The strategy of the skeptics -- Deny, deny, deny
The problem with writers such as Freke and Doherty is that they are authors with B.A.s who read some books written in the late 19th and early 20th century heyday of higher criticism. They are basically regurgitating the liberalism of 100 years ago.
Their degrees don’t qualify them to teach at the university level. Otherwise, they would have some credibility in academic circles. But they are not accomplished scholars. They are self-proclaimed “experts” who present a one-sided view. The basic tactic of Earl Doherty is to deny everything. It’s sort of like the tactic of AMBomb on this thread. There are evidences for the existence of Jesus that are accepted by most modern scholars, but Freke and Doherty simply deny the facts.
Here is an example from one such article:
In the article, Doherty makes some amazing denials, such as:
In the first half century of Christian correspondence, including letters attributed to Paul and other epistles under names like Peter, James and John, the Gospel story cannot be found.
Here Doherty makes a huge assumption popular among the 19th century critics that the Gospels were not written in the first century. Most scholars now admit that they were.
He then goes on to state that none of the Gospel story appears in the Epistles.
The following is from Luke Timothy Johnson:
Here is just a brief summary of the “non-narrative” evidence from the Epistles that also appear the Gospel stories. Those points also attested to by non-Christian writers are marked with an asterisk.
1. Jesus was a human person (Paul, Hebrews)*
2. Jesus was a Jew (Paul, Hebrws)*
3. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews)
4. Jesus was a descendant of David (Paul)
5. Jesus mission was to the Jews (Paul)*
6. Jesus was a teacher (Paul, James)*
7. Jesus was tested (Hebrews)
8. Jesus prayed using the word ABBA (Paul)
9. Jesus prayed for deliverance from death (Hebrews)
10. Jesus Suffered (Paul, Hebrews, Peter)
11. Jesus interpreted his last meal with reference to his death (Paul -- mentioned also in the writings of Tacitus and Josephus)*
12. Jesus underwent a trial (Paul)*
13. Jesus appeared before Pontius Pilate (Paul)*
14. Jesus death involved the Jews (Paul)*
15. Jesus was crucified (Paul, Hebrews, 1 Peter)*
16. Jesus was buried (Paul)
17. Jesus appeared to witnesses after death (Paul)
So it is clear to see that the most vital elements of the Gospel story appear in the Epistles and some of these points are attested to by pagans who were biased against the Christians.
In “The Jesus Puzzle,” Doherty then goes on to say that:
The Gospel Jesus and his story is equally missing from the non-Christian record of the time.
Ironically, what follows is the list of pagan historians who do mention Jesus. Doherty counters this by denying the fact that they all mention Jesus and then in the same paragraph contradicting himself by admitting that the they do mention Jesus. He brushes this off by claiming that they must be forgeries.
The problem is that historians do not universally consider these passages to be forgeries. In addition, Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny, Lucian and Celsus refer to Christ and Christians sometimes in negative terms. This is hardly the strategy for a Christian forger who is trying to gain credibility for his movement.
When we look at Freke, we see much of the same posturing by a man holding a B.A. in a field unrelated to biblical scholarship and who professes to be a modern day Gnostic. The agenda here is not scholarship, it is to promote Gnosticism.
To say that Paul was a Gnostic is to deny many the points made by Paul (listed above) that are incompatible with the religion of Gnosticism. Since the Gnostics believed that all matter is evil, they taught that Christ was a spirit being and had only an illusive body. The Gnostics taught that Christ was a spirit temporarily inhabiting the body of the man Jesus who died.
Freke describes his beliefs as – “the timeless wisdom of awakening” – and we find this gem:
“that the Earth could be conceived as a Global Brain which was in the process of awakening to itself, with the explosion of connections being made across it right now comparable to neural networks.”
Yes, I am supposed to take seriously the rantings of a man who claims that the earth is a giant brain and the historical Jesus did not exist. Am I supposed to take this seriously? In fact, it strengthens my faith as a Christian to see that the alternatives are nut jobs.