Jesus: Neither God Nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus Perfect Paperback – 10 Dec 2009
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There was no Jesus of Nazareth: his story was invented by "Mark" as he recycled scraps of Old Testament stories into an allegory representing the beliefs and travails of his own faith community.
Paul's genuine epistles are devoid of knowledge of any human Jesus: Paul's Christ is a heavenly entity whose incarnation, death and resurrection all occur within a layered heaven; Christ descends from the most ethereal layers to the most fleshly, where he is crucified by demonic spirits, from where he subsequently ascends back to God. Such a theory is corroborated by Hebrews and in various apocryphal writings.
"Mark" came from a community preaching the coming Kingdom of God, the end of time when they expected to be saved and sinners carried off to hell. The community also had some use for the ethical and eschatological traditions embodied in the "Q" document. "Mark" proved the most influential writer of all time by combining the Kingdom preaching with ideas similar to the Pauline saviour Christ figure into a powerful allegorical story for his community to use as a faith document - not as history.
"Matthew" and "Luke" added from the "Q" document to provide "Mark"'s Jesus with ethical teachings and to identify him with the Jewish apocalyptic figure, the "Son of Man". They also added to the story with their own inventions, again often drawn from OT scriptures. "John" used his Gospel to graft developed theological thinking of a similar cast to Paul onto Mark's basic pattern.Read more ›
However, this being said, it could well be that Jesus, or more accurately, Yeshua, was not quite the person Christian propagandists over the centuries have presented him as, and still do, namely a “a wandering religious self-help guru who loved the Romans", to cite the opinion of one Jewish rabbi. It may well be that he had led a movement amongst the people of Palestine to rid their country of the Romans and those elements in the population who supported Roman dominance. In short, was Yeshua a Galilean Spartacus?
The author ignores this side of the problem, a major defect, at least for me, in his book. Nevertheless, this book, perhaps the most comprehensive recent presentation of the myth hypothesis, is well worth reading.
Earl Doherty's critical examination of the Biblical text reveals perspectives that Christians have often accepted as historical and taken its legends for granted without ever raising any doubts of its authenticity. Thus I found Doherty's quest for the historicity of Christianity searching all the available historical text available, with his very detailed analysis plausible and illuminating. It is one of the most comprehensive researches undertaken of examining Biblical and non-Biblical historical text that is available from the very early period of Christian history, and methodically extracting and dissecting the underlying significance of the text in minutiae for every possible interpretation intended by the author. I found Doherty's analysis revealing and convincing.
But by the very nature of the topic (Biblical) and the depth that Doherty had delved into to make detailed, in depth comparisons often prolonged the analysis beyond reader patience but I soon realised it was necessary in order to put to rest some of the more common `evangelical Christian' arguments that has existed about this topic. These lengthy discourse tend to make the reading rather demanding and laborious. But I can see why it was necessary in a document such as this; Doherty had to cover all bases.
Paul's Earliest Perceptions of A Spiritual Jesus
It is significant that when Paul started his proselytising he was not extending the work of Jesus as described in the Gospels, instead Paul is driven by an inspiration that came from his own revelation from God. Paul keeps reiterating,
"It is all God's doing. God has set his seal on us by sending the Spirit.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As we know from history, faith and belief constantly cloud and color reality in an unseemly manner, and scholarship and academia have suffered badly from this lack of unbiased approach. Fortunately, Doherty has no vested interest in upholding the status quo in order to maintain his vocation, the main reason the field of Jesus mythicism has been populated significantly by outsiders possessing no such investment. It is unfortunate that the hallowed halls of American academia frequently have not transcended their foundations as religious institutions, as was the case with Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton, to name just a few. Yet, it is extremely encouraging that lay scholars like Doherty have stepped up to the plate to present an impartial perspective so that the average person can deal with all the data, rather than what is selectively filtered through partisan institutions.
Doherty's latest endeavor reeks of hard work and penetrating thought processes from the very beginning, as he presents his material in an orderly and professional manner worthy of publication by an academic press such as E.J. Brill, Peeters and Walter de Gruyter. Indeed, august members of the Dutch, Danish and German schools of Bible criticism over the centuries would likely find this oeuvre absorbing and reflective of scholarly integrity.
Laying out the 12 "pieces of the Jesus puzzle," Doherty succinctly expresses the thesis he spends the next nearly 800 pages demonstrating; each of these pieces is factual, logical and scientific, as seen throughout the work. The conclusion--that the "Jesus Christ" of the New Testament gospel story is a mythical figure--is likewise logical and scientific, especially for those who have studied the issue in depth and have seen that there simply is no historical core to the mythological onion and that a composite of numerous "people" is no one. As Doherty understands well, countless books have been written about the "real" Jesus, whom the authors assume a priori to be a historical figure without first establishing the evidence for such a claim. Earl handily demonstrates there is no credible, scientific evidence for this assumption; thus, proceeding from there to sketch a "biography" of such an individual represents treading in murky waters, as honest Christian scholars such as Dominic Crossan and John Meier will admit.
In this carefully crafted work, Doherty raises numerous facts many people will not be aware of, such as that ancient and modern scholarship has cast doubt on the authorship of practically every book in the New Testament--an important fact the average person, especially the believer, has the right to know but which has not been widely disseminated to the masses. Of greatest interest to me, of course, are Earl's discussions of comparative mythology and the purported extrabiblical "evidence" for Christ's existence. Others, such as those Gnostically inclined, will doubtlessly find fascinating Earl's examination of more cosmic concepts such as Christ's perceived existence in non-third-dimensional planes, rather than as a "historical" and material savior. For a skeptic, Doherty has an amazing grasp of these flowery, complex and difficult concepts--certainly one of the best such comprehensions in modern scholarship. Without this context of Gnosticism and Docetism, early Christian history is essentially incomprehensible.
In this massive effort, Doherty shines the critical spotlight on practically every aspect of the gospel story found in the four canonical texts. Whereas my works tend to show parallels in other religions and mythologies, Earl enjoys dissecting the texts themselves, drilling down into the original Greek, of which he has superior knowledge and is well qualified to analyze. He also examines numerous extrabiblical Christian epistles and gospels.
Doherty is most at home when analyzing the Pauline epistles, drawing on an earlier lineage of scholars who recognized there is next to nothing in them indicating a "historical" Jesus. In this regard, Earl correctly identifies that when Paul is speaking of "scripture" and "prophetic writings," he is referring to the Old Testament, specifically the Greek translation or Septuagint. In that book, the word "Christos" appears some three dozen times, and it is evident that, in his revelation of Christ, Paul is building upon so-called "messianic prophecies," not the words or deeds of a "historical" Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, the canonical Christ represents not "fulfillment of prophecy" but, rather, a patchwork of Old Testament "messianic scriptures," amalgamated with Pagan philosophical notions and mythical motifs, along with both Jewish and Gentile wisdom sayings. Christ is, through and through, a literary figure, handily demonstrated in this lengthy book.
The only major weakness I see in Doherty's fine work is his uncharacteristically uncritical acceptance of mainstream dating for the canonical gospels, a position that hinders efforts at determining who could have written them, since their authors were ostensibly not the disciples to whom they are attributed. The fact is that the canonical gospels as we have them do not appear clearly in the historical record until the end of the second century.
Mythicism is to religious studies what logic is to philosophy. Doherty's book represents a major achievement in the long and venerable field of mythicism, standing on the shoulders of or side by side with such excellent and erudite luminaries as the Viscount Bolingbroke, Charles Dupuis, Count Volney, Thomas Paine, Rev. Dr. Robert Taylor, John E. Remsburg, Dr. William Benjamin Smith, John M. Robertson, Dr. Arthur Drews, Dr. John G. Jackson and Dr. Robert M. Price.
--D.M. Murdock is an independent scholar of comparative religion and mythology, and the author of The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled, Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ and Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection. Raised a Christian, she has been studying Jesus mythicism in multiple languages for some 20 years.
Mr. Doherty's preface and introduction, followed by his glossary and abbreviations and ultimately his "Twelve pieces of the Jesus Puzzle" were refreshing and well introduced on his part. Apologists, such as the infamous J.P. Holding, have previously attacked Earl for what they perceived as a lack of credentials. In my opinion, there was no need for Earl to justify his personal achievements in education (a B.A. with distinction in Ancient History and Classical Languages) to the reader. As Earl, and many others have pointed out, its the information and argument provided that is the point. If the arguments are sound and valid, at the end of the day, that is all that matters, not some ad hominem regarding semantics.
In the entire work, Part Four: A World of Myth and Savior Gods, for me, was the most enjoyable of all, specifically his chapter on mystery cults. I learned a lot of information in this section and his exhaustive examination shed light on many subjects that I was not previously well versed in.
Part Six: A Riotous Diversity, was also refreshing. Earl took the time to illustrate the importance of the Johanine community and what he calls the "Gnostic phenomenon", finishing up with a well written chapter on Ignatius.
Parts seven and eight of his book deal directly with the source book of Q. I am certain that this section will be the most controversial, at least from Christians within the scholarly community and definitely from the Christian apologists as a whole. The only unfortunate part would be that no American Evangelist (dispensationalist), will be reading this chapter, for if they did, they would most certainly learn a thing or two regarding the origins of their Gospels.
Saving the best for last would be Earl's Part Eleven: The Non-Christian Witness to Jesus. I must admit, that no other scholar has ever spent the time Earl has on this subject. His information and critique of Josephus is priceless and far better then any other examination, past or present. Earl has showcased the relationship of the Testimonium Flavianum and its invention by Eusebius, better then anyone and his dedication shows. He is equally well versed with the Roman trio of Tacitus, Plinius the Younger and Suetonius. The latter of which, I can hardly fathom how he is still revered by so many Christians as evidence to a historical Jesus (the whole idea perplexes me to say the least).
With every book however, there is always something that the reader or student wishes was present or elaborated upon. One might even hope to find information on a particular subject, but for whatever reason, the author chose to omit reference to it. In the beginning of Mr. Doherty's book, he explains that he wishes for this book to be read and enjoyed just as easily for a laymen, as would a scholar. I find that this book, however, is purely an analytical work (with a well thought out synthetic structure). Each chapter is broken up into many sections, illustrating well to the reader that the subject was going to change. This book though, has so much information in it that can sometimes be hard to follow along as a whole. Furthermore, as a student myself, I found that when Earl supplied a passage by a non-canonical author (such as Ignatius, Eusebius, Origen, etc.), he always supplied the exact location within a written work, coupled with the work's title, but failed to mention to the reader whose translation it was (all of the time). It was unclear if the translations were Earl's, or that it came from, let us say, Loeb's classical library. Many scholars will find fault in a writer for supplying a translation that is not accepted by the scholarly community as a whole (which is completely solecistic), but this is how captious the field has become (at least in my perception). As a student (such as myself), we are always required to supply a footnote to a translation in our own work because quite simply, so many exist and these passages (translations) are always open to interpretation.
Closing, I highly recommend this book to students and it makes a great addition to any library. Mr. Doherty's Jesus: Neither God Nor Man - The Case for a Mythical Jesus, has become the standard for the exemplification to a mythical Jesus.
In my opinion, Doherty's Jesus Myth theory has a very high probability of being correct in its essential details, even if it is not yet the view of any significant portion of New Testament scholars or classical historians. The lack of adherence to this theory by mainstream scholars is not due to any weakness in the theory itself. Rather mainstream scholarship has still failed to give the Jesus Myth thesis a fair hearing, or effectively defend their own theses from the criticisms Mythicists have made of them. A battle between the two sides hasn't been won by either side yet, simply because such a battle not been effectively waged yet. In this new book, Earl has makes an extremely well directed and effective assault, but we are still waiting for the historical Jesus proponents to offer a good counter-assaults which take the arguments of Mythicists seriously and on unbiased premises. I hope this new book by Earl is the one to finally push mainstream scholarship into giving the Jesus Myth theory much more serious, comprehensive, up-to-date, and fair hearing.
Earl does have some strong peer support from other scholars including including Robert M. Price and G. A. Wells, but they've not endeavored to present as comprehensive a case as Earl has. Price is close, and will likely be even closer after his book on Paul is published; yet Earl's new 800 page treatise stands pretty much alone as the definitive text on the subject, having no effective equal. But even if Earl's book wasn't so unique in it's content and coverage, it would still likely be the book to read on the subject, for the reason that Earl is such an elegant and effective writer very skilled at giving a presentation that is understandable by readers who are not experts in the field while still being very well documented and thoroughly scholarly. Earl's writing style and clarity of argument is among the best I've encountered after reading many books on many diverse subjects. Also with any book like this, it must be remembered the main benefit to the reader should be in what is explored and learned along the journey, and not necessarily in what conclusions are achieved at the end. Earl does a good job of making the journey itself educational and worthwhile. (Price does too in his books.)
The current book is a revised and expanded edition, appearing ten years later than the earlier one. It is physically bigger (wider and taller), uses a smaller font, and has over twice as many pages. Unlike the earlier book this one is self published. Unfortunately, this leads to most of the problems with the book.
Doherty can't bring himself to leave anything out. We have chapter after chapter devoted to parsing Greek sentences. We have 50 pages devoted to Josephus. Another 50 are devoted to Tacitus. He feels it necessary to respond at length to apologist books that have been published in the last ten years and to internet sites that have sprung up in the same period.
I don't dispute the necessity for much of this. This needs to be done. But in the context of a book that is trying to gain traction for a radical idea I think it only serves to dilute the greater message. Doherty spends a great deal of time on New Testament epistle passages that seem to support Jesus historicity. So much so one gets the impression that Doherty is protesting too much and is indulging in special pleading. This isn't the case of course but getting bogged down in minutiae doesn't really help his case. Surely it would have been more to the point to just state his position and say anyone interested in the details can refer to my website, etc, etc.
This book was a chore to get through so I can't bring myself to give it five stars. Doherty is persuasive and he builds his arguments well; I take nothing from his talents as an author, researcher, or scholar. I question his instincts as a publisher; I don't think this book will sell well.
I also note that the covers began to delaminate as I was reading it. Perhaps this is just my copy.
Summing up, I can only recommend this book to those who are 1.) *really* (and I mean *really*) interested in the minutiae of Doherty's thesis and 2.) have already read "The Jesus Puzzle". I really liked "The Jesus Puzzle" and have reread it 2 or 3 times over the last ten years. I doubt I'll be rereading this one any time soon. All in all, a disappointment.