Home > Christianity, Historical Christianity, Jesus > Ehrman & Carrier: the historical Jesus (6)

Ehrman & Carrier: the historical Jesus (6)

This post continues from the original post in this series.

Ehrman on Doherty’s use of scholars

Carrier objected to Ehrman’s statement that Mytherist Earl Doherty ‘quotes professional scholars at length when their views prove useful for developing aspects of his argument, but he fails to point out that not a single one of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis’ (emphasis mine).

This claim of Carrier’s makes no sense when we look at Ehrman’s entire paragraph:

Bart Ehrman: One of the staunchest defenders of a mythicist view of Christ, Earl Doherty, maintains that the apostle Paul thinks that Jesus was crucified, not here on earth by the Romans, but in the spiritual realm by demonic powers. In advancing this thesis, Doherty places himself in an ironic position that characterizes many of his mythicist colleagues. He quotes professional scholars at length when their views prove useful for developing aspects of his argument, but he fails to point out that not a single one of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis. The idea that Jesus was crucified in the spiritual realm is not a view set forth by Paul. It is a view invented by Doherty.

What ‘thesis’ is being spoken of, what ‘overarching thesis’, what ‘idea’?

* ‘the apostle Paul thinks that Jesus was crucified, not here on earth by the Romans, but in the spiritual realm by demonic powers. In advancing this thesis

* ‘his overarching thesis. The idea that Jesus was crucified in the spiritual realm

This is clearly not saying that Doherty cites scholars in support of his general Mytherist position without saying that they disagree with his general Mytherist position, it is explicitly saying that Doherty cites scholars in support of his specific thesis that Paul thought Jesus was crucified by demons in a spiritual realm, without saying that these scholars disagree with Doherty’s overarching thesis that ‘Jesus was crucified in the spiritual realm’.

And Doherty does do this. On page 89 he says this:

Earl Doherty: Perhaps Paul is using kata to refer to something like “in the sphere of the flesh” and “in the sphere of the spirit.” This is a suggestion put forward by C. K. Barrett.39 Such a translation is, in fact, quite useful and possibly accurate.

But what Doherty means by ‘in the sphere of the flesh’ is not what Barrett means by ‘in the sphere of the flesh’, and Doherty does not tell us that Barret’s use of ‘in the sphere of the flesh’ has nothing to do with Doherty’s thesis that Paul believed Jesus was ‘crucified by demons in a spiritual realm’, nor that Barrett does not hold this view.

Again, on page 104 (my emphasis):

Earl Doherty: As Morna Hooker puts it (“Philippians 2:6-11” in Jesus und Paulus, p. 15If):

Christ becomes what we are (likeness of flesh, suffering and death), so enabling us to become what he is (exalted to the heights).

All this fits into that most fundamental of ancient concepts outlined earlier: the idea that earth was the mirror image of heaven, the product proceeding from the archetype, the visible material counterpart to the genuine spiritual reality above. Heavenly events determined earthly realities. It follows that in such a philosophical system, the determining acts of divine forces which conferred salvation would of necessity be located not on earth but in the higher realm.

Doherty does not tell us that Hooker’s statement has nothing to do with Doherty’s thesis that Paul believed Jesus was ‘crucified by demons in a spiritual realm’ (the suffering of Jesus Hooker is speaking of takes place, for Hooker, on earth), nor that Hooker does not hold this view.

And again, on pages 105-106:

Earl Doherty: S. G. F. Brandon (History, Time and Deity, p. 167) is one scholar who faces unflinchingly the conclusion that though Paul’s statement “may seem on cursory” of this age’ does not mean the Roman and Jewish authorities. Instead, it denotes the daemonic powers who were believed to inhabit the planets [the celestial spheres] and control the destinies of men.. ..Paul attributes the Crucifixion not to Pontius Pilate and the Jewish leaders, but to these planetary powers.” However, Brandon (like everyone else) fails to address the question of how Paul could have spoken in such terms if he knew the tradition of Jesus’ death in Judea, providing no qualification to this supernatural picture.

The important point according to Doherty is that Brandon said ‘Paul attributes the Crucifixion not to Pontius Pilate and the Jewish leaders, but to these planetary powers’, and Doherty makes it clear that Brandon has no explanation for how Paul could have said this if he had known about ‘the tradition of Jesus’ death in Judea’. But Doherty does not tell us Brandon’s words were not intended to lend support to the thesis that Paul believed Jesus was ‘crucified by demons in a spiritual realm’, nor that Brandon does not hold this view.

Yet again, on page 106:

Earl Doherty: Robert M. Grant (Gnosticism and Early Christianity, p. 176) compares Paul with the Gospel of John, noting: “In Paul’s mind Satan was the archon of this age; but for John he has become the archon of this world” Paul’s focus is on the larger cosmos where the archons operate, embracing spiritual realms; it is they who are the rulers of this age, and it is on this cosmic scene where the mythical Christ himself operates. In the Gospels, the focus has been reduced to the world of humans, now seen as Satan’s theater of operations. Christ, with the advent of the Gospels, is now on earth, and the focus shifts to that perspective.

It’s clear why Doherty quoted this, with helpful phrase such as ‘Paul’s focus is on the larger cosmos where the archons operate, embracing spiritual realms’, and ‘it is on this cosmic scene where the mythical Christ himself operates’. But Doherty does not tell us that Grant’s statement has nothing to do with Doherty’s thesis that Paul believed Jesus was ‘crucified by demons in a spiritual realm’, nor that Grant does not hold this view.

Ehrman was correct. In advancing his argument that the apostle Paul thinks Jesus was crucified in a spiritual realm by demonic powers, rather than on earth, Doherty quotes professional scholars at length when their views prove useful for developing aspects of his argument, but fails to tell readers that none of these scholars agrees with his overarching thesis that Paul thinks Jesus was crucified in a spiritual realm by demonic powers, rather than on earth. He does this repeatedly.

  1. Noodles
    May 28, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    You say that Doherty misconstrued Barrett, Hooker and Brandon’s statements but you fail to provide any sourcing for your claims. In the end both Doherty and you ask for us to believe that your interpretation is the right one.

  2. Fortigurn
    May 28, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I did not say Doherty had misconstrued these sources. I said he had cited them in support of his view that Jesus was crucified in a spiritual realm by demonic powers, without telling readers that none of them actually hold this view.

    Doherty has already acknowledged publicly that none of the scholars he cited hold his view that Jesus was crucified in a spiritual realm by demonic powers. He has also made it clear he did not interpret them as saying this, nor did I claim he interpreted them as saying this. You have misread Doherty, and you have misread me.

  1. July 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm

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