Get the CD Now!

Historical Jesus Theories: Earl Doherty

The purpose of this web page is to explain and explore some of the theories offered up by contemporary scholars on the historical Jesus and the origins of the Christian religion. Issues include the nature of the historical Jesus, the nature of the early Christian documents, and the origins of the Christian faith in a risen Jesus Christ.

Earl Doherty

The Jesus Puzzle:  Buy at! Earl Doherty holds that Christianity began with a mythical Christ. Earl Doherty argues that the diffuse undercurrent of religious thought called early Christianity can be shown to be a plausible descendant or cousin of Jewish mystical speculation on the scriptures (found in such writings as the Odes of Solomon, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Philo of Alexandria) and was probably well-received by those converts to early Christianity who were influenced by Platonism and Hellenistic soteriological ideas of the day. According to Doherty, religious thinking of the time saw the heavens as multi-layered and would understand the descent of a heavenly Christ to be sacrificed in the lower spheres of the heavens before being raised to the right hand of the Father. This is called the "Jerusalem Tradition," and it is exemplified by the epistles of Paul, seven of which are accepted as authentic.

As the other tributary to early Christianity, we have the "Galilean Tradition," a separate Kingdom of God preaching movement located in Syro-Palestine. According to Doherty, the earliest version of Q had no mention of any kind of founder of the Q community but rather was an anonymous wisdom collection. Doherty maintains that the final redaction of Q as well as the Gospel of Thomas derived from this original document and added the "Jesus said" references only at a subsequent stage. Doherty sees the author of the Gospel of Mark as one who had been brought up in the "Galilean Tradition" and devised a brilliant bit of religious syncretism in identifying the fictional Q founder with the exalted Pauline Christ in fashioning the passion story whole cloth. Mark's narrative (c. 85-90 CE) was the sole basis upon which the later evangelists retold the story: Matthew (c. 100 CE), Luke (c. 125 CE), and John (c. 125 CE) all depended upon Mark. The book of Acts is a catholicizing fiction of the mid second century. Although certain second century apologists continued to espouse a purely divine Christ, the Gospel myth eventually came to dominate Christian thought.

Please enjoy exploring the varied Historical Jesus Theories offered by these authors through the links below.

Jesus the Myth: Heavenly Christ

Jesus the Myth: Man of the Indefinite Past

Jesus the Hellenistic Hero

Jesus the Revolutionary

Jesus the Wisdom Sage

Jesus the Man of the Spirit

Jesus the Prophet of Social Change

Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet

Jesus the Savior

For more information on the debate over the historical Jesus, visit the Christian Origins web site.

Go to the Chronological List of all Early Christian Writings

Please buy the CD to support the site, view it without ads, and get bonus stuff!

Early Christian Writings is copyright © Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

Get the CD Now!

Kirby, Peter. "Historical Jesus Theories." Early Christian Writings. <>.