Jesus Puzzell 3

Jesus Puzzell: The Missing Peices Part III


Modern critical scholars have been dismantling the story of Jesus, attempting to salvage from it an inspiring sage for a more rational, enlightened future, and letting go the sacrificial divine Savior of an archaic past. Some of them are edging toward the admission that Paul's Christ had nothing to do with an historical man, while positioning their new teaching Jesus as only one element in the Jewish-Hellenistic synthesis which led to Christianity. The sage, however, is an artificial construct, a misreading (then and now) of the broader sectarian expressions of the day. And the links and lines of development between the various strands which scholars have created to make their scenarios hang together are largely unsupported by the evidence. The pieces of the Jesus Puzzle will not fit together except by abandoning any expectation of encountering an historical, human face. (The image assembled here is the glorified divine Christ of medieval Byzantine worship.)
Again, we have a total misrepresentation as to what theologians and textual critics in the "revisionary tradition" are about. The assumption is, well they are examining the redaction so they must be dismantling it. They do dismantle but not for the purpose of destroying as Doherty seems to imply. they want to "de mythologize" so they dont' believe! While it is true that some dont, a good many do, and it is absurd to define the whole of liberal scholarship in this vein. But that is the way the fundamentalists see it, so it is not surprising that the antifundamentalist sees it this way as well. He just thinks it's to his advantage. He thinks they are letting go the sacrificial savior and yet it is the sacrificial savior he wants to pin on the early church at the expense of Jesus the man. But than he concludes with a thought that reveals a basic contradiction in his whole senerio.

After totally ignoring the evidence, misrepresenting doctrine, and reinterpreting the facts to suit his theory, he finds that the pieces of the puzzle don't hold together for the scholar! If that be the case then his evidence doesn't hold together either. The existence of Q is still the total fantasy of scholarship. Not that I dont' believe there is a Q source, but there is not one shred of textual evidence and we have no idea of what any sort of Q document (s) might have contained. We have no right to make the bold pronouncement that it lacked a man Jesus! But Doherty wants us to think that as the scholarly efface collapses his cloud castle holds together anyway, never mind that most of it's foundation is built upon the day dreams of textual critics.

What are we left to believe with Doherty's view? Out of the blue there is a religion based upon some ethereal figure called "Christ Jesus" (which he tries to reduce wholly to a title, ignoring the fact that Jesus was a proper name), but out of the blue this figure suddenly gains popularity. How? Why? The only logical conclusion is that it must have been a conspiracy. They sat down and thought it up based upon different mythologies. But how could they sell it? Wouldn't someone in Jerusalem notice that no one around them remembered anything like that ever happening?

Doherty I suppose wants us to think that so much time passed before the cloud figure of Jesus became a solid flesh and blood person that no one left would remember it. But does real life work that way? Could I just start asserting that my city was overrun by Elephants in 1916 and somehow get everyone to believe me? Why would anyone take the notion seriously when there was no memory of it?Be that as it may, Doherty forges ahead from one bold assertion to another, reversing the normal flow of mytholoigzing and ignoring Rheims of evidence. He finally concludes that since the senerios of scholarship have fallen down there must be nothing left of th case but to conclude that Jesus was not a real flesh and blood person. Is this a logical conclusion? Isn't the better conclusion that scholars are confused? That we don't know enough yet? That we are merely still stuck in the same boat of having to rely upon the four Gospels as primary sources? That would be the logical conclusion.

As amazing as this is, an even bolder theory might be proposed. We might account for Joseph's' mention of Jesus by the fact that there was a guy called Jesus. Amazing, how could anyone credit such a wild hypothesis. Of course we all know it is natural when an historian tells us something to doubt what he says and give it no credibility, especially when he is one of our primary historians for a certain period and we have little information apart form his account. That in itself is a sure sing that he's wrong! Doherty speaks as though we have so much evidence the fact that it is silent really proves something. We have, apart from the NT, one guy! Only Josephus outside of the NT gives us clear reliable information about Jesus, directly form the first century. So how many sources are there to remain silent? Which one's do? Logically, what is the best reason for doubting the existence of Jesus? Is it this massive conspiracy of silence. No! There is no silence. All the evidence from the first century is loudly proclaiming Jesus existed, and the vast majority of it is proclaiming him to be Lord of the universe! Truly God and truly man. But that's exactly why we must not accept it. Contrary to the way historians think about history, we must dismiss even the possibility of a guy called Jesus of Nazareth just because most of the primary sources about him are religious and we dont' like them.In conclusion than all Doherty has is an argument from silence, but it's not a conspiracy of silence, except on his part! It is Doherty's conspiracy of silence, the silence of ignoring the evidence, the argument from gaps in knowledge.


1) Doherty misunderstands the nature of religion in the first place.

The point of all religions is to mediate between an ultimate transformative experience and human problematic. All religions do this, they may define their problematics differently, and they may offer different notions of mediation but they all aim at doing this same thing. That world religion had evolved by the time of Christ to the point where many religions framed the world in terms of a cold cruel place in which the soul is not at home, and trasncendent reality as a transcendence of the alien world to a ture and better home, is no proof that Christianity barrowed from these other religions. We can and should assume that God was leading people to this realization in preperatoin for Christ's mission. The framework of Palestine in the first century was a melting pot of several cultures cross fertilizing each other. "It must be remembered that Jewish and Hellenistic thought both grew up together in the Eastern end of the Mediterranian, both owed a little bit to Egypt and a great deal to the civilization of the Trigris-Euphrates valley. Both alike derived something form Agean culture." [D.E.H.Whiteley, The Theology of ST Paul. Philadelphia: fortress press, 1964, p.5]

It is not surprizing then that some concepts and expressesion, modes of thought would be cross fertilized and "barrowed." This is a far cry form the "copy cat" savior theory that sketpics such as Dohrety often go in for.As for the notion that Christianity was a mystery cult, D.E.H. Whiteley one of the greatest Pauline scholars tells us, "the subject need be considered only at the level of popular misconceptions. Most of our evidence for the extant mystery cults comes from after the time of ST. Paul. For example Apuleius whose Golden Ass is one of our sources for these cults wrote in the third quarter of the second century...St. Paul does not seem t have been the sort of man to barrow from pagan sources. He was brought up as a strict Jew...Col. 2:8 'do not let your minds be captured by hollow and deceptive philosphies' is a warning against the kind of thinking we find in the mystery religions." (p. 2). Moroever Whiteley points out had Paul barrowed from the mystery religions we should expect to find his "Judaizing opponents" attacking him for that.

2) Paul is not Gnostic

But it would be a grave mistake to spin Paul as a mere Gnostic mystery cultist with a Cosmic Christ.Even though Paul does get a bit more transcendent than do his contemporary Apostle counterparts he is no Gnostic. The epistle to the Hebrews might have been written by Paul, or it might not have been, but it is clearly a Pauline circle production. Hebrews states explicitly that Jesus lived on earth in the flesh as a man, suffered, was tempted, (the Gnostic redeemer would not be tempted because he was not flesh and blood) and strongly implies that he died on earth.

3) Epistels Anti-Cosmic Christ.

As has been demonstrated, Paul alludes to the crucifiction and resurrection several times. Of course he never says "and by the way these were events on earth in history." Why should he? That would have been a natural assumption. Dohrety is merely capitalizing on a semilarity in language without analyzing the full significanc. Paul speaks directly of Jesus human decent and his life on earth, and he demonstrates a practicality and down to earth approach which belies the mystery cult notions. Such cults tended to be oriented toward magic and the use of nature worship, elemental spirits and so forth, all of which Paul condemns (Galations 5:19) and toward an ascetism which Paul also condmens. 4) Doherty tries to narrow the authorotative sources to just Mark, and to force everyting else to spin off of a synthesis of Mark and Q in Matt. and Luke. This is itself a contradiction because he does say it all comes form Mark. But in reality he merely refussing to the multiplicity of sources that abound within the redactoin of the Gospels.

a) Q

b) PreMarkan material identified by Koester

c) Thomas Sayings source

d) Egerton 2 sayings source

e) Mark

f) epiphony sources

f) l (independent material in Luke)

g) Johannine sources idenpendent of synoptics

+ g) M: indpendent mateiral in Matthew. (he tries to deny this by labeling John as "within the framework of Mark" but of course that is based upon the assumption of none historical narrative, and the idendence of certain portions of John is merely self-evident--such as the Mary Magdalene resurrection scenes).

h) Pauline material.

i) Josephus' sources.

That is at least 10 independent sources all of which agree upon the basic facts of flesh and blood historical Jesus, who died on the cross and was claimed risen form the dead. Most of these sources come together in the four Gospels and agree in general upon the basic facts.