Was There No Historical Jesus?
Earl Doherty

Responses to Critiques of the Mythicist Case

Bernard Muller
(with contributions from Richard Carrier and others)

Addendum to PART THREE
Review of Bernard Muller's critique by Jacob Aliet on the Internet Infidels Discussion Board

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These are some comments on Bernard Muller's Review of Doherty's "The Jesus Puzzle".

Muller's long review addresses a few arguments in Doherty's thesis. To start off, wrt "Higher and Lower Worlds", Ascension of Isaiah alone is enough to show there were higher and lower worlds - Muller fails to deal with Doherty's arguments regarding the redaction of AoI, the evolution of Jesus that is evident via the redaction of AoI. He simply takes a tangent and beats it to death and wears down the hapless reader to nod tiredly in agreement.

Under "The higher world of Attis, Mithras and Osiris", in spite of the literalist reading out of historical context that Muller valiantly employs on the texts, he does present a few challenges to the interpretation of the relevant texts.

On "The rulers of this age" (archons), Muller basically picks the interpretation he prefers and avoids dealing with the arguments made by Doherty, or the problems with his preferred interpretation. This is deceptive. On "Descending gods", Php2:6-11 is unassailable so Muller scores no points there. He employs a gospel reading to Pauline epistles and misses the point from start to finnish because he fails to shed off the gospel mindset. Muller's alternative hypothesis lacks explanatory power - for example, is it a coincidence that Paul failed to mention Joseph, Pilate, Mary and other historical details regarding Jesus? Why does Paul doggedly rely on revelation and the OT for teachings while never on Jesus? Why the silence regarding a HJ in extra-biblical sources?

Muller's review is also incomplete and he should perhaps have used an appendix to flesh out the details of his arguments, then make the arguments more concise. Muller fails to handle the second century writings that support Doherty's thesis. Muller instead dwells for an interminable length on Plutarch, Osiris, Mithras, archons, higher and lower worlds, Antiquities 20 and Pauline epistles.

He fails to handle arguments regarding Q (lack of Jewish voice in CST), he fails to address GThom, He fails to handle arguments regarding the intermediary son as found in Shepherd of Hermas and Odes of Solomon, Minucius Felix, second century silence, the writings of the apostolic fathers, the fact that almost every significant item in the gospels can be traced back to the OT and so on.

What Muller does is pick a few parts of Doherty's work and dwell on them at length while leaving out 'developmental' arguments. Its like someone breaking off one leg of a table then arguing that sonce there is no flat top attached to it and other legs for stability, its therefore just a piece of wood and not a leg of a table. Muller, for example, barely touches on the second century silence and uses that gap to make a rhetorical point:

...three pages of convoluted rhetorical speculations leading to some mythical upper world, with nothing suggesting it was believed by anyone in the first three centuries.

Regarding Jesus being son of David, the very first Gospel (Mark) tells us Jesus was not the son of David. The genealogies in Luke and Matthew also clearly strain to fabricate a Davidic kinship for Jesus and they still get it wrong! We know that the latter evangelists were trying to historicize prophecy.

A HJ materialized towards the end of the first century/early second century. In the second century, there was no consensus on a HJ as we see on the works of Minucius Felix, Epistle to Diognetus (that even goes further to say God never sent anyone on earth), Shepherd of Hermas, 1 Clement, Tatians Address to the Greeks and so on. In the early third century, Constantine converted, gnostic currents were stamped out of christianity, councils were held and documents destroyed.

Some people, like Paul, believed in a MJ - an incarnated god. Others, like the Shepherd of Hermas show belief in "the son" - an intermediary saviour figure. Redacted texts like Ascencion of Isaiah demonstrate to us how the figure of HJ evolved over time. How the demons (archons) were replaced later with the "ruler" and how the ruler later became Pilate. They show us how Christ became Jesus and how a tree became a cross. The Christian beliefs were varied and its false for Muller to claim that "nothing suggesting it [a mythical Jesus] was believed by anyone in the first three centuries"

Muller employ's empty rhetoric generously:

...meandering fuzzy discussion...Doherty lacks accuracy...Doherty harasses the primary evidence...Doherty is prone to use inaccurate translations and biased "mythicist" interpretations, many on dubious latter texts, in order to claim his points...Doherty provided three pages of convoluted rhetorical speculations...

Muller uses Darby's translation, NASB and YLT - shuffling between them, picking one when it favours his argument, abandoning it when it doesn't. This is a shoddy method of argumentation.

Muller, who claims to be a humanist, uses phrases like 'non-Christian Sallustius', against sources that do not agree with his point. One wonders what "non-Christian" has to do with an early source - is the review written for a Christian audience?

Doherty is unable to present any external evidence about his idea of the fleshy/demonic lower heaven as written before (or during) Paul's days.

Empedocles 492-432 BC "there exist daimones("souls"), divine beings that have fallen from a superior world into this world and exist clothed in the "foreign robe of the flesh." here
Plato, Gnostic ophite sect etc.

On the border between the intelligible and sensible realms as both a barrier and link between them (so J. Dillon),[8] is Hecate, a sort of diaphragm or membrane (frg. 6 des Places), the life producing fount (frgg. 30 &32 des Places) from which the World Soul flows (frg. 51 des Places). Finally, there is the world of Matter, springing both from the Intellect and the Father (frgg. 34-35 des Places)....the Valentinians posited an upper Limit (Horos) separating Bythos from his subordinate aeons including Nous.

J. Dillon, The Middle Platonists: 80 B.C. to A.D. 200 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), 394-395. here

IMO, Muller's review, compared to the ones I have seen, is the best effort at going down to the sources and challenging the mythicist hypothesis as advanced by Doherty. I would suggest he structures it, condenses the arguments and have loopy footnotes or appendix if that is what it takes, otherwise, in its current state, it makes for tiresome reading.

Jacob Aliet

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