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Old 04-19-2001, 10:43 PM   #31
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Earl:
A little more on the argument from silence (or ignorance). From :

"Argumentum ad ignorantiam means "argument from ignorance". The fallacy occurs when it's argued that something must be true, simply because it hasn't been proved false. Or, equivalently, when it is argued that something must be false because it hasn't been proved true.

"(Note that this isn't the same as assuming something is false until it has been proved true. In law, for example, you're generally assumed innocent until proven guilty.)

"Here are a couple of examples:

"Of course the Bible is true. Nobody can prove otherwise."

"Of course telepathy and other psychic phenomena do not exist. Nobody has shown any proof that they are real."

"In scientific investigation, if it is known that an event would produce certain evidence of its having occurred, the absence of such evidence can validly be used to infer that the event didn't occur. It does not prove it with certainty, however."


Note that the theist often commits the argument from ignorance. For example, the theist sometimes attempts to shift the burden of proof where it does not along, arguing that unless skeptics demonstrate that Jesus was not buried, the traditional account of Jesus' burial must be considered true. That is a classic argument from ignorance. Notice that this is not the way Doherty argues from silence. As I said in my last post, Doherty doesn't argue that because Paul doesn't mention an historical Jesus therefore there MUST not have been an historical Jesus. Doherty's argument is inductive and probabilistic not deductive. Therefore his argument from silence is not fallacious. See the last two sentences from the quotation given above.

The Christ myther position is argument form ignoroance. It turns on the pressupotion that there must be proof for this out there and the fact that there isn't proves it all the more. At ever crucial juncture of the argument there is a gap in knolwedege and those gaps are always filled with the assumption that 'this gap is here because Jesus didn't exist." That is merely illogical.
Old 04-19-2001, 10:47 PM   #32
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Thanks for your thoughts. I will let you have the last word in this part of the discussion, and will now move on to the next set of four pieces of the puzzle.

Since your interest has been in presenting Doherty's side without defending it, I thank you, and encourage others to read Doherty's site as well. At the same time, I am interested in talking with someone that actually believes that Doherty is right, and that he is actually on to something. If such an individual wishes to step forward, then I would hope that they will present supporting evidence for the claims put forward in the "Jesus Puzzle". Repeating his arguments without such supports are redundant in my view.

Thanks again,

Old 04-19-2001, 10:49 PM   #33
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Alright, time to look at pieces 5-8.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> 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 multi-layered 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. </font>
We can call this piece, Earl’s “heads I win, tails you lose” piece.

If we recall back at piece number 3, Doherty told us that Paul and other early … never identify this entity called "Christ Jesus" (literally, "Anointed Savior" or "Savior Messiah") as a man who had lived and died in recent history.

Knowing that this is grade “A” horse hockey (as demonstrated by some of the passages I offered in response to piece #3) Doherty wants us to understand that when these writers clearly do identify Jesus as a flesh and blood human being that lived here on earth in (what was for them) the recent past, they are actually just giving him “human characteristics” that are merely “aspects of his spirit world nature”.

Circle closed. Logic set. No point in arguing this one eh?

I suppose the way for Doherty to get out of this one is to trash piece number 2 completely, and focus on proving that the clear references to Jesus’ humanity are only figurative. It will never fly, since the text needs to be tortured beyond recognition to make it work, but at least he won’t be left defending the ridiculous assertion that the non-Gospel accounts of the NT never treat Jesus as a human being.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> 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. </font>
Doherty wisely does not spend a lot of time defending this bit of nonsense. He already knows that the Jesus Mysteries was laughed out of the business for this one. Trying to establish parallels between Jesus and the pagan deities is extremely difficult, and at the end of the day we learn that their either isn’t any parallels, or that it was the pagans that copied from the Christians.

Let’s look at Mithras as one of the example Doherty does offer up for us. He tells us that:

“Some of the saviour gods had instituted sacraments: Mithras, after slaying the bull as a salvific blood sacrifice, had dined with the sun god, and this supper became the Mithraic cultic meal, similar to some expressions of the Christian Eucharist.”

Okay, so far so good. But there is a problem. Doherty correctly points out that Paul gives us the details of the Christian Eucharist in 1 Corinthians 11, but doesn’t mention that this letter dates to c. 50AD. And why is this important? Well, the Mithras cult doesn’t make it to the Roman Empire until Vespasian’s troops bring it with them back to Palestine and Asia Minor in 70AD. Hmm… things do not look good if we want to claim that Paul was copying from Mithras.

The cult (of Mithras) was exclusively for men, and on the whole appealed to the upper classes, especially army officers and substantial business men. With the connivance or active support of the emperors of the second century the cult was carried by soldiers from camp to camp from the East until it reached the Rhineland and Hadrians Wall…
(M. Carey and H.H. Scullard, History of Rome Down to the Reign of Constantine, [MacMillan Press: London, 1979], pg. 483-4).[/I]

On a more general note regarding the mystery cults as a whole during the relevant period of time (c. 50-100AD when the books of the NT were being written) we learn the following:

"It is not until we come to the third century A.D. that we find sufficient source material to permit a relatively complete reconstruction of their content. Far too many writers use this later source material (after A.D. 200) to form reconstructions of the third-century mystery experience and then uncritically reason back to what they think must have been the earlier nature of the cults. This practice is exceptionally bad scholarship and should not be allowed to stand without challenge. Information about a cult that formed several hundred years after the close of the New Testament canon must not be read back into what is presumed to be the status of the cult during the first century A.D. The crucial question is not what possible influence the mysteries may have had on segments of Christendom after A.D. 400, but what effect the emerging mysteries may have had on the New Testament in the first century."
(C.K.Barrett (ed), The New Testament Background, [Harper Collins: 1987], pg. 120).

So if we have no primary sources on any of the mystery religions dating to before the 3rd Century AD, how can anyone make a credible case that Christianity borrowed from them? Remember, ALL of the NT books were completed by the early part of the 2nd Century.

So much for Christianity copying from the mystery cults and pagan religions.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> 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.</font>
Here, I am forced to wonder why Doherty ignores the obvious references both to the “Son of Man” as found in the OT, and the “Son of God” Messianic expectations of the Qumran community as found in the DSS. After all, since Christianity began in Palestine, and ALL of its first believers were Jews, as were all of the authors of the NT Canons (possible exception of Luke/Acts is noted), then it would make sense to look to Jewish traditions for the source of these beliefs. Allow me to offer a couple of examples:

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 "As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened… "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

As another example, the expression, Son of Man is used 93 times in the prophetic book of Ezekiel. Why has Doherty ignored this clear wealth of source material for the Gospels and focused instead on the much later (2nd Century and later) apocryphal works like II Baruch (dated 95-120AD) and the Assumption of Isaiah (c. 100AD)? We will get into this in more detail when we explore Doherty’s idiosyncratic late dates for Acts and the Gospels. And as for NT authors using the wisdom books like Proverbs and Wisdom of Solomon, many scholars have noted the use of the Gospels of these works (see for example, R. Griffith-Jones, The Four Witnesses, [HarperCollins, New York, 2000]), yet they do not detect pure myth creation. After all, Jews that would want to claim they were talking about the Jewish Messiah would be expected to appeal to Jewish Scripture to prove their point.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Piece No. 8: A SINGLE STORY OF JESUS
All the Gospels derive their basic story of Jesus of Nazareth from a single source: whoever produced the first version of Mark. That Matthew and Luke are reworkings of Mark with extra, mostly teaching, material added is now an almost universal scholarly conclusion, while many also consider that John has drawn his framework for Jesus’ ministry and death from a Synoptic source as well. We thus have a Christian movement spanning half the empire and a full century which nevertheless has managed to produce only one version of the events that are supposed to lie at its inception. Acts, as an historical witness to Jesus and the beginnings of the Christian movement, cannot be relied upon, since it is a tendentious creation of the second century, dependent on the Gospels and designed to create a picture of Christian origins traceable to a unified body of apostles in Jerusalem who were followers of an historical Jesus. Many scholars now admit that much of Acts is sheer fabrication. </font>
Finally we have Doherty presenting at least part of an opinion that has substantial scholarly support. Mark is generally seen as the first of the Canonical Gospels, and a source of Matthew and Luke. As for John depending on the Synoptics, this is not only hotly disputed, but generally rejected for a variety of reasons. Since Doherty focuses on the Passion Narrative part of the Gospels in his thesis here, it is worth noting that in Raymond Brown’s two volume, The Death of the Messiah, pgs. 1492-1524, he presents in Appendix IX by Marion L. Sourds, a table of 35 leading NT scholars, and their theories about what constitutes their “consensus” as to what makes up a preMarcan Passion Narrative. Sourds reaches a number of conclusions:

(1) No single method allows us to distinguish Marcan from preMarcan elements in the PN, and so we should see the necessity of using as full a range of methods as possible. (2) Because there are strengths and weaknesses inherent in each of the methods that we emply, we should vary the method(s), allowing the text to suggest the most appropriate method(s) for study. (3) Since we recognize the danger that particular methods can procuce particular and often predictable results, conclusions about the existence or nonexistence of a preMarcan PN need to be carefully nuanced…
We may safely conclude that Mark uses a source in writing his PN. We know that source, however, only as incorporated in Mark. The greatest challenge that lies before us is not the separation of tradition from Marcan redaction; for, as our earlier work shows, that task may finally be an impossible one.
(M.L. Sourds, Appendix IX, The Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2, R.E. Brown, pg. 1522-4)

And as for John depending on this same source, Brown finds virtually no evidence of this at all. The PN in John is simply too unique to be dependent on Mark. The elements that John does share with Mark (prayer in Gethsemane, Judas, Joseph of Arimathea, the tomb, women as the first witnesses of the resurrection) are considered to be so embedded in the tradition that John could easily have picked this up from independent sources of his own. IOW, John need never have read or even heard of the Synoptics to construct his PN.

What does all of this mean in the end? First, the tradition of Jesus death and resurrection is very old, definitely predating the Gospels. Since Mark was written between 55-70AD, and Paul died c. 65AD, then the PN had to exist during Paul’s lifetime, and would certainly have been known to him. And this is confirmed in his own letter to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 15:3-5 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 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 Twelve.

As we can see, the basic elements of all four Gospels in this depiction of Jesus death, burial, resurrection and appearances are described in this passage. Since this is what we would expect, there can be little question that Paul (who tells us that he “received” this Gospel, and we know that he received it during his stay in Jerusalem about 3 years after Jesus died) is giving us the outline of the Passion of Christ. Far from seeing Jesus as dying on another plane of existence, Paul is telling us, just as we see in the Gospels, that Jesus died here on earth, in the flesh.

Finally, we are told by Doherty that Acts was written in the 2nd Century. Rather than debunk this claim here, I will refer readers to my thread on Redating the Books of the New Testament. The most probable dating for Acts is 65-85AD. It certainly does not date to the 2nd Century as asserted here.

Okay, another post that is too long. I invite comment, and after next week (when I get back from my weekend campout trip with my son and his Beaver troop), I will go through the last four parts of the puzzle. (I will, of course, also address any questions, comments or evidence offered in support of Doherty's claims).



[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited April 19, 2001).]
Old 04-19-2001, 10:58 PM   #34
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Earl:
The "12 Pieces of the Puzzle" feature on Doherty's web site is just a dramatic summary of the problem of Jesus' historicity as Doherty sees it. Contrary to Nomad's strawman attacks, Doherty deals with the details in his book and his other articles. I'll give just three examples.</font>

Meta =&gt; Yea that's ture, its just a summary. But, it is also a summary of his theory overall. he still has to be held accountable for each of the points made. That's still what he thinks.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
(1) Regarding Gal.1:19, Doherty says "The term 'brother' (adelphos) appears throughout Paul's letters, and was a common designation Christians gave to each other. In 1 Corinthians 1:1 Sosthenes is called 'adelphos', as is Timothy in Colossians 1:1. Neither one of them, nor the more than 500 'brothers' who received a vision of the spiritual Christ in Corinthians 15:6, are to be considered siblings of Jesus. 'Brothers in the Lord' (adelphon en kurio) appears in Philippians 1:14 (the NEB translates it 'our fellow-Christians'). This is a strong indicator of what the phrase applied to James must have meant. James was the head of a community in Jerusalem which bore witness to the spiritual Christ, and this group seems to have called itself 'brethren of/in the Lord.' The pre-eminent position of James as head of this group could have resulted in a special designation for him as THE brother of the Lord" ("The Jesus Puzzle," 57).</font>

Meta =&gt; Not only does Josephus say that he was Jesus' brother (and in that context it would be meaingless to just designate him as a mere "bliever" ) but the Appochraphon of James and the Gospels do as well. NOw it's a big argument as to wheather hit means cousin or sibling, but in the context of going with Mary to bring Jesus home it clearly means a realtive. The whole point of why he was the leader is being missed. Because he was Jesus' brother, that's the point. He was from Nazerath, and after he died cousins of Jesus were made the heads of the Jerusalem chruch, Semeon and some one else, led it to Trans-jordon after the fall of the temple. Someone has worked out the whole geneology as it appears in the the Gospels. Lots of relatives all over the Gospels.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
See also note 26: "Compare also 1 Cor. 9:5. Here is a literal translation: 'Have we not the right to take along a sister (adelphen), a wife, as do the rest of the apostles and the brothers (adelphoi) of the Lord and Cephas?' Look at the word 'sister.' No one would say that Paul is referring to his own or anyone else's sibling. He means a fellow-believer of the female sex, and he seems to use it in apposition to (descriptive of) the word 'wife.' Indeed, all translations render this 'a believing wife' or 'a Christian wife'" (335).</font>

Meta =&gt; But it's absusrd to think that adelphon can't mean flesh and blood brothers too. I can tell you it does. I've seen that in Classical Greek all over the place. I was first introduced to the word in a little grammar lesson that had one sentence after another involving sibilings. I can as easily mean biologcial brother.

(2) Regarding Heb.5:7, Doerty says "In that higher world revealed by scripture, Christ takes on a 'body' for sacrifice, in order to do the will of God and supplant the old animal sacrifices that God no longer wants. Here we can see the type of source in scripture which could have given rise to the idea that the spiritual Son had taken on or entered 'flesh,' that he had undergone sacrifice. Since this was envisioned to have taken place within the lower celestial sphere, it placed him, as Hebrews puts it (2:9), 'for a short while lower than the angels'.…

"In this way, we can understand the concept of Christ being 'in flesh' (en sarki, kata sarka, etc.), a stereotyped phrase which appears with surprising regularity in the epistles. It signifies either that Christ took on the spiritual counterpart of flesh, its 'likeness,' when he descended to the lower celestial sphere (as in the Ascension of Isaiah 9 or the hymn of Philippians 2:6-11), or as Barrett has suggested, that he entered the 'sphere of the flesh,' which included the realm of the demon spirits in the firmament. On occasion, it may refer to Christ's 'visit' to that sphere, as in 'the days of the flesh [not 'Earth' as Nomad's mistranslation says]' in Hebrews 5:7" ("The Jesus Puzzle," 122).

See also note 59: "Where, then, did the idea in 5:7 come from? In the case of this epistle [Hebrews], the answer is clear: from scripture. Buchanan (op.cit., p.98) suggests that 'offering up petitions' is drawn from Psalm 116:1, which uses the same words (in the Septuagint version). Montefiore (op.cit., p.97), while noting that it does not appear in the Gospel description, sees the phrase 'loud cries and tears' as an enlargement on Psalm 22:24: 'when I cried to him, he heard me' (again in the wording of the Septuagint.) Reflecting scholarship in general, Ellingworth (op.cit., p.285) admits that 5:7 represents 'a generalized use of the language and pattern of Old Testament intercession.' He allows that it does not refer to Gethsemane--though he considers that it must refer to SOME historical event."

(3) Regarding Heb.13:12, Doherty says "Paul never locates Jesus anywhere, and for all his talk about the death and resurrection, no historical data about these events appears in his letters. Hebrews 13:11-13 says that Jesus 'suffered outside the gate,' but no city is mentioned, and the idea is determined by scripture. For this writer, Jesus' experience in the realm of myth must be portrayed as paralleling the sacrifice of animals which took place 'outside the camp,' referring to the Israelite camp at Sinai. The sacrificial cult described in Exodus is the model to which Jesus is compared throughout the epistle" (62).


But Nomad says regarding these passages that they "could not be clearer. Jesus lived, in the flesh, here on earth. Once again Doherty prefers to ignore the evidence rather than address it."

This is simply and obviously a misrepresentation of Doherty. Whether you agree with his arguments is a separate matter, but to declare that Doherty "ignores the evidence rather than addresses it" is blatantly false and unfair.


NO, that neo-platonic stuff is way to late for this. I'm going to have to gather some research but I'll prove it to you. This is all a boonedoggle! Misconceptions historical anachronism.

one thing, show me documentation of this etherial realm being used int he frist century and of etherial beings being spoken of as "according to the flesh?" YOu can't do it. Show the docs, come on document it!
Old 04-19-2001, 11:05 PM   #35
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">]As concerns the concept of this Platonic influence upon Paul and the suppossed use of etherial beings spoken of as "in the flesh" but not really flesh</font>
This is all way too late for the New Testament. IT's basically the influence of neoPlatonism upon Gnosticism. While the rudiemets of Gnsoticism can been sensed as existent at Corinth and Collosse, it was clearly not a full blown version. They were still close enough for Paul to have conversation with them and to adopt some of their language in dealing with them.

By early second century there is enough of a seperation that Orthodox Fathers are condmening them and there is no discussion wiht them. In that period They are begining to deny christ came in the flesh, substituting instead an etherial being. But that is far from the idea of a range of etherial beings that were spoken of as "in the flesh" in apprence and yet not fleshly. And there is no documentation of this idea before the 90s. The earliest view we have of it on record is 1John's reference to the anti-Christ and we have no real idea of what that group was actually claiming.

And if Paul did deny Christ came in the flesh how is it then that the Johonnine community and the Paulline community united in Asia Minor, never had any real conflicts, and yet John could condmen these groups that did deny Christ in the flesh, and deny them two decades before Dhorty says they began to give Jesus a concete history?
Old 04-20-2001, 12:23 AM   #36
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by MortalWombat:
Perhaps you would care to post these objections to Mr. Doherty himself, either by feedback at his website, or on the JesusMysteries dicussion board, which he participates in, at
I'm sure he would be glad to answer any questions you have.
I already got kicked off of that list, along wiht Bede and I'm not sure who else. About five freinds and I were on it, and we were all off it within a week for petty reasons. Bede wanted to sign his posts "Bede" becasue That's his confirmation name, and not just a cutsie screen name. It's more like a real name for him, even though he doesn't go by it in real life. But, they wouldn't allow that. I was just starting to get warmed up in debate agaisnt Dhortey himself when they kicked me off for "posting too much" even though I only responded to other posts, which means all the neo-pagans were posting too much too. In a week ever christian was cleared off the list and no others had been. So I think they are not serious about real discussion and can't think fairly.
Old 04-20-2001, 12:34 AM   #37
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[QUOTE]Examine the point about Paul and Gnsoticism.[/QUOTE[

II. Doherty's Theory Contradicts Paul's Jewish Background.

A. Resurrection in Jewish terms is Flesh and Blood. In speaking about Jewish concepts, N.T. Wright tells us "within this spectrum two points need to be made very clear: first, though there was a range of belief about live after death the word 'resurrection' was only used to describe reembodiment, not the state of disembodied bliss. Resurrection was not a general word for 'life after death' or 'going to be with God' in some general sense. It was the word for what happened when God created newly embodied human beings after whatever intermediate state there might be." [N.T. Wright The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering who Jesus was and is," Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter varsity Press, 1999, p. 134]   B. Flesh and Blood Messiah  The Jews expected a flesh and blood Messiah! They never looked forward to a mere ethereal being. Gnosticism did originate in Judaism but not as "Christian Gnosticism" which developed in the second century (with forerunners in the first). C. When Did Paul Become a Gnostic? The theological background for a Gnostic redeemer myth existed among Jewish sources, but Paul was not a Gnostic. Paul was a Pharisee, a student of great Rabbi (Gamaliel) he was very proud of his tradition. He could not be further removed form gnosticism. There is no point in assigning to him a Gnostic ethereal theory of the universe when plainly he did not hold to such clap trap. there is simply no reason to think that he believed this.  

III. Paul Battles the Gnostics


A. Doherty's assumptions of secret teachings in Paul  


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. [See "Part Two" and Supplementary Articles Nos. 1 and 6.] (Doherty)


As We have seen above this is totally false. There are Pre-Pauline and Pre-Markan references to Jesus as a flesh and blood man, and the basic historical setting of the Gospels existed in written and oral traditions from at least the middle of the century. We have no reason to assume that this doesn't' reflected the basic facts of the original events and Jesus' actual sayings. Even though Doherty tries to connect his theory to the Mystery cults, it really belongs more firmly in the realm of Gnosticism. The Gnostic redeemer myth was that of a ethereal being whose participation in history was margin and whose fleshly appearance only illusory. The Gnostics traded in "secret knowledge" and "hidden wisdom." It is really the Gnostics that fit the theory better, but they do not fit Paul at all.


B. Wisdom sayings in 1 Corinthians indicative of Gnosticism at Corinth. Paul Does seem to know a wisdom saying source for Jesus' sayings but it is one that is also reflected in the canonical Mark. The believers in Corinth seem to have a different take on the Gospel than many others. In the first couple of chapters of 1 Cor. Paul uses a different terminology than he uses anywhere else. Mainly this consists of words like "wise" and "wisdom." He uses these 10 times in the first chapter, but only four times in all the rest of his corpus. These terms bring up a set of sayings from Mark that are noted as distinctly different from Jesus' other sayings. Mark: 11:25,27, 13:16-17--Luke 10:21-24. The contrast between terms "wise" and "clever" found there are used nowhere else in Jesus' sayings. These refer to Isaiah 29:14:"I will destroy the wisdom f the wise and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart." Paul refers to this saying. Other contrasts include hidden and revealed. All of these concepts pertain to Gnostic ideas of the secret knowledge and those who possess it vs. those who possess it not. In 1 Cor. 4:5 "the Lord who will illumine the hidden things of darkness and reveal the councils of the heart." This is parallel by Mark 4:22 and also has a parallel in the Gospel of Thomas. What's going on here? Does this mean that Paul was a Gnostic? It means that there was a Gnosticizing element in the early church, one which complied an early sayings list, and fragments of that list are used in the canonicals (perhaps because Jesus really said them?) But the Gnosticizers put their own Gnostic spin on these sayings. Such a faction existed at Corinth. Paul is entering their scheme and their language to deal with them. 

1) Paul adopts "wisdom" Schema to deal with faction  

Koester tells us "Paul not only alludes to the sayings where were evidently of crucial importance to his opponents, he also adopts their schema of revelation which speaks of the things that were formerly hidden, but have now been revealed. This scheme is characteristic of the Q sayings...though it is not really typical of the Synoptic Saying Source as a whole. IN the genuine Pauline letters, it is used only in 1 Cor 2:6-16, while it occurs frequently in the deutero-Pauline letters and also appears in the secondary ending of Romans" (16:25-26).[Koster p.59] "For the Corinthian wisdom theology this revelation schema, of central importance for their understanding of salvation, it related tot he sayings tradition by another element, namely, the recourse to the authority of certain persons: Paul, Appeals, Cephas, possibly Christ "(1 Cor 1:12, 3:4-5, 22).(Koester p 62)  There are three elements which together call for an answer: (1) the Corinthians knew saying which they took to be a hidden wisdom saying source. (2) Paul rejects that his calling had anything to do with Baptism (1 Cor. 1:15-17) the claim of belonging to a specific person may have entered into this. (3) Several other sources indicate that Apostolic Authority and the name of a specific Apostle played a role in transmission of sayings for both Orthodox and Gnostic. These sources include: Gospel of Thomas, The Apocrypha of James and Ptolemy's Letter of Flora.  Koester concludes form all of this that at Corinth Paul faced a Gnosticizing faction which believed that they had been initiated into secret knowledge through baptism. "They understood particular Apostles as their Mystagogues from whom they received sayings from which they received life giving wisdom...Paul's arguments against this understanding of Salvation become quite clearer if they are understood against this background." [Koster, p.62].


2) Paul never adopts this vocabulary again


As pointed out already, he only uses these terms of Wisdom and wise four other times in his whole corpus. Koester says that with this background in mind the way he speaks of the cross as hidden wisdom before the ages becomes understandable, because he is dealing with this Gnosticizing faction in their own terms. It is also important to note that the Cross was "hidden" to human understanding. The only verses about it in the OT are "hidden" and require interpretation, which even the Jewish people don't' accept today (Is 53, Ps 22, Zach.10:11).

3) never speaks of the Cross this way again.


Moreover, as Koster states: "Nowhere else does Paul speak about the Cross of Christ in such terms." (p.62). Doherty is merely confused and reversing Paul's meaning to place him in a position the opposite of which he was taking. 


4) He is arguing against the Corinthian position!

 It does not require much persuading to get most knowledgeable Bible readers to agree that Paul was not pleased with the Corinthians, that only when he was flattering them to coax them into submission was he saying positive things about their behavior. In the opening chapter he is clearly arguing against everything they think. He denies the importance of attaching one's self to a famous Apostle but one should only follow Christ. He denies that his mission was baptism precisely because they thought baptism by an Apostle or noteworthy was initiation into the secret mysteries. That's why he says "I thank God I did not baptize any of you." The rest of the time he is telling them they are not wise. They do not have the full truth, they are immature.Note: There probably wasn't a blow blown Gnosticism at Corinth since this doesn't show up tied to Christian Doctrine until the second century. The Corinthians probably didn't deny that Christ was a flesh and blood being, but just believed that they had "secret wisdom" that other churches didn't have. That is why Paul doesn't just come out and say explicitly "this is wrong, Christ was in history..." C. No Grounds for the Charge of non-historical crucifixion


Paul's repudiation of the Gnostic faction at Corinth can be seen as a repudiation of all Gnostic positions, especially any position that would detach Jesus Christ form Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of flesh and blood and history. Paul clearly rejected the hidden wisdom schema, why than assume that he rejects the rest of the Gnostic schema? Moreover, Doherty sites this Gnostic vocabulary as grounds for the assumption that Paul is working in the Mythos of a mystery cult. Yet Paul repudiates the mystery cult diatribe. Let's look further at some of the verses Doherty sites.

    1) The Charge that Paul does not Place crucifixion in Spiritual Realm.Doherty:

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." [See "Part Two" and Supplementary Articles Nos. 3 and 9.]


 2) The Charge Refuted 

As we have seen, Paul most certainly did place the Crucifixion in history, even tying it to historical witnesses Peter and James, and the Resurrection. But moreover the Pauline Verses (and Hebrews) Used to place the Crucifixion in this ethereal realm of The Gnostic Redeemer myth are totally misconstrued. Of course these other souces he he uses, the Ascension of Isaiah for example, has nothing to do with Pauline letters and was produced late in the first century. He can't tie that to Pauline thought at all. 

a. Crucifixion in Space? 1 Cor. 2:8  

This is a very deceptive statement Doherty makes above, for while many scholars do believe that the phrase "rulers of the age" could refer to demon powers, very few of them actually believe that Paul places the crucifixion in some ethereal Plaroma or nether world. In fact the statement does not have to be understood this way at all. The word Archon (ruler) merely means "firt" or "commander." It is used of human commanders and rulers all the time. While Aeon, "age" just means a period of time, or this epoch in history. So this statement could just as easily describe human rules as demonic ones. The statement , taken by itself, just in terms of its language, could as easily place the crucifixion in history as outside it. Since we have already shown so many ensconces where Paul thinks of the crucifixion as historical, it is foolish and absurd to make this one enstance into anything more, especially when we know that he is adopting the terminology of a Gnsoticizing faction in order to coutner their heresy.   

b. Rulers of the Age are in history.

Now it is probable that Paul did use this phrase of demonic powers. But he believed that demonic powers played a hand in the running of the world, the affairs of state, that they controlled governments. They were able to motivate the crucifixion for this very reason. That still means however that the crucifixion was in history. It is the demonic powers influence over human affairs of which he speaks, not some ethereal events in some realm removed form history (Whiteley, 29, 229).


 2:7 "No we speak of God's secret Wisdom. A wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rules of this age understood it for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. "(8) He adopts the language of the Wisdom faction at Corinth while arguing with them. This is a basic Pauline strategy "I become all things to all men that I might win some for Christ." He's merely striving to appeal to his audience. Nothing in this statement implies that the crucifixion was not in history. Rather, it was motivated by the demonic powers since they control the worldly reigns of power, through their stooges the humans who are not clinging to God but sold out to the "worldly powers." This is clearly an event in history.


E. St. Paul and the Mystery cults  

1) Cross cultural fertilization creates illusion of commonality.  

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 Mediterranean, both owed a little bit to Egypt and a great deal to the civilization of the Trigris-Euphrates valley. Both alike derived something form Aegean culture." [D.E.H.Whiteley, The Theology of ST Paul. Philadelphia: fortress press, 1964, p.5] It is not surprising then that some concepts and expression, modes of thought would be cross fertilized and "borrowed." This is a far cry form the "copy cat" savior theory that skeptics such as Dohrety often go in for. 

2) St. Paul Not indebted to Mystery cults

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 than that 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 philosophies' is a warning against the kind of thinking we find in the mystery religions." (p. 2). Moreover Whiteley points out had Paul borrowed from the mystery religions we should expect to find his "Judaizing opponents" attacking him for that.  

3) Paul Warns against Mystery cults  

 "St. Paul does not seem to have been the Sort of man that we should expect to find borrowing from Pagan sources. He was brought up as a strict Jew (Phil 3:5) Col 2:8 'do not let your minds be captured by hollow and deceptive speculations'...this is the kind of thinking we find in the mystery religions: it is not directed against philosophy in any modern sense of the word." (Whiteley, p. 2). 
Old 04-20-2001, 12:59 AM   #38
Posts: n/a

I have invited Earl Doherty to join this discussion and this was his response which he said I could post.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">

Thanks for the invitation. I'm tempted, but it would be a colossal commitment, I can see that. I'm already on another list, as you know, and I have a full plate of work for the website and in promoting and selling my book.

I have two general misgivings. I have developed a distaste for discussion groups where no one (or almost no one) goes by a name. Debating with "Nomad" or some collection of letters and numbers is like talking withsomeone wearing a hood. It suggests they don't have the courage to identify themselves. I notice that the one person in the existing thread who is defending me (to some extent) goes by at least one name, which coincidentally is my own.

Second, people like Nomad are not interested in constructive debate. Talking to them is like talking to a wall. Now, I realize that that goes with this particular territory. I would not be defending my views for his benefit, but to the observer on the sidelines. I, of course, face that situation just about everywhere, so it's unrealistic to complain, I suppose. When you threaten someone's religious beliefs, the sparks will fly. Misrepresentation of my views also is common and goes with the territory.

Let me see how the next several days go. If the most pressing thing on my plate (the third Part of my critique of Lee Strobel's "The Case For Christ") can get partway cleared, I might decide to dip my foot in, though I wouldn't guarantee to carry on a daily conversation. One thing. I'm notoriously inept at Internet discussion boards. In checking yours I could not immediately see how to snip from posts one wants to reply to, or even to structure a reply. (Your setup is unfamiliar to me.) Let alone get myself subscribed. (On the JesusMysteries, the list-owner did it
for me.) You'd have to walk me through it.

There is nothing raised by Nomad I have not dealt with in the past, though sometimes dealing with such issues requires more than a few sentences to be effective. The amount of effort he (or she?) has put into it would require an equal effort on my part, and I simply don't think I have that amount of

I can assure you that no one on that list of scholars Nomad posted has bothered to even read my book and site (as far as I know), and certainly none of them have offered the slightest rebuttal to my views. The Jesus Seminar old site (on Rutgers) has (I think it's still there) a link to mysite at the head of their "Critiques of the Seminar" section, labelling them "critiques...that raise substantive issues that merit an intelligent response." So far, no members of the Seminar, nor any other critical scholar who may disagree with me, have offered that suggested "intelligent response." That speaks volumes. [Added: It is certainly no surprise that a group, or even an entire discipline, of scholars who have invested careers and very often personal faith in the validity of an established belief, would show a unanimity in rejecting my own or any other version of the mythicist theory, so this proves nothing about the legitimacy of that theory.]

As for certain other critical scholars, there are those who have supported me and even endorsed me. That includes a couple of members of the Seminar (Robert Price and Darrell Doughty) along with an assortment of varied scholars around the world, from Holland to Australia. Nomad would no doubt turn up his nose at the lot of them.

As I say, let me see.

Best wishes,

Earl Doherty
In my response, I including the following:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Though I admit that you are unlikely to convince any of the Christians to give up their faith, many of them are quite intelligent and reasonable. Some such as Nomad, Layman, and Bede, show quite a bit of intelligent thought and well-researched opinions. They are quite used to being
harrassed (after all, it is the Secular Web), and they are generally pretty cordial about it. In fact, it may be no surprise to find that the Christians who hang out at the discussion forum usually have a better
grasp of Biblical studies than the rest of us...

...Given this situation (lack of scholarly response), I think it is possible that you would receive your most informed criticisms from Nomad and others at the Secular Web. They are very well read when it comes to
the scholars that you wish would respond to your work.
Oops. You too Metacrock.

Earl has sent a short email to Nomad asking if he would be willing to use his real name in a discussion with him.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In email to Nomad and myself:
One further thought I would add to what I said to Ethan. I have decided that I would decline to debate anyone who did not identify himself. Everyone knows my name, many of them know the city I live in. I won't debate someone who hides behind anonymity, and doesn't have the courage to give me a name (a full and genuine one, for which I might require some verification that it's not simply made up). For all I know, "Nomad" is an alias used by Holding/Turkel.

I would also insist on a certain amount of decorum. By that I mean, not an ad hominem slugging match.

I am copying this to Ethan, and I will say that you may post both of these responses on the Secular Web list. If Nomad is willing to debate under his own name, then you can get back to me, and I'll see if I can make some time.

Best wishes,

Earl Doherty
By the way, I'm Ethan. Hi .

So how about it, Nomad? I would love to have Mr. Doherty join the discussion, but it seems that it is up to you.

[This message has been edited by PhysicsGuy (edited April 20, 2001).]
Old 04-20-2001, 07:54 AM   #39
Posts: n/a

Hello Ethan

My name is Brian Trafford, and I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I am headed out shortly for the weekend, and will not be back until Sunday, but if Doherty chooses to respond on this forum, then I will debate him here. I want this discussion to be public, and on this forum. I have no interest in a private email exchange, or a tightly regulated discussion forum.

Invite Doherty to come here and reply, I will read his responses, and we can go from there. There are no time deadlines (obviously, all of us are busy), so he can take as much time as he wishes.


Brian (aka Nomad)

P.S. As of 9AM MST this morning I have received no emails from Earl Doherty. If you would forward this to him I would appreciate it.
Old 04-20-2001, 08:36 AM   #40
Posts: n/a

And I'm James Hannam of London in the UK. I've already told Doherty this. But Bede is the name I want to go by on the Net as it is my confirmation name.



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