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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2014

6 - Does the Christ Myth Theory Require an Early Date for the Pauline Epistles?

from II - Paul and Early Christianity: Historical and Exegetical Investigations

Epistles versus Gospels

One of the pillar arguments of the Christ Myth Theory as usually put forth today is the absence from the Pauline Epistles of any Gospel-like teaching ascribed to Jesus. If the Gospels' Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the itinerant sage and thaumaturge, was well known, at least among Christians, it would stand to reason that such a Jesus would meet us throughout the apostolic letters by way of quotations and anecdotes. But we find no such material. Suddenly, however, such a Jesus portrait appears in the Gospels, written after the epistles, and the explanation for this discrepancy, according to Mythicists, is that, between the composition of epistles on the one hand and Gospels on the other, the popular Christian imagination (as well as the inventiveness of Christian scribes) ‘historicized’ the originally suprahistorical, spiritual (mythical) saviour of whom Paul and the rest had earlier written so much of a dogmatic nature, but none of a historical-biographical nature. For various reasons it had become desirable in some quarters to posit a recent historical Jesus of Nazareth to whom one could trace oneself and one's institutional claims of authority. And in this window of time between epistles and Gospels, various unnamed prophets (and borrowers and tall-tale-tellers) supplied the many things this Jesus would have, must have, done and said. Such a figure had not existed as far as the epistolarians knew, and so of course there was no such material with which to lard their epistles.

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Is This Not the Carpenter?
  • Online ISBN: 9781844657308
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