THE JESUS PUZZLE
Was There No Historical Jesus?
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The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity begin with a
Additions: October 15, 2005
From reader reviews posted on Amazon.com:
Very good book
Reviewer: Bruce Warring from Virginia -
September 1, 2005
have read many books on New Testament criticism. This is one of the
Reviewer: Cornelius Canton from Florida -
August 3, 2005
Perhaps the best case out there for Jesus mythicism. Doherty, no matter
what mud Christians like to sling at him, is a thorough and, dare I say
it, enthusiastic scholar. College Students, take note: this is how you
establish a thesis in the beginning and ruthlessly drive it home like a
.45 slug tearing through skull bone and gray matter. Everything he
says, every sentence, every word, serves its purpose. His survey sweeps
the field and leaves no opposition.
Reviewer: Madson from Los Angeles, CA -
February 5, 2005
can tell how effective this lucid well-argued book is by the spasms of
vitriol and misrepresentation from the Christian apologists who review
it. When Doherty's non-belief in the God of Abraham is used as evidence
of "bias," you know the critic is desperate. Since Doherty doesn't
believe in fairy tales, apparently, he must be wrong about the facts.
If you are a Christian, read this book only if you are ready to be
convinced that the Son of Man never walked the earth.
No closing a mind once it's opened...
Reviewer: JRW from Lincoln, Nebraska -
October 12, 2005
Doherty is a genius. That might seem a
mighty statement, but what is genius after all? Sometimes it's no more
ability to clearly see what is right in front of everyone's nose,
everyone else misses, or is blind to, or refuses to see. Belief is a
thing, perhaps stronger than all other human functions, and we are all
with belief systems we hardly know we harbor. Doherty is having a long
long look at one of the West's most fiercely held beliefs, to wit: that
the godmen who were ever worshipped, OUR godman is real. Not only is
Christ REAL, but he is the only son of God. What incredible hubris. It
serve us to believe this terrible idea. It never has. Aside from the
destructive pride it instills in our blood, and the crack-brained sense
only we know God, it makes us
miss the point of the myth entirely, something no
early people ever did. The followers of Mithras and Osiris and Dionysus
what their godmen stood for. We haven't a clue what The Christ could
actually taught us, and our culture is so much the poorer for it.
be that one voice clearing the way to a new and healthier world. I have
but admiration for him.
Five stars for just being out there...
A Constant Reader from New York City - May 1, 2005
Doherty, being a supreme rationalist, and no fool, brings to the table
an enormous reserve of intellectual vigor, and an even more enormous
reserve of patience. His is the kind of mind that can really get down
to work. I admire that. I admire his work. I think he's much more right
than wrong. I've read a lot of the same things he's read and have come
to most of the same conclusions. The world needs this kind of spiritual
house cleaning. Human beings need to wake up. You'd think by now we'd
have grown out of a need to have Big Daddy for a god. You'd think by
now we'd begin getting that REALITY is vastly more complex than any of
our childish religions deem it. But I'm afraid we're in for a long haul
as primitive fear-response religions go through their death throes. Not
to mention the death grip of those who make big bucks and hold vast
power through organized religion: popes and ayatollahs and presidents
and such. In any case, here's Doherty in the vanguard. He and his book
are a breath of fresh air. Great, say I.
The New Best Fit
Reviewer: A Reader from Plant City, Florida
March 1, 2003
For anyone who is attempting to
the origins of Christianity, this book is a must read. Ten years ago
well accepted phrase among liberal bible scholars was "There is no
scholar today who doubts Jesus ever existed." With the publication of
A. Wells' books that offered an argument of a mythological Jesus based
on an absence of evidence, scholars began to turn their collective
In the end, however, the majority concluded an argument from the
is not enough. The revolution of Christianity needs a viable
and the best explanation is a man named Jesus. Hence, Jesus as an
man was axiomatic...but who Jesus was and what Jesus said and did were
Enter Earl Doherty. Exceptionally
well researched, incredibly accurate and lucid to the most intricate
of modern theological debate, Doherty, a layman, did what none of the
scholars thought possible. He devised a better theory that answered all
the open ended problems, without having to dispose of any 'ugly' facts.
The argument presented in this book is now recognized by many—and
soon to be most—biblical scholars as the single best argument for the
of Christianity. And until it is replaced with a better supported and
concise historical argument (which in all honesty may never happen) an
honest truth seeker has no choice but to seriously consider the
that Jesus never existed. Doherty's argument is not air-tight but to
it is the best we've got. As a person with a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of
Religion, I've heard them all—his facts are accurate, his understanding
of the debated issues is very good, he has an argument to be reckoned
Consider me a convert!
Reviewer: Logan Daugherty from Louisville,
- January 11, 2003
I didn't enter into the world of
Doherty to discover whether or not Jesus existed. I merely came across
the online version of what would become his book, Challenging the
However, as I found his critique of Lee Strobel accurate and
I took a chance and examined his primary thesis, that Jesus never
On his website, he has a short twelve part summary of his argument,
twelve bits of a larger puzzle one has to solve with any theory of
and Christian origins. As I agreed these were problematic, I committed
to reading several of his online articles. Before I was finished, I'd
every scrap of material he offered on the web.
This was no ad hoc nor amateurish
theory. It had merit. Finally ordering and reading the book, I
the strength of Doherty's theory for over a year. I'm now fully of the
opinion Jesus likely didn't exist. And that's what individuals who are
unaware of how history works dismiss Doherty out of hand. History is a
weak discipline as far as surety is concerned. One can only speak of
Can Doherty *prove* Jesus didn't exist? No. But neither can one prove
did exist 100%. An argument can be made, however, especially in
the documentary evidence, that early Christianity could not have been
on the teachings of one itinerant Galilean preacher. Doherty lucidly
the problems and then evaluates the evidence. Most scholars take Jesus'
existence as axiomatic and then go from there, often fashioning a
of Christian origins which suits their own biases. Doherty, however,
it open until he exposes what must be the obvious but difficult truth:
many Christianities existed and the winners wrote the history books.
clues, however, were left to expose the myth of the Christ, and Doherty
has thankfully presented us with a cogent and affable work with which
can join him in examining this mystery.
Reviewer: Maria Alexander from Los Angeles,
United States - January 25, 2002
I was an intelligent Christian and I rigorously studied apologetics.
a number of critical questions plagued my mind about the Gospels, and
teachers and educators side-stepped them deftly, pouring vague
into the intellectual gaps. Mr. Doherty attacks head on all of the
broached by these gaps, with clarity and integrity. I'm still amazed
finally someone with the education and intelligence has stepped forward
and grabbed the lion by its mane.
thing is, if you read this book and then go suggest to everyday folk
there was no Jesus, be ready for the fireworks. Even people who don't
any faith will tremble at the thought that Jesus did not exist. Why?
you've declared the world is round, that the earth revolves around the
sun, that men can walk on the moon. You have pulled a crucial thread in
the fabric of their reality, and now the way they evaluate history and
what went before must shift radically. No one likes that—unless it
and validates your thinking, as it did for me.
And when you
change someone's reality—especially when it comes to a figure like
who accounts for so many threads in the fabric of Western
just found a boulder that can shift the river of a generation's
And if you shift their perspective, you can change their votes... I
you get my meaning.
said this book was an epiphany. I say, if enough people hear the
it will trigger an intellectual revolution that will force us to
all of our assumptions about the world. And there will be people who
like the conclusions people will reach, I assure you...
The BEST on the subject
Reviewer: A reader from Claremont, CA United
- August 3, 2002
book concerning the lack of historical evidence for a real, actual
I have read a lot on this subject—Wells is too complicated/obscure.
offers great insights, but is limited in his discussion. Price is too,
well, just not quite strong/direct enough. Others are also good—but
takes the cake. Utterly fascinating, no stone left un-turned, clear and
accessible language. But above all: convincing.
A hotly debated theological and historical issue
Reviewer: Midwest Book Review, Oregon, WI
- April 10, 2002
is a forcefully argued, persuasive claim that Jesus Christ, the crucial
and central figure of Christianity, never existed in any historical
of the word. Author Earl Doherty argues that Jesus Christ was created
as a myth, and not even based upon a living flesh-and-blood person.
researched, with a thorough perusal of scripture and history, The Jesus
Puzzle makes for compelling reading on a hotly debated theological and
historical issue. Whether or not one's religious faith is swayed by
sharp and compellingly thoughtful arguments, The Jesus Puzzle is highly
recommended reading for anyone studying the origins of (and influences
upon) Christianity, both ancient and contemporary.
It confirmed my suspicions!
Reviewer: Tim Simmons, from west memphis,
- June 22, 2002
I am not
with the entire book but already, it has achieved its self-professed
of "challenging an historical Jesus" and I must confess, I was doubtful
at first that I would find anything persuasive or new. I was challenged
and already know that I can no longer give any benefit of doubt to an
man who started the Christian religion by living and dying as the
insight into the phenomenon of being blinded by presuppositions is
on as demonstrated by several other reviewers. Unwilling to admit that
the New Testament is a mix of many divergent views of God's salvation
the earliest of which mention no details of a Jesus of Nazareth, many
overlook the countless problems inherent in the orthodox view and
cling to what they would prefer to believe. If you believe in an
Jesus, you may not be ready for this book. If I had read it while still
a Christian I probably wouldn't have bought it because I would have
ignorant of most of the underlying information such as the Greek myths
and the concepts of savior-gods that predated the Christian movement.
that Paul would not mention ANY event in the life of his savior while
so many letters about him. When Paul argues for a resurrection, he
have mentioned that Jesus raised Jairus' daughter. He could have told
about Lazarus. He did mention Jesus own resurrection but amazingly, he
never once mentions ANY details that would have been known such as the
location, etc. and the most crushing blow is that Paul says he got the
gospel from a revelation from scripture! That is how God revealed his
to mankind! Through the old testament! If Jesus actually died an
death on a cross in recent history, why is Paul saying that salvation
through a revelation from the scriptures? Why is he saying it was a
till God revealed it during his day? Why do the epistles say that Jesus
was "slain before the foundations of the world"? Because the Christ,
Son of God, was a purely spiritual mediator at first. Later writers
created a "life" based on the OT and current beliefs about this Son of
Sets the standard for all other books on Jesus
Reviewer: A Reader from Cincinnati,
USA - August 3, 2001
and fascinating book "The Jesus Puzzle" by Earl Doherty sets the
by which all other Jesus books must be measured (and books on Paul for
that matter!). For too long biblical scholars have taken it for granted
(even as they flesh out a picture of a mortal and more human Jesus)
a real Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth and it was about this
person that the ancient scribes wrote. Now we at last have a work that
clears the air and shows how the "Jesus story" was put together by the
early Christians. Suddenly, all the contradictions within the Bible and
the conflicting depictions of Jesus make sense when one sees them from
this perspective, i.e., they came from various traditions and from
who had different aims.
steeped in Greek philosophy and metaphysics and shows how Paul was not
only very much a Jew, but a Jew heavily influenced by Greek mythology
metaphysics. His discussion of the Hellenistic/Jewish conception of the
universe is brilliant. Without understanding this, you can never hope
understand what Paul and the Son of God movement centered in Jerusalem
Sound and thorough
Reviewer: Dave from IN, United States -
Doherty's main premise (that there was no historical Jesus) is correct,
I learned far, far more in the few weeks it took me to read his
than I did in 21 years of Christian indoctrination. The pieces fit.
Very interesting and scholarly
Reviewer: Dave Brush from Ingleside, Ontario
- August 15, 2001
the best Christ-myth case that I've read yet. He proves that Jesus'
is not contemporaneously verified by any written documents and
argues that the earliest Christian writings depict Jesus as a spiritual
savior, instead of an earthly one. When Paul does seem to mention an
figure, he is strangely ambiguous, leaving room for alternate
of at least equal validity. Additionally, there are countless times
it would have made sense for Paul to mention something about Jesus'
and ministry, but curiously he does not. When you factor in that other
religions and cults from that time period had similar ideas about their
gods, it becomes even more plausible that Paul is not speaking of a man
that recently walked the earth, but a savior who operates in some
spiritual realm. And when you further take into consideration the fact
that Paul definitely borrowed at least some elements of his theology
pagan religions (the Lord's Supper is straight out of Mithraism), this
theory is boosted considerably...
Reviewer: Jeffrey Bolden from LA, CA USA -
terrific and makes an excellent case which makes sense of the 1st
and 2nd century Christian literature and debates. Doherty is the first
author I've read who gives an origin of Christianity that does not rely
on some sort of bizarre change but rather a gradual evolution. His
of the epistles is without peer...
Reviewer: A reader from Chicago, IL, USA -
anyone who wants to open his mind and close his Bible. Doherty is a
scholar and compelling writer, who presents his arguments cleanly and
The book is scholarly, yet "user-friendly" to those unused to such
The Jesus Puzzle is the best book on the Q document I have read (and I
have read a lot of books on the subject!). Highly recommended for
who wants to learn the truth about Christianity and its non-divine
By far the best "historical" Jesus book
Reviewer: Perry Willis from Arlington, VA,
- March 25, 2001
shelves worth of books on Christian apologetics and the quest for the
Jesus. I can save you a lot of time. All you really need is this one.
other books raise more questions than they answer, and go off on a lot
of wild goose chases. But Doherty's book makes full use of the
evidence, and his thesis actually makes sense.
If you want
to read the Christian side (and you should) I recommend "The Case For
by Lee Strobel. Strobel is very selective in his use of evidence, but
book is a good read, and probably the best that can be done for the
faith. Read it first if you like, and then read Doherty. There's no
has a web site. I recommend you first read his book and then visit the
site. Spend the time to go through everything he presents there—it's
worth it. The site also contains a novel (also titled "The Jesus
I thought it was excellent. It deserves to be published. Doherty also
a lengthy and devastating critique of the Strobel book on his site.
As I read
"The Jesus Puzzle" I was surprised at how resistant I was to the thesis
that there had been no historical Jesus (I'm not a Christian), but I
impressed at how thoroughly Doherty overwhelmed my resistance. This
deserves the whole world as its audience. Buy it, read it, buy more
and give them away, spread the word. Nineteen hundred years of
has finally been clarified.
An Excellent Scholarly Argument for a Literary
Reviewer: Jay Raskin from Orlando, FL, USA -
I guess the three
of readers of this book will be those who believe in a supernatural
sent by a God to save the human race, those who believe in an
Jesus made into a God by people, and those that see Jesus as a literary
creation, made into an historical person and a God by people. The first
group will be dismayed, frustrated and outraged by the book, except for
some who will accept it and have their entire worldviews changed, the
group will find it thoughtful and challenging, the third will love it
consult it often in debates and arguments.
I fall into the
third group. I read it pretty much straight thru over a two day period,
only stopping for food and sleep. I especially appreciated that Mr.
is not distracted by the rather vicious and less than "Christian"
that often marks this field of knowledge. He sticks to theory and facts
and doesn't show any animosity towards any individual or group.
I think anybody
who has read deeply or at least casually over a number of years the
developments in the field of Biblical Scholarship will enjoy the work
it brings together a great deal of the latest developments and points
a brighter and deeper future understanding of Christianity and religion
My one warning is
that if you haven't read a great deal of ancient literature including
literature, you will not be able to tell if Mr. Doherty is bluffing or
has the cards to back up his claims. As someone who has read the basic
literature in the field, I can tell that he does have a full house.
Professor Darrell R. Doughty, Drew University,
Jersey, editor of "The Journal of Higher Criticism" and member of the
"A remarkable book it is. Extremely well written and
very persuasive. Congratulations! It will be required reading for
in my seminar on Jesus next semester."
Judith Hayes, author of "In God We Trust . . .
"Your book is simply wonderful. I have never read such
scholarship in so easy a style! You have a wonderful way of conveying
complex ideas in an easy to understand manner. For over 25 years I have
been in the minority camp, believing there was no historical Jesus.
read a great many books challenging that historicity, but nothing as
on' as your book."
Judith Hayes is the creator of a
humanist website called "The Happy Heretic." For her lengthy, and
amusing, review of The Jesus Puzzle, visit: http://www.thehappyheretic.com/10-00.htm
Frank R. Zindler, Editor: American Atheist, A
of Atheist News and Thought
"This is the most compelling argument ever published
in support of the theory that Jesus never existed as an historical
Doherty's thorough command of the Pauline corpus, the pseudepigraphic
apocryphal literature, the mysteries, and turn-of-the-era philosophical
and theological movements is masterful. This is a superb book - one
every Atheist should read and master."
Cliff Carrington, New Testament scholar, Bendigo,
"Your recent book, The Jesus Puzzle, has cleared the
ground for a new understanding of the foundations of the Christian
Now we can proceed to the re-construction of a more reasonable
I consider your book to be so useful that I have purchased two copies
our Library - one for myself and the other for lending."
Rod Blackhirst, Professor of Religion, Latrobe
"Well done. This is a great personal achievement on
part, and I think your work will make a substantial impression on New
scholarship. Once again, as an academic I am struck by the fact that
do not hold an academic position, yet your work is of a much higher
than much that comes out of academic circles these days. Your work is
that important work is being done beyond the narrow confines of
academic discourse. Thank you for your efforts. A sunburst over the
gloom of the quest for the historical Jesus!"
Professor A. J. van Essen, Groningen University,
"Your Jesus Puzzle has just arrived. I must confess it
makes riveting reading. . . ."
Richard B., Washington, D.C.:
"I have received your book, The Jesus Puzzle. It is a
thorough and impressive study. The gist of what is in the book has
appeared at your website, but the book does an excellent job of
and detailing your material. There is no question in my mind that you
absolutely correct in your conclusion that there never was such a
as Jesus of Nazareth."
John H., Missouri:
"It is an impressively written book. You've pondered
this a long time and with immense attention to detail. You've mastered
the relevant literature and are in touch with the latest scholarship.
you've built a massive case for your thesis. It's quite a work. The
of your writing style is excellent. It carries the reader along. Your
has been a stimulus to do more towards my own reflections on the story
that has sustained my interest these last fifty years." [John has
to me a lengthy and detailed review of The Jesus Puzzle, not entirely
to its thesis. That critique and my response to it is now posted among
the Special Items at the head of the Reader Feedback section: rfJHbkrv.htm]
Dan G., Wisconsin:
"I just finished your book. Congratulations!!! I think
it is the best book I have ever read to present the case that Jesus was
a fiction. Your analysis of the Pauline corpus—the heavenly Christ in
to the later earthly Jesus—really drove the point home for me."
Philip L., Texas:
"I consider the book to present a very compelling case,
though I also recognize that there are a number of places where
arguments could be made against you, and I'm impressed that you
this when it arises. I'm also impressed with your non-confrontational
which I would consider essential to maintain an open mind in a
reader. Organisationally the book is very coherent and an easier read
the website, though that might be because it's a book and doesn't
staring at a computer screen."
Ivan T., New Zealand:
"I must say the price is remarkably cheap for 390
I like the fact that it is largely your own research, and that you
areas I don't recall seeing anywhere else. Your treatment of the second
century apologists is fascinating. Thanks for a well-presented,
Earl C., California:
"The new Jesus Puzzle looks good, reads well. There are
many paragraphs to relish. This is a hard time of year [December] for
of us who would like to see history more accurately rendered. Someday
truth will out."
Thomas F., Arizona:
"Very impressive. Very impressive. The hard work and
clear thinking (i.e., any thinking I agree with) is evident. So we can
forget about discovering the Real Jesus Christ a la Time magazine and
That person never existed. Nineteen hundred years of worship? Whew! I'm
not going to shout this from the rooftops. It's a subject prudent
don't get into. Thanks again."
Darryl K., North Carolina:
"Your book moved immediately to the top of my reading
list, and I wasn't disappointed. Originally, I went along with the
that Jesus of Nazareth led some sort of noticeable life at the start of
the first century. After going through your website, I began to have
doubts about that assumption, but I held some lingering leanings to a
Jesus mainly because of a near consensus of scholarship. After
the tenuous threads by which that assumption hangs, and the powerful
presented and argued in your book, I would throw my hat into the
Owen F., British Columbia:
"Your book is so thorough that any brief review must
do it a disservice. The research and scholarship that has gone into it
is of the highest order and I am still rereading some of the passages.
As a parallel, I have been re-reading "Letters from the Earth" by Mark
Twain which is a comical and sarcastic denunciation of all the myths of
the bible and feel cheated that such remarkable and insightful books
usually relegated to oblivion while arrant nonsense such as 'The Bible
Code' are regarded with awe by the ignorant majority. Thank you for
the book, it is a light in the darkness."
Walter G., Wisconsin:
"I have finished your Jesus book. I admire your
in studying this most enthralling period. In my own life which started
in a most narrow religious milieu, I can only say at this point that
contentions as to how Jesus arrived on the scene are more believable to
me than what I was taught in my childhood."
Greg G., Massachusetts:
[My comments are in square brackets. ED]
"I just finished what I consider a very rigorous
of your book. I very much enjoy your writing style. It is fresh,
and carries the reader forward with some real style. You have been able
to piece together a lot of elements and have offered some superb
I don't have the time to verify them, but many of your assertions are
I have suspected or "sensed" in the past. The letters of Paul have
seemed strangely out of touch to me.
As you know, I am not an ancient history expert and
judge your conclusions mostly based upon the data points you provide.
every point about ancient mystery religions and related material that
assert or reference is consistent with my reading from other sources
Will Durant). Interestingly, your writing style has an uncanny
to his—an asset by all accounts, as there are few authors I can
for seven or eight hundred pages in a single work. [Greg is
to Durant, not to my book, which is only 390 pages! ED] Needless
say, I greatly enjoyed your writing structure and style. It was a
model of clarity and organization, introducing a subject as a
of understandable units that work together to make a case.
I am accustomed to critical review of material over
I am required to professionally pronounce judgement despite only a
amount of domain expertise. Sometimes we are all called out of our
and the result is usually an uncomfortable enlightenment. Thus, while I
can think critically about the arguments you present, it is largely
the tools of a critical generalist upon which I most rely. Internal
checks represent a ready source of validation as are your biased but
than 80% fair discussions of opposing arguments.
How badly I wanted your argument to fall apart or
itself. How I yearned to see stretched half-truths and a reliance upon
the non-sense techniques of the Jesus Seminar that pre-qualify all
evidence. To my view, whatever scholarly work is provided by the
is entirely overshadowed by two unforgivable negative things: [I do
not necessarily consider the following to be a valid or accurate
of the Jesus Seminar and its methods. ED]
1- Patently (maybe even ridiculously) flawed methods
rely upon prima facie exclusion of data prior to analysis, thereby
a conclusion that can only be consistent with the thesis. This kind of
data filtering is laughable in any field of scholarly inquiry, unless
are attempting to show the difference induced by including or excluding
the particular data set. They do no such thing, but simply exclude
and analyze later.
2- Assertion of the nonsense notion that a
Christian religion can be recast as a "spiritual phenomenon" rather
a "truth"; with a straight face they assert the viability of a
model based upon a legacy that is fabricated and entirely fallacious. I
read the debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan
by W.F. Buckley). It was pathetic. Craig routed Crossan's ultra-weak
in no time. (Of course, your argument trumps Craig, but for entirely
While I understand you have associated with the
Seminar for creating this book [Not so; I have simply been
by two scholars who are members of the Seminar, acting outside that
the rest of the Seminar pointedly ignores me. ED], the quality of
book is something quite apart from anything I've seen from the Jesus
I force fed myself Crossan's "Historical Jesus" and while some
themes emerged, it amounted to no more than an attempt by conspiring
politically correct individuals to bring Jesus into their own camp—far
too political for me, particularly in spite of my personal political
that has little stomach for revisionist history and insists on
based upon a corresponding element in objective reality.
Perhaps orthodox scholars will forcefully argue you
into your corner in future encounters, and I hope I'm not eternally
to hell for saying it, but I admit your argument and accept your thesis
as the best presentation of "truth" in this particular issue. You have
won this round fair and square. Your victory is not rhetorical either,
since you directly address orthodox points of view on their own
Your argument could be said to rely more on historical context and the
natural progression of ideas over time than any specific sequence of
events or archeological evidence. You did not even have to counter most
of the traditional arguments for historicity (such as all the apostles
being martyred) since the whole story was really just literature not
the story of Paul Bunyan or Robinson Crusoe.
Unlike the Jesus Seminar, you do not rely on prima
exclusion of data points, but instead your argument incorporates
all of them. Initially, I objected to the number of interpolations upon
which your argument relied, but when I finally understood how frequent
such interpolation actually occurred, that objection waned. [Actually,
I appeal to only two interpolations in all the New Testament epistles,
one supported by most liberal scholars; the second is not critical to
Coupled with your dissection of the non-Christian
the progression from Paul's mystery religion to what amounts to a "folk
hero" Jesus has that haunting feeling of being the real story. In a
disturbing way, your thesis renders all our characterizations of Jesus
as only so much literary character analysis like we might find in a
class on Shakespeare. Miracles? Healing? Crucifixion? Resurrections?
whatever you want; anything can happen in literature. Conflicting
accounts? Who cares? They are all just renditions of a moral tale.
is no harm in reworking or embellishing a moral tale as long as the
is not lost. And the tale was embellished and the meaning was not lost.
Virtually any orthodox Jesus scholar would insist that all the Gospels
are embellished to some degree and that the meaning is not lost in any
of them. Ironically, you don't have to debate many of the existing
in favor of a divine historical Jesus since your argument is largely
It is my opinion that the book makes the case as
and concisely as it could. Until someone can effectively challenge your
work, it stands as a milestone for me in my exploration of religion. I
started the book determined to discredit it. By the time I reached the
middle of the book, you had made your case. The second half of the book
was even more compelling than the first. By the time I finished the
I had an entirely new sense of what it means to "study the Bible as
I'd be very interested to see what other experts say
this book, as it is so entirely "out of the box" compared to the usual
Jesus debate arena. I'd really look forward to seeing you in a live
on the issue. I would come to see it.
Thanks for a great book."
More reader reviews posted on Amazon.com:
Fits the pieces together
Reviewer: Oscar Gonzalez from Dallas, TX USA
October 9, 2000
proof and persuasion is on those who believe in Jesus as a historical
Earl Doherty as a disbeliever must merely cast sufficient doubts on the
existence of Jesus to win. He more than discharges this responsibility.
He is methodical as he decomposes the New Testament texts and provides
simple, almost irrefutable, answers to questions that have long
biblical scholars. He is a clear writer, as clear as I've read.
Reviewer: Darryl Kight from North Carolina -
together multiple lines of evidence, which do not allow for the
existence of a rural Jewish peasant at the genesis of Christianity. His
arguments are presented in an easily accessible, scholarly manner. He
to the documentary evidence at hand without resorting to a trace of
This is a must-read for anyone interested in religious origins.
Scholarly and Readable
Reviewer: Barry Campbell from Denver,
- January 18, 2000
or secular lay-person, or a biblical scholar, the Jesus Puzzle will
you with intelligent, straight-forward evidence of the true early
picture. Mr. Doherty does something that neither Crossan nor any other
contemporary liberal scholars do—he faces the available evidence and
it directly—he does not "talk around" issues, he does not make excuses
or rationalizations for what the ancient text plainly states—in other
he tackles all the important 1st and 2nd century evidence that has
to do with the evolution of Christianity, and explains it fully and in
a way anyone can understand. There is no plainer way to say it. If you
have read any contemporary liberal biblical works, you have no doubt
away with as many questions as answers—that will NOT be the case with
Jesus Puzzle—How Refreshing! One can only hope that more members of the
Jesus Seminar will step up to the plate, face the evidence, and help
this new scholarship into the bright sunlight."
Reviewer: Prof. Jan Koster from Groningen,
Netherlands - January 29, 2000
"This is one
the most exciting and liberating books I've read in years. As soon as
bible criticism came off the ground in the 19th century, many came to
conclusion that the evidence for an historical Christ was practically
The very plausible Jesus-as-myth theory was successfully suppressed
most of the 20th century. Ever since the spectacular Nag Hammadi
in the Egyptian desert in 1945, there were excellent new reasons to put
the thesis of a non-historical Christ on the agenda again. Independent
scholar Earl Doherty took up the challenge where the much publicized
Seminar failed. Doherty has written a potential modern classic, which
to be widely read and discussed!
For Open Minds Only
Reviewer: Bill Paulson from Minneapolis, MN
February 2, 2000
for glory: Produce a good, sound argument that the Jesus Christ
in the New Testament gospels is the same individual as the Jesus Christ
whom the NT epistle authors have in mind. Do this and you will be the
person in history to accomplish this task.
In his book
"The Jesus Puzzle", Earl Doherty demonstrates beyond a shadow of a
that Jesus Christ is a fictional character. No such person ever
The notion may be shocking to the general populace, but it is not a new
idea, and has been endorsed by a minority of scholars for over a
comes from the Christian writers themselves. The New Testament epistles
and most of the non-canonical literature until the mid-2nd century show
a resounding silence on the earthly life of Jesus. No teachings or
No references to Mary, Joseph, the disciples or the holy places, such
Bethlehem, Nazareth and Calvary. No trial or details of the passion
And so on.
their best to explain this phenomenon, but this degree of silence from
so many writers over so many years has one and only one adequate
the writers ignore Jesus's life on earth because they don't KNOW of a
on earth. Jesus Christ started out as an entirely divine being, just
all the other gods in all the other religions of the day. The idea that
he lived a full, human life was a later development in Christian
which gradually caught on, proved to be popular and eventually became
with the traditional view of Christian origins is the wide diversity of
expressions shown in the early Christian record. These are unlikely to
have stemmed from the life of a highly-revered human founder. "Rather,
Christianity was born in a thousand places, in a host of different
growing out of the broad, fertile religious soil of the time." (Page
(and refutes) the various attempts people make to prove a historical
including the infamous forgery in the writings of the historian
and the handful of vaguely-phrased epistle passages which, on the
have a "human" sound to them, but in fact can apply equally to divine
has a website, and I have put him to the test by discussing his work on
the Web with people who are far more knowledgeable on the subject than
I. Most disagree with Doherty's views (sometimes throwing tantrums in
process!), but when they try to present a convincing argument to the
they can't do it. They don't even come close. At best, they will nail
on an insignificant technicality. Too often people read the epistles
Silence is carefully examined, but the book offers much more. There is
a lot of general education material which is great for the average
We get an introduction to the philosophies of the time, such as
and Cynicism. Doherty closely examines the lost document of Q and
the similarities between Jesus and the competing savior gods, such as
Osiris, Dionysos and Mithras. He describes the universe as perceived in
those days and the spiritual realm where Jesus and the other gods
And we are treated to several passages which managed to escape
censorship and show without question that the authors do not have in
a human Jesus executed under Pilate.
little in the way of weak points. At times Doherty may exaggerate the
of a particular silence. And I'm a bit uneasy with some of the
and speculations in Parts 5 and 6 concerning the Q document and
origins. But none of this is harmful to the overall case. Doherty is a
fine writer, is very well-read and does not depend on sources of
IS one significant hurdle which the author may never overcome. It's not
deficient arguments, but rather human nature. For scholars to admit
Doherty is right means to admit they've been under a monumental
for their entire careers. Time will tell whether they have the courage
and dignity to do this.
and spread the Good News to your friends! If justice is served, this
will change the world."
Where has this book been all my life?
Reviewer: Richard Urukalo from Toronto,
- March 4, 2000
A bit of
I was raised a devout Christian and it wasn't until my university years
that I was able to pry morality from the jealous grip of religion. At
point, I was able to recognize that the only elements of Christianity
really mattered happened to also be the only elements of Islam,
Sikhism (etc.) that really mattered, and that these elements could all
be lumped together under the banner of "common moral decencies". One
need religion to abide by the common moral decencies—one needed only
ended there. It began again when I picked up Earl Doherty's "The Jesus
I had no
to doubt that there was at least an historical figure called Jesus
at the bottom of all the stories. How wrong I was!
succeeds where G.A. Wells, John Crossan et al fail: he thoroughly
every bit of evidence/thought related to early Christianity and shows
any reasonable doubt that the Jesus figure began its existence exactly
where it is today—in myth. Doherty, with an objectivity, a concreteness
and a finesse of scholarship that is all too often absent from New
discourse, has made it exceedingly difficult for the intelligent
to continue to insist upon a historical Jesus. A spiritual one, fine,
certainly not an historical one.
doesn't have a large investment in the belief in a historical Jesus and
who is even vaguely interested in the origins of Christianity will come
away from Doherty's work with nothing less than a jaw-droppingly
feeling that what so many believe to be absolutely true is in fact
Why has no
one else noticed the multitude of glaring facts that Doherty has? Chalk
it up to ~2000 years of NT scholarship carried out by Christians for
spell the end of Christianity? Probably not. Doherty's book is a
meteorite that will certainly wipe out certain species (most likely the
primitive fundamentalist sects), but other species will likely evolve
a belief that does not require an historical Jesus as a centerpiece.
book is a must read for the believer and the interested nonbeliever
Welcome to the 3rd millennium!
Scholarly investigation into Biblical Origins
Reviewer: Tom Ebacher from Kensington,
USA - March 1, 2000
I am an
and have been skeptical of religious beliefs for quite a long time. I
been comfortable with my limited explanation of the origins of the
in my disregard for Christian myths. I was aware however of the limits
that I had in countering religious arguments regarding the basis for
Puzzle" is a scholarly inquiry into the origins of the New Testament
the stories of Jesus. It isn't the easiest reading and takes some time
to read and consider. It is however, a detailed, thorough, systematic
credible challenge to the belief that Jesus was a real individual who
Christian beliefs. It has expanded my understanding of Christian
and confirms my willingness disregard the precepts of Christian
If you want
to further understand the origins of the Bible, if you are interested
understanding the intellectual challenges to Christian beliefs, if you
want a fuller understanding of skeptical views of the Bible stories,
read "The Jesus Puzzle" by Earl Doherty. Earl's efforts have broadened
my abilities to counter religious claims about the Bible. Well worth
effort to read.
Reviewer: Neil Godfrey from Toowoomba, Qld.
- April 12, 2000
On page 125
his book Doherty writes: "When any set of assumptions is firmly in
the evidence is usually interpreted in accord with those assumptions.
it is clear that the New Testament epistles present the Christian
and scholar with difficulties and anomalies at every turn. These have
been ignored, glossed over, or subjected to unnatural interpretations
questionable reasoning in order to force them into the mold determined
by the Gospels.
is a new paradigm, a new set of assumptions by which to judge the
(as well as the other non-canonical documents...), one capable of
all those contradictions and uncertainties. That paradigm should be
by what we can see in the epistles themselves and how we can relate
content to what we know of the spirit and conditions of the time." This
is how Doherty approaches not only the epistles but the gospels and
writings as well.
Why do the
earliest New Testament documents (the epistles) show no knowledge of
life and teachings of the historical Jesus (apart from a few passages
are said to be revealed via scripture or vision) yet speak of this
without any justifying reference to his human life, as God and
of the universe? Doherty shows that the traditional scholarly
for this puzzle are with less than adequate documentary and logical
But by looking at the philosophical and theological milieu of the
of the epistles (who wrote before the gospels were known to them) we
that their ideas of Jesus Christ are a part of the broader literature
an increasingly personified divine Messiah, Logos, Wisdom figure. Paul
also appears to demonstrate closer affinities with some aspects of the
mystery cults than with any knowledge of an historical Jesus. Doherty
that many of the ideas expressed in the theologically divergent
of Paul, James, John and that to the Hebrews are more satisfactorily
as a part of broader Son of God literature emerging in some circles of
Hellenistic Judaism, and to whom this figure was exclusively a
revelation of scripture or personal vision—not an historical person.
Part 2 of
Doherty's book essentially explains why modern Christian scholarship
so elusive the nature of the historical Jesus assumed to lie hidden
the earliest Q sayings and the gospel of Thomas. Doherty asks the
that both conservative and liberal Christian scholars fail to address
Do these earliest sayings point to a single Jewish historical figure at
all? Or is the evidence more satisfactorily explained as the product of
a more general counter-culture, Cynic-like movement arising from
oppression in Galilee and to which a Jesus figure was later added and
fleshed out? Much of this section is a response to modern Christian
(especially John Dominic Crossan ("The Birth of Christianity" et al.)
theological assumptions seem not to allow them to ask such a
question. Doherty would say that such a question should be obvious when
the earliest evidence shows no knowledge of any of Jesus' works or
(but only a collection of sayings that have little to commend
as unique) and especially when the evidence rather points to a gradual
elaboration of biographical details of a Jesus character over time?
looks at the tendentious nature of Christian scholarship's
of Jewish and pagan sources such as Josephus and Tacitus and finds it
to the Gospel of Mark as the first attempt to unite the Galilean
(the evolved Q sayings) of Jesus with the completely separate Jerusalem
tradition (of a dying and rising Messiah who becomes God). Historians
as Crossan see links between these two traditions in the Didache or
the Cross Gospel in the Gospel of Peter, but Doherty deconstructs such
arguments with a rigorous but lay-reader-friendly analysis of the
evidence. He takes us through a survey of Mark showing how these two
have been united through midrashic re-writings of many old testament
and tales designed to meet the needs of the Markan community. The
was the first gospel of Jesus. This literary work was possibly the real
beginnings of Christianity as we know it.
examines the earliest post-gospel writings of Christians beginning with
Ignatius and through to Papias. The relationship between Marcion, the
of Paul and the Book of Acts is discussed. The second century
writings are shown to draw more heavily from Middle Platonism than any
gospel Jesus, and at least in one case appear to deny the very idea of
such a figure being associated with their Christian faith.
and appendices in the book are set out in such a way as to make this
one of the easiest introductions to the documents of early Christianity
and also as one of the most accessible and easy return-reference tools
I have read.
strength is that it accepts modern scholarship's foundational evidence
for the origins of Christianity (canonical and non-canonical writings
with their generally accepted dates) and shows that traditional
raise unsolvable problems of logic and consistency. It shows how these
problems are largely removed if we interpret the same evidence as
to Jesus being a creation of the broader philosophical, theological and
religious world of the time. This Jesus then only gradually evolved
an historical founder after the original midrashic nature of the
was later confused with biographical reality.
Full of Fascinating Insights, Hard to Put Down
Reviewer: Acharya S from Truth, USA - April
On the cover
Earl Doherty's book, The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a
Christ? is a blurb from a reader of Doherty's earlier online version:
present nothing new here that your master, Satan, has not previously
to deceive the simple." In reality, neither does this zealous critic
anything new, as this sinister sentiment has been slung since Day One
those who do not blindly believe every priestly huckster who comes
Such an acrimonious response, in fact, ranks right up there with "Your
[sic] gonna burn in hell," in intelligence and efficacy in refuting
challenges to ludicrous biblical claims.
It is a
source of amazement to "freethinkers," rationalists and assorted
scholars and scientists that it is considered virtuous to blindly
in the words of a man or a group of men concerning the matters of
and "religion," when, if religion were to have any meaning at all, it
be about reality, honesty and integrity. There is little honest or
about blindly accepting and then promulgating beliefs one has not
investigated. Such behavior—and subsequent name-calling and threats
the sale of these sacrosanct shoddy goods falls through—should be
the realm of the con artist, rather than that of a seeker of truth.
In his endeavor at seeking
risking the vituperation of those unwilling or unable to investigate
themselves—Earl Doherty smoothly solves another piece of the Jesus
which has been under deconstruction for centuries. He throws his
opinions and research into the ring alongside those of thousands of
over the centuries. Fortunately, Doherty's work provides unique and
aspects to a growing body of literature written by those derogatorily
by Christian apologists, "Christ-mythers," an assembly sneered at and
not adequately refuted by any means—by believers and vested interests
of painstaking research, classicist and humanist Doherty, like his
predecessors, concluded that there was no historical Jesus. The same
was reached by his colleague, the Jesus Seminar's Robert Price, an
who became a mythicist after close examination and the removal of
elements from the gospel story, after which little was left of the
Jesus that could be considered "historical."
the Christ myth, Doherty focuses on demonstrating the lack of
found in the earliest of canonical Christian texts, the epistles. Like
so many others, he wonders why "Paul," considered by numerous
to be the "greatest apostle" and the truest establisher of Christian
makes nary a mention of Jesus's purported life, deeds and sayings.
no reflection in the earliest Christian texts of any "life of Christ"
a human being, divine or otherwise. To the rational mind, this fact
serve as real proof that Jesus Christ is a fictional character imposed
upon history, in reality representing the disincarnate Savior of the
pre-Christian salvation cults. Indeed, the epistle writers and other
Christian authorities speak almost exclusively of a phantom or gnostic
Christ of the same type of dying and rising savior gods found in the
mysteries for centuries, if not millennia, prior to the Christian era.
After establishing that the earliest Christian view of Jesus was of a
non-historical Son of God, Doherty moves on to the purported
and non-Christian evidence of Christ's historicity.
that, repeatedly over the centuries, the notorious passage in the
of the Jewish historian Josephus, the "Testimonium Flavianum,"
has been proved to be a "rank forgery," it is a pity that Doherty needs
to spend so much effort debunking it once again, but he does it well
thoroughly. Likewise he does away with the other "evidence" found in
i.e., the passage about James, the "brother of the Lord, called Christ."
of The Jesus Puzzle, Doherty springs a sublime trap. First he leads the
reader through a discussion regarding a purported "lost reference" in
as alleged by Church fathers Origen and Eusebius, supposedly reflecting
that the historian "believed that the calamity of the Jewish War
and the fall of Jerusalem was visited upon the Jews by God because of
murder of James the Just." Next, Doherty states:
up the 'lost reference' to criticize Josephus for not saying that it
because of the death of Jesus, rather than of James, that God visited
the Jews the destruction of Jerusalem. But more than half a century
the Christian Hegesippus had said the same thing. As preserved in
Hegesippus witnesses to a Christian view of his time (mid-second
that it was indeed the death of James the Just which had prompted God's
punishment of the Jews."
continues, "there is a very telling corollary to this. Why did those
Christians not impute the calamity to God's punishment for the death of
Jesus, since to the later Origen—as well as to us—this seemed obvious?
is simple. The need to interpret the destruction of Jerusalem would
have developed early, even before Hegesippus. At such a time, an
Jesus and historical crucifixion had not yet been invented, or at least
would not have been widely disseminated beyond a few early Gospel
who wish to delve deeply into the Jesus puzzle and Christ conspiracy,
book is satisfying and compelling. It is also refreshing to consider
the debate is increasingly in the open, the hysteria and violent
reactions lessened. Works such as The Jesus Puzzle hopefully will
other daring souls to exclaim that the Emperor is not only naked but
rather unpleasant to behold. In this safer atmosphere, the human
can continue to evolve, progress and mature, moving beyond a
damaging bump in the road on a long, strange trip through the cosmos.
Acharya S, Author, "The Christ Conspiracy: The
Story Ever Sold"
And . . .
Did not read based on faith!
Reviewer: Kevin Evans from Crisfield, MD -
almost not worth commenting on. I'll just give one arguement, the life
of the Apostles. They all died martyrs, horrible deaths for somone that
didn't even exist. This shows give a talented writer time and money and
he can right a book about anything, no matter how ridiculous it is.
[Typos as is. From his opening sentence, it is
that this 'reader' did not actually read the book, but is commenting on
the idea contained in the book, as described on the Amazon
What his heading implies is not certain. If he is saying that I did not
read the Bible based on faith, he is correct. If he is claiming he did
not evaluate my book based on his own faith, that is probably
(And the claim that all the apostles were martyred is a myth in
Note: While several more New Testament
including several within the Jesus Seminar, received copies of The
Puzzle than those whose remarks appear at the beginning of this
they have so far declined to offer any comment to me. This is perhaps
and is borne out by a letter I received from a correspondent of mine,
Associate-Fellow of the Seminar who gave this opinion on that silence:
". . . You are faced with an
establishment that has, through each member, a tremendous investment in
the limited range of viewpoints which has been developed and, so to
'allowed.' New Testament scholars may publish arguments about the
of the "Q" analysis or even the "common sayings tradition between
and Q," and still remain within the envelope of academic
But you have gone beyond the envelope by advancing an 'anti-Jesus'
and . . . [receive] from orthodox scholars only derision or contemptful
(or maybe at best, benign) silence. Conventional scholars risk too much
by debating you point by point. They know it is a 'no win' situation.
consciously or sub-consciously, they know that the Christian world,
has been the foundation of their lives thus far, is not ready for a 'no
Jesus' paradigm shift. The intellectually honest scholars on the
edge will privately acknowledge among themselves that they don't have
very good counter-arguments against your points, as I have heard [D.D.]
and [C.N.] say, but I will be surprised if any will write to you in
vein as they are not yet willing to be quoted to that effect. . . .
Of course, the practice of ignoring or suppressing the
position, which more than a few others before me have argued, is
new on the part of New Testament scholars. But today, critical
itself has entered a bold and unprecedented phase, in its dismantling
so much of the Gospel myth and its reduction of Jesus of Nazareth to
dimensions. One might think that this new vision and courage on the
of so many who work in liberal circles (and none more so than in the
Seminar) would extend to facing and dealing openly with all serious
no matter how radical—especially one which has had as persistent a
record as the no-Jesus theory. If the latter is threatening, let alone
without foundation, the best way to neutralize it would be to address
discredit its arguments, not ignore it and hope it will go away.
"What you are accomplishing is
alive the questioning analysis of the skeptic. Perhaps with the
power of the Internet you are making a quantum leap contribution to the
trickle of voices that must become a cascade before any widespread
of your view will occur. And because your message involves cultural,
and morality issues, it will be more acceptable as it is linked to
alternative views of culture and principles of ethics and morality
can replace those that are now dependent, in many minds, on the real
of a man Jesus."
Last year about this time, the Jesus Seminar page on
religion.rutgers site made a link to my Jesus Puzzle website (a move
eventually led to making it possible for me to publish my book), where
it referred to my site, along with writings by others than myself, as
. . . that raise substantive issues that merit an intelligent
To my knowledge, where my own writings are concerned, no one in the
field has seriously taken up that challenge.
In some respects, there are those who are more
than I. It may well be that I am too conservative on the question of
authenticity. At the upcoming Spring meeting of the Jesus Seminar
2000) a paper will be delivered on Paul, summarized thus: "The Apostle
Paul is largely a Christian fiction. The historical Paul was not a
and not a Jew. He wrote very little and probably made only one journey.
. . .[etc.]" This view may be a minority one even within the ranks of
Jesus Seminar, but it shows that critical scholarship is open to
radical positions. Why not, at long last, a serious consideration of
If there are those who would otherwise like to make
comments to me, favorable or critical, but would prefer to remain fully
or partially anonymous—or unquoted—on my website, a request to that
would be honored. The question of Jesus' existence is so fundamental,
crucial to the future course of western intellectual thought and social
progress, especially now when so many of the walls surrounding the
myth have been knocked down or seriously undermined, that no
should be ignored to bring light onto the question.
* * * *
For information on the book (including a full-color
of the cover) and how to purchase, please see jpadvert.htm.
The book is also available through www.Amazon.com.
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