Robert M. Price v. Gregory Boyd Debate Whether Jesus Existed

Since DC readers have asked for more on this question, here is the link. Bob is a friend of mine who wrote the book, Deconstructing Jesus. With Paul Rhodes Eddy, Greg co-wrote the book, The Jesus Legend.

20 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

BTW: Bob Price is coming out with a new book where he will argue that the apostle Paul did not write any of the letters attributed to him in the New Testament. What then will become of the existence of Paul? For skeptics who now think Paul existed and that he wrote the accepted letters, what will you think in twenty years if Price's view becomes the standard skeptical view? Would you go along with the party line to be accepted by other skeptics? What will you think when the younger generation tells you in the future that the reason you think Paul existed and wrote those letters is because you have "blind faith," like I was told recently with regard to the existence of Jesus? This scenario would be similar in kind to the case with regard to the changed consensus among skeptics about the existence of Jesus. Twenty years ago when G.A. Wells first began to challenge his existence skeptics did not as a rule deny the existence of Jesus. Since someone can easily be skeptical of most all claims in the historical past, shouldn't we exercise caution about being this skeptical?

kiwi said...

How does it hurt to be skeptical, historically speaking? It makes no difference if Paul didn't write any letter of the NT. We have to look at the possible scenarios that are reasonable. If a reasonable case can be made that Paul didn't write any letter of then NT, then it should be considered as a possibility. If no reasonable case can be made, then it should be dismissed.

Skepticism always remains healthy, as long as you stay in a reasonable zone. Mr. Price seems like a knowledgeable and reasonable person, so I'm open to any argument he proposes.

Theological Discourse said...

*yawn*

I read this book, typical historical Jesus arguments presupposing naturalism. The fact he claims he is a "Jesus Agnostic" but hes also a naturalist, so he automatically assumes the naturalist position, and thus rejects the a good portion of the bible, then has the nerve to say that their views are the most honest, is hilarious.

The chapter that is very creatively titled 'cruci-fiction'(don't remember what chapter) is laughable, since to doubt the crucifixion is of course to say that Paul is not a reliable as far as the historic method goes, which is completely bogus since, revealing their double standards, these 'historians' would not apply the same criticism to other historical figures as they do when it comes to paul. If I recall properly, he doesn't even bother to mention John P. Meier!

positives things I can say about the book are its better than the Jesus seminar.

Other than that its just typical historical Jesus research from people that claim to be 'objective' but look at everything with a natural presumption.

dvd said...

I disagree with Bob Price, but he is a very entertaining and engaging personality. I heard he likes comic books, gotta love that.

Jeff said...

I just listened to the debate you linked to. It seemed to me that Price outlined a much better and more substantiated argument than Boyd did. Having said that, however, it seemed that they were both dancing around what I take to be the most acceptable (as far as historians are concerned anyway) position, that Jesus existed but that we can't really be too sure of too much about him. Boyd seemed to be taking too high stock in the legitimacy of the Gospels, while Price seemed to be taking too little. I personally would be more interested in the arguments of a critical historian against the mythical Jesus hypothesis, rather than a pastor's response. However, it was still a very interesting debate, so thanks for the link!

Tyro said...

What will you think when the younger generation tells you in the future that the reason you think Paul existed and wrote those letters is because you have "blind faith," like I was told recently with regard to the existence of Jesus?


I think it's absurd to say that you have blind faith in the existence of Jesus. At first glance I think there are plenty of good reasons to think a Jesus existed. You've listed your reasons and your evidence, clearly it isn't blind nor is it faith. I would argue that you're mistaken and a deeper look at the evidence would reveal this mistake but debates over the interpretation of evidence happens all the time amongst honest people struggling to determine the truth. A disagreement doesn't mean one person has to be using blind faith!


Re Paul, I will be interested to see what Price has to say just as I'm interested in what any new research reveals. If he didn't write the letters, I'm not sure why this would imply Paul didn't exist but I'm open to evidence and arguments and without seeing either it's hard to comment now. I would hope that a number of my views will change over the years as new discoveries are made. Will this be one, who can say?

Tyro said...

Just listening to the debate. I think it highlights why the question of an historical Jesus isn't a matter of faith for sceptics - there are so many problems with the miracle stories that the question of whether Jesus even existed becomes just one small bullet point in a long list of problems. I'm interested in the question because it's intellectually intriguing, not because any aspect of my atheism or scepticism is at stake.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John L~ "BTW: Bob Price is coming out with a new book where he will argue that the apostle Paul did not write any of the letters attributed to him in the New Testament."

I don't doubt that and he is a radical skeptic. What scares me about him is that he seems to change his position to match what sells or is outlandish. For me this takes away any supposed credibility to his arguments. He's a definate marketer of product (books)

Later.

Anthony said...

Harvey: What scares me about him is that he seems to change his position to match what sells or is outlandish. For me this takes away any supposed credibility to his arguments.

Harvey, you are judging his motives, do you have a "prophetic gift" that tells you what these are? His credibility should be based upon credentials and evidence for his positions, not what you think his motives are. I personally do not agree with him on a number of issues, that doesn't mean I should question his credibility as a scholar.

Then again I have not studied his arguments in any detail so I may end up agreeing with his conclusions. That's another difference between you and I. I can be agnostic about it and let the evidence speak for itself. I can then agree or disagree with the conclusions without being biased due to presupposiitions.

John W. Loftus said...

kiwi said...How does it hurt to be skeptical, historically speaking?

Interesting question. Cratylus was so skeptical that in answering a question it is said he merely wiggled his pinky finger. Solipsists are so skeptical they don't think any other minds but their own exist. There are philosophers of history who think historical "facts" are only in the mind (i.e. there are none) and advocate a complete relativism with regard to them.

Now these are all interesting philosophical questions, no doubt. But is this type of extreme skepticism healthy? Can it be defended and lived in the real world? I think not.

And there is the further question of credibility. If the goal is to be reasonable with Christians, do we not lose credibility as skeptics in their eyes if we are this skeptical?

Leaving that aside for the moment, I challenge Christians not to use double standards when defending their faith over against the faiths of others. I challenge them not to use double standards when assessing the miracle claims of the ancient world as a whole with the miracle claims inside the pages of the canonized Bible. So if I want to be as skeptical as Bob then I must be as skeptical about other kinds of textual evidence found in the past, and if I do that I cannot do history! No double standards is a theme of mine. I don't accept any when Christians use them and I won't use them myself.

One can be too skeptical that he places himself in a box of his own making. The goal is not to be skeptical but rather reasonable. Being reasonable does indeed mean being skeptical, but one must never leave the bounds of what is reasonable.

dvd said...

John Loftus,

Interesting comments about being too skeptical and miracle claims. Let me offer something a little off topic but it can relate. Take an example of what is commonly known as "ghosts". They are definitely not in the normal experience of most people, yet every culture and people across the world have reported this. To be honest, I think most of us would admit that there would be a lot of folklore attached. But is this not based upon something though? Just because there are many fake claims, in and of itself does negate the "real" claims.

Even the Resurrection Account has a mentioning of "ghosts" or "spirit".

It seems as though, this is such a common experience that happens in every culture and throughout history that it seems to me that being overtly skeptical on something such as this because of the many false claims attached would be strained and could indeed create a climate of "Marginalization". People, too afraid to tell other skeptical people of their experience for fear of ridicule.

I say all of this because on April 10, 1992, I saw a ghost at 2:30 in the A.M.

I don't tell too many people in person, I don't even tell too many people at work or church. I for the most part keep it to myself.

I don't bother telling too many people, and this is the first time I can recall telling any atheists, whom I already know will reject what I am saying. So right there one has a little bit working against them.

But I know personally what happened.

So for me when "miracle claims" or just stuff that is "out there" comes along, I don't know what to say. Sure it does not fit my wordview , I don't think these things happen often, but I can't say they don't happen. I just am picky and I certainly want to hear from people if just IN CASE something really did happen.

I know we need to be careful, but I think we have to judge things case by case.

One of the most compelling things in the account of Jesus and his Resurrection is that whomever wrote the gospel or passed down the tradition had included with it, the idea that the disciples thought they had saw a ghost. Hardly a detail one would expect in a concocted story.

AdamH said...

Robert Price is also a great fan of H.P. Lovecraft, and has written books about him.

Lovecraft was a real sicko Nazi admiring horror writer who died in the late 30's.

AdamH said...

To those philosophers of history who think historical "facts" are only in the mind, I wonder if they think the Holocaust was only in the mind.

After all, there are already Holocaust skeptics.

How many will there be in another 50 years when the last living witnesses are gone?

John W. Loftus said...

dvd, my standard response to your claim is that I myself did not see or experience what you claim to have seen. I can only believe what I myself have experienced. Since I have never experienced a ghost I am akeptical that you did. But I cannot prove you didn't. I cannot prove God doesn't exist and so I cannot prove Jesus did not rise from the dead, either. But I have so many serious doubts about these beliefs that I am an atheist. I could be wrong though. If I am and if God knows I cannot believe what I myself have not experienced, then he knows how to get my attention very easily if he exists, now doesn't he?

kiwi said...

John,

"If the goal is to be reasonable with Christians, do we not lose credibility as skeptics in their eyes if we are this skeptical?"

To me it has nothing to do with Christians, but as long as we stay reasonable ourselves, I don't see a problem. Do you think Mr. Price is unreasonable?

"So if I want to be as skeptical as Bob then I must be as skeptical about other kinds of textual evidence found in the past, and if I do that I cannot do history!"

Of course you can still do history. It's just that you might not be able to place everything in 'true' or 'false' boxes. Which isn't necessary anyway.

It's true that too much skepticism is untenable. But you haven't really explained why a moderate skepticism about history, specifically, is bad. Is it going to make any difference in your life if Paul didn't write any NT letters? It's true that other form of skepticism might make you look antisocial, or crazy, but there is nothing crazy about having doubts about ancient history.

"The goal is not to be skeptical but rather reasonable."

Sure. That was my point.

So far no one has shown how is Mr. Price unreasonable.

kiwi said...

dvd,

"I say all of this because on April 10, 1992, I saw a ghost at 2:30 in the A.M."

I don't know what you saw, so I can only speak for myself. I have hallucinations sometimes at night (and no I don't take drugs), and they look very real to a point I sometimes scream (if I think a person looks at me), or I hit the wall trying to kill an imaginary tarantula. And it isn't shadows, I really see those things.

People should ask themselves why that sort of thing happen at 3am in the morning. And why the vision is of short duration (why doesn't the ghost stay a couple of hours? are they shy?).

John W. Loftus said...

kiwi said...It's true that too much skepticism is untenable.

Thank you. THAT was my point, my only point. You can go on and ask about other things if you want to, but they are uninteresting to me. I was not questioning moderate skepticism, silly, and I do not think Bob is unreasonable.

Why is it that when someone is shown wrong they switch topics on me?

I just don't get it.

kiwi said...

John,

"Why is it that when someone is shown wrong they switch topics on me?"

Who has been shown wrong, and about what?

I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. We are exchanging ideas, thoughts. By asking questions, by exchanging thoughts, we are making our respective position clearer. It seems that we basically agree, so why do you get mad?

John W. Loftus said...

kiwi, maybe we're on the same page after all. Sorry for thinking otherwise.

Badger3k said...

While I think Dr Price may take some things to extremes (he does like discovering/rediscovering new hypotheses that challenge conventional thinking), I can see him changing his mind as time goes on. I haven't seen him change things too much, but when he has he states that his position has changed and why (I listen to The Bible Geek off the Infidel Guy, as well as the Bible Geek podcast off iTunes). While I find some of his ideas a bit far-fetched, I am uncertain enough about the evidence to make any decisions. I merely keep it under advisement.

Like Dr Price has said, I think that there is probably no way we will ever know anything about a possible Yeshua, including if he existed, as everything we have about him, or what he may have said, can easily be said to have come from the researcher's own biases (Dr Ehrman comes to mind, even if the quote was originally from Schweitzer, IIRC). Ehrman thinks Yeshua was apocalyptic, and sees all the things that fit that, with other stuff being added later. Price sees a pattern that fits a mythical savior figure being transformed over time into a historical figure. Whether one is closer to the truth depends ultimately on the evidence, and the arguments around them.

So far, I haven't seen any arguments for a historical Yeshua that don't ultimately boil down to the idea that there has to be a human at the heart of the myth. Why this one and not Asclepius, or Herakles, or Yama, or Krishna, or Huitzilopochtli? The mythicist position (some of the arguments, to be honest) seem to address points that some historical arguments simply brush aside, while some to me the historical argument just has...someone had to be a model. For me, the mythicist position has not enough evidence for a completely compelling argument, but it might come. Until then, I see no reason to consider a historical Yeshua any more than I have reason to consider the others. We have clear evidence that people make up stories about people who have existed (the Babb, IIRC, and Haelie Selasse (sp?)), as well as stories about people who have never existed. Maybe it does ultimately boil down to personal preference...I don't know.

Unfortunately, while waiting for Price to finish his work, there is little that I can find on the early biblical mythicists, as these are usually in German or other European languages, and in a few cases are hideously expensive. I have read of the arguments of these 19th century researchers but have not been able to read them and look at it myself.

For newer research, I have been appraised of a new book that supposedly shreds the "Nazareth existed in the early first century" idea through archaeology, but have not gotten that either, so I can't tell how good that is (nor have I really read the papers detailing finds that might support the historical Nazareth argument, btw). Another thing to be skeptical of. What I find interesting is the new discoveries about a dying/resurrecting Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus from 100 BCE or so. Maybe this is related to some of Price's surmises as to a Jesus=Joshua=YHVH "sun god" remnant of paganism that survived through the years. Yet another thing to look into.

I know, a rambling post, but I wanted to give a few of the things I recently heard off the Bible Geek, and indicate areas of interest. The mythology of the region (like the archaeology) is endlessly fascinating and complex and the fact until recently we have been hampered by theology keeps this an interesting topic. It's intellectually stimulating, albeit very confusing at times. It is a real discovery to try to get to the bottom of the mystery. Even if we had actual evidence for a human originator of the myths, there would still be a lot of mystery about the rest of the religion and history of the region.

Just my thoughts.