Mythicism: The Heart of the Matter?

I think that Neil Godfrey’s recent post on “fear of mythicism” raises what may be the most important issue in relation to mythicism. After listing numerous comments on this blog which make comparisons between mythicism and other fringe views such as creationism and holocaust denial, Godfrey writes:

I can read rational, evidence-based rebuttals of holocaust denial, psychic powers, creationism, etc.

I am reminded of why I left Christianity and belief in the Bible. The more I searched for answers the more I realized that there were no rational, evidence-based answers.

Perhaps it will be best to mention the latter point first, briefly. Accepting the historicity of Jesus is not about “belief in the Bible” or about “Christianity” but about the conclusions historians and other scholars of antiquity draw about the existence of a figure who at best partially resembled – and is certainly partly at variance from – the Jesus of Christian faith and dogma. This is a side issue, but it needed to be mentioned.

But the heart of the issue, for me, is that when one is an adherent to a particular fringe, then the arguments that persuade other people don’t persuade you. There are creationists who could say the following (and anyone who has been one or interacted with one will recognize this):

I can read rational, evidence-based rebuttals of holocaust denial, psychic powers,mythicism, etc.

I am reminded of why I left atheism and belief in the evolution. The more I searched for answers the more I realized that there were no rational, evidence-based answers.

And so the question is not whether there is evidence for mainstream knowledge. There is, and it is never perfect but it is in many cases persuasive for the vast majority of experts. The question is how one can communicate mainstream expertise to someone who is persuaded that what is true of other fringe viewpoints is not true of their own.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Am I right in thinking that this is the central issue, not in terms of the evidence, but in terms of communicating that evidence to those who insist on seeing things differently? For mythicist readers, how would you persuade a creationist who responded to your presentation of the evidence for evolution, or a holocaust-denier or some other fringe viewpoint, by saying something of this sort?

UPDATE: After reading this, I saw an article in the New York Times about Bayes, theorem, which has the following quote that seems relevant:

[P]eople wedded to their priors can always try to rescue them from the evidence by introducing all sorts of dodges.

Evidence is only persuasive if you are committed to following the evidence where it goes. And so although it has been suggested that the introduction of Bayesian logic might provide objective answers to questions such as the existence of the historical Jesus, the article suggests that even such a method may not be able to overcome the arbitrary setting of the likelihood of something extremely low – whether the topic is Jesus’ existence, vaccines causing autism, or anything else.

  • Jonathan Burke

    Good points James. It’s an example of ‘Why Scientific Consensus Fails to Persuade’.

    As the Mytherists demonstrate, acceptance or rejection of scholarly consensus by the public is often predicated by their preconceptions.

    ‘What it depends on, a recent study found, is not whether the position
    that scientist takes is consistent with the one endorsed by a National
    Academy. Instead, it is likely to depend on whether the position the
    scientist takes is consistent with the one believed by most people who
    share your cultural values.’

    http://nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=117697&org=NSF&from=news

    Neil’s explicit linking of belief in the historical Jesus to belief in Christianity, shows what’s underlying his entire position. Having rejected Christianity, he found it necessary to reject the historicity of Jesus, and it appears that rejection is now so entrenched in his rejection of Christianity that he fears it would undermine his atheism.

    I’m interested that he listed my comments among what he described as ‘vitriol’ and ‘outlandish accusations’. It’s a fact that there are Mytherists who follow the minimalists on archaeology, accept DM Murdock’s pygmy theories, reject germ theory, challenge the validity of vaccination, and doubt that HIV causes AIDS. The point here is that once someone is in the habit of rejecting the scholarly consensus in order to privilege fringe claims which support their views, it’s more likely that this Dunning-Kruger effect will manifest itself in their approach to other fields.

    This is why we see so many Mytherists holding fringe views on so many issues; once you’re in the habit of privileging fringe views over scholarly consensus, you’ll be vulnerable to picking up all kinds of weird ideas.

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

    I am reminded of why I left atheism and belief in the evolution. The
    more I searched for answers the more I realized that there were no
    rational, evidence-based answers.

    It is a false analogy to compare atheism with Christianity as if it is a “religious belief system”. Atheism is nothing like that, despite assertions by some to the contrary. Christianity is a set of doctrines and beliefs about a deity and man’s relationship to that god. It is beyond any means of “proof” in a real-world sense. (I know, answered prayer, inner convictions and experiences, etc. but that’ about it.)

    I left that behind for a more empirical outlook. Of course I expect Christians to disagree with my reasons etc, just as I once disagreed with those who left the faith. But we each chart our own course.

    As for the second, one can never leave evolution because there are no answers unless one has a very inept teacher or understanding of evolution.

    To try to compare leaving belief in evolution with leaving belief in the Bible is nonsense.

    By “belief in the Bible” I assume it is understood one means believing in its divine inspiration or its status as the real word of a real God. How can anyone compare leaving that sort of belief behind with leaving evolution for creationism?

    James’ analogy is a false one.

    Implicit in McGrath’s problem, I wonder, is the old Christian bias that anyone who leaves the faith must do so because they failed to understand or grasp something.

    (As for James’ point about the relation of the historicity of Jesus to any of this, it is irrelevant. My doubts about the historicity of Jesus came long after I tossed Christianity and belief in the Bible out of my life and were arrived at entirely through my interest in historical studies.)

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

    Is it instructive that a response to hostility and bigotry against mythicism should focus on something of a Christian’s  “psychoanalysis” of one who left Christianity and favours certain mythicist arguments?

    Is not this a little like the way dissidents somewhere were once taken away by the mental health squad for treatment? All very well meaning, of course.

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

    Neil, first of all this has nothing to do with anyone being or not being a Christian. My comparison is between mythicists saying that the evidence for a historical Jesus is insufficient, creationists saying the evidence for evolution is insufficient, anti-vaccinationists saying the evidence of a link to autism is sufficient, and so on ad infinitum. Everyone in any of these groups is persuaded that they are being reasonable, and indeed more reasonable than most other people. And to an outsider, they all seem pretty similar – not I terms of how each particular field of knowledge works, but in terms of the thinking behind rejecting mainstream conclusions and the conviction of knowing better than the experts.

    You say that anyone who rejects evolution was not taught well. That may well be true, although people manage to reject things even when they are taught well if they conflict with core beliefs and assumptions. And so I hesitate to insult those who may have taught history to mythicists, since it may well not be their fault.

    • Robert

      Except for the simple fact that the evidence for Jesus is insufficient to say much more than maybe and requires a personal opinion, informed or otherwise, whereas personal opinion is irrelevant with regards to the fact of evolution.

      You seem to be tyring to create a false equivalency here, Dr. McGrath.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //It is a false analogy to compare atheism with Christianity as if it is a “religious belief system”.//

    James didn’t represent atheism as a religious belief system. He simply demonstrated a transition from one viewpoint from another.

    //By “belief in the Bible” I assume it is understood one means believing
    in its divine inspiration or its status as the real word of a real God.
    How can anyone compare leaving that sort of belief behind with leaving
    evolution for creationism?//

    Please read James’ post. You have missed his point. His point is ‘when one is an adherent
    to a particular fringe, then the arguments that persuade other people
    don’t persuade you’. Creationism is a fringe view, Mytherism is a fringe view. The analogy is sound because both are fringe views.

    //Implicit in McGrath’s problem, I wonder, is the old Christian bias
    that anyone who leaves the faith must do so because they failed to
    understand or grasp something.//

    He hasn’t said or implied any such thing. Ironically, you actually said something like that yourself here:

    //As for the second, one can never leave evolution because there are
    no answers UNLESS ONE HAS A VERY INEPT TEACHER OR UNDERSTANDING OF EVOLUTION.//

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

    False equivalence and false comparisons.

    1. Everybody can be said to think the evidence for something they don’t believe is “insufficient” — no matter if they are fringers or mainstream-ers. So this is a useless basis for comparison.

    2. And “mythicists” is also as meaningless a concept as “historicists” in the abstract as it is used here. Francesco Carotta and Earl Doherty have nothing in common any more than Dan Brown or John Allegro have anything in common with Bruce Chilton or Dale Allison.

    3. On the other hand, those who deny evolution or the holocaust always have a substantial body of belief in common and will always find a basis to enable a conversation between them. That’s because they are “anti” something that is being advocated or researched.

    No-one is advocating a “Jesus existed” idea any more than anyone is promoting a “Julius Caesar existed” proposition (except as a reaction to mythicism, of course). There are bodies of opinion that are advancing knowledge of the fact of evolution and the holocaust. But there are no bodies of opinion advancing “Jesus really historically existed!”

    So the basis of comparison is a meaningless one (point 1) and the equivalence is invalid (points 2 and 3).

  • http://www.didaskelion.org Erlend

    I actually had a similar thought a few days ago. I wrote these comments in reply to an enthusiastic review of Fitzgerald’s Nailed. I know it doesn’t apply to all mythicist research (I actually find some of Godfrey’s remarks interesting, and I am looking forward to Verenna’s comments). Anyway:

    Maybe you had this experience too; but I remember reading a book arguing for creationism, it was well-written, finessed, and aid out all this data, had charts and figures, asked thoroughly compelling questions, and well, just seemed to reveal that the whole academy of science was just wrong- demonstrably wrong. Thankfully, through reading peer-reviewed, academic scientific studies I am no longer a creationist. I realized the lines they were given me were rhetorical, the gaping holes they pointed out that seemed just so persuasive and ground breaking were, once I became more scientifically literate, a chimera of rhetorical making. The questions they strung together just did not make sense once you realized the field,-and I noticed that I would need to read several books just to reveal a error in one dot in their whole join-the-dots technique spread across a chapter. 

    At the end of it I felt rather embarrassed that I listened to self-published, amateur scholarship, that I didn’t spot that despite the thousands of scientists there were in the world, it seemed to be only those with marginal nor tentative qualifications in the field though this was ground-breaking and became fawning enthusiastic devotees of pseudo-science.

    I imagine I could have replicated this experience by reading Fitzgerald’s well-written work, but this time I prevailed through being literate in the field that was being abused. I have read portions (hopefully I will find time to read all) of Fitzgerald’s work and well, I am hardly impressed. It string out these pearls and holes in the historical record, and in a curious historical employment of the god-of-the-gaps argument, exclaims ‘see there is must not have been a historical Jesus’! You might find it compelling, I find it thoroughly underwhelming. It completely misunderstands the scholarly understanding of Jesus that has taken centuries to formulate, preferring (especially evidence in Myth #2 and #4 attack). But I suppose that is fitting. Much of mythicists salvos are intended to reach and counter apologetics, and while his supporters cheer them on their trajectory with glee, they glide seamlessly over centuries of sober scholarship unnoticed.

  • Jonathan Burke

    Neil, let’s look at your points.
     
    1. You’re not addressing what James wrote. He pointed out that ‘when one is an adherent to a particular fringe, then the arguments that persuade other people don’t persuade you’. That is a fact, and that is what you are not addressing. Certainly it could be said that everyone has one or two issues concerning which they’re not convinced of arguments which convince others, but in the case of fringe beliefs like Mytherism, arguments that persuade *virtually everyone else* (including third party neutral observers), don’t persuade Mytherists. This is significant. In their rejection of arguments which persuade virtually everyone else, adherents to fringe views must make the ever increasingly unsustainable claim that *everyone else* is biased, and *everyone else* is wrong, while the adherent (who has the most to gain from being right, and is the least objective in their assessment of the issue), is actually right. This is the case with Creationists, and it’s the case with Mytherists.
    2.Like every other fringe group, what Mytherists have in common (unsurpringly), is a commitment to a specific viewpoint; in this case the Mytherist viewpoint. Every Mytherist has this in common with every other Mytherist. What Mytherists also typically have in common are a rejection of scholarly consensus, the privileging of amateur writings over peer reviewed professional literature, and the repeated insistence that those who do not share the Mytherist view are insufficiently informed, or biased. This is also the case with Creationists, and it’s the case with other adherents to fringe beliefs.
    3. Mytherists also have a substantial body of belief in common, though even if they didn’t it wouldn’t change James’ point. Whether or not they are ‘anti’ something that is being advocated or researched (and there’s plenty of evidence that they are), is irrelevant to the point James is making.

    You are not actually addressing James’ points of comparison. Specifically, you are not addressing the concordance between the adherents of Mytherism and the adherents of other fringe groups.

    Robert:
    //Except for the simple fact that the evidence for Jesus is insufficient to say much more than maybe and requires a personal opinion, informed or otherwise, whereas personal opinion is irrelevant with regards to the fact of evolution.//
    Creationists say ‘the evidence for evolution is insufficient to say much more than maybe and requires a personal opinion, informed or otherwise, whereas personal opinion is irrelevant with regard to the fact of the Creator.’ That line of reasoning doesn’t get you anywhere.

    • Robert

      //Creationists say ‘the evidence for evolution is insufficient to say much more than maybe and requires a personal opinion, informed or otherwise, whereas personal opinion is irrelevant with regard to the fact of the Creator.’ That line of reasoning doesn’t get you anywhere.//

      What Creationists say is irrelevant, the facts speak for themselves.

      Which facts do you propose I consider with regards to the possible existence of a single person a couple thousand years ago for which the only actual evidence is highly mythologized religious texts?   

      However, your response does speak volumes, I suppose…   

  • Jonathan Burke

    Here’s a list of typical arguments from a fringe belief adherent.

    1. The scholarly consensus is wrong.
    2. Even professional scholars can make mistakes, and unqualified layment can be right.
    3. The established scholarship in this field is biased.
    4. Professionals in this field are not to be trusted.
    5. Apparent evidence contradicting the fringe view is actually the result of misinterpretation due to carelessness or bias, or has been forged.
    6. Any appeal to qualified professionals in this field is an illegitimate appeal to authority.
    7. Opinions of unqualified adherents of the fringe view are of at least the same value as the statements of qualified professionals.
    8. Those who do not accept the fringe view reject it because they’ve been improperly educated as to its merits, or because they are irrevocably biased by preconceptions.
    9. Adherents of the fringe view are not biased towards maintaing it; they are rational and objective.
    10. Opponents of the fringe view are motivated by fear that the truth will be revealed.

    Can you tell which fringe view I have in mind? Is it Creationism? Is it anthropogenic climate change denial? Is it anti-vaccinationism? Is it something else? What is it?

  • Jonathan Burke

    Neil, you would have to acknowledge that the number of fringe beliefs held among Mytherists (though not by all Mytherists), does not encourage the idea that Mytherists are sober rational people who have a more objective approach to assessing evidence than others. What’s significant is that in such a small fringe group, we find such a high density of people who believe in anti-vaccinationism, denial of HIV/AIDS link, denial of germ theory, global civilization of genius pygmies, and archaeological minimalism.

    It seems that Mytherisim attracts people who are drawn to fringe theories, but who don’t analyze them critically. 

  • Jonathan Burke

    //What Creationists say is irrelevant, the facts speak for themselves.//

    Unfortunately Creationists also say ‘What evolutionists say is irrelevant, the facts speak for themselves’. You can understand how frustrating it is when they don’t accept peer reviewed scholarly literature and the academic consensus as having any value.

    //Which facts do you propose I consider with regards to the possible existence of a single person a couple thousand years ago for which the only actual evidence is highly mythologized religious texts?//

    You could start with the fact that the actual evidence consists of more than just highly mythologized religious texts. Were you aware of this?

  • Robert

    Cool Jonathan, how about providing me with an example?

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

    I am looking forward to Jonathan’s reply, but before he gives it, I want to ask something in relation to the comparison at the heart of my post. When presented with evidence of homology and genetics, creationists may say “God just made them that way.” When presented with evidence from textual sources, mythicists may say “Maybe they just made that up” or “Maybe that is an interpolation.” And in both cases, unless one is committed to drawing the most straitforward and probable conclusion from the evidence, then one can manage to harmonize the evidence with the view one already holds.

    And so before Jonathan risks wasting hours presenting evidence that may fall in deaf ears, let me ask about my comparison with creationism. What sort of evidence would persuade you that there was a historical Jesus? If no text would, then it is important to know that up front. And then the more pertinent question becomes whether you reject the existence of all the many ancient figures we know of only through textual sources, or whether Jesus is the only one.

    • Robert

      Evidence for a historical Jesus could be texts, Dr. McGrath. I am not a strict mythicist, my position is that we do not have good enough evidence with the texts we do have to draw a conclusion. However, I see no real reason why an historical Jesus is necessary to explain Christianity, based on the current evidence, so I simply do not assume one in the first place.

      In my view, the Greek translation of Hebrew scripture and period thought seems to have been early Christianities main sources for Jesus and as such, the requirement for an actual Jesus seems superfluous.

      So, which other figure, from history, who can be almost completely reconstructed from pre-existing literature and contemporary thought would you view as likely historical?

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

    @Robert, thank you for saying more about where you are coming from. I appreciate it!

    I don’t accept what I understand to be the premise of your final sentence, namely that the details about Jesus in early Christian sources can be derived almost entirely from earlier texts. There is certainly some truth in what you say, which has a fairly obvious explanation: early Christians believed Jesus to be the long awaited Davidic Anointed One, and so they were bound to apply texts that were understood to pertain to that figure to Jesus. But Jesus is a human rather than angelic name, and the anointed one from the line of David was an expectation about kingship involving a human figure. And so the suggestion that Jesus was invented faces some inherent problems there as well. But returning to the main point in this comment, there are a great many claims in the New Testament that Jesus fulfilled Scripture, but there are also numerous instances of those texts fitting him poorly, which rather suggests that a person and Scripture a being crowbarred together, rather than that the figure is being invented from them. Indeed, if Jesus were invented as a mythical messiah, then it is hard to explain why the early Christians invented one that is so much at odds with what a Davidic Messiah was expected to be like.

    • Robert

      All good points, especially from the generally held view. However, it seems to me that the specific question you raise was, in a way, being argued in the second century by the heresiologists. As only one side of those arguments generally survives, it seems a bit abitrary to reach a conclusion based on them.

      If Marcion was correct in that his texts did better reflect the originals, then you we may need to seriously consider the possiblity that we are dealing with a “history” that was attached after the fact, maybe for the purpose of creating authority for one group over another, which I think the evidence does actually seem to support.

      As I said earlier, we simply do not have the evidence necessary to reach a conclusion, one way or the other.

  • Robert

    …and as far as Jesus being derived entirely from texts. I actually said that Jesus can be derived from texts and contemporary thought.

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

    Thanks for replying. The view that Marcion’s versions were the original form is one that is popular among mythicists. Unfortunately, the texts in question, even in their Marcionite form inasmuch as we can recover it, still were at odds with Marcion’s view of the Jewish Scriptures and of Jesus’ connection (or lack thereof) with the Jewish God. And so there is a good reason why the suggestion that Marcion’s versions were original has not been found persuasive by the majority of textual critics and scholars of the New Testament.

    If the question is whether there is room to doubt the existence of Jesus, then the answer is obviously yes. But if the question is whether, following the direction the evidence points, it is reasonable to conclude that there was most likely a historical Jesus, then I would say that the answer to that question is yes as well.

    • Robert

      Thanks, however, the only way for one to conclude that Marcion’s texts “still were at odds with Marcion’s view of Jewish Scriptures and of Jesus’s connection” is to rely on the surviving works of his enemies. So, I remain unconvinced in that regard, especially considering the fact that Marcion’s stranger God theology makes quite a bit more sense than the winning brand, (as far as such things go), so I would not assume that he was not smart enough to realize that his own texts contradicted his theology, if they, in fact, did so.  

    • Robert

      If the evidence at hand actually reflects history, than I would agree.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Cool Jonathan, how about providing me with an example?//

    Sure, we could start with the reference in Josephus.

    //So, which other figure, from history, who can be almost completely
    reconstructed from pre-existing literature and contemporary thought
    would you view as likely historical?//

    John the Baptist, Philo of Alexandria, Josephus, Caiaphas, Hillel, Shammai, Bar Kochba, David (king of Israel), just off the top of my head.

    • Robert

      Are you being serious?

      As an aside, I think you mis-interpreted my question regarding an historical figure and pre-existing literature. 

  • Jonathan Burke

    Yes I am being serious. Why do you think I’m not being serious? Jon the Baptist could have been made up from Elijah, Philo and Josephus could have been made up from Jewish ‘wise man’ traditions’, Caiphas, Hillel and Shammai could have been made up from ‘great teacher’ traditions, Bar Kochba of course could have been made from any ‘hero’ tradition, as could David.

    • Robert

      Ok. Other than JtB, whom in Elijah guise is traceable, tell me which specific pre-existing literature can be used to create either Philo or Josephus. Understanding that we are not discussing generalities, but specifics like found within the Jesus story. 

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

    @Robert, it is also a matter of examining our earliest copies of texts, and the fact that in them, much that is antithetical to Marcionism is there in the same style as the rest of the work and interwoven into the very warp and woof of it.

    As I said, if the question is whether a bunch of Gentile Christians could have taken Marcionite texts and added things that emphasized continuity with Judaism, and managed to give the impression that things were exactly the other way around? In theory. But it certainly isn’t likely, and I have never heard a plausible explanation of why these Gentile Christians, who were as much at odds with Jewish Christians as with Marcion in important respects, would have done this – or taking this conspiracy approach further, why they would have invented he existence of Jewish Christians along with Jewish roots for their own faith. This scenario fits poorly with the surviving evidence, and doesn’t make good historical sense, and so I am at a loss to understand why someone would find it preferable to the consensus of mainstream historians.

    • Robert

      I would never underestimate the Roman reverence for antiquity, especially with reference to religious matters. If early Christians found their saviour god in the Jewish scriptures, one of the first issues that they would need to deal with would be the chosen people, who were of course, not them. Marcion did it by positing a superior god, so we do have evidence that this actually occured.  

      Regarding the surviving manuscripts, they are all too late to address the period in question. 

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

    @Robert, it is also a matter of examining our earliest copies of texts, and the fact that in them, much that is antithetical to Marcionism is there in the same style as the rest of the work and interwoven into the very warp and woof of it.

    As I said, if the question is whether a bunch of Gentile Christians could have taken Marcionite texts and added things that emphasized continuity with Judaism, and managed to give the impression that things were exactly the other way around? In theory. But it certainly isn’t likely, and I have never heard a plausible explanation of why these Gentile Christians, who were as much at odds with Jewish Christians as with Marcion in important respects, would have done this – or taking this conspiracy approach further, why they would have invented he existence of Jewish Christians along with Jewish roots for their own faith. This scenario fits poorly with the surviving evidence, and doesn’t make good historical sense, and so I am at a loss to understand why someone would find it preferable to the consensus of mainstream historians.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Ok. Other than JtB, whom in Elijah guise is traceable, tell me which
    specific pre-existing literature can be used to create either Philo or
    Josephus. Understanding that we are not discussing generalities, but
    specifics like found within the Jesus story.//

    It’s easy, the Old Testament and the Jewish apocryphal writings provide plenty of ‘wise man’ traditions; any of the Solomonic literature for a start. What did these guys do? Nothing, they just wrote stuff and expounded the Bible. They’re not known for doing anything else. Their characters are so completely two dimensional they’re easily crafted out of literary scraps.

    Here’s the story of Philo:

    * Once upon a time there was a wise man called Philo; he was almost as wise as Solomon, and people called him the second Sirach, and he sat around and wrote Bible commentary all day like Ezra, of which the following is a collection

    Here’s the story of Josephus:

    * Once upon a time there was a man raised in a priestly family just like Abiathar, but he thought the priesthood was corrupt, just like Samuel, so he left it and then when the Romans took Jerusalem he joined the Romans like Eliashib and urged the Jews to give up and submit to their foreign rulers, like Noadiah, but mainly he just wrote lots of history stuff and some things about the Bible

    This stuff is easy, there’s virtually nothing about their lives which is remotely unique, not least because we have virtually no information about their lives whatsoever.

    • Robert

      Generalities.

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

    You seem to be content to have mythicism be possible, rather than asking whether it is likely that a form of anti-Judaism without Jewish roots would then evolve into a movement that embraced Jewish roots while still rejecting Judaism. It cannot be said to be impossible, but again, I am not sure why you would consider it likely.

    The manuscripts scholars of early Christianity have at their disposal are closer to the time when they are likely to have been written, than those that most other historians of antiquity have to work with. And so unless one is going to forego trying to reconstruct ancient history using textual sources, then the appropriate approach is to ask what the best conclusion is that we can draw based on the available evidence, rather than speculate about what might have been the case if the evidence were different, or spend lots of time worrying that all of our ancient texts could be part of a late conspiracy to invent a fictional ancient history for humankind.

    • Robert

      Sure, but the evidence points to significant contention during the period prior to our ms evidence. Isn’t it simply “sweeping it under the rug” to ignore it? I am not sure what you mean by conspiracy, since we are dealing with faith based propositions.

      I have no reason to believe that the church fathers were lying. I do have reason to believe that they may have been mistaken.

      Regarding being content to have mythicism be a possibility, I am not sure what you mean. It either is a possibility or it is not. That is the question at hand, wouldn’t you agree?

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Generalities.//

    Of course generalities, that’s all we have of Philo and Josephus; generalities. We have absolutely nothing specific about them whatsoever other than what is allegedly written by themselves, about themselves (and in the case of Philo that is virtually nothing).

    What you should be doing is comparing Jesus with other first century messianic and prophetic figures. Why is it that out of all the numerous first century messianic and prophetic figures, the one who resulted in the greatest amount of attestation in textual records is the one whose historicity is doubted?

    That Jesus was a historical figure is not an extraordinary claim, so why should it require extraordinary evidence? First century Judea was littered with messianic claimants and prophets, the vast majority of which receive only a sentence in Josephus and an occasional footnote in one or two of the Roman records. No one disputes their historicity, even though we have next to nothing in the way of evidence for them.

    What you should be looking for is any evidence that first century Jewish messianic movements focused on specific individuals, were actually invented completely out of literary material without a real historical figure.

    You’ll quickly find that there aren’t any, and this means the Mytherist claim is forced to argue that the Jesus movement was absolutely unique in first century Judea, not merely for its success but for the fact that it was the *only* Jewish messianic movement of the era which was focused on a specific individual, but did not regard that individual as a historical figure. That is an extraordinary claim, and requires extraordinary evidence.

    • Robert

      I am not looking for extraordinary evidence. I am looking for any evidence of the person. What I have is evidence of a god…

  • Jonathan Burke

    //I am not looking for extraordinary evidence. I am looking for any
    evidence of the person.//

    What’s wrong with Josephus’ reference to Jesus as a person? What’s wrong with Paul’s description of Jesus as a man who was humiliatingly crucified?

    //What I have is evidence of a god…//

    Given that all the descriptions of Jesus in the gospels describe him as a man who became tired, angry, suffered pain, wept, and died, given Paul’s description of Jesus as a man, given all the descriptions of Jesus in the Acts as specifically ‘a man’, and ‘a man appointed by God’, and given that Jesus was not thought of as a divine being until the second century, what evidence are you talking about?

    • Robert

      //  …and given that Jesus was not thought of as a divine being until the second century, what evidence are you talking about? //

      I think we have a fundamental disagreement regarding the content and meaning of the first century epistolic literature. As such, I am unsure of how to continue this discussion. If you honestly believe that Jesus was not viewed as a divine being until the second century, while adhereing to the standard model regarding the composition of the NT documents, I am at a loss. 

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

    @Robert, I find the question whether mythicism is possible uninteresting, since few views are strictly speaking impossible, if one is willing to dismiss evidence as unreliable or make lots of ad hoc assumptions. The only interesting historical question is whether it is probable. And it is not.

    The problem seems to be that you are looking for the divine Jesus of Christian dogma, without realizing that he isn’t there in the earliest sources. And in particular if you are talking of the Gospel of Luke, which Marcion preferred, you won’t find a divine or pre-existent Jesus in there at all. Is it the Christ of later Christian doctrine you are interested in discussing? Then why not accept mainstream scholarship’s conclusion that he is a later development? Or is it the historical Jesus you are interested in? If the latter, then you will need to actually start paying attention to the details of early Christian texts as read historically, rather than the uses to which later Christian apologetics puts them.

    • Robert

      // I find the question whether mythicism is possible uninteresting, since few views are strictly speaking impossible, if one is willing to dismiss evidence as unreliable or make lots of ad hoc assumptions. The only interesting historical question is whether it is probable. And it is not. //

      That’s fine, though I find many of the assumptions on the other side of this discussion to be just as ad hoc. I agree that evidence should not simply be dismissed, but I also believe that, as we are dealing with textual evidence, one should be cautious as to one’s conclusions concerning the veracity of the content of said evidence.

      I disagree, emphatically, with this statement:

      //The problem seems to be that you are looking for the divine Jesus of Christian dogma, without realizing that he isn’t there in the earliest sources.//

      The earliest Christian sources are the writings of Paul, (whose writings, arguably, happen to enter history under the possession of Marcion). Jesus is nothing, if not a divine being, in these writings. However, as I assume you know Paul, perhaps you are referring to earlier sources of which I am unaware. If so, please tell me what those earlier sources may have been.

      It also seems that you are parroting the arguments of the Church fathers, regarding Marcion. As I earlier said, while I take their arguments into consideration, they are still, simply, one side of an apologetic argument. As such, I feel that it is prudent to be very cautious when drawing specific conclusions from them. You mention Marcion’s use of Luke, but we know that Marcion’s gospel was unattributed and do not have his words with which to impeach, or verify, the statement.

      The bottom line, for me, is that the existing evidence seems to clearly point to a divine figure at the earliest strata, of the Christian record, Paul’s revealed savior “Christ Jesus”. Perhaps this is where the root of the contention between historicists and mythicists is to be found.

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

    Yep, I came to this conclusion myself. That the regular mythicist commenters held their beliefs for purely emotional reasons and arguments based on reason would not be persuasive.  They are a lot like Bart Ehrman’s forgers, who don’t see a problem with lying if that’s what it takes to spread the important message.  In some cases the lying may even be to themselves, but I’ll let their psychologist work that out.  
     
    Neil was quick to demonstrate your point, James, with his response that you analogy doesn’t work because his beliefs are true facts, while beliefs he doesn’t hold are clearly false.  His inability to critically analyze his beliefs is the source of his problem in trying to present his ideas.  Case in point, look at his series on midrash. It absolutely fails to demonstrate his thesis, but he can’t see that because he believes his thesis is true and his mind fills in the blanks. For Neil, to not be a mythicist is to be a Christian with belief in the Bible. It is his atheist dogma, but he can’t conceive of that because he cannot conceive of a rational person who would not agree with him. It like the argument that the only religion is Christianity and everything else is superstition. I am tempted to feel sorry for him, but I think at the heart of such thinking is an unhealthy egotism.
    This brings me to the irony of “Is it instructive that a response to hostility and bigotry against mythicism should focus on something of a Christian’s  “psychoanalysis” of one who left Christianity and favours certain mythicist arguments?”  Since mythicist often see scholarly opposition to mythicism as grounded in faith, and not at all rational but purely, “hostility and bigotry”.  There are for them no two sides to an argument; there is their truth and deception. Look how they’re going after Tom V. for being merely agnostic on the issue.

  • Gakuseidon

    I think they are going after Thomas Verenna more for his friendly association with James McGrath than on his agnosticism towards a HJ.

    I don’t think accusations of lying help anyone. I’ve been accused of lying, distortion, misrepresentation, vendettas, etc, by mythicists numerous times, and since I know it isn’t true, it (mostly!) doesn’t bother me. And I don’t believe for a moment that Neil is lying to us or even to himself, nor any mythicist doing that for that matter. Nor should we be psychoanalysing mythicists for why they are mythicists. It doesn’t matter, because in the end it comes down to the evidence. If the historicist side is a better fit for the evidence (which I believe is the case), then that is enough to go on with.

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

      Don, you may be right on Tom, and for historians, it is the evidence that matters. I do think however, that the wide spread acceptance of a good many pseudo-scientific positions are not based simply on people with different interpretations of evidence.  It isn’t a matter of educating people with a rational argument.  It is psychological, and I do think that a lot of the promoters of pseudo-science, be they creationist, racist, or the homely and harmless Bigfoot hunter, are engaged in deceit.   While these opinions aren’t a real concern for professionals and specialist (no one is being turned down from university positions because of their support for evolution) they are thriving in the populous, and that ultimately affects public education.  I think it is healthy to question the status quo on any of the issues championed by pseudo-scientific thinkers, but at a certain point you have to acknowledge that the level of argument is no longer honest and rational and instead is merely a swindle.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    “But the heart of the issue, for me, is that when one is an adherent to a particular fringe, then the arguments that persuade other people don’t persuade you.”

    James, I think you are on to something here, but the next question is, why don’t it persuade them. I think it is directly related to a person’s value system that was developed in childhood from their environment. As a person grows they are exposed to numerous experiences that play a major role in developing their various values and opinions, some very strong and some not so strong. After time this develops into a distinct personality. So for example, someone who was raised to think that violence was a viable solution to deal with problems, would find arguments advocating peace unpersuasive. So this process would not simply apply to a “particular fringe” but to everyone. What would constitute a particular fringe would be the relatively small group of people who possess a similar set of uncommon values. Since values are actually beliefs, they can either be very strong, thoroughly ingrained into a person or they can be rather weak. So the persuasive factor is proportional to how strongly entrenched the opposing values are set.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

    “I am reminded of why I left atheism and belief in the evolution. The more I searched for answers the more I realized that there were no rational, evidence-based answers.”

    That certainly sounds like a candidate for
    motivated reasoning.

    • Anonymous

      John, you know that nobody actually said that statement, don’t you? That is Dr. McGrath’s re-phrasing of a different statement.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

        Opps, I somehow cut and pasted the wrong blockquote. The point remains for the correct one.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Evidence is only persuasive if you are committed to following the evidence where it goes.

     And if there is investment (the human condition), there is no following.  That stings us all.

    James, I did not understand your last long sentence.  Could you rephrase that?

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    I think there is another important psychological principle.  The one you mention is:

    (1) ‘when one is an adherent 
    to a particular fringe, then the arguments that persuade other people don’t persuade you’.

    But let’s see if I can phrase the second:

    (2)when one is an adherent to a majority opinions, then arguments that persuade you tend to be those that persuade the masses.

    There does seem to be a temperament spectrum from (1) Rebel/Independent  to (2) Follower/Dependent.
    And that temperament (like all temperament settings) does influence (though not determine), our choices and preferences.  Inescapable.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //The earliest Christian sources are the writings of Paul, (whose
    writings, arguably, happen to enter history under the possession of
    Marcion). Jesus is nothing, if not a divine being, in these writings.//

    Do you understand why standard scholarship does not consider Jesus to be a divine being in Paul’s writings?

    //It also seems that you are parroting the arguments of the Church
    fathers, regarding Marcion. As I earlier said, while I take their
    arguments into consideration, they are still, simply, one side of an
    apologetic argument. As such, I feel that it is prudent to be very
    cautious when drawing specific conclusions from them.//

    Both Marcion and the early fathers were writing with personal agendas, but Marcion far more than the early fathers. I don’t believe it’s reasonable to privilege Marcion’s writings over those of his critics; typically a source is treated with a hermeneutic of suspicion, and read in the light of critical sources (which are taken seriously).

    //If you honestly believe that Jesus was not viewed as a divine being
    until the second century, while adhereing to the standard model
    regarding the composition of the NT documents, I am at a loss.//

    Yes that’s what I believe. Why do you believe Jesus is already viewed as a divine being in Paul’s writings? Why do you believe Jesus is viewed as a divine being in the first century? Where can you find Jesus as a divine being in the gospels, or Paul’s letters, or the Didache? Bear in mind that you need to read these writings in the context of Second Temple Period Judaism, not 4th century Hellenized Christianity.

  • Robert

    Jonathan, I suppose that I am amazed by your position. To take the position that Paul is not writing about a god seems, prima facie, ridiculous.

  • Robert

    //Both Marcion and the early fathers were writing with personal agendas, but Marcion far more than the early fathers. I don’t believe it’s reasonable to privilege Marcion’s writings over those of his critics; typically a source is treated with a hermeneutic of suspicion, and read in the light of critical sources (which are taken seriously).//

    This is simply your bias. It is not that I privilege one over the other, it’s that the evidence is incomplete and, therefore, withhold judgment and cannot simply assume one over the other.

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

    Robert, can you please indicate what leads you to believe that Jesus is ‘a god’ for Paul. I suspect that you are reading these texts through the lens of Christian dogma. to be sure, Paul regards Jesus as having been exalted by God to a super-high position after his crucifixion (Philippians 2:6-11), a position emphatically still subordinate to that of God, not to mention one that is higher than any he previously occupied, and bestowed on him by God rather than his own inherent possession.

    • Robert

      You might be implying that I view Paul as a Trinitarian. I do not. However, this has nothing to do with whether or not Paul’s “Kyrios” was a god. That conclusion is well supported by the Pauline literature iteself. I am not even arguing against an adoptionist position. I am arguing that Christ Jesus, in Paul, is for all intents and purposes a divine being, a god. 

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

      I think the hang-up is revealed here, “I am arguing that Christ Jesus, in Paul, is for all intents and purposes a divine being, a god.”

      This is like argueing that American Christians are polytheist because for all intents and puposes, the pledge of allegence is worshiping the flag as a god, and then using that to argue there must have been some deviation from non-American Christianity because it is monotheistic.  Of course the fact is is most americans don’t think they are worshiping another god when the cover their hearts with their hands and swear allegience to a symbol representing a non material concept.

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

    Please answer my question. What primary texts do you have in mind? Surely you can provide some, if the matter is as clear cut as you suggest?

    • Robert

      Dr. McGrath, I don’t know if you are being facetious or not, but are you seriously telling me that it is your position that Paul’s Christ Jesus is not a divine being?

      Do you want a full listing? How about this one to start with?

      Who [Christ Jesus], existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with
      God something to be used to his advantage, but emptied himself, taking the
      form of a servant, coming to be in the likeness of human beings. And being found
      in outward appearance as a human being, 8 he humbled himself, becoming obedience
      unto death, even the death of a cross.

      You have got to be kidding with me…

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

    @Sabio:disqus , thanks for pointing out the misplaced BLOCKQUOTE tag, which I fixed.
    The last sentence was an attempt to indicate a direct relevance of the article to the topic here, since it suggests that Bayesian reasoning depends on how one sets the probabilities and likelihoods, which is not immune from our prior assumptions. And so it doesn’t seem to me, if the article is correct, that the introduction of an explicit Bayesian approach by Richard Carrier, for instance, will settle the question to everyone’s satisfaction.

    Hmm, I’m not sure if that sentence is any better. Let me know if I need to try again after coffee…  :)

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Jonathan, I suppose that I am amazed by your position. To take the
    position that Paul is not writing about a god seems, prima facie,
    ridiculous.//

    Could you please put your case? I’ll declare my case, with relevant reference to the Second Temple Period milieu.

    //This is simply your bias.//

    It’s not my bias, it’s standard practice. When a self-promoting source such as Marcion makes claims it is treated with a hermeneutic of suspicion, and comments by its critics are used to provide a more balanced view. This is how all ancient sources are treated, including the Bible, so why make an exception in the case of Marcion? I am not saying that everything the early Fathers said against Marcion is correct, I am simply saying you can’t dismiss their views just because they’re criticizing him.

    //It is not that I privilege one over the other,
    it’s that the evidence is incomplete and, therefore, withhold judgment
    and cannot simply assume one over the other.//

    You privilege Marcion over his critics when you treat his views of the New Testament as a valid source of its meaning and interpretation, despite his clear agenda and self-declared alteration of the text in his possession.

    A good comparison would be Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, being criticized by his 19th century evangelical Christian detractors. Certainly Smith’s detractors had a strong personal motivation to criticize Joseph Smith’s claims, but that is not to say we should privilege Smith’s claims over their criticism.

    • Robert

      Please Jonathan, do not presume to speak for my motives. I already told you my exact position, quite plainly.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //However, this has nothing to do with whether or not Paul’s “Kyrios” was a
    god. That conclusion is well supported by the Pauline literature
    iteself. I am not even arguing against an adoptionist position. I am
    arguing that Christ Jesus, in Paul, is for all intents and purposes a
    divine being, a god.//

    Could you please provide your argument, with quotations from the relevant Pauline writings and an explanation of how your conclusions cohere with the Second Temple Period context?

  • Earl Doherty

    The logical and blatant error that is being made on this blog (and elsewhere, of course) in comparing mythicism with creationism is evident in remarks by Jim (and by Jonathan, though I’ll leave him for now). Let me first point out that conclusions are being drawn simply on the basis of making the comparison—and it’s mostly a semantic one, carrying over terms from one to the other—and treating it as though this exercise is by itself a valid procedure with valid conclusions to be drawn from it. But that assumption of validity on the part of Jim and Jonathan and many others here is not logic-based or evidence-based. No attempt is made to apply logic and evidence to decide if the semantic comparison is legitimate. It is based on their desire to have it so. The fact that they seem oblivious to this reveals the force of their bias and the deficiencies in their critical thinking.

    After turning around a quote from Neil about leaving Christianity for acceptance of atheism and evolution, and substituting the point of view of a creationist who left atheism and evolution for creationism (an entirely theoretical one, since creationists don’t tend to have made such a journey), Jim says:

    “And so the question is not whether there is evidence for mainstream knowledge. There is, and it is never perfect but it is in many cases persuasive for the vast majority of experts. The question is how one can communicate mainstream expertise to someone who is persuaded that what is true of other fringe viewpoints is not true of their own.”

    Now, since the Matrix and its denizens do not subscribe to creationism (as far as I know) and regard it as a “fringe” position deserving of ridicule and rejection per se, by making the comparison with mythicism accompanied by no attempt to justify it Jim is applying that negative outlook to mythicism as an inbuilt element of the comparison. It’s a type of begging the question. Then he (and others) proceed to state conclusions about mythicism that are simply based on the negative association he has imposed upon it. Creationism is ridiculous; let’s substitute terms and demonstrate thereby that mythicism is ridiculous. This is a logic-based and evidence-based process? Apparently to Jim and Jonathan it is.

    In the final sentence of Jim’s quote above, Jim is in effect asking, how can we experts, who are persuaded to our position by our reading of the evidence, demonstrate to those kooky fringe mythicists that what is true of those kooky fringe creationists is also true of them? There is no examination or weighing of evidence or logic here, no consideration of how mythicists read the evidence for themselves, let alone a comparison of how mythicists handle evidence vs. how creationists handle evidence, but a mere dismissal of one set of alleged kooks by association with an acknowledged set of other kooks. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this sort of horrendously pseudo-‘argument’ is that historicists should expect that any neutral observer, let alone mythicists themselves, ought to be persuaded by it! Yet it seems to be one of the most highly-regarded weapons in their arsenal.

    Jim goes on to lament: “Am I right in thinking that this is the central issue, not in terms of the evidence, but in terms of communicating that evidence to those who insist on seeing things differently? For mythicist readers, how would you persuade a creationist who responded to your presentation of the evidence for evolution, or a holocaust-denier or some other fringe viewpoint, by saying something of this sort?”

    Jim, of course, accepts no responsibility either for the weakness of the evidence for historicism which somehow we blind and biased mythicists cannot see or refuse to accept, or for his own refusal to honestly and open-mindedly evaluate the other side’s interpretation of that same evidence. By now, we all know that he is so adamantly opposed to the very thought of mythicism that he refuses to even describe the arguments in my book in any way that might remotely suggest they could have the slightest merit or validity. And once more, the final sentence above asks a question which is loaded with his begged-the-question comparison: “For mythicist readers, how would you persuade those kooky creationists they are kooks, and isn’t that the same situation we historicists face with you?”

    Jim wraps up by making more highly-prejudiced comparisons: the “arbitrary” and “extremely low” (undemonstrated) likelihood of the non-existence of Jesus is on a par with vaccines causing autism. Well, the ‘science’ which originally produced the latter has been scientifically discredited, and even a certain degree of fraud was uncovered. Has Jim or historicism demonstrated this in regard to mythicism? Hardly. The problem is, he thinks so, based on the kinds of invalid argumentation he regularly indulges in such as the present one, on a priori rejection and condemnation which is somehow seen as self-evident, and above all on his constant appeals to authority.

    And I don’t know whether he realizes that he has things backwards. Creationism is the traditional viewpoint, going back thousands of years, backed by all sorts of ‘proofs’ and evidence which those advocating it have appealed to over the millennia. Mythicism is the new kid on the block, with its own way of looking at that evidence, freed from the suppositions and impositions of traditional opinion and interests, the roots of which have been in religious confession. Do you really think it is mythicism that ought to be put on the same side of the comparison with creationism?

  • Earl Doherty

    Jonathan:

    1. The scholarly consensus is wrong.
    2. Even professional scholars can make mistakes, and unqualified laymen can be right.
    3. The established scholarship in this field is biased.
    4. Professionals in this field are not to be trusted.
    5. Apparent evidence contradicting the fringe view is actually the result of misinterpretation due to carelessness or bias, or has been forged.
    6. Any appeal to qualified professionals in this field is an illegitimate appeal to authority.
    7. Opinions of unqualified adherents of the fringe view are of at least the same value as the statements of qualified professionals.
    8. Those who do not accept the fringe view reject it because they’ve been improperly educated as to its merits, or because they are irrevocably biased by preconceptions.
    9. Adherents of the fringe view are not biased towards maintaing it; they are rational and objective.
    10. Opponents of the fringe view are motivated by fear that the truth will be revealed.

    Can you tell which fringe view I have in mind? Is it Creationism? Is it anthropogenic climate change denial? Is it anti-vaccinationism? Is it something else? What is it?

    Actually, Jonathan, this was part of a paper written by Galileo while he was subjected to house arrest by the Catholic Church for suggesting that their reading of the evidence was erroneous, that it was to a great extent governed by centuries of biased tradition and belief based on less than scientific readings of the evidence, and that his own reading, though acknowledged as being “fringe,” was nevertheless more correct. Would you deny that any one of your 10 points was valid, from Galileo’s point of view (which I assume would coincide with your own on the matter of the universe’s structure)?

    This demonstrates that even though a set of principles or claims may be quite similar between two different individuals or groups, this does not make them equally valid or nonsense in their application to those different individuals or groups, and certainly does not demonstrate that the adoption of them by one acknowledged set of kooks makes the other group also kooks for adopting them as well. That can only be decided by examining the different cases.

    This, of course, is what Jim neglects and refuses to do, fallaciously thinking that merely by applying them to both creationists and mythicists, both are automatically condemned. Do you have enough critical acumen to recognize and acknowledge that? Does he?

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

    Earl Doherty (perhaps because he has never known any actual creationists?) still doesn’t get that he is defending himself in exactly the way a creationist would. Even though problems of substance, detail and method which undermine the persuasiveness of his claims are pointed out time and again, he, like many creationists, says that no one has refuted him. And he doesn’t see it.

    As for me, I think the logical and blatant error that keeps being made on this blog is that Earl Doherty has the decency to call Jonathan “Jonathan” rather than Johnny or John, yet insists on calling me “Jim.”

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

      I don’t think he does, or he might know that atheist that convert to Christianity are popular subjects of apologetic literature and hardly theoretical. And let us not forget the modern world is oh so comparable to Galileo’s Europe.

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

    The fact that Galileo was basically right doesn’t change the fact that the necessary evidence to show he was right was not yet available, his claim that the Earth’s rotation caused the tides was wrong and his opponents could see why, and because Galileo was still thinking in terms of circular orbits, he had to add epicycles, which made his view less appealing since it didn’t do away with that aspect of the prevailing paradigm. When the evidence presented for the heliocentric views was adequately scientists changed their minds, and while there can be recalcitrance even in the natural sciences, to say nothing of history, even today, eventually evidence prevails over consensuses that are in need of being overturned.

    But every fringe crackpot thinks he is a Galileo, and so in order to actually be a Galileo, it is not enough to disagree with the consensus. You also have to be right. And that is the crux of the matter. The problem is not your disagreement with the consensus. It is that you are unlikely to be right, because you offer less plausible treatments of texts than mainstream scholars do, to say nothing of the fact that you have not demonstrated that your views are correct. All you have done is articulate your interpretation and then complain that no one else accepts it. Why should they? It offers nothing that would make better sense of the evidence than the prevailing paradigm. And unlike Galileo, it doesn’t even look like it might be a step in the right direction.

    • Earl Doherty

      No, Jim (James, if you like, I was unaware this would be considered some kind of put-down by me), the problem is not one of having to be right. The problem is with you implying that mythicists must be equated to creationists. I made that plain. You weren’t wrong to do so because mythicists are either right or wrong. It was wrong because you considered that because they held certain claims in common, one had to be the same as the other. Again, you just don’t seem to recognize the fallacy in this.

      It is that you are unlikely to be right, because you offer less
      plausible treatments of texts than mainstream scholars do, to say
      nothing of the fact that you have not demonstrated that your views are correct.

      Less plausible in whose eyes, and why? You are trying to claim objectivity through subjectivity. And what do you mean by “demonstrated”? Has historicism DEMONSTRATED its claims to be correct? What–have you got a time machine you’ve used, you’ve unearthed a reliable document which states everything in no uncertain terms? Like mythicism, historicism tries to offer evidence, deduction and arguments for balance of probability (though at times it even refuses to do that, simply quoting ‘consensus’ or what we’ve always believed, or claims of likelihood). Your outright rejection of that on the mythicist side is blatant prejudice, because it has made no honest and legitimate attempt to demonstrate that mythicism is the quackery you make it out to be.

      Certainly, substituting “creationism” for “mythicism” in claims of kookery is no such thing.

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

    @Robert, Paul emphasizes the contrast between Jesus and Adam, and so presenting Jesus as starting as Adam did, made in the divine image, but making a different choice – an idea he explores in Romans 5 as well. At the end of that hymnic section, Paul has God exalt Jesus and give him the divine name, which he did not previously possess. And so Jesus’ humanity is perhaps being mythologized here – whether on the front end is unclear, but certainly on the tail end. But taking what most scholars view as a quotation from an early Christian hymn, and ignoring the absence of comparable statements about Jesus when Paul is speaking in prose rather than poetry and in his own words, shows that you are treating the text the way Christian apologists do, and not in a historical critical manner.

    Before you mention it, if you are going to point to the language of Jesus as the “Wisdom of God,” please do consider too the Jewish depictions of personified Wisdom which are then identified with Torah. It is not clear that the earliest Christians to apply such language to Jesus meant it any more literally. But even if they did, there too they were speaking of Jesus embodying God’s Wisdom in a human life, not merely about Wisdom. The most simple and straightforward evidence of this is that Wisdom was already spoken of as a personified divine attribute, and so if they wished to speak of a purely celestial figure, they would have spoken of Wisdom. But what they do is identify God’s wisdom with a figure with a mundane human name, Yeshua.

    • Robert

      I understand what you are saying, but I simply disagree with your conclusion. Paul is not referring to a mundane figure called Yeshua.(In fact, I am unaware of any instance of the name Yeshua ever used in any of the writings of Paul. Do you mean Iesous?) Paul’s Christ is a pre-existent deity, as he clearly stated in the verse I quoted. This has nothing to do with Christian apologetics, it simply has to do with the divine character that the texts, in fact, portray.

    • Robert

      I understand what you are saying, but I simply disagree with your conclusion. Paul is not referring to a mundane figure called Yeshua.(In fact, I am unaware of any instance of the name Yeshua ever used in any of the writings of Paul. Do you mean Iesous?) Paul’s Christ is a pre-existent deity, as he clearly stated in the verse I quoted. This has nothing to do with Christian apologetics, it simply has to do with the divine character that the texts, in fact, portray.

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

    @Robert, Paul emphasizes the contrast between Jesus and Adam, and so presenting Jesus as starting as Adam did, made in the divine image, but making a different choice – an idea he explores in Romans 5 as well. At the end of that hymnic section, Paul has God exalt Jesus and give him the divine name, which he did not previously possess. And so Jesus’ humanity is perhaps being mythologized here – whether on the front end is unclear, but certainly on the tail end. But taking what most scholars view as a quotation from an early Christian hymn, and ignoring the absence of comparable statements about Jesus when Paul is speaking in prose rather than poetry and in his own words, shows that you are treating the text the way Christian apologists do, and not in a historical critical manner.

    Before you mention it, if you are going to point to the language of Jesus as the “Wisdom of God,” please do consider too the Jewish depictions of personified Wisdom which are then identified with Torah. It is not clear that the earliest Christians to apply such language to Jesus meant it any more literally. But even if they did, there too they were speaking of Jesus embodying God’s Wisdom in a human life, not merely about Wisdom. The most simple and straightforward evidence of this is that Wisdom was already spoken of as a personified divine attribute, and so if they wished to speak of a purely celestial figure, they would have spoken of Wisdom. But what they do is identify God’s wisdom with a figure with a mundane human name, Yeshua.

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

    Iesous is simply a Greek translation of a Jewish name, which we otherwise render Joshua. It is not a name for a purely celestial being.

    You have been asked multiple times for evidence. What texts in Paul do you have in mind, and why does this allegedly purely celestial figure have an ordinary human name in these texts?

    • Robert

      Yes Dr. McGrath, I am aware of the translation of Iesous. However, I see no point in translating the name into Hebrew or Aramaic, since it was never referred to in such a way in any of the survivng ms. Is there a reason why you chose to do so?

      I provided you with a passage already. One which clearly supports my point.

      How about another…

      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 God reveals his Son in Paul. Is this a figuative Son? Do you think that that is a valid interpretation of Paul’s meaning here?

      They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 

      Ah, it seems that he is talking about God’s Son in Heaven.

      Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

      Interesting on another level, but this leaves little doubt about the nature of this being.

      For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

      Should I continue?
       

  • Robert

    Regarding the name, I refer you to the successor of Moses, a name which seems fitting, considering that Jesus, in fact, succeeds Moses. Which is kind of the point of Christianity in the first place.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    James, not that I agree with Earl’s views, but I think you are assuming something that might not be the case. I think you are assuming that Earl desires to displace the standard views of Christianity with a form of mythicism. From what I see, he is merely trying to add an alternative possibility alongside the standard view, and not to replace it. And as such, he would not have to provide a more convincing argument, but an argument that is at least as probable as the standard view. Also, it would not have to be a completely polished theory, as many unfinished theories are put forth by scholars so others can help develop them further. That’s what I think Earl is looking for, for others to help develop and smooth out his theories. If I am correct, this would not be something synonymous with Galileo, as I don’t think he is saying I am right and everybody else is wrong, but that I have a different idea that seems to fit the evidence if you are willing to take a completely different approach to the biblical texts.

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

    You seem not to have read the previous passage very carefully, which has Jesus exalted by God after his death on a cross. Why would the belief that he had been exalted to heaven mean to you that he had only ever been in heaven? Many people today think that their loved ones go to heaven after death, and that is not a reason for treating such people as purely mythical.

    I am all for trying out readings that go against the grain, but not when they end up ignoring important elements in the text.

    As for the name Jesus/Joshua/Iesous/Yeshua, I didn’t have a good way of indicating an eta rather than an epsilon on this device, and so I chose a form that I was more content to transliterate into English letters with no accents. Are you saying that everyone who was named Jesus in those times was thought to be a mythical successor of Moses? This seems a rather nonsensical and overspiritualized approach to names, of the sort I have encountered in fundamentalist Christianity. Is there some particular reason why you are not embarrassed to treat the text in much the same way?

    • Robert

      Really Dr. McGrath? I did not quote Hebrews, I quoted Paul.

      Let’s go through it line by line:

      Who [Christ Jesus], existing in the form of God,

      I hope that this is self explanatory, but a being existing in the form of God is a deity, any way you slice it.

      did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage,

      Not only “in the form of”, but equal to. Interesting way of describing a man.

      but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, coming to be in the likeness of human beings.

      Pre-Existence anyone? Here the form is a likeness, not an equivalence, as denoted above. So, even in the form of a man, still a god. 

      And being found in outward appearance as a human being,  he humbled himself, becoming obedience unto death, even the death of a cross.
      Again, in the appearance of a human being, yet not one.

      Similar to some of those classic Hellenistic God/Men, just like Justin said.

      So, in fact, perhaps it was you who did not read the passage carefully.

      And, again, regarding the name. There is only one Jesus that I can think of, from the period in question, that was believed to be the successor of Moses, so I am not sure what the point of your response might have been.

      Regarding my treatment of the text. I read it as written. It is really not that difficult to understand. What I do not do is arbitrarily strip the text and, by doing so, create something that was actually written nowhere. 

    • Robert

      //Why would the belief that he had been exalted to heaven mean to you that he had only ever been in heaven?//

      Where did I ever make such a claim?

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

    Earl, I expect that even when I complete my review, you will still not be persuaded that you are wrong. We all find it hard to acknowledge when we have invested time and effort into an idea and it proved to be unfruitful. But there is always hope. Your profound interest in this subject could be put to good use, and might turn up some genuinely useful insights, were you to ever cease opposing the consensus view simply for the sake of doing so, no matter how implausible the arguments you end up having to use or how unlikely the interpretations you have to give to texts in order to do so.

    • Earl Doherty

      Earl, I expect that even when I complete my review, you will still not
      be persuaded that you are wrong. We all find it hard to acknowledge when
      we have invested time and effort into an idea and it proved to be
      unfruitful. But there is always hope. Your profound interest in this
      subject could be put to good use, and might turn up some genuinely
      useful insights, were you to ever cease opposing the consensus view
      simply for the sake of doing so, no matter how implausible the arguments
      you end up having to use or how unlikely the interpretations you have
      to give to texts in order to do so.

      Well, James, I certainly will not be persuaded that I am wrong on the basis of anything like you’ve provided in rebuttal so far. You and others like Jonathan have done anything but disprove my interpretations, and your constant appeals to consensus and authority and the ‘tried and true’ ways of interpreting things as though no alternative could possibly be feasible here in God’s Universe, I can assure you, have no impact on me.

      Why not actually try to grapple with my arguments as set out in the book, as though they are not a priori utter nonsense? That way, you might actually find legitimate counters to them other than simply declaring that they are ridiculous or contravene accepted ways of interpretation, which are not counters at all, at least not in the scholarly sense.

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

    @Howard, that is not the impression I have from Earl Doherty’s book. He thinks mainstream scholarship is simply wrong. If I have a wrong impression, I’m happy for him to correct me.

    I take it you have not read his book?

    • Earl Doherty

      @Howard, that is not the impression I have from Earl Doherty’s book. He
      thinks mainstream scholarship is simply wrong. If I have a wrong
      impression, I’m happy for him to correct me.

      Any scholar who puts forward an idea at variance with established wisdom is asking for its consideration alongside previous viewpoints. At the same time, if the two ideas are mutually exclusive and the writer is convinced his own view is correct, he must regard the old one as wrong and hopes it will be supplanted by his own in the mind of the reader. Either Jesus existed or he did not, which doesn’t leave much room for cooperative residency.

      James is correct that my research has led me to believe that the traditional view of the existence of Jesus is wrong, and that much of what scholarship has done to demonstrate it is mistaken and often governed by its own traditional bias. I have never denied that. Thus, my book is not some humble and self-effacing request that it be placed alongside all the others as an alternative interpretation to be considered of the origins of Christianity, but is an attempt to persuade the reader that the non-existence of an HJ is indeed historically correct–or at least likely to be so, since laboratory confirmation does not apply here.

      Which, for those who have not read my book, does not mean that I do not adopt a polite and reasonable tone in the presentation. The Matrix, on the other hand (along with others like so-called Rational Skepticism), can be a snake-pit where the treatment of mythicism is concerned, and is not always conducive to polite and unemotional discourse.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    @James, No you’re right, I have not read Earl’s book and I
    could be wrong, I am just going on the impression of what I read here. And
    maybe I was associating the concept to my own book, where I also oppose the consensus,
    but not entirely and only on a number of issues where the evidence is sorely
    lacking and we can only speculate for the most part. Well maybe Earl will
    respond and let us know which one was his intention.

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

    Robert, you do not seem to be taking this discussion seriously. Not only have you not consulted any academic commentary on the text, but you have not even bothered to compare more than one English translation.

    I already explained that being “in the form of God” may be a way of expressing what Genesis is usually translated as calling “the image and likeness of God.” There is a comparison between Adam and Jesus, and however clear it may be to us that there was no historical Adam, Paul assumed he was comparing two very special human beings.

    This individual, we are told, did not grasp at equality with God, and is exalted to a status second only to God, in contrast with Adam who lost his status.

    But all of that is beside the point, in one sense. Paul is still saying these things about a figure that he believed was of the line of David according to the flesh, had been born under the Law, and had been crucified, bled and died. What mythological elements Paul adds to that do not magically change the fact that he is mythologizing a human figure.

    Please read the text more closely and investigate matters of its interpretation, if you want to have a conversation about this. It really isn’t fair to come to this with the arrogance you do if you have not even done basic reading on the texts in question. They were not written in English, and they cannot simply mean whatever you wish them to.

    • Robert

      Dr. McGrath, arrogance is not my intention. We seem to have a disagreement about the plain meaning of the text. This discussion began with your view that Paul does not view Jesus as a divine being, a view that I simply disagree with. This is not a discussion of whether or not Paul viewed Jesus as having once been a man, this is a discussion of Paul’s Christology. The fact that Paul clearly states that his Christ was a pre-existent entity who took on the likeness of men,

      ἀλλ᾽ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος   

      Paul, himself, simply contradicts your position.

    • Robert

      I cracked open the Book, to reconsider your point regarding the quotation regarding the exaltation and the name. I did, in fact, miss what you where refering to, my apologies.

      However, is this not simply God’s reward to his Son for the sacrifice? I am unsure of how, considering this, you can take the position that divinity is not, at least, bestowed at this point, which again, seems to contradict the statement you made early on in this specific discussion:

      //The problem seems to be that you are looking for the divine Jesus of Christian dogma, without realizing that he isn’t there in the earliest sources.// 

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    I just wanted to add my two cents to Robert’s English translation and interpretation.

    “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage”

    This translation is completely out of context. If you go back to Phil 2:1-4 it is discussing how Christians should treat each other and especially mentions that they should not be egotistical or act superior, but actually treat others as superior. Then he provides the perfect example in Jesus. Who was existing in God’s form, did not try to grasp at equality with God, something Adam had done. So the point being made here, and the attitude Christians should follow, is not to try to achieve more then you have been given and to think you are superior to others, but to put others ahead of you and use what you have been given to minister to others. To say Jesus equaled God, destroys the example it is trying to convey.

    • Robert

       Actually, it says that even though he is equal to God, he does not use this to his advantage.
       

      • Howard Mazzaferro

        Robert, think about that for a minute, if he is equal to
        God, he is God, and God always uses his divinity to his own advantage.

        • Robert

          Ah, the mystery of Christ. :)

          What you said makes sense, but it is not what Paul wrote, as far as I can tell. I’ll look at it again, considering your interpretation and see if I can see it. 

          • Howard Mazzaferro

            Robert, I’m not sure of James’ view, but on the one hand I agree with you that Jesus is/was a divine being, if you are defining a divine being as anyone who lives in the spiritual realm of heaven, such as angels, as a divine being. All of whom would be in the form of God, a spirit (John 4:24). Although, if you are defining it as having some kind of equality with God, then I do not agree. In my view, before Jesus was on earth, he existed in the heavens as a divine or godlike being, God’s son, but he gave all that up and allowed himself to be born as a human, entirely human, although a perfect human equal to Adam. When he died and went back to heaven, he went as a divine being again with a superior position. Obviously I skipped a lot of details, but it should get my view across.

            • Robert

              Sounds fine to me Howard. Earlier I pointed out that I was not referring to Paul holding a Trinitarian view. My only contention was with the idea that Jesus Christ was not a divine being in Paul. An idea which, based on the text, seems unsupportable. I did not argue about whether or not Paul believed that his divine Jesus had once been a man, or appeared as a man.   
               

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

    Robert, I am not sure I understand your point. I do not deny that Paul thought that mythical things happened to Jesus after his death, and it is certainly possible, but not certain, that Paul did the same for prior to his birth. But if you are trying to leverage a poetic passage against Paul’s prosaic statements about Jesus having been born, his being of Davidic descent, having a brother, suffering, bleeding, and dying, then you must be more interested in fitting Paul’s statements into a preconceived notion than in interpreting what he actually wrote.

    • Robert

       Dr. McGrath, perhaps you are confusing me with someone else. Our discussion is purely about Pauline Christology and whether or not Jesus was considered a divine being in the earliest strata of Christian (read Pauline) literature. What you refer to as “mythical things”.

      I am not arguing Mythicism v. Historicism, as I already stated that I am undecided on that subject since I do not believe that sufficient evidence exists to form a conclusion one way or the other.
       

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

    Earl, when I evaluate your claims as being nonsensical, or wrong, or unpersuasive, or fitting poorly with the evidence, it has nothing to do with any bias I have other than my biased view that interpretations of evidence should do justice to what texts say and to the context in which they were produced. If that is a bias, so be it.

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

    Robert, your last comment was posted after I began writing my last reply to you. It is not appropriate to simply assume a conservative Christian interpretation of the term harpagmos. Please explain why you think it means what you think it means.

    • Robert

      I believe that it means ” a prize to be clung to”, or something similar. In the context of Phil 2, I think that the NIV does a decent job, which is why I used it.

      Which translation do you suggest?  

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

    Not everyone thinks of divinity as something that can be bestowed. I don’t really have any problem with the use of such language, since Jesus is here depicted as being exalted to a status that makes him the agent of God’s rule and recipient of worship. I had perhaps assumed that you were here to argue for a mythicist view, that there was no historical Jesus about whom these things were later said,

  • Earl Doherty

    James: I already explained that being “in the form of God” may be a way of expressing what Genesis is usually translated as calling “the image and likeness of God.” There is a comparison between Adam and Jesus, and however clear it may be to us that there was no historical Adam, Paul assumed he was comparing two very special human beings.

    This individual, we are told, did not grasp at equality with God, and is exalted to a status second only to God, in contrast with Adam who lost his status.

    Where to start? OK, let’s actually look at a few translations of this opening verse of the Philippians hymn, since James accused Robert of not doing so.

    NIV: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: [the hymn starts here] who, being in very nature (footnote: Or, in the form of) God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…

    NASB: Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…

    NEB: Let your bearing towards one another arise out of your life in Christ Jesus. For the divine nature was his from the first; yet he did not think to snatch at equality with God…

    RSV: Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…

    Translator’s New Testament: Your inmost thoughts must be like those of Christ Jesus: He shared God’s very nature from the beginning, but he did not consider that he must cling to equality with God…

    Where, in any of those translations is there the slightest hint that the hymn is talking about a human being, let alone making a comparison with Adam (who is not mentioned at all in this hymn, let alone compared with Christ) as “two special human beings”? On the contrary, “Christ Jesus” is being defined as an entity who “shared God’s very nature,” who “was in the form of God,” who “existed in the form of God.” He was God “in his very nature.” Moreover, this nature was his “from the beginning.” He was not subsequent to being an “individual” (a translation which has the inbuilt connotation of a man) “exalted” to a second-to-God status, a meaning that is clearly contradicted by the text. The exaltation comes only after his death, and is not even there stated as an exaltation from a human being to a divine one.

    Where does James extract a human being from all this, one who began as a human being and simply achieved some kind of special status in God’s eyes? I’ll tell you where: from the Gospels, with the modern downplay of Jesus’ nature as just a special human being added as well. IT IS NOT IN THE TEXT, and no translation even attempts (surprisingly) to put it there.

    The hymn is stating the divine nature of the entity (a subordinate one to God himself, but still his emanation) who THEN went on to humble himself and undergo death, in which he took on a ‘likeness’ to men. Whether the latter is meant to mean earthly incarnation (which is never stated) or simply the adopting of a form in the lowest heaven in which he could suffer and die and serve as a paradigmatic parallel to humanity, is a separate matter, which has been argued over before.

    James cannot just atomistically seize on some similar phrase in Genesis, in a completely different context, with the text itself clearly applying to a real (if we know mythical) human being, and impose it on Paul or whoever wrote this hymn. This is his compelling evidence on the historicist side? His forcing Paul to mean what James would like him to mean is superior scholarship to mythicism? Is this the way to persuade me that mainstream scholars aren’t guilty of blatantly reading into a text, that their methodology is self-evidently ‘more likely’ to be reliable than mythicism’s?

    James: They were not written in English, and they cannot simply mean whatever you wish them to.

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

    Where to start? You could start by actually reading Paul’s letters, passages like Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 where the contrast between Adam and Jesus is made explicit? Then you could move on to reading some actual New Testament scholars’ discussion of the way in which this contrast seems to underpin much else that Paul wrote.

    I think part of the reason I am bothered by your dismissal of mainstream scholarship is that you have not familiarized yourself with it and then decided to reject it. You rather show time and again that you are unfamiliar with it, and have dismissed it even so.

    • Earl Doherty

      That is ridiculous, James. Even in the part of my book that you have read (though I can’t guarantee you have absorbed it), I constantly make reference to the views of mainstream scholarship, especially in the context of refuting them, showing that they are contrary or incompatible with the actual reading of the text. You will also find out (if you continue with your review) that I have indeed read and take apart passages like Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15.

      Let’s see you take apart my taking apart of those passages, discrediting them in something more than just dismissing me with disdain and appealing to the ‘consensus’ interpretation.

    • Earl Doherty

      Incidentally, James, do you admit from my demonstration of the opening verse in many translations of the Philippians hymn, that you have misrepresented its meaning, and that your reading of an “individual” who was originally a man cannot possibly be derived from the Greek text?

      If not, why not? (Scholarly arguments based on the text, please.)

      Or will you simply ignore my demonstration and deflect attention by substituting personal attacks on me which clearly have no basis?

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

    Your interaction with mainstream scholarship is, for the most part, little more than proof-texting when someone writes something that you feel supports your viewpoint. Otherwise, your criticism of mainstream scholarship amounts to little more than an accusation of lack of imagination in failing to see things your way. But I assure you that at every point where you make an actual argument, I will address it, if I have not already.

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

    I will address your implausible interpretation of Paul’s reference to Jesus having been found in appearance as a human being and humbling himself even to death on a cross as taking place in the celestial realm when I reach the point in my blogging through your book that deals with that. Until then, I suspect that most people reading this will recognize that, even if one could just possibly make a case for interpreting it that way being an option, it is not the only one, and not demonstrably preferable to one that treats Paul as actually meaning what it sounds like he meant.

    • Earl Doherty

      As I said, James, interpretation of the later verses in the hymn are a separate issue. Do you admit that you were wrong in what you declared to Robert about the opening verse of the hymn, and what it says about the nature of Christ Jesus?

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

    Earl, what are you talking about? Are you saying that one should interpret the opening verses in isolation from the rest? If so, I disagree.

    Where do you stand on James D. G. Dunn’s interpretation of the first part of the passage, while we are on the subject?

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Just a couple observations, the Greek word used for “form” in Phil 2:6 is the same one used in 2:7. Even if we can’t agree on exactly what the form of God might mean, we certainly know that the form of a slave is a human. I could be wrong, but I do not think there is any precedent or biblical evidence for a purely heavenly slave figure. Therefore, to interpret the transference of going from God’s form to a slaves form and leaving it all in the heavenly realm has no justification in Scripture.

  • Jonathan Burke

    Robert, I made absolutely no comment on your motives. Could you please provide your argument, with quotations from the
    relevant Pauline writings and an explanation of how your conclusions
    cohere with the Second Temple Period context?

    Look at how Paul differentiates between God and Jesus.

    Romans 1:1 ‘From Paul, a servant of CHRIST JESUS, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of GOD’
    Romans 1:7 ‘To all those loved by GOD in Rome, called to be the saints: Grace and peace to you from GOD our Father and the LORD JESUS CHRIST’
    Romans 1:8 ‘I thank my GOD through JESUS CHRIST’
    Romans 1:9 ‘For GOD, whom I serve in my spirit by preaching the gospel of his SON’
    Romans 2:16 ‘GOD will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through JESUS CHRIST’
    Romans 3:22 ‘the righteousness of GOD through the faithfulnes of JESUS CHRIST’
    Romans 3:23-24 ‘through the redemption that is in CHRIST JESUS. GOD publicly displayed him [Jesus]‘
    Romans 5:20 ‘the grace of GOD and the gift by the grace of ONE MAN JESUS CHRIST’
    Romans 6:23 ‘the gift of GOD is eternal life in CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD’
    Romans 7:25 ‘Thanks be to GOD through JESUS CHRIST’

    Note how Paul describes Jesus as having been raised by God.

    Romans 10:9 ‘GOD raised HIM [Jesus] from the dead’
    1 Corinthians 6:14 ‘GOD indeed raised THE LORD [Christ]‘
    Galatians 1:1 ‘JESUS CHRIST and GOD the Father who raised HIM [Jesus] from the dead’
    Colossians 2:12 ‘GOD who raised HIM [Jesus] from the dead’

    Mr Doherty, turning to Galileo (I’ll address this in more detail later), no, Galileo would not have agreed with all those ten points. For a start, he objected strenuously to the uneducated opinions of non-professionals who had no training whatsoever in the relevant field, being privileged over the informed and experienced conclusions of those who were professionally qualified. Thus among theologians, the Copernican view was considered heretical, whereas among actual astronomers, Galileo’s conclusions had already been reached by Copernicus, and were supported by Kepler and the Jewish mathematician Delmedigo. Galileo’s difficulty in persuading astronomers was the simple fact that he lacked conclusive evidence and the astronomical system he proposed (of which heliocentrism was a key part), did not explain adequately all the evidence, introduced apparently unnecessary complications, and was (as we now know), actually wrong. Furthermore the evidence he supplied to prove heliocentrism was the tides, but he had to claim there was only one tide a day (the astronomers of the day knew he was wrong; there ae demonstrably two tides), and dismissed the moon’s responsibility for the tides as ‘useless fiction’.

    //On the contrary, “Christ Jesus” is being defined as an entity who
    “shared God’s very nature,” who “was in the form of God,” who “existed
    in the form of God.” He was God “in his very nature.”//

    With your four and a half years of Greek, I’m sure you’re fully aware that μορφή does not mean ‘nature’; it means ‘outward appearance’ or ‘shape’. Given your familiarity with scholarly literature, I’m sure you’re also fully aware that translation of this passage is notoriously subject to translator bias (which you eschew), and that translations rendering this word ‘nature’ are demonstrating that bias. This has all been well recognized in the relevant literature.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

    _____________
    [1] ‘For years I tried, like Warfield and Murray, to maintain the view
    of Lightfoot that Paul here uses μορφή with the sense it had acquired in
    Greek philosophy, particularly Aristotelian, and which Murray speaks of
    as “existence form … the sum of those characterizing qualities that
    make a thing the precise thing that it is.”50  Lightfoot wrote: “μορφή
    is not the same as φύσις or οὐσία, yet the possession of the μορφή
    involves participation in the οὐσία also for μορφή implies not the
    external accidents but the essential attributes.”51  But I have had to
    conclude that there is really very little evidence to support the
    conclusion that Paul uses μορφή in such a philosophical sense here and
    that my determination to hold on to that interpretation was really
    rooted in its attractiveness theologically.’, Strimple, ‘Philippians 2:5-11 In Recent Studies: Some Exegetical Conclusions’, WTJ (41.2.246), 1978.

    [2] ‘I will maintain that Paul has used the expression ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ in Phil 2:6 as a status marker with no inherent ontological component.’, Hellerman, ‘Μορφη Θεου As A Signifier Of Social Status In Philippians 2:6′, JETS (52.4.778), 2009.

    [3] ‘A much more likely context in which to understand morfhv is biblical Greek. Phil. 2:6, 7 are the only two occurrences of morfhv in the NT,3 so there is no NT context that will help. Instead the LXX text must be used. There are four uses there: Judg. 8:18; Job 4:16; Isa. 44:13; Dan. 3:19.4 Although this does not represent a large number of uses,5 it does provide a consistent picture of the use of morfhv. In each instance the word refers to the visible form of the individual so described, not to his essential attributes. “Meager though the biblical evidence is, it is sufficient to make a prima facie case for the reference to a visible manifestation.”6′, Decker, ‘Philippians 2:5-11, The Kenosis’ (online article, rev. ed. 1996); Decker nevertheless accepts the deity of Jesus on other grounds.

    [4] ‘Feinberg, likewise, notes that “Frankly, the attractiveness of the Gk philosophical interpretation of morfhv is that it gives the theologian about as strong an affirmation of the deity of Christ as is possible. One must, however, be careful that he does not read his theological convictions into the text when they are not there” (“Kenosis,” 29-30).’, ibid.

    [5] Dunn, ‘Christology in the Making’, pp. 125-126 (1996).

    [6] Kuschel, ‘Born before all time?: the dispute over Christ’s origin’, p. 251 (1992).

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Incidentally, James, do you admit from my demonstration of the opening
    verse in many translations of the Philippians hymn, that you have
    misrepresented its meaning, and that your reading of an “individual” who
    was originally a man cannot possibly be derived from the Greek text?//

    Many translations? You only listed five, one of which is the ‘Translator’s New Testament’ (what’s that?); the ESV, HCSB, ISV, God’s Word, and NET have ‘form’ here, not ‘nature’. I find it strange that you are objecting to James’ understanding of the text on the basis that it contradicts the reading given by various English Bible translations. That is not a valid objection. Predictably, you cite no lexical evidence for your claim.

    • Earl Doherty

      Good grief! Now I can’t use the word “many” for five. Is there no limit to my charlatanry?

      Jonathan, I wasn’t championing any one translation or particular word in the opening verse of the Philippians hymn. (In any case, what ‘proof’ have you that the translations which use the word “form” are more accurate/reliable than those which choose a different word. The word itself does not affect my point about the verse, which is that James’ understanding of it is not supported by ANY choice of word. His claim that from that verse we could understand that the Christ Jesus referred to began as a man who was exalted to a special status by God is absolutely impossible, no matter whether “nature” or “form” is used.

      “Who, being in very nature God”

      “Who, being in the very form of God”

      states that the entity being spoken of in this hymn was in some measure God, sharing in his nature/form.

      From THAT state, he went to taking on the likeness of men (whatever we decide that means).

      How can he start out as a man and THEN empty/humble himself by taking on the form of a man? Does that make any sense to you?

      If we adopt “form” in verse 6, being in the form of God, we then go on to verse 7, where he takes on the “form” of a slave (allegedly being human). So in verse 6 he is a man in the form of God (as the former, he is supposedly not really the latter), but in verse 7 he is a man in the form of a man (in which the former IS really the latter). Does this make any sense to you? Do you really stop and think about these things, and what texts mean, or do you (and James) just charge ahead and make them mean whatever you want them to mean or think they ought to mean?

      As for lexical support, here is what Bauer has to say on “morphē: “Of the preexistent Christ [Phil. 2:6]: en m. theou huparxōn although he was in the form of God“. Note Bauer’s “preexistent”, meaning that he understands it as the heavenly Son prior to incarnation; no “man” there. There is no way to understand “form” in this verse as referring to the human form which has a relationship to the form of God. It is not the word itself that determines that, it is the sentence as a whole and its context.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //My only contention was with the idea that Jesus Christ was not a divine being in Paul. An idea which, based on the text, seems unsupportable.//

    Did you have any passages in mind other than Philippians 2:6, which does not refer to Jesus as a divine being? What do you make of the passages I listed?

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Would you deny that any one of your 10 points was valid, from Galileo’s point of view (which I assume would coincide with your own on the matter of the universe’s structure)?//

    Yes I would deny almost all of them were valid, and so would Galileo.

    1-2. Yes, Galileo would have agreed with both of these. However, although he would have agreed that unqualified laymen *can* be right (hypothetically at lesat), in this case he was arguing specifically that the unqualified laymen were not only wrong but couldn’t be trusted to be right; and he was correct. He knew that this was a matter for trained astronomers, and he didn’t place any value on the opinions of the unqualified (‘My dear Kepler,  I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd’).

    3. No, Galileo never made that claim, nor would he have. The *theologians* were demonstably biased, but they didn’t constitute the established scholarship in this field. The etablished scholarship had become established because it actually produced reliable, repeatable results (despite being a flawed description of reality).

    4. No, Galileo never made that claim, nor would he have. He was a qualified professional, and so was Copernicus. He would never have claimed to be a gifted amateur correcting the professionals in the field. He was a professional himself.

    5. No, Galileo never made that claim, nor would he have. He knew that there was evidence contrary to his claims, not least the fact that his observations through the telescope could be harmonized with models which did not involve heliocentrism. The struggle for Galileo, as much as for his opponents, was in presenting a system which not only harmonized all the avalailable data as efficiently as possible, but which precluded alternative harmonizations.

    6. No, Galileo never made that claim, nor would he have. On the contrary, he appealed to and stood by the findings of Copernicus, and he was a professional himself, who had no time for the comments of unqualified laymen on the subject.

    7. No, Galileo never made that claim, nor would he have. He dismissed the views of those who hadn’t even looked through a telescope, and likewise dismissed the objections of theologians untrained in astronomy.

    8. No, Galileo never made that claim, nor would he have. He knew full well that his theory actually lacked conclusive evidence, and he saw this as a major weakness. The evidence he provided from his observations using telescopes could be explained on grounds other than his, and the evidence he presented from the tides included a flaw of which he was well aware; physical evidence contradicted his claim that there was only one tide each day, and he was reduced to an ad hoc claim in order to support his theory.9. Yes, Galileo would have agreed with this point, and he would have been correct. Accepting the Copernican system did not provide Galileo with any personal benefit, nor did it benefit his worldview, nor did it provide useful ammunition against a specific worldview he opposed. The same cannot be said for Mytherists.

    10. No, Galileo never made that claim, nor would he have. He never accused anyone of fear that the truth would be revealed.

    Here are several reasons why analogies drawn between Mytherists and Galileo are unfounded.

    1. The Copernican system was proposed by a qualified professional, not by an amateur or hobbyist.

    2. The Copernican system was immediately accepted as worthy of discussion among the relevant academic fields, and its merits were recognized widely even by its opponents.

    3. The Copernican system provided a demonstrably useful contribution to science, which was put to practical use; even those who refused to accept geocentrism (or accepted it only as a hypothetical model), still used the astronomical tables which the astronomer Erasmus Reinhold had based on the Copernican system, tables which were recognized as the most accurate available.[1]

    Have Mytherists produced anything comparable, which historians have widely found more useful to their research than existing tools and methods? No.

    4. The Copernican system was supported by qualified professionals in the relevant fields, from a very early date. Although support was slow in growing, by 1600 it had support from Maestlin, Rothmann, Kepler, Galileo, Harriott, Bruno, Digges, Gilbert (all astronomers, some also mathematicians), Rheticus, and Stevin (mathematicians).[2] [3]

    Even though it took almost 60 years to gain this support, the point is that this was not a fringe theory advanced by a hobbyist, ignored by professionals and confined to discussion by cranks. It was a fringe theory which was immediately taken seriously by professionals in the relevant fields, and some 60 years after it was proposed it was being acccepted, because even though there was as yet no definitive evidence proving the theory correct,[4] it produced demonstrably reliable results and was clearly superior to the existing explanations. This is not the case with Mytherism.

    Throughout the 17th century support for the Copernican system grew immensely.[5] [6] By the last quarter of the 17th century, the heliocentrism was established as the new scholarly consensus, just 157 years after it was first proposed.[7] [8] It did so in the face of sustained opposition on both scientific and religious grounds, and managed to defeat the objections of all who disagreed, however biased they were (either for religious reasons, or out of dedication to the previously existing systems).

    Copernican theory was faced with a monolithic scientific consensus (which included significant theological bias to an extent not found among professionals today), and still overcame its detractors because it had demonstrable merit.

    This is not remotely analogous to Mytherism, which has remained a fringe view without virtually no support from any qualified professional in the relevant fields, for over 200 years.

    ______________________________________________

    [1] In the 1500s, a new set of astronomical tables was badly needed (the previous set had been produced in the 1200s, and were out of date). As it turns out, the astronomer who produced these new tables based them on Copernicus’ theory.’, DeWitt, ‘Worldviews: An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science’, p. 133 (2nd ed. 2010).

    [2] ‘To be precise: we can identify only ten Copernicans between 1543 and 1600; of these, seven were Protestants, the others Catholic. Four were German (Rheticus, Michael Maestlin, Christopher Rothmann, and Joahnnes Kepler); the Italians and English contributed two each (Galileo and Giordano Bruno; Thomas Digges and Thomas Harriot); and the Spaniards and Dutch but one each (Diego de Zuniga; Simon Stevin).’, Westman, ‘The Copernicans and the Churches’, in Hellyer, ‘The Scientific Revolution: the essential readings’, p. 54 (2003).

    [3] ‘The first Copernican theory, [of the tides] which postulated a force of attraction between the moon and earth’s oceans, was devised by William Gilbert (1580-1600) and restated by Johannes Kepler (1609);’, Hooper, ‘Seventeenth-Century Theories of the Tides as a Gauge of Scientific Change’, ‘, in Palmerino & Thijssen, ‘The Reception of the Galilean science of motion in seventeenth-century Europe’, pp. 199-200 (2004).

    [4] ‘We need to remember that it remained a hypothesis without physical verification until the mid-eighteenth century.’, Brague, ‘The Legend of the Middle Ages: Philosophical Explorations of medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam’, p. 218 (2009).

    [5] ‘Castelli the Benedictine and, later, Bonaventura Cavalieri, a Jesuate, were faithful Galilean disciples. Zuniga at Salamanca had been an Augustinian. Now, in January 1615, came unexpected support for the Copernican position from a member of the reformed Carmelite order in Naples, Paolo Foscarini (1580-1616).’, Westman, ‘The Copernicans and the Churches’, in Hellyer, ‘The Scientific Revolution: the essential readings’, p. 67 (2003); Castelli and Cavalieri were mathematicians.

    [6] ‘It was also along such lines that Seth Ward argued in 1654 for a nearly universal acceptance of the new astronomy at Oxford: there is not one man here, who is so farre astronomicall, as to be able to calculate an eclipse, who hath not received the Copernican system (as it was left by him, or as improved by Kepler, Bullialdus, our own professor [Ward], and others of the ellipticall way) either as an opinion, or at leastwise, as the most intelligible, and most convenient hypothesis.’, Tyacke, ‘Seventeenth-century Oxford’, pp. 388-289 (1997).

    [7] ‘By then, [the early 1670s] the state of Kepler’s three laws and the perceived difficulties with them was broadly as follows. Heliocentrism had in the meantime become not only the standard computational basis for accurate prediction but also the accepted conception of the universe in the view of both the experts and most others engaged in the creative pursuits of nature-knowledge, notably adherents of kinetic corpuscularianism (p. 396).’, Cohen, ‘How Modern Science Came Into the World: Four Civilizations, One 17th-Century’, p. 304 (2011).

    [8] ‘By the end of the seventeenth century, many Protestant scientists were Copernicans, and many Protestant theologians seemed indifferent to the issue.’, Ferngren, ‘Science and religion: a historical introduction’, p. 122 (2002).

    • Earl Doherty

      Well, Jonathan, you really outdid yourself in your research on Galileo. But you took me far too seriously. I didn’t expect to be challenged on every technicality you could possibly dig up, including many you distorted to serve your purposes.

      But many of your objections are fallacious, and beg the question in doing the same thing which your and James’ comparison between mythicism and creationism was trying to do, introduce negative judgments as part of the premises. I don’t intend to devote the time and effort to rebutting everything you’ve said (some of it is technically correct, I don’t deny it). But…

      For example:

       

      You claim that “theologians” of Galileo’s day were not the established
      scholarship in the field. Maybe so, but he was up against religion-based
      opinion by those who regarded themselves as scholars (and infallible ones at
      that) based on the bible. Enough of a parallel exists between those theologians
      and today’s traditionally-religion based NT scholarship that I can appeal to
      the parallel.

       

      When Galileo looked through his new telescope and examined
      the moons of Jupiter, in what way was he a “qualified professional” in the
      field? What made him qualified? On the basis of what established academic background which he agreed with?
      Basically, he was self-taught in many aspects of his work, and (if you like)
      also had a few colleagues of like mind who were also breaking new ground
      beyond the “established academia of his day.” Enough of a parallel exists
      between that situation and scholarship in mythicism (some of whom do actually
      have an academia background) that I can appeal to the parallel.

       

      Yes, Galileo “struggled” to present a system which
      harmonized all the available data as efficiently as possible. Exactly what
      mythicism struggles to do today. Why reject the latter while accepting the former? Galileo, as it turned out, was right and was eventually proved
      successful. Mythicism is approaching that point in our own day. And if the
      arguments put forward on the Matrix are any indication, harmony is all on
      mythicism’s side. The so-called harmony on the side of historicism is a joke, ‘achieved’
      only by distorting the text, reading into it what you want to see there, and
      insisting on meanings which cannot be supported (as I’ve just demonstrated in
      regard to the Phil. Hymn and as I demonstrate in spades throughout my book).

       

      Exactly. Galileo dismissed the views of those who had never
      looked through a telescope, but who relied on trusting in the
      words of the bible. Somewhat similar to traditional NT scholarship who have
      never looked at the texts from an unbiased and open-minded viewpoint and rely
      on words like “authority” and “consensus” and “what we’ve always believed” to
      shore up claims that are now seen to be highly questionable. Mythicists have
      indeed “looked through the telescope”. They have examined the texts (those are
      the ‘planets’ that must be observed). They have seen the moons of Jupiter, and
      they don’t behave according to the old Ptolemaic system. It is you who refuse
      to look through the telescope of unbiased reading of the texts. Someone like James demonstrates time after time that his judgment is motivated by anything but unbiased scholarship.

       

      Galileo may have felt that he lacked conclusive evidence.
      Mythicists are a little more confident that they’ve achieved a greater degree
      of conclusiveness. Besides, the science of astronomy is far different, as is
      the nature of its evidence, than is historical research, especially in a field
      as shot with preconception and prejudice as this one is.

       

      The Copernican system was proposed by a qualified
      professional, not by an amateur or hobbyist.

       

      Loaded, subjective, prejudicial, bigoted language. Your “qualified
      professional” is limited to those who went through the preconceived system and
      were spit out as loyal subjects to an historical Jesus. Many mythicists are and
      have been far more than “amateurs” (in the denigrating sense which you give it)
      and “hobbyists” (more denigration).

       

      Mythicism, if given a chance, would prove extremely useful
      in explaining and solving the problems in the picture of the development of a
      major world religion. It cannot do so as long as mindless prejudice and a
      closed-minded dismissal remains the mark of its opponents. Even a respected
      historian like Michael Grant, as I have pointed out, came down on the side of
      traditional NT scholarship by simply adopting their convictions and prejudices against
      the non-existence of Jesus, rather than actually researching it himself. So
      typical. (And look what has happened to Gerd Ludemann, a qualified professional
      by any definition, fired from his post and condemned by the establishment for
      even approaching a mythicist stance!)

       

      Jonathan, we are at a point in the development of mythicism,
      shall we say, somewhat equivalent to the period of Galileo’s house arrest. (Fortunately,
      the church and its scholars no longer have the power to imprison mythicists.) Still
      dismissed and condemned by the majority, and especially by influential forces
      rooted in various religious organizations. We know now that Galileo was right,
      and that his views eventually won the day. Can you be so sure that such a
      parallel does not lie in mythicism’s future?

  • Earl Doherty

    Damn it. I’m going to redo the latter part of my posting. It’s just too late at night.

    For example:

    You claim that “theologians” of Galileo’s day were not the established scholarship in the field. Maybe so, but he was up against religion-based opinion by those who regarded themselves as scholars (and infallible ones at that) based on the bible. Enough of a parallel exists between those theologians and today’s traditionally-religion based NT scholarship that I can appeal to the parallel.

    When Galileo looked through his new telescope and examined the moons of Jupiter, in what way was he a “qualified professional” in the field? What made him qualified? On the basis of what academic background? Basically, he was self-taught in many aspects of his work, and (if you like) also had colleagues or those of like mind who were also breaking new ground beyond the “established academia of his day.” Enough of a parallel exists between that situation and scholarship in mythicism (some of whom do actually have an academia background) that I can appeal to the parallel.

    Yes, Galileo “struggled” to present a system which harmonized all the available data as efficiently as possible. Exactly what mythicism struggles to do today. Why reject the latter while accepting the latter? Galileo, as it turned out, was right and was eventually proved successful. Mythicism is approaching that point in our own day. And if the arguments put forward on the Matrix are any indication, harmony is all on mythicism’s side. The so-called harmony on the side of historicism is a joke, ‘achieved’ only by distorting the text, reading into it what you want to see there, and insisting on meanings which cannot be supported (as I’ve just demonstrated in regard to the Phil. Hymn).

    Exactly. Galileo dismissed the views of those who had never looked through a telescope, but relied on (his theologians) on trusting in the words of the bible. Somewhat similar to traditional NT scholarship who have never looked at the texts from an unbiased and open-minded viewpoint and rely on words like “authority” and “consensus” and “what we’ve always believed” to shore up claims that are now seen to be highly questionable. Mythicist have indeed “looked through the telescope”. They have examined the texts (those are the ‘planets’ that must be observed). They have seen the moons of Jupiter, and they don’t behave according to the old Ptolemaic system. It is you who refuse to look through the telescope of unbiased reading of the texts.

    Galileo may have felt that he lacked conclusive evidence. Mythicists are a little more confident that they’ve achieved a greater degree of conclusiveness. Besides, the science of astronomy is far different, as is the nature of its evidence, than is historical research, especially in a field as shot with preconception and prejudice as this one is.

    The Copernican system was proposed by a qualified professional, not by an amateur or hobbyist.

    Loaded, subjective, prejudicial, bigoted language. Your “qualified professional” is limited to those who went through the preconceived system and were spit out as loyal subjects to an historical Jesus. Many mythicists are and have been far more than “amateurs” (in the denigrating sense which you give it) and “hobbyists” (more denigration).

    Mythicism, if given a chance, would prove extremely useful in explaining and solving the problems in the picture of the development of a major world religion. It cannot do so as long as mindless prejudice and a closed-mind dismissal remains the mark of its opponents. Even a respected historian like Michael Grant, as I have pointed out, came down on the side of traditional NT scholarship by simply adopting their convictions and prejudices against the non-existence of Jesus, rather than actually research it himself. So typical. (And look what has happened to Gerd Ludemann, a qualified professional by any definition, fired from his post and condemned by the establishment for even approaching a mythicist stance!)

    Jonathan, we are at a point in the development of mythicism, shall we say, somewhat equivalent to the period of Galileo’s house arrest. (Fortunately, the church and its scholars no longer have the power to imprison mythicists.) Still dismissed and condemned by the majority, and especially by influential forces rooted in various religious organizations. We know now that Galileo was right, and that his views eventually won the day. Can you be so sure that such a parallel does not lie in mythicism’s future?

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Jonathan, I wasn’t championing any one translation or particular word in the opening verse of the Philippians hymn.//

    Then why did you select five translations (‘many’?!), which gave a particular rendering of μορφή, and represent them as correct? You also failed to cite any translations which gave a different rendering, which is a suppression of evidence. You must understand that it’s your playing fast and loose with evidence in this way (including your appeal to unattested meanings for words and phrases, and citing lexicons while omitting statements contrary to your claims), which is the principal reason why I don’t find your case appealing.  Your methodology is simply unsound.

    I have already explained how it can be proved that those which use the translation ‘form’ are more accurate than those which use ‘nature’; the lexical range of μορφή does not include ‘nature’. This is verifiable; go and search TLG, the Duke Papyri database, whatever you like, and see how many instances you can find of μορφή meaning ‘nature’. Look at the uses in the Old Greek and apocrypha, for example.[1]

    Once you’ve done that, you’ll understand the reason why standard professional lexicons define the word as ‘shape, form, outward appearance’, and not ‘nature’ (regardless of any theological gloss with which they accompany the definition). They don’t make this stuff up, they actually cite lexical examples of this meaning.

    Not only that, but as I have already shown you, the theological bias typically involved in translations of this term has already been acknowledged even by those to whose beliefs it would be most favourable.[2] [3] [4]

    So we have clear evidence for translation bias in this case, which is even acknowledged by those who would benefit the most from it, yet you are prepared to accept this biased translation as valid. This is inconsistent with your usual practice of identifying and avoiding theologically biased translations.

    //How can he start out as a man and THEN empty/humble himself by taking on the form of a man? Does that make any sense to you?//

    It doesn’t say that he emptied/humbled himself BY taking on the form of a man. It’s no good you citing Bauer, because Bauer’s definition agrees with me. References to Bauer’s Christological preconceptions are irrelevant; even then, he certainly does not say that he derives the pre-existence of Christ from this passage. He simply assumes it. You should be the first person to reject the influence of such theological preconceptions on lexical studies.

    //There is no way to understand “form” in this verse as referring to the human form which has a relationship to the form of God.//

    Until you can substantiate this claim with appropriate evidence, I see no reason to take it seriously. When you can provide your evidence, and when you have interacted with the comments of Strimple on the understanding of μορφή as a reference to visible appearance,[5] Hellerman on the understanding of μορφή as a reference to visible rank or social status,[6] and Martin, Dunn, Cullmann (and others),[7] on the understanding of μορφή as synonymous with eikōn (not to mention all the textual evidence supplied by professional lexicons identifying  μορφή as a reference to outward appearance, visible form), then you’ll have a made a proper case worth considering.

    In any case, I cannot understand why you are appealing to this passage, which, even if I grant the misreading of μορφή, would say that Jesus *was* a divine being, but *became* a man just like other men. This is the complete opposite of your case; you don’t believe Jesus was ever a real man at all.

    ____________________________________________
    [1] Judges 8:18, ‘the appearance of a king’s son’, Job 4:16, ‘I saw no form before my eyes’, Isaiah 44:13, an idol made ‘in the form of a man ‘, Isaiah 52:14, ‘his appearance’, Isaiah 53:52, ‘he has no form or majesty that we should look on him’, Daniel 4:36, ‘my splendour’, Daniel 5:6, 9, 10,  all speaking of the king’s appearance, Daniel 7:28, Daniel’s appearance, Tobit 1:13,  ‘grace and favour’, Wisdom of Solomon 18:1, ‘did not see their forms’, 4 Maccabees 15:4, ‘form’.

    [2] ‘But I have had to conclude that there is really very little evidence to support the conclusion that Paul uses μορφή in such a philosophical sense here and that my determination to hold on to that interpretation was really rooted in its attractiveness theologically.’, Strimple, ‘Philippians 2:5-11 In Recent Studies: Some Exegetical Conclusions’, WTJ (41.2.259), 1979.

    [3] ‘F. W. Beare and Howard Marshall adopt this translation, “mode of being,” but both, I suspect, are influenced by their theological presuppositions: Bultmannian in the case of Beare, orthodox in the case of Marshall.’, ibid., p. 260.

    [4] ‘Translations like the NIV’s “in very nature God” erroneously import an ontological element into a text concerned to address matters of power and social status.’, Hellerman, ‘Μορφη Θεου As A Signifier Of Social Status In Philippians 2:6′, JETS (52.4.778), 2009.

    [5] Strimple, ‘Philippians 2:5-11 In Recent Studies: Some Exegetical Conclusions’, WTJ (41.2.247-268), 1979.

    [6] Hellerman, ‘Μορφη Θεου As A Signifier Of Social Status In Philippians 2:6′, JETS (52.4.778-797), 2009.

    [7] Martin, ‘Carmen Christi: Philippians 2:5–11 in Recent Interpretation’, pp. 115-116 (1983); Dunn, ‘Christology in the Making’, p. 115 (1980); Cullmann, ‘The Christology of the New Testament’, pp. 176-177 (1967).

    • http://www.facebook.com/pstenberg Pär Stenberg

      Hi there. I’ve been following the discussions in the various Myth-related threads for days now. It has been an interesting read I must say :-)

      I have a question for you though in regards to Phil 2:7:
      “It doesn’t say that he emptied/humbled himself BY taking on the form of a man.”

      What I want to know is how you understand the function of the participles in that verse. In my opinion it seems most natural to take them as participles of means. I can’t help but to find the “non-preexistence”-reading a bit strained at times (but I must say that I do find it attractive).

      Also, how do you understand the function of the participles in Gal 4:4?

      Take care
      /Pär

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Well, Jonathan, you really outdid yourself in your research on Galileo.//

    Thank you. I check the facts when presented by claims. Ironically this is probably the first time you’ve actually objected that someone was taking you TOO seriously; typically your objection is that they aren’t taking you seriously enough.

    You made a detailed case representing the Mytherist position as substantially analogous to Galileo’s, such that Mytherism (like Galileo’s argument for geocentrism), should be considered a fledgling truth being faced merely by unreasonable objections from those who are . I took the time to address your case in detail, and demonstrated that it was invalid. I’m grateful that you at least acknowledged that ‘some of it is technically correct’.

    //But many of your objections are fallacious, and beg the question…//

    Let’s see the evidence for this claim please. I’ve noticed you have a habit of claiming your opponent’s arguments are ‘fallacious’, distort the evidence, ‘beg the question’, or are simply biased, but you typically don’t accompany these accusations with evidence.

    Now to your points.

    1. I already made the point myself that Mytherists are (in your words), ‘up against religion-based opinion by those who regarded themselves as scholars’. That wasn’t in dispute. My point was that the theologians of Galileo’s day were not the established scholarship in the field.

    Similarly, you can’t claim that all objections to your case are merely ‘religion-based opinion by those who regarded themselves as scholars’, since you face objections which are not based on religion, from a broad range of those who actually are scholars, in a range of different fields unrelated to religion, and from a significant number of atheists and agnostics. Furthermore, in your case the academic process (including peer review), is far more rigorous and exacting, and far better at mitigating the influence of personal bias.

    So you actually enjoy an academic environment which is far more favourable to the presentation of your case than Galileo’s was to his.

    2. Loose talk of Galileo as ‘self-taught in many aspects of his work’ obscures the facts concerning Galileo’s qualifications. Galileo received formal university level instruction in mathematics and astronomy, and held an academic teaching position in both subjects. He was as much a qualified professional by the standards of his day, as his modern equivalent. This is no parallel to modern Mytherism.

    3. Of course I recognize that Mytherism struggles to present a system which harmonizes all the available data as efficiently as possible. I don’t reject Mytherism on account of this struggle, just as Galileo’s model was accepted by many even before he had succeeded in harmonizing all the available data.

    4. Your depiction of Mytherist opponents as ‘traditional NT scholarship who have never looked at the texts from an unbiased and open-minded viewpoint and rely on words like “authority” and “consensus” and “what we’ve always believed” to shore up claims that are now seen to be highly questionable’ is not only unsubstantiated, subjective, and hardly expressed in an objective neutral tone, but fails completely to acknowledge the opposition to Mytherism from atheists and agnostics, as well as scholars in fields other than ‘traditional NT scholarship’.

    As I’ve pointed out previously, the academic environment you enjoy is far more favourable to the acceptance of your case than Galileo’s was to his.

    5. It’s not simply that Galileo felt that he lacked conclusive evidence, it’s a matter of simple fact that he DID lack conclusive evidence. That evidence wasn’t even available in his day, it took decades later to obtain.

    6. You label as ‘Loaded, subjective, prejudicial, bigoted language’ my statement that ‘The Copernican system was proposed by a qualified professional, not by an amateur or hobbyist’. Why? It’s a simple matter of fact. If I had used expressions such as ‘rank amateur’, ‘incompetent hobbyist’, ‘self-promoting dilettante’, you would have had a valid objection, but I never use such disparaging terms. I used the same terms as I would use of myself; amateur, and hobbyist. You can hardly accuse me of trying to denigrate myself. There is nothing disparaging or denigrating in the use of these terms to describe those who are not professionally qualified in the fields, and who investigate them as amateurs.

    Furthermore, those regarded as qualified professionals in the fields relevant to the historical Jesus are not simply ‘those who went through the preconceived system and were spit out as loyal subjects to an historical Jesus’. This is yet another unsubstantiated claim of yours, and it’s simply another personal attack on those professionals who disagree with you. Why do you make these personal attacks? They simply reduce your credibility.

    7. If Mytherism was ‘extremely useful in explaining and solving the problems in the picture of the development of a major world religion’, it would already be used to do so. You cannot seriously suggest that scholars would reject outright a tool which was demonstrably useful, even if they disagreed with its conclusions for personal reasons.

    As I’ve pointed out, Copernicus’ tables were used even by those who completely disagreed with him and who opposed his model completely. His system had a significant impact on science even before it was widely accepted. If Mytherism had anything analogous to offer, it would likewise be used.

    8. If we were at the point of development of Myherism analogous to Galileo’s house arrest, then:

    * Mytherism would already be taken seriously by scholarship as a valid alternative to the prevailing viewpoint

    * Mytherism would already be enjoying widespread support from qualified professionals

    * The methodology and conclusions of Mytherism would already be used by qualified professionals to further their research successfully

    None of these is the case.

    • Earl Doherty

      Jonathan, I’ve pointed out how your claims about what Galileo would have thought or not thought aren’t as cut and dried as you present them. I don’t intend to spend any more time on it. But it’s easy to see why you’re so anxious to focus on something which enlightens the debate not one iota, and only serves to make fallacious comparisons between mythicism and creationism.

      That’s understandable, considering what a bare cupboard historicism possesses to actually refute in a reasoned and unbiased way the case for mythicism. Oh wait, I forgot “Brother of the Lord can only mean one thing,” and “Paul never mentions the HJ because everyone across the Christian world already knew everything there was to know about Jesus and there was no point to reminding them.” And the latest: “the Philippians hymn says that Jesus the man, who possessed the form of God a la Genesis, then took on the form of a man.” Why don’t you focus on trying to defend nonsense like this with a little rationality and something in the nature (or should that be “form”?) of actual evidence and honest examination of the texts?

      You can lead an historicist to the telescope, but you can’t force him to look through it. He already knows better. You can’t force him to see the moons of Jupiter and their motion if they contravene his own preconceptions and interests. Just as Galileo’s theologians said: We don’t need to look through your telescope, we already know the truth.

    • Robert

      //8. If we were at the point of development of Myherism analogous to Galileo’s house arrest, then:* Mytherism would already be taken seriously by scholarship as a valid alternative to the prevailing viewpoint* Mytherism would already be enjoying widespread support from qualified professionals* The methodology and conclusions of Mytherism would already be used by qualified professionals to further their research successfullyNone of these is the case.//

      Though Mythicism is widely accepted when it comes to the Gospel Christ, it does enjoy widespread support from qualified professionals and both the methodology and conclusions derived from the fact that the Gospel Christ is a Christian Myth has been and is being used by qualified professionals to further their research sucessfully.

      What you are referring to is the possibility of an individual as the historical core who, admittedly, has been highly mytholigized.

      On the other side, we have the argument that, instead of an individual as the core, we may solely have the creation of new theology from old theology and that the central character was simply created as part of this process.

      An interesting question, I admit. So, as it is agreed that we have a set of evidence, namely ancient writings, with which to work, which position tends to be best supported by said evidence? Which is the most reasonable conclusion, or, for that matter, can one conclusion be shown to be so much more likely, that the other conclusion becomes untennable?

      I have read and heard a lot of bluster, what I have not read, or heard, is an actual argument that makes the case sufficiently enough to rule out one in favor of the other.

        
       
      “”

  • Jonathan Burke

    //What I want to know is how you understand the function of the
    participles in that verse. In my opinion it seems most natural to take
    them as participles of means. I can’t help but to find the
    “non-preexistence”-reading a bit strained at times (but I must say that I
    do find it attractive).[/quote]

    The ESV puts it well enough.

    Philippians 2:
    6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  ‎
    7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  ‎
    8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

    //Also, how do you understand the function of the participles in Gal 4:4?//

    Er, I’m not sure what there is to explain here; when the appropriate time came, God sent out his son, born of a woman, born under the law.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pstenberg Pär Stenberg

      @google-0afc84882ce2bf8bdbede723f1020d0f:disqus  Correct me if I am wrong but it seems to me that the syntactical relationship of the participles in the ESV appears to be quite ambigious, which often is the case with English participles, a luxury that we Swedes do not have in our language.  :-)

      It is possible to read the ESV as saying that the “making himself nothing” was achieved by “taking the form of a servant and being born in the likeness of men”. Likewise it is also possible to understand the participles the ESV rendering as describing more clearly what the “making himself nothing” really means, but since this would mean that “being born in the likeness of men” occurs after Jesus choice to “not consider/count equality with God a thing to be grasped” it would seem to indicate some form of pre-existence.

      Concerning Galatians 4:4 it is possible to understand the two participle-clauses as to be attributes of the Son (“the one who has born of”), temporal (“after being born/when being born”), means (“by being born of”), or in other ways as well I suppose.

      I really can not help seeing pre-existence in Rom 8:3, Gal 4:4 and Phil 2:6-7.

      • Robert

        You can’t help seeing it, because it slaps one right on the side of the head…

        I have been quite amazed by some of the espoused positions, regarding the text in question.

        Is it vital to the historicist’s case, at least the case that seems to be presented here, that Paul did not view Christ Jesus as a pre-existent divinity?

        Somehow, I feel that I must have misunderstood the argument that has been put forward. 
         
        “”

        • http://www.facebook.com/pstenberg Pär Stenberg

          I might just be that the reason that the “plain meaning of the texts” slaps us right in the face might be due to our traditional understanding which we are bringing to the text.  When read in the context of Second Temple Judaism, the meaning of the text might be something completely different from what originally thought it meant. I can sympathize with the non-preexistence reading as presented above (the Adam imagery seems to me to form the basis of the poem in question), yet I find it more compelling to understand Paul’s words to be speaking of pre-existence.

          And no, I pretty certain that if it could be shown that Paul believed in the pre-existence of Jesus, it would not effect the historicist’s case. Paul could have a lot of “crazy” ideas about the origins of this human being. And even if Paul is speaking about a pre-existent Christ in Rom 8:3 Gal 4:4, Col 1:15, 1 Cor 8:6, 2 Cor 8:9 and Phil 2:5-7, this might be understood as ideal pre-existence rather than personal pre-existence.

          • Robert

            // When read in the context of Second Temple Judaism, the meaning of the hymn might be something completely different from what we originally thought it meant.//

            Perhaps.

            I suppose that this, in the end,depends on whether or not Paul should actually be understood within the context of Second Temple Judaism, whether or not Second Temple Judaism was, itself, monolithic enough to use as a fall-back generalization and, perhaps most importantly, if we should take the second century fathers at their word.

  • Earl Doherty

    Jonathan: Then why did you select five translations (‘many’?!), which gave a particular rendering of μορφή, and represent them as correct? You also failed to cite any translations which gave a different rendering, which is a suppression of evidence. You must understand that it’s your playing fast and loose with evidence in this way (including your appeal to unattested meanings for words and phrases, and citing lexicons while omitting statements contrary to your claims), which is the principal reason why I don’t find your case appealing.  Your methodology is simply unsound.

    Jonathan, are you incapable of making any sense at all? All those translations actually differed from one another overall in choice of words and phrases, they all gave different “renderings” of various terms. They did not all give the same rendering of μορφή. Some had “form”, some had “nature,” so what the hell are you talking about? But they were all correct! What else could have been my point? They all conveyed the same thing, that “Christ Jesus” (v.5) was an entity who was divine from the first, sharing the nature or form of God (whichever word you prefer). Nothing in any translation I gave even intimated that he began as a man who, as a created man, simply had the image or “form” of God a la Genesis (or Philo), which is what James tried to suggest (if I read him correctly, sometimes it’s difficult).

    Can you produce any other translation which I did not offer which does convey what James wanted? I challenge you that there simply aren’t any, and certainly none that would contradict or offer a completely different meaning than the five I gave you. So what is this demand for a translation that I didn’t offer, what is this accusation of a suppression of evidence? If you knew of a translation which supported James, you’d produce it, not just make this unsubstantiated and pointless accusation. What, are you just assuming there must be one, that various translations of this verse could give diametrically opposite meanings (some say he was God, others say he was a man in the image of God: no difference there, right? Lordluvaduck!) Do you feel no sense of responsibility to actually think before you leap, or offer evidence to back your claims? Is this your methodology, something you regard as “sound” as opposed to my “unsound” methods? Incredible!

    Once you’ve done that, you’ll understand the reason why standard professional lexicons define the word as ‘shape, form, outward appearance’, and not ‘nature’ (regardless of any theological gloss with which they accompany the definition).

    Even if this were true, as I’ve said, it doesn’t change anything. “Form” in this verse does not support James. It cannot refer to the “form” given to Adam and humanity at their creation. (And James is wrong to say that there is any comparison being made or intimated to Adam in this hymn.) The text simply does not say this and does not allow for it.

    It doesn’t say that he emptied/humbled himself BY taking on the form of a man. It’s no good you citing Bauer, because Bauer’s definition agrees with me. References to Bauer’s Christological preconceptions are irrelevant; even then, he certainly does not say that he derives the pre-existence of Christ from this passage. He simply assumes it. You should be the first person to reject the influence of such theological preconceptions on lexical studies.

    Unbelievable! What other meaning could these verses possibly be saying than that he emptied himself by, or in the process of, taking on the form of a man? What else does the “emptying” of himself mean? How else did he do that? Why would the hymnist include it if it had to do with something else which the hymn doesn’t even mention, putting nary even a comma between the “emptying” and the taking on the form of a slave? (It cannot refer back to “didn’t think to snatch equality with God,” if only because it is grammatically precluded, and the two thoughts don’t work together.) Besides, we have that idea, of God or Christ humbling/compromising his nature, etc. through adopting a less pure and exalted form (such as in the Odes of Solomon, though there it is symbolic of making himself known) in other documents of the era.

    And why is Bauer’s opinion or Christological conceptions irrelevant? Are you saying Bauer is wrong and James is right? That all those commentators who analyze the Phil. Hymn as stating that Jesus was a pre-existent emanation of God from the beginning are wrong and James is right? Bauer, it is true, does not give “nature” as a translation of μορφή, but that, as I keep telling you, is immaterial. Even if I accepted “form” as the only legitimate translation, it still wouldn’t give the verse the meaning James wants to give it.

    Let’s take one of your footnotes:

    [4] ‘Translations like the NIV’s “in very nature God” erroneously import an ontological element into a text concerned to address matters of power and social status.’, Hellerman, ‘Μορφη Θεου As A Signifier Of Social Status In Philippians 2:6′, JETS (52.4.778), 2009.

    Since I haven’t seen the text of Hellerman, I can only try to deduce from the above what he has said about the meaning of the Phil. Hymn, or what ‘evidence’ he has supplied for what seems to be a very drastic revisionist interpretation of the text. And since this touches on an important point, I’ll be more than brief about it. The title of Hellerman’s book, and the phrase “concerned to address matters of power and social status,” pretty well tells me that this is yet another reflection of one very modern and recent trend to turn the early Christian Jesus, even in the epistles, into not much more than a “special status” man and deprive him of all concept of divinity. I regard that as hogwash. It is today’s scholarship being forced to make itself a little more ‘modern’ and secular in its portrayal of Jesus and its portrayal of how Jesus was allegedly viewed by the first Christians. None of it has any reasonable evidence in the texts, and especially in the epistles. Older scholars recognized full well that Jesus in the epistles is primarily, if not exclusively, presented as a transcendent being. What I have seen some recent commentators do to passages like 1 Cor. 8:6, or Col. 1:15-20, or parts of Hebrews, in order to erase all suggestion of Jesus as a cosmic divinity, is scandalous. That in itself is a blatant example of the bias mainstream scholarship is capable of (a new one, amazingly, which seems to be trying to water down Jesus to essentially a nobody who somehow gained more respect than he deserved), who for newer, evolving interests, twist the texts to say what they want them to say and not say what is no longer acceptable in their eyes.

    What the hell does the Phil. Text have to do with “social status” of some person on earth? Is the poor Phil. Hymn suffering a reduction to the status of metaphor such as someone like Attridge has inflicted on the heavenly sacrifice in Hebrews? Where else in the epistles is the slightest attention given to the social status of Jesus on earth? We can hardly detect even the remotest concern to give us any information whatever about his earthly life.

    But you and James and Hellerman go ahead and read anything you like into the texts. It’s par for the course.

    …and Martin, Dunn, Cullmann (and others),[7] on the understanding of μορφή as synonymous with eikōn (not to mention all the textual evidence supplied by professional lexicons identifying μορφή as a reference to outward appearance, visible form), then you’ll have a made a proper case worth considering.

    Whether you know it or not, eikon is used of heavenly emanations of the primary God, in other words of the divinity second to God himself. It is a term used by such as Philo for the Logos, an entirely heavenly aspect of God, and neither Dunn, nor Cullmann (I’m not sure what “Martin” you are referring to) thinks it means anything but that. This fits to a T the usage of μορφή in Phil. 2:6. Paul himself uses eikon in 1 Cor. 15:49 to refer first to the image of the earthy man (Adam) and of the heavenly man (Christ), showing the application of the term to both material and spiritual entities. The modern ‘fad’ to choose the former and force it on the cosmic Son in epistolary passages is again a choice dictated by special interests, when the epistles as whole give no support, not even a likelihood, to such a choice.

    Profession lexicons may well identify μορφή as a reference to outward appearance, but they don’t have to be ruling out the outward appearance of a divinity, a concept which is perfectly in keeping with the universal philosophical concept of the primary God generating a subordinate image of himself, which serves as a channel of knowledge and agent of this and that, including salvation. The terminology is used widely in that connection.

    In any case, I cannot understand why you are appealing to this passage, which, even if I grant the misreading of μορφή, would say that Jesus *was* a divine being, but *became* a man just like other men. This is the complete opposite of your case; you don’t believe Jesus was ever a real man at all.

    Like James, you are now hedging your bets. I might be right after all about Phil. 2:6, that it states that Jesus, from the beginning, in his pre-existence (relative to historicism) state, was an aspect of God, sharing in his form/nature. (Another dislodged card in the house of cards?) As I said to James, the meaning of subsequent verses about the emanation of God taking on a certain likeness or form to humanity is a separate issue, and no doubt we will get to that in due course.

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

    I suppose there are three questions to ask at this juncture. 1) If the text cannot possibly have a comparison with Adam in view, how come some commentators and scholars think it does? 2) If you have researched the subject of early Christology so as to have a basis for your claims, why do you seem unaware of these discussions which have been going on in New Testament scholarship? 3) If you are in fact aware of their views, why do you not address them in detail, instead of pretending they are not there?

    • Earl Doherty

      It does not surprise me, James, that as part of the recasting of the
      Phil. hymn into a discussion of the social status of a human Jesus, the
      figure of Adam has somehow been inserted into the mix. (Does it also tell us about the social status of Adam?)

      But the simplest procedure here would be for you to give us a capsule account of
      that concept, and exactly how Adam and a comparison with him appears in the hymn, according to those commentators and scholars. After all, isn’t it more difficult to prove a negative? Since mythicists are always debunked by simply saying that you can’t prove a negative, why should I undertake such a hopeless task as proving that no trace of Adam can be found in the Phil. hymn? No matter what say, those inventive scholars can always find a way around it, I’m sure. Besides, do you expect me to do all the work? You’re the one who champions such an interpretation. It should be up to you to demonstrate it.

      Then we can see how reasonable a case it is.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Is it vital to the historicist’s case, at least the case that seems to be presented here, that Paul did not view Christ Jesus as a pre-existent divinity?//
    No, not in the least. The vast majority of Christians who believe Jesus was a historical figure, also believe (and insist), that he was a deity who existed before he was born.

    //Though Mythicism is widely accepted when it comes to the Gospel Christ, it does enjoy widespread support from qualified professionals and both the methodology and conclusions derived from the fact that the Gospel Christ is a Christian Myth has been and is being used by qualified professionals to further their research sucessfully.//

    You are confusing Mytherism with the quest for the historical Jesus.

    //On the other side, we have the argument that, instead of an individual as the core, we may solely have the creation of new theology from old theology and that the central character was simply created as part of this process.//

    Yes, that’s called ‘Mytherism’.

    • Robert

      I am not confusing anything. Is it, or is it not, your position, that the Gospel Jesus is a myth, regardless of whether loosely based on a specific historical individual or not?  
       

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

    My point was to indicate that the pre-existence interpretation of the passage is not undisputed. But since ancient Jews were capable of attributing pre-existence to the human Messiah, and because celestial figures were believed to be able to appear in history either by taking on human form or by inspiring an actual human being, the question of belief in pre-existence doesn’t settle the question of whether the text has in view an actual human being who lived – and who is explicitly said to have died.

    • Robert

      Agreed.

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

    @Earl, I apologize for having assumed that you would be familiar with the scholarly discussions that have taken place in a field you claim to know about and understand. I don’t expect you to do all the work, but it is patently obvious that you have not done enough, if you are not aware of major discussions in a field in which you pretend to have understanding and expertise.

    • Earl Doherty

      Well, James, I take this to mean that you yourself do not know enough about the scholarly discussion on a comparison between Adam and Christ in the Philippians hymn to be able to give us a capsule summary of it so that the debated issue can proceed. This sort of tactic is exactly what Jeffrey Gibson used to engage in with me, and he never did end up demonstrating that he knew anything about the issues being addressed.

      After all, if you did know enough about it, I see no reason why you would not be willing to put that scholarly discussion forward yourself, to meet the burden of the challenge (that there is demonstrably a comparison with Adam present in the Phil. hymn), and thus make it possible (from your point of view) to demonstrate that you are right and I am wrong. To settle for some alleged implication that I don’t know anything about the discussion which you claim to know about would hardly be more than a distant second in satisfaction for you.

      So I regard your refusal to enlighten us so we can examine it to be nothing but a bluff on your part. (Alternatively, I invite any of your acolytes here on the Matrix, who perhaps know more about it than you do, to enlighten us.)

      Besides, in principle you would be gaining nothing even were I not familiar with it. I have admitted earlier that I am unfamiliar with the very recent interpretation of Hellerman on the alleged “social status of Jesus” being the point of the hymn. It was published in 2009, Jesus: Neither God Nor Man was also published in 2009, so I would have been unable to incorporate a consideration of that view in my book. I have also never claimed that I have taken the trouble to examine every new interpretation that today’s critical scholarship has come up with to transform the epistles into dissertations on an historical Jesus whom Paul and Co. never regarded as divine. My writings not only make it clear that I cannot subscribe to that trend in revisionist scholarship, but my actual arguments for what the epistles do tell us about Paul’s non-earthly Christ would automatically rule out and discredit such scholarly innovations.

      Once again, though, since a demonstration on your part that a comparison between an earthly Jesus and an earthly Adam as present in the Phil. hymn would lead us to discussing such an issue, I can see no reason why you would not be willing to present it on behalf of your fellow scholars and thus set me up for the fall which you are so anxious to see, and which you have not otherwise been able to accomplish thus far.

      I might also take the opportunity to ask you a blunt question. If this new scholarly claim about the Phil. hymn is to be regarded as reliable and accurate, does that not make all previous scholarship on the hymn, which saw it as a piece of liturgy about the pre-existent Christ undergoing incarnation, erroneous and condemnable?

      And while you’re at it, could you outline for us how this new
      scholarship demonstrates all the other christological hymns to be about the social
      status of the man Jesus, or perhaps further comparisons with Adam,
      despite the fact that they say even less about any human Jesus on earth than the Phil. one does. And I guess we have to jettison the old crazy idea that all those christological hymns were even liturgy at all, since do hymnists compose reverent and mythological liturgy (such as the latter half of the Phil. hymn undeniably is) about the social status of a simple human being for use in worship?

      Should you not be disowning all those previous scholars, James, including those whom Jonathan has appealed to, and consigning them to the wilderness of ignorance and error to which you consign me, in my views of the Phil. hymn (and everything else, of course)? Are you not being a little naive in accepting this new trend in scholarship on the epistles as the new “accurate and final” word on the subject, when the entire history of New Testament scholarship has been simply a series of new “accurate and final” words on the nature of Jesus and the interpretation of the texts, indeed virtually a new one each generation? Have we not in some cases even seen a roller coaster reversal of new interpretations back in the direction of old ones (such as back toward an apocalyptic preaching Jesus when the Jesus Seminar had virtually buried such an entity)?

      It seems to me that your smug championing of the latest fads in scholarship, simply on the basis that they supposedly provide new ammunition against mythicism, especially when such fads are often a reaction to a growing mythicism and an effort to counter that and other too-radical views or difficulties being acknowledged in traditional New Testament interpretations, is profoundly misguided.

      At the very least, I would say you need to defend them yourself, not merely point to them off in the distance and expect me to provide the summary and consideration of them. After all, if I said to you, Oh, there is new scholarship pointing to an understanding of “brother of the Lord” as “brethren of God”, would you let me get away with challenging you to dig it out and present it yourself, while I relax and sip Mint Juleps on the sidelines?
       

  • Jonathan Burke

    //I am not confusing anything.//

    You said ‘Mythicism is widely accepted when it comes to the Gospel Christ’. That is a confusion of terms. Mythicism isn’t accepted widely at all. It is accepted widely that the depiction of Jesus in the gospels is not an accurate representation of the historical Jesus, but this is not Mythicism.

    //Is it, or is it not, your position, that the Gospel Jesus is a myth, regardless of whether loosely based on a specific historical individual or not?//

    No it isn’t.

    //I suppose that this, in the end,depends on whether or not Paul should actually be understood within the context of Second Temple Judaism, whether or not Second Temple Judaism was, itself, monolithic enough to use as a fall-back generalization and, perhaps most importantly, if we should take the second century fathers at their word.//

    We don’t have to assume a monolithic Second Temple Era Judaism, and we don’t have to make any generalizations about it. We know full well how splintered and fractured it was. Nevertheless, what we can do is place Paul (as an ex-Pharisee), within that background and assess his writings accordingly, just as we do with Philo and Josephus. What we shouldn’t do is transplant Paul to Egypt or India and assume that his religious background was Hinduism or Osiris worship.

    • Robert

      So you are a Christian?

  • Jonathan Burke

    //So you are a Christian?//

    Yes I am.

    • Robert

      Then I can understand why you would not view the Gospel Christ as a myth. Thanks.

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

    No Earl, I am giving you an opportunity to illustrate that (1) you are discussing this subject without having researched it, and (2) you are disputing the views of a professor who has published on this topic (in particular in The Only True God) without having read his publications. In the academy, showing up to a discussion of a scholar’s work without having actually read it would be a cause for significant embarrassment. And so I thought you might be kind enough to illustrate that you don’t know what you are talking about, and that you dispute with people without even reading their work. And I really do appreciate your eagerness to do so.

    Perhaps I should mention that the work by James D. G. Dunn which I referred to previously, Christology in the Making, which sparked lots of discussion and became a standard text to refer to (even by those who disagree with it) by someone who is considered one of the major experts in the field, was first published in 1980. You have had more than three decades’ worth of opportunity to read a work that is a classic in this area. Any particular reason you have ignored it?

    • Earl Doherty

      Sorry, James, but this is all bullshit. You still refuse to present the argument you are claiming. This is very typical of historicist opponents. No matter if I’ve read a thousand books, I’d still be criticized for not reading that 1001st book which supposedly (isn’t it always the case?) presented the proof that discredits mythicism or even one of my arguments. (Another of the tactics of Jeffrey Gibson, it really is astonishing how much you two have in common.) Although even there, you hedge your claim by admitting that there are those among experts in the field who disagree with Dunn. I take that as a dead giveaway that Dunn is not quite the giant-killer you would like to claim he is.

      When are you going to start bringing a bit of honesty and integrity to your debates? (To be frank, I never met a diehard historicist who possessed either.) Actually, this isn’t a debate, because you are refusing to present your side of it. Do you think this kind of antics is enhancing the reputation of historicists and their claims to being on the side of the angels?

      I am not disputing the views of Dunn, since I haven’t read that book. I am disputing the position you yourself have stated, and Jonathan in his somewhat cryptic appeal to Hellerman, that the Phil. hymn is concerned with the social status of a human Jesus. I don’t need to have read Dunn to dispute that (though I could only do it in a limited way, since you refused to give me any details). If you think Dunn, or anyone else I might not have read, has a killer interpretation that would discredit my dispute of your claim on the Phil. hymn, prove it. Quite frankly, I don’t know if you are blowing it out your shorts as to whether Dunn actually does address the Phil. hymn in this way, or has anything at all to say on the matter. You haven’t exactly been dependable thus far on what you claim texts say; maybe the same goes for scholars you appeal to.

      Either s–t or get off the pot. Present Dunn’s argument (or whoever’s) so we can evaluate it. Or are you simply afraid to do so? For all your bluster and bluffing, you haven’t yet come close to dealing my arguments any kind of blow, regardless of what authorities you appeal to. Are you afraid that the same failure will occur if you actually present Dunn’s analysis of the Philippians hymn–if it exists?

  • Earl Doherty

    If James still continues to wimp out, perhaps one of the other resident experts here will jump into the breach. Since Jonathan pronounced on Hellerman’s “social status of Jesus” in the Phil. hymn, presumably he has read Dunn’s book in question. After all, according to James, anyone who dares pronounce on it has to have read Dunn or else be acknowledged an ignoramus and a fraud for not having read it. Right, Jonathan?

    So since we can presume that you have read Dunn, why don’t YOU give us a capsule summary of Dunn’s argument in regard to the Phil. hymn and we can go on even without benefit of James’ expertise and cooperation. Or are you ALL going to wimp out?

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Here is a part from Dunn’s book.

    “In brief,  the most  informative and  probable background  in my judgment is the one we have been sketching in throughout this chapter – that of the Adam christology which was widely current in the Christianity of the 40s and  50s.  It seems  to  me that  Phil.  2.6-11  is best understood as an expression of Adam christology, one of the fullest expressions that we still  possess.  We  have  already  seen  how  Widespread  was  this  Adam christology in the period before  Paul wrote his letters – a fact not usually appreciated  by  those who offer alternative  exegeses of the hymn.  Moreover it can  readily  be seen  that  the outline of thought  in  the  Philippian hymn fully  matches  the  two-stage  christology  evident elsewhere in first generation  Christianity  (see  above  § 1 4)  – free  acceptance  of man’s  lot followed  out  to  death,  and  exaltation  to  the  status  of Lord  over  all, echoing the  regular  primitive  association of Ps. 110.1  with  Ps.  B.6.  It  is the way in which this Adam christology comes to expression in Phil. 2.6-11  which  I  must now attempt to demonstrate in more detail.”

    James  D.  G.  Dunn  Christology in the Making Second  Edition § 15.1, page 114-115, 1980.  1989

  • Reyjacobs

    “Perhaps it will be best to mention the latter point first, briefly. Accepting the historicity of Jesus is not about ‘belief in the Bible’ or about ‘Christianity’ but about the conclusions historians and other scholars of antiquity draw about the existence of a figure who at best partially resembled – and is certainly partly at variance from – the Jesus of Christian faith and dogma.”

    This is a ridiculously false statement.  The only ‘evidence’ for the existence of Jesus comes from the Bible (i.e. the New Testament) and early church arguments about its meaning (all external evidence, that is external to the Bible, is evidence only of the existence of New Testament literature and people who believed in it, not of Jesus’ existence).  It is the same with Mohammed and the Koran and Haddith, as there is no evidence of his existence outside of the religious tradition, and the only external evidence is in fact not evidence of his existence but of the existence of people who bought into the idea of his existence.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    I’m just providing the information, I do not necessarily agree with it..

  • Reyjacobs

    The same can be said with respect to evidence for the WMDs in Iraq as for the existence of Jesus or Mohammed.  We have reports in the news saying “Sadaam has WMDs.”  We have video of Bush saying “Sadaam has WMDs.”  We have video of Rumsfeld saying “Sadaam has WMDs.”  We have video of Colon Powell trying to convince the UN “Sadaam has WMDs.”  We have the republican true-believers who still to this day say “Sadaam had WMDs but he transported them into Syria before Bush attacked.”  In New Testament scholar terms, this proves that Sadaam had WMDs.  But to real people this simply proves the existence of those who claim Sadaam had WMDs — it proves that Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell, and warmongering republican sheeple all exist and at one time believed (or still do) that Sadaam had WMDs.  But essentially, what New Testament scholars do is hold up the text (or in this case the video) and say “see have this text called a gospel says Jesus was a real guy from Galilee; there he was” or the Muslim scholar “see we have this text called the Hadith that says Mohammed did this or that; therefore Mohammed really did this or that” (and their counterparts in American Media scholarship would say “see we have this video of Bush plainly saying Sadaam has WMDs; therefore Sadaam really has WMDs”).

  • Reyjacobs

    Or what if the world was solidly taken over by neo-cons who wanted to vindicate Bush, and who burned all the articles and videos that ever questioned the existence of the WMDs and labelled the doubters as ‘heretics’ so throughly that the only mention of any doubts came in the form of treatises against the heretics titled things like “Against the foul and odious heretics who claim that there were no WMDs” that mentioned the crazy heretical theory only as essentially a footnote only to mock and point ‘how stupid the heretics were’.  

    Or what if birthers took over the world and all trace of people believing Obama was born in the US were essentially wiped out and everyone who believed he was born in the US was labelled a heretic and the only mention of the idea he was born anywhere other than Kenya was only to be found in a treatise “Against the Heretics who say Obama was not born in Kenya; wherein is treated the hair-brained theories of the heretical sect called Democrats.”

    This is what was done to poor Marcion, of course.  Debate was shut down by strong arm tactics.  The Catholic church destroyed his writings; his theory only survives in treatises against the heretic wherein he is treated as subhuman (Tertullian’s extremely racist depiction of Pontus comes to mind).

    If the future were run by birthers, I guess that Obama being born in Kenya would be a proven historical fact right.  After all, don’t the birthers possess a text (a text, then it must be true!) and articles written by a birther organization (an article they wrote themselves, who would doubt that?) — they have a text!  they call anyone who disagrees ‘heretics’ — they’ve destroyed the contrary evidence (assuming a future scenario of course) — so, it must be true.  And if you doubt that Obama was born in Kenya, why you’re just crazy.  We have a completely biased text that says he was, stupid, why are you so stupid, stupid head?

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

    Wow, I love the conspiratorial outlook you have, Earl. Of course the reason I didn’t present Dunn’s argument was because of fear, not because I assumed that anyone discussing Christology would be familiar with one of the main talking points in academic work on Pauline Christology over the past three decades.

    I appreciate your illustrating your lack of research and your paranoia.

    I will, of course, be more than happy to do a post on Dunn’s interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11. I’ll try to get to it sometime this weekend.

    @Reyjacobs, here on this blog I am interested in serious historical discussion, and so you might want to start by taking a look at my previous discussions on mythicism. Another thing to keep in mind is that the “Bible” in the sense of a collection of Christian Scripture including the works currently in the New Testament did not exist (by definition) until after those works were written. And so what we need to discuss is whether there is any reliable information that can be gleaned from the writings of the small Jewish sect that later evolved into Christianity – such as the letters of Paul, for instance.

  • Gakuseidon

    Earl Doherty: Quite frankly, I don’t know if you are blowing it out your shorts as to whether Dunn actually does address the Phil. hymn in this way, or has anything at all to say on the matter.

    Earl, I refer to Dunn on the Phil hymn in my review of your book here: http://members.optusnet.com.au/gakuseidon/JNGNM_Review3.html

    I wrote:

    “Dunn points to the language used in the pre-Pauline hymn of Phil 2:6-11, which has usually been interpreted as describing a pre-existent divinity who descends, takes on the form of a servant, and then reascends. This is Doherty’s interpretation as well. (Page 117) However, Dunn points out that in terms of Adam Christology, the hymn may well have a very different meaning. Jesus is not a pre-existent being. He comes in “the form of God” as Adam came in “the image of God”. When he comes as a servant, it is not a divinity taking on human likeness but a man who came to serve God, in contrast to Adam. Whereas Jesus was obedient to God “unto death” and thereby appointed as ‘Son of God’ by the resurrection and given new life, Adam disobeyed God and suffered death.”.

    You responded to my review, and to my point above here: http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/CritiquesDonJNGNM.htm

    You wrote:

    “Don appeals to critical scholarship which has been guilty of this watering down of the epistolary Jesus. He quotes James Dunn on the interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11. That interpretation is strained, and moreover has no support in the text itself. It approaches that text from the point of view: how can we give a different cast to this passage? Not surprisingly in the hands of creative theologians, it is read as a form of Adam Christology, despite the fact that there is no reference to Adam here; and this human interpretation of the descending-ascending Jesus in the hymn is notably missing in Paul’s chief Adam passage, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49. (Nor can it confidently reside in the term “man” in other places when the latter is, in both Jewish and pagan thought, a widespread component among mythical entities in the heavenly dimension.)

    Don says, “Interpreted this way, Phil 2:6-11 is no longer about a divine man.” Yes, when one is determined that it will not be allowed to. Dunn makes no reference, let alone deals with, the exalted language descriptive of the Son in other epistolary passages, such as those referred to above. And again, I will raise the all-important question about the epistles: if they are indeed referring to an historical man who was ‘adopted’ into mundane sonship after his death and rising on earth, how can that man, his personality, his teachings and deeds, his life on earth, be totally ignored as though they no longer or never existed, or could contribute nothing to understanding or justifying his elevation? Why is Dunn’s Philippians hymn completely silent on any item to do with that earthly life, while forced to repeat the idea of taking on the likeness of human form three times when the hymnist could have devoted two of those lines to something about an earthly Jesus? Why are all the hymns silent on an earthly life?”.

  • Dave Burke

    Earl,

    I’ve been deliberately staying out of this thread because you have more than enough on your plate already. However, in light of your recent challenge I’ll be happy to illustrate an academic case for the Adam/Christ typology in Philippians 2.

    On a related note, I should mention that μορφή and εἰκών both refer to outward appearance, not ontology. The LXX is useful here; see Genesis 1:26:

    “καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός Ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον κατʼ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθʼ ὁμοίωσιν, καὶ ἀρχέτωσαν τῶν ἰχθύων τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῶν κτηνῶν καὶ πάσης τῆς γῆς καὶ πάντων τῶν ἑρπετῶν τῶν ἑρπόντων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.”

    Septuaginta: With morphology. 1979 (electronic ed.) (Ge 1:26). Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart.

    Notice also the use of ὁμοίωσιν, meaning “similarity”, “likeness”, or “resemblance.” This is not an ontological statement.

    You say:

    >>
    “Form” in this verse does not support James. It cannot refer to the “form” given to Adam and humanity at their creation.
    >>

    Why not? If you’re going to make bold assertions like this, it’s probably a good idea to support them with evidence.

    The recognition that Paul contrasts Jesus with Adam in Philippians 2 is
    not a new idea, by the way. It’s been around for at least 1,700 years,
    if not longer.

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

    //On a related note, I should mention that μορφή and εἰκών both refer to outward appearance, not ontology.//

    He has been told this before, several times. I presented a list of relevant textual evidence. He typically does not derive word meanings from textual evidence, he derives them from what he thinks they should mean. On a number of occasions I have presented him with textual evidence for lexical meanings of terms and phrases; he has either claimed they are irrelevant, or failed to respond to them at all.

    //The recognition that Paul contrasts Jesus with Adam in Philippians 2 is not a new idea, by the way. It’s been around for at least 1,700 years, if not longer.//

    Unfortunately, as Paul said, ‘this knowledge is not shared by all’.

  • Jonathan Burke

    Mr Doherty, let’s look at a couple of your claims. You cited several translations and commented thus.

    //On the contrary, “Christ Jesus” is being defined as an entity who “shared God’s very nature,” who “was in the form of God,” who “existed in the form of God.” He was God “in his very nature.” Moreover, this nature was his “from the beginning.”//

    Here you insist that all of them define Jesus as sharing God’s nature. Later however you denied you had one this.

    //Jonathan, I wasn’t championing any one translation or particular word in the opening verse of the Philippians hymn.//

    On the contrary, you did exactly that. You insisted repeatedly on the translation and wording ‘nature’. This was the whole reason for you turning to the passage in the first place, so you could claim Paul understood Jesus as a divine being who existed before he was born.

    //Can you produce any other translation which I did not offer which does convey what James wanted?//

    I already quoted the ESV for that purpose.

    //In any case, what ‘proof’ have you that the translations which use the word “form” are more accurate/reliable than those which choose a different word.//

    This shows you did not read my post properly. I already proved that the translations using hte word ‘form’ are more accurate by demonstrating the actual lexical range of the word, using a number of relevant texts in which it is used. Once again I note that when I cite primary sources demonstrating the use of a word or phrase with a meaning you dispute, you either ignore them or simply say they are irrelevant. In this case you even claim I never provided them.

    I also provided quotations from a number of commentators who acknowledge that translation of this passage is notoriously subject to bias, and that the rendering of μορφή in particular has traditionally been subject to theological preferences. Of the four commentators I cited on this point, Strimple, Hellerman, and Decker all accept the divinity of Jesus, and indeed accept the entire trinitarian dogma, so they are a significant witness.

    Contrary to your suggestions, none of them denies the divinity of Jesus, they all affirm it; their acknowledgement of bias with regard to the rendering of this word had nothing to do with attempts to present a purely human Jesus (Dunn’s personal views on the trinity aren’t very clear, but he still believes that the doctrine of the incarnation was a late first century belief, though after Paul).

    //Even if this were true, as I’ve said, it doesn’t change anything. “Form” in this verse does not support James.//

    Of course it changes things. You appealed to this passage specifically on the basis that you believe μορφή means ‘nature’. You made this clear:

    //On the contrary, “Christ Jesus” is being defined as an entity who “shared God’s very nature,” who “was in the form of God,” who “existed in the form of God.” He was God “in his very nature.” Moreover, this nature was his “from the beginning.”//

    Once it is demonstrated that μορφή does not mean ‘nature’, your entire argument with regard to this passage collapses. The rendering ‘form’ does indeed support James, completely.

    //It cannot refer to the “form” given to Adam and humanity at their creation. (And James is wrong to say that there is any comparison being made or intimated to Adam in this hymn.) The text simply does not say this and does not allow for it.//

    I note these are unsubstantiated assertions. Substantiate them with evidence, and we can talk.

    //What other meaning could these verses possibly be saying than that he emptied himself by, or in the process of, taking on the form of a man? What else does the “emptying” of himself mean? How else did he do that? Why would the hymnist include it if it had to do with something else which the hymn doesn’t even mention, putting nary even a comma between the “emptying” and the taking on the form of a slave?//

    Appeals to personal incredulity do not constitute valid argument. Appeals to punctuation in English translations are completely absurd, especially from someone with over four years of Greek training. I refer you again to the ESV; the ‘emptying of himself’ means ‘made himself nothing’ (humbled himself), which he did by ‘taking the form of a servant’ while ‘being in the form of men.

    Philippians 2:
    6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
    7 but made himself nothing, [PLEASE NOTE THE COMMA HERE] taking the form of a servant, [PLEASE NOTE THE COMMA HERE] being born in the likeness of men.

    There it is for you again. Please note the commas, since you consider their presence significant and since you claimed there was ‘nary even a comma between the “emptying” and the taking on the form of a slave’.

    //Besides, we have that idea, of God or Christ humbling/compromising his nature, etc. through adopting a less pure and exalted form (such as in the Odes of Solomon, though there it is symbolic of making himself known) in other documents of the era.//

    This is an illegitimate parallel because there is no reference to nature in Philippians 2:6. You keep basing your entire argument on a word meaning which simply isn’t there.

    //And why is Bauer’s opinion or Christological conceptions irrelevant?//

    I already explained why; they don’t constitute lexical evidence for the meaning of the word μορφή, so your claim that Philippians 2:6 is a reference to pre-existence because Bauer believes it’s a reference to pre-existence, is invalid; nothing less than an appeal, dare I say it, to authority. Yes I’m saying that Bauer is wrong about the pre-existence of Christ in this passage, and yes I am saying James is right. Such a conclusion is hardly novel; it has been argued for centuries, and is found in mainstream critical scholarship of the 19th century. Not only that, but it is now ‘endorsed by many’, according to O’Brien, ‘The Epistle to the Philippians’, New International Greek Testament Commentary (1991).[1]

    Please don’t try to review Hellerman’s article when you haven’t even read it. Hellerman is not suggesting ‘a very drastic revisionist interpretation of the text’. He cites mainstream scholarship holding the view he proposes, from as early as 1956,[2] and it certainly predates this time[3]. Unlike you, Hellerman turns to actual lexcial evidence to determine the semantic range of μορφή; he cites the Old Greek, apocrypha, New Testament, classical Greek texts, and the papyri. In this body of texts he finds the use of μορφή which he proposes.

    In particular he cites the work of Fabricatore, ‘A Lexical, Exegetical, and Theological Examination of the Greek Noun μορφή in Philippians 2:6-7′ (Ph.D. dissertation, 2008), which made use of Thesaurus Linguae Graecae in an exhaustive analysis of the semantic range of μορφή. You will perhaps remember that I have previously pointed out several times that this is the kind of research you need to be doing yourself; you have ignored this point every time. By the way, Hellerman’s work is a journal article, not a book. I gave the complete citation from the journal in which it was published, so I’m not sure why you’re confused about this.

    //The title of Hellerman’s book, and the phrase “concerned to address matters of power and social status,” pretty well tells me that this is yet another reflection of one very modern and recent trend to turn the early Christian Jesus, even in the epistles, into not much more than a “special status” man and deprive him of all concept of divinity.//

    You are wrong. Hellerman says ‘I am confessedly Nicene in my Christology and do not intend in what follows to challenge or otherwise compromise the doctrine of the deity of Christ’ (p. 780). He believes in the incarnation, and believes that Paul also understood Jesus to exist before the incarnation. Nor does he argue that  μορφή alone ‘can bear the meaning “status” or “social condition”’.[4]

    Your claim that an entirely human and non-divine Jesus is a modern invention of liberal scholarship pandering to secular tastes is not only wrong but excessively so; standard mainstream CRITICAL scholarship was arguing that the New Testament only contained such a Jesus, as early as the mid-19th century; Adam Christology is of course well over 1,500 years old, and is found in a range of critical scholarship over the last 100 years.[5] You should have been aware of this.

    //Whether you know it or not, eikon is used of heavenly emanations of the primary God, in other words of the divinity second to God himself.//

    Of course I’m aware of it; like others I’ve cited the use of the ‘eikon of God’ in Genesis. But this is beside the point. You appealed to Philippians 2:6 specifically to support the idea of Jesus as a pre-incarnate divine being, on the basis of the meaning of μορφή. Once it is demonstrated that μορφή does not refer to nature, your entire argument collapses. Instead of coming to Philippians 2:6 as a text which DECLARES Jesus as a pre-incarnate divine being, you are forced to approach it ASSUMING Jesus as a pre-incarnate divine being, and then somehow arguing that the text is congruent with such an assumption.

    I want you to understand this, so I’m going to repeat it. The fact that μορφή and eikon can refer to the image, shape, form, visible appearance of either divine or mortal beings is beside the point. The point is that you presented this verse as DECLARING Jesus as a pre-incarnate divine being, on the basis that (as you claimed), μορφή is a reference to nature. Now this passage has been rendered useless as a proof text for your view, you can bring your assumptions to it all you like, but you are now compelled to argue them afresh; you can’t argue them from this passage, which is what you were trying to do in the first place. The onus is on you to demonstrate that μορφή here refers to a divine pre-incarnate being as opposed to a mortal man, a challenge made the more difficult once it has been demonstrated that the word you understood to mean ‘nature’ doesn’t actually mean that at all.

    //It is a term used by such as Philo for the Logos, an entirely heavenly aspect of God, and neither Dunn, nor Cullmann (I’m not sure what “Martin” you are referring to) thinks it means anything but that.//

    Really? Can you prove that’s what Dunn understands by eikōn, that Dunn believes it means nothing but ‘an entirely heavenly aspect of God’?

    The ‘Martin’ to whom I refer wrote ‘Carmen Christi: Philippians ii. 5-11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship’ (rev. ed. 1983), considered a key work in scholarship on Philippians 2:5-11. It was first published in 1967, and is cited widely in the literature on this passage, as a highly significant contribution. Are you at all aware of it?

    //Profession lexicons may well identify μορφή as a reference to outward appearance, but they don’t have to be ruling out the outward appearance of a divinity, a concept which is perfectly in keeping with the universal philosophical concept of the primary God generating a subordinate image of himself, which serves as a channel of knowledge and agent of this and that, including salvation. The terminology is used widely in that connection.//

    I agree entirely. Now you are moving in the right direction. So please demonstrate that Paul is using μορφή in Philippians 2:6 as a reference to a subordinate divine image of God and acts as His channel. Again, the burden of evidence rests with your claim.

    //Like James, you are now hedging your bets. I might be right after all about Phil. 2:6, that it states that Jesus, from the beginning, in his pre-existence (relative to historicism) state, was an aspect of God, sharing in his form/nature.//

    On the contrary, I’m not hedging my bets at all. The meaning of μορφή is well established; unlike you I’ve ‘looked through the telescope’, I’ve read the relevant lexical evidence. What I’m doing is demonstrating that your argument for this passage contradicts an essential part of your own case. This kind of self-contradiction is symptomatic of an unsound methodology and conclusions.

    //Jonathan, I’ve pointed out how your claims about what Galileo would have thought or not thought aren’t as cut and dried as you present them.//

    No you haven’t. You simply tried to restate your previous claims for analogy between Galileo and Mytherists. There is no relevant analogy, and I doubt Galileo would be very happy with your attempt to use him as one; he had no time for non-professionals without evidence, who disputed the evidence based arguments of the professional scholar.

    //But it’s easy to see why you’re so anxious to focus on something which enlightens the debate not one iota, and only serves to make fallacious comparisons between mythicism and creationism.//

    You were the one who raised the analogy, not me, so don’t complain to me about such distractions from the main issue under debate.

    //I have admitted earlier that I am unfamiliar with the very recent interpretation of Hellerman on the alleged “social status of Jesus” being the point of the hymn. It was published in 2009, Jesus: Neither God Nor Man was also published in 2009, so I would have been unable to incorporate a consideration of that view in my book.//

    The view Hellerman proposes is found in scholarship as early as 1927, and has been well discussed in the literature since that time. You can’t claim that you were unfamiliar with this view just because Hellerman’s work on it was published at the same time as your own book; your lack of familiarity with this view is simply symptomatic of your lack of familiarity with the relevant scholarship on this subject.

    //I have also never claimed that I have taken the trouble to examine every new interpretation that today’s critical scholarship has come up with to transform the epistles into dissertations on an historical Jesus whom Paul and Co. never regarded as divine.//

    As I have pointed out, this is not an invention of ‘today’s critical scholarship’; it’s found in critical scholarship from at least 150 years ago, and has been supported by various unorthodox Christian groups since at least the 15th century (not counting the medieval witnesses).

    //I am disputing the position you yourself have stated, and Jonathan in his somewhat cryptic appeal to Hellerman, that the Phil. hymn is concerned with the social status of a human Jesus. I don’t need to have read Dunn to dispute that (though I could only do it in a limited way, since you refused to give me any details).//

    How can you dispute a position you haven’t read? We’ve already seen you completely misrepresent Hellerman, by just assuming you knew what he wrote even though you hadn’t read it.

    //Since Jonathan pronounced on Hellerman’s “social status of Jesus” in the Phil. hymn, presumably he has read Dunn’s book in question.//

    I haven’t read all of Dunn’s book in question, no.

    //After all, according to James, anyone who dares pronounce on it has to have read Dunn or else be acknowledged an ignoramus and a fraud for not having read it. Right, Jonathan?//

    Wrong. James never said any such thing.
    _________________________________________
    [1] ‘In recent times the most significant interpretation of the Adam–Christ parallel has been that which refuses to see any reference to the preexistent Christ or his incarnation. Instead, the hymn is thought to point only to the human Jesus, his life of humility, and his exaltation to an earthly position of glory. Previously regarded as a nineteenth-century Lutheran ‘dogmatic’ view that was virtually defunct,24 it is today endorsed by many’, he cites Harvey, ‘A New Look at the Christ Hymn in Philippians 2-11′, Expository Times (76.1964-5), Talbert, Talbert, ‘The Problem of Pre-Existence in Phil 2:6-11′, Journal of Biblical Literature (86.2.141), 1967, Bakken, ‘The New Humanity: Christ and the Modern Age’, Interpretation (XXII.1.l.82), 1968, and Murphy-O’Connor, ‘Christological Anthropology in Phil.,. II, 6-11′, Revue Biblique (83), 1976, as examples.

    [2] ‘E. Schweizer, Erniedrigung und Erhöhung bei Jesus und seinen Nachfolgern (Zurich: Zwingli, 1955). R. Martin finds the view attractive, as well (Philippians [NCB; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976] 96). O. Hofius (Der Christushymnus Philipper 2,6-11 [WUNT 17; 2d ed.; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1991] 57-59) subsequently supported Schweizer on this point.’, Hellerman, ‘Μορφη Θεου As A Signifier Of Social Status In Philippians 2:6′, JETS (52.4.786), 2009.

    [3] Loofs, ‘Das altkirchliche Zeugnis gegen die herrschende Auffassung der Kenosisstelle Phil. 2, 5 – 11′ (1927), Héring, ‘Le royaume de Dieu et sa venue:objet de l’espérance de Jésus et de S. Paul’ (1937); see also after these works, Eltester, ‘ΕΙΚΩΝ im Neuen Testament’ (1956), Jervell, ‘Imago Dei : Gen. I, 26f. im Spätjudentum, in der Gnosis und in den paulinischen Briefen ‘ (1960), among others.

    [4] ‘I have intentionally refrained from considering here whether or not μορφή alone can bear the meaning “status” or “social condition.” Those who wish to pursue this question should consult Jowers and the evidence he cites (“Meaning of MORFH” 758-60; see also R. P. Martin, Carmen Christi: Philippians ii. 5-11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship [rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983] xx). What I will argue for below is a more general connection between the ideas of visible appearance (which μορφή clearly connotes) and social status. Individual words must be situated in both their literary and social contexts. Those who seek for a one-to-one correspondence between two words or expressions (μορφή = “status,” for example) often attend to the former but not to the latter. In the symbolic and social world shared by the apostle and his readers, Paul’s reference to “the visible appearance of God” (μορφῇ θεοῦ) in Phil 2:6 would almost certainly have resonated within the interrelated semantic fields of honor, prestige, and status.’, Hellerman, ‘Μορφη Θεου As A Signifier Of Social Status In Philippians 2:6′, JETS (52.4.779), 2009.
    [5] For example, Bruce, ‘The Humiliation of Christ In Its Physical, Ethical, and Offcial Aspects’ (1900), Cullman, ‘The Christology of the New Testament’ (1959), Ridderbos, ‘Paul: an outline of his theology’ (1975).

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

    I should perhaps add that the interpretation of this passage currently being discussed, and the matter of whether Paul viewed Jesus as pre-existent, is important but is ultimately not the heart of the matter for mythicism. Even those scholars who do not find Dunn’s interpretation persuasive do not find mythicism in the passage, because the question of whether Jesus was believed to have embodied a pre-existent divine reality does not determine the answer to the more directly relevant question, where would he and his readers have understood his obedience to death to have been located.

    I think the most interesting thing to watch in how Mythicists respond to Dunn’s views will be how they treat scholarly disagreement and a minority view among scholars.

    Jimmy Dunn supervised my PhD work. Note that even though the majority of New Testament scholars have not adopted his view on this topic, has not turned into a conspiracy theorist who goes about complaining of everyone’s closed-mindedness or lack of imagination. :-)

  • Jonathan Burke

    James, you make an excellent point. With Philippians 2 (as with much of the New Testament), Mr Doherty insists that the centuries of traditional interpretation by orthodox commentators are correct, whilst the critical scholarship of the last 150 years or so is a spurious newcomer with no claim to accuracy. It’s ironic precisely because he’s taking the side of the established interpretations of the pre-critical era and supporting opinions by commentators who are not only openly biased but whose interpretations have typically been overcome by new research in the form of actual evidence; new historical information on Second Temple Period Judaism, new understandings of Greek, a far more accurate critical text of the New Testament, etc.

    So the centuries of orthodox commentary are correct, and Mr Doherty doesn’t treat them as at all biased, nor does he even question the accuracy with which they handle the text. He even challenged the idea that ‘nature’ was an inaccurate translation of μορφῇ, though with four years of Greek he should have known that himself without even needing to refer to a lexicon.

    With regard to Philippians 2, you and I are on the side of the critical scholarship as usual, but Mr Doherty is not on the side of the critical scholarship, which is most unusual; typically he prefers the commentary of critical scholarship over mere ‘Biblical scholars’, especially those well entrenched in traditional theological positions. Yet in this case he has no time for 150 years of critical scholarship, and takes the side of the traditionalists whom he spends most of his time rubbishing.

    Of course the double irony is that he can’t point the finger back at us and say ‘Well now you’re the ones supporting a minority position and saying the established view is wrong, so look who’s being hypocritical’, because the situation isn’t analogous. Unlike Mytherism, the view we’re taking on Philippians 2 has a track record of over 100 years in scholarship.

    That μορφῇ refers to outward appearance was recognized centuries ago by commentators and translators such as Tyndale[1] in the 15th century, Calvin in the 16th century,[2] Nikolaus Krell in the 16th century and Grotius in the 17th century,[3] Mace in the 18th century,[4] Barnes[5] and Jamieson/Fausset/Brown in the 19th century.[6] These show that this understanding was both held and well represented in mainstream orthodox thought, and of course all of these men were professionally qualified in the relevant fields, they had received degrees, and held teaching positions, they were not amateurs; the contrast with Mytherism is obvious.

    Lexicons also have consistently supported the rendering ‘form’; Passow,[7] Thayer,[8], Lidell and Scott’s lexicon based on Passow,[9] Lampe,[10] and of course the standard modern professional lexicons; LSJ, BDAG, EDNT, and TDNT. Once again we find a continuum of qualified professionals consistently holding this view within mainstream scholarship; again, contrast this with Mytherism.

    So when we see critical scholarship over the last 150 years increasingly moving towards the view expressed by Hellerman, we note that it’s a view which was first expressed well within mainstream orthodox Christian scholarship centuries before (Calvin, Krell, Grotius, et al.), we note it has always enjoyed support from the professional lexicons (Passow, Thayer, Lidell & Scott, Lampe, etc), and most importantly of all it is actually evidence based; the contrast with Mytherism could not be stronger, especially on this point.

    ________________________
    [1] His 1526 English translation has ‘being in the shape of God’.

    [2] His 1729 English translation has ‘who tho’ he was the image of God, did not affect to appear with divine majesty, but divested himself thereof’.

    [3] ‘The form of God means here his majesty. For as a man is known by the appearance of his form, so the majesty, which shines forth in God, is his figure. 103103     “Car tout ainsi qu’vn homme est cognu quand on contemple la forme de son visage et sa personne, aussi la maieste, qui reluit en Dieu, est la forme ou figure d’iceluy;” — “For just as a man is known, when we mark the form of his appearance and his person, so the majesty, which shines forth in God, is his form or figure.” Or if you would prefer a more apt similitude, the form of a king is his equipage and magnificence, shewing him to be a king — his scepter, his crown, his mantle, 104104     “Le manteau royal;” — “His royal mantle.” his attendants, 105105     “La garde a l’entour;” — “The guard in attendance.” his judgment-throne, and other emblems of royalty; the form of a consul was — his long robe, bordered with purple, his ivory seat, his lictors with rods and hatchets. Christ, then, before the creation of the world, was in the form of God, because from the beginning he had his glory with the Father, as he says in John 17:5. For in the wisdom of God, prior to his assuming our flesh, there was nothing mean or contemptible, but on the contrary a magnificence worth of God. Being such as he was, he could, without doing wrong to any one, shew himself equal with God; but he did not manifest himself to be what he really was, nor did he openly assume in the view of men what belonged to him by right.’, Calvin, ‘Commentaries on the epistles of Paul the apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians’, p. 55 (English translation, 1851); note that this detailed exposition is virtually the same as Hellerman’s (so much for it being a 20th century liberal apologetic).

    [4] ‘Similarly, Grotius and Crell both argued that when Christ was described as being ‘in the form of God’ (Philippians 2:6), this meant only that he could work miracles and that he displayed the power of God.’, Mortimer, ‘Reason and Religion in the English Revolution: The Challenge of Socinianism’, p. 154 (2010).

    [5] ‘The word properly means, form, shape, bodily shape, especially a beautiful form, a beautiful bodily appearance.’, Notes on the New Testament, p. 169 (1884-5); he refers to relevant texts in the LXX, explicitly rejects the interpretation ‘nature’, and argues that here it refers to ‘splendour, majesty, glory  referring to the honour which the Redeemer had, his power to work miracles’, which is almost exactly what Hellerman says, and cites Crellius, Grotius, and Calvin as having the same view.

    [6] Jamieson, Faussett, & Brown, ‘A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments’, p. 403 (1863).

    [7] Passow’s Greek lexicon, ‘Handworterbuch der griechischen Sprache’ (1819-1824), cited by Barnes.

    [8] Thayer, ‘A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament’, volume 2, p. 418 (1889).

    [9] Liddell & Scott, ‘A Greek-English Lexicon, Based on the German Work of Francis Passow’, p. 990 (1848).

    [10] Lampe, ‘A Patristic Greek Lexicon’, pp. 884-885 (1961).

  • Earl Doherty

    Well, glory be. We have finally gotten a debate going. Because of the wealth of material being presented and because I have limited time this weekend, I’m going to do a bit of a scatter-gun response so I can at least offer some preliminary reply to certain points. And I thank Howard for at least providing Dunn’s statement of his theory, even if he didn’t give us any details of Dunn’s actual argument. Fortunately, we have James’ commitment to provide us with the latter.

    And I have to confess embarrassment at not recalling that I addressed Dunn (or at least what GDon had to say about him in his review of my book) in my rebuttal to his review of Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. OTOH, I thank Don for quoting what I had to say in response, which while it did not have the benefit of actually addressing Dunn’s arguments for his claims about the Philippians hymn, at least provided my basic response to the idea. I stand by what I said there, as limited as it was.

    But now, my first shot, perhaps the most important one. Jonathan says:

    Once it is demonstrated that μορφή does not mean ‘nature’, your entire argument with regard to this passage collapses. The rendering ‘form’ does indeed support James, completely.

    So μορφή has no ontological significance? Every translation by every scholar that ever translated it as “nature”, or understood “form” as the equivalent, is the product of an ignoramus as well, even Bauer? That’s quite a claim. (I just throw that in.) And yet Jonathan makes this admission:

    //[me:]Whether you know it or not, eikon is used of heavenly emanations of the primary God, in other words of the divinity second to God himself.//

    Of course I’m aware of it; like others I’ve cited the use of the ‘eikon of God’ in Genesis. But this is beside the point. You appealed to Philippians 2:6 specifically to support the idea of Jesus as a pre-incarnate divine being, on the basis of the meaning of μορφή. Once it is demonstrated that μορφή does not refer to nature, your entire argument collapses. Instead of coming to Philippians 2:6 as a text which DECLARES Jesus as a pre-incarnate divine being, you are forced to approach it ASSUMING Jesus as a pre-incarnate divine being, and then somehow arguing that the text is congruent with such an assumption.

    You have acknowledged “eikon” as a virtual synonym for μορφή. And you admit the legitimacy of the phrase “eikon of God” as referring to God’s emanation. What–Philo’s Logos, God’s emanation, was not a part of God? He was not part of God’s nature? He was something else which only assumed the “form” or appearance of God? Would you like to tell us just what that “something else” was which has nothing to do with being part of God’s nature, and how that “something else” took on only the “appearance” of God? I eagerly await such a dissertation.

    And while you’re at it, would you like to explain how even Genesis has to be restricted to the “outward form, appearance, shape” of humanity to God, no ontological meaning in sight? Does the outward appearance and shape of a human being resemble the outward appearance and shape of God? Does God have such a shape? Is that what Genesis is referring to? Certainly someone like Philo vigorously denied that, and I can’t imagine you wouldn’t, too. When we speak of ‘man being made in the image of God,’ we are NOT speaking of outward appearance, but some kind of theoretical sharing in certain aspects of his nature (though man’s behavior would too often tend to disprove that). So the idea of Jesus, an earthly man, taking on merely the shape and appearance of God is something of a non-starter, wouldn’t you say?

    You maintain that Hellerman surveys the lexical evidence of the semantic range of μορφή and finds the use which he proposes. I have no doubt he does. But you don’t say the “exclusive” use. And you cite him citing Fabricatore on that semantic range, but again you fail to say that Fabricatore also concludes that μορφή has that narrow and exclusive semantic range. Let me suggest that you are cooking the books (literally) and giving us a misleading impression of what scholarship says and the restrictions it places on μορφή, let alone as to whether there is a consensus on that range.

    And let me cite Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, in his monumental “The Complete New Study Dictionary of the New Testament” (1992):

    “μορφή in Phil. 2:6-8 presumes an objective reality. No one could be in the form (μορφή) of God who was not God. However, μορφή is not the shaping of pure thought. It is the utterance of the inner life, a life that bespeaks the existence of God. He who had been in μορφή θεού, in the form of God, from eternity (John 17:5) took at his incarnation the morphēn doulou (servant), a form of a servant. The fact that Jesus continued to be God during his state of humiliation is demonstrated by the pres. part. <huparchōn, “being” in the form of God….The schēma, shape or fashion, is the outward form having to do not only with his essential being, but also with his appearance. The eternal, infinite form of God took upon himself flesh.”

    So, from this ignoramus and scholarly fraud, we have an understanding of Phil. 2:6f as referring not only to “appearance” but “essential being,” an ontological significance. Apparently Dunn and Hellerman face some disagreement with their understanding of μορφή. In any case, you admit this, and that Dunn and Hellerman subscribe to Jesus as a pre-existent being. Just because they acknowledge that the issue is affected by theological bias does not give you the right to take the position that therefore their understanding of the term is all wet and that the biased understanding is automatically wrong, making yours right by default. (Not even I have argued like that in regard to historicism; I merely use the demonstrable bias as a way of discrediting views supporting historicism as usable as ironclad authority.)

    And I must have missed it, because nowhere do I see that you have “demonstrated” that μορφή under no circumstances can refer to nature or have an ontological meaning. You don’t even have your much-vaunted scholarly “consensus”. What you have are competing opinions by different groups of competent scholars and translators, not that one group has all the right and the other is entirely wrong and misguided (like Bauer). (Gee, this sounds like historicists’ view of mythicists. I guess you guys just can’t avoid pontificating, even against your own. It’s part of your “nature”.)

    So I would say that YOU are simply ASSUMING that you are exclusively right on μορφή and going from there, and thus YOUR entire argument collapses.

    I note these are unsubstantiated assertions. Substantiate them with evidence, and we can talk.

    What? I am the one being asked for evidence that the Phil. Hymn says nothing about a comparison to Adam when there isn’t the slightest hint of such a thing in the text??? It is not up to YOU to substantiate the unsubstantiated assertion of the presence of such a thing in the text???

    The point is that you presented this verse as DECLARING Jesus as a pre-incarnate divine being, on the basis that (as you claimed), μορφή is a reference to nature.

    No I have not. That was simply one element, the rest of it was a parsing of the actual text itself. On the contrary, what YOU have done is make an unfounded rejection of a legitimate meaning or understanding in this particular context for μορφή, and on the basis of THAT very dubious position, have ‘deduced’ all sorts of things which are clearly not in the text itself and can only be ‘found’ there by reading them into it.

    And let’s look at some of the consequences of your claim about μορφή having no ontological meaning. Verse 7 says that this non-divine being (therefore, an earthly man) “emptied himself”. What did he empty himself of/from? You have utterly failed to make sense of what this means in your declared context. Would you like to try again? (I’m sorry to say, your labelling my query on this as simply “personal incredulity” does not constitute a counter-argument or a demonstration of the validity of your position.) Then we have the rest of verse 7, in which this non-divine being, this earthly man, took on the μορφή of a slave/servant, with the succeeding phrases “the likeness of men” and “in fashion being formed as a man” are simply repeating the thought of “took on the μορφή of a slave/servant” (and what does “servant” refer to other than the alleged earthly man?)

    So that earthly man, who had existed in the form/appearance of God but was in no way a part of God himself or shared in his nature, now took on the form/appearance of…what? An earthly man, apparently. Did Jesus abandon his “form of God” a la Genesis when he was incarnated? I thought humanity as a whole was made in the form/image of God? If he didn’t abandon his appearance like God, in what way did he humble himself? How did he empty himself? He didn’t even descend from heaven to earth in this hymn, according to you, so even that does not apply. So would you like to try again making sense of this passage within your context?

    Moreover, if μορφή has no ontological nature, but only outward appearance, what does that do to the whole idea of Jesus taking on the μορφή of a human man? If there is no ontological nature involved here, which you claim, this must mean that he wasn’t really a human being, he only had the outward appearance of one. (Might this be a case of you wanting it both ways?) Either this is talking about docetism (which would be a ridiculous interpretation for a pre-Pauline hymn coming from the first half of the first century—or do you, Jonathan and James, subscribe to the radical view that there was no Paul and the Paulines were actually written in the 2nd century?), or you are essentially denying the incarnation, which seems to be the only conclusion given your limited semantic range of μορφή. Is that what you are doing, Jonathan, jettisoning the incarnation?

    As far as I can see, you are backed into a corner of admitting my own contention, that the language of verse 7 does indeed say what it plainly says (and in keeping with the same thing said in so many other places) that this being (has to be a heavenly one now) took on only the “likeness”/“shape” of a man and not the actual ontological incarnated manhood of earthly humanity. Since docetism is to be rejected, the setting for such a ‘taking on likeness’ fits very well the concept of the descending god who in the lowest celestial sphere takes on a “flesh” that is only the “likeness” of humanity (so that he can suffer and die and serve as a paradigmatic parallel to humanity, such parallels always being between a heavenly entity and a corresponding earthly group).

    In any event, you yourself make this admission: “The fact that μορφή and eikon can refer to the image, shape, form, visible appearance of either divine or mortal beings is beside the point.”

    “Either divine or mortal beings.” So you have allowed for the fact that a divine being can have the “form” of God. Regardless of the problem of explaining what “form” or ontological being a direct emanation of God has independent of God’s nature, right there you are allowing for the possibility of Phil. 2:6 referring to a “divine being”, Bauer’s “prexistent Christ”, having the “form” of God. So what has been the point of this whole contention of James, that the opening verse of Phil. does not refer to a pre-existent divine being? Or is he going to back away from that now? Or you? All told, both you and James have tied yourself in knots, and it will be interesting to see how you manage to unravel them.

    Actually, I see now from James’ latest post that he is already backing away by once more emphasizing that not everyone agrees with Dunn. Do tell. I have a feeling that this whole debate is going to disintegrate, with rival interpretations of the Philippians hymn being bandied back and forth and my reading of the opening verse still standing at the end as a viable possibility. With James reduced once more to settling on me accusing traditional scholarship of being engaged in a conspiracy. Sigh.

    I think that’s sufficient for now. This is the key element of this whole debate and needs to be resolved, although I still look forward to James’ outline of Dunn’s argument for the impossibility of an ontological understanding of μορφή here and the extraction of some kind of comparison to Adam, not to mention the social status of a human Jesus.  

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Earl, I only provided what I did, because the section is rather long. I did not think it would be right to cut and past such a long block of someone else’s texts in the comments. If you want, I can send you the whole section by e-mail.

    howardmazz at gmail.com

    • Earl Doherty

      I don’t know what happened to my response to this. Seems to have disappeared. Anyway, thanks Howard, and I would love to see exactly what the fuss is all about in Dunn’s arguments concerning the Phil. hymn. I have a feeling that even an outline from James is not going to be forthcoming.

      earldoherty@gmail.com

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

    Earl Doherty, have you ever noticed that you express great disdain for traditional interpretations when you disagree with them, but will point out how many scholars and translations agree with you when it suits you? If the traditional view has been misguided as consistently as you claim, then chances are good that it is misguided when it happens to agree with you. Do you really think it makes sense to try to have it both ways?

    • Earl Doherty

      And have you, James, ever noticed that, unlike yourself, I can see both good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable, within positions that I don’t agree with? I have relied on very many observations and conclusions drawn within historicist scholarship over the decades. Yet I am also capable of spotting instances of special pleading, fallacy, bias leading to unsupportable claims and readings, not to mention blatant and blinding prejudice against opposing views.

      Would that historicist scholars like yourself had the same flexibility.

  • Dave Burke

    The pattern I’m seeing here is that Jonathan has a logical, systematic approach which consists of presenting an argument supported by academic scholarship, while Earl has an ad hoc approach which consists of throwing out largely unsubstantiated opinions peppered with bombastic hyperbole, and then complaining that other people don’t take him seriously.

    It’s not difficult to see why this is frustrating for both sides.

  • Dave Burke

    Earl, my little monograph on the kenosis of Philippians 2 is ~5,000
    words long and consequently too large to post here in full. If you’d
    like to read the whole thing I am happy to email it. In the meantime,
    I’ll try to summarise it in a few bite sized chunks.

    • Earl Doherty

      I think I’ll pass that up, Dave. Your previous posting does not suggest that you have anything resembling an unbiased attitude toward either this subject or mythicists in general.

      By the way, the idea of Christ’s “kenosis”, an ‘emptying’ of his divine attributes so as to take on humanity and be able to experience human suffering and death, hardly supports Jonathan’s and James’ contention that the opening of the Phil. hymn does not present us with a divinity who has the form (which involves sharing in the nature) of God from the beginning, and only later assumes the form of a servant (meaning man). If he was merely a special-status man to begin with, what did he ‘empty’ himself of when he assumed the form of a man?

      And no doubt Jonathan is busy at this moment trying to mount a rescue operation for his contentions, but to be sure that he did not fail to understand my basic point about μορφή in Phil., let me spell it out again, in the simplest possible fashion.

      Jonathan/James: μορφή has no ontological meaning; it only means outward form and appearance.

      The hymn speaks of this entity adopting the μορφή of a slave/servant. The identity of this “servant” is the entity immediately afterward referred to in “becoming in the likeness of men” and “in fashion found as a man”. Those two participles must refer back to the servant. After all, one cannot refer to the “outward form and appearance” of a servant per se, as one can refer to the form of God or the form of a man. “Servant” is a role, not an entity with a certain form or shape.

      If no ontological meaning is included in μορφή, then by Jonathan’s definition, the μορφή of the servant=man is not ontological, but only refers to outward form or appearance.

      Ergo, no incarnation.

      He can chew on this one as well: the entity described at the opening, having the “form/appearance” of God, is said not to have tried to achieve/grasp at “equality with God.” If the hymnist envisions this entity as only a man to begin with, who is going to even voice the concept of such a man seeking to grasp at equality with God, let alone praise him for not aiming for such a thing? Can a man seek equality with God? Would anyone ever think of even a charismatic preacher, who became a ‘son of God’ in the biblical sense, or who (like all men) possessed the form of God in the Genesis sense, seeking equality with God? Or not seeking it? The whole idea is utterly ridiculous.

      Is that an “ad hoc” argument, Dave? Or is it simply a common sense one which accompanies a reading of what the text actually says and not trying to impose silly ideas on it?

    • http://twitter.com/gbienzobas Gabriel Bienzobas

      I don’t really understand why you would like to have Earl Doherty read your monograph when you have just said that Earl’s approach is in your own words “ad hoc approach which consists of throwing out largely unsubstantiated opinions… etc”. Why would you want him to read your paper if you clearly think he is not objective and has a good systematic approach? I don’t understand.

  • Dave Burke

    Earl,Here follows a handful of excerpts from my monograph. Bear
    in mind that the purpose is merely to demonstrate the Adam/Christ comparison as
    understood by mainstream scholarship. My full argument includes a discussion of
    the key words morphē, harpagmos, and huparchōn, but for the moment I will not be directly addressing issues of pre-existence and ontology.

    I understand Paul to be saying that Jesus did not
    possess equality with God, and recognised that it was not something to be
    stolen, seized or clutched at. For this purpose he consciously evokes the theme of Genesis 3, presenting a contrast
    between Adam and Jesus.

    Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38);
    his pride led him to grasp at equality with God, and he fell. Jesus is the
    unique and only begotten Son of God; he obediently humbled himself before God,
    and was exalted.

    The first Adam brought death; the last Adam brought life. Paul exhorts his audience to
    follow the example of Jesus, the last Adam (“The association of thought is
    the Old Testament, and there is an implied contrast between the two
    Adams”, Ralph P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: an
    introduction and commentary, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002, p.103). Publishers, 2004, pp.133-4).

  • Dave Burke

    Earl,

    The concept of Christ as analogous to Adam is a consistent theme in Pauline theology:

    –Romans 5:14
    Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed.

    –I Corinthians 15:22, 45
    For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive… So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

    This parallel was understood by many of the early church fathers (e.g. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus).

    Modern theologians refer to it as “Adam Christology”, and many Trinitarian scholars (including N. T. Wright, Robin Scroggs, Daniel L. Akin, Gerald O’Collins, Seyoon Kim, Brian O. McDermott, C. Marvin Pate, Sang-Won Son, T. M. Mauch and Oscar Cullmann) recognise it as a primary concept in Pauline theology. However, they remain divided about its connotations.

    Some believe Adam Christology is compatible with the deity of Christ, e.g. Stephen E. Fowl:

    “…one can argue both that some sort of ‘Adam christology’ lies behind this passage and that the passage strongly asserts Christ’s preexistence” (Philippians, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005, p.114).

    Others take the opposite view, e.g. Porter, Tombs & Hayes:

    “This Christology appeals to Macquarrie, inasmuch as it does not suggest anything superhuman about Jesus, who as the New Adam is contrasted with the first Adam and with his failure to attain appropriate human status. …the totally ‘Adamic’ or merely human interpretation of the hymn that Macquarrie argues for does not command general agreement” (Images Of Christ, T. & T. Clark Publishers, 2004, pp.133-4).

    Frank J. Matera (New Testament Christology, Westminster John Knox Press, 1999, p.95) is one who affirms a positive connection between Adam Christology and Pauline soteriology:

    “There are two places where Paul explicitly employs a comparison between Adam and Christ.

    The first is Rom. 5:12-21, where he contrasts the destructive results of Adam’s disobedience with the salvific effects of Christ’s obedience, and the second is 1 Cor. 15:1-58, where he contrasts the first Adam who brought death into the world with Christ, the new Adam, who has become the source of resurrection life. In both cases Paul’s ‘Adam Christology’ is in the  service of his soteriology.

    By casting Christ in the role of a new Adam, Paul shows that the obedience of Christ resulted in acquittal for all (Rom. 5:18), and through his resurrection all are brought to life (1 Cor. 15:22). Thus Paul’s Adam Christology must not be isolated from his soteriology.”

    Needless to say, this does not require Jesus to be deity.

  • Dave Burke

    Earl,
    Philippians 2 is written within the context of Adam Christology, demonstrating that the saving power of Christ’s death is predicated upon his unqualified humanity, thereby precluding the concept of deity.

    Paul believed that since a mortal man brought sin and death into the world, a mortal man was required to bring salvation. Jesus had to be a genuine human being in order to repair the damage of Adam’s sin by succeeding where he had failed. This could not be achieved by a divine saviour, for in Pauline soteriology the atonement is impossible if Jesus is ontologically different from Adam.

    James D. G. Dunn (Christology in the Making, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996, p.120) explains the implications of Paul’s Adam Christology:

    “Here then we can see the point of Murray-O’Connor’s initial criticism and the danger for good exegesis of assuming too quickly that the phrases ‘being in the form of God’ and ‘becoming in the likeness of men’ necessarily imply a thought of pre-existence.

    For the language throughout, and not least at these points, is wholly determined by the creation narratives and by the contrast between what Adam grasped at and what he in consequence became. It was Adam who was ‘in the form of God’, Adam who ‘became what men now are’ (in contrast to what God had intended for them).

    The language was used not because it is first and foremost appropriate to Christ, but because it was appropriate to Adam, drawn from the account of Adam’s creation and fall. It was used of Christ therefore to bring out that Adamic character of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

    So archetypal was Jesus’ work in its effect that it can be described in language appropriate to archetypal man and as a reversal of the archetypal sin.”

    The Adam/Christ parallel remains consistent even in Philippians 2:9-11, where Jesus is exalted above humanity. Theodor M. Mauch (Philippians 2: 1-18: Greek or Hebraic?, lecture at Trinity College, 1968):

    “In the climax of the Philippian hymn, everyone recognizes the servant (doulos), the man who realized God’s life-style and the man who realized God’s intention in making man in His image; everyone acclaims this man as Lord (kyrios). In the servant God the Father is glorified, as in Isaiah 49:3 Yahweh is glorified in the servant. …

    The Philippian hymn climaxes in interrelated praise of the true man Jesus Christ and God the Father. This Hebraic reading of the Philippian hymn sees the themes as expressing not divine, albeit for a time veiled, ontology. Instead, the emphasis is upon activity, which indeed is the way the Old Testament speaks of God and man.”

  • Dave Burke

    Earl,

    In conclusion, this is what I understand Paul to be saying:

    * Despite being in the form of God and exemplifying His image perfectly, Jesus understood that equality with the Father was not something to be grasped at or stolen (unlike Adam, who hoped to seize it).

    * Instead, Jesus made himself nothing (unlike Adam, whose pride led to his fall), deliberately adopting a humble appearance as if he was merely a servant, and acting obediently in that role all the way to his death on the cross.

    * Consequently, God exalted Jesus and gave him a name above every name, so that everyone will bow the knee at the name of Jesus and confess him as Lord — to the glory of God, the Father.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      Dave, I agree with a lot of what you have said, however, I do not agree with you on the beginning of the Phil. Hymn. Just like you said, “Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38).” But where did Adam come from? He was not a descendant of sinful man, but he came from God, his Father. For Jesus to be the ontological equivalent of Adam, he also must be from God, without a sinful human father. But God did not just create another man like Adam, God’s only begotten heavenly son volunteered to be the new Adam, by giving up his heavenly nature (form of God) and allowed him self to be born as a human (form of a slave). Jesus makes a number of references of his coming from heaven in the gospels. The “emptying” does not mean humbling himself, it is contrasted with “took the form of a slave” and the humbling is mentioned later in contrast to “becoming obedient” so they are two entirely different points. Also, this view harmonizes more with the immediate contexts. Here is what I think it is saying.

      Keep this attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, even though he was a heavenly being, a higher form of life than Adam, he did not try to grasp at equality with God like Adam did, no, but he gave up that higher form of life and became a man. More than that, after he became a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death.  

      And because of his sinless death, he is able to buy back Adam’s offspring and deliver them from sin and death, in effect replacing the man Adam.

      • Dave Burke

        Howard,

        Thanks for your response. You write:

        >>
        Dave, I agree with a lot of what you have said, however, I do not agree with you on the beginning of the Phil. Hymn. Just like you said, “Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38).” But where did Adam come from? He was not a descendant of sinful man, but he came from God, his Father.
        >>

        I agree that Adam was a mortal man created by God.

        >>
        For Jesus to be the ontological equivalent of Adam, he also must be from God, without a sinful human father.
        >>

        As far as I can see, Jesus merely needs to be another mortal man brought into existence by God in some way. The issue of a “sinful human father” doesn’t really enter into it for me, not least because I reject the doctrine of original sin. Having said that, I agree Jesus did not have a mortal father.

        You appear to believe Jesus was “from God” in a way that Adam was not. I find this theologically problematic.

        >>
        But God did not just create another man like Adam, God’s only begotten heavenly son volunteered to be the new Adam, by giving up his heavenly nature (form of God) and allowed him self to be born as a human (form of a slave).
        >>

        Well, that is a matter of interpretation. In my view, if Jesus is a pre-existent heavenly being, he is not the ontological equivalent of Adam.

        We could discuss this at length but I’d rather keep the thread on topic, so I hope we can “agree to disagree” for the moment and address the ontology of Jesus at a more appropriate time.

        • Howard Mazzaferro

          Dave, I fail to see how my comment was off topic, unless the
          topic is simply to prove Earl wrong. I thought the topic was the Philippian
          hymn and Adam Christology, and I thought I was addressing these things. I may
          be wrong, but isn’t the ontology of Jesus, (what type of being he was) at the
          heart of the interpretation of Philippians?

           

          So if I may explain a little further about this Adam
          Christology. First I would like to say that these particular verses, in my
          view, don’t constitute an “Adam Christology”, we are merely reminded of the person
          we are most familiar with as the one who grasped at equality with God, Adam. And
          that’s basically where the comparison ends. I’m not saying there is not an Adam
          Christology, but it is not explicitly stated in these verses, it is inferred
          here, because of what we know about the relationship from other Scriptures. Below
          is a quote from Dunn’s book, and I would like to point out a few problems.

           

          “In the first contrast, morphe theou probably refers to Adam having
          been made in the image (eikon) of God and with a share of the glory (doxa) of
          God: for it has long been recognized that morphe (form) and eikon (image) are
          near synonyms and that in Hebrew thought the visible ‘form of God’ is his glory.
          Morphe doulou probably refers therefore to what Adam became as a result of his fall:
          he lost his share in God’s glory and became a slave -  that is, either to corruption (the parallel
          with Rom.
          8.18-21 is close), or to the elemental spirits (cf.  Gal. 4.3).”

           

          Dunn here
          equates the meaning of morphe theou as Jesus being in the same condition of
          Adam before his fall, however, he does not take into account that the Bible
          still refers to man as the image of God, many thousands of years after the fall.
          (1 Corinthians 11:7) “For a man ought not to have his head covered, as he is
          God’s image and glory.” The Bible does not seem to indicate any change in status
          of this “image of God” after the fall. Therefore, the form/image of a slave can
          not be referring to man’s fallen image.

           

          Now
          if I may quickly reply to your comments.

           

          “The
          issue of a “sinful human father” doesn’t really enter into it for me,
          not least because I reject the doctrine of original sin.”

           

          Then
          why do you even acknowledge Adam Christology? Isn’t the main feature of the
          comparison for Jesus to rectify what Adam did wrong? For that to be affective,
          Adam would have to be the source/origin of sin.

           

          “You
          appear to believe Jesus was “from God” in a way that Adam was not. I
          find this theologically problematic.”

           

          I don’t
          see how you got that from what I said, but there was a slight difference. Adam
          was created from the ground as a full adult, with adult knowledge. Jesus was
          born from a woman, being impregnated by holy spirit, and grew up like everyone
          else did. This was done so Jesus would be in the fleshly line of David.

           

          “Well,
          that is a matter of interpretation. In my view, if Jesus is a pre-existent
          heavenly being, he is not the ontological equivalent of Adam.”

           

          Excuse
          me, but aren’t all comments here a matter of interpretation? And no, Jesus WAS
          a pre-existent heavenly being, but as Philippians says, he emptied himself of
          his heavenly nature and became a completely human man, the equivalent of Adam
          before the fall, a completely new creation and not an incarnation. A sinless
          man, because a sinful man can not redeem even a brother. (Psalm 49:7)

           

           

          P.S.
          You need to copy and paste your text into something without formatting like notepad
          before you paste it here to get rid of your spaces.

           

          • Dave Burke

            Howard,

            >>
            Dave, I fail to see how my comment was off topic, unless the topic is simply to prove Earl wrong. I thought the topic was the Philippian hymn and Adam Christology, and I thought I was addressing these things. I may be wrong, but isn’t the ontology of Jesus, (what type of being he was) at the heart of the interpretation of Philippians?
            >>

            I thought the topic was “Does the Philippian hymn involve Adam Christology?”, which is what Earl had asked us to demonstrate. The question of Jesus’ ontology is a subset of this discussion, and I prefer not to get bogged down in it any more than is necessary. But it seems this is inevitable, so here we go.

            >>
            First I would like to say that these particular verses, in my view, don’t constitute an “Adam Christology”, we are merely reminded of the person we are most familiar with as the one who grasped at equality with God, Adam. And that’s basically where the comparison ends. I’m not saying there is not an Adam Christology, but it is not explicitly stated in these verses, it is inferred here, because of what we know about the relationship from other Scriptures.
            >>

            I agree they don’t constitute Adam Christology, but I do believe they they presuppose it. This is made clear by the citations I presented in the excerpts from my monograph. Yes, the function of Adam Christology in this passage is to compare Adam with Christ, and yes, this is an inference rather than being explicitly stated.

            Your analysis of Dunn’s comment is interesting, though it has no impact on my own position since I do not view the imago dei in the same way that he does.

            I think you have misinterpreted my reference to original sin. When I say I reject the doctrine of original sin, I am referring to the Augustinian teaching later adopted by Calvin and other Reformers (here: hhttp://bit.ly/QPdry). I agree that Adam was the original source of sin, hence the need for Christ to rectify the consequences of his failure.

            >>
            Jesus was born from a woman, being impregnated by holy spirit, and grew up like everyone else did. This was done so Jesus would be in the fleshly line of David.
            >>

            Agreed.

            • Howard Mazzaferro

              Dave, okay, I will limit my comment to that specific topic. No, I do not think this is referring to an Adam Christology. The basis for this belief is the context, read the immediate context and the entire book of Philippians. Nowhere is Paul espousing any kind of deep theological statements beyond the basic concepts of belief in Jesus, this is a letter of encouragement. Notice how the immediate context both before and after the Phil hymn is about avoiding contentiousness, egotism, murmurings and arguments, then he informs us of what we are to do, we are to consider that others are superior to us, and to keep an eye, not in our own personal interests, but on the personal interest of others. Paul was informing the Philippians about how they should be conducting themselves, not about some new Christology.

              Simply put, why would Paul just jump in the middle of all this with some cryptic Adam Christology? The Phil hymn is merely an example of Jesus’ humility that Paul wanted the Philippians to follow. Obviously, the Philippians were already familiar with the terminology of the hymn and knew what was being expressed concerning Jesus. This was not a new revelation about Christology, since it was being used as an example for the Philippians to follow. Usually when someone gives an example, they use something that is already understood. As I said before, the only connection to Adam, was the grasping at equality with God, as it probably brought Adam to mind. However, the whole point of the hymn was simply to show how Jesus willingly gave up a superior position and took a lowly position to do God’s will and to help others. Just the point Paul was making before and after the hymn.

              I do believe in an Adam Christology, if it means that Christ and Adam are contrasting figures in relation to sin, sacrificial death, redemption, and so on. And as such, any reference to these subjects, will automatically remind us of this Adam-Christ relationship, but the text in question may not actually be referring to the subject directly, like the Phil hymn.

          • Dave Burke

            Howard,

            >>

            Excuse me, but aren’t all comments here a matter of interpretation?

            >>

            Yes, which is why we should be careful about dogmatic statements. ;)

            >>

            And no, Jesus WAS a pre-existent heavenly being, but as Philippians
            says, he emptied himself of his heavenly nature and became a completely
            human man, the equivalent of Adam before the fall, a completely new
            creation and not an incarnation.

            >>

            I don’t find any reference to Jesus’ pre-existence in Philippians 2, nor
            do I find any reference to an emptying of heavenly nature, nor do I
            find anything which states or implies that he became “the equivalent of
            Adam before the fall.” You will need to show how these ideas are derived
            from the text.

            >>

            A sinless man, because a sinful man can not redeem even a brother. (Psalm 49:7)

            >>

            Agreed, although I suspect we both mean something different by this. I
            believe Jesus could still have been a sinless man even if he had been
            born to a human father. Do you?

            Thanks for the tip about Notepad.

          • Earl Doherty

            My thanks to Howard for a lucid and level-headed reading of his own on the Phil hymn.

            And apparently he, too, Dave, took you to be defending Adam christology in the hymn.

            I have encountered this sort of thing I don’t know how many times in debates with historicists over the years. Got shot down in one aspect of the discussion? Switch to another, as though the first didn’t exist, and claim that this is what you were saying in the first place. (One of GakuseiDon’s common tactics.)

            It’s also a well-worn, but fallacious, trick to label all arguments “interpretations” as though that somehow renders those arguments impotent, with no necessity to rebut them. That tactic is related to the accusation that such arguments are of no value because they are not backed by “evidence”, as if the arguments themselves based on the texts do in no way constitute evidence.

            • Dave Burke

              Earl,

              >>
              And apparently he, too, Dave, took you to be defending Adam christology in the hymn.
              >>

              And he was right. I am defending Adam Christology in the hymn. This was never disputed.

              However, I am *not* claiming that Adam Christology features within the *entire* hymn. I have specifically said it occurs within the first half, and not the second. I have said this several times now, in plain language too clear to be ignored. Why are you continuing to misrepresent me?

              >>
              It’s also a well-worn, but fallacious, trick to label all arguments “interpretations” as though that somehow renders those arguments impotent, with no necessity to rebut them.
              >>

              Nobody is doing that here. I explained to Howard what I meant by my reference to interpretation.

              Howard’s view is a matter of interpretation. My view is a matter of interpretation. Your view is a matter of interpretation. This does not mean they are all invalid, nor does it mean there is no need to rebut them. But it does mean they cannot simply be accepted at face value. Each of our interpretations must be independently verified on its own merits.

              • Earl Doherty

                However, I am *not* claiming that Adam Christology features within the
                *entire* hymn. I have specifically said it occurs within the first half,
                and not the second. I have said this several times now, in plain
                language too clear to be ignored. Why are you continuing to misrepresent
                me?

                And *I* have pointed out that it is irrational to claim that Adam Christology can be the prime focus in the first half of any hymn, and be completely absent in the second half, especially since that second half presents itself as the *consequence* of the first half, and the entire thing has a chiastic structure which is why it is called a ‘hymn.’

                Your “plain language” can’t be accepted as bearing any relationship to reality, or any reasonable interpretation of the hymn as a whole.

  • Dave Burke

    Earl:

    >>
    By the way, the idea of Christ’s “kenosis”, an ‘emptying’ of his divine
    attributes so as to take on humanity and be able to experience human
    suffering and death, hardly supports Jonathan’s and James’ contention
    that the opening of the Phil. hymn does not present us with a divinity
    who has the form (which involves sharing in the nature) of God from the
    beginning, and only later assumes the form of a servant (meaning man).
    >>

    True, but Philippians 2 makes no reference to Jesus emptying himself of divine attributes, so that’s OK.

    >>
     If he was merely a special-status man to begin with, what did he ‘empty’
    himself of when he assumed the form of a man?
    >>

    He didn’t *literally* empty himself of anything. The phrase denotes humility, not a loss of ontological attributes.

    >>
    If no
    ontological meaning is included in μορφή, then by Jonathan’s definition,
    the μορφή of the servant=man is not ontological, but only refers to
    outward form or appearance.
    >>

    Correct.

    >>
    Ergo, no incarnation.

    >>

    Correct. Jonathan does not believe Jesus was a divine incarnation, and neither do I. (Quelle surprise!)

    >>
    Would anyone
    ever think of even a charismatic preacher, who became a ‘son of God’ in
    the biblical sense, or who (like all men) possessed the form of God in
    the Genesis sense, seeking equality with God? Or not seeking it?
    >>

    Yes they would, because that’s exactly what they believed to have occurred in Genesis 3.

    >>
    The
    whole idea is utterly ridiculous.
    >>

    Why is it ridiculous? No reason that I can see. On the contrary, it’s perfectly consistent with the story of Adam’s fall.

    >>
    Is that an “ad hoc” argument,
    Dave? Or is it simply a common sense one which accompanies a reading of
    what the text actually says and not trying to impose silly ideas on it?
    >>

    It’s certainly an improvement on your previous posts, though some engagement with academic material would be helpful.

  • Dave Burke

    Gabriel:

    >>
    I don’t really understand why you would like to have Earl Doherty read
    your monograph when you have just said that Earl’s approach is in your
    own words “ad hoc approach which consists of throwing out largely
    unsubstantiated opinions… etc”. Why would you want him to read your
    paper if you clearly think he is not objective and has a good systematic
    approach? I don’t understand.
    >>

    Earl asked for someone to demonstrate that Paul is presenting a comparison between an earthly Adam with an earthly Jesus. I  merely offered to oblige him.

    This has nothing to do with what I want, and everything to do with what
    Earl wants. It doesn’t matter to me if he reads my monograph or not, nor
    do I care what he thinks of it. But remember, he did ask for someone to make the case, so you can hardly criticise me for offering to meet his request.

    At any rate, I hope the posted excerpts are of some use to him.

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

    @Earl, I can see good and appreciate things in views I disagree with. You cannot be a successful scholar without doing so. But if someone in the academy simply makes things up, ignores significant swaths of scholarly literature, and then whines about not being considered persuasive and treats others as though they are fools, then they will not be taken seriously. It is not that I disagree with you that is the reason I find your views utterly without scholarly merit. It is because you have not done the research necessary, do not treat the evidence in a scholarly way, and do not behave in a manner appropriate for academic discussion, and then have the audacity to place the blame on those who discuss your views.

  • Earl Doherty

    Opening thoughts…

    “Quelle surprise” is right, Dave. But it strikes me that if you and Jonathan don’t believe that the historical Jesus was a divinity, had no pre-existence (by the way, is that James’ personal view?) and thus there was no incarnation, you can hardly think you are conforming to anything resembling traditional historicist scholarship, and I daresay including a majority of mainstream scholars today. So what are you and others here so vigorously defending, with such rabid animosity toward mythicism? And why is it so important to you that you preserve the existence of such a figure in the face of those who would suggest that Christianity could have begun without such a figure? After all, both of us have dismissed the idea of a Son of God (in the sense of a divinity) on earth. Why is mythicism such a horror given that commonality? What investment do you and others have in that non-divine human man that it creates such vitriol against the likes of me?

    What motivates a declared atheist like Tim O’Neill, who probably never took a course in his life on the NT and certainly never studied Greek (otherwise he would have met my challenge to declare that he has), to spew the worst insults and denigration against ‘amateurs’ who have done so, in my case over years, appealing to nothing more substantial as justification than what amounts to lame appeals to authority?

    This is a colossal mystery to me.

    Anyway, your tidbits finally give us some fodder for discussion. And I have a couple of preliminary comments/questions.

    It is only from your later posts on the no-incarnation admission that I can gather that when you open with something like

    I understand Paul to be saying that Jesus did not possess equality with God, and recognised that it was not something to be stolen, seized or clutched at

    that by “Jesus” you mean an entirely human man, on earth, never been in heaven much less as God’s pre-existent Son. This is a statement about a normal human being, born in the normal way, not invested with any divine attributes…? (You more or less imply that later, but you should state it at the outset.)

    You do realize that the Pauline comparison between Adam and Christ is hardly a “consistent theme” in the Pauline corpus? It appears exactly twice, if we link the two related sections of 1 Cor. 15. And in both cases, it is within the context of a “first and last” motif, the consequences proceeding from an action by the “first Adam” and the consequences proceeding from an action by the “last Adam” which neutralizes or redeems the first one’s consequences, to which we can add the guarantees of resurrection proceeding from that redemption. That’s it. That hardly bespeaks some kind of saturated obsession with Adam or with comparing Christ to Adam. It strikes me that to appeal to that thin basis to justify reading Adam into all sorts of passages which don’t even mention his name and don’t even conform to the motif that is present in the two passages that do, is a very shaky proposition.

    And I will just point out here that in my books I treat this Adam-Christ motif as fully compatible with Christ being an entirely heavenly entity, that his acts take place in the spiritual realm, that the “anthropos” of Christ is a “heavenly man,” relating to common cosmological conceptions of the time, that a spiritual figure can follow and redeem the consequences of a physical one (conforming to the basic heaven-earth paradigmatic parallel in salvation thinking visible in the early record, even beyond Christianity), and—most important—that this is spelled out in no uncertain terms by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:35-49. There Christ is a heavenly man made of heavenly stuff, possessing (not took on after a life on earth which is an utterly missing idea) a spiritual body in contrast to Adam’s earthly one. And I see that you, too, have fallen into the trap of mistranslating 15:45, though you’re in large company. (I devote a lengthy chapter in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man to all this.) That’s the extent of Paul’s comparison between Adam and Christ.

    Can you give me any other passages containing a clear Adam Christology (rather than just read into them)? The only other mention even of his name throughout the epistles is in 1 Tim. 2:13, used in a context of denigrating women. Just where is this fixation on Adam Christology, or even Adam himself?

    Thus I have to categorically reject your position, to wit:

    Paul believed that since a mortal man brought sin and death into the world, a mortal man was required to bring salvation. Jesus had to be a genuine human being in order to repair the damage of Adam’s sin by succeeding where he had failed. This could not be achieved by a divine saviour, for in Pauline soteriology the atonement is impossible if Jesus is ontologically different from Adam.

    This is entirely undemonstrated, is never stated or implied by Paul, not even in the two Adam-Christ sections (unless you simply appeal to the “anthropos” attached to Christ as capable of meaning only a human being [shades of “brother of the Lord can only mean one thing!”], which is really begging the question, since it is otherwise uncorroborated), and is contradicted by the epistles’ overall presentation of the heavenly Son.

    And as for the epistles presenting a human man who was in no way divine and had no heavenly roles, that, too, is discredited by numerous passages, despite the forced efforts of some recent scholars to twist them in that direction. However, for now, let’s focus on the Philippians hymn itself, what you have to say about it and what Dunn and others have to say about it. I’ll probably post again tomorrow.  

  • Earl Doherty

    I should add as a postscript, so that I am not unjustly accused, that we cannot simply equate Paul’s general discussion about sin and human beings’ enslavement to it as something that should be termed “Adam Christology”. In such passages, there is no focus on Adam and certainly no focus on any comparison or contrast between Adam and Christ. If one is going to include that general area of Paul’s thought (and it’s a broad one, with Adam appearing as part of it in only those two passages), one could find parallels with almost anything.

    Good grief, the Phil. hymn doesn’t even say a word about sin or fall, or the consequences of Christ’s death being an eradication of sin’s effects. The Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15 motif is entirely missing, as is Paul’s general focus on sin, where it could have been easily included if desired. The consequences of Christ’s death in the latter half of the hymn is entirely to do with exaltation, Christ’s exaltation and his gaining of power and obeisance over all the creatures of the universe. What does that have to do with the Fall and redemption, or with Adam Christology? (Though I have no doubt that the talents of historicist hermeneutics could probably manage to fabricate one.)

  • Dave Burke

    Earl:

    >>
    “Quelle surprise” is right, Dave. But it strikes me that if you and
    Jonathan don’t believe that the historical Jesus was a divinity, had no
    pre-existence (by the way, is that James’ personal view?) and thus there
    was no incarnation, you can hardly think you are conforming to anything
    resembling traditional historicist scholarship, and I daresay including
    a majority of mainstream scholars today.
    >>

    Be careful not to conflate the historical Jesus with the Christ of faith. Historicist scholarship concerns itself with the former, not the latter. My personal view – that Jesus was not God – conforms to the normative
    position of historicist scholarship, which places me in good
    company (see Peter Kirby’s summary of historical Jesus theories, here: http://bit.ly/4rD5bU).

    Most Christian historicists probably do believe Jesus is God, but that’s another issue entirely. The most you can say is that my personal religious views fall outside the Christian theological mainstream, which I already knew. Needless to say, this does not invalidate my view of the historical Jesus, which is solidly mainstream.

    >>
    So what are you and others
    here so vigorously defending
    >>

    I am defending a historical Jesus, nothing more. I cannot speak for others.

    >>
    And why is it so important to you that you preserve the
    existence of such a figure in the face of those who would suggest that
    Christianity could have begun without such a figure?
    >>

    Because I’m a Christian.

    >>
    After all, both of
    us have dismissed the idea of a Son of God (in the sense of a divinity)
    on earth. Why is mythicism such a horror given that commonality?
    >>

    Horror? Mythicism doesn’t horrify me at all. It fascinates me, in the same way that an embarrassingly poor stage act fascinates a studio audience. One watches and is entertained, yet not without a degree of sympathy for the performer.

    It seems to me that your arguments are aimed more at the mainstream Christ of faith than the historical Jesus. Your thesis actually requires Jesus to be depicted as God within the NT. But if Jesus is not depicted as God in the NT, your thesis is totally undermined.

  • Dave Burke

    Earl,

    >>

    What
    investment do you and others have in that non-divine human man that it
    creates such vitriol against the likes of me?

    >>

    I have never directed any vitriol against you. As for my investment… well, I am a Christian after all.

    >>

    What motivates a
    declared atheist like Tim O’Neill, who probably never took a course in
    his life on the NT and certainly never studied Greek (otherwise he would
    have met my challenge to declare that he has), to spew the worst
    insults and denigration against ‘amateurs’ who have done so, in my case
    over years, appealing to nothing more substantial as justification than
    what amounts to lame appeals to authority?

    >>

    Perhaps you should ask him? I merely make the suggestion.

    >>

    by “Jesus” you mean an entirely human man,
    on earth, never been in heaven much less as God’s pre-existent Son. This
    is a statement about a normal human being, born in the normal way, not
    invested with any divine attributes…?

    >>

    Correct. That is my view.

    >>

    You do realize
    that the Pauline comparison between Adam and Christ is hardly a
    “consistent theme” in the Pauline corpus? It appears exactly twice, if
    we link the two related sections of 1 Cor. 15.

    >>

    It also appears here:

    –Romans 5:14

    Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin
    in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one)
    transgressed.

    Notice Paul’s explicit statement that Adam is a type of Christ. This informs our understanding of the Pauline Christ.

    >>

    That hardly
    bespeaks some kind of saturated obsession with Adam or with comparing
    Christ to Adam.

    >>

    I did not claim “some kind of saturated obsession with Adam.”

    >>

    It strikes me that to appeal to that thin basis to
    justify reading Adam into all sorts of passages which don’t even mention
    his name and don’t even conform to the motif that is present in the two
    passages that do, is a very shaky proposition.

    >>

    The Adam/Christ motif does not rest solely upon I Corinthians 15, and we
    don’t need the word “Adam” to explicitly appear in the text in order to
    discern that such a comparison is being made.

  • Dave Burke

    ^^ Not sure why the spacing is all weird in the post above. Anyway.

    Earl,

    >>

    And I will just
    point out here that in my books I treat this Adam-Christ motif as fully
    compatible with Christ being an entirely heavenly entity, that his acts
    take place in the spiritual realm, that the “anthropos” of Christ is a
    “heavenly man,” relating to common cosmological conceptions of the time,
    that a spiritual figure can follow and redeem the consequences of a
    physical one (conforming to the basic heaven-earth paradigmatic parallel
    in salvation thinking visible in the early record, even beyond
    Christianity), and—most important—that this is spelled out in no
    uncertain terms by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:35-49.

    >>

    Yes, I’m familiar with your view. It’s very imaginative.

    >>

    There Christ is a heavenly
    man made of heavenly stuff, possessing (not took on after a life on
    earth which is an utterly missing idea) a spiritual body in contrast to
    Adam’s earthly one. And I see that you, too, have fallen into the trap
    of mistranslating 15:45, though you’re in large company. (I devote a
    lengthy chapter in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man to all this.) That’s the
    extent of Paul’s comparison between Adam and Christ.

    >>

    My sole comment on I Corinthians 15:45 was an observation that Paul
    compares Adam to Christ in this verse. You agree with me on this, so how
    can you accuse me of mistranslating it?

    >>

    Can you give
    me any other passages containing a clear Adam Christology (rather than
    just read into them)? The only other mention even of his name throughout
    the epistles is in 1 Tim. 2:13, used in a context of denigrating women.
    Just where is this fixation on Adam Christology, or even Adam himself?

    >>

    How did you miss Romans 5:14?

  • Dave Burke

    Earl,

    >>
    Good grief, the Phil. hymn doesn’t even say a word about sin or fall, or the consequences of Christ’s death being an eradication of sin’s effects. The Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15 motif is entirely missing, as is Paul’s general focus on sin, where it could have been easily included if desired.
    >>

    Nice to see you’ve discovered Romans 5.

    Yes, the theme of Philippians 2 is different to the theme of Romans 5 & I Corinthians 15. Do you believe a comparison with Adam can only ever exist in those two contexts?

    >>
    The consequences of Christ’s death in the latter half of the hymn is entirely to do with exaltation, Christ’s exaltation and his gaining of power and obeisance over all the creatures of the universe. What does that have to do with the Fall and redemption, or with Adam Christology?
    >>

    Did anyone say that it did?

    The argument being made is that Paul contrasts Adam and Christ in the first half of the hymn. The second half of the hymn refers to the consequences of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

    You’re like a man standing up in the opera house and demanding a refund because Hamlet does not appear in the third act of Turandot.

    >>
    (Though I have no doubt that the talents of historicist hermeneutics could probably manage to fabricate one.)
    >>

    The interpretation of Philippians 2 is a matter of theology, not historicism. One does not employ historicist hermeneutics to interpret a theological text.

  • Dave Burke

    Earl,

    I have a question about your qualifications. Wikipedia says:

    >>
    Doherty holds a B.A. in Ancient History and Classical Languages.
    >>

    As someone in the Wiki discussion page has observed, ancient history and classical languages are two separate disciplines. I can’t quite understand how a single degree could incorporate the two. Could you clarify this, please? What was the structure of your degree and where did you take it? Perhaps you took two degrees?

    There’s no hidden agenda here, by the way. I’m simply curious. I don’t even have a degree myself; I’m still a first year undergraduate.

  • Earl Doherty

    Dave: Be careful not to conflate the historical Jesus with the Christ of faith. Historicist scholarship concerns itself with the former, not the latter. My personal view – that Jesus was not God – conforms to the normative position of historicist scholarship, which places me in good company (see Peter Kirby’s summary of historical Jesus theories, here: http://bit.ly/4rD5bU).

    Most Christian historicists probably do believe Jesus is God, but that’s another issue entirely. The most you can say is that my personal religious views fall outside the Christian theological mainstream, which I already knew. Needless to say, this does not invalidate my view of the historical Jesus, which is solidly mainstream.

    I would have to dispute this. I think you are confusing the “Christ of faith”, meaning traditional views of the historical Jesus as the heavenly Son of God incarnated, with more modern ‘faiths’ about Jesus which have been revised downward or in different directions. I haven’t spoken to J. D. Crossan lately (OK, never), but I doubt that he hasn’t some ‘spiritual’ views toward the HJ, or Bishop Spong (whom I have spoken to) who has simply jiggered his terminology and regards the HJ as some spiritual-laden unique man in history, perhaps like Philo did Moses. Nor do I imagine that Crossan and Spong are in the majority in NT departments around the world. So I don’t consider you “solidly mainstream.” Anyway, this is largely an argument over semantics and I don’t see the point in spending time on it.

    Besides, how can you be a “Christian” in any accepted sense of the word if you don’t believe the HJ had any divine nature or connection? (Is this James McGrath’s type of ‘Christian’ too? I really doubt it.)

    In any case, it still doesn’t answer the question of why atheist historicists (who are hardly Christian in any revisionist sense of the word) get so hot under the collar at the idea of the Gospel Jesus being 100% myth (instead of 99%, with the remaining 1% virtually unknowable except through the latest fad: deducing real facts from an uncorroborated fictional story!) And don’t give me Tim O’Neill’s vitriol about amateurs and hobbyists being 100% idiots and charlatans daring to trespass where they don’t belong in the field of infallible and unbiased traditional scholarship! Mythicism has been championed over two centuries by many respectable scholars whose arguments are anything but garbage.

    Horror? Mythicism doesn’t horrify me at all. It fascinates me, in the same way that an embarrassingly poor stage act fascinates a studio audience. One watches and is entertained, yet not without a degree of sympathy for the performer.

    This type of condescension is more of the same thing, Dave, the same type of unreasonable condemnation of a view that conflicts with your own. The “embarrassingly poor” is your imposition on things because that is the way you need to see it to defend your own beliefs.

    But if Jesus is not depicted as God in the NT, your thesis is totally undermined.

    Of course it is. But you are a long way from proving such a non-depiction. I’ve seen those attempts and they are nothing but forced interpretations to arrive at a desired conclusion and do great violence to the texts themselves. The mangling of passages like 1 Cor. 8:6 and Col. 1:15-20 are only the most egregious examples. It’s no wonder mythicists like myself put no trust in modern critical scholarship. And we’ll see how well your claims about the Phil. Hymn and Adam Christology can stand up to examination.

    • Dave Burke

      Earl,

      >>
      I would have to dispute this. I think you are confusing the “Christ of faith”, meaning traditional views of the historical Jesus as the heavenly Son of God incarnated, with more modern ‘faiths’ about Jesus which have been revised downward or in different directions.
      >>

      No Earl, I’m contrasting the Christ of faith with the historical Jesus. The historical Jesus is commonly believed to be mundane, while the Christ of faith is commonly believed to be divine.

      Of course Christians who confess the Christ of faith also believe him to be historical, and naturally they identify him with the historical Jesus. But that’s separate from the question of the ways in which historical Jesus is defined by traditional historicist scholarship.

      I believe that the historical Jesus was not a divine being. This view is normative within traditional historicist scholarship, as I demonstrated with the link to Peter Kirby’s summary:

      Jesus the Prophet of change: not divine
      Jesus the Revolutionary: not divine
      Jesus the Wisdom Sage: not divine
      Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet: not divine
      Jesus the Man of the Spirit: not divine
      Jesus the Man of Indefinite Past: not divine
      Jesus the Saviour: divine
      Jesus the Hellenic Hero: divine or semi-divine

      You cannot seriously accuse me of standing outside mainstream historicist scholarship on this issue.

    • Dave Burke

      Earl,

      >>
      Besides, how can you be a “Christian” in any accepted sense of the word if you don’t believe the HJ had any divine nature or connection?
      >>

      I believe Jesus was the Son of God. I don’t believe he was a divine being. If you were familiar with historic Christian theology, you would not find this concept surprising. Adoptionist and Unitarian Christologies are both well represented in the ante-Nicene church, particularly during the first two centuries. At any rate, I’m here to discuss the Adam/Christ typology, not my own personal beliefs.

      >>
      (Is this James McGrath’s type of ‘Christian’ too? I really doubt it.)
      >>

      I don’t know enough about James’ personal views to comment on them.

      >>
      In any case, it still doesn’t answer the question of why atheist historicists (who are hardly Christian in any revisionist sense of the word) get so hot under the collar at the idea of the Gospel Jesus being 100% myth (instead of 99%, with the remaining 1% virtually unknowable except through the latest fad: deducing real facts from an uncorroborated fictional story!)
      >>

      You can hardly expect me to answer for atheists. Ask an atheist.

      • Earl Doherty

        Just catching up.

        Dave: I believe Jesus was the Son of God. I don’t believe he was a divine
        being. If you were familiar with historic Christian theology, you would
        not find this concept surprising. Adoptionist and Unitarian
        Christologies are both well represented in the ante-Nicene church,
        particularly during the first two centuries. At any rate, I’m here to
        discuss the Adam/Christ typology, not my own personal beliefs.

        Don’t you think on a question like this and in the context of our discussion, you ought to be a little clearer than that, and define your terms? How is Jesus the Son (capitalized) of God, yet not a divine being? And what the heck was that other comment I noted you saying, that Jesus was not born of a human father?

        And we’re not talking about the ante-Nicene Christians and all their christologies. We are talking about “traditional” modern NT scholarship of the 20th century. To back up your claim that a non-divine Jesus is the majority expression of that tradition, you would have to supply examples of very many scholars (I won’t ask you to list the entire “majority”) who have adopted this position. I think that’s nonsense. You and others are a little too misled by a very recent and small group of declared ‘secular’ and even ‘agnostic/atheist’ scholars. The N. T. Wrights and L. T. Johnsons have up to very recently far outweighed them, and probably still do.

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          Don’t you think on a question like this and in the context of our discussion, you ought to be a little clearer than that, and define your terms?
          >>

          I have said I don’t believe Jesus is God. I have said I believe he was a mortal man; a genuine human being. I have said I believe he is the Son of God. I have said I believe he did not have a mortal father. I thought this was all pretty clear.

          >>
          How is Jesus the Son (capitalized) of God, yet not a divine being?
          >>

          Earl, I’m frankly astonished. Do you mean to tell me that in all your research of early Christian theology, you’ve never come across any form of Unitarian Christology? Not even Adoptionism? I’ve simply been assuming that you knew all this stuff. Was I mistaken?

          To answer your question: Jesus’ divine parentage does not necessitate that he himself must also be divine. Once again the parallel is Adam, also described by the Bible as “son of God.” Nobody would claim Adam was divine simply because he was the son of God. Equally, there is no need for Jesus to be divine just because he is the son of God (notice I can drop the the capital “S”; it’s just a literary device, and doesn’t really change anything for me).

          >>
          And what the heck was that other comment I noted you saying, that Jesus was not born of a human father?
          >>

          What about it? Are you honestly surprised to hear a Christian confessing belief in the virgin birth?

          • Earl Doherty

            Well, this storm has delayed my departure…

            I have said I don’t believe Jesus is God. I have said I believe he was a
            mortal man; a genuine human being. I have said I believe he is the Son
            of God. I have said I believe he did not have a mortal father. I thought
            this was all pretty clear.

            Yes, Dave, it is very clear that you have said all these things. But do you think a coherent understanding of them in combination is “clear”? Do you think your back and forth and shifts in evidence over what the Phil. hymn contains is coherent and clear?

            How can Jesus be a genuine human being and not have a mortal father? A “Son” of God, capitalized, implies divinity, whereas the biblical phrase “son of God” is not and is used to apply to the “special-status” human being. In what way can someone be the actual “son” of a God, and not possess divinity himself? Alexander the Great was touted as the son of Zeus, but thereby he was granted a form of divinity. Anyway, I suppose your grab-bag of religious concepts shouldn’t be expected to be coherent, so I apologize for not seeing them with the clarity you do.

            Earl, I’m frankly astonished. Do you mean to tell me that in all your
            research of early Christian theology, you’ve never come across any form
            of Unitarian Christology? Not even Adoptionism? I’ve simply been
            assuming that you knew all this stuff. Was I mistaken?

            Was I mistaken in thinking that you not only could read English, but that you could be trusted to interpret it honestly? Obviously so. Did I say I had never encountered Unitarian or Adoptionist Christology in early Christian theology? I said that this was not the subject of our discussion, but that 20th century traditional scholarship was. And this deliberate (and transparent) smear directed against my qualifications and scope of study is once again an excuse not to address the point I made. Was the majority of 20th mainstream traditional scholarship of the opinion that Jesus was not divine? If you can support that ridiculous statement, please prove it.

            Why do so many of the historicist champions on this blog behave like utter shitheads in the conduct of their debates over mythicism? Howard is the one exception that I can see.

            I may just put you all on ignore, post my own observations about the texts, and if you don’t address them directly and honestly, ignore anything else you have to say.

            Other than that, I am still awaiting James’ continuation with his review of my book.

            • Dave Burke

              Earl,

              >>
              “I have said I don’t believe Jesus is God. I have said I believe he was a mortal man; a genuine human being. I have said I believe he is the Son of God. I have said I believe he did not have a mortal father. I thought this was all pretty clear.”

              >>
              Yes, Dave, it is very clear that you have said all these things. But do you think a coherent understanding of them in combination is “clear”?
              >>

              Yes. They are so clear that you are the only person here who has needed to request clarification.

              >>
              Do you think your back and forth and shifts in evidence over what the Phil. hymn contains is coherent and clear?
              >>

              I have made no back and forth shifts in evidence over what the Philippians hymn contains. On the contrary, I have maintained a consistent argument which you have done your best to misrepresent.

              >>
              How can Jesus be a genuine human being and not have a mortal father?
              >>

              I have already explained this.

              >>
              A “Son” of God, capitalized, implies divinity
              >>

              Does it? Why? According to whom?

              >>
              whereas the biblical phrase “son of God” is not and is used to apply to the “special-status” human being.
              >>

              I’m puzzled by your fascinating with capitals. Can you explain this? The phrase “son of God” (lower case “s”) is in fact applied to divine beings. If you check the OT you will see it attributed to angels as well as human beings.

              • Dave Burke

                Earl,

                >>
                In what way can someone be the actual “son” of a God, and not possess divinity himself? Alexander the Great was touted as the son of Zeus, but thereby he was granted a form of divinity. Anyway, I suppose your grab-bag of religious concepts shouldn’t be expected to be coherent, so I apologize for not seeing them with the clarity you do.
                >>

                If you are familiar with Unitarian and Adoptionist Christology, you will already know the answer to this question. ARE you familiar with Unitarian and Adoptionist Christology? You’ve taken offence at the implication that you’re not, but you haven’t actually said that you are. Please answer the question: are you familiar with any form of Unitarian Christology?

                >>
                “Earl, I’m frankly astonished. Do you mean to tell me that in all your research of early Christian theology, you’ve never come across any form of Unitarian Christology? Not even Adoptionism? I’ve simply been assuming that you knew all this stuff. Was I mistaken?”

                >>
                Was I mistaken in thinking that you not only could read English, but that you could be trusted to interpret it honestly? Obviously so.
                >>

                No Earl, I have interpreted it entirely honestly and in good faith. Where you went wrong was in asking me a question to which you should already know the answer. Please answer the question: are you familiar with any form of Unitarian Christology?

                >>
                Did I say I had never encountered Unitarian or Adoptionist Christology in early Christian theology?
                >>

                No, but if you did have such knowledge, you would not need to ask how a son of God can be non-divine. Please answer the question: are you familiar with any form of Unitarian Christology?

                >>
                I said that this was not the subject of our discussion, but that 20th century traditional scholarship was. And this deliberate (and transparent) smear directed against my qualifications and scope of study is once again an excuse not to address the point I made.
                >>

                Asking you to clarify your credentials is not a smear. Your repeated evasion on this point only makes you look bad. Meanwhile, please answer the question: are you familiar with any form of Unitarian Christology?

                • Dave Burke

                  Earl,

                  >>
                  Was the majority of 20th mainstream traditional scholarship of the opinion that Jesus was not divine? If you can support that ridiculous statement, please prove it.
                  >>

                  I did not make this statement, and you have not even quoted me saying it. On every occasion you have merely asserted it without proof. I have now repeatedly corrected you on this, yet you continue to misrepresent me. May I ask why you persist in these dishonest tactics?

                  >>
                  Why do so many of the historicist champions on this blog behave like utter shitheads in the conduct of their debates over mythicism? Howard is the one exception that I can see. I may just put you all on ignore, post my own observations about the texts, and if you don’t address them directly and honestly, ignore anything else you have to say.
                  >>

                  There was once a little boy who kicked a hornet’s nest and complained to his mother when he was stung. His mother had no sympathy for his plight, and told him not to kick hornets’ nests in future. He took her advice and was never stung again.

                  The moral of this story is that people who behave like children tend to find life rather upsetting and blame others for it, whereas people who behave like adults do not.

                  • Earl Doherty

                    When you deliberately misrepresent what I say in order to try to score a ‘smear’ point against me, rather than actually address my argument, that deserves the epithet of “shithead.”

                    Now you say you never claimed that the majority of traditional scholarship held to the same opinion as you, that Jesus was not divine. That is a blatant lie, and as of this moment, both you and Jonathan are on total ignore. I will have nothing more to do with you.

                    • Dave Burke

                      Earl,

                      >>
                      When you deliberately misrepresent what I say in order to try to score a ‘smear’ point against me, rather than actually address my argument, that deserves the epithet of “shithead.”
                      >>

                      Where was this misrepresentation? As usual, you merely assert without evidence.

                      >>

                      Now you say you never claimed that the majority of traditional scholarship held to the same opinion as you, that Jesus was not divine.
                      >>

                      Correct. If you believe this is what I claimed, please provide a quote in which I actually say it.

                      >>
                      That is a blatant lie
                      >>

                      Incorrect. It’s the truth. The fact that you have utterly failed to quote me saying what you claim I have said, is very telling.

                      >>
                      and as of this moment, both you and Jonathan are on total ignore. I will have nothing more to do with you.
                      >>

                      *shrug*

                      No skin off my nose.

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          And we’re not talking about the ante-Nicene Christians and all their christologies. We are talking about “traditional” modern NT scholarship of the 20th century.
          >>

          Hang on Earl, you’re shifting the goalposts. This was your original comment:

          >>>>
          if you and Jonathan don’t believe that the historical Jesus was a divinity, had no pre-existence (by the way, is that James’ personal view?) and thus there was no incarnation, you can hardly think you are conforming to anything resembling traditional historicist scholarship, and I daresay including a majority of mainstream scholars today.
          >>>>

          So you told me that my view of a non-divine Jesus does not conform to traditional *historicist* scholarship.

          In response, I demonstrated that a non-divine Jesus is in fact the normative position within traditional historicist scholarship. I also agreed that my personal religious views fall outside the Christian theological mainstream (though this is an entirely different matter).

          You now say:

          >>
          To back up your claim that a non-divine Jesus is the majority expression of that tradition, you would have to supply examples of very many scholars (I won’t ask you to list the entire “majority”) who have adopted this position. I think that’s nonsense.
          >>

          This is not what you’d said before, and it’s not what I was responding to. You referred specifically to traditional modern *historicist* scholarship. My response also referred specifically to traditional modern *historicist* scholarship.

          To reiterate: my belief in a non-divine historical Jesus places me firmly within traditional historicist scholarship (as I have already shown). However, it also places me outside traditional Christian theology (as I have already agreed).

          • Earl Doherty

            Dave: In response, I demonstrated that a non-divine Jesus is in fact the
            normative position within traditional historicist scholarship. I also
            agreed that my personal religious views fall outside the Christian
            theological mainstream (though this is an entirely different matter).

            Like hell you did. Even if you included ancient expressions of non-divine ‘scholarship’ on Jesus such as the Ebionites, you hardly demonstrated that they were in the majority. And anyway, no one but you would claim that such ancient expressions and their time should be included in any picture of what is called “traditional historicist scholarship.” That was clearly meant to refer to the last two centuries, and particularly the 20th century.

            And if you claim that is it “modern” traditional historicist scholarship you were referring to as well, you have done anything BUT demonstrate that it held a non-divine view of Jesus. Nor, as a corollary, have you demonstrated that anything but very recent critical scholarship had a clear distinction or very different approaches from that of “theologians”. For a great amount of the period of that traditional scholarship, NT scholars WERE theologians and virtually indistinguishable from them.

    • Dave Burke

      Earl,

      >>
      Mythicism has been championed over two centuries by many respectable scholars whose arguments are anything but garbage.
      >>

      I can appreciate that you want this to be true, and that your reading of history is informed by your ideological need for it to be true, but you will need to work overtime to prove the claim.

      Having said that, I am open to correction. Can you plot a course of consistent, high quality theses from well regarded mythicist scholars, spanning the past two centuries? Aside from G. A. Wells and Robert M. Price, I doubt there’s much worth reading.

      >>
      This type of condescension is more of the same thing, Dave, the same type of unreasonable condemnation of a view that conflicts with your own.
      >>

      It is neither unreasonable nor condescending to dismiss a theory that mainstream scholarship overwhelmingly regards as weak at best and laughable at worst. This does not even require any appeal to my own beliefs. I reject mythicism on academic merit and evidence-based criteria, just as I reject Young Earth Creationism.

      >>
      I’ve seen those attempts and they are nothing but forced interpretations to arrive at a desired conclusion and do great violence to the texts themselves.
      >>

      Jolly good Earl, you’re entitled to your opinion and I assure you it will receive all the respect it deserves. But it strikes me that someone who insists upon a “sub-lunar realm” within NT theology despite admitting…

      “there is no clear and direct statement about any particular pagan mystery cult deity which says that devotees or philosophers regarded the activities of its myth as taking place in the spiritual dimension, in heavenly layers above the earth (whether above or below the moon)”

      …is in no position to accuse others of “great violence to the texts themselves.”

      • Earl Doherty

        Dave: Having said that, I am open to correction. Can you plot a course of
        consistent, high quality theses from well regarded mythicist scholars,
        spanning the past two centuries? Aside from G. A. Wells and Robert M.
        Price, I doubt there’s much worth reading.

        You’ve obviously never read or probably even heard of (what, you’ve done a survey and at least selective reading of mythicists over the last century and more before adopting your charlatan attitude?) J. M. Robertson or Pierre Couchoud, who were stellar lights in the field? Their scholarship far outshone most of 20th century traditional commentators in their clear thinking and reading of the texts and freedom from bias.

        …who insists on a ‘sublunar realm’ within NT theology despite admitting…

        “there is no clear and
        direct statement about any particular pagan mystery cult deity which
        says that devotees or philosophers regarded the activities of its myth
        as taking place in the spiritual dimension, in heavenly layers above the
        earth (whether above or below the moon)”

        And I have pointed out ad nauseam (to the likes of Gakusei Don) that:

        (a) we have no writings of the cults themselves which could be expected to reveal such a thing because to write or reveal in any way the interpretation of their rites was forbidden,

        (b) the writings of philosophers on the mysteries, who are less silent though still somewhat circumspect, such as Plutarch, Sallustius and Julian, give us very clear indication of the activities of savior gods like Attis and Osiris as taking place in the heavens, and even in a ‘sublunar realm’, as I have outlined both in my book and in my website rebuttal to Don’s review of it. Check it out, rather than just parroting from ignorance the biased dismissals of others.

  • Earl Doherty

    How did you miss Romans 5:14?

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear, or if you missed earlier postings. My “two passages” were Romans 5:12f and the combination of the related passages in 1 Cor. 15.21f and 15:35f. Believe me, I didn’t just “discover” Romans 5. (Do you really take me for an idiot, and that I could have written two books on this subject while ‘missing’ Romans 5? It’s this type of condescension and assumption about mythicists which goes hand in hand with dismissive attitudes like James’, attitudes that are entirely unfounded.)

    Yes, the theme of Philippians 2 is different to the theme of Romans 5 & I Corinthians 15. Do you believe a comparison with Adam can only ever exist in those two contexts?

    Of course not. But those are the only two passages in which a comparison with Adam is actually stated. Dunn, whom I’ve now had a chance to do some reading of, simply reads Adam and an Adam comparison into all and sundry, with virtually no justification for doing so, and certainly no justification for confidently doing so. I will address this shortly.

    The argument being made is that Paul contrasts Adam and Christ in the first half of the hymn. The second half of the hymn refers to the consequences of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

    And my point is that nowhere, either in the first half or in the second half, is anything said or implied about sin. Since all comparisons, and even claimed comparisons, between Adam and Christ of necessity involve sin (that’s what Adam is noted for, introducing sin into the world through his own sin, which is what Jewish interest in Adam also focused on), neither Adam nor his basis for inclusion does in fact appear in the Phil. Hymn, so you are guilty of a double assumption and insertion of something into the text which is not there. And neither does the second half of the hymn refer to Jesus’ victory over “sin.” So your entire basis of reading Adam Christology into the hymn is a fantasy of your own fabrication. You and Dunn make a good pair.

    You’re like a man standing up in the opera house and demanding a refund because Hamlet does not appear in the third act of Turandot.

    Dave, that is the lamest analogy I have ever seen on any subject. You are the one who is claiming that Turandot (or its third act) is about Hamlet! I’m not demanding any refund, I’m simply showing you the score for Turandot and disabusing you of your delusion that you can find Hamlet in it.

    Dave to Howard: Having said that, I agree Jesus did not have a mortal father.

    Wha???

    • Dave Burke

      Earl,

      >>
      Sorry if I wasn’t clear, or if you missed earlier postings.
      >>

      It wasn’t, but never mind.

      >>
      Believe me, I didn’t just “discover” Romans 5.
      >>

      There’s no condescension here, Earl. Our discussion will be easier on your blood pressure if you stop finding insults where none exist, assuming that everyone’s out to get you just because they disagree with your views.

      You had previously said:

      >>
      You do realize that the Pauline comparison between Adam and Christ is hardly a “consistent theme” in the Pauline corpus? It appears exactly twice, if we link the two related sections of 1 Cor. 15.
      >>

      I believe I can be excused for interpreting this as “exactly twice, if we link the two related sections of 1 Cor. 15″, not “twice, including Romans 5.”

      • Earl Doherty

        Dave: I believe I can be excused for interpreting this as “exactly twice, if
        we link the two related sections of 1 Cor. 15″, not “twice, including
        Romans 5.”

        Not if you can read plain English. One does not arrive at “two” if one links two pieces. If it is still “two” then what is the point of referring to a linkage? The linking produces “one”, leaving one more (Romans 5) to produce “two”.

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          Not if you can read plain English. One does not arrive at “two” if one links two pieces. If it is still “two” then what is the point of referring to a linkage? The linking produces “one”, leaving one more (Romans 5) to produce “two”.
          >>

          If I link two cars with a tow rope, I still have two cars. You should have said “Taking the Corinthians verses as one example and Romans as the second…” or something similar. But never mind, it’s clear now.

    • Dave Burke

      Earl,

      I asked if you believe a comparison with Adam can only ever exist within the contexts of Romans 5 & I Corinthians 15. You replied:

      >>
      Of course not. But those are the only two passages in which a comparison with Adam is actually stated.
      >>

      Am I to understand that you believe a concept cannot be considered to be present unless it is explicitly stated?

      >>
      And my point is that nowhere, either in the first half or in the second half, is anything said or implied about sin.
      >>

      Why does it need to say anything about sin?

      >>
      Since all comparisons, and even claimed comparisons, between Adam and Christ of necessity involve sin
      >>

      Oh I see, you’re just begging the question. So… where is the reference to sin in I Corinthians 15:45?

      >>
      And neither does the second half of the hymn refer to Jesus’ victory over “sin.”
      >>

      I didn’t say that it did. I said it referred to the consequences of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Referring to the victory and referring to consequences are two entirely different ideas.

      • Earl Doherty

        Dave: Since all comparisons, and even claimed comparisons, between Adam and Christ of necessity involve sin
        >>

        Oh I see, you’re just begging the question. So… where is the reference to sin in I Corinthians 15:45?

        1 Corinthians 15:35-49 is not about comparing Adam to Christ, and it certainly has nothing to do with the Genesis myth or the Fall and the consequences of sin. Stating Joe is X and Bob is Y does not in itself make a point about comparing the two, if X and Y relate to a different issue on which they are used to elucidate. The 35-49 passage is about drawing on two different features of Adam and Christ to make an illustration about human resurrection, which is what the argument is about, not about Adam christology. Adam’s physical body represents the human mortal body prior to death, Christ’s spiritual body (nowhere is it stated that he took such on after having previously had a physical one) made of heavenly stuff represents the spiritual body humans will take on after resurrection.

        Nothing there even remotely similar to what is being claimed for Phil. hymn, but which itself is also not remotely similar to that claim. There is no sin, no Adamic fall, no redemption from sin present in the Phil hymn.

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          1 Corinthians 15:35-49 is not about comparing Adam to Christ
          >>

          Not the entire section, but certainly one verse:

          –I Corinthians 15:45
          So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

          That’s a comparison.

          >>
          and it certainly has nothing to do with the Genesis myth or the Fall and the consequences of sin.
          >>

          Nobody claimed that it did.

          >>
          Stating Joe is X and Bob is Y does not in itself make a point about comparing the two, if X and Y relate to a different issue on which they are used to elucidate.
          >>

          I Corinthians 15:45 compares Adam with Christ in the same context. It does not relate each of them to two entirely different issues. There is a direct contrast here: Adam became X; Christ became Y.

          >>
          The 35-49 passage is about drawing on two different features of Adam and Christ to make an illustration about human resurrection, which is what the argument is about, not about Adam christology.
          >>

          Correct. The passage is not *about* Adam Christology. Yet Paul’s reference to Christ as the “second Adam” leaves us in no doubt as to the Christology behind his thinking. When Paul thinks “Christ”, he also thinks “Adam.”

          • Earl Doherty

            Last point before leaving for the afternoon (I think–it’s started to rain cats and dogs here)…

            –I Corinthians 15:45
            So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

            That’s a comparison.

            No it isn’t, not in the sense that we are discussing. Paul is stating two contrasting points about Adam and Christ, not for the purposes of comparing them and making a point about their differences, but for equating those two separate and different states to something else, namely the question (not “two separate questions”) of the resurrection of humans.

            If you can’t perceive the difference (perhaps it’s a little too subtle for you), not even in our context, it’s no wonder we’re having so much difficulty understanding each other.

            And you are wrongly understanding/translating verse 45 (“Adam became X, Christ became Y”). That is the biggest pitfall in this passage, as I alluded to a few days ago. It is easily demonstrated (as I do in my book), and perhaps I’ll find the time over the next few days to tell you how, bringing in how Dunn also falls into the same trap.

            Correct. The passage is not *about* Adam Christology. Yet Paul’s
            reference to Christ as the “second Adam” leaves us in no doubt as to the
            Christology behind his thinking. When Paul thinks “Christ”, he also
            thinks “Adam.

            What an asset, Dave. Having the ability to reach your mind across two millennia and actually read the mind of Paul–and with “no doubt” to boot! How I envy you. (And all those other NT commentators who make similar claims.) Like Don, you want it both ways. You admit there is no AC in 1 Cor. 15, yet not to worry, it’s there in the background of Paul’s thought since he mentioned the name “Adam”.

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          Adam’s physical body represents the human mortal body prior to death, Christ’s spiritual body (nowhere is it stated that he took such on after having previously had a physical one) made of heavenly stuff represents the spiritual body humans will take on after resurrection.
          >>

          Correct.

          >>
          Nothing there even remotely similar to what is being claimed for Phil. hymn, but which itself is also not remotely similar to that claim.
          >>

          It is true that the subject of I Corinthians 15 is not the subject of Philippians 2. Nevertheless, Paul claims in I Corinthians 15 that Christ is the second Adam; this informs his message in the Philippian hymn, where another Adamic contrast is evident.

          >>
          There is no sin, no Adamic fall, no redemption from sin present in the Phil hymn.
          >>

          Nobody claimed that there was. I don’t know why you keep making these pointless comments. It only makes me think you don’t actually understand what this discussion is about.

          • Earl Doherty

            I keep making these “pointless comments”, Dave, because your claim that Adam Christology is present in at least the first half of the hymn must be dependent on their being an inclusion of the idea of sin and its consequences, because that’s what classic “Adam Christology” is about. Or are you about to squirm out of this by giving us a completely different form of Adam Christology so that you can think to stay in the game?

            Nevertheless, Paul claims in I Corinthians 15 that Christ is the second
            Adam; this informs his message in the Philippian hymn, where another
            Adamic contrast is evident.

            That’s your claim, not based on anything in the Phil text, not even a mention of Adam’s name. What “informs” your interpretation of the Phil hymn is your disposition to see in it what you want to see in it, because you have no other basis.

    • Dave Burke

      Earl,

      >>
      Dave, that is the lamest analogy I have ever seen on any subject. You are the one who is claiming that Turandot (or its third act) is about Hamlet! I’m not demanding any refund, I’m simply showing you the score for Turandot and disabusing you of your delusion that you can find Hamlet in it.
      >>

      No Earl, that’s incorrect. Let’s take it from the top.

      You had asked what the latter half of the Philippian hymn has to do with the Fall and redemption, or with Adam Christology. I responded by pointing out that nobody had said it did. Ignoring this, you repeated your redundant question. I now refer you to my previous answer.

      To reiterate: I did not claim, and do not claim, that Adam is found in the second half of the Philippian hymn. So why ask me to prove that he is?

      >>
      Dave to Howard: ‘Having said that, I agree Jesus did not have a mortal father.’

      Wha???
      >>

      Is there a problem?

      • Earl Doherty

        Dave: To reiterate: I did not claim, and do not claim, that Adam is found in
        the second half of the Philippian hymn. So why ask me to prove that he
        is?

        You don’t have to claim it. But it’s needed if you are going to reasonably claim that the Phil. hymn is about Adam Christology. I simply pointed out that the second half of the hymn, which is intimately connected to the first half, has nothing to do with Adam christology. If the second half resolves the first half (which it is designed to do, humiliation having as its consequence exaltation0, then how can the first half be about Adam christology and the second half not? I’m delighted to see that you acknowledge that Adam is not present in the second half of the hymn. To continue to claim that the first half is all about him and his Fall would be to destroy the entire integrity and structure of the hymn. (I love it when my opponent contributes to making my case, as so often happens.)

        Sorry, but you haven’t demonstrated that your analogy was anything but lame and totally inapplicable.

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          You don’t have to claim it. But it’s needed if you are going to reasonably claim that the Phil. hymn is about Adam Christology.
          >>

          >>
          I simply pointed out that the second half of the hymn, which is intimately connected to the first half, has nothing to do with Adam christology.
          >>

          So you’re actually agreeing with me. Excellent.

          >>
          If the second half resolves the first half (which it is designed to do, humiliation having as its consequence exaltation0, then how can the first half be about Adam christology and the second half not?
          >>

          The first half is not *about* Adam Christology. It merely invokes Adam Christology. This has also been explained multiple times.

          On an unrelated note, I seem to recall asking you twice to confirm your qualifications and your place of study. This seems an appropriate time to reiterate my request. What are your qualifications, and where did you obtain them? Your Wikipedia page currently represents you as possessing a double-discipline degree, which I doubt is correct.

          • Earl Doherty

            Dave: The first half is not *about* Adam Christology. It merely invokes Adam Christology. This has also been explained multiple times.

            Oh, the first half is not “about”, merely “invokes.” To what end. What is the object of this invocation? The hymnist was just in the mood? And this is a clear case of shifting your goalposts. The only thing that has been given “multiple times” is a shift in what you claim you are saying and in how you attempt to be saying it. This has become a joke, Dave.

            On an unrelated note, I seem to recall asking you twice to confirm your
            qualifications and your place of study. This seems an appropriate time
            to reiterate my request. What are your qualifications, and where did you
            obtain them? Your Wikipedia page currently represents you as possessing
            a double-discipline degree, which I doubt is correct.

            What–you’ve never heard of a degree in a combined discipline? I guess you’ve never attended a university. And who says Classical Languages has nothing to do with Ancient History, or that it is not a natural and very useful linkage. And if I don’t choose to identify my university so that you bozos can’t try to find some way of meddling in my private history and distorting some aspect of it against me (which I’ve talked about elsewhere in the past), that’s my business. Address my arguments, not the details of my education. As for the latter, I’ve outlined some of them in the Preface of my new book.

            And now you are accusing me of lying and falsifying my education. Typical, and demonstrating the point I made in answer to your demand for that personal information.

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          I’m delighted to see that you acknowledge that Adam is not present in the second half of the hymn.
          >>

          I’m delighted to see you finally admitting that what I’ve been saying consistently for the past 4 days is in fact what I’ve been saying consistently for the past 4 days, and not something else entirely (as you had previously and erroneously insinuated).

          >>
          To continue to claim that the first half is all about him and his Fall would be to destroy the entire integrity and structure of the hymn.
          >>

          Correct.

          >>
          (I love it when my opponent contributes to making my case, as so often happens.)
          >>

          However, in this case you have merely agreed with me, which is as much to my benefit as to yours. Does it really “so often happen” that your opponents contribute to making your case? I’m afraid I don’t see that in the various critiques of your work around the internet.

          >>
          Sorry, but you haven’t demonstrated that your analogy was anything but lame and totally inapplicable.
          >>

          Thank you for that well reasoned, fully substantiated, evidenced based argument.

  • Earl Doherty

    It’s one thing for us who are able to sit down and pore over the lines of all the Pauline letters for as long as we like, subject them to careful analyses which benefit from all the skills and knowledge of modern scholarship, perceive (or imagine) linkages and implications and hidden meanings, and then debate our findings and conclusions.

    But pity the poor Philippians who enjoyed none of those opportunities or benefits. Do you really think that they could perceive such a meaning behind the Philippians hymn or that Paul thought that they could? Would the original hymnist (since this is undoubtedly not Paul’s own composition) imbed Adam Christology in a piece of liturgy for public consumption without giving any evident hint of such a thing?

    As I said earlier, the Phil. Hymn is not about redemption from the fall or consequences of Adam’s sin. It is about obedience to God by the Son and his consequent exaltation. If there is an implied parallel here, a moral lesson intended by the hymnist, it is that believers, too, if obedient, will likewise be exalted. And in fact, this motif is much more common in the early sectarian literature than any Adam Christology, and certainly Paul’s specific Adam Christology (in Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15), which seems to be his own product.

    And let’s compare the Phil. Hymn with another hymn cut from the same pre-Pauline cloth. 1 Timothy 3:16 also has a taking on of “flesh” with a subsequent vindication (in terms of an exaltation) in the spirit, “glorified in high heaven.” The same pattern as the Phil. Hymn, and again lacking any concern with sin, redemption or the fall, much less an allusion or comparison with Adam. Another hymnist (or maybe the same one) obsessed with imbedding obscurities in his work, apparently, if we are to follow Dunn and Dave.

    By the way, note what introduces this hymn: “And great beyond all question is the mystery of our religion:” The experience of an ordinary man crucified and allegedly resurrected in heaven is a “great mystery”? The only “mystery” in these hymns is that they consistently refuse to give us anything that needs to be tied to earth, let alone details of a life lived on this planet. 3:16 tells us that he was seen by angels but not by men, proclaimed among the nations but did no proclaiming himself. And “believed in throughout the world” could hardly apply to faith in a human Jesus so soon after his death, whereas if the Son of the hymns is a specific sectarian version of the spiritual entity we can call the “intermediary Son,” an emanation of God serving as his channel to humanity, which was one of the major philosophical ideas of the Hellenistic era, such a concept could indeed be said to be “believed in throughout the world,” though this particular Christ cult naturally thought it had the genuine version.

    And note this: If Adam and his fall and the redemption by Christ from the consequences of sin had anything to do with the beliefs of the sect that produced these hymns, we would fully expect that an account of the “mystery of our religion” would contain some reference to it. But such a thing is as missing here as it is in the Phil. Hymn. I would say that this rules out any presence of Adam Christology in either piece, since Adam has to do with the fall, sin and its effects and the need for redemption from it. (One might as well claim that the Declaration of Independence has an anti-slavery philosophy within it, even if none of the elements of that later stance can actually been found in the text.)

    I happen to believe that pre-Pauline Christ belief was entirely, or almost so, focused on the exaltation the believers could look forward to after death as a consequence of being joined to a heavenly champion (Revelation, too, is a lot like that, and the Similitudes of Enoch are totally like that). This is also somewhat like the pagan mystery cults which saw initiation into the god’s mysteries and a joining with him as a guarantee of a happy afterlife, with very little focus (with the exception of Orphism) on ethics and ‘sin.’ In the Christ cult, it may have Paul who came along and blew the whole idea of sin (though admittedly it was a Jewish fixation), and redemption from it through Christ, out of all proportion.

    Thus, I think that there is far too much reading of Adam Christology into Paul. Dunn has virtually called attention to every important reference to sin, to the sinful state of humanity, as though it is in Paul’s mind a direct reference to Adam and constitutes an intended implication of Adam Christology (I’ll discuss a couple of examples shortly). But ‘sin’ as a very concept naturally has to possess the dimension of being the product of Adam’s fall; Paul knew this, as did everyone else. Adam naturally piggy-backs on any concept of sin, even if not specifically invited along for the ride. But that doesn’t make every reference to sin by Paul a piece of deliberate or implied Adam Christology. If such a thing is assumed, it will inevitably lead to all sorts of meanings being drawn from a given passage which are not intended. Paul’s general focus on sin does not make it the case that the Genesis myth is being described at every turn, much less that an earlier hymnist is including it in the Phil. hymn, which Dunn and the Burke Brothers would have us believe.

    And I can see now why James is anxious to point out that not all of Dunn’s fellow scholars agree with him. I wonder if HE does, and if he doesn’t, what all the fuss has been about in his rush to throw Dunn in my face.

    • Dave Burke

      Earl,

      >>
      As I said earlier, the Phil. Hymn is not about redemption from the fall or consequences of Adam’s sin.
      >>

      Did anyone say that it is? Please provide examples.

      >>
      It is about obedience to God by the Son and his consequent exaltation.
      >>

      Did anyone say that it isn’t? Please provide examples. You may also wish to re-read the excerpts from my monograph, where I explicitly state that the hymn is about Jesus’ obedience to God and subsequent exultation.

      • Earl Doherty

        As I said earlier, the Phil. Hymn is not about redemption from the fall or consequences of Adam’s sin.
        >>

        Did anyone say that it is? Please provide examples.

        Good grief. There has been so much dancing around by you guys, that you’ve lost sight of how this debate started. It started (if I can remember it all) by James challenging me on the hymn by appealing to Dunn, and how my views were worthless because I hadn’t taken into account Dunn’s reading, which is all about Adam christology in the hymn. I have been busy demonstrating that the hymn is not about Adam christology, so I have been assuming (apparently your contribution has been anything but clear) that by you chiming in in support of Jonathan and James you are defending some kind of Adam christology in the Phil hymn. Now you are claiming you are not?

        No wonder I hate wasting my time on this blog.

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          I have been busy demonstrating that the hymn is not about Adam christology, so I have been assuming (apparently your contribution has been anything but clear)
          >>

          Everyone else has understood my contributions without any difficulty. And interestingly, nobody has misrepresented me except you.

          >>
          that by you chiming in in support of Jonathan and James you are defending some kind of Adam christology in the Phil hymn. Now you are claiming you are not?
          >>

          No, that is not what I am claiming. I refer you to the answer I gave several days ago: the argument being made is that Paul contrasts Adam and Christ in the *first* half of the hymn. The *second* half of the hymn refers to the *consequences* of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

          >>
          Then what the hell are we arguing about? Or did you just jump in to take the opportunity to dump on me personally, even if you agreed with my reading?
          >>

          We are arguing over the meaning of the Philippian hymn. You agree with the Christian fundamentalist interpretation: that it refers to Jesus as God. I agree with the higher critical interpretation: that it refers to Jesus as a mortal man exalted by God, and that the first half of the hymn evokes a contrast between Adam and Christ, drawing upon an established Adam Christology.

      • Earl Doherty

        Dave: >>
        It is about obedience to God by the Son and his consequent exaltation.
        >>

        Did
        anyone say that it isn’t? Please provide examples. You may also wish to
        re-read the excerpts from my monograph, where I explicitly state that
        the hymn is about Jesus’ obedience to God and subsequent exultation

        Then what the hell are we arguing about? Or did you just jump in to take the opportunity to dump on me personally, even if you agreed with my reading?

    • Dave Burke

      Earl,

      >>
      The experience of an ordinary man crucified and allegedly resurrected in heaven is a “great mystery”?
      >>

      No. Firstly, Jesus was said to be crucified and resurrected on Earth, not in heaven. Secondly, the term “mystery” is better translated “revelation.”

      The NET puts it this way:

      –1 Timothy 3:16
      And we all agree, our religion contains amazing revelation:
          He was revealed in the flesh,
          vindicated by the Spirit,
          seen by angels,
          proclaimed among Gentiles,
          believed on in the world,
          taken up in glory.

      >>
      The only “mystery” in these hymns is that they consistently refuse to give us anything that needs to be tied to earth
      >>

      Revealed in the flesh, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed on in the world. Those all sound like events occurring on Earth to me. Was Jesus revealed in the flesh in heaven? Proclaimed among Gentiles in heaven? Believed on in the world in heaven?

      >>
      let alone details of a life lived on this planet
      >>

      Why must a hymn to Jesus necessarily include a biography? For that matter, why would Paul reiterate the entire story of Jesus in a pastoral epistle to an established Christian community?

      In the very first verse of the very first chapter it is clear that he presupposes knowledge of Christian doctrine. He is writing to people with a shared faith; people who believe Jesus is Lord and that God is his Father.

      On an unrelated note, are you able to clarify the mystery of your qualification?

      • Earl Doherty

        No. Firstly, Jesus was said to be crucified and resurrected on Earth,
        not in heaven. Secondly, the term “mystery” is better translated
        “revelation.”

        Where in the 1 Tim. 3:16 hymn does it state that Jesus was resurrected on earth? Talk about supporting my constant statement that historicists are guilty of reading into the text what they wish to see there! Thanks for that.

        “Better translated” as “revelation”? A mystery may be revealed, but the mystery itself is not the revelation itself. Talk about contorted thinking.

        Dave: On an unrelated note, are you able to clarify the mystery of your qualification?

        No, Dave, this is anything BUT “unrelated.” You can’t best me in actual argument, so you have recourse to trying to smear me personally by questioning my qualifications. Another typical tactic.

        By the way, is the “mystery” of my qualifications the “revelation” of them?

        >>
        The only “mystery” in these hymns is that they consistently refuse to give us anything that needs to be tied to earth
        >>

        Revealed
        in the flesh, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed on in the world.
        Those all sound like events occurring on Earth to me. Was Jesus revealed
        in the flesh in heaven? Proclaimed among Gentiles in heaven? Believed
        on in the world in heaven?

        Dave, you are impossible. Can you not think at all, whether contorted or otherwise? We are talking about Jesus’ actions as stated in the hymn not needing to be tied to earth. You are giving us passive statements about Jesus, performed by others, and claiming the obvious that they were performed on earth. Do you think this answers my argument?

        In fact, there is not a single statement in the entire hymn about an action by Jesus himself, let alone something he did on earth. It’s all statements about what others have done: revealed by others, vindicated by some heavenly force (in the spirit), seen by angels, preached by humans, believed in by them. Even “taken up” is in the passive, and does not require him to have been taken up to heaven from an incarnated position on earth.

        Do you really believe it possible that if Jesus had been on earth, let alone that he had begun there, that a hymnist could have crafted something like this with such a void about that earthly experience?

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          Where in the 1 Tim. 3:16 hymn does it state that Jesus was resurrected on earth?
          >>

          Nowhere, and I didn’t say that it did. I said “Jesus was said to be crucified and resurrected on Earth, not in heaven.” I did not say either event was mentioned in I Timothy 3:16.

          >>
          Talk about supporting my constant statement that historicists are guilty of reading into the text what they wish to see there! Thanks for that.
          >>

          No Earl, you’re just misrepresenting me again. This seems to be your one and only debating tactic: misrepresent your opponent, attack a convenient straw man, then crow to the gallery.

          >>
          “Better translated” as “revelation”? A mystery may be revealed, but the mystery itself is not the revelation itself. Talk about contorted thinking.
          >>

          What on earth are you talking about?

          >>
          No, Dave, this is anything BUT “unrelated.”
          >>

          Yes it is unrelated. It’s not even on topic.

          >>
          You can’t best me in actual argument, so you have recourse to trying to smear me personally by questioning my qualifications. Another typical tactic.
          >>

          Earl, can you please explain how a polite request for the details of your qualifications is a “smear”? You’re obviously sensitive about it for some reason, but this bizarre response simply beggars belief.

          And again, the bombastic self-aggrandizing: “You can’t best me in actual argument” (well OK Earl, whatever you say. I’m here to humour you). Are you actually J P Holding in disguise? The similarities are mounting…

          • Earl Doherty

            >>
            Where in the 1 Tim. 3:16 hymn does it state that Jesus was resurrected on earth?
            >>

            Nowhere,
            and I didn’t say that it did. I said “Jesus was said to be crucified
            and resurrected on Earth, not in heaven.” I did not say either event was
            mentioned in I Timothy 3:16.

            For chrissakes, Dave, we were talking about the 1 Timothy hymn. Why wouldn’t anyone assume you were claiming they were present in the hymn? Do you just jump around from one thing to another with no logical sequence? You are a masterful dodger and weaver, Dave, maybe the most blatant I’ve ever seen, but you’re not fooling anyone.

            As for my claim that you’ve failed to best me in logical argument and your denial of it, when you are not even capable of giving us a coherent and consistent presentation, how can anyone think that you are capable of logical counter-argument? I’ve seen no evidence of it, for all your bluster.

            Anyway, as an example of what a coherent argument looks like, I’ll follow this up with a posting about 1 Corinthians 15:39-45 which topic was raised recently, with you claiming you couldn’t understand my contention.

        • Dave Burke

          Earl,

          >>
          We are talking about Jesus’ actions as stated in the hymn not needing to be tied to earth. You are giving us passive statements about Jesus, performed by others, and claiming the obvious that they were performed on earth. Do you think this answers my argument?
          >>

          Well Earl, this is what you’d said:

          >>>>
          The only “mystery” in these hymns is that they consistently refuse to give us anything that needs to be tied to earth
          >>>>

          Now you’ve decided this particular hymn does indeed refer to actions that need to be tied to earth. So we agree again, which is nice.

          >>
          In fact, there is not a single statement in the entire hymn about an action by Jesus himself, let alone something he did on earth.
          >>

          Oh really? “He was revealed in the flesh.” Who’s that referring to, if not Jesus?

          >>
          Do you really believe it possible that if Jesus had been on earth, let alone that he had begun there, that a hymnist could have crafted something like this with such a void about that earthly experience?
          >>

          Firstly, it does make a reference to earthly experience: “He was revealed in the flesh.”

          Secondly, even if it didn’t make a reference to earthly experience, I do believe a hymnist could have crafted something like this without any reference to Jesus’ earthly experience. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility (though it would be unusual). Today there are plenty of Christian hymns referring to Jesus’ current, heavenly life rather than his earthly experience. But I am not sure there are any such hymns in the NT.

          • Earl Doherty

            Dave: >>
            In fact, there is not a single statement in the entire hymn
            about an action by Jesus himself, let alone something he did on earth.
            >>

            Oh really? “He was revealed in the flesh.” Who’s that referring to, if not Jesus?

            You really do have comprehension problems, don’t you? It refers to Jesus, but it does not refer to an action by Jesus. Jesus “was revealed” (or “was manifested” as some translators prefer). The primary meaning of this verb is that the object spoken of is revealed by some other agency. It is most often (if not exclusively) used in the epistles to refer to a revelation by God or by scripture.

            And you have fallen into your own trap. If Jesus was only a man, what sense would it make to claim that the meaning is Jesus revealed himself? A man living a normal human life “reveals himself”? When did he do that? When he came out of the womb? Maybe when he appeared for the first time in public? Some other ludicrous interpretation you’re going to attempt? Would anyone say this, rather than just tell us directly that he lived a life, or died, on earth (which no one ever does), especially as a natural companion to being vindicated (resurrected) in a spiritual state?

            No, 3:16 tells us that this ‘mystery’ entity was revealed to exist by means of scripture or God/the Spirit’s revelation to people like Paul. With such a meaning, it conforms to many other similar statements in the epistles, such as Romans 16:25-26.

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

    I didn’t throw Dunn in your face. I did point out that you have been making confident assertions about Pauline Christology without having read the major treatments of the subject written over the past 30 years or so.

    Whether or not the Philippians would pick up on an allusion to Adam depends on a number of things – Was this passage a hymn or part of one? Was it one that the Philippians knew? But they clearly had prior exposure to Paul’s theology, and if they would not have been able to grasp his allusions to Adam, how could you expect that they would grasp his alleged mythicism, and not misunderstand Jesus to have been crucified where pretty much everyone else was in their experience? Mythicism assumes that NT documents will be read in a certain way, it is all about assumptions. The interpretation of Phil. 2:6-11 in terms of Adam has the advantage that it posits assumptions which Paul himself makes explicit in other passages, so that we know that they provided one of the lenses through which he viewed Jesus.

    • Earl Doherty

      You’ve missed a key point I made, James (oops, sorry, that’s in the posting I’m about to post now). The Philippians hymn was written prior to Paul. We have no means of knowing, much less assuming automatically, that the audience for the original Phil. hymn was familiar with any of this Adam Christology which is allegedly to be found in every corner of Paul’s letters, especially when much of it would have been his own product.

      And whether the positing of assumptions concerning Phil. 2:6-11, regardless of who wrote it, is justified is the very issue we are now debating.

  • Earl Doherty

    Let’s look at a couple of Dunn’s examples of Adam Christology in Paul’s letters. He points to Romans 3:23:

    “God’s justice has been brought to light. The Law and the prophets both bear witness to it; it is God’s way of righting wrong, effective through faith in Christ for all who have such faith—all, without distinction. For all alike have sinned, and are deprived of the divine splendour, and all are justified by God’s free grace alone…” [NEB]

    Dunn says (Christology in the Making, p.102):

    …but there has been a growing consensus among recent commentators that the primary allusion is to the glory once enjoyed by Adam. In fact, both ideas were probably already current in Jewish theology in the first century AD, and both the thought and the language were probably familiar to Paul before he wrote Rom. 3.23.15 So it is quite probable that he intended the verb to be ambiguous, to contain both meanings. Indeed it is quite likely that both senses were prompted by the Gen. 3 narrative. Man, Adam, by virtue of his creation in the image of God was given a share in the glory of God, the visible splendour of God’s power as Creator.

    Nothing that Dunn says here is impossible (though note all his “probably”s and “quite likely”s). But there is no compelling evidence in the text that Paul’s composition here was generated by a conscious thought about Adam and a deliberate intention to evoke his myth. The “all alike have sinned” in v.23 does not have to be generated from the idea of the Genesis myth that all mankind inherited sin because of Adam’s sin, even though that idea is true and existed in Jewish thought. In fact, the “all have sinned” is more likely immediately prompted by the preceding “all are justified in God’s grace through faith in Christ,” a proposal which at least has the benefit of being supported by the text itself.

    Another example. Dunn appeals to Romans 7:8f:

    “For example, I should never have known what it was to covet, if the law had not said, ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ Through that commandment sin found its opportunity, and produced in me all kinds of wrong desires. In the absence of law, sin is a dead thing. There was a time when, in the absence of law, I was fully alive; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died…because sin found its opportunity in the commandment, seduced me, and through the commandment killed me.”

    There is no doubt that here Paul is referring directly to the “law” in the Hebrew bible. He quotes one of the Ten Commandments. He is not referring to the ‘commandment’ given to Adam in Eden not to eat the fruit of the tree. Paul here styles the “law” itself negatively in that it introduces one to sin. The law itself is thus capable of seducing and killing. There need be no allusion to the Genesis myth and the serpent to explain Paul’s thought.

    Dunn claims: “Romans 7.9f. can be fully explicated only by reference to Adam. Only if he was thinking of Adam could Paul properly say that he was alive once apart from the law, and that the coming of the commandment brought sin to life and resulted in death for him. For a life ‘apart from law’, and a ‘coming’ of law which resulted in sin and death, was true of Adam in a way that it would not be true of anyone born after or under the law.”

    I disagree. Every enlightened legal system ever invented absolves a person of guilt if he had no way of knowing that the act he committed was against the law, whether a written one or one presumed to be perceivable through natural moral judgment which a sane person could be considered capable of. The key statement in verse 9, “there was a time when, in the absence of law, I was fully alive,” can hardly refer to the time of Adam. Paul was not alive at that time, let alone fully alive, before the commission of the Original Sin. To do this, one has to appeal to an elaborate metaphor to the Genesis situation, something which Dunn attempts. But it is much more likely that he is thinking of his introduction to the biblical law as a youth, when he was introduced to that which was regarded as “sin” and thus to the possibility of committing “sin,” in the sense of committing acts which are now known to be against the law, which is when the idea of guilt and legal responsibility is first applied.

    I have to shake my head at Dunn’s forced rationalization (p.
    104) for Paul’s use of “I” in his description of the consequences of
    knowing the law (Rom. 7:7f), rather than, if he is being impelled by the
    Genesis myth, a general “we” which should naturally follow from
    discussing the consequences for humanity of Adam’s fall. Dunn has to
    deny that Paul is simply speaking of that state in his own life prior to
    the “age of reason” when one is introduced to moral law, after which
    personal “sin” becomes possible. But to see it that way would be to “misunderstand Paul.” Right.

    But the main point to be made here, and at all the passages which Dunn appeals to as reflecting Adam Christology, is: if this is the source of Paul’s thinking, if this is what generates his ideas and arguments in the first place, why doesn’t he include an actual allusion or fully-stated comparison with the Adam/Genesis myth? I am not saying that Paul’s thought never invites comparison to Adam by exegetical exercise such as that of modern scholars. What I am saying is that it is unnecessary as the driving force behind such passages, for if it were then we would have every reason to expect Paul to express it, just as he does in a couple of isolated instances, as in Romans 5:12-19. A spelling out of the Genesis myth at all those other points would have enhanced his argument and enriched the reader’s understanding.

    Again, I am not denying the possibility of either us making parallels with Adam in passages where his name does not appear or a comparison is not spelled out, or of such parallels lying, consciously or unconsciously, in the background of Paul’s expression, to a varied extent. Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less. What I object to is the creation of an interpretation of Paul in general which accords to him a purposeful and pervasive Adam Christology which is then taken as justification to derive that theoretical Adam Christology from anywhere one likes, especially in a key passage like the Phil. Hymn where that alleged derivation is used to create an exegetical conclusion which in itself has no justification. (And it is doubly unjustified when one considers that the Phil. Hymn was not even written by Paul!) James first alluded to the Phil. Hymn and then Dunn as a means of discrediting me, seemingly to claim that the epistolary Jesus was not regarded as divine (if I am not mistaken, though, he never did come out and declare that this was his own position).

    To finish off this particular posting, one of my bottom lines is simply an appeal to common sense (one of many I am often known to indulge in). This is all very elaborate soteriological philosophy on Paul’s (and the pre-Pauline hymnist’s) part, not only in Romans but in other letters as well. It is all on a pretty lofty plane, involving mythological and heavenly allusions and settings, and concepts spanning all of history and God’s workings. Is someone of the acuity of Paul going to create all this out of a human man, a man whom now scholars like James and the Burke boys seemingly declare was no more than a human man? Is he to make all this out of a simple man whom he had never met, whose teachings and deeds on earth he shows no interest in, heap all this heady significance on someone who did not rise from the dead in flesh on earth? Is he insane? (Though quite possibly he was.) Are others going to follow and accept this insanity, who themselves never met the man? On the other hand, if he is speaking of and interpreting a cosmic spiritual figure, in keeping with the general philosophy of his era, then his writing starts to make sense and is a tribute to a religious thinker who could take that philosophy and create a powerful structure which was in no way ridiculous given the thought of the era, but could generate centuries of sophisticated theology (even if soon misapplied and vastly misunderstood, thanks to Mark).

    I’ll try to address Dunn’s attention to the Phil. Hymn itself a little later.

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

    What on earth? Do we really have in the twenty-first century among advanced industrial societies people believing Jesus is god or born of a god and sinless etc telling mythicists they are the kooks??

    • Dave Burke

      Neil,

      >>
      Do we really have in the twenty-first century among advanced industrial societies people believing Jesus is god or born of a god and sinless etc telling mythicists they are the kooks??
      >>

      Yes we do.

      When mythicists demonstrate the qualities of kooks, practice the methodology of kooks, and profess the ideology of kooks, it would be strange indeed if others did not regard them as kooky.

      Religious people are no less entitled to identify other people’s kookiness than anyone else, regardless of how kooky you believe *us* to be.

    • Jonathan Burke

      //Do we really have in the twenty-first century among advanced industrial
      societies people believing Jesus is god or born of a god and sinless etc
      telling mythicists they are the kooks??//

      I’m afraid it’s worse than that Neil. We have some Mytherists arguing that the earth was populated by a group of genius pygmies with an advanced civilization, some Mytherists questioning germ theory and the link between HIV/AIDS, and some Mytherists opposing vaccination, and still insisting that other people are kooks and they aren’t.

      Doherty has refused to distance himself from the likes of DM Murdock, whose Christ Myth/genius pygmy book he gave a five star review on Amazon. This doesn’t help convince people that he’s an objective kook-free commentator.

      • Dave Burke

        Jonathan,

        Guilt by association is an easy way to score points, but I don’t believe it’s fair to tar Earl with the pygmy brush on the basis of an eleven year old review. He is clearly endorsing Murdock’s mythicism, not her wacky speculation about prehistoric civilisations.

        Mythcists are entitled to promote each other’s work without sharing agreement on every detail. Theirs may be a broad church, but historicism isn’t exactly monolithic either.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Guilt by association is an easy way to score points..//

    This isn’t a matter of guilt by association, and I’ve never claimed Doherty accepts Murdock’s pygmy claims. Neil’s complaint is that Mytherists are viewed as kooks. I have simply pointed out that since a number of prominent Mytherists hold beliefs which are regarded by virtually every normal person as kooky (anti-vaccination, genius pygmies), then it is important for those Mytherists who don’t hold those beliefs to distance themselves from them if they don’t want to be confused with them. Those of us who hold the historical Jesus view typically take care to distance ourselves from the Fundamentalists, for example, and to differentiate between the Jesus of faith and the historical Jesus.

    My point with regard to Doherty is that a glowing 5 star review of Murdock’s book, without distancing himself in any way from those conclusions of hers with which he does not agree (even after being approached on the subject), is not going to help his public relations campaign. As I’ve said (and this is all I’ve said), ‘this doesn’t help convince people that he’s an objective kook-free commentator’.

    Mytherists are free to disagree with each other on any and every point, but when they give glowing endorsements to each others’ work without identifying those parts with which they disagree, they can hardly complain if people get the idea that they do agree.

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  • Earl Doherty

    I will take very little trouble to address all the trash being thrown around by Jonathan and others which has nothing to do with honest and genuine scholarship, but is only a smear campaign against mythicists since they have no other ammunition to draw on. I think I made it clear that I hardly subscribe to Murdoch’s early views on pygmies or any other opinion not related to biblical scholarship. (I simply ignored those final pages of her book.) And if every scholar or innovator who ever contributed anything to the development of science, philosophy or social enlightenment had every wacky skeleton that might have lurked in their closet hauled out and used as a basis for rejecting everything about them, we would be nowhere. What skeleton have you got in your closet, Jonathan? I can probably surmise a few, given some of the things you’ve expressed here.

    Anyway, I’m getting back to the meat of this thread, which is the Philippians hymn and what it tells us.

  • Earl Doherty

    The first big problem Dunn faces when analyzing the Phil hymn can be seen in the following:

    “In the second contrast ‘equality with God’ probably alludes to Adam’s temptation (Gen. 3.5 – ‘ . . . you will be like God/the gods . . .’), therefore ‘likeness of men’ probably by way of contrast denotes the kind of man that Adam became and so the kind of man that all men now are.” [p.115]

    The “allusion” to Gen. 3.5 is certainly an inviting one. The entity introduced in the opening verse 6 is said not to try to ‘seize at equality with God’ which could be seen as an allusion to Adam having done just that by contravening God’s commandment and through the fruit of the tree seeking to become “like God.” The consequence for Adam of so seeking, i.e., of the Fall, is that he is reduced to a weakened and sin-ridden state of humanity. But the Phil entity did NOT seize at equality with God, and yet he is reduced (voluntarily) to that weakened/emptied state of being a slave/servant. Thus the picture in the hymn would be a rather distorted reflection of Dunn’s alleged Adam Christology.

    Moreover, since Dunn wishes to interpret “likeness of men” as this reduced, weakened and sin-ridden state, he must introduce an intermediary thought which is not reflected in the text, namely that “likeness of men” must “denote the kind of man that Adam became.” The hymn itself shows no sign of having that intermediary step (of the Fall) in mind or of any attempt to convey it. It is Dunn’s imposition necessitated by his imposed Adam parallel. The more straightforward interpretation (I dislike appealing to Occam’s Razor, but there it is) is that an entity in the “form” of God and sharing in his nature (even if not fully equal to Him), takes on a lesser form, that of men. The taking on the form of a “slave/servant” need not imply the Fall, because the whole point of the hymn is not one of descending to Adam’s fallen degraded status, but simply taking on the likeness of the inferior ‘life-form’ of humanity so as to undergo death (nothing more is made of it than that), and in this being obedient to God—being his “servant”. Dunn’s Adam Christology is entirely unnecessary here and involves a pretty convoluted reading into the text.

    This makes complete sense of the various terms and sequences in the hymn. A subordinate divine entity who is an emanation of God, but (like the Logos) not his equal, does not focus on being, or trying to be, the equal of his ‘Father’, but rather in contrast actually reduces his status in obedience to his Father and takes on the role of a servant to God’s wishes and the likeness of inferior humanity in order to undergo death. As a consequence of that obedience to God he is exalted and given power, and a name of power, over all denizens of the universe from highest to lowest. There is nothing about sin here, nothing about redemption from it, nothing about Adam or the Genesis myth. The hymn is fully understandable as the story of the ‘life trajectory’ of the emanation/Son (who didn’t even acquire the name “Jesus” until after his death and exaltation, which in itself pretty well rules out that any man “Jesus” lies behind or is envisioned in the opening verses of the hymn).

    It almost seems as though the philosophy about this Son is that his purpose in ‘life’ was to serve as God’s agent of salvation (which is not identical with redemption from sin) by adopting the role of paradigm for humanity. As their champion, their heavenly counterpart who mirrors them when he undergoes death, his resulting exaltation guarantees their exaltation. This can be seen as an idea derivative from the ‘heavenly counterpart’ portrayal in Daniel 7 which may have given rise to the whole paradigmatic parallel concept in the intertestamental period. In 7:13, a heavenly entity (perhaps an angel, according to some interpreters) is given dominion over the nations of the earth by God, and this as a paradigmatic event in heaven guarantees that the entity’s counterparts on earth, the saints of Israel, will in parallel receive that dominion. (There is a more limited version of that concept found in the Similitudes of Enoch, and it lies at the heart of Revelation, though there a redemption from sin is included almost as a secondary thought, appearing only in 1:5.) Such a thing has nothing to do with Adam or the Genesis myth, which is clearly why no reference to that myth is present in the Phil hymn and why Dunn must twist the hymn out of shape to impose that myth upon it.

    Once again, I raise this point. The hymnist had at least one line of the hymn available to make some clear allusion to Adam and Genesis, or even redemption from sin, namely “and being found in fashion as a man”. This is a redundant repeat of the previous phrase “taking on the likeness of men.” Clearly the second phrase is a ‘filler’ when he had nothing else to say, nothing about Adam, nothing about man’s fallen sinful state. Dunn calls attention to the need for interpretation of the two verbs in “taking on the likeness of a slave/servant” and “becoming in the likeness of men”. But what does he do with the following redundant phrase? He calls this

    “the bridge to the next movement: for it clearly picks up the last clause of the first movement, the end result of the first stage of Christ’s odyssey, and by means of the passive construction makes it the basis for the next movement of thought, the next stage – Christ’s death.”

    Since when is a redundant phrase needed as a “bridge”? If it is redundant, the preceding phrase can itself serve as a bridge—if one is even required. And the strained suggestion that it serves as a bridge because its verb is in the passive is particularly lame. Reading from verse 7c “becoming in the likeness of men” to verse 8, “he humbled himself becoming obedient until death,” is perfectly fine and sensible. Essentially, Dunn is indicating that the presence of the phrase is problematic and has to be ‘explained’. His implication (I gather this is what he is saying) that because humbling himself and submitting to death is a ‘passive’ concept it requires a “bridge” to it from a passive verb, is a piece of ultra-sophisticating only a modern theologian in the thralls of the extravagant subtlety most of them are addicted to could come up with, and demonstrates the scholarly (even if best-intentioned) nonsense that is too often imposed on the NT texts to make them say what is needed or wanted.

    Dunn also runs into more problems in trying to impose his too-sophisticated application of Adam Christology on the Phil hymn. Let’s note that Dunn himself (and certainly the majority of NT scholars in his day—he wrote this book in 1980) believes in a pre-existent Christ, so in trying to see a dual application both to Christ the pre-existent entity in the “form” of God, and to Adam, he must supply an answer to the question of “what did he lose of that which he had previously possessed? What did he become that was different from what he was when he made his choice?” (p.116) where the “he” must somehow accommodate both the Son and Adam.

    Dunn really has to scramble to find a way to accommodate the Son as an emanative divinity of God reducing himself to the likeness of men as an act of obedience, with the situation of Adam as a fallen eikon of God being kicked down into a corrupted state as a result of his sin. Needless to say, there is so little in common here that any attempted presentation of alleged Adam Christology in this passage requires a lot of contortion. Adam’s situation is first outlined in a way which twists it as much as possible in a direction which can then supposedly be compared to Christ (and with a degree of subtlety which it is doubtful any first century sect would have adopted, let alone expected its congregation to understand). Then this ‘comparison’ with Adam is further pushed into the realm of subtlety when Dunn maintains that the Son’s situation in the hymn was actually not intended as a parallel to that of Adam, but a ‘correction’ of it. The Son followed a pattern which was “instead of that of Adam, which is why the hymnist employed the Adam language (allegedly).

    So somehow, in reading these few simple lines of the hymn, the reader/hearer is supposed to recognize the similarity to language reminiscent of Adam and the Genesis myth, but realize that what is being stated is not actually descriptive of what Adam underwent (since the Son did not commit sin and was not punished by permanently losing God’s glory) and convert that to a very different application to Christ as a corrective to Adam’s  fate and its consequences for those descended from him. All this without the slightest indication of such a meaning from the hymnist and the statements he actually placed in his hymn.

    If this didn’t push one’s mind into blowing a fuse, I don’t know what would. And by the way, even if Paul did not himself write this hymn, can we possibly think that he understood it that way? Is such an understanding, and an intention by Paul to promote that understanding in his readers, even hinted at in the verse which introduces his quotation of the hymn?

    “Let your attitude towards yourselves/each other be that which was also in Christ Jesus (NEB: arise out of your life in Christ Jesus).”

    Does this sound as though Paul is about to impart a lesson in the Genesis myth, to convey an elaborate comparison and ‘corrective’ contrast to Adam in the actions of Jesus? Or is he simply using the ‘descending-ascending Son’ myth by some previous hymnist to make a point about humility and obedience with the promise of consequent exaltation?

    It ought to be an easy choice for any unbiased scholar.

  • Gakuseidon

    Howard: Simply put, why would Paul just jump in the middle of all this with some
    cryptic Adam Christology? The Phil hymn is merely an example of Jesus’
    humility that Paul wanted the Philippians to follow. Obviously, the
    Philippians were already familiar with the terminology of the hymn and
    knew what was being expressed concerning Jesus. This was not a new
    revelation about Christology, since it was being used as an example for
    the Philippians to follow.

    Howard, haven’t you actually answered your own question? Paul didn’t insert the hymn **because** of its Adam Christology component (assuming this to be the case for the moment). He inserted it to give an example of Jesus’ humility, by providing something that the Philippians were already familiar with. IOW the Adam Christology is simply part of the background, and not the primary point being made by Paul.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      Gakuseidon, Well yes, that was my intention. You might not be aware of what I was responding to. Dave Burke in an earlier comment replied to me that, “I thought the topic was ‘Does the Philippian hymn involve Adam Christology?’” So I was answering that question, and as you also pointed out, in the strictest sense, No it does not directly involve Adam Christology, no more than the following Scriptures do.

      “. . .This is not the way among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”” (Matthew 20:26-28)

      “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)

       “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” (Colossians 1:21-22)

      None of these Scriptures directly reference Adam Christology, but since Adam Christology is a major theme of the New Testament, these Scriptures and many more are only properly understood with having Adam Christology as the background. Therefore, if the New Testament is really saying that Jesus came to save mankind by rectifying Adam’s wrongs, then the New Testament is permeated with Adam Christology, not just the Phil hymn. I think the real question being ask, is if the Phil hymn is defining Adam Christology. I don’t believe that it is, as I said, the Philippians were already familiar with the meaning of the hymn, so the meaning of the phraseology has to be found elsewhere in Paul’s writings.

      So for someone who acknowledges Adam Christology, I think the original question makes as much sense as asking “Does Luke 10:2 involve theology?”

    • Earl Doherty

      DonHoward, haven’t you actually answered your own question? Paul didn’t
      insert the hymn **because** of its Adam Christology component (assuming
      this to be the case for the moment). He inserted it to give an example
      of Jesus’ humility, by providing something that the Philippians were
      already familiar with. IOW the Adam Christology is simply part of the
      background, and not the primary point being made by Paul

      Thanks, Don. Now we have an admission that the Phil hymn says nothing, and probably intended nothing, about Adam Christology. (Hopefully, James has taken note.) But Don won’t leave it there. Since AC cannot be forced in through the door, he suggests it is lurking outside the window, wearing all the historicist’s favorite colors, no doubt: an Adam Christology which entails a comparison with a human incarnated Jesus, as James claimed for the Phil hymn and others also claim for Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15.

      That reminds me–later today (hopefully), I’ll quote from Dunn about his acknowledgement of “heavenly Man” concepts in the ancient world and how they can be figuring in the Phil hymn–thus opening the door to them in the Romans and 1 Cor. understanding.

      See you later.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //I will take very little trouble to address all the trash being thrown around by Jonathan and others which has nothing to do with honest and genuine scholarship, but is only a smear campaign against mythicists since they have no other ammunition to draw on.//

    It was nothing of the kind. I specifically stated that you do not express any support for Murdock’s zany theories. All I wrote was in the context of explaining why Mytherists have accrued a reputation for kookiness, and the importance of Mytherists such as yourself separating yourself publicly from those kooky beliefs of other Mytherists, which you do not hold.

    As I’ve pointed out, those of us who hold to the historical Jesus have to take care to differentiate ourselves from the conservative kooks and their fringe religious and historical beliefs, so it’s not like you’re the only one in this position.

    //I think I made it clear that I hardly subscribe to Murdoch’s early views on pygmies or any other opinion not related to biblical scholarship. (I simply ignored those final pages of her book.)//

    You certainly did not do that in your Amazon review. You gave the book five stars (the highest possible rating), and certainly did nothing to inform people that you reject her pygmy theories.

    /And if every scholar or innovator who ever contributed anything to the development of science, philosophy or social enlightenment had every wacky skeleton that might have lurked in their closet hauled out and used as a basis for rejecting everything about them, we would be nowhere.//

    No one made the argument that if a scholar or innovator has a wacky skeleton in their closet, then others are justified in rejecting everything about them. No one even said anything like this.

    //What skeleton have you got in your closet, Jonathan? I can probably surmise a few, given some of the things you’ve expressed here.//
    None. My religious beliefs are public, and they’re considered kooky by both the vast majority of lay Christians (including conservatives and liberals), as well as all atheists and most agnostics, so I have the kooky finger pointed at me a lot more often than you do. You have your own website, book, a following of faithful disciples, and a personal page on Wikipedia. Compared to my regular experiences of people’s reactions to my personal beliefs, you have absolutely nothing to complain about.

    Of course any personal skeletons I did have would be irrelevant, since I’m not the one going around telling people they need to stop listening to established scholarship and start listening to me, I’m not challenging the established scholarly consensus in fields in which I’m not remotely qualified, and I’m not making sweeping claims of ideological bias and theologically based resistance to the propogation of my personal views.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //How is Jesus the Son (capitalized) of God, yet not a divine being?//

    In the same way that Adam was the son of God, yet not a divine being. Surely you’re aware of the use of the term ‘son of God’ in the context of Second Temple Period Judaism? And what’s the point of your capitalization?

    //Got shot down in one aspect of the discussion? Switch to another, as
    though the first didn’t exist, and claim that this is what you were
    saying in the first place.

    It’s also a well-worn, but fallacious, trick to label all arguments
    “interpretations” as though that somehow renders those arguments
    impotent, with no necessity to rebut them.//

    Ah, I see you’ve been reading Neil’s posts.

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

    It can be argued that the second half of the hymn reflects Jewish (and thus early Christian) belief about what Adam was like and could have been like had there not been a fall. The depiction of Adam as glorious and as God’s vice regent over creation is found in Rabbinic and other Jewish treatments of the Adam story. 

    Because there is in Paul’s thinking a contrast between Adam and Christ, it is perhaps significant that in both the similarities and in the differences in Philippians 2:6-11, there may still be a connection to Adam traditions.

    • Earl Doherty

      James: It can be argued that the second half of the hymn reflects Jewish (and
      thus early Christian) belief about what Adam was like and could have
      been like had there not been a fall. The depiction of Adam as glorious
      and as God’s vice regent over creation is found in Rabbinic and other
      Jewish treatments of the Adam story.

      But there is not the slightest hint in the text itself that such an obscure metaphor for Adam was intended by the author.

      Because there is in Paul’s thinking a contrast between Adam and
      Christ, it is perhaps significant that in both the similarities and in
      the differences in Philippians 2:6-11, there may still be a connection
      to Adam traditions.

      Pretty limp and shaky stuff, James. And it hardly serves to deal me the death blow to my interpretation of the hymn which your opening salvo in this long debate was claimed to do.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //How can Jesus be a genuine human being and not have a mortal father?//

    The same way as Adam.

    //A “Son” of God, capitalized, implies divinity…//

    Sorry, where is that written? You’ve simply assumed this.

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

    @1339a2323379bb5d87a8b2a609ca574d:disqus , just as you clearly didn’t investigate scholarly discussions of Philippians 2:6-11 before offering your own interpretation, you also have obviously never read anything on what “son of God” meant in an ancient Jewish context. Either that, or you are deliberately ignoring it because it doesn’t fit your view of how Jesus was understood.

    Since you said you are still waiting for the next installment of my review, I thought I would share a link to it here. I posted it yesterday.

    • Earl Doherty

      you seem confused about what “son of God” meant in an ancient Jewish
      context – do you accept that the term in the New Testament, as in other
      Jewish literature, referred to angels, royal figures, and righteous
      individuals, and thus does not in a Jewish context indicate divinity

      I am not confused. Of course in the ancient Jewish contexts you are referring to it did not indicate divinity. Mainstream Jews believed God was One. God did not have a divine Son. It took Platonically-oriented Hellenistic Jews like Philo to take the first step to postulating emanations of God which could be styled his “first-begotten”.

      But are you claiming that because traditional Jews did not postulate the existence of divine hypostases (though to one extent they did, in Personified Wisdom, who could be styled an aspect of God and thus had a divine nature), that Christians, a new sect who recast the traditional Messiah expectation, were not capable of envisioning an actual “Son of God” and applying such a phrase to him?

      Is that your argument, that there can be nothing new under the sun (or “son”), no innovation, no syncretism, no conviction that courtesy of new revelation it is possible to reject old ideas and substitute new ones, to regard the people who held the old ideas as wrong and the new ones as right? Is that the essence of your case against mythicism, James?

      And once again, I don’t know why people stubbornly misrepresent me. (Or maybe I do.) Did I say that capitalization was present in the Greek? I said that the phrase today is usually used with the “son” (uncapitalized) referring to the biblical “son of God” (you all do it that way), whereas the “Son” (capitalized) refers to the concept of a divine Son of God (most of you do that too).

      And where is this link to the next installment of your review?

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Earl, thanks for the comment, and even though my comments are usually not worthy of a response by others, I thought that Larry Hurtado’s comments on the Phil hymn would add even more relevance to my comment. Regardless of the fact that Hurtado is not considered a critical scholar, his arguments appear to be sound. First I should say that the following is going to venture into the areas which Dave did not want to discuss with me, but he must be unaware of the fact that if you can verify what the phraseology of the Phil hymn means, it will either confirm or deny whether Paul was directly referring to an Adam Christology.

    In Hurtado’s book, “How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?” on pages 98-99 he writes, “One of the principal claims offered in support of this position [Adam Christology] is that the two Greek words, morphē and eikön, are to be taken as synonymous terms in the same semantic field. This is, however, a dubious claim, at least as usually presented, for, as David Steenburg has shown, the two words in fact are used distinguishably.”

    He then goes on to show that the semantic unit in question is not merely morphē but, morphē theou, Hurtado says, “So the more precise question before us is whether the expression “form of God” is likely to have been used here as a way of alluding to the description in Genesis of Adam as created “in the image of God.” And he says the answer is “clearly negative.” And he goes on to say, “So the alleged use of morphē theou to link Jesus with Adam in Philippians 2:6 would be a singular case without any analogy or precedent.” Not only that, but Hurtado considers such an allusion to be “a particularly inept one as well.”

    Finally, Hurtado points out that, “For allusions to another text or oral tradition to work — that is, for intended readers/hearers to catch the allusion — one must use or adapt something from what one is alluding to that is sufficiently identifiable that the allusion can be noticed. In Philippians 2:6-8, however, there is not a single word from the Greek of the Genesis creation or temptation accounts, other than the word for “God.” That hardly seems like an effective effort at allusion!” Interestingly, Hurtado brings up the often assumed idea that Adam wanted to be “like God”, a concept that is never actually articulated in the Bible.

    On the “son of God” topic, For those that believe Jesus is the son of God in the same manner as Adam was a son of God, and that Jesus did not pre-exist, what do these first few lines of Hebrews mean? Which son of God did YHWH create the world through? Why mention the son of God in connection with the creation when it was thousands of years before he was born, and it was also before sin entered into the world?

    (Hebrews 1:1-3) “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

    Comments anyone? :-)

    • Dave Burke

      Howard,

      >>
      Simply put, why would Paul just jump in the middle of all this with some cryptic Adam Christology?
      >>

      Gakuseidon answered this well.

      As I said earlier: I understand Paul to be saying that Jesus did not possess equality with God, and recognised that it was not something to be stolen, seized or clutched at. For this purpose he consciously evokes the theme of Genesis 3, presenting a contrast between Adam and Jesus.

      Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38); his pride led him to grasp at equality with God, and he fell. Jesus is the unique and only begotten Son of God; he obediently humbled himself before God, and was exalted.

      >>
      The Phil hymn is merely an example of Jesus’ humility that Paul wanted the Philippians to follow.
      >>

      I agree. And Paul’s language invokes Adam, as so many commentators have observed. For example:

      “The association of thought is the Old Testament, and there is an implied contrast between the two Adams” (Ralph P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: an introduction and commentary, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002, p.103).

      >>
      This was not a new revelation about Christology, since it was being used as an example for the Philippians to follow.
      >>

      I agree. Nobody has claimed it was a new revelation about Christology. It is not a new revelation about Christology.

      >>
      Usually when someone gives an example, they use something that is already understood.
      >>

      I agree. There was no need for Paul to explain this symbolism. He was confident that it would be understood.

      >>
      As I said before, the only connection to Adam, was the grasping at equality with God, as it probably brought Adam to mind. However, the whole point of the hymn was simply to show how Jesus willingly gave up a superior position and took a lowly position to do God’s will and to help others. Just the point Paul was making before and after the hymn.
      >>

      I agree.

      >>
      First I should say that the following is going to venture into the areas which Dave did not want to discuss with me, but he must be unaware of the fact that if you can verify what the phraseology of the Phil hymn means, it will either confirm or deny whether Paul was directly referring to an Adam Christology.
      >>

      Far from being unaware of it, this is exactly what I’ve been saying. Philippians 2 is not a treatise on Christology, but if we can verify the meaning of Paul’s language, it will either confirm or disprove that Adam Christology is behind his thinking, while at the same time providing insight into his personal views about Jesus’ ontology.

      • Dave Burke

        Howard,

        >>
        For those that believe Jesus is the son of God in the same manner as Adam was a son of God, and that Jesus did not pre-exist, what do these first few lines of Hebrews mean? Which son of God did YHWH create the world through? Why mention the son of God in connection with the creation when it was thousands of years before he was born, and it was also before sin entered into the world?
        >>

        I don’t find any pre-existence in Hebrews 1:1-3. This concept is too often imported to the text by exegetes, as Caird has observed:

        “The case for a belief in the pre-existence of Christ in Hebrews rests mainly on the opening sentence, with some support from the catena of quotations which immediately follows…

        My contention is that this traditional interpretation starts with the problematical instead of with the ascertainable. There are several difficulties about it, the first and most important being that it does not exactly represent what the author has said.

        The epistle does not being with a reference to the eternal Son. It begins with a contrast between what God has said in the past through the prophets, and what he has now, in these last days, said through Jesus.

        Here, as in the Fourth Gospel, “the Son” is always a title for the man Jesus. He it is whom God appointed heir to the universe and who has now by his heavenly exaltation entered upon that inheritance. Moreover, in one passage after another where that title is used, the idea of appointment is present in the context.”

        (G. B. Caird, “Son by Appointment” in The New Testament Age, ed., W. C. Weinrich; Mercer: Macon, 1984, pp.74).

        • Dave Burke

          Howard,

          The Greek word translated “world” in Hebrews 1:2b is “aion.” It can mean “world” or “universe” (Louw-Nida and others), but more often means “age, generation” (Liddell-Scott-James); “space of time” (TDNT); “a long period of time, without reference to beginning or end” (BDAG); “era”, “world system” (Louw-Nida).

          Typical NT uses of aion include Matthew 12:32, Luke 20:34, I Corinthians 2:6, Galations 1:4, Colossians 1:26, and Hebrews 9:26.

          I believe “era” or “world system” are both equally appropriate in the context of Hebrews 1:2. This is part of the “new creation” schema that we find in places like Colossians 1 and II Peter 3.

          It tells us that the era of the new creation was brought into being through Christ; that is, made possible through his sacrificial death.

          • Dave Burke

            Howard,

            Verse 3 refers to Jesus as “the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence.” The Greek word translated as “representation” here is “charaktēr”, meaning “exact image” or “representation” and is derived from the concept of a stamp or imprint (see LSJ, BADG).

            Charaktēr therefore refers to a copy bearing the appearance of the original, without implying that the copy is equal or identical to the original in an ontological sense. Hebrews 1:3 echoes Colossians 1:15 (“He is the image of the invisible God”), affirming that Jesus reflects God perfectly in every way, revealing His image, glory and character to the world.

            It also reaffirms Jesus’ role as the one who sustains the new creation era, echoing the Father’s role in Hebrews 11:3 (“By faith we understand that the worlds [aion] were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible”).

            In the verses which follow, the author of Hebrews repeatedly emphasises Jesus’ exalted position, demonstrating that he is ranked above everyone and everything in heaven and earth — except the Father (cf. I Corinthians 15:27-28, “But when it says ‘everything’ has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in subjection to him. And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him”).

            None of this requires pre-existence.

        • Howard Mazzaferro

          Dave, I understand that Hebrews can be interpreted a number of ways, So how would you interpret these?

          Colossians 1:16-17  “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created by Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

          John 1:15  “John bore witness of Him, and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’”

          Micah 5:2  “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”

          John 1:2-3  “He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

          John 3:31  “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.”

          John 3:13  “And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.”

          John 6:38  “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

          John 17:5 “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

          John 6:62 “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”

          • Dave Burke

            Howard,

            Colossians 1:16-17 is a new creation reference and uses the anguage that we would expect to find in such a context. That language do not match the old creation, and is further qualified by
            the terms of reference.

            You can see this more easily if we take verses 15-20 together:

            “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created in [en] him — all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers — all things were created through [dia] him and for [eis] him.

            He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things.

            For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son, and through [dia] him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross — through [dia] him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

            Nowhere is the Greek word “ek” (“from”) applied to the Son in reference to creation, whether old or new. When Paul speaks of Christ’s role in the new creation, he always uses terms which are clearly distinguishable from, and incompatible with, the old creation.

            The new creation is described as being created “in” Christ (Greek “en”), “through” him (Greek “dia”) and “for” him (Greek “eis”), but never “by him.” This is consistent with Christ’s role as the agency through which the new creation was achieved; his sinless life and perfect sacrifice have made the new creation possible.

            All things are made new in him, through him and for him (e.g. Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10, Colossians 5:17, Hebrews 1:2, and II Peter 3:13).

            • Dave Burke

              Howard,

              John 1:15 (“He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me”, ESV) is the language of prefiguration and predestination, not pre-existence.

              Micah 5:2 refers to origins, not pre-existence. King David is in view here, though the verse has an obvious dual application to Christ.

              As the NET Bible footnote says:

              “In riddle-like fashion this verse alludes to David, as the references to Bethlehem and to his ancient origins/activities indicate. The passage anticipates the second coming of the great king to usher in a new era of national glory for Israel.

              Other prophets are more direct and name this coming ideal ruler “David” (Jer 30:9; Ezek 34:23–24; 37:24–25; Hos 3:5).

              Of course, this prophecy of “David’s” second coming is actually fulfilled through his descendant, the Messiah, who will rule in the spirit and power of his famous ancestor and bring to realization the Davidic royal ideal in an even greater way than the historical David (see Isa 11:1, 10; Jer 33:15).”

              • Dave Burke

                Howard,

                John 1:2-3 is speaking about the Logos, not Jesus. “Logos” simply means “word” (spoken, written or thought) but can also mean something more abstract, like “reason”. We must allow John to use it naturally, without imposing theological meanings on his text.

                The natural connection here is to Proverbs 8, with its language of personified wisdom. John most likely has this in mind when he speaks of the Logos as being “with God… in the beginning.”

                Most Bibles translate αὐτοῦ as “he”, despite there being no reason to assume literal personality. It is true that αὐτοῦ in this passage is masculine, agreeing with λόγος, a masculine noun. But this is grammatical gender, not personal gender, and does not necessarily suggest that the Logos is a literal person.

                Thus we are at liberty to read “αὐτοῦ ” as “it” (as most 16th Century Protestant Bibles did, including Tyndale’s) which provides a very natural gloss. We cannot begin to speak of the Logos as a person until John 1:14.

                Dr Colin Brown, systematic theologian at Fuller Theological Seminary writes in Ex Auditu (7, 1991):

                “It is a common but patent misreading of the opening of John’s Gospel to read it as if it said: ‘In the beginning was the Son and the Son was with God and the Son was God’ (John 1:1).

                What has happened here is the substitution of the Son for Word (Greek logos), and thereby the Son is made a member of the Godhead which existed from the beginning. Following carefully the thought of John’s prologue, it is the Word that pre-existed eternally with God and is God.”

                This agrees with the Second Temple Judaism environment, in which we find God’s word (“memra”) consistently distinguished from Him as His agent but not considered anything more than His literal word, even when personified and anthropomorphised in the Palestinian Targum, where God’s word has “a voice”, speaks, and “goes up” (Genesis 3:8-10, Exodus 33:1, Numbers 7:89).

                • Dave Burke

                  Howard,

                  John 3:13, 31 & John 6:38, 62 show Jesus using graphic imagery to press the claim that he was sent by God. “From heaven” here merely means “from God.” The obvious parallel is manna, as demonstrated by Jesus himself:

                  –John 6:49-51
                  “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
                  This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die.
                  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

                  In John 6:62 Jesus invokes language which echoes an OT prophecy:

                  –Daniel 7:13
                  I was watching in the night visions,
                  And with the clouds of the sky
                  one like a son of man was approaching.
                  He went up to the Ancient of Days
                  and was escorted before him.

                  Without actually claiming pre-existence, Jesus identifies himself with the “one like a son of man” in the heavens and asks his audience what they would think if he were to literally ascend where he was before (in the vision).

                  • Dave Burke

                    Howard,

                    John 17:5 shows Jesus claiming ownership of the glory God intended for him long before his literal existence. In subsequent verses he also says he has given that same glory to his disciples (I would be interested to hear your interpretation of this).

                    The statement in verse 5 is consistent with John 17′s wider context, which contains several other predestination statements. Jewish predestination/prefiguration language was understood by the earliest Christians, themselves Jews.

                    The apostle Paul even coined a phrase to describe it; he said that God “…makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do” (Romans 4:17). Jesus does the same in these verses:

                    –John 17:4
                    “‘I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do’”

                    But Jesus’ work was not finished until he said “It is completed” on the cross (John 19:30).

                    –John 17:11
                    “‘I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world’”

                    But Jesus was still in the world; he had not yet ascended to the Father.

                    –John 17:18
                    “‘Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them [the disciples] into the world’”

                    But Jesus had not yet sent his disciples into the world; this didn’t happen until after his resurrection (John 20:21; Matthew 28:19-20).

                    • Dave Burke

                      Howard,

                      The late G. H. Gilbert, former professor of New Testament Literature and Interpretation at Chicago Theological Seminary (The Revelation of Jesus: A Study of the Primary Sources of Christianity, reprint, BiblioLife, 2009, p. 222), wrote:

                      “The glory of completed redemption cannot literally be possessed until redemption is complete. If now the pre-existence of Jesus, according to the seventeenth chapter of John, is clearly ideal, this fact confirms the interpretation which has been given of the other passages which are less clear.

                      We conclude, then, that these three passages in John [6:62; 8:58; 17:5] in which Jesus alludes to his pre-existence, do not involve the claim that his pre-existence was personal and real.

                      They are to be classed with the other phenomena of the Messianic consciousness of Jesus, none of which have to do with metaphysical relationships with the Father.”

                    • Dave Burke

                      Howard,

                      Reverend Sigmund Mowinckel was another Christian scholar who insisted
                      the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform
                      our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence:

                      “That any expression or vehicle of God’s will for the world, His saving
                      counsel and purpose, was present in His mind, or His ‘Word,’ from the
                      beginning is a natural way of saying that it is not fortuitous, but the
                      due unfolding and expression of God’s own being.

                      This attribution of pre-existence indicates religious importance of the
                      highest order. Rabbinic theology speaks of the Law, of God’s throne of
                      glory, of Israel and of other important objects of faith, as things
                      which had been created by God, and were already present with Him, before
                      the creation of the world.

                      The same is also true of the Messiah. It is said that his name was
                      present with God in heaven beforehand, that it was created before the
                      world, and that it is eternal. But the reference here is not to genuine
                      pre-existence in the strict and literal sense. This is clear from the
                      fact that Israel is included among these pre-existent entities.

                      This does not mean that either the nation Israel or its ancestor existed
                      long ago in heaven, but that the community Israel, the people of God,
                      had been from all eternity in the mind of God, as a factor in His
                      purpose. …

                      This is true of references to the pre-existence of the Messiah. It is
                      his ‘name,’ not the Messiah himself, that is said to have been present
                      with God before creation.

                      In Pesikta Rabbati 152b is said that ‘from the beginning of the creation
                      of the world the King Messiah was born, for he came up in the thought
                      of God before the world was created.’

                      This means that from all eternity it was the will of God that the
                      Messiah should come into existence, and should do his work in the world
                      to fulfill God’s eternal saving purpose.”

                      (He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005, p. 334).

                    • Howard Mazzaferro

                      Dave, you said,

                      “Reverend Sigmund Mowinckel was another Christian scholar who insisted the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence:”

                      Dave, there is a fatal flaw in this understanding, you’re a Christian right? Well your leader, Jesus Christ condemned Jewish views and opinions on a number of occasions. Jesus condemns Jewish thought and practice throughout the entire chapter of Matthew 23. On one occasion, Jesus said at Luke 11:52 “Woe to you who are versed in the Law, because you took away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not go in, and those going in you hindered!” The following commentary on Luke says:

                      “The key which opens the door to knowledge,” not “which is knowledge”: the gen. is not one of apposition. There is no reference to a supposed ceremony by which a “doctor of the law” was “symbolically admitted to his office by the delivery of a key.” No such ceremony appears to have existed. The knowledge is that of the way of salvation, which can be obtained from Scripture. But the scribes had cut off access to this knowledge, first, by their false interpretations; and, secondly, by their contempt for the people, whom they considered to be unworthy of instruction or incapable of enlightenment. Their false interpretations were fatal to themselves (αὐτοὶ οὐκ εἰσήλθατε) as well as to others.” – Plummer, A. (1896). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke (314). London: T&T Clark International.

                      And on another occasion, Jesus said that the Pharisees were blind guides and anyone following them will fall into a pit. Are not you and the scholar you mentioned at the outset, being guided by pharisaic/rabbinic interpretation?

                      (Matthew 15:12-14) “Then the disciples came up and said to him: “Do you know that the Pharisees stumbled at hearing what you said?” 13 In reply he said: “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. 14 LET them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

                      Paul, who was a Pharisee, also admits that they do not have accurate knowledge of God.

                      Romans 10:1-3 “Brothers, the goodwill of my heart and my supplication to God for them are, indeed, for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge; for, because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”

                      Therefore, it is not reasonable to rely on medieval Jewish writings/interpretations to refute the pre-existence of Jesus. As a Christian, wouldn’t you think if these Jewish authors had any true insights into the Messiah, they would be Christians?

                    • Howard Mazzaferro

                      Dave, as far as your question on the understanding of John 17:22, the nature of this glory is uncertain, but it is clear that it is not the same glory Jesus asked for in 17:5. Jesus is not even finished with his prayer when he says he gave (past tense) the glory that God gave (past tense) to Jesus. Jesus certainly did not already receive the glory with God that he was asking for, so the glory that he had already received and that which he gave his disciples is an earthly glory. As for John 17:5, you seem to approve of the NET Bible, so I’ll start with that.

                      12 tn Or “in your presence”; Grk “with yourself.” The use of παρά (para) twice in this verse looks back to the assertion in John 1:1 that the Word (the Λόγος [Logos], who became Jesus of Nazareth in 1:14) was with God (πρὸς τὸν θεόν, pros ton theon). Whatever else may be said, the statement in 17:5 strongly asserts the preexistence of Jesus Christ.

                      Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Jn 17:5).

                      In this context it is not possible to treat Give me glory in the same way as in contexts where the focus is upon the revelation of Christ’s glory to the people of the world. The emphasis here is upon the glorious state which Christ had before the incarnation, and thus quite a different type of rendering must be employed. Moreover, a literal rendering of “giving glory” is usually impossible. The more common type of expression would be causative, for example, “cause me to be glorious” or “cause me to be honored” or “show honor to me” or even “honor me.”

                      Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1993], c1980). A handbook on the Gospel of John. Originally published: A translator’s handbook on the Gospel of John, c1980. Helps for translators; UBS handbook series (529). New York: United Bible Societies.

                • Howard Mazzaferro

                  Dave, I have to disagree with you, John 1:15 comes right after the other verses in John 1:2-3 that I mentioned. Your interpretation lacks the direct association that the text makes. Verse 14 makes it pretty clear that this word/logos became flesh and resided among us. If it is merely referring to the wisdom of God that was with him in the beginning, could you explain your view of how “it” became the man Jesus? Maybe verse 14 is not talking about Jesus, if so, could you explain who this was that became flesh and walked among us? Another problem is that wisdom is usually used in a sense, that it is something acquired, did God acquire wisdom? No, and it does not seem relevant or particularly coherent to imply that at the beginning God was with his own wisdom. However, his son needed to acquire wisdom. These verses are clearly discussing the relationship between two spiritual beings that goes back far beyond the creation of heaven and earth. John the Baptist is expressing the essence of what has just been said, that Jesus existed before him.

                  “He comes after me (see 1.27, 30) is, of course, a reference to the historical appearance of Jesus, while he existed before I was born is a reference to the eternal pre-existence of the Word (see verse 1). He comes after me must be rendered as a temporal expression and not one of position, that is to say, Jesus followed John in time.”

                  Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1993], c1980). A handbook on the Gospel of John. Originally published: A translator’s handbook on the Gospel of John, c1980. Helps for translators; UBS handbook series (24). New York: United Bible Societies.

            • Howard Mazzaferro

              Dave, very good, and that is merely one interpretation, but is it right?

              The first, beginning with “who is” (ὅς ἐστιν) of verse 15, treats the theme of Christ and creation, while the second, commencing with the same striking relative clause “who is” in verse 18, refers to Christ and the church. The term “firstborn” (πρωτότοκος) occurs in both stanzas (vv 15 and 18). [1]

              Quite clearly the point about Christ as the Mediator of creation includes the notion of instrumentality. But is the phrase stating something more than this, going beyond even 1 Corinthians 8:6 and John 1:3? We agree with Haupt (30, 31; cf. Percy, Probleme, 69, 70) and Bruce (197) who suggest that the preposition “in” (ἐν) points to Christ as the “sphere” (cf. “in him” of v 19) within which the work of creation takes place. According to Haupt the phrase “in him” has the same force as in Ephesians 1:4; God’s creation, like his election, takes place “in Christ” and not apart from him. On Christ depended (causally, so Meyer, 281) the act of creation so that it was not done independently of him (cf. Schweizer, Beiträge, 123–25). [2]

              17. καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν In a twofold statement about the preexistence and cosmic significance of Christ the teaching of verses 15 and 16 is reiterated (cf. Bruce, 220, and Benoit, Christianity, 228; on the importance of this verse see Hegermann, Schöpfungsmittler, 93, 94). There is no interest in the state or condition of the universe as such—only the concern to reassert the point about Christ’s supremacy over the world. The first affirmation, “he is before all things” (αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων), declares his temporal priority to the universe. [3]

              all things—Greek, “the universe of things.” That the new creation is not meant in this verse (as Socinians interpret), is plain; for angels, who are included in the catalogue, were not new created by Christ; and he does not speak of the new creation till Col 1:18. The creation “of the things that are in the heavens” (so Greek) includes the creation of the heavens themselves: the former are rather named, since the inhabitants are more noble than their dwellings. Heaven and earth and all that is in them (1Ch 29:11; Ne 9:6; Rev 10:6). [4]

              [1] O’Brien, P. T. (2002). Vol. 44: Word Biblical Commentary  : Colossians-Philemon. Word Biblical Commentary (33). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

              [2] O’Brien, P. T. (2002). Vol. 44: Word Biblical Commentary  : Colossians-Philemon. Word Biblical Commentary (45). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

              [3] O’Brien, P. T. (2002). Vol. 44: Word Biblical Commentary : Colossians-Philemon. Word Biblical Commentary (47). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

              [4] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. On spine: Critical and explanatory commentary. (Col 1:16). Oak Harbor, WA

  • Gakuseidon

    Howard, that seems to be an example of “exaltation” language. In the Gospel of Thomas, for example, Jesus says: “No
    matter where you are you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake
    heaven and earth came into being.”

    BTW, a belated thanks for your earlier response to my points on Phil 2. I see your point there. I had misread where you were coming from. Thanks.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Gakuseidon, Here are a few more humorous sayings from the Gospel of Thomas. It seems pretty obvious that these are a jumble of biblical phrases mixed with some other stuff.

    7. Jesus said, “Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human.”

    11. The dead are not alive, and the living will not die. During the days when you ate what is dead, you made it come alive. When you are in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?”

    19. Jesus said, “Congratulations to the one who came into being before coming into being.

    They said to him, “Then shall we enter the (Father’s) kingdom as babies?”
    Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

    30. Jesus said, “Where there are three deities, they are divine. Where there are two or one, I am with that one.”

    37. His disciples said, “When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?”
    Jesus said, “When you strip without being ashamed, and you take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample then, then [you] will see the son of the living one and you will not be afraid.”

    108. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me; I myself shall become that person, and the hidden things will be revealed to him.”

    114. Simon Peter said to them, “Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.”
    Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

    My favorite is the last one here, number 114. :-)

  • Earl Doherty

    Jonathan, your argumentation is so contradictory and so illogical, I wonder why I bother to counter it. I’ll just address your most egregious examples.

    //Every translation by every scholar that ever translated it as “nature”, or understood “form” as the equivalent, is the product of an ignoramus as well, even Bauer? That’s quite a claim. (I just throw that in.)//

    No one has made any such claim, so I’ll throw that right out again.

    Oh? You declare that when I claim that μορφή can in some cases be translated as “nature” and has an ontological significance I am an ignoramus, but when other scholars do so (as Bauer does, by declaring that Phil 2:6 refers to the ontological nature of Christ as the pre-existent Son, and other scholars, one of which I’ll quote below), they are NOT ignoramuses. Your usual double standard and biased illogic.

    To say that an emanation of God had the eikon of God means that an emanation of God had the visible image of God. The word eikon here still refers to a visible image, it does not refer to an emanation.

    I know it’s subtle, but haven’t you started your premiss with the statement “an emanation of God”, which a priori establishes the fact of an emanation? Then in the next sentence you say that this does not refer to an emanation. The “eikon” as descriptive of an emanation of God does not mean that he is an emanation of God? As I said, this contradiction is so subtle, historicists here, with their limited capacity to recognize such things, may have missed it.

    Whatever Philo’s logos was, the word eikon does not tell us anything about the NATURE of that logos; it only tells us about the appearance that the logos took. That’s the point here. You can’t simply interpret eikon as a reference to an emanation of God simply because a particular emanation of God is said to HAVE a particular eikon.

    I can understand Philo’s “eikon” of God as a reference to his emanation because I have read Philo, and works (such as E. R. Goodenough’s, for example) by expert exegetes of Philo. And because Philo clearly denies that the Logos is the “eikon” of God in regard to God’s physical appearance or shape (something which Philo declares he doesn’t have), which is what you want to limit the definition of “eikon” to. Philo would never say anything as ridiculous as that God had an ‘appearance’ that the Logos could emulate.

    I have no idea what Philo thought his logos was other than an emanation of God, because I find him peculiarly vague on the point.

    He is not vague at all; the logos was an emanation of God, nothing else, and certainly not something completely other than that. Your “lexical studies” of Philo do not establish that μορφή cannot mean the logos’ ontological nature as being his emanation.

    Yes, that’s exactly what Genesis is referring to. This is hardly surprising, given that in the Old Testament God is repeatedly depicted anthropomorphically, and the throne room visions of Exodus, Isaiah, and Ezekiel in particular depict Him with a visible anthropomorphic form.

    Even were that the case, you cannot carry over a primitive envisioning of God by the fashioners of the Genesis myth and declare it the outlook of turn-of-the-era philosophers like Philo or even the hymnists quoted by Paul and limit their use and understanding of μορφή, even in Genesis, to that of 6th century BCE Yahwehan priests. That was my meaning in my comment on what was understood in Genesis, relating to Paul’s time, even if I didn’t phrase it clearly.

    //When we speak of ‘man being made in the image of God,’ we are NOT speaking of outward appearance, but some kind of theoretical sharing in certain aspects of his nature (though man’s behavior would too often tend to disprove that).//

    Evidence please.

    I said “we”, referring to modern theologians and believers. Do YOU regard the phrase as referring to humanity being made in the physical appearance of God? Are you a anthropomorphologist like the fashioners of the original biblical texts?

    //You maintain that Hellerman surveys the lexical evidence of the semantic range of μορφή and finds the use which he proposes. I have no doubt he does.//

    We progress! Previously you rejected out of hand the use which he proposes. Now you acknowledge it has been found.

    Of course I didn’t. Don’t misrepresent me for your own ends (alleging incompetence on my part). I said that μορφή could not be limited to physical appearance of, which was the argument put forward in regard to Phil. 2:6f, and which you have ridiculously repeated in this posting in disregard of many competent translators, not just mythicists. If I rejected anything, it was that the usage you champion for μορφή had to be understood, and only that, in Phil 2:6.

    … and is NOT found within the semantic range of μορφή during the time of Paul.

    Because you won’t allow it to be in regard to the NT. First of all, your “semantic range” is entirely within non-Christian sources; you can’t lump in the two in Phil. as demonstrating your claim, because that is the issue under debate; it would be begging the question. (You’ve heard of that fallacy, I hope.)

    In fact, you also reject it in Phil 2:6 on the grounds (undemonstrated) that the entity being described is not a pre-existent emanation of God, and then you use that claimed limitation of μορφή to ‘prove’ that the entity being described in the hymn has to be a human man. After all, it conforms to the Genesis usage which must be thus limited, doesn’t it? Do you recognize circularity, Jonathan? Because it sure is making me dizzy. It’s only one of the many fallacies your arguments are guilty of.

    You assumed that ALL meanings within a word’s lexically recorded semantic range are legitimately available to a translator in ANY text containing that word, regardless of the date and context. You’re doing it again here.

    No, I regard all meanings as legitimately available, if the date and context will allow them, and not on the grounds that certain understandings within the semantic range are ruled out on the basis of preconception and desired limitation of meanings. There’s a big difference.

    Moreover, one is not justified in dismissing a “rare” usage of a word on the basis that it is rare. That in itself is a fallacy, because the presence of such a usage, even if rare, makes it by definition possible. You want to dismiss it as impossible. That’s an argument of less than logical legitimacy.

    I have made a similar argument regarding “oikoumenē in Hebrews 1:6. There, regardless of whether the word in all but rare cases refers to an earthly venue, the actual context of the Heb. verse is a heavenly venue, and only a heavenly venue, so we must take this as a rare application to the ‘cosmos’ in general, including the spiritual realm. And in fact, in regard to its appearance in 1 Clement 60:1, Bauer so interprets the word as applying to “the whole world insofar as living beings inhabit it, therefore the realm of the spirits as well.” He calls it “an extraordinary meaning.” Too bad he couldn’t see himself logically applying this to Heb 1:6 as well, with its exclusive audience of, and comparison with, angels–which as far as I know are not residents of earth.

    This is precisely why NONE of the standard professional lexicons identify ‘nature’ or ‘essence’ as within the semantic range of the word μορφή; the only examples of such usage are so rare, so obscure, and so uncertain, that they only demonstrate that the word was typically NOT used with, or understood to have, such a meaning.

    Well. I guess once again you’ve relegated Bauer’s lexicon to the “unprofessional” wilderness, along with countless translators who regard the μορφή of Phil. 2:6 as having an understanding of “nature” since he regards it as descriptive of the “pre-existent Christ”. Neither you nor Dave have explained how a non-divine entity, who is not an emanation of God possessing in some measure his nature, but only a human being, can be regarded as “pre-existent.” Much less have you demonstrated that Bauer and the vast majority of 20th century NT scholars have agreed with you.

    Here is Kenneth Grayston’s analysis of the opening of the Phil hymn (Epistles to the Philippians and Thessalonians, p.27):

    “2:6. The divine nature was his from the first is far superior to the conventional translation ‘being originally in the form of God’. The Greek word μορφή, in philosophical writing, meant the form that corresponds to the underlying reality; but in a hymn like this, it has the same general meaning as nature. Some scholars have suggested that μορφή is equivalent to eikon, meaning image, so that Christ is not said to possess the divine nature but to be ‘in the image of God’ like Adam. This answers the question why, if he already possessed the divine nature, he could think to snatch at equality with God;…”

    [though I dispute the reasoning that a subordinate emanation of God, sharing in his nature, could not think to snatch at full equality with God]

    “…but no-one has suggested why μορφή should have been used if eikon was intended.”

    F. W. Beare (Epistle to the Philippians, p.78) is equally perceptive. Note what he says about the ontological significance of μορφή, because here may be the straw man that Jonathan and Dave are arguing from:

    “The relationship between Christ and God is not precisely defined. FORM (μορφή) is not a synonym for ‘substance’ (ousia); the ontological concern of later dogmatic theology [my emphasis here] is not relevant here. BEING IN THE FORM OF GOD is not equivalent to ‘being God’, any more than THE FORM OF A SLAVE involves the notion that Jesus was in the ground of his being A SLAVE…”

    [No one is claiming that the Phil hymn, or the Christ cult represented in the epistles, held a view of the Son which was the equivalent of the later Nicene debate around the ‘ousia’ of the Son. But neither can one go as far as to say that the Son envisioned in the epistles possessed no divine nature at all; that nature, as Paul reveals, was subordinate, an emanation which was not the equivalent of God or fully equal to his substance, as the later Trinity doctrine maintained; and neither did Philo hold any such view as the Burke boys are now trying to foist on us, and on “traditional scholarship.” Beare goes on:

    “Yet μορφή (form) does, or at least can, retain in the usage of the New Testament its proper sense of ‘form which corresponds to the underlying reality’,…”

    IOW, it has an ontological dimension which declares the reality of the Son to share in the nature of God, even if not to its fullest extent or identical to the ‘ousia’ claim of the Nicene decision. And Beare has declared that this corresponds to contemporary scholarship to his own. Should we accept someone like Beare when he declares that NT scholarship of the 20th century regarded Jesus as to some extent sharing in the nature of God, or should we ignore that and subscribe to the Burkes’ new reading about what that scholarship believed?

    Finally, this admission, as I already touched on above:

    “Determining the meaning of μορφή in Philippians 2:6-7 in light of the lexical data suffers from one inescapable reality. Of the some 650 known uses of μορφή from Homer up to Josephus, only 2 are in the New Testament and both are in Philippians 2.”

    And yet the Burke brothers are not only allowing the use of μορφή outside the NT to determine the ‘only possible’ meaning it had for early Christians, it refuses to consider that in this new setting, in this new religion, a given word might just possibly acquire a different or additional application. And such an observation as the above last quote renders all of Jonathan’s tedious quotations from the lexical survey of μορφή in other ancient sources, if not completely irrelevant, at least of no compelling use.

    The rest of his posting neither merits nor needs responding to, especially its painful contradictions and incoherencies within the context of his own pronouncements in earlier postings.

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

    Earl, you can always search for it, or check the recent posts in the side bar, if you are having trouble finding a post, depending on how recent it is.

    Here is the address again: http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/2011/08/17/doherty-chapter-10/

    Why is it that when I mention a view of and interest in Adam that seems to have been fairly widespread, you say it is “obscure”, but when you try to interpret all of ancient cosmology through the lens of the genuinely obscure and idiosyncratic view of the firmament in Ascension of Isaiah, you see nothing wrong with it? Once again, I submit that mythicism does not have methodological principles that it is willing to stick to even if it undermines the case for mythicism.

  • Earl Doherty

    Let me make one more attempt to get Dave and anyone else to understand this. If I walk into a car dealership and say to the salesman, I want a vehicle that has the same performance features of that Chevy over there, but one with an upholstery the same texture and color as the ones in that Ford, am I comparing the Chevy with the Ford? No, I am simply using them as different illustrations of what I want in regard to the characteristics of my own vehicle. In one way, that is what Paul is doing in 1 Cor. 15:45-49. His human beings possess the physical body of Adam, and he promises that they will after death be resurrected into the spiritual body like Christ’s. He is not comparing the two for purposes of making a point about the difference between Adam and Christ. Just as I am not concerned with comparing the Chevy with the Ford to make any point about the differences between them except as they apply to the vehicle I want.

    But the analogy is not complete, so let’s further refine it to take into account the element of ‘progression’ which is entailed in Paul’s argument about what will happen between death and resurrection for humans. If I walk into that car dealership and say, right now given my salary I can only afford a car in the same price range as a Chevy. But when I tell the salesman that next year I will be getting a promotion, he may suggest that although he can only sell me a Chevy-range vehicle now, next year I can afford to move up to a Cadillac. I am still not comparing the Chevy and the Cadillac for the purpose of saying anything about the relative merits or differences between them, but merely to point out that my anticipated future circumstances will enable me to move up to a superior vehicle.

    Now let’s tweak the analogy further. Is the salesman promising to sell me a Cadillac which was once a Chevy? Does he say that he will take the Chevy he can sell me now and next year bring it into the shop and for an affordable price replace a few parts, recaliber others, and turn it into a Cadillac? No sign of that. But what if it were the case that he could point to a big flashy Cadillac he has on the lot and say that this is precisely what was done to that one recently, that it had once been a lowly Chevy but the dealership’s technicians had turned it into a Cadillac? If the Cadillac had indeed been converted from a Chevy, and he wanted to convince me that I could move up to a Cadillac at a price I could afford, would he not point to that fact, or would he choose not to suggest that such a thing had been done, not to clinch his argument that my Chevy could emulate it and become a superior vehicle in the same way?

    Yet this is what Paul has remained silent on in 1 Cor. 15:45-49. As a salesman to the Corinthians about his promised resurrection vehicle, their conversion from one class of vehicle to another, he has declared that after death the Corinthians will surrender their Chevys in which they, like Adam, had to drive around in on earth, and have it transformed into a sparkling new Cadillac in which they can navigate the streets of heaven with all those other Cadillacs possessed by heaven’s inhabitants, including Christ himself (verse 48). (Messy flesh and blood Chevys are not allowed on heaven’s roads.) But Paul has failed to point to any Cadillac, even the Cadillac driven by Christ himself, as having once been a Chevy, now converted. He has failed to point out that Christ himself had once driven the roads of earth in a lowly Chevy, and now upon his ascent to heaven has taken on the fancy Cadillac promised to the Corinthians when they make their ascent to heaven. Despite this ‘progression’ by Christ being the ideal example of the point Paul is trying to make, and despite this natural comparison providing an easy and convincing way for the Corinthians to understand what Paul is promising them (verse 42-44a), Paul fails to make it.

    Moreover, he fails to qualify the clear and rigid separation he is making between Chevys and Cadillacs, and which ones were or are driven by, respectively, Adam and Christ. Adam is the Chevy driver, the physical body, period. Christ is the Cadillac driver, the spiritual body, period. Adam’s vehicle/body is made of earthly stuff, the stuff of Chevys. Christ’s vehicle/body is made of heavenly stuff, the stuff of Cadillacs (verse 48). You will inherit a Cadillac like Christ’s. No mention that Christ’s vehicle was once an earthly Chevy, a body like Adam’s. (Which has not prevented generations of scholars from simply reading an “implication” of such into the text—historicism’s preferred methodology.) No effort, no hint, to counter the confusion and contradiction that would arise if Christ’s vehicle had at one time been a Chevy, if there had once been no distinction between Adam’s and Christ’s vehicles/bodies. (And certainly no hint whatever—indeed it’s ruled out—that Christ, per the Gospels, had actually resurrected from a Chevy to a Chevy!) Paul hasdefined Christ’s vehicle as a Cadillac, a spiritual body; no qualification made, past or present, no allowance for anything that might contradict that. Throughout the entire passage, the rigid separation and distinction between Adam’s Chevy and Christ’s Cadillac is maintained.

    And no, you cannot read some implied progression for Christ from one to the other out of verse 45, because that verse has been consistently mistranslated and misread (except by one mainstream scholar that I know of). Nor can it be read out of verse 44a, because no reference to Christ is included there as though by implication from preceding verses 42-43, since those are all about the promised resurrection of dead humans, with no reference or application to Christ’s own.

    I’m quite sure someone will challenge me on this, but I’ll wait until they’ve put forward such objection(s). At that point, I will also show how Dunn makes the same mistake. (Feel free to reject my reading on the basis of other verses as well, if you like.) However, that objection will have to come from someone other than Dave or Jonathan, since I will no longer take the trouble to answer either of them. Since James says he is back on my review, and wending his way toward that chapter in my book, don’t worry, I’m sure we will eventually get the opportunity to discuss the passage.

    Anyway, the workload in responding to James’ review and all of his acolytes’ comments is just too much. In relegating Dave and Jonathan to my wastebasket I am in any case only doing what is necessary to preserve a life other than being a slave to the Matrix. (And there is no intended Adam Christology there.)

  • Jonathan Burke

    Earl, in all the hours you’ve taken to write in this thread, you could at least have taken a few minutes to present some evidence (any evidence), for your definition of μορφή. The fact that you’ve failed to do so even once, despite being asked repeatedly, is significant. It’s just further proof that the Mytherist case is not evidence based.

  • Earl Doherty

    Overnight, I’ve decided that a couple of loose ends need to be tied up before I shut the door on any further communication with Dave and Jonathan. They will further demonstrate the true nature of their debating tactics.

    “Earl, I’m frankly astonished. Do you mean to tell me that in all your research of early Christian theology, you’ve never come across any form of Unitarian Christology? Not even Adoptionism? I’ve simply been assuming that you knew all this stuff. Was I mistaken?”

    Suppose Dave tells us what form of Unitarian Christology he has come across in early Christian theology. I have no hesitation in declaring that I know of no such thing. (Adoptionism is another matter, and I’ll get to that.) But let’s be clear: as revealed by his phrase “EARLY Christian theology,” this subject came up because Dave was anxious to point to the early centuries of Christianity as containing examples of non-divine views of Jesus or Jesus as the divine “Son of God”, despite the fact that the discussion was about modern NT scholarship and its views of Jesus in the 19th-20th centuries. I dismissed his bringing up “ancient Adoptionist and Unitarian Christology” as another of his tactics to shift his ground and as irrelevant to his claims that modern scholarship was shot through with, if not dominated by, non-divine views of Jesus.

    He turned that into an accusation that I knew nothing about Adoptionist and Unitarian Christology, and now he demands to know whether I know anything about “some form of Unitarian Christology.” Some form of? This looks like another dodge on his part. Is he suggesting now that it’s not to be limited to a ‘Unitarian Christology in the pre-Nicene period’, or even immediately post-Nicene, which was his original implication, since he was the one who jumped back across the centuries and sought to shine a light on early forms of Christology as a (fallacious) counter to my claims about modern scholarship on Christology, and he made both Adoptionism and Unitarianism features of that ancient expression.

    That could well be his ploy to cover up his own ignorance, since I’d say there was no such thing as Unitarian Christology in ancient or even medieval times. Perhaps he’d like to enlighten us otherwise? Unitarian Christology is a modern phenomenon, post-Reformation. Not even Bart Ehrman in his exhaustive survey of heretical christologies in the early centuries producing widespread ‘orthodox corruption of scripture’ so much as mentions the word, nor do any other commentators in books I possess. But perhaps Dave has knowledge of a class of Unitarian Christians in ancient times which Erhman and I, as well as the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, have missed. (I note that even the eminently reliable Wiki has missed it!)

    But yes, I’ve encountered Unitarian Christology. When I was active in humanist circles, many of my friends were Unitarians. Hopefully that will answer Dave’s question–by which he sought to demonstrate my ignorance.

    As for Adoptionism, my point which led to Dave’s accusation was that those ancient figures, like Alexander, who were reputed to have been literally fathered by a god, such as Zeus or Apollo, were thereby granted a dimension of divinity. That was the whole point to creating such traditions. That is not adoptionism, which instead sees Jesus as not “fathered” by God in the sense which orthodoxy sees it (through the immediate sperm donor of the Holy Ghost), but only as adopted by him. But even here, there was variety in how such an adoption was regarded, and whether through it Jesus acquired some kind of divinity.

    Yes, minor Jewish-Christian sects like the Ebionites (whose doctrines, perhaps even the entire sect, cannot be traced back into the first century, and who formulated their now-extant views in later heresiologists only subsequent to the dissemination of the Gospels) rejected any divinity for the Gospel Jesus and opted for the alternative of adoption without accompanying divinity. It was a way to declare the newly-imagined historical Jesus a special man but not an actual offspring of God, and thus to avoid offending Jewish sensibilities.

    What—Dave is saying that modern NT scholars have been in the majority Ebionites or their equivalent? (Of course, he will likely declare that he never said or implied any such thing.) But other groups saw Jesus as taking on a degree of divinity as the result of adoption, though hardly the ‘ousia’ of God. (See Ehrman, p.52.) Even some modern scholars who champion an adoptionist interpretation of Mark see the adoption at Jesus’ baptism as having bestowed on him some form of divinity. (Note that the voice from heaven does not say: “This day I have adopted thee,” it says, “This day I have begotten thee.” In other words, it’s a declaration that God has fathered a new Son. And fathering implies inheriting part of the parent’s nature.)

    So much for yet another Dave Burke smear attempt on my knowledge and qualifications, which have actually only highlighted his own deficiencies.

    Finally, we have the question of whether Dave outright lied in connection with our debate over the outlook of modern traditional mainstream NT scholarship.

    >>
    (Me:) Was the majority of 20th mainstream traditional scholarship of the opinion that Jesus was not divine? If you can support that ridiculous statement, please prove it.
    >>

    Dave: I did not make this statement, and you have not even quoted me saying it. On every occasion you have merely asserted it without proof. I have now repeatedly corrected you on this, yet you continue to misrepresent me. May I ask why you persist in these dishonest tactics?

    Well, let’s look at the history of that exchange:

    Dave: Hang on Earl, you’re shifting the goalposts. This was your original comment:

    >>>>
    if you and Jonathan don’t believe that the historical Jesus was a divinity, had no pre-existence (by the way, is that James’ personal view?) and thus there was no incarnation, you can hardly think you are conforming to anything resembling traditional historicist scholarship, and I daresay including a majority of mainstream scholars today.
    >>>>

    So you told me that my view of a non-divine Jesus does not conform to traditional *historicist* scholarship.

    In response, I demonstrated that a non-divine Jesus is in fact the normative position within traditional historicist scholarship….

    And later: To reiterate: my belief in a non-divine historical Jesus places me firmly within traditional historicist scholarship (as I have already shown).

    If this isn’t in fact a blatant lie (which to all intents and purposes it is), then it’s something even more devious. It’s a classic device to worm out of a sticky situation: change the definition of what we are talking about:

    Dave: You referred specifically to traditional modern *historicist* scholarship. My response also referred specifically to traditional modern *historicist* scholarship.

    Here, Dave produced from his magic hat an allegedly different ‘subset’ category which could be *defined* no other way than as scholars who do not hold to Jesus as a divinity. That’s what he places into his category of “historicist scholarship.” (Otherwise, there would be no point in appealing to this alleged distinction.) In essence, he is defending a tautology: “I declare that the majority of men are men.”

    The meaning I fully intended, and which I haven’t the shadow of a doubt Dave understood very well, was scholarship dedicated to uncovering the historical Jesus. I would hardly have been referring to Dave’s category of “historicist scholarship” defined as those who are self-declared non-believers. This, not only evident from sheer logic in what I was saying, was clear from the final phrase of my above statement:

    “you can hardly think you are conforming to anything resembling traditional historicist scholarship, and I daresay including a majority of mainstream scholars today.

    which made it clear that I was talking about traditional mainstream scholars generally, not some subset of non-believing ‘historicist’ scholars.

    Essentially, that mainstream is what virtually all NT scholarship (other than the purely theologian or Bible College varieties) has been about since the late 19th century: the quest for the historical Jesus. But that historical Jesus investigation was undertaken by scholars (perhaps with the rare exception until very recently) who still held a belief (it didn’t have to always be strictly orthodox) in the divinity of that Jesus and that he was the Son of God. Their aim was to uncover the real historical figure from under the overlay of legendary accretion (as they saw it) in the Gospels and the distortions of early church interpretation. I quite rightly demanded that Dave prove that the majority of such scholars did not believe in any kind of divinity for Jesus. His response was not to take my request on that obvious basis, but to insert his own definition of “historicist scholarship” which automatically gave him accuracy in his claim. (And, of course, now that I’ve exposed this, he will undoubtedly come back with the claim that he said and meant no such thing.)

    The slippery deviousness of this man is probably unprecedented, certainly in my experience, and his soul brother Jonathan lags not far behind. It is why from this point on I will lock down my “total ignore” policy toward them. Debate with such unscrupulous defenders of their faith is pointless. It only gives them a forum to continue their dishonorable tactics, and takes up my valuable time having to cope with and expose their dishonesty. Genuine and reasoned debate is simply not possible with people like this. Nor am I into masochism.

    I welcome genuine and reasoned discussion about NT issues, and about the texts. Anyone else who seeks to smear my integrity or qualifications through biased or manufactured bases, let alone by barefaced mendacity or the deceptive switching of statements and claims, will also be ignored. Demonstrations of substance that my arguments are deficient, invalid or untenable, in other words through genuine counter-argument and not personal attack, bluster or innuendo, let alone fallacious false comparison with creationism, are of course welcome any time. Hopefully, that is what James will see fitto provide in future. I’ll get around to looking at his review of Chapter 10 sometime this weekend.

    • Dave Burke

      Earl,

      >>
      Suppose Dave tells us what form of Unitarian Christology he has come across in early Christian theology.
      >>

      Just off the top of my head: Papias, Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Clement of Rome, and at least one branch of the Ebionites. All Unitarians. By “Unitarian” I mean a belief that God is one person (not more than one). Some Unitarians saw Jesus as a divine being alongside God; others saw him as a mortal man raised to immortality at his resurrection.

      >>
      his claims that modern scholarship was shot through with, if not dominated by, non-divine views of Jesus.
      >>

      I made no such claim and you offer no proof that I did.

      >>
      He turned that into an accusation that I knew nothing about Adoptionist and Unitarian Christology
      >>

      I made no such accusation and you offer no proof that I did.

      >>
      Some form of? This looks like another dodge on his part.
      >>

      How is it a dodge? Unitarian Christology exists in a variety of forms. If you’re not familiar with one, you may be familiar with another.

      >>
      Is he suggesting now that it’s not to be limited to a ‘Unitarian Christology in the pre-Nicene period’, or even immediately post-Nicene
      >>

      I’m not suggesting anything. If you stop trying to psychoanalyse people and start responding to what they actually say, we might have a constructive dialogue. Unfortunately you seem determined to derail it at all costs. I suppose that’s easier than actually proving your argument, but it does leave your position completely undefended.

      • Dave Burke

        Earl,

        >>
        That could well be his ploy to cover up his own ignorance, since I’d say there was no such thing as Unitarian Christology in ancient or even medieval times.
        >>

        Please tell me what you believe “Unitarian Christology” to mean.

        >>
        But yes, I’ve encountered Unitarian Christology.
        >>

        If you are familiar with Unitarian Christology, you would know how a man can be the Son of God without actually being divine, because Unitarianism encompasses this view. So why did you ask in the first place?

        >>
        What—Dave is saying that modern NT scholars have been in the majority Ebionites or their equivalent?
        >>

        No, that is not what I am saying.

        >>
        (Of course, he will likely declare that he never said or implied any such thing.)
        >>

        Correct, I have never said or implied any such thing. Nor have you even attempted to prove that I have. Not even one single quote.

        >>
        But other groups saw Jesus as taking on a degree of divinity as the result of adoption, though hardly the ‘ousia’ of God. (See Ehrman, p.52.)
        >>

        Correct.

        >>
        So much for yet another Dave Burke smear attempt on my knowledge and qualifications, which have actually only highlighted his own deficiencies.
        >>

        I made no smear whatsoever. On the contrary, all the smears have come from you. Nor have you proved any deficiencies in my knowledge.

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

    @1339a2323379bb5d87a8b2a609ca574d:disqus , @3d73eeb135c752f960ef1cef295c70a7:disqus and perhaps others introduced some confusion when they capitalized unitarian. I am quite certain that they meant unitarian in the generic sense of positing a single God rather than a Trinity or other plurality, rather than in the sense of Unitarian Universalist.

    As for the antiquity of the Ebionite view, there clearly were Jewish Christians with views akin to theirs in Justin Martyr’s time, since he mentions them. And another book by Dunn (Unity and Diversity in the New Testament) is one of the very large number of scholarly works that discusses the possibility that such a viewpoint goes back to New Testament times. 

    Whether it is Paul’s view or not, can anyone seriously deny that in Luke-Acts, Jesus is not thought of as pre-existent, but as a man exalted by God? Is anyone other than Simon Magus in Luke-Acts depicted as claiming to be God incarnate? :-)

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

      I am quite certain that they meant unitarian in the generic sense of
      positing a single God rather than a Trinity or other plurality,

      Perhaps you can help Dave out further by explaining to us how “the generic sense of positing a single God rather than a Trinity or other pluratlity” can be equated with what is understood by mainstream scholarship as a “Unitarian Christology” of that day.

    • Dave Burke

      James,

      >>
      I am quite certain that they meant unitarian in the generic sense of
      positing a single God rather than a Trinity or other plurality, rather
      than in the sense of Unitarian Universalist.
      >>

      Yes, that’s what I mean.

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

    For those interested in the topic of early Christology, I just posted a reply to a conservative Christian Trinitarian blogger on this topic.

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

    @Howard, I simply must object to this sort of Christian anti-Semitic way of putting things. Any criticism offered by Jesus was not criticism of Judaism but Jewish criticism. Any viewpoint offered by Jesus was a Jewish viewpoint. Reading the situation of a later time, when Judaism and Christianity were distinct world religions, back into the time of Jesus and the earliest members of the movement around him (even before they were called Christians) is not merely anachronistic but has played a role in some of the rather horrible things that Christians have done towards Jews since the “parting of the ways.”

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      James, I really have no idea what you might be referring to, you must really be twisting or misunderstanding what I was saying. I was at no time referring to Judaism as it was meant to be practiced as directed by God. I was talking about the scribes and Pharisees departure of this Judaism that Jesus condemned. So could you explain how my saying Paul’s interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures is different then Jewish interpretation in many places is anti-Semitic?

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Dave, there is a fatal flaw in this understanding, you’re a
    Christian right? Well your leader, Jesus Christ condemned Jewish views
    and opinions on a number of occasions.//

    Actually Jesus, as a Jewish prophet, condemned specific views and opinions of specific groups among the religious Jewish elite; just as Jewish prophets before him had done. This does not give us license to read the New Testament writings as if they came into being outside the milieu of Second Temple Period Judaism.

    //Therefore, it is not reasonable to rely on medieval Jewish writings/interpretations to refute the pre-existence of Jesus.//

    He isn’t. He’s relying on Second Temple Period Judaism writings and interpretations. That’s the socio-religious background of the New Testament writings; not Hinduism, Buddhism, Egyptian mythology, Greek mythology, Norse mythology, or Mithraism.

    And it’s not a matter of ‘refuting’ the pre-existence of Jesus. The pre-existence of Jesus simply isn’t a matter of historical fact, nor was it the original understanding of the first century Christian community.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      Jonathan, Dave mentioned Pesikta Rabbati 152b, how do you get second temple Judaism out of that. It is a 10th century CE composition.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      Jonathan,

      “Actually Jesus, as a Jewish prophet, condemned specific views and opinions of specific groups among the religious Jewish elite;”

      Exactly, that was what I was pointing out that the Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees were condemned by Jesus because of their traditions and practices that were not based on true Judaism. It is obvious that these Jewish leaders did not really know the Messiah or they would not have rejected him. The sect of the Pharisees are supposedly at the roots of Rabbinic Judaism, and I highly doubt that about a thousand years later when the Pesikta Rabbati was written they now possess the truth about the Messiah.

      “just as Jewish prophets before him had done.”

      Exactly, these Jewish prophets condemned both groups of Jews and the entire nation at times for failing to live up to the law, or in some cases apostatizing from it. Therefore, since some Jews thought human sacrifice was the right thing to do, would you use it today to support the idea? I am saying the same thing, since some Jews thought the Messiah did not pre-exist, and someone uses that idea today to support their position, does it make it right? Especially since we have Jesus condemning some of these Jews for similar thinking.

      “This does not give us license to read the New Testament writings as if they came into being outside the milieu of Second Temple Period Judaism.”

      Exactly, but I think your pointing your finger at the wrong person, Jesus is the one that said the Jewish leaders of his day were snakes and the children of the Devil, and that they were blind guides and that anyone following them will fall into a pit. I’m just repeating what he said. So your saying Jesus didn’t mean any of that, he was just having a bad day? No, Jesus really said those things because the Jewish leaders were blind to the truth about the Messiah, including his pre-existence which Jesus proved by his own admission of it on a number of occasions.

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

    You wrote that “Jesus condemns Jewish thought and practice…”

    You may have meant something other than what you wrote, but my response was to what you wrote, not an attempt to guess whether you meant something different.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      @James, Okay I see now, that was a slip up, it should have read the Jewish leaders, sorry for the confusion?

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Jonathan, Dave mentioned Pesikta Rabbati 152b, how do you get second
    temple Judaism out of that. It is a 10th century CE composition.//

    Actually Dave quoted Mowinckel quoting Pesikta Rabbati 152b. But that wasn’t the only reference Mowinckel gave. He also said this.

    //Rabbinic theology speaks of the Law, of God’s throne of glory, of Israel and of other important objects of faith, as things which had been created by God, and were already present with Him, before the creation of the world.//

    The rabbinic theology he’s speaking of is within Second Temple Period Judaism (Babylonian Talmud, Meg. 13b, Pes. 54a; B. Ned. 39a). There’s also 1 Enoch, 2 Baruch, Assumption of Moses, 1 QS 3:15-17 and 1 QH 1:19-20.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      Jonathan, It is often useful to investigate ancient Jewish writings outside the canonical Hebrew Scriptures, but for me, it is to get a better view of the Jewish background of the Scriptures and certain historical events. I do not look to the Talmud or Jewish apocrypha for truth about Jesus. As far as the pre-existence of Jesus is concerned, you have to remember one thing, the Hebrew Scriptures are pretty fuzzy when it comes to that subject. So in their zeal to understand this aspect of the Messiah, they had to do a lot of speculating. Now when the Messiah did show up, he and his disciples made direct statements about his prior existence. But instead of taking the revelations of the Messiah himself at face value, you want to somehow read his direct statements back into the speculative interpretations of contemporary Jews who were proven wrong about many things concerning the Messiah. In fact their ideas were so different, that they did not even recognize him as the Messiah. Under these conditions, I would find their view of his “name” being the only thing that existed in heaven before the creation extremely unlikely.

      Another point is that you simply list what it says in the Talmud and other works, but you have not demonstrated how they came to this view. What is the actual evidence to support such a view? Interestingly, here is one of those pieces of evidence about the Messiah being hidden.

      “Orthodox rabbis of past centuries considered Messiah to be the center of the whole creation. The Messiah is discussed in the context of the “light” in the Genesis creation account.” According to the Rabbis, this special light was created before the sun, moon and stars. The Yalkut, a rabbinic medieval anthology, says:

      ‘And God saw the light, that it was good.’ This is the light of Messiah …
      to teach you that God saw the generation of Messiah and His works before He created  the universe, and He hid the Messiah … under His throne of glory. Satan asked God, Master of the Universe: ‘For whom is this Light under Your Throne of Glory?’  God answered him, ‘It is for … [the Messiah] who is to turn you backward and who will put you to  scorn with shamefacedness.’”

  • Dave Burke

    Howard,

    Thanks for your lengthy responses. I’m busy with my BTh coursework this week, but Jonathan has answered well for me. If there’s anything that particularly requires my attention, I’ll come back to it later. I would also like to pick up a few points for Earl at some stage.

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

    @Jonathan, just a point of clarification, which I don’t think affects your substantive point. The Talmud and indeed all our rabbinic sources are post-second temple. But because you are dealing with something also found in second temple texts like 1 Enoch and the Dead Sea Scrolls, bringing in rabbinic sources makes sense not because they are themselves second temple sources, but because their attestation of the same or similar ideas in a later time and a different place suggests that the ideas in question were widely accepted across a range of branches of Judaism, over a diffuse geographical spread, and over a long period of time.

  • Pf

    Howard, you are hilarious. If Jesus and his disciples actually claimed he was a pre-existant being, why didn’t he say so clearly? Jesus never told the Jews that they had the wrong concept of God. “You knuckleheads, how many times do I have to go over this before you get it right? God is three persons in one substance and I am the second part of that.”

    Why was it confused? Why wasn’t it debated at the time? Why didn’t anybody come to that conclusion for a century or more after he died? No, the apostles maintained their connection to the Jewish temple for decades, which they could not have done if they had a different concept of God.

    Jesus was a Jew who taught the traditional Jewish view of God.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      PF, your first mistake is thinking I believe in the trinity, which I do not, So the disciples view of God never changed, it is the view of the Messiah that is in question. Try to keep up.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      PF, by the way, you said, “Jesus never told the Jews that they had the wrong concept of God.” You may want to read your Bible again.

      “. . .Therefore they went on to say to him: “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered: “you know neither me nor my Father. If you did know me, you would know my Father also.. . .” (John 8:19)

      “. . .Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me.” (John 16:2-3)

      “. . .Jesus answered: “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifies me, he who you say is your God; and yet you have not known him. But I know him. And if I said I do not know him I should be like you, a liar. . . .” (John 8:54-55)

      “. . .He that hates me hates also my Father. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have both seen and hated me as well as my Father.” (John 15:23-24)

      “. . .Also, the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. you have neither heard his voice at any time nor seen his figure; and you do not have his word remaining in you, because the very one whom he dispatched you do not believe.” (John 5:37-38)

      “. . .Jesus said to them: “Is not this why you are mistaken, your not knowing either the Scriptures or the power of God? . . . you are much mistaken.”” (Mark 12:24-27)

      “. . .How is it you do not discern that I did not talk to you about loaves? But watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they grasped that he said to watch out, not for the leaven of the loaves, but for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:11-12)

      The entire chapter of Matthew 23

  • Jonathan Burke

    //@Jonathan, just a point of clarification, which I don’t think affects
    your substantive point. The Talmud and indeed all our rabbinic sources
    are post-second temple.//

    As documents, I agree of course. They also contain much post-@8436b7430a904f881bfb7ec67ccfd60d:disqus TP theology. However, they still contain earlier traditions, 2TP theology. We can prove this by comparing them to 1st century documents such as the Qumran scrolls. That’s the point I’m making. But I’m glad you picked up on this issue and made the point sharper, thus:

    //But because you are dealing with something also found in second temple
    texts like 1 Enoch and the Dead Sea Scrolls, bringing in rabbinic
    sources makes sense not because they are themselves second temple
    sources, but because their attestation of the same or similar ideas in a
    later time and a different place suggests that the ideas in question
    were widely accepted across a range of branches of Judaism, over a
    diffuse geographical spread, and over a long period of time.//

    • Anonymous

      Schiffman says the same.  But he is wrong.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //I do not look to the Talmud or Jewish apocrypha for truth about Jesus.//

    Nor do I. However, I do look to those sources for truth about Jewish concepts and phrases which I find in the New Testament. That’s the point here.

    //As far as the pre-existence of Jesus is concerned, you have to remember
    one thing, the Hebrew Scriptures are pretty fuzzy when it comes to that
    subject.//

    Actually they’re very clear; they never say the Messiah existed before his birth.

    //But instead of taking the revelations of the Messiah himself at face
    value, you want to somehow read his direct statements back into the
    speculative interpretations of contemporary Jews who were proven wrong
    about many things concerning the Messiah.//

    No I’m not. I’m looking at how Jewish concepts and phrases used in the New Testament would have been understood BY THE FIRST CENTURY JEWISH HEARERS AND READERS.

    //Another point is that you simply list what it says in the Talmud and
    other works, but you have not demonstrated how they came to this view.//

    I couldn’t care less how they arrived at their view. It doesn’t matter how they arrived at their view, or whether they were right or wrong. I’m only using them to assess how a first century Jewish HEARER OR READER would have understood Jesus’ and Paul’s words.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      Jonathan,

      “Actually they’re very clear; they never say the Messiah existed before his birth.”

       They never say he didn’t either, that’s why scholars have been debating the issue for centuries.

      “I couldn’t care less how they arrived at their view. It doesn’t matter how they arrived at their view, or whether they were right or wrong.”

      Are you saying you’re willing to believe in something regardless of whether it is right or wrong, just to belong to some specific consensus about its interpretation?

      “I’m only using them to assess how a first century Jewish HEARER OR READER would have understood Jesus’ and Paul’s words.”

      So you’re not interested in how a first century Gentile HEARER OR READER would have understood Jesus’ and Paul’s words?

  • Pf

    Howard, in none of those statements (presuming they are accurate, and the ones in John clearly reflect later theology and not actual sayings), does Jesus posit that god is a different being than the one that Jews taught. Jesus taught the Shema, as you must know. Nice try, though.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      PF, I’m not even going to address your statement of, “presuming they are accurate, and the ones in John clearly reflect later theology and not actual sayings” because I don’t wish to spend the time exploring such a blatant rejection of God’s inspired word.

      But as for your statement of, “in none of those statements does Jesus posit that god is a different being than the one that Jews taught.” Is it possible that you think that what the “Jews taught” in Jesus’ day, was the Hebrew Scriptures? What the “Jews taught” was the Oral Torah and later the Talmud and other interpretive writings. So if I am wrong, I can safely assume you are well acquainted with the concepts found in the Talmud and other Rabbinic writings to know exactly what the “Jews taught” about God, so as to equate it with what Jesus taught?

  • Jonathan Burke

    //They never say he didn’t either, that’s why scholars have been debating the issue for centuries.//

    What they ‘never said’ isn’t a good basis for an argument; and current scholarship is pretty united on this point.

    //Are you saying you’re willing to believe in something regardless of
    whether it is right or wrong, just to belong to some specific consensus
    about its interpretation?//

    No. You’re still not reading what I write. I have never said that I believe what they believed.

    //So you’re not interested in how a first century Gentile HEARER OR READER would have understood Jesus’ and Paul’s words?//

    I already know how a first century Gentile hearer or reader would have understood Jesus’ and Paul’s words. But that’s irrelevant because Jesus’ words were directed to Jewish hearers, and Paul’s words were directed to converts in a Jewish sect with a Second Temple Period Judaism background.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      Ah, Jonathan, it was you who made the argument from silence, not me. Do you remember how it started? I said the concept of pre-existence in the Hebrew Scriptures was fuzzy, and you replied to that by saying, “Actually they’re very clear,” when something is “very clear” it indicates that there are no obstacles preventing you from forming a basis for an opinion or view. Then you provide your evidence that is “very clear” when you say, “they never say the Messiah existed before his birth.” Right there is your argument from silence. So in effect, you’re saying that, because they [the Hebrew Scriptures] never say the Messiah existed before his birth, the rejection of his pre-existence is very clear. Then you purposely try to twist my words to imply I am arguing from silence. When in fact, I said, “They never say he didn’t EITHER,” did you notice the “either” which means I was saying the Hebrew Scriptures do not provide clear evidence either way, and that is what is implied by the rest of what I said, “that’s why scholars have been debating the issue for centuries.” Because the Hebrew Scriptures are not clear on the issue. I never once attempted to say that silence was evidence, but you did. I think Earl was right about you.

      “No. You’re still not reading what I write. I have never said that I believe what they believed.”

      Is this another ploy to divert the attention from the real issue? The discussion I was having with Dave was whether or not Jesus had a pre-existence period, and not simply what the Jewish opinion was, but since you felt the need to pick up where he left off, you should have been aware that, as far as I understood it, he was using the views of ancient Jews as a basis for his non-belief in pre-existence. Then you come in and defend his evidence, but then, after all that, you say, I don’t agree with the views of the ancient Jews. Then why the hell are you defending their views?

      “I already know how a first century Gentile hearer or reader would have understood Jesus’ and Paul’s words.”

      Really, that’s amazing, you might want to share that information with NT scholars as they are still not quite as confident as you are.

      “But that’s irrelevant because Jesus’ words were directed to Jewish hearers, and Paul’s words were directed to converts in a Jewish sect with a Second Temple Period Judaism background.”

      Irrelevant you say? That seems a pretty odd thing to say when a major aspect of the New Testament is to bring the gentiles to God. Acts 13:47-48 “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘ I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Sorry to say, but this was not done by incorporating the unscriptural Oral Torah into Jesus and Paul’s words. But you can continue to believe that if you like.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Ah, Jonathan, it was you who made the argument from silence, not me. Do
    you remember how it started? I said the concept of pre-existence in the
    Hebrew Scriptures was fuzzy, and you replied to that by saying,
    “Actually they’re very clear,” when something is “very clear” it
    indicates that there are no obstacles preventing you from forming a
    basis for an opinion or view. Then you provide your evidence that is
    “very clear” when you say, “they never say the Messiah existed before
    his birth.” Right there is your argument from silence.//

    No. There are two separate issues here. One is that the Hebrew Scriptures do not say the Messiah existed before his birth. That is negative evidence, but I did not say that proves the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures did not exist before his birth; I did not make the argument from silence that you attribute to me.

    The other issue is the Hebrew Scriptures speak of the Messiah AS IF HE DID NOT CURRENTLY EXIST BUT WOULD EXIST IN THE FUTURE. That is positive evidence that the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures did not believe that the Messiah existed in their day, and that he would exist in the future, at his birth (not before). That is not an argument from silence, that is an argument from evidence.

    //…but since you felt the need to pick up where he left off, you should
    have been aware that, as far as I understood it, he was using the views
    of ancient Jews as a basis for his non-belief in pre-existence.//

    No he wasn’t. You didn’t understand what he wrote.

    //Then why the hell are you defending their views?//

    I have told you repeated that I am not defending their views. I am simply pointing out that when a first century Jew heard or read a particular phrase, we need to look at Second Temple Period Judaism in order to understand how they understood that phrase; we don’t go running to Howard to ask his personal opinion from his own personal theological perspective.

    //Really, that’s amazing, you might want to share that information
    with NT scholars as they are still not quite as confident as you are.//

    You’re wrong; New Testament scholars typically cite first century Gentile writings when seeking to understand how a first century Gentile hearer or reader would have understood Jesus’ and Paul’s words. This is standard practice. Take the reference to the city on seven hills in Revelation 17 for example; there’s no dispute in scholarly circles that it refers to Rome, because of the wealth of Gentile literature which indicates this was a well understood reference to Rome.

    //Irrelevant you say? That seems a pretty odd thing to say…//

    Not when you read what I wrote, in context. Please do so.

    //Sorry to say, but this was not done by incorporating the unscriptural
    Oral Torah into Jesus and Paul’s words. But you can continue to believe
    that if you like.//

    I have never said any such thing.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      It just occurred to me that I may not have clearly presented my opinion. It is true that the human person who would gain the rightful title of Messiah, did not exist before Jesus was born on earth. And it is also true that the name, or concept of the Messiah did pre-exist his actual existence. In fact, the role of the Messiah did not come into existence until Jesus was baptized and anointed. So yes, it is true that a heavenly divine being with a title of Messiah never existed in pre-Christian times. Apparently our disagreement is that when the Messiah was revealed as the man Jesus, it was also revealed that the essence of the man Jesus had a pre-existence, but was not known as the Messiah in this pre-existent state. But it is certainly true that the Hebrew Scriptures hinted at the idea that the one who would become the Messiah had a supernatural existence, which probably included a pre-existence.

      Jacob Neusner, famed scholar of rabbinics: “We focus upon how the system laid out in the Mishnah takes up and disposes of those critical issues of teleology worked out through messianic eschatology in other, earlier versions of Judaism. These earlier systems resorted to the myth of the Messiah as savior and redeemer of Israel, a supernatural figure engaged in political-historical tasks as king of the Jews, even a God-man facing the crucial historical questions of Israel’s life and resolving them: the Christ as king of the world, of the ages, of death itself.” – ["Mishnah and Messiah", Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era, Neusner, Green, Frerichs (eds.), Cambridge: 1987:275]

      Qumran scholar John Collins: “The notion of a messiah who was in some sense divine had its roots in Judaism, in the interpretation of such passages as Psalm 2 and Daniel 7 in an apocalyptic context. This is not to deny the great difference between a text like 4Q246 and the later Christian understanding of the divinity of Christ. But the notion that the messiah was Son of God in a special sense was rooted in Judaism, and so there was continuity between Judaism and Christianity in this respect, even though Christian belief eventually diverged quite radically from its Jewish sources.” – [The Scepter and the Star--The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature, John J. Collins, Doubleday: 1995:168-169]


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