Was There No Historical Jesus?
Earl Doherty

Responses to Critiques of the Mythicist Case

Bernard Muller
(with contributions from Richard Carrier and others)

Romans 1:3 and Hebrews revisited; Galatians 4:4's "born of woman"
  plus a bit of Josephus and "brother of the Lord"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The third and final part of my response to Bernard Muller revisits topics covered in previous parts and deals as well with several new areas. Muller's critique of The Jesus Puzzle can be found in two parts at:  and

Muller digressed from his assault on The Jesus Puzzle to address Carrier's own review of my book. By now, the abysmal nature of Muller's critique should be evident to the reader. But it will get worse. As Carrier writes: "...Muller only makes himself look like he doesn't know what he is talking about. Probably because he doesn't." Of course, anyone has the right to publish whatever criticism of my work he or she sees fit, and most of those criticisms are by apologetic-minded individuals whose confessional (or professional) interests are threatened. But Muller is one of a minority of critics for whom confessional interest plays no part. To date I have ignored him, but it is surprising how much attention his critique of The Jesus Puzzle has gained, and how many have been drawn into thinking that he has dealt a severe or mortal blow to the mythicist case, mine in particular. They say that a little learning is a dangerous thing, and so is a lot of ignorance. With enough ignorance, as Muller has demonstrated, one can criticize with an unlimited degree of unperturbed self-confidence. (This makes him particularly frustrating to deal with on discussion forums, as myself and others can attest to.) The unfortunate side effect is that those who are equally ignorant can be taken in, especially when it serves their own interests to be so. The manhandling of Muller by myself and Carrier (who is anything but a committed mythicist) is not motivated by ad hominem impulses; but if there is ever going to be a serious and professional consideration of the mythicist option, we have to neutralize and rid ourselves of the truly amateur, uninformed
and often transparently apologeticvoices clamoring to beat down the heretical notion that no Jesus existed. Ignorance tends to be their hallmark, and that hallmark extends even into the realms of academia, as another article on this website has shown. As incompetent as Muller's critique is, it unfortunately has to be dealt with.

Again, I will be quoting much of Muller's and Carrier's texts, as well as from postings on IIDB. I will mark hiatuses, and the odd insertion of my own will be in italics in square brackets. (Muller's text, with color scheme preserved, will be indented, while quotes from Carrier and the others will be in red, also indented. A separate Addendum will link to a review reprinted here of Muller's critique originally posted on IIDB.)

Critiquing Richard Carrier's Review of The Jesus Puzzle

Because Carrier, in his review of The Jesus Puzzle, supported me in my picture of upper and lower worlds and the activity of gods in the heavenly realms, Muller felt obliged to try to discredit Carrier's own reading of ancient cosmology, particularly where gods like Osiris are concerned.

Richard Carrier commented that in Plutarch's Isis and Osiris (written around 90-100), "it is there, in the "outermost areas" (the "outermost part of matter"), that evil has particular dominion, and where Osiris is continually dismembered and reassembled (375a-b)."
Let's check about these outermost areas and where Osiris was dismembered:
- "[s.38] The outmost parts of the land beside the mountains and bordering on the sea the Egyptians call Nephthys. ... Whenever, then, the Nile overflows and with abounding waters spreads far away to those who dwell in the outermost regions ..."
It looks to me the outermost areas are regions around Egypt, called Nephthys, and the remains of Osiris are dispersed in Egypt.

Muller needs to actually read the whole book. Plutarch, first, gives several different schemes (historical, metaphysical, etc.) and explicitly distinguishes them as different, not the same thinghe even says the metaphysical is the correct one. Second, Plutarch clearly discusses the use of terms like Nephthys as allegorical. If Muller had actually read the text, he would know that Nephthys is not foremost a placeshe is a goddess. She represents Finality and Victory (355f). Thus she can be attached allegorically to all sorts of things. The attachment of her name to the Outlands is one allegoryhence also the earth is called Isis and the air Horus and aspects of the Nile Osiris...Thus, Plutarch is not talking here about the heavenly Osiris, where he says he and Isis are intermediary gods between heaven and earth. Again, Plutarch relates several *different* interpretations of the myth. Muller seems to think they are all the same one. Only someone who did not read the whole book would make that mistake....

a) Plutarch never used the expression "sublunar heaven", nor did he mention any world/heaven below the moon and above the earth:
"[s.63] that part of the world which undergoes reproduction and destruction is contained underneath the orb of the moon, and all things in it are subjected to motion and to change through the four elements: fire, earth, water, and air."
This part of the world is just like earth and the air above it!
The ancients (as Aristotle and Ptolemy) thought the moon was the most outward (in the earth direction) celestial body. The sun was understood in an orbit beyond the one of the moon, among the planets moving between the moon and the firmament. And the "fixed" stars were on the firmament in front (or part) of "the prime mover sphere". In any case, the firmament was considered behind the moon and therefore not sublunar.

Muller is really confused here. The sublunar heaven is the firmament, which is indeed a part of everything below the moon...At any rate, his criticism is completely irrelevant to my actual point: that Osiris dies and rises in the aer. That it happens "often" means it cannot be a historical person Plutarch is talking about....

d) For Plutarch, the final resting place of Osiris is below the polluted earth, and not into the heavens:
"[s.78] ... this god Osiris is the ruler and king of the dead, nor is he any other than the god that among the Greeks is called Hades and Pluto. But since it is not understood in with manner this is true, it greatly disturbs the majority of people who suspect that the holy and sacred Osiris truly dwells in the earth and beneath the earth, where are hidden away the bodies of those that are believed to have reached their end. But he himself is far removed from the earth [downward!], uncontaminated and unpolluted and pure from all matter that is subject to destruction and death ..."

Oh dear no! Plutarch is chastising the "majority of people" for believing the wrong thing! Go back and read the context. Thus, he is not saying that Osiris is really far belowbut far above! He is saying that the people are *wrongly* disturbed by the idea he is below. Indeed, he could not say in one place that everything below the moon is subject to decay, and then say that below the earth everything is "uncontaminated and unpolluted and pure from all matter that is subject to destruction and death"! That would be a direct self-contradiction. *Only* the heavens ever qualify for the latter description (without exception in ancient literature). Further, the verb "far removed" means set apart fromso it cannot mean *in* the earth (and Plutarch certainly believed earth was a sphere, so anything below earth is literally *inside* earth).

The following discussion of bodies and souls also exactly matches that of the Axiochus and of Philo, and thus clearly repeats the Middle-Platonic view of two levels of the cosmos (which I will note again: ALL SCHOLARS OF ANCIENT COSMOLOGY AGREE IS A FACT)....

e) Plutarch is however very much confusing when handling different concepts & traditions, some of them mythical, and lacks consistency through his rather incoherent narration.

I suggest that Muller has misplaced the "confusion" and "incoherence." It belongs a little closer to home.

2.9. Conclusion:
I do admire Earl's rhetorical skills but I rely on the evidence first. And from ancient pagan writings before Julian's times (331-363), there is no testimony presented in 'the Jesus Puzzle' about the concept of an upper world between heaven & earth, where the fleshy meets demonic powers, a place where Jesus would have been crucified. After years of research, Doherty was unable to flesh out the evidence for it....Furthermore, all the texts cited by Doherty (and Carrier) were not written before Paul's times.Why would the early Christians imagine an upper world as more real & pungent than their earthly one?

With these remarks, Muller demonstrates the full extent of his ignorance, and his basic reliance on the argument from personal incredulity. He himself cannot imagine such a view of an upper world, and he is so uninformed about Middle Platonic philosophyindeed, the central philosophy of the entire erathat he does not realize that this is precisely the way the ancients viewed the spiritual versus the earthly parts of their universe. The upper world was indeed "more real and pungent" than the one they moved in, as divorced from reality as that may have been. Incidentally, though the outlook is not the same (since cosmological views of the universe are now much different and our scientific knowledge vastly superior), Muller overlooks a close parallel among modern believers. We might ask the question, how can today's Christiansand religious believers generallyimagine an upper world (Heaven) more primary, important and eternal than the world they experience in their earthly lives, the only lives we can be certain of? There is no more concrete evidence today for the existence of Heaven than the ancients had for their own view of a layered world of the spirit above the earth. In both cases, it has been entirely the product of the mind. In ancient times, philosophers had very little else to go on but their own intellects, and unfortunately, they brought too many unsubstantiated assumptions and cockeyed axioms to the exercise of those intellects. Today, we ought to know better.

Muller's remarks do not deserve the polite explanation Carrier provides, as though anyone who purports to study the rise of Christianity and its philosophical context in contemporary culture should need to have such an answer provided. At this particular point, we are first and foremost concerned not with whether Paul or any other early Christian placed Jesus' death in the upper world, but rather with the most basic outlook on reality that had been developing for centuries before Paul came along. Without knowledge of the latter, we can never arrive at an accurate judgment of the former. As Carrier puts it:

This is explained by Middle Platonic (and Jewish) writers: this world was subject to change, decay, chaos, and seemed to cause all manner of evil: God is good and created everything; therefore there must be a superior, perfect world not subject to change, decay, chaos, and evil; and that must be the heavens (the only thing left, and the only thing that seems not subject to change, decay, chaos or evilbesides, elevation is a universal human notion of superiority: no culture has ever imagined a "better" world below the earth, all have imagined it *above*).

One can see how unsubstantiated axioms so misled the ancient intellect. Change, decay (which is really a step in the ongoing course of evolution and 'rebirth') was axiomatically judged as inferior and undesirable. If an all-high God existed (and few could conceive otherwise) he must be impervious to such things and transcendent from them. Then the universe had to be structured to give him a place to live, intermediaries between himself and the world had to be established, explanations for the world's evil and its separation from the imagined perfection of the spiritual realm invented, until a vast and unwieldy superstructure was erected which few philosophers could free themselves from, none of which bore any relation to reality. Out of that milieu grew Christianity, and it is only with a knowledge of that cosmology that Christianity can be understood (as well as evaluated). Muller asks:

Why did Paul never state Jesus' death in an upper world/lower heaven?
Why did he never specify the crucifixion was not on earth, more so when many were crucified there?

Actually, Paul did state it, in an indirect way. If the crucifixion had been on earth, if the event was remembered by people still alive, some of whom had been Jesus' followers with whom Paul was still in contact, why would Paul state that Jesus' death was a matter of faith? In 1 Thessalonians 4:14, he says: "We believe that Jesus died and rose again..." The place of crucifixion in Colossians 2:15 looks like demon territory. In Romans 10:9, he says: "If you believe that God raised (Jesus) from the dead..." Why is there an appeal to faith here? Couldn't Paul draw on the witness of many that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead? In 1 Corinthians 15:12-15, he rhetorically allows for the possibility that Jesus was not raised if the human dead are not raised, and that they have all been deceived by God. This sounds like a gospel message dependent solely on revelation from God himself. The so-called "appearances" in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 look like visions, both in their language and because of Paul's inclusion of his own vision in the list without any differentiation (he does the same in 9:1). Paul never points to historical facts or traditions to justify faith in Jesus' dying and rising, nor for describing anything else about his divine Son of God, including the manner and agency of his crucifixion (the "rulers of this age" of 1 Corinthians 2:8). If there is such a void on historical time, place and agents in regard to Jesus' redeeming act, where else can he place this 'event' except outside earth and history?

Carrier presents a little different twist on Paul's silence:

If his audience already knew, why would he say? After all, he only ever writes to people who had already been orally evangelized. Thus, most of the fundamentals of doctrine were already in place.

But those "fundamentals" were in place on a much broader scale than any earlier evangelizing by Paul. They were virtually a given in the philosophical and religious atmosphere of the time. The deaths of the Hellenistic savior gods took place not on earth or in history; they inhabited mythical settings. Philosophers had already created the upper dimension where divine intermediaries revealed and rescued. Paul did not need to explain to his prospective converts that Jesus had died in the spiritual world. Nor would anyone likely have questioned it. It was part of the natural order of things, and no more needed or invited explanation than did the concept of animal sacrifice to God and the gods as practiced in Jewish and pagan religion. Nowhere in the Old or New Testament does anyone explain how blood sacrifice operates to do what it supposedly did, not even in the epistle to the Hebrews where these processes are stated but not justified or elucidated. Today, do evangelists and preachers explain the "soul" to their audiences, despite referring to it ad nauseum?

As Carrier points out, Paul, when faced with the Corinthians' doubt about human resurrection, does engage (1 Corinthians
15:35-54) "in an elaborate explanation of how there are two worlds, one of decay one of indecay, the former was earth and the latter heaven, and the resurrected get bodies in the latter." This, however, is not to explain the principle of upper and lower worlds or the place of Jesus' activity, but to convince the Corinthians that the process is feasible, no doubt because they could not envision their own rotted and disintegrated corpses rematerializing to new life. Paul addresses their doubt by conceding that flesh and blood are indeed incapable of entering the kingdom of Heaven, but that humans will be converted into new, spiritual bodies. What Carrier and most others fail to recognize in this passage is that, while the prototype for this new body is Christ's own, the latter is identified from start to finish as a spiritual body, resident of heaven, made of heavenly material, with a total silence on it ever having been other than such, on it ever having progressed from physical to spiritualdespite the universal reading of such a progression into the background. It cannot be there because that feature would not only contradict what Paul actually says, it would ruin the whole picture and structure of Paul's argument. Carrier, in fact, falls into that universal trap by reading such a thing into Paul's words: "...and the resurrected get bodies in the latter [heaven] Jesus must have, too." I recommend a reading of my Supplementary Article No. 8: Christ as "Man": Does Paul Speak of Jesus as an Historical Person?

Carrier goes on to say:

Since no one ever seems to have doubted the death of Jesus (even the Corinthian faction did not deny that *Jesus* had been resurrected, only that we would be), there was never an occasion for Paul to elaborate on where Jesus died (as we can suppose Paul would have if he had to prove Jesus had diedas it is, he simply says it is proven by scripture, as if his audience already agrees).

I must disagree with most of this. As I have pointed out, more than one passage indicates that "faith" is required to accept both the death and resurrection of Jesus, and there is evidence in 1 Corinthians that indeed some Corinthians denied that (the spiritual) Jesus had even been crucified. The issue between the factions at Corinth which Paul is addressing in the first four chapters is focused on the fact of "Christ crucified," the conflict between Paul's gospel (the wisdom of God) and that of his rivals (the wisdom of the world). I have argued that we must see Apollos at Corinth as included in that latter group, meaning that there were Christian missionaries who denied the fact of Jesus' death, and apparently preached him only as a Revealer Christ, saving through knowledge which confers perfection and present 'resurrection.' See my Supplementary Article No. 1: Apollos of Alexandria and the Early Christian Apostolate.

Carrier is somewhat contradictory in his final statement above. If there was no necessity to demonstrate that Jesus had died, presumably because everyone knew and accepted it, why would Paul even bother to "prove it by scripture"? What is the significance of his "kata tas graphas" in 1 Corinthians 15:3 and 4? The standard interpretation is that he is saying Jesus' death and rising fulfilled scripture, but this is an idea he develops nowhere else, despite his fixation on the sacred writings. I have suggested that the phrase means "according to the scriptures" in the sense of scripture telling us these 'facts'. Thus, scripture is the source of Paul's information about the Christ, not historical tradition. In fact, Paul declares in Galatians 1:11-12 that he got his gospel solely through revelation. That is why faith is needed for believers to accept both the death and the rising.

And because of the flimsy substantiation of "Doherty's world" in all of the ancient literature (four centuries of it!), wouldn't that raise a major (controversial!) issue after being learned from Paul (or others) as where Jesus suffered the cross & died (and out of sight from humans!)? Of course it would! Then why don't we observe the apostle dealing with it in his epistles, where he just did that with many others?

Both Carrier and myself have demonstrated that the substantiation of "Doherty's world" is anything but flimsy in ancient literature. If it was a given in the background of most religious thought of the time, for Paul to provide some statement or explanation of it would have been superfluous. With that in mind, we might consider the significance of Ignatius' repeated insistence on the 'fact' that Jesus had been born of Mary and crucified by Pontius Pilate. If these were well-known facts in the background (and how could they not be?), what reason would Ignatius have had for insisting on them? How could some Christian missionaries be going about not preaching such a Christ, as he says? The answer is that Ignatius was not stating long-known historical details but rather new developments in the evolution of the mythical Christ into the historical Jesus, and not everyone agreed with it. (I have argued elsewhere that Ignatius cannot simply be countering docetic doctrines about an historical Jesus.)

For me, Doherty's theory crashes to the ground right there, because of lack of external testimonies about the mythical lower heaven and the silences of Paul (& 'Hebrews') about it. Actually, and looking only at Paul's (seven) authentic epistles (both Earl & myself agree on those) and 'Hebrews', the evidence is much stronger towards earth and Zion (Jerusalem) than for the firmament or that mysterious "world".

Competent historians read documents in context: that means, understanding what Paul and his readers would have taken for granted. The fact that demons resided in the aer is one of those factsas again: ALL SCHOLARS WHO STUDY THIS SUBJECT AGREE.

Now, it is correct that this does not prove Doherty's case. Even though Paul surely believed in a firmament and aer that resides between earth and the moon (the border of the 1st heaven), and surely believed demons lived there, it does not follow that this is where he imagined the passion as taking place...

No, but it sure helps. Without that knowledge of Paul's "sure" beliefs, we haven't a chance of properly interpreting passages like 1 Corinthians 2:8.

...That is only *consistent* with what Paul sayswhich Doherty is right to note is a bit curious: you would think Paul would have said something more concrete about the life and times of Jesus. Surely, his congregations would be asking him things about the real Jesus all the time, so there is indeed a problem for historicists to explain why none of his letters ever answer any such questions or even hint at their existence. Now, one might come up with theories to explain this. But those theories will all be at least as ad hoc as anything in Doherty's thesis. Two ad hoc theories? I see no way to decide between them.

What makes an "ad hoc theory"? Technically, what makes something "ad hoc" is a specific relationship to the purpose for which the 'ad hoc' thing has been formulated, and it is sometimes given the derogatory implication of being slanted to serve that purpose, that it only has application in regard to the specific end in mind. When we use it in this field, it is often implied that each 'ad hoc' explanation is isolated, a kind of desperate measure to come up with some explanation, that each one doesn't form a good fit or a good combination with other ad hoc explanations on other points. I don't know if Carrier has all this negative implication in mind here, but let's assume he does (it certainly fits his stated situation regarding historicist explanations of Paul's silence). Is my theory ad hoc? Are its elements lacking consistency and good fit between themselves? Carrier constantly emphasizes the fact that my evidence is *consistent* with my theory but doesn't thereby prove it, and I'll of course agree to that. But this very consistency speaks volumes. When each explanation of a passage or problem inherent in the record enjoys consistency and agreement with all the others, when each makes good sense while those of the other side make less so (as Carrier implies by his use of descriptives like "strange" and "bizarre"), when together they form a logical paradigm that covers every aspect of the evidence, whereas the other side's picture does not (giving me the "win" in the Argument to the Best Explanation, as Carrier has admitted), then we are definitely not dealing with two equally weak "ad hoc" theories, between which there is no basis on which to make any kind of choice. And in fact, Carrier goes on to offer a limited acknowledgement:

And Doherty is right that his theory is less ad hoc here. Unlike the "heavenly scheme" Doherty theorizes, which would be a *foundational* doctrine and thus *certainly* already explained to Paul's congregations from day one [much earlier than that if it was a part of their religious and philosophical culture] and thus have no cause to appear in his letters, debates and natural human curiosity about a *historical* Jesus would not be foundational at all, but would constantly arise out of the blue and have to be dealt with....What Doherty finds curious is that if Jesus died on earth, this would entail that all sorts of biographical and verbal facts about him would *certainly* come up in debates over Church doctrine *and* in natural human curiosity about the greatest man that ever lived. So it is indeed bizarre that neither ever came up, in a way that it is not bizarre that the location of Jesus' death never came up, if it took place in heavensince that would already be a settled matter of foundational doctrine.

With this kind of admission, one wonders why Carrier is so reticent and guarded in his evaluation of the relative strength of the respective cases, or why he is so insistent on agnostic neutrality.

But on to Muller's Part Two.

Jesus and David: Romans 1:3

In chapter 8, on pages 82-84, Doherty works on Romans1:1-4:
Ro1:1-4 Darby "Paul, bondman of Jesus Christ, [a] called apostle, separated to [set apart for] God's glad tidings, (which he had before promised by his prophets in holy writings,) concerning his Son (come of David's seed according to flesh, marked out Son of God in power, according to [the] Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of [the] dead) Jesus Christ our Lord;"

Then Earl writes: "Is it a piece of historical information? If so, it is the only one Paul ever give us, for no other feature of Jesus' human incarnation appears in his letter."
Shock!!! I'll answer that later ...

Then Doherty actually does not address the issue of a human Jesus straight on, but drifts away from it by questioning the meaning of "God's gospel" --not one from Jesus-- (I agree with that), the historicity of 'Son of David', the origin of 'Son of God' and finally by introducing his concept of the fleshy lower heaven. Nothing much is related to the "incarnation"; only some "explanation" is thrown against it, such as:
"... for scripture was full of predictions that the Messiah would be descended from David. In reading these, Paul would have applied them to his own version of the Christ, the Christ who is a spiritual entity, not a human one."
So now human ancestry was assigned to Jesus by Paul, even if the later (allegedly) thought Christ was never an earthly man! Does that make sense? Of course not. If angel Gabriel is thought to be a spiritual entity, you do not make him a descendant of Moses!
Furthermore, Earl's argumentation is dependant on Paul being the first one to claim Christ's ancestry from David. Is is realistic?
According to the Pauline letters, there were many other apostles/preachers (1Co1:12,9:2-5; 2Co11:5,13,23a,12:11; Php1:14-17; Gal1:6-7), some "in Christ" before Paul (Ro16:7), some preaching different 'Jesus' (2Co11:4), and all of them Jew (2Co11:22-23a): in this context, what are the odds on Paul making this "discovery"?

This is so disjointedly presented, full of confusion and misreadings, it is very difficult to respond. So I'll match Muller's approach and make several points haphazardly. No one would claim that the angel Gabriel is descended from Moses, not because the idea is supposedly ludicrous, but because nowhere in scripture is this suggested. And who said Paul was the first to draw the conclusion that Jesus was descended from David? How is my argument dependent upon this? There are some scholars who think Paul may even be quoting a piece of hymnic liturgy here. It matters not whether this idea was original to Paul (though it may be), just that he believed scripture indicated that his Christ bore some relationship to David. Since scripture does indeed make such a connection, and since prevailing philosophy regarded the upper world as containing parallels to all things earthly, this is hardly "throwing an explanation at it." Muller also misapplies the idea of parallels in the heavenly world. No one is saying that Paul regarded the spiritual Christ as a descendant of the earthly David, or that this descendancy was literal in the earthly sense, only that in some way, in the workings of the higher, "real" and "primary" world, some relationship existed which scripture revealed. Carrier calls for some explication on my part of the meaning of Davidic descent in Paul's mind, but I don't know how he thought about it. When I read something like the 5th Oration by Julian, I understand the words and the philosophic principles involved, but the ideas are so alien to my own outlook on the universe, it is difficult to comprehend how Julian's own mind could accept and understand them. Thus, I am not in a position to say (and I suspect none of us are) how Paul specifically understood his scripture-based idea that the divine Christ he believed in was related to David. (I have also pointed out previously that since such an idea was based on the Jewish scriptures, we cannot expect to find a similar idea reflected in pagan writings about their savior gods, even if we did possess more of such writings.)

Michael Turton on the Internet Infidels discussion forum "Biblical History and Criticism" had this to say about Muller's above paragraph:

The opening paragraph of Bernard's analysis contains not a single argument against Doherty, it is merely a heap of rhetoric, using words like "drifts" and "obsessively" to evoke emotional rather than rational responses in the reader, or conclusory rhetoric "Does that make sense? Of course not!" as if this were an argument. Unfortunately, Bernard does not tell us here why this does not make sense.

Turton goes on in regard to:

Is there nothing else about a human Jesus in 'Romans'? Of course not, but all of the ensuing verses from 'Romans' are ignored in Doherty's book:
A) Ro15:12 Darby "And again, Esaias says, There shall be the root of Jesse [David's father], and one [Christ, according to Paul] that arises, to rule over [the] nations: in him shall [the] nations hopes."
Here Jesus' alleged descendance from David is reiterated.
B) Ro8:3 Darby "... God, having sent his own Son, in likeness of flesh of sin ..."
Don't we have a clear expression for incarnation? See here for an explanation on "likeness".
C) Ro9:4-5a YLT "Israelites, ... whose [are] the fathers, and of whom [is] the Christ, according to the flesh ..."
Here Jesus is from Israelites, "according to the flesh". Who else are Israelites? Paul, according to Ro11:1, quoted later, and also many of his contemporaries, by flesh:
Ro9:3b-4a NASB "... my brethren, my kinsmen [Paul's] according to the flesh, who are Israelites ..." Did Paul think himself and his brethren/kinsmen lived "in the sphere of the flesh", some upper world above earth? NO!

Bernard's arguments here contain only misunderstandings and misinterpretations. First, he claims "....all of the ensuing verses from 'Romans' are ignored in Doherty's book." Bernard clearly does not understand Doherty's point. If the first reference to Jesus being of David's stock (in Romans 1) can be shown to be symbolic, then all subsequent references to it are similarly symbolic. Thus, simply piling on more quotes, as Bernard does here, will not make Doherty's arguments disappear. Bernard must come up with compelling reasons to reject them, either on linguistic or content grounds. In any case, Doherty spends several pages in several places discussing the problem of Jesus' alleged Davidic ancestry (82-85, for example). Finally, there is a telling Doherty-style silence here. If Jesus had really been born of David, Paul, after all, knew his brother, James. All Paul had to do was cite his personal knowledge of the family of Jesus and firmly link Jesus to the mortal sphere. But no, Paul's ideas come from divine revelation. Doherty has a very strong argument here, and Bernard's rhetoric cannot dismantle it.

Bernard then goes on to say: "B) Ro8:3 Darby '... God, having sent his own Son, in likeness of flesh of sin ...' Don't we have a clear expression of incarnation here?" Merely asking this question does not refute Doherty's point. Bernard would have to demonstrate that the word likeness here means something other than what it very plainly says. All Bernard does here is use an emotional appeal to invite the reader to fall back on the biases built in by 2000 years of historicist exegesis. He does not make an argument based on logic, content, linguistics, or history anywhere in these remarks.

More often than not, Muller simply settles for drawing the most ludicrous parallel he can come up with and then by ridiculing it, thinks he has discredited my position. First of all, kata sarka is one of the most recurring phrases in the Pauline corpus, with all manner of meaning. (Muller has already been called to task for assigning the same meaning in all circumstances to some particular word or phrase with variant application.) No one would claim that its usage in Romans 9:3 in regard to Paul's own kinfolk signifies "in the sphere of the flesh" or is identical to its usage in Romans 1:3, no matter what the latter's meaning. In fact, if Muller had bothered to think a little longer about this particular verse and consult a number of translations, he might have concluded why Paul inserted it here. If all Paul was concerned with was making a reference to his fellow Jews, he would have had no need to insert kata sarka at all. Why did he do so? Probably for clarification. Once he used "brothers" to refer to those of his own race, perhaps he felt the need to make it clear he was not referring to Christian "brothers" in the sense of fellow believers, and so he added "my kinsmen according to the flesh." If Muller had consulted the NEB, or the NIV, or the RSV, or the (often useful) Translator's New Testament, he would have found translations like "my natural kinsfolk," "those of my own race," "my kinsmen by race," and "my own flesh and blood," all translations which reflect their recognition of what Paul meant by kata sarka on this occasion.

If one looks carefully at the following verses here (9:4-5), which Muller and others regularly appeal to, one finds that the words actually fall far short of saying that Christ is of "human descent" in regard to his "human ancestry," the sort of phrases which regularly appear in translations. In fact, Christ is simply tacked on at the end of a long list of things that are the 'property' of the people of
Israel, things that belong to them, such as the covenant, the Law and the promises. The phrase is literally, "...and from whom [the Israelites] the Christ according to the flesh." Our ubiquitous, vague, stereotyped phrase, kata sarka. Not even here could Paul speak more clearly and more normally about actual "human descent." Upon such an oddity, Muller, and just about everyone else, has truly "thrown an explanation," governed by the Gospels. In regard to Christ "belonging" to the people of Israel, I am often challenged for saying that the savior gods could be accorded an ethnic identity. Muller says "I am not aware of any." Carrier asks for examples. But they are making too much of my remark. On some level, Osiris was identified as Egyptian. Gods such as Dionysos and Attis were given close associations with their peoples of origin, especially in the initial stages of their cults. It would not be unusual for Paul to regard his savior figure, growing to some extent out of the Jewish tradition, as identifiable with that racial group. Such a viewpoint could well be operating in regard to his "born under the Law" in Galatians 4:4.

In the crucial matter of the meaning of Romans 1:1-4, Muller has the following to say, and Carrier responds:

Doherty postulates "from the seed of David" is part of "God's gospel" (drawn from the scriptures by Paul, as Earl contends). This seems to be largely due to his (inaccurate) translation:
"the gospel concerning his Son who arose from the seed of David ..." (Ro1:3)
That's partly from the RSV, but the Greek does NOT have "the gospel" and "who "(&"arose" is Earl's own translation)!

The Greek most definitely *does* have those words. The subject of the clause in 1:3 is the "Gospel" of 1:1. Anyone who reads Greek would know that. Likewise, the Greek says "tou huious autou tou genomenou," literally, "the son, his, the one (i.e. son) who came to be." It is perfectly legitimate to translate "his son, the one who" as "his son, who"this is called the definite article in the attributive position, and the meaning is identical.

As for "arose," that is a valid translation of genomenos, which is a very ambiguous word with wide scope in its possible meanings. It literally means "become" but connotes any of the following with equal frequency: "be / is" or "happen / take place" or "arise / come about" or "be born / be created / come into being" or "show up / be present." Doherty's choice is not contentious.

However [quoting Muller]: "The digression starting by 'come of David's seed...' is linked to 'his Son' and not likely to 'God's glad tidings'." That is certainly correct. But I am not aware of Doherty saying such a thing. Doherty is saying that the whole unit "his son come from David's seed" is part of the content of the Gospel. That is certainly correct on the Greek. So I don't fathom Muller's point here.

To conclude, it is highly improbable Paul meant he just found "come of David's seed" from the scriptures (and had to divulge it!), as Doherty contends.

I couldn't disagree more. The Greek is unmistakable: the Gospel (1:1) is what was presaged in the OT (1:2) and the content of that Gospel is described in the whole of 1:3-4 (and probably also as the basis for 1:5-6). That's what the Greek says. Period. This also has strong support elsewhere (cf. Rom. 16:25-26; Eph. 3; one sees a hint in 2 Cor. 3:12-18 to 4:4; etc.)...It is in fact *probable* that Paul meant he found the content of the Gospel in the OT. Of course, historicists don't dispute thatthey all agree that the entire content of the Gospel was presaged in the OT.

I've reproduced the Muller-Carrier exchange here at some length because it should help clarify things for many who make claims similar to Muller's, that Paul simply doesn't mean what he clearly seems to say, and which Carrier agrees he does say. But Carrier is nevertheless fuzzy on a couple of points. First of all, his statement about "historicists" is hardly accurate, and contains a contradiction. I'm certainly not aware of all historicists (which presumably includes New Testament scholars) agreeing that Paul found the content of his gospel in the Old Testament. In fact, they are usually at pains to claim that he "received" it from previous apostles, those who had known the historical Jesus. They hardly agree that the kata tas graphas of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 conforms to my own suggested meaning, that scripture was the source of Paul's doctrines about the Christ rather than a prophecy of them. Carrier reverts to the universal interpretation of things when he says that they agree the content of Paul's gospel was "presaged" in scripture, but this is not the same thing as deriving the gospel from it. Now, if all Carrier means by 'found the content in the OT' is that it was presaged there, this is hardly contentious and doesn't serve to support me against Muller. Carrier also misses the huge anomaly I have pointed out in regard to this passage, that if information about Paul's gospel of the Son were 'pre-announced' in scripture, this would be a pre-announcement of Jesus himself, his life and saving acts. But Paul makes no such connection. Scripture forecast the gospel, nothing else. He imposes no human man between the content or prophecy of scripture and his own derivation of the gospel from that scripture, leading to the conclusion that he knew of no historical Jesus. Of course, he does this sort of thing all through his letters, and so do the writers who came after him, forging epistles in his name. (The best example is in Titus 1:3.)

And Doherty keeps obsessively interpreting anything as concerning an entirely mythical Jesus: again for him, "according to the flesh" becomes "in the sphere of the flesh", with the "sphere" being "the lowest heavenly sphere, associated with the material world"! The translation as "in the sphere of the flesh" is according to Doherty "a suggestion put forward by C. K. Barrett." He adds "Such a translation is, in fact, quite useful and possibly accurate." No doubt! Doherty is treating that "possibly accurate" "suggestion" from "a translation" as if it were a piece of primary evidence.

Carrier says that he agrees, but both are getting a little carried away. In all discussions of the possible translation of kata sarka, I present Barrett's suggestion as simply making possible my interpretation, as an "explanatory fit" with my theory. But that's all I need. I am hardly claiming to prove my case by thinking to show that this is the only possible translation. People like Muller lose sight of the fact that so much of the argument commonly made against me (and of course he does this himself) is based on assorted claims that this-or-that cannot possibly mean such-and-such, or allow such-and-such an interpretation. (It's like the creationist claiming that life could not possibly have evolved in the primeval soup without divine direction.) All I have to do is demonstrate that it could (which in the matter of evolution, scientists have), that such-and-such a meaning is possible, either by demonstrating it technically (as Carrier has frequently done for me) or by appealing to a respected scholar who himself allows for such a meaning, even if he doesn't draw my conclusions from that meaning.

But Doherty does not stop here. He contends "according to the spirit" can also be translated as "in the sphere of the "spirit"" (and from NO "suggestion" by anyone else!).

I'm sure he could find someoneand I wish he would....For myself, Doherty's translation is plausible on the Greek and is implied by Paul's discussion in 1 Cor. 15, which uses abstract nouns to refer to the realm of the spiritual body as the realm of indecay, glory, immortality, etc., and he distinguishes flesh vs. spirit as between earth and heaven. So Paul would certainly have *understood* the idea of being in the realm of spirit vs. the realm of flesh.

Before commenting, I'll reproduce what Muller says following shortly on his previous remark:

But what did Barrett mean by "sphere" in that context? Here it is:
"The preposition here rendered 'in the sphere of' could also be rendered 'according to,' and 'according to the flesh' is a common Pauline phrase; in this verse, however, Paul does not mean that on a fleshly (human) judgment Jesus was a descendant of David, but that in the realm denoted by the word flesh (humanity) he was truly a descendant of David." C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans, page 78.
Barrett never meant a fleshy heaven, in any context. Not even close!

Of course Barrett didn't mean by his translation that Christ was a descendant of David in a fleshly heaven. I never claimed he did. I was simply making use of Barrett's translation in my own context, and there's nothing illegitimate in that. But it's curious that Muller makes a very selective quotation of Barrett's text from his Romans commentary. Barrett provides his translation of both passages in question immediately preceding Muller's quote:

"in the sphere of the flesh, born of the family of David;
in the sphere of the Holy Spirit, appointed Son of God."

I wonder that Muller overlooked this preceding sentence (set apart and in bold print from the rest of the text) when he claimed that I have used "in the sphere of the spirit" with "NO suggestion from anyone else". (Incidentally, the passage from Barrett's text is found on page 20, not page 78 as Muller has it.)

But let's not stop there. Naturally, Barrett regards 1:3 as referring to Jesus' descent-from-David status as a man, not as a heavenly being. And what does he envision for verse 4? He says (p.20),

" 'In the sphere of the Holy Spirit he was appointed Son of God.' This translation is not universally accepted. For 'in the sphere of' see above [referring to the earlier part of his text discussed above]. 'The Holy Spirit' is literally 'spirit of holiness', and this has been taken to refer not to the Holy Spirit, but to Jesus' own (human) spirit, marked as it was by the attribute of holiness."

Clearly, Barrett does not accept this common understanding, since it would not be compatible with his 'in the sphere of' translation, and he goes on to discuss the point without an abundance of clarity (p.20-21). In fact, what exactly is Barrett's specific understanding of his "in the sphere of the Holy Spirit" is not all that clear either. He has failed to see that the meaning, the location, entailed in his phrase "in the sphere of the spirit" should be determined by the actions attached to it: namely, Jesus being declared Son of God in power (by/as a result of the resurrection of the deadpresumably his resurrection, although the actual words cryptically say "by a resurrection of dead persons"). More importantly, that meaning should also be determined by the overall implication in the passage (1-4), that these actions by Christ are to be found in (derived from) scripture, as Paul tells us. Thus the assumption ought not to be that the ambiguous "spirit" reference can somehow apply to an earthly Jesus or an earthly context, but rather should be seen as located in heaven, in the realm/sphere of the spirit. And scripture ought to be surveyed to find exactly what passage may have produced this idea. As far as I know, no one before myself (and certainly not Barrett, who gets bogged down in the question of whether this couplet of verse 3-4 is pre-Pauline and whether it had an anti-adoptionist agenda) has suggested that the whole of verse 4 has simply been derived from Psalm 2:7-8:

"I will tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, 'You are my son, today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession...' "

Here, surely, is Romans 1:4's designation of Jesus as Son of God, plus the "in power," which is extended to having the Son receive lordship over all in earth and heaven following his death and resurrection, a common idea in the epistles (e.g., Phil. 2:10-11). With this convenient and rather obvious scriptural source for verse 4, taken in conjunction with the statement in verse 2 that Paul's gospel was to be found in scripture itself, there is no impediment, and a lot of persuasive reason, to interpret verse 4 as a heavenly event, which would make the "in the spirit" a reference to a location, a "sphere," namely heaven, and not some attribute of Christ.

All of which makes it very likely that verse 3 conforms to the same scriptural context as everything else, namely that the Son's relationship to David is also something derived from scripture, and has no more historical import than verse 4.

I think enough has been said in this area. Since Muller's text is so disorganized, any further attempt at a response may well bring a case of fatigue upon both writer and reader, so I will pass over the remainder of Muller's and Carrier's discussion in regard to Romans, and move on to Galatians 4, with its "born of woman."

Born of Woman

Muller's argument in this section is particularly disjointed, shifting forward and back through chapters 3 and 4 of Galatians. I will try to rearrange it into some semblance of order.

3.2.3. By examining the whole of Galatians3:15-4:7, can we figure out what kind of woman Paul was thinking for Gal4:4?
Paul started by making a claim: "But to Abraham were the promises addressed, and to his seed: he does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed; which is Christ."(3:16 Darby)
That seems to refer to Genesis17-22 but it is never specified here according to Paul's words. Anyway, the promise is about inheritance (3:18) for all (Gentiles and Jews --3:28-29,3:8,14) but the former is supplanted by the Law "until the seed [Christ] came ['erchomai', clear expression of the first coming!] to whom the promise was made" (3:16,19). Then everyone would be liberated from the Law by Christ (3:22-24,3:13) and "the promise, on the principle of faith of Jesus Christ, should be given to those that believe." (3:22), allowing Paul's Galatians to be God's sons & heirs and honorary seeds of Abraham (3:29,4:7,3:7).

Paul's reasoning, his exegesis of scripture, in chapters 3 and 4 of Galatians probably reflects the most convoluted thinking and argumentation in all of his letters. But his purpose should be clear. He needs a way to assign God's "promise" to Abraham to his gentile readers, his converts in Galatia. After all, centuries of Jewish mythology clearly assigned that promise to the Jews themselves, as descendants of Abraham. Paul's Galatian converts were not Jews. How, then, to make them (and gentile Christians in general) the genuine recipients of that promise? He does this by reinterpreting the idea of Abraham's "seed" (sperma). Because the word in scripture (passim, in Genesis) was singular, Paul claims it refers to a singular individual (3:16). He identifies that individual as Christ. Now, this is more than a bit absurd, in that the content of God's promises to Abraham would hardly be applicable to Jesus Christ as one human individual, let alone as the divine Son of God. And while the "seed" in Genesis is certainly in the singular, it is a collective singular; indeed, "seeds" could never be used in the plural in such a context, as it would make no sense. A person's descendants are collectively referred to in the singular when using the "seed" terminology. So Paul is blatantly reaching here, and no amount of 'spinning' by New Testament commentators can make it seem sensible or acceptable.

The object of Paul's sleight of hand becomes clear by the end of chapter 3. Through faith, his readers, and all who have been baptized into Christ, have become "sons of God" and have "put on Christ" (3:27). They are all "one in Christ Jesus" (3:28). To drive the conclusion home, he says: "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Christ interpreted as Abraham's (singular) "seed" has served the purpose of providing a link between Abraham and those who Paul claims are the true heirs of the promise to Abraham, namely Christians. This, of course, is in keeping with the central claim of the Christian sect, continuing to this day, that God rejected the Jews and transferred his favor onto believers in Christ.

Thus Paul's sight is fixed upon Christians. It is they who are the "seed" and they who have "come" and inherited the promise made to Abraham. The "seed" as Christ is simply a stepping-stone. Thus Muller's claim that we can tease out an historical Jesus in Paul's mind from all of this is falling into the trap that Paul's very self-serving exegesis has left behind. Let's see how we can avoid the pieces of that trap. First of all, what is it that has "come" in the present time, as Paul presents it? Follow this succession of verses (using The Translator's New Testament):

19. Why then was the Law necessary at all? It was introduced to show what transgressions are, but it was to last only until the 'seed' should come to whom the promise had been directly made....
23. Before faith came we were held imprisoned under law until the faith which was to come should be revealed. 24. And so the Law has been like a guardian escorting us to Christ, that we might be made right with God through faith; 25. but now that faith has come we are no longer under a guardian.

In verses 23 and 25, what has "come" in the present time is faith, faith in Christ Jesus. It is not Jesus who has come. No historical figure is inserted between the centuries-old Law and the coming of faith. Verse 24 makes that sequence clear: the Law as a precursor leads not to Christ himself as an historical man, but to faith in Christ; Law is followed bysupplanted byrevelation, and faith in that revelation. This is the pattern constantly repeated throughout Paul's epistles, from Romans 1 on. If Paul still has "Christ" in mind in verse 19 as his definition of the "seed," it is only as a symbol, a link to those inheritors of the promise, the true seed he is so at pains to create, namely those who have been baptized into Christ (v.27). Paul has made it clear elsewhere that he regards the baptized believer as part of the body of Christ, and this mystical concept serves to join Christ and the body of believers into the collective "seed" he speaks of throughout this chapter. There is thus no way for us to separate those two wedded elements in Paul's mind and declare exactly what he has in mind as "coming" in verse 19. In any case, we can take any thought of Christ "coming" in the same way that it is presented throughout the New Testament epistles, namely as a spiritual figure that has been "revealed" in the present time, through scripture and the Holy Spirit.

Verse 22 says this: "But scripture has established that everything is imprisoned by sin so that the promise, based on faith in Jesus Christ, might be given only to those who have faith." Here, Paul can no longer sustain the charade that the object, the recipient, of the promiseas he manipulated it in 3:16is Christ himself. Rather, the promise falls on the Christian, through faith in Christ. The link to Christ is symbolic and mystical. There is nothing to suggest that it has anything to do with a recent human man who was himself the supposed "seed" of Abraham and recipient of the promise. Throughout this entire passage, Paul spends not a word in describing or enlarging upon the recent earthly activities of Christ as "seed" of Abraham, the one who had supposedly played such a role in salvation history, thus making Muller's declaration here simply a reading of the Gospel background into the thought of the epistle:

What remains is for the Son/Christ to come as the seed of Abraham, that is as a Jew and earthly human (as other seeds of Abraham, like Paul, as previously discussed), in order to enable the promise.

In fact, Paul's silence is an almost outright exclusion. If a Jesus on earth had been the principal agent of transition between the Law and the new system of salvation, Paul could hardly have failed to provide some hint of such an idea in his elaborate exegesis in this chapter, some reflection of the earthly career of Abraham's "seed." And note Paul's somewhat cryptic contrast in verses 19 to 20:

"19. ...[the Law] was transmitted by angels and by the hand of an intermediary. 20. Now where only one party is acting there is no need for an intermediary. And God is one."

The elements of this passage have most commentators scratching their heads, and interpretations have been legion. But even though the reference in verse 20 seems to relate most directly to the event of God making his promise to Abraham, it comes in the larger context of the transition from the old to the new, from the Law to salvation in Christ as fulfillment of that promise. How can Paul leave this anomalous idea hanging in the air? Where is the intermediary Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, preaching in his own person the new salvation, preaching himself as the channel to that salvation? If Paul highlights the giving of the Law as something done by God through intermediaries, through angels and (apparently) Moses, if he implies a contrast of quality between the Law and the promise based on one using intermediaries and the other not, how can he do this without taking into account the idea of Jesus on earth being God's own intermediary in the giving of the Law's replacement and the fulfilling of the promise? Paul's contrast here would certainly be compromised. Yet clearly, there is no problem for Paul. It is faith in Christ that has supplanted the Law, and this faith has come not through any historical intermediary but by revelation, directly from God; all of it is fully in keeping with the contrast Paul has expressed between the Law and the promise.

In regard to Muller's comments on Christ as the "seed" of Abraham, and the "coming" of that seed (3:16-19), Michael Turton on IIDB had this to say:

Bernard takes this passage to say the verb 'come' here implies a first coming on earth. Nowhere is that present in this passage. The whole discussion is an abstract discussion of the Law and Christ. "Came" here simply represents the appearance of Jesus in our reality, not necessarily on earth. If Paul had meant come on earth, he would have said it. Bernard is simply back-reading the story of the Gospels into Paul, invoking his and the reader's unconscious assumptions -- the ones Doherty wants you to give up -- in interpreting these passages. Pulling a whole history on earth out of a single verb is the ultimate in historicist desperation....

Here I think Bernard goes badly wrong. In Gal 3:16 he has misread the last sentence. It does not say Christ is of Abraham's seed. Rather it says (to expand it properly): "And to thy seed; [a promise] which is Christ." In other words, read in context, it does not say that Christ is of Abraham's seed. It says that Christ is the fulfillment of a promise to Abraham's seed. Bernard has erred again (on the same point) and thus, his argument falls to pieces.

Now, this is actually a very interesting take on 3:16. While I'm not quite ready to commit to it, such an interpretation would get Paul out of an awkward exegetical jam. Grammatically, it could work, and since the close association in Paul's mind and argument between Christ and believers linked to him makes them both equally the personification of the "seed" of Abraham, we could so interpret Paul's thought behind the words. Paul has stressed the "coming of faith" and the appearance, if you will, of those who believe in Christ, an entity revealed only now by apostles like himself. In that sense, then, Christ has clearly "come" in the present time. We need see no thought of a coming by Christ in the flesh in recent history.

3.2.1. Doherty on Galatians4:4
Gal4:4 YLT "... God sent forth His Son, come ['ginomai'] of a woman, come under the law"
In chapter 12, page 123-125, Doherty comments on "born of woman" from Gal4:4. He admits this passage "most suggests that he [Paul] has a human Jesus in mind."
But then he goes to work, starting by "God sent his own Son", but "forget" to take in account Ro8:3 Darby "... God, having sent his own Son, in likeness of flesh of sin ..." (the "sent" Son is not a spirit, as Earl argues (p.123) (& why would a woman be needed for the Son to "become" a spirit)! See also here for an explanation on "likeness")!
His convoluted argumentation does not disprove anything and looks rather like a series of red herrings. He is trying to raise doubts by way of speculative suppositions, using expressions "this can be taken", "seem", "not necessarily tied", "do not have to be seen" & "one interpretation that could be given" in order to counteract the obvious.
And any writing/myth known during Paul's time is considered a likely inspiration, such as Isa7:14 and Dionysos' birth, as if no man were born of woman in antiquity!

If I had used expressions which were more definite, rather than these "speculative suppositions," I would no doubt have been accused of making firm declarations based on little or weak evidence. The point in dealing with passages like Galatians 4:4 is not to "prove" that they have meanings entirely in keeping with the mythicist position, but that they can enjoy alternate interpretations and do not have to be seen as conforming to traditional readings.
It is the fact that something has for so long been regarded as "obvious" which is what must be counteracted. The language I use in arguing such passages, and which Muller so disdainfully dismisses, is the proper approach.  (The question of "likeness" in regard to other passages has been discussed in my Part Two of this response.)

Before focusing in on the central passage of Galatians 4:4-7, let's see how Muller brings in a later passage, the "allegory" of 4:21-31.

3.2.2. Comments on Richard Carrier's review on Doherty's book about Galatians4:4
Richard wrote: "I am surprised he doesn't point out the most important support for his position: the fact that Paul actually says in the same letter that one woman he is talking about is allegorical, representing the "heavenly" Jerusalem, not an actual woman (Gal. 4:23-31)."
Carrier is correct into mentioning the allegorical woman in Gal4:26-27 (even if 'woman' is never spelled out!), but the whole passage (Gal4:24-27) is presented as an allegory. It is only here that Paul used the word-root 'allegoreo' (allegory) and also 'sustoicheo' (correspond) in all his epistles. Therefore he indicated the ensuing verses should not to be taken literally, including the "our mother" in 4:26 (the heavenly Jerusalem) and the "her" in 4:27 (as a quote from Isa54:1, where she is Jerusalem). In any case, Paul was clear about not referring to a real human female here. He did not even employ the word 'woman'!
And he never said the woman in Gal4:4 stands for the heavenly Jerusalem! Furthermore, all other women in Paul's letters are earthly ones, including the two right after Gal4:4, the biblical Hagar and Sarah (not named but identified as the "freewoman") (Gal4:21-25).

Confusion abounds here, and to some extent I think Carrier shares in it. Muller's argument is designed to counter Carrier's 'support' of my position by pointing out an essential difference between Paul's reference to a "woman" in 4:4, and his reference to two women (not just one) in 4:21f. This difference is allegedly that in the latter case, Paul specifically declares such women to be allegorical, whereas he makes no such declaration in regard to the woman of 4:4; by this, he seeks to disqualify Carrier's suggestion that the allegory of 4:21f supports my meaning of 4:4. Actually, I neither see nor claim a significant connection between the two. The confusion is based on an equating of "allegorical" with "mythical," which is not the same thing, even if they may be said to share some common applications. Paul does not declare the woman of 4:4 to be allegorical because there is no allegory involved. She doesn't "represent" anything, no more than him saying in Romans 1:3 that the Son is "of David's seed" has an allegorical meaning. Christ of the seed of David doesn't "represent" anything either. It is a factum about the Son regarding his nature in the spiritual dimension, derived from scripture; just as, I maintain (and will discuss shortly), Christ could have been declared "born of woman, born under the law" under the influence of scripture probably Isaiah 7:14and for other philosophical necessities.

Having said this, I will agree that a general form of "support" may be derived from the allegory passage, in the sense that all of Paul's imagery throughout these chapters is concerned with symbolic relationships, not history let alone historical individuals, and all of it is designed to further his purpose here, namely to identify his Christian (and largely gentile) readers with the proper seed of Abraham and set them apart from traditional interpretations so as to make them the true inheritors of God's promise. (Verses 28-29 and 31 return like a kind of summation to the theme that Paul's readers are the children of the promise.) It follows that we should see his reference to Christ "born of woman" as also furthering that purpose.

Muller declares that all other woman in Paul's letters are earthly ones, including the two in the Galatians allegory, which is simply falling once again into the trap of making all variable usages of a term conform to a single definition. Besides, the "woman" in Galatians 4:4 is not given a name, and she is not identified with any character (literary or otherwise) whom Paul can be shown to have known. The "woman" of 4:4 is simply generic. She is there to serve the overall purpose, to characterize the "son" in a certain way as part of Paul's argument. The question is, what is that characterization, and can he have achieved it by assigning Christ to a woman in a mythological sense, based on an application of scripture?

It has often been pointed out that there seems little reason why Paul should have bothered in Galatians 4:4 to specify Christ as "born of woman." Why would such an obvious 'fact' need stating? To some extent, it's a valid question, but it needs to be answered in the context of the passage. That passage runs, using the NEB translation:

"3. ...During our minority we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe, 4. but when the term was completed [lit., when the fullness of time came], God sent his own Son, born of (a) woman, born under (the) law, to purchase freedom for the subjects of the law, 5. in order that we might attain the status of sons. 6. To prove that you are sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying 'Abba! Father!' 7. You are therefore no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then also by God's own act an heir."

There are a lot of pitfalls in this passage, buried mines which make it treacherous to simply charge ahead, as people like Muller do, declaring that it can all mean only one thing. It is, as I have admitted and as Muller throws back at me, the passage in all the epistles which most seems to suggest that Paul has a human Jesus in mind, but it is by no means that straightforward. Earlier in this response to Muller, I discussed at some length the idea of paradigmatic parallel, the foundation of so much of the soteriological thinking of the time. Just as the savior god or heavenly champion was thought of as representing or experiencing things in common with those he was linked to, thus guaranteeing common beneficial results such as resurrection and exaltation, the idea of being "born of woman" can be seen as part of that commonality. So could "born under (the) law" (the definite article does not appear in the Greek, though it may be understood). Paul's purpose in making this statement would be to strengthen the paradigmatic parallel: as Jesus took on our nature, our 'slavery' under the law, he is best placed to achieve our freedom from it. But is it an earthly, human nature and slavery he has taken on? Or is this simply part of the mythological picture painted throughout the epistles, and indeed throughout the entire salvation thinking of the era? Is it a "taking on" in that pattern of "likeness" we find emphasized in both Christian/Jewish and pagan writings where savior deities are concerned? Muller is at pains to dismiss my interpretation of "likeness," but it is not so easily got rid of. It is repeatedly emphasized in places where it should be unnecessary, misleading or redundant, as in the 'descending' half of the Philippians christological hymn, or Romans 8:3, or the Ascension of Isaiah 9. The entire concept of descending redeemers (recurring in gnostic texts) is dependent on them receiving 'bodies' and performing/suffering things that are human-like but not specifically physical and historical. Savior god mythology casts them in the likeness of human experiences which (according to Plutarch) belong to the mythical and spiritual realm, not the earthly historical sphere. The paradigmatic parallel
as for example between the Righteous One/Messiah Son of Man in heaven and the righteous on earth in the Similitudes of Enochis based on the relationship between heaven and earth, between spiritual and earthly manifestations. There is no impediment to interpreting Galatians 4:4 in the same vein.

If a good argument can be made to see the "of David's seed" in Romans 1:3 as something mythological, as derived from scripture, if the descending-ascending redeemer of the Philippians hymn can be seen as conforming to gnostic mythology about non-human savior figures (as in The Apocalypse of Adam and The Apocryphon of John), then Galatians 4:4 should be no tougher a nut to crack. Paul affirms Jesus' issuance from woman and slavery to the law because it serves his soteriological picture; it further links Christ with those who are made sons and given freedom from the law. It is another piece of his overall argument in these chapters designed to make his readers the object and inheritors of the promise, through Christ. Consider the earlier verse 3:13. "Christ bought us freedom from the curse of the law by becoming for our sake an accursed thing; for Scripture says, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'." If the mythicist argument can make a good case for regarding such a 'hanging' as a mythical/spiritual event (as it has in regard to passages like 1 Corinthians 2:8, Colossians 2:15, the Ascension of Isaiah 9:14, and even Hebrews with its sacrifice in heaven), if it can point to scripture as the source of belief in such an event, (as in 1 Peter 2:22 and 1 Clement 16 and certain statements in the epistle of Barnabas, as well as Paul's own statements concerning "tas graphas" and God himself as the source of his gospel about the Christ), then Christ being "born of woman" is no further a reach. If Christ in a mythical context can take on a cursed nature, he can take on genesis 'from woman.' If Paul regards him as taking on this cursed nature as part of Christ's assumption of paradigmatic features to facilitate the process of salvation, he can regard him as taking on genesis from woman for the same purpose, especially when he has scripture telling him so in both cases.

One critic claimed: "The Jewish law is binding on the descendants of Abraham. It does not apply to angels or demons or divine effluences. If Jesus was born under the law, then Jesus was born into a Jewish family." Yet Jesus, as a divine effluence, took on the cursed nature of Deuteronomy 27:26, expanding its meaning beyond that relating to the fate of Hebrew criminals (another case of Paul casting his divine Christ according to scriptural sources). One has to be careful about declaring that ideas have very restricted limits and can never undergo evolution and wider application. Casting a glance back to Part One, this is indeed "a failure of imagination."

Galatians 4:4-7

Before going further and introducing a new piece of evidence, let's look at those mines buried at shallow level in the landscape of Galatians 4:4-7. Each one may not have a fatal explosive force in itself, but collectively they raise enough dust and blow a deep enough hole to obscure any historical Jesus.

1. When did God "send his own Son"? Once again, it is uncanny how Paul can consistently fail to use words which would locate Jesus in historical time, let alone his own recent past. "In the fullness of time" is pretty woolly, and in fact probably applies to the idea of the fullness of the time in which God had allowed the Jewish Law to have force. (The NEB opts for this meaning in its "but when the term was completed," referring to the period of enslavement to the Law.) When that term had expired, what arrived? Not Jesus himself, but as Paul has just stated it (3:23 and 25), faith in him. At God's appropriate time, he revealed his Son through apostles like Paul (as it is represented in passages like Galatians 1:16, Romans 16:25-27, Colossians 2:2, 2 Timothy 1:10, Titus 1:3), the Son who is described as a former secret long-hidden.

2. What precisely did God send? "God sent his own Son" may be ambiguous, but verse 6 is not: "To prove that you are sons [lit., because you are sons], God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son..." The latter looks like an enlargement on the previous thought, and both are assigned to the present time, which would make the "sending" of the Son only that of his spirit. The two verbs of 'sending' are identical, and it is the same verb commonly used when speaking of the "sending" of the Holy Spirit, or of spiritual beings such as angels or Wisdom.

3. Who was acting in the present? Consider this succession of ideas through verses 4 to 7:

"God sent his own purchase freedom for [lit., in order that he might redeem] the subjects of the law, in order that we might attain the status of sons....You are therefore no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then also by God's own act an heir."

Grammatically speaking, there is an ambiguity in the first two phrases, in both English and Greek. "God" is the main subject, and could be said to govern the entire sentence. Thus, it could be God himself who is the subject of the verb "purchase" or it could be the "Son." And yet, that ambiguity is surely resolved by the later phrase. The stated purpose of sending the Son (or his spirit) was to make believers "sons" of God. In verse 7, Paul identifies that result as due to an act of God, not the Son. The sense of the entire passage thus makes God the one who has "redeemed/purchased freedom." So Paul supposedly has God send the Son to earth, but doesn't present him as the one performing the redeeming act while he is there. The only context in which this makes sense is that the Son did not come to earth and live the Gospel events, but that God himself
drawing on Christ's death and rising in a spiritual dimension, at an unspecified time or in a timeless settingis the one who has been responsible for redemption, by revealing Christ and his supernatural activities in the present time and making the resultant benefits available to those who have adopted faith in him, courtesy of Paul's preaching. This is the mode of expression found throughout the epistles.
    Apologetic 'explanations' that since Jesus is God, or acting on God's behalf, it is legitimate for Paul to say that God does everything, are hardly compelling. I suggest that this is not the way the human mind works and does not explain the universal blind eye turned toward Jesus as the primary agent in their own time, which all the early writers seem to suffer from. Such an explanation is simply an apologetic ploy, and a pretty lame one at that.

4. When was Christ "born"? Those two phrases qualifying the Son, "born of woman, born under the Law," are descriptive of the Son, but not necessarily tied to the present 'sending.' (See E. D. Burton, International Critical Commentary, Galatians, p.216f.) They have no necessary temporal relation to the verb "sent" and do not have to be seen as present occurrences. Thus they present no impediment to the scenario outlined in point 3.

5. And what of the word "born" as it is consistently translated? In fact, Paul does not use the normal, everyday word for giving or undergoing birth here, which would be "gennaō". Instead, he uses "ginomai" (as he does in Romans 1:3 in speaking of the Son "coming/arising" from the seed of David). Ginomai has a broad range of definition, as Carrier has pointed out, and "being born" is only one meaning of many. I have suggested that the use of ginomai may be indicative of Paul having something more in mind than simple human birth, but I could go further and say this: If Paul meant that Jesus was born of a human mother, he should have had no reason not to use the verb gennaō, which means just that. Consequently, we can conclude the strong likelihood that by using ginomai, Paul must be referring to something OTHER than birth by a human woman.
    This conclusion is strengthened when we compare Paul's uses of gennaō vs. ginomai throughout his letters. Let's look at the other occasions in the Pauline corpus where birth is referred to:
    - Romans 9:11 - [referring to Rebecca's children] "...but before they were born, when they had as yet done nothing good or ill..." Here Paul uses gennaō.
    - 1 Corinthians 4:15 - "In Christ Jesus I became your father [lit., I gave birth to you] through the gospel." Here, even in a figurative context, Paul uses
    - Galatians 4:23, 24 and 29 - This the Sarah/Hagar allegory discussed above. In the three places in which Paul expresses the idea of birth
even within a declared allegorical contexthe uses gennaō.
    THE ONLY OCCASIONS WHEN HE USES GINOMAI TO REFER TO AN APPARENT 'BIRTH' ARE THOSE TWO REFERENCES TO CHRIST: in Romans 1:3 in being "born of David's seed" and in Galatians 4:4 in being "born of woman/under the law." (For the hymn in Philippians 2, see below.) In the entire corpus of early Christian writings, both inside and outside the New Testament, there is no other case of the usage of "ginomai" to refer to human birth, including that of Jesus. For Paul to make this distinction in terminology must be significant, and must mean something to him. The most compelling conclusion is that in both these cases regarding Christ he was not referring to human birth.
    It is intriguing that, while modern translations opt for the word "born" in rendering the "genomenon" of verse 4, the older King James Version renders it "made of woman, made under the Law," and similarly uses "made" in Romans 1:3, even though it has no compunction about using "born" in translating
gennaō, such as in the allegorical passage about the sons of Abraham later in Galatians 4. Now, I'm not suggesting that King James' translators shared my mythicist views, but might they instinctively have realized that this unusual use of ginomai by Paul in these two places seems to set them apart? I would call attention to Paul's reference to Adam in 1 Corinthians 15:45. The King James has it: "The first man Adam was made [egeneto, from ginomai] a living soul..." Naturally, Adam was never "born" from a woman, so gennaō was not an option, but this and the Galatians 4 use of ginomai suggest that for Paul they are both in the realm of mythology. The very mythological hymn of Philippians 2 also uses ginomai in verse 7: "(KJV)...and was made in the likeness [that pesky "likeness" again] of men." This (as yet unnamed) descending deity undergoes no suggestion of "being born"which term the KJV again avoids, though modern translations often do not. That verse of the hymn also introduces the idea of the descending deity taking on the "form of a slave," a concept in common with the 'enslavement' to the Law implied in Galatians 4. There is a commonality of thought through all this, and it is anything but clearly related to earthly history. Contrast this with the Gospel writers who consistently use gennaō to express birth, including that of Jesus, as in Matthew 2:1: "After Jesus was born (gennaō) in Bethlehem of Judea..." Even John the Baptist, among those "born of woman" in Matthew 11:11 (following Q), undergoes that process courtesy of the verb gennaō. And Luke, of course, follows suit (1:35, 1:57, 7:28).
    In the wider literature, we find a rare use of ginomai to signify "born," but in the vast majority of cases, it is
gennaō. The Septuagint (LXX) has several occurrences of the phrase "born of woman," but to point these out in English (as Christopher Price on the IIDB has done) is irrelevant, since the critical question is: what verb is being used in the Greek? In cases like Job 14:1 and 25:4 or Sirach 10:18, it is gennaō, which only serves to highlight the difference from Galatians 4:4 and lead to the conclusion that Paul's divergence from the norm must mean something. If it is claimed that "born of woman" is an idiomatic phrase in the Hebrew Bible (with which Paul was certainly familiar), why did he alter that idiom and substitute a different verb in not one but two places when he referred to Jesus' supposed human birth? In any case, when a key word in an idiom is changed, it is no longer the idiom.
    In those few places in the LXX where ginomai is used for 'birth' there is a definite distinction in its context, as in Tobit 8:6: "Thou madest Adam and gavest him Eve his wife for a helper and stay; of them came (ginomai) mankind." Here the thought is a general "arising from" rather than individual birth. And in 1 Esdras 4:16: "Women [speaking in general] have borne the king and all the people that bear rule by sea and land." While neither of these cases is mythological in a Platonic context, there is a subtle affinity with Paul's two usages, and it does not entail a specific birth in recent history.     
    Thus, Muller and others have overlooked the most critical distinction of all between the "born of woman" of Galatians 4:4 and the "born of woman" in the allegory of Galatians 4:21f, and indeed in all other places: Paul's refusal to use the normal verb for human birth in the former, even though he and everyone else was quite comfortable using it in all other instances. In any case, claiming that the meaning of a word or phrase in one place must govern its meaning in all other places is a common apologetic fallacy, and fails to take into account differing circumstances and the evolution of ideas. We can extend that fallacy to the objection that since the myths of the savior gods (such as Dionysos in regard to being born of a human woman) meant one thing at an earlier time, at had to have the same meaning and application at all later times. Plutarch's presentation of the different ways of interpreting the myth of Osiris, both earthly and spiritually in Middle Platonic fashion, with his relegation of the earthly version to the realm of mythical allegory, discredits this argument. The fact that the idea of Dionysos being born of a woman (and note I have never said that the literature uses this specific phrase of him) was formulated at a time when this was believed literally, does not preclude that at some later time such literalness had evolved to myth and allegory.

These five points create a strong impediment to those who would declare that Galatians 4:4 sounds a death knell for the mythicist case. In fact, forming a coherent picture as they do, in conformity with so much else that we find expressed in the New Testament epistles, they can be said to contribute in a positive manner to the conclusion that Paul and the other early epistle writers believed only in a mythical Jesus.

Giving Birth to the Messiah

But that's not the end of it. Earlier, in regard to Romans 1, the question was asked, is it possible Paul could have conceived of his Christ, a spiritual being in the spiritual world, as bearing some kind of relationship to David, regardless of how he might have understood it? That question was answered positively, through an appeal to Platonic philosophy and to Paul's stated derivation of his gospel about the Son as being from scripture.
(Again, let me reiterate that this does not entail Paul believing that the spiritual Christ was a literal descendant of the earthly David, so challenges to come up with some other example of such an admittedly bizarre idea are not applicable.) A similar question needs to be asked about Galatians 4:4. Is it possible that early Christians like Paul could accept Christ as "born of woman" in an entirely mythological setting, regardless of how they might understand it?  The answer to that question is equally positive. Not only can we extend the appeal to Platonic philosophy and to possible scriptural derivation (namely Isaiah 7:14), we can find an example of such thinking right within the New Testament itself. (This is something I had previously overlooked, until, much to my chagrin, my attention was called to it by a correspondent.)

I have in the past pointed out that certain deities in savior god mythology were spoken of as having been born of woman, as for example Dionysos. Critics have countered that such myths were placed on earth and not in the heavens, and that the 'woman' was regarded as having actually lived, even if in the context of primordial legend. This is true
originally. But as Platonic philosophy took hold through the Hellenistic period, such myths became transplanted to a spirit dimension, even while keeping much of their original expression as rooted in a distant earthly past. This evolution of myth can be seen in one of the documents of the New Testament: the Book of Revelation. The Apocalypse of John contains a wealth of mythology derived from a wide spectrum of ancient myths both Jewish and pagan. And virtually all of it is placed in the heavens. Like those visionary ascents to the spiritual realms so common during the period, such as in Daniel, the Ascension of Isaiah and the Similitudes of Enoch, Revelation has moved its mythology from earth to heaven, from the material to the spiritual. The myth we need to consider here is that of chapter 12:

"1. And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun... 2. and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.... 5. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, and her child was caught up to God and to his throne..." [NASB]

Commentators like John Sweet (Revelation, p.193f) and R. Beasley-Murray (The Book of Revelation, p.192f), have identified the background to the mythology of chapter 12. Sweet says: "It is widely agreed that the story told in chapter 12 represents a Jewish-Christian adaptation of what can only be described as an international myth, current throughout the world of John's day. No single tradition can account for all the features of the chapter." A primary source seems to be the Greek myth of the birth of Apollo from the goddess Leto, but elements of the Babylonian creation myth are also present, along with Persian and Egyptian features. As well, the woman and child represent longstanding Jewish themes: the woman as "the ideal glorified Israel" (Sweet), as "Mother Zion bringing forth the messianic Deliverer of God's suffering people" (Beasley-Murray). No matter how one wishes to interpret the mythical imagery of Revelation, it is representative of ancient mythological thought, and it has nothing to do with history, let alone the Mary and Jesus of the Gospels.

And how pathetic it is to see commentators like Sweet and Beasley-Murray twist the text into knots, wringing these verses like a wet rag, in an attempt to squeeze from them some drop of history, some distillation of the Gospels, on which they could be based. According to Sweet (p.195), "The whole life of Jesus from conception to ascension is condensed in these few words
['caught up to God']." "It may seem strange," he says, "that his death and resurrection, normally the centre of the story, are not actually mentioned, but John is writing for the church, which knows it..." Beasley-Murray goes further, throwing rationality to the wind (p.199-200): "Not a few expositors maintain that since it was impossible for a Christian to represent Jesus as exalted to heaven as soon as he was born, the 'birth' must be interpreted as the death and resurrection of Jesus....(John) is content to let the narrative of the deliverer's birth and rapture to heaven stand without modification, for his readers were all aware that Jesus, prior to his ascension, had a life and ministry among men, and experienced a death and resurrection." Well, if the "church" were aware of such things, it was certainly not through the channels of any non-Gospel writing of this period, for they are all, including Revelation, silent on such events on earth from start to finish. When a passage can be made to "stand for" anything which the commentator wishes to read into it, silence and contrary meaning obviously evaporate as a difficulty. Unfortunately, this is the methodology of much of New Testament scholarship and is a measure of the seriousness and honesty which has been applied to dealing with the mythicist case.

The vocabulary of Revelation 12 includes neither gennaō nor ginomai (the words used instead relate to tiktō, to bear), but this is the birth of a divine child from a "woman" taking place in a mythical context, and whether it is pure allegory or an expression of common mythological thinking, there is nothing by which we can make a clear distinction between this "born of woman" and that of Galatians 4. More than the allegory of 4:21f, and regardless of the issue of vocabulary, this scene in the Book of Revelation provides undeniable support for a purely mythological interpretation of Paul's "born of woman."

(The correspondent I mentioned above who pointed out my blind spot in regard to Revelation 12 was James Barlow, who submitted an essay on the Doherty-Muller debate containing some interesting reflections on the mythicist case and "born of woman." I have included an edited version here: "Realizing the Mythicist Case: Doherty vs. Muller")

Marcion and the Option for Interpolation

Finally, let's survey the option that "born of woman, born under the Law" is an interpolation, a view that some radical scholars hold. It could well be, though I tend to shy away from taking the easy way out here and prefer to argue along the preceding lines. The main argument in this regard is based on a comparison of the canonical and Marcionite versions of Galatians. In the latter, those key phrases in Galatians 4:4 are missing. Did Marcion excise them, or were they added later by an ecclesiastical editor? Christopher Price on the IIDB said this:

We know that Marcion mutilated Paul's letters and mutilated Luke. Moreover, we know that one of Marcion's most important targets was anything suggesting Jesus was a human being or was born. This is why he removed the first two chapters of Luke. It's also why he removed Galatians 4.4. No such references could be allowed....And Matthew's birth narrative was widely circulated prior to Marcion.

Well, we don't "know" that Marcion mutilated Luke and Paul's letters. That's the main issue under debate in regard to Marcion's use of Luke and Paul. Some scholars have concluded the opposite, that the first two chapters of Luke were not present in the version used by Marcion, which could well have been an Ur-Luke. It is certainly true that Marcion would not have liked certain passages in the Luke we have, but if there were as many as we find in the canonical version, and if the Lukan Gospel had been linked with an already written Acts of the Apostles, it becomes doubtful that Marcion would have been attracted to using Luke at all. Scholars blithely declare that Marcion made these wholesale deletions from Luke, but if the latter was a well-known Gospel by his time, it would surely have been difficult to get away with such mutilations. As for Price's claim that Matthew's birth narrative was widely circulated prior to Marcion, I have no knowledge of any evidence on which this is based.

Quotations were made on the IIDB regarding arguments for "born of woman, born under the law" as a 2nd century post-Marcion Catholic redaction, but those taken from the Dutch Radical Van Manen I found of mixed efficacy. Von Manen finds a particular difficulty in the apparent contradiction that Galatians 4 has Christ already under the "curse" of the Law from birth, yet he becomes a "cursed thing" only by mounting the cross in Galatians 3. I find this somewhat forced as an incompatibility (it's holding a letter writer to far too strict a standard), and in any case it is fairly easily absorbed within the mythicist scenario. Von Manen's strongest argument is based on the grammatical nature of the phrase, in that the "born" participle is in the aorist, implying that these characteristics of the Son
born of woman and born under the Lawwere already existing when he was "sent." Von Manen put this down to a miscalculation by a later editor who didn't appreciate the anomaly he was creating, but in fact this observation is fully supportive of a Pauline origin within the mythicist scenario. Since God is sending only the "spirit" of his Son at the present time, and the two "legomenon" features are mythical, then they were indeed in effect prior to the present "sending" of the Sonwhich was not a birth at all in the historical sense. Thus the interpolation option is at best only a possibility and cannot, in my view, be convincingly demonstrated.

Before leaving "born of woman," we should note another interesting observation made by Michael Turton on IIDB:

Bernard's argument further demands that we take the meaning of "sons" in Galatians 4 to be historical when it refers to Jesus, but allegorical when it refers to humans. In fact Gal 4 is one long allegory on Abraham, sonship, and the Law. Note that Paul uses "according to the flesh" here in a symbolic sense. Abraham has two sons, both by human women, and both born by sexual intercourse and a trip down the birth canal. But he distinguishes them by their relationship to the Law...

Turton points out that, according to the orthodox view, Jesus is the historical and literal son of a woman, while believers who have become "sons" are only symbolically so. In a context of so much allegory, the former half of that contrast is out of character, and sticks out like a sore thumb. (Compare this to the situation in Romans 1:2-4, in which Paul, though laying out a context which is thoroughly scriptural, is nevertheless claimed to be inserting a piece of historical datum in calling Jesus "arising from David's seed.") Another important observation is the use of "kata sarka" here. Rather than a literal meaning, it must have a symbolic one, for Isaac was also "natural born" in the fleshly sense. The phrase's application to Ishmael signifies enslavement to the Law, while Isaac born "free" is equated with the children of the promise, namely Paul's readers, who are now free of the Law. This allegorical meaning shows that Paul could use kata sarka in many different ways, not all of them literal.


In the next two sections of his critique, Muller tackles my comments on "brother of the Lord" and Josephus. I have no intention of rehashing either of these subjects here. They have been done to death, and neither of them are resolvable. But they don't have to be. The mythicist option needs merely establish that, in the case of "the brother of the Lord" we can arrive at nothing but ambiguity, and in the case of Josephus we can never arrive at a position of reliability in regard to the claim that Josephus wrote something about an historical Jesus. Each one of us can decide on the relative strengths of both sides of the argument in either case, but neither Josephus nor Galatians 1:19 can be used to prove the existence of Jesus or discredit the mythicist option.

That being said, I will make a few comments on selected points raised on both subjects by Muller and Carrier.

The Brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19)

Muller has nothing original to say in objecting to a reading of "the brother of the Lord" as referring to a fellow Christian or member of the sect. He can acknowledge that "brothers in the Lord" in Philippians 1:14 does indeed refer to fellow Christians, but the change of preposition from "in" to "of" allegedly renders Galatians 1:19 indubitably a reference to sibling. To his question,

If Paul wanted to express James was a Christian, why didn't he write "James, brother in the Lord"?

Carrier replies:

Because Greek is a very rich language, and Paul often changes idiom. It is the same ambiguity in 1 Corinthians 9:5. But I agree that Doherty needs to adduce for us more clear cases that prove the idiom in use within the first two centuries.

I'd love to, but I can't pull corroboration out of a hat. There are many things in the early Christian literature we don't possess parallels for in other areas. This does not preclude us from doing our best to make deductions based on what we have. I postulated that the Jerusalem sect around James could have referred to itself as "brothers of/in the Lord." Muller ridiculed the idea, claiming (on no known grounds) that this would have been understood by their fellow Jews as "brother of Yahweh," something that would have been sacrilegious. And he compared it with the case of Caligula:

Note: the closest equivalent of that title, as related in ancient writings, is one that Caius (Caligula) attributed to himself:
Josephus' Ant., XIX, I, 1,
"He also asserted his own divinity, and insisted on greater honors to be paid him by his subjects than are due to mankind. He also frequented that temple of Jupiter which they style the Capitol, which is with them the most holy of all their temples, and had boldness enough to call himself the brother of Jupiter."
Maybe a self-deified Roman emperor could claim being the brother of a god (and survive for a while!), but what about a regular Jew regarding God, in Jerusalem? Simply preposterous.

What is "preposterous" is to claim that anyone, Jew or otherwise, would think that a group calling itself "brothers of the Lord" meant that they were calling themselves siblings of God. Such a name would simply be interpreted as signifying membership in a brotherhood devoted to God. How Muller in all seriousness can come up with such bizarre straw men and think that this constitutes scholarly rebuttal is a genuine mystery. 

Further on, Earl makes an argument from silence (as he is well known to do a lot!): because James is not said to be Jesus' sibling in [the epistle of] 'James', Christians then did not know about it!

This in fact is a very valid argument from silence which cannot be so disdainfully dismissed. That two pseudonymous authorswriting in famous apostles' names in order to enhance the authority of their forgerieswould fail to identify both James and Jude as siblings of Jesus himself can scarcely be comprehended. This is a classic case of the legitimate usage of the argument from silence: having powerful reasons to expect mention of something, and we don't get it. This silence has vexed several scholars who have offered exceedingly lame 'explanations' for it (see Note 27 in The Jesus Puzzle).

And, as in an act of desperation, in note 26 (p.335) Doherty suggests a Christian interpolation....This is the first reference of "James" in 'Galatians'. But at the time (around 38) of Paul's first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion (as narrated in Gal1:18-20) there was another prominent member of the "church of Jerusalem" named James, the brother of John, who got executed around 42 (according to Ac12:1-2). Therefore, Paul probably wanted to identify the "James" he met then, more so because this one became most important later.

Muller has inadvertently provided the very reason why a later scribe could have felt impelled to insert an identification for James in Galatians 1:19, namely because he believed that there was another James on the scene and he feared that the reader of Paul might be confused as to which one was being referred to. I say "later" because in the early epistles there is no evidence for a "James, brother of John." In fact, Paul a number of times refers to a John, but never to a brother of his by any name. The interpolation would have been made at a timeprobably in the latter 2nd centurywhen the original James had come to be regarded as the sibling of Jesus, and the inserted phrase, meaning "sibling," was one that was currently applied to him. It would have been very natural for a copyist to add "the brother of the Lord" to the text or as a gloss in the margin (later inserted into the text), in order to differentiate James the Just from James brother of John.

For a fuller discussion of Galatians 1:19, see my Reader Feedback 22, response to Gerry.

Josephus' Testimony

Both Muller and Carrier had a fair amount to say about Josephus, but it was confined to the smaller reference to Jesus in Antiquities 20. Surprisingly, Muller declares agreement with me that the longer Testimonium in Antiquities 18 is entirely spurious. This, however, creates problems for regarding "the brother of Jesus, him called the Christ" attached to James in chapter 20 as fully genuine, chief of them being that if Josephus had nowhere else referred to Jesus, or to the "Christ," this reference would be unintelligible to the vast majority of his readers. Muller claims:

The audience of Josephus in the 90's, the educated Romans, were most likely aware of Christians, which term is derived from "Christ", the later being known as (at least) the (alleged) founder of the sect. Certainly Tacitus and Pliny the younger, writing some fifteen years after Josephus did (93), were aware of that. Furthermore, Nero's persecution against them, about thirty years before, was certain to make the Christians well known.

Fifteen years is a long time (actually it was closer to 25), and Tacitus' alleged knowledge of Christians could have been of recent vintage, dependent on newly-circulating hearsay in Rome by and about Christians and their reputed founder. (Some scholars regard this as likely the source of Tacitus' information; for example, Norman Perrin in his The New Testament: An Introduction, p.407.) There is also the question of whether the Tacitus passage is genuine. A persecution by Nero tied to the great fire of 64 CE is not mentioned by Christian commentators for centuries, a very perplexing silence. As for Pliny, he knows surprisingly little about Christians, according to his letter to Trajan (if that is genuine as well). Carrier remarks on Muller's claim that educated Romans were aware of Christians:

This is disproved by Pliny's letter to Trajanboth of them certainly very in-the-know, yet both seem largely clueless about Christians. Pliny had to torture some female Deacons even to find what the religion was about (and Tacitus probably got his information from Pliny). And that was in 110 A.D. It is certainly not the case that Josephus would assume his readers knew what he was talking about. Before the turn of the century, most wouldn't.

When Muller pans my suggestion that "a man named James" could have stood on its own in Antiquities 20 (without the entire phrase "the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ") Carrier somewhat agrees:

That is actually very unlikely on the Greek as we have it. As it stands, it is grammatically *impossible*. Though it is possible a scribe changed the grammar, that would be very unusual, because the phrase is unusual (lit. "for him the name was James")and as a rule, scribes don't change their text to make it more difficult or complex, but almost always to make it simpler. And there would be no need to change it for an interpolation.

I'm not sure I follow Carrier's line of argument here. It is immaterial what scribes do "as a rule" in other situations, especially those in which interpolations are not involved. Here, if the scribe had to alter the grammar in order to make the interpolation, he would do so in whatever way was necessary; as well, we have no way of knowing if he was also forced to drop one or more words. Thus, Carrier cannot really tell whether or not there was a need to change the phrase "whose name was James" in order to insert the reference to Jesus.

Muller traps himself in an "I want it both ways" situation.
He claims that the interpolator of the "lost reference" copied the (genuine) phrase in Antiquities 20 "for the sake of making his bit look authentic!" And yet he has also argued that the similarity of phraseology to other quotations from Josephus makes the reference in chapter 20 authentic. The point is, as Muller declares in his first remark, interpolators who regularly copy the works of any writer are quite capable of mimicing their style, so any argument for authenticity based on conformity of style is accordingly rendered invalid.

Based on his grammatical argument above, Carrier is very confident that Josephus wrote "the brother of Jesus, by the name Jacob." And he could be right, especially as he regards this "Jesus" not as the Jesus of the Christians, but as some other Jesus whom Josephus has already named
and there have been many of them. This is an idea that G. A. Wells has voiced, and it would explain why so little is said about him, and nothing about any connection with a Christian sect. It simply was not James the Just Josephus was talking about. I would add that, in this case, the inserted phrase "the one called Christ" would most likely have been a marginal gloss added by a scribe who did think Josephus was referring to the Christian Jesus (and James) and wanted to make this clearthe same motive and process I suggested earlier in regard to "the brother of the Lord" in Galatians 1:19. As a gloss, this would not have been the place or occasion to add more information about Jesus, laudatory or otherwise.

Muller concludes, and I'll let Michael Turton respond:

I do not think Doherty, despite all his efforts, is convincing against the authenticity of the combined mention of Jesus' brother in Galatians4:4 and Josephus' Antiquities, XX, IX, 1. Even if, at some points, he can raise some doubts. It looks Doherty, as usual, is agenda-driven and trying to eradicate any blood brother because that would prove a human Jesus. Let's also note that Josephus was living in Jerusalem around 62, where and when James was tried & stoned.

Accusing someone making an argument of being "agenda-driven" is an act of rhetorical desperation. I quite agree that it is a strong point that Josephus was living around Jerusalem in 62 when James was handed over for stoning (Josephus nowhere says James was actually killed). Unfortunately for Bernard, that strength runs against his position: if Josephus really knew James and his position, why doesn't he ever mention Christians and Christianity in his many discussions of messianic pretenders?

....But it is apparent that Bernard's arguments are weak indeed; they are 90% rhetoric, and include blatant errors of interpretation, as well as historicist biases and assumptions that render them impotent against Doherty.

I would direct the reader to my lengthy article on all these aspects of the Josephus question, including the longer Testimonium Flavianum: Josephus Unbound.

Revisiting Hebrews

As the final section of his critique, Muller revisits Hebrews to "
examine Doherty's arguments for every occurrence of a human-like Jesus..." His argumentation reaches a new low, and it is truly enough to make one run off screaming into the night. One of the reasons I did not address Mr. Muller's 'case' against The Jesus Puzzle before this was because I felt that its chaotic and incompetent nature would be so evident that no one would pay it any heed. I was eventually persuaded that this was unfortunately not the case by those who urged me to respond. Consider this passage:

Heb2:3 NASB "how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord ["which first (= originally) received/taken (as) spoken through (= by) the Lord"], it was confirmed to us by those who heard,"
Note: the translation in brackets seems the most accurate, if not elegant.
On Chapter 13, page 129, Doherty comments "Jesus would hardly have taught the unique christology contained in this epistle." But since when the mention of 'a salvation' means the whole christology of 'Hebrews'? Let's note Earl quotes ""For this salvation was first announced through the Lord" [based on the NEB]", but "this salvation" (which, for Earl, seems of the same "scenario" as the one in the letter) is NOT in the Greek! So Jesus may have spoken of "a salvation", period. Later, the author of 'Hebrews' "explained" how and why it got "enabled" (through the crucifixion and the "sacrifice", the later "demonstrated" from scriptures taken out of context!

What the NEB has done is simply substitute "this salvation" for the "it" of the second sentence to clarify the antecedent. Is Muller denying that the "it" refers back to the "salvation" of the first sentence? Is he saying that by inserting the word "this," the NEB (and myself by quoting it) have foisted an invalid or misleading meaning on the sentence? It would seem so, for he is claiming that I am reading the NEB's "this salvation" as referring to the "whole christology" of Hebrews, whereas if it were rendered (more accurately?) as "a salvation" it would not. What can one do with argumentation like this? It is almost too grotesque to get one's mind around. In any case, I would argue that the salvation spoken of
in either sentence 1 or sentence 2does include the  whole christology of the epistle. That is the author's concern in Hebrews: to lay out this christology and impress it upon his readers. Why would he not have it in mind in making this statement about the original message, no matter where it came from? No believer would ever think or admit that the philosophy of his sect did not go back to its genesis; this is a universal characteristic of all sects after a certain amount of time has passed. The author begins chapter 2 by saying: "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away," and he goes on for eleven more chapters arguing the validity of what was "heard" at the group's formation and since passed on. (I have demonstrated in Supplementary Article No. 7 that this refers to a revelatory experience from God and not to the teaching of Jesus in an earthly ministry.) Muller argues that the "great salvation" is simply to be taken as Jesus promising "a salvation" without specifics, with the author of Hebrews filling in the blanks later from his own idiomatic reading of scriptureall of this tortured argumentation designed to get around my remark about Jesus not teaching the unique christology of the epistle.

Then Doherty remarks "in fact, the voice of Jesus teaching on earth is never heard in 'Hebrews'; everything the Son "says" comes from the scriptures." I agree with Doherty, but that does not take away Jesus spoke about salvation (generally), even if the author did not care about the specifics.

Apparently, silence for Muller evaporates as a difficulty too, for the silence on Jesus' earthly voice is all explainable by the author not "caring" about the specifics
even in chapter 2, when he wishes to show that Jesus regarded all men as his brothers, and he draws on exclusively biblical sayings to illustrate this, despite having several usable sayings in the Christian oral tradition (if we are to trust the Gospels). Here, too, scholars are vexed for explanations of this strange situation.

And Jesus speaking "in the days of his flesh" is mentioned in:
Heb5:7 Darby "Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up both supplications and entreaties to him who was able to save him out of death, with strong crying and tears; (and having been heard because of his piety;)"
By that time (more so after reading my first page), I think my readers will agree that "in the days of his flesh" relates to a Jesus on earth (and not in Doherty's heaven!). And here, Jesus speaks and is heard (this time allegedly to/by God).

Difficulties evaporate, too, when one simply ignores
right in the text which one is critiquingthe arguments put forward in support of my position. Note 59 of The Jesus Puzzle points out that the content of what Jesus has done "in the days of his flesh" (the supplications and entreaties with cries and tears) is taken from scriptureaccording to more than one scholar. Just as the "voice" of the Son, which Hebrews places in such prominence, is taken exclusively from scripture, so too does 5:7 indicate a mythological outlook on what the Son has done "in the days of his flesh." Finding every feature accorded to the Son solely in scripture, with nothing drawn from history (not even in the opening chapters when the author proves the Son superior to the angels) should do anything but make Muller confident that his readers will "agree" that Jesus is an entity who was recently on earth, with a wealth of historical tradition now attached to him.

And here is something that Earl does not address in his book, about a very human Jesus:
Heb2:14-18 Darby
"Since therefore the children [Christians/"brethren", according to 2:12-13] partake [Greek perfect tense: should read "partook"] of blood and flesh, he [Jesus] also, in like manner [paraplēsiōs], took part in the same [Jesus was as much flesh & blood as the contemporary Christians. An unequivocal confirmation follows:], ... Wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like to [his] brethren, ... , to make propitiation for the sins of the people; for, in that himself has suffered [Greek second perfect: the suffering is over with!], being tempted, he is able to help those that are being tempted [on earth!]."
Note: in 4:15 Darby
"For we have not a high priest not able to sympathize with our infirmities, but tempted [Greek perfect tense] in all things in like manner ...", Jesus has already been tempted.
And where would this "testing" (the same as the one affecting earthlies!) have been? In the demonic fleshy mid-world (between heaven and earth) or the highest heaven? Or on earth, known for its
"flesh and blood" "brethren", subjected to temptations (similar of the ones faced by a human Christ in the past)?

Of course, Muller here has missed the entire dimension of paradigmatic parallel (which I discuss in my book in connection with other passages), which the passage he quotes fits to a "T". And he fails to be perturbed by all those references to "likeness" and "similarity" which ought to be unnecessary and redundant. (Note that the word "paraplēsiōs" means 'similar to,' not 'identical.' Thus Muller is going beyond the wording itself in deducing that "Jesus was as much flesh & blood as the contemporary Christians.") The author is even describing the paradigmatic system of salvation when he says that all this partaking of like qualities and experiences is what enables Christ to "make propitiation" and to "help" those on earth.

Michael Turton commented on the above passage:

Again, the problem remains despite rhetorical questions. Where did the temptation take place? On earth? Then why is there no example or context for this "temptation"? The author of Hebrews is not averse to giving examples -- in the next chapter he talks about Moses, discusses "hardening of hearts" and then gives a historical example -- it happened in the wilderness! Similarly, in 8:5 Moses again appears, and again the time and context of the event are given. Hebrews 11 is one long list of concrete events in the Old Testament. "By faith....." he keeps repeating. This, of course, is yet another silence, for Hebrews does not refer to even a single event in the NT where faith is prominent -- for example, the woman with the menstrual problem who heals herself just by touching Jesus, the centurion of Matthew 8:10 -- a really potent case, for Jesus avers that this gentile beats all the jews in faith, the paralytic of Matthew 9, the next healing of the daughter in Matthew 11, the blind man in Mark 10...the list is long, and all are ignored by Hebrews. Why? The pattern is clear. Hebrews does not know this story.

Finally, let's wonder where Jesus would have been an apostle, more so when all other "apostles" in the NT lived on earth.Heb3:1 Darby "... consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus"
The author explained (at length!) how Jesus became
"High Priest" (by the sacrifice of himself), but did not about "Apostle", likely because it was already known....

Once again, Muller imposes a universal definition and usage on a word. And what of Jesus as "High Priest"? The entire discussion of this identification places Jesus as High Priest in heaven. He performs his duty as High Priest in heaven. The sacrifice was one made in the heavenly sanctuary. Whatever the author has in mind by calling Jesus an "Apostle," there is no impediment to seeing this characterization as having a heavenly application, just as the term "High Priest" does.

And to whom would he have preached?
To Jews, according to Paul:
Ro15:8 Darby
"For I [Paul] say that Jesus Christ became a minister ['diakonos'] of [the] circumcision [Jews] for [the] truth of God, ..."
Note: "became" (root 'ginomai') can be translated as "came to pass" or "happened" (according to Strong). The verb is in the Greek perfect tense; therefore the action has been completed in the past.

From my Reader Feedback No. 18:

"...Romans 15:8-9. But standard translations tend to read more into these verses than is evidently there. Is Paul saying that Christ ministered to the Jews? Literally, the wording is: "Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs." Is this a reference to an earthly ministry? Who knows, with such a cryptic statement? In fact, the verb/participle is in the perfect tense, has become, which has a 'present' ongoing implication. Paul could simply be saying that the spiritual Christ, operating in heaven, is now servant to the Jews, working on their behalf and for the conversion of the gentile. This is pretty weak stuff to support an historical Jesus."

Apparently Muller's understanding of English grammar is no better than his understanding of Greek grammar. The essential characteristic of the perfect tense in both languages is that it depicts an action which started in the past but has a continuing effect in the present. To say that "Christ has become a servant to the Jews" is primarily to make a statement about his present capacity. This focus on the present, on a Jesus who "is" an Apostle, a High Priest, a minister to his people, is fully in keeping with the universal outlook and expression of all the early Christian correspondence, canonical and otherwise, and in keeping with the blind eye turned on anything to do with the history of a recent Jesus of Nazareth.

Michael Turton had this comment on Muller's above passage:

Hello? Where does the passage in Hebrews say Jesus preached? Nowhere. Bernard has once again back-read the gospels into Hebrews. Calling Jesus an "apostle" does not mean that he actually preached. Further, 'Paul' -- or some early Christian -- tells us what an apostle is:

In other words, Jesus is an apostle because he provided us with signs, wonders, and miracles, not because he preached. Bernard's thrust has once more gone astray.

I will let Turton continue to carry the ball in regard to Muller's subsequent remarks:

Heb7:14 Darby "For it is clear that our Lord has sprung out of Juda [as David], as to which tribe Moses spake nothing as to priests."
Doherty comments on that through note 44, on page 340.

Earl starts by saying the statement is drawn from scriptures and therefore is not historical. But does someone claimed to be (truly or through scriptures) "sprung" from an Israelite tribe (or David, or Abraham) preclude the past existence of that person? Of course not. As a matter of fact, here, the author has Jesus ("our Lord") as an earthly human being, as for every descendant from any Israelite tribe.

Once again we have the negative rhetorical back-reading of the gospels into Hebrews. "...But does someone claimed to be (truly or through scriptures) "sprung" from an Israelite tribe (or David, or Abraham) preclude the past existence of that person? Of course not." Bernard is right. It does not preclude past existence. However, it does not establish it, which is what Bernard claims Hebrews is doing. Doherty's point is that Jesus' descent is indicated clearly in the scriptures relied upon by the early Christians. Therefore, Jesus' descent is derived from the OT. Ipso facto, Hebrews cannot be used here as evidence of Jesus' real existence. Bernard's subsequent discussion of "prodelos" is simply idle chit-chat unrelated to the topic at hand. He has failed to adduce any positive evidence that Hebrews knows the descent of Jesus out of some historical understanding rather than OT midrash. He has simply adduced his historicist bias, and appealed to our unconscious sharing of historicist assumptions.

Doherty writes: "there is no appeal to historical facts, or apostolic traditions concerning Jesus of Nazareth, no reference to Joseph and Mary, no mention of his lineage ..."
This is typical of Earl, who presupposes every reference to a human-like Jesus should come with many details attached. But why would the author digress on that here? His purpose is to demonstrate Jesus was not from the tribe normally assigned the priesthood, the Levites, as Doherty points out: "The point is, Christ must be of a new line in order to create a new order of priesthood." And why should more details be supplied when 'Jesus from the tribe of Judah' is already "manifest"? More so if Jesus, as a descendant of David (and father Jesse), was already "known" by Christians (see Ro1:3 & Ro15:12)!
Let's note here the author "explained" many things in the epistle, such as Jesus was pre-existent, the Son of God and, above all, performed the ultimate Sacrifice for sins (all of that new for his audience, according to Heb6:1-3). But the "manifest" descendance from the tribe of Judah comes out of the blue and is never "demonstrated": in all likelihood, the writer knew it was already allowed by his audience.

Bernard at last makes an argument in the last sentence of this passage: " is very likely the writer knew that was already accepted by his audience." This is simple speculation. Bernard also writes dismissively: "This is typical of Earl, who presupposes every reference to a human-like Jesus should come with many details attached." But why not? We see that whenever Hebrews refers to other humans -- Moses -- it frequently supplies details and examples. Of Jesus we get nothing. Moreover, adding Paul in support of Hebrews cannot help Bernard, for if Jesus' ancestry is midrash in Hebrews, it is midrash in Paul as well -- Doherty's entire point! Piling on quotes doth not an argument make. Bernard needs to show that some other route than OT proof-texting is the origin of this idea.

Finally, Bernard notes that Hebrews explained many things. But the examples given are all things that happened in Doherty's lower heaven. Not one is a thing said to have happened on earth -- despite the fact that Hebrews has no trouble giving details of life on earth for Joseph of Moses of the OT. Those were real people to him. Clearly, Jesus was not. Despite the lack of detail, Bernard considers these passages "damaging." The reality is that Doherty in Bernard's hands looks like the gorgeous assistant of a knife thrower in a circus, with knives everywhere around her but none in her flesh.

Heb9:26 Darby "But now once in the consummation of the ages he has been manifested [Greek perfect tense] for [the] putting away of sin by his sacrifice."
In chapter 3, page 37, Doherty comments on the verse: "the author of Hebrews also uses phaneroo ("manifest") in speaking to what has happened in the present time." He goes on "... a whole range of Christians writers would consistently use this sort of language to speak of Christ's coming in the present time ..."
But "has been manifested" is in the Greek perfect tense and consequently this action happened and was completed in the past! And not too long ago because of "now"! Other actions about Jesus depicted in 'Hebrews' with verbs in the (Greek) perfect tense include: sufferance (2:18), temptation (4:15), separation from sinners (7:26), opposition from sinners (12:3) and perfection (unto others) through the "sacrifice", "For by one offering he has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified" (10:14 Darby).

Once again, Muller misunderstands the perfect tense, stating an incomplete and misleading definition. The perfect is not primarily concerned with signifying a completed act in the past, which by itself would normally be expressed with the aorist. The essential reason for using the perfect is to emphasize a continuing result in the present. ("My son has been made a lieutenant" is concerned with his present status, not with the past when where or how of that promotion.) To say that something has been "completed" in the past is significantly erroneous, because it ignores the "continuing-in-the-present" dimension. Thus, the use of the perfect here is meant to elucidate a present state of affairs, with no specific nature conferred on the time or place of its initiation. Also, as Turton says:

Once again we detour into a discussion of what the Greek means. Bernard manages to write a whole paragraph on verb tenses without ever once considering what the verb "manifesting" means! How is it that Jesus is "manifest?" Why not "walked on earth" or better yet "born to Mary?" Why is such a vague verb used? Bernard's discussion simply goes right by that point. Whether it happened in the past or not is irrelevant -- the issue is where Jesus was manifest, and on that issue Hebrews is silent indeed.

Hebrews 8:4

As his final salvo, Muller attacks my analysis of the verse in Hebrews which I have called a "smoking gun," something which I maintain all but spells out that Jesus was never on earth. The problem is, Muller trains his cannons on only one aspect of the picture, and his caliber of ordinance is ineffective against the target.

Heb8:4-5a Darby "If then indeed he were [Greek imperfect tense] upon earth, he would not even be [imperfect] a priest, there being [Greek present tense] those who offer [Greek present tense] the gifts according to the law, (who serve [present]...)"

In Appendix 5, pages 310-312, Doherty calls it a "startling verse" because the imperfect tense in "he were" "is strictly a past tense" (as rendered by "if he had been on earth"). But he admits "the meaning is probably present, or at least temporally ambiguous, much like the conditional sense in which most other translations render it [as quoted]". That does not prevent Doherty to go into his usual speculations, some founded on argument from silence, such as the author should have specified "now" (but did not!). That leads him to say: "making the statement at all seems to preclude the idea that Jesus had ever performed a sacrifice in the earthly realm." (back to where he started!). I'll counteract that:

A) According to the overall context, Jesus "upon earth" is a supposition of an action happening at the same time as for the priests officiating in the temple, in the present (relative to when the epistle was written).

First of all, this is not correct. To claim that the "if...would be" comparison is thought of exclusively as meaning in the present is not at all established by the context. This is the issue under debate, and to simply declare it the way one would wish it to be is begging the question. In fact, it is grammatically incorrect to imply that it must have a present context. But don't take my word for it. This is what Paul Ellingworth (Hebrews, p.405) has to say:

"The second difficulty concerns the meaning of the two occurrences of ēn. The imperfect in unreal conditions is temporally ambiguous, so that NEB [which is the translation I quote in The Jesus Puzzle] "Now if he had been on earth, he would not even have been a priest" (so Attridge) is grammatically possible. [So much for Muller's declaration. Then Ellingworth goes on, and note the basis for his reasoning: the preconception that Jesus had been on earth, which forces him to judge the situation according to that preconception.] However, it goes against the context, in at least apparently excluding Christ's present ministry, and it could also be misunderstood as meaning that Jesus had never 'been on earth.' Most versions accordingly render: 'If he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all'."

The "context" for Ellingworth is the Gospel story, as he admits. We can see right here a prime example of how the Gospels are read into the epistles, even when the language of the epistle fails to justify it. In any case, Ellingworth has noted that the construction in 8:4 is temporally ambiguous and admits the grammatical possibility of the NEB translation, so Muller's subsequent exercise in offering several examples of the "if...would" construction in an attempt to demonstrate a solely present meaning is an exercise in futility. What Muller needs to do is to read more widely in New Testament scholarship, rather than charging off in his own direction, driven by his conviction of infallibility.

Now, this does not mean that one could not read the 8:4 phrase in the present tense. In fact, I state right in the Appendix Muller is addressing that "the meaning is probably present, or at least temporally ambiguous." That's my starting point, and to be more specific, I think the author had both past and present in mind. My argument does not rest on the phrase being meant solely in a past sense, as though I am claiming that the author is specifically declaring that Jesus was never on earth. Muller so often fixes on some aspect of my discussion and tears at it like a pitbull, while missing other elements and wider implications. This is the case here. He has gone no further than the question of the literal translation of two verbs, and then declares: "That should put to rest Doherty's speculations on the matter." In fact, my Appendix has several paragraphs analyzing the context of 8:4, arguing that the writer cannot have a past historical Jesus in his mind, all of which Muller simply ignores. The basics of that argument can be found in the Epilogue to my Supplementary Article No. 9 on Hebrews and in my Sound of Silence feature: Hebrews 8:4. To these I will add here some further comments I made in response to Richard Carrier's review of The Jesus Puzzle:

"I am not sure (nor are some scholars—see below) about the certainty with which Carrier makes his statement about the “ei…an” clause in Hebrews 8:4. Most cases would bear out the general principle that with an imperfect in both parts of the statement, the sense is of a present (contrafactual) condition; and that in conveying a past condition, the aorist would be used. But what of a continuing condition that extends from the past into the present? None of the aorist examples I can find convey that sense, only the sense of a specific condition limited to the past. What formula would be used to convey an ongoing condition, one existing for some time and still existing? I suggest it would be the one using the imperfect, which is a tense in itself that entails an ongoing quality. Thus an “ei…an” statement using the imperfect tense could in certain cases be ambiguous....

This ambiguity, entailing a condition extending back into the past, also makes sense in the context. I have asked why the writer would trouble to make a statement confined only to the present when in fact one part of the statement was supposedly contradicted by a recent past situation, and the reason now used to justify the statement itself also existed in that past situation. In other words, the “if he were on earth” clause is contrafactual, not true; yet it was supposedly very true in the recent past. No cognizance of this conflict is hinted at; the writer does not say something like “if he were now on earth.” Then, the reason for the conditional statement itself, that “if he were on earth he would not be a priest,” is implied as being because there are already priests here to do the job. But there were earthly priests in the past to do the job, including at the time when Jesus was supposedly on earth conducting his role as High Priest, which is Hebrews’ central characterization of him. If he wouldn’t be a priest “now” because there are human priests present on the scene, making him redundant or creating a conflict, why is it that he wasn’t rendered redundant or in conflict in the recent past, when those same priests should have rendered him so? Why would the writer of Hebrews choose to make such a trivial statement applying to the present, when its very opposite was true in the much more important situation of the recent past?

Ellingworth goes on to state: “The argument presupposes, rather than states, that God cannot establish two priestly institutions in competition [that is, the earthly priests and Jesus as High Priest].” In fact, the passage as a whole stipulates that those earthly priests perform earthly duties and sacrifices, while Jesus the High Priest has his own duties and sacrifices, which chapters 8 and 9 place in a heavenly setting and category. Yet Ellingworth fails to perceive the contradiction involved, that the same conflict (between heavenly and earthly priests) would have existed in the recent past, something the writer of Hebrews should have been aware of and at the very least should have felt constrained to clarify."


Muller wraps up his critique with an overblown presentation of all the tired old explanations for why Paul and the other early writers are so silent on the historical Jesus: that he didn't care about the earthly man, that the epistles were "occasional" and anyway everyone already knew everything there was to know about the human Jesus (and of course there was no controversy among Christians anywhere on matters of faith and morality which would have necessitated appealing to what Jesus had said or done in his ministry). For Muller, there would have "no incentive for (Paul) to digress on a rather unsignificant lower class Jew with a short public life in a small rural area," making one wonder how such an insignificant non-entity could have been turned into the transcendent Son Christ Jesus of the epistles, a point Muller does not address. Finally, Muller once again trots out his pièce de résistance: the absurdity of the whole idea of a "celestial fleshy realm" which no scholar today has ever heard of let alone accepts, a fantasy which apparently is my own invention entirely, a "lower heaven (which) would have generated storms of controversy" in ancient times. He concludes:

On these matters, Doherty either ignores, overlooks, doubts or harasses the primary evidence. He is prone to use inaccurate translations and biased "mythicist" interpretations, many on dubious latter texts, in order to claim his points. He cannot find half-decent attestations about belief in antiquity of a "lower fleshy heaven" (far from that!), so crucial for his position. To substitute for the lacks, Earl relies on rhetoric, agenda-driven dating, arguments from silence, assumptions and convoluted & largely unsubstantiated theories (with hypotheses stacked on each other!). Through such a horrific "methodology", the chances of him being right are insignificant.

So much confidence based on so much ignorance!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I hope the reader has been able to bear with me in this lengthy rebuttal to Bernard Muller's critique. The quality and tone of that critique has made it impossible to treat it in a thoroughly neutral manner, and there may be those reading this who will accuse me of an ad hominem approach. Yet I have tried to keep my rebuttal, as critical as it may have been, focused on Muller's own approach and arguments. They contravene so many principles of good scholarship, and in such a blatantly incompetent manner, that neutrality cannot do them justice. At the same time, as in all of my reviews and responses, my rebuttal to Muller has provided an opportunity to further enlarge on the mythicist case, to introduce fresh arguments and to give the reader some insight into the wider field of debate on the issue of the existence of an historical Jesus.

Jacob Aliet's review of Bernard Muller's critique of The Jesus Puzzle for the IIDB

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