Earl Doherty’s critical examination of the Biblical text
Earl Doherty’s critical examination of the Biblical text reveals perspectives that Christians have often accepted as historical and taken its legends for granted without ever raising any doubts of its authenticity. Thus I found Doherty’s quest for the historicity of Christianity, searching all the available historical text available, with his very detailed analysis, plausible and illuminating. It is one of the most comprehensive researches undertaken of examining Biblical and non-Biblical historical text that is available from the very early period of Christian history, and methodically extracting and dissecting the underlying significance of the text in minutiae for every possible interpretation intended by the author. I found Doherty’s analysis revealing and convincing. But by the very nature of the topic (Biblical) and the depth that Doherty had delved into to make detailed, in depth comparisons often prolonged the analysis beyond reader patience, but I soon realised it was necessary in order to put to rest some of the more common ‘evangelical Christian’ arguments that has existed about this topic. These lengthy discourse tend to make the reading rather demanding and laborious. But I can see why it was necessary in a document such as this; Doherty had to cover all bases.
Paul’s Earliest Perceptions of A Spiritual Jesus
It is significant that when Paul started his proselytising he was not extending the work of Jesus as described in the Gospels, instead Paul is driven by an inspiration that came from his own revelation from God. Paul keeps reiterating,
“It is all God’s doing. God has set his seal on us by sending the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 1:22, NEB
We speak of these gifts of God in words found for us not by our human wisdom but by the Spirit. [1 Corinthians 2:13, NEB]
Did the world of god originate with you? Are you the only people to whom it come?Has anyone claims to be inspired or a prophet, let him recognize that what I write has the Lord’s authority. [1 Corinthians 14:36-37,NEB]
Elsewhere, the same sentiments can be noted. The writer of 1 Peter 1:12 tells his readers: “Preachers brought you the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.”
This is a preaching movement begun and inspired by God, by revelation through the Spirit. There is not a word spent on any role for a human Jesus, on a beginning in the career of a recent historical man. Even though Paul had approval from the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, nevertheless, Paul claimed that his ultimate authority did not come from humans, but directly from Christ’s revelation to him:
“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12).” Gal 1:15-16 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 2 Corinthians 5:5 should astound us: “God has shaped us for life immortal, and as a guarantee of this he has sent the Spirit.” How could Paul not have said that to give us life everlasting, God had sent Jesus?
God, through the avenue of the Spirit, is the sole agent in all that has transpired, the sole source. It is he who has bestowed grace, his are the gifts. Romans 1:2 speaks of the “gospel of God,” 3:24 of “God’s act of redemption,” It is God, “who began the good world” as declared in Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 13:7 refers to the apostles “who first spoke God’s message to you.” So many writers pointedly ignore the centrality of Jesus’ own role and actions.
As late as 1 Timothy, the writer speaks (1:11) of “the gospel which tells of the glory of God who is blessed.” Such silences (about Jesus) resound throughout the early Christian correspondence, with a cumulative impact which cannot be dismissed.
What is it that the Spirit of God, through revelation, has imparted to men like Paul? In referring to his conversion experience, Paul tells the Galatians: “God chose to reveal his Son in me [to me and through me: NEB], in order that I might preach him among the gentiles. [1:16] Paul is claiming that HE is the medium of God’s revelation; through him the world is learning about the Son, the newly-disclosed means of salvation for Jew and gentile alike. (Of course, there were others besides Paul who were preaching that revelation, but Paul places the focus on himself whenever he can, and he could well have been the premier apostle of this time.)
The centerpiece of God’s revelation is Christ himself: the existence of the Son and the role he has played in God’s plan for salvation. Such things are not based on historical record, or on the interpretation of a recent man. They are part of a divine mystery, a secret hidden with God which has now been revealed. In defending Christian doctrine in the opening champters of 1 Corinthians, Paul says: “We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God designed for our glory before time began.”
When and how was that secret revealed? In Romans 16:25-6, Paul (or a later editor) proclaims his gospel “…..about Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept in silence for long ages but now revealed, and made known through prophetic writings at the command of God….[Trans. of Doherty.]
God’s Revelation to Paul: A Spiritual Jesus
Paul’s ministry of Jesus is usually overlooked and minimised because theologians have focused on the ministry of the Gospels as preferred by the influential clergy and theologians as it fits in better with the ideology and beliefs of the people of those early Christian eras. But the ministry of Paul is worth a closer inspection.
Paul’s Ultimate Authority
Paul did not receive his authority from the mouths of men but from the “revelation from God.”
Galatians 1: 11-12
11 For I (Paul) would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (by God.)
Paul’s authority is ultimate and unlike the Gospels, it is a “revelation” and not legend or hearsay. So much more importance must be given to Paul’s ministry than it has ever received. Paul himself saw Jesus via revelation on his encounter on the road to Damascus (Acts 9, 22, 26) in which Christ(God) revealed Himself to Paul . He was an eyewitness in the sense of having seen Jesus after his death (1 Cor. 9:1). Therefore, Paul certainly had the authority to teach and preach the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:1 (NASB95)
1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?
Paul once again saw Jesus after his death, by revelation by Jesus himself as proof of his authority to speak on his ministry. Paul was a free man, but Jesus revealed himself to him, after his death.
Jesus in the Heavenly Tabernacle
It is clear from the scriptures that Jesus was a priest in the Heavenly Tabernacle as shown by the following passages:
11. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
12. For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
13. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
14. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
15. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,
16. Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
17. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
18. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
19. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
20. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
21. (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)
22. By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
23. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:
24. But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
25. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
26. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
27. Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
28. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. High Priests Ordained to offer Gifts and Sacrifices
Hebrew Chapter 8
- Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
- A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
- For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
- For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
- Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
- But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
- For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
- For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
- Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
- For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
- And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
- For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
- In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Jesus Sacrifices His Blood in the Heavenly Tabernacle
Hebrew Chapter 9
- Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.
- For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
- And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
- Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
- And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
- Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.
- But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
- The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
- Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
- Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
- But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
- Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
- For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
- How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
- And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
- For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
- For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
- Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.
- For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,
- Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.
- Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
- And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
- It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
- For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
- Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
- For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
- And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
- So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Christ Revealed (: to make known through divine inspiration)
According to Galatians 1: 11-12 Paul makes it abundantly clear that his ministry of Christ was revealed to him from God. Uncorrupted. And he proceeds to tell us of Christ in the Tabernacle in Heaven, and his ultimate sacrifice of his own blood in order to expunge the sins of his followers. This is a Heavenly Christ who gave his blood for the sins of man, not the Christ at Calvary. Furthermore, from separate circles, and who have no contact with one another, who also refer to the revelation of Christ:
1 Timothy 3:16 : And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God (Christ) was manifest (revealed) in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
1 Peter 1 19. But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20. Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest (revealed) in these last times for you,
1 John 3: 4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5. And ye know that he was manifested (revealed) to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
Thus, we see, again and again, that Christ was “revealed” to his writers. Somehow, the true significance of the meaning of this word, “revealed” seems to have been overlooked because the Gospel myths were preferred by the clergy of the day, distorting the epistle writers of earlier times. The lack of historicity of the Gospels makes the case for the spiritual Jesus logical in every sense.
Juxtaposition of Heavenly and Earthly Tabernacles
The revelations to Paul by God of the Heavenly Tabernacle and the High Priest’s Blood sacrifice needed an earthly connection. Thus the juxtaposition of the earthly tabernacle had to be created to meet the needs of the people.
- And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
- And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
- And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
- And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
- And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
- And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
- He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
- But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
- And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.
- And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
The Heavenly Tabernacle was “Before (earthly) time began.”
This gives us a perspective of the time-line of the Heavenly Tabernacle in relation to human history:
2 Timothy Chapter 1:
- Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
- To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
- I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
- Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
- When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
- Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
- For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
- Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
- Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (before earthly time began,)
- But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
- Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
(1) Jesus was revealed to Paul by God as a High Priest in the Heavenly Tabernacle and who had shed his own blood to expunge the sins of his followers at a time that was before earthly time. Thus, a second sacrifice at Calvary would have been totally unnecessary.
(2) The Heavenly Tabernacle and the (spiritual) High Priest, Jesus, were already pre-ordained by God and had already occurred long before the beginning of earthly time. But the Gospel myths were a necessary evolution of the esoteric Christian faith as it was necessary to associate the Heavens with the Earth for the sake of the existing pagan beliefs existing at that time.
…….There is not a crack in this facade where Jesus could gain a foothold. In the past lie |G|od’s promises of eternal life, and the first action on those promises is the present revelation by |God to apostles like Paul who have gone out to deliver the nessage. Jesus’ own proclamation of eternal life, or whtever he may have proclaimed, has evaporated tnto the wind. Here is a prime example of the very exclusion of a human, historical Jesus.
The Gospel of Mark
Mark was the first of the Gospel writers to present sayings and traditions about the apocalyptic ‘Son of Man’ (which he identifies with his Jesus) and concepts that were taken over from Mark by Matthew and Luke. (This led to the introduction and acceptance of the concept of the historical Jesus, through the introduction of the incarnation of Jesus, son of God, on earth.) Although these concepts were not taken by Mark from a Q document, which he shows no sign of possessing, but Mark would have belonged to the community which was part of the wider (God) kingdom preaching movement who would have been witness to the Q-type traditions. Mark has Jesus referring to himself as ‘the Son of Man’ who will come in the future as the apocalyptic prediction to his disciples. And from Mark, Matthew and Luke have reinforced their narrations to establish the ‘Son of Man’ and a divine incarnate of god, as a fact of history because the culture of that era and the peoples were surceptible to syncretism and mythicism prevalent in the culture of the day. The Gospels essentially converted a spiritual Jesus of the Heavenly Tabernacle into an incarnate Son of Man as Son of God through mythicism.
The Quest of Doherty
Doherty a scholar in Ancient History and Greek and Latin has used his background to good use in studying many of the original early documents written in Greek. He studied many, many early manuscripts, Biblical and historical, and analysed them minutely to come to a better understanding of the origins of Christianity. ‘Jesus Neither God Nor Man’ evolved and enlarged from his earlier book, ‘The JesusPuzzle,’ which took 14 years of study. This leads to in-depth studies of the Gnostic phenomenon, the Johannine community, the nature of the Gospel of Q and that of the Gospel of Thomas, and the origins of the Biblical Gospels, with Mark and his introduction of ‘the son of man’ who eventually emerges as the incarnate of God in the form of Jesus. Doherty studied historical records of Flavius Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny, Thallus, Phlegon, Mara and others in the attempt to substantiate the authenticity of such hearsay at great lengths and depth and discusses his reasoning with intellectual skill and ability. Doherty finally says: “To the rest who have open and inquisitive minds I offer the work itself, trusting in the power of its observations and arguments and the lucidity of its presentation. No mathematical proof is available, not laboratory demonstaration. All we can achieve is a judgement as to balance of probability, although perhaps such a thing can get close to definitive. In the field of history this is all we have . In the area of religion, a little more is first required: and its rational interpretation a chance to commend itself. If the probability is arrived at that the Gospel Jesus of Nazareth is a fictional or symbolic character, the world will not come to an end. It need merely change, and it has usually rather good at doing that.” Earl doherty Sept. 2009. Those are exactly my sentiments especially to those who get so agitated when views contrary to the Bible are expressed. The book is recommended to all, especially those evangelical Christians who are determined to insist that only they have the right views on Christianity. On the balance of probability, based on all the available historical evidence available, and with the views of other books on this topic, I can only come to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth was a legendary character that was created to unite the concept of the spiritual Kingdom of God in Heaven with the man-made Kingdom of God on earth, and was the basis for the foundations of the Christian faith.