The Jesus Puzzle, by Earl Doherty: a critique by Bernard D. Muller (part 1 of 2) 'The Jesus Puzzle', by Earl Doherty: a critique by Bernard D. Muller
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Note: all emphases are mine.

1. General introduction:

Some months ago, Peter Kirby asked me to write a review of Earl's book (subtitled 'Did Christianity begin with a mythical Christ?'). At that time I had some acquaintance with the mythicist theories: I read most of Earl's web site and due to my participation on the "Jesus Mysteries" list, I got into two debates with Doherty himself. But I never read his book, that is until I did it a few weeks ago.

But first, let me present myself: I am an ex-Christian, now a humanist, but also certain about a (not divine & very minimal) "historical" Jesus (a Jew who lived in the past and credited later of founding Christianity). Why? Because of years of independent research, mostly based on the primary evidence. Following that, I generated an extensive book-sized web site, titled Jesus, a historical reconstruction, which also includes many related issues. I also want to say I am not a scholar and my knowledge of ancient languages is close to be not existent. But in view of their many different opinions & theories, scholars may not be the best qualified to work on the "(a)historical Jesus"! And I do care about the original texts and translations: I use all the tools at my disposal in order to avoid errors. For more information about me and my methodology, please consult this page. Now let's go back to Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle.

From my standpoint, there are many things I agree with Earl about early Christianity. Among them, heavenly "myths" (& others), imports from the Old Testament & Hellenism, the Platonic/Philoic influence and the progressive & dissimilar development of Christian beliefs. On these items, 'the Jesus Puzzle' makes good points, more so against a Jesus starting single-handily either a religion, sect or movement through his own preaching or/and deeds.

However, I do not intend here to review the points of agreement, not even all the ones I oppose: that would be too much of a task. Rather, I will focus on the main items of divergence: the crucifixion in some lower "fleshly" heaven and the denial of an earthly Jesus. Therefore I will proceed towards debunking Earl's related arguments by revealing the lack of evidence behind his key hypotheses. Furthermore, I will present primary data (unmentioned in the book!), all of which very damaging for Doherty's theories, but pointing to a flesh & blood human Jesus crucified on earth (in the Jewish heartland, Zion!). And all of that by consulting mainly Paul's authentic epistles, 'Romans', '1 &2 Corinthians', 'Galatians', 'Philippians', '1 Thessalonians' & 'Philemon' and 'Hebrews'. Both Earl & I agree on those being pre-gospels.

Note: among the other points of divergence, I explained my position on "Q" (a stratified "Q" is capital for Doherty's overall "reconstruction") and the gospels, concerning dating and make up (follow the internal links for dating through the internal evidence). See also these pages of mine for the post-crucifixion beginning of Christianity and my "historical Jesus", in a few words.

2. Who crucified Jesus and where did that happen?

Let's go over this by looking primarily at chapter 10 (Who Crucified Jesus?), pages 95-108. Later I will address Doherty's arguments on 'Hebrews'.

2.1. Higher and Lower Worlds:

In chapter 3, there is a brief section where Doherty comments on the two worlds concept in the Platonic mind: the upper one (above the earth), domain of the spiritual and the invisible, and the lower one, mainly earthly, perishable and unperfected.
Back in ch. 10, Doherty keeps thickening this concept and imports some more from mystery cults, claiming counterparts in heaven of anything earthly, including events. Then he goes on, combining his pagan "true sacred past" world of myths with Judeo/Christian ones, and an upper world (above the earth and below God's heaven), the home of demon spirits: "In this upper world, too, Christ has been crucified at the hands of the demon spirits." Here, the fleshly would meet the spirits, the material coexists with the ethereal, and all of that with only traces of flimsy "evidence" for back up.

Platonic Xenocrates (396-314 BCE), Neopythagorean Ocellus Lucanus (2nd cent. BCE) and middle Platonic Antiochus of Ascalon (around 130 BCE) & Plutarch (around 80 CE) did propose a home for daemons, the sublunar realm, but it extended to earth itself (see this site for references). Furthermore, for Plato & others, those "daemons" were understood to be good spirits, acting as intermediaries between men & gods and/or as personal "gardian angels". As Richard Carrier put it, as gathered from Plutarch's 'Isis and Osiris':
"Plato, says Plutarch, "calls this class of beings an interpretive and ministering class, midway between gods and men, in that they convey thither the prayers and petitions of men"(361c)"
But what about the bad daemons?
On this matter, Plutarch supported the views of Empedocles (492-432 BCE):
"[s.26] Empedocles says also that the demigods must pay the penalty for the sins that they commit and the duties that they neglect:
Might of the Heavens chases them forth to the realm of the Ocean; Ocean spews them out on the soil of the Earth, and Earth drives them straight to the rays of the tireless Sun, who consigns them to Heaven's whirlings; thus one from another receives them, but ever with loathing"
It does not seem these sinful demigods ("[s.26] daemons") have a home in the lower heavens! Those bad daemons go through the air either chased down from the heavens or driven straight to the sun (beyond the moon). That would go against Doherty's theory:
"The lowest level of the spirit realm was the air, or "firmament," between the earth and the moon. This was the domain of the demon spirits" (p. 103)
Earlier, in 54-51 BCE, Cicero did not even mention daemons below the moon:
"Below this [the moon], if we except that gift of the gods, the soul, which has been given by the liberality of the gods to the human race, every thing is mortal, and tends to dissolution, but above the moon all is eternal." ('Republic', book 6, "Dream of Scipio Africanus")
Because Paul was a Jew (who wrote his epistles around 50-60 CE), let's closely examine his contemporary Philo of Alexandria (died 45-50 CE), an eminent Jewish scholar/philosopher/theologian of considerable influence, and who integrated the aforementioned middle Platonic concepts to Judaism. From the works of Philo:
"... Those beings, whom other philosophers call demons, Moses usually calls angels; and they are souls hovering in the air." (On the Giants, 6)
For Philo, some of those can choose to descend into human bodies on earth, and, tempted there, eventually go either to perdition ("swallowed up in the whirlpool") or to God in heaven. And the holy ones staying in the air are "ambassadors" between God and men:
"Some souls, therefore, have descended into bodies, and others have not thought worthy to approach any one of the portions of the earth; and these, when hallowed and surrounded by the ministrations of the father, the Creator has been accustomed to employ, as hand-maidens and servants in the administration of mortal affairs. And they having descended into the body as into a river, at one time are carried away and swallowed up by the voracity of a most violent whirlpool; and, at another time, striving with all their power to resist its impetuosity, they at first swim on the top of it, and afterwards fly back to the place from which they started. These, then, are the souls of those who have been taught some kind of sublime philosophy, meditating, from beginning to end, on dying as to the life of the body, in order to obtain an inheritance of the incorporeal and imperishable life, which is to be enjoyed in the presence of the uncreate and everlasting God. But those, which are swallowed up in the whirlpool, are the souls of those other men who have disregarded wisdom, ...
But as men in general speak of good and evil demons, and in like manner of good and evil souls, so also do they speak of angels, looking upon some as worthy of a good appellation, and calling them ambassadors of man to God, and of God to man, and sacred and holy on account of this blameless and most excellent office; others, again, you will not err if you look upon as unholy and unworthy of any address."
(On the Giants, 12-16)
And in all of Philo's works, there is no mention of any intermediary world in the air with (or without) satanic demons.
Doherty finally declares: "For example, Christ had to be "of David's stock" (Romans 1:3), for the spiritual Son was now equated with the Messiah, and the clear testimony in scripture that the Messiah would be a descendant of David could not be ignored or abandoned." (p. 99)
That comes after three pages of convoluted imaginative rhetorical speculations about some mythical demonic middle world in the air, with no stated clear evidence to indicate its existence was believed by anyone in the first three centuries (or before).
And the question remains: how could a descendant of David not be considered an earthly human? More so because Doherty admitted earlier Moses and Abraham (an ancestor of David!) were thought to have lived on earth. And according to the OT, David himself had many male descendants, the royal ones certainly described to be flesh & blood men. Why would the "Messiah" Jesus be different? In his epistles, did Paul explain a "Son of David" does not have to be born on earth? The answer is NO.
Let's also consider the following texts written right before the Christian era: is the "son of David" here not human and earthly?
a) Dead Sea Scroll 4Q252 frag. 1, col. 5 "A sovereign shall not be removed from the tribe of Judah. Whenever Israel rules there shall not fail to be a descendent of David on the throne. For the staff is the covenant of kingship, the clans of Israel are the feet, until the Messiah of Righteousness comes, the branch of David. For to him and to his descendants has been given the covenant of kingship over his people for all everlasting generations..."
b) Psalms of Solomon 17 (written around 55 BCE and extrapolated from Isaiah 11:1-10)
21-22 "See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel in the time known to you, O God. Undergird him with the strength to destroy the unrighteous rulers, to purge Jerusalem from gentiles ..."
32 "And he will be a righteous king over them [nations], taught by God. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for he shall be holy, and their king shall be the Lord Messiah."

Note: on pages 99-100, Doherty writes: "The absorption of the spiritual power generated by the Deity and his acts is accomplished through a pattern of "likeness." Here is the way Paul put it in Romans 6:5:
"For if we become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall be also in [{] the likeness of his [}] resurrection." [NASB]
In other words, the spiritual force set up by the acts of the deity in the primordial past or higher reality impacts on the devotee in the present in the parallel process. Death creates a "death," resurrection creates a "resurrection.""

However the Greek does NOT have what shows between my brackets (so much for the "pattern". If Paul wanted it, the second "likeness" would show up!). And a more accurate translation of the verse would be:
YLT "For, if we have become planted together to the likeness of his death, [so] also we shall be of the rising again;"
And Earl arbitrarily takes Paul's explained metaphors (used by the apostle in order to make a point -- 6:12-14) as if it were mythical statements: the "parallel" death of Christians is not a true death, but their baptism, considered here by Paul as terminating a prior sinful life, as stated in the preceding verse:
Romans 6:4 NASB "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead ..., so we too might walk in newness of life."
And here the "resurrection" of Christians is not a "likeness" of the alleged one of Christ, but the passage into a new life, right after the baptism/"death". This is also explained in previously quoted Romans 6:4b (in italics) and in the following verses 6:6-14, including:
Romans 6:7 NASB "for he who has died [been baptized] is freed from sin."
Romans 6:10-13 NASB "For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, ... but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead,"
a) Paul had already sketched the same idea in:
2 Corinthians 5:14b-17 NASB "... that one [Christ] died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. ... Therefore if anyone is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."
Later in 'Romans', he specified the "new" life for Christians is also eternal:
Romans 6:22 Darby "But *now*, having got your freedom from sin, and having become bondmen to God, ye have [Greek present tense!] your fruit unto holiness, and the end [outcome] eternal life."
Note: for Paul, would (true) death interrupt that eternal life which starts as an earthly one right after conversion? No, because a 'to be resurrected' dead Christian is just "asleep" (1Thessalonians 4:13,14,15; 1 Corinthians 11:30, 15:18,20,51)!
Then the author of 'Colossians' reiterated the overall concept:
Colossians l2:12 Darby "buried with him in baptism, in which ye have been also raised with [him] through faith of the working of God who raised him from among the dead."
b) The future tense in Romans 6:5 (previously quoted) and Ro 6:8 (Darby "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him,") is obviously meant as an exhortation/expression_of_wishful_thinking, in view of the overall context of Romans 6:4-23. Concerning Romans 6:5, certainly Paul did not intend to abruptly digress and suggest his Christians shall die (in order to resurrect later)! More so considering he already specified some of those will still be alive at the arrival of the Kingdom (1Thessalonians 4:14-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
c) I am not denying that, in earlier epistles, Paul depicted a "parallel" death & resurrection between the ones of Jesus (both in the past) and the ones of Christians (already dead/"asleep" with their future "rising" expected), as in 1 Corinthians 15:12-22; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 & Philippians 3:10-11. However there is NO mention of "likeness" here: the "parallels" were intended to be real.
Doherty is "interpreting" out of context (and using favorable -- but misleading -- translation) in order to back up his mythicist case, as he does often.
And we know now why Paul used "likeness" in Romans 6:5 (once!).

2.2. The higher world of Attis, Mithras and Osiris:

On page 98, Doherty postulates "In this higher world, the myths of the mystery cults and of earliest Christianity were placed. Here the savior god Attis had been castrated, here Mithras had slain the bull, here Osiris had been dismembered ..."
Is is true? Let's now examine the stories of Attis, Mithras and Osiris. Because I am not an expert on ancient mythology, I'll rely on the writings of others.

2.2.1. Attis:
As drawn from this web site:
"The story goes that when one of Zeus' would-be sex partners rejected him, Zeus wouldn't take no for an answer. While his victim, Cybele, slept, the great philanderer spilled his seed on her. In time she gave birth to Agdistis, a hermaphroditic demon so strong and wild, the other gods grew afraid. In their terror they cut off his male sexual organ and from its blood sprang an almond tree.
The river Sangarius had a daughter named Nana who ate the fruit of this almond tree. When, as a result, she delivered a boy child nine months later, she put the child aside to be exposed. But infant death was not to be his fate. Taken care of by the shepherds, he soon became healthy and handsome -- so handsome his grandmother, Cybele, fell in love with him.
The boy, Attis, wasn't aware of Cybele's love, but what would it have mattered? In time, he saw the king of Pessinus' beautiful daughter, fell in love, and wished to marry her. The goddess who grew insanely jealous and angry, drove Attis mad for revenge. Running crazy through the mountains, he stopped at the foot of a pine-tree. There, while he rested, he castrated and killed himself. From his blood sprang violets while the tree took care of his spirit. Body and spirit might have been safe, but still his flesh would have decayed had not Zeus stepped in to aid Cybele in Attis' resurrection."

Here I do not see Attis in any upper world: he lives on earth! I also wonder how Doherty considers Attis as a savior god (if not through only a 4th century author, emperor Julian "the Apostate" --p. 104).

PS: some primary evidence against Earl's speculations:
Despite the variations in the legend and its use for Neoplatonic allegories, according to Julian "the Apostate" (a favorite author of Doherty!), Attis appears, grows up and lives on earth (no castration in some upper world, as Earl claims!). From Julian's 'Oration upon the Mother of the Gods' (Orations V) (262-263):
"... him [Attis] who, as fable tells, was exposed by the side of the streams of the river Gallos, and there grew up, and afterwards, when he had got tall and handsome, became the favourite of the Mother of the Gods [Cybele], and she committed to his care all other things, and placed upon his head the star-bespangled cap. ... the Mother of the Gods allowed this minion of her's to leap about and dance ... he [Attis] is said in the fable to have descended into the cave,
["after he had sunk down into the cave of the earth" (280)]
and conversed with the nymph
[then had intercourse with her (265), then castrated himself (after realizing he betrayed his love for Cybele by loosing his virginity! 264), then (resurrection) "returning, as it were, out of the bowels of the earth" (270)] ..."

a) However, on page 104, Doherty writes about: "(in Orations V, 165) Attis' descent to the lowest spirit level prior to matter, undergoing his death by castration ..."
But, in Julian's writing, the "descent" (263, 266, 269, 270, 280) is into a cave (on earth!), as I just exposed, and the starting point is earth!
b) From this website, definition of 'nymph': "a mythological spirit of nature imagined as a beautiful maiden inhabiting rivers, woods, or other locations:
'the idyllic world of nymphs and shepherds a wood nymph'"
And, much earlier (and closer to Paul's times!), around 150 CE, this is what Pausanias wrote in 'Description of Greece', 7, 17, 9-13:
"The people of Dyme have a temple of Athena with an extremely ancient image; they have as well a sanctuary built for the Dindymenian mother and Attis. As to Attis, I could learn no secret about him, but Hermesianax, the elegiac poet [330 BCE], says in a poem that he was the son of Galaus the Phrygian, and that he was a eunuch from birth. The account of Hermesianax goes on to say that, on growing up, Attis migrated to Lydia and celebrated for the Lydians the orgies of the Mother; that he rose to such honor with her that Zeus, being wroth at it, sent a boar to destroy the tillage of the Lydians. Then certain Lydians, with Attis himself, were killed by the boar, and it is consistent with this that the Gauls who inhabit Pessinus abstain from pork. But the current view about Attis is different,
[the tale then got considerably embellished & modified! Let's also notice the first account is humanly plausible (except for the killer boar, likely imported from Adonis' legend)]
the local legend about him being this. Zeus, it is said, let fall in his sleep seed upon the ground, which in course of time sent up a demon, with two sexual organs, male and female. They call the demon Agdistis. But the gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ. There grew up from it an almond-tree with its fruit ripe, and a daughter of the river Sangarius, they say, took of the fruit and laid it in her bosom, when it at once disappeared, but she was with child
[virgin conception!]. A boy was born, and exposed, but was tended by a he-goat. As he grew up his beauty was more than human, and Agdistis fell in love with him. When he had grown up, Attis was sent by his relatives to Pessinus, that he might wed the king's daughter. The marriage-song was being sung, when Agdistis appeared, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals, as also did he who was giving him his daughter in marriage. But Agdistis repented of what he had done to Attis, and persuaded Zeus to grant that the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay.
These are the most popular forms of the legend of Attis. ..."

In both these earlier legends, again, Attis lives and dies as an earthly "flesh & blood"!

2.2.2 Mithras:
The story of Mithras is more confusing, composite and not well known. It shows a lot of evolution (and differentiations) from its origin in Persia to the Roman cults in the 2nd & 3rd century, when various forms of Mithraism became very popular. Greek scholar Plutarch and Italian poet Statius, both writing around 80CE, are the first known western authors to mention it. The later described Mithras as one who "twists the unruly horns beneath the rocks of a Persian cave" (Thebaid 1.719-20). Many tales about Mithras can be contemplated but the following rendition of the legend appears to be a mix which is fairly middle of the road. From this web site (Wikipedia):
"Mithra was born of a mother-rock by a river under a tree. He came into the world with the Phrygian cap on his head (hence his designation as Pileatus, the Capped One), and a knife in his hand. It is said that shepherds watched his birth.
The hero-god first gives battle to the sun, conquers him, crowns him with rays and makes him his eternal friend and fellow; nay, the sun becomes in a sense Mithra's double, or again his father, but Helios Mithras is one god. Then follows the struggle between Mithra and the bull, the central motif of Mithraism. Ahura Mazda had created the wild bull (see aurochs), which Mithra pursued, overcame, and dragged into his cave. This wearisome journey with the struggling bull towards the cave is the symbol of man's troubles on earth. Unfortunately, the bull escapes from the cave, whereupon Ahura Mazda sends a crow with a message to Mithra to find and slay it. Mithra reluctantly obeys, and plunges his dagger into the bull as it returns to the cave. Strange to say, from the body of the dying bull proceeds all wholesome plants and herbs that cover the earth, from his spinal marrow the corn, from his blood the vine, etc.
The power of evil sends his unclean creatures to prevent or poison these productions but in vain. From the bull proceed all useful animals, and the bull, resigning itself to death, is transported to the heavenly spheres. Man is now created and subjected to the malign influence of Ahriman in the form of droughts, deluges, and conflagrations, but is saved by Mithra.
Finally man is well established on earth and Mithra returns to heaven. He celebrates a last supper with Helios and his other companions, is taken in his fiery chariot across the ocean, and now in heaven protects his followers. For the struggle between good and evil continues in heaven between the planets and stars, and on earth in the heart of man."

This Mithras' account appears to be a combination of Persian legends with accretions from Hellenism, Christianity, Gnosticism, etc., and with earthly & cosmic elements. And let's not forget also that "Roman" Mithraism is known to us through only few texts & varied visual representations (appearing not earlier than the late 1st century)! But it looks Mithras is born on earth and (as Statius alluded to in the 1st cent.) slays the bull here.
For further info about Mithraism, I recommend this extensive web site.

2.2.3. Osiris:
There are many variations on the story about Osiris and Isis. I got this simplified one from this web site:
"From Geb, the sky god, and Nut, the earth goddess came four children: Osiris, Isis, Set and Nepthys. Osiris was the oldest and so became king of Egypt, and he married his sister Isis. Osiris was a good king and commanded the respect of all who lived on the earth and the gods who dwelled in the netherworld. However, Set was always jealous of Osiris, because he did not command the respect of those on earth or those in the netherworld. One day, Set transformed himself into a vicious monster and attacked Osiris, killing him. Set then cut Osiris into pieces and distributed them throughout the length and breadth of Egypt. With Osiris dead, Set became king of Egypt, with his sister Nepthys as his wife. Nepthys, however, felt sorry for her sister Isis, who wept endlessly over her lost husband. Isis, who had great magical powers, decided to find her husband and bring him back to life long enough so that they could have a child. Together with Nepthys, Isis roamed the country, collecting the pieces of her husband�s body and reassembling them. Once she completed this task, she breathed the breath of life into his body and resurrected him. They were together again, and Isis became pregnant soon after. Osiris was able to descend into the underworld, where he became the lord of that domain."

Here again, the story of Osiris & Isis occurs on earth and not in some higher world. This was also believed by Strabo (63 BCE-23 CE) & Tacitus (56-117 CE) and their contemporaries.
From Strabo's Geography, VIII, I, 23 "At the distance of two schoeni from the river is Saïs, and a little above it the asylum of Osiris, in which it is said Osiris is buried. This, however, is questioned by many persons, and particularly by the inhabitants of Philæ, which is situated above Syene and Elephantina. These people tell this tale, that Isis placed coffins of Osiris in various places, but that one only contained the body of Osiris, so that no one knew which of them it was; and that she did this with the intention of concealing it from Typhon, who might come and cast the body out of its place of deposit.
From Tacitus' History of the Jews, V, II: "... Others assert that in the reign of Isis the overflowing population of Egypt, led by Hierosolymus and Judas, discharged itself into the neighboring countries."

Note: I have primary evidence, next and later on this page, about Osiris as born, living and later killed & dismembered on earth (from Plutarch's Isis & Osiris, written 80-100CE). From the aforementioned writing:
a) Section 11 "Therefore, Clea, whenever you hear the traditional tales which the Egyptians tell about the gods, their wanderings, dismemberments, and many experiences of this sort, you must remember what has been already said [by Plutarch, earlier (Sections 1-10)!] and you must not think that any of these tales actually happened in the manner in which they are related."
Plutarch had to exhort Clea not to understand literally the old stories about Egyptian gods, which appear to be widely accepted as such. But despite Plutarch's efforts at interpreting them as allegories (one generation after Paul's times!), he did divulge those "traditional tales" rather plainly, as shown next:
b) Section 21 "Eudoxus says that, while many tombs of Osiris are spoken of in Egypt, his body lies in Busiris; for this was the place of his birth;"
Note: Eudoxus (of Cnidus, Asia minor, 408-355 BCE) was a reknown Greek mathematician/astronomer (and he went to Egypt for over a year). This proves the legend about a human Osiris, born & dying on earth, is ancient and predates middle Platonism.
c) Section 13 "One of the first acts related of Osiris in his reign was to deliver the Egyptians from their destitute and brutish manner of living. This he did by showing them the fruits of cultivation, by giving them laws, and by teaching them to honour the gods. Later he travelled over the whole earth civilizing it without the slightest need of arms, but most of the peoples he won over to his way by the charm of his persuasive discourse ..."
d) Section 13 "Typhon, having secretly measured Osiris' body and having made ready a beautiful chest of corresponding size artistically ornamented, ... then Osiris got into it and lay down, and those who were in the plot ran to it and slammed down the lid, which they fastened by nails from the outside and also by using molten lead. Then they carried the chest to the river and sent it on its way to the sea through the Tanitic Mouth [the eastern arm of the Nile into its delta]."
e) Section 16 "... The traditional result of Osiris' dismemberment is that there are many so-called tombs of Osiris in Egypt; for Isis held a funeral for each part when she had found it. Others deny this and assert that she caused effigies of him to be made and these she distributed among the several cities, pretending that she was giving them his body, in order that he might receive divine honours in a greater number of cities."
So how can Doherty claim "In this higher world, the myths of the mystery cults and of earliest Christianity were placed. Here the savior god Attis had been castrated, here Mithras had slain the bull, here Osiris had been dismembered ..."?

a) For Attis, Doherty (p. 104) quotes fourth century philosopher Sallustius who "called the story of Attis "an eternal cosmic process, not an isolated event in the past" (On Gods and the World, 9)". From that Earl deduces this "process" has to take place in the spiritual world. Also mentioned by Earl is Julian "the Apostate", the mentor of Sallustius, who "describes (in Orations V, 165) Attis' descent to the lowest spirit level prior to matter, undergoing his death by castration ...". However this is never expressed in Julian's work, which is otherwise very definite on where Attis lives (on earth) & descends (into a cave). And Doherty does not provide any quote (for good cause!). The closest wordings I found are:
"by my unassisted judgment I understand by this "Gallos," or "Attis," the existence of the Generative and Formative Intelligence, which generates all things down to the very furthest limits of Matter"
"Attis as the Cause that descends as far as the region of Matter, and we regard this Attis as the generative Power and the Gallos at one and the same time"
"And when the same is arrived at the extremity of his limits, he is said in the fable to have descended into the Cave, and conversed with the nymph, symbolizing the duplicity of Matter, and it is not Matter itself that is here meant, but the ultimate Cause of things incorporeal, which also existed before Matter"
"the Mother of the Gods enjoin upon Attis to be her servant, and not to stray from her, and not fall in love with another woman. But he went forward, and descended as far as the boundaries of Matter
[the cave]."
"Is not this the Attis, who at first is called insane, and then sane, in consequence of his castration? Insane because he chose for himself the realm of Matter,"

Then Earl explains how Julian regarded the events "as a symbol". But how could the speculations of Julian & his friend Sallustius (with their use of Attis' legend as a basis for allegories supporting late Neoplatonism) really affect Paul, three centuries earlier (that is, if he had any interest in the legend!)? This is typical on how far mythicists have to go in order to find their "evidence".
b) For Mithras, Earl (p. 314) relies on a book by David Ulansey (The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries) where the bull is cosmic/astrological (the constellation of Taurus the Bull) and therefore would be slain there!
c) For Osiris, Doherty (p. 313) alludes to a legend related in a few words by Plutarch (s.54), where the dismemberment (by Typhon) and the search & reassembly (by Isis) are done repeatedly. From that, Doherty speculates these acts were thought to happen in his spiritual/fleshly upper world.

Note: Earl will confess later on: "We don't even know if the Attis 'passion week' celebrations had Attis dying in the firmament, because no sources are that specific. We don't know if Osiris was 'buried' in the firmament because no sources are that specific. ... But because of our understanding of the thought of the time, we can assume these specifics." (Ref: )

2.3. The rulers of this age:

Doherty is making a center piece of 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, trying to demonstrate that for Paul "the rulers" are heavenly authorities. However his main argument comes from epistles ('Ephesians' & 'Colossians', although there is no suggestion here demon spirits crucified Jesus!) not written by Paul but later by others, as stated by Earl himself (p. 13). This would nullify his argumentation: pseudo-Pauline letters simply cannot be trusted to represent Paul's thoughts & beliefs. And Paul never specified "the rulers" ('archon') as heavenly powers!
First, let's look at the verse in question:
1 Corinthians 2:8 NKJV "None of the rulers ['archon'] of this age understood it [God's wisdom], for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
In his epistles, Paul used the word "rulers" ('archon') in two other verses:
a) In 'Romans', the "rulers" ('archon') are human authorities (& also Roman officials, as Pilate!):
Romans 13:3-6 NKJV "For rulers ['archon'] are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing."
b) 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 YLT "And wisdom we speak among the perfect, and wisdom not of this age, nor of the rulers ['archon'] of this age -- [the wisdom] of those becoming useless, but we speak the hidden wisdom of God in a secret, that God foreordained before the ages to our glory,"
Here (& in 1 Corinthians 2:8), the rulers do not have God's wisdom; but only Paul & his Christians did! That only tells us those rulers were not "in the Spirit". It does not say these rulers were bad, just ignorant of God's "hidden" wisdom.

Furthermore, according to Paul, "this age" has only one godly entity, "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4), likely Satan (Romans 16:20).
My viewpoint? For 1 Corinthians 2:8 Paul had probably human authorities in his mind, but it is possible he included also Satan as the top "disinformer", considering 2 Corinthians 4:4 ("The god of this age has blinded the mind of the unbelievers ...").
I note also:
a) the emphasis of the verse is on an unspecified God's plan being at work. The larger context is about human wisdom versus God's one, and the role of the Spirit. Therefore, the identity of these (generic) rulers is of no consequence for Paul's argument; specific identification was not required.
b) from 1 Corinthians 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 2:16, the ones who do not understand God's wisdom (& his plan) are specified to be humans (ref: 1:20, 22-25; 2:5, 9, 11, 13-14) and not spirits.

2.4. Descending (redeeming) gods:

Doherty goes back on theorizing. To supply some evidence, he calls on two 4th century writers, Sallustius and emperor Julian "the Apostate"; but they lived no less than three centuries after Paul!
And Earl keeps mentioning a peculiar modern translation of 'kata sarka', "in the sphere of the flesh" (normally rendered as according_to/after (the) flesh, but can mean down to, by or concerning (the) flesh), as if it was primary evidence for his fleshly upper world. Even for 'en sarki' ("in flesh") (1 Timothy 3:16), Doherty claims (p. 105) it "can be translated in the sphere of the flesh" (with the sphere being that material/spiritual lower heaven!). So now, "... he was manifested in the flesh ..." (1 Timothy 3:16 RSV) takes a whole new meaning!

A) Never in ancient literature 'flesh' describes another world between earth and God's heaven! And then why name another world "flesh" when earth was known to have (animal and human) flesh all over!
B) The Greek word for "sphere(s)" (root 'sfairas') never appears in the whole NT!
C) The Greek word for "manifested" is (root) 'fanerow' (or 'phaneroo'), which is used often in the NT, as in John 1:31, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 9:26 (see later) & 1 John 3:5. According to Strong, it means "to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way".
Here are three examples where it signifies a physical & visible entity (on earth!), previously unknown/hidden:
John 1:30-31 Darby "... A man [Jesus] comes after me [John the Baptist] who takes a place before me, because he *was* before me; and I knew him not; but that he [Jesus] might be manifested ['fanerow'] to Israel, therefore have I come baptising with water."
Josephus' Wars, III, 7, 36 "And on this day it was that the Romans slew all the multitude that appeared openly ['fanerow']; but on the following days they searched the hiding-places, and fell upon those that were under ground, and in the caverns"
Josephus' Wars, III, 10, 7 "As for Panium itself, its natural beauty had been improved by the royal liberality of Agrippa, and adorned at his expenses. Now Jordan's visible stream arises ['fanerow'] from this cavern, and divides the marshes and fens of the lake Semechonitis"
But then, considering:
- "... that circumcision which is outward in flesh ['en sarki']" (Romans 2:28b Darby)
- "... some who think of us as walking according to flesh ['kata sarka': would Paul be accused to walk in some lower heavens? Is it a realistic proposition?]. For walking in flesh ['en sarki'], we [Paul & his helpers] do not war according to flesh ['kata sarka': Doherty's demonic upper world? Hardly so considering the context!]. For the arms of our warfare [are] not fleshly, but powerful according to God to [the] overthrow of strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 Darby)
- "... but [in] that I [Paul] now live in flesh ['en sarki'], I live by faith ..." (Galatians 2:20 Darby)
- "As many as desire to have a fair appearance in [the] flesh ['en sarki'], these compel you to be circumcised ..." (Galatians 6:12a Darby)
- "but if to live in flesh ['en sarki'] [is my lot], this is for me worth the while ..." (Philippians 1:22a Darby)
- "not any longer as a bondman, but above a bondman, a beloved brother [Onesimus, the slave of Philemon], specially to me [Paul], and how much rather to thee, both in [the] flesh ['en sarki'] and in [the] Lord?" (Philemon 1:16, Darby)
does "in flesh" mean in another world above the earth?
Further remarks:
A) - "What shall we say then that Abraham our father according to flesh ['kata sarka'] has found?" (Romans 4:1 Darby)
- "for if ye live according to flesh ['kata sarka'], ye are about to die" (Romans 8:13a Darby)
- "For consider your calling, brethren, that [there are] not many wise according to flesh ['kata sarka'], not many powerful, not many high-born." (1 Corinthians 1:26 Darby)
- "See Israel according to flesh ['kata sarka', meaning here (Israel's) Jews]: are not they who eat the sacrifices in communion with the altar?" (1 Corinthians 10:18 Darby)
Does "according to flesh" signify some celestial sphere?
B) On my next page (about Jesus' humanity), I have more evidenced criticism against Earl's interpretation of 'kata sarka'. Meanwhile, let's note the later expression is used about the Essenes in Josephus' Wars, II, 8, 11: "For their doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue for ever; and that they come out of the most subtile air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free [after death] from the bonds of the flesh ['kata sarka'], they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward."
The "flesh" here is human! Also let's note the expression is used by a Jew in a religious context (as Paul was & did!).
Other usages of 'kata sarka' are from Aristotle ('History of Animals', 'On the Parts of Animals' and 'Problemata', for a total of six times), Theophrastus (Frag. 7.6) and Epicurus (three times). Here are some examples from these authors (4th/3rd cent.BCE):
- Aristotle, 'History of Animals', Book III, Part 17 "These cartilaginous fish themselves have no free fat at all in connexion with the flesh ['kata sarka'] or with the stomach. The suet in fish is fatty, and does not solidify or congeal. All animals are furnished with fat, either intermingled with their flesh ['kata sarka'], or apart."
- Epicurus, 'Principal Doctrines', 4 "... pain, if extreme, is present a very short time, and even that degree of pain which slightly exceeds bodily ['kata sarka'] pleasure does not last for many days at once."
C) Let's consider '1Peter', written even earlier than pseudo-Pauline '1Timothy':
4:1-3 Darby "Christ, then, having suffered for us in [the] flesh ['sarki' -- italics not in the Greek], do *ye* also arm yourselves with the same mind; for he [a Christian] that has suffered in [the] flesh [on earth, prior to conversion] has done with sin, no longer to live the rest of [his] time in [the] flesh ['en sarki'] to men's lusts, but to God's will. For the time past [is] sufficient [for us] to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, [in sin] walking in lasciviousness, lusts, wine-drinking, revels, drinkings, and unhallowed idolatries."
The author, who was seemingly unaware of the gospels, did not think "in flesh" meant Doherty's mythical world!
D) The expression 'en sarki' shows up in Greek literature and certainly does not mean that demonic upper sphere!
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (ed. J. Bywater) bekker page 1129a, bekker line 20 "Thus, supposing good condition is firmness of flesh, bad condition must be flabbiness of flesh, and a diet productive of good condition must be a diet producing firmness of flesh ['en sarki']."
Epictetus, Works, Dissertationes ab Arriano digestae "And so, if Epicurus should come and say that good lies in the body ['en sarki'], here, too, it will be a long story; and it will be necessary to hear what is the principal, and substantial, and essential part in us."

The aforementioned usages of 'en sarki' (in flesh) and 'kata sarka' (according to (the) flesh) are obviously not known by Doherty, because he states: "Thus it was wholly conceivable for Paul's Christ in that spiritual world to descend into the realm of the demon spirits. Here he would be in the sphere of flesh, which fits the early writers almost universal use of such stereotyped phrases as "in flesh", "according to the flesh." (p. 103)
Furthermore Earl does not provide any example from ancient Greek literature showing 'en sarki' or 'kata sarka' refers to, "in that spiritual world", "the sphere of flesh". I know of none.

Nowhere in this section (pages 103-105) Doherty proves a mythical theme existed during Paul's times about "descending redeeming gods". Actually, even if Earl claims "the concept of the "descending redeemer" seems to have been a persuasive idea during the era", he has to admit next "the evidence for the pre-Christian period is patchy and much debated." Later (p. 137), Earl reasserts: "The evidence for this so-called Descending-Ascending Redeemer is scanty and uncertain for the time before Christianity."

Note: on page 137, Doherty provides two examples from Gnostic texts: one is the 'Apocryphon of John' (a very mythological Gnostic text), but this writing is normally dated 120-180, well after Paul's times. Furthermore, the man created in heaven and sent to earth is Adam, not at all a redeemer or a god. The other one is the Jewish 'Apocalypse of Adam', normally dated 1st to 4th century. Then we are faced with a series of hypotheses, stacked on each other (as it is often the case for mythicist "evidence"): was it written before Paul's ministry (50-60)? If yes, did Paul read it? If yes again, was Paul inspired by it? There is no positive evidence he did and the chance of a final "yes" is very small. Furthermore, the "illuminator" here is described by different people (from thirteen kingdoms), in very various ways, sometimes very human & born from a woman on earth (kingdoms 3 & 4).
Certainly, there were many stories about the Greek gods (or others) descending/ascending, in different human forms, but it is from high places to the earth below.
Earl appears to agree: "To undergo such things [pain, blood & death], the god had to come down to humanity's territory." (p. 103). However, a few lines later, he suggests this "humanity's territory" was thought to include the air "between the earth and the moon", in the "spirit realm"!
Really! Which human beings were thought then to have colonized the air? Doherty does not provide any evidence.
And do we have any example of an ancient god descending to the air only (not all the way down to earth!), and experiencing pain, blood &/or death? As it is usually the case, Doherty does not provide the primary evidence to support his claim (except for Attis, which I totally refuted earlier). Personally I know of none. Who does?
Note: as I will show later, the Jewish scriptures and the NT consider the domain of the clouds and the flying birds as part of the heavens, not humanity's territory.
And on the theme of "descending/ascending god", if Jesus was earthly and also later believed to be a pre-existent and then resurrected heavenly Deity, of course we would have, as an implied consequence, descent and ascent!

After quoting Philippians 2:6-11 "... Bearing the human likeness, revealed in human shape, he humbled himself, and in obedience accepted even death ..." (NEB), Earl remarks that "this divinity took on a likeness to base, material form, but never does it say that he became an actual man, much less give him a life on earth."
But does not death indicate a mortal fleshly condition?
Furthermore Paul wrote Jesus had been a man (as Adam), without any word invoking "likeness":
1 Corinthians 15:21-22 Darby "For since by man [came] death, by man also resurrection of [those that are] dead. For as in the Adam all die, thus also in the Christ all shall be made alive."
Romans 5:15 Darby "... much rather has the grace of God, and the free gift in grace, which [is] by the one man Jesus Christ, abounded unto the many."
And because the Son is an eternal heavenly entity for Paul, then expressions like "human likeness" and "human shape" would be expected in order to describe the incarnation as atypical/abnormal/temporary:
a) Homer, 'The Iliad', Book 5 "... now Ares [god of war] is with him [Hektor] in the likeness of mortal man."
b) Herodotus, 'Histories', Book 7, Chapter 56 "It is said that when Xerxes [the Persian king] had now crossed the Hellespont, a man of the Hellespont cried, O Zeus, why have you taken the likeness of a Persian man and changed your name to Xerxes, ..."
c) Apollodorus, 'Library and Epitome', Book 1, Chapter 9 "But Poseidon in the likeness of Enipeus lay with her, and she secretly gave birth to twin sons ..."
d) Jewish author Philo of Alexandria, (died 45-50), 'On dreams', I, (238) "God at times assumes the likeness of the angels, as he sometimes assumes even that of men"
e) Philo, 'Questions and answers on Genesis', I, (92) "... these giants were sprung from ... angels and mortal women; for the substance of angels is spiritual; but it occurs every now and then that on emergencies occurring they have imitated the appearance of men, and transformed themselves so as to assume the human shape; [and then fathered children with mortal women on earth (extrapolated from Ge6:4):] as they did on this occasion, when forming connexions with women for the production of giants."
f) Acts 14:11-12 NKJV "Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker."
g) 'The Ascension of Isaiah' 4:2-3 (quoted next in where Beliar (Satan), from the firmament, comes down to earth as Nero (through an earthly mother!) "in the likeness of a man".

2.5. The descent of the Son:

For Doherty, the main evidence about a descending Son/god is "in a Jewish/Christian piece of writing called the Ascension of Isaiah". He asserts "here we can find corroboration for this picture of a divine Son who descends into the lower reaches of the heavens to be crucified by the demon spirits."
This text appears to be composite, originally Jewish parts recycled with Christian insertions & additions (some Gnostic, others Orthodox). Here is Doherty's own appraisal: "... the several surviving manuscripts differ considerably in wording, phrases and even whole sections. It has been subjected to much editing in a complicated and uncertain pattern of revision." But later Earl will know for sure which parts are reliable and early! (which happen to be the ones fitting his agenda!!!)

2.5.1. Dating of 'the Ascension of Isaiah':
It is normally dated 120-200 in its final (Christian) edition; that's some two to five generations after Paul's times, and after the writing of gospels, and during the Gnostic era! This dating is somewhat justified by strong docetist innuendoes in the Christian parts (except 3:13-4:18). Let's review them:
a) 9:13 "... He has descended and been made in your form [Isaiah], and they will think that He is flesh and is a man."
In Marcion's gospel (130-140), Jesus suddenly appears as a human adult (but in a docetist body) coming down (from heaven) to Capernaum.
Note: however 9:13 might refer to the incarnation (through an earthly woman), making the Son look like a man (instead of a heavenly divine entity, his normal state).
b) 10:17 to 10:30: the Son keeps changing his appearance in order not to be detected when he goes down through the lower heavens and below. This is also implied in:
10:14 "... And Thou wilt not be transformed in each heaven, ..." (when coming back up)
c) Mary gives birth without experiencing labour pain (11:14). The same is described for the "virgin" in 'Odes of Solomon' (100-200), relative to the Son's birth, in a Gnostic passage (Ode 19).
d) 11:17 "And I saw: In Nazareth He sucked the breast as a babe and as is customary in order that He might not be recognized."
Jesus does not need food even if he ingests it. This is very similar to what Gnostic Valentinus (120-160) thought, as reported by Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, III, 59:
"And Valentinus says in the letter to Agathopus: "Jesus endured all things and was continent; it was his endeavour to earn a divine nature; he ate and drank in a manner peculiar to himself, and the food did not pass out of his body. Such was the power of his continence that food was not corrupted within him ...""

Note: the Christian interpolations look very much dependent on the gospels, more so Matthew's:
a) 3:13 "He should before the sabbath be crucified"
b) 3:14: the sepulchre is watched.
c) 3:16: the sepulchre is open by angels "on the third day".
d) 11:2-5,15 "And they took Him, and went to Nazareth in Galilee."
f) 11:19-20 "... they delivered Him to the king, and crucified Him ... In Jerusalem indeed I was Him being crucified on a tree" (in true docetist fashion, Isaiah is substituted to Jesus on the cross! For Gnostic Basilides (120-140), it is Simon of Cyrene --Irenaeus, AH, I, 24, 4. Note: according to other text(s), Jesus himself is crucified, invalidating my previous comment) The following passage strongly alludes to Nero executing Peter (64-68). But the martyrdom of Peter under Nero appears in Christian literature not earlier than towards the end of the second century!
4:2-3 "After it is consummated, Beliar the great ruler, the king of this world, will descend, who hath ruled it since it came into being; yea, he will descent from his firmament in the likeness of a man, a lawless king, the slayer of his mother [Agrippina]: who himself (even) this king will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted. Of the Twelve one will be delivered into his hands." (however "of the twelve ... hands" might be a late interpolation) Here is a clear expression of the Trinity, which, outside pertaining to baptism(s), became documented only in the latter part of the second century:
8:18 "And there they [angels of the 6th heaven]: all named the primal Father and His Beloved, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, all with one voice." In his vision, when in the 7th heaven, Isaiah sees "holy Abel", Adam and Seth (chapter 9). This is very much Gnostic, more so for Seth, a minor figure in the OT, but most important in second century Christian Gnosticism, as evidenced in the Apocryphon of John (120-180). Also in the aforementioned work are the "seven heavens", a belief shared by the many Gnostic followers of Valentinus (120-160). And according to Irenaeus, the doctrine of the Gnostic Ophites & Sethians incorporated a descent through the seven heavens (to earth!) by Christ taking different forms along the way ('Against Heresies', I, XXX, 12).
Emil Schürer writes: "An apocryphal work containing an account of the martyrdom of Isaiah is repeatedly mentioned by Origen [184�254]. He simply calls it an αποκρυφον, tells us nothing of its contents beyond the statement that Isaiah had been sawn asunder, and plainly describes it as a Jewish production. Again in the Constitutiones apostol. reference is made merely in a general way to an Apocryphum Ησαιου. On the other hand, in the list of the canon edited by Montfaucon, Pitra, and others there is a more precise mention of a Ησαιου ορασις. Epiphanius [310�403], knows of an αναβατικον Ησαιου, which was in use among the Archnotics and the Hieracites. Jerome [347-420], speaks of an Ascensio Isaiae. It is extremely probable that these references are not all to one and the same work, that, on the contrary, Origen had in view a purely Jewish production, while the others referred to a Christian version of it, or to some Christian work quite independent of it."
C. Detlef G. Müller writes (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, pp. 604-605): "Composition and date: in its present form the Ascensio Isaiae is a Christian work, which was put together at the earliest in the second half of the 2nd century."
Other scholars have somewhat different opinions. This is what they concluded:
"We have also suggested that the Ascension of Isaiah belongs among writings which reflect prophetic conflict and which date from the end of the first century or the beginning of the second."(Hall, Robert G.. (1990). The Ascension of Isaiah: Community Situation, Date, and Place in Early Christianity. Journal of Biblical Literature. 109 (2), p. 306.)
From the same article: "J. Flemming and H. Duensing date the substance of the first half, The Martyrdom of Isaiah, into the first century and the second half or Vision of Isaiah vaguely in the second century, but hazard no guess as to when the two halves were joined?
M. Knibb dates the Martyrdom before the first century, the Christian apocalypse (Asc. Is. 3:13-4:22) to the end of the first century, and the Vision to the second century, but he dates the combination of these sources to the third or fourth century CE.
R. H. Charles dates all the parts to the end of the first century or earlier, but finds it impossible to date the final compilation of the work with any precision. He speculates that it achieved its final form early in the third century CE, perhaps back as far as the second.
E. Tisserant dates the Vision to 150 CE and the final compilation shortly following.
J. M. T. Barton agrees with Charles that the last part of the second century is a possible date for the finished work.
On the other hand, E. C. Burkitt, who argues that the Ascension can be read as a literary unity, dates the completed Ascension early in the second century.
Recently, P.C. Borihas argued that the Latin (L2) and Slavonic recensions of the Vision presuppose an anti-Montanist revision and concludes that the original text of the Ascension of Isaiah is pre-Montanist
[2nd half of 2nd century].
M. Simonetti finds the Christology of the Ascension compatible with the early second century dating implied by Bori�s analysis."

But do the Christian additions confirm that the Son gets crucified "into the lower reaches of the heavens", as Earl contends? Let's look at the evidence.

2.5.2. Where is the Son crucified in 'the Ascension of Isaiah'?
It is obvious that in chapter 11 the crucifixion occurs in Jerusalem (11:19-20 previously quoted) (11:2-22 does not appear in some early MSSs and some scholars called for later interpolation). But what about the other Christian passages?
a) In 3:13-4:22, we have: "the children of Israel" "torture" the Son and have him "crucified with wicked men" and then "buried in the sepulchre" (3:13-14). It does not look we are in the lower reaches of the heavens here, with the demon spirits! This is earth!
b) 9:13-17: that's the key passage for Doherty (carefully extracted from the rest!).
Note: according to him (no reason given!), it is one of two passages which "seem" to come from an "earlier strata" and written "probably towards the end of the first century".
But in it we read:
9:16-17 "[After "they will crucify Him on a tree" (9:14)] And when He hath plundered the angel of death, He will ascend on the third day, ... And then many of the righteous will ascend with Him, whose spirits do not receive their garments till the Lord Christ ascend and they ascend with Him."
These righteous can only be dead ones (under the guard of "the angel of death"). So the joint ascension of "the Lord Christ" and those righteous has to start from earth (at the highest!).
Let's note that on page 96, Doherty places Sheol in the underworld but still maintains, ten pages later: "... this Son is to descend to the lower world, where he will be killed and rise, rescuing the souls of the righteous dead from Sheol as he reascends to the highest heaven."
My questions to Earl: where is that "lower world", in which the Son is killed and then rises? From where are the righteous ascending? Are they not ascending with the Son?

However Doherty claims "Thus the crucifixion is something perpetrated by the supernatural powers and takes place in the spiritual world." And earlier, on the same page (p. 107), he wrote "To undergo his fate, the Son will descend to the firmament where Satan and his evil angels dwell."
I already partly refuted these unsubstantiated assertions. But there is still more evidence against Doherty's claims. Let's reveal them by answering these questions:
a) In 'the Ascension of Isaiah', is the Son arrested in the firmament?
b) If Satan and his evil angels are involved in the crucifixion, does that mean it was not on earth?
2.5.3. The Son goes through the firmament to earth:
This is according to these verses:
A) 10:29-31 "And again [from 1st heaven] He descended into the firmament where dwelleth the ruler of this world, and He gave the password to those on the left, and His form was like theirs, and they did not praise Him there; but they were envying one another and fighting; for here there is a power of evil and envying about trifles. And I saw when He descended [below the firmament and into the air!] and made Himself like unto the angels of the air,
[when down in the air, the Son changes state from the one he had earlier into the firmament]
and He was like one of them. And He gave no password; for one was plundering and doing violence to another."

Let's go back to:
9:13 "... when He has descended and been made in your form [Isaiah], and they will think that He is flesh and is a man."
Where would the Son get the human form? In the air or on earth?
But 10:30 states, when in the air below the firmament, the Son "made Himself like unto the angels of the air, and He was like one of them."
Therefore the author thought the Son as becoming man-like on earth, not in the air!

B) 10:8 "Go forth and descent through all the heavens, and you will descent to the firmament and that world [earth: see next]: to the angel in Sheol you will descend, but to Haguel [hell] you will not go."
In the two closest previous occurrences of "that world", at 9:20 & 9:26, the expression means "earth".
- 9:20-23 "Show me how everything which is done in that world [earth, confirmation later] is here [7th heaven] made known." And whilst I [Isaiah] was still speaking with him, behold one of the angels who stood nigh, ... who had raised me up from the world [earth: ch.7:2-3]. Showed me a book, and he opened it, and the book was written, but not as a book of this world [not written on earth]. And he gave (it) to me and I read it, and lo! the deeds of the children of Israel were written therein, and the deeds of those whom I know (not), my son Josab. And I said: "In truth, there is nothing hidden in the seventh heaven, which is done in this world [earth again].""
- 9:24-26 "And I [Isaiah] saw there many garments laid up [in the highest heaven], and many thrones and many crowns. And I said to the angel: "Whose are these garments and thrones and crowns?" And he said unto me: "These garments many from that world [Christians from earth (where else!)] will receive [in the future!] believing in the words of That One, ... and they will observe those things, and believe in them, and believe in His cross: for them are these laid up.""
All occurrences of "world" from 9:20 to 10:7 are for the earth. Why would the next "world" (at 10:8) mean the firmament or the air below it? More so when, in the 'Ascension of Isaiah', the firmament (and/or the air below) is never considered a world on its own!
a) At other times, in 'Ascension of Isaiah', the lower "world" (ruled by Satan & demons) is comprised of the firmament, the earth & the air in between.
b) Richard Carrier, in his critique on this article of mine, admits the Son goes through the (main) firmament, according to 'Ascension of Isaiah' (10:29-31, previously quoted):
"The aer [air] corresponds to the lower level of the firmament (it is the last stop above the "lower waters" that God has separated out from the firmament). Still, one can imagine that this was at some point mapped onto an angel who went all the way down to earth (through Docetism)."
- But there is nothing in 'Ascension of Isaiah' suggesting the Son stops in mid-air and the author thought about the waters of Genesis. And the lower waters, that Richard is alluding to, are the seas, on earth, not hanging between the later and the moon.
Genesis 1:9-10 Darby "And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together to one place, and let the dry [land] appear. And it was so. And God called the dry [land] Earth, and the gathering together of the waters he called Seas."
- Would the alleged docetist inspiration date this particular passage well into the 2nd century?
2.5.4. Satan can kill people on earth also (from heaven!):
The OT book of Job demonstrates the belief that Satan could inflict havoc on earth and have a long reach, with or without leaving heaven. According to an arrangement between Satan and God, Satan is allowed to test Job and to destroy everything dear to him (his cattle, servants and children).
a) 1:15: Satan employs the Sabeans to steal animals and to kill servants.
b) 1:16: Satan sends fire from the sky and burns sheep & servants.
c) 1:17: Satan uses the Chaldeans to take the camels and to murder servants.
d) 1:18-19: Satan arranges for a mighty wind to kill Job's own daughters and sons.
And the Christian interpolator probably knew about 'Job'. Let's consider:
Job 1:11 NKJV ""But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he [Job] has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD."
and, from 'the Ascension of Isaiah':
9:14 "And the god of that world [Satan] will stretch forth his hand against the Son, and they will lay their hands upon him and hang him upon a tree, not knowing who he is."
Note: here, Satan will eventually identify the Son and take action against him; but the "they", who are the ones actually doing the "hanging", do not know him! It does not look Satan and the others belong to the same clique! But, according to the synoptic gospels, the Romans would qualify for the "they"!
2.5.5. Satan and his evil angels can also be on earth:
Let's go back to the book of Job:
Job 1:7 NKJV "And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.""
and 'the Ascension of Isaiah':
4:2 "... Beliar [Satan] the great ruler, the king of this world, will descend, who hath ruled it since it came into being; yea, he will descent from his firmament [to earth, according to the context of 4:2-3 (but 'earth' is never specified!)] ..."
7:9 "And we ascended to the firmament, I and he, and there I saw Sammael and his hosts, and there was great fighting therein and the angels of Satan were envying one another. And as above so on the earth also ..."
Note: in the gospels, 'Satan on earth' is featured in the 'temptation in the desert' (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-14) and Luke 22:3 (NIV "Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, ...", enabling the arrest leading to the crucifixion).

So all the main arguments of Doherty for a crucifixion in some demonic lower heaven, as appearing in his section "the descent of the Son" in chapter 10, are unfounded. And that goes against the evidence from the ancient text of Earl's own choosing!

Note: in his meandering fuzzy discussion in order to suggest Jesus is crucified into the firmament (despite the clear-cut evidence against it!) Doherty lacks accuracy (purposely?):
a) Earl writes on page 107: "this hanging is something performed by "the god of this world," meaning Satan." But the hanging in question is never said to be done by Satan/the_god_of_this_world, neither in Paul's epistles, nor 'Ascension of Isaiah'. Doherty is therefore misleading here. And as we saw, no hanging occurs when the Son is going down through the firmament.
b) Also on page 107, Earl affirms "As in 1 Corinthians 2:8 and Colossians 2:15, one of the Son's tasks will be the conquest of the demon spirits." However, '1 Corinthians' does not say that at all:
1 Corinthians 2:8 (NKJV): "None of the rulers of this age understood it [God's wisdom], for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
Nowhere here there is a mention of conquest of spirits. Colossians l2:15 may suggest it (but not written by Paul, according to Earl, myself and many critical scholars).
c) Doherty keeps referring to the analogies (true or not!) with 1 Corinthians 2:8. Did he occur to him the author(s) of 'Ascension of Isaiah' may have known about Paul's epistle?
Especially when Earl (p. 108) thinks "Mark" knew about 'Ascension of Isaiah' and just replaced the flying demons of the aforementioned writing "by new, humanized demons: the Jews"!
d) On page 96, Doherty places Sheol below earth (as believed in antiquity):
"Near the bottom ... lay humanity's sphere, the material earth; only Sheol or Hades, the underworld, was lower."
But on page 108, when the Sheol of 'Ascension of Isaiah' needs to be above earth (so the Son does not have to go too far down!), we read:
"Outside of this one passage,
[reference to part of "Chapter 11", according to Doherty. However, relating to earthly surroundings, there is a second one: 3:13-4:22]
the Son's activities seem to relate entirely to the spirit realm, layers of heaven extending through the firmament and including Sheol."

If the location becomes against your theory, change it!

2.6. Is there evidence in Paul's epistles about the crucifixion on earth?

Yes, there is (twice!). It may not be the most direct, but certainly is a lot better than whatever Doherty has for his own demonic world!

1) Ro 11:26-27 Darby
"And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "the Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob [Israel (Ge 32:28)]; for this is My covenant with them [Jews], when I take away their sins.""

What "is written" is a combination of parts from two OT passages, with alterations by Paul in order to fit his agenda (the Jews will convert, even if they didn't so far!):
- Isa 59:20-21a NKJV ""The Redeemer [here, it is God himself!] will come to Zion ["to" = "for the sake of" in the LXX], and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," Says the LORD."As for Me," says the LORD, "this is My covenant with them: ...""
- Isa 27:9a NKJV "Therefore by this the iniquity of Jacob will be covered; and this is all the fruit of taking away his sin: ..."

For Paul, the "Deliverer" (Savior) of the Jews is undoubtedly Christ, by his death for atonement of sins. This is corroborated by:
- Ro 3:9 NKJV "... we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin ..."
- Gal 4:4-5a YLT "God sent forth His Son, come of a woman, come under law, that those under law [that would include Jews!] he may redeem, ..."
- Gal 1:3b-4a NKJV "... Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us ..."
- Ro 5:8b Darby "... we being still sinners, Christ has died for us."

And Paul kept "Zion" despite his rewriting. But why did he substitute"to/for the sake of" by "out of"?
Likely for not suggesting Jesus came for "delivering" only the Jews of Israel. Instead Paul implied:
- Jesus becomes the "Deliverer" when performing his redeeming act "out of" Zion,
- The "Deliverer" (Jesus) is "out of" (from) Zion.

I'll comment later on "Zion", which is consistently a geographical location in the Old Testament; it is certainly the case in Isa 28:16.

Note: Carrier did not address Ro 11:26-27 in OHJ.

2) Ro 9:31-33:
"But Israel, pursuing after a law of righteousness, has not attained to [that] law. Wherefore? Because [it was] not on the principle of faith, but as of works. They have stumbled at the stumblingstone, according as it is written, Behold, I [God] place in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence ['skandalon']: and he that believes [has faith] on him [Jesus. See 10:11 below where Paul used the same quote, eleven verses later] shall not be ashamed ['ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ' αὐτῷ οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται']."

Ro 10:9-11 "that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from among the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart is believed to righteousness; and with the mouth confession made to salvation. For the scripture says, he that believes on him [definitively Jesus here] shall not be ashamed ['ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ' αὐτῷ οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται']."

a) What "is written" is parts of Isa 8:14 & Isa 28:16, with significant rewriting by Paul in order to fit his purpose:
- Isa 8:14 NKJV "He [the Lord God] will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense [NOT translated as 'skandalon' in the LXX!] to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem."
- Isa 28:16 NKJV "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I lay in Zion [Jerusalem] a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.""
For Paul, the "rock of offence" for the Jews is "Christ crucified" or his cross ("For Christ is [the] end of law for righteousness to every one that believes." Ro 10:4 Darby)
by his sacrifice on the cross ("... for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." Gal 2:21 NKJV)
whom the Jews are still refusing ("For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted to the righteousness of God [brought about by Christ!]." Ro 10:3 Darby).

And why would "offen(s)ce" mean "Christ crucified" or his cross?
Because, according to Paul:
- 1 Cor 1:23 YLT "... Christ crucified, to Jews, indeed, a stumbling-block ['skandalon' (also translated as "offenc(s)e")] ..."
- Gal 5:11 NKJV "... the offense ['skandalon'] of the cross ..."
- Generally Ro 10-11 (about Jews not acknowledging Christ), as in the next quote:
Ro 11:9-10 NASB "And David says: "Let their table [Israel's] become a snare and a trap, and a stumbling block ['skandalon'] and a retribution to them. Let their eyes be darkened to see not, ..."" (quoted from Ps 69:22-23)

Finally, about the Law (with the associated righteousness) being replaced by one of faith in Christ & God:
- Php 3:9 NKJV "... not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;"

And despite all the deletions and changes, Paul kept "in Zion" as the location of the 'skandalon'/crucifixion.

Note: how does Carrier in "On The History Of Jesus" (OHJ) counteract that damning piece of evidence?
Here it is, from page 572:
"Paul likewise says God put 'in Zion a stone of stumbling' although anyone who trusts in it will not be ashamed (Rom. 9.33); but he is quoting scripture here (not citing a historical fact), and the context is the Torah and the gospel (Rom. 9.30-32), not Jesus. Thus Paul does not mean Jesus was crucified 'in Zion' as some sort of geographical fact. Even if Paul believed he had been (as could be the case on minimal historicity), that is not what Paul is talking about here. The subject is not Jesus at all, but the old Torah law that Jews were still trying to obey, yet could never succeed at (Rom. 9.30-10.6). They are thus stumbling over the gospel's concept that faith succeeds where works fail (9.32), as God intended (9.33); but it was still Paul's hope that the Jews would be saved (Rom. 10.1)." It is thus the gospel that originated 'in Zion'. And even that is not geography but ethnography: he simply means it originated within Judaism."

Paul's gospel is never considered a 'skandalon' anywhere else in his epistles (or just shameful), but the crucifixion of Jesus is, for Jews (and others), as I have shown.
And in 'Hebrews' (12:2), we have "... Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame ..."
Also, it would be absurd for Paul to suggest his gospel originated in Zion (= within Judaism according to Carrier!), when Paul claimed his gospel came by revelation from Jesus Christ (Gal 1:12).

Appendix: 'Zion' in the OT
All over the OT, 'Zion' is referred many times, as indicating an earthly place, either the heartland of the Jews or the holy city itself. Here are some examples (all quotes from the NKJV):
2 Sa 5:7 "Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David)."
1 Ki 8:1 "Now Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the City of David, which is Zion."
Ps 2:6 "Yet I [David] have set My King on My holy hill of Zion."
Ps 48:1-13 "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion ..., the city of the great King. God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge. ...
We have thought, O God, on Your loving kindness, in the midst of Your temple. ...
Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count her towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following."

Isa 1:7-8 "Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence; and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, as a hut in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city." (in 701 BCE, the Assyrian army devastated Judah, including its cities, except for Jerusalem which was saved. Same situation for the next quote)
Isa 4:3 "Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem."
Isa 10:24 "Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: "O My people, who dwell in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrian. ..."
Isa 33:20 "Look on Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken."
Isa 64:10-11 "Your holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
Our holy and beautiful temple, where our fathers praised You, is burned up with fire;
And all our pleasant things are laid waste." (in the second part of 'Isaiah', the Babylonian army had destroyed Jerusalem. Same situation for the next quote)
Jer 26:18 "Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts "Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, ..."'"

a) In the OT (and more recent Jewish texts (2nd cent. BCE to 2nd cent. CE), such as 'Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach', '2 Esdras', DSS 'The prayer for king Jonathan'), 'Z(S)ion' is never identified as a (mythical) heavenly place. The same goes for its seven occurrences in the NT (Mt 21:5; Jn 12:15; Ro 9:13, 11:26; Heb 12:22; Pe 4:6 & Rev 14:1) but not, at times, for 'Jerusalem' (Gal 4:26 "the Jerusalem that is above"; Heb 12:22 "the heavenly Jerusalem"; Rev 21:2 "the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven").
And other Christian writings from antiquity never specify that '(mount) Z(S)ion' was mythical/heavenly, up to Eusebius (early 4th century). In his 'History of the Church' (X, 4), he wrote: "But the region above the heavens, with the models of earthly things which are there, and the so-called Jerusalem above, and the heavenly Mount of Zion, and the supramundane city of the living God ..."

b) 'Mount Z(S)ion' in Heb 12:22 & Rev 14:1 is often interpreted as being heavenly (but never claimed as such before Eusebius). But regarding just 'Z(S)ion', as in Ro 9:31-33 & Ro 11:26-27, it was Augustine (354-430) who started to suggest 'Sion' was heavenly by having it stand for the city of God (& the Church) and the (eternal) Jerusalem:
Exposition on Psalm 99,4 "Ask thou now, what is Sion? We know Sion to be the city of God. The city of Jerusalem is called Sion; ... But, now that it is clear that Sion is the city of God; what is the city of God, but the Holy Church?"
Exposition on Psalm 126,2 "What is Sion? Jerusalem, the same is also the eternal Sion."

Furthermore, the "Zion" of Ro 9:31-33 & Ro 11:26-27, as the place for the crucifixion/Sacrifice cannot be imagined in God's heaven (because death cannot occur there, according to Doherty and Christian, Jewish & Gentile beliefs then).

But despite this evidence (and others), Doherty asserts: "Before the Gospels ... no record exists that he was ever in the city of Jerusalem at all-- or anywhere else on earth." (p. 141)

2.7. 'Hebrews' and the sacrifice in heaven:

On page 120, Doherty valiantly declares: "No other New Testament document so clearly illustrates the higher and lower world thinking of Platonic philosophy as the epistle to the Hebrews." Then he continues: "The writer places the sacrifice in heaven itself, in "the real sanctuary, the tent pitched by the Lord and not by man" (8:2)".
Let's observe the whole aforementioned verse (with the preceding one):
Hebrews 8:1-2 YLT "And the sum concerning the things spoken of [is]: we have such a chief priest [Jesus], who did sit down at the right hand of the throne of the greatness in the heavens, of the holy places ['Hagion'] a servant, and of the true tabernacle [tent, shelter], which the Lord did set up, and not man,"
I do not see here (or in the whole of 'Hebrews'!) a "sacrifice" occurring in heaven (at the right hand of God!). And there is no mention of execution, cross or altar in these two verses. Just that Jesus, as the Lord in heaven, is a servant/minister of the holy places & "true" tabernacle.
And from which translation does "the real sanctuary" come from? In the Greek, there is no "real" in front of "sanctuary"!
Let's also note 'Hagion' does not necessarily mean "sanctuary" (which can be understood as "temple" (Greek: 'hieron'), never occurring in 'Hebrews'!). Furthermore, sacrifices in the old Jewish system took place always outside any tabernacle.

a) I note Doherty does not include 8:1b when he quotes part of 8:2 (both bits in the same sentence). For good reasons! Because 8:1b places the so-called sacrifice at the right hand of God, that is the highest heaven, where, according to Doherty (and Platonic, Jewish & Christian beliefs), death cannot occur!
There is another occurrence in 'Hebrews' where Jesus, when in heaven, sit at the right hand of God: "But *he*, having offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity at [the] right hand of God" (Darby 10:12)
b) I have to address a point that Richard Carrier raised on the critique of my page:
"No, they took place inside it: Hebrews 9:6-8. There is an outer and an inner tabernacle. The sacrifice takes place in the outer and the blood is taken to the inner, where it must be poured on the altar."
First Hebrews 9:6-8 never even suggests what Richard claims:
Darby "Now these things being thus ordered, into the first tabernacle the priests enter at all times, accomplishing the services; but into the second, the high priest only, once a year, not without blood, which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people: the Holy Spirit shewing this, that the way of the [holy of] holies has not yet been made manifest while as yet the first tabernacle has [its] standing;"
Actually 'Hebrews' itself opposes Carrier:
Hebrews 13:11-12 NKJV "For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate."

All over the OT, and in the temple of Jerusalem, sacrifices were performed outside, on altar(s) in the open air:
a) Exodus 40:6-7 Darby "And thou shalt set the altar of burnt-offering before the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar, and shalt put water in it."
b) Exodus 40:33 Darby "And he set up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the curtain of the gate of the court. And so Moses finished the work."
c) 1 Kings 8:64 Darby "The same day the king hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of Jehovah; for there he offered the burnt-offerings, and the oblations, and the fat of the peace-offerings, because the brazen altar that was before Jehovah was too small to receive the burnt-offerings, and the oblations, and the fat of the peace-offerings."
d) 2 Kings 21:4b-5 Darby "... Jehovah had said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars to all the host of heaven in both courts of the house of Jehovah."
e) Josephus' Wars, V, 5, 1 "the plain at the top was hardly sufficient for the holy house and the altar"
Wars, V, V, 6 "Before this temple stood the altar"
f) 1 Clement 41:2 "Not in every place, brethren, are the continual daily sacrifices offered, or the freewill offerings, or the sin offerings and the trespass offerings, but in Jerusalem alone. And even there the offering is not made in every place, but before the sanctuary in the court of the altar"

Note: the altar referred above was for animal sacrifice. Another altar (the one of incense) was inside the outer tabernacle/sanctum, but was not used for ritual animal killings. And there was no altar into the inner tabernacle/sanctum.

Then Doherty goes on: "the act of bringing his [Christ's] own "blood" to the heavenly sanctuary" "portrayed as a higher world counterpart to the action of the high priest on earth".
But the (bringing of) "blood" indicates the sacrifice happens before the Son (by then resurrected!) enters the "true" holy places, which is in heaven, according to:
Hebrews 9:24 YLT "for not into holy places made with hands did the Christ enter -- figures of the true -- but into the heaven itself, ..."
Note: in order to enter heaven, one has to be outside of it first!

Therefore Christ would have become "a great high priest" below the heavens, and then went up (bringing his blood) to the highest heaven, God's residence, as well stated here: "Having therefore a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, now to be manifested in the presence of God for us;" (Hebrews 4:14 Darby).
Important remark:
In the scriptures (of which the author of 'Hebrews' had an extensive knowledge!), the domain of the winds, clouds & flying birds/fowls is considered part of the heavens (Greek root 'ouranos' in the LXX, as in previously quoted Hebrews 4:14, 8:1 & 9:24):
Genesis 1:20
Genesis 1:26 YLT "And God saith, `Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them rule over fish of the sea, and over fowl of the heavens, and over cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that is creeping on the earth.'"
Genesis 1:28, 1:30, 2:19, 2:20, 6:7, 7:3, 7:23, 9:2; Deuteronomy 28:26; 1 Samuel 17:44 ,17:46 ,21:10; 1 Kings 16:4
1 Kings 18:45 KJV "And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel."
Job 20:6; Ecclesiastes 10:20; Jeremiah 4:25, 7:33, 15:3, 16:4, 19:7; Ezekiel 29:5, 31:6, 32:4, 38:20; Daniel 4:12, 4:21, 7:13; Hosea 4:3, 7:12; Zephaniah 1:3
According to the above, "... passed through the heavens ..." (Hebrews 4:14) would require earth as the highest starting point!

a) The synoptic gospels and 'Acts' acknowledge the same (about the lowest heaven):
Mark 4:4 YLT "and it came to pass, in the sowing, some fell by the way, and the fowls of the heaven did come and devour it;"
Mark 4:32
Mark 14:62 KJV "And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
Matthew 6:26, 8:20, 13:32, 24:30, 26:64; Luke 8:5, 8:58, 13:19; Acts 10:12, 11:6
b) In 2 Corinthians 12:2-3, Paul claimed to have gone to "third heaven"/"paradise" in order to meet Christ. "paradise" appears to be the equivalent of the heavenly Kingdom, where (good) Christians would join Christ in the future:
2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV "... we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven ..."
Philippians 3:20a NKJV "But our citizenship is in heaven. ..."
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Darby "... and thus we shall be always with [the] Lord."
But where would Jesus reside in the heavens? Close to God, in the highest one:
Romans 8:34 Darby "... Christ who has died, but rather has been [also] raised up; who is also at the right hand of God ..."
Therefore, it is most likely a "three heavens" concept was adopted here.
What about the intermediate heaven, the second one?
That would be the starry firmament (with sun & moon), between the air and God's heaven, as defined in Genesis 1:14,15,17, 15:5, 22:17, 26:4; Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 4:19, 10:22, 28:62; 1 Chronicles 27:23; Nehemiah 9:23; Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:25; Hebrews 11:12; Revelation 6:13, 12:1,4. (heaven='ouranos' in LXX and NT)
Let's also say that crucifixions (a non-religious execution) were NOT set in any Jewish sanctuary (including the sacred grounds surrounding it!). And in 'Hebrews' Jesus is mentioned to have been crucified: 6:6 & 12:2 "Jesus ... endured [the] cross, having despised [the] shame ..." (Darby).

For Doherty, the Sacrifice in 'Hebrews' is only about the offering of mythical blood inside the heavenly tabernacle/tent. Sure, according to that, this so-called "sacrifice" is fully heavenly. But never in 'Hebrews' this blood offering is called a sacrifice! And did the author of 'Hebrews' never suggest the body of Christ as sacrificed? Let's look at the evidence:
Hebrews 7:27 Darby "[Jesus] who has not day by day need, as the high priests, first to offer up sacrifices [ritual killing of animals] for his own sins, then [for] those of the people; for this he did once for all [in] having offered up himself [not just presented his own blood!]."
Hebrews 9:26 Darby "... But now once in the consummation of the ages he has been manifested ['fanerow'/'phaneroo'] for [the] putting away of sin by his sacrifice [no mention of "offering" of blood here!]."
Hebrews 10:10 Darby "... we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

Note: the "offering" here is more than just some blood! And the "body" is very human in 'Hebrews' as in:
2:14 NKJV "... the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death ..."
and 2:17 NKJV "... in all things He had to be made like His brethren [two verses later, the "brethen" are the Christians] ..."
And the death of Jesus enables the all important second covenant (without blood offering in heaven!):
Hebrews 9:13-15 Darby "For if the blood of goats and bulls [which were killed/sacrificed when getting their blood!], ..., sanctifies for the purity of the flesh, how much rather shall the blood of the Christ [after death/crucifixion], ..., purify your conscience ...? And for this reason he is mediator of a new covenant, so that, death [of Jesus] having taken place for redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, the called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."

Therefore the offering of blood in the highest heaven is only a (mythical) ritualistic follow-up of the bodily "sacrifice" of Christ, but not the crucifixion itself.
Once again, Doherty is working on some tangent in order to circumvent the evidence.

Notes: in 'Hebrews',
a) the counterpart of the earthly sanctuary (holy places) is heaven.
b) the counterpart of Doherty's "higher world" (the heavens/heaven) is earth itself. No other "world" is mentioned (1:10, 12:26 NKJV "whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven."").
c) right after 12:2, where Jesus endured the cross, the next verse exhorts: "For consider well him who endured so great contradiction from sinners against himself ..." (12:3 Darby). Where were these "sinners" opposing Jesus? Considering Hebrews 7:25-26 NASB, "... He [Jesus] always lives to make intercession for them [Christians], ... a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners ...", the sinners are not in the highest heaven!
And sins are never suggested to be committed by demonic powers, those later ones not even acknowledged in the epistle, except for one reference to the devil (singular!): Hebrews 2:14. Instead, sins concern earthly humans (Hebrews 2:17, 3:13, 5:1-3, 7:27, 8:12, 10:2-4, 16-17,26, 11:25, 12:1,4).

Further on, Doherty declares "He [the author of 'Hebrews'] has said that Christ's sacrifice is "spiritual, eternal and unblemished" (9:14)". If the sacrifice is spiritual & eternal, it has to be mythical, isn't it? But first, let's check the verse:
Hebrews 9:14 Darby "how much rather shall the blood of the Christ, who by the eternal Spirit offered himself spotless to God, purify your conscience from dead works to worship [the] living God?"
Where is the spiritual & eternal sacrifice? The Spirit is eternal, not the sacrifice. And the later is not qualified as spiritual. And no correct translation can possibly have the sacrifice as "spiritual, eternal, ...", according to the Greek.

Richard Carrier: "I agree. This is not the only place where D. [Doherty] is a little muddled."
Furthermore the following verses specify the "sacrifice" happened once only, in the past:
Hebrews 7:27 NASB "sacrifice ... for this he [Jesus] did once, having offered up himself;"
Hebrews 10:14 Darby "For by one offering he has perfected [Greek perfect tense, indicative. See next note] in perpetuity the sanctified." (the sacrifice occurred already!)
Hebrews 9:26 Darby "But now once in the consummation of the ages he has been manifested ['fanerow'/'phaneroo'. Greek perfect tense, indicative, unnoticed by Doherty: p. 37. See next note] for [the] putting away of sin by his sacrifice." (the "manifestation" & sacrifice have been completed in the near past!)
and it is not exactly "spiritual":
Hebrews 10:19-20 NASB "... by the blood of Jesus, the new and living way which he has dedicated for us through ... his flesh."
a) from this website:
"The force of the [Greek] perfect indicative is simply that it describes an event that, completed in the past, has results existing in the present time (i.e., in relation to the time of the speaker)."
b) Richard Carrier: "There is no doubt that Hebrews said it [the Sacrifice] only happened once, and that it happened in history, a good long time after the first covenant was established, and prior to our own time in history, and that its effect is eternal."

In conclusion, there is no evidence in 'Hebrews' the "sacrifice" happened in the heavens, despite Doherty's best imaginative effort & rhetoric. But there are significant clues pointing to earth. And then, why did the author not specify the heavens or a lower heaven/upper world for Jesus' crucifixion? Why did he consider consistently only two worlds, heavens/heaven and earth (1:10), the former including the firmament (11:12)?

2.8. Hebrews 2:9 & 8:4, another look:

2.8.1. Hebrews 2:9 Darby "but we see Jesus, who [was] made some little inferior to angels on account of the suffering of death, ..."
On this verse Doherty claims (p. 122): "Since this [the sacrifice] was envisioned [by Doherty!] to have taken place within the lower celestial sphere, it placed him, as Hebrews puts it (2:9), "for a short while lower than the angels." ..."
Again Earl is misleading: "lower" (translation of (part of) Greek (root) word 'elattow'/'elassoo') does not suggest a vertically lesser location but rather specifies inferiority in status. Actually 'elattoo'/'elattow' is a verb which means, according to Strong:
"1) to make less or inferior: in dignity
2) to be made less or inferior: in dignity
3) to decrease in authority or popularity"

The same Greek word is also used in John3:30 Darby "He [Jesus] must increase, but I [John the Baptist] must decrease ['elattow']."
I also note:
a) Doherty truncates out from his quote the verbal component (normally rendered as "made"), greatly helping his "mythicist" interpretation.
b) Earl also contradicts himself, because, two pages earlier, as already explained, he places the sacrifice in "the real sanctuary, the tent pitched by the Lord ..." (8:2)", which is, according to 8:1b, at the right hand of God, that is in the highest heaven, NOT in any "lower celestial sphere"!

2.8.2. Hebrews 8:4-5a Darby "If then indeed he were [Greek imperfect tense] upon earth, he would not even be [imperfect] a priest, there being those who offer the gifts according to the law, (who serve [present tense. active, indicative]...)"

In Appendix 5, pages 310-312, Doherty calls it a "startling verse" because the imperfect tense in "he were" "is strictly a past tense" (as rendered by "if he had been on earth"). But he admits "the meaning is probably present, or at least temporally ambiguous, much like the conditional sense in which most other translations render it [as quoted]". That does not prevent Doherty to go into his usual speculations, some founded on argument from silence, such as the author should have specified "now" (but did not!). That leads him to say: "making the statement at all seems to preclude the idea that Jesus had ever performed a sacrifice in the earthly realm." (back to where he started!). I'll counteract that:

A) According to the overall context, Jesus "upon earth" is a supposition. It is relative to Christ functioning as an earthly priest in the present (when the epistle was written). The syntax of Heb8:4 is equivalent of: "if then indeed Bob were in New York city, he would not even be a driver ..." (let's say because of the difficult driving conditions there and Bob being just a passable cabby in his own small city!). But certainly that does not suggest he never visited the Big Apple in the past!

B) There are many examples in the NT with the same grammatical syntax ("if I/you/he/it/we/they were"). Here are some (notice the pattern! That is, in a present reference, the imperfect tense is used for both sides of a contrafactual argument):

Note: all unspecified tenses of verbs are in the Greek aorist, or second aorist, (past) tense.
a) Luke 7:39 Darby "... Pharisee ... saying [present], This [person] if he were [imperfect] a prophet would have known [imperfect] who and what the woman is who touches [present] him, for she is [present] a sinner."
b) John 8:42-43 Darby "... If God were [imperfect] your father ye would have loved me [imperfect], ... Why do ye not know [present] my speech? Because ye cannot hear [present] my word."
c) John 8:39 Darby "They answered and said to him, Abraham is [present] our father. Jesus says [present] to them, If ye were [imperfect] Abraham's children, ye would do [imperfect] the works of Abraham;" (a good example)
d) John 9:33 Darby "If this [man] were not [imperfect] of God he would be able to do [imperfect] nothing."
e) John 9:41 Darby "Jesus said to them, If ye were [imperfect] blind ye would not have sin [imperfect]; but now ye say [present], We see [present], your sin remains [present]."
f) John 15:19 "If ye were [imperfect] of the world, the world would love [imperfect] its own; but because ye are [present] not of the world, but I have chosen you [Jesus' disciples] out of the world, on account of this the world hates [present] you."
This is an excellent example. Please notice that before Jesus chose his disciples, those were "of the world". Being now outside "the world" does not prevent those disciples to have been inside "the world" in the past. That goes completely against Doherty's theory!
g) 1 Corinthians 12:19-22 Darby "But if all were [imperfect] one member, where [no verb! typically Pauline] the body? But now the members [are] many, and the body one. ... the members of the body which seem to be [present] weaker are [present] necessary;"

In the syntax "if X were ... (assumption/hypothesis), then ..." (conditional to previous clause), the imperfect tense in both verbs can be used in a present context. And therefore "were" in Heb 8:4 does not express necessarily a past action.

Obviously Earl never came across the aforementioned evidence because he writes (p. 122) "See Appendix 5 for an examination of one passage in Hebrews [8:4] which virtually tells us that Jesus had never been on earth."

2.9. Miscellaneous notes:

2.9.1. Comments on Appendix 6 "The location of the myths of the Greek savior gods and of Christ" (p. 312-316):
Doherty refers to Plutarch (wrote 80-100) but the quote from this author does not say anything about the "location". However his citation from Apuleius (2nd century) 'the Golden Ass' (a comic/erotic novel!) does include "the gods of the under-world, and the gods of the upper-world". But the original Latin does not have 'world' in it: "deos inferos et deos superos". And once again, Earl goes back to Sallustius (no quote presented) and Julian "the Apostate" (both 4th century authors!), providing this cryptic passage: "the substance which is subject to change mingles with the passionless revolving sphere of the fifth substance." (Orations V, 165c)
which would be the only quotation with some trace of relevance in the whole book!
I also note Doherty is unable to present any external evidence about his idea of the fleshly/demonic lower heaven as written before (or during) Paul's days. For the years afterwards up to Julian's times, we are provided with only a few doubtful whiffs (to be generous!).
2.9.2. Comments on Notes about Chapter 10 (p. 340-342):
Note 46: Doherty lists modern scholars & ancient writers (Origen & Marcion) who believe the "rulers" of 1Co2:8 to be supernatural powers. But,
a) this is not primary evidence.
b) conservative Christians (and Marcion) regard(ed) 'Ephesians' & 'Colossians' as authentically Pauline, and were influenced by Ephesians 3:9-10 & Colossians l2:15 (although not suggesting heavenly rulers/demon spirits crucified Jesus!).
c) modern era writers with "mythicist" tendency would obviously call for cosmic entities.
d) Paul simply did not identify these rulers.
2.9.3. Comments on Richard Carrier's review on Doherty's book: Richard Carrier commented that in Plutarch's Isis and Osiris (written around 90-100), "it is there, in the "outermost areas" (the "outermost part of matter"), that evil has particular dominion, and where Osiris is continually dismembered and reassembled (375a-b)."
Let's check about these outermost areas and where Osiris was dismembered:
- "[s.38] The outmost parts of the land beside the mountains and bordering on the sea the Egyptians call Nephthys. ... Whenever, then, the Nile overflows and with abounding waters spreads far away to those who dwell in the outermost regions ..."
- "[s.59] But where Typhon forces his way in and seizes upon the outermost areas ..."
- "[s.59]... the outermost part of matter which they call Nephthys ..."
- "[s.18] Typhon [the king of Egypt], who was hunting by night in the light of the moon, happened upon it [the chest containing Osiris' body, which Isis found in Byblos (s.16)]. Recognizing the body he divided it into fourteen parts and scattered them, each in a different place. Isis learned of this and sought for them again, sailing through the swamps in a boat of papyrus ... The traditional result of Osiris' dismemberment is that there are many so-called tombs of Osiris in Egypt; for Isis held a funeral for each part when she had found it."
It looks to me the outermost areas are regions around Egypt, called Nephthys (who is also a goddess!), and the remains of Osiris are dispersed in Egypt. Carrier also contended "In effect, Osiris is "incarnated" in the sublunar heaven and actually dies and resurrects there" and "Isis and Osiris were such, but were later exalted into the heavens as full gods (361e)". Let's check again the evidence from Plutarch's Isis and Osiris:

a) Plutarch never used the expression "sublunar heaven", nor did he mention any world/heaven below the moon and above the earth:
"[s.63] that part of the world which undergoes reproduction and destruction is contained underneath the orb of the moon, and all things in it are subjected to motion and to change through the four elements: fire, earth, water, and air."
This part of the world is earth and the air above it!
Once again, I go back to Richard Carrier's critique:
"The sublunar heaven is the firmament, which is indeed a part of everything below the moon. Yes, I used the word heaven in the modern, not ancient sense (the first "heaven" in the ancient sense was above the sublunar aer--though the OT does not yet make that distinction)."
The ancients (as Aristotle and Ptolemy) thought the moon was the most outward (in the earth direction) celestial body. The sun was understood in an orbit beyond the one of the moon, among the planets moving between the moon and the firmament. And the "fixed" stars were on the firmament in front (or part) of "the prime mover sphere". In any case, the firmament was considered behind the moon and therefore not sublunar.

b) Osiris dies on earth, in Egypt specifically:
"[s.13] Typhon, having secretly measured Osiris' body and having made ready a beautiful chest of corresponding size artistically ornamented, caused it to be brought into the room where the festivity was in progress. ... Typhon jestingly promised to present it to the man who should find the chest to be exactly his length when he lay down in it. They all tried it in turn, but no one fitted it; then Osiris got into it and lay down, and those who were in the plot ran to it and slammed down the lid, which they fastened by nails from the outside and also by using molten lead. Then they carried the chest to the river and sent it on its way to the sea through the Tanitic Mouth."
Osiris dies when sealed in the chest which is carried to the Nile and let floating to the Mediterranean sea. It lands near Byblos (Phoenicia/Lebanon):
"[s.15] Thereafter Isis, as they relate, learned that the chest had been cast up by the sea near the land of Byblus and that the waves had gently set it down in the midst of a clump of heather."

c) Prior to his death, Osisis is described as the rightful king of Egypt, and not "incarnated" in any sublunar heaven:
"[s.13] One of the first acts related of Osiris in his reign was to deliver the Egyptians from their destitute and brutish manner of living. This he did by showing them the fruits of cultivation, by giving them laws, and by teaching them to honour the gods. Later he traveled over the whole earth civilizing it without the slightest need of arms, but most of the peoples he won over to his way by the charm of his persuasive discourse combined with song and all manner of music."
"[s.21] Eudoxus says that, while many tombs of Osiris are spoken of in Egypt, his body lies in Busiris; for this was the place of his birth;"

d) For Plutarch, the final resting place of Osiris is below the polluted earth, and not into the heavens:
"[s.78 or 79] ... And that which the present priests do darkly hint out and insinuate to us, though with much obscurity, great shyness, and precaution, that this God [Osiris] is the governor and prince of those that are dead, and that he is no other than he who is called by the Greeks Hades and Pluto, being not taken in its true sense, disturbs the minds of the greater part, while they suspect that the truly holy and good God Osiris lives within and beneath the earth, where the bodies of those who are supposed to have an end lie hid and buried. [bodies, NOT souls! Plutarch is telling us most people believed Osiris resided a few feet under (and not in the heavens!). But Plutarch thought they were wrong!]
` But he himself is at the remotest distance from the earth imaginable, [downward, in Hades' domain! Confirmation to follow], being unstained and unpolluted, and clean from every substance that is liable to corruption and death. ..."
Plutarch equated Osiris with Hades, the ruler of the underworld in Greek mythology, as also in:
"[s.28] Heraklitus the physical philosopher says: "Hades and Dionysus are the same ..." people are inclined to come to this opinion. ... it is better to identify Dionysus with Osiris"

Note: this is confirmed by Herodotus (484-430?): 'The Histories', Book 2 [2.144] "... then Egypt had gods for its rulers, who dwelt upon the earth with men, one being always supreme above the rest. The last of these was Horus, the son of Osiris, called by the Greeks Apollo. He deposed Typhon, and ruled over Egypt as its last god-king. Osiris is named Dionysus (Bacchus) by the Greeks."
Plutarch also specified where the dead's souls would go:
"[s.29] In fact, Plato says that Hades is so named because he is a beneficent and gentle god towards those who have come to abide with him. Morever among the Egyptians many others of the proper names are real words; for example, that place beneath the earth, to which they believe that souls depart after the end of this life, they call Amenthes ..."
and when they would meet Osiris:
"[s.78] ... when these souls are set free and migrate into the realm of the invisible and the unseen, the dispassionate and the pure, then this god [Osiris] becomes their leader and king ..."

e) Plutarch is however very much confusing when handling (& mixing) legends, allegories, harmonizations & middle Platonic philosophy and lacks consistency throughout his rather incoherent narration. For example, "for Nephthys is that which is beneath the earth and invisible" (s.44). Here Nephthys is the invisible/unseen underworld, the home of the souls.

2.10. Conclusion:

I do admire Earl's rhetorical skills but I rely on the evidence first. And from ancient pagan writings before Julian's times (331-363), there is no testimony presented in 'the Jesus Puzzle' about the concept of an upper world between heaven & earth, where the fleshly meets demonic powers, a place where Jesus would have been crucified. After years of research, Doherty was unable to flesh out the evidence for it.
From the Christian side, 'the Ascension of Isaiah' (a text tainted with Gnosticism) does mention the firmament "where dwelleth the ruler of this world" (10:29), but Satan & his evil angels' rule extends to the earth also. And in any case, the Son is not crucified there, but rather on earth, as already explained through the internal evidence.

Why would the early Christians imagine an upper middle world as more real & pungent than their earthly one? Up to the point they took the crucifixion "automatically" happened there, even if Paul never wrote it did (but instead suggested "Zion"!).
Why did Paul never state Jesus' death in an upper world/lower heaven?
Why did he never specify the crucifixion was not on earth, more so when many were crucified there?
And because of the flimsy substantiation of "Doherty's world" in all of the ancient literature (four centuries of it!), wouldn't that raise a major (controversial!) issue after being learned from Paul (or others) as where Jesus suffered the cross & died (and out of sight from humans!)? Of course it would! Then why don't we observe the apostle dealing with it in his epistles, where he just did that with many other issues?
For me, Doherty's theory crashes to the ground right there, because of lack of external testimonies about the mythical lower heaven and the silences of Paul (& 'Hebrews') about it. Actually, and looking only at Paul's (seven) authentic epistles (both Earl & myself agree on those) and 'Hebrews', the evidence is much stronger towards earth and Zion than for the firmament or that mysterious "world".

Finally a startling confession made by Doherty later on: "We don't know if Christ died ... and was buried in the firmament, because Paul and the others aren't that specific. But because of our understanding of the thought of the time, we can assume these specifics." (Ref: )

And we did not consider yet the related issue of the "flesh & blood" earthly Jesus (they are many pieces of evidence supporting unambiguously just that, which would make a crucifixion in the air even more unlikely!). That comes next.

Go to my next (and last) page about: Do Paul & 'Hebrews' not mention an earthly Jesus?