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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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Doherty tries to construct a fictional history for his fantasy group, the "Q community," and then invents a crisis in which they needed a leader. Out of that crisis the Jesus myth emerges to offer them the hope of a leader. One wonders how this would work in real Life. Real groups need real leaders. It seems more likely that a fictional or mythological figure would be the object of worship rather than become a group leader who never existed. But all this talk of a group makes us wonder, was Jesus a total loaner before he began his ministry? John seems to indicate in his Gospel that Jesus had friends, he had a social circle. That consisted at least of the little family of Bethany, Lazarus and his two sisters. But did Jesus not belong to a group? He had a human nature (speaking from an Orthodox standpoint), why would he not belong to a group. Jesus may have emerged out of Hellenistic groups and thus had a penchant for Hellenistic sounding ideas, and he may have been quoting some kind litany of group teaching. On the other hand, Doherty can produce no examples of Jesus actual sayings from other sources. It has always been understood by scholars that Jesus probably had some interaction with John the Baptist's group. It is doubtful that when John saw Jesus coming to him for baptism that this was the first time they met. Doherty tries to turn the relationship of Jesus and John into a power struggle within the Q community and the need for a leader.

Especially revealing is the saying now found in Luke 16:16: "Until John (the Baptist) there was the law and the prophets (i.e., scripture); since then, there is the good news of the Kingdom of God." This, like so much of Q, is acknowledged to be a product of the community's own experience and time (i.e., not going back to Jesus), and yet no reference to Jesus himself has been worked into this picture of the change from the old to the new. Luke 11:49 also leaves out the Son of God when speaking of those whom Wisdom promised to send.
Doherty has totally misconstrued the meaning of this passage. Here he takes as an indication that Jesus was absent from the original group because the saying doesn't include a reference to the "son of man." One wonders why it should? Doherty seems to be oblivious to the fact that it is Jesus making the statement. Why should he be talking about himself? But he is not saying that John has replaced the OT, he is not saying that John is the inauguration of the New Covenant. He's merely using John's ministry as indicative for the times, not as a formal replacement for the Old Covenant. He is saying "the laws was preached, until John came and started preaching the kingdom, now everyone wants the kingdom." He is condemning the Pharisees for their adultery. He says the Kingdom of God is manifesting itself on the earth, people are seeking it, John is a sign of the times, an indication that the kingdom has come. The very next passage shows what he is really saying: (Luke 16:17) "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one title of the law to fail. (Luke 16:18) Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from [her] husband committeth adultery." He's saying that the can't be set aside. The kingdom is here, but the point of it is to manifest the law not to eliminate it. In this context what's the point of expecting a son of man quote? Especially when the son of man is making the statement?

He assumes that the leader was introduced in the third stage of the Q development, the third stage was brought on by the need for re-interpreting the material in light of the need for a leader. "Certain past material would have been reworked and everything attributed to this founder, including healing "miracles" which had been part of the activity of the Q preachers themselves." Of course this would work even better if they had a real leader. One fails to see how projecting a myth into the bogus re-working of group history would solve a leadership crisis, and how it could even be done against the incredulity of the group, short of just making an agreement, "let's have a fake leader." On the other hand, John's death would have left his group leaderless and the leadership crisis could have been avoided if his group merged with Jesus' group and came to see Jesus as the leader. This would work well in real life and seems to be not far from what really happened since we find John cronies such as Aquilla and Priscilla turning up in Christian ranks. Doherty can't provide a reason why the John the Baptist group would suddenly impose upon its fictional past this mythological Jesus figure, but we can understand perfectly why the followers of John would turn to a real earthly Jesus. Jesus was there, he had been baptized by John, he probably had been part of those circles and many of them knew him. Some of Jesus' own 12 had been with John, and Jesus lauded John, they had the same message, and Jesus made sense of John's death to them. If Jesus was Messiah, and John was the heralding voice, then his death is meaningful and serves a purpose in the kingdom. But to manufacture such a meaning with a fictional replacement seems a much dicier proposition.

Doherty's Attempted Answer:
How did such a founder formulate itself in the Q mind if he had no historical antecedent? All sectarian societies tend to read the present back into the past; they personify their own activities in great founding events and heroic progenitors. The very existence of the sayings collection, the product of the evolving community, would have invited attribution to a specific originating and authoritative figure. Such a record set in a glorified past is known as a "foundation document," a universal phenomenon of sectarian expression. (Figures such as Confucius, Lao-Tsu, Lycurgus of Sparta, the medieval Swiss William Tell, as well as other obscure sectarian figures of the ancient world, are examples of founder figures who have come to be regarded as likely non-existent.)
In asking the question Doherty knows its a good point, he knows he needs an answer. He should know his answer is inadequate. All groups put a spin on the past interpreting what came before in light of their need to explain what is happening now. That in no way means that any group could ever invent a leader out of pure fiction and superimpose him/her into the fictional past and then use that to solve a current leadership crisis. One might consider this a pretty crazy idea because why should we ever think that this would contribute to the kinds of things leaders do in the present? The loss of a leader means a current decision maker, not a mouth into which one can stuff an ancient list of sayings. Doherty cannot begin to tell us how this would work. We imagine old Eliaser comes to the meeting:
"I've been in the group 40 years, I've heard of this Jesus guy, who was he?"
"O sure you have, he was our great leader he said all those things, you know, in the sayings list we like."
"I never heard of him, neither has my grandfather."
"sure you have, we all have, and just remember, he didn't die on the cross or raise form the dead."

Moreover, Doherty can't show us the more crucial thing: how would this serve in the current leadership crisis? How do we know the crisis was current? IF the crisis was in the past how did they solve it to begin with? No group works to resolve a leadership crisis that is already 20 years resolved. He points out that groups read the present into the past, but doesn't tell us how reinventing the past would fix the present. In answer to this he postulates the "foundation document" as the answer. In giving the group a heroic past they give the contemporary group something to cling to. He tires to use other figures as proof of this same move. He uses figures such as Lao-tsu and William Tell. But every figure he names is thought to be based upon an historical figure. These have been questioned recently, but mainly by Jesus myth spokesmen. He can not proof that these figures emerged as answers to a crisis need for group leadership.. If they were legendary they each have to be taken on their own terms. They cannot be put over as examples of other figures who were imposed upon a fictional past to save a group. Doherty cannot show any even one of these figures was created to resolve a current leadership crisis.

Then he assumes that the Q community was goaded into replacing John with a superior leader by a rival group. "I also suspect that the existence of a rival sect claiming John the Baptist as its founder may have induced the Q community to develop one of its own, one touted as superior to John." (ibid). Now he's invented a rival group that also followed John. Holy Occam Batman, how many groups were following John anyway? Every time Doherty needs an answer he can just invent a new group. As if he know this is not enough, he invents a third reason:
An additional explanation for the development of this founder is suggested by Q itself. The figure of heavenly Wisdom (Sophia), once seen as working through the community, seems to have evolved into the figure of her envoy, one who had begun the movement and spoken her sayings. Myths about Wisdom coming to the world were longstanding in Jewish thought and would have played a role here. Luke 7:35 (the concluding line of the Dialogue) calls Jesus a child of Wisdom, and Matthew in his use of Q reflects an evolving attitude toward Jesus as the very incarnation of Wisdom herself. Several of Jesus' sayings in Q are recognized as recast Wisdom sayings.
So now he's inventing a goddess worship contingent to the Jewish faith. There is a link between the logos and wisdom. That link is found in proverbs 13 but is made explicit in Wisdom of Solomon. Doherty would have us look to Pagan sources, to Greek Philosophy, to Gnosticism and link to Judaism through Philo to explain the logos of John. But there is a much better, and much more Jewish explanation. Logos was the Greek term that Jews used to express the Hebrew concept of "memra." The concept of "memra" was the Hebrew idea of the Spirit of God revealing itself downward, from heaven to earth. One manifestation of this was wisdom. In fact Logos was just the Greek term which the Jews used to say "memra." Turn to Kaufmann Kolher, Jewish Encyclopedia Online.com.
The Logos. It is difficult to say how far the rabbinical concept of the Memra, which is used now as a parallel to the divine Wisdom and again as a parallel to the Shekinah, had come under the influence of the Greek term "Logos," which denotes both word and reason, and, perhaps owing to Egyptian mythological notions, assumed in the philosophical system of Heraclitos, of Plato, and of the Stoa the metaphysical meaning of world-constructive and world-permeating intelligence (see Reizenstein, "Zwei Religionsgeschichtliche Fragen," 1901, pp. 83-111; comp. Aall, "Der Logos," and the Logos literature given by Schürer, "Gesch." i. 3, 542-544).
Kohlor admits we don't know the extent of Greek influences, but he assumes Philo is bringing them in copiously. Edersheim shows that Philo in use of Logos is really very Jewish. Yes, he has Greek influences, but he is not as divorced from his Jewish roots as some might suggest. I have three full pages on the link between Memra and logos and the use of Memra in the Targimum. They are all linked the page: The Triune God in Hebrew Thought (see also "More Memra" and "Targimum" linked through same page).

So John says "Logos" he's really saying Jesus was the memra, manifested presence of God (see Edersheim Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah see also my Trinity pages). Memra is all over the Syriac translations of the OT used in Synagogues called "Targimum." Edershime gives a chart of uses and where in the OT they are found, it's 16 rows long. But this could never the sort of female goddess figure from paganism that Doherty wants us to accept. He has to assume that the Q community would have been Gnostics. They would have had to be very radical for that period. I'm sure Doherty supporters think the link can be made through Gospel of Thomas, we can discuss that latter. The sort of goddess worship schemata Doherty wants to inflict upon the history is ahistorical and could not have been in Judaism of the day. Wisdom was God. Just because it's personified as a female in a literary device in Proverbs doesn't mean the Jews were into any sort of goddess worship or that this wisdom figure needed a human cohort to express her ideas. For Jews of that day Wisdom was God, God had prophets. In fact the logos prologue is seen as a counter to the Sophia wisdom Goddess of the Gnostics. There is no reason to make these assumptions because "logos" was a very Jewish concept and word when used by Jews.

Here I quote myself, Metacrock, from my Trinity pages, as I quote Helmutt Koster, the authority for Doherty:
As Helmutt Koster says, The Prologue is an anti-Gnostic, anti-Sophia preamble. It is offering an alternative to the mythological Gnostic figure of Wisdom ("Sophia"). This is crucial because Sophia, as the female personification of Wisdom, is linked to God in Proverbs and even more strongly in the Wisdom of Ben Sirach an apocryphal work which dates to about 186 BC. The term "logos" is used interchangeably in that document with the Aramaic term memra. Thus when John says "in the beginning was the word" he is using the term logos in the way that Jewish heterodox sources of the intertestamental period used it, as an expression of God himself, God's presence (see Trinity page 4 "The Triune God in Hebrew Thought?). Koester points out himself that John is writing a biography of the Logos. Wisdom cannot have a biography, she is merely a veggie personified ideal, but the Logos can have a biography because he became a flesh and blood person (as opposed to Gnostic thinking which saw flesh as evil and Jesus' earthly nature as illusory). John tells us in no uncertain terms, "The word became flesh and dwelt among us."

The Meaning of Logos

The word "logos" or "word" in Greek can be used in any sense in which we English speakers would use the term "word" (including as rhama would also be used). In the context of Greek Philosophy it indicated an organizing principle, the concept which constructs the world; for the Hebrews it meant the presence of God, an emanation through various sapheroths, and the self revealing presence, God revealing himself downward to earth. This the two uses (Greek and Hebrew) have in common. As ordering principle of the world, Logos also meant, for the Greeks, revelation, or an idea being revealed. This is the closest sense to its use in John. The Revelation of God to humanity is Jesus Christ, the embodiment of the God's self revealing presence.
Doherty, like so many, tries to link Logos to the Greeks, through Philo, through Jewish Gnosticism, but that does not cover the use of Logos by John and by 1 Peter. 1 Peter? He doesn't use the term "Logos" but he speaks of "the excellent glory" in relation to the revelation of God through Christ. That is a euphemism for memra; that is the concept of memra, he's calling Jesus "memra" which is logos. Doherty needs to adapt Christ to Gnosticism and plugs "Jesus" (the fictional character) into the Wisdom circuit where he can be a manifestation and messenger of the female wisdom goddess thing that Judaism never had. But instead he doesn't realize that he's just running afoul of second temple Messianic expectations. He believes Q is devoid of them because he doesn't know what to look for he doesn't know them when he seems them. The Memra/logos connection doesn't plug Jesus into Gnostic wisdom, it plugs him into God, into the Wisdom of God, into being a messenger of God not of "wisdom-Sophia," it plugs him into Messiahshood.

Then he says something so confusing that it seems to totally contradict everything he's put forth in his theory:
Whether the Q community gave to this perceived founder the name "Jesus" cannot be certain. At a late stage of Q, there may even have been some crossover influences from earliest Gospel circles (of "Mark"). Uncovering such things is a conjectural business, as actual historical developments tend to be more subtle and complex than any academic presentation of them on paper, especially 20 centuries after the fact. It is significant that Q never uses the term Christ, for such a founder would not at this stage have been regarded as the Messiah. That role was introduced by Mark.
So there is a tradition that is older than the canonical Gospels, it is the original tradition that became Christianity, it began with no Jesus, because he didn't exist in history, but somehow an earlier version of Mark existed and had Jesus and they barrowed it and then gospels took it back presumably? That makes no sense. If that's the case than the tradition of Jesus must be actually older than that of Q, not to mention the Gospel of Mark? What is he talking about? If he theorizes that the group that eventually produced Mark sprang up independently of the fictional Q group, then how does he account for their adaptation of Jesus? This is also unbelievable on another level. Because here he is disparaging Messiahood because the term "Christ" isn't used in the Q source, but he can't see that the memra link makes him Messiah without the word Christ. The followers began to identify Jesus as Messiah when they saw him doing all the things that fulfill Messianic expectations and when John said he was "the lamb of God." There's a lamb of God literature at Qumran that is tied to messiah. The link from Memra to Messiah is not direct. The Jews didn't expect Messiah to be an incarnation of the Godhead as in Christian theology, but they had begun to think of Messiah as quasi divine in a sense. They understood Messiah as existing before his life on earth, thus his life on earth was an incarnation. He existed before the world was created and the light of the Messiah was involved in creation. The memra was understood as being involved in creation.




 

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