In THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SON OF MAN, Robert M. Price, a noted biblical scholar and a member of the Jesus Seminar, investigates the historical accuracy of Jesus as written in the New Testament stories. Beginning with the assumption that Jesus indeed walked the earth, Price discovers that the Bible provides no paint with which to draw a historically accurate portrait of such an important religious figure. Price juxtaposes Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John's accounts of Jesus' life, revealing both well-known and not-so-obvious contradictions in the Gospels.
In his introduction, Price defines and defends higher criticism of the Bible, a tool he uses to reconcile history with Scripture. Next, Price presents the sources the Gospel writers used to compose their works, as well as the territory already charted by biblical scholarship. Price's investigation follows a traditional life-of-Jesus outline, starting with Jesus' birth--why is it celebrated on December 25? Was it really a virgin birth?
In chapter 4, Price analyzes Baptist and other Christian beliefs about Jesus and John the Baptist, proposing that the latter's role may not be historical. Price wrestles with the controversial question of miracles, setting the groundwork for judging the authenticity of these stories. Many miracle accounts, Price shows, have parallels in other Jewish and Hellenistic traditions, and each miracle story has a particular structure, which fits a general pattern. Does this mean that historians cannot judge any miracle stories as occurring historically?
After scrutinizing stories of Jesus as a man of the people, Price delves into the descriptions of the twelve disciples, analyzing each one, especially Simon Peter. In this thorough examination, Price draws parallels with other religious traditions. The next two chapters take this comparison a step further in a brief review of Buddhism. Finally, Price surveys the details of the accounts of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, concluding that similarities in Christian and other religious traditions must mean a common origin--one with no room for a historical Jesus.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SON OF MAN belongs in the tradition of David Friedrich Strauss and Rudolf Bultmann, scrutinizing the Gospels concisely and in astonishing detail. Price takes a consistent, thorough-going critical look at the gospel tradition, discarding faith's mandates and delivering good reasons for every skeptical judgment of the Gospels' historical accuracy in depicting Jesus.
A prequel to Price's DECONSTRUCTING JESUS, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SON OF MAN explains advanced scholarship on the historical Jesus in terms--and with references to popular culture--that any reader can understand.