It's been a few years, some new books have arisen - Carrier's OHJ, Ehrman's DJE?, Brodie. DJE? was a rather poor effort. OHJ was very interesting but flawed. I still tend to the Mythical Jesus view - perhaps only 60/40 now. Here I present my new version of a Jesus Myth theory.
Some people had out-of-body visions of a spiritual being they came to call Jesus Christ before Paul. A loose mystery-like cult forms around this demi-God. Two people are prominent - Peter, and James who is revered with title 'brother of the Lord' (maybe he had the first vision?)
Life of Adam and the Third Heaven
Paul read this book and absorbed themes of - a son of God, who died, is buried in heaven, and eventually resurrected. I note B. Muller's argument for interpolation of 'third heaven' and GakuseiDon mentioning 2 Enoch. It and Paul and Life of Adam all now put Paradise in the third heaven. Maybe Paul learned this, or maybe he authored it himself - but he clearly believed it.
As Above so below
This theme is not unknown in the 1st C. - Ladder of Jacob, Ascension of Isaiah. Paul later contrasts Jerusalem above with Jerusalem below (Gal. 4:25.) The confused Life of Adam may be evidence for this - an earthly body buried in Paradise on earth mirrored by a soul buried in Paradise in the third heaven. Hebrews too has a heavenly Jerusalem (and a heavenly Jesus Christ who apparently was never on earth.) Above is connected to Below.
Paul's Vision - c.50
Paul has a life-changing visit to the third heaven where he meets this being Jesus Christ and learned of his crucifixion - which happened in Paradise in the third heaven. Paul sees Jesus Christ as a contrast and successor to Adam as described in the Life of Adam and adds the novelty of a crucifixion to the themes in the book - expanding the Jesus Christ story to include : crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection - all in Paradise in the third heaven. These events in heaven affect us on earth.
Paul believes he has had a grand revelation from Jesus Christ, and he travels and writes and preaches. His Jesus Christ is totally real (to him and the others) - a real heavenly being. Paul expands the small Jesus Christ communities with his fervent preaching of the crucifixion and personal revelation. The crucifixion is Paul's baby - it's HIS revelation, and he preaches it hard and emphasizes its reality.
Tree of Life ?
It's possible that Paul imagined Jesus Christ crucified on the Tree of Life in Paradise in the third heaven. Both Acts and 1 Peter claim he was crucified on a tree. Some later Christians associate Jesus Christ with the tree of life - Teachings of Silvanus; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho. CHAPTER LXXXVI; Celsus; Hippolytus, Exegetical; Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse. Just an idea.
The Jesus Christ cult comes to believe he will be called a Nazarene - an idea so popular that the Gospels later clumsily incorporate it. The Nazarene meme had to be included because everyone knew it - not because it was historical.
G.Mark - c.70
'Mark' was a literate and educated pagan genius from Rome who had heard of the Jesus Christ mystery cult and also read :
- the Tanakh (LXX)
- Greek myths and mysteries
Literature, even myth - but not history. No intent to defraud, deceive, hoax, or lie.
Early Christian writings use Jesus Christ as a divine name with no historical context - Hebrews, Colossians, 1,2,3 John, James, Ephesians, 2 Thess., 1 Peter, 1 Clement, Revelation, Jude, Pastorals, Diognetus, 2 Clement.
2 Peter is an oddity - a historical transfiguration - rather docetic.
Hermas - a spiritual son-of-God.
G.Matthew, G.Luke, G.John - c.80 -100.
G.Mark is so good, others want to emulate it, knowing full well it is quality literature. The Gospel expands into four versions and spreads out into several distant communities - the fertile fields of the existing Jesus Christ cults.
As the Gospels stories spread, there is natural tendency to believe they are true (people believed Sherlock Holmes was real.) When a gospel arrives in a new Jesus Christ community many would assume it was true - why wouldn't they ?
Some communities would have received the Jesus Christ story in three phases :
- (before Paul) Jesus Christ a heavenly being, no details
- (from Paul) Jesus Christ really crucified, died, buried, resurrected.
- (from a Gospel) the full Jesus Christ story.
Jesus Christ solidifies from myth into history due to the spread of the Gospels - communities knowing the basics have their beliefs confirmed and expanded with the new details - but the context of being a myth is over-written by the later historical story.
Sometimes the Gospel or their stories would spread piece-meal and/or by memory. This we have books like Barnabas and the Didakhe and Ignatius which have confused chunks of the Gospel stories. Papias knows about some early Gospels.
Myth vs History ?
Some still remembered that Jesus Christ was originally a spritual being. Arguments began against those who disagreed Jesus Christ came in the flesh. The conflict of belief in a spiritual Jesus Christ and the Gospel detail, lead to the docetic view of a phantom Jesus - a strong faction in early Christianity.
1 John appears to be an account of a Christian having a spiritual experience.
Minucius Felix c.150? seems to reject the Gospel stories. Other 2nd C. Christian apologists show no mention of a life of Jesus Christ. 2nd C. is a battling mish-mash of claims about Jesus Christ.
Aristides of Athens - c.140?
He describes the (un-named, singular) Gospel as being newly preached in his time, and clearly believes it is true. This may represent a clue to the spread of the Gospels - it appears to have reached Athens 'a short time' before his apology.
Clearly believes his memoirs of the apostles and Peter are historical.
Tatian, Irenaeus etc. all believe it is true.
Historicity wins - the mythical origins of Jesus Christ have been replaced with a new detailed historical view.
A spiritual / mythical Jesus Christ eventually became believed historical as increasingly detailed layers of the story became more historical.
I look forward to hearing members' views on this.