the test of history. What is also surprising is the unity of the Person of Jesus in all of these scattered writings.

        Father Clifford Stevens
        Boys Town, Nebraska

        1. Contemporaries or near contemporaries of the gospel writers or ‘Paul’, such as Plutarch, may have written “biographies that stand the test of history”, as you put it, but it is telling that none of them wrote about Jesus.

        2. … the complete unity of the Person of Jesus in these writings.

          Thank you, Father Clifford, for showing us just how much persuasive power is packed by a good, old-fashioned argument by assertion!

      3. I think this goes back far in Christian history – and writing –

        “Non judicavi me scire aliquid inter vos, nisi Jesum Christum , et hunc crucifixum.”

        And – who was the Jesum Christum he was talking about?

        You guys are really latecomers.

        Father Clifford Stevens
        Boys Town, Nebraska.

    3. Father Clifford Stevens has form –

      “The Gospels are historical writings. What do you know about Second Temple Judaism – the historical period in which Jesus lived? AND what do you know about the Scribal tradition that produced them – by “them” I mean the Codex Sinauticus and the Codex Vaticanus?”


      The whole blog was about him: http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/03/03/my-first-commenter-banned-and-he-is-an-ordained-priest/

  12. A beginning critique of Father Brodie’s methodology: “”The Jesus of History: The Need For A New Methodology” – The Priest magazine, August 2006. 1st chapter of a massive study of the Jesus of History. 25 chapters with an Introduction & Epilogue, 31 Appendices, 20 Indices, dedicated to my friend and mentor, Rabbi Sidney Brooks, a peerless historian and Biblical authority. With four chapters on “The Aramaic Jesus” – “The Tannaitic Jesus” – “The Diaspora Jesus” – The Deuteron-Isaiah Jesus”. You guys simple do not know the field and speak and write from a position of total ignorance of the subject. Amateursll!!!

    Father Clifford Stevens How is your Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic? Read my novel “The Treasure of Kefer Shimon, just for a starter..
    Boys Town, Nebraska

    1. You guys simple do not know the field and speak and write from a position of total ignorance of the subject. Amateursll!!!

      You appear to be incapable of engaging with and enlightening mere amateurs either in a discussion or by simple responses to questions raised. Do you usually just stand aloof, disdainfully calling lesser minds “amateurs!!!!!” and “latecomers” and tell them to go read all of your books, including fiction? Is that all you can do — you can’t even answer my queries above requesting you support your conclusions about Brodie?

      1. Neil Godfrey – Your questions are loaded. The question of the Jesus of history is not something to be discussed in letters to the editor and such. Read my article “The Jesus of History: The need for a new Methodology” in the Priest Magazine – and then we can talk. You might start out with my novel “The Treasure of Kefer Shimon”. Then we can talk.

        Father Clifford Stevens

        1. “Then we can talk”?? My my, you were the one who came here with all sorts of accusations, but now you are saying you can’t back anything up or engage in any serious discussion because this is not the forum and that I have to go and read all of your stuff BEFORE we can talk??? Sorry, that’s not how it works. You came here. You commented. I responded with a request for something serious. Now back up your criticism.

          You are more than welcome to actually provide links to the article or present here an abstract or excerpts. Where do I find this Priest Magazine (it does not sound a particularly critical forum from the title)? Of course you can discuss methods and evidence here — to say this is not the forum is a cop out.

          You don’t have to present an entire thesis in one comment. Just address a fallacy or error of some kind you see in anything I have written and I will be more than happy to correct it — or discuss it. I take it you are not used to discussing and testing your critiques with others who offer serious informed challenges.

        2. Church functionaries (e.g. priests) have been making arguments from authority for thousands of years now, and it’s a fine thing if you’re simply interested in social control. Authority is a blunt force object able to be used against many people at once to silence them, etc.

          Unfortunately, this tendency runs up against another tendency with some hold in the Western tradition – namely, Reason. Western philosophy was started by iconoclasts, basically, with outsiders like Socrates submitting all ‘self-evident’ and socially-derived arguments to scrutiny.

          Saying ‘read my books and then we can talk’ is so transparently self-indulgent that some on witnessing such words spill from their lips or rattle out from their keyboards would immediately feel terrible shame and embarrassment. Not so this priest who writes from ‘Boys Town’ (easy jokes here left aside).

          If this weren’t enough to decide not to engage with such a fellow, one need only see this phrase in the above: “the complete unity of the Person of Jesus”. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard something so completely fanciful, so richly delusional in my life.

          Unity is always possible if we are willing to fill in the gaps with our own imaginations. The more subtle and gifted the imagination, the more original the ‘unity’ projected onto what are truly at bottom contradictory fragments. This may be in the end the final argument against ‘faith’: what may begin as an openness to mystery eventually contaminates everyday critical thinking. It certainly ruins scholarship as is certainly the case with nearly every priest or religious functionary posing as a ‘scholar’ and writing about the so-called historical Jesus.

          One gets the impression that for many New Testament scholars, writing about the ‘historical’ Jesus is nothing but a supplemental way of expressing religious devotion. In which case, it is not scholarship at all.

          1. In retrospect I am wondering if I should have simply deleted or ignored “Father” Clifford Stevens. The hostile tone that is so common among “Christian witnesses” is all too apparent. I expect he will just quietly disappear and move on to other unsuspecting prey.

            1. This bloke crops up a lot when I look at what others are saying about books on Amazon that catch my eye on your blog. He’ll occasionally pop up in other places too. By the amount of stuff he has raged on about I don’t think he does a lot of actual priesting. I have learnt quite a bit from his interlocutors; he doesn’t seem to learn anything.

  13. Fr. Stevens passed away and his funeral was in Sept. 2020. Just happened upon this thread since I recently bought Brodie’s book. It is often very difficult for people totally immersed in their religion’s teachings to take a true birds-eye view. May he rest in peace.

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