213 of 229 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2011
Like the shorter original text of which this book is an expansion, The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus, Earl Doherty's newest effort is an excellent work analyzing the Christian conundrum using finely honed skills of perception as well as extraordinary erudition that stands out on every page. Jesus: Neither God Nor Man - The Case for a Mythical Jesus is a tour de force of scholarship rarely matched by either professional or lay experts. Despite the fact that he is not a professional New Testament scholar or theologian--or, rather, because of that fact--Doherty is able to cut through the often biased and self-interested "historical scholarship" that, in the case of religion, frequently sees common sense and logic sacrificed in favor of blind belief and fervent faith.
As we know from history, faith and belief constantly cloud and color reality in an unseemly manner, and scholarship and academia have suffered badly from this lack of unbiased approach. Fortunately, Doherty has no vested interest in upholding the status quo in order to maintain his vocation, the main reason the field of Jesus mythicism has been populated significantly by outsiders possessing no such investment. It is unfortunate that the hallowed halls of American academia frequently have not transcended their foundations as religious institutions, as was the case with Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton, to name just a few. Yet, it is extremely encouraging that lay scholars like Doherty have stepped up to the plate to present an impartial perspective so that the average person can deal with all the data, rather than what is selectively filtered through partisan institutions.
Doherty's latest endeavor reeks of hard work and penetrating thought processes from the very beginning, as he presents his material in an orderly and professional manner worthy of publication by an academic press such as E.J. Brill, Peeters and Walter de Gruyter. Indeed, august members of the Dutch, Danish and German schools of Bible criticism over the centuries would likely find this oeuvre absorbing and reflective of scholarly integrity.
Laying out the 12 "pieces of the Jesus puzzle," Doherty succinctly expresses the thesis he spends the next nearly 800 pages demonstrating; each of these pieces is factual, logical and scientific, as seen throughout the work. The conclusion--that the "Jesus Christ" of the New Testament gospel story is a mythical figure--is likewise logical and scientific, especially for those who have studied the issue in depth and have seen that there simply is no historical core to the mythological onion and that a composite of numerous "people" is no one. As Doherty understands well, countless books have been written about the "real" Jesus, whom the authors assume a priori to be a historical figure without first establishing the evidence for such a claim. Earl handily demonstrates there is no credible, scientific evidence for this assumption; thus, proceeding from there to sketch a "biography" of such an individual represents treading in murky waters, as honest Christian scholars such as Dominic Crossan and John Meier will admit.
In this carefully crafted work, Doherty raises numerous facts many people will not be aware of, such as that ancient and modern scholarship has cast doubt on the authorship of practically every book in the New Testament--an important fact the average person, especially the believer, has the right to know but which has not been widely disseminated to the masses. Of greatest interest to me, of course, are Earl's discussions of comparative mythology and the purported extrabiblical "evidence" for Christ's existence. Others, such as those Gnostically inclined, will doubtlessly find fascinating Earl's examination of more cosmic concepts such as Christ's perceived existence in non-third-dimensional planes, rather than as a "historical" and material savior. For a skeptic, Doherty has an amazing grasp of these flowery, complex and difficult concepts--certainly one of the best such comprehensions in modern scholarship. Without this context of Gnosticism and Docetism, early Christian history is essentially incomprehensible.
In this massive effort, Doherty shines the critical spotlight on practically every aspect of the gospel story found in the four canonical texts. Whereas my works tend to show parallels in other religions and mythologies, Earl enjoys dissecting the texts themselves, drilling down into the original Greek, of which he has superior knowledge and is well qualified to analyze. He also examines numerous extrabiblical Christian epistles and gospels.
Doherty is most at home when analyzing the Pauline epistles, drawing on an earlier lineage of scholars who recognized there is next to nothing in them indicating a "historical" Jesus. In this regard, Earl correctly identifies that when Paul is speaking of "scripture" and "prophetic writings," he is referring to the Old Testament, specifically the Greek translation or Septuagint. In that book, the word "Christos" appears some three dozen times, and it is evident that, in his revelation of Christ, Paul is building upon so-called "messianic prophecies," not the words or deeds of a "historical" Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, the canonical Christ represents not "fulfillment of prophecy" but, rather, a patchwork of Old Testament "messianic scriptures," amalgamated with Pagan philosophical notions and mythical motifs, along with both Jewish and Gentile wisdom sayings. Christ is, through and through, a literary figure, handily demonstrated in this lengthy book.
The only major weakness I see in Doherty's fine work is his uncharacteristically uncritical acceptance of mainstream dating for the canonical gospels, a position that hinders efforts at determining who could have written them, since their authors were ostensibly not the disciples to whom they are attributed. The fact is that the canonical gospels as we have them do not appear clearly in the historical record until the end of the second century.
Mythicism is to religious studies what logic is to philosophy. Doherty's book represents a major achievement in the long and venerable field of mythicism, standing on the shoulders of or side by side with such excellent and erudite luminaries as the Viscount Bolingbroke, Charles Dupuis, Count Volney, Thomas Paine, Rev. Dr. Robert Taylor, John E. Remsburg, Dr. William Benjamin Smith, John M. Robertson, Dr. Arthur Drews, Dr. John G. Jackson and Dr. Robert M. Price.
--D.M. Murdock is an independent scholar of comparative religion and mythology, and the author of The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold,Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled,Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ and Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection. Raised a Christian, she has been studying Jesus mythicism in multiple languages for some 20 years.
56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2010
Earl Doherty has outdone himself once again and has contributed an excellent treatise for the scholarly community-arguing for a mythical Christos, one named Jesus of Nazareth-the poster boy of the Christian faith. I appreciate his dedication and in depth analysis on many topics, especially in the first parts of his book, where he discusses the origins of Christianity and the teachings of Paul with a heavenly Christ.
Mr. Doherty's preface and introduction, followed by his glossary and abbreviations and ultimately his "Twelve pieces of the Jesus Puzzle" were refreshing and well introduced on his part. Apologists, such as the infamous J.P. Holding, have previously attacked Earl for what they perceived as a lack of credentials. In my opinion, there was no need for Earl to justify his personal achievements in education (a B.A. with distinction in Ancient History and Classical Languages) to the reader. As Earl, and many others have pointed out, its the information and argument provided that is the point. If the arguments are sound and valid, at the end of the day, that is all that matters, not some ad hominem regarding semantics.
In the entire work, Part Four: A World of Myth and Savior Gods, for me, was the most enjoyable of all, specifically his chapter on mystery cults. I learned a lot of information in this section and his exhaustive examination shed light on many subjects that I was not previously well versed in.
Part Six: A Riotous Diversity, was also refreshing. Earl took the time to illustrate the importance of the Johanine community and what he calls the "Gnostic phenomenon", finishing up with a well written chapter on Ignatius.
Parts seven and eight of his book deal directly with the source book of Q. I am certain that this section will be the most controversial, at least from Christians within the scholarly community and definitely from the Christian apologists as a whole. The only unfortunate part would be that no American Evangelist (dispensationalist), will be reading this chapter, for if they did, they would most certainly learn a thing or two regarding the origins of their Gospels.
Saving the best for last would be Earl's Part Eleven: The Non-Christian Witness to Jesus. I must admit, that no other scholar has ever spent the time Earl has on this subject. His information and critique of Josephus is priceless and far better then any other examination, past or present. Earl has showcased the relationship of the Testimonium Flavianum and its invention by Eusebius, better then anyone and his dedication shows. He is equally well versed with the Roman trio of Tacitus, Plinius the Younger and Suetonius. The latter of which, I can hardly fathom how he is still revered by so many Christians as evidence to a historical Jesus (the whole idea perplexes me to say the least).
With every book however, there is always something that the reader or student wishes was present or elaborated upon. One might even hope to find information on a particular subject, but for whatever reason, the author chose to omit reference to it. In the beginning of Mr. Doherty's book, he explains that he wishes for this book to be read and enjoyed just as easily for a laymen, as would a scholar. I find that this book, however, is purely an analytical work (with a well thought out synthetic structure). Each chapter is broken up into many sections, illustrating well to the reader that the subject was going to change. This book though, has so much information in it that can sometimes be hard to follow along as a whole. Furthermore, as a student myself, I found that when Earl supplied a passage by a non-canonical author (such as Ignatius, Eusebius, Origen, etc.), he always supplied the exact location within a written work, coupled with the work's title, but failed to mention to the reader whose translation it was (all of the time). It was unclear if the translations were Earl's, or that it came from, let us say, Loeb's classical library. Many scholars will find fault in a writer for supplying a translation that is not accepted by the scholarly community as a whole (which is completely solecistic), but this is how captious the field has become (at least in my perception). As a student (such as myself), we are always required to supply a footnote to a translation in our own work because quite simply, so many exist and these passages (translations) are always open to interpretation.
Closing, I highly recommend this book to students and it makes a great addition to any library. Mr. Doherty's Jesus: Neither God Nor Man - The Case for a Mythical Jesus, has become the standard for the exemplification to a mythical Jesus.
62 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2010
This is one of the few books available that argues for the Mythic Jesus theory in a comprehensive manner, and it does an superb job of proving its case. The original Christian concept of the Christ was of a heavenly Son of God without a ministry on earth. That is, no historical Jesus is needed to explain the genesis of Christianity. Going beyond simply showing the weakness of any case for an historical Jesus, Earl Doherty makes his own positive case against one, by demonstrating that much of the early Christian literature is inconsistent with a historical Jesus having existed. Earl defends the view that Paul's epistles have no place for a historical Jesus, and are totally silent with regard to one; likewise for the writers of the other New Testament epistles. At the same time Doherty shows that much of the New Testaments presents a Cosmic Christ whose work in bringing believers salvation was accomplish in a mythical non-earthly realm. Earl then explains the origins of the gospels as allegorical literature, based on midrash of the OT, and not intended to be read as eyewitness historical accounts. As a final step in making his case comprehensive, Earl deals with alleged secular references to Jesus and analyzes how Jesus is talked about by Christian writers in the second and third centuries.
In my opinion, Doherty's Jesus Myth theory has a very high probability of being correct in its essential details, even if it is not yet the view of any significant portion of New Testament scholars or classical historians. The lack of adherence to this theory by mainstream scholars is not due to any weakness in the theory itself. Rather mainstream scholarship has still failed to give the Jesus Myth thesis a fair hearing, or effectively defend their own theses from the criticisms Mythicists have made of them. A battle between the two sides hasn't been won by either side yet, simply because such a battle not been effectively waged yet. In this new book, Earl has makes an extremely well directed and effective assault, but we are still waiting for the historical Jesus proponents to offer a good counter-assaults which take the arguments of Mythicists seriously and on unbiased premises. I hope this new book by Earl is the one to finally push mainstream scholarship into giving the Jesus Myth theory much more serious, comprehensive, up-to-date, and fair hearing.
Earl does have some strong peer support from other scholars including including Robert M. Price and G. A. Wells, but they've not endeavored to present as comprehensive a case as Earl has. Price is close, and will likely be even closer after his book on Paul is published; yet Earl's new 800 page treatise stands pretty much alone as the definitive text on the subject, having no effective equal. But even if Earl's book wasn't so unique in it's content and coverage, it would still likely be the book to read on the subject, for the reason that Earl is such an elegant and effective writer very skilled at giving a presentation that is understandable by readers who are not experts in the field while still being very well documented and thoroughly scholarly. Earl's writing style and clarity of argument is among the best I've encountered after reading many books on many diverse subjects. Also with any book like this, it must be remembered the main benefit to the reader should be in what is explored and learned along the journey, and not necessarily in what conclusions are achieved at the end. Earl does a good job of making the journey itself educational and worthwhile. (Price does too in his books.)
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2010
I really can't add much more to what other reviewers have said here. This is a thorough and definitive study of the question of whether there is any evidence that Jesus actually existed as an historical person. The book covers "all the bases" by systematically analyzing all of the references (or lack thereof) to an historical Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament and in the works of non-Christian authors such as Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius. The author repeatedly demonstrates clear evidence of Christian interpolation in these latter "sources for the historical Jesus." If someone who believes Jesus existed still holds that belief after reading this work, it could only be out of stubbornness. When dealing with History, it is generally more proper to speak of probabilities than of certainties, but given the nature of the earliest records of Christianity, there is only one reasonable conclusion: Christianity began with a mythical Christ, not with an historical Jesus. Mr. Doherty has proven his case. I would have expected a work like this to have been issued in hardback by a university press such as Oxford or Cambridge or Harvard, but the paperback is thankfully sturdy enough to withstand repeated readings. This is important, as this is the sort of book that you will want to refer back to over and over.
33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2010
I'm reviewing Doherty's "Jesus: Neither God nor Man" from the standpoint of someone who has read Doherty's "The Jesus Puzzle". The earlier work was a five star effort. It was well written, well argued, and quite accessible.
The current book is a revised and expanded edition, appearing ten years later than the earlier one. It is physically bigger (wider and taller), uses a smaller font, and has over twice as many pages. Unlike the earlier book this one is self published. Unfortunately, this leads to most of the problems with the book.
Doherty can't bring himself to leave anything out. We have chapter after chapter devoted to parsing Greek sentences. We have 50 pages devoted to Josephus. Another 50 are devoted to Tacitus. He feels it necessary to respond at length to apologist books that have been published in the last ten years and to internet sites that have sprung up in the same period.
I don't dispute the necessity for much of this. This needs to be done. But in the context of a book that is trying to gain traction for a radical idea I think it only serves to dilute the greater message. Doherty spends a great deal of time on New Testament epistle passages that seem to support Jesus historicity. So much so one gets the impression that Doherty is protesting too much and is indulging in special pleading. This isn't the case of course but getting bogged down in minutiae doesn't really help his case. Surely it would have been more to the point to just state his position and say anyone interested in the details can refer to my website, etc, etc.
This book was a chore to get through so I can't bring myself to give it five stars. Doherty is persuasive and he builds his arguments well; I take nothing from his talents as an author, researcher, or scholar. I question his instincts as a publisher; I don't think this book will sell well.
I also note that the covers began to delaminate as I was reading it. Perhaps this is just my copy.
Summing up, I can only recommend this book to those who are 1.) *really* (and I mean *really*) interested in the minutiae of Doherty's thesis and 2.) have already read "The Jesus Puzzle". I really liked "The Jesus Puzzle" and have reread it 2 or 3 times over the last ten years. I doubt I'll be rereading this one any time soon. All in all, a disappointment.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2012
This truly is a great book and might even change your life--so please don't read it if, for any reason, you'd rather hang on to your misconceptions. But personally, having been caught up for decades in a frustrating effort to discover the "real, authentic Jesus," I was familiar with most these data, and with other authors' theories and perspectives on them--but Doherty has put the pieces of the "Jesus puzzle" together in a finally satisfying and largely believable way. No, I don't fully accept quite everything he writes--the book is so exhaustive in scope that it does become merely speculative at times--but even if you only accept about 15 points out of every 18 that Doherty makes, you'll still come away convinced he's right.
For example, most of us are probably aware of a certain divide or a disconnect between the canonical gospels and the epistles of Paul. Further, it's common knowledge that the epistles predate the gospels, despite our standard biblical sequencing. However, because of certain preconceptions that I've always had (but never acknowledged that I had, until reading Doherty), I'd never drawn any useful conclusions from the knowledge of Paul's greater antiquity. And likewise, I've always found the epistles dull, irritating--even intrusive--in large part because of the way Paul focuses so exclusively on "Christ"--and I mean by this a cold, abstract, "risen" entity--while ignoring all of the brilliant and inspirational words of the itinerant rabbi "Jesus of Nazareth"--a human being full of emotions and contradictions. But again, I never drew the obvious conclusion: I mean the conclusion that Paul of Tarsus had never in fact heard of this itinerant rabbi, much less had he ever imagined his own Christ as having until recently been a human being--much less a human who'd been crucified and then resurrected again on Earth. Paul's tendency to "set Jesus off to one side" and to focus so wholeheartedly upon the austere and the abstract finally makes sense, once we grasp that Paul never actually knew about the "prior appearance" of his Messiah on Earth--in other words, Paul wasn't thinking or writing about a human "Jesus"--and this perspective is unmistakably correct, since of course the familiar "biography" of Jesus hadn't even been penned yet while Paul was alive. Thus, Paul's relative antiquity explains why he never once quotes Jesus in his epistles, never recalls any of Jesus' deeds or uses any of them as teaching examples, and conversely he justifies all of his opinions based solely upon the Hebrew scriptures. In other words, Doherty's "mythicism" offers a fresh of way of seeing Paul--and lo and behold, the epistles actually make more sense when divorced from the gospels and an earthly Jesus.
If you find this at all intriguing, do read the book.
27 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2010
For anyone interested in the Jesus Myth hypothesis (whether you're interested accepting it, or just familiarizing yourself with it) this is the source. Most sources will introduce the "argument from silence" or point to similarities to the Mediterranean dying and rising god tradition; Earl introduces positive evidence from the earliest source material and lays it all out to plead his case. And, in my opinion, he does a mighty fine job at it, too. While there may have been a man named Jesus at the heart of the tradition, the actual evidence that we have seems to point firmly the other way. At the very least, after reading this highly entertaining book, you will no longer be able to be lied to by pseudo-historians that erroneously claim early evidence for their tradition.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2014
VERY PERSUASIVE MATERIAL WELL BACKED BY PROOF AND VERY UNDERSTANDABLE. EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD DO THEMSELVES THE FAVOR OF STUDYING THIS BOOK! WELL THOUGHT OUT AND PRESENTED, THE AUTHOR IS A GENIUS!! MANY QUESTIONS WERE ANSWERED AND I HAVE A WHOLE NEW WAY OF UNDERSTANDING EARLY SOURCES OF CHRISTIANITY!!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED TO EVERYONE, BELIEVER AND UNBELIEVER.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2011
Deep beneath the surface of the earth, vast plates the size of continents imperceptibly grind against each other. Tension builds invisibly, while the surface shows little sign of the stresses steadily building below. Eventually, the growing tectonic pressure becomes too much, and the surface suddenly shifts to align to the causal reality. The vast destruction of a big earthquake produces a new stability, the apparent peace of the days before the quake is revealed as illusory, and those who had imagined their previous situation would continue are exposed as wrong.
The seismic shift of continental drift is seen in human culture in another form of tectonics. The carpenter Jesus, in Greek the tekton or master craftsman, sits at the center of Western civilization as the imagined redeemer of the faithful. And yet, as Earl Doherty proves beyond doubt in his masterful detailed analysis of Christian origins, Jesus Christ did not exist as a man, but was invented as a fictional character by the early church. This finding is a spiritual earthquake for our day.
Like a top barrister building his case for the jury, Doherty methodically examines early Christianity and its context to show there is no evidence whatsoever for the Christian faith in a historical Jesus, and abundant evidence for his invention. Like a new Galileo knocking away belief in heaven, or a new Darwin destroying belief in creation, Doherty eliminates the remaining pillar of conventional faith, the belief that Christianity was founded by Jesus Christ. It just did not happen.
This shocking finding has an equal seismic power as those earlier demolitions of orthodox belief by Galileo and Darwin, and is simply unimaginable for almost all Christians. And yet, if we put ourselves in the place of Christians at the time of Columbus, fearing a waterfall at the edge of the world ocean, or at the time of Darwin, secure in the ethical framework built upon the Genesis creation story, with Adam as the first man whose sin was redeemed by Christ on the cross, we can start to imagine how current religious delusions may also prove to be groundless, a house built on sand.
By questioning the traditional assumption of Jesus as founder, Doherty comprehensively and systematically shows how early Christian writings have been seen "through a glass darkly", as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 13, through the distorted prism of the later fictional invention of Jesus. For generations after the supposed time of Jesus, we read nothing, precisely nothing, of the historical savior who is so familiar from the Gospels. Saint Paul and his contemporaries in the first century make no mention of Bethlehem, of Nazareth, of Galilee, of a ministry in Jerusalem, or a death on Calvary. These supposed events only appear later, in the brilliant inventive genius of Mark, and his successors Matthew and Luke, with their synthesis of the various strands of spiritual belief into a believable historical story in the early second century.
Paul's Christ is an imaginary spiritual cosmic figure, whose manifestation on earth occurs in the proclamation of the apostles, not the teachings of the Savior, and contains no historical detail at all. By deceptively placing the Epistles after the Gospels in the New Testament, Christians have systematically distorted their reading of Paul, imagining that he speaks of a historical Christ when in fact he does no such thing.
Doherty provides a forensic analysis of this `reading back' of Gospel preconceptions into the Epistles. He shows that all the supposed historical references to Jesus by Paul amount to nothing more than clutching at scanty straws by later dogmatists. Jesus is from David according to the flesh? This line from Romans 1 illustrates little more than Paul's belief that the messianic idea emerges among the Jews. James is `brother of the Lord'? This ambiguous wording from Galatians 1:19 could have various other meanings other than the sibling of Christ that Christian apologists read. Christ celebrated the "Lord's Supper"? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11 that he knows of this event only `through revelation', more as supernatural ritual than historical event, and without any mention of details such as a trial the next day, or a location.
Apart from these dubious snippets, Paul presents an amazing and complete silence about a historical Jesus. Where Paul could naturally be expected to cite the teachings and life of Jesus in defense of his arguments, he never does. His arguments all come from the Old Testament, never from the supposed recent events in Palestine. Such a method of argument would be bizarre, if Jesus actually was the founder of the faith. Remember the advice of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount not to hide your light under a bushel? Paul seems so entirely embarrassed about the light of Christ that he never quotes him, or refers to any definite event in His supposed life. But that is because he had a big hand in inventing him.
Fast forward half a century from Paul to Mark, the first Gospel, and we find an inventive amalgam of Old Testament prophecy, set into a historical novel in Galilee and Jerusalem, rather as the tale of the Knights of the Round Table was later set in Camelot. Matthew and Luke then add a bunch of ethical sayings, known as Q, and finally John brings in the speculative visions of the Gnostics. It was all completely fictional, but so seductive that it spread like wildfire, once enough people were convinced. Not until 150 years after the passion events they describe were the four Gospels recognised as the canon, leaving abundant time to suppress, forget, amend and lose the real historical origins of Christian faith.
The Gospels and Epistles provide no evidence for any historical claims about Jesus. But Earl Doherty shows that so-called `independent evidence' of Jesus is similarly farcical. Christians were so embarrassed to read Roman historical accounts which left Jesus out that they added him in, using the fraudulent practice of interpolation. Many Christians cite the main historian of the Jewish War, Josephus, as independent testimony. No Christians for more than two centuries noticed his mention of Jesus, even though it would have been a natural argument for them to cite, had he written it. The reference to Jesus in extant copies of the Antiquities of the Jews is a crude forgery. But Doherty observes that the fraudulent addition of Christ to the work of Josephus enabled the survival of the book. The hostile indifference of Christians through the dark ages to anything that did not agree with their dogma would have seen Josephus consigned to the flames had Eusebius not tampered with the text to add the line about the savior. Similarly, the supposed blaming of Christians for the fire at Rome in The Annals of Tacitus is nothing but a myth, not noticed by any historians or readers for hundreds of years, as believable as the fragments of the True Cross. Christianity is a Big Lie.
Jesus Neither God Nor Man is a magisterial work, utterly demolishing any credibility for literal historical faith in Jesus Christ. It presents a compelling logical foundation for theology that will completely wipe away the speculative visions based on historical fantasy.
Potential further research, building on Doherty's findings, should, in my view, seek to solve the puzzle that he poses of how Christianity evolved despite a complete absence of evidence for its claims. Doherty sets the platform for real scholarly debate, rendering any views that rely on the assumption of a historical Jesus as obsolete. Why did people believe in Jesus? Two areas that merit further investigation are the cosmic framework of observation of the stars, and the continuity between Christianity and other mythical traditions, especially from Egypt. Doherty only mentions these issues in passing. However, the observation of precession of the equinox has a precise match to the timing of Christ, with the idea of `as above so below' linked to the concept of the Age. As well, there are obvious major parallels between Christianity and Egyptian beliefs in their main gods Osiris, Isis and Horus. Doherty exercises scholarly caution regarding these more speculative areas of enquiry, restricting his analysis to the established Western framework of Greco-Judaean civilization. But as his findings are analyzed further, these themes deserve close scrutiny.
Rather than a `Big Bang' founded by Jesus Christ, Doherty explains Christianity as an idea that was `in the air' across the Roman Empire, with multiple diverse sources that gradually coalesced into the dominant historical myth that has dominated Western culture for the last two millennia. As he says, it is absurd to imagine that the Christian communities who received Paul's letters imagined that an obscure carpenter from Nazareth was the incarnation of the Logos, especially when Paul himself makes no such claim. In presenting a purely scientific causal evolutionary account of the cultural memes of faith, Doherty's explanation of the rise of Christianity seems more like the Cambrian Explosion, the sudden change more than half a billion years ago when multi-cellular life first evolved across the earth, with myriad forms emerging, competing and mostly going extinct, with only the most adaptive surviving.
So does Doherty demolish Christianity? Surprisingly enough, I don't think so. He reserves his withering scorn for the Christian apologists who turned the early myth into dogma, who distorted the historical record to support their political interests in the growth of the church. As for Paul himself, and the writers of the Gospels, Doherty appears to hold them in high esteem, as spiritual geniuses who articulated a new myth suited to the ethical needs of their day. Doherty speculates that Mark would have been aghast at what later churchmen made of his allegorical tale of Christ.
The failure of Christianity to understand its origins has ever since been a source of dominant delusion. By analysing what the original authors really intended, that Christ was mythical and eternal, not literal and temporal, we have opportunity to rebase Christianity in scientific understanding, so that reverence for the idea of Christ can once again be based in spiritual cosmic imagination, rather than in historical idolatry. Literal faith in Jesus Christ is the last major holdout of fundamentalist supernatural error, committing the sin that Paul condemned in Romans 1:25, "exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen."
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2013
Yes, this book is long. Yes, this book is detailed. Consider though, that Doherty is offering a refutation of a long-held, deeply ingrained set of beliefs, beliefs that lie near the root of our culture. Doherty writes in depth but with great clarity, laying out his case with the precision of a watchmaker. It is a tour-de-force presentation of his ideas, and personally I read right through the text and the long appendices without flinching. The cumulative weight of the argument is part of its power. Whether or not you find his views convincing, you will never see the character of Jesus in the same light again. This book can change the world: "The ax is laid to the root of the tree..."