Randel Helms: Gospel of St Thomas (etc, etc, etc) is/are fiction, proving Christians are not reluctant to it, Gospel of St Mark is earliest and was written forty years after the events. In that time it passed through oral tradition, which PER DEFINITION means it was embellished with additions. See, for instance Dieudonné de Gozon, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, who according to tradition slew the dragon of Malpasso.
We are in the presence of some ideology here.
The "tradition" about Dieudonné de Gozon slaying the dragon of Malpasso did presumably NOT remain oral such up to when Mircea Eliade wrote on it. The latter claims the "genuine historical account" of that same Grand Master of Maltese Knights is innocent of dragons. (I checked on French Wiki: if the account of that particular GM was before a certain date without the dragon story, at least the dragon story was in existance before that date and already concerning a person later GM of the Knights of Malta.)
Concretely this means no doubt that Mircea has found two medieval accounts, one without and one with a dragon. To him, obviously, the one with the dragon has suffered an addition. By passing through tradition. Kent Hovind, alias Doctor Dino, might have something other to say about that matter. "Sure, there were dinosaurs after the Flood too, it is just that in the records they weren't called Dinosaurs, the word is pretty recent. They are usually called dragons."
Then we have the problem whether Christians were or were not involved in writing fictions about Jesus.
By naming Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Philip .... he is supposed to have proven "Christians" - as one homogenous group (rather than pseudo-Christian Gnostics distinct from Catholic Christians) - were not loth to add fictions about Jesus.
This is not valid proof.
Then he repeats the pretty consensus heavy (among Modern Academians) canard of Mark being first (as if 19th C/20th C scholars knew the order of writing of the Gospels better than Papias and Irenaeus!) AND of even he being late and only recording events as filtered THROUGH a tradition of forty years purely oral. This last point proves pretty much that Academic Tradition in Modern Times is a very Fixed Tradition. It does NOT support the idea that oral tradition in and of itself is unstable. And remember it is in high degree oral, from pulpit to students in benches.
His argument for this involves that there were already heretical traditions beside the orthodox ones.
But this is simply because there were people with heretical ideas that were not content with the orthodox tradition which did not support their ideas. Far from proving that oral tradition is of itself unstable, it proves that Christian Orthodoxy was from the very start under attack, not just open but also undercover.
Randel Helms then claims that Paul was ecstatic and saw visions, and noone felt a need to distinguish between these and the historical Jesus. Of course not, if everyone had reason to believe the historical person was in Heaven - after The Eleven saw the Ascension.
What exactly is Randel Helms' epistemological authority for all these allegations?
Norman Perrin has declared that his approach to the Gospels, Redaction Criticism, looks for "redaction of new material" by the evangelists. I write in a similar spirit.
OK, so if a text is younger it is more or less per definition based on an older one plus additions? Can never kind of happen it is shorter than the previous text on same matter or based on another line of transmission? That is the kind of prejudice a real historian (as opposed to a "Higher Critic") can very well do without.
Then we have his take on St Paul and on St John. He thinks the historical Jesus and the Jesus of their visions are clearly different, not at all the same person, no Resurrection and Ascension presumably. He takes as example the things St Paul says about the Gospel he preaches.
For I give you to understand, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For neither did I receive it of man, nor did I learn it; but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12) Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: And that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven. (I Corinthians 15:1-5)
Does this mean - as Randel Helms seems to think or pretend to think - that St Paul knows only of three ways of knowing Christ? Revelation (like his own several ones or St John's on Patmos), tradition (from those having received such revelations, no doubt) and the Scriptures?
Pretty obviously no. St Paul says for one thing that Christ "was seen by Cephas". And later in the same chapter, yes even the very next verses he enumerates other witnesses:
Then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen by James, then by all the apostles. And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one born out of due time.
OK, this means that of the witnesses only himself was - in that capacity - what Randel Helms is here calling a visionary. The rest were what one ordinarily calls eyewitnesses. He says their eywitness is enough, but that his visions and all of the Old Testament match this eyewitness. This would hardly be possible if his visions were just a product of his own imagination.
The preview is cut off when Randel states:
So we must understand that what Luke means by "eyewit-
I supply as probable continuation: nesses" are really visionaries like Paul. Or words of synonymous meaning.
Not at all. St Paul knew a fourth way of knowing Christ, that of the, precisely, eyewitnesses. People who, like St Thomas Didymus, had seen, conversed with and even touched (or at least closely inspected, but even, I think, by obedience, touched) Our Lord after he rose from the dead.
Randel Helms supposed St Paul to be pretty self-occupied if he did not consider it possible that St Paul made a distinction between how he knew himself and how Cephas knew the Resurrection. He did very clearly distinguish, by And as obviously, we do not only have St Paul referring to what Cephas saw, we also have Cephas accepting St Paul. We have an occasion on which it would have been in his interest not to. But St Peter humbled himself before the reproaches of St Paul. He does not go "hey, that guy was not there, what does he know?" - all of St Peter's attitude testifies that St Paul's vision closely matches what he knew and in general what was known by the original Apostles. Through non-visionary means of knowledge.
This chapter is addressed to some among the Corinthians who denied the resurrection: St. Paul, therefore, in order to cure this philosophical opinion, gives them his counsel and advice in this chapter; and lest he might be thought to preach up a new doctrine, in the beginning of his admonitions he informs them that he is preaching no other gospel than what he has always taught, and wherein they believe. (Estius)
Ver. 7. He was seen by James. The time is not mentioned in the gospels. (Witham)
Ver. 8. As by one born out of due time; not born at the ordinary term, meaning after Christ's ascension. He calls himself so out of humility, abortives being commonly imperfect and less than others. (Witham)
So, the main three ways of knowing Christ to St Paul were: eyewitnesses, tradition from those, seeing how it matches all of the Old Testament. His own way of knowing Christ through visions was an extension of the eyewitness way, not the basic mode. However, it was not different enough to disqualify him as an Apostle either.
After all, if the Apostles even after eating a fish breakfast in what could have theoretically been a vision could see they had all had the same one and there was plenty of fish left, St Paul on his side had been blinded by the first vision and then healed from blindness. None of them had a vision that could be "just a vision" or just a dream or just a hallucination. All of them had something to solidly back it up.
And they were not building communities just by saying that. They made miracles which only the supernatural could explain. St Luke saw St Paul raise a boy who had died and broken his neck.
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
St Zeno of Verona
Quote from Haydock Comments:
Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.
1 CORINTHIANS - Chapter 15
Summaries and direct quotes of Randel Helms:
Randel Helms : Gospel Fictions (1988)
[preview skips p. 5 and breaks off after p. 14]