I have not read the book - just the twelve pieces of his puzzle.* I hope my answer is not too puzzling.
- 1) Lateness of Christian Testimony to Historical Jesus
- Jesus of Nazareth cannot be found in Christian writings earlier than the Gospels, the first of which (Mark) was composed only toward the end of the first century CE.
- I answer:
- Admitting that the Gospel of St Matthew was first, it is indeed the earliest Christian piece of writing. I have heard it attributed by Orthodox Historians to variously one and seven years after the main events, as Passion, Death, Burial and Resurrection of Our Lord.
Obviously this would cause some problem for an Atheist.
If a man says that seven years ago there was an Earthquake and All Earth was for Three Hours in Darkness, either that is what happened, or the man will be considered as mad or joking.
I can see why an Atheist, who starts out believing the supernatural events in the Gospel did not happen, would conclude that St Matthew was pretty late.
That being so, is there any case for this, in face of early testimony for St Matthew's priority for any rational inquirer, I mean of course someone not starting out from Atheist prejudice? None as far as I know.
I was just looking at a video with Richard Carrier, in which he came to challenge the consensus that Christ is historical. His point is that Academic consensus can happen (even without intricate conspiracy theories as explanation) with a very bad basis in methodological assumptions, as well as through a consistent misapplication of the good or even not so bad there is in them, so as to make the resulty worse, plus being based on factual errors.
Earl Doherty - I hope you enjoy a good cup of Earl Grey while reading this - is here appealing to a consensus which I thinks suffers very much from these faults. There is simply not any claim from early concerned sources that Mark was both first and late. That claim is very recent in scholarship and arises only after there comes to be an organised disbelief in Christianity.
- 2) Lateness of non-Christian Testimony to Historical Jesus
- There is no non-Christian reference to Jesus earlier than the second century. The two references in Flavius Josephus (end of first century) are unreliable and can be dismissed in their entirety as later Christian insertions.
- I have already answered this
- Critiques of Testimonium Flavianum
Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Challenged Again on Testimonium Flavianum
It seems I get a challenge on TF every two years. My earlier answers are from 2010 and 2012.
Btw, I was only dealing with one TF, one of the passages. However, Earl Doherty is now speaking of two Testimonia Flaviana. Which is the other one?
- 3) Ethereality of Early Epistle Mentions
- The early epistles such as Paul and Hebrews, speak of their Christ Jesus (Messiah Savior [sic!]) as a spiritual, heavenly being, one revealed by God through scripture, and do not equate him with a recent historical man.
- I answer
- The charge really boils down to ED only accepting as historical an account of anyone which does not identify that someone as spiritual in any way or Heavenly or as revealed before his arrival by Scripture. And of course a real person can neither be a Christ nor a Saviour, according to ED! Will the Antichrist also be doubted as being a real person because he can be described as Hellish, as well as being revealed before his arrival by Scripture?
This is of course a great refutation of people calling Jesus from Nazareth historical but not admitting these claims, but no refutation at all of Christianity.
Note that the trait "+ spiritual" does not here equal "- bodily." And "+ heavenly" does not equal "- historical."
Romans: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,  Which he had promised before, by his prophets, in the holy scriptures,  Concerning his Son, who was made to him of the seed of David, according to the flesh
I Corinthians: Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul? and Then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep.
II Corinthians: And Christ died for all; that they also who live, may not now live to themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.
Galatians: Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead and For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I may live to God: with Christ I am nailed to the cross. And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me. I cast not away the grace of God. For if justice be by the law, then Christ died in vain.
Ephesians: Which he wrought in Christ, raising him up from the dead, and setting him on his right hand in the heavenly places.
Note that if the "setting on his right hand" is indeed "in heavenly places" this does not belittle that the "raising him up from the dead" is something observed on earth. As in I Corinthians.
Philippians: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.
Someone may object that Krishna is also supposed to have taken the shape of a man. Now, I do not doubt Krishna was a man. Whoever of the two was God, both were men. But in the case of Christ it is better attested. The Mahabharata poet cannot be certainly identified. We cannot say if he lived a thousand or two thousand years after the events. Krishna seems to have lived before the Flood of Noah. Mahabharata may in Indian culture be ascribed an uninterrupted existence since the events, but they cannot point to a Chronology like ours with all generations from Adam to Christ. Paul can be identified as having died under Nero and as having stoned - indirectly, by keeping the coats of those who did the stoning - a man who had bee among the original disciples of Christ. Paul and Luke were nearly contemporary with Christ. The Mahabharata poet can have been as little contemporary with Krishna and Arjuna as Luke with ... I'd rather say Abraham than Adam, for chronological precision and realism.
However, unlike Christ, Krishna never proved his divinity by rising from the dead. Nor was his ascension into heavenly places ever visible to 11 pairs of eyes (22 eyes, like the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet) as an ascension from earth and disappearance high up among the clouds.
Colossians: And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy: Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell; And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.
If you have not died, you cannot be firstborn from the dead. And heavenly things are not dying unless they are also earthly.
I Thessalonians: And to wait for his Son from heaven (whom he raised up from the dead,) Jesus, who hath delivered us from the wrath to come.
II Thessalonians (this time about Antichrist) For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, Whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, And in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: That all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.
St Paul is really claiming that Antichrist is not just an evil spirit, but also - once he comes forth - a man, able to show off. A magician. A purely metaphysical Antichrist would hardly have powers of seduction.
I Timothy: For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.
II Timothy: Who hath delivered us and called us by his holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of the world. But is now made manifest by the illumination of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath destroyed death, and hath brought to light life and incorruption by the gospel:
However much Earl Doherty may feel "destroyed death" strikes a mythical tone, the words about "made manifest" and the contrast between them and the heavenly reward preexisting since "before the times of the world" simply will not square with St Paul talking of an only heavenly and only mystical Christ Jesus.
Titus: Not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men, who turn themselves away from the truth.
St Paul implies very much here that he is not in the position of one inventing fables or making himself a human interpreter of what was previously only known among the spirits. He is not Hesiod. He is not Numa Pompilius. He is not a Shaman. Instead of being the Mystic, he is saying the Jews are.
For the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men;
Pretty comprehensible words if a person touching him with a handkerchief could heal a blind or a lame person or raise someone from the dead with the handkerchief, as is claimed in Acts. Totally incomprehensible otherwise. If he had been mad enough to make such claims without backing them up - who would have believed him?
Philemon: one epistle, at long last, in which there is only a reference to what Christ expects from Paul in Heaven. And likewise no reference to appearing or to Christ's adversary being a real man. Is this what Earl Doherty means?
Hebrews (ascribed variously to St Paul or St Barnabas): God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, In these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world.
Since the rest of chapter one is very solidly rooted in Heaven, I remind Earl Doherty that "plus heavenly" does not mean "minus bodily". Then I observe that as the prophets were historical persons and perceived by everyone as being such, by implication this means people had actually heard Jesus Christ speak.
- 4) Platonism and Semiticism of Cosmology
- Paul and other early writers place the death and resurrection of their Christ in the supernatural/mythical world based on Platonic and Semitic cosmology, and derive their information about these events, as well as other features of their heavenly Christ from scripture.
- I answer
- There is a Red Herring here. OT Scripture is not invoked as describing a merely cosmological person and as only source of information. It is invoked as giving information matching the one known from the history of Christ as he was alive.
And if the real cosmology is Platonic and Semitic to the extent that it is so in the epistles of St Paul, then I cannot see how setting events in this cosmology would invalidate the information about them as historic information.
Of course, if you start out with the theory that these cosmologies include one "supernatural/mythical world" distinct from the mundane one, you are in trouble. There is no trace of a supernatural world being the place where myths are set, except very rare ones about the relations of our mundane world to that supernatural one. Usually myths are set HERE.
- 5) Ancient World View Reflected in Paul
- The ancients viewed the universe as finite and multi-layered: matter below, spirit above. The higher world of the heavens was regarded as the superior, genuine reality, where spiritual processes and heavenly counterparts to earthly things were located. Paul's Christ operates within this system.
- I answer
- Sure they did. Prove them wrong.
Besides, even if they were wrong, their placing the events in this wrongful setting would not making their descriptions non-historical.
Assume a flat earther were reporting about Christopher Columbus (there were noone such in position to be reporting, but assume there had been such). "In the year of Grace One Thousand Four Hundred and Ninety-Two, Christopher Columbus, misled by the demon to believe the earth is a globe, set out with three ships. By a very great Mercy of Providence, he did not reach the rim of the world, but stopped in an island which he called Hispaniola, and came back in March the next year, getting into Lisbon by a storm, and proving by the fact of bringing back selvatic men that he had indeed reached some land outside Christendom."
This would be - and we would know it - set in a cosmology which is false. This does not mean we would have any reason to doubt that Christopher Columbus made these voyages if we only had the words of Flat Earthers for them.
But to get back to some seriousness, I view the world as finite and as multilayered. Matter having a lower degree and spirit a higher degree of actuality and of causality. I think the ancients were simply right. Prove me wrong. If. You. Can.
- 6) Mystery Cults and Ahistoricity of their Saviours
- The pagan "mystery cults" of the period worshipped savior (sic!) deities who had performed salvific acts. Under the influence of Platonism, these acts came to be interpreted by the cults as taking place in the supernatural/mythical world, not on earth or in history. The Pauline Christ was similarily regarded as undergoing death and resurrection in the heavenly realm. This new Christ also shared other mythological concepts current in the ancient world.
- I answer
- There is no trace of any Pagan Mystery Cult placing death in the heavenly realm. It is by definition deathless, for Hebrew, Pagan and Christian alike. Earl Doherty is inventing a background culture which he cannot prove was there.
- 7) Son = Logos = a Concept à la mode
- The most prominent philosophical-religious concept of the period was 'the intermediary Son': an emanation of the ultimate transcendent God who served as a spiritual channel between God and humanity. Such intermediary concepts as the Greek Logos and Jewish personified Wisdom were models for Paul's heavenly Christ and Son, who took on an additional, sacrificial role under the inspiration of scripture.
- I answer
- Once more, this is perhaps good enough for an Atheist, for one believing such Son-ship must be non-factual and describe an un-real figment of erroneous imaginations.
This is not in any way an argument against Christianity.
If our religion is true, we would expect that not just Hebrews but also Pagans were somehow prepared to receive the truth when it came. Platonism is part of the preparation for the Gospel.
Even more. To Plotinus who rejected Christianity, the Mind was not Son of the One or the Good. His concept of Logos is not a concept in which a Father to Son relation has any role. Instead, to Plotinus, the Mind is inferior to the One, because it is self aware. Because one can affirm something about it. This Platonic idea is incompatible with Christianity and pretty much the model for the Arian heresy. And the Gospels could not be proven to support it, believe me, Arius tried really, really bad.
Or, do NOT believe me. Read Newman's well documented History of the Arians of the IV Century.
- 8) Gospels and Acts Unreliable from One Source
- All the Gospels derive their basic story of Jesus of Nazareth from one source: the Gospel of Mark, the first one composed. Subsequent evangelists reworked Mark in their own interests and added new material. None of the evangelists show any concern for creating genuine history. The Acts of the Apostles as an account of the beginnings of the Christian apostolic movement is historically unreliable, a second century piece of legend-making.
- I answer
- It is modern scholarship which is unreliable and derives its "information" from one logical source: the refusal to believe the truth of it.
So far from studying the question and rejecting the truth because the evidence is against it, they reject the truth first and judge the evidence by improbable conjectures about it, calculated to support that rejection.
- 9) Gospels Symbolic Not Historic
- The Gospels were not written as historical accounts, but present a symbolic representation of a Galilean kingdom-preaching sect, combined with a fictional passion story set on earth, presumably meant to allegorise the heavenly Christ's death and resurrection in the supernatural realm. They are constructed through the process of "midrasch," a Jewish method of reworking old biblical passages and tales to reflect new beliefs. The story of Jesus' trial and crucifixion is a pastiche of verses from scripture, and has nothing to do with "history remembered."
- I answer
- First off, this completely contradicts the previous charge. Saying a text is an unreliable factual account and saying it is not meant as a factual account at all are two incompatible charges against its factual reliability.
It is like claiming at once that a text is Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and that it is The Vatican's Holocaust by Avro Manhattan. It cannot be both at the same time.
Second, the heavenly Christ cannot have died unless he became an earthly Christ. Death is not in heaven. As previously already said.
- 10) Does "Q" Give you any Cue?
- "Q" is a lost sayings collection extracted from Matthew and Luke, and made no reference to a death and resurection, or soteriological role for its Jesus. It can be shown to have no Jesus figure at its roots, some of which roots were ultimately non-Jewish. The Q community preached the imminent coming of the kingdom of God and the arrival of the heavenly Son of Man as an End-time judge, and its traditions were eventually assigned to an invented founder who was combined with the spiritual Christ Jesus of the Pauline type in the Gospel of Mark. The case for the existence of Q is much superior to any alternative explanation for the common material in Matthew and Luke.
- I answer
- Especially if you start OUT with excluding a Historical Jesus as the real source, right?
Again, we are dealing with a charge contradicting a previous one. One source only and one source plus another one are not compatible.
Also, in order to explain a Community well known from its beginnings, like most other ones, he now invents (or the Academics that he follows invent) a lost community of which we have no trace except the changes they wrought by fusion with the known community which is supposed to have changed from a never asserted more primitive state. In terms of logic this is an atrocity.
- 11) Christ is So Complex He Cannot Have Been a Real Person!
- The initial variety of sects and beliefs about a spiritual heavenly Christ and Son of God, some with a revealer role, others with a sacrificial one, shows that this broad movement began in many different places, a multiplicity of largely independent and spontaneous developments based on the Jewish scriptures and other religious expressions of the time, not as a response to a single individual or point of origin.
- I answer
- Usually persons are considered as mythological props because they are too flat to be real persons. Here we have the opposite charge!
Mercurius is often these days considered a pure myth because his only remaining role (openly on earth, as opposed to "in the consciousness" of people as "messenger of the gods") is to have been a magician. And an author of the books attributed to Hermes Trismegistos. Obviously a magician like Hermes Trismegistus cannot have written Hermes Trismegistus. That is so obviously a flat and unreal personality with only one role to play. So he is a myth. Then one goes on to say "but the books of Hermes Trismegistus have some kind of author" and modern Academia has hey presto invented a new character which has only one role to play. Which means he should be regarded as mythical, on the same criterium they apply to Hermes Trismegistus.
BUT here we have a Man (not to mention that this Man is God Himself) treated as a mere myth, because He is too complex to be a real person!
- 12) Letting Gnostic Gospels Prove the Orthodox Ones were Not Meant Literally - I Presume.
- Well into the second century, many Christian documents lack or reject the notion of a past human man as an element of their faith. The type of Christ belief which became later orthodoxy developed only through the course of the second century to eventually gain dominance toward its end. Only gradually did the Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Gospels come to be accepted as historical and his 'life story' real.
- I answer
- The Gnostic pseudo-Gospels like the one inscribed with the name of St Thomas are indeed from this kind of timescale. I e later than the real and Canonic Gospels.
However, it is a big mistake to speak of early Christianity and Similar Stuff as One Movement rather than as Many Communities. Any text which explicitly rejects Historic Existence of Christ as Jesus from Nazareth is not from the Church but from the Gnostics. The Gnostics are another Community. Another Community is Not the Same One.
And the fact that there was a very definitely organised Church or Communion of Churches is very apparent from the Epistles I just cited from. Precisely as it is from Acts. Or from Martyrologium Romanum. Or from St Irenaeus. Or from St Ignatius of Antioch. Or from Didaché. That latter piece of writing mentions the fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. This was not done by Gnostics, as far as we know. It was and is done by Catholics (at least Four times a Year, plus Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, plus Abstinence on Fridays, and that is the Latin Rite which has alleviated the fasting discipline). We can pretty safely conclude Catholics are the same Community as that of the Didaché.
And as Communities do usually know something baout the way they were founded - a certain Civic Community knows uit was founded by a Declaration of Independence and a Bill of Rights to justify it, both from 1776 - we can conclude It also knows how It was founded. It is not something which reasonable people cannot accept. BUT Earl Doherty is rather in the category of Naturalist Pseudo-Philosophers, and therefore we cannot know if he will accept it.
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
St Zeno of Verona
* From: Earl Doherty : Jesus, Neither God Nor Man - The Case for a Mythical Jesus