In this absorbing video, the Atheist Debate project, represented by creator Matt Dillahunty, interviews Robert Price, a former Baptist minister and now an atheist theologian and philosopher at the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary. (Price’s latest book is Blaming Jesus for Jehovah: Rethinking the Righteousness of Christianity.) The topic is the historicity of Jesus, which I’ve written about several times, facing considerable dissent from some readers who argue that there’s good evidence for a real Jesus-Man.
I’m pretty much of the opinion that there’s no strong evidence for the claim that Jesus was a historical person around whom the Jesus myths (obviously false) accreted. In other words, I’m a mythicist. I don’t claim that we know that a Jesus-man didn’t exist, only that we don’t have good evidence that he did. In the same way, I think the same lack of evidence prevails for the existence of Bigfoot, Nessie, and UFO abductions.
This puts me outside the bailiwick of modern scholarship, but I still claim that those scholars, like Bart Ehrman, who claim that mythicists are dead wrong, are themselves operating from psychological motives rather than from empirical evidence. They are, as Price mentions in this video, adherents to the “Stuck in the Middle with You” brand of scholarship, believing only those in the center with critical but conservative views, while placing both fundamentists like William Lane Craig and mythicists on the outside. In other words, these scholars, even though there’s no evidence for a historical Jesus, adhere to that view because it makes them look reasonable.
Price, as you’ll see from this video, is pretty much a mythicist: he sees no strong evidence, and no extra-Biblical evidence, for a historical Jesus. As he says, “The evidence supports the Christ-Myth theory.” He asks why there’s no secular biographical information about Jesus, and no “extra-Biblical historical mentions.” And you can’t dismiss him: Price really knows his stuff. He was once a strong believer, and has considerable theology under his belt.
Price’s claim? That the Jesus story in the gospels makes sense if it’s simply a rewritten update of the Old Testament story and perhaps also a melange of earlier myths, perhaps including those of Homer—stories that have similar elements. He argues that the whole distortion starts with the epistles of Paul, which he claims is “a story that effaces, ignores, or denies the historical existence of Jesus.” The Jesus-person, says Price, is “a savior god who gets historicized.” Towards the end, Price argues that religious scholars are in a kind of conspiracy to dismiss all Jesus-person-agnostics as misguided mythicists.
They’re not. The evidence for a historical Jesus simply isn’t there. Watch the video:
Price avers that Bart Ehrman, for instance, spends more time appealing to authority than dealing with the lack of evidence that he (Ehrman) admits in his earlier work. At the very end of the video, Price mentions that he might have a debate with Ehrman on mythicism. Now that would be something to see, and I hope it takes place. Get the popcorn!