• On The Historicity of Jesus, Part 3a.

    Just so everybody knows, I am perfectly willing to believe in a historical Jesus, but I only require one thing: that we have at least a little bit more evidence for the historical Jesus theory than the Jesus myth theory. That’s it. And I am not yet sure where I stand on this issue, because on the one hand it seems like there is some evidence for an historical Jesus (which I have said myself, and have even stated that I think Paul’s comment about “James, the Lord’s brother” is more significant than Richard Carrier allows, though I also believe it is not as bulletproof as some think, for reasons I carefully explained here).

    Matt Brown has asked questions concerning whether Carrier’s claims about a celestial, pre-existent Jesus in Philo are plausible. So here is the passage from Philo, On the Confusion of Tongues 61-63 (available online here):

    Now, the following is an example of the former kind: “And God planted a paradise in Eden, toward the East,” not of terrestrial but of celestial plants, which the planter caused to spring up from the incorporeal light which exists around him, in such a way as to be for ever inextinguishable. I have also heard of one of the companions of Moses having uttered such a speech as this: “Behold, a man whose name is the East!” A very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul; but if you look upon it as applied to that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image, you will then agree that the name of the east has been given to him with great felicity. For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his father, has formed such and such species, looking to his archetypal patterns.

    Here is a short summary of things we see about Philo’s “Man whose name is the East”:

    (a) He is incorporeal.

    (b) He is the same as the divine image.

    (c) He is the father’s eldest son (firstborn).

    (d) He created the species imitating the ways of his father. In other words, he is like a mediator through which God creates.

    (e) He is surrounded by light.

    Strangely, the passage Philo quotes (“Behold, a man who is called the east!”) says this:

    Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua [Note that ‘Jesus’ is a form of ‘Joshua’] son of Jozadak.Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord.It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ [Zec. 6:11-13]

    So, this “man who is called the east” is stated in this passage to:

    (f) be named Jesus.

    (g) he will build the temple of the Lord.

    (h) he will be the high priest.

    Now let us look at what the New Testament has to say about Christ:

    (a) He is incorporeal. (Note that Christ originally had no form, he ‘took the form of a slave’ [Phil. 2:6-8] implying that previously he had no mortal body, also see Timothy 6:16 on Christ being immortal).

    (b) He is the same as the divine image. (2 Cor. 4:4).

    (c) He is the father’s eldest son (firstborn). (Romans 8:29).

    (d) He created the species imitating the ways of his father. In other words, he is like a mediator through which God creates. (1 Corinthians 8:6, also see the numerous other passages, especially in Hebrews, that call Christ a ‘mediator’ like the ‘mediator’ of Platonic beliefs through whom all is created).

    (e) He is surrounded by light. (1 Tim. 6:16)

    (f) be named Jesus.

    (g) he will build the temple of the Lord. (Hebrews 8:1-2)

    (h) he will be the high priest. (Hebrews 8:1-2)

    Also, the Zechariah passage says that Jesus will sit down at the Lord’s throne, Hebrews 8 comes pretty close to this by saying that Christ sat down at the right hand of the Lord’s throne. Moreover, these passages are just the tip of the iceberg, there’s plenty more convergence between Platonic Jewish thought like Philo’s and early Christian belief, and this isn’t a fringe belief: New Testament scholar L. Matthew White notices some similarities between Philo and early Christianity in Scripting Jesus p.47-50. Also note in the Philo passage above that the entity who is spoken of created “celestial plants” indicating he was literally a celestial entity.

    It is often suggested by nonmythicists that Paul’s comments about Jesus being hanged on a tree prove he thought of Jesus as a human on earth. However, there is a counterpart to every earthly thing in the heavens (as it says in Hebrews, which even holds there is a heavenly tabernacle) and the ancients were very literal about that, even to the point of believing in celestial plants.

    In short order, it’s quite possible that Richard Carrier’s overall thesis could be wrong (lots of people are wrong) but I don’t see much room for doubt on the above. Moreover, his 700 page book isn’t anything that has been refuted (not as far as I can tell anyway), it’s pretty well researched. In fact, I’ve been doing my own “fact checking” of the book and have not found anything wrong with it yet.

    That’s all for now. Tune in next time folks.

    Category: Uncategorized

    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, Politics and what I call "Optimal Lifestyle Habits."