• On the Historicity, Part 8.

    This is the eighth part of my review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus. The other parts of my review can be found here.

    One of the most compelling arguments for mythicism comes from the book of Hebrews. Though Hebrews contains a couple of problematic passages for mythicism, which Carrier explains reasonably (on pp.544-545 and pp.550-551, also see my conversation with him quoted at the end of this blog post). Hebrews also contains a number of passages highly supportive of mythicism, two in particular that I find really compelling, which we will look at here.

    The author of Hebrews believes that there are copies of things in heaven mirroring the things on earth (shadows of the things in heaven, 9:23-24) and that the animal sacrifices are a copy or shadow of Jesus’ sacrifice (10:1). Think about the Hebrews author’s logic:

    1. There are imperfect earthly copies of heavenly things.

    2. Animal sacrifices are an imperfect copy of Jesus’ sacrifice,

    Therefore: Jesus’ sacrifice was a heavenly sacrifice.

    The logic of what I am arguing is that the early Christians believed that earthly things were but imperfect copies of heavenly things, and Jesus’ sacrifice, as a perfect thing, has its most natural place in the heavens according to the author’s own logic.

    I think Jesus as a perfect sacrifice is very implicit within the book of Hebrews, especially Hebrews 10:1-18. The whole passage is worth reading, but in particular, notice what is said in verse 1: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come and not the very image of those
    things, can never, with those sacrifices which they offered continually year by year, make those who come unto it perfect.”

    The animal sacrifices of the old testament are a shadow of the good things that were “to come” (which refers to Jesus’ sacrifice). Hebrews 8:5 explicitly declares Moses’ tabernacle a shadow of the heavenly tabernacle. As such, it seems to me the most natural inference to draw from this is that Jesus’ sacrifice was in the heavens.

    The evidence before us is 100% likely if mythicism is true. How likely is it if historicism is true? If historicism is true, how can we explain this evidence? The only ways I know of are if we posit that the author of Hebrews held self-contradictory beliefs, or by sheer accident communicated his beliefs so that others would draw a very natural (but false) conclusion from his statements. Both of these, I think, are pretty unlikely: with any given belief that someone may hold, it is uncommon for them to also hold a contradictory belief. It happens, of course. But if you took an inventory of all the thousands of beliefs a person held, I’m sure most of them would be consistent, contradictory ideas being the exception to the rule. It is also rare for people to convey their beliefs in such a way that others are easily misled. It happens from time to time, of course, but it is the exception to the rule. I will therefore estimate that the probability of the book of Hebrews is no more than 25% likely under historicism (though it is arguably much more unlikely than that: after all, people do not miscommunicate or hold contradictory beliefs 25% of the time; a more realistic estimate might be one percent, or less).

    The convergence of evidence here is remarkable: we have, in the Ascension of Isaiah, a testimony to Christians who believed exactly this, 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 and Colossians 2:15 implying that Jesus’ death was a triumph over the spiritual / demonic rulers (the only kind of rulers who could have killed him if his sacrifice was in the lower heavens), the pervasive silence of Paul’s letters, a pre-Christian Jesus in Philo, and the presently discussed evidence in Hebrews. Pretty good theory, I’d say.

    Addendum: Is Hebrews 4:15 evidence of a historical Jesus?

    I have reproduced an email correspondence I had with Carrier concerning a potentially problematic passage in Hebrews.

    Me: In Hebrews 4:15, it says that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one [Jesus] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
    If Jesus was tempted in every way doesn’t that sound like an earthly Jesus? In particular, I’m thinking of things like sexual temptation / temptation to steal / etc., which would only seem plausible on earth. Of course, maybe there’s a way for him to be tempted in every way up in the lower heavens, but that’d seem like stretch, don’t you think? Or do you have an alternate interpretation?

    Carrier: The Greek says “we don’t have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested according to everything according to a likeness without sin.”

    His temptation “of everything” is most likely what is simply stated in Phil. 2: he was tempted to acquire all the power of God and declare himself his equal (as, we know legends had it, Satan had tried), but voluntary refused that temptation and allowed himself to become weak and powerless, even to experiencing death. It is this way in which he experienced all temptation: he resisted all possible offers of power, and he suffered all the way to the point of dying.

    There isn’t any reason that need entail anything further, but even sexual temptation would be available to a cosmic incarnate being (hence the Watchers, not even incarnate but still divine angels, succumbed to sexual temptation, birthing the demons, per the OT and Enochian legend), so that would not require an earthly sojourn (just the temptation of one…i.e. Jesus could have used his powers, like the Watchers did, to come all the way down to earth and ravish women, but he declined.).

    So the passage is simply inconclusive as written.

    Carrier later sent me a second and third email:

    BTW, I have looked further into the possible corrupted grammar here, and normally with kata homoiotêta in a sentence like this we’d expect here a repeat of hêmôn, which would mean “he has been tested in all things the same way as us.” That’s more ambiguous. But as such still inconclusive. In what “way” does the author mean? It can mean simply that he was tested “just like we are,” which would be as true on the Doherty thesis as on any historicity thesis; likewise the “all things” can mean all the things he was actually tempted with, not necessarily all the things it is possible to be tempted with, although even the latter would be available to a cosmic incarnate, per the Watchers example, and the example of Satan, only in their case they failed the test. So we can’t get anywhere from even that reconstructed text.

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    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I used to blog at Answers in Genesis BUSTED! I took the creationist organization Answers in Genesis to pieces. I am the author of Atheism and Naturalism and Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus. I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, and Skepticism in general.

    14 comments

    1. “1. There are imperfect earthly copies of heavenly things.
      2. Animal sacrifices are an imperfect copy of Jesus’ sacrifice,
      Therefore: Jesus’ sacrifice was a heavenly sacrifice.”

      I do not see the logic of that.
      And do not think the author of Hebrews uses something close of “imperfect copy” for the sacrifices. Rather he wrote Jesus’ sacrifice, once and for all, replaced the animal sacrifices in the temple.
      Why would that make Jesus’ sacrifice be in heaven?
      (which would be, according to Hebrews, in the heavenly temple, at the right of God, where eternity rules and death is not possible)

      Cordially, Bernard

      1. Hi Bernard,

        The logic of what I am arguing is that the early Christians believed that earthly things were but imperfect copies of heavenly things, and Jesus’ sacrifice, as a perfect thing, has its most natural place in the heavens according to the author’s own logic.

        I think Jesus as a perfect sacrifice is very implicit within the book of Hebrews, especially Hebrews 10:1-18. The whole passage is worth reading, but in particular, notice what is said in verse 1: “For the law, having a
        *shadow* of the good things to come and not the very image of those
        things, can never, with those sacrifices which they offered continually
        year by year, make those who come unto it perfect.”

        The animal sacrifices of the old testament are a shadow of the good things that were “to come” (which refers to Jesus’ sacrifice). Hebrews 8:5 explicitly declares Moses’ tabernacle a *shadow* of the heavenly tabernacle. As such, it seems to me the most natural inference to draw from this is that Jesus’ sacrifice was in the heavens.

        “Why would that make Jesus’ sacrifice be in heaven? (which would be,
        according to Hebrews, in the heavenly temple, at the right of God, where
        eternity rules and death is not possible)”

        The heavens were thought of as having many layers (Seven layers, in the reckoning of some). The first layer (or ‘first heaven’) was home to Satan and various angels who were capable of killing, and even going to war with one another right there in the heavens (see The Ascension of Isaiah, ch.10 verse 31, in which it says that the angels were ‘doing violence to one another’).

        1. The OT, earthly, animal sacrifices a shadow of what was to come – the perfect heavenly sacrifice? The Jerusalem below a shadow of the Jerusalem above. With just this basic understanding of the NT two things are evident. 1) the NT story is dealing with two crucifixion stories. An earthly crucifixion
          under Pilate and a heavenly celestial, perfect, crucifixion, i.e. a crucifixion
          with salvation potential. 2) These two very different crucifixion stories are fused together. i.e. elements of either story are reflected in the other story.
          Resurrection in the earthly crucifixion story and Davidic linage in the celestial crucifixion story. The earthly Jerusalem is reflected in the heavenly Jerusalem and vise versa.

          Or to put that in more philosophical terms – body and spirit are interconnected.

          Where does the above take the question of the historicity of the gospel JC? It takes it right back to where some mythicists do not seek to go – the gospel story. Putting all ones eggs in a Pauline basket fails
          to grasp the history that underpins that gospel story. Indeed, there was no
          historical gospel Jesus figure, however imagined by its proponents –
          but there is a historical reflection within that gospel story. The NT is not a Pauline mind-game – it is a story that encompasses both mind and historical realities. Thus, if it’s early christian origins that we seek to
          understand – Pauline intellectual imaginations have to be put on
          the shelve. Put on the shelve while we get our hands dirty with digging through
          the historical realities that generated that gospel story.

          1. “The OT, earthly, animal sacrifices a shadow of what was to come – the
            perfect heavenly sacrifice? The Jerusalem below a shadow of the
            Jerusalem above. With just this basic understanding of the NT two things
            are evident. 1) the NT story is dealing with two crucifixion stories.”

            It sounds like you’re saying that if there were a crucifixion in heaven then there must have been a crucifixion on earth too (because there are copies of everything in the heavens that are on earth). I’d say that the animal sacrifices made on earth were supposed to be the shadows of the crucifixion, the correspondence between the earthly and heavenly realms was not *exact*.

            1. Of course not exact…..The point is that there is a gospel crucifixion story and Paul can be interpreted as suggesting a heavenly, celestial, crucifixion. Shadow and reality. Which is the shadow and which the reality? Well, anything Pauline re a celestial crucifixion is imagination and its validity cannot be demonstrated. It’s as much a faith position as is the proposed resurrection of the gospel JC. The gospel crucifixion story, while not historical, has the potential to reflect historical realities. i.e. an earthly crucifixion reflects known realities.

              Both stories, the gospel earthly crucifixion and the Pauline celestial crucifixion, do not, as it were, cancel the other out. Both stories need to be addressed on their own terms.

              The JC historicists verse the Carrier-Doherty mythicists is a debate going nowhere. Neither side can ‘win’ this debate. Stale-mate. My proposal is take the best from both arguments – and move the debate forward. The JC historicists uphold a historical element to that gospel story. The Carrier-Doherty mythicists uphold a purely spiritual, cosmic, element to the Pauline epistles. Instead of this continual banging of heads – acknowledge the core value each side is striving to uphold – and work towards a win/win situation where both sides can retain their core values.

            2. One of the things Carrier demonstrates in his book is that it was common for people to tell stories about their gods as if they had lived a life on earth, but those stories were intended to be taken allegorically, and were intended to allegorize celestial events.

              In a nutshell, you’re on the right track in trying to find a theory that accounts for all the data, but I think the way we should reconcile the data is with a solution like the above. Otherwise, it is very hard to explain how a man on earth would have given rise to the contents of the Pauline letters and epistle to the Hebrews, which seem to describe a cosmic Christ and lack any clear evidence of knowing about a man who had recently lived.

            3. It was also common for people to make up stories about people who actually lived on terra-firma….

              Proposing that it’s all imagination is a sorry state of affairs – no wonder the Carrier-Doherty theory has failed to gain mainstream scholarly interest….The Carrier-Doherty theory is not a solution – it’s a theory. A theory that strives for a win/loose scenario. As such it’s a cul-du-sac. Proposing that the gospel Jesus figure was not a historical figure is not the end but the beginning of any investigation into the gospel story – and thus the starting point of a search for early christian origins. That the gospel figure of Jesus was not historical does not mean that the alternative scenario is a Pauline celestial christ figure historicized. Such a scenario inhibits the search for early christian origins. One imaginative scenario, a Pauline cosmic christ figure, and another imaginative scenario, a historicized Pauline celestial christ figure, simply increases the imagination involved with the Carrier-Doherty theory. We need boots on the ground to move this debate forward….;-)

            4. The execution was carried out in outer-space by demons; maryhelena’s idea may have legs but not in the way she thinks. What occurs in the heavenly sphere must be reflected terrestrially. ‘Mark’ had it on the authority of half a dozen Apostles that the events in outer-space were real; it is entirely in accord with the thinking of the time to then believe an earthly reflection of the Christ had been executed terrestrially.

              Paul’s (and presumably the other Apostles) methods of eisegesis from the Septuagint and other writings could then be used to extract the story: and it would be believed true factually and theologically because it is being extracted from the Word of God as transmitted through his prophets.

              ‘Mark’ knows this must have happened before Paul had his original hallucination and he has a rough timeline of Paul’s career from Paul’s letters.

              The same reasoning that places the events in the time of Pilate, most notorious of prefect/procurators, would account for Christians across the Euphrates attributing them to the time of Alexander Jannaeus, also notorious for huge numbers of crucifixions; though curiously this version of Jesus is more believably stoned to death.

              If the ‘Markan’ account were historically true, we would expect some part or parts of the story to fit poorly with the christology/theology; instead everything can and has been accounted for by the drivers of this fiction.

            5. Steven, I’m sorry but I really don’t get what point you are making in response to my post.

              Consider what Carrier recently wrote, in response to the Covington Review part 3:

              “Thus, even if we granted that the Gospels are completely 100% fictional, that can still just as easily be true if Jesus existed,…”

              A point I made is that two imaginary scenarios (a Pauline cosmic christ figure, and another imaginative scenario, a historicized Pauline celestial christ figure) increases the amount of imagination required for the Carrier-Doherty mythicist theory. Thus, this mythicist theory, being all imaginative ‘fiction’, does not rule out a historical core to the gospel Jesus story. As such, to the Jesus historicists, it’s like water on a duck’s back. It does not penetrate their core value – a historical core to the gospel story. Know your enemy – fight him on his terms not yours. 😉

              All in the mind, all Pauline imagination, and off we go on a magic carpet ride. It’s the Jerusalem below – Jewish history – that can open a ‘door’ through which a search for early christian origins can move forward. That way holds out possibilities to ‘trump’ the Jesus historicists at their own game!

            6. Maryhelena, thanks for the reply. The point I am trying to make rests on what is continually stated in the genuine Paulines and these having priority as the earliest records of proto-Christian belief.

              Paul records he has his Christ through visions supported by mining details for his myth from texts. These are his sole sources of inspiration. He also indicates that the other Apostles, though they differ in interpretation, have only the same sources of information. That is what we know: the earliest secure record has the myth take place in in a corporeal realm that is not this Earth. ‘Mark’ appears some twenty years after Paul was writing and places the story on Earth in the recent past. Numerous scholars have investigated ‘Mark’ and concluded that; apart from historical colour; all the components and themes of the ‘Mark’ story can be accounted for as not having a basis in history. An historical figure can be postulated as lying behind the story; but this is a hypothetical without evidence. Whereas we have explicit evidence for an ahistorical, otherworld myth.

              There is no need for imagination to state this: Paul’s writings are clear and explicit and he goes out of his way several times to emphasise he is not lying; he is telling the truth. And it is clear from an honest reading
              of his text that there is no this-world Jesus figure in it.

              It is established background that Heaven and Earth reflect one another. It is established background that nearly all the religious myths and legends posited that they happened in both a heavenly, atemporal context and an earthly historical context. It is established background that the direction of travel is from myth to history. It is established background that a considerable number of people at the time thought this direction of travel was opposite. It is therefore unsurprising that once a myth taking place outside history and an earthly realm arises that a cognate inside history and on Earth should come into being. If we assume there is some kernel of exterior fact behind the Markan story; it is both surprising and difficult to account for it’s erasure, or it’s absent impact on the story.

              There are many orders of magnitude between the imagination required for the Mythicist position; which appears to be minimal, and the Historicists position; which appears to consist of maximal post hoc hypothesising. This is circular reasoning: that there must have been an historical Jesus derives from the assumed ‘fact’ that there was an historical Jesus. On investigation, the necessity of the ‘fact’ evaporates and it becomes apparent that it was never there in the first place.

              I have no care that this might be water off an historicists back; just as I have no care that it might be water off an Christian apologist’s or fundamentalist’s back. I have no need for their hypotheses and, if they are going to insist on denying logic and reason, no need or time for them.

            7. Steven wrote:

              Maryhelena, thanks for the reply. The point I am trying to make rests on what is continually stated in the genuine Paulines and these having priority as the earliest records of proto-Christian belief.

              1) Dating documents does not date the story,the data, they contain. What would happen to the Carrier-Doherty mythicist theory if a copy of gMark turns up that can be dated much earlier than anything that is dated to Paul? Putting all ones eggs in a Pauline basket is shortsighted.

              2) As for Paul – there is no evidence for his historicity.

              Paul records he has his Christ through visions supported by mining details for his myth from texts. These are his sole sources of inspiration. He also indicates that the other Apostles, though they differ in interpretation, have only the same
              sources of information. That is what we know: the earliest secure record has the myth take place in in a corporeal realm that is not this Earth.

              3) Lots of people claim to have had
              visions. So? A battle of the visions??

              4) The earliest secure record –
              dating documents is not the way to understand, or interpret, the NT
              story.

              ‘Mark’ appears some twenty years after Paul was writing and places the story on Earth in the recent past.

              5) Assumption. You cannot establish either that Paul was a historical figure or that ‘Mark’ appears some twenty years after Paul.

              Numerous scholars have investigated ‘Mark’ and concluded that; apart from historical colour; all the components and themes of the ‘Mark’ story can be accounted for as not having a basis in history.

              6) Have another look at the Carrier quote above. All fiction does not negate a historical core, a historical reflection, to the gospel story.

              An historical figure can be postulated
              as lying behind the story; but this is a hypothetical without evidence. Whereas we have explicit evidence for an ahistorical, otherworld myth.

              7) Check Carrier again. 100% fiction does not deny a historical core or a historical relevance for the gospel story.

              8) That the gospel Jesus is a literary
              creation does not negate the possibility that the gospel story has a historical core or relevance.

              There is no need for imagination to
              state this: Paul’s writings are clear and explicit and he goes out of his way several times to emphasise he is not lying; he is telling the truth. And it is clear from an honest reading of his text that there is no this-world Jesus figure in it.

              9) That’s the last thing Paul’s writings are – clear and explicit…;-)

              It is established background that Heaven and Earth reflect one another. It is established background that nearly all the religious myths and legends posited that they happened in both a heavenly, atemporal context and an earthly
              historical context. It is established background that the direction of travel is from myth to history. It is established background that a considerable number of people at the time thought this direction of travel was opposite.

              10)Myth is multi-faceted. It can have many sources and interpretations.

              “As a collection of such stories, mythology is an important feature of every culture.Various
              origins for myths have been proposed, ranging from personification of natural phenomena to truthful or hyperbolic accounts of historical events, to explanations of existing ritual.”Wiipedia.

              It is therefore unsurprising that once a myth taking place outside history and an earthly realm arises that a cognate inside history and on Earth should come into being. If we assume there is some kernel of exterior fact behind the Markan story; it is both surprising and
              difficult to account for it’s erasure, or it’s absent impact on the story.

              There are many orders of magnitude betweenthe imagination required for the Mythicist position; which appears to be minimal, and the Historicists position; which appears to consist of maximal post hoc hypothesising. This is circular reasoning: that there must have been an historical Jesus derives from the assumed ‘fact’ that there was an historical Jesus. On investigation, the necessity of the ‘fact’ evaporates and it becomes apparent that it was never
              there in the first place.

              11)There was no historical gospel Jesus, of whatever variant it’s proposers dream up. That does not mean that the Carrier-Doherty mythicist theory of a historicized Pauline celestial Christ
              figure, is a viable alternative scenario.

              I have no care that this might be water off an historicists s back; just as I have no care that it might be water off an Christian apologist’s or fundamentalist’s back. I have no need for their hypotheses and, if they are going to insist on
              denying logic and reason, no need or time for them.

              12)Ah – but we live in a world where the historical Jesus assumption holds sway. A world with many troubling features – religious problems being paramount. Yes, we
              can point to the Muslim world and say it’s time that theology gave way to 21st century moral thinking. But our own back year, Christianity, is not without it’s own shortcomings. We are, in some ways, living in an intellectual cul-de-sac. Politically,
              economically and morally, our social environment is bankrupt. Change needs to be across all platforms. Thus, wherever it is that we can contribute something in the way of pushing things forward
              – we should strive to do so. The
              historical Jesus theory has had it’s day – what lies beyond we won’t know until we get there! What we do know for certain (those of us who have made the decision for a non-historical gospel Jesus), is that this theory belongs to a world-view that is no longer tenable. It is past it’s sell-by date. We need, as
              that Pauline writer wrote – to no longer see through that glass darkly.

            8. Paul not historical? We have the letters and we have their content, written by someone clling himself ‘Paul’. This is evidence for Paul. The content of the letters, the sources he alleges for his and the other Apostles beliefs and teachings are evidence for the mythicist position.

              We have no such evidence for historicism. It is possible there was a real person behind the Markan story but possibility is not probability and the Markan text has been more than adequately explained without it.

              Actual evidence that can actually be seen without a great deal of difficulty trumps evidence that has to be hypothesised rather than actually being there for all to see.

              We have data on the evolution of umpteen religions. They do not begin in the way historicists propose for Christianity. Thre is a much, much greater probability that historicists are simply wrong than that Christianity contradicts known processes of religion genesis.

              Your observation on the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem and a heavenly Christ being reflected in an earthly Jesus, and vice versa, was very helpful to me in adding to the motivations for ‘Mark’ to create his story but we must have evidence to construct and validate hypotheses. Dismissing Paul as a fiction in the way you do only leads to having no material to work with and not being able to say anything constructive at all about the subject we are addressing.

              It appears to me to be valid to say that an earthly passion might cause someone to derive a heavenly passion as a must be; but this must remain an unevidenced hypothesis; wheras the opposite trajectory can be derived from the evidence we do have. Again, possibility is not probability.

            9. Steven Watson wrote:

              Paul not historical? We have the letters and we have their content, written by someone clling himself ‘Paul’. This is evidence for Paul. The content of the letters, the sources he alleges for his and the other
              Apostles beliefs and teachings are evidence for the mythicist position.

              1) ‘Paul’ could be a pseudonym. ‘Paul’ could be a composite figure. Why should the default position be a historical NT Paul? Especially so when one takes a position on a non-historical gospel JC. One can’t just take one figure out of the NT story because of doubts about historicity – and leave untouched the rest of the figures that are connected to that figure. The NT is a story about early Christian origins. A story. That means the historicity of every figure in that story associated with JC is questionable, it is compromised. Unless evidence is forthcoming from external sources one should not be quick to grant historicity.

              2) Teachings – all that is open to debate; open to interpretation. One man’s interpretation may well be heresy to another man….

              We have no such evidence for historicism. It is possible there was a real person behind the Markan story but possibility is not probability and the Markan text has been more than adequately explained without
              it.

              Actual evidence that can actually be seen without a great deal of
              difficulty trumps evidence that has to be hypothesised rather than actually being there for all to see.

              3) Indeed, there is no evidence for a
              historical gospel Jesus. Consider Carrier again: “100% fiction does not rule out a historical Jesus. “Thus, even if we granted that the Gospels are completely 100% fictional, that can still just as easily be true if Jesus existed,…”

              We have data on the evolution of umpteen religions. They do not begin in the way historicists propose for Christianity. Thre is a much,
              much greater probability that historicists are simply wrong than that Christianity contradicts known processes of religion genesis.

              4) Jesus historicists are wrong re how early Christianity got started.

              Your observation on the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem and a heavenly Christ being reflected in an earthly Jesus, and vice versa, was
              very helpful to me in adding to the motivations for ‘Mark’ to c reate hi s
              story but we must have evidence to construct and validate hypotheses.
              Dismissing Paul as a fiction in the way you do only leads to having no material to work with and not being able to say anything constructive at all about the subject we are addressing.

              5) Dismissing Paul as fiction still leaves the writings attributed to ‘Paul’. Somebody, some people, wrote these letters.

              It appears to me to be valid to say that an earthly passion might cause someone to derive a heavenly passion as a must be; but this
              must remain an unevidenced hypothesis; wheras the opposite trajectory can be derived from the evidence we do have. Again, possibility is not probability.

              6) A historicized Pauline celestial Christ figure requires that that figure be given some ‘flesh’, i.e. given a physical identity. Carrier, in his book, has referenced the Josephan figure of Jesus ben Ananias for the Markan Passion story. i.e. Carrier proposes that this figure, of around 70 c.e., has been used by gMark in his story set some 40 years earlier in the time of Pilate. (whether that Josephan figure was historical or fiction). And, of course, once this 40 year backdating is deemed to be
              OK – the door is open to a far wider historical canvas from which to search for historical figures relevant to the gospel writers in the creation of their literary Jesus figure.

              7) Earl Doherty has not denied that the gospel writers used historical figures in creating their Jesus figure:

              8) “I can well acknowledge that elements of several representative, historical figures fed into the myth of the Gospel Jesus, since even mythical characters can only be portrayed in terms of human
              personalities, especially ones from their own time that are familiar and
              pertinent to the writers of the myths.”
              (this about 12 years ago on his webpage)

              9) However, the point here is that once the historicized Pauline celestial Christ is ‘fleshed’ out in historical garb – one has
              opened the door to an historical debate. What historical figures were of interest to the gospel writers? Of such interest that they would seek to
              reflect such figures in their Jesus figure.

              10) And then, once that debate is opened up and various historical figures are found to be significant to the gospel writers in the creation of their composite Jesus figure – it
              becomes evident that one can jettison the whole historicized Pauline celestial Christ theory. It is unnecessary.

              11) Literary figures, composite literary figures, can be created without having first to imagine a celestial being historicized. i.e. there is enough, on the ground, so to speak, historical figures that can be used to generate such a figure.

              12) A prime example, of course, is James Bond. Wikipedia gives a number of historical figures that were used in the creation of this literary figure. The prime benefit of such an approach to the NT is that it puts history, not Pauline interpretations, first.

    2. The relationship Paul identifies in Galatians 3:13 between Christ’s crucifixion and Deuteronomy 21:22-23 is interesting because it is the one place in the typology argument where a mythicist might argue the New Testament crucifixion act itself is typology. That doesn’t help answering whether Paul started with memory of the historical Jesus being crucified and then shaped it according to Deuteronomy 21:22-23 in Galatians 3:13, or if Paul is indicating in Galatians 3:13 that he discovered that the celestial Jesus was crucified by an allegorical reading of Deuteronomy 21:22-23?

      Strauss said: “when we find details in the life of Jesus evidently sketched after the pattern of these prophecies and prototypes, we cannot but suspect that they are rather mythical than historical. (Life of Jesus, Critically Examined, p. 89)”

      I’m not a mythicist, but I think there are more and less intelligent ways to argue mythicism. Some issues are central, while others are barely peripheral.

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