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Great talent in search of a strong editor
on December 4, 2005
Robert Price is a very talented scholar and worthy of our attention. Having heard him on a radio interview where his breadth of knowledge regarding his understanding of the veracity of New Testament historical accuracy was on ample display, I very much looked forward to reading this book - my first read of Price. While I was impressed with the wealth of source material used to back up many of assertions and the volume of assertions made; this book is also a flawed effort. However it's nothing a great editor couldn't have fixed.
Mr. Price could greatly increase his sales of books with an editor that guided Mr. Price to write shorter paragraphs, always back up assertions with evidence, and delete or edit those sections of the book that lacked a line of logic, either rational or empirical, from the start of an exegesis to his conclusion.
The objective of this book to collect all the information of Jesus - his birth, childhood, baptism, miracles, sayings, etc., primarily using the New Testament Canons but also using some Gnostic source material and analyze this data to understand what we know for certain about Jesus. Essentially this book is a status check on where we are regarding the historicity of Jesus.
Mr. Price uses the criterion of dissimilarity approach, as he should, to deconstruct many NT stories as non-historical legends or myths, usually to great effect. The story of Jesus counting 153 fishes and how this was part of the Pythagorean legend was a new one I hadn't heard before and illustrative of how Price uses this approach to deconstruct many of the NT's claims regarding the life of Jesus. However, I believe there are times where Mr. Price is stretching to match similarities, making this reader suspicious that Mr. Price carries a large chip on his shoulder relevant to any historical relevancy to NT writings.
I also believe Mr. Price didn't go far enough in distinguishing which layer of Q he was referring to. He treats Q as one source document when current scholarship shows strong evidence there are three layers to Q; with this reader thinking the earliest layer of Q actually may contain the sayings of Jesus as filtered through a human author who witnessed Jesus personally or was no more than two degrees of separation from Jesus. From this perspective I would have expected more evidence from Price when he attempts to deconstruct Q1 material and agree little evidence is required for disqualifying Q2 and Q3 material. Instead Mr. Price discounts all equally without making a case for why we should discount Q1 material, again making me suspect that Mr. Price wants to deconstruct a little too badly. However, this usually happens regarding minor events rather than large events (virgin birth, time-point for Bible's claim of divinity, resurrection) where Price's deconstructive efforts are spot-on.
I look forward to reading more from Price; hopefully with a more over-bearing editor.