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One of the results of my early responses to Earl Doherty was a request on my part that Doherty produce the 200 alleged examples of "inexplicable" silences about Jesus in the NT outside the Gospels that are said to prove that Jesus did not exist in the minds of Paul and the other epistle-writers that Jesus never walked the earth as a flesh-and-blood human being, but rather was a spiritual being who lived in a Platonic realm. Doherty produced that list, and this extended essay is our analysis and reply.
It is well to begin by reminding the reader of two things.
First, no amount of "silence" is enough to disprove the existence of Jesus, or the non-historicity of ANY person.
Second, the mere number of examples offered is meaningless. If all 200 are off the mark, then 200 times zero is still zero; and this is all the more likely because we are not really dealing with 200 arguments, but far less, since many of the cites use the same basic arguments -- so that, rather than 200 objections, one might actually say that there are less than a dozen (to be generous).
Furthermore, while in some cases Doherty has apparently modified his arguments in response to my rebuttals (or perhaps those of some other person), in several cases his arguments remain utterly unchanged; for such instances we will only provide links to my previous replies, for there is obviously no need at this point to do anything further.
The No Need Principle
One of my key arguments regarding the "silence" of the epistle-writers (hereafter EW for brevity) was that they do not mention certain details of Jesus' life (such as his birthplace and hometown) because there was no need to do so. Doherty makes some attempt to answer this charge, but what emerges is little more than a restatement of his original argument, thusly:
Nor is it valid to rationalize that Paul and the other early writers did not need to mention a given point about Jesus because their readers were already familiar with it. Perhaps so, but do none of us, in our letters and conversations, ever insert things our listeners are familiar with? We might have little to say to each other if we didn't.
This argument is simply misplaced. True, some of us do insert things in our letters that are listeners are "familiar" with, but there are usually reasons for doing so, and we are also a "low context" society that sees a need to repeat details. (It should be noted that my material on high and low context, though added later than the original writing, has been up for years even so, and has never been addressed by Doherty as of this editing/writing in May 2009.)
Let's return to the most fundamental basics of writing and communication and ask WHY a certain thing is usually mentioned when we are writing, even in a low-context society -- and we shall use a commonplace fact that parallels one of our examples.
My wife was born in Granite City, Illinois -- a hardworking steel town across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. I have just told you this basic fact for the first time. Now that you know this, why would I need to ever tell you about it again? Here are some possible reasons:
- You have forgotten, and it shows. Perhaps you didn't consider it important enough to remember. That's quite all right, but I won't know that you've forgotten unless you come up with some comment like, "Hey, I was in your wife's hometown the other day. We went to see Disneyland."
Now at that point I can guess that you seem to have forgotten that my wife's hometown was Granite City and not LA -- either that, or you have mistaken the St. Louis Arch for something that it isn't. Either way, your error gives me a reason to correct you and say, "No, it was Granite City she was born in. I told you that." (We'll also include in this area the possibility that I have forgotten that I told you.)
- You want to argue about it. For whatever reason, you think I'm lying. Or wrong. Or you just don't believe it. Or someone told you my wife was born in Kokomo, Indiana. Whatever the case, if there is some doubt about it, then I have reason to bring up the subject again.
- A change in circumstances, an update, or a correction. OK -- let's suppose the unlikely event that my wife lied to me these past 20 years I've known her, as did her mother, and her family, and they even forged a birth certificate that I've seen that says "Granite City" on it. I find out she was actually born in Tacoma. So I may say to you, "I told you once my wife was born in Granite City. Well, she was actually born in Tacoma."
Such an admission of course might follow upon an incident like #2 above, but it might also occur independently. Similarly, if we once lived in Cheyenne, but moved to St. Paul, we might say, "We moved from Cheyenne to St. Paul." But more likely I'd just say, "We moved to St. Paul" and assume you knew it was from Cheyenne.
Now apply this to Jesus and the matching data, his birth in Bethlehem. Do we have any evidence that any of the EW's readers forgot or doubted this data? Do we see any evidence that the EWs had to correct themselves because they found out something different?
No, we don't -- and there is therefore not the slightest demonstrated NEED to mention that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This is in line as well with the social factor we have noted of the ancient world as a "high context" society -- background data is assumed to be known; no need is seen to re-explain things again and again that the readers already know. Similar arguments, adjusted for data type, could be made about every single instance of lacking information that Doherty proposes.
This applies not, however, to another type of data, quotations of or allusions to the words of Jesus -- which Doherty seems to mix together with the above data-type. In the very next sentence he writes:
Moreover, such reasoning hardly applies in the context of argument. An argument is delivered more forcefully precisely by appealing to a point that does mean something to the reader or listener, something the audience is familiar with. Adding, for example, the simple phrase "as Jesus himself said" could not help but support many of the views these letter writers are urging, and there hardly seems any good reason, especially a blanket one, for why they would all consistently fail to do so.
I have already addressed this matter and Doherty provides absolutely no reply to it. If adding the superfluous words "as Jesus himself said" adds "support" to the views of the EW, then why did they absolutely never offer an attribution for allusions from the OT, and only sometimes from direct quotes from the OT? Surely to have added words like, "as David said" (Israel's greatest king) or "as Solomon said" (reputedly the wisest man ever to have lived) would have added "support" to whatever point the EWs were making, or done "honor" to the person who said or wrote it.
In fact, Doherty has anachronistically assumed a modern (read: low-context) citation and authority structure upon a time and place where such did not exist. That authors like Josephus freely used material from other writers without regular citation, for example, strongly suggests that the authority was held not in the person that said the thing, but in the thing itself.
Perhaps this has to do with the fact that most quotes were made from memory, so that citation was not an ingrained habit as it is in today's scholarly papers. But whatever the social reason, it is irrelevant: The data shows that allusions required no introductory formula, and that direct quotes required no name attached to make them authoritative. Unless Doherty can explain why there is a difference in the methods of citation, his argument here also remains a chimera.
His next point also misses the mark:
If we were to rely entirely on the early Christian correspondence, we would know virtually nothing about the Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Gospels. We would not know where he was born or when. We would not even know the era he lived in. We would be ignorant of the names of his parents, where he grew up, where he preached. Or even that he preached. We would not be able to identify a single one of his ethical teachings, for although the epistles often make moral pronouncements very close to the ones Jesus speaks in the Gospels, no writer ever attributes them to him.
This is very interesting. Now let's offer this parallel:
If we were to rely entirely on the early Christian correspondence, we would know virtually nothing about the Paul of Tarsus portrayed in Acts. We would not know where he was born or who his teacher was. We would not even know the city he lived in. We would be ignorant of the names of his parents, where he grew up, where he preached other than the churches he writes to.
Now of course this is not entirely true about Paul: We do know many things about him from his letters. But there are many things that only Acts tells us. And if Paul had not had to defend himself from charges leveled against him (as he did in Galatians and the Corinthian correspondence), how much would we know about him? It is only Luke who tells us about Tarsus and Gamaliel, and about Paul's work as a tentmaker and identity as a Roman citizen. We don't even get the names of Paul's parents, although in Judaism the father/son relationship was extremely important.
By the same token, as we have pointed out, Doherty himself tells us so little about himself that by his own reckoning, he ought to be regarded as a non-existent person. We do not know where he was born or what city he lives in. We do not know who his teachers were (except, he claims, G. A. Wells). You can't even find his picture on the Internet. We don't know where he has taught or even if he ever has. And so on.
We see that Paul's details about his own life are brought out under the rubric of two of our three conditions above -- and where does this relate to Jesus? It has no application. The EWs had absolutely no reason to mention where Jesus was born or when, what era he lived in, the names of his parents, where he grew up, where he preached, that he performed miracles or had it out with the Jewish leadership, and so on.
It is all superfluous data, out of (high) context for all that the EWs write, unless one of the three constraints above comes into play -- and there is not a scrap of evidence that any of them did, or that they suddenly turned into low-context moderns in a high-context society.
The 200 Silences
Without further ado we proceed to Doherty's 200 examples of places where he finds a silence so enormous that it disproves a historical Jesus.
- Romans 1:19-20 - No additional comment needed.
- Romans 16:25-27 - No additional comment needed.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:2
. . . we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the face of great opposition. [RSV]
This is the first one we have no had occasion to cover elsewhere, but it is of the same nature as others we have covered. Doherty writes:
Early Christian writers like Paul are constantly referring to the message they carry as the "gospel of God." They also talk of the work of God, the saving actions of God, the call of God (cf. Romans 1:16, 3:24, 1 Cor. 1:9, Phil. 1:6, Gal. 4:7, etc.). If these apostles were preaching a message about an historical Jesus who had himself taught about God and his own relationship to him, surely they would style it the "gospel of Jesus".
No, they would not -- Jesus was God's Word and Wisdom, which proceeded from the Father; it was not "his" gospel, or his work, or his actions, or his calling and will, but the Father working through Jesus and exercising His will.
This is made quite clear in all of the Gospels, though especially in John (Matt. 10:40//Mark 9:37//Luke 9:48, 10:16; John 4:34, 5:24; cf. Matt. 11:27, Mark 13:32, etc.) God was the author of the gospel; Jesus was merely the words on the page. God was the one who saved; Jesus was merely the tool.
In the next entry Doherty adds:
J. P. Holding has a very strained explanation for this startling phenomenon, claiming that since Jesus spoke in God's name, all these teachings are correctly ascribed to God. I pointed out in my response to him-see Reader Feedback-that it is inconceivable that all Christian letter writers would conform to such an esoteric consideration and deliberately avoid attributing any teachings to Jesus himself.
That Doherty personally finds this matter "inconceivable" is interesting, but it is not an answer. It is also hardly "esoteric" but part of the known anthropology of the day. Doherty has elsewhere disdained this sort of explanation as theological pin-dancing, but my argument remains in force:
Like it or not, we are dealing with subjects related to God, and so theology MUST enter the picture. No amount of barring the door against it can keep it outside...The issue is how the 1 John writer viewed things, not how we modern readers do.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:9 - No additional comment needed. Here also Doherty mixes in the same faulty arguments about attribution of allusions and citation methods which we have refuted and he has not answered.
- Galatians 2:7-8
... [the Jerusalem apostles] acknowledged that I had been entrusted with the gospel for gentiles as surely as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for Jews. For God ["he"] whose actions made Peter an apostle to the Jews, also made me an apostle to the gentiles.
This citation is new, but it is in form a repeat of an argument we have already covered. Doherty adds that "...Paul is clearly allowing for no distinction in quality or origin between his apostleship and that of Peter" and proceeds to make much of this point, but the division in missionary sectors was not done by Jesus within his time on earth. In that sense, Paul and Peter were on equal terms. (Doherty also alludes to other issues which we have covered already elsewhere.
- Titus 1:3
Yes, it is eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, and now in his own good time he has openly declared himself in the proclamation which was entrusted to me by God our Savior.
Also a new cite, but still not a new argument. Again one wonders where this invisible barrier is that leaves "no room for any role Jesus might have played in recent salvation history." I see plenty of room, and presenting the matter as though a totality were intended without showing that it was intended will not change that.
Doherty nearly hits on the answer when he comments: "The term 'Savior', throughout the epistles, is applied in the vast majority of cases (cf. 1 Tim. 4:10) to God, and only in a small minority to Christ Jesus." That's wildly incorrect, numerically, though: "Savior" occurs 19 times in the EW, 7 times referring to God, 12 times to Jesus and/or Christ -- and interestingly, it is in Luke [1:47, 2:11] and in the Timothies and Titus [which I believe were authored by Luke] alone that the term is applied to both God and Jesus, and in very close proximity.
- 2 Corinthians 6:1-2
You have received the grace of God; do not let it go for nothing. God's own words are: "In the hour of my favour I gave heed to you, On the day of deliverance I came to your aid." The hour of favour has now come; now, I say, has the day of deliverance dawned.
Another new cite, but it's the same arguments. We are told that this is a "blatant passage which moves from God's predictions of the past, contained in scripture, and the present moment of salvation now being put into effect by God."
What it reflects, however, is the overarching authority of the OT and God as the prime mover, with Jesus Christ as merely the "instrument" that had to be proclaimed and offered. (Incidentally, we will see that Doherty actually does "get the point" on this sort of thing later on, but he fails to realize that this is the same "point" that is made in the Gospels.)
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-16
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. [NASB/NIV]
This cite is offered up with some rather long explanations which argue little that we have not dealt with before. Doherty insists that Paul "expresses himself as though the raising of Christ from the dead is a matter of faith, not of historical record as evidenced by eyewitness to a physical, risen Jesus at Easter," and of course we would argue that earlier verses do indicate a historical event, and those verses are dealt with later. (It also somewhat misapprehends the meaning of faith in this context.)
Doherty goes on to say:
Moreover, the verb for "witness" (martureÇ) is often used in the sense of witnessing to, of declaring one's belief in, an item of faith, not of factual record (though it can mean this in some contexts). Such a meaning here is strongly supported by what follows this verb: kata tou theou, or "against God". Translators often seem uncertain of the exact import of this phrase, but Bauer's Lexicon firmly declares it as meaning "give testimony in contradiction to God". The idea that Paul is trying to get across here is that if in fact God did not raise Jesus from death (which would have to be the conclusion, he says, if all of the dead are not raised) then, rhetorically speaking, he and other apostles have been contradicting God and lying about Jesus' resurrection.
- Let's consider how martureo is used in the NT:
Matt. 23:31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.
Luke 4:22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked.
John 1:7-8 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
John 21:24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
This happens to be one of John's favorite words. He uses it many, many times in his Gospel, and without examining every incidence, it appears that it is overwhelmingly used regarding matters of historical or factual record.
Acts 6:3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.
Acts 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
(This word occurs over 100 times in the NT. Of the occurrences I selected at random to examine, this one comes closest to fitting Doherty's idea of "matter of faith" testimony. But it is clear in the context that an appeal is being made to historical data foretold in the prophets.)
Acts 22:4-5 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify.
Rom. 3:21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This one comes close, too, but whether you think Paul is referring to a matter of faith, historical record, or, as I might say, both, depends on where you start.
Rom. 10:2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
Paul is talking about his fellow Jews...no "matter of faith" here.
2 Cor. 8:3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
Gal. 4:15 What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.
Col. 4:13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Heb. 7:17 For it is declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
Heb. 11:4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings.
1 John 1:3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.
I think the point is made: While it is possible I was just unlucky and picked out the wrong verses, I see no justification for Doherty's claim that martureo is "often used" regarding "an item of faith, not of factual record" and that it only means the latter "in some contexts". From the looks of these verses, the opposite is true -- and in fact, though I am not here denying that it is used in "faith" contexts, I haven't yet seen a cite that fits the bill.
- Now back to Doherty:
Such a meaning here is strongly supported by what follows this verb: kata tou theou, or "against God". Translators often seem uncertain of the exact import of this phrase, but Bauer's Lexicon firmly declares it as meaning "give testimony in contradiction to God".
"Against God" does appear, at first, to be a tough cookie: The NRSV has it say "misrepresenting God" while the NIV says "we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead." We are not in disagreement with the translation, nor with the first aspect of the conclusion:
The idea that Paul is trying to get across here is that if in fact God did not raise Jesus from death (which would have to be the conclusion, he says, if all of the dead are not raised) then, rhetorically speaking, he and other apostles have been contradicting God and lying about Jesus' resurrection.
We agree with this. But then:
The point is, and it's unmistakable, Paul is saying that knowledge about Jesus' raising has come from God, and that his own preaching testimony, true or false, is something which relates to information which has come from God-in other words, through revelation.
In fact, this is a mistake on Doherty's part. This verse speaks of God as the one who performed the action of raising Christ. The apostles had been preaching that God did this thing; if that thing was not done, or if it was done by some other power than God, then they were lying about what God did. There is no idea of "revelation" here.
- Now, what of 1 Cor. 15:3-8, which we argue establishes a historical basis? Doherty dismisses these verses as "a series of visions of the spiritual Christ, a Christ who, as part of the scripture-based gospel about him, is declared to have been raised on the third day." We have shown in several places that this position does not hold water.
Doherty also repeats an earlier error, supposing that Paul might have appealed to, for example, the raising of Jairus' daughter or of Lazarus as a "proof" of resurrection. We earlier pointed out that these were not "resurrections" at all in the sense that Paul is talking about; Doherty apparently responds to this with the incredible argument that "an eternal resurrection would surely be seen as prefigured by the temporary ones granted by Jesus on earth, and there is no way Paul would not have appealed to these miracles in his argument". Hardly so. If anything, Paul would want to avoid those examples because they sound too much like the "animated corpse" concept he is trying to get away from.
Finally, Doherty insists that Paul "would (not) have passed up an appeal to Jesus' own promises on the matter," and cites these verses:
Luke 14:14 You will be repaid on the day when good men rise from the dead.
Luke 20:35 Those who have been judged worthy of a place in the other world and of the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, for they are not subject to death any longer.
However, neither of these verses addresses the salient point of 1 Cor. 15, which is the nature of the resurrection body. Furthermore:
- It would be just as "amazing" that Paul passed up OT promises that would fill the bill;
- there is no need to or use in appealing to these promises when the most important resurrection, that of Jesus, is exactly what is under discussion. If these people doubted that Jesus rose from the dead as was preached, then how are promises from the mouth of the one whose resurrection they doubt going to do any good?
This is yet another case where Doherty fails to recognize that an argument he wants to put in the mouth of a NT writer is fallacious at its core.
- James 5:10
Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
This happens to be a new one, though of a type Doherty has used before. He writes:
How could the writer not draw on Jesus himself as the best and most compelling example when urging his readers to show patience in the face of suffering? Even if the Gospels were not yet in existence when this early epistle was written (many date it to the mid-1st century), oral tradition would surely have progressed to the point where Jesus' behavior before Pilate and his Jewish judges would entail such an idea. Here there is very much a "need" to refer to Jesus, even if the reader were familiar with the fact.
It sounds good, but the context shows that this is not applicable at all. James 5:1-6 is full of warnings to the rich who hoard their wealth. 5:7-8 goes on to use the comparison of a farmer waiting for rains to water his crop, and 5:9 tells the brethren not to grumble. 5:11 uses Job, a man who lost his wealth but then regained it, as an example.
In other words, the "suffering" that James is talking about refers to the context of poverty, and his key theme is that the rich are mistreating the poor, but that the rich will get their just due, and that the poor will have their reward in heaven when the Lord comes. This obviously has no application to Jesus before the authorities -- Doherty has merely assumed that "suffering" here refers to ANY kind of suffering at all.
- Romans 6:2-4 - See here, item number eight. Little need be added, other than that the role of John the Baptist, as with so much Doherty says is missing from the EW, would have been covered years before the EW during missionary preaching.
- Hebrews 9:19-20 - No additional comment needed.
- Hebrews 12:15-17 - No additional comment needed, other than that it is fallacious, even for the sake of allusion, to use later views of Judas by Dante as an example of how the EW should have used Judas as an example. Dante is centuries removed from the author of Hebrews and had an entirely different literary purpose.
- Romans 13:3-4 - No additional comment needed.
- 1 John 4:1-3
This is a new cite with an odd argument:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit [i.e., prophetic utterance, spoken under the influence of God's Spirit], but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. . .
This passage tells us that in early Christian preaching, the test which determined whether a Christian apostle was speaking the truth related to the spirit which God had sent him.
Where are "apostles" mentioned here? They aren't -- this refers to "spirits" which can be carried by ANYBODY. Continuing:
This epistle was written probably in the last decade of the 1st century. One would expect that by this time Christians possessed a body of material regarded as proceeding from Jesus himself, transmitted to them over the decades through a chain of authorized apostles and community leaders, a process of transmission through "apostolic tradition". Yet such an idea is nowhere to be found in any of the epistles (cf. 2 Cor. 11:4). We do not encounter even the barest concept of a teaching passed on between generations, arising out of an apostolic past attached ultimately to Jesus. Instead, doctrine comes directly through revelation from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, though some "spirits" may come from the devil.
How does this passage imply that ALL doctrine comes from revelation and spirits? As we have noted elsewhere the key issue for 1 John seems to be a heresy that either teaches some sort of adoptionism (where Jesus did not "come" in the flesh, but was picked as anyone could have been) or perhaps that the Christ-spirit left Jesus at the Crucifixion (making the Christ-spirit temporary in the flesh rather than inherent).
The Gospels and the apostolic tradition wouldn't be much help here -- such an outrageous belief would hardly have been anticipated. It is just THIS doctrine, and this very peculiar doctrine, that is at issue -- not ALL doctrine, and not any doctrine (or corresponding heresy) that would have been formulated at the time of the earthly life of Jesus.
In short: Both John and his opponents would agree on the tradition, but they would interpret it differently, so appeal to the tradition itself would be of no use.
- 1 Corinthians 10:11
. . . For upon us the fulfilment of the ages has come. [NEB]
As an aside, I happen to think that the eschatological line that Doherty follows (and shares with many scholars) is a bit off-kilter and does not read Paul correctly (see here. Hence my own answer here is the Doherty's appeal is wrong because his interpretation is wrong.
- 1 Corinthians 1:7-8
There is no gift you lack, while you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you till the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This passage is representative of many in the epistles which speak of the anticipated coming of Christ (the Parousia). In many cases, as here, the verb employed is a revelation word. That is, the writer speaks of the "revealing" of the Christ (cf. 1 Peter 1:7 & 13, 2 Thess. 1:7). This is a strange way of putting it, if Jesus had just lived a full life on earth within living memory.
Once again, see the link just above; this is a matter where no problem exists for my eschatology. Doherty is failing to understand the meaning of "revealing".
Doherty also tries to make capital of a lack of implication of a "first" coming prior to the "second". After admitting that "Greek has no specific word for 'return' in the sense of coming back to a place one has visited or been at before," he supposes that the idea of a "second coming" could have been presented "the simple word palin, 'again'," employed with a word that denoted movement, erchomai.
However, each of the three cites he offers specifically [Phil. 1:6 and 3:20, Titus 2:13] carry the same implication of actions and behavior pursued now UNTIL this revealing of Christ. Reference to the "first" coming is out of place.
At the same time, for what it is worth, Strong's notes that palin involves the "idea of oscillatory repetition". The action repeated is of the same or of similar nature to the previous action. As the parousia involves a "coming" of an entirely different nature and purpose, palin would hardly be appropriate.
- Romans 10:9
(This is the word of faith that we preach:) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus [homolog's'is . . . kurion I'soun], and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. [KJ]
Doherty errs from the start here as he identifies this passage as "Paul's basic declaration of faith, which he preaches in his missionary work" -- it may well be, but even under Doherty's scheme, Paul had to first explain who Jesus was, what it meant to be "saved", etc. -- again, it is not as though he wandered through the streets mumbling or shouting this basic formula, winning converts in droves.
This is a rhetorical statement of faith, one that packs the essentials into a short space. Thus when Doherty says that Paul "never itemizes the one element of faith we would expect, the one that must come at the start" -- that is, "that Jesus of Nazareth, a human being who lived at a given point in the past and did certain things, was in fact the Son of God and Messiah," he points out a "flaw" that exists also in his own thesis. Whatever was taught about Jesus, whether he was a historical man or else a nether-life hero, it was obviously laid down long before the EW took up their quills, and the "silence" of the EW concerning matters which would have been covered years before during missionary preaching means absolutely nothing.
Doherty also should not call in the spectre of modern preachers who supposedly emphasize these basic facts so much: For one thing, they do indeed when they engage in missionary preaching and when they call for an invitation, or when they preach from the Gospels themselves; but attend a sermon on some deeper topic and/or from the epistles and you will find such "details" in short supply. For another, once again, we are a "low context" society while they were "high context".
- James 5:15
Is one of you ill? . . . The prayer offered in faith will save the sick man, the Lord [here there is no doubt the writer means God] will raise him from his bed, and any sins he may have committed will be forgiven. [NEB]
We are told that it is "inconceivable that the writer would not have appealed to the fact that Jesus himself had done these very things, had he possessed any such traditions." To which I post the standard question: Why? Was there some doubt as to these acts or traditions? Had the readers forgotten about such things? This is simply a low-context assertion without the slightest basis in fact -- it has no relevance to James' purpose in this passage, though a high-context ancient would recognize in James' words an allusion to a story of Jesus healing the man lowered through the roof.
- Philippians 3:10
This verse is used related to the "Where are the holy places?" argument that Doherty offers and which we have answered elsewhere. None of my arguments on this topic are answered.
Doherty offers a reply to the idea that fear may have played a role in the lack of visits, noting that "Acts, possibly preserving a kernel of historical reality (which it does, apparently, whenever Doherty finds it convenient for his thesis -- JPH), portrays the Apostles as preaching fearlessly in the Temple in the earliest days, despite arrest and persecution..."
That can be granted, but rather than fear being at issue, I think "prudence" best describes any reason for such avoidance. Preaching the Gospel was part of the commission; visiting holy places was not, and it would be remarkably wasteful to throw your life or health or safety away for the sake of stopping by Golgotha for a memory boost.
That said, I don't think this prudence did play much of a role in this issue, though it might have at certain times and places. And, the remainder of my own arguments are untouched.
Doherty also anachronistically presumes a paganized desire for relics, from the fourth-century church, upon a first-century church dominated by Jewish inclinations that would disdain such items. If Moses destroyed the tablets God wrote on Himself, and if Hezekiah destroyed the bronze snake made by Moses, then of what interest could Jesus' clothes, toothbrush, etc. have been to the first Christians, who would recognize such actions as verging on idolatry?
Doherty also insists that "Had these things existed in the early Christian world, they would have been impressed on the minds of the epistle writers, commending themselves for mention; such writers would have made occasion for working them into their letters." Again, why? Which of the three criteria, or what other criteria, would exert force upon the EWs, and displaced them from their high-context societal setting?
- Romans 1:1-4 - No additional comment needed.
- Romans 1:16-17 - Different cite, but same basic arguments.
- Romans 3:21-25
Same basic arguments, with a twist: Doherty "gets the point" equal to one of my own arguments. He speaks of "Paul's failure to make Jesus the direct agent of redemption" and observes that "Christ is brought in only as God's instrument of that redemption, the object of a required faith, and a redemption effected through further faith in his sacrificial death."
To which I say: Precisely! And though Doherty thinks this is "compatible with Christ being an entirely spiritual figure who has now been revealed, and whose sacrifice took place in the spirit realm," it is also 100% compatible with the Jesus of the Gospels who regularly asserts his subordinate role to the Father as Wisdom.
- Romans 6:17
But God be thanked, you, who once were slaves of sin, have yielded whole-hearted obedience to the pattern of teaching which was handed on to you . . .
Concerning this, we are asked: "Now, if this teaching that was handed on to the believer was in fact wholly or in part the product of Jesus, preached while he was on earth, why wouldn't Paul simply say so?"
Because what is being said is not whose product the teaching is, but who handed on the teaching -- and unless we interpret Suetonius to say that Jesus was in Rome in 44 AD, then obviously Jesus is not the one concerned.
Again, in this high-context setting, where is there the NEED to stress the product origin, unless there was some doubt about it? Simply insisting that it would have been "the natural thought and expression" to make the attribution is a low-context obejction that begs the question.
- Romans 8:19-23
For the created universe waits with eager expectation for God's sons [i.e., the faithful believers] to be revealed [i.e., revealed for all the world to see] .. .Up to the present, the whole universe groans in all its parts as if in the pangs of childbirth. . . .
Doherty rightly perceives that "Paul seems to relegate Jesus' life to some pre-natal kick" -- likewise do the Gospels portray Jesus as the tool of God's coming Kingdom, merely the first act in an eschatological drama. Other than this, Doherty also asks:
- Why Paul did not see events surrounding the crucifixion (Matthew's quake, the darkness) as part of the "groaning of the universe". Well, one might as well ask why Paul does not also see earthquakes in the Aegean, for example, as signs. There is no indication that Paul finds some literal, historical events behind the "groaning" -- which he relates to redemption and suffering.
- Doherty also asks why Jesus' miracles are not perceived similarly, but as he admits, this was a perception of later Christians -- and it does not fit the context either.
- Re Paul's phrase: "We wait for God to make us his sons." Doherty asks:
How can Paul say he is waiting for God to do this? Had he not already done so, and much more, through the incarnation? Indeed, why would Paul not express the idea that it was Jesus himself and his deeds on earth which had set people free and made them sons of God?
The "problem" is the same, since in verses previous Paul also indicates that the "adoption" has already been performed (8:12-17). But note that we are not only waiting for God to "make us His sons" but also to "set our body free" -- and the allusion to the reversal of decay (v. 21) suggests that Paul has the Jewish resurrection body in mind here. So one might say that the adoption papers have been signed, but the kids haven't been picked up from the orphanage yet.
In such a case, is the adoption complete...? Or not? (Doherty is right in saying that this is not a matter of "need" to mention...I would not have argued that for this verse in the first place. It is simply a matter of not understanding the point Paul is tying to make.)
- Romans 8:24-25
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope at all; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for something we do not see, we await it with patience. [NIV/RSV]
It is asked:
How could (Paul) not envision that the incarnation of the Son, witnessed by so many (even if not by himself personally), constituted a "seeing" of salvation and the events which brought this about?
How could he? Because Paul knows that for 99.999999999999% of all believers, Jesus was NOT seen and what happened to him must remain a matter of trust...whether in apostolic testimony, the evidence of what was left, or in the goodness of God.
- Romans 8:26
We have covered this one before, but here is an added comment that may have been offered as a rebuttal to mine:
Should not Paul have regarded the ministering Jesus as having "interceded" with God on humanity's behalf, a claim which Jesus himself makes more than once in the Gospels?
I don't know which Gospel cite Doherty is alluding to here, but assuming that it is something along the lines of the Johannine promises to intercede in prayer (cf. John 17), how does this apply to the specific situations that the Romans found themselves in?
- Romans 10:3-4
- Romans 10:13-21
- Romans 11:1-6, 7-12, 20 - No additional comment needed for any of these or the next few.
- Romans 12:3
- Romans 12:14
- Romans 12:17-18
- Romans 13:7
- Romans 13:8-9
Each of the involve either a question of attribution and citation or a refusal to distinguish between earthly and post-resurrection actions and attributes of Jesus. Doherty does reply directly to me here on the third cite:
Can an argument like J. P. Holding's "there was no need" for an explicit reference to Jesus possibly hold water here? Paul obviously has a "need" to back up his admonitions with some sacred support. Why would he choose ancient, anonymous writings to provide this when he has the very words of the Son of God himself during a recent earthly ministry?
Anonymous? The Jews were not modern form critics; they did not consider Deuteronomy and Proverbs (the two examples cited by Doherty) to be "anonymous". They were attributed to Moses and Solomon, the greatest and perhaps third-greatest men in Jewish history. Why no need for "sacred support" for these quotes? (And of course, the words in all cases find their origin in God -- not in Moses, Solomon, or even the Son.)
- Romans 13:11-12 - Different cite, but same basic arguments.
- Romans 14:13 - Another matter of attribution.
- Romans 14:14 - Ditto, and see here for more.
- Romans 15:3-4
For Christ did not please himself, but, as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me." For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. [RSV]
Here we find the same argument that the "life details" of Jesus were drawn from Scripture, where it is quite obvious that what is at issue is the overarching authority of the OT, which was very much a "live" item of tradition in the minds of Jewish believers. If Jesus' life did not match the OT record, and if the EW didn't try to prove it, then they would fail to convince any OT believer that Jesus was the Messiah.
The claim by Wells that Paul could have cited Mark 8:34 ("If any man come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.") is simply a poor argument: Saying is one thing; doing is another.
Another Misused Authority
At this point Doherty tells us that E. B. Cranfield, in his commentary on Romans, "admits that 'it has struck many people as very surprising that at this point Paul should, instead of citing an example or examples from the history of Christ's earthly life, simply quote the Old Testament.' " He then tells us that "Cranfield tries to rationalize this, but the real insight lies in verse 4" - without telling us what it is that Cranfield says.
Perhaps Doherty doesn't want us to know that Cranfield offers basically the same explanation that I have: That there is no problem once "one recognizes how important it was for [Paul] that Jesus Christ is the true meaning and substance of the Old Testament and how important to the early Church as a whole to be assured that the Passion was an essential element in God's eternal plan."
In other words, as I have said all along, it is the overarching authority of the OT -- combined here with the problem of a Messiah who died the most disgraceful death possible.
- 1 Corinthians 1:1 - A new cite, but the same argument as before.
Doherty also says that Paul's reference to 'seeing the Lord' in 1 Corinthians 9:1 and 15:8 "is not specified as a conversion experience, and could be referring to a 'confirming vision' of the Son Paul received some time after his conversion."
This doesn't read 1 Cor. 15 with full justice. Paul describes the appearance as being to him as one "abnormally born", which strongly suggests a conversion experience, especially when paired with his reference to his persecution of the church [15:9] which changed because of his change of heart.
- 1 Corinthians 1:9 - Same arguments, different cite.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18-24 - On this cite, Doherty offers what seems to me to be one of the most outrageous arguments in the entire set:
Paul's statement seems to be one of simple fact: that Christ was crucified. Yet if Jesus' crucifixion had been a recent historical event, its mere occurrence, being a matter of record and public knowledge, would hardly prove a stumbling block or a folly to anyone. The proclaimed significance of that event might be so, but Paul does not suggest that he means it is the interpretation of the crucifixion which is the problem. Nor does he say the problem is that a crucified man is declared to be the Messiah-something that would indeed affront the average Jew. No, as Paul presents it, it is the doctrine itself that the Messiah was crucified which is being resisted.
Whether as doctrine or as event, and regardless of whether it was twenty years or twenty minutes ago, preaching a crucified ANYONE would be a stumbling block -- but especially a Messiah. We have made clear what folly this would be in the social context in our previous reply to Doherty.
This argument exposes one of the most fundamental weaknesses in Doherty's position, one he has never gotten around to explaining: As my pal Ryan Renn puts it, "If Jesus were originally crucified in the Nether-worlds, why bring him down to the embarrassing earth?"
In fact, that would be a double embarrassment, since we also have the problem of turning a spiritual-world resurrection into a physical one that pagans regarded as akin to teaching a resuscitated corpse. One is constrained to wonder why Doherty's spiritual Christianity died out where the grossly physical one succeeded.
If Paul were preaching Jesus of Nazareth-a crucified man-as the Messiah and Savior, he would discuss it in such terms, especially since in this lengthy passage (extending to 2:10) he is defending his doctrine and defending God for the wisdom of his redemptive scheme. Yet there is not a word in these 24 verses about the human Jesus, about an earthly dimension, about the question of recognizing a crucified criminal as the Son of God and redeemer of the world. Indeed, the elevation of a man to divinity, the turning of an executed subversive into a part of the Godhead, would be, to almost all Jews, a stumbling block of such monumental proportions that it would dwarf any objection they might have to the claim that the Messiah had to undergo crucifixion. Paul is completely silent on the greatest folly of them all.
Likewise Doherty says that in verse 22 Paul "fails to call attention to any of Jesus' Gospel miracles as support for the claim that the crucified man of Nazareth had indeed been Messiah and Savior." And of course, this is not surprising once we realize that
- by the time of this letter being written, the Corinthians had believed this "folly" for 10-15 years, and there is no need to rehash it;
- Paul's purpose here is NOT to defend this "folly" at all, nor to prove that Jesus was the Messiah (again, the Corinthians believed that already, and there is not the least sign, despite Doherty, that this is the issue in doubt) but use it as an example of the inefficacy of human wisdom, as we have pointed out elsewhere.
Doherty's additional comment, that the Greek verb here being in the present tense supports the idea of a crucifixion in the timeless nether-realms, is belied not only by the use of past tense to describe that event and others related to it, but also by the fact that this no more puts the crucifixion in the nether realms than saying "I am affirming on my resume that I graduated" removes my graduation ceremony to the eternal realms. To have any effect, he must show that there is no similar use of present tense to describe events that all sides agree happened on earth.
- 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 - No additional comment needed.
- 1 Corinthians 2:11-13 - Here Doherty applies to these verses the same argument he also applies to 2 Peter 1:20, and our reply is of the same nature. Here also Doherty fails to distinguish between the pre- and post-resurrection roles of Jesus.
- 1 Corinthians 4:5 - No additional comment needed. This is another place where Doherty fails to distinguish between the pre- and post-resurrection roles of Jesus.
- 1 Corinthians 4:11-13
To this day we go hungry and thirsty and in rags; we are roughly handled, we wander from place to place. . . They curse us, and we bless; they persecute us, and we submit to it.
Doherty asks whether Paul could "have found no comfort in the words of Jesus himself, in his blessings on those who hunger and thirst and are persecuted" and expects that he should "call attention to the fact that 'blessing those who curse you' was a direct admonition of Jesus".
However, as the object of this passage is to shame the Corinthians who have called Paul's credentials and commitment into question, I hardly see any call for such a diversion, which I daresay would only serve to lessen the point that Paul is trying to make in the first place. Paul wants to emphasize his suffering and the shame of it; if he now mentions that his sufferings will lead to blessing, how will he shame the Corinthians? They will simply say, "Then why should be feel bad because you're suffering? You'll get a nice reward out of it."
- 1 Corinthians 7:29
What I mean, my friends, is this. The time we live in will not last long.
Doherty finds here "a compelling need to refer to Jesus' own predictions about the nearness of the coming End" -- insisting that even if they knew of such predictions, "the natural impulse for a writer in a situation like this would surely be to throw in the fact that Jesus' own words back up his claim."
I am still looking for where this "instinct" comes from, but the best Doherty can do is say that such cites are especially needed "when the subject being discussed is controversial, and when there is an element of persuasion being exercised on the reader to listen, to heed, to accept the idea being put forward." No such "instinct" exists -- save perhaps in a low-context society like ours.
I do not see where the idea of a soon return was itself "controversial" -- the Corinthians' behavior was what was at issue, not any doubt regarding the parousia or return of Christ -- and if that is not in doubt, then there is no need to heap on things for persuasion, especially when the rhetorical practices of the day (as we have noted with Quintillian) advised against such repetition: "For it is felt to be more forcible when thus briefly put...Once the statement is made in detail, it resembles not a rebuke but a thing narrated...The passion and vehemence of the words are enfeebled when this extended."
- 1 Corinthians 9:1-2 - No additional comment needed.
- 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7-8, 11
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . In each of us the Spirit is manifested in one particular way, for some useful purpose. One man, through the Spirit, has the gift of wise speech . . . etc. . . .But all these gifts are the work of one and the same Spirit, distributing them separately to each individual at will.
Doherty uses this cite to issue the familiar argument about a supposed lack of "a network of apostles tracing their doctrine and authority back through a chain leading to those who were appointed and sent out by Jesus himself; in other words, a system of apostolic tradition and the sense that Jesus of Nazareth had begun the process."
There is such a thing delineated in Acts, though he has rejected that evidence out of hand by dating it into the 2nd century, and strong hints of it even in the EW, especially in Galatians.
But even so, where is the need in this passage for such a reference? Jesus said not a word about spiritual gifts; in fact, this is one of the main arguments for saying that the early church did not invent words for Jesus. If they did, where is his teaching on tongues and the outworking of the Holy Spirit in the daily life of the believer?
Other than this, Doherty issues the same argument that, "Even if the work of God's Spirit were seen to be operating in the context of a movement begun with Jesus of Nazareth, that Spirit would have been linked in some way to him, as it eventually was-most dramatically in the Gospel of John, with Jesus' promise to send the Paraclete after his departure from the world."
Such teaching would have been expounded to the Corinthians many years in the past as they were taught about the significance of Pentecost. Paul is not here concerned to explain such links, but to explain the practical outworking of the presence of the Spirit in the lives of these Corinthian believers.
But in fact, Paul does "link" Jesus with the Spirit in a very intimate way in verse 3: He says that no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. Doesn't this suggest an intimate connection?
- 1 Corinthians 12:28 - Different cite, using same basic arguments.
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
We are told, "A chapter on the subject of love which is 13 verses long, yet contains not a word about any teaching on the subject by an historical preaching Jesus."
If we read the Gospels carefully, we find that while Jesus was continually commanding love, he not once expounds upon what characterizes love in the individual as Paul does here. Nor does Jesus (obviously) compare it to the spiritual gifts of the church, like tongues.
The closest teaching that might be applicable is John 14:15-24, where Jesus says that those who love him will obey his commands, and 15:13, where dying for one's friends is exemplified as love. But there's no practical, everyday parallel like what Paul offers here.
- 1 Corinthians 14:36-37 - No additional comment needed.
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 - See our discussions against Robert Price.
- 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 - Ditto, and here.
- 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ, and anointed us. It is God also who has set his seal upon us, and as a pledge of what is to come has given the Spirit to dwell in our hearts.
Commenting on the word "pledge", which is "a commercial term for a part-payment that makes a transaction binding," Doherty finds "a silence here which is nothing short of profound." It is objected that rather than the giving of the Spirit, either the life of Jesus or the sacrifice of Calvary ought to be the pointer for the believer.
But how could they be? The individual believer, barring time travel, will never see either of those events. Only the Spirit is present and real in the life of the believer today as a guarantee for the resurrection body. Not even the resurrection of Jesus could act as a seal for the believer today, for it is a past event which they cannot witness.
Would you accept or give as a pledge for some future action a set of coins you couldn't touch or see? Would you say, "Here's my promise that I'll fix your roof -- 20 silver pieces I had in my possession eight weeks ago"? I think God would be a better guarantor than that.
- 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 / 8-9 - Repeats of the same arguments used elsewhere, with the usual misunderstanding of Jesus as "prime dispenser" of the covenant, rather than the instrument of it.
Regarding verse 8, it is supposed that Jesus' "glorious sacrifice on Calvary" would provide a better parallel to the Sinai theophany, once again failing to grasp the fact the very, very few believers ever got to witness that event and participate in it, whereas the deposit of the Spirit would be universal and not bound by time.
- 2 Corinthians 4:4-6
The god of this age [=Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God . . . For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Doherty asserts that this passage "points to the fundamental character of Christ as the channel through which God is known" -- and he is right. As verse 5 (which he omits) indicates, Paul is talking about the way that preaching brings the gospel message. Obviously, this is the only way that people who never knew Christ on earth could ever get to know him.
There is no place for a reference to "the human career of Christ" (especially if, as we have argued, details of that career were part of the missionary preaching)...who, at any rate, as the Eternal Wisdom of God, always was and always will be the channel through which God is known, whether he is on earth as a human or in heaven as a resurrected being or a spirit being.
- 2 Corinthians 4:13-14
But Scripture says, "I believed and therefore I spoke out," and we too, in the same spirit of faith, believe and therefore speak out, for we know that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will with Jesus raise us too, and bring us to his presence, and you with us.
Paul certainly suggests here that the knowledge of Jesus' raising is entirely a matter of faith, and nothing to do with eyewitness. The quote from scripture sets the meaning of Paul's statement: faith leads to declaration. If Jesus' raising were a matter of Christian historical record, we would expect him to appeal to it, using an expression like: "We believe that those who told us of seeing him alive after his death were speaking truth."
This is a failure to distinguish between the historical fact of the resurrection and the applicable meaning of it for believers. Even if there had been a camera in the tomb, the event would not prove that everyone who believes will undergo the same fate. It would serve to authenticate the message, but one must still have faith that the promise of the message will be kept.
- 2 Corinthians 5:6-7
We never cease to be confident. We know that so long as we are at home in the body we are exiles from the Lord; faith is our guide, we do not see him.
This sentiment is all too obviously appropriate directed towards people who never came close to knowing Jesus on earth and were removed from his earthly career by a thousand miles, a culture, and 30 years. Why is there any need to refer to a those who were so fortunate as to be acquainted with that career personally?
There is no reason, and Doherty does not produce one, other than hinting that Paul ought to have made a superfluous distinction to satisfy Doherty himself. Even so, even AFTER having been with Jesus, everything that the apostles lived with from then on would be "by sight".
- 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 - Same basic arguments failing to understand the distinction in role between the earthly and post-resurrection Jesus. The "never encountered" idea that "Paul and other apostles, in their preaching mission, are continuing the work of the earthly Jesus" will not be encountered because the missions are not of the same type.
- 2 Corinthians 9:10
Now he who provides seed for sowing and bread for food will provide the seed for you to sow; he will multiply it and swell the harvest of your benevolence.
Doherty wonders here why no mention is made of the loaves and fishes miracle. The point of the chapter has to do with charity -- the giving of the Macedonians (9:1-4) and the collection for the Jerusalem saints. Paul is promising the Corinthians that their gift will not be without reward.
True enough, one boy gave Jesus a small amount of food that was multiplied, but since Paul wants everyone to give and give generously, that's not really the kind of example he wants to put forward. Otherwise the Corinthians might argue, "Well, if one boy is all that gave, then only Erastus here needs to give. God can multiply the rest of the money himself."
- 2 Corinthians 10:7-8 / 11:22-23 / 12:11-12 - Different verses, but the same basic answer, along with others we have offered, suffice.
- 2 Corinthians 11:4 - Repeat of previous arguments regarding apostolic chains of authority. Also the same failure to understand the use of polemic that we have discussed elsewhere.
- Galatians 1:11-12 - Repeat of arguments regarding Paul's use of the word "gospel", and his source for his gospel, that we have addressed elsewhere in several places. Doherty fails to differentiate between Paul's "gospel" of Gentile ministry and the more generic "gospel" of Christ.
- Galatians 1:13
You have heard what my manner of life was when I was still a practising Jew: how savagely I persecuted the church of God, and tried to destroy it.
Here Doherty simply uses another aspect of the "Why God and not Jesus/Christ?" argument which fails to recognize the subordinate nature of Jesus to the Father. Moreover, how would a reference to Jesus here not fit in with Doherty's spiritual-Christ paradigm?
- Galatians 2:6
But as for the men of high reputation [or, seeming to be important]-not that their importance matters to me: God does not recognize these personal distinctions- [NEB]
Doherty writes: "Here Paul disparages the importance of Peter and the other Jerusalem apostles as being neither of any concern to him, nor to God for that matter. How could Paul, as self-important as he is, dismiss with such disdain the very chosen apostles of Jesus, particularly the one on whom Jesus is supposed to have 'built his church' (Mt. 16:18)?"
Once again, the context of Galatians -- as a defense of Paul's Gentile mission and methods -- answers the question. Beyond the general call to make disciples of all nations, Jesus left no instructions while on earth for the regard of Gentile converts. Paul is justified in this "disparagement" for it concerns a topic the other Apostles had no frame of reference for.
See also here -- Doherty completely misunderstands what is going on in Gal. 2.
He continues by saying of what comes after the above verse: "Paul then goes on to parallel his own appointment to apostleship by God with Peter's appointment -- also by God. Paul not only ignores any superior position of Peter by virtue of having been chosen and elevated by Jesus himself, he excludes it!"
To have been chosen by Jesus on earth would not have been a "superior" position, merely a different one, and once again, we stress the subordination of Jesus as the Son and Word of God to the Father, the paradigm under which both Peter and Paul rightly operate.
- Galatians 2:8 - See previous entry.
- Galatians 2:14
But when I saw that their conduct did not square with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas, before the whole congregation, "If you, a Jew born and bred, live like a Gentile, and not like a Jew, how can you insist that Gentiles must live like Jews?" [NEB]
Doherty asks: "Gospel scenes such as Mark 2:15-17 and Luke 5:30-32 have Jesus defending himself against criticism for sharing his table with tax collectors and sinners. Could this exemplary behavior not have served Paul as an argument against Peter's unwillingness to share meals with gentiles?"
This is an apples and oranges question. As Doherty admits, the "tax gatherers may have been mostly local Jews,", but he goes on to argue that "the principle was still the same: engaging in table fellowship with the unclean."
Hardly so. This is equal to saying that (in the eyes of those with specific problems of bigotry) not eating at a table with a burglar is the same as not eating at a table with a black man.
Moreover, Doherty's suggestion that the passage should really have begun "But when I saw that their conduct did not square with Jesus' own conduct . . ." he neglects the fact that Jesus himself, based on all the testimony we have, avoided contact with Gentiles.
- Galatians 3:23-5
Before this faith came, we were close prisoners in the custody of the law, pending the revelation of faith. Thus the law was a kind of tutor in charge of us until Christ should come [or, tutor to conduct us to Christ], when we should be justified through faith; and now that faith has come, the tutor's charge is at an end. [NEB]
In the passage leading to these verses, Paul is explaining and justifying his suspension of the Jewish law as a requirement for salvation. In its place stands only "faith in Jesus Christ" (verse 22). And what is it that marks the great turning point, the passing away of the law's term of effect and usefulness? Not the arrival of Christ himself, not his career on earth, but the beginning of faith in him, meaning the response of believers to the gospel, revealed to and preached by apostles like Paul.
What's wrong with this? The arrival of Christ would mean nothing at all to a person (positionally speaking, as Paul is) unless he first had faith in Christ. Until a person (or here more specifically, a Jew) has faith in Christ, they still believe that the law is what is effective and useful for them. (Further comments on this verse once again miss the point that the gospel message of salvation was only barely hinted at during Jesus' earthly ministry.)
- Galatians 4:4-6
Some of what Doherty writes here has been covered elsewhere. Here are a couple of new points.
...(W)hy is Paul bothering to say at all that Jesus was born of (a) woman? Would this not be self-evident if he was an historical man? Rather, he needs to make a paradigmatic parallel with those being redeemed, who were themselves born of woman and born under the law.
This is rather odd. Doherty objects constantly about the lack of historical detail, then here objects when some detail is given that it is "self-evident".
Of course, we argue that Paul did indeed make a parallel, between those [naturally] born under the law and those [re-]born under grace. Beyond that, even under Doherty's scheme, this myth-Jesus was born to a spiritual-realm woman; so is Paul telling the Galatians this for the first time?
- Galatians 4:22-31 -- Previously addressed.
- Galatians 5:14 -- Citation/quotation issue.
- Ephesians 1:7-10
(After speaking of the redemption and forgiveness of sin gained through the blood of the Son) . . . Therein lies the richness of God's free grace lavished upon us, imparting full wisdom and insight. He [God] has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he determined beforehand in him(self)- to be put into effect in the fullness of time, namely that the universe, all things in heaven and on earth, should be brought into a unity in Christ. [NEB/KJ]
Doherty finds a problem in "...the absence of any historical Jesus in the thinking of this Pseudo-Pauline writer." How? He tells us: "If Christ's 'blood' is regarded as spiritual and shed in the mythical realm, the rest of the sentence speaks of God's revelation in Paul's time, of the mystery that the sundered universe (it was one of the concepts of the era that the evil spirits had divided heaven from earth) was to be brought back into a unity through the Son's spiritual sacrifice."
This is merely assuming what needs to be proven. If we start by assuming the Christ-myth here, of course we can derive some explanation, but if we start with the traditional view, it makes sense also.
Doherty continues: "Note also that verses 7 and 8 speak of God's grace being lavished upon us, but is that grace the person and event of Jesus of Nazareth? No, it is the 'wisdom and insight' which God has bestowed, again fitting the context of revelation."
And so it would be, in any event, once Jesus left the earth. The Ephesians did not know Jesus personally, so wisdom and insight (Jesus in fact being consistently identified, in the Gospels and Epistles alike, as Wisdom incarnate) could only be bestowed at this point by revelation (either directly, or indirectly, passed on through the apostolic chain). And remember again -- the gospel of salvation was not preached by Jesus, only vaguely hinted upon.
- Ephesians 1:19-23
. . . They (God's resources and power) are measured by his strength and the might which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead, when he enthroned him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all government and authority, all power and dominion, and any title of sovereignty that can be named, not only in this age but in the age to come. He put everything in subjection beneath his feet, and appointed him as supreme head to the church, which is his body and as such holds within it the fullness of him who himself receives the entire fullness of God. [NEB]
Doherty here simply objects that there is no mention in passages like this of Jesus having been "formerly on earth as a humble Jewish preacher known as Jesus of Nazareth." To which we simply say yet again: Why should there have been, beyond the missionary preaching which would have been given to the Ephesians many years before this letter was written, and in the context of this hymn of praise? No reason is given.
- Ephesians 2:17-18
And he came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. [NASB]
It is implicitly asked why the OT is alluded to here (And by the way, is the fact that Isaiah is not named as a source indicative of Isaiah being a myth?), rather than Matthew 5:23.
It's an apples and oranges issuew again: Matt. 5:23 has to do with reconciliation between persons; this passage has to do with reconciliation between God and man. We do agree, however, that there is no reference here to Jesus' earthly ministry.
It is also asked why verses like John 10:7 ("I am the door") are not quoted. One might argue that the general paradigm of Jesus as the channel to the Father was so common and ingrained that it was alluded to in a variety of ways -- including perhaps this passage, a Pauline "original". Certainly there would be no need for directly quoting for the sake of such a commonplace and foundational concept.
- Ephesians 2:20-21
You are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, and Christ Jesus himself is the foundation-stone. In him the whole building is bonded together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [NEB]
Doherty regards as a "telling omission" the lack of any mention of "the career of Jesus himself" and the identifying of Christ Jesus as "simply the object of the faith laid by the apostles." That's a fairly big "simply" to be regarded thusly, but we remind our readers yet again that the Gospel message found in the NT outside the Gospels was not preached by Jesus while on earth; it was only alluded to vaguely.
It is also asked why Mark 12:10, where Jesus refers to himself as a cornerstone, is not quoted; we regard this as an allusion to that passage, along with Psalm 118:22 -- so that no quotation formula is required.
- Ephesians 3:4-6 (+7-11)
In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to God's holy apostles and prophets through the spirit, that through the gospel the Gentiles are to be fellow heirs and fellow members of the promise in Christ Jesus. . . . [NIV]
Regarding this passage and others similar, I wrote:
Reading these first three passages listed, we find that they all refer (the first indirectly, the last two directly) to Paul's mission to the Gentiles and THEIR salvation - an issue which was not relevant during Jesus' ministry (cf. Matt. 15:24). The only sign in the Gospels that Jesus conceived of a ministry to the Gentiles is the commission of Matt. 28:19. Most critics dismiss this verse as inauthentic, but even so, assuming for our purposes that it is authentic and without arguing the point, it hardly contains any sort of explicit plan of salvation of the sort Paul brings forth.
Perhaps in reply to this, Doherty writes:
But is this really a legitimate 'out'? Would apostles preaching such a doctrine not seek to find its legitimacy and precedent in the preaching of Jesus, to anchor it in the example of Jesus welcoming the sinner, having contact with non-Jews, etc.?
If they did, they would not find it -- Jesus' welcoming of the sinner (a moral issue) had no bearing on welcoming of non-Jews (a racial/social issue), and his few recorded contacts with Gentiles are regarded as special cases, with interference run only after special pleading. The "precedent" set by those passages (the centurion and the Syrophoenician woman) would only allow Gentiles into the kingdom after serious begging.
Matthew 28:19//Acts 1:8, as Doherty goes on to recognize, are the only directives for a Gentile mission, but despite his implied question further on, there is no grounds in the passage in Ephesians to quote or allude to either of these. Missionary preaching is far, far in the past by this time. (Beyond this are repeats of previous arguments.)
- Ephesians 4:1-2 -- Quotation/allusion issue.
- Ephesians 4:8-12
Scripture says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train, and gave gifts to men." Now, the word 'ascended' implies that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is no other than he who ascended far above the heavens, so that he might fill the universe. And these were his gifts: some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip God's people for work in his service, to the building up of the body of Christ.
Doherty characterizes this as an "extremely revealing passage", asking how it is that the author would "need to appeal to such 'proof' if Christ had lived a recent life in full view of all".
That's a puzzling one. All along I have been saying that there was no need for such appeals; now when we have one (in the context of an interpretation of an OT passage, no less, where such an explanation would indeed be expected), it is interpreted as proof for Doherty's thesis.
Is there anything at all that serves to disprove it? Or is this simply yet another case of starting with a theory and molding the facts to fit it?
Other than this, there is the same objection about lack of physical events and Gospel details, as if indeed this were actually a place for such diversions in the first place.
Also, as we have shown in our dealings with the Mormons on the subject of post-mortem evangelization, the phrase here is, "the lower parts, the earth," in the comparative, and therefore indicative of a descent to the physical earth; furthermore, similar language is used to describe Moses' giving of the Torah to men, so that there is no reason why it should not be applied to Jesus on earth.
- Ephesians 4:23-24
You must be made new in mind and spirit, and put on the new nature of God's creating. [NEB]
Here, Doherty says, "the writer seems to be unaware of Jesus' teaching that we must be 'born anew,' as in John 3:3." How is this shown? This might be a citation/allusion issue at best, but one wonders why the NT writers are not free to create their own word-images and are somehow bound to only those that Jesus used. Today's preachers tell us a dozen different ways how our lives need to be changed by Jesus, using modern and specialized, non-biblical terms.
- Ephesians 4:26 -- Citation/allusion issue.
- Ephesians 4:32 -- Partial citation/allusion issue, although also touching on the "no need" issue -- what makes it necessary for Paul here to quote Jesus' words from the Gospels? Nothing at all.
- Ephesians 5:2
Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Described as "Yet another passage which urges love on the believer without noting that this had been a pillar of Jesus' teaching on earth" and which also fails to say anything about the ignominy of death by crucifixion -- without taking so much as a moment to explain why such a thing needs to be noted.
Again, we are mystified by this supposed urge or instinct Doherty perceives that somehow forces us to repeat well-established details. If I say to someone, "Live a life of charity, just as Mother Teresa gave herself as a blessed offering and a sacrifice to God," am I going to need to remind you that Mother Teresa herself taught charitable giving and self-sacrifice? That is implied in what I say and is firmly fixed in universal memories of what Mother Teresa did. Do I need to remind you that her work was done in Calcutta among the poorest?
Once again our three conditions for repeating basic information apply, and Doherty has not shown that any of them are relevant.
- Ephesians 5:8 -- Citation/allusion issue.
- Ephesians 6:8 -- Ditto.
- Ephesians 6:11-12
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Here the simple question seems to be, why are not any of Jesus' miracles of mastery over demonic powers alluded to? To which the simple answer is, why should they be? The point of the passage is the believer's daily struggle against such powers; why is there a need to being Jesus' special abilities to the fore? The average believer didn't have the ability to send demons packing with a mere word.
- Philippians 1:6 -- Restatement of previously used argument regarding the respective places of God and Jesus a God's Word (and tool).
- Philippians 3:10 - See previous entry.
- Colossians 1:15-20
(The Son) is the image of the invisible God, his is the primacy over all created things. In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, not only things visible but also the invisible orders of thrones, sovereignties, authorities and powers: the whole universe has been created through him and for him. And he exists before everything, and all things are held together in him. He is also the head of the church; and he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that he might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Nothing here but the usual objections about lack of mention of the earthly life of Jesus, with yet again not a single need demonstrated to do so in the context.
Let us recall again from our address on Wisdom on this passage that it draws upon a tradition of Jesus as God's Eternal Wisdom. The theology holds that Jesus was eternally with the Father, and will eternally be with the Father in the future; that this Eternal Wisdom occupied a body of flesh for 30+ years is of course relevant, but 30 years of temporal existence compared to an eternity past and future is nothing to make a big deal about. If you were making a resume' with these kinds of qualifications, which would you emphasize, and which would dominate the pages?
- Colossians 1:25-27
I have become (the church's) servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness, the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Regarding this and other passages I pointed out elsewhere that it refers "to Paul's mission to the Gentiles and THEIR salvation - an issue which was not relevant during Jesus' ministry (cf. Matt. 15:24). The only sign in the Gospels that Jesus conceived of a ministry to the Gentiles is the commission of Matt. 28:19." Perhaps in reply, Doherty insists that:
...even if we have no record of Christ having preached a specific doctrine like this (though some of Jesus' pronouncements in the Fourth Gospel come close in spirit), the tendency would have been to impute such a thing to him or to find pointers to it in the things he did say.
It seems we can't win any way we go: If the NT writers don't quote Jesus, then he didn't exist; but if they do quote him, it's probable that they invented what Jesus said anyway.
- Colossians 2:2-3
I want them . . . to come to the full wealth of conviction which understanding brings, and grasp God's secret. That secret is Christ himself; in him lie hidden all God's treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Same as above; once again it seems to be assumed that if Christ is spoken in the present tense as above, and not in the past tense, then an earthly existence is excluded. May we say it again? Past tense would imply that Christ was no longer of this status; since he is still alive, the present tense is appropriate. He was God's Wisdom, and the Incarnation did not change that, nor did the Resurrection.
- Colossians 2:8-10 -- Repeat and re-use of previous arguments.
- Colossians 2:11
In him also you were circumcised, not in a physical sense, but by being divested of the lower nature; this is Christ's way of circumcision.
Doherty insists that "the words of this verse might well have confused those readers who always assumed that 'physically' was precisely the way Jesus was circumcised" -- to which I can only say, "What?" The point here is not how Jesus was circumcised, but how believers are, in the present, and how Christ declares we are to be circumcised. Christ is the one circumcising, or on whose behalf it is done, not the one being circumcised.
Beyond this, I can't imagine how any reader would have been confused. Indications from the epistle are that the Colossian church had some Jewish-oriented members, who would know that circumcision happened on the 8th day of life; would Jesus have been declaring the proper method of circumcising at such an early age? Would he have told mom, "Hey, you don't need to do this to me?" (Sounds like an episode from one of the Infancy Gospels.) Bringing up how Jesus was circumcised would have added nothing to Paul's point; if anything it would have only confused it.
- Colossians 3:2-4
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your [new] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Doherty tells us that this passage "vividly conveys the sense that Christ had never been seen by anyone, had never been to earth."
How is this the case? It isn't proven at all, merely assumed for the sake of the theory, and all that is offered is this apples and oranges parallel attempt:
Since the believer's destined new life is something which has not yet put in an appearance, the implication is that Christ himself has yet to do so as well.
No such implication is required at all. By nature the believer's "new life" in the resurrection is something that could only be revealed later.
On the other hand, it is the fact that there is no exact parallel that explains why, per Doherty's objection, the author did not use an equivalent word of "return" or "come back" to indicate a Second Coming. The point is to compare Christ's return with the believer's simultaneous renewal; hence the more generic "revealing" is appropriate, for the believer is not having a "come back".
Moreover, let us understand how "revealed" can be used...the same word is used in John 1:31, for example: "And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water." Is John saying that up until then people in Israel could not see Jesus, that he was invisible to them? Is he saying that Jesus was not what he was up until he was revealed by him?
The point here is a revealing to those to whom previously the identity was unknown or unaccepted; likewise will Christ be revealed in the end to numerous unbelievers and to those ignorant of his identity. The passage offers no indication that this is in some way a revealing for the first time.
- Colossians 3:9-10
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. [NIV]
More objections that Jesus-words like John 3:3 are not quoted; our answer is the same as above -- plus failing to recognize that Paul here speaks in the past tense indicating that the people have already been born anew; along with this the same failure to recognize the primacy of the Father and Christ as His instrument, and also failing to recognize here an allusion to the "image of God" phrase in Gen. 1:26-7.
- Colossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Here there are only the usual objections about a lack of any "passing attribution" of the qualities listed above to the earthly Jesus, with yet again no explanation of why such was necessary. But here is an interesting note:
Does "the Lord" in verse 13 refer to God or to Christ? The Expositor's Greek Testament observes that "there is no reason for referring kurios to God, since Jesus when on earth forgave sins." But that is reading the Gospels into it, and in fact here the term is almost certainly a reference to God. Not only has the writer just spoken of God in the preceding verse, he speaks of God forgiving the readers' sins in 2:13. Even 1:14 has God doing the forgiving of sins "in the Son", the same idea as that expressed in Ephesians 4:32.
I actually agree with Doherty here that there is no reference to Jesus' earthly forgiving of sins, for he correctly notes that "Jesus on no occasion forgave the sins of the Colossians". Nevertheless he is wrong to equate "Lord" here with God. Twice in this epistle (1:3, 3:17) the phrase "Lord Jesus" is used; "Lord God" is never used once by Paul anywhere.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:4--Nothing here but the usual failure to recognize Christ as the instrument of God.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:12-13
. . . to live lives worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory. This is why we thank God continually, because when we handed on God's message, you received it, not as the word of men, but as what it truly is, the very word of God at work in you who hold the faith. [NEB]
Repeated arguments. Doherty tries here to convince the reader that he is on to something by asking them to do a "mental experiment" by "substituting the word 'Jesus' everywhere the word 'God' appears in the above quote, and ask yourself if that version does not convey the thinking and mode of expression we would expect to find in the early Christian record."
I did this, and I asked myself, and I still think Doherty fails to recognize the functionally subordinate nature of Jesus.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
For God called us to holiness, not to impurity. Anyone therefore who flouts these rules is flouting not man, but God who bestows upon you his Holy Spirit. [NEB]
Doherty says, "Paul again speaks of God calling the believer to a life of holiness, where we might expect Jesus' own ministry to have been regarded as doing just that."
It did? As far as the record shows, Jesus' own ministry only called at most around 500 people. How does that relate to the Thessalonians hundreds of miles and years away? Beyond that, it's just the same instrumentality issue.
Doherty also says that "Verse 8 reminds us (and ought to have reminded Paul) of Jesus' own saying in Luke 10:16: 'Whoever rejects me, rejects the one who sent me.' " What mysterious force it is that "should have" reminded Paul of this, and how this applies to the current context of morality versus acceptance of Jesus, is not explained. That Doherty has personally been reminded of the verse is irrelevant -- he is a modern person living in a low-context society.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:14
We believe that Jesus died and rose again. [NEB, NIV]
Doherty tells us that this is a "plain statement by Paul that both the death and the rising of Jesus are matters of faith, not historical events that were witnessed and remembered."
He needs to quote the rest of the verse: "We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." [NIV] The verse is conditional: It lays out a reason for a future hope, and that is why it is highlighted.
Beyond that, it is difficult to see why the phrasing requires that this be merely a matter of faith referred to and not also a historical event. For one thing, Paul's reference to the collective applies overwhelmingly to those who were not witnesses (i.e., the Thessalonian church).
Moreover, what is the grounds for Paul's own belief? Why is it not his historical witness of the resurrected Christ?
- 1 Thessalonians 5:2--Allusion/quotation issue and issues covered elsewhere previously.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15--Ditto.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:7 . . . when our Lord Jesus Christ is revealed [at the revelation of, apokalupsei] from heaven with his mighty angels in blazing fire.
Same as Col. 3:2-4 issue above.
- 1 Timothy 1:10-11--Once again, just the usual lack of recognition the relationship of Jesus to the Father as His tool of teaching, salvation, and redemption, plus other items already addressed here.
- 1 Timothy 2:8--Quotation/allusion issue.
- 1 Timothy 3:16--Already addressed; no further comment needed.
- 1 Timothy 4:4--Quotation/allusion issue.
- 1 Timothy 4:10
For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. [NASB]
Just the same objection about "the pervasive theocentric focus of early Christian expression." Of course "God is the center of their hopes, their devotion, their thanks" -- it is He from whom the tool of salvation, Christ, is eternally generated, and it is Christ who merely does the will of the Father.
- 1 Timothy 5:18--Quotation/allusion issue, with the usual argument that this quote from Luke 10:7 could not have been regarded as being "Scripture" so early, which merely assumes what has yet to be proven.
- 1 Timothy 6:14-15
I charge you to obey your orders irreproachably and without fault until our Lord Jesus Christ appears. That appearance God will bring to pass in his own good time, God who in eternal felicity alone holds sway. [NEB]
Just the same argument here about this being "another passage looking forward to an appearance by Christ which lacks any sense that he had appeared before," and the answer is the same as that we have given for other above.
Interestingly Doherty also recognizes that "there is also a certain lack of conviction that Jesus is his own agent, that he has a separate character and ability to act independent of God." That's what we've been saying all along: If one studies Wisdom theology that "curious and pervasive theocentricity of the epistles" actually makes perfect sense: The EWs recognized that the Christian movement did not actually begin "as an explosive reaction to a charismatic human man," but began in eternity with the Eternal Wisdom of God.
Consider Wisdom's role, and all the "confusion" and "ambiguity" will disappear.
- 1 Timothy 6:16
He [God] alone possesses immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light. No man has ever seen or ever can see him. [NEB]
We hearken back to an old chestnut on this one, as Doherty says that "would have been regarded as a distinct entity from God and as possessing his own immortality." But that's just the problem: Jesus was not a totally "distinct entity" from God at all, but is God's Wisdom (as indeed the Col. 1:15 passage used my Doherty here indicates; see above) and is totally dependent on God for all that he has and is (including immortality). Yet he is also a separate person, and that is why there is no qualification to the second part of the verse as Doherty desires. (See here for more.)
- 2 Timothy 1:9-10-- The instrumentality issue again. Doherty is right -- "What the sentence is really saying, then, is that God's purpose and grace have been revealed by the revelation of the Savior Jesus Christ."
Exactly. So how does this prove that there is no reference to a life on earth? It only proves that if you first assume it.
- 2 Timothy 3:14-15
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom (tinon, plural) you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. [NASB]
Doherty tells us, "The writer has been speaking of living 'a godly life as Christians,' and here he goes on to allude to the source of that morality. He refers to unnamed teachers or community leaders from whom his readers have learned these things; he refers to the scriptures which contain words of wisdom about what must be believed and followed to gain salvation. But he cannot bring himself to mention Jesus himself as the ultimate source of any of these teachings."
But why should he? Timothy didn't learn these things from Jesus personally; the whole point of the passage is to reinforce Timothy's personal experience and learning. I agree This "is clearly not a question of whether there is a 'need' to tell the readers what they already know"; need in any case is not even of relevance here. This is a question not of "no need" but of "no connection."
- Titus 2:11-13
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. [NASB/NIV]
Aside from the same issues we have discussed earlier re the "appearance" of Christ, Doherty asks us, "How does the writer, speaking as Paul, characterize the present time when salvation has arrived? What Christian would not say that this great turning point in history was marked by the advent of Christ on earth, teaching and performing his acts of salvation?"
Very simply, any Christian who recognized that Christ was God's Eternal Wisdom and not merely a blip on the screen that trod the dust for 30 or so years and made noise for only about 3 of them. A little perspective goes a long way in solving these seeming "problematic silences" by the EWs.
- Titus 3:4-6--Repeats of previous arguments.
- Hebrews 1:1-3
When in former times God spoke to our forefathers, he spoke in fragmentary and varied fashion through the prophets. But in this the final age he has spoken to us through the Son whom he has made heir to the whole universe, and through whom he created all orders of existence: the Son who is the effulgence of God's splendor and the stamp of God's very being, and sustains the universe by his word of power. When he had brought about the purgation of sins, he took his seat at the right hand of Majesty on high . . .
There is a certain irony for us in this passage. It happens that this is one of the key passages appealed to by the Mormon faith to prove that God is a man. The LDS point to the description of Christ as "the stamp of God's very being" (rendered in the KJV as "express image of the Father") and say that since Christ was a man, this phrase indicates that God too is a man. It's certainly of interest to note how Doherty and the Mormons can use the same passage to justify such opposing positions.
Doherty begins by observing that:
Unlike many New Testament epistles, Hebrews cannot be spoken of as an "occasional writing," written 'off the cuff.' Rather, it is a carefully thought-out theological treatise, designed to enlighten and encourage the community of which the writer is a part, apparently in the face of difficulties and the threat of members losing heart and fervor. Accordingly, we should have every right to expect that the essentials of the community's faith would be reflected in this epistle, not the least of which would be an identification of the object of that faith with the historical man presumed to lie at its root.
Doherty is certainly right to envisage Hebrews as something more than "occasional" like Paul's letters (which, we stress again, means not "off the cuff," but, "for a specific reason"), but there is no logical train that leads to the conclusion that this requires a reiteration of basic, indisputable facts like the existence of a historical man. Once again, yet again, the expectation is stated, but absolutely no reason for it is given, other than, "it ought to be."
Of course, such a paean of praise to begin Hebrews no more reduces the actuality of a historical Jesus than does the similar praise at the beginning of John's Gospel.
Doherty is quite correct to compare this to Colossians 1:15-20 and make light of parallels to the Wisdom literature. But this magnifies a point we have also made: Given that Jesus was, and still is, the eternal Wisdom of God, how does this compare to a mere 33 years of life on earth? Which role in the grand scheme of things is most likely to be highlighted?
Other than this, Doherty's analysis of this passage contains nothing we have not addressed before.
- Hebrews 1:4-14
So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say: "You are my Son, today I have become your father . . ." [NIV]
Once again, the objection is that "not a single element of the Son's earthly existence is placed on the table in support" of the argument being made -- and yet again, the question is, why should it? We are only told, rather vaguely, that:
The fact of the resurrection itself should have blown the competition out of the water. The Son's human incarnation and his career in flesh would surely have rendered the scriptural argument he appeals to almost insignificant.
The first question I have is, what competition? Doherty here seems to assume that this writer is asserting something only because someone else has asserted an opposing view. This sort of tactical "mirror-reading" is quite common among critics, but it is merely assumptive and speculatory. Opponents are merely inserted without hard proof that they exist.
Second, we may add that this is a "problem" even under Doherty's scenario -- the Son's incarnation in the nether-spiritual world and his resurrection there would have been just as significant.
It is also said that:
We should note that this writer can have no tradition about Jesus' baptism as presented in the Gospels, when the voice of God out of heaven was reputed to have spoken the above words from Psalm 2:7, acknowledging Jesus as his Son. His quotation of this verse makes no mention of the scene by the Jordan.
The answer once again, yet again, is, why should it? The readers of this text would be utterly familiar with the context in which this phrase was used during the ministry of Jesus; they no more needed a reminder of the geographical context than we would need extraneous detail to tell us that "Four score and seven years ago" was saidat Gettysburg.
Some commentators have wondered why the writer introduces the contrast of Christ with the angels. Why is he so concerned with proving Christ's superiority? A movement founded on the career of Jesus of Nazareth as the incarnated Son of God and his reputed rising from the grave could hardly fail to envision him as 'higher than the angels.' On the other hand, if all these entities are elements of the heavenly world and its workings, and knowledge about them is derived from scripture, recourse to scripture would be necessary to prove the Son's superiority to the angels.
Once again, these appeals are made in the context of a system where the OT is regarded as the authoritative framework upon which everything is hung. In order to make their case, the early Christians had to show that what Christ did was in tune with the OT. Had it been not in tune, merely neutral or of no relevance to the OT, then natural Jewish response would be, "If this Jesus of yours is so important, and was truly God's Son, why is he not in the earlier books?"
And we need not mention what would have happened had Jesus' life and works contradicted the OT.
In all of this also, Doherty misses the same thing that Randel Helms did about the ancient literary practice of deliberately framing events in terms of previous works that were well-respected.
Doherty also asserts that "if the Son had been on earth, teaching and working miracles, if he had been crucified as a sacrifice and resurrected from his tomb, there would no question in anyone's mind of the superiority of this new medium, and thus any comparison with the angels (and certainly one based on scripture) would be completely unnecessary."
And again, one could say just the same of a Son who had been in the sublunar realm, teaching, miracle-working, suffering, and resurrecting. Doherty does not solve the "problem" yet again.
Verse 1:6 says:
. . .Again, when he presents the first-born to the world, he says: "Let all the angels of God pay him homage." . . . [NEB]
Doherty says of the Greek word behind "world":
Some claim that the use of the word "oikumene" supports a human incarnation. But the thought does not relate to an earthly scene. Regardless of how this word is used in other, or even the usual, contexts, here it is the venue of a heavenly event.
Doherty prefers to understand "world" as "something like 'universe' or 'cosmos' since God is presenting his firstborn to the angels, not to humans. (The angels are hardly considered inhabitants of the Roman empire.)"
Not exactly, but they would see what goes on in our realm, and the verse does not say the angels are in this place, just that God speaks to them. The word oikumene, in fact, means only either the Roman Empire or the inhabited world. All Doherty does here is, yet again, beg the question and re-interpret (even if by force, as here) whatever is written in terms of his thesis; just as he does in other venues (as with the word "man" -- for more example, see here. Maybe if Doherty found one instance of oikumene meaning "universe" or "cosmos" in any piece of Greek literature around this time, we could give him some credit, but don't count on it happening: Here's how the word is used elsewhere in the NT:
Matt. 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
Luke 21:26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
Acts 11:26 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
Rev. 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Doherty closes by arguing that:
This passage concludes with the thought: "To which of the angels has he ever said, 'Sit at my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool'? What are they all [i.e., the angels] but ministrant spirits, sent out to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?" But to which angels did he give incarnation? Was the Son not 'sent out' in a way more dramatic than that of any angel, for the sake of the saved? One would not know it from this epistle.
One would not know it, if they were not begging questions and assuming that none of this had already been told -- in which case, yes, it would be a highly dramatic point; otherwise it is no point worth making at all.
- Hebrews 2:1-4
Thus we are bound to pay all the more heed to what we have been told, for fear of drifting from our course. For if the word spoken through angels had such force that any transgression or disobedience met with due retribution, what escape can there be for us if we ignore a deliverance [salvation] so great? For this deliverance was first announced through the (lips of the) Lord (himself); those who heard (him) confirmed it to us, and God (added his) testimony by signs, by miracles, by manifold works of power, and by distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit at his own will. [NEB]
Doherty asserts that this passage "illustrate(s) once again how ideas determined by the Gospel story (the words in round brackets above) can be introduced, at times blatantly, into the thought of the epistles."
Sure, they can be; you can add all kinds of unnecessary and superfluous words to any sentence, like this: "The news of the roast was given to us through the (lips of the) toastmaster (himself). We who heard (him) first confirmed it to the other partygoers." That's the kind of sentence that earns red marks in a composition class; yet Doherty expects the author of Hebrews to write like this...possibly because (as anyone who has read Doherty's rather unpleasant attempts at fiction, and often at non-fiction, can attest) he thinks it sounds good to say in 150 words what can just as easily be said in 40.
Doherty also objects that "no words of such a preaching Jesus are to be found in this epistle," though he does not explain what words are needed and why, and adds that "the idea in verse 1, that the community must heed what it has been told, is evidently not to include the sayings and teachings of Jesus himself, which are never referred to."
Of course not; the writer refers to we which obviously would include a number of new converts who weren't around when Jesus was alive; thus the reference would necessarily have to be inclusive of what was heard from later teachers, which of course would include repetition of Jesus' teachings, among other things.
Finally there is the usual lack of recognition of Jesus as the instrument of God when it is objected, "The fact that the writer (verse 4) mentions miracles by God which either accompanied the revelation or subsequently verified it (the meaning is not clear), rather than miracles of Jesus which in the Gospels are designed to validate his teachings, indicates that he has no Gospel tradition in mind here."
Jesus himself credited his own works to the Father (cf. John 9:3) calling them "the works of God" ("works" here meaning in the sense of physical labors). Why should Hebrews not make the same attribution?
- Hebrews 2:11-13 -- see here; no further answer needed yet.
- Hebrews 2:14-15
. . . and so he too shared ours [flesh and blood], so that through death he might break the power of him who had death at his command, that is, the devil; and might liberate those who, through fear of death, had all their lifetime been in servitude. [NEB]
Doherty believes that the resurrection is "notably missing in this passage," for "(w)hat, after all, does the standard picture of Jesus' conquest of death consist of? It focuses on his resurrection out of that state, back to flesh and appearing to his followers. Yet here the writer can speak of 'breaking the power of death' and point only to the death itself as bringing this about."
Once again, the same would be true of a resurrection in the sublunar world, which Doherty does not deny was believed in, so any "problem" we have is also his.
But a problem it is not: Everyone in the Hebrews audience knows about the resurrection; and the Hebrews writer has an argument to pursue and a more specific mention of the resurrection in this context would be an interruption and an unnecessary sidelight. There is also, other than the usual objection of a lack of notice of where or when the event took place (as if they again did not know), the same argument noted elsewhere about Hebrews 13:20.
- Hebrews 3:15-4:2 / 4:6-8
When scripture says, "Today if you hear his voice, do not grow stubborn as in those days of rebellion,' who, I ask, were those who heard and rebelled? All those, surely, whom Moses had led out of Egypt. . . .
. . . For indeed we have heard the good news, as they did. But in them the message they heard did no good, because they brought no admixture of faith to the hearing of it. . . . [NEB]
Same arguments; once again it is said that "notably missing here is any conception that the 'voice' of the Son was heard in another context, a recent and dramatic one, and was also not heeded by many," but Jesus didn't go out preaching the "good news" (the message of salvation) that the Hebrews writer refers to at all.
- Hebrews 5:5-6
So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him: "You are my Son; today I have begotten thee." And he says in another place: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." [NIV]
Doherty thinks that "the author shows that he knows nothing about a baptism of Jesus in which God's voice out of heaven spoke the words of Psalm 2:7," but we ask again, why does this not qualify as an allusion to that event?
- Hebrews 5:7 -- see here; no further delineation needed.
- Hebrews 5:12
. . . you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God (ton logion tou theou), and you have come to need milk and not solid food . . . [NASB]
The same, still: This is supposed to show that "(t)his community can have no concept of a teaching Christ, for the theology the writer is trying to get across to his readers ('about Melchizedek,' verse 11) is entirely based on scripture, the 'oracles (word) of God.' "
Yes, but -- what did Jesus say about Melchizedek? Nothing, according to the Gospels; but wait, that's no problem with Doherty's thesis either: "any community which constructed a theology about its founder could not fail to develop traditions that he had in fact taught something which would support that theology."
In other words, Doherty, who has already assumed that the teachings of Jesus were invented out of no Jesus, now argues that the fabricators would have made up even more. So evidence is evidence for the thesis, and so is non-evidence.
It is added that "If the writer and his community are advocating a christology which goes against the grain of the wider Christian movement (and every commentator would agree that Hebrews does so), we would expect to find an attempt, no matter how artificial or unfounded, to ground that christology in the teachings of Jesus himself. Such an attempt, or even an awareness of the problem, is nowhere in evidence."
That's because there is no problem. "Every commentator" agrees to no such thing; perhaps a few do, but "every"? Doherty is going to have to provide a lot more backup for his argument than this.
- Hebrews 6:1-2
Let us, then, leave the initial teaching about Christ [NEB: let us stop discussing the rudiments of Christianity] and advance to maturity, not laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works, faith in God, instruction about baptisms, and laying-on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. [NAB]
Doherty tells us:
Here the writer is making a capsule summary of the basics of the community's belief and practice. They include teaching about Christ, repentance, baptism, the promise of eternal life. Anything proceeding from Jesus himself is notably missing. Even faith itself is centered on God, not on Jesus or anything he did. One might think that one of the rudiments of the new religion would be the faith that its founder, Jesus of Nazareth, was the Son of God and Messiah. Jesus' own teachings should also have formed one of the foundations of the faith.
I really wonder what Doherty is on about here. Five of the six items mentioned touch upon things done (baptism, resurrection) and taught (eternal judgment, repentance, faith in God) by Jesus; the list simply is not exhaustive and does not delineate sources.
Which is no surprise: the complex of teaching comes not from Jesus alone, but from a rich tapestry of sources including pre-Christian Judaism and the Apostles themselves. One may as well object that Paul is not indicated as a source of teaching about resurrection (1 Cor. 15) or that the Apostles are not cited on the matter of laying-on of hands.
- Hebrews 6:13-18
For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying: "I will surely bless you and multiply you." . . . So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. [RSV]
This passage is said to contain an "astonishing silence" for:
The hope of the writer and his community in the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham is based on the wording of scripture, perceived as an oath by God to the dependability of his promises. Where is the hope based on the life and deeds of Jesus?
Where? It is alluded to in verse 20: "Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec."
The Hebrews writer is doing what he inevitably must do to convince those of Jewish persuasion anything: He is rooting his case in the authority of the OT. He doesn't need to rehash Jesus' life and deeds -- the Hebrews know about that. What they need affirmed is that these life and deeds were in accord with the OT promises, that there was a true continuity between what the OT said and what Jesus did.
Doherty tries to get around this by saying that verse 20 is "entirely in terms of his spiritual-world activities in the heavenly sanctuary, as an eternal High Priest succeeding Melchizedek." It is no such thing as "entirely in terms"; no such exclusion is indicated. It merely indicates Jesus' final destination.
- Hebrews 7:1 -- addressed here; nothing new added.
- Hebrews 7:12
For a change of priesthood must mean a change of [the] law. [NEB]
Doherty argues that "when a concept of this magnitude takes place in a sectarian community-here a fundamental change of the idea of the high priest, from human to heavenly-one involving the very foundation of the Jewish covenant heritage, grounding it in something Jesus had taught would be desirable, even essential." From this he supposed that the Gospels' representation of Jesus "pronouncing on the continued applicability of the Jewish Law" in various places would have had some place for mentioning.
As usual, one can only ask why. The law vs. grace dichotomy alluded to in verse 16 ("Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.") sums up the issue sufficiently; what else is needed to make the point? Not a thing.
- Hebrews 7:15-17
The argument becomes still clearer, if the new priest who arises is one like Melchizedek, owing his priesthood not to a system of earth-bound rules but to the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. For here is the testimony: "Thou art a priest forever, in the succession of Melchizedek." [NEB]
"Surely," Doherty tells us, "if anything illustrated this feature of Jesus it was his resurrection from the dead."
What does Doherty think "a life that cannot be destroyed" involves in the context of Judaism? No other option is open in this context. There is also the usual objection about the grounding in the OT, a concept we have already covered, and it is added:
...(7:3) which describes Melchizedek as being "without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever"...is based on scriptural readings, but should not both the writer and his readers have felt a conflict between such characteristics and the Gospel story which gives Jesus both mother and father, and a beginning of days and an end of life?
Jesus identifies himself as the eternal Wisdom of God incarnate; this being so, the mother and "father" (actually, not even that) are clearly portrayed, to put it mildly, as tools, and Jesus identifies himself as one who had neither beginning nor end.
- Hebrews: Chapters 8 & 9
A rather long discussion is devoted to this non-specific citation, but there is nothing we have not covered previously.
- Hebrews 8:4 -- see here; no further comment needed.
- Hebrews 8:8-12
Here Doherty offers rather a strange entry, as he decides to "observe a telling silence in one of the Hebrew prophets." In essence he merely complains that Jeremiah 31:31-34, used in Hebrews 8:8-12, thus:
"The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt; because they did not abide by the terms of that covenant, and I abandoned them, says the Lord. For the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord, is this: I will set my laws in their understanding and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach one another, saying to brother and fellow-citizen: 'Know the Lord!' For all of them shall know me, from small to great; I will be merciful to their wicked deeds, and their sins I will remember no more at all." [NEB]
...in his words:
The scriptures were scoured by Jew and Christian alike for foreshadowings of the Messiah, and yet in perhaps the most prominent and direct forecast of the future made by a biblical prophet, one involving the fundamental idea of a new covenant to replace the old, there is not a glimmer of a Messiah or a Son of God. If the Deity was regarded as encoding into the sacred writings all manner of details about the life and work of Jesus, how is it that an open and unambiguous statement of God's plans for the future does not contain him?
It doesn't? Covenants in the Ancient Near East required mediators; hence Jeremiah's promise of the new covenant implies that a mediator will be present. If that is not enough, the parallel to Moses as the mediator of the old covenant strongly points towards a new mediator. If Doherty wants a foreshadowing of the Messiah, it's right there in the social context.
- Hebrews 9:11
But now Christ has come, high priest of good things already in being . . . and thus he has entered the sanctuary once and for all and secured an eternal deliverance. [NEB]
For this passage, Doherty objects that some reference to the death on Calvary "must be made," but there is one (Heb. 13:11-13) and he has already rejected/reinterpreted it (see here). One also wants to know (as usual) why one "must" refer to events that are commonly known in the first place...and why the parallel made to the Temple sacrifices (made on earth) does not imply this already.
- Hebrews 9:24-26 -- Same; nothing further need be added.
- Hebrews 10:5-6
That is why, at his coming into the world, he says: "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, But thou hast prepared a body for me. Whole-offerings and sin-offerings thou didst not delight in. Then I said, 'Here am I: as it is written of me in the scroll, I have come, O God, to do thy will.' " (Psalm 40:6-8 LXX) [NEB]
Noting that commentators have referred to this speech attributed to Christ as the "historic present" or "timeless present," Doherty merely dismisses this by saying "there is nothing of history here" and offers his own explanation of a "mythical present," which is "giving a picture of spiritual world realities."
Of course this is no more than assuming what he has yet to prove: Whether this ought to be interpreted as a "historic" or "mythical" present depends on where we start. There is nothing inherent in the passage that demands either interpretation.
Doherty does try to argue that the present tense ("at his coming into the world, he says") if it refers to the incarnation should have been in the past tense. He notes that "others try to offer some justification for linking it with the earthly advent, creating awkward images of the spirit of Christ speaking to the Father at the moment of birth."
What makes this "awkward" is not explained. Perhaps Doherty is thinking that it is awkward because a baby cannot talk, or that Jesus would have been too busy to talk at the time. For now we will leave the matter open and say that there is no clear reason why this use of the present tense should be problematic for an incarnation of Eternal Wisdom.
- Hebrews 10:9 -- Quotation/allusion issue.
- Hebrews 10:12
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. [NIV]
This is said to "indicate that the writer of Hebrews has no concept of the resurrection as portrayed in the Gospels" (though Jews did not have a wide set of ideas) with some comments that combining the two ideas "necessitates some awkward images and questions as to where Jesus' blood, shed on Calvary, was stored during the period of lying in tomb and making post-resurrection appearances on earth, and the entering of the heavenly sanctuary with that blood in tow."
Describing a sacred ceremony in yokelistic terms is not sufficient to pose an actual problem. Doherty must show that this or some similar concept would have been problematic in the eyes of the Hebrews readers; as it is, the general thesis (found even in the OT) that what was done or existed on earth was mirrored somehow in heaven (with no real concern as to the practicalities thereof) suggests that there would be no problem.
- Hebrews 10:15-16
Here we have also the testimony of the Holy Spirit: he first says, "This is the covenant which I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will set my laws in their hearts and write them on their understanding." [NEB]
In addition to repeating an argument already dealt with above, Doherty finds a "glaring silence" in the lack of mention of the Last Supper. One wonders why this would matter, since Doherty has already relegated an explicit mention of the Supper an event (1 Cor. 11:23) to the status of a sublunar event; in fact he takes this passage, rather circularly, as evidence that 11:23 refers to such.
Beyond that, since the covenant is made with the whole of the Jewish nation ("them"), the Last Supper was only a microcosm of a larger and more significant covenant establishment with the nation, and therefore there is no call for referring to it here. After all, there were only a few people at the Supper, not the whole nation, and at any rate, what was done there did not consist of "setting laws in the hearts" of the people...that is done, whatever view we take, in the individual life of the believer and the Last Supper had nothing to do with this.
It is also objected that it is "impossible to believe that the community of Hebrews had any eucharistic rite" because it is not mentioned where it should be in this letter, though no further specifics are given explaining why this is impossible to believe.
- Hebrews 10:37 -- addressed here; Doherty here takes a moment, though, to reply to me, saying:
(It will not) do to object, as Mr. J. P. Holding has a habit of doing, that there was "no need" to mention such a thing, as everyone already knew it. In the above sort of case, this is not the point. The point is how the writer expresses himself. I may have just married for a second time (a hypothetical example only), and my friends may be aware that I had a first wife even if I don't speak of her, but I am not in that case likely to tell them that my recent marriage ceremony was a new experience for me.
We may note that if I am in the "habit" of doing this, it is because it is the constant response that is required in these contexts. No other answer is needed, and the same question posed 200 times gets the same answer 200 times. The analogy makes no sense whatsoever in this context. The friends in this case would be aware of the first wife because they knew her, went to dinner with the two of you, or because you told stories about her constantly at previous times. Beyond that, what is the parallel to the writer here saying that the ceremony was a "new experience"?
- Hebrews 11
And what is faith? . . . [NEB]
This section of Hebrews contains an extensive recounting of episodes which demonstrated faith in Jewish history, from Abel into the Maccabeean era. Doherty asks, is it:
....too much to expect that the figure of Jesus would have crossed the writer's mind in this connection? Would he not have been seen as one who placed faith in God throughout his life, had taught that very thing, and had demonstrated it in the endurance of his passion and death, finally to receive the ultimate benefit for such faith-his resurrection from the tomb?
Probably not, since the writer of Hebrews goes on to define faith (which Doherty leaves out for some reason) as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Seeing as how Jesus was eternal Wisdom, he wasn't "hoping" for anything (he knew about it) and had "seen" all of it in advance. One who sees and knows all certainly has no use for faith for themselves.
It is also objected that John the Baptist is not mentioned here, but since Doherty agrees that John himself existed, why is this a problem? And what act of faith was it that John performed that earns him a spot here? He went about dressed as he did by choice, not because he was being persecuted, and other than his death, which entailed political rather than faith-based motivations, he did not suffer extraordinarily that we know of.
Finally it is also asked, "what of Christian martyrs who exhibited faith and suffered for it?", in particular Stephen. What about them? How does Stephen's death show the continuity with the OT tradition that the Hebrews writer wants to establish? Stephen died for the new faith, not the promise of the new faith as the others did. His faith is less exemplary because he had the full information. (He had "seen".)
- Hebrews 12:18-29 -- addressed here; Doherty adds nothing new other than dramatic reading and a claim that "If the story of Jesus of Nazareth were at home in the minds of these writers, it would have imposed itself upon their discussions, their thought processes." Doherty's low context expectations are not to be "imposed" on others.
- Hebrews 13:2
Remember to show hospitality. There are some who, by so doing, have entertained angels without knowing it. [NEB]
Doherty calls this, and all of Hebrews 13, a "let-down" following "the mighty peroration of chapter 12," but he is, as elsewhere (John 3:16) reading as a 20th-century man in an air-conditioned office (see here for more). He also adds that this somehow suggests that "there were some who, during his ministry on earth, had entertained the Son of God without knowing it," but this is obtained not from anything in this verse, which refers only to angels specifically.
- Hebrews 13:5-6 -- Quotation/allusion issue.
- Hebrews 13:7
Remember your leaders, those who first spoke God's message to you; and reflecting upon the outcome of their life and work, follow the example of their faith. [NEB]
Doherty writes: "Once again an early epistle writer (or interpolator) brings home to us the stark reality that the Christ belief movement which constituted earliest Christianity began with a response to a perceived revelation by God, to a message imparted through such revelation by God. Any idea of a message or a beginning in a Jesus on earth, reaching and acting in his own right, is notably missing."
Of course it is: Those who were the recipients of the letter would not have heard that message. They would have heard it from the leaders, not from Jesus.
And of course, we have already explained why the message is said to be "God's" and not that of Jesus...which, we may add, still constitutes a "problem" for Doherty's sublunar-Jesus thesis...wouldn't this Jesus be credited if he gave the message?
It is also claimed that "Missing, too, is the concept of apostolic tradition, the idea that word and doctrine about Jesus was spread through a chain of apostles going back to those who had actually followed and learned from him on earth."
What is it supposed that the "leaders" were? Doherty identifies then as "the community's own leaders" and concludes therefore that the "faith and christology of Hebrews is an independent, self-generated one, the product of a sectarian group who have taken their beliefs from scripture and the philosophical trends of the time," but this is assumed and read into the text, not proven from the text itself.
In fact they may be apostles; they may be community leaders, but even this would not exclude an original apostolic chain; it would merely be a case of highlighting the most relevant and tangible example.
- Hebrews 13:8 -- see here; no new details needed.
- James 1:1
From James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the Twelve Tribes dispersed throughout the world. [NEB]
Here Doherty appeals to the idea (which we have answered here) that James, referred to elsewhere as "brother of the Lord," may have been part of a sectarian group called "the brothers of the Lord" -- and just in case, he adds that the phrase where it is found in the NT "may also be a marginal gloss by a later scribe, subsequently inserted into the text," an argument without a shred of textual evidence behind it.
Other than this he can only object that James designates himself here as a servant rather than as a brother of Jesus, a point which assumes that James would appeal to his relation to Jesus to affirm his authority -- and was therefore either in need to affirm it, or perhaps beat people about the head with this, in spite of Jesus' and the church's preference for humility. One would actually suppose, given the late conversion of the holy family and their earlier doubts, that highlighting this relation would have very little credence.
- James 1:5 -- Quotation/allusion issue. Doherty offers here a lengthy objection about lack of attributions to Jesus for similar teachings, but he may as well also object about lack of attribution to the Wisdom tradition. James offered attribution for none of this.
- James 1:9-10
The brother in humble circumstances may well be proud that God lifts him up; and the wealthy brother must find his pride in being brought low. [NEB]
Ditto; here Doherty fails to recognize this passages as a developmental allusion to Matt. 23:12//Luke 14:11, 18:14. Jesus' original words ("For whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted") are now applied by James to the brethren in the church specifically and not "whoever" generally.
- James 1:21-22 -- Here we have just the usual inability to recognize Jesus as God's instrument; nothing new need be said.
- James 2:5 -- yet another quotation/allusion issue, and Doherty offers this, probably in my direction: "If Jesus himself had urged this very faith or practice, what Christian writer would not choose to clearly highlight such a thing? The argument that 'there was no need' to do so cannot be invoked here, since every instinct on the part of such writers would impel them to make mention of Jesus' own words."
This "instinct to attribute," this powerful compulsion to make attributions, is one I am still looking to see featured in psychology textbooks, but as yet I have not seen it -- other than perhaps as soemething "low context" persons are subject to.
Doherty is doing nothing but projecting a non-existent "compulsion" -- if this compulsion were so strong, why did James not make any attributions to the OT or to the Wisdom tradition?
- James 2:8 -- Quotation/allusion issue. The next several are as well.
- James 2:10
- James 4:4
- James 4:6 . . . 10
- James 4:11
- James 5:1-3
- James 5:6 -- We also have that this verse ["You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you."] calls for an allusion to Jesus' death; one can only ask why this is necessary when present events are so much more real for James' listeners...besides which, James is talking to rich people who did this, and the whole condemnation of them is highly exaggerated...odds are that they did not literally kill people in the way the political system killed Jesus.
- James 5:7
Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. [NASB]
One of the prominent ideas of the Gospels is that Jesus would return at the end of the world to judge humanity and bring about God's kingdom. The writer of James seems to know nothing about this, for his reference to the "coming of the Lord" is a reference to the traditional Jewish expectation of the Day of the Lord, when God himself would come to judge the world and establish his kingdom.
Doherty is errant on his eschatology; see here.
That "the Lord" in the verse above is a reference to God and not to Jesus can be clearly seen from an examination of the passage as a whole. In verse 10, the writer refers (as noted above) to the prophets "who spoke in the name of the Lord," which must be a reference to God. In verse 11, the readers are reminded: "You have all heard how Job stood firm, and you have seen how the Lord treated him in the end," again a clear reference to the God of the Old Testament writings. Nothing would indicate that the epistle writer abruptly changed his meaning in the use of the term "Lord" in verse 7.
Once again this revolves around the matter of where we start. If we assume that "Lord" can only refer to the OT God, Doherty is right; but if we assume (within the orthodox paradigm) that Jesus was viewed as the eternal Wisdom of God (and given James' familiarity with the Wisdom tradition, such an identification is indisputable) then he is quite able to speak of the OT prophets and Job interacting with "the Lord" as in Jesus.
- James 5:12 -- another quotation/allusion issue.
- 1 Peter 1:4-5 . . . 7
The inheritance to which we are born is one that nothing can destroy or spoil or wither. It is kept for you in heaven, and you, because you put your faith in God, are under the protection of his power until salvation comes-the salvation which is even now in readiness and will be revealed at the end of time. . . . so that your faith may prove itself worthy of all praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [NEB]
Of this it is said, "there is again no sense of this being a return, or second coming. Instead, the verb 'revealed' conveys the idea that Christ will be seen for the first time only at the Parousia (coming/presence)."
A little parallelism study resolves the issue: "Jesus Christ" here is used in parallel with the conception of "salvation" (in its final sense of the resurrection inheritance). Of course that was not revealed on earth at all.
- 1 Peter 1:8 You have not seen him, yet you love him; and trusting in him now without seeing him, you are transported with a joy too great for words . . . [NEB]
It is objected, "Here is a piece of writing represented as written by the chief apostle of Jesus on earth, and yet the speaker never mentions that fact, never talks about any of the things he did see with his own eyes."
To which we ask as usual: Why should he? We have no more than Doherty's "because I think so" as an indication.
- 1 Peter 1:12 -- OT continuity/authority issue.
- 1 Peter 1:15
The One who called you is holy; like him, be holy in all your behavior, because Scripture says, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.' [NEB]
The usual argument not recognizing Jesus as God's instrument rather than as an independent agent; but in this case, we disagree that Peter here refers to God and not Jesus as "the one who called you. " The use of the OT does not remove this and make the reference to God, for the reason of the authority of the OT, and the need to show continuity with it, that we have explained.
The word "behavior" (anastrophe) is used throughout the NT to refer to the behavior of a person, and very often in the Petrine epistles. Thus we maintain that Peter is, by allusion, "(o)ffering Jesus as an example should have been virtually inevitable by a writer who was supposed to have known him intimately in person."
- 1 Peter 1:20-21
He (Christ) was predestined before the foundation of the world, and in this last period of time he was made manifest for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, and so your faith and hope are fixed on God. [NEB]
Doherty makes much of this verse indicating that God was the agent of revelation who revealed Jesus, but as we have pointed out, that is what we would expect. Again Doherty does not grasp the concept of Jesus as God's Wisdom, tool, and instrument who can do only what the Father permits (as the Gospels indicate). Christ could never be called "the agency of his own revelation" any more than a dictionary could be called the agency of its own definitions.
- 1 Peter 1:23-25
You have been born anew, not of mortal parentage but of immortal, through the living and enduring word of God. For (as Scripture says): 'All mortals are like grass; All their splendor like the flower of the field; The grass withers, the flower falls; But the word of the Lord endures for evermore.' And this 'word' is the word of the Gospel preached to you. [NEB]
Once again, Doherty presents a failure to a) recognize the need to establish continuity and authority via the OT; b) recognize that Jesus did not preach the gospel message while on earth. It is true that he taught the need to be "born again" -- to one person (Nicodemus) that we know of, not as a public teaching -- but this passage would then allow for an allusion to John 3 and not require attribution.
It is interesting as well that Doherty inserts "as Scripture says" for clarity in the above. Why is he allowed to insert such attributions for clarity whereas we are not? If he can insert "as Scripture says" why can we not insert "as Jesus says" or "in the way Jesus says"?
- 1 Peter 2:12
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. [NIV]
Doherty finds here "yet another example of ignorance about the Gospel tradition that Jesus will be returning" and claims that "this community adheres to the older tradition that it is God himself who will be coming to earth, on the Day of the Lord."
But Doherty is using the NIV's interpretation to his advantage here: The KJV, which hits closer to the literal translation, says: "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." This is not an indication of God coming to judge, but of the Gentiles glorifying God.
There is also a claim that a "reminder of this would not have been out of place here" for a verse like Matthew 5:16 warning of the impending judgment, but since it is not shown that Peter's readers forgot or otherwise needed reminding about this or any other verse (in fact, the passage seems to take for granted that they know about it) it is difficult to see why such a reminder would be necessary.
- 1 Peter 2:13 -- Quotation/allusion issue.
- 1 Peter 2:21-23
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. [RSV]
From this we get one of Doherty's most serious begged questions, as he writes:
Here, the writer wishes to point to Christ's sufferings and humility, as an example for his readers to follow. Does he cite oral traditions about Jesus' historical sufferings on Calvary? No, he paraphrases elements of Isaiah 53, the "song" of the Suffering Servant, a scriptural passage which contributed more than any other to the development of early thought about a suffering Christian Messiah in the spiritual realm.
Once again, we point to the need to establish continuity with the OT as the reason for this; dismissing it as historical invention based on the OT is simply arbitrary. The events before and on Calvary fulfilled Isaiah; as such, if the Gospels are historical, this would work as an allusion to them whether Doherty appreciates that fact or not.
It is also objected:
Jesus is sometimes portrayed in the Gospels as urging or warning his followers that they must follow and suffer in his footsteps. Yet the writer appeals to no such saying as: "Take up your cross and follow me." Had Jesus himself required that his followers emulate his suffering, it is difficult to believe that the writer would not have appealed to it.
What need is there for such an appeal? Peter's readers are being persecuted, true, but there is no indication that they are being persecuted to the point of death. An appeal to taking up one's cross would not be appropriate as yet; who would compare suffering insult to being crucified? Isn't that a little trite?
- 1 Peter 3:5-6
Thus it was among God's people in days of old: the women who fixed their hopes on him adorned themselves by submission to their husbands. Such was Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him 'my master.' Her children you have now become, if you do good and show no fear. [NEB]
It is objected that "the writer fails to hold up Mary, Jesus' mother, as a model when he is advising women to be chaste, submissive in their behavior, and reverent like those 'who fixed their hopes on (God)' " but all the writer fails to do is meet Doherty's predetermined expectations. Furthermore, note that the model is submission to husbands -- not submission to God, or chastity, or reverence -- in the midst of an extended passage about family relationships (3:1-9).
- 1 Peter 3:14 -- Quotation/allusion issue.
- 1 Peter 3:18-19 -- there is rather an irony here; Doherty's misapprehension of this verse is the same as that held by the Mormons. See here for the details.
- 1 Peter 4:14 -- Quotation/allusion issue.
- 1 Peter 5:1
And now I appeal to the elders of your community, as a fellow-elder and a witness of Christ's sufferings, and also a partaker in the splendor that is to be revealed. [NEB]
Doherty tells us:
If this were Peter writing, or even someone writing in his name who knew of him as Jesus' chief apostle, he would hardly have characterized him(self) simply as a "fellow-elder" and make no mention of having been a follower of Jesus on earth.
The Greek word behind "elder" is related to two words which refer to a "union" of people, and a member of a special group like the Sanhedrin or even the celestial council. That seems fairly important!
However, Doherty apparently fails to grasp the significance of what Peter is doing here: In appealing to an elder as an elder, he is trying to make it clear that what he is about to appeal to them to do does not require any special status; he is establishing a rapport. We would also maintain that Peter here does allude to having followed Jesus on earth when he speaks of witnessing the sufferings.
And what of the point that Peter describes himself as a "witness" of Christ's sufferings? We are told:
In regard to that "witness," the word used is "martus." Some try to see this as having the meaning of 'eyewitness,' others interpret it as a declaration of faith. I can do no better than to quote the conservative Kelly, in his opinion (op.cit., p.198) on the matter: "The obvious and straightforward interpretation of this might seem to be that he has been an eyewitness of the Lord's passion, and as such is qualified to hold up His patient endurance of suffering as an example. But although many understand the phrase so, we should hesitate to follow them. Not only is the motive alien to the context, but Peter could hardly be described as having been in any strict sense a spectator of the passion. Properly speaking, martus [as does the related verb, martureo] denotes one who testifies rather than an eyewitness, and it is frequently applied in the NT to people who proclaim, and so bear witness to, Jesus."
It is quite true that martus carries the sense Doherty describes; actually, but as Kelly also says (but Doherty does not oblige to tell us) it carries both the sense of the eyewitness and the sense of the testifier depending on context.
Kelly's own reasons for opting for the latter are rather thin: Peter was, according to the Gospels (which Kelly takes for granted as historical) a witness to Jesus' sufferings in Gethsemane, and locked eyes with Jesus at the time of his hearing before the high priest.
As for being "alien to the context" I wonder what Kelly is on about here; laying stress on Christ's sufferings would certainly lay the groundwork for making any appeal for service or effort on behalf of Christ; do not preachers today emphasize that "Christ died for you" in order to motivate others to salvation, or to serve in places varying from the mission field to the soup kitchen?
- 1 Peter 5:4
And when the chief Shepherd is manifested (or, revealed), you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. [RSV]
The objection here is one of the usual, that what is described here sounds like a first appearance rather than a return, as Doherty supposes Peter would have said ("instinctively," we are told, though what instinct prompts this sort of thing, we can only guess at). Doherty notes in response to the proper explanation:
In this particular reference to the Parousia, it is impossible for commentators to use a common 'out' to get around the silence about a 'return' of Jesus. They often rationalize that writers speak of the coming of Christ and not his return because they are referring to the exalted Christ who, when previously on earth, had not yet been exalted, and so, strictly speaking, by splitting semantic hairs, it could be said that the exalted Christ would not be spoken of as 'returning' to earth, but only coming for the first time. (One wonders if all the New Testament writers who so express themselves were capable of, or would have been concerned with, such peculiar nicety of expression.)
A note first: What Doherty must prove is that this would be understood as such by the readers and hearers of this letter, not merely assume that his own modern documentarian reading and perception is correct. Continuing:
But here in 1 Peter 5:4, the opposite is the case. A notable Gospel image of Jesus in his earthly career, in his teaching and ministry to the poor and the sick, is the image of the shepherd (John calls him the Good Shepherd). In using this term, the writer of this epistle would have had every justification-one might say, every impulse-to express the idea of 'return.'
I'm still looking for medical or anthropological evidence of these types of "impulses" but there is no need. That the shepherd was a notable image for the earthly Jesus does not force this writer to suddenly conceive of no difference between the exalted Christ (who, according to the reference to the unfading crown, is who is being referred to); indeed, why can not the "shepherd" reference be seen as an allusion to those many notable self-images by the earthly Jesus?
The language here possibly also alludes to Is. 40:53: "And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it." The need to establish OT continuity has determined the language to be used.
- 1 Peter 5:5-6 -- Quotation/allusion issue.
- 2 Peter 1:3 -- The usual refusal to recognize Jesus as the instrument of God, the God who is the grantor of life and godliness, and the one who calls.
- 2 Peter 1:16-18 -- see here; nothing new need be added.
- 2 Peter 1:19 -- just the usual refusal to understand the need to prove continuity with the OT. It is asked, "Would an event in the ministry of Jesus be offered as something secondary to the promise contained in the scriptures?"
Yes, it would, based on the overarching authority of the OT. Jesus could have turned mountains upside down, and if the OT had said that only Satan did such things, it would have disqualified him in Jewish eyes at once.
- 2 Peter 2:1 -- Quotation/allusion issue, plus that, where Jesus is described as "master," it "conveys no sense of a simple human teacher." Again: Jesus was more than this, that he is consistently presented throughout the NT as the eternal Wisdom of God, not just a "simple human teacher."
- 2 Peter 3:2 -- see here; nothing new need be added.
- 2 Peter 3:3-4
Note this first: in the last days there will come men who scoff at religion and live self-indulgent lives, and they will say: 'Where now is the promise of his coming? Our fathers have been laid to their rest, but still everything continues exactly as it has always been since the world began.' [NEB]
Doherty writes: "Detractors and scoffers have been questioning the veracity of the expected Parousia. Would not a natural recourse have been to appeal to Jesus' personal promises?"
Merely quoting back Jesus' promises won't serve any purpose, since it is those very promises that they are apparently disputing.
It is also asked where the "Son of Man" figure is, a question which, we have noted previously, applies just as well to Acts -- and indicates that the title simply was not useful for the church in the apostolic era, which is to be expected since the phrase would be meaningless to Gentiles.
- 2 Peter 3:10 -- Quotation/allusion issue.
- 1 John 1:1-4 -- Nothing here but what we have already covered in various places here and in previous entries.
- 1 John 2:7-8 / (2:6) -- Ditto.
- 1 John 2:27 -- see here.
- 1 John 2:28 -- no new objection forms.
- 1 John 3:5...8 -- Ditto.
- 1 John 3:11 -- Quotation/allusion issue, and use of previous argument forms.
- 1 John 3:16 -- see here; plus quotation/allusion issue.
- 1 John 3:21-24 -- usual refusal to recognize the role of Jesus as God's Wisdom and Word.
- 1 John 4:4 . . . 6 -- as noted in our article here, we believe that John is here addressing an adoptionist heresy. Doherty objects that "(n)o one appeals to anything Jesus might have said or done, to oral traditions about his life, not even to the concept of Jesus having promised and sent the definitive Spirit in the form of the Paraclete," but none of these things would have done any good in this context.
- 1 John 4:12
Though God has never been seen by any man, God himself dwells in us if we love one another.
Doherty calls this an "odd thought" under the supposition that Jesus "had presumably been a human who walked the earth and who was seen as coming from heaven, and to that extent, God had indeed been seen by at least one man." But Jesus was not God the Father; he was the immanent Word of God, the transcendant God's way of interacting with the physical world.
- - 1 John 4:14-15 / (5:1)
And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
It is objected that "sent" here is "in the perfect tense, which has more of a present implication than a past one. It is the same verb as employed in the 'sending' of the Holy Spirit. The consequence of both those sendings is expressed in terms of the present time rather than of some set of past, historical events."
Of course they are: Jesus' salvific purpose continues throughout history. The focal point of the cross was merely the touch-point for men; it did not save only those alive at the time. We would expect that "this is a faith declaration about an existing entity, not about the identity of a past historical man" because Jesus is an "existing entity".
- - 1 John 5:6-11 -- see here.
- 1 John 5:14-15
We can approach God with confidence for this reason: if we make requests which accord with his will he listens to us; and if we know that our requests are heard, we know also that the things we ask for are ours. [NEB]
Here we have the usual refusal of Doherty to recognize Jesus as God's subordinate Word, as exemplified in his question, "What deity who had taught on earth, providing knowledge and insight into God's will and benefits, would not be regarded as having manifested that power through his sayings and deeds?"
What "deity"? The deity of Christ, who was God's Word and Wisdom; these were neither his sayings nor his deeds, but those of God, as even John's Gospel says (John 6:28, 8:28, 9:3)
Also, Doherty says that "even this all-important question of appealing to God for favors is not supported by pointing to Jesus' own teaching and assurances on the matter, that one need merely ask something of God-or of himself-and it will be granted. " The above qualifies as an allusion to the teachings of Jesus to ask God, but where does Jesus say that we are to ask him for anything? We are to ask God in the name of Jesus, perhaps, but it is God who is asked, not Jesus (Matt. 18:19; John 14:13-14, 15:16). What teaching is Doherty thinking of?
- - 2 John 4-6 -- usual refusal to recognize Jesus as God's subordinate Word.
- Jude 1 -- see reference on James 1:1 above.
- Jude 17
But you, my friends, should remember the predictions made by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the warning they gave you: 'In the final age there will be men who pour scorn on religion, and follow their own godless lusts.'
It is objected that "(a)lthough there are no close Gospel parallels to these words or sentiments, the Gospels place many predictions about the final age in Jesus' mouth, some of them of a similar nature," and therefore it is asked why no words of Jesus are appealed to. How can Doherty object in many places that some words of Jesus were not quoted, yet also object someone does not quote words never said by Jesus?
- Revelation 1:9 -- usual refusal to recognize the role of Jesus as God's subordinate Word. This is why John's message "is the word of God, not Jesus, and it is a word about Jesus, John's testimony to him." It would not be any other way.
Doherty also objects that there is no reference to any of Jesus' apocalyptic messages like Mark 13, but this is incorrect. There is also a quotation/allusion issue, as Doherty tells regarding the "thief in the night" motif used in Rev. 3:3 and 16:15 offers "no suggestion that Jesus had spoken something like it during an earthly ministry" (perhaps not -- it obviously does not say, "like I said on earth" -- but it would qualify as an allusion nevertheless to what was said on earth), and asserts furthermore that the "metaphor was probably common in the prophetic vocabulary of the day." But Doherty can't prove this with literary evidence instead of mere speculation for the sake of upholding his theory.
- Revelation 1:13 and 14:14
I saw . . . among the lamps one like a son of man. Then as I looked there appeared a white cloud, and on the cloud sat one like a son of man.
Doherty argues that "The use of the phrase 'one like a son of man' shows that the author of Revelation knows of no tradition that Jesus on earth had referred to himself this way, for he uses it in the form in which it appears in Daniel 7..."
How is this the case? Jesus himself in using the term set the standard by alluding to Daniel 7; if John here alludes to Daniel 7, all of the "baggage" of Jesus' use of the term comes with it. This cannot be argued to mean that John "didn't know" about Jesus' use of the term.
Moreover, let us recall that Jesus on earth did not physically resemble in any sense this glorious figure. Here, John's allusion to Daniel 7 is far more appropriate than any reference used by Jesus could have been. For more see here.
- Revelation 12:1-6
Next appeared a great portent in heaven, a woman robed with the sun, beneath her feet the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant, and in the anguish of her labor she cried out to be delivered...She gave birth to a male child, who is destined to rule all nations with an iron rod. But her child was snatched up to God and his throne...
Doherty asks, "Is this passage a highly mythologized rendering of Jesus' birth of Mary and its messianic significance?" No -- the crown of twelve stars indicates an allusion to Israel (though Doherty knows this interpretation, he only mentions it in passing); this is indeed a highly "mythological" rendering, but it would hardly contain a "hint of any Nativity element known to us from the Gospels" because that's not what the passage is all about. Nor is it to be objected that this passage "makes no room for a life on earth at all" simply because "the child is snatched up to heaven immediately after birth" -- it does not, first of all, say "immediately" in the text; second, it no more indicates a literal child snatched up to heaven at once than it indicates the existence of dragons or of an ability to wear the sun or stand on the moon.
Beyond that, the word here (teknon) can be used of adults; see Matt. 3:3, for example.
- 2 Corinthians 6:1-2