In Mythicism but not of Mythicism

It is perhaps ironic that there is a well-worn conservative Christian phrase, of Biblical derivation, which illustrates wonderfully a point that Earl Doherty and Neil Godfrey either are missing themselves, or are fully aware of but hope that their readers will miss, namely that in and of are not universally interchangeable or synonymous.

There are indeed some instances in which one could use either. There are many more in which one cannot.

One illustration which I alluded to is the idea of being “in the world” but not “of the world.” If the two were equivalent, the well-known slogan would be meaningless.

I would request that Doherty and Godfrey either offer an instance of “sibling in” being equivalent to “sibling of” or otherwise concede that there is no linguistic evidence for the equivalence that has been central to their recent comments and posts, namely that “brother(s) of the Lord” in simply a way of saying “brother(s) in the Lord.”

If words and grammar are infinitely flexible, then there is no point in debating further, since there is no basis for drawing one conclusion over another. If they are not, then clearly this terminology represents a weak link in the mythicist argument.

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  • Earl Doherty

    You just don’t get it, James.

    No one is saying that “of” and “in” are “universally interchangeable prepositions”. Did I say that? No, no, and no. (Do you need more no’s?) Why is it that you can never grasp the simplest arguments?

    You admit that there are some instances where one could use either. My latest efforts have been devoted to making you realize that “brother(s) of/in the Lord” can well be one of them. I, too, could come up with examples where they cannot be interchanged. But I purposely chose sample phrases that were similar to the “brother” one, similar enough that they provided analogies to the phrase under debate. I’m sorry that you could not see that.

    Then you say: “I would request that Doherty and Godfrey either offer an instance of
    “sibling in” being equivalent to “sibling of” or otherwise concede that
    there is no linguistic evidence for the equivalence that has been
    central to their recent comments and posts, namely that ‘brother(s) of
    the Lord’ in simply a way of saying ‘brother(s) in the Lord.’ ”

    James, you are begging the question. Why should I be looking for an equivalence between “sibling of” and “sibling in”? That is precisely the meaning that I am rejecting, not trying to prove. Why would my attempt at giving you an analogy be expected to hand you the translation you claim on a platter???

    You just don’t get it.

  • Earl Doherty

    You just don’t get it, James.

    No one is saying that “of” and “in” are “universally interchangeable prepositions”. Did I say that? No, no, and no. (Do you need more no’s?) Why is it that you can never grasp the simplest arguments?

    You admit that there are some instances where one could use either. My latest efforts have been devoted to making you realize that “brother(s) of/in the Lord” can well be one of them. I, too, could come up with examples where they cannot be interchanged. But I purposely chose sample phrases that were similar to the “brother” one, similar enough that they provided analogies to the phrase under debate. I’m sorry that you could not see that.

    Then you say: “I would request that Doherty and Godfrey either offer an instance of
    “sibling in” being equivalent to “sibling of” or otherwise concede that
    there is no linguistic evidence for the equivalence that has been
    central to their recent comments and posts, namely that ‘brother(s) of
    the Lord’ in simply a way of saying ‘brother(s) in the Lord.’ ”

    James, you are begging the question. Why should I be looking for an equivalence between “sibling of” and “sibling in”? That is precisely the meaning that I am rejecting, not trying to prove. Why would my attempt at giving you an analogy be expected to hand you the translation you claim on a platter???

    You just don’t get it.

  • Neil Godfrey

    You want Godfrey to argue Greek grammar? All Godfrey has done is provide another platform for Doherty’s argument. Godfrey has also provided platforms — and outlined arguments himself — of alternatives to Doherty’s points. Does that mean Godfrey himself is arguing for them? He has even presented arguments of historicists against mythicists.

    You do not seem to comprehend what it means to be genuinely open to a range of views, and to avoid dogmatism in the interests of exploring and learning, and testing views, or simply holding views tentatively and always being open to new information and understanding.

  • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

    You want Godfrey to argue Greek grammar? All Godfrey has done is provide another platform for Doherty’s argument. Godfrey has also provided platforms — and outlined arguments himself — of alternatives to Doherty’s points. Does that mean Godfrey himself is arguing for them? He has even presented arguments of historicists against mythicists.

    You do not seem to comprehend what it means to be genuinely open to a range of views, and to avoid dogmatism in the interests of exploring and learning, and testing views, or simply holding views tentatively and always being open to new information and understanding.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Does any one have any recognized expertise in koin Greek? What are the opinions of such people on the passage? Surely a percentage of opinions might give a good estimate of the likely hood of Earl being correct.

    In English all the references I’ve seen seem unambiguous. I’ve grown up in a culture that uses “brother or sister” frequently to mean, “member of the community”, but confusions is rare when someone is speaking about someone who is really the sibling of someone else. The use of the phrase in the part about James brother of the Lord,, and the other part about the lords brothers ans their wives, don’t seem like accepted usages of the communal brother usage, but it may look different in Greek.

    If sibling in and sibling of are not equivalent, then Brother of the Lord must means something different than brother in the lord, right?you wouldn’t use one phrase to mean the other.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Does any one have any recognized expertise in koin Greek? What are the opinions of such people on the passage? Surely a percentage of opinions might give a good estimate of the likely hood of Earl being correct.

    In English all the references I’ve seen seem unambiguous. I’ve grown up in a culture that uses “brother or sister” frequently to mean, “member of the community”, but confusions is rare when someone is speaking about someone who is really the sibling of someone else. The use of the phrase in the part about James brother of the Lord,, and the other part about the lords brothers ans their wives, don’t seem like accepted usages of the communal brother usage, but it may look different in Greek.

    If sibling in and sibling of are not equivalent, then Brother of the Lord must means something different than brother in the lord, right?you wouldn’t use one phrase to mean the other.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Earl, I get what you are trying to do. It just doesn’t work. You have provided no evidence that the equivalence works in phrases such as these, and it seems clear to most people that the two are not equivalent.

    Yours is nor a simple argument. It is an attempt at trying to cloud a simple distinction in meaning between two distinct phrases so as to try to turn evidence for the historical Jesus into something else.

    I get it. What you are trying to do is clear. But I don’t find it persuasive. That isn’t the same thing as not getting it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Earl, I get what you are trying to do. It just doesn’t work. You have provided no evidence that the equivalence works in phrases such as these, and it seems clear to most people that the two are not equivalent.

    Yours is nor a simple argument. It is an attempt at trying to cloud a simple distinction in meaning between two distinct phrases so as to try to turn evidence for the historical Jesus into something else.

    I get it. What you are trying to do is clear. But I don’t find it persuasive. That isn’t the same thing as not getting it.

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    Let’s say that “brother of the Lord” meaning brother of Jesus is a sure thing, because that Jesus, as written by Paul himself, is a man, a descendant of Abraham, Jesse, David & Israelites, requiring a woman to come under the Law. He was poor, humble and crucified. Everything fits an earthly Jesus, including “brother of the Lord”.
    Of course, Doherty will raise doubts on each items I mentioned, always in dubious ways and claiming unevidenced options. Doherty will address each one separately, with a flurry of wording. Also let’s remember that ‘James, brother of Jesus’ is  also in Josephus’ Antiquities XX and the first gospel. More work for Doherty, more doubts to be raised.
    And again I ask these questions:
    But then if “in the Lord” is so rampant in the Pauline epistles, why Paul, in two instances, did not use “brother(s) in the Lord”, but instead “brother(s) of the Lord”?
    Why did Paul break his pattern in these two cases?
    More so if, according to Doherty,  “brother of the Lord” has the same meaning than “brother in the Lord”!

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    Let’s say that “brother of the Lord” meaning brother of Jesus is a sure thing, because that Jesus, as written by Paul himself, is Lord, a man, a descendant of Abraham, Jesse, David & Israelites, requiring a woman to come under the Law. He was poor, humble and crucified. Everything fits an earthly Jesus, including “brother of the Lord”.
    Of course, Doherty will raise doubts on each items I mentioned, always in dubious ways and claiming unevidenced options & suppositions. Doherty will address each one separately, with a flurry of wording. Also let’s remember that ‘James, brother of Jesus’ is  also in Josephus’ Antiquities XX and the first gospel. More work for Doherty, more doubts to be raised.
    And again I ask these questions:
    But then if “in the Lord” is so rampant in the Pauline epistles, why Paul, in two instances, did not use “brother(s) in the Lord”, but instead “brother(s) of the Lord”?
    Why did Paul break his pattern in these two cases?
    More so if, according to Doherty,  “brother of the Lord” has the same meaning than “brother in the Lord” (itself on shaky ground in Phil1:14)!
    More so when Paul never wrote “of the Lord” as a substitution for “in Christ” or “in the Lord” regarding his fellow-Christians.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Earl, how about for your next trick, you point out some instances in which “of” and “to” can be equivalent, and then claim that if Paul had really meant that James was Jesus’ blood sibling, he should have said he was “brother to the Lord”? :-)

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Earl, how about for your next trick, you point out some instances in which “of” and “to” can be equivalent, and then claim that if Paul had really meant that James was Jesus’ blood sibling, he should have said he was “brother to the Lord”? :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Bernard, your statement, “Everything fits an earthly Jesus, including “brother of the Lord”. is right on. It is true that Doherty disputes all the other evidence you listed, and I fall into the trap of allowing for that and trying to make an argument without all the evidence that Paul thinks this guy lived as a human on Earth. But all the arguments about the other parts are as you mentioned also based on odd understandings of the language. Only Doherty and his disciples think these are natural ways to read them.

    While we have clear references to an Earthly Jesus, we don’t have such to a Mythic Jesus like Doherty proposes that cannot be explained by what the current accepted theory assumes about Jesus, that after his death his followers thought he was raised to be a supernatural being. Instead of a clear reference to a mythic Christ, we have this argument that there is so little use made of the deeds and words of Jesus that Paul could not have have had a real person in mind as the source of his Christ. But Paul’s use of the Earthly Jesus 20+ years after the supposed death of him, are not really different from Christian works in general. It doesn’t seem surprising when you look a range of works from the first couple of centuries that hearsay about Jesus’ life are not used in arguments.

     So the only thing Doherty’s theory has going for it is Doherty’s rock solid opinion that Paul would have used this material in his letters. It may be good enough for Doherty and Neil, but it doesn’t seem stable enough to look for some explanation for why it seems Paul thinks Jesus was an Earthy human.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Bernard, your statement, “Everything fits an earthly Jesus, including “brother of the Lord”. is right on. It is true that Doherty disputes all the other evidence you listed, and I fall into the trap of allowing for that and trying to make an argument without all the evidence that Paul thinks this guy lived as a human on Earth. But all the arguments about the other parts are as you mentioned also based on odd understandings of the language. Only Doherty and his disciples think these are natural ways to read them.

    While we have clear references to an Earthly Jesus, we don’t have such to a Mythic Jesus like Doherty proposes that cannot be explained by what the current accepted theory assumes about Jesus, that after his death his followers thought he was raised to be a supernatural being. Instead of a clear reference to a mythic Christ, we have this argument that there is so little use made of the deeds and words of Jesus that Paul could not have have had a real person in mind as the source of his Christ. But Paul’s use of the Earthly Jesus 20+ years after the supposed death of him, are not really different from Christian works in general. It doesn’t seem surprising when you look a range of works from the first couple of centuries that hearsay about Jesus’ life are not used in arguments.

     So the only thing Doherty’s theory has going for it is Doherty’s rock solid opinion that Paul would have used this material in his letters. It may be good enough for Doherty and Neil, but it doesn’t seem stable enough to look for some explanation for why it seems Paul thinks Jesus was an Earthy human.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Earl and anyone else who may be interested, I just posted my thoughts on chapter 7 of Jesus: Neither God Nor Man.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Earl and anyone else who may be interested, I just posted my thoughts on chapter 7 of Jesus: Neither God Nor Man.


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