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John Macdonald Justified Lie

The Justified Lie by the Johannine Jesus in its Greco-Roman-Jewish Context (2020)

John MacDonald

“Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. (John 7:8-10)


There has been some significant pushback lately in the scholarship against the (sometimes apologetic) interpretation that Jesus was in fact not lying to his family in John 7:8-10. This essay builds on work on the Gospel of John by Tyler Smith, Adele Reinhartz, and Dennis MacDonald to build the case that Jesus was in fact portrayed as lying in John 7:8-10, and to determine what hermeneutic implications this entails. In the conclusion of this essay I will include some very recent insights of Hugo Méndez/Candida Moss on the Gospel of John as forgery to fully round out the picture. The present article follows Smith as he shows that Jesus’ lie in John actually conforms to a larger theme in John: that of Jesus appearing in a deceptive and confusing register/manner among the unbelieving Jews, and in a more profound, truthful register to the faithful. Next, Reinhartz will be shown to be arguing that the key to the Gospel of John is that Jesus is demonstrating his high Christology, and that Jesus as a liar fits in with that theme (that of Jesus not being subject to ethical norms because of his high status). “Christology” refers to how mortal (low Christology) versus how divine (high Christology) Jesus is being portrayed, as well as the extent to which Christ fulfilled the Old Testament expectations for a messiah. Next, I will look at MacDonald’s argument that the Gospel of John is in part a literary “mimesis typology” (the meaning of which I will explain shortly) of Euripides’ Bacchae, and draw out certain implications of this that MacDonald seems to have missed—namely, in relation to the character Cadmus’ advice regarding Dionysus that “Even if this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you think, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him to be the son of Semele, for this will make it seem she is the mother of a God, and will confer honor on all our race” (lines 332-336). All of this aims at showing that Jesus’ lie in John 7:8 is demonstrating a lie that makes faith possible, where Jesus’ lie to his brothers makes it possible for him to secretly go to the crowd and bring some of them to faith. Secular people have long encountered what they see as pious frauds, ranging from faith healers on television to Joseph Smith and his witnesses claiming to have found golden plate from Heaven.[1] I will show what a secular explanation of this means for Jesus’ lie in the Gospel of John, the connection between lying and faith in the Gospel attributed to John. First, though, I will provide context regarding the nature of lying and deception in the ancient intellectual/religious world.

Background Framework of Greco-Roman-Jewish Contexts of Deception

It is well known that lies and deception were generally frowned upon in the ancient world, as they are today, but justified deception and lying was still very much part of the zeitgeist. We see, as Bart Ehrman documented in Forgery and Counterforgery, how much deceptive document production was going on. And in fact, David Konstan points out that even the Stoics, those stern sages, approved of lying when it was beneficial to the community, for example, when a hostage deceives the enemy (Quintilian, Education of an Orator Bk. 12, Ch. 1, §38). Similarly, in the Analects, Confucius indicates:

The Governor of She said to Confucius, ‘In our village we have an example of a straight person. When the father stole a sheep, the son gave evidence against him.’ Confucius answered, ‘In our village those who are straight are quite different. Fathers cover up for their sons, and sons cover up for their fathers. In such behaviour is straightness to be found as a matter of course.’ (13.18)

It is not surprising, then, that we see many instances of justified deception (even though lying was generally frowned upon) in the Judeo-Christian tradition. For instance, the list of biblical contradictions about whether or not lying is acceptable from The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible begins with verses indicating that there is nothing wrong with lying:

  1. God rewarded the Egyptian midwives for lying to the pharaoh (Exodus 1:18-20).
  2. Rahab was “justified” when she lied about Joshua’s spies (Joshua 2:4-6; James 2:25).
  3. David lied to Ahimelech when he said that he was on the king’s business. (He was King Saul’s enemy at the time.) We know that God approved of this lie since 1 Kings 15:5 says that God approved of everything that David did—with the single exception of the matter of Uriah (1 Samuel 21:2).
  4. Elisha told King Benhadad that he would recover, even though God told Elisha that the king would die (2 Kings 8:8-10).
  5. In the Deuterocanonical book of Tobit, the angel Raphael lied to Tobias, saying “I am Azarias” (Tobit 5:13-18).
  6. Jesus apparently lied when he told his family that he wasn’t going to the feast, but then went “in secret” (John 7:8-10).
  7. Even God lies by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets (1 Kings 22:21-22).

I will explore this Jewish/Christian context of deception later in Reinhartz’s work.

This pattern proceeded even into later times. For instance, Abdullah Al-Araby has shown many incidences of deception in the life of Mohammed. He often lied and instructed his followers to do the same. Mohammed rationalized that the prospect of success in missions to extend Islam’s influence overrode Allah’s initial prohibitions against lying.[2]

We also see this in ancient political craft, such as the noble lies in Plato’s Republic and his Laws. Further, Edward Gibbon explains the ancient Roman understanding of religion and its political usefulness at that time in the Roman context: “The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful” (1776, p. 46). Similarly, regarding the ruling class seeing religion as “useful,” for example, Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Doric Greek) was cleverly instituted as a Greco-Egyptian god. The Cult of Serapis was strategically introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. There may be some truth to what Karl Marx said: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people” (Marx, 1843/1963, pp. 43-44).

Plato presented the noble lie (γενναῖον ψεῦδος, gennaion pseudos, literally—”a lie or wrong opinion about origin”) in a fictional tale, wherein Socrates provides the origin of the three social classes who compose the republic proposed by Plato; Socrates speaks of a socially stratified society, wherein the populace are told “a sort of Phoenician tale.” Christopher Gill comments that “the whole process of (revised) story telling envisaged in the first phase of Plato’s education program consists of lies, though they are lies which are functionally adapted to implant the kind of dispositions and practices that are the basis for [noble ideas in the psyche]” (1993, p. 69). Gill then notes that the ancients clearly understood the usefulness of tall tales:

Although the fictionality involved in the fictionalization of Socrates’ conversations is distinct from that in the Platonic myths, it is clear that this fictionality could also be analyzed in terms drawn from the “Republic,” such as that of the Noble Lie, the verbal falsehood designed to propagate the process of acquiring ‘truth in the psyche,’ or of ‘making the false as like the true as possible so as to make it useful.’ (Gill, 1993, p. 69)

So, what we are seeing here with the ancients is not just a pattern of lying, but of noble lies or pious frauds: justified deception.

Russell Gmirkin points out that Plato’s Laws advocated promoting local temples (Laws 5.738c-d), priesthoods (Laws 6.759a-b), and traditional religious customs (Laws 6.759c-d; 8.828a-c) in order to promote the illusion of an ancient and divine authority for their laws (Laws 7.798a-b) (Gmirkin, 2018). And there are also Roman parallels to this.[3]

Gill says that in ancient works we need to pay attention not just to what is being said, but to why it is being said. Hence, regarding Plato, Gill writes:

When Phaedrus points out that Socrates has made up the ‘Egyptian’ legend he tells, Socrates replies, tartly, that what matters is not the source of such a story, but the truth or falsity of the idea it conveys (275 b-c). This is, in effect, to concede the falsity of the story as historical narrative, a point also signalled at the start of the story. (Gill, 1993, p. 58)

Seneca also said that all historians were liars. So, it was known in antiquity that pious fictions would be promoted as truths if they were beneficial for society, or simply because the author felt justified in taking liberties. Robert Wood reasons that “Seneca’s ironic assumption that historians are all liars is a response, presumably, not only to their economies or extravagances with the truth but to their very assertions of truthfulness, their claim to be writing history at all” (Wood, 1993, p. xv).

T. P. Wiseman illustrates how Lucian (De Historia Conscribenda 7) and Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 20.154-155) complained about the outrageous biographies of such figures as Nero, which had little historical verisimilitude to them. Lucian felt that the historian needed to avoid panegyric (tribute) and muthoi (tales) (Wiseman, 1993, p. 127). Similarly, E. L. Bowie points out that Hesiod in Works and Days seems to have invented having a brother for himself in the midst of an otherwise truthful account, a deception his audience would have been aware of! (Bowie, 1993, p. 23)

Bowie also points out, regarding the hexameter didactic epic form of ancient Greece, that the Muses who met Hesiod on Helicon (in a meeting that Hesiod’s contemporaries hardly would have regarded as the narrative of a historical event) notoriously claimed to be purveyors of both truth and falsehoods (pseudea) that are ‘like what is real’ (etumoisin homoia)—just the phrase used by Homer of Odysseus’ lies to Penelope at Odyssey 19.203: “Field-dwelling shepherds, evil disgraces, mere bellies, we know how to say many falsehoods that are like the truth (etumoisin), and we know, when we wish, how to voice what is true (alethea), ‘Hesiod, Theogony, 26-28‘” (Bowie, 1993, p. 19). Odyssey 19.203, which I referred to above where Homer characterizes Odysseus, says “he said [or made] many falsehoods in his tale like what is true” (Bowie, 1993, p. 18).

So as we can see, though generally frowned upon, justified lying and deception were very much an issue in the ancient world, including in the Judeo-Christian scripture tradition, as I outlined above. So we certainly have a prima facie case that John 7:8-10 “could” be interpreted in this way. I will now move on to Tyler Smith, Reinhartz, and MacDonald, and try to show why interpreting Jesus as lying to his family in this way is the best explanatory model of the text.

Jesus’ Lie in John 7:8-10

In the Fourth Gospel, the author usually identified as John writes:

Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. (John 7:8)

Tyler Smith’s “Deception in the Speech Profile of the Johannine Jesus (John 7.1-10)”

So, we apparently have here, and in no other Gospel, an example of Jesus blatantly lying. This is quite interesting because it immediately raises the question: why would John have included such a thing? This has been a hermeneutic issue since ancient times. There are, as Smith points out, apparent scribal changes to John’s Gospel changing “not (ouk)” to “not yet (oupo),” thereby eliminating the lie by having Jesus say that he is not going up to the feast “yet” (Smith, 2017, p. 3). This avoids the absurdity of Jesus calling for truth but acting as a liar, and does have attestation in ancient manuscripts. However, Smith says that this seems to be a weak argument and that “not” seems to be the original reading (Smith, 2017, p. 3). If “not yet” was original, this means early scribes would have changed John’s text to make Jesus a liar, which doesn’t really make sense. And Smith (and as I’ll show later, Reinhartz) makes a compelling argument that Jesus being a liar is exactly what we would expect to see given themes in John (Smith, 2017, pp. 13-19). So, for instance, Chrys C. Caragounis defends the oupo reading because he thinks ouk seems to render the text absurd, for why would John be presenting Jesus as a liar? (Caragounis, 1998). Smith seems to have a good answer for this.

Smith mounts an argument against the occasionally apologetic idea that Jesus was not lying to his brothers and then going up to the feast in private. Rather, Smith contends that this explicit lie is completely in character with a systematically and intentionally deceptive/confusing Jesus in the Gospel of John for those Jews who hear him in a mundane register rather than the profound register.[4] We see a two-register Jesus for Smith, sometimes in the profound spiritual register, sometimes in the mundane register.[5] To the Jews who hear him in the mundane register, all is deception and confusion. For Smith this is apparently grounded in an anti-Jewish flavor[6]. It should be noted, though, that Stewart Penwell has recently presented a somewhat more nuanced presentation of John’s negative portrayal of the Jews. Penwell shows how John’s view of the Jews (and Samaritans) is meant to establish a new transethnic people with new patterns of practices and categories for the “children of God” (1:12; 11:52) (Penwell, 2019). This is fully compatible with the argument being developed here, where John is inventing a “superhero-like” Jesus to entice and lure people away from their old ways, in fact overcoming their old beliefs and habits with his divine drug-like luster. There was an inherent difficulty for the early Christians proselytizing because, as Paul said, Christ crucified was a stumbling block for the Jews and a foolishness for the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23). John’s ultra-Christology Jesus was perhaps an attempt at overcoming that gulf.

It would have been interesting for Smith to address what seems to be a parallel of Jesus’ lie in John and Jesus intentionally confusing people in the Gospel of Mark, the idea that Jesus was being intentionally deceiving in the way that he addressed the crowd in Mark. Hence, in Mark we read: “And He told them, ‘The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside, everything is expressed in parables, so that, they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven'” (Mark 4:11). How might John be using Mark here?

In the ancient world, there were common processes whereby earlier literary texts were used as typology or models to invent new imitation stories, one purpose of which was to show that the imitation was thought superior to the original. So, for instance, the Gospel of Matthew’s account of Jesus imitates the story of Moses on numerous points, and so portrays Jesus as the new and greater Moses—from a Jewish point of view what would be understood as a kind of “haggadic midrash.” We see similar literary techniques in Latin literature called imitatio, and in Greek literature called mimesis. Perhaps the structure of the Gospel of John that exploits the deception/confusion theme of Jesus among the unhearing Jews is a kind of haggadic mimesis/midrash or typology exploring this theme from Mark 4:11, akin to the way that Daniel Boyarin argues that John’s prologue reflects exegetical work (which Boyarin characterizes as “midrash”).[7] I will explore Boyarin’s idea regarding the incarnation further in relation to MacDonald and the lie, but first I want to emphasize another interpretation of the lie of Jesus to his family in John in relation to Christology from Reinhartz.

Adele Reinhartz’s “The Lyin’ King? Deception and Christology in the Gospel of John”

Reinhartz traces the meaning of the lie in John specifically to the extremely high Christology of Jesus in John. In early works, she points out, by responding curtly to his mother in John 2:4, and by delaying his visit to the dying Lazarus (11:4-6), John’s Jesus violates the norms for ethical behavior as they would have been understood by both ancient Jewish and gentile audiences. That he is allowed to do this shows that he is greater, beyond the rules of average humans.

Above I gave examples of justified lies in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Reinhartz more fully argues that Jesus’ use of deception puts him in line with other Jewish heroes who do the same.[8] Important for my purposes here (see note 8), Reinhartz says that it is the lie Jesus tells that is going to be the key to reaching the crowd and successfully selling his message to them. So, the lie is connected with people coming to faith. I will consider the implications of this in the next section on MacDonald.

Reinhartz suggests it is not simply truth, but Christological issues that guide John’s portrayal of Jesus. She writes:

God is true; as his son, Jesus, is also true; the truth to which Jesus points is the truth that he is his God’s Son and has come to the world to bring people to faith in himself as God’s Son and thereby sanctify them in God’s truth. In this broad context, Jesus’s deception of his brothers is not even a blip on the radar screen. (2017, pp. 163-164)

To more fully flesh out what Reinhartz’ position seems to imply here, it should be noted that the Greek word for truth “A-letheia”—with the alpha privative—is said in many senses, and can suggest “dis-closing,” “un-hidden,” “correct,” “honest,” and “exemplary,” as in “true friend,” and essential as in “the great truths of the human condition” (Plotinus speaks of ‘truly real’ (i.e., alethos on) [III.7.6., 33 f.], for instance); and the author of John seems to be playing with all of these senses. ‘Truth’ in the usual sense primarily means being “in-truth” of the “un-hidden,” in the sense that something hidden has been brought to light and cannot be unseen. Consider the example of the hidden gestalt image that is initially hidden, but then discloses itself; or how Friedrich Nietzsche’s analysis of slave morality changes the way that you see/experience ancient Christian values such as meekness and poverty. Keeping this in mind, we can see that Jesus’ lie in John is not simply being viewed by the author in ethical terms, but rather specifics of behavior are being subordinated to issues of demonstrating very high Christology. In this regard, Jesus is “The Truth,” even when he is not being truthful. Everything he does “dis-closes (a-letheia)” his massively high Christology.[9] Reinhartz suggests that by having Jesus violating ethical norms, such as in lying, this goes to reinforce just how high a Christology is at issue with Jesus here, because such a Jesus is not subject to ethical norms and conventions like the rest of us.[10]

But the question arises: why it is so important for the author of the Gospel of John to emphasize such a high-Christology Jesus? It may, of course, just be legendary development of Jesus as we get to the last of the four Gospels, which probably plays a part. On the other hand, I would like to argue that it would certainly astound potential converts to hear of such a superhero. And the issue of belief was very important to the author of John. I will now consider this in relation to MacDonald’s book The Dionysian Gospel on the Fourth Gospel.

The issue of belief was clearly important to the author of John. Another level to the meaning of Jesus’ justified lying in the Gospel of John arises where Jesus’ lie leads to him causing faith in some of the crowd, which might be a self-referential “apologia” or defense by the author to the inner-circle reader who knew that Jesus didn’t really reflect such as massively high Christology, but who also knew that it was important to present Jesus in this high manner. Maybe the author of John wanted to astound the audiences with a super-Christology Jesus in hopes of getting them to believe. Perhaps in the time of the author of John’s Gospel it was hard to get people to believe because it was so far removed in time from the events of Jesus’ life and those who knew him. Hence the Gospel of John emphasizes “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe'” (20:29). The question of what causes or allows belief seems essential to the Gospel of John. And as I argue below, it seems directly related to John’s Gospel imitating the portrayal of Dionysus by Euripides.[11]

Dennis MacDonald’s The Dionysian Gospel: The Fourth Gospel and Euripides

I would like to preface this section with the last words of Nietzsche’s autobiography Ecce Homo: “Have I been understood?? Dionysus against the crucified one…” (1895/2005, p. 152). This can be more fully explored with MacDonald’s 2017 analysis of the Gospel of John, The Dionysian Gospel, which uses typological analysis that frames John’s Gospel in exegetical mimesis according to the model of Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae. Smith mentions in his online Review of Biblical Literature review of MacDonald’s book that given “Bacchic themes in the Fourth Gospel…. motific comparisons are worth consideration whether or not one agrees with MacDonald that they were first set out by intention in a Dionysian gospel that can now be recovered and studied” (Smith, 2018, p. E4).

Smith provides a helpful, concise summary of MacDonald’s work on the parallels between Jesus and the Dionysus of Euripides. He writes:

Just as in John the heavenly Logos assumes a human body, so “Dionysus declared that he ‘changed into this mortal /appearance’ (53) in order to reveal his power to unbelieving Thebans and to punish Pentheus, their king” (30-31). Just as in John Jesus is identified by many names and titles (Logos, light, the one-of-a-kind God, the chosen one of God, king of Israel, Messiah, son of Joseph, rabbi, son of man), so also “Dionysus was notorious for his multiple titles,” including Bacchus, Bromios, Iacchos, Dithyrambos, ‘the god’, and ‘the child of Zeus'” (39). Just as Jesus’s first miracle in John is to change water into wine, “Euripides twice mentions the god’s miraculous production of wine in the Bacchae” (41). If Jesus purifies the temple, his father’s house in John 2, this “resembles Dionysus’s intention to vindicate his mother in the place of his birth” (46). Where the Johannine Jesus heals an old cripple so that he can walk again, “early in the Bacchae two old men, Cadmus and Tiresias, gain the strength to dance with the worshipping women in the wild” (47). There juvenation of Cadmus is also comparable to Jesus’s making it possible for Nicodemus, who is old, to be born anew (48-49). Just as the Baptist insists that “it is necessary that he [Jesus] increase” (3:30), so Cadmus witnesses to Dionysus that “it is now necessary- with respect to the child of my daughter, / Dionysus, a god manifest to people- / to increase 181-183). This parallel is all the more striking in view of the fact that “the combination of these two words in the New Testament; it never appears in the LXX” (50). MacDonald draws a dozen or so further parallels between the two texts. The most important of these are the “true vine” discourse and parallels between Jesus and Dionysus in terms of their respective arrests and trials, where the arresting parties are oblivious to their own ironic states of powerlessness in the confrontation. (Smith, 2018, pp. E2-E3)

Given Smith’s list of MacDonald’s parallels, one possible parallel between the Fourth Gospel and the Bacchae that MacDonald fails to mention is when Cadmus says “Even if this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you think, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him to be the son of Semele, for this will make it seem she is the mother of a God, and will confer honor on all our race” (Euripides, Bacchae, lines 332-336). Note the apparent connection of this quote with the lie of Jesus to his brothers in the Gospel of John that allows Jesus to preach to the crowd and causes faith. The lie of Cadmus is meant to impart high status to Dionysus, just as the lie of Jesus breaking social/ethical norms shows Jesus’ high Christology in that he exists beyond the ethical. Also, notice Cadmus’ emphasis of the importance of people needing to be tricked into seeing Dionysus as more than just a man, and what goods would result if people believed this. This would certainly fit as part of the explanation (besides legendary development) for the emphasis on extremely high Christology in the Gospel of John. In fact, this Euripides quote may have prompted the discussion of noble lies in Plato’s Republic and Laws—and could have influenced the Gospel of John in terms of inventing material about a super-Christology Jesus to astound potential converts. This might be what lays behind John introducing “The Word becomes flesh” (1:14) into the Christian theological tradition, along with MacDonald’s/Smith’s point in the above that “Just as in John the heavenly Logos assumes a human body, so Dionysus declared that he ‘changed into this mortal /appearance’ (53)” (Smith, 2018, p. E2).

The Christology of Jesus

Perhaps “the Word becoming flesh” of John’s Gospel is in fact a response to the apparently adoptionistic views being put forth by the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus was just a man who later had divine status conveyed upon him by God. Adoptionism is a Christian nontrinitarian theological doctrine that holds that Jesus was adopted as the Son of God at his baptism, his resurrection, or his ascension.

In Mark, Jesus identifies himself with the type “fallible human prophet.” So, Mark writes: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” (Mark 6:4-5) Mark seems to really emphasize the humanity of Jesus, something that we do not see in John. So, we read a very human portrayal of emotion: “He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5). Similarly, Jesus’ impotence over the power/will of the crowd is portrayed: “He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him” (Mark 3:9).

One of the biggest indicators of Jesus’ humanity in Mark is seen in the terrified, desperate Gethsemane prayer where Jesus’ begs God to alter His plan so that Jesus wouldn’t have to suffer terribly. In fact, the Gethsemane prayer in Mark may indicate, as Robert Price has suggested, an early tradition where Jesus didn’t think that he was just going to suffer for a little bit and then be gloriously resurrected (Price, 2011, p. 223).

Exploring this question, Mark foreshadows the Resurrection in his Gospel, but the historical Jesus seemed to have no knowledge of his imminent resurrection after three days, since if Jesus did know, the desperation of the prayer in Gethsemane would seem to make no sense. Would not a Jesus expecting his immediate resurrection simply grin and bear his suffering, knowing that glory is soon to follow? Similarly, if the disciples expected Jesus to be killed and immediately raised, why would they clash with the arresting party with the slave’s ear being cut off, and then simply flee and disperse and return to their daily lives with no effort to see Jesus again?[12]

Consider that scholars like Ehrman and Dale Allison cite the apocalyptic sayings of Jesus (and John the Baptist) to point to Jesus’ belief that Jesus thought that the kingdom of God was imminent, since the reasoning (partially) is that the writers wouldn’t simply have included what would have been falsified apocalyptic rants (although the Hebrew scriptures do include examples of known-to-be-false prophesies). Paul was clearly apocalyptic, too (e.g., Christ as first fruits of the general resurrection harvest of souls at the end of the age in 1 Corinthians 15:20); but I wonder whether this apocalyptic interpretation of Jesus only really developed post-Easter among Christians who felt that the last days were in fact begun and had started with Jesus’ resurrection. (For example, reflect on the Corinthian Creed Paul is quoting in reference to the first appearances of the postmortem Jesus to Cephas and the 12. In particular, note the connection between Paul with the resurrected Jesus as first fruits of the resurrection harvest of souls at the end of the age, and Matthew with the mass resurrection following Jesus’ death.)

Perhaps “the resurrected first fruits of the general resurrection of souls at the end of the age” is how the original Christians like Cephas and Paul interpreted the experiences that they were having of what they thought was the risen Christ? And then perhaps later writers like Mark picked up on this theme and, in places, retrodicted this apocalyptic framework onto his sources’ portraits of Jesus because it was simply assumed that the historical Jesus must have made apocalyptic pronouncements?

For instance, an expected soon-to-be-fully-realized Kingdom of God and resurrection of Jesus seems to fly in the face of Jesus’ last words on the cross: “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?” (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”) This is true whether the words are emphasizing the fact that Jesus felt abandoned by God, or that Jesus felt rejected because God turned away from the sins of humanity that Jesus had taken on. The last words of a Jesus who expected a speedy resurrection would probably reflect the calmness and resolve of what is recorded in Luke or John. Calm and resolve is not the sense we get from Mark’s portrayal of Jesus’ last words.[13] James G. D. Dunn argues for the historicity of Jesus’ words as meaning abandonment (2003, pp. 779-781). This would have been embarrassing for the early Church to preserve, as it seemingly was for Luke and John. (I think Mark Goodacre is right that John knew the synoptics.[14]) If we bracket or put aside the critique I offered of Price in note 13 for a moment, I still think that it’s interesting to follow Price’s thought path here. So, following Price, the historical Jesus, somewhat hidden and somewhat preserved in Mark, may have gone to the cross believing that his Gethsemane prayer would be answered and that God would intervene in history and miraculously send Elijah to rescue him (Mark 15:34-36), but then ultimately realized that God would not come and had abandoned him to his terrible fate. Price raises the issue that the desperate prayer in Gethsemane may have originally been envisioned as being granted (compare Hebrews 5:7, where Jesus’ prayers were “heard”) (Price, 2011, p. 223). Jesus may have thought/been portrayed as thinking that the willingness of Jesus to die, like that of Isaac, is what answers future Israel’s sins, not his actual death.

Perhaps the historical Jesus thought that a Swoon-like situation (where Jesus only seemed to die on the cross, but really lived) was in play with him being rescued from the cross, only God would send Elijah to rescue him instead of his disciples (as the crowd heard Jesus crying out for Elijah from the cross). Ironically, Mark seems to use imagery that is certainly compatible with a “seeming death,” such as the odorous/drugged liquid being offered to Jesus, which could have knocked him unconscious and make it seem like he died, hence facilitating him being taken down from the cross prematurely (Price, 2011, p. 223). And, in fact, Pilate is perplexed as to why Jesus expired so quickly.[15]

But does Mark really have a low-Christology Jesus? Some have suggested that the Danielic[16] Son of Man imagery in Mark is suggestive of a high-Christology view that Jesus had of himself, and is historical because it is identified as one of the reasons Jesus got arrested. I see the Danielic Son of Man traits in Mark[17], but I still have reason to relate it to adoptionism. I think it can be related through imagery and typology. Paul, for instance, identifies Jesus as the Rock of the Hebrew scriptures (1 Corinthians 10:1-4), though not literally. Similarly, Matthew identifies Jesus as the new and greater Moses, such that Jesus is everything that Moses was and more. And typology is an important theme in Mark, too. For instance, Mark portrays John the Baptist as an Elijah type, and Jesus as an Elisha type[18]. So, God adopts the fallible human prophet Jesus and exalts him to a status as a New and Greater Son of Man: Jesus is everything the Son of Man in Daniel was, but even greater because of his principle role as Son of Man: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He is greater than the Son of Man in Daniel because his essence is to give up his life for the many. So, perhaps this is a way to keep an adoptionistic Jesus as Son of Man, and yet not posit him as preexistent. The Gospel of John seems to want to correct this in Mark by explicitly saying that Jesus as Son of Man was preexistent (John 3:13; 6:62).

So, with Mark invoking the Danielic Son of Man imagery when Jesus is describing himself, does this necessarily mean that Jesus thought that he literally was the Danielic Son of Man, or could the imagery just be poetic, like Paul’s typological identification of the rock with Christ? Recall earlier where it was suggested that John was imitating and expanding on Mark 4:11, which was saying that Jesus was speaking in such a way that people were not understanding him. Often the point of typology (as with imitatio/mimesis) is to show that the imitation is greater than the model. So, Matthew presents Jesus as the new and greater Moses. This doesn’t mean that Jesus is Moses. Similarly, Mark invoking Danielic Son of Man imagery doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus is the Son of Man identified in Daniel. Regarding this, James McGrath argues that the figure in Daniel 7 could be understood as a second deity, a symbol of the people of God, an angel (perhaps the celestial power that stands for the Israelites), or the Davidic Messiah. All of those interpretations and others existed and continue to have their proponents. And so, McGrath asks, the question is what we think Mark meant in using the text. It may be that the figure has divine attributes, but they are ones that are bestowed by the supreme God. And so McGrath doesn’t think there is a way of reading Daniel 7 on the lips of Jesus, whether one understands the reference to have been to himself or to another figure, as positing binitarianism.[19] But an even more fundamental issue, as Ehrman points out, is tracing back the Son of Man sayings in Mark to the historical Jesus. Ehrman has an interesting blog post about when we might be able to trace the Son of Man sayings back to the historical Jesus, when not, and when identifying the Son of Man as a coming cosmic judge Jesus means to refer to an entity other than himself.[20]

On a related issue, we sometimes see what looks like claims of high Christology in Paul’s authentic letters (by Ehrman in How Jesus Became God, for instance), but these are perhaps overstated. Paul says that Jesus is from the seed of David, for instance. McGrath points out that Philippians 2 does not say that Jesus was equal to God, but that he didn’t grasp at equality with God. The divine name is also explicitly said to be something that God bestows on Jesus when exalting him to a status that he neither previously held nor grasped at (McGrath, 2010).


John Dominic Crossan suggests that the first Christians had a model of Peace through Justice, in contrast with the Peace through Victory model of the Romans (2007, p. 28). This is interesting because the idea of a euaggelion or “gospel” has its roots in Roman propaganda material.[21] In Mark, Jesus is portrayed as initially needing to preach his message in such a way that it didn’t bring the wrath of the Romans and the Jewish elite. So, Mark 4:11 mentioned above may indeed have been the way that Jesus actually taught with enticing and mysterious parables so as avoid announcing the real message to the world while luring people in like fish before giving them the real message. Mark concludes with the soldier proclaiming Jesus to be the son of God and snubbing Caesar. Similarly, the case of Jesus’ lie to his family in the Gospel of John that allows him to preach to the crowd and create belief may have been a wink by the author of John to the inner-circle reader that he was presenting a ridiculously high-Christology Jesus to astound and sell the message in a time of waning conversion rates, which had resulted from increasing distance from the time that Jesus lived and the people who knew him lived, and from the difficulties of proselytizing in those times given volatile relations with the Jews.

Jesus’ striking lie to his family in the Gospel of John is particularly important if we keep in mind, as Méndez and Moss recently argue, that the Gospel of John could be a forgery, since forgery is a kind of deception and lying, and, though frowned upon, was quite common historically, as Ehrman documents in Forgery and Counterforgery. So, Moss says:

The Gospel presents itself as the work of an eyewitness to the events of Jesus’ ministry and death. It doesn’t say it was written by John but instead states that it is the work of a “disciple whom Jesus loved,” who “testifies” to what he has seen (1:14; 19:35; 21:24). Eyewitness testimony here is an important point in the Gospel. It is because the one who wrote the Gospel had seen these things happen and written them down that “we know that his testimony is true” (21:24). (Moss, 2020)

The author of the Fourth Gospel inventing the part about it being written by one of Jesus’ disciples can simply be a small part of him inventing things to create a rich environment to cause faith.[22] But it can still go beyond being a justified/noble lie and rise to be being pious fraud, since the liars may have believed that they were promoting God’s will with the forgery/lie. After all, as noted above, in the Judeo-Christian scripture tradition even God lies by putting lying spirits in the mouths of His prophets (1 Kings 22:21-22). As a result, it would probably be “un-nuanced” to simply label forgers/liars as unethical, for they probably thought that they were following God’s will by breaking social/ethical norms. And, if there was justified lying going on, it’s hard to say how far into the early Jesus movement it went.[23]


[1] Joseph Smith said that he found the plates on September 22, 1823, on a hill near his home in Manchester, New York, after the angel Moroni directed him to a buried stone box. Witnesses confirmed his finding.

[2] See “Lying in Islam” (n.d.) by Abdullah Al Araby on the Islam Review website.

[3] Regarding Numa Pompilius, Livy wrote:

And fearing lest relief from anxiety on the score of foreign perils might lead men who had hitherto been held back by fear of their enemies and by military discipline into extravagance and idleness, he (Numa) thought the very first thing to do, as being the most efficacious with a populace which was ignorant and, in those early days, uncivilized, was to imbue them with the fear of Heaven. As he could not instil this into their hearts without inventing some marvellous story, he pretended to have nocturnal meetings with the goddess Egeria, and that hers was the advice which guided him in the establishment of rites most approved by the gods, and in the appointment of special priests for the service of each. (Livy 1:19)

Also, Plutarch suggests that Numa played on superstition to give himself an aura of awe and divine allure, in order to cultivate more gentle behaviors among the warlike early Romans, such as honoring the gods, abiding by law, behaving humanely to enemies, and living proper, respectable lives. See Plutarch, “The Parallel Lives, Numa Pompilius” §VIII.

[4] For Smith “the Johannine Jesus characteristically speaks in a manner that invites misunderstanding and that telling his brothers ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην [Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.] is typical rather than exceptional with respect to this manner of speaking” (2017, p. 16). Smith continues:

In further support of this reading, it is worth noting that, shortly after Jesus misleads his brothers about his intention to go up to the feast, the evangelist has the crowds in Jerusalem wonder whether Jesus is ‘a good man’ or is ‘deceiving the crowds’ (7.12). The proximity of this schismatic question to the gospel’s clearest-cut instance of Jesus practicing deception is telling. For characters whose primary frame of reference is the mundane, Jesus appears as a deceiver. This does not rule out the conclusion that Jesus is also a ‘good man.’ From the evangelist’s perspective, a perspective the reader is invited to share, not only is Jesus not a ‘deceiver’, he is the truth-teller par excellence. (2017, p. 18)

[5] Smith comments:

Taking the gospel in narrative terms, however, and without imputing extra-Johannine benevolent intentions to the Johannine Jesus qua literary character, the more compelling way of reading this pattern involves letting deception and misdirection be parts of his characteristic speech profile on the mundane register, in the eyes and ears of those unable or unwilling to grasp Jesus’ pro-found truth-telling…. Far from scrupulously avoiding the misleading of his conversation partners, the Johannine Jesus makes a habit out of it, often with the help of ambiguous double-signifiers. (2017, p. 18)

[6] Smith interprets the Gospel of John as maintaining that:

‘The Jews’ are from the devil, who stands outside the truth, who is ‘a liar and the father of lies.’ Jesus links where one is ‘from’ with the ability or inability to ‘hear’ his words. Like ‘the Jews’ throughout chs. 7 and 8—a group to which the brothers may now be assimilated, having preceded Jesus to Jerusalem—the brothers cannot ‘hear’ his words in a profound register connected with his ascension and glorification because in the evangelist’s view they are not ‘of God’ (cf. 8.47). Consequently, they do not believe (7.5) and are deceived—not only in the immediate moment captured by Jn 7.8, but in a cosmic and eternal sense as well. They are, from the evangelist’s perspective, properly the property of the prince of this world (cf. 14.30), the father of lies (8.44). This is a troubling reading, but also instructive if it helps us better appreciate the range of early Christian narrative portraits of Jesus. (2017, p. 19)

[7] Boyarin says: “[T]he Fourth Gospel is not a new departure in the history of Judaism in its use of Logos theology, but only, if even this, in its incarnational Christology. John 1.1-5 is not a hymn, but a midrash, that is, it is not a poem but a homily on Genesis 1.1-5” (2011, p. 549).

[8] Reinhartz comments:

In this regard, the Johannine narrator resembles his counterparts in the Jewish Scriptures. The Tanak recounts several incidents in which lying played a central and, in some cases, positive role for the fate of Israel. Abram, later Abraham, lied twice when he claimed that Sarah was his sister and not his wife (Genesis 12 and 20). Isaac similarly lied about Rebecca (Gen 26:6-11); and he in turn was deceived in his old age when his younger son Jacob claimed to be his older twin, Esau (Gen 27:1-38). In the Exodus narrative, Moses lied to Pharaoh about the true purpose of their exodus (Exod 10:7-11). In Joshua 2, the prostitute Rahab lied to the messengers of the king of Jericho in order to protect the two Israelites whom she was hiding (2:1-5). These biblical stories have two points in common: The person being deceived is labeled “bad” within the narrative; and the deceit is necessary for the survival of an important character or to move a divinely approved project forward. These same points are true in John 7. The brothers are on the side of Jesus’s enemies; the deceit allows Jesus to make his way to Jerusalem in secret. This may have had the advantage of avoiding detection by the Jews who were aiming to kill him, but it also—contradictorily—provided an opportunity for Jesus to speak to the crowds at the temple, at least some of whom were receptive to the message. (2017, p. 159)

[9] Reinhartz explains:

Although Jesus goes up to the festival secretly, he speaks openly to the crowds after he arrives. By deceiving his brothers, John’s Jesus draws attention to the christological controversy that took place at the feast, and underscores the truth: that he fulfills all Jewish messianic criteria, including that of the hidden messiah. In doing so, he not only conveys but also constitutes the most important truth of all: that he is the divine Word sent into the world to save the world (3:16) from the “ruler of this world” (12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Far from leading the people astray, he is leading them to God, as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6). If we allow ourselves to get distracted by the ethical question, that is, if we focus on explaining away the lie, we risk missing the main point: that the Gospel of John is entirely, and exclusively, interested in Christology. Jesus’s actions, whether “good” (as in the healing stories) or “bad” (rudeness in 2:4, lying in 7:8, failing his friend in 11:5-6), are not intended to model behavior for others to follow. Rather, for John, everything he does is meant to demonstrate his glory and draw attention to his christological identity. By healing the lame man, Jesus demonstrates that he is the Son of God: he works on the Sabbath just like his father does (5:17). By healing the man born blind, Jesus allows the works of God to be “revealed in him” (9:3). For this author, Christology is primary, all other considerations, including ethics, are secondary, or rather, they are important only insofar as they contribute to the main christological claim: that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. By having Jesus violate the norms of ethical behavior—not only our norms but also ancient norms—the Gospel makes this point crystal clear. (2017, p. 169)

[10] We must have a linguistic approach that goes beyond dogmatic etymology. Should we determine the meaning of aletheia in John by simply going to the Septuagint or looking at usages using the familiar lens? For instance, when John’s Jesus says “I am the way, truth (ἀλήθεια), and life,” does truth here mean “really correct” or “really honest?” There is such rich imagery or “re-vealing” in the Gospels. It seems only natural to connect this to “dis-closing” with a-letheia.

[11] In a section titled “Water into Wine (2:1-11),” Price writes that it begins with typology:

Though the central feature of this miracle story, the transformation of one liquid into another, no doubt comes from the lore of Dionysus, the basic outline of the story owes much to the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:8-24 LXX (Helms, 1989, p. 86). The widow of Zarephath, whose son has just died, upbraids the prophet: “What have I to do with you, O man of God?” (Ti emoi kai soi, 17:18). John has transferred this brusque address to the mouth of Jesus, rebuking his mother (2:4, Ti emoi kai soi, gunai). Jesus and Elijah both tell people in need of provisions to take empty pitchers (udria in 1 Kings 17:12, udriai in John 2:6-7), from which sustenance miraculously emerges. And just as this feat causes the woman to declare her faith in Elijah (“I know that you are a man of God,” v. 24), so does Jesus’ wine miracle cause his disciples to put their faith in him (v. 11). (Price, 2005, p. 570)

Consider also the doubting Thomas pericope, and also the claim in the Gospel of John that the things written were done to cause belief: “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).

[12] In the blog post “The Case of the Severed Ear,” McGrath suggests that this account reflects an event that did happen, in that early Christians would hardly have invented a story portraying themselves as violent (McGrath, 2014).

[13] If Jesus simply “expected” a short period of atoning suffering to be followed by a speedy resurrection where he is glorified beyond all others, it would make sense for Jesus’ last words to be one of resoluteness and purpose. And this is indeed what we see in later works like the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John regarding Jesus’ last words:

  1. Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
  2. Luke 23:43: Verily, I say unto you today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.
  3. Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.
  4. John 19:30: It is finished.

But this is exactly what we don’t see in Mark. Rather, the last words on the cross of Mark’s Jesus seem to be infused with the fear and desperation that Mark indicated Jesus had earlier expressed with the terrified Gethsemane prayer. So, the seemingly desperate and perplexed last words of Mark’s Jesus on the cross are an appropriation of scripture that Jesus is applying to his own situation:

  1. Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Mark seems to have inherited a tradition of the terrified Gethsemane prayer and Jesus’ desperate final words from the cross where Jesus didn’t expect that he would be immediately resurrected after a little bit of suffering, Mark’s portrayal being something Luke and John seem to have changed with their portrayal of the last words of Jesus. As I mention later in the essay, Dunn argues for the historicity of Mark’s portrayal of Jesus’ last words because it would have been embarassing for the early Church to include.

Mark does foreshadow the Resurrection in his writing, but there does seem to be a desperate historical Jesus tradition preserved in Mark where Jesus was unaware of such “theological atonement/resurrection overlay.” It makes little sense that Mark has the disciples attack the arresting party, and all flee, simply returning to their homes, oblivious that Jesus will return, if they thought Jesus would be immediately resurrected (or suffer an atoning death, for that matter). Price offers the point that I mention later, that given the terrified Gesthemane pericope, Jesus seemed to have thought that it was his willingness to die, like Isaac’s, that would answer for future Israel’s sin, not an actual death. Price’s skepticism may have in fact not gone far enough, and that even the desperate Gethsemane prayer may have been invented at some point in the history of Jesus’ crucifixion story development to give some connection between the historical Jesus and some manner of the later atonement/resurrection theology, since there seems to be no hint of this in the original Jesus movement. (We know Mark’s crucifixion narrative has a rich literary history, such as being patterned on Psalm 22 and perhaps Isaiah 53.) After all, there would have been no one to have heard/been aware of the desperate Gesthemane prayer in Jesus’ alone time with God, so it is questionable that there is any historical truth to this pericope, as embrassing as Jesus begging God to spare him might have been to the early Church.

Perhaps atonement (either a real atoning death, or just an atoning willingness to die, like Isaac’s) and resurrection theology weren’t even on the radar of the historical Jesus movement when Jesus ran afoul (for whatever reason) of the Roman-loving Jewish elite/temple, and atonement and resurrection theology were only developed post-Easter, whether the Easter experiences were hallucinations that the followers were trying to give sense to (which we have as tales of visions to Peter and the 12 encapsulated in the pre-Pauline Corinthian Creed (1 Corinthians 15:3-5, not simply dogmatically adopting the theologized Gospel appearance versions), or “lies” meant to continue and give force to the movement after Jesus’ demise. In Mark, the disciples attacking the arresting party and fleeing home as though the whole movement was over and defeated makes little sense if they, or Jesus, “expected” a quick atoning death and glorious resurrection.

[14] See Mark Goodacre’s two-and-a-half minute YouTube video for the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins titled “John and the Synoptics.”

[15] Matthew says that a related explanation—that the body was stolen from the tomb—was old and popular even in his time (Matthew 28:13).

[16] Daniel writes: “As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

[17] For example, in Mark 10:32-34, 8:31-38, 10:35-45, 8:38-9:1, and 14:62.

[18] John Shelby Spong comments that Mark says “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ; as it is written in the prophets” (2011, p. 300). Mark immediately interprets John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah (à la Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8). Mark then clothes John similar to Elijah (Mark 1:6; 2 Kings 1:8). He then says John ate locusts and wild honey, the food of the wilderness in which Elijah lived (and so on and so on). Price adds: “In view of parallels elsewhere between John and Jesus on the one hand and Elijah and Elisha on the other, some (Miller, p. 48) also see in the Jordan baptism and the endowment with the spirit a repetition of 2 Kings 2, where, near the Jordan, Elijah bequeaths a double portion of his own miracle-working spirit to Elisha, who henceforth functions as his successor and superior” (Price, 2005, p. 536).

[19] For instance, see McGrath’s blog posts “Adoptionist Christology” (July 5, 2019) and “Reading the Gospel of Mark (and its Christology) in Context” (January 25, 2019).

[20] See Ehrman’s blog post “Jesus and the Son of Man” (January 21, 2016).

[21] Helms points out that “[t]he beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (1989, p. 24) closely matches the formula found on a monument erected by the Provincial Assembly in Asia Minor (1st century BCE):

Whereas … Providence … has … brought our life to the peak of perfection in giving us Augustus Caesar … who, being sent to us and to our descendants as a savior …, and whereas … the birthday of the god has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel (euaggelion) concerning him, let all reckon a new era beginning from the date of his birth. (Helms, 1989, p. 24)

[22] There is currently a debate in Johannine scholarship about whether or not the Beloved Disciple or The Elder referred to by the Gospel of John were historical people. Weighing the evidence, Méndez concludes that they probably did not exist. Méndez writes:

I have found the arguments of Ismo Dunderberg and Harry Attridge that the Beloved Disciple is probably some sort of literary device compelling. I have also been persuaded by David Litwa’s comparisons of the Beloved Disciple to invented eyewitnesses in ancient literature. As I see it, the most damning evidence against the disciple’s existence is the fact that “every Synoptic parallel that could corroborate [the disciple’s] presence at a given moment in Jesus’ life does not—not the Synoptic crucifixion scenes (cf. Mk 15.40-41; Mt. 27.55-56; Jn 19.26-27) nor Luke’s description of Peter’s visit to the tomb (Lk. 24.12; cf. Jn 20.2-10)” (363). I also find the artificial and idealized texture of the disciple highly suspicious. These issues cannot be dismissed easily. (Méndez, 2020b).

[23] Richard Carrier comments:

Of course [Gary] Habermas tries to sell [Lee] Strobel on the tired apologetic line that ‘no one dies for a lie.’ Surely not, ‘if they knew it was a hoax,’ we hear said. This is a classic straw man. And as such, another lie. It’s one thing to ask how likely it is the resurrection appearance claims were a hoax. It’s altogether another to ask how likely it is they were like every other divine appearance experience in the whole history of all religions since the dawn of time: a mystical inner vision. Just as Paul tells us. Our only eyewitness source. Of course, a case can be made for the apostles dying even for a hoax: all they needed was to believe that the teachings attached to their fabricated claim would make the world a better place, and that making the world a better place was worth dying for. Even godless Marxists voluntarily died by the millions for such a motive. So the notion that no one would, is simply false. (Carrier, 2017)

The possible lie devised by the apostles about having visions of the risen Jesus actually has its origins in Nietzsche, too:

Paul simply shifted the emphasis of this whole being, putting it behind this being, into the lie of Jesus’ ‘resurrection’. Basically, he had no use whatsoever for the life of the redeemer—he needed the death on the cross and something else besides… [“and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain”—1 Corinthians 15:14
] To take this Paul (whose homeland was the centre of the Stoic enlightenment) at his word when he takes a hallucination and dresses it up as a proof that the redeemer still lives, or even to accept that he had this hallucination in the first place, would be a true niaiserie [stupidity] on the part of a psychologist: Paul wanted the end, and consequently he wanted the means to it as well… What he did not believe himself was believed by the idiots he threw his doctrines to. (Nietzsche, 1895/2005, p. 39)


Bowie, E. L. (1993). “Lies, Fiction and Slander in Early Greek Poetry.” In Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World (pp. 1-37), ed. Christopher Gill and Timothy Peter Wiseman. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press.

Boyarin, Daniel. (2011). “Logos, a Jewish Word: John’s Prologue as Midrash.” In The Jewish Annotated New Testament (pp. 546-549), ed. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Caragounis, Chrys C. (1998). “Jesus, His Brothers and the Journey to the Feast (John 7:8-10).” Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok Vol. 63: 177-187.

Carrier, Richard. (2017, April 15). “The Case for Christ: The Movie!Richard Carrier Blogs. <https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12263>

Chellew, Candace. (2004, May 1). “Peace Through Justice: Reflections on a Lecture by John Dominic Crossan.” Whosoever website. <https://whosoever.org/peace-through-justice-reflections-on-a-lecture-by-john-dominic-crossan/>

Confucius. (2003). Analects: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Trans.
Edward Slingerland. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. (Original reached final form c. 249 BCE.)

Crossan, John Dominic. (2007). God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Dunn, James G. D. (2003). Jesus Remembered. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Gibbon, Edward. (1776). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1. London, UK: W. Strahan & T. Cadell.

Gill, Christopher. (1993). “Plato on Falsehood, Not Fiction.” In Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World (pp. 38-87), ed. Christopher Gill and Timothy Peter Wiseman. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press.

Gmirkin, Russell. (2018, October). “A Response to Stéphanie Anthonioz, ‘Review of Russell E. Gmirkin, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible.” The Bible and Interpretation website. <https://bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/response-stephanie-anthonioz-review-russell-e-gmirkin-plato-and-creation-hebrew-bible>.

Helms, Randel. (1989). Gospel Fictions. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

MacDonald, Dennis. (2017). The Dionysian Gospel: The Fourth Gospel and Euripides. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

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McGrath, James F. (2010). The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

McGrath, James F. (2014, September 20). “The Case of the Severed Ear.” Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath. <https://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2014/09/the-case-of-the-severed-ear.html>.

Méndez, Hugo. (2020a). “Did the Johannine Community Exist?Journal for the Study of the New Testament Vol. 42, No. 3 (March 2): 350-374.

Méndez, Hugo. (2020b). “The Elusive Contexts of the Johannine Literature.” The Bible and Interpretation website. <https://bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/elusive-contexts-johannine-literature>.

Moss, Candida. (2020, March 8). “Everyone’s Favorite Gospel is a Forgery.” The Daily Beast. <https://www.thedailybeast.com/everyones-favorite-gospel-the-gospel-of-john-is-a-forgery-according-to-new-research>.

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Penwell, Stewart. (2019). Jesus the Samaritan: Ethnic Labeling in the Gospel of John. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

Price, Robert M. (2005). “New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash.” In Encyclopaedia of Midrash: Biblical Interpretation in Formative Judaism (Vol. 1, pp. 534-573), ed. Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

Price, Robert M. (2011). “Explaining the Resurrection without Recourse to Miracle.” In The End of Christianity (pp. 219-232), ed. John Loftus. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Reinhartz, Adele. (2017). “The Lyin’ King? Deception and Christology in the Gospel of John.” In Johannine Ethics: The Moral World of the Gospel and Epistles of John (pp. 153-169), ed. Christopher W. Skinner and Sherri Brown. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Smith, Tyler. (2017). “Deception in the Speech Profile of the Johannine Jesus (John 7.1-10).” Journal for the Study of the New Testament Vol. 40, No. 2 (October 30): 169-191.

Smith, Tyler. (2018). “[Review of the book The Dionysian Gospel: The Fourth Gospel and Euripides, by Dennis R. MacDonald].” Review of Biblical Literature (December 27): E1-E4.

Spong, John Shelby. (2011). Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World. New York, NY: HarperOne.

Wiseman, T. P. (1993). “Lying Historians: Seven Types of Mendacity.” In Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World (pp. 122-146), ed. Christopher Gill and Timothy Peter Wiseman. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press.

Wood, Robert. (1993). “Prologue.” In Lies and Fiction in the Ancient World (p. xv), ed. Christopher Gill and Timothy Peter Wiseman. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press.

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