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Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition? Hardcover – December 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"...for all scholars concerned with Christian origins...nothing of comparable importance has been written for at least a decade." -- Freethinker, April 2004

"This informative and gripping books shows us how the Gospel stories were put together in order to satisfy religious craving." -- Ulster Humanist, April-May 2004

From the Inside Flap

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 389 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; y First printing edition (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591021219
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021216
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert M. Price (Selma, NC), professor of scriptural studies at the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary, is the editor (with Jeffery Jay Lowder) of The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave and the Journal of Higher Criticism. He is also the author of Top Secret: The Truth Behind Today's Pop Mysticisms; The Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church Was Left Behind; The Reason-Driven Life: What Am I Here on Earth For? and many other works.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

302 of 322 people found the following review helpful By JOHN A. BROUSSARD on October 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, those who can most profit from exposure to this book are the ones least likely to read it. Lacking a thoroughgoing familiarity with both the Old and New Testaments, the reader will need to keep both a Bible and the OED handy while poring through these pages. Needless to say, those who are best acquainted with scripture will not be easily lured into reading a book which does a remarkable job of unraveling the myth of Jesus. In it, there is a painstaking comparison of Bible passages, particularly the synoptic gospels, and well-documented arguments showing surprising discrepancies and extensive contradictions. But this is no Age of Reason. Price goes beyond picking apart passages by giving explanations about how the various Christian groups-particularly the Jewish Christian vs. the Gentile Christian ones-of the second and third centuries molded the New Testament to fit their sectarian views. Has Price demonstrated that there never was some sort of Christ figure alive and preaching around 30-40 A.D? Not really. But if a Jesus did in fact exist back then, Price has produced an avalanche of evidence to show that an even approximate record of that figure's life is not to be found in the gospels or in the other New Testament writings.

For those willing to wade through the obscurities of truly higher biblical criticism, to bear with Price's peculiar mix of scholarly language sprinkled with frequent colloquialisms and to unravel occasional typographical errors, this book will be a revealing and rewarding experience.
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234 of 262 people found the following review helpful By Dianna Narciso on June 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This fascinating, scholarly book dissects the aspects of the Christ myth, searching for an historical Jesus. Guiding us through the birth narratives, early childhood fables, Jesus' time of teaching, his betrayal, death and resurrection, Price finds that the evidence for validity is scant. The most damning evidence against historicity, and clearly outlined in this book, is the fact that every part of the Jesus story is lifted from another source. The idea that Jesus was god, born of a virgin, a miracle-worker, teacher, died on the cross and resurrected is told to us, not in any original words, but by simply cutting and pasting earlier testimonies of other gods and other events into the Jesus narrative. If Jesus really did walk the earth and do all he is purported to do, why did his chroniclers explain him only in borrowed words? Highly recommended reading.
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112 of 123 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Robert Price is amazing. A true treasure. This is his best work yet. He clearly, steadily guides us through the entire Christian scriptures and shows how nearly everything in them is a plagiarism from either Old testament, Jewish aporcypha, or Greek mythology. He goes through Jesus' "life" story -- exposing it as nearly all myth and fiction as opposed to fact. He goes through the miracles, John the Baptist, etc., etc., and his breadth of knowledge is truly astounding.
What is nice is that he just isn't writing this to debunk and deconstruct. Rather, he helps illuminate much about early Christianity. By sifting through the myth-making, the contradictions, and the plagiarisms, he helps paint a fascinating picture of what the early theological and political struggles of early Christianity must have entailed.
The bottom line is that the story of Jesus is clearly and undoubtedly myth and fiction, and this book is perhaps THE BEST at revealing that. Every pages is loaded with information and evdience. And Price isn't out to prove that Jesus never existed (like Wells or Doherty). He takes a more humble/realistic approach: Jesus may or may have not existed, we';ll never know, but what we do know is that the new testament is clearly fiction/myth. That is beyond a doubt. This book lays it all out.
With scholars like Price, rational, clear-thinking individuals are in good hands. May he continue to produce such erudite, solid, fascintaing, well-articulated and compelling work.
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66 of 74 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As Michael Turton contrasted G. A. Well's The Jesus Myth with Robert Price's Deconstructing Jesus, so too would I like to contrast two very similar books, Randal Helms' Gospel Fictions with Price's new book The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man. Both of these books have largely the same aim; to show where the Gospel writers got their information from to construct their stories.
As with Wells, the contrast between Price and Helms is stunning. Price is scholar who isn't afraid to tread new ground and to scoff at traditional scholarship. He even goes so far as to say the Jesus Seminar was "too uncritical." Helms, on the other hand, in his deconstruction of the Gospels, rarely strays far from comparisons that can be found in standard introductory texts like Brown's and good study bibles like the Harper Collins or the Oxford Annotated Bible.
Price begins his book with a discussion of the historical criteria he will use to shred the Gospels into pieces. They are three simple criteria; the criterion of dissimilarity, the principle of analogy, and the principle of biographical analogy. Briefly, the criterion of dissimilarity states that we do not have any reason to accept as authentic any saying that has a parallel with contemporary Judaism or Hellenism. The principle of analogy, as we skeptics all know too well, is basically the old Humean position on miracles. And lastly, but certainly not least (Price will make extensive use of this one), the principle of biographical analogy states that we can't accept anything as authentic when it conforms to standard myths and legends. With a discussion of these criteria and their usage by historians, we move on to the next chapter on sources.
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