Brodie’s Argument that Jesus Never Existed

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by Neil Godfrey

I was sitting with Everard Johnston, Lecturer in scriptures and dogma, at his house in Picton Street, Port of Spain, discussing the manuscript. By then his young wife, June, had gone to bed, and amid the sounds of the tropical night we sipped rum and coke as I tried to explain the basic idea of rewriting.

I handed him page 128 on connections between 1 Corinthians and the Old Testament.

He took his time perusing it, then he put it down, muttering, ‘In the same order . . . the same order apart from minor modifications’.

We turned to the gospels, discussing the extent to which they too are a product of the rewriting. Suddenly he said, ‘So we’re back to Bultmann. We know nothing about Jesus.’

I paused a moment.

‘It’s worse than that’.

There was a silence.

Then he said, ‘He never existed’.

I nodded.

There was another silence, a long one, and then he nodded gently, ‘It makes sense’. 

(pp. 35-36 of Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus, T. L. Brodie)

Brodie does not make an explicit connection in any of his earlier publications on the relationship between the literary origins of the New Testament writings and the question of the historicity of Jesus. Most of his earlier books explored the literary structures of the Gospels and some of the epistles. Brodie was especially struck by the way the Gospel authors not only seemed to borrow so heavily from the Old Testament but also appeared to be re-writing of so much of those Jewish scriptures. In 1980 an exchange with Joseph Fitzmyer led Brodie to broaden his scope by investigating the wider literary practices of the early Christian era and to see if such borrowing and re-writing was a known feature of the literary customs of the day. (Didn’t someone recently write a review claiming that Brodie never listened to advice?) Continue reading “Brodie’s Argument that Jesus Never Existed”