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744 of 797 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Open Minds Only, February 2, 2000
This review is from: The Jesus Puzzle. Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? : Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus (Paperback)
Here's your chance for glory: Produce a good, sound argument that the Jesus Christ featured in the New Testament gospels is the same individual as the Jesus Christ whom the NT epistle authors have in mind. Do this and you will be the first person in history to accomplish this task.
In his book "The Jesus Puzzle", Earl Doherty demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ is a fictional character. No such person ever existed. The notion may be shocking to the general populace, but it is not a new idea, and has been endorsed by a minority of scholars for over a century.
The best evidence comes from the Christian writers themselves. The New Testament epistles and most of the non-canonical literature until the mid-2nd century show a resounding silence on the earthly life of Jesus. No teachings or miracles. No references to Mary, Joseph, the disciples or the holy places, such as Bethlehem, Nazareth and Calvary. No trial or details of the passion story. And so on.
Scholars try their best to explain this phenomenon, but this degree of silence from so many writers over so many years has one and only one adequate explanation: the writers ignore Jesus's life on earth because they don't KNOW of a life on earth. Jesus Christ started out as an entirely divine being, just like all the other gods in all the other religions of the day. The idea that he lived a full, human life was a later development in Christian mythology which gradually caught on, proved to be popular and eventually became standard orthodox belief.
Another problem with the traditional view of Christian origins is the wide diversity of expressions shown in the early Christian record. These are unlikely to have stemmed from the life of a highly-revered human founder. "Rather, Christianity was born in a thousand places, in a host of different forms, growing out of the broad, fertile religious soil of the time." (Page 139).
Doherty considers (and refutes) the various attempts people make to prove a historical Jesus, including the infamous forgery in the writings of historian Josephus and the handful of vaguely-phrased epistle passages which, on the surface, have a "human" sound to them, but in fact can apply equally to divine beings.
The author has a website, and I have put him to the test by discussing his work on the Web with people who are far more knowledgeable on the subject than I. Most disagree with Doherty's views (sometimes throwing tantrums in the process!), but when they try to present a convincing argument to the contrary, they can't do it. They don't even come close. At best, they will nail him on an insignificant technicality. Too often people read the epistles with gospel-tinted glasses.
The Great Silence is carefully examined, but the book offers much more. There is a lot of general education material which is great for the average reader. We get an introduction to the philosophies of the time, such as Platonism and Cynicism. Doherty closely examines the lost document of Q and considers the similarities between Jesus and the competing savior gods, such as Attis, Osiris, Dionysos and Mithras. He describes the universe as perceived in those days and the spiritual realm where Jesus and the other gods operate. And we are treated to several passages which managed to escape Christian censorship and show without question that the authors do not have in mind a human Jesus executed under Pilate.
There's very little in the way of weak points. At times Doherty may exaggerate the significance of a particular silence. And I'm a bit uneasy with some of the assumptions and speculations in Parts 5 and 6 concerning the Q document and Christian origins. But none of this is harmful to the overall case. Doherty is a fine writer, is very well-read and does not depend on sources of dubious reliability.
Now, there IS one significant hurdle which the author may never overcome. It's not deficient arguments, but rather human nature. For scholars to admit that Doherty is right means to admit they've been under a monumental misconception for their entire careers. Time will tell whether they have the courage and dignity to do this.
Read, learn and spread the Good News to your friends! If justice is served, this book will change the world.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 34 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 26, 2006 4:17:01 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2006 6:35:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 21, 2006 6:51:25 AM PDT
Not a problem. Doherty's book won't "change the world" so much as prick it a tad. I looked at the Christian edifice with a sense of wonder after reading "The Jesus Puzzle."

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2006 11:00:43 AM PST

Just Google the "Jewish Encyclopedia" and read the article entitled "Gilyonim." From the horse's mouth, it will explain "The Great Silence."

But I must warn you. It's for open minds only.

Posted on Nov 3, 2006 11:54:55 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 7, 2006 9:48:05 AM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 27, 2006 6:59:03 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 27, 2006 6:59:38 AM PST
Philonous says:
The previous comment is what you would expect from a dogmatic believer. Depressing? What is depressing is the fact that people who should know better - and who are intellectually capable of knowing better - insist on believing in a "good and merciful" god. And what is offensive is the enormity of the evils committed in the name of this "good and merciful" god. It is believers, not Doherty and this reviewer, that are not in touch with reality.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2006 10:12:02 PM PST
S. Kelley says:
Bravo!!!!!!!!!! Logic over knee-jerk rhetoric.

However, the huddled unwashed masses do NOT yearn to be free. They revel in the brainwashing they have received from birth and find immense comfort in their delusions.

Push the brainless tumors too far and they tend to strike out in a most dangerous manner.... akin to the one-celled amoeba but possessing that which multi-cellular organisms possess. In other words, be prepared to dodge the thrown rocks. Sadly, later, the same simpletons will babble their rhetoric about "Ye who have not sinned cast the first stone."

The brainwashed simpletons are unable to "step outside" themselves and view their own idiocy. Such is the life of those never taught to use logical thinking and step away from the brainwashing too many mental midgets are unable to cast off.

Posted on Jan 5, 2007 1:30:06 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 5, 2007 1:32:09 PM PST
MetricSU says:
As I have written elsewhere -- and as it is depressing to admit -- I agree with S. Kelly. I think it is absolutely true that the majority of Americans would not know what to do if their minds were kicked loose from religious dogma. (Heck, millions of Americans are worried about an eternal afterlife and they don't even know how to amuse themselves when the cable goes out.) This is obvious to anyone living in "middle America." The stability of a mind that can read the Bible and accept it as the the word of God, literal or otherwise, is in serious question. Those who claim that our morality comes from the Bible (or any religious text) show a clear inability to think logically.

The reasons Doherty's book might not "change the world," even if widely read and accepted, are complicated. We clearly have limited resources on earth, and technological advances are not happening quickly enough to ensure a nice standard of living for the vast majority of the global population. There would still be conflict and wars because of limited resources and the shameful discrepancies between rich and poor. And, of course, this basic observation is one of the main reasons religion has such a hold on most of the world (even though it is not Christianity). If one is born in Iraq or India or Brazil and is severely impoverished, how else can one make sense of life? But here is an important point: once we shed religious dogma on a massive scale, I believe that most people would suddenly realize this is the one life that we have, and other humans deserve some happiness in this life, too. Currently, it is simply too easy to live in the United States, as a self-satisfied Christian, and comment that people worldwide can have the benefits of an eternal, blissful afterlife if only they would accept Jesus as savior. This can never happen to a child born in, say, Iraq. And it is an obvious reason why any thinking person must be an atheist. My son asked me why God never told him what to believe. My daughter asked "How come religious people don't all believe the same thing?" Unfettered by religious dogma, even kids under 10 can see the illogic of religion.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2007 11:44:53 AM PST
Shinigami says:
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Posted on Feb 5, 2007 8:22:13 PM PST
Enigma says:
Oh dear, sometimes you read a review that impresses you and other times you read a review where you simply feel sorry for the author of it. Most of those reviews never make it to the spotlight section, but here we have an anomaly. Let's dissect this review.

Paragraph 1

Is nonsensical hyperbole, unless of course, you are a died in the wool anti-Christian or an obscurantist. Even the most cursory reading of the New Testament disproves the reviewers point.

Paragraph 2

This reveals more about the reviewer's credulity than the book. I guess you can say that PT Barnum was right.

Paragraph 3

This simply goes against secular history. In order to make his case Doherty must rewrite history, the only problem being is that we have the empirical evidence that proves that Doherty is wrong. As almost all secular historians will testify too all of the New Testament books were written in the 1st centaury. The only two which can even be debated is 2nd John and Jude. But no secular historian debates these since they acknowledge that 2nd John was penned before 3rd John and Jude's author must have been deceased by 100 AD.

Paragraph 4

Simply restates the false premise of the third. The author is acknowledging that there was no holocaust because Doherty says so.

Paragraph 5

The reviewer states the exact opposite of what secular historians will tell you. Sorry but I prefer to believe what thousands of years of research, documentary evidence and empirical facts say rather than a man who is trying to advance his ideological agenda.

Paragraph 6

This is for the choir, either you believe there was a holocaust or be like the reviewer and the author and ignore 99% of all the evidence.

Paragraph 7

No offense but this is silly, Doherty is not taken seriously in the secular world, so therefore discussions on his website are irrelevant.

Paragraph 8

This is my favorite paragraph since Doherty and the reviewer rely on Q to help bolster there argument. The reviewer writes the following and I quote:

"Doherty closely examines the lost document of Q"

But let us not forget.

There is NO archeological evidence for Q
There is NO textual evidence for Q
There is NO textual layer evidence for Q
There is NO secondary source evidence for Q
There is NO tertiary or for that matter any source evidence for Q
There are NO transitional forms for Q
There are NO archeological facts for Q
There are NO sociological facts for Q
There are NO textual criticisms for Q
There are NO secondary sources for Q
There is NO evidence for Q whatsoever.
Besides those points all the New Testament manuscripts that have found are fully formed as they are today, so Q is much like the purple and pink polka dotted leprechaun riding a strawberry striped unicorn, it just doesn't exist.

However we must pay homage to Doherty, this guy is good, so good that he can closely examine an imaginary document to help make his case. Now I don't blame Doherty for this since he has no factual evidence to back up his conjectures; he must rely on his imagination. But what I would never have expected is that anybody would fall for this.

Paragraph 9

"There's very little in the way of weak points."

Hmmmm, lets see other than the fact that he relies on imaginary sources like Q, Doherty late dates every book in the bible, my favorites are Luke and Acts. He dates them 150+ AD and 175 AD respectively. There are a multitude of problems with this dating but rather than drag the readers through all of them just ponder the following.

Clement in 95 AD did it
Ignatius in 107 AD did it
Polycarp in 110 AD did it
Didache in 75 - 125 AD did it

What did they do you might ask? Good question

They all quoted from Luke and Acts BEFORE (at least according to Doherty and the reviewer) they were written? Yup very little in the way of weak points!

Final Comment

Now, there IS one significant hurdle which the author and reviewer may never overcome. It's not their patently false arguments, but rather their ideological presuppositions. For them to admit that secular historians and empirical evidence has been correct they will have to admit that they have been under a monumental misconception. Time will tell whether the author or reviewer will have the courage and dignity to do this.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2007 3:48:59 PM PDT
R. Young says:
Most of what Steven Tooley has to say is complete nonsense, typical of your average apologist. He simply denies the vast silence on an historical Jesus in the non-Gospel (and Acts) record, something which a clear-eyed reading of the texts themselves will make painfully clear. Such a reading Tooley has obviously not given them.

He also claims that "almost all secular historians" date virtually the entire New Testament to the first century, which even a basic knowledge of modern critical biblical scholarship would disprove. Many major mainstream scholars today place a good portion of those texts in the 2nd century.

Then he makes wildly exaggerated statements about the non-existence of Q. Prior to that he has stated his personal principle that he prefers "to believe what thousands of years of research, documentary evidence and empirical facts say." Is he not aware that the existence of Q has been held by the great majority of New Testament scholars for almost two centuries? Why is he not willing to accept their judgment in this case? He makes it sound like it's some lunatic idea of Doherty's. And the "textual evidence for Q" is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, from which that document can be extracted. 'Evidence' for an alternative explanation (usually that Luke used Matthew) is beset with far more problems and shaky arguments than those used to support Q. His "purple and pink polka dotted leprechaun riding a strawberry striped unicorn" should rather be applied to his own delusions.

Then he says that Doherty dates Luke to 150+ and Acts to 175. He doesn't. He follows a minority but growing position that Luke was revised around 150, but the original version was probably a few decades earlier. He dates Acts, again following a minority position, to around 145-150. But the document doesn't have any attestation until about 170. Tooley should get his facts straight before dumping on his straw man with such maniacal glee. Thus his claim that 1 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and the Didache quoted from Acts between 95 and 125 is simply garbage, and is based on no evidence. No scholar of any sort has identified a knowledge of Acts prior to a possible, but uncertain, reference by Justin around 155.

I've seen some of Tooley's other remarks relating to Doherty's books elsewhere on these comments, and he just keeps on ranting and raving no matter what you say, with never an acknowledgement that he has gotten anything wrong. I don't expect anything different this time.
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