World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Earl Doherty

Earl Doherty
Born 1941
Education B.A. in Ancient History and Classical Languages (institution and date not identified)
Occupation Writer
Known for Research into the Christ myth theory

Earl J. Doherty (born 1941)[1] is a Canadian author of The Jesus Puzzle (1999), Challenging the Verdict (2001), and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man (2009). Doherty argues for a version of the Christ myth theory, the thesis that Jesus did not exist as an historical figure.


  • Education 1
  • Writings 2
    • The Jesus Puzzle 2.1
  • Reception 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Doherty has stated he has a bachelor's degree in Ancient History and Classical Languages,[2] but no completed advanced degrees.[3][4][5] His undergraduate studies gave him knowledge of Greek and Latin, to which he has added a basic knowledge of Hebrew and Syriac.[5]


Doherty was introduced to the idea of a mythical origin of Jesus by, among other things, the work of G. A. Wells, who has authored a number of books arguing a moderate form of the "Christ myth" theory.[5] In 1999, Doherty's book The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? was published by Canadian Humanist Publications.[6] He self-published a 2005 re-release of The Jesus Puzzle under his own imprint, Age of Reason Publications,[7] along with two other books. Challenging the Verdict (2001) is a critique of The Case for Christ, a book of Christian apologetics by author Lee Strobel. Jesus: Neither God Nor Man - The Case for a Mythical Jesus (2009) is a revised and expanded version of The Jesus Puzzle. In 2012, Doherty published The End of an Illusion: How Bart Ehrman's "Did Jesus Exist?" Has Laid the Case for an Historical Jesus to Rest.

The Jesus Puzzle

Doherty has used the title "The Jesus Puzzle" for four different works. In Fall 1997, the Journal of Higher Criticism published his article, "The Jesus Puzzle: Pieces in a Puzzle of Christian Origins."[8] His non-fiction book The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? was published two years later. He uses the title for a website where he publishes additional commentary and responses to reviews and criticisms of his work.[9] He also used the title for a novel which he provides for download on his website.[10]

In all four of these works, Doherty presents views on the origins of Christianity, specifically promoting the view that Jesus is a mythical figure rather than a historical person. Doherty argues that Paul and other writers of the earliest existing proto-Christian Gnostic documents did not believe in Jesus as a person who incarnated on Earth in an historical setting. Rather, they believed in Jesus as a heavenly being who suffered his sacrificial death in the lower spheres of heaven in the hands of the demon spirits, and was subsequently resurrected by God. This Christ myth was not based on a tradition reaching back to a historical Jesus, but on the Old Testament exegesis in the context of Jewish-Hellenistic religious syncretism heavily influenced by Middle Platonism, and what the authors believed to be mystical visions of a risen Jesus.

Doherty says that the Jesus myth was given a historical setting only by the second generation of Christians, somewhere between the 1st and 2nd century. He further says that even the author of the Gospel of Mark probably did not consider his gospel to be a literal work of history, but an allegorical midrashic composition based on the Old Testament prophecies. In the widely supported two-source hypothesis, the story of Mark was later fused with a separate tradition of anonymous sayings embodied in the Q document into the other gospels; Doherty says that these became interpreted as the literal history of the life of Jesus. Doherty denies any historical value of the Acts of the Apostles, and refers to works by John Knox, Joseph B. Tyson, J.C. O'Neill, Burton L. Mack and Richard Pervo in dating Acts into the 2nd century and regarding it as largely based on legend.[11]

In 2009 Doherty self-published a revised edition of his book, with a new title of Jesus: Neither God nor Man, expanded by incorporating the rebuttals to criticisms received since 1999 and accumulated on his website.[12]


Among authors sympathetic to the view that Jesus never existed, Doherty's work has received mixed reactions. The Jesus Puzzle has received favorable reviews from fellow mythicists Robert M. Price and Richard Carrier.[13] Frank Zindler, former editor of American Atheist, in a review of The Jesus Puzzle described it as "the most compelling argument against the historical Jesus published in my life-time".[14]

George Albert Wells, who now argues a more moderate form of the Christ myth and who rejects Doherty's view that the mythical Jesus of Paul did not also descend to Earth,[15] has nonetheless described The Jesus Puzzle as an "important book".[16] R. Joseph Hoffmann considers that there are "reasons for scholars to hold" the view that Jesus never existed, but considers Doherty "A 'disciple' of Wells" who "has rehashed many of the former’s views in The Jesus Puzzle (Age of Reason Publications, 2005) which is qualitatively and academically far inferior to anything so far written on the subject".[17] Doherty has responded that his work owes very little to Wells.[18]

Writers who do not necessarily support the hypothesis that Jesus did not exist have found merit in some of Doherty's arguments. Hector Avalos has written that "The Jesus Puzzle outlines a plausible theory for a completely mythical Jesus."[19]

Bart Ehrman, an expert on textual criticism of the NT and Early Christianity, has dismissed Jesus, Neither God nor Man as "filled with so many unguarded and undocumented statements and claims, and so many misstatements of fact, that it would take a 2,400-page book to deal with all the problems... Not a single early Christian source supports Doherty's claim that Paul and those before him thought of Jesus as a spiritual, not a human being, who was executed in the spiritual, not the earthly realm."[20]

In a book criticizing the Christ myth theory, New Testament scholar Maurice Casey describes Doherty as "perhaps the most influential of all the mythicists",[21] but one who is unable to understand the ancient texts he uses in his arguments.[22]


  • "The Jesus Puzzle: Pieces in a Puzzle of Christian Origins". This is the version published in the Age of Reason site. Originally published in Journal of Higher Criticism 4/2 (Fall 1997), p. 68-102.
  • The End of an Illusion: How Bart Ehrman's "Did Jesus Exist?" Has Laid the Case for an Historical Jesus to Rest. Ottawa: Age of Reason Publications 2012


  1. ^ Library of Congress authority file, accessed April 18, 2010.
  2. ^ Jesus, Neither God nor Man, 2009, Preface p. ix: "I will end here on a personal note that was lacking in the original book [1999, reprint 2005]. My formal education consisted of a B.A. with Distinction in Ancient History and Classical Languages, (Greek and Latin, the former being essential in any research into the New Testament). Unfortunately, I was forced to suspend my M.A. program due to health reasons and did not return."
  3. ^ Jesus, Neither God nor Man, 2009, Preface p. ix: "Unfortunately, I was forced to suspend my M.A. program due to health reasons and did not return."
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^
  7. ^ Age of Reason Publications website
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ .
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^

External links

  • Website of Earl Doherty including a reproduction of his Fall 1997 Journal of Higher Criticism article "The Jesus Puzzle: Pieces in a Puzzle of Christian Origins"
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.