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Old 06-29-2001, 07:46 AM   #1
Richard Carrier
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Lightbulb Doherty Critics: Here's Your Chance

I am opening this thread for a specific reason and I hope all posters here will respect that purpose. As many of you know I am reading Doherty's book The Jesus Puzzle and intend to write a thorough review of it for the Secular Web. I am reading very carefully and slowly, analyzing the structure of every argument and doing the relevant fact-checking. But I want to approach it in the end with as much critical direction as I can get. Hence this thread.

What I would like here is to read what criticisms can be advanced against Doherty's thesis as set forth and defended in his book. I sincerely ask that you help me out and give me the best chance to be as honestly critical of the work as I can. This means the following:

(1) Please, no one reply to this thread who has not read his book in full. If you would like to post here but have not read it, please use the link above to buy it and give it at least one easy read-through first. I know Doherty has a website and has debated here and in other places, but I am not interested in any arguments or facts that are not in his book: the book's argument must stand alone and be assessed on it's own terms.

(2) I want critics to cite only one of three kinds of criticisms, and to carefully identify which category each criticism falls into (and give page numbers, please):

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
(i) FACTS. Are there any facts that you believe Doherty gets wrong or omits from his book, which diminish the probability of his thesis being true? You do not have to cite sources for your claims, but it would be appreciated.

(ii) METHODS. Is there something wrong with his method? I expect two things here: clear explanation of what is wrong, and the use of at least one analogy showing how it leads to an unacceptable conclusion in some other subject or field.

(iii) LOGIC. Is there some logical fallacy in any of his lines of reasoning? Please try to identify the type or nature of the fallacy if you can, but always identify exactly where the mistake is made.
If you think there are other relevant kinds of criticism besides these three, I will listen to proposals.

Note that I am myself already doing all this. The reason I am opening a thread and asking for input is that I want my end result to be as thorough as possible, and I expect many of you may have thought of or found things I have not, or have objections I am not considering, and so with many minds instead of one I can be sure to catch everything.

I do not promise to agree with every criticism made of Doherty's book here, but I do promise to consider carefully if not actually address (directly or indirectly) every one in my forthcoming review.

NOTE: as this thread is meant to help me in my work, work many here are eager to see completed, please do not respond here to defend Doherty. If anyone, including Doherty himself, wants to start up a thread disputing some criticism made here, please do so-- elsewhere. I guarantee I have the skill, background, and means to examine these criticisms myself and thus I will decide in the end whether they hold water or how much water they hold, and I ask Doherty and his valient defenders to trust me on that and keep this thread clean of debate and on-point. Since posts within a thread cannot be moved, off-topic replies here will likely be deleted, so to avoid that, take advantage of my request that off-topic responses be made in new threads and not here.

I want to thank everyone in advance who contributes here, and all others who politely respect my wishes and observe the purpose of the thread. I hope together we can contribute to making some progress in the end on the issue of the historicity of Jesus.
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Old 06-29-2001, 03:29 PM   #2
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Thank you, Richard, for your time and attention. I certainly agree that this theory deserves attention. Doherty's claims are bold, even in our time, yet the arguments seem sound to laypersons such as myself. A mythical Jesus has possible ramifications in my personal life although I'm not a Christian (my wife is). I shall do my best to address some problems I had with Doherty's presentation although on the whole I find his book one of the most convincing answers to how Christianity began. If Jesus existed, it's quite amazing that a religion began if there were no miracles and such.

Problem one: Ignorance of Earl's credentials. Although he tells us he has certain degrees, he doesn't reveal the universities he attended. Typically, a degree from an acredited college is worth more than a degree from some lesser college. Also, what level of degrees does he have? BA? BS? Masters? Doctorate? Although a person can certainly be educated and intelligent without such, I find his vaguenes curious, to say the least.

Problem two: His use of Greek. Again, for ignorant persons such as myself on this matter, how're we to know which translation is proper? Mr. Doherty bounces from one translation to the other to even his own (and what are his qualifications for translating Greek?), even admittedly mixing translations which serve his theory. I find this improper.

Problem three: A bit more specific, on page 58, first few lines, he mentions adelphos was used in mystery religions to identify an initiate but provides no reference. Again, to an ignorant layperson such as myself, a reference would be helpful. Presumably, it would be in one of the many books Doherty read in preparation, but which one or is this a commonly accepted tenet of mystery religions?

Guess that's enough for now but I would like to toss out a few other matters:

The late dating of Acts--I would've like to've seen this more convincingly argued than I recall.

The Platonic universe--Again, my own ignorance of this structure requires further investigation on the part of laypersons.

If not, then why so?--Such things as the Baptism of Jesus, the selection of Pilate in Jesus' passion, and why Jesus' mother, if fictional, would be named Mary are some sticking points with me. If these are stories, how far does the mythicist need to go to answer they why's and wherefor's of an author's selection of material?

Hope this is adequate, Richard. I'm one of those eagerly awaiting a review from someone not emotionally attached to the issue yet educated enough on most matters, if not all, pertinent to Earl's theory. But, take your time as needed.

Oh, I think during ED's debate with Nomad/Brian he mentioned he was going on vacation sometime soon. He's not posted on JM for over a week so he might not be able to respond, if he so chooses, for a bit.

Take care,
Old 06-29-2001, 04:19 PM   #3
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I ordered it.
Old 07-02-2001, 08:05 AM   #4
Richard Carrier
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Logan:
Problem one: Ignorance of Earl's credentials....

Problem two: His use of Greek...

Problem three: A bit more specific, on page 58, first few lines, he mentions adelphos was used in mystery religions to identify an initiate but provides no reference...

[Problem Four:] The late dating of Acts...

[Problem Five:] The Platonic universe [is hos depiction correct?]...

[Problem Six:] Such things as the Baptism of Jesus, the selection of Pilate in Jesus' passion, and why Jesus' mother, if fictional, would be named Mary are some sticking points with me. If these are stories, how far does the mythicist need to go to answer they why's and wherefor's of an author's selection of material?
Thank you, Logan. I will remind others that some of your points above do not fall within the three categories of criticism I was looking for, but I agree they are issues I will need to address in my review so I thank you for bringing them up. What follows contains requests for more information in bold, directed to everyone:

1-3, 5: Of course, credentials are not relevant to an argument's soundness--and his vagueness may be aimed at heading off prejudice: people should not dismiss a well-argued thesis merely because it was put forward by, say, a car mechanic or a housewife. But credentials are relevant to credibility: how much is a layman to trust that he has it right? I hope my review will answer that. I also intend to fact-check issues such as his translations from Greek and other things (e.g. his use of terminology from Greek mystery religions). In general, there is nothing improper in mixing and reworking translations so long as it remains acceptably loyal to the underlying Greek, so there is nothing methodologicall wrong here, but there could be something factually wrong. So I will check that in key cases.

What would help me immensely is if people pointed to specific words or passages that he uses whose translation is key to his argument but that you find suspect or at least surprising.

4: dating of texts is important (though not always crucial) to his argument, and instead of arguing these things he seems to rely on established consensus, which is fair enough--though I think he underplays the room for doubt and debate here, and I will address this issue in the review.

6: You say you have trouble with "Such things as the Baptism of Jesus, the selection of Pilate in Jesus' passion, and why Jesus' mother, if fictional, would be named Mary are some sticking points with me. If these are stories, how far does the mythicist need to go to answer they why's and wherefor's of an author's selection of material?" I am not clear what you mean to say here. If I think I understand, you mean to raise an issue about methodology: Can a mythicist thesis be believable even if it doesn't account for every fact? Does a mythicist thesis have to at least give some 'possible' explanation for everything, or must it explain everything and be able to prove its every explanation correct? I think the answer is somewhere in the middle here, and close attention to historical method will be prominent in my review. One also has to distinguish plausibility from believability--Doherty's argument may be enough to establish plausibility but not believability, though that alone would be a substantial benefit since many doubt even the plausibility of mythicism. We'll see.
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Old 07-02-2001, 02:33 PM   #5
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Most of us here lack the expertise to criticise Doherty's Greek translations, but I have seem some challenges on the Jesus Mysteries list.

For example, this is a comment on Doherty's conclusions regarding Hebrews 8:5 (pp. 310-311 of his book) that if Jesus were on earth, he would have nothing to do, since there are already earthly priests performing sacrifices:

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Doherty also seems to miss the nuance of the Greek. This is a past contrary to fact condition, and the imperfect form of the verb suggests either a present action or an ongoing action in the past. Thus, "were he on earth now" is not far off the intent of the protasis in my view. Further this reading helps complete the contrast between the heavenly temple and the earthly one, Christ's earthly role and his heavenly one. Thus, "If he were on earth (now), [and he isn't], he would not be a priest at all. </font>
(You probably need to be registered for a yahoogroup for the link to work.)

In addition, I am not sure about Doherty's translation of the phrase "kata sarka" as "in the (Platonic) sphere of the flesh" rather than actually in the flesh. What he says makes sense, but when he was challenged on the JesusMysteries list, his justification sounded weak. It seems that he had decided on that meaning for "kata sarka" because it made sense of the rest of the evidence. This doesn't mean that he is wrong, but it makes his conclusions more open to challenge.
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Old 07-03-2001, 02:11 PM   #6
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Richard Carrier is to be commended for undertaking a worthy endeavor. It is good that someone without the qualifications and without a theological axe to grind is undertaking a critical review of Doherty's work (which is to be commended for its excellence in itself).

I have many thoughts on the arguments made in this book. Here is just one. In a post by Ed Tyler, a professional historian, Tyler argues that Doherty's understanding of the mystery religions is fundamentally flawed and that the savior deities were actually placed in an earthly context.

This wsa posted to JesusMysteries on Dec 10, 2000.

Earl writes:

How was Attis castrated?


According to Lucian of Samasota (De Dea Syria), Attis was born in Lydia and
was castrated by Rhea there. Before his castration, he taught the rites of
Rhea in Phrygia, Lydia, and Samothrace; afterward, he journeyed to Syria
where he established a sanctuary. Other accounts say that he castrated
himself beneath a pine tree in Anatolia.

Clearly, Lucian regarded these events has historical and earthly, taking
place at specific, identifiable locales at specific (albeit unidentified)


How was Osiris dismembered?


According to Plutarch of Chaeronea (De Iside et Osiride), Osiris was first
entrapped in a coffin-like box by Typhon and thrown into the Nile at the
Tanitic Mouth (the Nile Delta, to us); this was performed at the city of
Thebes in Egypt, on the 17th day of the month Athyr in the 28th year of
Osiris' reign (some accounts say the 28th year of Osiris' life, Plutarch
notes). This treatment killed Osiris, and his body in the box floated across
the sea to Byblos, where it lodged in a clump of heather. The heather grew
to enclose it, and the King of Byblos, Malcander, used it as a pillar in his
palace. Isis then came to Byblos, having learned from the god Rumour that
Osiris' body was there; she eventually claimed it and brought it back to
Egypt in a boat of papyrus. (Plutarch explains that this is why people in
papyrus boats are not attacked by crocodiles!) She concealed the box, but
Typhon found it and dismembered the body, sending its pieces throughout the
land; Isis located them all (except for the penis, of course, which was lost
in the Nile) and provided a funeral for each fragment. Plutarch notes that
"The traditional result of Osiris' dismemberment is that there are many
so-called tombs of Osiris in Egypt."

According to Lucian of Samasota, the inhabitants of Byblos claim that Osiris
was buried there in toto.

Again, there is clearly an association of this myth with historical events at
identifiable locations on earth.


How was Dionysos eaten by the Titans?


Dionysos was born at Thebes, in Boeotia. He was eaten by the Titans about 20
miles northwest of Athens, and what was left of him was buried at Delphi.
Some accounts say he was devoured by his followers who were under a divinely
induced delusion at the time. Whatever the case, the events were clearly
seen as historical and as taking place at identifiable earthly locations.


How did Mithras slay the bull?


Just how and where he killed the bull is a good question, but according to
Porphyry (De Antro Nymparum) the cave where Mithras ate the bull, sharing the
meal with the Sun, was in Persia.


Pagan cultists, and certainly the thinkers and philosophers among them, no
longer regarded these things as historical happenings on earth.


Specific earthly localities were assigned to these and a great many mythical
events, well into late antiquity. A few other examples are:

1. The marks left by Poseidon's trident when he slew Erechtheus for killing
his son Emolpus during his battle with Athena are still visible on the
Acropolis. The olive tree that Athena produced used to be there, but it's
gone now. This identification is pre-Homeric.

2. The Dictaean cave in which Zeus was hidden from Kronos by Rhea has been
identified since early antiquity.

3. The spring Pirene which was created by a blow from the hoof of
Pegasus has also been identified since early antiquity.

4. The laurel tree which had been Daphne was in the temple of Apollo at
Delphi. (Apollo turned her into a laurel tree because she refused his amorous

5. The Omphalos, or "navel of the Earth" at Delphi, which was determined by
Zeus, who had two eagles fly east and west, is pre-Homeric.

6. Aphrodite came out of the foam of the Aegean Sea; several specific
locations lay claim to being the exact site.

There are innumerable others, but suffice it to say that in Paul's milieu the
significant majority of mythic events were believed to have happened at
specific, identifiable locations on earth, at specific (if unidentifiable)
moments in history.

The same is true universally, not just for the Greco-IE myths Paul would have
known. For instance:

1. Krishna and Radha made love so fervently that her orgasm raised up a
mountain range; it was witnessed by shepherds, and you can go see the very
mountains today.

2. The Papago still point to Monte Rosa as the point at which Montezuma and
Coyote landed their canoe when the great flood subsided.

Now granted that in some cases local ontological legends are interwoven with
transcendent myth, the fact remains that even in these cases it is an event
of mythic significance explaining the locale. The myth accounts for the
locale only incidentally. In other cases, such as the death and
dismemberment of Osiris, the locales play an integral part in the mythic

Given Paul's milieu, one would expect him to locate the crucifixion, death,
burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus in an identifiable locale, whether
he was relating his theology to an actual historical event or whether he was
engaged in myth-making (or both); the fact that he doesn't do so is curious
to say the least, and I have no explanation for it. Neither the mythicist
nor the historical Jesus scenario offers a satisfactory accounting at this
point. Of course, had Paul or the early Christ cult made such an attribution
of locality, it would in no way mitigate for the historicity of Christ
Jesus. The mere fact that there is a Thebes does not mean that Dionysos was
born there, and the same is true of Bethlehem with respect to Jesus.

Ed Tyler

I hope this helps.

Peter Kirby
Old 07-03-2001, 02:19 PM   #7
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Make that -WITH- the qualifications. Sorry for any misunderstanding, Mr. Carrier.

Here is another post of Ed Tyler to JesusMysteries, dealing with the suggestion made by Earl that Paul would not have molested a so-called humble preaching movement surrounding the historical Jesus. (I don't know if this is actually in the book or just on the web site.)


It is of course the majority position of scholarship at this time that Paul
converted his experience with one of the Jesus movements into a type of
mystery religion suitable for the Hellenic culture of the cities in Asia
Minor in which he evangelized. The general if superficial denigration this
view receives at times notwithstanding, it has points that commend it:
Specifically, it explains the fact of the coexistence of Pauline theology and
the Christ cults with the antecedent and nearly antithetical Kingdom
teachings and other elements of the sayings tradition. The assumption that a
Galilean peasant sage whose teachings dispute Christ cult theology was
invented to "flesh out" as it were the central figure of a Hellenic mystery
cult is understandably not a very satisfying one for most scholars.

On the other hand, the value of any human characteristics of the Christ
figure central to Paul's theology is disputable. Paul does say that our
humanity is to be discarded, and that the corruptible must put on
incorruptibility. At points, he clearly labels his teaching a "mystery."
Considering what Paul was attempting to accomplish, this emphasis is quite
understandable. He appears to have been aware that he was in competition
with both the mystery cults and the folk religions of the Greek cities (not
to mention the philosophers!). He also appears to have had no idea just how
successful he would be.

To ensure this success it seems he discarded from his sources anything that
would hinder his evangelizing the Greeks (hence his conflicts with the
leaders in Jerusalem), and in general the humanity or human nature of his
central figure was one of the things he discarded. He also added to his
sources at will anything that would help him evangelize the Greeks (and
hence, again, his conflicts with the leaders in Jerusalem). We have Paul
explaining this dichotomy by saying it was "agreed" that he should evangelize
the Gentiles; but this is a case of history being written by the winner, and
the losers (the leaders in Jerusalem) don't get to give us their account of
the schism. One takes Paul's account of the matter skeptically.

Ed Tyler elaborates in private correspondence on what he means by "the coexistence of Pauline theology and
the Christ cults with the antecedent and nearly antithetical Kingdom
teachings." As an example, he gives the fact that the Synoptic gospels stress the pre-eminence of works, while Paul and the Christ cult emphasize the importance of faith in Christ Jesus.

Peter Kirby
Old 07-03-2001, 02:30 PM   #8
Posts: n/a

Doherty devotes an appendix to Hebrews 8:4 on pages 310 to 312. Here is a more complete quote of the post by Larry Swain in an attempt to refute this argument.

Peter Kirby wrote:

&gt; Earl Doherty, in his book The Jesus Puzzle, argues (pp. 310-311):
&gt; "The point he is making in this verse is that Jesus on earth would have
&gt; nothing to do, since there are already earthly priests performing the duties
&gt; which the Law prescribes, and they do so 'in a sanctuary which is only a
&gt; copy and shadow of the heavenly' (8:5). Yet how could any writer say that
&gt; Jesus would have nothing to do on earth when he did, in fact, have so much
&gt; to do? Could he imply that earth is the scene only of human duties in a
&gt; human sanctuary when here was where Jesus had performed his sacrifice, shed
&gt; his blood - presumably on a hill called Calvary outside Jerusalem? It is
&gt; difficult to understand how a writer could express himself this way without
&gt; at least a qualification, something which would give a nod to Jesus' recent
&gt; presence in the physical arena."
&gt; This argument needs to be successfully refuted.

Peter, you raise a number of good points. What Doherty here misses is Hebrews
2:14 suggests the notion of "incarnation", and if we assume that the author of
Hebrews knows the ascension story, then there remains nothing more to worry
about in 8:5, it assumes that he is no longer present on earth. Further,
Doherty also seems to miss the nuance of the Greek. This is a past contrary to
fact condition, and the imperfect form of the verb suggests either a present
action or an ongoing actoin in the past. Thus, "were he on earth now" is not
far off the intent of the protasis in my view. Further this reading helps
complete the contrast between the heavenly temple and the earthly one, Christ's
earthly role and his heavenly one. Thus, "If he were on earth (now), [and he
isn't], he would not be a priest at all. This is further strengthened in my
view by verse 6, the contrast of what was when he on earth (not a priest) with
what is now (a priesthood after Melchizedek). Finally, we should note in this
that the priesthood of Melchizedek, that the writer and readers of Hebrews would
have believed Melchizedek ot have been a real live, flesh and blood personage,
thus in order to receive such a priesthood, it automatically implies the notion
of "human being". Doherty's reading that "how could he have nothing to do on
earth" is not what the author of Hebrews is saying. What he is saying is that
on earth, He, Jesus, would not be a priest, because that is the realm of the
priests and tabernacle, the things which foreshadow his ministry in heaven. It
does NOT say that he "would have nothing to do", and the rest of his objection
is based on this misunderstanding. It seems to me that Hebrew 7:27 does in fact
answer his objection nicely, it refers very specifically to that sacrifice.
That's anyway how I read it.

Again, hope this helps.

Peter Kirby
Old 07-03-2001, 02:43 PM   #9
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You might get some use of my (rather uncritical) review of The Jesus Puzzle here:

It was written at a time when I was more confident of Doherty's thesis.

Here are some criticisms that are not central to the hypothesis.

There are three second century items that I think Doherty places (wrongly) in the non-HJ line-up: 2 Peter, 1 John, and the Pastorals.

The reason that 2 Peter must be aware of HJ traditions is that it shows dependence upon the Gospel of John. 2 Pt 1:14 is evidently a reference to 21:19.

The reason that 1 John must be aware of the HJ (besides a more natural reading of the docetic dispute and the prologue) is again that 1 John is dependent on John, although Earl disputes this (on p. 132). One reason that 1 John is to be dated subsequent to John is that 1Jn accepts the sacraments such as Eucharist, which are argued to be later additions to the Gospel of John. You may find other arguments in commentaries in 1 John and/or John; I haven't looked into this very much yet.

Finally, the Pastorals are to be placed in the HJ camp because the arguments for interpolation (on pp. 299-302) are kind of lame.

Another inessential criticism: Doherty follows John Knox in placing Acts subsequent to Marcion. Other scholars believe that Marcion knew of Acts. You will want to check this out. Also, you will want to investigate the grounds that lead a scholar like Udo Schnelle to write, "the extensive linguistic and theological agreements and cross-references between the Gospel of Luke and the Acts indicate that both works derive from the same author" (_The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings_, p. 259).

On Doherty's argument about the second century apologists, Roger Pearse has written up a response here:

Again, hope this helps.

Peter Kirby
Old 07-03-2001, 02:49 PM   #10
Posts: n/a


You might also find some use in this post by Brian Lawson placed on the Xtianity list today 7/3/2001.

Brian L.:
In order to participate in this discussion, I'll start by admitting that the
following is a presentation of some of why I believe that the earliest
NT documents were written on the premise that a man named Jesus had walked
the earth. They have the markings of communication written for a particular
circumstance from those and to those who knew an oral tradition of the life
of Jesus Christ. This is what I believe, so take it for what its worth.
I'll do my best to explain a few passages in the NT to back up my belief.

I'm not one of the "lords of history" (one of Beth's famous terms), but I'll
offer a short bit of Biblical analysis.

For starters, I won't quibble on what books you would accept as early versus
what books I would accept as early. I'll follow your chart found at:

Beginning with the book of 1st Thessalonians, I would agree that this is one
of the earliest written NT documents. Here we have the passage that you
would anticipate -1 Thess 2:14-18
"14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ
Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the
hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, 15 who both
killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not
pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, 16 hindering us from speaking to
the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always
fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the
utmost. 17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short
while -- in person, not in spirit -- were all the more eager with great
desire to see your face. 18 For we wanted to come to you -- I, Paul, more
than once -- and yet Satan hindered us." (NASU)

Earl Doherty rejects verses 15 & 16 as an original statement of the apostle
on the following grounds (taken from )
"One is what they consider to be an unmistakable allusion to the destruction
of Jerusalem in verse 16, an event which happened after Paul's death...The
second reason scholars tend to reject this passage as not genuine to Paul is
because it does not concur with what Paul elsewhere says about his fellow
countrymen, whom he expects will in the end be converted to Christ. The
vicious sentiments in these verses is recognized as an example of "gentile
anti-Judaism" and "foreign to Paul's theology that 'all Israel will be

You provide arguments for and against the authenticity of these verses here: (noted for
the sake of other readers).

I was about to offer some reasons why I believe the verses are authentic,
and why I believe Doherty's points of objection are invalid, but your page
covers most of what I have discovered on my own. However, I want only to
make one note about the verb "efthasen" The translations of verse 16's
"...But wrath has come upon them to the utmost" puts an idea of past tense
on the certain wrath on the Jews in opposition. The verb in its tense
"efthasen" is aorist indicative which can identify past and completed
action. A little background in Greek syntax reveals that the aorist tense
is not necessarily specific to when an event happens, but more telling of
the nature of the occurance as being "punctillier" as opposed to continual.
Even so, as the aorist indicative often identifies an event in the past, it
may be used in contexts where future action is to occur, taking on a future
meaning. (1 John 2:1 for one example that comes to mind. See also 'Syntax
of NT Greek' - Brooks & Winbery for explanation and examples). Morris
indicates the eschatological wrath idea in his commentary (Tyndale NT, 1&2
Thess) on the basis of the variable use of the aorist, and the context. In
my own speculations, the 'punctillier action' in the aorist may indicate the
sentiment of certain and quick destruction of those in opposition to Jesus
at His return (see also Romans 9:28, 2 Thess 1:9,10; 2:8).

This, then, is the first indication of Paul writing early about a Jesus that
he places in the context of information that we find in the gospel accounts.
He identifies Jesus as one who lived in real human circumstances - perhaps
in line with the oral tradition that he knew and had passed on to the
Thessalonian Christians at some point in his work with them. Nevertheless,
he seems to allude only briefly to something that they had a familiarity

Moving on to Philippians (which I would not be too sure of as an earlier
work of Paul, but definitely a work of Paul). I have nothing much say,
except that Philippians 2:5-11 places Jesus in very human circumstances
which fit the context of an oral tradition that would be in harmony with the
written tradition of the gospels. Verse 5 - Paul identifies "an attitude"
which "was also in Christ Jesus". Verse 7 identifies that Jesus took "the
form of a bond-servant" (see Mark 10:42-45), "being made in the likeness of
men", "becoming obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross."
None of this looks too 'mythical' to me in as far as what Paul is claiming.

Although there might be other passage where I could go with this, I'll
conclude here with I Corinthians 11:20-29 with a focus on 23-26 (as you
would expect). I'll post the focus verses here: "23 For I received from
the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the
night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks,
He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in
remembrance of Me." 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper,
saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you
drink it, in remembrance of Me." " [NASU]

We shouldn't bypass Doherty's comments on the passage at: and additionally . Although there are several
things to disagree with there, let me identify why I would generally

1) The 'padidomi' (delivering up) of the "night" matches the same wording
for the circumstances in context of betrayal for all four gospel accounts.
2) The imperfect tense 'paredidato' (and by the way, Greg, if you are
reading this, the word is of no relation to Vince whatsoever ;-)) does give
the idea of continuing or incompleted action in the past time. However, in
correction to Doherty's analysis, the verb would indicate that the supper
was one portion of the night where the process of Jesus betrayal was taking
place. The supper was not the occasion of the "delivering up", but of the
night where the "delivering up" was taking place.
3) The meal "took bread...took the this in remembrance"
indicates action that takes place in real human situations while interacting
with others in an equally human situation. The right of the meal implies
that we do the same with the same elements.
4) All of this fits the context of the communion accounts in Matthew, Mark,
and Luke. However, I was struck with a bit of interest on the mild
differences between all four accounts, noting that Matthew and Mark are more
similar (but not exact) and are more different with Luke and Paul who are
more similar with each other. (See comments by Gordon D. Fee in his
commentary on 1 Corinthians in the "New International Commentary on the NT"
series.) This variation may add support to the idea of an oral tradition
of a historical Jesus prior that preceeded Paul, if no more than a question
as to why Luke's account compares with Paul's wording more closely than

So, Peter, I hope this post is interesting to you, although I doubt that
much of it adds to what you've read before. However, this does serve as my
reasoning (in part) that the NT, from its earliest authoring, was claiming a
Jesus who walked the earth - a Jesus who was of oral tradition by those who
were eyewitnesses. Although I believe that claim, I wouldn't say that the
NT claim is sufficient in-and-of-itself for everyone's belief of an
historical Jesus, or for a Christian belief in this same Jesus.

Again, hope this helps.

Peter Kirby

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