Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus


Did early Christians like Paul believe in an entirely spiritual Son of God, and was the Gospel Jesus of Nazareth a later fictional character and faith symbol? 

Every religion throughout history has developed a mythology about what is supposed to have happened at its beginning, and in most cases it's just that—mythology. Find out why Christianity's longstanding view of its origin in an historical Jesus is also a myth, and why the history of western religion needs to be rewritten.

Here are some typical  reviews of The Jesus Puzzle, from professional scholars to the average lay reader:

"A remarkable book it is. Extremely well-written and very persuasive." Darrell Doughty, Professor of the New Testament, Drew University, Fellow of the Jesus Seminar and co-editor of "The Journal of Higher Criticism"

"This is the most compelling argument ever published in support of the theory that Jesus never existed as an historical person." Frank R. Zindler, editor of "American Atheist"

"I have never read such scholarship in so easy a style. You have a wonderful way of conveying quite complex ideas in an easy to understand manner. I've read a great many books challenging (Jesus') historicity, but nothing as 'dead on' as your book." Judith Hayes, author of "In God We Trust...But Which God?"

"The research is impeccable, and the conclusions you make are amazing. After spending most of my life drowning in fundamentalist Christianity, I feel that a great burden has been lifted from my shoulders." Adam C., a reader from

"(Your book) is fresh, vigorous and carries the reader forward with real style...It is my opinion that the book makes the case as masterfully and concisely as it could. I started the book determined to discredit it. By the time I reached the middle of the book, you had made your case. By the time I finished the book, I had an entirely new sense of what it means to "study the Bible as literature." Greg G., a reader from Massachusetts

"He is a clear writer, as clear as I've read." Oscar G., a reviewer on

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The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity begin with a mythical Christ? is a thorough presentation of my argument that no historical Jesus existed. Full and comprehensive survey of the question, from the epistles to the Gospels, canonical and non-canonical documents, from Jewish and pagan philosophers and historians to the second century Christian apologists.

The book is largely an original work, not a compilation of website articles, although my "Second Century Apologists" article is reproduced as the final chapter. There are new insights and discussions not hitherto found on the site, such as on the origin of the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Thomas, gnosticism and docetism, the second century (Apostolic Fathers, Papias, Marcion, Acts of the Apostles, etc.). My views on Flavius Josephus have been given some reworking and expansion. Like the website itself, I have styled the book for the general reader, though the scholarly community should find it of value as well.

390 pages, complete with extensive and informative notes, appendices, bibliography, and index. Softcover edition, with full-color, laminated cover and fine-quality paper.

For further reviews of The Jesus Puzzle by New Testament scholars, university professors, and private readers, see the following special Reader Feedback file: 

Reader Reviews (including on of The Jesus Puzzle

Also by Earl Doherty: Challenging the Verdict: A Cross-Examination of Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ"

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Contents of The Jesus Puzzle

About Translations
Glossary and Abbreviations


PART ONE: Preaching a Divine Son
Chapter 1: A Heavenly Christ

Chapter 2: A Conspiracy of Silence
Chapter 3: A Thirst for the Irrational
Chapter 4: Apostles and Ministries
Chapter 5: Apocalyptic Expectations
PART TWO: A Life in Eclipse
Chapter 6: From Bethlehem to Jerusalem

Chapter 7: The Passion Story
PART THREE: The Gospel of the Son
Chapter 8: The Word of God in the Holy Book

Chapter 9: The Intermediary Son
PART FOUR: A World of Myth and Savior Gods
Chapter 10: Who Crucified Jesus?

Chapter 11: The Mystery Cults
Chapter 12: Three Views Through the Window in Scripture
Chapter 13: A Riotous Diversity
PART FIVE: Preaching the Kingdom of God
Chapter 14: Excavating the Roots of Q

Chapter 15: The Gospel of Thomas
Chapter 16: A Counter-Culture Movement in Galilee
PART SIX: An Emerging Founder
Chapter 17: Introducing Jesus to Q

Chapter 18: Sectarian Developments in Q
Chapter 19: Mark and Q: The Origin of the Gospels
PART SEVEN: The Non-Christian Witness to Jesus
Chapter 20: Jesus Among Jew and Pagan

Chapter 21: Flavius Josephus
PART EIGHT: The Evolution of Jesus of Nazareth
Chapter 22: The Gospels as Midrash and Symbolism

Chapter 23: The Suffering Righteous One and a Tale from Scripture
PART NINE: The Second Century
Chapter 24: The Remaking of Christian History

Chapter 25: Jesus in the Christian Apologists
No. 1: Two interpolations in the New Testament epistles

No. 2: A conversation between Paul and some new converts
No. 3: Ignatius of Antioch and docetism
No. 4: A Gospel-based interpolation in the Ascension of Isaiah 11
No. 5: Hebrews 8:4 - "If he were on earth . . ." 
No. 6: The location of the myths of the Greek savior gods and of Christ
No. 7: The priority of Mark and the existence of Q 
No. 8: The absence of an historical Jesus in the Didache


The paperback version of The Jesus Puzzle is available from   No e-book version is currently available.