The early bodiless Jesus—Pt. 3

The spiritual Jesus At an early stage of Christianity, according to the foregoing analysis, Jesus was a spiritual entity. This was a pre-canonical stage, to be dated to the first century CE—before the invention of Jesus the Nazarene and before the writing of the canonical gospels. The spiritual Jesus is evident, for example, in the epistles of Paul, works that do not know Jesus the Nazarene (“Nazarene” or “Nazareth” do not occur even once in the Pauline epistles). As I wrote in NazarethGate (p. 409):           Paul enthuses in his epistles about the spiritual entity he calls singly and severally the “Lord,” “Jesus,” and “Christ.” The entity grants grace, peace, comfort, authority (2 Cor 10:8), will slay the “lawless one” at … Continue reading

The early bodiless Jesus—Pt. 2

In the last post we looked at the Acts of Pilate (AcPil)—being the first half of the rather obscure Gospel of Nicodemus, a Jewish Christian work probably of the mid-second century CE. The work betrays a most unusual theology where “Jesus” is partly physical, partly spiritual, and somehow able to pass from one person to another. This ambiguous theology is the author’s focus. For example, the setting is scrupulously laid out whereby Joseph of Arimathea is locked into a sealed room (even without windows), and with guards outside. Yet the spirit of Jesus still passes to Joseph at midnight, effecting a sacred transformation immediately following Jesus’ death. All this has some kind of meaning, and it is no doubt allegorical. … Continue reading

The early bodiless Jesus—Pt. 1

In the last several posts we looked at Marcion’s critical role in early gospel formation, and at two recent scholarly views that propose a new synoptic paradigm: Marcion’s gospel predated all four canonical gospels. This includes the Gospel of Mark which, accordingly, now moves to the mid-second century CE. Prof. Markus Vinzent, in particular, has proposed that it was Marcion of Pontus who, in the first half of the second century, ‘invented’ the figure of Jesus of Nazareth (more correctly: Jesus the Nazarene). Vinzent writes: Marcion created a powerful narrative of a transcendent, pre-existing figure who appeared on this alien earth, in the midst of history, to liberate human beings from these physical chains of ignorance, greed, law, sin, judgement … Continue reading

Latest News from Aleteia

I am now approaching the midpoint of writing my forthcoming book, NazarethGate (Fall, 2015). Chapter Ten deals with the Nazareth house allegedly “from the time of Jesus” which was touted to global media back in December 2009—just a few days before Christmas. A couple of years ago I dedicated a Scandal Sheet to this bogus claim on my Nazarethmyth website. There, I pointed out that the claims in the popular press do not tally with the Israel Antiquity Authority’s own very terse report which makes no mention of first-century remains, much less of evidence from the turn of the era. But the media has a momentum of its own—so much so that the desires of Christians to authenticate their precious … Continue reading

“Jesus,” the rebel against Judaism

For the last several decades a wrong-headed and tiresome refrain has emanated from the theological podiums (or is it podia?) around the USA: “Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew.” So I myself learned on the first day of a New Testament course at the University of Oregon some years ago. The professor—Daniel Falk, a respected specialist in Qumran studies—quickly elaborated a little: Christianity was “a very significant modification of the religion of ancient Israel… It and Judaism are two offshoots of ancient Israel. Both came from rabbinic Judaism. Later, Christianity became a gentile religion.” The bottom line was clear: Jesus brought nothing radically new. He was in fact quite orthodox! What was “new” was Paul’s mis-interpretation of Jesus’ Jewish message…   … Continue reading

Thomas Brodie, mythicist priest:
Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus—Pt. 3

(Published Easter Sunday) On this Easter Sunday, ‘year of our Lord’ 2013, we may note that Father Thomas Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus offers the world a closely reasoned analysis showing that “Jesus of Nazareth” is a fiction, a literary construct cunningly based on Jewish scripture. Brodie has done nothing less than deconstruct normative Christianity based on literary source criticism. Of course, Thomas Brodie is no Johnny come lately, no dillettante, no wild-eyed hater of Christianity… He is both a Dominican priest and a distinguished bible scholar with an extensive resumé of published work going back many decades. Throughout his academic career, Brodie’s specialization has been literary source criticism. In this domain, he is the expert. Brodie … Continue reading

Thomas Brodie, mythicist priest:
Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus—Pt. 1

I have just finished reading Thomas L. Brodie’s Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery (Sheffield Phoenix, 2012). A friend gifted me his copy (thanks Alan) and that prompted me to immediately read this important monograph and to delay the rest of the “to read” pile on my desk. Being a painfully slow reader, I spent several weeks on the book and now offer my extended comments on this signal publication in the history of Jesus mythicism. Beyond the Quest is a mixture of two things: autobiography and historical-theological analysis, all (except chp. 7) written in an accessible style—like having an extended cup of coffee (p. xv). Jesus mythicists may not be that interested in the … Continue reading

The Natsarene Religion – Pt. 1 (Salm)

The thrust of Jesus mythicism is to establish that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist—he was an invented figure. Much ink is now being spilled demonstrating this and—even in the unlikely case that the question were settled by scholarship in the next decade or so—acceptance of Jesus mythicism by the general populace will probably require several more decades. However, showing that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist as an historical figure is not the end of the road. There are some, myself included, who strongly suspect that a human prophet was ultimately behind various Christian, Mandean, and Gnostic writings of late antiquity. I call this view semi-mythicism. Perhaps the prophet in question was John the Baptist. Perhaps he was the … Continue reading

My journey as a “spiritual atheist”—Pt. 3

Motive, means, and opportunity Reflecting upon Jesus’ virgin birth, resurrection, and everything in between, I was now convinced that his various biographies as presented in the gospels are pure fiction. Liberal scholarship has amply confirmed this and shown, for example, that the birth stories in Matthew and Luke are incompatible and preposterous as history. King Herod did not murder the babies of Bethlehem—no Roman writer noted such an atrocious act. No star stood still over the village. No census required people to return to their birthplace—a prescription for social chaos, otherwise unknown, that the practical Romans would never have mandated. In other words, Christianity is founded on an invented story—indeed, upon a “lie.” That is a harsh word, but no … Continue reading

Dr. Lena Einhorn’s “time shift” hypothesis

Lena Einhorn’s book The Jesus Mystery: Astonishing Clues to the True Identities of Jesus and Paul (2007) made two arguments: (1) the standard chronology of the New Testament is about twenty years too early (this is Einhorn’s “time shift” theory); and (2) that Jesus and Paul were one and the same person. I have not read the book, nor have I heard either of these theories before. But I have just finished reading Einhorn’s remarkable SBL paper regarding the first of the above theories. It is masterful. Not the typical New Testament scholar Lena Einhorn is a medical doctor with a PhD in Virology and Tumor Biology from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm. In the 1980s she changed course and began … Continue reading