THE JESUS PUZZLE
Was There No Historical Jesus?
Responses to Critiques of the Mythicist Case
(with contributions from
Carrier and others)
Addendum to PART THREE
Review of Bernard
Muller's critique by Jacob Aliet on the Internet Infidels Discussion
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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
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
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:
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
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), 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
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
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