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So much the worse for the facts
on June 9, 2006
According to the editor details in my copy of Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos:
"Robert M. Price discovered the work of H.P. Lovecraft at the age of thirteen. At the age of thirty-seven [this book was published 14 years ago] he is still going strong. For a decade he has been the editor of Crypt of Cthulhu and a frequent contributor to Lovecraftian Studies and Studies in Weird Fiction."
Is this the same Robert M. Price who wrote this book, or are there two people using the same name for their works of fiction? For in the final analysis this is surely what much of this book is.
The members of the nineteenth century, Tubingen-based school of so-called higher criticism based their thinking on the ideas of German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. This is not really so surprising since Hegel was so far out of touch with reality that, when a student pointed out that his analysis of certain historical events had completely misrepresented the facts, he complacently responded: "So much the worse for the facts."
Despite all the media hype it has garnered, the self-styled "Jesus Seminar" is very much a fringe group (in academic circles), whose members seem to be attempting to resurrect higher criticism - and with the same carefree disregard for the facts.
Despite the claims at the front of the book, The Da Vinci Code is, in reality, nothing more than a purely fictional thriller, written with questionable literary skill, based on a hoax perpetrated in the 1950s by French forger and anti-semite Pierre Plantard and his colleagues, funnelled through the poorly-argued (and, by the authors' own admission, totally speculative) Holy Blood, Holy Grail (which has been around since the early 1980's - yet with a noticeable lack of collapse on the part of Christianity in general or the Roman Catholic Church in particular).
Presumably in an attempt to ride the wave of hysteria surrounding Dan Brown's novel, Price debunks one story whilst presenting us with an equally fictional account of what he and his colleagues in the "Seminar" claim are the origins of Christianity. It's the sort of trick frequently found in works on ID (intelligent design) - the author starts out addressing one subject, and then, when the reader is hooked, switches to the ID - or in this case the "Jesus Seminar" - propaganda.
Unfortunately, as with the earlier acolytes of higher criticism, the reasoning of the members of the "Seminar" is somewhat similar to the US TV show "Jeopardy!", or to a process known in IT circles as "reverse engineering". First they decide what they believe - then they work backwards to find evidence that justifies to their beliefs. The ultimate flaw is that there is absolutely no chance that the evidence will ever be evaluated at face value. Instead it is assumed that all evidence which supports the "Jesus Seminar" beliefs MUST be true/accurate/etc., and by the same totally subjective yardstick, any evidence that points to a different conclusion is treated as though it is, by definition, inaccurate/false/etc. and therefore need not be considered.
So, if you want a book which reflects this kind of religious bigotry to make its case against Christianity, then you may well find this very satisfying.
For a far better analysis of the flaws in the current crop of anti-Christian fiction, especially The Da Vinci Code, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The Templar Revelation, and The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, etc. then you may well find the recently released DVD The Real Da Vinci Code a far more credible and satisfying mixture of accurate, agnostic, investigative reporting and entertaining/irreverent presentation (without any hint of "dumbing down").