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From reviews of Earl Doherty's Challenging the Verdict: A Cross-Examination of Lee Strobel's 'The Case for Christ' "Well-intentioned people like Lee Strobel and his 'expert witnesses' in The Case for Christ have been inspired to speak half-truths, misrepresentations, and plain absurdities in defense of Christian doctrine. Earl Doherty confutes Strobel and his theologians point for point so thoroughly and convincingly that one is left wondering, how did I not see that before? Christian apologetics' faith-based thought processes contrast with Doherty's reasoned refutation and clearly reveal how intellectual integrity is sacrificed at religion's altar of 'believe at any price'." LEE SALISBURY, a former evangelical church pastor 1978-1988; writer and speaker for atheist groups and publications from 1992. "In his systematic refutation of Strobel's book, Earl Doherty takes on not only Strobel but the many prominent apologists Strobel interviews and quotes throughout the book... .Doherty performs a great service by taking on the new generation of slingers of the same old hash. His book is a great tool. When someone says, 'Here, read Strobel, and your skeptical questions will all be answered!' we may hand them Doherty's counterblast... .Doherty's chief goal is not to argue the Christ Myth theory, but neither does he soft-pedal it, since it often simply pops up as the glowing alternative once one sees the preposterous nature of the apologists' arguments." ROBERT PRICE, author of Deconstructing Jesus and The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man; from a review appearing in Free Inquiry magazine, Summer 2002.

Some reviews of the original The Jesus Puzzle: "This is one of the most exciting and liberating books I've read in years. Doherty has written a potential modern classic, which deserves to be widely read and discussed." JAN KOSTER, Professor of Linguistics, Groningen University, The Netherlands "A great book! I can only say I felt like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: 'Did our hearts not burn within us as he opened the scriptures to us?' " ROBERT M. PRICE, author of Deconstructing Jesus and The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man "This is a great personal achievement, and I think your work will make a substantial impression on New Testament scholarship. A sunburst over the lingering gloom of the quest for the historical Jesus." ROD BLACKHIRST, Professor of Religion, Latrobe University, Australia "I have never read such scholarship in so easy a style! You have a wonderful way of conveying quite complex ideas in an easy to understand manner. I've read a great many books challenging (Jesus') historicity, but nothing as 'dead on' as your book." JUDITH HAYES, author of In God We Trust.. .But Which God? "This is the most compelling argument ever published in support of the theory that Jesus never existed as an historical person. Doherty's thorough command of the Pauline corpus, the pseudepigraphic and apocryphal literature, the mysteries, and turn-of-the-era philosophical and theological movements is masterful. This is a superb book." FRANK R. ZINDLER, Editor, "American Atheist," a Journal of atheist news and thought The Jesus Puzzle website: &

AGE OF REASON PUBLICATIONSDedicated to attaining an Age of Reason in the application of rational thought to society's laws, ethics and beliefs, and to entering upon an age of reason in our individual lives.

JESUSNEITHER GOD NOR MAN The Case for a Mythical Jesus

Earl Doherty

Age of Reason PublicationsOttawa Canada


To Julian for his support and encouragement and for a cracking good title

Copyright 2009 by Earl Doherty. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, except for review purposes or in a "fair use" context, without the prior written permission of the author or publisher. Published in 2009 by Age of Reason Publications A revised and expanded version of The Jesus Puzzle First printing September 2009 Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data Doherty, Earl, 1941Jesus: neither God nor man: the case for a mythical Jesus / Earl Doherty. - New ed., rev. and expanded Originally publ. under title: The Jesus puzzle. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-9689259-2-8 1. Jesus ChristHistoricity. I. Title. BT303.2.D64 2009 232.9'08 C2009-905338-1

Printed and bound in Canada

CONTENTSPreface About Translations / Glossary and Abbreviations THE TWELVE PIECES OF THE JESUS PUZZLE INTRODUCTION I : THE JERUSALEM TRADITION PART ONE: Preaching a Divine Son Chapter 1: A Heavenly Christ Chapter 2: A Conspiracy of Silence Chapter 3: A Thirst for the Irrational Chapter 4: Apostles and Ministries Chapter 5: Apocalyptic Expectations PART TWO: A Life in Eclipse Chapter 6: From Bethlehem to Jerusalem Chapter 7: The Passion Story PART THREE: The Gospel of the Son Chapter 8: The Word of God in the Holy Book Chapter 9: The Intermediary Son PART FOUR: A World of Myth and Savior Gods Chapter 10: Who Crucified Jesus? Chapter 11: The Mystery Cults Chapter 12: Conceiving the World of Myth Chapter 13: Dancing with Katie Sarka under the Moon Chapter 14: Paul and the "Heavenly Man" PART FIVE: Views through the Window in Scripture Chapter 15: "Born of Woman"? Chapter 16: A Sacrifice in Heaven Chapter 17: The When of Christ's Sacrifice PART SIX: A Riotous Diversity Chapter 18: The Birth of a Movement Chapter 19: The Johannine Community Chapter 20: The Gnostic Phenomenon Chapter 21: Ignatius on the Threshold II : THE GALILEAN TRADITION PART SEVEN: Preaching the Kingdom of God Chapter 22: The Nature and Existence of Q Chapter 23: Excavating the Roots of Q Chapter 24: The Gospel of Thomas and Q vii x ix 1 13 15 25 35 41 51 57 71 83 91 97 127 145 157 179 197 213 251 267 281 285 295 305 307 325 355


PART EIGHT: An Emerging Founder Chapter 25: Introducing Jesus to Q Chapter 26: Sectarian Developments in Q Chapter 27: Mark and Q: The Origin of the Gospels III : A COMPOSITE CHRISTIANITY PART NINE: The Evolution of Jesus of Nazareth Chapter 28: The Gospels as Midrash and Symbolism Chapter 29: A Tale from Scripture PART TEN: The Second Century Chapter 30: The Remaking of Christian History Chapter 31: Jesus in the Christian Apologists IY : THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCE PART ELEVEN: The Non-Christian Witness to Jesus Chapter 32: Jesus Among Pagan and Jew Chapter 33: Flavius Josephus Chapter 34: A Roman Trio: Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny Chapter 35: A Minor Trio: Thallus, Phlegon, Mara

365 379 387 405 407 439 461 475 503 503 533 587 643

APPENDICES No. 1: Two Interpolations in the New Testament Epistles 657 No. 2: A Conversation between Paul and some New Converts 662 No. 3: Jesus and the Savior Gods: The Question of Parallels 664 No. 4: Dating Hebrews and the Authenticity of the Postscript 668 No. 5: The Gospel Chicken or the Epistolary Egg? 674 No. 6: The Gospels in the Valentinian "Gospel of Truth" 677 No. 7: The Redeemer in the Gnostic "Paraphrase of Shem" 679 No. 8: The Absence of an Historical Jesus in the Didache 681 No. 9: The Date of Minucius Felix 685 No. 10: Minucius Felix's Rejection of the Crucified Man 687 No. 11: The Curious Case of the Apology of Aristides 691 No. 12: Trypho and the Denial of an Historical Jesus 696 No. 13: John the Baptist in Josephus: An Interpolation? 699 No. 14: Robert Eisler and the Portrait of Jesus 701 NOTES BIBLIOGRAPHY INDEX OF NAMES, SUBJECTS AND BIBLICAL PASSAGES 713 781 791



During the 2007 season of the television series "Bones," its brainy heroine, a forensic anthropologist cum homicide detective Dr. Temperance Brennan, made a reference to the founder of Christianity with this passing comment: "Christ, if he existed..." A similar remark was heard later in the episode, both spoken tangentially during discussions among the characters, forensic scientists at the Smithsonian Institute trying to solve the latest foul-play case of unearthed bones. This was on a major U.S. network in prime time. How many viewers caught it, or what their reaction was, is not recorded. But it may well have been the first time any of those viewers had heard such a radical idea floated in popular entertainment beamed into North American homes following the supper hour. When The Jesus Puzzle was published in 1999, the theory that no historical Jesus ever lived was still generally regarded as a fringe idea. Although a small minority of scholars had championed such a conclusion for almost two centuries, it had achieved little traction among the public or in New Testament scholarship. Now a decade later, the idea is beginning to poke a tentative head out of parts of the mainstream scholarly landscape. Yet this has already been overtaken by a growing segment of the general public, especially among those plugged into the Internet, where presentation and debate on websites and discussion boards has increasingly intrigued and even won over many to the idea. The advent of the Internet has introduced an unprecedented "lay" element of scholarship to the field. The vastly accelerated dissemination and exchange of ideas, the easy availability of ancient texts and works of modern scholarship only a click away, the absence of peer pressure and constraints of academic tenure, has meant that the study of Christian origins is undergoing a quantum leap in the hands of a much wider constituency than traditional academia. While the latter has always been centered in university Religion departments, the field is now open to dedicated 'amateurs,' the latter being a technical term for those who undertake private study outside an official educational setting. Mainstream critical scholarship's ongoing quest for "the historical Jesus" is yet to arrive at any secure or consensus result. Agreement on what Jesus said and did, on whether he was a Jewish wisdom