Review of Earl Doherty’s Jesus: Neither God Nor Man chapter 10 part one

It has been almost a month since the last installment of my review of Earl Doherty’s book, Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, although I have blogged about mythicism and even interacted with Doherty himself in the intervening period.

Chapter 10 begins part four of the book, “A World of Myths and Savior Gods,” and the chapter itself bears the title “Who Crucified Jesus?” Doherty summarizes the interpretation of New Testament letters he has offered thus far (albeit actual detailed discussion of which he postponed until now) by writing, “In the epistles, Christ’s act of salvation is not located in the present, or even in the recent past, and certainly not within the historical setting familiar to us from the Gospels. Christ had existed from before time began, and it was in a non-historical time and place, in a supernatural realm, that this Son of God had undergone a redeeming “blood” sacrifice” (p.97). I suspect that the quotation marks around “blood” are a recognition of the awkwardness of Paul’s and other epistolary references to blood in connection with Jesus’ death, as fitting poorly with the purely celestial understanding that Doherty is promoting. Such concerns do not seem to at all temper his confidence in that interpretation, however, nor to yet elevate his statement from the level of mere assertion to something that has been demonstrated so as to justify this confident articulation.

The chapter proceeds to say a little about mythical understandings of the world and mystery cults in particular, while deferring more detailed discussion until the following chapter. Doherty writes, “One purpose of this book is to demonstrate the derivation of Christian mythology from the thinking of its time, how it was interwoven with the religious expressions of its age…The more we can perceive in common between Christianity and the various mythologies of its time, Jewish, Gnostic, Hermetic, and Heavenly Man, and especially the so-called ‘dying and rising gods’ of the mystery cults, the closer we will get to understanding the essential dimensions of early Christian belief and the nature of the early Christian Christ” (p.100). This affirmation, with its lumping together of just about every stream of thought from the religious world in which Christianity emerged, is of doubtful usefulness. It shows little awareness of the enormous and important differences not only between some of these major trends, but also within them among different groups and teachers – which of course is not to deny similarities, but simply to emphasize that they are not similar in all respects. Mainstream scholarship has devoted much time and effort to illustrating how Christianity fits within and reflects cultural trends, norms, beliefs and assumptions of its time. But unless Doherty were able to demonstrate (contrary to significant amounts of evidence) that the only sorts of saviors and deliverers that anyone in that time hoped for were purely celestial ones, or unless Doherty can demonstrate that Christianity bears closest resemblance to groups that did (again ignoring substantial evidence), then this attempt to lump every religious viewpoint together and connect them to Platonism does nothing to support his case for mythicism.

Doherty appears at times to be aware of these important distinctions, noting that Judaism expected salvation in history and viewed its key figures as having been historical (pp.101-102). And so the Messiah had to be “of David’s stock” (p.102, citing Romans 1:3), and Doherty’s response, as we know well by this stage, is to assert that a figure could be given such a lineage and yet still be situated in the heavenly realm. Here he offers as “evidence” (with no references to any primary texts whatsoever) the claim that “it would not have been unusual to style Osiris as “Egyptian” or Mithras as “Persian”" (p.102). Doherty is confusing ethnic lineage of a deity with a national origin of a cult they were associated with. To make such claims without apparently feeling the need to provide sources is very shoddy work indeed. But since many feel that this is volume offers the best case for mythicism, it is important to point out that its key claims are often unsubstantiated.

Doherty continues by highlighting the well-known parallelism between the celestial and earthly realms in Jewish thought in this period, perhaps illustrated most clearly in the Bible’s pages by the references in the Book of Daniel to “princes” of nations among the heavenly host (pp.102-103). Since we have already been discussing Philippians 2:6-11, I won’t bring the issues of interpretation related to that up again here, where on p.104 Doherty assumes the traditional understanding of the figure in the hymn as divine. But it must be said that his attempt to co-opt Morna Hooker’s idea of interchange in support of mythicism (p.104) is simply unacceptable quote mining. If Hooker is correct in her thinking, then it is to be noted that she can make sense of such language in relation to a Jesus who was thought to have appeared in history. This is a problem for mythicism, rather than something to be quoted in its support. But since nothing more is made of Hooker’s work on this topic, it is clear that the quote was offered like so many in mediocre undergraduate essays: to illustrate a view held before encountering the source, and not because of either a genuine understanding of the work or a detailed interaction with the composition from which the quote derives.

The next part of the chapter addresses the “the rulers of this age” and related phrases in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, Ephesians 3:9-10 and Colossians 2:15. Since, as Doherty himself acknowledges, “That invisible powers, mostly evil, were at work behind earthly phenomena was a widely held belief in Hellenistic times, including among Jews, and it was shared by Christianity” (p.104), much of what follows, which argues for spiritual rather than earthly rulers being in view, is an exercise in promoting a false antithesis undermined by one’s own statement. Doherty’s claim that Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas could “hardly be styled” the rulers of this age (p.105) seems to involve his treating “rulers of this age” as though it meant “rulers of the world” rather than “the sorts of rulers who are in charge in the present evil age, and their powerful representatives.”

One of the more bizarre moments in the chapter is when Doherty writes, “The suggestion that since earthly rulers are considered to be controlled by heavenly ones the latter are seen as operating “through” the former is simply reading the idea into the text” (p.106). Doherty previously acknowledge that this view was widespread in those times and specifically in early Christianity, and he emphasized the need to read early Christian texts in light of that context. We see here that Doherty does not stick to his own stated principles when they do not lead to a mythicist conclusion. And his own claim that everyone has failed to address the issue of how Paul could have spoken in such terms if he knew traditions about Jesus’ crucifixion in Judaea is likewise misleading, to say the least (p.106). The Book of Revelation illustrates very well the sort of viewpoint that Doherty himself acknowledged was widespread in that time, with demonic forces manifested through and in cahoots with earthly rulers. It is not that everyone fails to address it, but rather that Doherty alone fails to read these texts in the way he himself advocates, in light of the evidence that the texts themselves and other works from their wider cultural, historical and religious context provide. And so what Doherty claims is a natural question that everyone should have been asking – how could both demons and human rulers be responsible for Jesus’ death – was clearly a non-question for ancient people (p.108). It may have been a question that we today would feel they should have asked, but whether they did or not, and whether we judge their views to be self-contradictory or not, has no bearing on whether or not they actually held them.

Doherty also fails to address the possibility that Ephesians and Colossians may be post-Pauline and reflect a different view of the “rulers” than is found in authentic Pauline works. He also claims, without providing evidence or explanation, that “the roots of Gnosticism go back before the establishment of an historical Jesus in the Gospels” (p.109).

This chapter is longer than previous ones, among the first to be the length of a typical book chapter. And since there is already plenty to discuss here, rather than make this post any longer, I will continue with the second half of the chapter in a separate post on another occasion.

  • Gakuseidon

    James, I suppose no-one will be surprised when I write “Great post!”

    McGrath: Mainstream scholarship has devoted much time and effort to illustrating how Christianity fits within and reflects cultural trends, norms, beliefs and assumptions of its time.

    Keep in mind that Doherty is also making controversial claims about pagan beliefs as well, where we have a lot of literature — both primary and secondary — available to us. That this doesn’t support Doherty either (IMVHO) is an even bigger against his theories, in my view. Doherty creates non-mainstream views of pagan beliefs in order to support his non-mainstream views of early Christian beliefs.

    But this is also an opportunity for Doherty. Why not publish a peer-reviewed article on his controversial views on **pagan* beliefs? This would not go against any editor’s Christian beliefs, if that is an issue. And it would then provide support for later articles on early Christianity.

    McGrath: It may have been a question that we today would feel they should have asked, but whether they did or not, and whether we judge their views to be self-contradictory or not, has no bearing on whether or not they actually held them.

    Exactly. Doherty often asks, usually rhetorically, “how could they not have mentioned X?” When I ask whether the question makes sense in context of the people of that time, the response is a rather naive: “Yes, because it’s human nature”. But this begs the very question, and ignores the work done by Malina and others of the Context Group, which attempts to understand ancient beliefs in the context of their ancient cultures.

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

    Good post. I did like your discussion of the sometimes used argument that the rulers of this age means demons, not men crucified Jesus. I’m looking foward to these chapters, they always seemed the most controversial elements as they seemed out side of common understanding of pagan religion, but a clever intepretation of them.

    On the rulers of this age, yeah, Doherty has choosen a very restrictive intepretation here. Contrary to form, only a literal reading will work. But yeah, I mean we speak of the Man or PIG but their is no Man or PIG, just wealthy a-holes. Personaly I see Paul laying the blame for Jesus death at the feet of the entire ruling elite of the world. The powers that be if, you will. Certainly not mutually exclusive with people executing Jesus.

  • Anonymous

    James wrote: I suspect that the quotation marks around “blood” are a recognition of the awkwardness of Paul’s and other epistolary references to blood in connection with Jesus’ death, as fitting poorly with the purely celestial understanding that Doherty is promoting.”
    But many Jews already had a “purely celestial understanding”, and not of a mythical Jesus that Doherty is promoting.  This celestial understanding was that the Spirit from heaven could cleanse them, if they obeyed him.  They would be made pure before God.    

  • Anonymous

    James, what do you mean by “awkwardness” in connection to Paul’s reference to blood?

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

    Having blood and bleeding are not things typically ascribed to celestial entities but rather to terrestrial ones, and so the references to blood don’t fit well with Dohery’s claim that the “Jesus” Paul referred to had never appeared on earth as a mortal human being.

    • Anonymous

      The question I ask myself is: was the text changed by ‘Paul’ to blood?   I could see in some cases (that you referred to) that “blood” is quite appropriate in the context.  This is probably original pauline text.  In others I have to suspect that there was a different original. 

      Take 1 Cor. 10:16 for example.  

      Is not
      the cup of [thanksgiving] {blessing} [for] which we [give thanks] {pour out} a
      participation in the [blood] {altar} of [Christ] {incense}? 

      The text in [] refers to the traditional Lord’s supper.  

      The text in {} refers to the cup of blessing which the prophets poured out on the altar of incense and was symbolic of the Spirit being poured out. 

      This would then be consistent with 1 Cor. 10:21 where two ‘tables’ are referred to.  There was the ‘Lord’s’ ‘table’  and the table of demons.   Now recall that there were two altars, one for sacrificing incense and pouring out the water or cup of blessing, and one for sacrificing animals.  The former was used by the holiest of people, the prophets.  The latter was used by the priests. I am suggesting that the original writer, a prophet, was saying that the priests were demons in a spiritual sense.   “you cannot
      have a part in both the Lord’s [table] {altar} and the [table]
      {altar} of demons.”  The setting was the temple in which sacrifices of animals had resumed. The writer was urging his readers not to go down the route of animal sacrifice. 

         

       

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

    @GeoffHudson:disqus , I don’t share your willingness to rewrite the text to conform with my preconceived theories. 

    • Anonymous

      Rewriting text to conform with your preconceived theories?  Surely you mean my preconceived theories.  But we all have theories.  Mine have been burned-in by experience.  It all started many years ago with the belief that the Spirit of God did not suddenly come on the scene as in Acts, but had always, in Jewish thought, been around.      

      Writing, rewriting and editing documents is what I do for a living.  When you have done that for many years, picking-up inconsistencies comes naturally to me. To me the inconsistencies reveal that the NT had an earlier prophetic form.  Evan seems to think this is sophistry.       

  • Evan Hershman

    Geoff, if mythicists are going to simply rewrite the text to make it say what they want it to say in spite of the complete lack of evidence for such changes, then they have made the final step in abandoning reason for pure sophistry.

    • Anonymous

      I am not a mythicist as such.  

      I have to confront the two ‘tables’.  It is this kind of thing that I find in much of the NT.  There was an earlier text which was Jewish and prophetic. 

  • Evan Hershman

    Claiming that experience “writing, rewriting and editing documents” gives you the necessary qualifications to change texts to whatever you think they “really” said, when those texts were written 2000 years ago, in a language far removed from our own, under different understandings of genre than the ones we operate under, is utterly ridiculous.

    Geoff, redaction critics in biblical studies have had just as much “training” as you in detecting inconsistencies. They’ve written whole books about elaborate source theories accounting for those inconsistencies. (See, for example, the Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch,  or Bultmann’s commentary on the Gospel of John). The problem is not seeing inconsistencies in the Bible, which just about everyone in biblical studies agrees on. The problem is that there need to be ARGUMENTS for why the proposed reconstruction is better, not just the declaration of “Trust me, I’ve got a feeling.” You’ll need to do better than that if you want to convince anyone of what you’re saying. So far I’ve seen you post elaborate reconstructions of what you think Paul’s letters “actually” said without one shred of evidence to support your proposal. And if, as you say above, Paul himself supposedly “changed” the text… how would one possibly find any hard evidence of this?

    • Anonymous

      Evan,so at least you agree that there are the inconsistencies in the NT –  have you seen any discussion by your scholars on the two ‘tables’?  Finding inconsistencies is enough work in its own right.  And I have related those inconsistencies to the time in which Jesus is supposed to have lived.  Generally, scholars travel forward in time – they thus deal with more documents that have been interfered with.  And the problems are not just related to the NT.  Similar inconsistencies occur in the the writings supposedly of Josephus – find me one archaelogical proof that Vespasian invaded Judea through Galilee.   And I see very little being done about the DSS in relation to the NT – these documents are dismissed as being not directly connected to christianity.  But I maintain that they are connected – the ‘seekers of smooth things’ were the early christians or anointed ones who rejected the law in the middle of the congregation (of Israel).    

  • Evan Hershman

    What the hell are the “two ‘tables’?”

    Re: the DSS and the NT… I don’t know much about them, but I do know that no serious scholar whose work has been subjected to peer review thinks that the DSS contain any direct information about the first Christians. That sort of thing is found only in the works of pseudo-scholars like Baigent.

    Re: Josephus: I am also not an archaeologist. But I would say that most historians would not doubt Josephus’s account just because his account cannot be corroborated by archaeology. Josephus was a pretty good exaggerator/liar; but it’s hard to see why he would have made up the route Vespasian took into Judea. This is different from the case of, say, the so-called “Testimonium Flavium,” where the presence of words and phrases that Josephus would certainly NOT have said is a tip-off of interpolation. In other words, if there’s no particular reason to doubt what Josephus says, then it’s unwise methodologically, as I see it, to doubt it simply because of lack of attestation in archaeology. Especially for a piece of information so relatively inconsequential as “how did Vespasian enter Judea?”

    • Anonymous

      The two ‘tables’ occur in 1 Cor 10:21, as I described earlier. 

      That Romans invaded Judea near to 70 (66 to be precise) can easily be corroborated by archaeology.  But there is not one archaeological whiff of Romans invading Galilee at this time.  That’s because Vespasian never went to Galilee despite Josephus’s say so.  Vespasian was a master at declaring false victories – he did so for Claudius who visited Britain for a short time.  
      Brian W. Jones, a historian and Reader in Classics and Ancient History at University of Queensland, wrote about Flavian historians (of which Josephus was supposedly one).  On page 35 of his book on Suetonius’ Vespasian, he says that Suetonius fails to explain “the unusual circumstances” surrounding Nero’s offer to Vespasian of command of the army (see War 3.1).  Jones writes: “At one moment, Vespasian was in hiding and in fear of his life, at the next, he was being offered the command of three legions, with so it seems, the unprecedented privilege of choosing his legionary commanders, one of whom was his son.”  The reason Vespasian was in fear of his life was because Vespasian had committed an ‘offence’ against Nero.  Suetonius disguised the truth.  Jones writes:     

      “Once again, the Flavian historians on whom Suetonius relied 
      strained the truth to and beyond its limits in disguising the slavish adulation lavished by Vespasian on the emperor of the day and exaggerated (or invented) any loss of influence the family suffered.”The commander of the army that invaded Judea was Nero himself.   

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Hebrews 9:24-25   “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own.”

    • Anonymous

      Hebrews 9:24  ”For [Christ] {the Spirit} did not enter a man made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered [heaven itself] {our spirits or our hearts} [,now to appear for us in God's presence].”  

      The sanctuary of the Spirit was the human heart or spirit.   

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

    James wrote elsewhere “Is it really plausible that mythicists are the only people whose
    writings I somehow consistently fail to understand and do justice to?”

    James, how is it that you begin your review of quoting words by Doherty that you say are summing up the previous chapters, but that are, in fact, words announcing what he is about to argue in the following chapters? From this beginning you fault Doherty for merely asserting rather than arguing a position.

    Is this the way you treat other works you review? Are you now willing to admit that you do go off the rails when it comes to reading Doherty and fail even to follow the elementary structure of his argument and clear statement of what he has summarized so far and what he is about to argue?

    This and the rest of McGrath’s suppressions of the arguments of Doherty and more are in my own commentary on this “review” at http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/mcgraths-review-of-dohertys-chapter-10-part-1-a-response/

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

    Neil, Earl says what I quoted him as saying at the start of chapter 10, stating something that he has been saying all along, and still without providing evidence. By the end of the chapter, little has changed. The only “evidence” he offers is a claim that everyone in those days thought in such terms, and so the idea of a purely celestial Jesus ought to be read into the epistles.

    I saw on your “response” (which really does nothing to respond to my substantive or methodological criticisms of what Doherty offers) that you took issue with my reference to Doherty’s assertion that Gnosticism pre-dates belief in a historical Jesus. My issues, just to be clear, are twofold. First, Doherty makes the assertion with no citation of evidence or scholarly argumentation nor even a postponement of justification until later chapters. He offers the reader no evidence, and it is simply hypocritical for mythicists to allege that mainstream scholars are depending on the work of others or not dealing with relevant evidence, and then to make unjustified assertions. But second, and perhaps more importantly, Doherty’s claim for a relatively early date for Gnosticism could indeed be argued for – but only if one accepts the legitimacy of using later evidence to deduce beliefs that may have existed in earlier times. It involves, to be frank, the same sort of deductive reasoning from evidence that mainstream scholars use regarding Jesus. And so for Doherty to make bald assertions without evidence or discussion, and to assert as true what might be deduced in a book that rejects major conclusions historians have reached using similar deduction from much clearer evidence, is not only problematic, it is hypocritical, and quite frankly bizarre.

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

    @Neil, I added a clarifying parenthetical remark, which may or may not satisfy your concern for how I worded things.

    It would be nice if instead of quibbling about my wording (which was not inaccurate in the slightest – Doherty has been making reference to this way of interpreting the Epistles all throughout the book thus far) you and other mythicists would either accept my criticisms or address them. Instead you always seem to reply by claiming I have misunderstood, as though no one will ever catch on that I have in fact understood and offered relevant criticisms of Doherty’s book, and that your claims to the contrary are mere smoke and mirrors attempting to distract from that fact.

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

      Where is your parenthetical clarifier? In a comment? In a post?

      I know you always say you have addressed the arguments. You say that a lot. But you do have a habit of simply ignoring what I say and stonewalling when I ask for clarification.

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

    It would be nice if . . . you. . . would either accept my criticisms or address them.

    I did address your criticisms — I quoted each one of them in full and responded to each one in detail — including quotations from Doherty himself.

    But because you don’t like my criticisms of your review you say I not even addressing your review or the criticism you make in it?

    You generalize and glide over (usually with innuendo and false generalizations) details and arguments that both Doherty and I make. I stop to pay attention to the detail and support my criticisms with detail and quotations from the text you say you are addressing.

    It would be nice if you could actually list the very specific arguments that Doherty makes — list them, and point to where you  have actually addressed them. All you do is make sweeping generalizations, cite only a fraction of what Doherty argues to give a completely false impression of his argument, and then generalize with outright falsehoods about his manner of argument. These are the things I demonstrate by placing your words side by side Doherty’s.

    And all you can do is accuse me of complaining that I don’t like your hard-hitting scholarly analysis!

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

    @Neil, the additional phrase I added to the post itself.

    I am open to the possibility that you genuinely believe that you have responded to my post about the first half of chapter 11. I do not find you to have done so in any meaningful or satisfactory sense.

    I hope others will chime in to add their thoughts and impressions.

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

      McGrath writes:

      I am open to the possibility that you genuinely believe that you have
      responded to my post about the first half of chapter 11. I do not find
      you to have done so in any meaningful or satisfactory sense.

      Take one example. Your criticism of Doherty’s methodology re the rulers of the age. You say his methodology is hypocritical and inconsistent and give your reasons. I responded by pointing out that the basis you used for your assertion was a selection of only one of several known interpretations at that time that Doherty addresses. I pointed out that Doherty argues from the evidence within both Paul and the wider NT epistles themselves that your interpretation (one of the possible interpretations) is inconsistent with the thought of Paul and the wider NT epistles. I also pointed out that Doherty demonstrates the history of the early church’s understanding of Paul’s meaning by reference to Ignatius, Terullian and Origen (and he even tosses in a reference to Robert M. Grant’s views) contradicts your view of what Paul meant.

      You addressed NONE of that in your review. You only focussed on one possible view and failed to point to any of the above reasons that that Doherty raises to point to the  unlikelihood of your interpretation.

      (You also managed to slip in an accusation that Doherty fails to distinguish between Paul’s genuine letters and Ephesians, and I quoted Doherty to show your criticism was flat wrong.)

      Now, in the light of the above as but one example of my post, who is seriously grappling with Doherty’s argument and with your criticisms of it?

      The reason I enjoy reading Doherty is because I am introduced to a wide range of scholarly views, informed about the relative strengths of each one (the majority view, etc), and given bibliographies to allow me to follow up ideas for myself, and introduced to the relative merits and weaknesses of each view. Reading you, on the other hand, I would be left with only one view, told it is the right one because most scholars accept it, and anything else is fringe and does not have be taken seriously. I find the former approach much more educational and interesting. (I find good scholarly works also introduce me to a range of ideas, of course. But some scholars seem to be very opinionated and one would never learn that there is anything beyond their own thoughts worth considering.)

  • Jonathan Burke

    //The reason I enjoy reading Doherty is because I am introduced to a wide
    range of scholarly views, informed about the relative strengths of each
    one (the majority view, etc), and given bibliographies to allow me to
    follow up ideas for myself, and introduced to the relative merits and
    weaknesses of each view.//

    Have you ever posted any criticism of the way he makes up meanings for Greek words?

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

    @neilgodfrey:disqus , I have read your “review” or my review several times now, and the essence of your response is to object that I am engaging in “fault-finding” without actually dealing with the faults that I found.

    You misunderstand my point about celestial saviors. Doherty spends a lot of time saying that “this is what people back then believed.” But since not everyone thought in these terms, nor did everyone who thought in such terms focus only on celestial figures, unless he were to show that early Christianity more closely resembles those groups with a purely celestial focus, what has he accomplished? As you presumably know full well, Doherty is not offering a balanced discussion of the influence of Platonism on early Christianity. There are plenty of those, really good ones, in the scholarly literature. He is trying to shoehorn all of early Christianity into a particular understanding of Platonism and a particular understanding of the implications of Platonism for how to understand early Christianity.

    You seem to come close to actually recognizing problems with Doherty’s claims. And at that point, rather than offer criticism, you claim that my hostile attitude prevents you from doing so. But in fact, I have been more than willing to express appreciation of Doherty’s point on some occasions, whereas your treatment of him you admit to be uncritical, and my own criticisms provide no justification for your own uncritical stance.

    Then, after an outburst of swearing, you write “It is quite legitimate to quote another author in support of a particular aspect of one’s argument even though that cited author does not agree with the larger thrust of one’s own case.”  But that isn’t what Doherty did. He quotes from Hooker’s treatment of interchange - which presupposes and requires a human Jesus – as though it supports his own understanding. It is not some other point but the meaning of the quoted words in their original context that Doherty disagrees with. That is not legitimate, in my opinion.

    You then write, “Doherty firstly argues in detail that the Greek phrase for “rulers of the age” has a clearly established, certainly strongly arguable, technical meaning that specifically refers to demon powers. ” No, Doherty acknowledges that in at least one other context, Paul uses the same term for “rulers” for terrestrial ones, and the specific phrase “rulers of this age” may not be Pauline. I do not dogmatically insist that the mainstream interpretation is the right one, I point out that Doherty has rejected it because of a false antithesis that no one thinking about the matter reasonably will accept.

    I’ve addressed some of the other points already. You seem to genuinely believe that what you offer is a response and even a rebuttal, but you seem to either misunderstand or deliberately misrepresent not only me but even what Doherty wrote. But your belief doesn’t make it so, or require others to regard it as such.

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

      I am drafting a reply to this comment of yours and you might like to help me :-)

      Where does Doherty say that “rulers of the age” may not be a Pauline phrase? I am not saying he doesn’t say it — but I can’t find it. What is page/paragraph you have in mind?

      It would also make it easier for me if you simply quote me something from Doherty to justify your claim that his interpretation has anything to do with an antithesis of possibilities — earthly or heavenly rulers.

      You also seem to confuse the meanings of the words “criticism” with “hostile attitude”. That is a popular lay understanding of the word “criticism” but I did not expect someone in your position to make that sort of confusion. But I’ll address that, too.

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

    And perhaps Neil’s point over on his blog is correct, and I should indeed have pointed out what Doherty does with Origen. He finds evidence that Origen understood the “rulers of this age” as demonic forces. So? There are interpreters today who do the same, and just like Origen, do not understand this to be evidence against a historical Jesus.

    I apologize for not mentioning this example of Doherty’s willingness to engage in apologetics-style prooftexting, citing a church father whose understanding of Paul and of Jesus he actually thinks is wrong, because he believes that he can appeal to him as an authority to bolster his case.

    What do others think? Do I really need to mention every single one of Doherty’s claims in order to have demonstrated that he is engaging in apologetics for a predetermined view, rather than treating the evidence in scholarly, historical-critical manner?

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

    Well, I will gladly submit to a polygraph test if necessary. Perhaps I understood it whereas you did not.

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

      Did you even read it? I think not.

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

    You are free, alas, to think what you like about whether I have read the book, whether I have treated it fairly and honestly, and whether you have addressed my criticisms of it. You are also free to blog about your opinions. But I trust that anyone who is not already a mythicist true believer will be able to assess the situation rationally and draw an appropriate conclusion based on the evidence of what I have written, what you have written, and if they have access to it, what Doherty has written.

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

      McGrath wrote:”You are free, alas, to think what you like about whether I have read the book,”

      James, why do you so frequently twist what I say? We were clearly addressing what Doherty wrote about Origen and it was clear from your comment that you had no idea what Doherty’s argument is. You simply did not read it — you presumably saw something that fed your prejudice and went off to write a criticism as if that was all Doherty said.

      But in response you twist that around to suggest I am saying you did not read “the book”.

      Why do you so often do that sort of thing?

      You are not reading others with the “caution” that you are so worried that others may not have when reading your words.

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

    I apologize for botching a hastily-written comment before rushing to leave for a start-of-semester open house. It would have been better to have waited until I got home. Apologies if there was confusion as a result. It was supposed to have two separate points, but in the latter one I see that a whole section dropped out. The points were supposed to be (1) Doherty acknowledges that Paul uses the same word for rulers to refer to terrestrial rulers, and (2) While Paul uses the phrase “rulers of this age” in a way that may or may not agree with his clear usage of “rulers” in Romans to refer to terrestrial authorities, the references to rulers which are felt to most likely denote celestial entities are in epistles which may or may not be authentically Pauline.

    I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge that I botched the comment and should have waited until I had time to proofread it, rather than writing a hasty reply before going out and assuming that everything that I typed appeared in the comment. I apologize to anyone who was left feeling confused as a result.

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

    @neilgodfrey:disqus , would you care to explain one of the self-contradictory elements in this part of Doherty’s book? He writes on p. 104 of “that most fundamental of ancient concepts outlines earlier: the idea that the earth was the mirror image of heaven, the product proceeding from the archetype, the visible material counterpart to the genuine spiritual reality above. Heavenly events determined earthly realities.” Yet on p.106 he writes “The suggestion that since earthly rulers are considered to be controlled by heavenly ones the latter are seen as operating “through” the former is simply reading the idea into the text.” Isn’t that “reading into” the text the very idea that Doherty said we should just a couple of pages earlier: “Heavenly events determined earthly realities”? Why, having acknowledged that this was a “most fundamental of ancient concepts” does Doherty object that Paul “never feels compelled to explain what Origen is bending over backwards to do: how did the demons effect their crucifixion of the  Lord of glory if he was crucified on earth? Indeed, he shows no sign of any such difficulty, no sense of what should have been a natural question in his readers’ minds: if the Roman governor Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to the cross on the mount of Calvary at the instigation of the Jewish religious leaders, how could demons be declared to be responsible?” (p.108). 

    This part of chapter 10 is a self-contradictory mess, and I don’t think my treatment of it was as harsh as it could have been, as it perhaps deserved to be. Perhaps you would like to offer your own perspective on how Doherty makes perfect sense, and it is my own unwillingness to be open to the possibility of his genius that is the real problem? No one with any sense will believe it, but your attempts to argue that are usually entertaining.

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

      would you care to explain one of the self-contradictory elements in this
      part of Doherty’s book? He writes on p. 104 of “that most fundamental
      of ancient concepts outlines earlier: the idea that the earth was the
      mirror image of heaven, the product proceeding from the archetype, the
      visible material counterpart to the genuine spiritual reality above.
      Heavenly events determined earthly realities.” Yet on p.106 he writes
      “The suggestion that since earthly rulers are considered to be
      controlled by heavenly ones the latter are seen as operating “through”
      the former is simply reading the idea into the text.” Isn’t that
      “reading into” the text the very idea that Doherty said we should just a
      couple of pages earlier: “Heavenly events determined earthly
      realities”? Why, having acknowledged that this was a “most fundamental
      of ancient concepts” does Doherty object that Paul “never feels
      compelled to explain what Origen is bending over backwards to do: how
      did the demons effect their crucifixion of the  Lord of glory if he was
      crucified on earth? Indeed, he shows no sign of any such difficulty, no
      sense of what should have been a natural question in his readers’ minds:
      if the Roman governor Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to the cross on
      the mount of Calvary at the instigation of the Jewish religious leaders,
      how could demons be declared to be responsible?” (p.108).

      I don’t mind explaining at all. Will do a post on it. There is nothing self-contradictory at all. The apparent self-contradiction arises because of your Gospel presuppositions through which you are reading Paul, and failure to have grasped what Doherty is in fact arguing. It helps to read the details in those long paragraphs and not just skim with quick glances at the words you recognize. Will respond in more detail than I did in my original criticism of your review.

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

    @Neil, I suspect that because you misrepresent others so frequently, you assume that they are also doing it to you. If I misunderstood your meaning, I apologize. If I misremembered which church father Doherty psychologizes with no real justification in what they actually wrote, I apologize for that as well. I am starting to think that I meant to refer to what he wrote about Tertullian rather than Origen. It is hard to keep track of, when what Doherty writes about them bears so little connection to what they wrote, but involves him reading not only between or behind the lines but into those spaces with his own special brand of speculation. I do not read mythicist books for a living, and having suffered through reading the book and reviewing it, I do not from then on spend my waking hours pondering Doherty’s words and seeking to weave them into the fabric of my being and embed them in my memory. Is that perhaps why I don’t see things they way you do, perhaps?

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

      @Neil, I suspect that because you misrepresent others so frequently,

      Justify your accusation, McGrath!

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

        Just read my comment in response to your “review”. If what you wrote isn’t deliberate misrepresentation, then it is either careless reading or misunderstanding. If you tell me which of those it is, I will believe you.

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

          James, you wrote: “@Neil, I suspect that because you misrepresent others so frequently,”

          Just complaining that I am doing what I believe you are guilty of is not justifying your accusation that I “so frequently misrepresent other”.

          That is a lie. I have always made clear if an author I use agrees with me or not, or apologized and corrected any inadvertent errors.

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

    Presumably when you say “presuppositions” you are referring to the methods I share with those who work in the discipline of history and who would find nothing more worthwhile in Doherty’s work than I have, and would scarcely treat it with the long-suffering patience that I have.

    I recognize all the words in Doherty’s book, although he doesn’t always allow them their generally accepted or lexical meanings, which does indeed pose challenges – but for the careful reader more than for the careless one, I suspect.

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

      Presumably when you say “presuppositions” you are referring to the
      methods I share with those who work in the discipline of history and who
      would find nothing more worthwhile in Doherty’s work than I have, and
      would scarcely treat it with the long-suffering patience that I have.

      I see. You know what I mean before I even write my response. This is the problem, Dr McGrath. A doctorate in theology may bring you closer to knowing the mind of God but it is still presumptuous to think you can read the minds of your fellow mortals.

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

      And by the way, I recognize all the words in Doherty’s book, although he
      doesn’t always allow them their generally accepted or lexical meanings,
      which does indeed pose challenges – but for the careful reader more
      than for the careless one, I suspect.

      Is this something you have addressed in any of your chapter reviews so far or is this something you are picking up from Jonathan’s comments?

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

    The good thing when dealing with most people (I.e. non-mythicists, non-creationists, and just rational people in general) I don’t have to try to guess what they are thinking. They don’t say that they are using or defending mainstream historians’ methods while rejecting their conclusions, they don’t dispute well-established lexical meanings of words without providing evidence, and in general, they say things that make sense and are only relatively rarely self-contradictory.

    To the extent that studying theology involved reading things that were self-contradictory and pure mystifications, it could indeed be viewed as good preparation for trying to make sense of mythicism.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //But in response you twist that around to suggest I am saying you did not read “the book”.//

    That’s how your comment came across to me; not that I thought you were literally intending to convey that James hadn’t read the book, but that you were saying his review looked like he hadn’t, in an attempt to discredit him. Your ‘reviews’ typically focus on one or two minor points which you exaggerate for the sake of launching polemic and personal attacks.

    By the way, any answer to my question about Doherty and Greek words? I haven’t seen any criticism from you yet, directed towards Doherty’s invention of Greek word meanings and his dismissal of all standard lexicons except when they agree with him. It’s this lack of proper methodology which makes Mytherism difficult to take seriously. It’s just making things up as you go along.

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

    I think Neil is referring to the part on Origen not being read, not the book in genral. This is one of Neil’s common rebuttals to people who disagree with a view he is championing, that if you don’t agree, you must not have read it. Neil is a bit like those genies whom you have to mind every word lest the wish come out perverted. Fortunately the guys dishonesty and ignorance are so obvious that I think that nit wits like Widowfield and Carr are probably representative of his fan base. It is nice to see he has dropped his shallow nice reasonable guy routine and showed himself as the venomous boor he is. How long did that take? Do you think it would be worthwhile to comb through all the comment threads to devote a post to demonstrating his shenanigans? I think it best just to leave him under the rock he was found.

  • Earl Doherty

    First of all, I have been having trouble accessing this page, which is one reason (but only one) why I have not replied sooner to this installment of the review. So this will be a piecemeal effort, and I will jump in to James’ accusation that I have contradicted myself in the matter of heavenly vs. earthly.

    I know this is a complex and to many an unfamiliar subject, but James perceives a contradiction where there is none. He has simply given an erroneous interpretation to my first statement, and then compounded it by misapplying it my second one:

    “(Doherty) writes on p. 104 of “that most fundamental of ancient concepts outlines earlier: the idea that the earth was the mirror image of heaven, the product proceeding from the archetype, the visible material counterpart to the genuine spiritual reality above. Heavenly events determined earthly realities.”

    And: “The suggestion that since earthly rulers are considered to be controlled by heavenly ones the latter are seen as operating “through” the former is simply reading the idea into the text.”

    These two ideas are completely separate. That should be clear. The first statement is about the archetype-copy concept. As in Hebrews, the heavenly sanctuary is the archetype, and through instructions to Moses, an earthly copy was made of it. Or, as the Ascension of Isaiah 7 states, “as above [i.e., the heavens], so also on earth, for the likeness of what is in the firmament is here on earth” (apparently referring to the warring of the demons being a counterpart to warring among nations on earth). Thus we have two separate things, one in heaven, one on earth, with counterpart characteristics; and usually it is a matter of the earthly counterpart being the copy of the one in heaven.

    What this has to do with the question of whether the demons control earthly rulers, I don’t know. There are no counterparts in the matter of who crucified Jesus. Either the demons did it in the heavens, or the earthly rulers did it on earth, under the influence of the demons. But that is not the ‘archetype-copy’ concept or anything like it. When Platonic philosophy says that the archetype in heaven “determines” the copy on earth, it is hardly the same as the idea of the demons controlling or manipulating the earthly rulers. Where is the archetype here? Where is the copy? If the demons have not crucified Christ in the heavens (which James denies), there is no “genuine spiritual reality” of which an earthly crucifixion is the copy. If the demons working on earth (whispering in the rulers’ ears?) simply persuade the rulers to crucify Jesus of Nazareth, there is only one event. There is no archetype and copy. This has nothing to do with Platonism.

    There is no contradiction between my two statements. They are about two different things. As usual, James is off on his own tangent of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. The only “mess” is James’ consistent misreading of my book and its arguments.

    As for Origen, he is anxious to understand 1 Cor. 2:8 as meaning that the demons were working through earthly rulers. But he admits that the language of the passage is the language of non-earthly forces, and he actually makes no attempt to claim that Paul meant the demons working through rulers on earth. I have demonstrated in the book that Origen is the first we can see to adopt this explanation, in an attempt to reconcile what to many seemed to be a reference to the demon spirits, and modern scholarship itself takes a page from Origen. (Tertullian before him did not: he rejected Marcion’s reading that it was the demons and countered that 1 Cor. 2:8 simply referred to earthly rulers.)

    As I said on Vridar, the Greek for “rulers” was applied both to the earthly type and the heavenly type in both pagan and Jewish/Christian parlance. If Paul uses it in Romans 13 as a clear reference to the former, that does not mean that one is justified in applying that meaning to all of his usages of it when the reference is *not* clear. That would be question-begging, even if historicists do that sort of thing all the time (such as in “brother of the Lord”).

    As for the Gospels, James says: “Yet the Gospels much earlier than either of those church fathers have a different perspective than the one Doherty is trying desperately to read into Paul.” You’re darn right they do. Their perspective is so different, they don’t bring in the demons at all. It’s entirely earthly authorities (king, high priest and governor) in sight. Aside from an allusion in John, there are no demons working through earthly rulers, so James can hardly appeal to the Gospels to support modern scholarship’s contention that the way to interpret 1 Cor. 2:8 is that the demons crucified Christ through earthly rulers. The two ideas are separate and contradictory. The Gospels have no demons involved in the crucifixion; the epistles have no earthly authorities involved in the crucifixion (not even an earthly time and place). Thus they are contradictory and incompatible views. James is the one desperate to read something into Paul, as have many scholars since Origen, namely that while Paul meant demons, he meant them working through earthly rulers. This is not supported by the text or the epistles in general, but only by imposing one meaning of “rulers” (earthly ones), used with clear meaning in other contexts in the epistles, on a passage and a topic (Christ’s crucifixion) which is anything but clear and unambiguous, and which fits with far more coherence with mythicist interpretations elsewhere in the texts.

  • Earl Doherty

    (This was my first response, which I didn’t get a chance to post at the time as I could not access the page.)

    I see that James has developed a new technique for discrediting mythicists. He simply reads their minds, finds what he wants to see there, and uses it accordingly. Is there a name for that methodology? It is somewhat related to a methodological technique used by some mainstream scholars to find something they want to imagine was in Paul’s mind, even if he didn’t mention it.

    A classic case of the latter is outlined in my book. In discussing 1 Cor. 15:44-49, C. K. Barrett confidently looks into Paul’s mind and finds no problems. Here’s how I describe it (p.194-5):

    We can further observe the problematic consequence for Barrett in his attempted solution of identifying the second Man, the “spiritual body,” as the coming “eschatological” Christ at the Parousia. Is he perturbed by the void staring out at us regarding the supposed previous coming of Christ in a “physical body”? Evidently not, for he dismisses it with this comment: “It is not part of Paul’s argument here to say that the heavenly man has already come in the form of earthly man.”.…Earlier, Barrett has admitted that in 15:22 Paul speaks of neither Adam’s nor Christ’s activities specifically in terms of historical events. Yet he says: “As Paul knew, this event had happened very recently, and its character as an historical event raised no doubt or problem in his mind.” But Barrett is attributing his own assumed knowledge to Paul, and because he himself has failed to perceive the consequent problems, he attributes the same lack of concern to the apostle. His ability to read such a mind even at a two millennia distance, and to absolve it of concerns it never had an inkling of, is clearly an invaluable asset in dealing with the anomalies in such passages.

    James, too, has sought to read my mind:

    James:”I suspect that the quotation marks around “blood” are a recognition of the awkwardness of Paul’s and other epistolary references to blood in connection with Jesus’ death, as fitting poorly with the purely celestial understanding that Doherty is promoting.”

    A few lines later, I put double-quotes around “mysteries”, and a few lines after that, around “dualistic.” Do those instances make one suspicious that I find the concepts awkward?

    In my experience with single and double quotes, if one wishes to convey that a word or phrase is being used with less than exact or secure application of its literal meaning, one puts *single* quotes around them; it conveys the idea of “so to speak,” or suggesting an oblique usage, perhaps even irony or sarcasm. Double quotes are simply quotes, but using them may place emphasis or highlight a concept that might be unfamiliar to the reader.

    Since I was saying that Christ’s sacrifice took place in the heavenly realm, I highlighted “blood” to convey the idea that it was indeed the sacrifice of his blood that was applicable here, despite it not being human or earthly blood. (Note my reference [p.159] to Cicero and his statement that the gods possess something that is “analogous to blood.”) And I was quoting the fact that the epistles (which is where mythicism is to be found) actually use the word “blood” in connection with Christ’s sacrifice.

    Talk about seizing on whatever one can, even if the product of one’s own imagination, to dismiss a theory one is inimical toward.

    Going back to Barrett, this brings up a criticism often made against me, and which James has done here in regard to a quote from Morna Hooker. She stated a principle (Barrett once stated a possible meaning in regard to a Greek phrase which I was able to make use of, though in a manner he did not). It is completely legitimate for me to appeal to such observations when they can be applied to a mythicist interpretation, even if the scholar himself or herself does not choose to make the same application of their observations. Hooker pointed out the principle involved in counterpart guarantees: “Christ becomes what we are (likeness of flesh, suffering and death), so enabling us to become what he is (exalted to the heights).” That principle stands, it works in both cases, whether it is applied to a Christ perceived to be acting on earth, or a Christ perceived to be acting in the heavens. I am well aware that Hooker applies it to the former; she understands it in that context. That doesn’t necessitate her being right. I can take the same principle and understand it in the context of a heavenly death and rising. Because I don’t conform to Hooker’s context does not necessitate me being wrong. This is simple logic, something in short supply around here.

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

    @Earl Doherty, thank you for your detailed comments, and I am sorry to hear that you had trouble posting them. I am glad that it seems to be working now.

    Let me just address two points in is comment. First, with respect to the language you used about heavenly things determining earthly realities, I can certainly see how such a phrase could be used for what we see in Hebrews, with a tabernacle being constructed based on a heavenly archetype. The wording seems to fit equally well, and the concept seems not entirely distinct from, what we find in Daniel and Revelation, which are more apocalyptic than Platonic (although that is not to suggest that the two are mutually exclusive by any means). In one, heavenly princes battle and determine the outcome of competition between earthly princes and empires. In the other, demonic forces are said to be behind the powers of the earthly Roman emperors and empire.

    Long before Descartes’ attempt to connect the spirit with the flesh by way of the pineal gland, people long assumed that there was a connection even when they had no rational explanation for how the connection worked. That the question seems obvious to us does not mean that it was obvious to pre-scientific minds, nor does their failure to provide an explanation mean that they didn’t accept that it was happening in some unexplained, or unsatisfactorily explained, manner.

    Second, and mainly for the benefit of those who may not have read your book, would you agree that, in general, in an ancient Greco-Roman context, a reference to a figure bleeding and having blood would more naturally be understood to be a reference to an actual terrestrial human being? I think it would be useful for others involved in this discussion to hear a bit more from you about this.

    • Earl Doherty

      James: In one, heavenly princes battle and determine the outcome of competition between earthly princes and empires. In the other, demonic forces are said to be behind the powers of the earthly Roman emperors and empire.

      While I am not sure off the top of my head which verses in Daniel and Revelation you are referring to, just by your description we can see that these two statements are still not the same. In the first, an activity in heaven by warring heavenly princes determines a corresponding competition on earth between earthly princes. That conforms to the archetype-copy pattern, although “determines” does not have to mean conscious and deliberate direction on the part of the heavenly upon the earthly. In the second, demonic powers are acting as ‘puppet masters’ directing the activities of earthly empires. The two are not the same; in the second, the demonic powers are not themselves engaged in a corresponding heavenly activity between themselves, creating an archetype. Also, in the first, there may be no conscious direction between the warring heavenly powers and the warring earthly powers; there is simply a paradigmatic parallel, with spiritual forces (in the sense of natural laws) seen as operating between the two realms which produces the parallel effect. (This may be largely gobbledygook to our modern ears, but the ancients believed in these forces; Paul’s soteriology is built on them, as in Romans 6:1-5. Of course, they still survive in Catholic sacramentalism.)

      Second, and mainly for the benefit of those who may not have read your book, would you agree that, in general, in an ancient Greco-Roman context, a reference to a figure bleeding and having blood would more naturally be understood to be a reference to an actual terrestrial human being? I think it would be useful for others involved in this discussion to hear a bit more from you about this.

      I could give a simple answer by saying that, taken in isolation, a reference to bleeding and blood would more naturally be understood as involving a human earthly figure. But none of the references in view in our debate is in isolation. Moreover, we moderns don’t have any alternative, because we no longer believe in gods and divine beings who possessed blood and other elements of spiritual substance that are “analogous” (Cicero) to those of humans; it’s fine to specify “in an ancient Greco-Roman context,” but are we immune to bringing our natural modern understandings to bear in that context?

      If Paul and the early Christ cultists have a pre-established heavenly understanding of their Christ’s activities and the concept that gods possess forms of blood and flesh/body (in some kind of spiritual material: see my quote from R. Carrier on p.186), we can’t just apply, case closed, my simple answer to your question to our interpretation of their words, since we can’t ignore the context which may be in their minds. And that context, I maintain, has been strongly indicated at many points in the texts as a whole.

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

    James, for clarification, you are discussing 1 Corinthians 2:8 “None of the rulers of this world understood it, because if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
    Doherty understands “rulers of this world” to be demons and not humans.  You believe that it could mean, in isolation, demons or humans or both, am I correct? Does Doherty allow that it could also, in isolation (without clues from sources outside this verse) mean humans or demons and humans? Neil seems to think that that is possible
    //So the question becomes — at least for those who acknowledge that Paul’s “rulers of this age” refers to angelic powers (argued elsewhere) — whether Paul meant to imply that those spirits acted through humans by inspiring them to kill Jesus or whether they themselves crucified Jesus.
    Either is a quite reasonable and valid explanation within the context of the ancient belief in paradigmatic parallelism between heaven and earth.//
    The usage in Colossians and Ephesians of similar terms would be only indirect evidence of what Paul meant, if those that dispute the Pauline authorship of these works are correct, since they reflect the usage of the term not by Paul but someone pretending to be Paul; yes?   
    Neil attempts to argue that we should prefer the demons only interpretation here http://vridar.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/my-take-on-the-heavenly-paradigm-apparent-contradiction-in-dohertys-argument/#more-21386
    I’m not sure how 1,2 and 6 support that position, 3 and 4 are debatable opinions. Concerning #5, I would like to know what passages he has in mind, and regarding 7 and 8, do you know if Ignatius, Marcion, Tertullian simply don’t give an opinion on the passage in question, or do they affirmatively state that Jesus was crucified by demons, not humans.
     
    On the “paradigmatic model” I would like to see a fuller discussion of that concept.  Of all the ideas that Doherty suggests, it seems the most novel of them, and would seem to require a bit of reading in pagan religion of the first century to assess.  I’m not sure though if Daniel’s Son of Man would fit this model, apocalyptic works I would think play by different rules than Platonic philosophy. For instance the beasts in Daniel’s vision aren’t monsters in Heaven or in the satanic realm but simply vision metaphors for the kingdoms of the world, so wouldn’t the son of man be a metaphor for the righteous?
     
    On 1 Corinthians 2:8, since Paul just discussed the teachers of the law and the philosophers of the age who are paralleled with the Jews and the Greeks, and the wisdom of god is contrasted with human wisdom, doesn’t it make sense that 2:6’s wisdom is also human and thus its rulers are human too?  And if 2:6’s rulers and wisdom are human, we would expect 2:8’s rulers to be human.  I’m not sure why one would switch to thinking demons here unless “ruler” uses a word used exclusively for demons.

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

      So after pouring shit on me and Earl Mike now turns to James to ask him what we are thinking or meaning!

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

    @facebook-1355591760:disqus , no one in antiquity actually says that Jesus was crucified by demons, not humans. There are texts which use terminology like “rulers” which could mean either, but no one draws the either/or dichotomy that Doherty does, because as is clear to anyone who has studied the literature of that time period, that dichotomy would not have made since to people back then. 

    @neilgodfrey:disqus  and @1339a2323379bb5d87a8b2a609ca574d:disqus  can clarify their own thinking/meaning if they are so inclined.

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

      James McGrath wrote:

      There are texts which use terminology like “rulers” which could mean
      either, but no one draws the either/or dichotomy that Doherty does,
      because as is clear to anyone who has studied the literature of that
      time period, that dichotomy would not have made since to people back
      then.

      Dr McGrath appears to have not read widely in the scholarly literature on this particular issue, nor has he read the relevant section of Doherty’s chapter 10 that he recently reviewed, nor does he appear to have read all of my own criticism of his review though he said he has gone over it several times. Otherwise, he might like to address the following whom Doherty has cited in support of his viewpoint:

      S. G. F. Brandon (History, Time and Deity, p. 167)

      C. K. Barrett (First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 72)

      Jean Héring (The First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, p. 16-17)

      Paula Fredriksen (From Jesus to Christ, p. 56)

      S. D. Salmond (Expositor’s Greek Testament: Ephesians, p. 284)

      Delling in the article on “archon” in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1, p. 488-9) regards the phrase . . . “not, then, referring to earthly rulers” (n.7).

      Paul Ellingworth (A Translator’s Handbook for 1 Corinthians, p. 46) says: “A majority of scholars think that supernatural powers are intended here.”

  • Earl Doherty

    Mike: Doherty understands “rulers of this world” to be demons and not humans.  You believe that it could mean, in isolation, demons or humans or both, am I correct? Does Doherty allow that it could also, in isolation (without clues from sources outside this verse) mean humans or demons and humans?

    My preceding answer to James clarifies this, though I am not sure if James is quite ready to acknowledge that taken in isolation, “rulers of this age” could mean either demons or humans. And I am hardly the only one to understand the phrase in my way. Note 46 in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man lists a significant number of respected scholars, past and present, who so understand it, and that list is not exhaustive, but only those I have been able to ascertain. One of them, Paul Ellingworth, expresses the opinion (I assume it is not a guess on his part) that “A majority of scholars think that supernatural powers are intended here.” (A Translator’s Handbook for 1 Corinthians, p.46)

    //So the question becomes — at least for those who acknowledge that Paul’s “rulers of this age” refers to angelic powers (argued elsewhere) — whether Paul meant to imply that those spirits acted through humans by inspiring them to kill Jesus or whether they themselves crucified Jesus. Either is a quite reasonable and valid explanation within the context of the ancient belief in paradigmatic parallelism between heaven and earth.//

    I don’t know whose quote this is (maybe I missed it above or elsewhere), but once again this is not really accurate. The demons ‘puppet-mastering’ the earthly rulers to kill an earthly Jesus is not paradigmatic parallelism. It would only be if the demons killed a heavenly Jesus in the heavens while, copying them, the earthly rulers killed an earthly Jesus on earth. (G. A. Wells once took this meaning from what I was saying, an error and a ridiculous idea to think anyone would advocate.)

    Now, I have not seen anyone argue that ‘paradigmatic parallelism’ could take place solely on earth, that the death of Jesus, a divine Son of God, on Calvary could have a parallel effect on earthly believers in the form of guaranteed salvation/resurrection. That sort of parallel effect, of course, is what two millennia of Christian soteriology has amounted to, as in the interpretation of something like Romans 6:5. Jesus resurrected on earth, therefore we are guaranteed our own resurrection (though to heaven). But that concept is not what is labelled in scholarship as “paradigmatic parallelism” or a similar phrase. Such a term is understood in the context of a parallel between heaven and earth, between heavenly paradigms/archetypes/champions, etc. and their earthly counterparts or those joined to them (see my p.98 and 102-3).

    The usage in Colossians and Ephesians of similar terms would be only indirect evidence of what Paul meant, if those that dispute the Pauline authorship of these works are correct, since they reflect the usage of the term not by Paul but someone pretending to be Paul; yes?

    But one could hardly maintain that between genuine Paul and pseudo-Paul only a decade or two later, the concept had switched from a Jesus crucified by earthly rulers to one crucified by heavenly rulers. That is highly unlikely. Nor that these communities somehow within those couple of decades became obsessed over the activities of and struggles with the demons if there was no such preoccupation in Paul’s lifetime.

    I’m not sure though if Daniel’s Son of Man would fit this model, apocalyptic works I would think play by different rules than Platonic philosophy. For instance the beasts in Daniel’s vision aren’t monsters in Heaven or in the satanic realm but simply vision metaphors for the kingdoms of the world, so wouldn’t the son of man be a metaphor for the righteous?

    Paradigmatic parallelism was not restricted to Platonism; Jews and other near-easterners had their own, somewhat cruder, versions. And you are missing the distinction in Daniel 7 between visions of the beasts, which are not portrayed as taking place in heaven (they are typical apocalyptic metaphor for historical events on earth), and the vision of the “one like a son of man” coming on the clouds of heaven and being presented to God on his throne. While scholarly interpretations of this whole visions passage can be varied, I think that the verse 7 vision is not simply a metaphor for something taking place, or soon to take place, on earth. (Note that contrast between the historical ‘beasts’ visions and the future ‘one like a son of man’ vision.) It is presented as a heavenly event, forecasting the inheritance of the earth by the righteous Jews. It is similar to the Similitudes vision of the Messiah in heaven and the future inheritance of thrones and crowns by the righteous on earth, to Christ’s entry into the heavenly sanctuary scene in Hebrews and the future entry into God’s rest by believers on earth. Neither of the latter constitute metaphors.

    On 1 Corinthians 2:8, since Paul just discussed the teachers of the law and the philosophers of the age who are paralleled with the Jews and the Greeks, and the wisdom of god is contrasted with human wisdom, doesn’t it make sense that 2:6’s wisdom is also human and thus its rulers are human too?  And if 2:6’s rulers and wisdom are human, we would expect 2:8’s rulers to be human.  I’m not sure why one would switch to thinking demons here unless “ruler” uses a word used exclusively for demons.

    You are not sufficiently taking into account the context of this passage (from 1:18 to 2:8). The whole thing arises from Paul reacting to criticism of his gospel: “This doctrine of the cross is sheer folly to those on their way to ruin…” So to begin with, he is speaking of his critics, people in the wider world, who do not see the ‘wisdom’ of God’s salvation system he is preaching. Thus, he is disparaging the “wisdom of the world” as foolish in the light of God’s “wisdom/folly” of the cross. He praises his believers as God’s weak and lowly instrument to overturn the pride of worldly wisdom. (Note that in this passage, there is no reference to “rulers”.

    In chapter 2, Paul continues to discuss relative “wisdoms”. He has presented to his converts the “power of the Spirit” as a counter to the “wisdom of men” (v.5) as a basis for their faith. That power of the Spirit has given his faithful (whom he calls the “perfect ones”, probably a borrowing of gnostic terminology) their own form of wisdom. That wisdom, he goes on to say, is not two things:

    (1) it is not “the wisdom of this age” (sophian aiōnos)
    (2) neither is it the wisdom “of the rulers of this age” (tōn archontōn tou aiōnos toutou) who are being brought to naught.

    And it is those same “rulers of this age” who in ignorance of God’s wisdom crucified the Lord of Glory (v.8).

    While there is certainly room for ambiguity in this whole passage (otherwise we wouldn’t be here today), we can attempt to extract certain deductions. Note a couple of observations:

    Whereas previously Paul speaks of the “wisdom of the world” or “of men”, in 2:6 he switches to the “wisdom of this age,” broadening his scope to a terminology which can encompass the demon spirits, who are looked upon as those who divide heaven from earth and hold sway over the latter. This is immediately followed by two references to “the rulers of this age”–not rulers of this world, and I have to reject Mike’s automatic assumption that the phrase in v.6 refers to human rulers, especially as we are now on somewhat different ground than in ch. 1. If “wisdom of this age” is simply a synonym for “wisdom of this world,” why does he essentially repeat the idea in “(the wisdom) of the rulers of this age” if that phrase simply means earthly rulers? And would the Sanhedrin and Pilate reasonably constitute “the rulers of this age,” the entire period of the world’s history leading up to the Parousia, which is what that term was used for? Have all the rulers of that age been instrumental in crucifying Christ? If only the Jewish elders and Roman governors were guilty of the crime, would Paul bother to say that only they were “coming to nothing”?

    Verse 8 is a sweeping statement not so compatible with the historicist Gospel scenario, and yet fully compatible with the idea that Christ’s sacrifice would spell the death knell of the inimical spirits, an idea encountered elsewhere in the non-Gospel literature, such as Colossians 2:15 and the Ascension of Isaiah. 1 Cor. 2:7’s reference to God’s hidden secret wisdom nicely parallels Ephesians 3:10’s “the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities [tais archais (a word variant of archōn) kai tais exousiais] in the realms of heaven.” Here the clear linkage of God’s wisdom (i.e, the mystery of Christ and his redeeming role) being made known to the previously ignorant heavenly “rulers” almost guarantees a similarity of meaning in the association made in 1 Cor. 2:6-8 between God’s hidden wisdom and the ignorant “rulers of this age” who crucified Christ.

    For the “ignorance” motif, see also the Gnostic Hypostasis of the Archons which says that the creator “archons” are ignorant in thinking that there is no power above them; Ascension of Isaiah 9:14 also attributes ignorance of Christ’s identity to “the god of that world” who hung him on a tree (location in the firmament, and no involvement of earthly rulers until it was later interpolated into chapter 11). The Apocalypse of Elijah (1:6) also suggests a hiding of identity from the angels and other spirit powers. Similar allusions are found in the Gospel of Truth (18,21), the Apocryphon of John (30,20), the Paraphrase of Shem (36,14) and the Hymn of the Pearl. All tending to support an understanding by Paul of the agency of the crucifixion being the ignorant demon spirits, the “rulers of this age.”

    So Mike’s opinion quoted above is quite superficial and based on its own ignorance. Ignatius uses the term “archontes in referring to “rulers visible and invisible” (Sm. 6:1) but offers no opinion on Paul’s 2:8 phrase. Marcion apparently regarded 2:8 as referring to the demon spirits of the Creator god, since Tertullian disputes this by insisting that Paul only meant earthly rulers (though not the demons working through such rulers). As I pointed out, if it was known that Paul meant the demons working through earthly rulers, Tertullian would have argued it this way, which he does not, making it very unlikely that such an interpretation of 2:8 was current. That rationalization began only with Origen, with everyone until today following suit as a convenient ‘out’. Tertullian’s silence on this alleged meaning by Paul pretty well puts the lie to Origen’s and modern scholarship’s appeal to that meaning.

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

      Mike: //Either is a quite reasonable and valid explanation within the context of the ancient belief in paradigmatic parallelism between heaven and earth.//

      Earl: I don’t know whose quote this is (maybe I missed it above or elsewhere), but once again this is not really accurate. The demons ‘puppet-mastering’ the earthly rulers to kill an earthly Jesus is not paradigmatic parallelism

      Mike was quoting my words. My preceding sentence (omitted by Mike) gives the context: “But as explained above, the heavenly paradigm did not mean that every act of persons on earth was directly inspired by a heavenly counterpart.”

      My own wording was clumsy and misleading.

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

      Earl:
      //My preceding answer to James clarifies this, though I am not sure if James is quite ready to acknowledge that taken in isolation, “rulers of this age” could mean either demons or humans. And I am hardly the only one to understand the phrase in my way.//
      Cool a common understanding.
      Earl:
      //I don’t know whose quote this is (maybe I missed it above or elsewhere), but once again this is not really accurate. The demons ‘puppet-mastering’ the earthly rulers to kill an earthly Jesus is not paradigmatic parallelism. It would only be if the demons killed a heavenly Jesus in the heavens while, copying them, the earthly rulers killed an earthly Jesus on earth. (G. A. Wells once took this meaning from what I was saying, an error and a ridiculous idea to think anyone would advocate.)//
      Sorry, I’m relying on the participants who have read your book to express your ideas.  I assumed Neil would be the best proponent of your ideas. It is entirely my fault, I’m stingy with money and your book wasn’t available through interlibrary loan.
      Earl:
      //Now, I have not seen anyone argue that ‘paradigmatic parallelism’ could take place solely on earth, that the death of Jesus, a divine Son of God, on Calvary could have a parallel effect on earthly believers in the form of guaranteed salvation/resurrection. That sort of parallel effect, of course, is what two millennia of Christian soteriology has amounted to, as in the interpretation of something like Romans 6:5. Jesus resurrected on earth, therefore we are guaranteed our own resurrection (though to heaven). But that concept is not what is labelled in scholarship as “paradigmatic parallelism” or a similar phrase. Such a term is understood in the context of a parallel between heaven and earth, between heavenly paradigms/archetypes/champions, etc. and their earthly counterparts or those joined to them (see my p.98 and 102-3).//
      I’m curious about paradigmatic parallelism.  I’ve read brief introductions to platonic ideals, but I’m not familiar with this idea. Could you mention a couple of books that describe this idea? What are the ancient works that describe this concept? Who in antiquity held it? Was it every one or the educated elites or was it restricted to Hellenist? I think this is the most interesting idea to me, perhaps because it is from a field I’m not very knowledgeable in.
      Earl:
      //But one could hardly maintain that between genuine Paul and pseudo-Paul only a decade or two later, the concept had switched from a Jesus crucified by earthly rulers to one crucified by heavenly rulers. That is highly unlikely. Nor that these communities somehow within those couple of decades became obsessed over the activities of and struggles with the demons if there was no such preoccupation in Paul’s lifetime.//
      Why is it highly unlikely? Isn’t your claim the simply the opposite; that in a couple of decades Jesus crucified by heavenly rulers becomes Jesus crucified by earthly rulers? Isn’t one of the pseudo Pauline letters one of the few epistles that mention Pilate? What would prevent radically different forms of Christianity to develop within 20 years?  And just how obsessed are they? We only have these few letters and they are hardly obsessed with demons. I’m not even sure if demons are meant in all these cases.  They (Colossians and Ephesians) don’t even deal with Jesus’ crucifixion. They only mention a belief in rulers and authorities in heaven, in no way contradicting a meaning of the rulers and authorities on earth for 1 Corinthians 2:8. I mean is there any doubt Paul thought there were demons as imagined by the philosophies of his age? I have heard of no one argue against it.
       
      //Paradigmatic parallelism was not restricted to Platonism; Jews and other near-easterners had their own, somewhat cruder, versions. And you are missing the distinction in Daniel 7 between visions of the beasts, which are not portrayed as taking place in heaven (they are typical apocalyptic metaphor for historical events on earth), and the vision of the “one like a son of man” coming on the clouds of heaven and being presented to God on his throne. While scholarly interpretations of this whole visions passage can be varied, I think that the verse 7 vision is not simply a metaphor for something taking place, or soon to take place, on earth. (Note that contrast between the historical ‘beasts’ visions and the future ‘one like a son of man’ vision.) It is presented as a heavenly event, forecasting the inheritance of the earth by the righteous Jews. It is similar to the Similitudes vision of the Messiah in heaven and the future inheritance of thrones and crowns by the righteous on earth, to Christ’s entry into the heavenly sanctuary scene in Hebrews and the future entry into God’s rest by believers on earth. Neither of the latter constitutes metaphors.//
      A quick search of the internet and my schools library system didn’t turn up a “Paradigmatic parallelism” related to Hellenistic or near eastern religion and philosophy. I will have to wait for an explanation of the term to discuss how it is or isn’t represented. Did you coin this term?
      I think the entirety of an apocalyptic vision (not the whole text a vision is found in, the supernatural scenes revealed to the mystic) should be taken as metaphor. He is not really in Heaven, it is a dream he wrote down[Daniel 7:1]. Daniel its self explains the metaphorical nature of the son of man.  After discussing [7:23-25] the 4th monster as the Seleucid kingdom he then states that Most High’s court will give dominion to People of the most high, not the Son of Man. The parallel here demands we see the people as a counterpart to the Son of Man; he is not a separate entity in heaven any more than the most high is the earthly representative of the heavenly ancient one.
      How are you sure Hebrews in not a metaphor?
       
      On 1 Corinthians 2:8, since Paul just discussed the teachers of the law and the philosophers of the age who are paralleled with the Jews and the Greeks, and the wisdom of god is contrasted with human wisdom, doesn’t it make sense that 2:6’s wisdom is also human and thus its rulers are human too?  And if 2:6’s rulers and wisdom are human, we would expect 2:8’s rulers to be human.  I’m not sure why one would switch to thinking demons here unless “ruler” uses a word used exclusively for demons.
       
       
      Earl: //Whereas previously Paul speaks of the “wisdom of the world” or “of men”, in 2:6 he switches to the “wisdom of this age,” broadening his scope to a terminology which can encompass the demon spirits, who are looked upon as those who divide heaven from earth and hold sway over the latter. This is immediately followed by two references to “the rulers of this age”–not rulers of this world, and I have to reject Mike’s automatic assumption that the phrase in v.6 refers to human rulers, especially as we are now on somewhat different ground than in ch. 1. If “wisdom of this age” is simply a synonym for “wisdom of this world,” why does he essentially repeat the idea in “(the wisdom) of the rulers of this age” if that phrase simply means earthly rulers?//
      And does debater of this age broaden the scope to a terminology which can encompass the demon spirits? Yes the ruler of the age can be the devil, and I think Paul probably thought Satan was the ruler of the world as Matthew and John of Patmos thought.  But nothing seems to signal that we are changing subjects between the human and demonic. If one feels that rulers of the age include demons, they are making an assumption based on their own understanding that Satan is the master of the wicked.
       Earl: //And would the Sanhedrin and Pilate reasonably constitute “the rulers of this age,” the entire period of the world’s history leading up to the Parousia, which is what that term was used for? Have all the rulers of that age been instrumental in crucifying Christ? If only the Jewish elders and Roman governors were guilty of the crime, would Paul bother to say that only they were “coming to nothing”? //
      Where do you get the Sanhedrin and Pilate? I would think rulers of this age means everyone with authority in this age from Pilate to the emperor of China. Are not Pilate and the Sanhedrin the servants of Rome?
      Yes; all of the world’s rulers are complicit in the death of Jesus. I don’t think Paul would have thought that the Persians or Arabians or Germans were off the hook. If Jesus had been tried by them they too would have condemned him.  This is not a specific reference to the individuals who killed Jesus; it is an indictment of the entire cosmos that is not obedient to God’s messenger. Of course not all of them actually took part of the actual deed, they did spiritually. This in no way precludes that there were individuals who did personally crucify the guy or suggest that that is not so. In context the reader in fact would have the proceeding statements in mind concerning the human world.
       
       
       
      Earl: //Verse 8 is a sweeping statement not so compatible with the historicist Gospel scenario, and yet fully compatible with the idea that Christ’s sacrifice would spell the death knell of the inimical spirits, an idea encountered elsewhere in the non-Gospel literature, such as Colossians 2:15 and the Ascension of Isaiah. //
      It is completely compatible. What world ruler understood Paul’s mysterious message?
       
       

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

    Earl, with respect to the scenario you describe as “highly unlikely,” how is it that such a change in a matter of decades seems unlikely to you, and yet the idea of a heavenly Jesus being turned into an earthly one in the same time span of less does not seem equally unlikely?

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

    @Neil Godfrey, if you are suggesting that those scholars believe that such powers acted upon a celestial Jesus somewhere on the firmament rather than on a human Jesus through through human agencies, I humbly suggest that you need to read them more carefully.

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

      Dr McGrath wrote:”@Neil Godfrey, if you are suggesting that those scholars believe that such powers acted upon a celestial Jesus somewhere on the firmament rather than on a human Jesus through through human agencies, I humbly suggest that you need to read them more carefully.”

      Dr McGrath, I humbly suggest you have completely failed to follow the conversation and have missed entirely what I did say they referred to.

      No-one has suggested or hinted in the slightest what you are imputing to me or Doherty. So why do you attempt to inject this straw man argument into the discussion?

      It is quite legitimate to point out that they support the interpretation of Earl Doherty in relation to 1 Corinthians 2:6-8.

      You show your irrational bias when you denounce any and every one of Doherty’s arguments as mythicist nonsense even in cases where his arguments on specific points are consistent with those found in the mainstream scholarly literature of your peers.

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

      Dr McGrath, may I refresh your memory of the point I was addressing? You wrote “no one draws the either/or dichotomy that Doherty does, because as is
      clear to anyone who has studied the literature of that time period, that
      dichotomy would not have made since to people back then.”

      Yet you have read right over the evidence belying your statement in that part of Doherty’s chapter that you reviewed and that I repeated for your benefit in my criticism of your review.

      Now you seek to extricate yourself by falsely suggesting that I am mis-using those references to support a larger argument that I have never once touched upon in any of this discussion.

      You cannot even bring yourself to acknowledge that among your own peers there are those who draw the same conclusions as Doherty in relation to this passage in Paul.

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

    They do not support his interpretation. On the contrary, they illustrate that the dichotomy which Doherty insists on – that either Jesus was understood to have been crucified by celestial powers unmediated by humans, or humans unmanipulated by celestial powers – is a false antithesis, as far as these scholars are concerned. That even mythicists agree with mainstream scholarship at some points has never been the issue. The issue is whether at the points which are distinctive of mythicism and differentiate mythicism from mainstream scholarship, do they have good reasons for disagreeing, and are their arguments persuasive.

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

    Which of those scholars you mentioned not only views the “rulers” as spiritual powers, but views them as necessarily having worked independently of human agents in the way Doherty describes?

    It is you who is either missing the point or trying to distract from it. That Doherty accepts mainstream conclusions when it suits him has never been a matter of dispute. He does.

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

      I thought the point being addressed was Doherty’s argument. If you read it “with caution” you will note that he makes clear what his point is in the opening sentences to it:

      Who does Paul identify as having slain CHrist? . . . For Paul’s true outlook, consider 1 Corinthians 2:6-8. . . . A great amount of scholarly ink has been spilled over the meaning of “the rulers of the age”. . . .

      Then note where he brings in the references to the sholarly works I listed above:

      There has not been a universal scholarly consensus on what Paul has in mind in 1 Corinthians 2:6 and 8, but many commentatators [footnote to those listed in my earlier comment] over the last century, some reluctantly, have decided that he is referring to the demon spirits.”

      Despite all your protesting you have not identified anything amiss in Doherty’s argument that Paul means “the demon spirits” in this passage in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8. Doherty’s argument was over the identity of “rulers of the age” in this passage of Paul’s.

      But you are now complaining that Doherty’s argument about the identity of “rulers of the age” is invalid because those scholars do not embrace other aspects of Doherty’s argument.

    • Earl Doherty

      Actually, this is the perfect example of a point I made earlier, about drawing in limited fashion on mainstream scholarly interpretation. The basic question is, what did Paul mean by his “rulers of this age” in 1 Cor. 2:8? If Ellingworth is correct, a majority of scholars think that by this phrase, per se, Paul was referring to the demon spirits, not rulers on earth. That’s fine, as far as it goes. I can appeal to that majority of scholars for that meaning by Paul. From that point on, I and those scholars part company. Up to that point, and including that point, I am not misrepresenting them, I am not doing anything devious. Paul had in mind the demon spirits, I and those scholars agree.

      After that point, we diverge. Those modern scholars maintain that, while Paul had in mind the demon spirits, he meant that the demon spirits effected that crucifixion of an earthly Jesus through ‘puppet-mastering’ the actual rulers (Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate) who performed the crucifixion deed on earth. I maintain, not the least since those human rulers are never mentioned by Paul and he elsewhere praises human rulers in general as agents of God from whom the innocent have nothing to fear, that Paul means that the heavenly “rulers of this age” did themselves personally perform the crucifixion of Christ in a heavenly location. Again, I am not misusing or misrepresenting our mainstream scholars. I am simply employing their legitimate meaning of Paul’s phrase in a different way. Nowhere do I suggest that their employment of such a meaning agrees with mine. Of course it doesn’t.

      Why is this so difficult to understand?

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

        Earl //I maintain, not the least since those human rulers are never mentioned by Paul and he elsewhere praises human rulers in general as agents of God from whom the innocent have nothing to fear, that Paul means that the heavenly “rulers of this age” did themselves personally perform the crucifixion of Christ in a heavenly location.//
         
        Earl, that is one way to understand it. But not being an idiot, I think there are some other ways to understand Paul’s thinking.  Despite the authorities having executed Jesus, I think Paul would still promote this line of thinking for practical purposes.  It also fits with his spiritual principle of subservient Christians. It would be shocking wouldn’t it if after saying we should overcome evil with good that Paul would turn around and advise, “don’t pay taxes, rebel against the government!” Are you saying it unlikely Paul would feel this way if Jesus had been killed by the state? How do explain then Gandhi or the black civil rights movement? Do you think the state really did not respond violently with these movements to account for their non-violence? 1 Peter echoes the sentiments here even while the implied audience is being persecuted; there is no call to fight the persecutors but a call to obedience.
         
        Your interpretation seems to indicate that Paul thinks the state has never been unjust. Do you think he believes that? Do you think Paul was ok with Pompey looting the temple, Antichious banning Judaism? And when Paul speaks of being imprisoned (2 Cor 5:17, 11:23) do you really think Paul believes he was justly punished for his crime? Did he think spreading the gospel was an offence against the servants of God? If not, why do God’s servants imprison him and beat him with rods? Paul’s own statements contradict him unless we take his positive comments regarding the state as generalizations that need not be true in every circumstance. If you insist on the absolute interpretation of “innocent have nothing to fear”, then this is no bar to Jesus having been executed an innocent because Paul says it in complete contradiction to evidence from his own experience so it isn’t a consistent position of his. Does anyone but you think that this statement from Paul precludes authorities from having crucified Jesus?

        • TruthOverfaith

          Michael Wilson said “But not being an idiot, I think that…”

          Hold on there Mike. Don’t sell yourself too short.

          You’re commenting on and arguing against a book that you haven’t even read a single page of, apparently. And arguing very poorly, I might add. Although you strangely seem oblivious to this fact.

          If that doesn’t qualify you for “idiothood”, it certainly puts you on the fact track there.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Otherwise, he might like to address the following whom Doherty has cited in support of his viewpoint://

    Could you provide quotations from these sources cited by Doherty to demonstrate that each of them holds to the dichotomy referred to by James, that the first century Christians would have understood  ἄρχων to refer to heavenly powers BUT NOT to earthy rulers, so that they believed ‘Jesus was crucified by demons, not humans’? Neither the quotation from TDNT nor the quotation from Ellingworth says this, of course.

    Thus far you’re doing what I said you do; citing Earl and saying ‘He says so’, without actually checking the facts for yourself.

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

      Jonathan — this is getting crazy. James sets up a straw man and now you demand I find a quote from sources to support that straw man?

      Just because James says Doherty is saying something doesn’t mean he is. You fault me for quoting Doherty, but the reason I am quoting Doherty is because James is injecting false propositions into what Doherty is saying.

      You might say I am trying to keep the argument honest by quoting what Doherty actually does say in his book and not what Dr McGrath says he says or seems to say.

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

    Neil, if you are suggesting that Doherty accepts that the powers might have worked through human agents, as all the scholars you quoted consider likely, then I submit that you have misunderstood him. If you consider my argument a straw man, then I submit that you have not read Doherty carefully or recently enough. I do not believe that I am misrepresenting him, and your attempt to change the issue from Doherty’s false dichotomy to the fact that Doherty agrees with some scholars about certain things but not about that dichotomy, is not helping this discussion stay focused. Where Doherty accepts mainstream scholarship there is nothing to discuss. It is where he rejects it without justification that we need to focus our attention. Otherwise we may as well talk about actual scholarly works and leave Doherty out of it altogether.

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

    Neil, if you are suggesting that Doherty accepts that the powers might have worked through human agents, as all the scholars you quoted consider likely, then I submit that you have misunderstood him. If you consider my argument a straw man, then I submit that you have not read Doherty carefully or recently enough. I do not believe that I am misrepresenting him, and your attempt to change the issue from Doherty’s false dichotomy to the fact that Doherty agrees with some scholars about certain things but not about that dichotomy, is not helping this discussion stay focused. Where Doherty accepts mainstream scholarship there is nothing to discuss. It is where he rejects it without justification that we need to focus our attention. Otherwise we may as well talk about actual scholarly works and leave Doherty out of it altogether.

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

      So we can agree that since Doherty identifies “rulers of the age” as demon spirits in this instance and that since this is in agreement with mainstream scholarship then there is nothing to discuss with respect to the identity of rulers of the age.

      Now if you wish to discuss other aspects that are separate from the question of identity of the term, then that is another discussion.

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

    So does this mean that you will stop trying to change the subject and allow us to return to the key point?

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Jonathan — this is getting crazy. James sets up a straw man and now you demand I find a quote from sources to support that straw man?//

    No. I am talking about the point James made to which you responded and DID NOT call a straw man. James said this.

    //Michael Wilson , no one in antiquity actually says that Jesus was crucified by demons, not humans. There are texts which use terminology like “rulers” which could mean either, but no one draws the either/or dichotomy that Doherty does, because as is clear to anyone who has studied the literature of that time period, that dichotomy would not have made since to people back then.//

    You did not call that a straw man. You quoted almost all of it, and you said this.

    //Dr McGrath appears to have not read widely in the scholarly literature on this particular issue, nor has he read the relevant section of Doherty’s chapter 10 that he recently reviewed, nor does he appear to have read all of my own criticism of his review though he said he has gone over it several times. Otherwise, he might like to address the following whom Doherty has cited in support of his viewpoint://

    You listed a number of sources cited by Doherty, allegedly in support of DOHERTY’S argument, and contra what James said, according to YOU. I am now asking you to provide quotations from those sources which prove what YOU claim about them, namely that the first century Christians would have understood ἄρχων to refer to heavenly powers BUT NOT to earthy rulers, so that they believed ‘Jesus was crucified by demons, not humans’. Neither the quotation from TDNT nor the quotation from Ellingworth says this, of course.

    So again, I want to see quotations from these sources cited by Doherty, which prove that they say what YOU claim about them. If you have actually checked each of the sources, examined in each of them in context, and verified that they say what you claim, then it should be easy for you to do so.

    If on the other hand you have merely taken Doherty’s word for what they say, without checking them for yourself (as I suspect is the case), then you’re doing exactly what I said you do.

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

    Test — two comments of mine have not appeared here. This is a test.

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

     

     

    Test – three comments of mine have
    not appeared here. This is a test.

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

     

     

    Test – three comments of mine have
    not appeared here. This is a test.

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

    It appears anything I attempt to comment here that is more than three lines long, or containing a url, will not stick.

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

    James, if you can copy and paste from the above url so that my comment appears here it would be appreciated. 

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

    I am sorry about the test posts — I don’t know what the limitation in Disqus is that prevents me from posting directly here. I orginally typed my comment directly here, but it did not appear. Luckily (for me) that I had copied it before posting (and seeing it vanish) but I have been unable to post it since. I see two earlier comments of mine (one from yesterday and another today) never made it here. 

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Now if anyone on this thread would like to jump up and down and get their jollies by arguing that none of this is fair or a true representation of what Doherty has argued with reference to Paul’s meaning and his reference to the scholarly opinion on the matter, then they will only be able to convince me otherwise by quoting Doherty to establish the contrary to what I have quoted him here as saying.//

    My post was addressed to YOU, and addresses what YOU claimed. I’m still waiting for a reply.

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

      Jonathan wrote: “My post was addressed to YOU, and addresses what YOU claimed. I’m still waiting for a reply.”

      Oh my goodness Jonathan, do you sleep at night? Kindly re-read what I wrote and try to connect the meaning from one sentence to the next. See how they relate to each other in meaning. Then try to grasp from the whole what I said. This is called the art of “reading comprehension”.

  • Anonymous

    Birger Pearson: “So it is more likely that Gnosticism arose out of a Jewish milieu, and only subsequently came into contact with Christianity, than that it arose from within early Christianity”The language of gnosticism was undoubtedly incorporated in the NT.1 Cor.2.7.No, We speak of God’s [secret wisdom, wisdom that has been hidden and] {Spirit} that God destined for our GLORY before time began.2.8.None of the [rulers of this age] {priests} understood it, for if they had they would not have [crucified the Lord of glory.] {rejected him.}2.9.[However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear
    has heard, no mind has conceived, no eye has seen what God has prepared for those who love him" –]2.10.but God has revealed [it] {the Spirit} to us [by his Spirit.] The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.2.11.For who among men knows the thoughts of [a man] {God} except the [man's spirit] {Spirit of God} within him?Clearly, it was an editor’s allusion to add to 2.11: “In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” – the previous passage (2.11) really was about the Spirit of God within a man.Eph.3.10.His intent was that ,now [through the church,] the [manifold wisdom] {Spirit} of God should be [made known] {proclaimed} to the [rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms] {priests}.Eph.6.12. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”Eph.6.12 is pure interpolation. The prophets struggle was against flesh and blood, in the form of the priests. The priests were to be dealt with by standing firm. This meant putting on the armour of the Spirit, the belt of the Spirit, the breastplate of the Spirit, shod with the Spirit of peace, the shield of the Spirit, the helmet of the Spirit, the sword of the Spirit, and praying in the Spirit.The ‘governing authorities’ and the ‘rulers of this age’ were the priests, particularly the aristocratic ones.  These were a later editor’s substitution using gnostic language.

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

    Neil, I apologize that your comment got caught in the spam filter while it was night in my part of the world and thus was asleep and unable to notice and sort it out promptly.

    It looks like your response was to try posting the same comment over and over and over again, which is of course a defining characteristic of spam, and so that will make it more difficult to persuade the Disqus spam filter to not treat your comments as spam in the future, but I will do what I can.

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

    “neutral bystander that I am”

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

      :-)   Oh my goodness, James. I have pointed out once or twice before your Bush-like failure to recognize irony and it certainly shows through again here. We hear all the time it’s an American thing, but to be fair to my American friends I do know many do get that sense of humour, fortunately. :-)

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

        Just quietly between you and me, James, I think your response indicates that you need to take a step back and think how you think about the character of not just me but Doherty and others, too. (Oh, the “just quietly btwn you and me” was another one of those dead-pan irony type jokes — even atheists and mythicists may not be what you read their minds as being, you know.)

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Paul Ellingworth (A Translator’s Handbook for 1 Corinthians, p. 46) says: “A majority of scholars think that supernatural powers are intended here.”//

    Doherty fails to provide a full citation. The work in question was actually authored by Ellingworth and Hatton. The text quoted here by Doherty appears in the 1985 edition. However, it does not appear in the 1993 edition. Instead the 1993 edition says this.

    ‘The second question, concerning the rulers of this age, does not affect translation into certain languages such as English. But translators into many other languages may have to decide whether the rulers are human or nonhuman. Verse 8 does not settle this question; the rulers of this age may be either people like Caiaphas, Pilate, and the Roman emperor, or the supernatural powers of evil that are ultimately responsible for Christ’s death (compare Col 2:10, 15). RECENT WRITERS GENERALLY TEND TO THINK OF HUMAN RULERS, and these should certainly not be excluded in translation.*[1]‘

    I’ve noticed Doherty has a preference for quoting earlier commentaries (quite a number of them over 50 years old, some from the 19th century), and it seems pretty clear why he prefers the older edition of this work to the latest edition; there’s no reference in the latest edition to the convenient ‘majority of scholars’ holding the view to which he wishes to appeal.

    __________________________
    * However, M. Pesce’s detailed Paolo e gli arconti a Corinto (Brescia 1977) argues that the “rulers” are the Jewish authorities. So do A. W. Carr, 1976, “The rulers of
    this age_1 Corinthians 2:6–8,” New Testament Studies 23.20–35; and T. Ling, 1956, “A note on 1 Corinthians ii.
    8,” Expository Times 68.26. Against this view, W. J. P. Boyd, 1957, “1 Corinthians ii. 8,” Expository Times 68.158.

    [1] Ellingworth, P., Hatton, H., & Ellingworth, P. (1995). A handbook on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. UBS handbook
    series; Helps for translators (53). New York: United Bible Societies.

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

    Two observations on 1 Cor2:8.
    1) Paul used ‘archon’ three times in his deemed authentic (7) letters. Once, these rulers (‘archon’) are identified. It is in Rom13:3-6 and here they are Roman authorities.
    That certainly does not take the like of Pontius Pilate out of the picture!
    2) In 1Cor2:8, the ‘archons’ are said not to understand God’s wisdom. And in 1Cor1:20-2:7 and 1Cor2:9-16 (these verses immediately precede and follow 1Cor2:8), the ones who do not understand God’s wisdom are humans, not spirits. Why would the ‘archon’ of 2:8 be all different?

    About the list of scholars, many of them are Christians and may accept ‘Colossians’ and ‘Ephesians’ as written by Paul, therefore forcing them to include demoniac figures in the ‘archon’ of 1Cor2:8 (as for myself, I have no problem to include Satan as one of the ‘archon’ in 1Cor2:8, because Satan, as the “god of this age”, is a disinformer, therefore preventing humans (including Roman authorities) to understand God’s wisdom). And I doubt most of those scholars on the list wrote that all of the ‘archon’ of 2Cor2:8 are evil demons, or they do not use humans as agents.

    Neil wrote: “the next question to arise is where and in what manner did those demons crucify Christ. That leads us to the next section — indeed several chapters — of Doherty’s book.”
    Several chapters in order to explain where and how these demons would crucify Jesus (in heaven, of course)! I wonder if the Christians of Paul’s time had the opportunity to read Doherty’s book in order to understand, despite the fact crucifixion were widely practiced on earth, that one was done in heaven!

  • Jonathan Burke

    Neil, I am asking you again, nicely (despite your abuse). Please provide quotations from those sources cited by Doherty which prove
    what YOU claim about them, namely that the first century Christians
    would have understood ἄρχων to refer to heavenly powers BUT NOT to
    earthy rulers, so that they believed ‘Jesus was crucified by demons, not
    humans’. Neither the quotation from TDNT nor the quotation from
    Ellingworth says this, of course.

  • Earl Doherty

    Perhaps another point needs to be made in regard to what the first century reader would have understood from Paul’s words. On what basis have a “majority of scholars” (if Ellingworth is correct) decided that the phrase in 1 Cor. 2:8, “the rulers of this age” is, per se, a reference to the demon spirits rather than earthly rulers? Yes, they then posit an additional step in order to bring the crucifixion down to earth, namely that the demons worked through earthly authorities, manipulating their minds or whatever. But why have they decided that, per se, the phrase in Paul’s usage refers to the demons?

    Regardless of personal inclinations, they have decided—we can presume on scholarly grounds—that they have good reason to so conclude. Perhaps it’s the very nature of the phrase itself, as I’ve often argued. The demons were regarded as those who were in control of the material world, dividing it from heaven, until God in his good time decided that they needed to be overthrown, neutralized, destroyed, and he was now doing it through the agency of the descending Son and his sacrifice, as several documents in the early record (not just in the NT) present it.

    Be that as it may, such a scholarly judgment, if correct, should indicate even to our Matrixonians that this would have been the natural understanding of Paul’s readers. When they heard “rulers of this age crucified the Lord of Glory” they would have temded tp understand it as referring to the demon spirits. If that is not so, then why would a majority of today’s scholars decide that this was Paul’s meaning of the phrase per se? Would Paul’s understanding and usage of the phrase have been different from that of his readers, and if it were, why did he not realize it and offer clarification?

    If, then, we can conclude that both Paul and his readers understood “rulers of this age” to be a technical term for the heavenly spirit forces, why did Paul not deal with the obvious contradiction between that meaning and the very different fact that it was earthly rulers who had actually conducted the crucifixion? Why did he not add a single simple phrase to clarify that it was the demon spirits crucifying Christ through the agency of human rulers? Especially since his reference to the demons’ ignorance of Christ’s identity when they crucified him would have been itself a step removed from the actual act, further compounding the inherent confusion: the reader might have wondered whose ignorance Paul was referring to, that of the demons or the earthly rulers? Similar confusion might have been created by the statement that the crucifixion was leading to their downfall. Whose downfall? The demons who were puppet-mastering or the rulers on earth who actually performed the crucifixion?

    All these problems and confusions Paul gives no sign of being aware of, let alone exerts himself to solve by being clearer on what he was talking about. No wonder Origen, who seems to have been the first to come up with the ‘solution’ to Paul’s words, is so fuzzy and convoluted in his own attempt to describe that solution.

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
    When first we practice to…”

    …well, if not to “deceive,” then to twist and distort to preserve our own misconceptions and personal interests.

  • Earl Doherty

    Doherty fails to provide a full citation. The work in question was actually authored by Ellingworth and Hatton. The text quoted here by Doherty appears in the 1985 edition. However, it does not appear in the 1993 edition. Instead the 1993 edition says this.

    ‘The second question, concerning the rulers of this age, does not affect translation into certain languages such as English. But translators into many other languages may have to decide whether the rulers are human or nonhuman. Verse 8 does not settle this question; the rulers of this age may be either people like Caiaphas, Pilate, and the Roman emperor, or the supernatural powers of evil that are ultimately responsible for Christ’s death (compare Col 2:10, 15). RECENT WRITERS GENERALLY TEND TO THINK OF HUMAN RULERS, and these should certainly not be excluded in translation.*’[1]

    I’ve noticed Doherty has a preference for quoting earlier commentaries (quite a number of them over 50 years old, some from the 19th century), and it seems pretty clear why he prefers the older edition of this work to the latest edition; there’s no reference in the latest edition to the convenient ‘majority of scholars’ holding the view to which he wishes to appeal.

    I was unaware that in a more recent edition (by 8 years!) Ellingworth changed his mind on what a “majority” of scholars thought. Or did he? Actually, his earlier comment, which must have been based on more than just a guess on his part, can still stand, in regard to the situation in 1985. Perhaps in the intervening 8 years, he became aware of several scholars who offered a different opinion. Perhaps certain colleagues had criticized him for his earlier remark, either questioning it or calling it inappropriate. Who knows? And who knows what the prevailing opinion has become in the almost two decades since 1993? Ellingworth seems not to have suggested that he has changed his own mind, if it had even been made up. In fact, he admits that the issue is simply not settled.

    But all this is picayune. It is not a numbers game. The point is that a significant number of scholars have and no doubt still do consider 2:8’s “rulers of this age” to be a reference to the demon spirits. My discussion of the matter has hardly been overturned, or rendered inconsequential. In no way has the above quote made it possible to simply declare the 2:8 situation as somehow “settled.”

    I might compare this to the significant number of scholars prior to 1950 who reluctantly—and it was often reluctantly—admitted that Josephus probably made no reference to Jesus at all, followed by a swing in the other direction after 1950 to claiming that one could rescue an authentic residue from the Testimonium Flavianum. Other similar scholarly swings have been regularly in evidence on a lot of topics. It doesn’t mean the later one is necessarily superior (especially when things occasionally swing back in the old direction). I have surveyed very many scholarly opinions on Josephus from the full range of the 20th century, and I can tell you that the later ones are no superior or more reliable than the earlier ones. In Josephus, the more recent development became a bandwagon effect (which as often as not is the factor which produces ‘majority’ or so-called consensus), with arguments for residual authenticity as easy to discredit and render unreliable as ever.

    Another example is the tendency recently to render the entire heavenly sanctuary sacrifice in Hebrews (notably Harold Attridge, and there has been a certain bandwagon effect there as well) as a metaphor for Calvary. Not only is Attridge’s justification for that non-existent from anything in the text, it is clearly a judgment he prefers because literality has become for modern scholars too creepy and embarrassing. Surely the ancient early Christians couldn’t have thought like that! Jesus bringing his blood in tow (a spiritual intravenous bag, maybe?) from the hill of Calvary into the tomb and up to heaven after resurrection to smear it on a heavenly altar—ugh!! Older scholars were not so squeamish. (Actually, regarding the entire sequence in Hebrews, from suffering and death to heavenly sacrifice, as taking place entirely in the spiritual world is a much better solution, and does no violence to the text itself!)

    If there is a trend in modern scholarship which is undeniable, it is to make interpretations of biblical texts more palatable to the modern rational mind, to keep pace with secular and enlightened developments, whether in science or social evolution. Such a trend is no guarantee that they get closer to what was actually meant in those texts when they were written. If anything, it is clearly a movement away from it.

  • Gakuseidon

    Doherty: I was unaware that in a more recent edition (by 8 years!) Ellingworth changed his mind on what a “majority” of scholars thought. Or did he? Actually, his earlier comment, which must have been based on more than just a guess on his part, can still stand, in regard to the situation in 1985.

    Holy crap, Earl. You’ve said so many times that modern scholars have been influenced by 2000 years of Christian beliefs and are only now (apparently “reluctantly”) moving away from this. So, using YOUR OWN logic, why don’t you see 2000 years of Christian hegemony as the reason why scholars used to think Paul referred to demons there? But that now, more enlightened scholars are rethinking this? Not saying this is the case, but why aren’t you consistent here?

    Doherty: If there is a trend in modern scholarship which is undeniable, it is to
    make interpretations of biblical texts more palatable to the modern
    rational mind, to keep pace with secular and enlightened developments,
    whether in science or social evolution. Such a trend is no guarantee
    that they get closer to what was actually meant in those texts when they
    were written. If anything, it is clearly a movement away from it.

    And now it’s the opposite! Holy Ravioli. These adhoc explanations for why modern scholarship disagrees with you do not serve you well.

    • Earl Doherty

      Don: Holy crap, Earl. You’ve said so many times that modern scholars have
      been influenced by 2000 years of Christian beliefs and are only now
      (apparently “reluctantly”) moving away from this. So, using YOUR OWN
      logic, why don’t you see 2000 years of Christian hegemony as the reason
      why scholars used to think Paul referred to demons there? But that now,
      more enlightened scholars are rethinking this? Not saying this is the
      case, but why aren’t you consistent here?

      Let’s see if I can logically follow the illogic here…

      Modern scholars are becoming “enlightened” by throwing off 2000 years of Christian church/exegetical belief that Paul was referring to demon spirits in 1 Cor. 2:8, and seeing that he originally meant earthly rulers, or at least demon spirits working through earthly rulers. By ‘enlightenment’ I of course was referring to modern scientific advances and general strides in applying rationality to religious and other traditional beliefs, etc. So that modern enlightenment somehow tapped into the enlightenment that you are now wanting to attribute to Paul and his colleagues? An enlightenment which included demon spirits (which we enlightened moderns know do not exist) working through earthly rulers?

      So now the ancients, who practiced animal sacrifice, who believed in demons and resident gods in the stars, in all sorts of divine activity going on in the heavens, who saw Satan as prefiguring genuine Christian ritual to deceive the faithful, who accepted the Gospel miracles without reserve, were so “enlightened” that they could never have regarded the demons as the agents of Christ’s crucifixion, and that we moderns have uncovered that ancient enlightenment from under its overlay of medieval misunderstanding?

      Ancient pygmy civilizations, anyone?

      These oddball attempts to twist my observations about modern scholarship don’t serve you well, Don.

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

    It has taken some time for me to get back to this discussion. @neilgodfrey:disqus  noted that there is nothing explicit in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 to indicate a terrestrial location for the crucifixion. I wonder whether Neil and/or @1339a2323379bb5d87a8b2a609ca574d:disqus would agree that neither is there  anything explicitly (or implicitly but clearly) indicating a celestial location for what Paul is referring to, either. 

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

      You have not followed any of my argument, James. Of course 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 does not indicate a celestial location. I have been at pains to point out that the question is “identity” of “rulers of this age” as opposed to either “means” or “place”.

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

        I wonder whether Neil and/or  would agree that neither is there  anything explicitly (or implicitly but clearly) indicating a celestial location for what Paul is referring to, either.

      This “question” is an unfortunate indicator that Dr McGrath is being led more by his own personal suspicions rather than what is being argued or said by either myself of Earl Doherty.  Even slipping in the “celestial location” phrase shows that he working at a level of assumption rather than following what he has actually read in Doherty’s book.

  • Jonathan Burke

    //Let’s see if I can logically follow the illogic here…//

    Don is rightly pointing that you typically object to the conclusions of Biblical scholarship on the basis that they are merely following blindly 2,000 years of accumulated indoctrination rather than thinking for themselves, but as soon as they actually break with traditional orthodoxy you don’t praise them for emerging from the hegemony, you claim they’re simply making things up to accommodate themselves to the zeitgeist.

    The irony, as he has demonstrated, is that you appeal to as authoritative those scholars who DO follow the accumulated indoctrination of 2,000 years whenever it comes to traditional interpretations of the Bible which are CONVENIENT to your own argument, and reject out of hand those who break ranks with tradition whenever it’s INCONVENIENT to your argument. This is the inconsistency to which Don refers.

    //An enlightenment which included demon spirits (which we enlightened moderns know do not exist) working through earthly rulers?//

    As has already been demonstrated, even the idea of demon spirits working through earthly rulers is well within Second Temple Period Judaism. Why do you make claims which are so easily disproved?

    //So now the ancients, who practiced animal sacrifice, who believed in
    demons and resident gods in the stars, in all sorts of divine activity
    going on in the heavens, who saw Satan as prefiguring genuine Christian
    ritual to deceive the faithful, who accepted the Gospel miracles without
    reserve, were so “enlightened” that they could never have regarded the
    demons as the agents of Christ’s crucifixion, and that we moderns have
    uncovered that ancient enlightenment from under its overlay of medieval
    misunderstanding?//

    Not all Jews or Christians believed in demons, or in satan, or ‘saw Satan as prefiguring genuine Christian
    ritual to deceive the faithful’. But that aside, your ‘could NEVER have regarded the
    demons as the agents of Christ’s crucifixion’ misrepresents what James is saying.

    Of course no one is saying they could NEVER have held such a belief; they COULD have believed in all kinds of silly things. What’s important is whether or not they DID, and the burden of evidence likes on you to prove that they did; merely saying ‘Well they DID believe in all kinds of other silly things, so just makes sense to me that they believed in this one also’ is begging the question.

    This whole idea that anything less than a North American Fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible is really just a post-Enlightenment reaction by Biblical scholars desperate to play down the supernatural elements of the Bible and make it more attractive to the secular age, exhibits a lack of awareness of the extremely variegated understanding of Scripture which has historically existed within both Judaism and Christianity.

    For example, you try to present the idea of Jesus as a non-divine being as a 20th century imposition on the text, whereas there’s plenty of evidence of Jews and Christians from the 1st to 4th centuries believing that Jesus was a man appointed by God, a man who was a mediator between God and men, a man through whom God worked, and not divine.

    Similarly, the substitutionary understanding of the atonement doesn’t emerge until centuries after the participatory understanding, there’s evidence for Jewish and Christian mortalism (disbelief in an immortal soul), from the Second Temple Period to the 10th century and beyond, and there’s evidence for disbelief in supernatural evil (demons  and satan), among Jews during the same era. You can’t dismiss these views as the fantasies of post-Enlightenment rapprochement with secularism.

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

    @neilgodfrey:disqus , if I use more precise language, such as “on the firmament, in accordance with a cosmology only found explicitly in the Ascension of Isaiah,” then will you address the issue, rather than quibbling whether the firmament is celestial or a tertium quid

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

      What issue are you wanting me to address, James? I have responded to your query. Where is the quibble? I’m really not sure you can outline what Doherty actually argues yet. Avoiding what he actually says and substituting your concepts does not reassure me. Nor do the implications of your latest response. What does Doherty actually say in relation to AoI? Do you really know or care?

      Or is it a quibble that I point out that you have clearly failed to follow the simple statements that both I and Doherty have made here about the issue arising from 1 Cor. 2:6-8 and find yourself somehow wondering if we are meaning or arguing something else that we clearly don’t? Is it a quibble to point out the evidence that you are reacting to suspicions and not what you read?

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

    @neilgodfrey:disqus , if you wish the conversation were going in a different direction, that is your prerogative, but to complain as though because others are taking it in a more fruitful direction which produces less positive results for mythicism, we are somehow misunderstanding something, is at best uncharitable and at worst an attempt at spin that isn’t likely to get you very far.

    When my ongoing review of Doherty’s book reaches his treatment of the firmament and ancient cosmology, I will discuss what he has to say directly.

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

      Sorry I don’t follow you. What is the different direction you are talking about?

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

      I really do not understand. Can you spell out for me what you see as your “more fruitful direction” in which you are taking the discussion?

      If you really want discussion and not a one-way monologue or two sides simply talking past each other I would really appreciate you making this direction clear for me and others.

      Thankyou.

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

    to complain as though because others are taking it in a more fruitful
    direction which produces less positive results for mythicism

    Would you care to recapitulate in your own words what my “complaint” actually was? I thought I addressed your suspicion that I thought 1 Cor. 2:6-8 implied a particular location and I expressed some dismay that you could even have raised that question out of everything I had said which was stressing over and over “identity”, “identity”, “identity” and nothing else. In what way were you attempting to take the conversation in “a more fruitful direction”?

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

    I think my previous comments were clear enough.

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

      To you maybe, but certainly not to me. Let me recapitulate and you tell me if or where I am wrong.

      What is the “more fruitful direction” in which you are taking the conversation?

      The only ‘direction’ I can see you taking is to assert that your opposition is arguing that 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 of itself is clearly implying that Jesus was crucified in a nonearthly realm.

      Is that correct? Is that the direction in which you are taking the conversation that you believe is more fruitful?

       

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

    The direction I’m talking about is the earlier focus of the discussion, namely about Doherty’s setting up of a false antithesis between celestial powers being involved in the crucifixion and earthly powers being involved. It may not make sense to many of us as modern people, but ancient Jews and Christians clearly could view the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians or the Romans as both the work of God and the work of the nations involved. They clearly could understand circumstances that hindered good work as involving malevolent spiritual forces. And so I am suggesting that you stop trying to sidetrack the discussion into Doherty’s points of agreement with mainstream scholarship, which was never disputed, is not a point of controversy, and has no real bearing on the plausibility or otherwise of mythicism, and back onto his bogus false antithesis.

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

      James, I am making the effort to try to understand you in order to be as accurate as possible when I do address your reasoning in my own posts.

      Is it not you who is setting up the false antithesis? Is there any question that Doherty’s argument denies or excludes the well-known ancient belief that demons are behind and influencing many human activities and events? He has addressed this belief in his book as you surely know and must have read.

      Are you the one who is denying the very possibility that demons can also act independently of humans or without directly influencing humans at the same time? Is that the dichotomy you are setting up?

      It seems you are the one who is insisting that demons can only act in one way and any action they perform must be accomplished through humans and that it is “bogus” to think they can act in any other way at all.

      Doherty has addressed many times teh ancient belief in demons influencing humans. But when he addresses the other equally obvious and well-known manner of behaviour by demons you cry “bogus dichotomy”. True?

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

    No

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

      I simply do not see where Doherty sets up any false dichotomy. It appears your charge is itself grounded in muddled thinking and simply ignoring much of what Doherty writes.

      I asked three questions. You would really help “mythicists” who are persuaded by Doherty to understand where they are wrong and where Doherty is wrong — where they are guitly of a bogus false antithesis — if you spelled out an explanation as to why you must answer in the negative to my specific points.

      To me the points I made are very clear and indicate there is no false antithesis whatever. I suggest my points in fact indicate that if there is any false antithesis it is either on your own part and that you have simply failed to read what Doherty is arguing.

      Can you explain why “no” to each of the three questions I asked? I suspect it is your own thinking that is muddled, but I am hoping I am wrong and that I really do not understand your charge of “bogus antithesis”.

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

    If it would be helpful I am happy to explain my point yet again. But having done so several times already, I cannot but suspect that another explanation will fall once again on deaf ears. And so would you please read what Doherty says in this chapter carefully, and the points I made about it, and see if you can actually grasp my point without me having to repeat myself?

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

      There’s a sticking point here we need to break through somehow. I responded to your review, so did Doherty, and you responded to our responses, and we responded again.

      You insist Doherty sets up a false antithesis. Doherty denies this. Where is Doherty’s denial at fault? Has he contradicted what he wrote in the chapter?

      Are you saying that my three questions above do NOT accurately reflect where Doherty is coming from or the nature of his argument?

      It just might help if you can — happliy — explain your point “yet again” but with reference to what has been said in response to it so far.

  • Pf

    This reminds me of the courtroom tactic of defense lawyers, who ask the same question of prosecution witnesses repeatedly from a slightly different angle, knowing that eventually the witness will say something slightly different that they can pounce upon.

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

    Here is what McGrath’s criticism of Doherty — and he quotes Doherty, too, here:

    One of the more bizarre moments in the chapter is when Doherty writes,
    “The
    suggestion that since earthly rulers are considered to be controlled by
    heavenly ones the latter are seen as operating “through” the former is
    simply reading the idea into the text” (p.106).
    Doherty previously acknowledge that this
    view was widespread in those times and specifically in early
    Christianity, and he emphasized the need to read early Christian texts
    in light of that context. We see here that Doherty does not stick to his
    own stated principles when they do not lead to a mythicist conclusion.

    Presumably that is the point where McGrath blames Doherty for arguing on the basis of a false antithesis. 

    On the other hand, McGrath appears to be arguing that 1 Cor 2:6-8 can only have one possible meaning, and that it can only possibly mean that the demons were working through human agencies. This is a strange assumption. McGrath knows that demons are also capable of acting both through humans and independently of humans. And he knows Doherty knows this, too, if he has read ten chapters of his book. Both beliefs were widely held at the time. So why does McGrath exclude the possibility that the demons were acting in one particular way?

    So McGrath has failed to address any of Doherty’s argument here and is merely making unfounded assertions or arguing from the authority of the views of his peers.

    Reason 1: Doherty shows that our available evidence informs us that the idea that 1 Cor 2:6-8 meant that the demons were acting through earthly rulers was unknown until the time of Origen.

    Reason 2: Doherty shows from Paul’s own writings that Paul would have been contradicting himself if he meant in 1 Cor. 2:6-8 that the earthly rulers were the puppets of the demons in crucifying Christ. McGrath’s only rebuttal here is to point to non-Pauline literature.

    Reason 3: Doherty is not, on the other hand, reading into 1 Cor 2:6-8 any suggestion that the crucifixion was conducted in a non-earthly setting. This is something Doherty must and does later argue in relation to other passages. It is not an assumption that he brings into this passage.

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

    I not only did not argue what you claim, I don’t think I ever appeared to be.

    Are you expecting me to offer a rant about your use of “appears” akin to yours about my use of “seems”? If so, you will be disappointed.

    The things that you claim Doherty has demonstrated he has not. I’m still not clear why you accept shoddy arguments from him but not well-articulated and carefully researched ones from mainstream scholarship.

    Why you assume that Paul could not have contradicted himself I am not sure. Heikki Raisanen has published quite a bit on the subject of whether Paul was a coherent thinker.

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

      Obviously you are not explicitly arguing what I claim. That is why I am asking you for clarification. But instead of clarifying you turn on me with hostility.

      I asked: “So why does McGrath exclude the possibility that the demons were acting in one particular way?” Why do you do that — appear to deny the possibility that demons can act quite independently of human agency? Or if you don’t do that and I am mistaken, can you explain that you don’t exclude that possibility in the verses?

      I pointed out your failure to address 3 points at the heart of Doherty’s argument. Yes, I accept that your response — the first time you have given one that I recall — to the first one is that Paul may well have been simply contradicting himself. That is a fair response. So let’s keep that possibility in mind and evaluate it in the light of all the arguments.

      But it would be a mistake — will you not agree — to begin with an a priori assumption that Paul MUST be contradicting himself? It would be an even greater mistake — you surely will agree — to rule out the possibility that Paul is NOT contradicting himself? Yes?

       

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

    I always tell my students both to be open to the possibility that an author’s work has tensions within it, but also to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that their various expressions made sense to them, appealing to self-contradiction only as a last resort.

    I also think that one should treat an author’s use of clear vocabulary and grammatical phrases as meaning what they appear to unless it is impossible to do so, which of course Doherty does not do with terms like “born” and phrases like “brother of.”

    Presumably if all other explanations fail, you’ll be perfectly content if I suggest that the reference to authority in Romans is an interpolation? Problem solved!

    But let me end this comment by pointing out that you are still claiming that I am failing (except for now?) to actually address Doherty’s claims and “arguments.” I have to say that, unless you can at least begin to comprehend why I and most other people consider things that I have written to in fact address what Doherty offers, we will not make much progress. You might disagree with my arguments and my conclusions, but to suggest that I am not offering any is not going to seem plausible to anyone who is not already a mythicist and who reads what I have written.

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

      Presumably if all other explanations fail, you’ll be perfectly content
      if I suggest that the reference to authority in Romans is an
      interpolation? Problem solved!

      When I used the word “presume” in another context you excoriated me. Why do you rely on this sort of mind-reading, James? Why not address what I — or Doherty — actually say instead of your regular resort to side-stepping and mind-reading and insinuations in most of your replies? Why do you stoop to this sort of insult in preference to a direct, unequivocal, justification for your arguments and responses to my questions?

      You did not answer a single one of my questions in my previous comment, James. Nor, I think, did you answer directly and unequivocally any of my earlier comments, though you did say you would be “happy” to do so some time later.

      I have asked you to justify from Doherty’s own arguments and words that he does indeed set up a false antithesis in relation to 1 Cor. 2:6-8 and you have repeatedly refused to do so.

      You do not even address the clear implication of your own argument: that we must exclude any possibility that Paul could ever have meant that the demons acted independently of human agencies. That is what your own arguments hangs on but you will not even address that point but equivocate and post all sorts of digressions.

      I can only conclude you cannot deny that you cannot justify your assertion that Doherty sets up a false antithesis — unless you either ignore the bulk of his argument or lie about what he does argue. If I am wrong then you should be able to explain the point directly. But you have refused to respond to a single question of mine clearly and unequivocally so what else can I conclude after all this time and effort begging you to give yourself a chance to clarify your meaning and justify your assertion?

      All you can offer in response is that “most other people” “consider” that you “address what Doherty offers”. Who are all these “everyone elses” who have — “presumably” — read Doherty so that they must be in a position to know if what you say addresses his arguments or not?

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

    Neil, you are free to engage in these typical creationist-style tactics if you wish – claiming, no matter what someone you disagree with actually wrote, that they have not in fact adequately addressed the matter or responded to your objections, and that they are being unnecessarily hostile. But unless you actually begin to deal with what Doherty actually wrote, and what I have written in response, then such tactics are unlikely to be found persuasive by many, apart perhaps from those who already hold to a mythicism as a dogma.

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

      Well, in every one of your reviews I quote you extensively, sometimes entirely, to be sure I cover every point you write about Doherty. I also quote extensively from Doherty in response, and demonstrate time and again from Doherty’s work that Doherty’s own words or arguments often flatly  contradict your own claims.

      You have never responded directly to any of this, nor to my own attempts to have you justify your own criticisms here, except by vague equivocations and resorts to insult.

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

    You should pay a visit to the blog Uncommon Descent. They sometimes quote mainstream scientists at length, interspersed with statements of disagreement. Then let me know if you think the mere fact of having quoted me is sufficient to demonstrate that you have offered a substantive and sufficient response.

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

      Yes, James, you say stuff like that a lot. Analogies are cheap and a lazy response. When are you going to actually address the many detailed responses I have made? When are you going to ever respond to my requests above for clarification?

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

    The fact that your posts are long does not make them detailed or even responses for that matter. I suspect that your only complaint regarding my clarifications is that I have not clarified anything that I said in a way that cedes ground to mythicist claims. 

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

      Another typical McGrathian distortion. Always talk about what he does and that others do but always avoid a direct response to the argument.

  • Internet Christian

    I am a person who has interests and training in the Internet and Christianity. 

    In discovering Earl Doherty and his strong presence on the Internet, I was disappointed that no one from the scholarly community was making the effort to deal with his stuff, until I came across James McGrath.

    I appreciated McGrath’s efforts and his patience.

    Unfortunately, McGrath is too ‘literalistic’ – not necessarily in respect to Jesus and Paul, but more so in regard to attempting to engage in dialogue with Earl Doherty and others like him.

    The general attitudes across thousands of blogs, from the smallest specialist online publication to the major media outlets, are those of adolescent rebellion. The comment sections of blogs express this in an even more concentrated form.

    The Internet is the perfect place for someone lacking in training, education, and credentials to express their rage against tradition, authority, and reason. If they publish sufficient numbers of words and images, rise in the search rankings, and attract followers and revenue, they will establish their own authority.

    Christian thought leaders do not yet know how to express themselves on the Internet, Christianity is an easy target for authority-haters due to its weakening place in the cultural marketplace and its inattention to the need to defend itself. 

    When persons are using the Internet to express an adolescent rebellion against tradition, authority, and reason that have become commonplace in western culture, calm and thorough explanations infuriate them. Appeals to consensus among the ‘adults’, superior experience and training, and plain common-sense will enrage them. Ignoring them only proves that they and their like-minded friends are right. As with a rebellious teenager, a favorite response is that you are not listening (which only means that you are not expressing their ideas in their vocabulary).

    In fact, engaging only lends to their sense of self-importance and authority, which depends on building on an online following.

    The unfortunate thing is that in the absence of responsible Christian leaders on the Internet discussing controversial subjects, those who never left the adolescent rebellion of their teenage years will have the most impact on people who research topics on the Internet.

    If Dr. McGrath wants to have a larger impact on Internet historical and theological discussion, what he can do is publish clear and easy to understand articles on the topics and optimize them for Google and Bing. There is no need to play the part of an online daddy to rebel against.  

  • pliny

    Quote;

    The next part of the chapter addresses the “the rulers of this age” and related phrases in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, Ephesians 3:9-10 and Colossians 2:15. Since, as Doherty himself acknowledges, “That invisible powers, mostly evil, were at work behind earthly phenomena was a widely held belief in Hellenistic times, including among Jews, and it was shared by Christianity” (p.104), much of what follows, which argues for spiritual rather than earthly rulers being in view, is an exercise in promoting a false antithesis undermined by one’s own statement. Doherty’s claim that Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas could “hardly be styled” the rulers of this age (p.105) seems to involve his treating “rulers of this age” as though it meant “rulers of the world” rather than “the sorts of rulers who are in charge in the present evil age, and their powerful representatives.”


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