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The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus Paperback – January 1, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The most compelling argument ever published in support of the theory that Jesus never existed as an historical person." --Frank Zindler, editor, American Atheist Magazine, Autumn 2000.

"Doherty has written a potential modern classic, which deserves to be widely read and discussed." --Jan Koster, Professor of Linguistics, Groningen University, The Netherlands

"I have never read such scholarship in so easy a style. You have a wonderful way of conveying complex ideas." --Judith Hayes, author of "In God We Trust...But Which God?"

From the Publisher

During three years of exposure on the World Wide Web, where he has presented convincing evidence, on a half a million word website, that no historical Jesus existed, to enthusiastic (and not so enthusiastic) reaction from around the globe, Earl Doherty's first published book has been eagerly awaited. The wait will not disappoint. In a highly attractive product (the cover itself is stunning), the author presents all the details of his argument in an immensely readable and accessible format. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Age of Reason Publications (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 096892591X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0968925911
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.7 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Heath VINE VOICE on March 12, 2006
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Robert Price has very ably and empirically deconstructed the Christ myth to the point that the only item still seriously in question is whether the first layer of Q can be attributed to a Nazerite named Jesus. Price's successful deconstruction thus begs the question: What is the history of how a diverse group of followers came to worship a character who eventually attained the status of the one true God? Enter Earl Doherty and his book, "the Jesus Puzzle".

Doherty presents a new theory that relies mostly on rationalism. Not because he ignores the empirical evidence we now possess to develop theories on the development of Christianity, but instead because while its relatively easy to deconstruct many New Testament claims; positive evidence to create the historical Jesus and historical Jesus Christ are virtually non-existent, making Doherty's constructive efforts exponentially more difficult than Price's deconstruction attempts.

This is not to say Doherty presents little empirical evidence on the development of his Christ, but instead takes what little empirical evidence we have and puts forth a rational theory heavy on common sense. For example, Doherty spends significant amounts of time reviewing the conflicts discussed in the early epistles and analyzing the approach Paul and the other authors use to make a case for their position in the debate. Many of these debates were repeated later in the gospels, with Jesus providing an example addressing the conflict. The epistles consistently ignore the examples in the gospels of Jesus' position, and instead create their own argument, which of course wouldn't carry the weight if one had an argument by the God they worshipped.
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A simple enumeration of the contradictions, inconsistencies and errors in the New Testament is not enough to prove that Jesus was as mythical as Dionysus. The author of this book knows this very well so he spends the pages of his treatise to build from the ground up his case with extreme attention to detail. His style is scholarly (states his assumptions, separates facts from conjecture even if this appears to weaken his case, attributes the ideas he explains), consistent and impartial.

The issue of "impartiality" is, for obvious reasons, very important in this case. The author does not try to buttress an inconclusive argument with methods not grounded to reason, but shifts the focus to issues for which conclusive arguments can be developed and constructive inferences can be extracted. He avoids to be combative, insulting or polarized. He does not miss an opportunity to heap praise to Apostle Paul (indeed a remarkable personality) but tries to use the mildest words to describe Mark's unskilled use of language.

The main argument is developed in several stages. The author gives an excellent review of the philosophical movements of the first and second century and builds a virtual map the coordinates of which are the various philosophical ideas. He then helps the reader place the various thinkers of the time on this map. This works amazingly well for Paul whose complex thinking suddenly becomes tractable. Works OK for the other epistle writers. But does not work very well for Mark. So, the very solid exposition of the Jerusalem group (Paul etc) is followed by speculative conjectures regarding the events that took place around the end of the first century (the time Mark was composed).
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I was raised as a strict Methodist, but rebelled at a young age. Since I have retired, I have read numerous books trying to find out some sort of truth about the origins of Christianity. I had reached stage where I thought that Jesus of Nazareth was a Galilean, Cynic-influenced teacher, and that his story had somehow got mixed up with a Christ-cult which Paul adopted. I knew about the relative dating of the books of the New Testament, but I was enormously impressed by the comprehensive scholarship of Doherty's book. He makes an excellent case that there never was a historical Jesus. In the Epistles, which predate the gospels, there is NO evidence of the Jesus of the Gospels. What we have there is Paul's metaphysical idea where the sacrifice of the Son of God occurred at the level of demons, not on the earth. The source of Paul's ideas is scripture, not historical testimony. I used to think that Paul was responsible for turning Christianity into what it became. But I think Doherty is correct in emphasising "Mark", whoever he was, as turning the mythical level of Paul's thought into a historical basis. But this was a literary creation, on a parallel with the many myths circulating at the time about divine or semi-divine beings.

Thanks,Earl, for finally letting me see the truth.

John
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I found this book to be fascinating, well researched and documented. I've read many related books by John Shelby Spong (Sins of the Scriptures, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, A New Christianity for a New World) and they make much sense, but after reading Doherty, a wider view emerges. Spong tries to salvage some of the foundations of the "traditional" (orthodox) religion and recast these into modern terms, by interpreting biblical writings with a perspective of the writers and their times. A very noble and articulate attempt. Doherty goes much farther and proceeds where documentary research actually leads, since he is apparently not constrained by the need to preserve received notions or to bias toward a specific outcome. What Doherty writes provides the best explanation I have ever read accounting for how Christianity most plausibly developed. I'd encourage anyone interested in the period 100 BCE to 300 CE to acquire and read this book, it's a stepping stone to a rational understanding of a most significant influence on the development of Western civilization.
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