Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hoffman Tries to Explain His Scarecrow Jesus

R.Joseph Hoffman has taken the next step. After first offering up his version of who Jesus was -- an apocalyptic, healer/magician, who preached against a corrupted Temple cult, and who tried to foment some kind of political revolution against Rome, and who was eventually put to death by the Romans -- Hoffman offers his explanation of how the Christian Jesus originated. The idea that Jesus was somehow divine was a later invention of Paul, of course.  There's nothing new here.  This is all warmed-over secular thinking that we've had since the 19th century.   And it fails as all the previous attempts at uncovering the non-divine Jesus failed.

What Hoffman needs to do is offer some plausible explanation of why Paul would persecute the early sect of Jewish-Christians.  If they did not believe Jesus was divine, what was it that Paul found so threatening about them that made him think that they needed to be stamped out?    Luke's account in chapters 6 and 7 of Acts, has the threat being the belief among Jewish-Christians that Jesus would come back to destroy the Temple and abolish the Law of Moses.  That would certainly be a big enough threat to the existence of the Jewish people that a devoted pharisee such as Paul would see a need to stamp out the movement.  But why would the early Jewish-Christians think Jesus would come back?  And why would they think he would have enough power to destroy the Temple?   And why would they think that he would abolish the Law of Moses, which defined who all Jews were?   The easiest explanation is that they thought Jesus had risen from the dead; that he was somehow divine; and that devotion to him now had priority over Temple worship.

But of course, if they really believed all that, then this belief - that Jesus was divine and faith in him was now central to one's relationship to God  and superseded (or at least took precedence over) all previous commands of God - existed prior to Paul.  It wasn't his invention.  It was already there and was the threat to Jewish existence, and true worship of God, that he knew had to be eradicated.

Well no good secular New Testament historian can live with this view.  For that would mean that the traditional Christian interpretation of who Jesus was had come about in a very small window of time. Far too small and too early to be easily explained by appeals to Pauline theology or pagan divinizing.

So I'll be curious to see what Hoffman pulls out of his secular bag of tricks to rescue his scarecrow.     Since Hoffman likes calling Mythicists "mythtics," maybe we should call his ilk, "historitics."   Just a suggestion.

UPDATE:  I apologize for that "historitic" suggestion.  I guess I'm just a little frustrated because apparently I'm banned at Hoffman's blog, even though, as far as I know, I've never tried posting anything there that was the least bit objectionable. I guess you could say I'm a bit "ticked off."

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