On Earl Doherty's Response to Tekton

On this page, we will collate and collect responses by Earl Doherty to criticisms by Tekton and a couple of others. When it comes to responses to me, though, you won't find Doherty offering much of substance, as he primarily takes refuge in psychologization (e.g., referring to things that "threaten [my] personal confessional stance"). In this I think it is very clear, having now looked back on these matters after several years, that Doherty was simply contriving an excuse for not being able to reply.

Indeed, throughout the first series of articles, Doherty was treated with the utmost deference overall; my tone at the time was winsome, not aggressive in the least, and as I look back upon my replies, I find myself amazed at how thin Doherty's individual arguments truly were, even as then I knew so little of things like patronage and brokerage, typology, etc.

Much else that Doherty has in his reply as preface is out of date -- and has been for many years now, referring to material as presented over ten years ago. One wonders whether Doherty even minds these matters; indeed, his response contains a link to a website host address that I dispensed with more than a decade ago, and he has still not as of this editing (May 2009) changed it.

I offer this point: Doherty admitted early on the validity of my criticism that he did not provide enough supporting documentation for his arguments. The counter-consensus nature of Doherty's position practically requires detailed source-work in order to have credence beyond a tight and agreeable circle. Unfortunately, all those years ago, Doherty offered "no guarantees" as to when he wouldl make such detailed updates as my criticisms indicate - for he had "other pursuits in life."

More than 12 years later, he has still not updated his material. I believe that speaks for itself.

Actual Answers?

We will now quote Doherty's criticisms of my rebuttals -- what few there are -- and answer in turn.

Another comment is that he will not be examining my material on Philo, the Ascension of Isaiah and the Odes of Solomon (the latter two being documents from the so-called Jewish Pseudepigrapha), since "we deem them irrelevant." They are anything but irrelevant, of course, but these are complex documents and perhaps not within Mr. Holding's parameters of expertise-or rebuttal style.

However, in no way does Doherty in any sense go on to actually prove that these documents are relevant in the course of his reply - referring to them again only once (as we shall see). Our only issue, at any rate, was to assert that the NT itself does not support Doherty's position.

I offered 12 years ago to address the material in question if anyone desired -- and no one has taken me up on it in that time.

I should also point out that in his critique he never (that I can see) orients the reader to the specific location on my site for the quotes he uses, never provides the titles of the articles he is excerpting. He also never gives the URL of my site, let alone a link to it. Perhaps he would rather that his readership be shielded from such things and have access to my views only through his filter.

Quite honestly, I found Doherty's site so disorganized that I resorted to simply pasting all his articles into a single document and working from there. So, in the process, all location-markers were lost. I offer no regrets unless Doherty can somehow prove that in doing this I misrepresented him. But I rather doubt that that has happened.

As for the other - the niceties of linking pages was something I left in the hands of the manager of my previous website residence 12+ years ago (whom Doherty, I perceive, does not realize was a person other than myself). But even so, what of it?

As it is, I had plans to add a link to whatever reply Doherty might offer; but now, I see no reason to do so, as there is no need to advertise for those who cannot reach an audience with quality material.

On 1 Cor. 2:8

Holding accuses me of the 'Most Scholars . . .' sin, whereas in fact I discuss at length in my Supplementary Article No. 3, 'Who Crucified Jesus?' (from which he has taken his quotations) several scholars who hold this position.

Several, yes, but "several" is not equal to "most" without further verification. Furthermore, as I note, but to which Doherty deigns no specific reply:

As above, Doherty appeals to majority opinion, stating that: "...my tally indicates that over the last century a majority of commentators, some reluctantly, have decided that (Paul) is referring to the demon spirits." This is an interesting observation, but hardly reflects anything in and of itself: What was the "score" of this tally? How did the arguments fare pitted against one another? Are members of the "majority" simply following previous views uncritically? These are the things that truly count, and constant appeals to alleged majority views means nothing. (Just for kicks, though: My own tally indicates the balance for this century in favor of the "earthly" interpretation. Perhaps I am not being selective enough in my consultations.

o again, what about answers to these questions?

As for one of the supporting documents I offer here, the Ascension of Isaiah, he has already, as noted above, dismissed it as irrelevant.

It is hard to see why this document should be relevant; it was not written by the apostle Paul, and was written much later than 1 Corinthians, in a different social and literary context. Why should be give it any attention in this regard? The superficial similarities Doherty cites are hardly sufficient.

In his own defense, Holding quotes a long passage, 1 Cor. 1:17-2:16, highlighting all the phrases which have any reference to things 'human' in them, as though these, by some form of osmosis, render the "rulers" phrase automatically human, too.

Osmosis? No: Context. Nine times in the passage I cite, Paul refers to human wisdom; what reason, other than for the sake of supporting his theory, can Doherty give for suggesting that Paul suddenly switches gears and in the phrase in question, in the midst of a discourse on human wisdom and its inadequacies, now wants to plug in a word on the wisdom (viz., the lack thereof) of supernatural beings?

"Unfortunately," Doherty tells us, I have "failed to find, in Paul's discussion here about the wisdom of the world vs. the wisdom of God, any reference to a human Christ and the elevation of a human man to divinity."

Not in the least. Paul refers in the passage to the crucified Lord of Glory, crucified as a human by earthly rulers; if this is not the same crucified Christ that he refers to as crucified and as divinity elsewhere in his letters, who is it?

"Rather than 'supernatural rulers (being) out of order here,' human wisdom, in the field of religion, has always been concerned about divine and heavenly things."

Is Paul speaking here as a specialist in the field of religion? No, he is not. At the same time, there is a category difference between "those who are purveyors of wisdom" and "what the purveyors of wisdom have to offer and talk about" - Doherty is confusing the two, and his attempt to get out of the obvious reference to earthly rulers fails.

Our next step is regarding two passages which Doherty regards as interpolations. But first:

...Mr. Holding makes the suggestion that Paul himself was the first to collect his letters (thus postulating the first Pauline corpus around the year 60!), and that in any case Paul had made copies of them for his own files at the time of writing, all to guard against the very possibility that some "misfit church" would dare try to doctor them. Such wishful speculation, the like of which I have never heard before, is completely unfounded and is simply an attempt to provide himself with ammunition to discredit the very principle of interpolation; whereas the modern viewpoint (see The New Testament and Its Modern Interpreters, p.205f) that such a corpus was not formed before well into the 2nd century leaves plenty of time for earlier interpolations to have left no contrary manuscript evidence, especially in 1 Thessalonians which has no pre-corpus attestation.

The "suggestion" here, the likes of which Doherty has "never heard before," may be found in the works of David Frobisch, a Pauline scholar of considerable erudition who has made an extensive study of the process of letter collections in the ancient world and deduces that the gathering of the Pauline collection was the result of the same sort of process - not necessarily as either Doherty or I would see it, but along the same lines, with Paul forming the initial collection and guarding it from disgrace, and someone else, perhaps Luke or Timothy, finishing the collection.

Now of course, these "modern" interpreters (as if attaching "modern" to your position actually gives it any credence!) as a rule divorce the NT from its social context as much as possible: If they treated the NT like any other ancient document they would be forced to concede far more than they are willing.

So then, if Doherty or others wish to enter a special plea on behalf of their theories, and say that the process of the Pauline collection was radically different than that of every other letter collection of the time, so be it. The social and textual data plainly do not support his contentions.

On the first alleged interpolation, 1 Thess. 2:15-16, on which I wrote some six pages of material, Doherty has only this single paragraph in reply:

His arguments against the claim that 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 is an interpolation are not entirely without merit, but that this is a "quaint notion" is belied by the long lineup of modern critical scholars who support it-many of whom I quote in my article.

That is all he has to say -- with not one actual argument in reply. It ought to be noted that the "long lineup" tends to work upon the backs of two previous interpolation-proponents (Schmidt, 1983; Pearson, 1971) - both of whom, at least by the standards of our Information Age, may be suitably described as "quaint" even in a non-ironic fashion. Not only that, but why has Doherty failed to interact with the "long lineup" promoting the opposite view?

Now to the second charge, regarding 1 Tim. 6:13:

...Mr. Holding fails to point out that I qualify this by saying that the Pastoral epistles come from the 2nd century, so that even if authentic, the reference does not disprove my position.

Actually, I do point this out, though indirectly, when I write:

Now naturally, Doherty does not believe that the Pastorals were authored by Paul, and he alludes to all of the same old arguments that we have dealt with in Tekton 2-2-5: Vocabulary, teachings, church organization, lack of inclusion in P46, etc. He does not explicate upon these arguments, nor does he deal with counter-objections - and I would not expect him to do so. Of course, he could no doubt argue for interpolation of our specific verse anyway.

Tekton 2-2-5, at the time this article was first written, was the designation for my article on the dating and authorship of the Pastorals (named using a format designed by my former webmaster). So here, I quite clearly point out that Doherty is in the "late date" camp for the Pastoral epistles.

Here it needs to be pointed out that Holding will in no way accept that the Pastorals are not by Paul, going against the vast majority of critical scholars today who firmly reject Pauline authorship and date these epistles post-100. This and other similar examples of his apologetic conservatism clearly place Mr. Holding's scholarship at a "neolithic" level, and automatically put his overall exegetical powers and integrity under the deepest suspicion.

Actually, if Doherty had bothered to look further, he would have discovered my affinity for the idea of Luke as the Pastoral author, writing with Paul's authorization. As for the dating bit, calling the position names, and leaving it at that, is not answering the arguments.

On a positive note, Doherty admits "misinterpreting (his) notes on Kelly's analysis" of 1 Tim. 6:3 and issues his apologies to Kelly. But regarding my actual arguments for the utility of 1 Tim. 6:13, he offers nothing.

And now, to the secular references to Jesus. Here again Doherty appears to be unaware of my other articles on the subject - mainly in this case, here, which I quite clearly refer the reader to, along with Glenn Miller's article on Thallus. Even so, Doherty's reply on the subject is minimal; only one topic is broached, re Josephus:

I would, however, ask who are the "Josephan scholars" who have "decided" that Origen is confusing Josephus' account of James death (the famous Antiquities 20 passage), with some (lost) reference in Hegesippus?

The data may be found here which affirms my position; it's worth quoting extensively since it is an answer to Doherty:

A more likely explanation is that Origen simply read into Josephus’ statements about James an earlier, independent Christian tradition--as attested by Hegesippus and Clement of Alexandra--linking James’ death with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. After all, writing to explain the war was one of Josephus' purposes. And such an approach to Josephus would be consistent with Origen’s exegetical and writing styles. He is notorious as an imaginative reader of texts. Josephus’ writings were not an exception as Origen tended to read Christian traditions into Josephus’ writings. Alice Whealey, Josephus on Jesus, at 17-18.

Furthermore, the placement of the martyrdom of James in Antiquities would have given Origen all the reason he needed to read the account of James' martyrdom in light of the destruction of Jerusalem. The martyrdom is described just before Josephus begins to discuss the problems that lead to the war with Rome, whose legions destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Just a few lines after describing James' death, Josephus writes, "this was the beginning of greater calamities...." Ant. 20.3. A few lines after that, Josephus writes, "And from that time it principally came to pass that our city was greatly disordered, and that all things grew worse and worse among us." Ant. 20.4. While Josephus was referring to other events, the proximity to the killing of James must have proved irresistible to Origen. It is also possible that Origen conveniently confused Josephus' explicit statement that Herod's execution of John the Baptist lead to God's judgment with the High Priest' execution of James leading to God's judgment.

Origen elsewhere shows that he is willing to read Josephus loosely but recount it as something stated by Josephus. In Fragment 115 of Origen’s Commentary on Lamentations, Origen comments on verse 4:19 (“Our pursuers were swifter than the eagles of the sky; they chased us on the mountains, they waited in ambush for us in the wilderness."), stating that “Josephus reports that even the mountains did not save those who were trying to escape.” There is no such explicit statement in Josephus’ writings, though it may be an inference from both of Josephus’ descriptions of the fall of Jerusalem. As Wataru Mizugaki notes, “by citing and using Josephus to his own purposes, Origen interprets [Josephus’] historical account from his theological viewpoint and adapts it to his interpretation of the Bible.” Mizugaki, “Origen and Josephus,” in Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity, at 333.

That Origen took Josephus' broader purpose of explaining the causes of the Jewish War, read nearby statements about the beginning of troubles and calamities a little loosely, and read into the account of James' martyrdom the existing Christian tradition about James' death being a cause of God's judgment, is the most likely explanation as to the origins of Origen's comments about James and judgment in his Commentary on Matthew and Against Celsus.

Moving on:

And I would point out that if Josephus is indeed citing a known 'title' attached to James as "brother of the Lord", it means nothing that he does not use the word "brother" in the sense of member of a brotherhood anywhere else in his text. As to whether in fact such an interpretation of the phrase is a "mind-numbing absurdity," I might ask if Holding interprets the "more than 500 of the brothers" of 1 Corinthians 15:6 as siblings of Jesus (rather, they are clearly part of an organized sectarian group), or how he personally would translate "ton adelphon en kurio" (brothers in the Lord, where Paul is also referring to a group) in Philippians 1:14 without implying some kind of "brethren/brotherhood" meaning.

In terms of the thesis of NT silence, note that I added material on high and low context that was not present when Doherty responded to the essay. Even so, the bulk of his reply here consists of nothing more than restating his original case. My arguments are barely answered at all; they are mostly repeated as though they may be plainly seen as fallacious simply in their reading. Only the most minimal efforts are put forth in reply; not a word is said about the key issues of OT and/or ancient citation methods, about the use of allusion versus direct quotes, about missionary preaching.

Instead, former arguments are simply repeated, as though somehow, by creating expectation and then astonishment, the argument can be won: