Earl Doherty's Jesus Puzzle Arguing in a Circle
[Starting the Rounds] [Last Supper (1 Cor. 11:23)] [Flesh Citations (Rom. 1:3-4)] [Birth Passages (Gal. 4:4-5)] [Allegories (Gal. 4:24-31)] [Resurrection (1 Cor. 15)]

Having presumed his case for a non-historical Jesus absolutely proven, Earl Doherty now proceeds to a another task. The epistolary writings are peppered with allusions to the flesh, birth, suffering, and especially death of Jesus Christ. These "life markers" as we may call them are quite normally taken as indications to the earthly Jesus. How does Doherty deal with these seemingly obvious and crystal-clear indices of an earthly life and death?

The answer is, by means of that most famous of logical fallacies, circular reasoning. Confronted by these obvious life-markers, Doherty must argue in this fashion:

Is there another way of reading such passages? If the Christ of the epistles is in other respects a revealed entity, a mystery or "secret" newly disclosed by God who seems to operate in an entirely spiritual dimension with mythological characteristics, can we look for an interpretation of these "human" sounding features which fits into such a context?

Now of course one must suppose here from the outset that Paul and the other epistle writers are indeed involved in such Hellenistic conceptions (Doherty cites Plato as an example) rather than being steadfast Jews, and that they actually mean something radically different than what they plainly seem to say, yet they never offer a delineation of that fact. As far as these arguments go, Doherty has not even come close to dealing with evidence or satisfying his burden of proof:

...Christian myth was further qualified and affected by its Jewish heritage. Whatever the primitive Hebrew view of a "sacred past" may have been in its earlier stages, it eventually moved into a more concrete setting. Primordial figures and processes were transferred to an archaic history, embodied in legends of human patriarchs who had enjoyed special contacts with the Deity. All of it became firmly anchored in an historical past which could be chronicled year by year. Neither Abraham nor Moses-who may or may not be based on actual historical figures-were located in a true sacred past or higher reality.

Thus, we are told, "Paul's myth of Christ had to be 'located' to some extent in an historical pattern," and Scripture was their source for these details. But is this not assuming the very thing that needs to be proven - that the Hebrew "sacred past" was indeed somehow mythical and was later made more concrete, and that Christians simply followed suit? Nowhere are we given even the least in the way of proof that this is the case.

Last Supper

1 Cor. 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

An obvious reference to the historical event we call the "Last Supper" - what does Doherty make of this passage?

His answer is in part reliant on his arguments relative to the uses of the words "gospel" and "received" elsewhere in 1 Corinthians - and that argument, we have shown in this series and elsewhere, to be misplaced. Doherty supposes here that we can see this material as revealed to Paul in a vision, and hence suppose further that this was not an earthly event, but one done in imaginary spheres of existence. But again, we have seen that these arguments to not bear out under scrutiny.

A second argument - actually a counter to an argument in favor of the earthly interpretation - refers to what Doherty calls "the battle of the prepositions." Noting that the phrase here, "For I received from the Lord" is apo tou kuriou in Greek, Doherty writes:

In the Greek of the time, when someone speaks of information received from another as the immediate, direct source, the preposition "para" is most often used. On the other hand, the preposition "apo" is most often used to signify the remote, or ultimate source of a piece of information. Thus Paul, they say, if he had meant to say that Jesus had delivered this information to him personally, would have used para. As it is, in using apo, he is referring to Jesus as the originator of these words, as if to say, "these words came ultimately from the Lord himself."

This argument, which Doherty lifts from the International Critical Commentary without credit, seems quite sound on its face. But does Doherty agree? Not so; he registers two objections:

Unfortunately for this argument, these different usages were not strict. (See Moulton: A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 1 Prolegomena, p. 237.) Even the New Testament contains apo used in the opposite sense (Colossians 1:17, "as you learned from Epaphras," and Matthew 11:29, "learn from me.") Thus, there was no guarantee that the Corinthians would have understood such a "remote antecedent" meaning, or that Paul intended it.

Unfortunately, I must here, again, reprimand Doherty for not reporting his source material properly. Moulton indicates that there is evidence showing that "in daily speech" the preposition was not used with exactness of distinction. Paul, having (as Doherty acknowledges) a much more precise and intelligent mind than the average person, would be unlikely to suffer from such inexactness of speech, regardless of what his Corinthian readers thought.

As for the two verses, the first is actually Colossians 1:7, not 1:17 -:

Col. 1:6b-7 All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf...

Doherty perhaps wishes to argue that the Colossians learned of the gospel directly from Epaphras, and so apo here does not indicate distance. But one might suggest here that apo, in accordance with its other usages, means that the Colossians learned of the gospel first from Epaphras, so that this passage allows that others have taught the Colossians about the gospel since then.

It may also mean that Epaphras was some sort of "missionary in chief" who directed someone else to teach the Colossians. Whatever the case, any answer is necessarily speculative, but there is certainly no reason here not to think that apo means anything other than what we would argue in does in 1 Cor. 11:23.

Matt. 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Here again, however, we have an "inlet" which indicates a past action of some sort. This verse comes after the end of a mini-sermon by Jesus in which he has denounced the cities of Korazin and Bethsaida for not repenting in the face of his miracles. Jesus then goes on to praise the Father for having revealed the truth to "little children". The passage would seem to indicate that Jesus is telling the listeners to learn from past actions of his - in this case, a proper exegetical suggestion would be, that very truth which Jesus has previously revealed.

Once again, we have a suggestion of distance, and nothing but support for our interpretation of 1 Cor. 11:23.

While most scholars since the ICC have not been so bold as to engage the "battle of the prepositions" so directly - preferring instead to say that the use of apo neither proves nor disproves our argument - we would suggest that the data, both the use of the word and in light of Paul's precision, does indeed fit our argument better than it does Doherty's.

Now to the second objection:

Besides, if Jesus were being referred to only in the sense that he is the ultimate source of the words, this gives Paul's statement another less than logical cast. If he is going to go on to say that Jesus spoke certain words, why preface it with a separate statement which identifies Jesus as the source of these words? This is at best a very awkward redundancy.

Once again, I find Doherty's clarity somewhat lacking here, but will presume that his point is that this statement would be awkward in the same sense that an English phrase like "Here's what I heard about Joe: That Joe said..." would be awkward.

True enough: That phrase might earn a red mark on an English paper according to modern stylistic notions; but then again, Paul was obviously not an expert in English "stylism". We may suggest, further, than if Paul is quoting a formulaic tradition here starting with the words "The Lord Jesus...", then the "awkward redundancy" is quite explicable.

Whatever the case, there is no support for Doherty's notion of a non-earthly tradition; and then again, even if Paul were indicating a direct revelation from the Lord, then the redundancy remains quite as "awkward" as it did otherwise.

Doherty goes on to offer his own interpretation of this scene - giving it a Hellenistic bent and likening it to a Mithraistic rite - but as his argument for general mythicality has failed, there is no need to look at his words any further, other than this remark which may contain yet another incomplete representation of another scholar:

We might also note that the Greek shows a curious use of tenses. The verb "was handed over" (paredidoto) is in the imperfect, which literally makes the meaning "on the night he was being delivered up." This implies that the act of surrender was going on all through the Supper! It seems that Paul could hardly have had the Gospel scene in mind, and scholars who have noted this (e.g., Robertson and Plummer, International Critical Commentary) suggest that Paul is "taking a broader meaning," perhaps of surrender by the Father as in the Romans passage. Curious, indeed.

The matter is ended there, with not the slightest indication of what is "curious" about this situation, or how it might support Doherty's thesis. It fits in just fine with the traditional view: The Gospel record would indicate that Judas' plot was in motion from the very beginning of the Supper; certainly the idea of betrayal did not begin with the middle of this event.

As for Robertson and Plummer, perhaps Doherty has mis-cited as he has elsewhere; I find no such quote as is indicated. The writers do, indeed, suggest the broader meaning of surrender by the Father, however; even so they take the meaning as I do: That the delivery of Jesus to his enemies "had already begun and was going on at the very time when the Lord instituted the Eucharist."

Flesh Cites

Our next set of life-markers are those that refer to Jesus' flesh and humanity. These will lead directly into references to the birth of Jesus, and in some respects cross over into that subject.

We will begin with this place where Doherty explains the thrust of his arguments, so:

Christ's self-sacrificing death was located "in times eternal," or "before the beginning of time" (pro chronon aionion)...What is presently being revealed is something that had already taken place outside the normal realm of time and space. This could be envisioned as either in the primordial time of myth, or, as current Platonic philosophy would have put it, in the higher, eternal world of ideas, of which this earthly world, with its ever-changing matter and evolving time is only a transient, imperfect copy. The benefits of Christ's redemptive act lay in the present, through God's revelation of it in the missionary movement, but the act itself had taken place in a higher world of divine realities, in a timeless order, not on earth or in history. It had all happened in the sphere of God, it was all part of his "mystery". The blood sacrifice, even seeming biographical details like Romans 1:3-4, belong in this dimension.

Regrettably, this notion is misplaced: 2 Tim.1:9, where Doherty gets this "before the beginning of time" bit, does not tell us that Christ's death was pro chronon aionion at all; rather, it was God's purpose and grace that was "given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but...has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."

In other words, what we have here is no more or less than the same notion that is found in the Johannine prologue; and Christ's death is not placed "in times eternal" at all.

We next examine Romans 1:1-4 -

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God--the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

This passage concerns us in two ways. The aspect regarding Jesus' Davidic descent shall concern us more directly in the next section; we are concerned here with that part which reads, in the NIV, as "as to his human nature" - which is read elsewhere, more literally by the Greek, as "according to the flesh."

Now it has been thought pro chronon aionion that this phrase simply indicates Jesus' physical descent; but Doherty's interpretation, as gained, sadly, by yet another misrepresentation of another scholar:

The term "in flesh" (en sarki, or kata sarka) is also a stereotyped phrase in the early Christian epistles. If we take into account C. K. Barrett's suggestion in his translation of Romans 1:3, it may simply have signified the entry of Christ "into the sphere of flesh," which included that lower celestial realm where Satan and the demon spirits dwelled and wreaked their havoc on the material world.

And so does Doherty suppose that this "sphere" interpretation supports his view. But does it? Not at all, and Barrett is no Platonist. Indeed, on page 78 of his commentary on Romans, he explains the reason for this terminology thusly:

The preposition here rendered 'in the sphere of' could also be rendered 'according to,' and 'according to the flesh' is a common Pauline phrase; in this verse, however, Paul does not mean that on a fleshly (human) judgment Jesus was a descendant of David, but that in the realm denoted by the word flesh (humanity) he was truly a descendant of David.

In other words, Barrett has elected to use the "sphere" phrase not because it is a more accurate translation of the literal meaning, but because Paul's use of "according to the flesh" elsewhere (like Romans 8:5) carries a different connotation - that of human judgment - than is possible here, and he has simply chosen to relay Paul's actual idea conceptually with the "sphere" phrase - which unfortunately Doherty has leapt upon as somehow supporting his Platonic multi-level universe theory. As we can see, Barrett in no way supports this interpretation, and it is profoundly disturbing to see that Doherty has misappropriated Barrett in this fashion.

From here, at any rate, Doherty goes on to again re-interpret this and other "flesh" phrases throughout the NT in terms of his theory, and we need waste little time chasing the circle. We may move briefly to another section - this one yet again on 1 Corinthians - concerning Paul's analogy involving Adam and Christ, the second Adam.

Now if Paul regards Adam as a historical figure, one who lived and breathed, then there is an extreme likelihood that he also considered Christ to be a historical figure in the same fashion. How does Doherty deal with this matter?

For the most part he engages circular reasoning, suggesting that Paul "seems to be more interested in calling Christ the last Adam in order to provide an antithesis to the first Adam, rather than in making any statement that Christ was a human man" and relying on the argument of Scripture-searching Christians digging out historical analogies. He also engages in speculation upon what he admits is "a much-debated type of speculative thinking in ancient myth about which we know too little" - the "divine man" notion, which we and Glenn Miller have addressed elsewhere; but apparently we do not know so little as to prevent Doherty from speculating in that regard.

One bit worth noting is this one:

We should also remember that Adam himself was in current Jewish thought a larger-than-life figure, almost mythological, which would make Christ as "man" in a heavenly, mythical sense more comparable with him. Both, for Paul, are representative figures, not historical individuals.

We may admit that there were indeed a few larger-than-life stories about Adam in circulation: For example, that he was in size as large as the whole earth, but that he was reduced to a size of 100 yards after the Fall; that he was thought of as immortal; that he shared God's glory, and that he had incredible wisdom. However, what Doherty fails to mention is that the most spectacular of these stories comes from a time that post-dates Paul significantly - the same late rabbinic sources that we are told are of no use regarding the historical Jesus. [DaviW.PRJ, 45ff]

To assume such ideas upon Paul where he does not state them, either implicitly or explicitly, is bad enough; but to assume further that any acceptance of any of these stories rules out the idea of belief in a historical figure is rather too far of a leap. However absurd these stories about Adam are, the rabbis did believe in a historical Adam, and even if Paul himself believed every one of these stories, he would no doubt regard Christ's defeat of death as a far greater act, and see Christ as superior to Adam in every way.

Birth Citations

We lead now into our next subject, that of the birth of Jesus - carrying as our banner verses the Romans passage above, and this one, from Galatians 4:4-5 -

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Doherty applies the usual explanation of Scripture-searching Christians here, but also attempts to pull in a bit of paganized support:

Isaiah 7:14...supposedly spoke of the Messiah as born of a young woman, and so Paul in Galatians 4:4 tells us that Christ was "born of woman". (Note that he never gives the name of Mary, or anything about this "woman". Nor does he ever identify the time or place of this "birth".) The mysteries may not have had the same range of sacred writings to supply their own details, but the saviour god myths contained equally human-like elements which were understood entirely in a mythical setting. Dionysos too had been born in a cave of a woman.

Of course Doherty never explains WHY the lack of a name of a woman should be a problem - Paul's focus, after all, is on Jesus' commonality with humanity, and the lack of a name for a mother is certainly not seen as problematic or indicating the non-historicity of Moses and Samson, for example.

Perhaps the lack of a name here and elsewhere is an unfortunate reflection of chauvinism. But the lack of a name would be a "problem" on any account, even for a sublunar-realm Jesus: Dionysos' mother had a name, Semele. Thus if Paul had here given Mary's name it could still be "interpreted" as not fulfilling Doherty's requirements for demonstrating historicity. He could simply relegate Mary to the sublunar regions as well.

We move, however, to our Romans passage. Again misusing Barrett's sphere terminology, Doherty goes on to reconstruct this verse on his own terms. Regarding the "seed of David" phrase, he writes:

Is this a piece of historical datum? If it is, it's the only one Paul ever gives us, for no other feature of Jesus' human incarnation ever appears in his letters. But the fact that it is linked with the second element, which is entirely a spiritual event derived from scripture, suggests that it is not a biographical element Paul is offering.

Three points in reply:

First, it is "the only" piece of historical datum only if we ASSUME we have disproved the relevance of the others in the first place.

Second, Paul also alludes to Davidic descent in Romans 15:12 - "And again, Isaiah says, 'The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.' "

Finally, our second element DOES refer to a biographical event - the resurrection. Once again Doherty is merely assuming what he needs to prove in the first place.

Now back to our Galatians passage. This verse, we are told, "does not have to be read as it always has been." Rather than being a reference to a birth, we are told that it describes "the arrival of the spiritual Christ in the current phenomenon of divine revelation."

Does it? Let us see:

Verse 7 piles the evidence of Paul's meaning even higher: "You are therefore no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then also by God's own act an heir." If Paul had had the acts of an historical Jesus in mind when he spoke of freedom and attaining the status of sons (verse 5), why does he now revert to calling such things the result of an act of God?...
Further, in the Greek of verse 5, the subject of the verb "purchase freedom" (literally, redeem) remains God. In other words, Paul has introduced Jesus into the present period, but he has failed to follow through by expressly having him do the redeeming while he is here! Again, if Jesus is only being revealed in the present time, God's role remains primary.

Yes, God's role is primary - as even Jesus himself explained when he said that he did nothing without the Father, and when he identified himself with hypostatic Wisdom. Paul's language here is completely compatible with and intelligible in light of the historical Jesus recorded in the Gospels.

We close this section on Galatians with sadly, yet another incomplete reportage of another scholar's work:

Finally, the two qualifying phrases, "born of woman, born under the Law," are descriptive of this Son, but not necessarily tied to the present "sending". The International Critical Commentary (Burton, Galatians, p.216f), points out that the way the verb and participle tenses are used in the Greek, the birth and subjection to the law are presented as simple facts, with no necessary temporal relation to the main verb "sent". In other words, the conditions of being "born of woman" and being "made subject to the law" (Burton's preferred meaning) do not have to be seen as things that have occurred in the present.

From this Doherty deduces more in favor of his thesis; but just a moment. Burton actually tells us that the subject is "(c)oncerning the time of the subjection to law, whether at birth or subsequently." Furthermore, what he writes (p. 218) is:

The employment of the aorist presents the birth and the subjection to law as in each case a simple fact, and leaves the temporal relation to (sent forth) to be inferred solely from the nature of the facts referred to.

In other words, while Doherty here uses Burton's data to support his own view, to the effect that Paul presents the birth of Jesus as perhaps something that did not occur in human time, this is decidedly NOT what Burton has in mind at all. The simple facts are related without temporal reference because presumably everyone knows the order of events in the first place.

Doherty also does a bit of well-poisoning by saying, "There are those who maintain that these two qualifying phrases may be later redactions, which is always possible." No "who" is cited for the proposition, which does not have the slightest textual support.

But now we move to another passage, from the christological hymn in Philippians 2, which describes Christ as "bearing human likeness and the fashion of a man." Of this Doherty asks, "Why this oblique phraseology: had he not literally been a full, actual man?"

The answer is: NO, he had NOT: He was MORE than a man; Christ was the incarnate Logos of God, which is WHY we have this "oblique" theology - this was a rather unique event, and I daresay appropriate words and phrases for description had to invented for the occasion.

From there Doherty goes on, again, to re-interpret the passage, seeing in it "the early Christian epitome of the descending-ascending redeemer myth" - a notion that is badly outdated. Doherty goes on to tell us that "there is not a breath of identification with any Jesus of Nazareth."

What is Doherty expecting here? Would he have had the early church write a hymn thusly?

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth and conducted a three-year ministry in Palestine: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, and actually sort of disdained the idea, and said several things indicating his subordination to the Father, and made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, which is to say, he looked like a man, but he really was the incarnate Logos in flesh, walking around on earth; this earth, not a Platonic realm of secondary reality; and being found in appearance as a man, and let me stress here that I don't mean that he wasn't in some sense an actual man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross on a hill called Golgotha (Latin "Calvary") on the day of Passover, thanks to a death sentence delivered by the Sanhedrin and by Pilate the prefect! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place, and I don't mean Mount Everest here but heaven, and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It seems a bit cumbersome to me - but if Doherty thinks he can sell it to the hymnal companies, he is welcome to try.

The point being: This is a hymn, not a biography, that we are dealing with. Superfluous details like "Nazareth" etc. are beside the point.

Similarly, Doherty tackles 1 Timothy 3:16 -

He who was manifested in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels; was proclaimed among the nations, believed in throughout the world, glorified in high heaven.

Of this, he writes:

Once again there is no identification with a human man, and any suggestion of a ministry is pointedly lacking. This deity seems to have been seen only by angels and engaged in no proclaiming of his own.

Once again, this is a hymn, not a biography - Doherty's "expectations" of a ministry reference here are totally unrealistic. Furthermore, since he has already assumed that "in flesh" refers to his misappropriated interpretation of Barrett, i.e. the "sphere" bit, the argument as a whole is circular: "In flesh" DOES identify a "human man", except when terms are appropriated for re-interpretation in Doherty's thesis.

Furthermore, note the tri-part progression in each part of this verse: flesh, spirit, angels; nations, world, high heaven...there is a clear progression of ideas using the common three-part formula humankind is so familiar with using for didactic purposes. There is absolutely no space here to dawdle with the sort of obvious, nitpicking details Doherty demands: Rather was the ministry compressed into the whole "manifested in flesh" phrase.


And now a brief return to the text of Galatians. Noting yet again that no superfluous reference to Mary is made in Gal. 4:4, Doherty goes on to ask, "if Paul is supposed to have Mary in mind in 4:4, why does she not appear in his elaborate allegory in the same chapter?"

This refers to Paul's allegory in Gal. 4:24-31 which uses Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, and Ishmael as points of comparison and contrast. Of this passage, Doherty writes:

...something is definitely missing here. Something we would expect to find, especially as Christ "born of woman" is still fresh in Paul's mind. He is talking about mothers and sons. Why is Mary not worked into this analogy, if only as a secondary part of the interpretation? She was, after all, the mother of Jesus himself who established the new covenant. She is surely an antitype to Sarah's archetype. So is Jesus himself to Isaac, both symbols of sacrificed victims. (Even though Isaac was not actually killed, he assumed this significance in Jewish thinking.) Paul has spent much of Galatians 3 linking the gentiles to Abraham through Christ as his "seed": why not double such a link through Mary and Sarah? Could not Mary be allegorized as the mother of Christians? And where, for that matter, is the thing which should have been obvious as the symbol of the new covenant, in parallel to Mount Sinai as the symbol of the old one: not the heavenly Jerusalem but the Mount of Calvary where Jesus was crucified, the earthly site of the blood sacrifice which established that new covenant?

Paul is, as noted, comparing covenants in this allegory; it is enough to question why Mary should be introduced as a "spare wheel" anyway, but there is simply no place for her. Snodgrass [Jerv.GospP, 377] lists some of the parallels thusly:

Where would Mary fit in here? Consider Doherty's inquiries: "She was, after all, the mother of Jesus himself who established the new covenant. She is surely an antitype to Sarah's archetype."

Not at all: Here it is the women themselves who are allegorized as the covenant. Mary was not in a situation like Sarah's where there was no hope and the need for a promise.

"So is Jesus himself to Isaac, both symbols of sacrificed victims. (Even though Isaac was not actually killed, he assumed this significance in Jewish thinking.)" True enough, to a certain extent: Isaac was regarded in 4 Maccabees as the "martyr extraordinare", which is to say, he was looked upon as the best example of a willing martyr in the same sense that other martyrs of the time were. But even so, the allegory for Paul here is Isaac = Christians, not Isaac = Jesus, so Doherty's objection is irrelevant.

"Paul has spent much of Galatians 3 linking the gentiles to Abraham through Christ as his "seed": why not double such a link through Mary and Sarah?" Well, why do it? Paul is not writing to meet the expectations of Earl Doherty, and since Doherty has not deigned to rewrite Gal. 3 or even specify a verse where such a comparison would fit in, there is really not much that can be said.

"Could not Mary be allegorized as the mother of Christians?" Hopefully not! This is something that ought to be prevented and verges on the notion current in some Catholic circles that makes Mary a co-redemptrix. And anyway, in the same fashion as above, this is just as much a "problem" for Doherty's interpretation.

"And where, for that matter, is the thing which should have been obvious as the symbol of the new covenant, in parallel to Mount Sinai as the symbol of the old one: not the heavenly Jerusalem but the Mount of Calvary where Jesus was crucified, the earthly site of the blood sacrifice which established that new covenant?" Well, calling Calvary a "mount" is a purely modern notion - it is described in no such way anywhere in the NT; and if ANY event by Jesus is a parallel to Sinai, it MIGHT be the Sermon on the Mount, as Matthew may imply, but NOT the Crucifixion. A better equivalent to Mt. Sinai would be the proclamation of the Gospel message.

Here as elsewhere, Doherty offers a theological rendition of Freudian free association, thinking that just because he finds relevance for some reference, or where two words happen to match in some way he sees it, then the lack of that reference means that something is wrong.

Resurrection References

In this final section we close by revisiting a bit of familiar turf, concerning the resurrection body. We are told that there is an "impossible silence" in 1 Corinthians, for there is "not the slightest glance toward Jesus' own resurrection."

What about Paul's appeal to the resurrection appearances in 1 Cor. 15:3ff? The whole point of Paul's appeal is to say, "We know what a resurrection body is like because we've seen one!. It is truly amazing that Doherty misses this point, for he DOES rightly observe that the "whole point of (Paul's) discussion" is:

...that the spiritual body will be something new and different. His purpose here is to counter those in Corinth who seem to have denied the resurrection of the dead because they could conceive only of the resurrection of the physical body, something Greeks generally rejected as repugnant. Paul is presenting an alternative: the resurrection body will be a spiritual body, modeled on Christ's own.

In this light, Doherty asks how Paul can "go on to offer the last Adam, Christ, as the prototype for the resurrected body of Christians? For Christ himself, when on earth, would have possessed a body not of heavenly material but of earthly stuff, the same as Adam's."

But it is not the body Christ possessed on earth that Paul is offering as a prototype at all. It is the resurrection body that he is offering, and that is the entire point of the delineation of the resurrection appearances. "If at no other place in his letters," Doherty concludes, Paul here:

...would have to make a clear reference to the historical Jesus. He would have to point out that the "man" he is referring to, the body which this "man" possesses, is not the body he had when he was on earth, the one of dust like Adam's, but rather the one he now possesses subsequent to his resurrection. A clear reference to the resurrection as producing a change of state would be unavoidable.

"Why," he asks, "would Paul pass up the ideal analogy in Jesus' own resurrection?" But in fact he didn't. It's in the passage, and we are left only to wonder why Doherty fails to notice it.



  1. DaviW.PRJ - Davies,W. D. Paul and Rabbinic Judaism. New York: Harper, 1948.
  2. Jerv.GospP - Jervis, L. Ann and Peter Richardson. Gospel in Paul. Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.