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ThefollowingarticleappearedintheJournalofHigherCriticism,Fall1997,publishedbytheInstituteforHigher
CriticalStudiesbasedatDrewUniversityinMadison,NewJersey(seeRecommendedLinkatendofHome
Page).Itwaswrittenattherequestoftheeditors,DarrellJ.DoughtyandRobertM.Price.

THEJESUSPUZZLEPiecesinaPuzzleofChristianOrigins
byEarlDoherty

PartOnePIECESINTHEPUZZLE

ThatJesuswasamanwholivedandpreachedinPalestineduringtheearlyfirstcentury,whogaverisetoa
faithmovementcentereduponhimselfwhichwouldgoontobecomeoneoftheworldsgreatreligions,might
seemtobeafairlystraightforwardproposition.Theidealiesatthebaseofnearly2000yearsofChristian
beliefandremainsthestartingpointforalmostallscholarlystudyofChristianorigins.Andyet,
accommodatingsuchasimpleassumptiontothedocumentaryevidenceisanexceedinglydifficulttask,a
puzzlewhosesolutionhasprovenstubbornly,perplexingly,maddeninglyelusive.

Ifwecouldreducethecomplexityoftheevidencetoanumberofidentifiableelements,includingthewider
settingofthetimesinwhichChristianityarose,wemightcomeupwithalistoftenpuzzlepieces:

PieceNo.1:AConspiracyofSilence

InthefirsthalfcenturyofChristiancorrespondence,includinglettersattributedtoPaulandotherepistles
undernameslikePeter,JamesandJohn,theGospelstorycannotbefound.Whenthesewritersspeakoftheir
divineChrist,echoesofJesusofNazaretharevirtuallyinaudible,includingdetailsofalifeandministry,the
circumstancesofhisdeath,theattributionofanyteachingstohim.Godhimselfisoftenidentifiedasthe
sourceofChristianethics.NoonespeaksofmiraclesperformedbyJesus,hisapocalypticpredictions,his
viewsonanyofthegreatissuesofthetime.Theveryfactthathepreachedinpersonisnevermentioned,his
appointmentofapostlesorhisdirectivetocarrythemessagetothenationsoftheworldisneverappealedto.
NoonelooksbacktoJesuslifeandministryasthegenesisoftheChristianmovement,orasthepivotpointof
salvationhistory.ThegreatcharactersoftheJesusstory,Maryhismother,Josephhisfather,Johnhisherald,
Judashisbetrayer,Pilatehisexecutioner:noneofthemreceiveamentioninalltheChristiancorrespondence
ofthefirstcentury.Asforholyplaces,therearenonetobefound,fornotasingleepistlewriterbreathesa
wordaboutanyofthesitesofJesuscareer,notevenCalvarywherehediedfortheworldssins,ortheempty
tombwhereherosefromthedeadtoguaranteeauniversalresurrection.

TheoneclearplacementofChristinrecenttimes,theaccusationin1Thessalonians2:1516thatJewsin
JudeahadkilledtheLordJesus,hasbeenrejectedasaninterpolationbymostoftodaysliberalscholars,1
whiletheoneGospelepisodePaulseemstoalludeto,Jesuswordsoverthebreadandwineatwhathecalls
"theLordsSupper"in1Corinthians11:23f,canbeinterpretedasamythicalscenePaulhashimselfdeveloped
throughperceivedrevelation(seePieceNo.5).Otherwise,nononGospelwriterofthefirstcenturymakesany
statementwhichwouldlinkthedivinespiritualSonandChristtheyallworshipandlooktoforsalvation,with
amanwhohadrecentlywalkedthesandsofPalestine,taughtandpropheciedandperformedmiracles,aman
executedbyPontiusPilateonGoodFridayoutsideJerusalem,torisefromanearbytombonEasterSunday
morning.This"conspiracyofsilence"isaspervasiveasitisastonishing.[SeePartOne:AConspiracyofSilencein
theMainArticles.]

TheGospelJesusandhisstoryisequallymissingfromthenonChristianrecordofthetime.Philoof
Alexandria,theJewishhistorianJustusofTiberias,PlinytheElderascollectorofreputednaturalphenomena,
earlyRomansatiristsandphilosophers:allaresilent.PlinytheYounger,inhislettertoTrajanfromBithynia
c.112,doesnotspeakofChristinhistoricalterms.JosephusfamouspassageinAntiquities18is
acknowledgedtobe,asitstands,aChristianinterpolation,andargumentsthatanoriginalreferencetoJesus
eitherstoodthereorcanbedistilledfromthepresentone,founderontheuniversalsilenceaboutsucha
referenceonthepartofChristiancommentatorsuntilthe4thcentury.2AsforthereferenceinAntiquities20to
Jamesas"brotherofJesus,theonecalled(the)Christ",thispassagealsobearsthemarksofChristian
interference.3ThephraseoriginallyusedbyJosephusmayhavebeenthesamedesignationwhichPaulgivesto
James(Galatians1:19),namely"brotheroftheLord,"whichwouldhavereferrednottoasiblingrelationship
withJesus,buttoJamespositionintheJerusalembrotherhood,somethingwhichwasprobablywidely
known.AChristiancopyistcouldlaterhavealteredthephrase(undertheinfluenceofMatthew1:16)torender
itmore"historical"afterJesusofNazarethwasdeveloped.[Foracompleteexamination(andpartialrethinking)of
theJosephusquestion,seeSupplementaryArticleNo10:JosephusUnbound:ReopeningtheJosephusQuestion.]

TheRomanhistorianTacitus(Annals15:44),isthefirstpaganwritertospeakofJesusasamancrucifiedby
Pilate.Ratherthanrepresentinginformationhedugoutofanarchive(theRomanswouldhardlyhavekepta
recordofthecountlesscrucifixionsaroundtheempiregoingbackacentury),thiswasprobablyderivedfrom
Christianhearsayaboutahumanfounderofthemovement,newlycirculatingintheRomeofTacitusday
(c.115).Ontheotherhand,therearethosewhoquestiontheauthenticityofthispassageaswell.Aroundthe
sametime,Suetoniusreport(Claudius,25)aboutJewsinRomeagitatingunder"Chrestus"inthereignof
Claudiusissobriefanduncertain,itmaynotbeaboutChristandChristiansatall.Inanycase,itwouldnot
witnesstoanhistoricalJesus.

AsforthereferencestoJesusintheJewishTalmud:eventhoughsomeremarksareattributedtorabbiswho
flourishedaroundtheendofthefirstcentury(noneearlier),theywerenotwrittendownbeforethethird
century,andthusareunreliable.Inanycase,theyaresocrypticandoffthemark,theycanscarcelybe
identifiedwiththeGospelfigure.
[ForthenonChristianwitnesstoJesus,seePostscriptintheMainArticles.]

PieceNo.2:ATranscendentChristandaMissingEquation

WhenearlywriterslikePaulspeakoftheir"ChristJesus",theydosoinexclusivelymythologicalterms.Heis
thedivineSoninheaven,speakingthroughscripture,connectedtothebelieverinmysticalways.ChristJesus
istheverysubstanceofGodhead,preexistentandtheimageoftheFather.ThroughhimGodeffected
creation,andhissustainingpowerholdstheuniversetogether.Christisalsothecosmicredeemerwho
descendedfromheaventoundergoasacrificialdeath(anearthlytimeandplaceisneverstated)andwas
subsequentlyexaltedandenthronedbyGodsside.Throughthissavingdrama,Christhassubjugatedthe
demonspiritsoftheairwhoharasshumanity,hehasbroughtthesoulsofthedeadrighteousoutofShoel,he
hasbeengivenkingshipoverallsupernaturalandearthlypowers,andhehasreconciledanestrangeduniverse
toGod.HehasalsobeengivendivinetitlesformerlyreservedforGod.

Headystuff.Andallwithintwodecadesorlessofthepresumedmanslife,alifewhichhasapparently
disappearedfromthemindsofthoseearlybelieversinthecosmicSon,sincetheyprovidenomentionofit,nor
makeanyconnectionbetweenthetwo.ForallthatPaulandothershavetosayaboutfaith,nooneeverraises
theneedtohavefaiththatJesusofNazarethwastheSonofGodandMessiah.Theveryequation:"Thedivine,
spiritualSon=JesusofNazareth,recentlyonearth,"isuniversallymissing.

EventhedeathofChristispresentedinmythicalterms.Passageslike1Thessalonians4:13("WebelieveJesus
diedandroseagain"),andtheapparentdesignationofscriptureasthesourceofPaulsdoctrinethatChristdied
foroursins(1Corinthians15:3),suggestthatChristsdeathwasanarticleoffaith,notaremembered
historicalevent.Thesameistrue,ofcourse,fortheresurrection.PaulneverplacesJesusdeathinanhistorical
setting(henevereventellsusthatChristwastried),andin1Corinthians2:8heassignsresponsibilityforthe
crucifixiontothe"rulersofthisage"whounwittinglycrucified"theLordofglory"andtherebyensuredtheir
owndestineddestruction.

Whilethemeaningofthephrase"rulersofthisage"hasbeenmuchdebated,weightofopinion4hascome
downonthesideofthedemonpowerswhowerethoughttoinhabitthelowercelestialspheresandwere
responsiblefortheevilsoftheworldanditsseparationfromGod.Thisinterpretationissupportedby
referencestothedemonicpowersinrelationtoChristsworkinColossians2:15andEphesians3:10andby
chapter9oftheAscensionofIsaiah,whichdescribesthedescentoftheSonthroughtheheavenlyspheresand
declaresthatheshallbehunguponatree"bythegodofthatworld,"meaningSatanandhisangelsofthe
firmament.They,too,donotknowwhoheis(9:13,15).[SeeSupplementaryArticleNo.3:WhoCrucifiedJesus?]
2Timothy1:9isanotherpassagewhichalludestoanupperworld,beyondtimesettingfortheredeemingact:
"GodsgracewasgiventousinChristJesusprochrononaionionbeforethebeginningoftime..."
KnowledgeofithasonlynowbeenbroughttolightbytherevelationofthesaviorJesusChrist(verse10).The
meaningofthatGreekphraseisanothermuchdebateditem,5butitwouldseemtobeanattempttoconvey
thatChristsredeemingacttookplaceoutsidethenormalboundariesoftimeandspace,inanupperPlatonic
realmofGod.
[Forafullerdiscussionofthis"piece",seePartTwo:WhoWasChristJesus?andSupplementaryArticlesNo.3:Who
CrucifiedJesus?andNo.8:Christas"Man".]

PieceNo.3:ATimeofRevelation

HowdoPaulandotherapostleslikehimselfknowoftheirSonandRedeemer?Isitthroughthewordsand
deedsofJesusonearth?Throughtraditionsabouthimgoingbacktothosewhohadwitnessedhisministry?
No,PaulhaslearnedoftheSonthroughrevelationandscripture."GodchosetorevealhisSonthroughme,"
hesaysinGalatians1:16.ThewriterofEphesians,in3:45,givesusthemainelementsofthenewrevelatory
drama:"ThemysteryaboutChrist,whichinformergenerationswasnotrevealedtomen,isnowdisclosedto
dedicatedapostlesandprophetsthroughtheSpirit."Paulpointstoscripture(Romans1:2,1Corinthians15:3
4)asthesourceofhisgospel,hisknowledgeaboutChristandhissavingwork.ItisGod,throughtheSpirit,
whohassuppliedthisgospel,GodwhohasappointedapostleslikePaultocarrythemessage.Allofitis
couchedinrevelatorylanguage,withwordslikephaneroo,apokalupto,epiphaneia.

TheexistenceandroleofthedivineSonhashithertobeenunknown.Hehasbeenasecret,a"mystery"hidden
forlongageswithGodinheaven,nowrevealedtogetherwiththebenefitsofhissavingact.ThisiswhatPaul
andtheotherepistlewritersareconstantlytellingus:inRomans3:21f,16:2527,Colossians1:26and2:2,1
Peter1:20.TheytracenothingbacktoahumanJesusandindeed,asinTitus1:23,oftenleavenoroomfor
suchafigureintheirpictureofthebeginningsoftheChristianmovement.

Instead,theyspeakofChristasnowpresentonearth(e.g.,1John5:20),sentbyGodashehasalsosentthe
Spirit.(TheSpiritandtheSonaresometimeslinked,asinRomans8:9,Galatians4:6,Phil.1:19.)Asthe
Paulinelettersconveythroughtheuseoftheirubiquitousphrase"inorthroughChrist"(e.g.,Romans6:11,
Ephesians1:4,Titus3:6),ChristisaspiritualmediumthroughwhichGodisrevealinghimselfanddoinghis
workintheworld.Heisamysticalforce,partofandinteractingwithhisbelievers,andheisGodsagentof
salvation.AllthisliesplainlyonthepagesoftheNewTestamentepistles,whilebesideitstandsavoidonthe
GospelJesus.
[SeePartTwo:WhoWasChristJesus?andSupplementaryArticleNo.6:TheSourceofPaul'sGospel.]

PieceNo.4:TheMythologicalPictureoftheTimes

WhenweexaminethemythologicalfeaturessupposedlyconferreduponanhistoricalJesussosoonafterhis
passing,wefindthattheyallhavetheirrootsincontemporaryreligiousphilosophy.Thedevelopingconcept
thatanincreasinglytranscendentGodrequiredanintermediaryinordertohavecontactwiththebaseworldof
matterhadledtotheinventionofsecondarydivineforcesinbothGreekandJewishthinking.FortheGreeks,
aswellasphilosophersofHellenisticJudaismlikePhilo,theLogos(largelyanabstractconcept)becamethe
PlatonicintermediarywhowastheimageofGod,theforcewhichhadproducedcreation,andacontinual
channelofspiritualcommunionbetweenDeityandhumanity.6Allthesepropertiesarepresentintheearly
ChristianviewofthespiritualChrist.

InJewishthinking,thefigureofpersonifiedWisdomwasenvisionedasanemanationofGod,his
communicatingaspectandonewhobroughtknowledgeofhimandhiswilltohumanity.Shedevelopedher
ownmythsaboutcomingtotheworldandinvitingmenandwomentolearnfromher(asinProverbs,Baruch,
theWisdomofSolomon).SheeventuallybecameveryLogoslike,describedasGodsagentofcreationand
thedivinepowerthatpervadesandsustainsallthings(WisdomofSolomon7:2230).ShewasGodsthrone
partnerandhisveryimage.

Thesefeatures,too,arepartofthelanguageaboutChristusedbyPaulandhiscontemporaries.Christsitsat
therighthandofGod,itwasthroughhimthat"allthingscametobeandwethroughhim,"(1Corinthians8:6)
hetoosustainstheuniversebyhiswordofpower(Hebrews1:3,Colossians1:15f).LiketheLogosandSophia
(Wisdom),onlytheSon"knows"theFather,andhumanitycanonlyknowGodthroughtheSon.
[SeePartTwo:WhoWasChristJesus?andSupplementaryArticleNo.5:TracingtheChristianLineageinAlexandria.]

PieceNo.5:SaviorDeitiesinaLayeredUniverse
ThemostpopularexpressionofreligiousfaithduringtheerawhichsawtheriseofChristianitywasnotthe
officialstatereligionof"Olympian"gods,butthesalvationcultsknownasthe"mysteryreligions".Eachof
thesehaditssaviorgodorgoddess,suchasMithras,Dionysos,Attis,Isis,Osiris.Mostofthesecults
possessedmythsinwhichthesaviordeityhadovercomedeathinsomeway(notnecessarilyraisedfromit),or
performedsomeactwhoseeffectsguaranteedfortheinitiatesgoodfortuneinthisworldandahappyexistence
inthenext.Theirritualsincludedcommunalsacredmeals,ofteninvolvingsuchthingsasbreadandwineand
bearingstrongresemblancetoChristiansacramentalism(PaulsLordsSuppermythmaywellhavebeen
influencedbyMithraiccounterparts),andthemysticalrelationshipsbetweeninitiateanddeityareverysimilar
tothoseexpoundedbyPaulinhisbranchofChristianbelief.WhileChristianityandthepagancultsinteracted
ononeanotherastimewenton,bothcanberegardedasmoreorlessindependentbranchesofthesamebroad,
ancientworldtree.[Forthemysteries,seePartTwo:WhoWasChristJesus?andSupplementaryArticleNo.6:The
SourceofPaul'sGospel:LearningofaSacredMeal,andResponsetoMiles.]

Intheperiodaroundtheturnoftheera,Platonismdividedtheuniverseintoatimeless,perfecthigherrealm
(containingthe"genuine"reality,accessibletotheintellect),andanimperfect,transientworldofmatterasits
copy.Themythicalactivityoftheculticgodswasthoughttotakeplaceinthisupperdimensionofreality,
havingeffectsonhumanitybelow.(SuchPlatonicstylethinkingtendedtosupplantolderviewsofmythwhich
regardedthisactivityofgodsashavingoccurredinaprimordial,sacredpast.)Thiswascombinedwithother,
morepopularviewswhichsawtheuniverseasmultilayered,fromtheworldofbasematterwherehumans
lived,tothehighestlevelofpurespiritwheretheultimateGoddwelled.Thelayersbetween(usuallyseven,
plustheairor"firmament"betweenearthandmoon)werepopulatedbyvarioussortsofangels,spiritsand
demons.Thelatter,responsiblefortheevilsthatafflictedmankindandintheJewishmindassociatedwith
Satan,filledthelowestspiritlayerandwereregardedaspartoftherealmof"flesh",7cuttingoffearthfrom
heaven.

Toperformtheirsalvificwork,thesaviorgodsdescendedintothelowerreachesofthespiritualworld,taking
onincreasingresemblancetolowerandmaterialforms:Attis,forexample(soJulianthe"Apostate"relatesin
OrationsV),totheleveljustabovethemoonChrist,soPaulindicatesin1Corinthians2:8,alongwiththe
writeroftheAscensionofIsaiah9,tothesphereofSatanandhispowersinthefirmament.HereChrist,
havingassumedthe"likeness"offleshandaman(Ascension9:13andPhilippians2:78),wascrucified.As
passageslikeEphesians6:12indicate,acosmicbattlewasgoingonforcontroloftheworld,betweenthe
forcesofdarknessheadedbySatan,andtheforcesofgooddirectedbyGod.ChristwasGodsagent,his
Messiah,inthisstruggle.Thecrucifixionwasregardedasadecisivemoveinthecosmicbattlewiththe
demons,whereinChristsubjectedthesespiritstohimselfandrestoredtheunityoftheuniverse(Ephesians
1:10).[SeeSupplementaryArticleNo.3:WhoCrucifiedJesus?]

MoresophisticatedphilosopherslikePlutarchandSallustiusregardedthestoriesoftheGreeksalvationcults
asallegoricalinterpretationsonly,"eternalmeaningsclothedinmyth."Sallustius,writinginthe4thcentury,
speaksofthestoryofAttisas"aneternalcosmicprocess,notanisolatedeventofthepast"(OnGodsandthe
World,9).Paul,whileheshowsnosignofregardingthemythandsufferingofJesusinanythingbutliteral
terms,wouldhavebeenquitecapableofplacingsuchredeemingactivityinthisupper,spiritualrealm,and
indeedhislanguageshowseverysignofsuchaninterpretation.
[SeePartTwo:WhoWasChristJesus?andSupplementaryArticleNo.8:Christas"Man":sectionI.]

PieceNo.6:ASingleStoryofJesus

ThestoryofJesusofNazarethis,forthefirsthundredyearsofChristianity,tobefoundonlyintheGospels.
Moreover,eachoftheGospelsisdependentforthatstoryonthefirstonewritten,"Mark".ThatMatthewand
LukearereworkingsofMarkwithextra,mostlyteaching,materialadded,isnowalmostuniversallyaccepted.
OpinionissplitastowhetherthenarrativeelementsofJohnarederivedfromsomeSynopticsourceaswell.
ButsincetheFourthGospel,despitesomeconsiderablerevampingtofitJohnsowntheology,givesusno
fundamentallydifferentmaterialinitsnarrativeofJesuslifefromthatoftheSynoptics,itislikelythatittoo
goesbackultimatelytothefirstGospelforitspictureofthe"historicalJesus."(ThesocalledDiscoursesand
distinctiveJohannineChristologymaywellbetheearliestlayeroftradition,originallyappliedtoaspiritual
RevealerSon,uponwhichthe"historical"Synopticderivedbiographyhasbeenoverlaid.)Wethushavea
Christianmovementspanninghalftheempireandafullcenturyofexistencewhichneverthelesshasmanaged
toproduceonlyoneversionoftheeventsthataresupposedtolieatitsinception.

ModernscholarsoftenrefertothecommonteachingandanecdotalmaterialextractedfromMatthewand
Luke,nowknownbythedesignation"Q",asa"Gospel",thoughitisnotanarrativework,nororganized
accordingtoanyotherfashionthanthetraditionalsayingscollection.Buttheirconfidentclaimthatthe
materialofthislostdocument,oratleasttheearlieststratumofit,canbetracedbacktoanhistoricalJesusand
thusconstitutesanindependentwitnesstohimisnotwarranted,asIwilltrytodemonstrateinPartThree[of
thisarticle].

Acts,too,asanhistoricalwitnesstoJesusorthebeginningsoftheChristianmovement,cannotbereliedupon.
ThemorerecenttendencyistoseeActsasasecondcenturyproduct,probablyofRomanprovenance,highly
tendentiousandwrittenforthepurposeofcreatingapictureofChristianoriginstraceabletoaunifiedbodyof
apostlesinJerusalemwhowerefollowersofanhistoricalJesus.Muchofitissheerfabrication,andhighly
incompatiblewithinformationfoundinthelettersofPaul.ThereisnoattestionforActspriortothe170s.
[SeePartThree:TheEvolutionofJesusofNazareth.]

PieceNo.7:TheGospelsinLimbo

ThedatingoftheGospelsispartlytobedeterminedbytheirattestioninthewiderChristianwritings.Herewe
runintoanastonishingstateofaffairs,forthereisnoclearsignofthembeforethemiddleofthesecond
century.NosurvivingwriterbeforeJustinmakesuseofnarrativedocumentscontainingwordsanddeedsof
JesusofNazareth,andmoreoftenthannotJustinsquotationsdonotfitourcanonicaltexts,indicatingthat
suchworkswerestillintheprocessofdevelopment,nottobefinalizeduntilsometimelater.

EarlierallusionstoteachingsoranecdotesresemblingthoseoftheGospelsseemnottobefromwrittenworks,
butprobablyreflectdevelopingtraditionswhichthemselvesfoundtheirwayintothewrittenGospels.8And
Papiasreference(around120130?,asreportedbyEusebius)todocumentsattributedto"Matthew"and
"Mark"cannotbereconciledwiththenarrativeGospelswhichnowgobythosenames,nameswhichwerestill
unknowntoJustinasbelongingtohis"memoirsoftheApostles".Moreover,theseweredocumentswhich
Papiashimselfhadnotseen,9buthadlearnedaboutfromanother,makingthewholereportadistantthird
hand.

Thus,whenscholarsregularlydatetheGospelsbetween65and100,theypresentuswithascenarioinwhich
thestoryofJesuslifeastoldbytheevangelistsremainsinalimboandfailstoregisteronthewiderChristian
consciousnessforalmostahundredyearsafteritwasfirstcommittedtopaper.Agenerallylaterdatingwould
seemtoberequired,perhapswithMarkinitsinitialversioncomingnoearlierthantheyear90.(Thestandard
datingbasedonMark13isnotnecessarilyvalid,sinceapocalypticexpectationscontinueduntilatleastthe
endofthecentury,andJesussuggestionin13:7isthatsometimemustpassaftertheJewishWarbeforethe
Endtimearrives.)
[SeePartThree:TheEvolutionofJesusofNazareth.]

PieceNo.8:TheGospelsNotHistory

WhenthecontentoftheGospelsisexamined,twofundamentalcharacteristicsemergetocastseriousdoubton
thehistoricityoftheirstoryofJesus.

Oneistheirincompatiblenature.Theirreconcilabilityofsuchthingsasthebaptismandnativitystories,the
findingoftheemptytombandJesuspostresurrectionappearances,is,ofcourse,universallyrecognized,but
themyriadothercontradictionsanddisagreementsintheaccountsofJesuswordsanddeedsaremorethan
simpledivergencesineyewitnesstestimonyorimperfectionsintransmission.Sinceatleastthemiddleofthis
century,scholarshaverecognizedthatthenonagreementbetweentheevangelists,orbetweenanevangelist
andhissources,iseditorial,deliberate.Thatis,thesewriterswereconsciouslyredactingtheirreceived
materialaccordingtotheirownbeliefsandpurposes,whilemanyGospelelementsarerecognizedtobethe
evangelistsowncreation.Itfollowsthat,ifeventhepurportedwordsoftheLordcouldbearbitrarilychanged
orinventedfortendentiousreasons,therecouldbenothoughtofpreserving"history".Thesewritersobviously
lookedupontheirstoriesasartificialproducts,designedfortheneedsoftheirowncommunities.Suchinsights
haveledthelasttwogenerationsofscholars(andmore)tolabeltheGospels"faithdocuments",nothistorical
accounts.

ThesecondcharacteristicisthedependenceofsomanyelementsoftheJesusstoryonpassagesandmotifs
fromtheJewishscriptures.ThePassionstoryisaveritablepasticheofversesfromthePsalms,Isaiahand
variousotherprophets.Overall,itrepresentsthenewtellingofatalefoundrepeatedlythroughouttheHebrew
bibleandrelatedwritings.ScholarscallitTheSufferingandVindicationoftheInnocentRighteousOne.The
storyofJesusfatefollowsinvirtuallockstepthisageoldpattern,itsdetailsculledfromscripturalpassages.
Nohistoryinviewhere.

ThisprocessofminingthescriptureswasareflectionofatraditionalJewishpracticeknownas"midrash",in
whichthewriterinterpretedandenlargeduponindividualorcombinationsofpassagesfromthebibletodraw
outnewmeaningsandrelevance,toofferanewtruthforcontemporarytimes.Onemidrashicmethodwasto
refashionanexistingbiblicalnarrativeinanewsetting.ThusJesuswasportrayedasanewMoses,with
featureswhichparalleledthestoriesofMoses.

JohnShelbySpong(inhisLiberatingtheGospels)regardstheSynopticGospelsasmidrashicfictionin
virtuallyeverydetail,thoughhebelievesitwasbasedonanhistoricalman.Spong,buildingonearlierresearch
byMichaelD.Goulder,10hasarguedthattheGospelstorywasdesignedtoprovidesuitablelectionary
materialforyearroundChristianobservances,basedonthetraditionalcycleofJewishSabbathandfestival
themes.ThiswouldentirelyremovefromtheGospelsanysemblanceofhistory.[SeethebookreviewofSpong's
LiberatingtheGospels.]

[SeePartThree:TheEvolutionofJesusofNazareth.]

PieceNo.9:ADiversePatchwork

IfChristianityistoberegardedasasinglemovement,thenitisawildlyschizophrenicone.Thevarietyand
scaleofresponsetoonemandefiesexplanation.The"cultic"expression,epitomizedbyPaul,apparently
abandonedallinterestintheearthlylifeandidentityofJesusandturnedhimintoacosmicChristwhocreated
theworldandredeemeditbyhisdeathandresurrection.Individualcommunitieslikethoseresponsibleforthe
QdocumentandtheGospelofThomas,ignoredthatdeathandresurrectionandpresentateachingJesus,a
preacherofthecomingKingdomofGod.InwhatisprobablytheearlieststratumofmaterialintheGospelof
John,Jesusisatypeof"descendingascending"redeemerfromheavenwhosavesbybeingGodsrevealer
(thoughherevealsnothingabouthimexceptthatJesusishisSonandrepresentative)later,JohnequatesJesus
withtheGreekLogos.IntheEpistletotheHebrews,JesusistheheavenlyHighPriestwhooffershissacrifice
inaheavenlysanctuary,anexpressionofAlexandrianstylePlatonism.IntheDidache,Jesusisreducedtoa
nonsufferingintermediaryservant/childofGod.HeispresumedtoliebehindtheWisdomWordSon
mysticismoftheOdesofSolomon.InthediversestrandsofGnosticism,Jesus(orChrist)isamythicalpartof
theheavenlypleromaofGodhead,sometimesarevealerakintoJohns,sometimessurfacingunderother
nameslikeDerdekeasortheThirdIlluminator.11Howmanyotherformsof"Jesus"didnotsurviveinextant
documentsisimpossibletotell,thoughPaulinhislettershintsatdivergentgroupsandapostlesalloverthe
place,who"preachanotherJesus"sodifferentfromhisownthathecanlaycursesuponthemandaccusethem
ofbeingagentsofSatan.

ScholarslikeBurtonMack12thinktofindbehindtheGospelsandotherdocumentsallsortsoflittlegroups
preservingandformulatingthisorthattypeoftraditionaboutJesusandviewinghimindifferentways.The
JesusextractedfromQandassignedtoaQcommunityisonlythemostprominentofthese.Allthis
fragmentationofanhistoricalman,thebreakupofJesusintoamultitudeofcomponentparts,isan
unprecedentedphenomenon,andnotonlydoesnodocumentexistwhichembodiessuchaprocessoreven
givesaclueastowhyittookplace,eachofthesecomponentpartsseemsblissfullyunawareoftheothers.
PaulslettersgivenohintthattherewerecommunitiescenteredaroundtheveryelementsofJesuslifeand
preachingwhichhehadabandonedasofnointerest.Ontheotherhand,communitieslikethatofQseem
impervioustothecosmicdimensionswhichtheculticcircleshavebestowedupontheirpreacherofthe
Kingdom.Onlytheevangelists(whichistosay,thefirstofthem,Mark)thoughttobringthesedisparate
elementstogether.Thequestionis,wheredidallthevariouselementscomefrom,andweretheyassociated
withahumanJesusintheirpreGospelstages?
[SeePartThree:TheEvolutionofJesusofNazareth,andthebookreviewofBurtonMack'sWhoWrotetheNew
Testament?]

PieceNo.10:TheSecondCentury

IfthehistoricalJesusseemsunknowntoallinthefirstcenturybuttheearlyevangelists(and,inadifferent
sense,thelaterredactorsofQ),thefirststirringsofa"knowledge"ofanhistoricalJesusemergesoonafterthe
secondcenturygetsunderway.Ignatiusinhisletters(bytraditionwrittenaround107whileonhiswayto
martyrdominRome)offerstheearliestnonGospelreferencetoJesusasamanbornofMaryatthetimeof
HerodandcrucifiedbyPontiusPilate.Shortlyafter,Tacitusreferenceappears,thefirstinnonChristian
literatureidentifyingJesusasanhistoricalmanwhowasexecutedatthetimeofPilate.Polycarp(writing
about130?),reflectsthesameoutlookasIgnatius,andtheEpistleofBarnabas(c.120?)seemstoregardJesus
asanhistoricalman,butthewriterisstilldependentonscriptureformuchofwhatheassignstothisfigure.If
Eusebiusistobereliedupon,PapiastooreflectsabeliefinanhistoricalJesus(inAsiaMinor),andhe
witnesses(atsecondhand)tosomecirculatingcollectionsofsayingsandpossiblyanecdotesthathavebecome
associatedwiththisfigure.
Andyet,therearemajorChristianwritingsofthesecondcenturywhichfailtopresentanhistoricalJesus.Both
theDidache(whichmayhaverootsinthelatefirstcentury)andthemonumentalShepherdofHermasare
devoidofanysuchfigurethelatterneveruttersthenameJesus.EventheNewTestamentepistlesgenerally
datedintheearlysecondcentury,2PeterandthethreePastorals,seemtolackanhistoricalman.(Thesole
referencetoPilateintheNewTestamentepistles,1Timothy6:13,hasbeenexaminedwithsomesuspicionby
certaincommentators13,sinceitdoesntseemtofitthecontextwell.Iregardit,alongwith1Thessalonians
2:1516,asaninterpolation.)

Mostastonishingly,allthemajorapologistsbeforetheyear180,withthesoleexceptionofJustin(andaminor
apologistfromSyria,Aristides),failtoincludeanhistoricalJesusintheirdefencesofChristianitytothe
pagans.ThisincludesTatianinhispreDiatessarondays.Instead,theapologistsbearwitnesstoaChristian
movementwhichisgroundedinPlatonicphilosophyandHellenisticJudaism,preachingtheworshipofthe
monotheisticJewishGodandaLogostypeSonthelatterisaforceactiveintheworldwhoservesasrevealer
andintermediarybetweenGodandhumanity.TheophilusofAntioch,AthenagorasofAthens,Tatianinhis
Apology,MinuciusFelixinRome(orNorthAfrica)offernobeliefsinanhistoricalfigurecrucifiedasan
atoningact,norinaresurrection.(NordotheyhaveanythingincommonwithPaul.)Innotoneofthemdoes
thenameJesusappear,andnonespeakofanincarnationoftheirLogos.Theophilusexplainsthemeaningof
thename"Christian"assignifyingthat"weareanointedwiththeoilofGod."

MinuciusFelixheapsscornonanydoctrineofacrucifiedmanasdivineandredeemer(indicatingthatheis
awareofsomewhoholdtosuchathing),whileTatianalludesto"stories"toldbybothGreeksandChristians,
implyingthatbothareofthesamenature,mythicaltalesnottobetakenliterally.OnlyJustinhasembracedthe
storyandthefigureaspresentedinsomeearlyformofwrittenGospel,butevenhe,inrecountinghis
conversionexperienceofacoupleofdecadesearlier(DialoguewithTrypho,38),showsatelltalevoidabout
beliefinanhistoricalmaninthefaithmovementhejoined.IntoTryphosmouth(8:6)heplacestheaccusation
that"youinventaChristforyourselves."
[SeeTheSecondCenturyApologists]

PartTwo
PROBLEMSOLUTIONSTOTHEPUZZLE

Ifthesearethesalientpiecesofthedocumentaryrecordofthetime,howhavescholarstraditionallytriedto
putthemtogether?Almostuniversally,theyhavetakenthefigureofJesusofNazareth,whichisattestedto
onlyinGospelsbeginninginthelatefirstcentury,andplacedhimpriortotheearliestrecordsthelettersof
PaulandotherepistlesoftheNewTestamentwhichthemselvescontainnosignofhim.Tocompensatefor
thisabsenceintheearlyrecord,theyhaveextractedelementsfromtheGospelsandattemptedtotracerootsof
thesebacktothesupposedtimeofJesus,thinkingtouncoverwordsanddeedswhichcanbeattributedtohim.
Theseattemptedexcavationswillbeevaluatedlater.

Buttheotheranomalywhichscholarshavehadtoaddressisperhapsevenmorechallenging.IfJesusdied
around30CE,andwasnomorethanacharismaticpreacheroftheKingdom(nottoocharismatic,sincehe
sankwithoutatraceinallthenonChristianrecordofthefirstcentury),howarewetoexplainthemannerin
whichheispresentedintheearliestsurvivingChristianwritingswhichbeginnomorethantwodecadesafter
hisdeath,andwhichwouldseemtocontainolderelementsreachingbacktoatimewhenhehadscarcelybeen
laidinhisgrave?

ScholarshavelongrealizedthatearlyChristianwriterspresentuswithathoroughlydivineChrist.They
acknowledgethatPaul,togetherwiththeculticcirclesherepresents,hasmadealeapsofarbeyondthehuman
JesusportrayedintheGospelsthatthelatterfigurehasbeencompletelylostsightof.HermanRidderbosis
onlyoneofamultitudeofvoicesexpressingthesameresoundingperplexity:

"NoonewhoexaminestheGospels...andthenreadstheepistlesofPaulcanescapetheimpressionthatheis
movingintwoentirelydifferentspheres....WhenPaulwritesofJesusastheChrist,historicalandhumantraits
appeartobeobscure,andChristappearstohavesignificanceonlyasatranscendentdivinebeing."(Pauland
Jesus,p.3).Hegoesontoask:"Jesuswasnotdeadthelengthofahumanlifetimebeforehisstaturewasnot
onlyinfinitelyincreased,butalsoentirelychanged.Howdidthiscomeabout?"

Others,suchasRudolfBultmann,14haveputthesituationindifferentterms:thattheearlychurchalmost
immediatelylostallinterestinthehumanlifelivedbyitsMasterandplaceditsentirefocusonhisnatureand
roleastheCrucifiedandRisenLord.Noteventhepinnacleofsalvationhistory,theeventofthecross,is
locateduponthehillofCalvary,norhisresurrectionplacedinthecontextofanemptytomboutsideJerusalem.
NormanPerrin15haspresentedapictureoftheearlychurchwhichmadenorealdistinction,hesays,between
thehistoricalJesusandtheexaltedChrist,seeingbothfiguresascontinuous.Thismadenoclarification
necessarybetweenwhatJesusonearthhadsaidandwhathecontinuedtosayinhisnewspiritualstate(an
attempttoexplainwhynothingoftheformeractuallyappears,statedassuch,intherecord).

Inallthesescenarios,therearedifficultieswhichcommentatorshavebeenreluctanttoface,difficultieswhich
makemanyoftheirassumptionsvirtuallyimpossible.

AgainsttheJewishGrain
ThefirstdifficultyisthatthevastmajorityoftheearliestChristianswere,ofcourse,Jews."GodisOne,"says
themostfundamentalofJewishtheologicaltenets.Moreover,theJewishmindhadanobsessionagainst
associatinganythinghumanwithGod.Hecouldnotberepresentedbyeventhesuggestionofahumanimage,
andJewsintheirthousandshadbaredtheirnecksbeforePilatesswordssimplytoprotestagainstthe
mountingofmilitarystandardsbearingCaesarsimagewithinsightoftheTemple.Theideathatamanwasa
literalpartofGodwouldhavebeenmetbyanyJewwithhorrorandapoplexy.

AndyetwearetobelievethatJewswereimmediatelyledtoelevateJesusofNazarethtodivinelevels
unprecedentedintheentirehistoryofhumanreligion.Wearetobelievenotonlythattheyidentifieda
crucifiedcriminalwiththeancientGodofAbraham,butthattheywentabouttheempireandpractically
overnightconvertedhugenumbersofotherJewstothesameoutrageousandthoroughlyblasphemous
proposition.WithinahandfulofyearsofJesussupposeddeath,weknowofChristiancommunitiesinmany
majorcitiesoftheempire,allpresumablyhavingacceptedthatamantheyhadnevermet,crucifiedasa
politicalrebelonahilloutsideJerusalem,hadrisenfromthedeadandwasinfactthepreexistentSonofGod,
creator,sustainer,andredeemeroftheworld.

SincemanyoftheChristiancommunitiesPaulworkedinexistedbeforehegotthere,andsincePaulsletters
donotsupportthepictureActspaintsofintensemissionaryactivityonthepartoftheJerusalemgrouparound
PeterandJames,historydoesnotrecordwhoperformedthisastoundingfeat.16

Moreover,itwasapparentlydonewithoutanyneedforjustification.ThereisnotamurmurinanyPauline
letter,norinanyotherepistle,thatChristianshadtodefendsuchanoutlandishdoctrine.Nooneseemsto
challengeChristianpreachingonthesegrounds,forthepointisneveraddressed.Evenin1Corinthians1:18
24,wherePauldefendsthe"wisdomofGod"(meaningthemessagehepreaches)againstthe"wisdomofthe
world",hefailstoprovideanydefensefor,orevenamentionof,theelevationofJesusofNazarethtodivinity.
HecanadmitthattotheGreeksandJewsthedoctrineofthecrossthatis,theideaofacrucifiedMessiahis
"folly"and"astumblingblock."ButthishasnothingtodowithturningamanintoGod,apieceoffollyhe
neverdiscussesordefends.Thathisopponents,andtheJewishestablishmentingeneral,wouldnothave
challengedhimonthisbasicChristianposition,forcinghimtoprovidesomejustification,isinconceivable.

AReticentPreachingMovement
Couldanyapostlehavemaintainedsuchasilenceinhismissionaryactivities?IfPaulwerepreachingaman
whowasGod,wouldnothislistenersandconvertshavedemandedtoknowaboutthelifeofthisman,his
sayingsanddeeds?WhetherPaullikeditornot,thehumanJesuswouldhavebecomeafocusofdiscussion
betweenhimselfandhiscongregations,detailsofwhichwouldcertainlysurfaceinhisletters.Nonedo.

PaulcouldhardlyhavesetoutonacareertobringthemessageaboutJesustothegentileallacrosstheknown
worldwithoutpossessingacertainamountofinformationaboutthemanheintendedtopreach.Yetwhateffort
didhemaketoacquiresuchinformation?Duringthefirst17yearsfollowinghisconversion,andafterwaiting
threeofthoseyears,hespentexactlytwoweeksinJerusalemwiththemenwhohadpresumablyknownJesus
inhisministryandwerethecustodiansofthatinformation.Allhedidatthetime,sohetellsus(Galatians
1:1819),was"gettoknowPeter"andseeJames.DidtheygivehimacrashcourseintheirmemoriesofJesus
lifeandministry?Paulgivesnohintofsuchathing,andnodetailsareeverrelayedtohisreaders.

ChristianitywasincompetitionwiththeGraecoRomanmysterycults,withmanysalvationmessagesspread
bywanderingphilosophersanddevoteesoftheculticgods.Animportantbenefitofferedbythesedeitieswas
protectionagainsttheevilspirits.YetthepseudoPaulineColossiansandEphesians,whichhaveaspecial
interestinthesematters,failtopointoutthat,unliketheothersaviordeities,Christhadbeenincarnatedin
fleshandbloodinrecenthistory.Hehadexperiencedandcounteredsuchdemonicforcesfirsthand,onearth.
Hehaddemonstratedhispoweroverthemthroughhismiracles,exorcisingthemfromsickpeople.Inhis
ministry,Jesushadshowncompassion,tolerance,generosity,allthosethingsmenandwomenthirstedforin
confrontingahostile,uncaringworld.ItissimplyunthinkablethatPauloranyoneelsewouldignoreorlose
interestinalltheseadvantagesofthehumanJesuswhenpresentingtotheirlisteners,gentileorJew,the
Christianagentofsalvation.

StarringJesusinaMythologicalDrama
RobertFunk,founderoftheJesusSeminar,inhisHonesttoJesus,17isatpainstopointoutthatChristianity
developedasaclashbetween"thecultofChrist"and"thegospelofJesus."Paulissupposedtohavebeenthe
mainculpritincreatingtheformerandblockingaccesstothelatter.Funkadmitsthattheculticbranchis
entirelymythicincharacter,thatitwasstronglyinfluencedbyscriptureandhellenisticsaviorcultideasofa
dying/risinggod.Yethowcouldhellenisticmythologicalideashavemadesuchstrongandsuddeninroadsinto
thethinkingofthosewhofollowedthehumanJesus?What,inanyonesmind,wouldacounterculture
preacheroftheKingdom,executedbytheRomanauthoritiesforsomekindofperceivedsubversion,possibly
havehadtodowithmythicsaviorgodsandworldredemptionwhichcouldhaveledanyonetocasthimso
thoroughlyinthismoldtotheexclusionofalltraceofthepreachingoriginal?

Scholarshavelongtriedtoofferscenariostoexplainthisprocess.Onerunslikethis:Intheirfervorand
distressfollowingthecrucifixion,thefollowersofJesusscrambledtounderstandwhathadjusthappened,to
interpretthemeaningoftheirMasterslife,toputanametohisroleinGodsplan.Theyrantotheirbiblesand
begantoapplyallmannerofscripturalpassagestohim,especiallythoselookeduponasmessianicbythe
Jewishthinkingofthetime.ButtheyturnedaswelltocontemporaryhellenisticmythologyabouttheLogos,
supplementingitwiththeJewishequivalentinthefigureofpersonifiedWisdom,throwinginforgood
measuredim(tous)mythsaboutdescendingascendingheavenlyredeemers.ThoseearlyChristianthinkers
absorbedallthisvastculturalpleromaanddecidedthattheirJesusofNazarethhadinfactbeenthetrue
embodimentofallthesemythsandproceededtopilethem,willynilly,uponhim.This"morningafter"
ransackofcurrentphilosophyandtheJewishscripturesled,sotheysay,tothehighlyelevated,mythological
picturecreatedofJesussosoonafterhisdeath,andtoaconvictionthathehadbeen"resurrected".

Thefirstthingwehavetoaskourselvesis:whodidallthis?Itwashardlyacircleofsimplefishermenaround
Jesus,likePeterorthesonsofZebedee,whoastheGospelsportraythemcouldprobablybarelyread,letalone
turnthemselvespracticallyovernightintoPhilonictypeexegetesoftheSeptuagintandcontemporaryGreek
philosophy.IfitwasPaulalone,howcouldheeverhaveworkedwiththeJerusalemcircleofapostles?Infact,
hislettersshownodisputeonsuchascoreheenjoyedclosecontactandcooperationwiththegrouparound
Peter,evenifitcouldsometimesbeanuneasyrelationship.Ifitwasalargercircleofmoresophisticated
mindsofwhichPaulsistheonlynametocomedowntous,oneperhapsbasedinAntiochassomesuggest:
whatevergavesuchagrouptheimpetustodothis?Toapplytoacrucifiedpreacherwhomtheyhadnever
personallyexperienced,theloftiestphilosophicalandreligiousconceptsoftheirday?Andwhereisthe
evidenceforthesplitwhichwouldsurelyhavetakenplaceintheearlyChristianmovementbetweensuch
headinthecloudsphilosophersandasimplercoreofdiscipleswhohadfollowedthehumanJesusandheard
himpreach,apreachinginwhichhewouldscarcelyhavepresentedhimselfintheseterms?Thereisnotthe
slightestevidenceofanydisagreementintheranksoversuchmythologizingtendencies.

Thisraisesanotherquestion.Howisonetoexplainhowallthismythologizingofarecentmangainedsuch
wideacceptance?ItmightbeonethingtosaythatcertainfollowersofJesus(whoevertheymayhavebeen)
weresoimmersedinreligiousarcanaastoseenothingunusualincastingtheirMasterinthesemythological
terms.ItisquiteanothertounderstandhowtheaveragemanorwomanwhowasapproachedwithaChristian
messagelikethiscouldsoreadilyembraceit.Suchclaimsforarecentman(whohardlyclaimedsuchthings
forhimself),especiallyoneexecutedasasubversive,wouldhavebeenmetwithlaughterorblankstaresas,
nodoubt,wouldtheclaimthathehadrisenfromhistomb.Whatcouldpossiblyexplainwhysomany
apparentlymadesuchabizarreleapoffaith?

Evenifsuchmythologicalmotifswerecurrentintheculturalconsciousnessoftheday,howdifficultwouldit
betopersuadethehearerthatallthesemyths,hithertofamiliarinaspiritualcontextonly,shouldnowbe
appliedtoahumanbeingacrucifiedcriminal?EarlyChristianpreachingwouldhavehadtocenteraround
thejustificationforallthis,yetthisispreciselywhatismissingfromtheearliestcorrespondence.

OneSidedInterpretations
Scholarshavehadatraditionalwayofdescribingtheapplicationofphilosophicalandscripturalcontentto
Jesusintheearlyliterature,fromHebrewsHighPriestmakingthesacrificeofhisownbloodintheheavenly
sanctuarytoPaulspreexistentSon.This,theysay,wasan"interpretation"ofthemanandtherolehewas
nowseentohaveplayed.Buthowarewetounderstandan"enterpretation"whenthethingbeinginterpretedis
nevermentioned?

SuzanneLehne,forexample,inherstudyofHebrews(TheNewCovenantinHebrews,p.27),explainsthat
scripturehelpedtheauthor"articulatehisbeliefs"about"theChristevent."ButnowhereinHebrewsdoesthe
authorintimatethatheisarticulatinganyhistoricalChristevent,andinfact,areferenceinscriptureisusually
treatedasthoughitispartofthatevent,notanexplanationofsomethingelse,letalonerecenthistory.Itis
fromscripturethatthe"event"ofChristhasbeenconstructedthesearenot"prooftexts"but"sourcetexts".

JohnKnox,inMythandTruth(p.59),explainsEphesians1:310asakindofhymncreatedtoexplainJesusin
entirelysupernaturalterms.Hespeaksof"therememberedmanJesus,"and"thewonderofhisdeedsand
words."ButwherearethesethingsinEphesians1:310oranywhereelse?WecannotacceptKnoxsclaimthat
themythinEphesiansisbuiltupon"historicaldata"whenthatdataisneverpointedto.Abetterexplanation
wouldbethatthehistoricaldatahasbeenaddedtothemythatalatertime.Knox,likeNewTestament
scholarshipingeneral,isguiltyofreadingintotheearlyChristianmythologicalpresentationofthedivine
ChristthehistoricalcontextderivedfromthelaterGospels.TheChristmythasaninterpretationofan
historicaleventisafantasy.

NewForaysintoChristianOrigins
NewerscenariosabouthowtheChristianmovementbeganandhowJesusbecametheChristhaveattemptedto
bemoresubtleandcomprehensive.BurtonMacksuggests18that,inadditiontoGalileangroupswhoregarded
Jesusasnomorethanahumanteacher,gentilecirclesinplaceslikeAntiochwereresponsible,overaperiodof
time,forapplyingcurrentmythologicalinterpretationstoJesusofNazareth,andthatPaulwasconvertedto
oneofthese"cults".Butthisscenariohasproblems.Jewsstillmadeupasizeablecomponentofthe
communityinAntioch.Didtheysimplyallowgentilestopersuadethemtobetraythemostcherished
principlesoftheirJewishheritage?Theideaofgradualevolution(Macksuggestsittookplaceoveraperiodof
25years)isbeliedbyprePaulineelementslikethehymnofPhilippians2:611,whicharelikely,asMack
admits,veryearlydevelopments.AsforPaulhimself(accordingtoinformationinGalatians19),hisconversion
wasalsotooearlytoallowthetimeneededforsuchprocessestotakeplace,especiallyindistantcenters.And
arewetobelievethathetooaJewbornandbred,sohetellsusswallowedtheblasphemousproposition
thatamanwasGod,asaresultofsomegentilesuckerpunch?Evenamongthosegentiles,suchanelevationof
ahumanmanwouldhavebeenunprecedentedandfarfromeasy.

Forwemuststillanswerthequestion"why".WhatwouldhaveledPaul,orgentilesoffinnorthernSyria,to
takeasimplepreacher,whomtheyknewonlybyreport,andturnhimintoacosmicdeity,nomatterwhattheir
dietofhellenisticmysteryideas?Theappealcouldnothavebeeninhismessageandcharismaasateacher,
sincetheyimmediatelystrippedoffthisskinanddiscardedit.IfPaulhadnointerestintheteacherandhis
teachings,ofwhatusewasthisJesustohimasacandidatefordivineredeemer?BothMackandRobert
Funk20speakofthePaulinecultspointofdepartureasthefactofJesus"nobledeath",butnobledeathsare
commonenoughinhistory,includingJewishhistory,andrarelyifeverdotheyleadtodivinizationonso
exaltedascale.Thesimplefactofareputednobledeathwouldhardlyhaveledaneducated,observantJew
likePaultocontravenethemostsacredpreceptsofhisheritageandassociatethisparticularman,onehehad
nevermet,withGod.

Inanyevent,theculticpresentationofJesuscrucifixiondoesnotfitthe"nobledeath"scenario.Thelatteris
classicallyofthewarriororteacherwhodiesforhiscountry,hisfollowers,histeachings.Thesethingsfocus
onalife,acause:inJudaism,itisinvariablyforthesakeoftheLaw.Thisispreciselywhatismissinginthe
Christcult,whichhasnothingtodowithJesuslife,teachingsorfollowers.Dyingforsinisnotinthesame
category,especiallywhenplacedinthespiritrealmthisisamystical,spiritualconcept.

ListeningForaFootstep...
Itwouldseemthatthe"straightforwardproposition"withwhichthisarticlebeganisnotcompatiblewithPiece
No.2,"ATranscendentChrist",fornofeasiblepathcanbetracedfromthepresumedhistoricalJesustothe
earliestexpression(asacosmicredeemingdeity)foundabouthimintheearlyChristianrecord.Noacceptable
explanationcanbefoundforwhysuchaleapwouldhavebeenmadeinthefirstplace,whomadeit,how
Jewishsensibilitiescouldhavebeenovercome,andwhyintheprocessthehumanmanwhopresumably
starteditallwouldhavecompletelydisappearedintoablackhole.

WhenweaddPieceNo.3,"ATimeofRevelation",wefindthatPaulandothersare,infact,makingit
impossibletoassumethattheyidentifythebeginningofthefaithmovementwithanhistoricalman.Through
passageslikeRomans16:25,Colossians1:26,Ephesians3:5,etc.,theytellusthatthisisatimeofrevelation
abouttheSonthroughthemediumoftheSpiritandtheholyscriptures.Thesesecrets"hiddenforlong
generations"areonlynowbeingunveiledtotheworldthroughapostleslikePaul,notthroughanyhistorical
Jesus.

In2Corinthians5:18,Paultellshisreaders:"FromfirsttolastthishasbeentheworkofGod,21whohas
reconciledustohimselfthroughChrist,havinggivenustheministryofreconciliation."ItisapostleslikePaul
whohavebeen"entrustedbyGodwiththemessageofreconciliation"(v.19).ThatPaulisnotsharingthe
limelightwithanyrecentJesusofNazarethandhisministryisalsoborneoutinanearlierpassage,withnot
evena"throughChrist"totemperthepersonaleulogy.Itbegins(3:56):"Suchqualificationaswehavecomes
fromGoditishewhohasqualifiedustodispensehisnewcovenant."

PaulstotaldisregardfortheroleofJesushimselfindispensingthenewcovenantisastounding.Buthegoes
ontosaythattheoldcovenanthadbeeninauguratedwithdivinesplendor,asreflectedinthefaceofMoses.
Heasks,"Mustnotevengreatersplendorrestupon(bereflectedin)thedivinedispensationoftheSpirit?"Paul
haspassedoveranysplendorwhichmighthavebeencontainedinthefaceofJesusandhiscareer,andsettles
onthatofthemissionarymovement,impelledbytheSpiritsentfromGod."Howmuchmore,"heasks,"shall
theministryofrighteousness"meaninghisownministry"aboundinglory?"(Heremytranslation.)"The
splendorthatoncewas(i.e.,intheoldcovenant)isnow...outshonebyasplendorgreaterstill."Tothismansion
ofgloryinwhichPaulhastakenupresidence,Jesusisnotevenletinbytheservantsentrance!

SuchpassagesignoreanyroleJesusmighthaveplayedinrecentsalvationhistory,butwhatofthosewhich
leaveabsolutelynoroomforit?Titus1:3,speakinginPaulsname,isagoodexample:"Yes,itiseternallife
thatGod,whocannotlie,promisedlongagesago,andnowinhisowngoodtimehehasopenlydeclared
himselfintheproclamationwhichwasentrustedtomebyordinanceofGodourSavior."Thereisnotacrack
inthisfacadewhereJesuscouldgainafoothold.InthepastlieGodspromisesofeternallife,andhisfirst
actiononthosepromisesisthepresentrevelationtoapostleslikePaulwhohavegoneouttoproclaimthe
message.Jesusownproclamationofeternallife,hisownpersonastheembodimentofthatlife(astheGospel
ofJohnsomemorablyputsit),hasevaporatedintothewind.

1Peter(1:12)declaresthatthethingstheprophetstoldofhavenowbeenannounced,notbyJesusinhisown
ministry,but"bythosepreachingthegospelinthepoweroftheHolySpiritsentfromheaven."Titus2:4and
3:4speakofwhathas"dawnedupontheworld"inthepresent.RatherthanJesushimself,itis"thegraceof
God"and"thekindnessandgenerosityofGodourSavior."Scholars,whentheyhaveallowedthemselvesto
worryaboutsuchthings,declarethesetobemetaphoricalreferencestoJesusofNazareth.Thisisan
interpretationbornofdesperation.

...AndaVoice
Ifthemovementbeganwithamanwhopreachedonearth,weareatalosstoexplainhoweventhesimple
knowledgeorpresentationofthisfeaturecannotbefoundinanyearlystrandofthedocumentaryevidence.
Compoundingthispuzzlementisthepresenceinmanyepistlesofmoralteachingsandmaximsfamiliarfrom
theGospelrecord(includingsomeofQs"authentic"sayings),yetwithouttheslightestattributiontoitsJesus
figure.22FromtheBeatitudestopronouncementsonlove,tojudgingandoathsandapproachingGodand
lovingenemiesandturningtheothercheek,nottomentiondozensofapocalypticsentimentswhicharefound
inJesusmouthintheGospels,nonearepresentedasthevoiceofJesus.Somearesaidtocomedirectlyfrom
God,asin1Thessalonians4:9,whileothers(suchasPauls"wordsoftheLord")areregardedastheproduct
ofinspirationfromthespiritualChristinheaven.Scholarlycommentariesarefullofexpressionsofsurprise
andperplexityonallthissilenceabouttheproductoftheteachingJesus.23

AquicklookatRomans10and11shouldconvinceanyunprejudicedobserverthatPaulknowsofno
historicalpreachingJesus.(Illleaveittothereadertoconsultthispassage.)HeseekstoemphasizetheJews
guiltinnotrespondingtothemessagedeliveredbyapostleslikehimself,eventhoughtheyhavehadevery
opportunitytodoso.AndyethefailstoincludetheopportunityofferedbyJesusveryownpersonand
preaching.Severalpointsin10:1121cryoutforsomereference,somehint,ofthehistoricalministry,yetnone
isforthcoming.24Paulthengoesoninchapter11torefertothelongstandingmythoftheJewskillingtheir
prophetssentfromGod,yetnotamurmurisheardofthekillingoftheSonofGodhimself.Nothingcan
explainawaythesesilences.

TheEpistletotheHebrewsopenswiththestatementthat"inthisfinalage(God)hasspokentousthroughthe
Son,"andthenproceedstogiveusnotawordspokenbythisSonatleastnotinanyhistorical,earthly
setting.Rather,theSonsvoicecomesoutofthesacredwritingsscriptureishisplatform.In10:5theSon
speaksinakindof"mythicalpresent"throughapassagefromPsalm40(actually,39LXX).

Thatiswhy,athiscomingintotheworld,hesays:
Sacrificeandofferingthoudidstnotdesire,
Butthouhastpreparedabodyforme.
Wholeofferingsandsinofferingsthoudidstnotdelightin.
ThenIsaid:HereamI:asitiswrittenofmeinthescroll,
Ihavecome,OGod,todothywill..

InthisonepassagewecanseethetypeofsourcewhichgaverisetotheideathatthespiritualSonhadtakenon
orentered"flesh"(atfirstthiswasenvisionedwithinthelowerspiritualrealm:seePieceNo.5),andtheidea
thatthisSonhadundergonesacrifice.ForthewriterofHebrews,Christswastheultimatesacrificewhich
wouldsupplantonceforallthesacrificesoftheTemplecultwhichGodnolongerwanted.Theideaof"his
comingintotheworld"isnotpresentedinanyhistoricalsense,muchlessinthecontextofaGospelstory,but
scholarshaveoftenstruggledtotrytorelatetheseversestoanearthlyincarnation.PaulEllingworthhowever,
realizesthatthe"hesays"is"atimelesspresentreferringtothepermanentrecordofscripture."25Thisremoves
itfromanyhistoricalcontext.

WeareskirtingPlatonicideashere,withtheirconceptofahigherworldoftimelessreality.Itisinthisspiritual
worldthatChristoperates,asHebrewsportrayalofthesacrificeofferedintheheavenlysanctuaryclearly
indicates.The"comingintotheworld"isstillamythicalone,asistheideaofoperating"inflesh".26

Inthesamevein,Ephesians2:17isespeciallyinteresting."Andcoming,he(Christ)proclaimedthegood
news..."Butwhatwasthecontentofthatnews?Insteadoftakingtheopportunitytorefertosometeachingsof
Jesuspresumedministry,thewriterquotesIsaiah.(Eventheintroductoryphrasequotedaboveisbasedon
Isaiah52:7.)LikeHebrews,theSonisenvisionedasspeakingthroughthesacredwritings.TheSoninhabits
thespiritualworldofthescriptures,Godsnewlyopenedwindowontotheunseentruereality.27Itisthe
"coming"ofthatvoice,perceivedthroughrevelationandafreshreadingofscripture,whichhaslaunchedthe
newageandtheChristianmovement.

PartThree
SOLVINGTHEJESUSPUZZLE

WeareledtoconcludethatthebeginningoftheChristianmovementwasnotaresponsetoanyhuman
individualatonetimeandlocation.Christianitywasborninathousandplaces,outofthefertilereligiousand
philosophicalsoilofthetime,expressingfaithinanintermediarySonwhowasachanneltoGod,providing
knowledge,loveandsalvation.ItsprangupinmanyinnovativemindslikePauls,amongindependent
communitiesandsectsallovertheempire,producingavarietyofformsanddoctrines.Someofittappedinto
traditionalJewishMessiahexpectationandapocalypticsentiment,otherexpressionsweretiedtomore
Platonicwaysofthinking.Greekmysteryconceptsalsofedintothevolatilemix.Manygroups(thoughnotall)
adoptedtheterm"Christ"fortheirdivinefigure,aswellasthename"Jesus",whichinHebrewhasthe
meaningof"Savior".PaulandtheJerusalembrotherhoodaroundPeterandJamesweresimplyonestrandof
thisbroadsalvationmovement,althoughanimportantandultimatelyveryinfluentialone.Later,ina
mythmakingprocessofitsown,theJerusalemcirclewithPaulasitssatellitewasadoptedastheoriginating
cellofthewholeChristianmovement.

Buttherewasanotherfactorinvolved.Newreformimpulsesandmoralconcernswereintheairaswell,both
aspartofthemanymanifestationsoftheChristmovementandontheirownamongother,nonculticcircles
whopreachedacomingEndtimeandtransformationoftheworld.Allthesegroupstendedtoproduceethical
teachings,parablesoftheKingdom,storiesofconflictexperiences.Intheend,thisincreasingstoreof
sectarianexpressionimpelledthecreationofanew,artificialfigure:theonewhohadoriginatedsuchthings.
Withintheculticmovement,thisprocesseventuallyledtotheProclaimedbeingbroughttoearthandturned
intotheProclaimer.

ThatsuchteachingandKingdommaterialhadoriginallynothingtodowithanyoneindividual,muchlessa
JesusofNazareth,isapossibilityyettobeaddressedbyNewTestamentscholarship,andthusthesearchfor
the"genuine"historicalJesusaspreacherandprophetgoeson.28TheJesusSeminarandothershavedeclared
himunearthedfromtherootsofQ,afirstcenturydocumentproducedbyJewishcirclesinGalileepreaching
theKingdomofGod.

ExcavatingtheQFoundations
ThemodernanalysisofQ29asanevolutionaryaccumulationofthreedifferentiatedlayersofmaterial,is
undoubtedlyreliable.YetitoffersusaJesuswhoisananomaly:aJewishpreacherwhoyetshowsnointerest
inthingsJewish,forinthesocalledQ1layer,wehearacosmopolitan,veryunJewishvoice,onethatbearsa
strongresemblancetoCynicpreachingandpracticethiswasaGreekcounterculturemovementofthetime
spreadbywanderingCynicsages.30Moreover,thesesayingssoundliketheproductofaschoolorlifestyle,
developedovertimeandhardlythesuddeninventionofasinglemind.WhencertainQ1materialturnsupin
othervenues(withtheexceptionoftheGospelofThomas:seebelow),itisneverattributedtoaJesusbut
seems(asLawsobserves)tobepartofageneralstockofethicalmaterial,probablyadoptedbymanyreform
mindedgroupsduringthisperiod.Ifarealmanwerethesourceofthisteachingandtheimpulsetothe
formationofapreachingmovement,whydoeshecomedowntousinsuchameager,tortuousfashion?

WeneedtobesuspiciousalsoattheaboutfaceevidencedbytheQ2material.Fromteachingswhichseemso
cosmopolitan,openmindedandfullofvisionsoftheidealsociety,nottomentionsolackinginJewish
orientationandconcerns,howdoesthecommunityproceed,withinsupposedlyonlyafewyears,totheharsh,
punitive,narrowmindedapocalypticfulminationoftheQ2sayings,whoseatmosphereandinterestsarequite
definitelyofaJewishandsectariannature?DoesthisnotpointtothestrongpossibilitythattheQ1material
comesfromanexternalsource,adopted(andperhapsadapted)byaQcommunitywhichturnsoutnottobe
quitesoadmirableandvisionaryasstarryeyedcommentatorswouldliketoportraythem?Thecommon
explanationthattensionsresultingfromrejectioncausedthisaboutfacedonotseemtobeadequate,especially
toaccountforthestarkshifttoJewishapocalypticism.

ThereareothertelltalesignsinthesecondlayerofQthatallthiscondemnationwasoriginallydirectedata
failuretorespondtothecommunityspreachingoftheKingdom,nottotheteachingorpersonofJesus.The
apocalypticSonofMansayingsarenotidentifiedwithJesus,whichiswhy,whentheywerelaterplacedinhis
mouth,Jesussoundsasthoughheistalkingaboutsomeoneelse.JohntheBaptistintheQ2layer(3:719)
propheciesaneschatologicaljudge,notateacherfounderJesus.ThesayingfoundinLuke16:16isespecially
revealing:"UntilJohntherewastheLawandtheprophetssincethen,thereisthegoodnewsofthekingdom
ofGod."This,likesomuchofQ,isacknowledgedtobeaproductofthecommunitysownexperienceand
time(i.e.,notgoingbacktoJesus),andyetnoreferencetoJesushimselfhasbeenworkedintothispictureof
thechangefromtheoldtothenew.Luke11:49alsoleavesouttheSonofGodwhenspeakingofthosewhom
Wisdompromisedtosend.

Infact,thatverseandotherspointtothesourceoftheQ1sayingsasperceivedbythelatercommunity.They
weretheproductof,orinspiredby,personifiedWisdom.TheQ1stageisrecognizedas"sapiential,"thatis,an
instructionalcollectioninthesamegenreastraditional"wisdom"bookslikeProverbs.Johnisidentifiedasa
"childofWisdom",andsowasJesus(Lk.7:35)whenhewasintroducedintothepicture:seebelow.

CommentatorslikeMackhaveattemptedtoexplainwhyQcontainsnohintofJesusdeath,letalonea
resurrection.AllfallbackontheideathatnewsofsuchaneventdidnotreachtheminGalilee,orthatitheld
nointerestforthem.Neitherexplanationisacceptable.Thegroupwhich"remained"inJerusalemissaidto
havehadrootsinGalileewhichwouldcertainlyhaveremainedactive.Andifthereisoneprominentmotifto
befoundinQssecondlayer,itisthethemeofthekillingoftheprophets.Hadthefoundersfatebeen
execution,thereisnowaythiswouldnoteventuallyhavebeenseizedonandincorporatedintothe
communitysconsciousness.Thealternative(somethingMacktentativelysuggests)isthattherewasnodeath
atleastnotamemorableone,noexecutionbytheauthoritiesatall.Ofcourse,thisplacestheburdenonthe
culticsideofthings:ifJesusdiedanaturaldeath,whathistoricalfueldrovePaulandhisfellowstobuildtheir
mythiccrucifixion?Animpossiblesituationeitherway.

FillingIntheGaps
OneofthegreatanomaliesinQisthelackofanycontextsforthemajorityofitssayings.Thefewthathave
themcanbelocatedintheQ3layer.ForeverysingleQ1andQ2saying,MatthewandLukehavebeenforced
toprovidetheirowncontextsandsetuplineswithintheirpictureofJesusministry.Notevensomethinglike
theLordsPrayerisgivenacommonsettingbetweenthetwoSynopticevangelists.Ifthecommunityhad
associatedthesesayingswithaJesusrightfromthebeginning,andtakingintoaccounttheamountofredaction
thedocumentunderwentthroughitsvariousstages,itisvirtuallyimpossiblethatoverthecourseoftimesome
ofthesewouldnothavehadlittlecontextreferencesaddedtothem(whetheraccuratelypreservedorsimply
invented),sothatMatthewandLukewouldbetraysomepresenceofsuchthings.Onlyahandfulofanecdotes,
likethedialoguebetweenJesusandJohn,ortheCapernaummiracle,showanysuchdevelopment,andthese
bearsignsofbeinglate,oftendentiousredaction.Theyarecompositecreations,puttogetheroutofearlier
discreteunits.

ThiscanbeillustratedbyacomparisonwiththeGospelofThomas.Thistoopresentsitselfasacollectionof
sayingsattributedtoJesusandhasbeenenlistedinsupportofthe'discovery'ofJesusattherootsofQ.
ThomasshowsfarlessdevelopmentthanQ.Mostofitssayingsareprefacedonlybyasimple"Jesussaid,"
whileafewhavescrapsofsetuplines.LikeQ,itcontainsnodeathandresurrectionmotifs.

Butthereissomeformofrelationshipbetweenthetwodocuments,andsincetheGospelofThomascontains
themoreprimitiveformofthosesayingstheyholdincommon,mostofwhicharelocatedattheQ1level,we
candeducethattherootsofThomassplitofffromQatanearlystageofQdevelopment(orpossiblyvice
versa).TheidentificationwithJesuscouldhavebeenaddedatanylatertimeinreactiontothewidespread
developmentofanhistoricalfigure,probablysometimeinthefirsthalfofthe2ndcentury.(Theunearthed
copyofThomasisbasedonaGreekversionwhichgoesbacktothemidsecondcentury.)

ThomasconfirmsthattheevolutionofQinvolvedstagesofconsiderablerecasting,includingjoining
individualsayingsintodialoguesandanecdotes(acommonpracticeoftheperiod).Asimplesayingin
Thomas,#78,whereitwouldseemtorefertoJesus,appearsinQinanextendedconstruction,thedialogue
betweenJesusandJohn(Lk.7:1835),whereitismadetoapplytoJohn.ThisisadeadgiveawaythattheQ
pericopeisaninvention.ThesetofthreechreicresponsesinQ1(Lk.9:5762)aresimilarlyshowntobelater
redactedunits.

Thus,allthesignspointtonoJesusintheearlierlayersofQ.

QsFounderEmerges
WhenandwhydidtheideaofafounderfigureemergeintheQcommunitysthinking?ItappearedattheQ3
level,whencertaindialogue,pronouncementandmiracleanecdoteswereconstructedorrevampedfrom
earliermaterialtoembodyhim,andminorchangesweremadetosomeindividualsayingstoreflecthisvoice.

Reformimpulsesandapocalypticexpectationsarethingswhichsolidifygroupsoflikemindedpeopleinto
sects,setagainstthewiderworldaroundthemwhichlargelyrejectssuchextrememessagesandthusreceives
thesectscondemnation.Q2preservesthecommunityshostilereactiontorejection,andevenPaulitemizes
thesufferinghehasenduredatthehandsofthoseunreceptivetohisgospel.Whengroupsbecomemore
sectarianized,certainsocialphenomenatakeplace.Attitudesof"inside"and"outside"solidify.Abulwarkis
createdtodefendagainstattack.Communitypracticesneedtobejustified,andthebeliefsofthosewhonow
considerthemselvesanelectmustbesupported.

Thusthesectsviewofitstheologyandhistorytendstoevolvetoservetheprimarypurposeoffillingitsneeds
asadistinctandisolatedsocialgroup.Thepastisreconstructedtorenderitsacred.Currentfaithandteaching,
ritualandpractice,arebolsteredbyshowingthatsuchthingshadbeentherefromthebeginning,thattheyhad
beenformulatedunderdivineauspices,ininspiringcircumstances,andpreferablybyaheroicfounderfigure
withapipelinetothedeityperhapsevensentby,orapartof,thedeityitself.

ThisprocesscanbeseenintheevolutionofQ.Q1isabodyofCynicstylematerial,probablyultimatelyfrom
aGreeksource.PerhapsMackisrightinpostulatingacosmopolitanGalilee,astronglyhellenistic
environmentinwhichcertainJewishcirclesbeganpreachingtheKingdom.HereJewscouldabsorbforeign
ideaswithoutdifficulty,andmayhaveadoptedGreekCynicmaterialasprovidingasuitableethicfortheir
Kingdommovement.

However,oppositionfromanunreceptiveenvironmentsoonledtotheformulationofpropheticand
condemnatorysayings,togetherwithlittleanecdotes(alsoofaCynicnature)embodyingtheconflictbetween
sectandestablishment.Q2addedthedarkersideofsectarianismandapocalypticexpectationtotheoriginal
bodyofenlightened,cosmopolitanmaterial.NoJesushadyetspokensuchthings.Thiswasstillarecordofthe
communitysownteachingsandarticulatedstancetowardothers.Andthesectmayoriginallyhaveregarded
itselfasspokespersonsfortheWisdomofGod.Herpresencewithinthecommunitysthinkingisrevealedby
Lukein11:49:"ThatiswhytheWisdomofGodsaid..."Insteadof"Jesussaid"attheearlierstagesofQ,it
mayhavebeen"Wisdomsaid".

ThatchinkleftopenbyLukemaywellrevealtheentireearlylandscapeofQ,alandscapeemptyofanyJesus
figureatall,peopledbyapreachingmovementinspiredfromheavenandworkingunderWisdomsdirection.
AsshehaddonethroughoutIsraelspast,Wisdomhadsentthisculminatingwaveofmessengerstoproclaim
Godssalvation,andasinthepast,theyhadreceivedhostility,rejection,evendeath.

ButWisdomwasnottheidealfounderfigure,forshewasonlyaspiritualentity.WhattheQcommunity
neededwasahuman,heroicprogenitor,onewhohadactuallyspokenthesayings,donethedeeds,setthe
precedents.Theveryexistenceofthesayingscollectionwouldhaveinvitedattributiontoanoriginatingand
authoritativefigure.Andso,Wisdomwastransformedintoheridealrepresentative,a"childofWisdom".
MatthewinhisuseofQreflectsafurtherevolvingattitudetoJesusastheveryincarnationofWisdomherself,
andmanyofJesussayingsinQarerecognizedasborrowedWisdomsayings.

Butthisfounderfigurewasnotyetcastasdivine,andtheterm"Christ"isneverusedofhim.Heisnot
envisionedastheMessiah,thoughhetakesontheidentityof"thecomingone"whenhebecomesassociated
withtheSonofMan,andthereseemtobeintimationsofdivinitywhichcomeinatthefinalphaseofQinthe
formoftheTemptationStory.Norishearedeemer,forthereisnosoteriologyattachedtoJesusinanystageof
Q.HeissimplyaglorifiedembodimentoftheQpreachersthemselves,doingwhattheQpeoplehaddone
fromthebeginning,onlybetter.HeopenedthedoorformenandwomensentryintothenewKingdom.

Ofcourse,JohntheBaptisthadtoberealigned,andsohewasrecastastheforerunner,theheraldtowhomthe
founderJesushadbeensuperior.ThiswouldalsoputtherivalfollowersofJohntheBaptist(bynowperhapsa
separatesect)intheirplace.Thisrivalry,togetherwiththefactthatJohnhadnotbeenknownasaWisdom
teacher,mayhaveprecludedanytendencytomakeJohnhimselfthefounderoftheQsect.

QandtheGospels
HowdowerelatethelatestphaseofQtothedevelopingGospels?OnonelevelandinthesamemannerasQ,
theGospelsarecreationsmotivatedbythesectarianneedsdiscussedabove.Theyarefoundationdocuments
whichembodytheprinciplesofthesectsfaithandpracticeanditsstancetowardtheoutsideworld.That
"foundation"isfictionalizedinamythictaleaboutafounderfigure,atalewhichdoestwothings:ittranslates
theredeemingspiritrealmactivitiesofitsdeityintoanearthlysetting,anditaddstheepitomizationofthe
workandbeliefsoftheMarkancommunityitself,focusingtheseonitsJesusofNazareth.

TheMarkanJesus,asintermediarySonandRedeemer,hasbeendrawnfromtheculticChristofthePauline
type(althoughthereseemstobenodirectuseofthespecificideasofPaul,unlesstheLordsSuppermythhas
comefromPaulthroughindirectchannels).ThismakesitlikelythattheMarkancommunitywasacultic
grouptobeginwith.31ButMarkalsobetraysQliketraditions,andadebatestillragesastowhetherhealso
hadaccesstosomeformofQ,orperhapshadcomeinoralcontactwithmembersoftheQcommunity.32

Thekeyquestionthenbecomes:didMark,incastinghisChristinahumancharacterandlocalsetting,draw
onrecentlydevelopedconceptionsaboutafounderfigureintheQcommunity?DidtheQJesusserveasa
modelorinspirationforMarksJesusofNazareth?WithoutacopyoftheQdocumentitself,Markmayhave
hadlittleofsubstanceaboutthisfiguretodrawon,andthuswefindthecuriouspaucityofteachingsinMarks
Gospel,33andtheabsenceofalmostanyoftheQanecdotesincorporatedbyMatthewandLuke.

Inanyevent,theQtraditionslackedbiographicalandcontextualelements,soMarkhadonlyscripturetodraw
onfordetailtofleshouthisJesus"biography".This,asmodernscholarshiphascometorealize,wasfounded
ontheprinciplesofmidrashandmodelledonthestoryoftheSufferingRighteousOne.Itisverypossiblethat
Mark,andperhapsMatthewandLuke(andevenJohn),regardedtheirmidrashictaleassymboliconly,andits
Jesusfigureasnothistorical.Insuchastate,theseearlyversionsoftheGospelswouldhaveremainedinthat
limboforagenerationormore,undisseminatedbeyondtheirowncommunities,untilwiderforcesandnew
interpretationsledtheevangelistsJesusofNazarethoutontothehistoricalstage.

Finally,ithasbeensuggestedthatvariousfirstcenturypreacher/ZealotsandwouldbeMessiahfigureswho
agitatedforrevolutionaryorapocalypticchange,andwereusuallydispatchedbythemilitaryauthorities
(perhapsonewasevenexecutedbyPilate!),providedapartialmodelforthecreationofMarksJesusfigure,
orperhapseventhatofQatsomestage.ButthisisafarcryfromsayingthattheGospelJesusrepresentsan
historicalfigureinanymeaningfulfashion,orthattherebywecansaythat"therewasanhistoricalJesus."

AnUnresolvedQuestion
Asafinalconsideration,ImightsuggestthatthesituationbetweenMarkandQcouldbeevenmorecomplex.
MostscholarsfindsomeechoinMarkofQideasandexperiences.Butcouldtheinfluencehaveextendedin
theotherdirection,too?QsurfacesforthefirsttimeinMatthewandLuke,likelyaftertheturnofthesecond
century.Whatrecentrevisionsandadditionsmighthavebeenmadetoit?(Itisthoughtthetwoevangelists
useddifferent"editions"ofQ.)Thereisnonecessitytoassumetheyareresurrectingsomedocumentthathad
beendeadorfixedforseveraldecades.Thislineofapproachmayalsohelpsolvetheoneintriguingquestion
wheremyviewofQisconcerned.

WhyshouldtheinventedQfounder,withnoconnectiontothecultsofPaulortheusualsaviorconcepts,have
beennamedJesuswhichhasthemeaningof"savior"andtheechoofdivinity?

WasthetermsowidespreadamongJewishsectariancirclesthatitexercisedacompellingattractiononthe
KingdompreachingcommunityinGalilee?ThiswouldimplythattheQpeople,perhapsinthedecadeorso
followingtheJewishWar,werebythattimeawareofthespiritualChristcultsflourishinginthewiderworld,
andthusofthehighersignificanceofthename.Ifso,didthisimpelthatmovetowarddivinitydiscerniblein
thefinalphaseofQ3?

Orcould,perhaps,thelateststageofQpostdatetheearliestphaseofMark,andhadtherebeencrossover
influences?Aspartofthisquestion,wewouldthenask:hadQ3usedthename"Jesus"atall?

Evenifitnowhereappearedinthetext,evenifanotherdesignationhadbeenusedbytheQ3redactorsin
passageslikethedialoguebetweenJesusandJohn,MatthewandLuke,undertheinfluenceofMarkand
becausetheywerenotconsciousofreproducinghistory,wouldhavechangedittoJesus.

Butthereisanotherpossibility.Itisnotimprobablethatsomeinterveninghand,beforethelaterSynoptics
cametobewritten,hadalreadyalteredQ3soriginaldesignationforitsfoundertofitadeepeningtrend:the
nearuniversalityofthenameJesusamongahostofapocalypticandsalvationsects.Perhapsthishadbeen
doneundertheinfluenceofanewlymintedMark.PerhapsthealteringhandwassomeonewhosawtheQ
documentasasurvivingrecord,orarelatedaccounthistoricalorotherwiseofthehumanizeddivineChrist
oftheGospelofMark.

AwrittenQ,infact,mayfinallyhavefounditswaytotheMarkancommunityandafterminoralterations,
restedforatimeonthesameshelfastherecentlyconstructedGospel.Itwaslefttoalaterevangelistina
neighboringcommunitytoamalgamatethetwoaftercopiesreachedhimbythesamepost,sotospeak.Some
yearsafterthat,anotherevangelist,thisonealittlefurtherawayperhaps,whosecommunityhaddifferent,
moregentileinterests,gotwindofthetwodocuments,arrangedforcopiesanddidhisownreworking.

TheconstructionofanhistoricalJesuswaswellunderway.

Notes
1SinceitcontainsanunmistakableallusiontothedestructionofJerusalem,andbecauseitisnotinkeepingwithwhatPaul
elsewheresaysabouthisfellowcountrymen.See,forexample,BirgerPearson:1Thessalonians2:1316:ADeuteroPauline
Interpolation,HTR64(1971),7994.[SeeSupplementaryArticleNo.3:WhoCrucifiedJesus?:TheJews"WhoKilledthe
LordJesus".]
2Forexample,Origen,inhisContraCelsumdiscussesafewtimes(e.g.,I,46and67)theveracityofJesusmiraclesif
JosephushadreferredtoJesusasa"doerofwonderfuldeeds"(asscholarslikeJ.D.Crossanclaim),hewouldhardlyhave
passeduptheopportunitytoappealtotheJewishhistorianswitness.SomeclaimthatOrigensstatementinContraCelsum
I,47thatJosephus"didnotbelieveinJesusastheChrist"constitutesanobliquereferencetosuchapassage,butthisis
betterexplainedasOrigensreactiontothefactthatJosephusdeclares,inJewishWarsVI,31213,thattheJewspredictions
aboutaMessiahreallyappliedtotheemperorVespasian.[SeeSupplementaryArticleNo.10:JosephusUnbound.]

3OrigenusesacopywhichhasJosephusregardingthedestructionofJerusalemasadivinepunishmentforthemurderof
James,whereasnosurvivingcopyofJosephusmakesanysuchsuggestion.[Seethesectionsonthe"lostreference"in
JosephusUnbound.]
4E.g.,Origen,Barrett,Hring,Delling(TDNTI,489),Schoeps,Salmond.SeePaulEllingworth,ATranslatorsHandbook
for1Corinthians,p.46:"Amajorityofscholarsthinkthatsupernaturalpowersareintendedhere."[SeeSupplementary
ArticleNo.3:WhoCrucifiedJesus?:TheRulersofthisAge.]
5J.D.QuinnintheAnchorBibleCommentaries(Titus,p.65)saysthat"thephraseprochrononaionionreferstothe
timelessorderinwhichGodhimselflives,incontrasttothechronoiaionioi(asinRomans16:25)throughwhichtheworld
haspassedinhistory.Cf.JamesBarr,BiblicalWordsForTime,p.138f.
6ThelittledocumentcalledDiscoursetotheGreeksanderroneouslyascribedtoJustinMartyrshowsthattheLogoscould
belookeduponasanagencyofsalvation.Hereittakesondecidedlypersonalcharacteristicsinthatit"hasceaselesscare
overus,"and"makesmortalsbecomeimmortal,humanbeingsgods"(5).SeeE.R.Goodenough,ByLight,Light,p.300.
7SeeunderSarxinTDNTVII,128.

8HelmutKoestersgroundbreakingsearchforSynopticreferencesinthewritingsoftheearlyFathers,Synoptische
berlieferungbeidenapostolischenVtern,concludesthatalmostallsuchreferencescomefromapreGospellayerof
tradition.
9IfPapias(nowlost)OraclesoftheLordInterpretedhadcontainedquotationsfromsuchGospels,latercommentators,like
EusebiusandPhilipofSide,wouldcertainlyhavereferredtothem.NorisitlikelythatifhehadfullnarrativeGospelsof
JesuslifePapiaswouldhavedisparagedwrittenworksandpreferredoraltraditions,asheisreportedtohavesaid.Papias
tells,inthefragmentsquotedbyEusebius,thathisinformationabout"Mark"camefrom"thePresbyter",butwhetherthis
wasalsothecaseconcerning"Matthew"Eusebiusisnotclear,thoughitislikely.AllPapiaswitnessesto(assumingwecan
trustEusebius)isthatacoupleofdecadesorsointothesecondcentury,therewerecertaincirculatingcollectionsofsayings
andpossiblyanecdotes,probablyofapropheticnature,oneoftheminHebreworAramaic,whichhadbeguntobeattributed
toanhistoricalJesusandassociatedwiththenamesofearlyreputedfollowersofhim.

10MidrashandLectioninMatthew,TheEvangelistsCalendar,Luke:ANewParadigm[SeethebookreviewofJohn

ShelbySpong'sLiberatingtheGospels.]

11SeeTheParaphraseofShemandTheApocalypseofAdam(NHCVII,1andV,5)

12WhoWrotetheNewTestament?(1995)andAMythofInnocence(1988)[SeethebookreviewofBurtonMack'sWho

WrotetheNewTestament?]
13Forexample,C.K.Barrett,ThePastoralEpistlesintheNewEnglishBible,p.86fJ.N.D.Kelly,ACommentaryonthe

PastoralEpistles,p.146fJ.L.Houlden,ThePastoralEpistles,p.100f.
14JesusandtheWord,p.8

15WhatisRedactionCriticism?p.23f

16The4thcentury"Ambrosiaster"givesusaclueinhiscommentaryonRomans,thattheChristiansofRomeacceptedfaith
inChrist"withoutseeinganyoftheapostles".Inotherwords,itwasacaseoflocaldevelopmentofbeliefinthewidespread
ideaofaspiritualSon,andnothingtodowithamissionarymovementoutofJudea.

17ChapterTwo,p.3145[SeethebookreviewofRobertFunk'sHonesttoJesus.]

18WhoWrotetheNewTestament?p.75fcf.hisAMythofInnocence,p.101f.

19Galatians1:162:1.

20Mack:WhoWrotetheNewTestament?,p.80fFunk:HonesttoJesus,p.43.

21NEBtranslationliterally,allthisisfromGod.

22Wehavetokeepinmindthatitmattersnotwhethersuchsayingswereactuallyauthentic.IfJesuswasknowntobea
teacher,thecompetitiveanddisputatiousnatureofthemovementitselfwouldhaveledtoattachinganythingandeverything
tohimforauthority.
23PerhapsnoattempttoexplainthisisasmindbogglingasthatofSophieLawsinherstudyTheEpistleofJames(p.34):
"WhereastheGospelshaveoneformofadoptionofJesusteaching,inthattheyidentifyitashis,Jamesprovidesevidence
ofanotherwayofretainingandpreservingit:absorbedwithoutdifferentiationintothegeneralstockofethicalmaterial."
Whatarewetocallthis:"preservationbyburial"?!Jameshascoveredoverthetracessowellonewondershowlater
generationswereabletounearthit.Lawsblandstatementthat"ItisnotimportanttoJamestoindicatewherehisprecepts
derivefromJesus,"explainsnothingandonlyhighlightsthesheerabsurdityoftheidea.Lawsisingoodcompanywithsuch
asPeterH.Davids(James,p.16),whoboldlystates:"ThenoncitationofJesusevenwhendependentonhisthought,isfully
characteristicoftheNewTestamentepistles."DavidsdrawsonothersilencestoprovethatthesilenceinJamesisnota
silenceatall!
24Verse17s"ofChrist"isanobjectivegenitive,supportedbytheentirecontext.SeeC.K.Barrettsattempt(TheEpistleto
theRomans,p.189)tointroduceapreachingJesusalongsidetheapostolicpreachersintoalittlerelativepronouninverse14.
Hououkekousan,hesays,shouldbetranslatedasmeaning"Christmustbeheardeitherinhisownperson,orintheperson
ofhispreachers."Barrettsclaim,whichnoonetomyknowledgeagreeswith,destroysPaulsfinelycreatedchainof
argument.BarrettislettingwhathecannotbelieveismissingoverridewhatisclearlythereornotthereinPaulswords.
25NewInternationalGreekTestamentCommentary:Hebrews,p.500

26Hebrews10:37makesitclearthat"thecomingone"hasnotcomepreviously,forscripturespromisehasnotyetbeen
fulfilled.And8:4virtuallyspellsoutthatChristhadneverbeenonearth.(Ellingworth,op.cit.,p.405,shiesawayfromthis
conclusionbyrejectingthenormalinterpretationoftheimperfectverbs,since"itcouldbemisunderstoodasmeaningthat
Jesushadneverbeentoearth"!)Asfor9:28,whichscholarsarewillingtosayistheonlyspotintheNewTestamentepistles
wheretheParousiaisspokenofasasecondcoming,the"ekdeuterou"caninsteadbetakenasmeaning"next"ina
sequentialsense,andnotnecessarily"asecondtime"infact,thecontextofv.2728supportstheformer.[See
SupplementaryArticleNo.9:TheSonintheEpistletotheHebrews.]
27Sincethehigherrealmofspiritconstitutedthe"true"reality,thatupperworldcontainedthespiritualcounterpartsof
thingsmaterialintheworldbelow.ThuswithinthespiritrealmChristcouldtakeontheequivalentof"flesh",makea
"blood"sacrifice,evenbe"ofDavidsstock"asinRomans1:3.NotethatthisfeatureofChrist"katasarka"isdeterminedby
scripture,asPaultellsusinverse2.Itisontheprophets,notknownhistoricalfact,thatPaulhasfoundedhis"gospelofthe
Son",andhisactivitiesinboth"flesh"and"spirit".[SeeSupplementaryArticleNo.8:Christas"Man".]

28Ithasbeenremarked(e.g.,byE.P.SandersinhisJesusandJudaism)thatJesusteaching,especiallythatconsidered
mostprobablyauthenticbymodernscholarship,washardlyofanaturetoprompttheauthoritiestoexecutehim.Sanders,
too,pointsoutthatsuchteachingdidnothaveaJewishfocus,muchlessanapocalypticoneneitherdiditcallforthe
repentanceorrestorationofIsrael.Thisfundamentalincompatibilitybetweenthe"teaching"sideoftheGospelstoryandthe
"Passion"sideisstrongevidencethattheoneoriginallyhadnothingtodowiththeother,butwerebroughttogether
artificially.

29AsinJohnKloppenborgsTheFormationofQ.

30BurtonMackandJohnDominicCrossanareprominentlyassociatedwiththisviewofa"Cynic"Jesus.

31TherearethosewhoclaimthattheSynopticGospelsdonotspecificallystatethatJesusisdivine,thoughthepicture

paintedofhis"suffering,deathandresurrection"certainlyleansinaculticdirection.
32MacklocatestheMarkancommunityinSidonorTyreothersinsouthernSyria.WilliMarxsenlikedGalileeitself.

VirtuallyeverycommentatorregardstheQcommunityasnativetoGalilee.
33SeeEugeneBoring,"ThePaucityofSayingsinMark,"SBLSP1977

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