In August, neilgodfrey posted on a question: "Do mythicists read Paul's references to Jesus's humanity as interpolations or metaphors?" As for interpolations, which is the focus of this post, Neil helpfully answers "No." Indeed, Neil claims "This is another misinformed assertion advanced by some who appear never to have read mythicist publications. " He then notes one interpolation from Thessalonians for Dr. Price and does not mention Earl Doherty at all. He corrects himself in the comments, noting one interpolation entertained by Doherty. Ultimately, Neil claims, "The only interpolations singled out in Paul’s letters by anyone who advances a mythical Jesus (at least from my readings) are those that are strongly argued to be interpolations by scholars who have expressed no interest in mythicism, and who almost certainly would accept a “historical Jesus”."
Doherty himself seems sensitive on this point. In a response to JP Holding, Doherty referred to his "two claims for interpolations." I blogged on how that number kept growing the more reader responses and articles on his old website that I read, here. It appears the Doherty has changed the links so they do not work anymore, but I quoted his position on most of the examples.
Here are the interpolations in the NT epistles that Doherty has entertained in support of his theory:
- 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 (getting rid of a reference to Jewish involvement in Jesus' death)
- Timothy 6:13 (getting rid of a reference to Pilate).
- Galatians 1:19 (getting rid of a reference to Jesus' brother, James).
- Galatians 4:4 (getting rid of a reference to Jesus being "born of a woman, born under the law").
- 1 Timothy 6:3 (getting rid of a reference to the "wholesome teachings of Jesus Christ").
- Hebrews 13:7 (getting rid of a reference to "leaders" who taught them the "word of God").
- Hebrews 13:20 (getting rid of a reference to Jesus' resurrection).
- Corinthians 6:9 (getting rid of a reference to the brothers of Jesus).
- Romans 1:3 (getting rid of a reference to Jesus being "born of a descendant of David, according to the flesh") (As I note on my blog, Doherty kind of punts to Ehrman on this but leaves the possibility hanging).
- Doherty rejects the two passages in Josephus' Antiquities which refer to Jesus: 18 (the Testimonium) and 20 (reference to "James, the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ").
- Doherty has argued that Tacitus' reference to Christians in Annals may be an interpolation.
- Doherty argues that 11:2-22 in the Ascension of Isaiah is an interpolation.
- Doherty appears to argue that all references in the Ascension of Isaiah to "Jesus" or "Christ" in Chapters 6-11 are later additions.
- Doherty has argued that the reference to John as the author of the Gospel of John by Theophilus of Antioch, Book II, ch. 22, is an interpolation.
- Doherty suggests in footnote 83 of his book that Pliny the Younger's reference to Christians could be an interpolation.
I suppose Neil might argue that some of the above is not in the Pauline Corpus, which is true as far as it goes, but I am skeptical that artificially reducing the sample size helps his main point. I found these examples over three years ago, so I am skeptical about Neil's "trust me" assessment on whether the mythicist proponents resort to interpolations to buttress their case. The passage of time also means that the number of interpolations entertained by Doherty may have increased (or, that he has withdrawn some from consideration). In any case, I find it unlikely that all of these interpolations are "strongly" argued by a significant number of New Testament scholars to be interpolations. Not even Walker agrees with the Romans and Galatians suggested interpolations (and I don't know that he has addressed Hebrews and 1 Timothy at all).
Regarding Robert Price, I have not done a similar overview of his interpolation appeals. I have responded in an article and on the CADRE blog to his argument that 1 Cor. 15:3-11 is an interpolation. When Dr. Price responded to my posts (I posted the e-mail exchange, here), he claimed that William Walker agreed with him that 1 Cor. 15:3-11 was an interpolation. I then e-mailed Dr. Walker to ask him about this, and he denied making this assertion or concluding that 1 Cor. 15:3-11 is an interpolation (he hasn't opined either way). Dr. Price also noted that others had concluded that this passage is an interpolation, but I was unimpressed with his references to G.A. Wells and Arthur Drews. He also referred to J.C. O'Neill, who was a New Testament scholar but was also famous for being interpolation-happy. Interestingly, Richard Carrier rejects the idea for the most part. So, while I cannot gauge the number of interpolations Dr. Price appeals to in support of his mythicist case, I am confident that this particular one is not "strongly" argued by a significant number of New Testament scholars to be an interpolation.