Skeptic Early Doherty, who is not a Bible Scholar, has nevertheless become a leading Christ myther. He argues that Jesus did not really exist but was made up out of a pastiche of different views within his day. Even though this theory is really totally unsupported and rests upon an argument from silence, Doherty has chosen to try and reverse the situation by casting his argument in terms of an Orthodox "conspiracy of silence." Conveniently he has laid his own contention open for us in 12 easy arguments which can be refuted with no difficulty. Let's look at it step by step then and see why Doherty has failed to find all the pieces to the puzzle.
Link:Dohtery's "Jesus puzzle"
Piece No. 1: A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE
The Gospel story, with its figure of Jesus of Nazareth, cannot be found before the Gospels. In Christian writings earlier than Mark, including almost all of the New Testament epistles, as well as in many writings from the second century, the object of Christian faith is never spoken of as a human man who had recently lived, taught, performed miracles, suffered and died at the hands of human authorities, or rose from a tomb outside Jerusalem. There is no sign in the epistles of Mary or Joseph, Judas or John the Baptist, no birth story, teaching or appointment of apostles by Jesus, no mention of holy places or sites of Jesus' career, not even the hill of Calvary or the empty tomb. This silence is so pervasive and so perplexing that attempted explanations for it have proven inadequate. [See "Part One" of the Main Articles] Funny that he should mention a conspiracy of silence. Because that is just what his argument rests upon. Too bad no one ever told poor Early that argument form silence is not a devastating argument but basically proves nothing. Now he says that in Christian Writings earlier than Mark the Gospel story cannot be found. Isn't that odd, since there are almost no Christian writings before Mark, funny how that works. But of course he's assuming that Mark was written very late. Skeptics on the Net usually date the Gospels in accord with 19th century scholarship which put them into the second century or at the very take end of the fist. This scheme was disprove by the findings of John Rylands Fragment (cir. 120 AD) in Egypt which contains a few verses from John. Scholars today tend to date Mark contemporaneously with Paul's latter letters. Most Scholars vie for a date of composition for Mark around 60 A.D. Paul's letters are the earliest written in the New Testament, but not all of them predate Mark.Now he argues that the Epistles do not reiterate the material of the Gospels; no story of Jesus' birth, no Mary and Joseph, ect. This is such an amateurish criticism because it fails to account for the reason of composition of the Epistles. They are not preaching. The purpose was not to tell the flock as though for the first time, that which they already knew, but to deal with practical matters of church life. Paul did not see himself as formulating doctrine or as writing scripture, he was merely answering practical questions. The last line about how perplexing the silence is is so ironic considering he is basically admitting that this is all his argument is based upon. Doherty cannot offer a reason as to why Paul should have retold the Gospel stories, and doesn't seem to be aware even that he should.
Furthermore, most of the epistles were written after or around the same time as Mark. Jude is early, the Johonnie epistles are very late, Hebrews probably around 64, the Pasteroal epistles either after 60 or not by Paul and very late in the century (if that is the case). The Majority of Scholars place Mark around AD 60. So we are only talking about a handfull of epistles anyway.Nevertheless, Paul does reiterate some of the stories of the Gospels, or at least certain information. 1 Cor. 3 he repeats what scholars have come to recognize as an early form of creedal statement. This was probably taught to him during his first trip to Jerusalem. "that Christ died for our sins according to the scripture, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. And that he appeared to Peter and then to the 12." Here we have a little summation of the Gospel which contains a remarkable amount of Gospel information. The phrase "On the third day" is formulamatic and indicates that the facts of the story were already set in stone. The statement tells us that Christ was crucified and buried. Now why buried if he was just an ethereal being and if his crucifixion was by demons in the heavenly realm? Was he buried in heavenly dirt? Clearly this implies that he was flesh and blood, that this took place in space, time and history. IN Galations Paul tells of two meetings with Peter. Once when he first went to Jerusalem and again when Peter came to visit his ministry. Peter was, therefore, a real historical person. Therefore Jesus was a real historical person, unless one wants to believe that this Peter helped make him up maliciously and than died for his fantasy after years of being dedicated to spreading it.
Piece No. 2: A MUTE RECORD WORLD WIDE
The first clear non-Christian reference to Jesus as a human man in recent history is made by the Roman historian Tacitus around 115 CE, but he may simply be repeating newly-developed Christian belief in an historical Jesus in the Rome of his day. Several earlier Jewish and pagan writers are notably silent. The Antiquities of the Jews by the Jewish historian Josephus, published in the 90s, contains two famous references to Jesus, but these are inconclusive. The first passage, as it stands, is universally acknowledged to be a later Christian insertion, and attempts have failed to prove some form of authentic original; the second also shows signs of later Christian tampering. References to Jesus in the Jewish Talmud are garbled and come from traditions which were only recorded in the third century and later.He says the first clear reference to Jesus as a man because Josephus says "if it be lawful to call him a man..." sarcastically alluding to the notion of his Messianic mission. But in fact in terms of proof that Jesus existed as a flesh and blood man this, and not Tacitus is the first statement, penned in the 90s A.D. But notice how our skeptic has slanted the words to imply that earlier references just saw him as an ethereal being. This is important because it plays into Doherty's theme of Cosmic Christ. AS for the notion that Tacitus may not have known any real information on the existence of Jesus but just took the Christians word for it, and that several other "important writers are silent" this is totally disprove on the Historical Jesus page. Now he says that the first allusion of Josephus to Jesus is "universally acknowledged to be latter Christian insertion." AS we have seen on the other page, previously mentioned, this is totally false, and clearly he is distorting the evidence. It is far from "Universally recognized" and that doesn't even apply to the Arabic text of Josephus but mainly to the Slavic Josephus. Doherty majors in deception! Of course the Talmudic material actually comes from a very early tradition contemporary with Jesus, but written in the Third century, handed down orally.
Piece No. 3: REVEALING THE SECRET OF CHRIST
Paul and other early writers speak of the divine Son of their faith entirely in terms of a spiritual, heavenly figure; they never identify this entity called "Christ Jesus" (literally, "Anointed Savior" or "Savior Messiah") as a man who had lived and died in recent history. Instead, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, God has revealed the existence of his Son and the role he has played in the divine plan for salvation. These early writers talk of long-hidden secrets being disclosed for the first time to apostles like Paul, with no mention of an historical Jesus who played any part in revealing himself, thus leaving no room for a human man at the beginning of the Christian movement. Paul makes it clear that his knowledge and message about the Christ is derived from scripture under God's inspiration.Now he tells us "Paul and other early writers." Now what other "early writers" would those be? No other Christian writers that predate the Gospels even exist! Presumably he's talking about the other epistles. But if we through in 1 Clement..the earliest Christian extra-Biblical writing, we have already shown on the Canon and Revelation page how Clement speaks of Mary giving birth to Jesus, the Virgin birth and other such views which clearly mark Jesus out as a Man, and spell out the rudiments of Christian doctrine. Clemens's Letter to me Church of Rome is dated in 95 A.D.As for the Epistles, he says that they "never identify these entity called 'Christ Jesus...' as a man who lived and died in recent history." Now one gets then notion that they he is separating Christ Jesus from Jesus so that to point out instances where they do speak of Jesus as a man he might say "but that's not Christ Jesus." One can only hope he would not be lame enough to make this blunder.
Be that as it may, let us point them out anyway. Romans 1:1 "Paul a Servant of Christ Jesus called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God....regarding his son who as to his human nature was a decedent of David....!" Ephesians 2:14 "for he himself is our peace who has made the two one and who has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations..." Here we have a frank statement that Jesus was a flesh and blood being! 2 Peter 1:16 "for we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye witnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory when the voice came to him from the majestic Glory, saying 'this is my son whom I love, with him I am well pleased' We ourselves heard that voice come from heaven when we were with him..." This is a clear and direct reference to the baptism of Jesus in the Gospels; a confirmation of the human Jesus of the Gospels. The opening lines of the First Epistle of John reiterates the basic concept of the Gospel's prologue, (1 John 1:1) "that which we have heard from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and which our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the word of life." IN other words, he's proclaiming like the Gospel that bares the same name "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." He's saying Jesus was a man, we saw him, we heard him, we touched him. This touching is most important because he is debunking the Gnostic heresy that Jesus we not a fleshly being but an ethereal illusory being (the very theory Doherty is touting). He is saying Jesus was a man, flesh and blood "historical" figure!
Moreover, the author of Hebrews, whoever that was (my personal favorite candidate is Pricilla) says "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way....During the days of Jesus life on Earth he offered up Prayers and Petitions with loud crys and tears to the one who could save him and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was s Son he learned obedience..." (4:15, 5:7). Whether Paul wrote Hebrews or someone else (Apollos, Andronicos, Junia, Pricilla, Aquilia) the author was clearly a Pauline Insider (according to mentions of Timothy in the last chapter) so this totally sinks the boat for the Cosmic Christ theory. There are many other examples but why go on? Another verse in Hebrews (2:14) "since the children have flesh and blood he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death....for this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that he might make atonement for the sin of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted he is also able to help those who are being tempted." This clearly demonstrates the principle that the doctinre of the Pauline circle embraced a human Claris and a human atonement--his atonement had to be in the flesh to count! This so called secret of Christ that Paul mentions is merely the reality that he was the Christ, the Messiah. Doherty tries to turn Paul into a Gnostic, which he clearly was not. But even moreso John was not. This is crucial. Doherty says the Epistles never speak of Jesus as a flesh and blood man. But John actually makes this the ultimate test of faith. He says 4:2 "every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God..." So it was actually made the supreme test of faith to recognize that Jesus was in the flesh. This is how closely the evidence adheres to Doherty's theory.
Piece No. 4: A SACRIFICE IN THE SPIRITUAL REALM
Paul does not locate the death and resurrection of Christ on earth or in history. According to him, the crucifixion took place in the spiritual world, in a supernatural dimension above the earth, at the hands of the demon spirits (which many scholars agree is the meaning of "rulers of this age" in 1 Corinthians 2:8). The Epistle to the Hebrews locates Christ's sacrifice in a heavenly sanctuary (ch. 8, 9). The Ascension of Isaiah, a composite Jewish-Christian work of the late first century, describes (9:13-15) Christ's crucifixion by Satan and his demons in the firmament (the heavenly sphere between earth and moon). Knowledge of these events was derived from visionary experiences and from scripture, which was seen as a 'window' onto the higher spiritual world of God and his workings.As we have just seen nothing could be further from the truth! The Letter to the Hebrews clearly stipulates that Jesus was a man, he had a life on earth, he was even tempted like a man. None of the Biblical writers felt called upon to point out that Jesus' crucifixion was on earth and was an earthly flesh event, because no one channeled that and it would be totally illogical and unnatural to feel called upon to point it out. That would be like me suddenly telling you "you are reading a website right now, we are on the Internet." This we already know. But all of these writers acknowledge that Jesus lived a life on earth as a man, so why would they not think he also died as a man? The mention of Jesus entering the heavenly sanctuary to offer sacrifice is not a picture of Jesus' death on the cross, but assumes that already. This is a picture of what Jesus did after his death and before his resurrection. It may be a metaphor for one thing, but assuming it is a "real spiritual event" it happens as a result of his death. And since Hebrews is a Pauline circle work we may take this as the ideas of the Pauline circle and thus Paul's idea. As for the Assent ion of Isaiah, sorry that is not a canonical work. Whatever that writer thought it cannot be linked to the Biblical writers. There were many different kinds of Jewish Christian groups, and the NT writers were not responsible for them all.Moreover, the passage in Hebrews 5:7 implies that the Crucifixion was on earth in our space/time. The author alludes to his suffering, to his anguish. To his seeking to be saved from death during his life on earth. So why would his death not be on earth?Paul says several times, over and over again, Romans 5-6, Gal. 1:1 and many other places that Jesus was crucified, that he died for the ungodly. Now why would he feel called upon to explain that this was an earthly death? No one asserted otherwise, everyone knew the story, why should he go into elementary details? There is also ephasians 2:14 already sited about destroying the law in his flesh, which is obviously an allusion to the death on the cross. This is so because elsewhere he says the law was nailed to the cross, that's how it was abolished. Now he doesn't need to tell them that Jesus died on earth in the flesh, but if he abolished the law in the flesh it only stands to reason that his death on the cross was "in the flesh" and therefore on earth and not in some cosmic realm.
Piece No. 5: SALVATION IN A LAYERED UNIVERSE
The activities of gods in the spiritual realm were part of ancient views (Greek and Jewish) of a multilayered universe, which extended from the base world of matter where humans lived, through several spheres of heaven populated by various divine beings, angels and demons, to the highest level of pure spirit where the ultimate God dwelled. In Platonic philosophy (which influenced Jewish thought), the upper spiritual world was timeless and perfect, serving as a model for the imperfect and transient material world below; the former was the "genuine" reality, accessible to the intellect. Spiritual processes took place there, with their effects, including salvation, on humanity below. Certain "human characteristics" given to Christ (e.g., Romans 1:3) were aspects of his spirit world nature, higher counterparts to material world equivalents, and were often dependent on readings of scripture.First of all, he does have a point about Platonic influences upon Hebrews in the Intertestamental period. But there is no way to corollate that with the beliefs of the early church. The verse he quotes in Romans 1:3 says "as to his human nature was a decedent of David and who through the Spirit of Holiness was declared with Power to be the Son of God." These are not earthly types of heavenly qualities, he is merely reinterpreting the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. Paul says frankly he had a human nature and a divine nature just as the creeds assert. This is merely a statement of Jesus' Christ's incarnation as the enteral Logos. But "Son of God" does not denote any sort of Cosmic being but clearly is a term of the Messiah. While the Jews expected the Messiah to be pre-mundane, this in no way cancels Jesus' humanity. In Fact Doherty has to overlook the first part of the passage to make that assertion. Moreover, if as he says the deeds in heaven have their corresponding events on earth than it merely stands to reason that the Crucifixion would be on earth too!
Piece No. 6: A WORLD OF SAVIOR DEITIES
Christ's features and myths are in many ways similar to those of the Greco-Roman salvation cults of the time known as "mystery religions", each having its own savior god or goddess. Most of these (e.g., Dionysos, Mithras, Attis, Isis, Osiris) were part of myths in which the deity had overcome death in some way, or performed some act which conferred benefits and salvation on their devotees. Such activities were viewed as taking place in the upper spirit realm, not on earth or in history. Most of these cults had sacred meals (like Paul's Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23f) and envisioned mystical relationships between the believer and the god similar to what Paul speaks of with Christ. Early Christianity was a Jewish sectarian version of this widespread type of belief system, though with its own strong Jewish features and background. [See "Part Two" and responses to Miles and Anna.]This is merely the "copy cat savior" notion which is dispelled on the Jesus and Mythology Page. Similarities overblown or totally fabricated. For example, most of these did not overcome dealt (as Osiris living as a mummy is that overcoming death?) and others made no pretense at it such as Hercules. Moreover, sharing communal meals is a rite of almost all world religions, the sharing of food is a universal symbol of unity an friendship. The idea of having a special relationship with the deity, why do you think they call it religion! Come on! Those are merely universal archetypes and have no real significance as "copies."
Piece No. 7: THE INTERMEDIARY SON
The Christian "Son" is also an expression of the overriding religious concept of the Hellenistic age, that the ultimate God is transcendent and can have no direct contact with the world of matter. He must reveal himself and deal with humanity through an intermediary force, such as the "Logos" of Platonic (Greek) philosophy or the figure of "personified Wisdom" of Jewish thinking; the latter is found in documents like Proverbs, Baruch and the Wisdom of Solomon. This force was viewed as an emanation of God, his outward image, an agency which had helped create and sustain the universe and now served as a channel of knowledge and communion between God and the world. All these features are part of the language used by early Christian writers about their spiritual "Christ Jesus", a heavenly figure who was a Jewish sectarian version of these prevailing myths and thought patterns. [See "Part Two" and Supplementary Articles Nos. 4 and 5.]Gee its so widespread it almost makes one think it actually happened some time doesn't' it? Like some expectation is programed in us. It's a universal Archetype. That doesn't preclude God actually fulfilling it through a fleshly savior! Moreover, he cannot connect proverbs to Greek thought of the Hellenistic period. But Logos is connected to the Hebrew Concept of Memra, the presence of God. This is echoes throughout the OT in terms of God's presence, the Shekinna Glory, and so on. In fact he is merely laying out the framework for my Hebrew conception of the Trinity which I give on the Trinity page. Rather than disproving the historical Jesus, it seems rather to confirm that the Historical Jesus could well be the incarnation of the Logos. But what Doherty probably wants to imply was a conscious effort to copy is merely sencrinicitous and archetypical and in no way disproves, but rather bolsters Christian doctrine!
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