The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty

Read: 27 September, 2009

Imagine if people living a couple hundreds of years from now forgot that the Harry Potter series was fiction. Imagine that they started to worship Harry Potter, to seek out relics from Hogwarts, and fought wars against those who did not believe that the historical Harry really did have magical powers.

That’s essentially the premise of The Jesus Puzzle. According to Doherty, Jesus was a mythic character, invented consciously by individuals who were  embodying the teachings of their sect in an archetypal character. But then, as the religion spread outside of this original community, the allegory was forgotten and adherents came to see Jesus as an actual historical figure. This is how Doherty explains the discrepancies between the gospels and the lack of biographical information given in the epistles of Paul.

To a lay reader, the argument is convincing. That being said, it’s worth noting that Doherty is not a scholar, the accolades on the book jacket are written by individuals (David B., Mary B., Jan K., and Rusty A., whoever they are), and he is something of a laughing stock among biblical scholars. “Mythers,” as they are called within scholarly circles, tend not to be very well received.

Indeed, even a lay reader may grasp that something is amiss after Doherty’s umpteenth reference to his persecution at the hands of academics. My own skeptical alarm bells tend to ring when authors imagine vast conspiracies against themselves or their ideas.

I’m not sure that I’d be willing to dismiss the book entirely, simply because Doherty does provide a perspective on many New Testament passages. I’ve found it useful in my reading of scripture over at my other blog, if only to have additional points of view to mull over while forming my own readings. Just keep in mind that Doherty is expressing a fringe opinion that is not taken seriously by those who know the material best.

Buy The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus from Amazon to support this blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *