2018-12-27

Addressing S. Gathercole’s Case for Jesus’ Humanity: “Born from a Woman” (#2)

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by Neil Godfrey

‘Mortal man, born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.’ (Job 14.1)

We introduced this series in the previous post. Simon Gathercole begins his case with Galatians 4:4 where we read that God sent his Son, “born of a woman, born under the law”. To Gathercole, the meaning of the verse is obvious:

In Galatians 4, Paul says that God sent his son, ‘born from a woman’ (γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, 4.4). It is hard to imagine a clearer statement of Jesus’ humanity. This phrase, and others very like it, are commonly used as synonyms for ‘human being’. (186)

To drive the point home he cites “poetic parallels” in the Book of Job and Sirach.

‘But man (ἄνθρωπος) vainly buoys himself up with words; a mortal born of woman (γεννητὸς γυναικός) like an ass in the desert.’ (Job 11.12)

‘Mortal man, born of woman (βροτὸς γὰρ γεννητὸς γυναικός), is of few days and full of trouble.’ (Job 14.1)

‘What is mortal man (βροτός), that he could be pure, or one born of woman (γεννητὸς γυναικός), that he could be righteous?’ (Job 15.14)

‘How then can a mortal (βροτός) be righteous before God?
How can one born of woman (γεννητὸς γυναικός) be pure?’ (Job 25.4)

‘Pride was not created for human beings (ἀνθρώποις), or violent anger for those born of women (γεννήμασιν γυναικῶν).’ (Sir. 10.18)

I have highlighted the instances of “born” and the Greek original in each case for reasons that will become clear.

Gathercole cites another instance of the idiom in the apocryphal literature:

A variation on the idiom also appears in the Life of Adam and Eve, or Apocalypse of Moses. Here Eve has a vision of heaven and looks at what is impossible for ‘anyone born from a womb’ (τινα γεννηθέντα ἀπὸ κοιλίας) to see (Ap. Mos. 33.2).

Though we have here a “variation” in the form of the verb gennao we should at the same time note that it is a form of the same verb used, gennao. 

And then we have the expression in the gospels of Matthew and Luke:

In the New Testament, the phrase appears in Matthew-Luke parallel material. In Luke’s version, Jesus says: ‘I tell you, among those born of women (ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν) there is no one greater than John.’ (Lk. 7.28). The same phrase ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν also appears in Matthew (11.11). The Synoptic formulation here is the same as LXX Job’s except that Job’s are all singular, and Matthew and Luke have the plural.18

Footnote #18 directs readers to Daniel Gullotta’s list of non-Greek and later uses of the expression, so it is appropriate that at this point for me to direct readers to my own analysis of Gullotta’s specific claims: 10. Gullotta’s review of Carrier’s argument #2: relating to Jesus’ birth and humanity.

Gathercole underscores the relevance and force of this expression “born of a woman” (my bolding):

It can hardly be doubted, however, that Paul makes here an indisputable claim about Jesus’ human birth. The only real solution for the mythicist is to regard ‘born from a woman’ as an interpolation.19

——

19  Thus, Doherty, Jesus – Neither God nor Man, pp. 795–798 (epub edition).

The “historicist” side of the debate will surely have more chance of persuading non-specialists if its specialist scholars take the time to read and engage with the arguments that seem to be increasingly persuading the public. Simply dismissing arguments with what are clear mischaracterizations can only reassure those who have no interest in informing themselves of the points that are being presented in favour of mythicism. We saw the same flaws in Daniel Gullotta’s review of Carrier’s book. What eventually led me to lean towards the mythicist side of the debate was the failure of the mainstream scholars to engage with the actual arguments that challenge the conventional wisdom.

That reference to Earl Doherty, implying he could only “get around” the clear meaning of this verse was to declare the passage to be an interpolation, was not how I remembered reading Doherty’s argument at all. After re-reading the relevant chapter I have to say that Gathercole has somehow inadvertently misrepresented Doherty’s argument. In fairness to Doherty I think we should take a little time to set out what he does in fact say on pages 197 to 212 (hard copy edition) of Jesus, Neither God Nor Man, chapter 15.

 

Not only has Doherty’s discussion been misrepresented by such a dismissal but its main pillars have been entirely swept out of sight. Gathercole explains that he is presenting a “thought experiment” by focusing on what we can learn from Paul’s letters alone, but in doing so he has entirely overlooked the most significant parts of Paul’s letters that are addressed by mythicists. Recall Mark Goodacre’s observation of this method the context of another debate:

To state the argument against one hypothesis using the presuppositions and terminology of the competing hypothesis involves a circularity that undermines any hope for a fair assessment of the evidence. — Mark Goodacre, 2002 (82)

I don’t think Gathercole is deliberately suppressing Doherty’s argument; I think, rather, that he can see only those passages in Paul that he finds supportive of his own larger understanding, and that perhaps he finds it difficult to really focus and concentrate when his eyes hit pages presenting a quite different perspective undermining what he and his peers have always accepted. Roger Pearse, for instance, goes even further and without any suggestion that he is aware of Doherty’s arguments says they are “all nonsense, of course.”

I will attempt to present Doherty’s key points in précis or note form interspersed with quotations. I trust readers will realize I am compressing much explanation that needs to be read in the book itself. There is still online an earlier version of the published chapter, Supplementary Article No. 15 – “Born of a Woman”? Reexamining Galatians 4:4 so readers who do not have Doherty’s book and who want to look further into some of my summaries will probably find fuller explanations there. I trust at least the summaries I present will be enough to demonstrate the failure of yet one more reviewer to engage with mythicist arguments, instead dismissing them with misleading comments.

Here is how Earl Doherty opens his discussion headed “Born of Woman”?

The single verse most appealed to in support of Paul’s knowledge of an historical Jesus is probably Galatians 4:4, containing the double phrase “born of woman, born under the Law” (referring to the Jewish Law of the Hebrew bible, the Torah). There are two ways to approach this passage: one, assuming the double phrase as authentic to Paul; the other, questioning its authenticity and judging the likelihood of interpolation. We will look at the passage as a whole, for there is much more at stake here than the fate of those phrases. Regardless in which direction one leans, there are some revealing things to discover, with widespread implications. Here is the NEB translation, with some elements of my own:

4 Then in the fullness of time, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the Law,
5 in order that he might purchase freedom for the subjects of the Law, so that we might attain the status of sons.
6 And because you are sons, God (has) sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying ‘Father!
7 You are therefore no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then also by God’s act an heir.

(Doherty, p. 197. My bolded highlighting and underlining in all quotations)

To begin, Doherty proposes a reading that omits the contentious phrases “born of woman; born under law” for the purpose of first attempting to grasp the sentence’s main train of thought.

First point: Despite what some translations offer (“God sent” in verse 4 but “God has sent” in verse 6) we should ask if it is possible that in the original script we are meant to read of two “sent” actions: God sent his son, and God sent into our hearts the Spirit of his son. Is it a reasonable reading of the passage to interpret it as referring to two sendings that are contemporaneous? Did God send both in the time of the apostles? (Against such an idea at the moment is that many translations suggest that there is in fact a large gap between the two sendings: God sent his Son and then more recently “has sent” into our hearts the spirit of his son. But is it reasonable to read the original differently?)

Second point: the “he” in verse five could refer to either the Son or to God. “Usually, it is the Son who is assumed to purchase freedom, but this may well be a significant misreading.”

At this point Doherty steps back to take a wider range view of the context. In the preceding chapter Paul has dwelling on the idea of a believer’s transition from being under the law to being free from it; from being a slave to being a son.

The question to ask is at what point, in Paul’s mind, did that believer become a son and no longer a slave? Was it at the time of Christ’s crucifixion (whether heavenly or earthly)?

The answer has to be No, because Paul explains that the moment of transition from slavery to freedom was the very moment faith came.

23 Before faith came we were held prisoner by the Law until faith should be revealed….

24 the Law has become our tutor (leading us) to Christ (i.e. a literal rendering of the Greek)

25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law.

76 [page 199] As noted earlier, Paul often seems to talk as though he were the first to receive the revelation about Jesus the Son from God (as in Gal. 1:16). But while he might have preferred to think of it that way, it is clear that he was not the first and he occasionally acknowledges this. The Christ cult existed before him (he had helped persecute it), and in 2 Corinthians 11:4 he speaks of other “spirits” (referring to revelations from the Holy Spirit) which other “ministers of Christ” (11:23) have received. The “coming of faith” preceded him (though it is never located at the time of Jesus or his acts), as part of a widely occurring movement which imagined that God in the present time had revealed his Son and his redeeming role. Paul, even if he sometimes speaks in a self-centered fashion, is referring collectively to that movement.

Though Paul may acknowledge that others had preceded him in preaching the sacrificial Son, in effect he is placing an exclusive focus upon himself, especially in the Galatians context. By making “freedom from the Law” the central aspect of God’s work in the present, he is ignoring or dismissing those who do not preach such a freedom. He never states that others preach this as well, and the evidence (or lack of it) may suggest that he was alone in this. We can assume that the Jerusalem “brothers of the Lord” did not preach the freedom from the Law which Paul advocated, nor did those Judaizers he is condemning in Galatians and elsewhere. And considering that this is a crucial element of Paul’s gospel, highly contentious and quite possibly exclusive to himself, it would be absolutely essential that he take into account what Jesus had or had not said on this matter. He does not.

[Verse 24 above] could be taken in a number of ways: leading us to learning about or faith in Christ, or leading us to the time when Christ arrived — either in body, spirit, or the revelation of him. The King James Version, for example, translates: “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Thus, even when Christ had performed his act of sacrifice, whether historical or mythical, we were still under the Law, still slaves, not yet sons of God. All this was not to change until the time when faith was brought to the new believer, through the preaching of Paul and other apostles of the Christ.76

(199)

Note especially what Doherty says in the next paragraph, because it expresses a central theme of his discussion of Paul’s letters, something I have yet to see a reviewer of his work address:

This locating of key processes only in Paul’s own present is a situation which is surprisingly frequent in the epistles, but easy to miss when one is bringing Gospel preconceptions to them. Time after time we find an exclusive focus on the apostolic movement as the key moment of the present period—seemingly its only moment—with Jesus suspended somewhere in an indeterminate dimension, communicating with humans and having the consequences of his shadowy acts brought into the light and into effect only with the preaching of the gospel by the likes of Paul. To call it curious — this relegation of the vivid events of Calvary and the empty tomb to some opaque no man’s land from which they never seem to emerge into focus — would be an understatement.

So we have Paul talking about the change of a believer from a slave to a son, and then we come to Galatians 4:4 where we read that God sends his son, that is, we read about an act by God to purchase us from bondage to the law. And Paul explains that the moment of that transition is the moment of faith. That is, the liberation from the law comes when believers respond to the preaching of apostles.

But the idea of the sending is tied to the act of purchasing freedom, it is a part of it; and so the two are contemporary. (199)

It is crucial to make this clear. The meaning is: “God sent his Son in order that he, God, could purchase freedom from the Law.” The sending makes possible the purchase. The purchase takes place in Paul’s time, the time of faith; therefore, the sending ought to take place during the same time as the purchase. Otherwise, we would have a meaning like this: “God sent his Son to earth to die and rise, and then a few decades later he, God, has purchased freedom for those who have faith in response to Paul.” A curious sequence and a curious thing to say.

Whereas, it makes perfect sense for Paul to say: “God sent his Son (the spirit of him, just as Wisdom or the Holy Spirit were sent) into the world through revealing him (as all the epistles say), setting in motion a preaching and faith movement through which God purchases freedom from the Law for believers.”

Thus the “sent” of verse 4 does not refer to any arrival of the Son on the earthly scene some decades earlier. Rather, the sending of verse 4 is the sending of the Son during the time of Paul. This can only mean through revelation into minds like his (“God revealed his son in me,” as he has said in 1:16), enabling him to bring knowledge of the Son to others (“in order that I might preach him among the nations”) and produce the “faith” within them which brings about that freedom from the Law and confers upon them the status of sons.

So what we read in Galatians 3 and 4, then, are effects of Jesus’s past acts. We do not read about his acts, but his coming to reveal his past acts. The apostles pass on this revealed message and believers respond to it and are liberated.

Just as the common idea of God ‘sending the Holy Spirit’ refers to knowledge and inspiration sent from him through that Holy Spirit, God ‘sending his Son’ has a similar meaning: knowledge of Jesus and his acts—and their effects—have been carried to humanity by the Son himself as his Spirit enters the world and makes itself known. Paul regards himself as the centerpiece recipient and promulgator of such revelation. (200)

I trust we are beginning to see that Earl Doherty is engaging closely with the letter of Galatians, with the words of Paul, and if he begins to interpret Galatians 4:4 differently from the way many of us have traditionally taken it, he is doing so as a consequence of a close reading of the passage in context and above all without any Gospel narrative preconceptions.

The interpretation is consistent with much else that we read about and often tend to read over (without too much comprehension) in Paul’s letters. Doherty’s explanation is not an attempt to “do away with an inconvenient verse” but rather it is an attempt to study closely the entire passage, in context, and in the context of many other references in Paul’s letters that we tend to gloss over. Here is his conclusion of this particular section of his discussion:

This explains why Paul, as he so consistently does throughout his letters, has focused entirely on his own work and left the work of Jesus in some outer darkness. It is why he and others so consistently talk as though Jesus has become known and brought into visibility only by God and revelation –with Paul and others like him as the medium for both. It explains all those ‘revelation’ verbs like phaneroo, apokalupto, emphanidzd used to describe Jesus’ ‘manifestation’ on earth—instead of saying that he was incarnated or lived a life. If the sending is of Christ as Spirit (which is what Paul then says outright in verse 6), there is no ‘action’ by Christ at this time which purchases freedom, and thus God remains the subject of “to purchase freedom for the subjects of the Law.” It is by putting into effect the revelation of his Son, the long-hidden secret (“mystery”) of which the epistles regularly speak, that God has set in motion the freeing of people from the Law and their adoption as sons through the work of Paul. Here Christ is essentially a passive figure. (200)

Doherty goes on to remind us that earlier in Galatians Paul did make clear that it was the crucifixion of Jesus that enabled a believer’s freedom from the law. That act of Jesus is not in dispute or downplayed. But the focus of the latter part of chapter 3 and the section of chapter 4 he has begun to address is the effect of that sacrificial act of Jesus. Paul is chapter 4 is talking about the application of that freedom, that time of the coming of faith when believers hear the message of the apostles.

Personally I have some doubts about Doherty’s claim that the sacrifice of Jesus took place in the lower heavens; I suspect a case can be made even in the context of the bulk of Doherty’s argument and analysis of Paul that Jesus was ignorantly crucified on earth. But that’s another discussion. My point here is to present Doherty’s argument in order to demonstrate that it is far more engaged with a careful and systematic reading of the evidence without the influence of later gospel narratives.

You can also see that I have not yet even begun to address the “born of a woman” detail of his argument. But that is the point I want to make. Doherty’s arguments are more sophisticated and engaged with a careful contextual reading, defaulting to make Paul consistent with Paul, and not cheap proof-texting or mere seeking a cheap get-out of a fix by playing the interpolation card.

I will continue Doherty’s argument in a future post, but till then you read an earlier version of it at Supplementary Article No. 15 – “Born of a Woman”? Reexamining Galatians 4:4, as I mentioned above.

We will also see where Doherty addresses the various parallel expressions that Gathercole began with. I would have been interested in Gathercole’s response to Doherty’s sharp observation about them and how they clearly do differ from the expression in Galatians 4:4. I am not sure why he did not consider Doherty’s point worth addressing because by failing to do so he does leave the door open for others to be persuaded by Doherty. Presumably few who read Gathercole’s argument would be interested in reading Doherty’s book and so would not know where they have been short-changed.

 


Gathercole, Simon. 2018. “The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 16: 183–212.

Goodacre, Mark. 2002. The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem. Harrisburg, Pa: Bloomsbury T&T Clark.

Doherty, Earl. 2009. Jesus: Neither God nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus. Ottawa: Age of Reason.


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Neil Godfrey

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61 Comments

  • 2018-12-27 14:58:42 GMT+0000 - 14:58 | Permalink

    Well, not only did he misrepresent Doherty’s argument, he also bypassed Carrier’s argument, which really hold for Doherty too, which is that the woman is an allegorical woman, which I think is pretty clear. The phrase “born of a woman” isn’t an interpolation, it’s just allegorical, which is also made clear by Doherty’s analysis.

  • 2018-12-27 16:11:31 GMT+0000 - 16:11 | Permalink

    Many thanks for the link. Re: your statement: ‘Roger Pearse, for instance, goes even further and without any suggestion that he is aware of Doherty’s arguments says they are “all nonsense, of course.”’ You may wish to know that I do possess a copy of the Jesus Puzzle, and waded through it when it appeared, nearly two decades ago. But you are quite right to suppose that I never engaged in detail with its arguments. I always sanity-check claims, before spending very much time on them, or getting lost in a mass of tangled arguments; and Doherty’s claim did not pass this.

    All the best,

    Roger Pearse

    • 2018-12-27 17:22:05 GMT+0000 - 17:22 | Permalink

      And this is the quandary that Neil keeps talking about. As much as the historicists keep claiming to “refute mythicist nonsense”, they actually don’t.

      To date I still have not really seen any actual engagement with the most solid arguments put forward by Doherty, Carrier, or Robert M. Price. There are people saying, oh this is nonsense and throwing up their hands a walking away claiming its not with their time, and there are people who mis-characterize the points of mythicsits and their are people who address claims made by “fringe” (yes we’re all a fringe) mythicsits, like Acherya S or Joe Atwill.

      Even looking at the recent thread on Tim’s blog. I tried to get very specific and lay out exact examples with quotes, but he just passed all that over and said “nonsense” and didn’t actually address any of it. It’s just, “Oh, that’s crazy” and walk away, and then act like something has actually been proven or disproven, which of course it hasn’t.

      And I’ll reinforce Doherty’s point here. If the “standard” interpretation of “born of a woman” were correct, then we should expect to see supporting theology for it elsewhere in Paul’s letters, yet we find the opposite. What we find in the rest of Paul’s letters is support for Doherty’s view. Here is an example:

      “1 Corinthians 15:
      Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

      This is exactly what Doherty is talking about. By “this gospel” you are saved. THIS GOSPEL, not by the act of Jesus’ crucifixion, not by the deeds of Jesus, not even by Jesus himself in heaven. By THIS GOSPEL, otherwise you have believed in vain!

      “1 Corinthians 15:
      20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

      “1 Corinthians 15:
      If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”

      Yes, Paul calls Jesus a man, “born of a woman” (which is a phrase that means human). But he also clearly states that he is NOT a man who comes from the “dust of the earth” in the line of Adam, he is a man from heaven (like an angel).

      Anyone claim that it’s all very clear that Paul was talking about a real person who was born and raised on earth like any normal person if full of it. At best we can say that what we are left with from Paul is confusing and open to interpretation.

      Doherty’s case is that Paul was certainly describing Jesus as a spiritual man from heaven, who was never born on earth. Historicists insist that Paul was certainly describing Jesus as a normal person, born and raised in a Jewish community.

      My view is that the strongest possible statement that can be made about Paul’s view of Jesus regarding his humanity is that it is unclear what Paul thought about the nature of Jesus’ humanity. Anyone who claims otherwise is either lying for fooling themselves. Paul’s letters are at best “unclear”. I think Doherty’s case that Paul’s view of Jesus was as a heavenly being who had never been to earth is strong, but not decisive.

      But don’t pretend like Paul’s letters give a clear picture of Jesus that man, that’s just nonsense, and as such, Doherty’s case has merit as it is certainly open to that interpretation.

      • Pofarmer
        2018-12-27 18:04:43 GMT+0000 - 18:04 | Permalink

        Yes, Paul calls Jesus a man, “born of a woman” (which is a phrase that means human). But he also clearly states that he is NOT a man who comes from the “dust of the earth” in the line of Adam, he is a man from heaven (like an angel).

        This is also consistent with Bruce Malina’s idea from Revelations that the idea of “Born of a Woman” is the Lamb, born from the constellation Virgo, I believe. There is more than one woman, and more than one law, and all of Paul’s rambling doesn’t make it real clear what’s going on in his noggin sometimes. Plus, we have the problem of trying to over literalize things, I think.

    • 2018-12-27 17:24:30 GMT+0000 - 17:24 | Permalink

      Ehrman said that he would have to write a book twice the length of Doherty’s to outline all the mistakes Doherty makes.

      • Kapyong
        2018-12-27 17:40:52 GMT+0000 - 17:40 | Permalink

        Well heck, if Prof. Ehrman said that, then Doherty MUST be wrong, right ?

        If Roger Pearse says Doherty’s argument are not sane, then they can all be dismissed, right ?

        Gotta keep that wagon-circle tight and safe, right ?

        • 2018-12-27 17:48:59 GMT+0000 - 17:48 | Permalink

          It would seem odd if experts in Early Victorian literature aren’t able to diagnose an idiosyncratic interpretive text about Dickens by a complete amateur as being garbage.

          • 2018-12-27 18:17:52 GMT+0000 - 18:17 | Permalink

            If by “experts” you mean whose whole worldview depends on a certain perspective being right, then yeah.

            And here is the thing, the view that “biblical experts” cling to today is really only about 50 years old. For the 2,000 prior to that, all the biblical experts held very different views, and all those views are now agreed to be wrong.

            And furthermore, there is actually very little agreement among “biblical exports” on anything. As I wrote in my article about the parallels between mythicism and evolution, prior to Darwin there was huge disagreement among the “establishment” as to what the definition of a species was,how old the earth was, how much species could change, if at all, how to classify species, how to classify humans, why various aspects of life were what they were, etc. All that there was agreement on was that evolution certainly wasn’t true and wasn’t the explanation for these things.

            Basically the “experts” didn’t really have an explanation for anything, but they were all just sure that evolution wasn’t it.

            And prior to Darwin do you know who the main proponents of evolution were? Philosophers. In fact evolutionary proposals were put forward by people from many different fields from engineers to philosophers to mathematicians. And the response was always the same: “These people need to stick to their own fields! Leave the Naturalism (the field of biology at that time) to the experts!”

            Now granted, none of the proposals prior to Darwin were exactly right, nor was Darwin’s for that matter, but they were all getting at aspects of life that couldn’t be accounted for by the “experts”.

            And of course the “experts” in this case were also trained in seminaries and divinity schools. That’s why Darwin got his doctorate at a seminary, because it was the schools of theology that dominated the field of Naturalism, which was the study of God’s creation.

            For me, the parallels between the case for evolution and mythicism are quite striking. It’s really the same exact course of development. The reality is that biblical studies today is still dominated by theology, even among so-called secular scholars like Ehrman. All Ehrman does is employ the same flawed methodologies developed by theologians.

            And the thing is, there are dozens upon dozens of clear examples of “experts” like Ehrmans making statements that are plainly provably false.

          • Tim Widowfield
            2018-12-27 21:47:29 GMT+0000 - 21:47 | Permalink

            “It would seem odd if experts in Early Victorian literature aren’t able to diagnose an idiosyncratic interpretive text about Dickens by a complete amateur” . . . without misrepresenting every argument, waving their arms, and belittling anyone who disagrees with them.

            Very odd indeed.

            • A Buddhist
              2018-12-27 22:19:11 GMT+0000 - 22:19 | Permalink

              I know. UFO crankery and Young Earth Creationism are fringe ideas that deserve ridicule, but there are multiple websites that offer dispassionate discussion of these people’s claims and dispassionate refutations of the claims.

            • 2018-12-27 22:22:09 GMT+0000 - 22:22 | Permalink

              How would cosmologists treat proponents of YEC if it became popular?

              • A Buddhist
                2018-12-27 23:11:57 GMT+0000 - 23:11 | Permalink

                YEC already is popular in portions of the United States – more popular than Christ myth theories, by all accounts. http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html is a website that refutes many YEC claims, from many scientific perspectives. Particularly relevant are (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA118.html: Many arguments may be discounted because they were put together by amateurs who are not scientifically qualified), (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA602.html: Evolution is atheistic), and (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA602_2.html: The goal of many scientists, especially evolutionists and cosmologists, is to explain the universe without God. They want to make God unnecessary.). These three pages all address issues that opponents of the Christ myth theory have raised, all without the level of insult that advocates of the Christ myth theory have faced.

              • 2018-12-27 23:25:24 GMT+0000 - 23:25 | Permalink

                @ Buddhist

                There is a book debunking mythicism – Ehrman wrote it. There’s lots of sites where mythicism has been debunked: Ehrman, McGrath, O’Neil, Hoffmann, Hurtado.

              • A Buddhist
                2018-12-27 23:53:18 GMT+0000 - 23:53 | Permalink

                John MacDonald: The resources that you cite are filled with vitriol towards the ideas that they attempt to discuss and the people advancing such ideas. Furthermore, the criticisms, even looking beyond such hostility (which can make them difficult to take seriously), are making errors about the claims – often misrepresenting the mythicist arguments that have been advanced. See, for example, (https://vridar.org/other-authors/earl-dohertys-response-to-bart-ehrmans-did-jesus-exist/: Earl Doherty’s response to Bart Ehrman‘s Did Jesus Exist?) (https://vridar.org/other-authors/earl-dohertys-response-to-james-mcgraths-criticisms-misc/: Earl Doherty’s response to James McGrath‘s “review” of JNGNM & other criticisms (& misc)), and (https://vridar.org/series-index/daniel-gullottas-review-of-richard-carriers-on-the-historicity-of-jesus/: Daniel Gullotta’s Review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus).

                Lest it be said that I am moving the goalposts as it were, I said, in the comment that you responded to, “These three pages all address issues that opponents of the Christ myth theory have raised, all without the level of insult that advocates of the Christ myth theory have faced.”. All of the (attempted?) debunkers of the Christ myth theory whom you mention routinely insult the people whose ideas they are reviewing. Bart Ehrman, for example, compared Christ myth theory advocates to holocaust deniers, and Daniel Gullotta has said (if I recall correctly) that the Christ myth theory is a manifestation of hatred of Jesus.

                Full Disclosure: I think that Jesus, as presented within the Gospels, is deserving of hatred for his hateful acts (such as attacking money changers in the Temple and concealing from people the teachings that, he taught, would save them from Hell), but a historical Jesus (who did these things!) is easier to pulverize in favour of the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) than a divine saviour figure.

              • MrHorse
                2018-12-28 00:10:36 GMT+0000 - 00:10 | Permalink

                John MacDonald wrote

                There’s lots of sites where mythicism has been debunked …

                well, that’s that all sorted, then /sarcasm

            • db
              2018-12-27 22:36:27 GMT+0000 - 22:36 | Permalink

              Or performing Psychoanalysis on said amateur(s), to conclude: “Their agenda is religious, and they are complicit in a religious ideology.”

          • Booker
            2018-12-28 17:38:14 GMT+0000 - 17:38 | Permalink

            In other fields (math, science) that would be a valid argument, but with religion you’re really talking about make-believe. So how does one get to be an authority in make-believe, especially when you’re talking about people who are participating in the make-believe? Does being an expert in the finery of the emperors clothing allow one to hand wave away those who can see that his junk is hanging out? O’Neil and Ehrman may be non-believers, but they base their views on appeals to authority, with the authority again being subscribers to make-believe (“the consensus is that he’s wearing clothes”).

            And contrary to the argument that people who can’t see the clothes must be fashion haters, quite the contrary. We just can’t see the clothes.

      • 2018-12-27 18:21:40 GMT+0000 - 18:21 | Permalink

        Yeah, I bet he also had a hot girlfriend in Canada when he was a kid too.

        “I could totally kick your butt, but I’m not going to fight you because I’m so powerful I’m afraid I’d kill you, so I’m going to run away for your sake!”

        Yeah, that’s the ticket, yeah, yeah…

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-01 02:46:22 GMT+0000 - 02:46 | Permalink

        So he writes nothing at all? If he seriously thought that Doherty was misleading the public then he surely has a responsibility as a public intellectual to write at least a small book addressing just a handful of the most serious mistakes Doherty makes.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-12-31 10:03:53 GMT+0000 - 10:03 | Permalink

      Roger, I am quite sure you are perfectly sincere and have no intention of ever wasting your or anyone else’s time attempting to discuss or draw attention to anything you see as “utter nonsense” in Doherty’s book.

    • James Barlow
      2019-01-01 18:47:08 GMT+0000 - 18:47 | Permalink

      (Oh so that’s it: Doherty’s claims are unworthy of even scant consideration because he’s a lunatic. But isn’t he crazy because of the arguments he has made? Which ones prove THAT? So tiring….)

  • Robert Jase
    2018-12-27 16:12:47 GMT+0000 - 16:12 | Permalink

    If a repeated phrase makes something true then every fairy tale that starts by stating, “Once upon a time” must be actual history.

  • Kapyong
    2018-12-27 16:46:18 GMT+0000 - 16:46 | Permalink

    Gday Roger,

    How exactly did Doherty’s claims fail your sanity checks ?

    Can you give some examples please ?

    • A Buddhist
      2018-12-27 18:59:32 GMT+0000 - 18:59 | Permalink

      Roger Pearse: Furthermore, “The Jesus Puzzle” is much shorter than Earl Doherty’s later book “Jesus: Neither God nor Man”, which deals at much greater length with arguments related to Jesus’s historicity. Surely, in order to better refute his ideas as insanity, it would be better to read his longer book.

      To use a model that might get through to your Christian mind how serious an oversight this is, let us suppose that I, a Buddhist, were to follow in the steps of Nagarjuna et al and write material condemning your type of belief in an uncreated creator god as illogcal, having no explanatory power, etc. If I were to focus all of my arguments upon basic issues such as the problem of something from nothing, you could fairly condemn my arguments as not being based upon the full text (namely, the Christian Bible as adopted in Western Europe). If I were to focus some of my arguments beyond this, but only upon issues raised by the Hebrew Scriptures, such as YHVH’s cruelty (cf. 2 Samuel 24, in which YHVH orders David to commit the “sin” of holding a census, then punishes Israel for David’s “sin”, which he would not have committed but for YHVH’s order; or 1 Samuel 15, in which YHVH orders King Saul to slaughter the Amalekites even unto their babies and livestock – then punishes King Saul for not carrying this order out totally but sparing the Amalekites’ king and livestock), you could rightly condemn me for basing my arguments upon the Hebrew Scriptures. Only if my arguments were to deal with issues unique to the Christian scriptures (such as how a person can be fully man and fully god, which Nagarjuna dismissed as impossible) could my arguments against the Christian religion, whatever other flaws they may have, be accepted as having considered the Christian scriptures and their claims rather than mere portions of them. In the same way, if you, whether in service to the baby-killing god YHVH or the violent attacker of store keepers Jesus or some other purpose, want to condemn Earl Doherty’s arguments as insane, the least you can do is claim to have read his longer book.

      • 2018-12-27 19:57:01 GMT+0000 - 19:57 | Permalink

        This comment seems unaware that people publish books, each claiming to reveal “the real Jesus” at a rate of almost one a week (or so it sometimes seems). Most vanish without trace. All of them employ the same methods of selection, omission, argument from manufactured silence, misrepresentation. All of them disagree profoundly with each other; sure sign that the methods used are rubbish. Doherty uses those methods.

        I can only advise reading more widely.

        The comments made here by others indicate very clearly that nobody has ever tried to find out about something in history in which they had no religious or political investment. If you do this, you learn a great deal from the process. I recently did this for the claim that Pope Julius I decided the date of Christmas.

        How do you do it? You gather all the sources first. You don’t find reasons to ignore any of them. You find, quickly, that there isn’t nearly enough of them. And then, having them as a body, you see what they say. You let them speak. You don’t impose a view on them. You know that 99% of sources are lost. You don’t force the sources. If you’re lucky the facts are in the sources. If you’re not, you have to infer from what survives, cautiously, conservatively, and mark your opinion as opinion. It’s how you do this.

        The rubbish-writers do the opposite. You start with a theory. Then you find some sources that can be made to support you, ideally by reading into them stuff that nobody else sees in there. It’s hard for others to refute an opinion! You find excuses to ignore evidence to the contrary. You rubbish all of the data, you rubbish historians as biased, you talk largely about how prejudiced everyone else is; you sneer about “professionals” who won’t engage with your madcap idea, you jeer at the Vatican, you do… whatever will distract your reader from the fact that you have no evidence for your claim and just made it up. It won’t work with the professionals, but with luck they won’t read your book. It won’t bother your followers if they do, because you have already cautioned the mugs about the evil biased so-called professionals, and how they never read your work.

        I’m probably wasting my breath in saying all this. But I offer it for what it is worth. Fools will nit-pick. But you’re wasting your time, if you do; because, simply, you don’t do history the way that Doherty does. The reason that you don’t do it is that it doesn’t work. It’s great polemic, rhetoric; but the answer that comes out is the one you started with.

        • A Buddhist
          2018-12-27 20:28:55 GMT+0000 - 20:28 | Permalink

          Roger Pearse: You speak about biased efforts to recover “the real Jesus”. To this, I have two questions.
          1. Have you ever considered that your biases as a Christian would affect which accounts of “the real Jesus” you accept as true? I mean, surely you, as a Christian, would be as hostile to account that, for example, present Jesus as merely Jewish Rabbi and disciple of John the Baptist as I, as a Buddhist, am to accounts that present the World-Honoured Buddha as merely an avatar of Vishnu.

          I am certainly aware that there are many such books that are not worth much. But I do not, having read only a shorter version of any of these authors’ works, dismiss their conclusions as insanity. If I were to do such a thing, I would first have the courage and scholarly determination to read the author’s compete works related to a given issue and only then formulate my opinion. Such a thing is normal in law (I am a lawyer) – rather than condemning a given decision based purely upon a summary, I would carefully read the full case (as well as any companion cases), check appropriate lower cases (such as the lower court’s decisions and applications of the controversial decision in other cases), and onbly then formulate an opinion about whether the ruling was correct or not.

          Who are you to know what I read and do not read? I love reading Jan Nattier’s account of the origins of Mahayana Buddhism called “A Few Good Men”. Regardless of what I read and whom I read about any topic, this study of Christianity is to me a hobby about which I would not dare to try to publish. But since to you your soul lies n the line, it seems likely to me that you are biased in your study of Christianity.

          • Roger Pearse
            2018-12-27 22:21:29 GMT+0000 - 22:21 | Permalink

            I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree.

            • A Buddhist
              2018-12-27 22:51:49 GMT+0000 - 22:51 | Permalink

              Roger Pearse: What would we disagree about? Would we disagree about how much reading of an author’s books is needed before his/her ideas can be dismissed? Would we disagree that your belief that but for your faith in Jesus, you will, after your death, suffer an eternity in a hell-realm does not distort your research about Jesus and your decisions about which account about Jesus are worthy of your respect? Do we disagree about how lawyers research cases and decisions?

              In any case, since you in reply to me have made mere assertions (about what I read or do not read, as well as about Earl Doherty’s methods of working) without evidence, I am unpersuaded by what you have written. I was hoping that you might give me an interesting and thought-provoking answer.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2019-01-04 07:44:27 GMT+0000 - 07:44 | Permalink

            Roger, you came here as a guest only to insult us, it seems. If you want to make remarks that demonstrate a better knowledge of the range of views and posts on this blog, and the range of study of mainstream literature behind them, with special focus on learning and adhering the methods of historians (I am speaking of historians more generally and not those of biblical studies, though we are well aware of those methods, too) I think you will find you had reason to offer a more constructive criticism.

            You imply we rubbish the writers who write what we don’t like or agree with. That is a baseless insult. Do demonstrate the evidence for your accusation. Yes, I write about many authors who I don’t agree with on some detail because there is often something I can learn from them. Where I find a scholar has failed in his duty as a public intellectual by shortchanging his readers with logical fallacies and worse, I at least attempt to do so with respect.

            You say “You find excuses to ignore evidence to the contrary.”

            Do again provide evidence for this accusation, Roger. Very often I am posting about evidence from a range of perspectives and say so.

            “You rubbish all of the data, you rubbish historians as biased, you talk largely about how prejudiced everyone else is; you sneer about “professionals” who won’t engage with your madcap idea, you jeer at the Vatican, “

            Roger, you have no evidence for these insults. What have I posted to justify this accusation of yours? Tell me. Be specific.

            “It won’t bother your followers if they do, because you have already cautioned the mugs about the evil biased so-called professionals, and how they never read your work.”

            What on earth are you talking about, Roger. Have you read a single post on this blog? What evidence do you claim for this accusation?

            “I’m probably wasting my breath in saying all this. But I offer it for what it is worth. Fools will nit-pick. But you’re wasting your time, if you do; because, simply, you don’t do history the way that Doherty does. The reason that you don’t do it is that it doesn’t work. It’s great polemic, rhetoric; but the answer that comes out is the one you started with.”

            You are wasting your breath if you rant out baseless accusations and insults. Now if you want to get into a discussion about the errors of Doherty you will find us very receptive. Let’s discuss methods. Historical methods has been a constant theme of this blog but we don’t rely on just one small area of historians to tell us their methods — we study what renowned historians explain about their methods across a wide range of historical research.

            Just coming here and spitting insults is indeed wasting your breath. Back up your accusations or get involved in as serious discussion. You know, I think I can learn a few things from you, and you know, I think if you become a better Christian and scholar you might find yourself doing your profession a credit and benefit to many of us.

            Get down from your ivory tower, I suggest.

        • MrHorse
          2018-12-28 00:08:12 GMT+0000 - 00:08 | Permalink

          Roger wrote –

          people publish books, each claiming to reveal “the real Jesus” at a rate of almost one a week (or so it sometimes seems). Most vanish without trace. All of them employ the same methods of selection, omission, argument from manufactured silence, misrepresentation. All of them disagree profoundly with each other; sure sign that the methods used are rubbish.

          Which reflects the fact that perceptions about Jesus are ‘grey’ because the facts around him are ‘grey’.

          Doherty uses those methods.

          Differently, and perhaps more thoroughly than most.

          • db
            2018-12-28 02:24:52 GMT+0000 - 02:24 | Permalink

            the methods used are rubbish

            Per Carrier, Richard (2012). Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-61614-560-6.

            [Per attempts to ascertain the “real” historical Jesus] The growing consensus now is that this entire quest for criteria has failed. The entire field of Jesus studies has thus been left without any valid method. —(p. 11)

            The following is a listing by Gullotta of additional works supporting, but not noted by Carrier (2012). p. 11, 293f, n. 2-7.

            • Keith, Chris (2016). “The Narratives of the Gospels and the Historical Jesus: Current Debates, Prior Debates and the Goal of Historical Jesus Research”. Journal for the Study of the New Testament. 38 (4): 426–455. doi:10.1177/0142064X16637777.

            • Bernier, Jonathan (2016). The Quest for the Historical Jesus after the Demise of Authenticity: Toward a Critical Realist Philosophy of History in Jesus Studies.

            • Crossley, James (2015). Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus. Oxford University Press.

            • Charlesworth, James H.; Rhea, Brian, eds. (2014). Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions : the Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research, Princeton 2007. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

            • Rodriguez, Rafael (2010). Structuring Early Christian Memory: Jesus in Tradition, Performance and Text.

            • Le Donne, Anthony (2009). The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David. Baylor University Press.

            Ref. Gullotta, Daniel N. (2017). “On Richard Carrier’s Doubts: A Response to Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt”. Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus. 15 (2–3): 310–346. doi: 10.1163/17455197-01502009.

            • MrHorse
              2018-12-28 04:38:59 GMT+0000 - 04:38 | Permalink

              db wrote

              The following is a listing by Gullotta of additional works supporting, but not noted by Carrier (2012)

              Supposedly supporting who? Carrier?

              That list you refer to is footnote 127 of Gullotta’s paper [below] in relation to this text –

              … Carrier’s main contribution may wind up being seen not as an advancement of mythicism, but as a criticism of current methodologies employed by scholars of the historical Jesus.* Because of this, Carrier’s work is an ironic contribution to the quest for the historical Jesus.* 126 Put simply, Carrier’s methodological complaints represent a long and ongoing trend which other scholars have addressed.127

              127. Many of Carrier’s concerns and criticisms have been longed noted^ and echoed by other historical Jesus scholars. See Chris Keith, ‘The Narratives of the Gospels and the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Current Debates, Prior Debates, and the Goal of Historical Jesus Research’, Journal for the Study of the New Testament 38.4 (2016), pp. 426–455; Jonathan Bernier, The Quest for the Historical Jesus after the Demise of Authenticity: Towards a Critical Realist Philosophy of History in Jesus Studies (London: T&T Clark, 2016); James G. Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); James H. Charlesworth and Brian Rhea (eds.), Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014); Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne (eds.), Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity (New York: T&T Clark, 2012); Rafael Rodriguez, Structuring Early Christian Memory: Jesus in Tradition, Performance and Text (London: T&T Clark, 2010); James H. Charlesworth and Petr Pokorný (eds.), Jesus Research: An International Perspective (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009); Anthony Le Donne, The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009); Rafael Rodríguez, ‘Authenticating Criteria: The Use and Misuse of a Critical Method’, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 7.2 (2009), pp. 152–167; Bernard Brandon Scott (ed.), Finding the Historical Jesus: Rules of Evidence (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press, 2008); Stanley E. Porter, The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical-Jesus Research: Previous Discussion and New Proposals (London: T&T Clark, 2004); Hyeon Woo Shin, Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem in Historical Jesus Research (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2004); Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2002).

              * Gullotta’s assertion of ‘the historical Jesus’ – especially as a definitive article – merely fallaciously begs-the-question

              ^ lol, re ‘long-noted’. All those references in n.127 are post 2002: hardly ‘long-noted’.

              Moreover, most of titles of some of those references are noteworthy, eg. –

              Bernier, The Quest for the Historical Jesus after the Demise of Authenticity…

              Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of ‘the Historical Jesus’ [lol]

              Jesus Research: New Methodologies and Perceptions

              Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of ‘Authenticity’

              Scott (ed.), Finding ‘the Historical Jesus’: Rules of Evidence (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press, 2008)

              Theissen and Dagmar Winter, The Quest for ‘the Plausible Jesus’: The Question of Criteria

              For Gullotta to say “Carrier’s methodological complaints represent a long and ongoing trend which other scholars have addressed” is ridiculous and laughable.

              • db
                2018-12-28 04:59:53 GMT+0000 - 04:59 | Permalink

                MrHorse wrote: “Supposedly supporting who? Carrier?”

                • Yes per Carrier (2012), Gullotta appears to be supportive: “Carrier’s main contribution . . . [may be his] criticism of current methodologies employed by scholars of the historical Jesus”.

        • 2018-12-29 19:03:07 GMT+0000 - 19:03 | Permalink

          Ehrman thought that Christ mythicists proposed the theories they did because they wanted to destroy Christianity. I’m sure that’s true for some, but I think the bigger, more prevalent reason is the Christ Myth theory is shocking, and so draws people in like The Da Vinci Code, the Oak Island Treasure theory, etc. In this regard, we see unemployed scholars like Carrier also thinking Conspiracy Theories are reasonable approaches to the evidence. For example, Carrier writes:

          Of course, a case can be made for the apostles dying even for a hoax: all they needed was to believe that the teachings attached to their fabricated claim would make the world a better place, and that making the world a better place was worth dying for. Even godless Marxists voluntarily died by the millions for such a motive. So the notion that no one would, is simply false.

          see https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12263

          Carrier lives on the support of his fans (he has no job), and they wouldn’t be supporting him unless he was constantly entertaining them with shocking, idiosyncratic theories.

          Also, if anyone hasn’t seen it, here is a video, the relevant part starting around 1:10:41, where Dr. Carrier claims the conspiracy theory that Paul lied about seeing visions of Jesus is a reasonable interpretation of the historical evidence:

          • A Buddhist
            2018-12-29 19:25:13 GMT+0000 - 19:25 | Permalink

            John MacDonald: Why do you find so implausible the idea that Paul lied about his visions? People are known to lie, especially when their lies would allow them to make a living through preaching/writing, etc. See, for example, the controversy surrounding the book “Heaven is for Real”. Nor is this a modern phenomenon, as writings about Alexander of Abonoteichus’s hoax promoting the god Glycon attest.

            Even if it be accepted that it is implausible that Paul lied, why do you call such an idea a conspiracy theory? A conspiracy theory requires a conspiracy being alleged. But Paul’s choosing to lie about having visions is not necessarily a conspiracy theory.

            As for the idea that Carrier only write theories that he does in order to avoid poverty and unemployment, surely similar thoughts can be made about people who work in divinity schools or schools of theology where the majority of work about the Bible is done. To quote what I wrote earlier to another person: “Divinity schools were founded by Christians and cater in their scholarship towards those who are deeply interested in Christianity. The majority of people with both a deep interest in Christianity and the finances to support a divinity school (as opposed to, for example, financing other types of scholarship) are Christian. To me, therefore, it seems likely that divinity schools are likely to exert much pressure of various types in order to avoid having their scholars write materials that are overtly antiChristian. A divinity school whose scholars, for example, were to publish books dismissing Jesus as a madman and a violent criminal who deserved to be convicted for something over the violent disturbance in the Temple, or whose books would portray Paul as some combination of insane, incoherent, and a scam artist like Alexander of Abonoteichus, would alienate all Christians and without such supporters and their money, where would the divinity school be? Bankrupt. For this reason, those who work in divinity schools face pressure, if they must criticize Christianity, to do so softly”.

            • 2018-12-29 19:34:35 GMT+0000 - 19:34 | Permalink

              John MacDonald: Why do you find so implausible the idea that Paul lied about his visions? People are known to lie, especially when their lies would allow them to make a living through preaching/writing, etc. See, for example, the controversy surrounding the book “Heaven is for Real”. Nor is this a modern phenomenon, as writings about Alexander of Abonoteichus’s hoax promoting the god Glycon attest.

              As luck would have it, I have a blog post addressing just this issue if you would like to hear my thoughts: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2018/03/examining-easter-peering-behind-veil-of.html

              • A Buddhist
                2018-12-29 19:58:40 GMT+0000 - 19:58 | Permalink

                John MacDonald: That you need 16,500+ words to argue against the idea that Christianity is based upon a liar (or, in a genuine but not impossible conspiracy theory, several liars), is, I confess, rather undermining, I think, the casualness of your dismissal as implausible the idea that Paul was a liar. That having been said, I will read what you have written and maybe give you some thoughts.

                I also note that you have not replied to my alleging that many employed scholars of Christianity face pressure to conform to certain pro-Christian (or at least not anti-Christian) perspectives. Does this mean that you agree with me about the pressure?

              • 2018-12-29 20:35:22 GMT+0000 - 20:35 | Permalink

                @ A Buddhist:

                1 Who says I’m arguing against it?

                2 Clearly, Scholars who sign a faith statement feel the pressure, and I’m sure those who transition from conservative fundamentalist to liberal or atheist retain some prior adherence to dogma.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-12-31 10:12:13 GMT+0000 - 10:12 | Permalink

          Roger, you write

          You start with a theory. Then you find some sources that can be made to support you, ideally by reading into them stuff that nobody else sees in there. It’s hard for others to refute an opinion! You find excuses to ignore evidence to the contrary. You rubbish all of the data, you rubbish historians as biased, you talk largely about how prejudiced everyone else is; you sneer about “professionals” who won’t engage with your madcap idea, you jeer at the Vatican, you do… whatever will distract your reader from the fact that you have no evidence for your claim and just made it up. It won’t work with the professionals, but with luck they won’t read your book. It won’t bother your followers if they do, because you have already cautioned the mugs about the evil biased so-called professionals, and how they never read your work.

          That is pure ad hominem. If not, then please support each of your assertions with evidence. What is Doherty’s method, in your view, exactly? What sources has he ignored?

          In what way has Doherty (or even myself here) “rubbished” alternatives as biased so not worth engaging with?

          Who the hell is “jeering at the Vatican” for God’s sake!

          It is evident to me that contrary to your claim to have read Doherty’s Jesus Puzzle that you did so, if at all, with hostile intent and I suggest you could not present a single argument of his here with the evidence and logic he uses to support it — and the scholarly sources he refers to.

          I request you to point to a single core argument of Doherty’s that falls under your characterization.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-12-31 10:18:20 GMT+0000 - 10:18 | Permalink

          Roger, you sweep aside all of Doherty’s argument as “all nonsense, of course.” Please identify a single post in this blog, or a single argument presented by Doherty, that you believe fits your characterization, and please give a brief comment to explain where its “nonsense” lies.

          Do you disagree that Gullotta and Gathercole have presented outright fabrications and falsehoods about Doherty’s and Carrier’s arguments in their respective reviews? I trust you will demonstrate that they have by no means said the exact opposite of what Doherty and Carrier have in fact written — as I have demonstrated with respective quotations here.

          Because until someone provides such supporting evidence I do think it quite remarkable that it is you who has started with the theory… etc etc etc

        • Roger Pearse
          2019-01-04 21:25:39 GMT+0000 - 21:25 | Permalink

          Mea culpa. I phrased one paragraph in the above very badly. It reads:

          “The rubbish-writers do the opposite. You start with a theory. Then you find some sources that can be made to support you, ideally by reading into them stuff that nobody else sees in there. It’s hard for others to refute an opinion! You find excuses to ignore evidence to the contrary. You rubbish all of the data, you rubbish historians as biased, you talk largely about how prejudiced everyone else is; you sneer about “professionals” who won’t engage with your madcap idea, you jeer at the Vatican, you do… whatever will distract your reader from the fact that you have no evidence for your claim and just made it up. It won’t work with the professionals, but with luck they won’t read your book. It won’t bother your followers if they do, because you have already cautioned the mugs about the evil biased so-called professionals, and how they never read your work.”

          What I was discussing here was the process whereby all the people who write bad books about ancient topics, from von Daniken downwards, compose their epics. I thought “How would you or I compose such a book? Well, you do it like this:…”

          But I forgot to make this explicit. Rereading now it’s obvious that a reader might suppose I meant “you people reading this”. My apologies to anyone who thought that I was just hurling insults.

          “You” here does not mean you personally, not the commenter to whom I was responding; you = you or me or anyone bent on producing one of these useless books.

          If there was an edit button, I would modify the paragraph to start: “The rubbish-writers do the opposite. There is actually a formula. But imagine you or I wanted to write one. How is it done? …”

          Very sorry for this one, and thanks to Neil for pointing it out.

          • A Buddhist
            2019-01-05 03:19:31 GMT+0000 - 03:19 | Permalink

            How nice that you have deigned to clarify one minor issue in the arrangement of arguments that you set forth. It would be even better if you would deign to answer some more major issues that your efforts raised. Such as:

            It is interesting that you raise the claims that “Cleopatra was black or Jesus was an astronaut” with the implication that they are so insane that no serious historian would take them seriously. Yet each claim does have a kernel of truth that can be investigated and dealt with by the serious historian without alleging that the people making such claims are insane or that the claims themselves are insane.

            Cleopatra was black: There are sculptures of Cleopatra that are carved out of black stone, and Egypt is in Africa, whose inhabitants are, on average, called black and have dark skin. The Egyptians moreover called their land Kmt (or Kemet, as vowelized) meaning “The Black Land”. Discovering that Cleopatra was not black despite the previously cited pieces of evidence that suggest that she may have been would require assessment of Egyptian physical remains, artistic conventions, and consideration of the many written sources about Cleopatra, her ancestry/family, and the meaning of the term Kmt (or Kemet, as vowelized) meaning “The Black Land”. All of this could be done without even one insult against people advancing the claim that Cleopatra is Black, nor the dismissal of the idea itself as insane.
            Jesus was an astronaut: As a Christian, you place more trust in the Bible than I do, and the Bible plainly teaches that Jesus ascended to heaven (https://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/ascend.html). There is also talk about Jesus descending from heaven to levitate dead Christians and living Christians to join him in the air and be with him forever. This could be understood as references (undeniably garbled) to an astronaut’s leaving/returning to his spaceship. Certainly, for certain types of people, such a narration makes more sense than the idea that Jesus is fully human and fully divine and is and is not the son (pardon me if I get my trinity summary mixed up) of a divine father who will condemn all to an eternity in Hell, regardless of their virtues or lacks, if they believe in Jesus according to the right formula relating to the trinity and the mixing of human and divine, yet one would wrong to dismiss only the former idea as insanity, I think. Leaving aside issues related to whether an uncreated god exists, the idea that Jesus was an astronaut could be refuted by, among other things, placing the narrative of his ascension within a broader understanding at the time the gospels were written of what ascending to heaven meant, etc. One could even, if one were not driven by a desire to preserve the literal truth of the Bible, suggest that the story of Jesus’s ascent into Heaven, etc., is just a story – what Nagarjuna would call a Gandharvan tale and more modern readers might call fantasy, hallucination, or lies. All of this could be done without even one insult against people advancing the claim that Jesus was an astronaut, nor the dismissal of the idea itself as insane.

            Would we disagree that your belief, as a Christian, that but for your faith in Jesus, you will, after your death, suffer an eternity in a hell-realm does not distort your research about Jesus and your decisions about which account about Jesus are worthy of your respect?
            Would we disagree about how much reading of an author’s books is needed before his/her ideas can be dismissed?

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-05 03:56:08 GMT+0000 - 03:56 | Permalink

              Buddhist, I am happily and thankfully surprised that Roger has responded at least partially to some of the mis-aimed comments that he made here in his earlier visit. I will be addressing the point you raise (e.g. the claims that “Cleopatra was black or Jesus was an astronaut” with the implication that they are so insane that no serious historian would take them seriously) in a soon-coming post which I would hope Roger will read (he has indicated to me that he will look out for it) in a more general post where I hope to address what I see as a long-time “unbridgeable chasm” between one subset of scholars in the humanities and certain sections of the lay public. Hopefully then Roger and a number of us who are interested can have a cordial and respectful discussion about those issues.

              • A Buddhist
                2019-01-05 14:19:32 GMT+0000 - 14:19 | Permalink

                Neil: I look forward to your blog-post, and hope to learn more from it, as I do from so many other of your blog-posts.

                To clarify something, I do not think that Jesus was an astronaut, nor that Cleopatra was black; however, I think that those theories are not so insane that they should not be taken seriously. There are some historical claims that I think are so insane that they should not be taken seriously, but they are much further out, as it were: that the Buddha Shakyamuni was at King Solomon’s court, that the Buddha Shakyamuni was born in and lived all of his life in Sri Lanka, the phantom time hypothesis (or the conceptually related New Chronology), the idea that the pyramids at Giza were builded by Noah and his sons, etc.

        • Matt Cavanaugh
          2019-01-10 23:43:22 GMT+0000 - 23:43 | Permalink

          “The comments made here by others indicate very clearly that nobody has ever tried to find out about something in history in which they had no religious or political investment.”

          Not only is it intellectually dishonest to avoid addressing one’s interlocutor’s points by impinging their putative motives, you are no mind reader. I, for one, came to this subject matter through a desire to satisfy my curiosity about the history of the early church. I entered as an atheist, fully believing that a mortal man once existed whose life provided the basis for the gospels. Gradually the evidence disabused me of that notion. It didn’t matter one way or the other to me; I merely sought the truth. I had no bias needing confirmation, no need for a ‘gotcha’ to throw in the face of believers.

          But since you brought up motivated reasoning, is not a historical Jesus a prerequisite for belief in a Jesus Christ? For rare indeed are a Father Brodie or a Bishop Spong, who can maintain their faith while rejecting in whole or major part the Jesus of the gospels. I prefer not to go down that road, but people in glass houses should not throw stones.

    • Roger Pearse
      2018-12-27 19:18:52 GMT+0000 - 19:18 | Permalink

      How would you sanity check any historical claim? Say that Cleopatra was black? Or Jesus was an astronaut? (Showing my age there!)

      • MrHorse
        2018-12-27 19:55:59 GMT+0000 - 19:55 | Permalink

        Going off on tangents and referring to and relying on red herrings won’t get you anywhere the literary tropes that are the primary focus of the issues.

        • MrHorse
          2018-12-27 19:59:43 GMT+0000 - 19:59 | Permalink

          …. red herrings won’t get you anywhere near the literary tropes that are the primary focus …

        • Roger Pearse
          2018-12-27 21:46:01 GMT+0000 - 21:46 | Permalink

          I was responding to Kapyong’s query, actually.

      • A Buddhist
        2018-12-27 20:02:54 GMT+0000 - 20:02 | Permalink

        Roger Pearse: It is interesting that you raise the claims that “Cleopatra was black or Jesus was an astronaut” with the implication that they are so insane that no serious historian would take them seriously. Yet each claim does have a kernal of truth that can be investigated and dealt with by the serious historian without alleging that the people making such claims are insane or that the claims themselves are insane.
        Cleopatra was black: There are sculptures of Cleopatra that are carved out of black stone, and Egypt is in Africa, whose inhabitants are, on average, called black and have dark skin. The Egyptians moreover called their land Kmt (or Kemet, as vowelized) meaning “The Black Land”. Discovering that Cleopatra was not black despite the previously cited pieces of evidence that suggest that she may have been would require assessment of Egyptian physical remains, artistic conventions, and consideration of the many written sources about Cleopatra, her ancestry/family, and the meaning of the term Kmt (or Kemet, as vowelized) meaning “The Black Land”. All of this could be done without even one insult against people advancing the claim that Cleopatra is Black, nor the dismissal of the idea itself as insane.
        Jesus was an astronaut: As a Christian, you place more trust in the Bible than I do, and the Bible plainly teaches that Jesus ascended to heaven (https://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/ascend.html). There is also talk about Jesus descending from heaven to levitate dead Christians and living Christians to join him in the air and be with him forever. This could be understood as references (undeniably garbled) to an astronaut’s leaving/returning to his spaceship. Certainly, for certain types of people, such a narration makes more sense than the idea that Jesus is fully human and fully divine and is and is not the son (pardon me if I get my trinity summary mixed up) of a divine father who will condemn all to an eternity in Hell, regardless of their virtues or lacks, if they believe in Jesus according to the right formula relating to the trinity and the mixing of human and divine, yet one would wrong to dismiss only the former idea as insanity, I think. Leaving aside issues related to whether an uncreated god exists, the idea that Jesus was an astronaut could be refuted by, among other things, placing the narrative of his ascension within a broader understanding at the time the gospels were written of what ascending to heaven meant, etc. One could even, if one were not driven by a desire to preserve the literal truth of the Bible, suggest that the story of Jesus’s ascent into Heaven, etc., is just a story – what Nagarjuna would call a Gandharvan tale and more modern readers might call fantasy, hallucination, or lies. All of this could be done without even one insult against people advancing the claim that Jesus was an astronaut, nor the dismissal of the idea itself as insane.
        In this context, refutation of the idea that Jesus was a mythical figure rather than historical man could be done by dispassionately dealing with the facts: Paul makes very few references to Jesus as a teacher even when it would be appropriate to do so; the gospels are anonymous, and only GJohn, the most divergent, cites sources (that could be made up as far as a skeptical reader of GJohn knows); that some details that Paul cites about Jesus are either so generic that they could apply to gods (talking about him as born of a woman – just like Dionysus) or problematic (there are many problems with the idea that the reference to James as Jesus’s brother settles the matter).
        1. Authentically Pauline?: The entire corpus of letters attributed to Paul is so controversial that I am not hostile to the idea that the phrase “Brother of the Lord” in this context is an interpolation. Arguments to this effect have been made apparently even by believing Christians.

        Accurate?: Even if it be assumed that the phrase “Brother of the Lord” in this context is authentically Pauline, there arises the issue of whether Paul was reporting true things about James’s claimed status. Paul’s letters, after all, must be seen in the context of his effort to control a factitious religious movement and collect money from them. In this context Paul may have lied in order to increase his credibility among his followers. Alternatively, he may have made a mistake in his recollection of the meeting and the names/titles of those whom he met (as, ironically, Ehrman did with his talk of a man named Messiah Taiping Hong Xuiquan).
        Representing James’s claims about Himself?: It must be remembered that this is not a letter in which James says “I am the Brother of the Lord, which means…”; rather, it is a report (which for the sake of argument may be accepted as true) in which Paul met James the Brother of the Lord. Paul may have believed that this meant that he was talking to a James who was claiming to be Jesus’s biological brother, but this does not mean that James himself necessarily interpreted it this way.
        The ambiguity of the phrase “Brother of the Lord”: Since the writing and discussion by Paul took place in a religious context, I will not seriously consider the possibility that “Brother of the Lord” referred to a secular authority. Others, such as Joe Atwill, are welcome to that. But even confining the phrase “Brother of the Lord” to divine figures within Christian context, it is ambiguous. Lord could mean YHVH or Jesus. Certainly, the idea of any person claiming to be YHVH’s brother is strange – but there have been religious movements that claimed that YHVH had a wife, and Christians claim the YHVH had a son (among whom Mormons make him YHVH’s physical son, conceived through intercourse with Mary). James may have claimed that he was YHVH’s brother. In this context, it is interesting to note that in GThomas, James is sad to have been the reason that Heaven and Earth were created, which may be the remnant of the idea that James was himself a divine figure.
        Brother of Jesus in What Sense?: Conceding that James had meant to present himself as Jesus’s brother, it is in this context, and this context only, that the possibility arises that James had, like Hong Xiuquan, understood his brotherhood with Jesus being based purely upon spiritual connection/visions arises. In this context, it is useful to note that within the Bible, only Acts (not the Gospels) unambiguously shows that Jesus’s physical brother, named James, had a role in the Christian movement – and Acts is increasingly being recognized as piously motivated piece of historical fiction at best, meant more to unite Christian sects than to provide an accurate account of Christianity.
        That is not to say that none of these challenges cannot be defeated. But they can be defeated without dismissing the Christ myth theory as insane or its proponents as insane.

        • nightshadetwine
          2018-12-28 03:39:17 GMT+0000 - 03:39 | Permalink

          Isn’t it funny when someone who believes a guy was literally god, rose from the dead, and will return to save his followers says other people’s beliefs are insane?

          • Pofarmer
            2018-12-28 06:38:09 GMT+0000 - 06:38 | Permalink

            Sad, really.

      • Kapyong
        2018-12-28 00:53:58 GMT+0000 - 00:53 | Permalink

        How disappointing 🙁

        You failed to provide any examples of how Doherty’s work failed your ‘sanity-checks’.

        Shame on you, Roger the Dodger.

        Doherty is a smart and well educated writer, much like you.
        He is a peer of yours.

        His work deserves the same level of respect that you would expect for your own.

        It is far above the level of crack-pottery you pretend it to be, without actually providing any evidence – just a dismissive hand-wave.

        I have lost all respect for you as a result of this.

        Your snide insults evince nothing more than your own failure to deal with Doherty’s arguments.

        What happened to you Roger ?
        Did Doherty’s work prick some faithful belief of yours ?

  • db
    2018-12-27 18:44:53 GMT+0000 - 18:44 | Permalink

    • For those not familiar with Doherty′s work.

    Earl Doherty – partial bibliography:
    • “The Jesus Puzzle: Part One: A Conspiracy of Silence”. Humanist in Canada. 114: 20–24. Autumn 1995.
    • “The Jesus Puzzle: Part Two: Who was Christ Jesus?”. Humanist in Canada. 115: 10–14, 31. Winter 1995–1996.
    • “The Jesus Puzzle: Part Three: The Evolution of Jesus of Nazareth”. Humanist in Canada. 116: 24–30, 38. Spring 1996.
    • “The Jesus Puzzle: Postscript”. Humanist in Canada. 117: 20–23, 38. Summer 1996.
    • “The Jesus Puzzle: The Second Century: What the Christian apologists of the second century present us with”. Humanist in Canada. 120. Spring 1997.

    The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? – Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus. Ottawa: Age of Reason Publications. 2005 [First published 1999]. ISBN 978-0-9689259-1-1. “4th print [1st print Ottawa: Canadian Humanist Publications].”

    Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus. Ottawa: Age of Reason Publications. 2009. ISBN 978-0-9689259-2-8. “New edition, Revised and Expanded, Originally published under the title: The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? – Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus.”

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  • db
    2018-12-28 04:10:39 GMT+0000 - 04:10 | Permalink

    • Doherty holds that there are two possible ways to approach Galatians 4:4.

    Per Doherty, Earl (2009) [now bolded and formatted]. Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus. Ottawa: Age of Reason Publications. ISBN 978-0-9689259-2-8.

    [Per Galatians 4:4] There are two ways to approach this passage:
    • one, assuming the double phrase as authentic to Paul;
    • the other, questioning its authenticity and judging the likelihood of interpolation.
    —(p. 197)

    […]
    if the key phrases in Paul are his own voice and not an interpolation, Paul must have had in mind something different in regard to Christ than simply being “born” in the normal sense. —(p. 207)

    […]
    [Although I now lean more toward the interpolation option] the alternative possibility that these phrases, if by Paul,
    • reflect a metaphysical view of Jesus determined by scripture…
    —(p. 212)

    • MrHorse
      2018-12-28 04:49:38 GMT+0000 - 04:49 | Permalink

      Doherty wrote

      There are two ways to approach this passage:

      • one, assuming the double phrase as authentic to Paul;
      • the other, questioning its authenticity and judging the likelihood of interpolation.

      I’d say that’s a false dichotomy: ie. there are other ways to categorise it, a category which Doherty does address – ie. as a theological construct – but without having firstly categorised it.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-01 02:48:09 GMT+0000 - 02:48 | Permalink

      Earl Doherty’s website is still up: http://www.jesuspuzzle.com/jesuspuzzle/index.htm

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