Review part 5: Questioning the Historicity of Jesus / Lataster (Case for Agnosticism – 2, Sources)

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by Neil Godfrey

I discuss here my reading of Chapter 5 of Raphael Lataster’s Questioning the Historicity of Jesus. Here he looks at the problematic nature of the gospels and extra-biblical sources for Jesus.

Lataster discusses how historical Jesus scholars attempt to get around the problem that there are no primary sources for a historical Jesus. This absence leads scholars to focus on

1) the character and limitations of presumed oral traditions that bridge the gap between the gospels and the historical Jesus;

2) memory theory, what we theorize and know about social and individual memories.

Both of these studies do indeed raise awareness of problems for a historian’s access to a historical Jesus and Lataster cites numerous scholars who have contributed to our awareness of these problems. I suggest, however, that much of the discussion is at best a footnote to a debate over whether there was a person of Jesus at the start of Christianity. After all, the problems relate to the reconstruction of such a Jesus. If Christianity had some other origin then memories or oral traditions cannot have any relation to “a historical Jesus”.


For an annotated list and links to discussions of the Testimonium Flavianum on this blog see Jesus in Josephus: Testimonium Flavianum

The most famous extra-biblical reference to a historical Jesus is the Testimonium Flavianum of Josephus. Lataster’s discussion is a thorough coverage of the weaknesses of attempts to salvage even a smaller core of the surviving sentences, again citing a range of recent scholars who have expressed serious reservations about Josephus ever having said anything at all about our Jesus. I was pleased to see a detailed quotation from a publication by a distinguished professor in the field of linguistics, Paul Hopper. (Interested readers can see the quotation in an older post here.) As for the second passage in the Antiquities of Josephus, one which appears to be an after-thought reference to a Jesus related to a certain James, Lataster highlights Richard Carrier’s argument that the Jesus referred to is Jesus son of Damneus. (See David Fitzgerald Responds for details of the argument.) Carrier’s view makes some sense but I am not entirely sure it resolves all questions and for that reason I prefer Earl Doherty’s original discussion as the more satisfactory. But either way, there are significant problems with the view that Josephus identified James as “the brother of Jesus, the one called Christ”, both in syntax and context. It is important to address both Josephan passages but as Lataster notes,

it is important to realise that even if authentic, these verses do not necessarily confirm the existence of the Historical Jesus.

(Lataster, p. 200)

Josephus is writing decades after the supposed historical Jesus and adds nothing to what is known from other sources, the implication being that there is no reason to suspect that either passage had any source other than Christians, either as Josephus’s late first century source or as later copyists of his work.

Other sources

Lataster’s comprehensive discussions of other ancient sources mentioning or interpreted as alluding to either Jesus or Christ — Tacitus, Pliny, Thallus, Suetonius, Mara bar Serapion, and the Talmud — draw in both scholarly rebuttals and common answers that as far as I am aware have never been countered by anyone attempting to use them as evidence for a historical Jesus. A new point concerning Pliny’s letter about Christians to emperor Trajan is also covered: Enrico Tuccinardi has applied a stylometric analysis that strongly indicates the entire passage is a forgery.

Scholarly “confessions”

As for the canonical gospels, Lataster reminds us of the major obstacles to accepting them as sources for a historical Jesus. They are late documents, at least forty years after the narrated crucifixion, and they are accepted by critical biblical scholars as mythical or theological narratives of Christ, not a historical person. Whatever the form of Jesus behind them — historical or mythical — they are nonhistorical elaborations that have come to hide whatever that original concept was. Lataster buttresses his point with citations from critical biblical scholars. One such noteworthy name is that of the pioneer of the Jesus Seminar, Robert Funk:

As an historian, I do not know for certain that Jesus really existed, that he is anything more than the figment of some overactive imaginations… In my view, there is nothing about Jesus of Nazareth that we can know beyond any possible doubt. In the mortal life we have there are only prob abilities. And the Jesus that scholars have isolated in the ancient gospels, gospels that are bloated with the will to believe, may turn out to be only another image that merely reflects our deepest longings.

(Robert Walter Funk, “Bookshelf: The Resurrection of Jesus,” The Fourth R 8, no. 1 (1995): 9., in Lataster, p. 219)

Given the prevailing near consensus that the Gospel of Mark is the earliest gospel it is reasonable to consider the possibility that all subsequent references to and portrayals of a historical Jesus can go back to that gospel. Lataster cites Bart Ehrman to this effect:

If there had been one source of Christian antiquity that mentioned a historical Jesus (e.g., Mark) and everyone else was based on what that source had to say, then possibly you could argue that this person made Jesus up and everyone else simply took the ball and ran with it.

(Lataster, p. 220, citing Erhman from https://ehrmanblog.org/gospel-evidence-that-jesus-existed, accessed 05/04/2017.)

If it all begins with Mark . . . 

The value of the Gospel of Mark as a historical or biographical source for Jesus is highly questionable, as Lataster underscores with reference to biblical scholars such as Burton Mack, Thomas L. Thompson, Randel Helms, John Dominic Crossan, Harold Attridge, Paula Fredriksen, Richard C. Miller, John Gager and others. Before zeroing in on particular aspects of that gospel, however, Lataster steps back to view the Gospel of Mark in the larger context of what is problematic with all the canonical gospels. The first point of discussion is their genre. Does genre point to a certain authorial intention and if so, is it consistent with a source of historical value?

For an annotated list and links to discussions of scholarly views of gospel genre on this blog, some of which are touched upon by Lataster, see  Genre of Gospels, Acts and OT Primary History: INDEX

As for the overall genre of the gospels, scholarly support is further marshalled to demonstrate that the Gospel of Mark (and subsequent gospels) follow the Jewish practice of creating new stories by re-writing tales found in the “Old Testament”. It is common for certain biblical scholars to defensively protest against any suggestion that there are “pagan” or non-Jewish influences in the makeup of their Jesus narratives, but other academics have demonstrated that these protests are without foundation. Even the second century “Church Father” Justin Martyr acknowledges the evident similarities between narratives about Jesus and pagan religions but excuses these similarities as being evidence of “diabolical mimicry”. Lataster addresses many such parallels, many with the support of scholars of religion, as well as common arguments used by apologists against the very idea of such influence (e.g. differences outnumber the similarities, overlooking the very necessity of differences in order to have comparisons).

The Gospel of Luke is often deemed to be more self-consciously historical than the other gospels on the basis of its prologue which suggests that the author has relied upon superior sources to anyone else who had written about Jesus. But that prologue is most unlike other prologues of known historians of the era, and Lataster points to the prevalent problem:

The hype around Luke’s prologue notwithstanding, put simply, Luke does not discuss his methods, name his sources (which could well be ‘supernatural’), or show any scepticism with the various claims made about Jesus. We don’t know who Luke is or what his qualifications are. Combined with his clear evangelical intent, his belief in the supernatural, and his penchant for fabricating, he clearly does not have the makings of an excellent historian, despite what apologists and some historicists surprisingly claim.

(Lataster, p. 239)

Lataster devotes a fulsome discussion to one work that we often see cited as “proof” that the gospels have been critically determined to be actual “biographies”, What are the Gospels? by Richard Burridge. Lataster warns us against being too quick to accept Burridge’s arguments in the light of other work he has written that points to conservative bias:

. . . if we accept and believe in Jesus as the Son of God who was raised from the dead, then it should not be surprising that he could do extraordinary things.

(Lataster, p. 240, citing Richard A. Burridge, “Jesus: His life, ministry, death, and its consequences,” in Introduction to the History of Christianity, ed. Dowley (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013), p. 31.)

And, as if the courage of the disciples of Jesus is itself a historical fact independent of the narrative depicting it, Burridge writes,

yet history has to provide some explanation of the change in the disciples,

(Lataster, p. 241, ibid p.34)

Readers of Mathew Ferguson’s blog, Κέλσος, will be interested to see Lataster draw upon Ferguson’s study of classical literature and how it can be shown to influence the gospels as a form of apparent history or biography. Lataster brings in several other specialist scholars adding more weight to the problem of reading the gospels as genuine biographies. (Not the least problem is that ancient authors were known to write biographies of fictitious persons, e.g. Demonax.)

That the Gospels may not be completely trustworthy sources of history certainly does not rule out the possibility of Jesus’ historical existence; but they certainly give ample reason to question it.

(Lataster, p. 245)

Lataster further draws upon an important source that was earlier discussed here by Tim Widowfield. Karl Ludwig Schmidt’ sober warning is taken up by Lataster:

… a Gospel is by nature not high literature, but low literature; not the product of an individual author, but a folk-book; not a biography, but a cult legend. Faint hints to the contrary do not change the total picture in the slightest. Luke may well have possessed the skills of an author, but he could not and would not have produced a biography of Jesus. Even the Fourth Gospel – which is personal confession of a sort – has more tradition behind it than we could ever ascertain. Above and beyond its personal aspects, it is the product of a confessing community.

Karl Ludwig Schmidt, The Place of the Gospels in the General History of Literature, trans. Byron R. McCane (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2002), p. 27.

Mark’s failure

Having covered the background of gospel genre Lataster returns to addressing the problem of the Gospel of Mark, understood to be our earliest gospel and a major source of the other gospels, for determining the historicity of Jesus.

The most apparent difficulty is that we have no way of knowing how much, if any, of the gospel narrative is derived, however distantly, from historical traditions or memories. The most narratively vivid portion of the gospel is the trial and death of Jesus yet no less a reputable biblical scholar than Werner H. Kelber acknowledged,

324. See Werner H. Kelber, The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Paul and Q (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997), pp. 184–198 and Werner H. Kelber, The Passion in Mark: Studies on Mark 14–16 (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1976).

Kelber acknowledged that Mark’s passion narrative, obviously key to the text, was woven out of whole cloth by Mark; there may never have been a pre-Markan Passion narrative.324 If this crucial element would be completely fabricated by the author of the Gospel, why not everything else?

(Lataster, p. 246)

Add to Kelber the analysis of Burton Mack,

As for the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Mark took the basic ideas from the Christ myth but dared to imagine how the crucifixion and resurrection of the Christ might have looked if played out as a historical event in Jerusalem, something the Christ myth resisted. Thus Mark’s story is best understood as a studied combination of Jesus traditions with the Christ myth. The combination enhanced Jesus’ importance as a historical figure by casting him as the son of God or the Christ and by working out an elaborate plot to link his fate to the history of Mark’s community. We may therefore call Mark’s gospel a myth of origin for the Markan community. It was imagined in order to understand how history could have gone the way it had and the Jesus movement still be right about its loyalties and views… We do not usually think of mythmaking as the achievement of a moment or the work of a single writer no matter how brilliant. But in Mark’s case we have an obvious fiction, masterly composed by someone who had to be doing his work at a desk as any author would. It was Mark’s fiction that soon became the accepted story of the way to imagine Jesus appearing in the world.341

341 Burton L. Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth (San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1995), pp. 152–154.

(Lataster, p. 249)

Lataster points to other details in this gospel as obvious indicators of fiction or allegory, such as the cursing of the fig tree. (At this particular point Lataster cannot resist commenting on what such a story implies about a beneficent god or son of god.) As for mentioning supposedly embarrassing details — scholars frequently point to evidence of embarrassment in other gospel accounts of Jesus and John the Baptist — Lataster rightly observes that in Mark there is no indication of embarrassment at all, thus robbing the scene of the justification many advance to suggest its historicity. In Mark the scene, like so many others, is best explained as a theological message, in this case the passing from the old to the new covenant. The literary contrivances throughout Mark do not prove the narrative is nonhistorical but Lataster does demonstrate how they do at least suggest a work born more of creative imagination than the restrictions of historical events.

Interestingly, in the verses immediately after the parable, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection, providing a handy link. In Mark 15, the great and powerful Jesus is humbled in the worst possible way. In Mark 16, the humiliated and dead Jesus has apparently triumphantly risen, and been exalted, while it is ‘mere’ women who have the privilege of knowing this first. I find this all too ‘neat’ to be simple coincidence. (Also note that Mark’s very last verse claims that the women “said nothing to anyone”, which again raises questions as to how Mark knows all this and how the faith spread beyond the two women.)335 

335 She/he truly seems to be an omniscient narrator, like an author of fiction. See Mark 16:8.

(Lataster, p. 248)

So many narrative details are clearly and widely recognized (among biblical scholars) as being derived from Old Testament episodes, and I felt Lataster could have demonstrated this point he makes with numerous examples, certainly far more than he does use. A good source for such observations is Michael Turton’s Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark.

Lataster is certainly comprehensive in his discussion and covers far more than I can allude to in any detail here. Another important consideration he addresses is the likely relationship between the loss of the Jerusalem temple and the emergence of a gospel in which Jesus is hinted as the temple’s replacement. Again Lataster raises the reader’s awareness of the scholarly support for such a possibility (e.g. Paul Hoskins, Adam Winn). I am less certain about Lataster’s suggestion that certain pre-Christian Jews felt cut off from normal access to their Temple because of “the Roman-loving Temple cult”, but he is quite correct to point out that there were Jewish sects who saw the physical temple as corrupt and in need of replacement. So the actual loss of the temple in 70 CE may well have stimulated a search for a spiritual replacement. One detail Lataster, and many others, overlook in this context is an observation by Karel Hanhart (The Open Tomb: A New Approach, Mark’s Passover Haggadah (± 72 C.E.)) is Mark’s rewriting of Isaiah’s image of the Jerusalem temple being a sepulchre hewn out of rock as Jesus tomb being what was hewn out of rock (see Debates and Empty Tomb).

There are moments when Lataster comes across to me as attempting to be a little too comprehensive, though. His mention of the “convenient coincidence” of “the messianic ’70 weeks’ prophecy of Daniel 9 just happens to coincide with Jesus’ lifetime, when employing the Preterist method of calculation favoured by the Catholics” is, I think, unnecessary and without warrant in the evidence. The best I have seen in favour of such claims are speculative, presumably being inspired by modern Dispensationalists. Another momentary overreach is Lataster’s passing allusion to Jesus ben Ananias in Josephus being evidence of some Jews expecting “things to get worse” for the temple: I suggest that it is more likely that Jesus ben Ananias is a stock literary figure who serves the function of the unheeded prophet found throughout literature (historical, dramatic, epic, novella) of the time.

Lataster’s point stands despite such occasional detours:

If everything we think we know about Jesus could have been adapted from the earlier Jewish texts, what genuine historical core is left? Dismiss these allegedly fulfilled prophecies and the Historical Jesus may as well be dismissed as well.

(Lataster, p. 252)

Another important dimension of the Gospel of Mark is the central place of parables and even indications that the entire gospel is to be read as a parable. Here Lataster is on more solid ground with citations to another raft of scholars (e.g. Marie Sabin, Tom Dykstra, Thomas Hatina, Kurt Noll, Eve-Marie Becker, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Mogens Mueller, Michael Goulder, Jon Levenson and more) supporting the literary character of the gospel and its Jesus figure, and even the Gospel’s apparent derivation from the epistles of Paul.

And when we do come to Paul we find appeals to Pentateuchal examples and sayings where we would expect reminders of Jesus’ own words and deeds if Paul’s views originated with a historical figure. Lataster necessarily devotes an entire chapter to the problems of Paul for the historicity of Jesus, and that will be covered in the next post.

Lataster, Raphael. 2019. Questioning the Historicity of Jesus: Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse. Leiden: Brill.



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18 thoughts on “Review part 5: Questioning the Historicity of Jesus / Lataster (Case for Agnosticism – 2, Sources)”

  1. Some scholars who have argued against the the James Passage in Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1 (§.20.200):
    • Herrmann, Léon (1970). Chrestos: témoignages païens et juifs sur le christianisme du premier siècle (in French). Collection Latomus: revue d’études latines, vol. 109. Brussels: Latomus.
    • Wells, G. A. (1986) [1975]. Did Jesus Exist? (2nd revised, corrected and expanded ed.). Pemberton. p. 11.
    • Efrón, Joshua (1987). Studies on the Hasmonean Period. BRILL. pp. 336–337, n. 224. ISBN 90-04-07609-3.
    • Tessa Rajak , Josephus, the Historian and His Society , 2nd ed. (London: Gerald Duckworth, 2003), 1st ed. 1983;
    • Graham H. Twelftree , “Jesus in Jewish Traditions,” in Gospel Perspectives: The Jesus Tradition Outside the Gospels , ed., David Wenham (Sheffield: JSOT, 1985), pp. 289–341 (299–301);
    • Hillar, Marian (2005). “Flavius Josephus and His Testimony Concerning the Historical Jesus”. Paper published in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, Vol. 13. pp. 66–103 (Washington, DC: American Humanist Association.
    • Doherty, Earl (2009). Jesus: Neither God Nor Man – The Case for a Mythical Jesus. Age of Reason Publications. pp. 570–586. ISBN 9780968925928.
    • Carrier, Richard (2012). “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200”. Journal of Early Christian Studies. 20 (4): 489–514. doi:10.1353/earl.2012.0029.
    • Ken Olson , “Eusebius and the Testimonium Flavianum,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 61 (1999), pp. 305–322; “A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum ” in Eusebius of Caesarea: Tradition and Innovations , ed. A. Johnson & J. Schott (Harvard University Press, 2013), pp. 97-114;
    • Allen, Nicholas P. L. (2017). “Josephus on James the Just? A re-evaluation of 20.9.1”. Journal of Early Christian History. 7 (1): 1–27. doi:10.1080/2222582X.2017.1317008.

    1. James Carleton Paget has also at least on one occasion considered and articulated that Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1 (§.20.200) is an interpolation, –

      Paget, “Some Observations on Josephus and Christianity,” Journal of Theological Studies 52 (2001): 539–624 (esp. p. 552, n. 45).

      Carrier has noted Antiquities XX.200 reads like Matt 1:16 (and similar gospel passages Matt 27.17 and 27.22, where Pilate uses the same or similar wording, του λεγομενου Χριστου/τὸν λεγόμενον Χριστόν), and also John 4.25, ὁ λεγομενου Χριστου.

  2. “The most apparent difficulty is that we have no way of knowing how much, if any, of the gospel narrative is derived, however distantly, from historical traditions or memories.”

    This is a claim that I try to counter in Deciphering the Gospels. My position is that we can determine a baseline of how much has the potential to have come from memories, which is almost none even has that potential. When we show what comes from literary sources, i.e. the Jewish scriptures or Paul, we show that those elements don’t come from memories. The only part that has a potential to have come from memories is whatever didn’t come from scriptures or Paul, which is almost nothing. And of what is left that isn’t shown to have come from scriptures or Paul there is really no coherent argument in favor of those elements having come from some oral source rather than from the writer himself.

    This is basically why I think the case is much stronger than what Lataster acknowledges, though, based on what you’ve outlined here, it looks like he’s done a pretty good job as well.

    But, correct me if I’m wrong (as I haven’t read this $200 book), what Lataster does in this book is similar to what Carrier did in his, which is largely compile research that others have done as opposed to engage in much original analysis. Or is that no the case?

    The simpler question is, does Lataster lay out any novel analysis or arguments in this book or is this a compilation of existing scholarship?

    1. does Lataster lay out any novel analysis or arguments in this book or is this a compilation of existing scholarship?

      As an aside, being able to quote the following as published by Brill-Rodopi, is huge.

      Focussing on the non-Christian sources that are available, from within around 100 years after Jesus’ death, Ehrman generally dismisses the few extant non-Christian and non-Jewish testimonies, that of Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, and Tacitus. […] Ehrman quickly discards the disputed and irrelevant Talmudic references to Jesus, which he arguably should not have even mentioned […] Ehrman also adds that “my case for the historicity of Jesus does not depend on the reliability of Josephus’ testimony”. . . . Ehrman has been very bold — though mostly fair — so far. He has effectively ruled out the sources that we objective and secular scholars might place more confidence in… —(pp. 34, 36, 38.)

  3. “I am less certain about Lataster’s suggestion that certain pre-Christian Jews felt cut off from normal access to their Temple because of “the Roman-loving Temple cult”, but he is quite correct to point out that there were Jewish sects who saw the physical temple as corrupt and in need of replacement. So the actual loss of the temple in 70 CE may well have stimulated a search for a spiritual replacement.”

    We know that in crises, people take advantage of the structures already established. They don’t create institutions from the ground up if they can possibly avoid that. So I don’t think that the loss of the Temple stimulated Mark’s congregation to “look for answers.” Rather, I think he and his congregation were already firmly on board with the heavenly Jesus/heavenly high priest concept found in the Letter to the Hebrews, which is often dated before 70. When the earthly Temple was destroyed, Mark/Hebrews’ version of Judean religion, with a spiritualized Temple parallel to the now-lost earthly Temple, was already available as an alternative to Pharisiasm and to Philonic gnosticism. Mark’s congregation undoubtedly experienced an influx of well-to-do Diaspora ethnic Judeans who saw it as the best available structure. That’s why orthodoxy retained Scripture and YHWH, and fought for them contra-Marcion. The ethnic-Judean presence remained strong in orthodoxy for centuries.

    1. I don’t know that there was any Markan congregation. It’s possible, but its not a given.

      It seems “Mark” must have been part of whatever group produced the collection of Paul’s letters. It’s likely this happened in Rome. I suspect there was some group in Rome that produced the original collection of Paul’s letters and whoever wrote Mark was a part of that group and thus had access to and a deep knowledge of Paul’s letters.

      It’s not clear to me what the purpose of the story was. The target audience, IMO, was gentiles. In Mark we are presented with a gentile Jesus who has been completely rejected by the Jews. The message is that the Jewish community got what it brought upon itself, including the leaders of the Jerusalem church.

      So I think Mark was written in Rome, by either a gentile or a Romanized Jew.

      I don’t know if the purpose of the story was a serve a real religious purpose or not? I don’t know that it was intended for a “congregation” or to be taken as scripture. It doesn’t seem to me that it was. I’m pretty sure it was intended to be taken allegorically. The story makes no claims to truth, unlike the later Gospels.

      The story basically affirms the Vespasian’s actions in Judea.

      The story is actually horrible as any kind of instructional tool or record. The whole thing is intentionally obscure and enigmatic, left dangling without a real resolution. My theory is that the original ending of Mark points to Paul. The women say nothing, so Jesus and his resurrection are left unknown until Paul comes along to reveal it to the world.

      But, as Dykstra points out, what are we to learn from Jesus in Mark? Not much of anything. It’s all confusion and misdirection. We learn that he has contempt for Peter, James and John, that he disputes the standard interpretation of the law, though his interpretation isn’t fully made clear. The few answers that we get are all copied from Paul.

      So, really, the story doesn’t appear to have instructional value, nor does it intend to clarify anything. The biggest message that we get from the story is that the Jews misunderstood and disregarded Jesus, the Jewish leadership was out of touch and wrong, the original worshipers of Jesus didn’t get it (James, John, Peter and anyone else from Jerusalem), in the end only gentiles recognized Jesus. That’s essentially what we learn from this story.

      It certainly doesn’t seem like something that was created with the intention of being a foundational work within a Christian community. The story is certainly far more derogatory than anything else.

  4. The most apparent difficulty is that we have no way of knowing how much, if any, of the gospel narrative is derived, however distantly, from historical traditions or memories.

    A plain reading of Romans, Galatians, and the Corinthians; Paul’s narrative of his “conversion” being all but impossible on known history after 63BC; G. Mk.’s “Little Apocalypse” mapping in far too much detail for coincidence onto the antebellum and early history of the Bar Kochva War; Didache being far more likely antescedant to G. Mtt. than later, makes it all but certain for me that NONE of it so derives, excepting incidental colouring.

  5. re

    Lataster discusses how historical Jesus scholars attempt to get around the problem that there are no primary sources for a historical Jesus. This absence leads scholars to focus on

    1) the character and limitations of presumed ‘oral traditions’ that bridge the gap between the gospels and the historical Jesus;

    2) ‘memory theory’, what we theorize and know about social and individual memories.

    [Attempted application of these sorts of ideas or proposals to historical Jesus arguments] raise awareness of problems for a historian’s access to a historical Jesus …

    Thomas L Brodie wrote a whole chapter on the short-comings of supposed roles of ‘oral traditions’ in his Birthing of the New Testament, and Tom Dykstra fully supported him and elaborated further on their short-comings in his 2012 book, Mark, Canonizer of Paul

  6. Doherty’s analysis of the Josephus matter is indeed persuaive; Carrier’s very mode of apprehension of the issues always struck me –here as elsewhere—underladen by a kind of obliquely strident deductionality that never fails to masque a great deal of presumption, often tiresomely reminiscent of high school debate competitions. Too much “If it is not the case that if x then y, then not x and y”

  7. GMark was written to sound like “This is what people said Jesus said” because of the waning of the apostolic preaching of “thisis what the Spirit said.” If they wrre bona fide memories of ‘what Jesus daid’ Paul would not have failed to directly allude to them, their intrinsic authority, or quote them.
    Earl Doherty makes this clear: instances of specific issues where the instructions of Paul are clearly antithetical to the oracles of Christ render it logically self-evident that the latter have no historical value. Alterations in sayings and parables in subsequent gospels render it impossible to believe the original ones and subsequent ones came from the mouth of a Son of God who rose from death and ascended to heaven. I don’t understand why much more of evidence is needed to justify the obvious conclusion….

  8. OP: “Lataster returns to addressing the problem of the Gospel of Mark”

    • Lataster is aware of the the scholarship on Mark allegorizing the teachings of Paul.

    Lataster quotes Svartvik (Lataster 2019, p. 255):

    Svartvik 2006, p. 177, n. 20. “[Some] scholars have suggested that Mark may be described as a Pauline Gospel. [^20] In favour of this understanding are the facts (1) that both Paul and Mark emphasize the theological importance of Christ on the cross, rather than on the teachings of Jesus, (2) that both repudiate the actual followers of Jesus, and (3) that the Gentiles play an important role both in the letters written by the ἐθνῶν ἀπόστολος (Rom. 11.13) and in the Markan narrative. It seems highly arguable that a credible ipsissima structura Marci for our pericope is an outreach to Gentiles. What Paul states about the Gospel in Rom. 1.16, Mark depicts in his narrative about the Nazarene. Mark is perhaps best described as a narrative presentation of, and a parallel to, the Pauline Gospel.

    “[note:20] See, e.g., D.C. Sim, The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), pp. 132ff. and especially p. 190 (‘Mark’s law-free attitude…clearly places him in the camp of the Pauline churches’.); J. Marcus, ‘Mark – Interpreter of Paul’, NTS 46 (2000), pp. 473–87. For further references, see Marcus, p. 474 n. 3.”

    Lataster notes, “Clearly, if Mark merely and primarily allegorised Paul’s writings, the traditional theories about the Historical Jesus — which borrow heavily from the Gospels rather than Paul’s letters — are in quite a bit of trouble. . . . Paul also allegorises the Old Testament, which is basically fictional, it seems that Mark’s account of Jesus, which forms the basis for later accounts of Jesus, is constructed from allegories of allegories of fictions.” (Lataster 2019, p. 257.)

    • Svartvik, Jesper (2006). “The Markan Interpretation of the Pentateuchal Food Laws”. In Hatina, Thomas. The Gospel of Mark. BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN EARLY CHRISTIAN GOSPELS. Vol. 1. A&C Black. pp. 169–181. ISBN 978-0-567-08067-7.
    • Lataster, Raphael (2019). Questioning the Historicity of Jesus: Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse. Brill-Rodopi. ISBN 978-9004397934.

    1. Hi

      Re – “It seems highly arguable that a credible ipsissima structura Marci for our pericope is an outreach to Gentiles.”

      what pericope is that referring to??

      Rom 11.13 or another one in the text of Svartvik’s article? (which presumably would be on p. 177 of Svarvik’s article …)

        1. Cheers db. Google Translate gives “ipsissima structura Marci” as ‘the actual structure of Marcus’

          (and, interestingly, it gives ‘ipsissma’ as “Eusebius” …. o-0 )

          1. “[Per] Near Eastern concepts of a royal Messiah, the question of historicity invites us to look in other directions for an answer, rather than to try to identify ipsissima verba Iesu or situations which could have been historical recollections.” (Mǖller 2012, p. 118.)

            • See: “Ipsissima verba”. Wikipedia.

      1. what pericope is that referring to??

        The purpose of the Markan controversy cycles is to show the reader the lethal consequences of the conflict between protagonist and antagonists — ”as early as in Galilee!” But there are no explicit or implicit references to the Passion in 7.1–23: no religious authorities gnash their teeth in the pericope (indeed, 7.14–23 is not even a controversy with the scribes and the Pharisees) and not a single trace of the saying can be found in the trial of Jesus. —(p. 176)

      2. ‘the actual structure of Marcus’

        Svartvik, Jesper (2014). ““East is East and West is West:” The Concept of Torah in Paul and Mark”. In Oda Wischmeyer, David C. Sim, and Ian J. Elmer (ed.). Paul and Mark: Comparative Essays Part I. Two Authors at the Beginnings of Christianity. BZNW 198. Berlin: De Gruyter. p. 178. ISBN 978-3-11-027282-6.

        I have argued elsewhere that the east-west axis is far more central to the [Markan] narrative than the north-south axis. The hypothesis that Galilee might be terra Christiana should not overshadow what is more obvious, namely, the importance of the western and eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee. In a few words, the Sea of Galilee is even more important than the soil of Galilee.

        • IMO the east-west axis continues even on the road to Jerusalem.

        I do not think “beyond the Jordan” is translated correctly for Mark 10:1, “[Jesus] went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan the region of Transjordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them [i.e. Jews and Gentiles].”

        1. This essay, Galilee and Galileans in St Mark’s Gospel, by G.H Boobyer, addresses the significance and roles of Galilee and the ‘Sea of Galilee.’

          Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, in ‘The Jesus of Mark and the Sea of Galilee’, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 103, No. 3 (Sept., 1984), pp. 363-377, notes

          The significance of the ‘sea’ [of Galilee] in the Marcan Gospel is indicated by its opposition to the land … land versus sea implicitly underlies the narrative as a whole … Jesus calls his first disciples while “passing along by the Sea of Galilee” (1.16). Jesus often teaches the crowds on the land “beside the sea” (2:13; 3:7; 4:1; 5:21). Physically the seas is a barrier between the land of Galilee and the foreign lands on its eastern shores, but Jesus easily crosses the barrier … At certain points in Mark opposition of land and sea comes to explicit expression (4:1, Jesus is on the sea, the crowd is on the land).

          She notes the land is normally a secure environment of human beings, as opposed to the sea which is a temporary place of movement for humans and also a place that threatens and is capable of destruction. The land is the realm of promise. Genesis and Exodus stories come into play.

          Various passages show Jesus overcoming the sea: “in mediating the opposition of land and sea, Jesus manifests the power of God.”

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