Answering Robert M. Price

Criterion of Dissimilarity 153 Fishes
Dionysus, Mithras et al The Supernatural
Gospel of Mark Authorship
Nothing Human Here Magic Mushrooms
Second Chance Unimaginable
No Evidence Osiris
Daily Planet Cherry-Picking

Criterion of Dissimilarity

Contemporary Bible scholar Robert M. Price, of 'Jesus Seminar' fame, employs a scorched-earth version of the familiar, and deservedly infamous, 'Criterion of Dissimilarity' which runs as follows:

  • “. . .According to this critical canon, the historian has no right to accept a saying as authentically dominical (i.e., coming from the Lord, Dominus, Jesus) if it has any parallel in either contemporary Judaism and Hellenism or in the early church. Why not? Simply because of the tendency to ascribe one's favorite saying to one's favorite sage. . .We would then be well within our rights to wonder if any Jewish-sounding saying reflects Jewish or Judaizing Christianity rather than the historical Jesus. . .If sayings of Jesus strongly echo Christian belief, practice, or wisdom, we have to wonder if someone is, again, attributing to him what they had come to believe on other grounds, providing a dominical pedigree once debate arose.”
  • (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition?, pp. 16-17).

Notice he touches all the bases, he has boxed the compass. So if Jesus says anything Jewish-sounding, we toss that; if He says anything like what Christians say, we toss that; if He should ever happen to say anything Hellenic-sounding, we toss that. Surely this is a incredible 'Shrinking' methodology! He himself observes these canons religiously, his colleagues, not so much. Nothing Jewish-sounding will pass our filter, leave all that stuff to the Rabbis:

"Several parables (and other sayings) unique to Mathew, proverbially the most Jewish of the Gospels, have such close parallels to rabbinic material that it is temping to think he has borrowed the material from familiar Jewish sources. The dating of the rabbinic materials is often difficult, but the pattern is so thoroughgoing that one must take seriously the possibility of Matthew's having borrowed from Judaism. The criterion of dissimilarity would never let such parables and sayings slip through the net." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 173).

Heaven forbid Jesus would ever say anything 'Christian' sounding. As for the third source, he is so eager to find pagan Greek parallels in order to deny the historicity of the corresponding gospel stories that he opens the flood-gates, forcing resemblances where none is visible. What has Circe got to do with the gospel? She, so they say, turned men into pigs, which is just like expelling demons out of a man into pigs. . .which are not men turned into pigs!

Who can believe Joseph of Arimathea is modeled after King Priam of Troy, when Joseph is not a besieged king and is not bargaining for the return of his son's body, who did not fall in combat, nor after his little son was alarmed by the nodding of his father's feathered crest? And when was Jesus' body ever dragged around Jerusalem as Hector was dragged around Troy? Only in the fictive medieval propaganda piece, Toldoth Jeschu:

"Forthwith they went to Jerusalem, told them the good tidings, and all the Israelites followed the owner of the garden, bound cords to his [Jeschu's] feet, and dragged him round in the streets of Jerusalem, till they brought him to the queen and said: There is he who is ascended to heaven!" (Did Jesus Live 100 Years B.C.?, G. R. S. Mead, p. 273).

It may be that incident is modelled after the Iliad, but it's fiction after all. What is the point of non-parallel parallels like that? The only point in common is that somebody is trying to retrieve somebody's body, the relation of the parties is not the same, the circumstances of death are altogether different. Evidently it is just red meat tossed to the atheist crowd rather than any effort to understand the text.

Sometimes of course he simply jettisons the 'Criterion of Dissimilarity' and replaces it with the Mandate for Similarity: "It is just impossible that a Jewish Jesus would omit what he elsewhere makes the first and greatest commandment. . ." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 226). (Jesus can't say anything Jewish-sounding. . .and He can't say anything not Jewish-sounding! Are you starting to get the message, Dear Reader? He can't say anything!) Yet on page 264 we discover that He didn't say any such thing "elsewhere:" "So the opinion attributed to Jesus in Mark 12:28-34 may well be that of the historical Jesus, but the criterion of dissimilarity cannot tell us so, for to accept the saying would again make Jesus simply one more name on a list of people who assented to the notion." Though he observes it or fails to observe it as he pleases, our author's methodology is clearly laid out. Our author endorses uniformitarianism, so let's try it out and see how well it works with well-known nineteenth century figures:

Karl Marx

Karl Marx cannot have said anything like what Marxists would later say, quoting him. Nor can he say anything from the contemporary background of what a German socialist might have said, nor what a British socialist might have said. What is left? A few pieces of juvenalia?

Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith's 'prophetic' career took a few twists and turns; the only heresy discernible in the Book of Mormon is modalism, though he, and the church at Salt Lake following him, would end up a polytheist by the time of the King Follett Discourse. But he cannot actually have said anything that a Mormon would agree with. Nor can he say anything that a contemporary American Christian of the early nineteenth century might have been likely to say, nor can he say anything which an East European Kabbalist (which appears to be the principal 'foreign' influence upon the man's work) might have said. What is left?

Mary Baker Eddy

Christian Scientists are always quoting Mary Baker Eddy, because they like her a lot, but Mary Baker Eddy cannot actually have said anything that a Christian Scientist would have wanted to hear. Nor can she have said anything congruent to the 'New Thought' background of the day. Nor can she have said anything a nineteenth century American is likely to have said. Maybe if they can find something she wrote before she became famous, this will fit the bill. Although newspaper reports of the day describe auditoriums-full of Christian Scientists listening happily to Mary Baker Eddy talk, we know these must be fabrications, because the Criterion of Dissimilarity tells us that, if Christian Scientists ever heard Mary Baker Eddy speak, they would put their hands over their ears, to block out the discordant screech, as of fingernails against a chalk-board.

Abraham Lincoln

As a child I was made to memorize 'The Gettysburg Address,' which I was told was composed by Abraham Lincoln. How pat. Could the viewpoint of the victorious Unionists be any better expressed than in the Gettysburg Address? So he cannot have written it; thus the Criterion of Dissimilarity teaches us. And besides it falls naturally into iambic pentameter. How many people talk in iambic pentameter? The 'historic' Abraham Lincoln must have been a Confederate, and most likely he spoke Hungarian.

So we discover that our favored technique is a good way of obliterating people who lived not long ago and who are amply documented to have said the things they said, and which their loyal disciples only repeat. Following the procedure laid down has led us to the mad-house. The 'Criterion of Dissimilarity' is the neutron bomb of scholarship. Why would any rational person deploy it? The alert reader should not fail to notice that the 'Criterion of Dissimilarity' is naught but a mechanism to negate the historicity of otherwise impeccably historical figures, and judge accordingly. In fairness it should be noted, most of these people do not apply the 'Criterion of Dissimilarity' in any such across the board fashion, they only want to eliminate Christianity, not Judaism and Hellenism as well.

The corrective to these errors is the principle of parsimony. Positing a historic Mary Baker Eddy kills two birds with one stone: it explains where Christian Scientists come from,— they are follows of Mary Baker Eddy,— and it accounts for the presence of the written literature,— she authored it. Such circumstances as would otherwise be mysteries, like the resemblance between Christian Science and the teachings of Phineas P. Quimby, resolve themselves beautifully; Mrs. Eddy was a patient of Quimby's. By contrast, Mr. Price's Christians popped up out of the ground like mushrooms, and proceeded to attribute quotations to a non-existent or unknown person. Why would they do this?:

"The Gospels contain a great number of sayings ascribed to Jesus (perhaps merely a question of genre convention: had they been collected into the Epistles instead, they would have been attributed to Paul or Peter), which lay down requirements for salvation." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 225).

An 'historic' Jesus has immense explanatory power, resolving where these people came from, providing a link to John the Baptist, and also explaining for good measure where the sayings come from. This is the rational resort. Robert Price did not invent the 'Criterion of Dissimilarity,' nor is he the only 'scholar' who employs it as an impermeable filter, tossing any gospel reports which do not comply with the rule: "These traditions of Jesus's eminence cannot pass the criterion of dissimilarity and are very likely later pious expansions of the stories told about him. . ." (Bart D. Ehrman, How Jesus Became God, p. 127). The Loony Tunes conclusions that Robert Price draws from this principle should serve as a reductio ad absurdum invalidating the entire approach.


153 Fishes

As another example of pagan borrowings in the gospel story, our author derives the miraculous draught of fishes from a story about Pythagoras, the moral of which is that you should not eat fish (or any other living creature; that pig might be your grandma!). Pythagoras, like his later disciple Apollonius of Tyana, believed in reincarnation, and so you had to be careful what ended up on your dinner-plate, lest you be an unwitting cannibal:

"He [Pythagoras] was first to say that animal food should not be eaten,
And learned as he was, men did not always
Believe him when he preached 'Forbear, O mortals,
To spoil your bodies with such impious food!'. . .
Oh, what a wicked thing it is for flesh
To be the tomb of flesh, for the body's craving
To fatten on the body of another,
For one live creature to continue living
Through one live creature's death. . .
The spirit comes and goes,
Is housed wherever it wills, shifts residence
From beasts to men, from men to beasts, but always
It keeps on living. . .
We are not bodies only,
But winged spirits, with the power to enter
Animal forms, house in the bodies of cattle.
Therefore, we should respect those dwelling-places
Which may have given shelter to the spirit
Of fathers, brothers, cousins, human beings
At least, and we should never do them damage,
Not stuff ourselves like the cannibal Thyestes." (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book Fifteen, pp. 367-379)

How is it that the vegetarian Pythagoras is presented as the source for a story featuring disciples who are professional fishermen? Our author himself calls it a "food miracle:" "With the miraculous catch of fish, we have already arrived at our second category of nature miracles, namely, food miracles." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 158). Of course for Pythagoras this was a non-food miracle; the fishermen, upon his urging, threw the fish back in the water.

One must admit the stories are similar, insofar as they both involve fish. Remarkable! The Bible story involves 153 fish to be exact. Our author presents this number as if it were a common link between Pythagoras and the gospel story, though I can find it nowhere in the Pythagorean corpus of literature. Our author conflates an incident Luke records with John's miraculous catch: "And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink." (Luke 5:7). Is the number of 153 fish likely sufficient to risk sinking a boat? Our author implies the number '153' is borrowed from Pythagoras, though there is no mention of this number in his quoted source.

Why God saw fit to deliver 153 fish into Peter's net I don't know, and the commentators are similarly puzzled. It must mean something, both in God's choice to deliver just that many fish, and the narrator's choice to report the number. Is it perhaps in recollection that 153,600 workmen built Solomon's temple?: "Then Solomon numbered all the aliens who were in the land of Israel, after the census in which David his father had numbered them; and there were found to be one hundred and fifty-three thousand six hundred. And he made seventy thousand of them bearers of burdens, eighty thousand stonecutters in the mountain, and three thousand six hundred overseers to make the people work." (2 Chronicles 2:17-18). The disciples are fishers of men after all, and their catch will be adequate to build a new temple, Christ's body. "Disciples are fishers, human souls are fish, the world is the sea, the gospel is the net, and eternal life is the shore whither the catch is drawn." (J. W. McGarvey, The FourFold Gospel, Kindle location 2654).

An old interpretation offers '153' as the number of then-known species of fish. In other words, it implies an exhaustive enumeration of the nations. The apostles, fishers of men, will bring up in their nets every known race and tribe of men:

"The most likely of all the suggestions made to interpret the symbolism of the number 153, however, is that referred to by Jerome. He says, commenting on Ezek. 47.10, that Lain and Greek natural historians declare that here were a hundred and fifty-three known species of fish. It has been pointed out that Oppianus, whom alone Jerome refers to by name, was too late in date to be known by the author of this narrative. Yet it is probable that the view had been expressed long before Oppianus. . ." (The Mission and Message of Jesus, H.D.A. Major, T. W. Manson, C. J. Wright, p. 949).

Truly it's anybody's guess what the number means. Certainly that is exactly how many fish they counted; God is the only story-teller who can make not only the story, but also the events recounted by the story, come out right. The pagan biographer Plutarch mentions that Solon, upon refusing the offered tyranny, wrote of himself, "When his net was full of fish, amazed, he would not pull it in. . ." (Plutarch, Lives, Life of Solon, Chapter 14). Could this be a proverbial expression for attracting followers or achieving political drawing power? A vaguely similar Old Testament reference is found in Jeremiah 16:16: “Behold, I will send for many fishermen,” says the Lord, “and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” A likeness between captured men and fish caught in a net, familiar from Mesopotamian triumphal art, is expressed in Habakkuk 1:4,King of Lagash, Mesopotamia, mid-3rd Millenium B.C.

"Why do You make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them? They take up all of them with a hook, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad." Habakkuk 1:14-15).

The simile is hostile in Ecclesiastes: "For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them." (Ecclesiastes 9:12). 'Fish' are captured incidentally in the seizure of Egypt, conventionally represented as a crocodile: "But I will put hooks in your jaws, and cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales;  I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, and all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales." (Ezekiel 29:4).

Unlike these unhappy prey, the captives caught by the disciples, fishers of men, go willingly into their net, not to be devoured, but cleaned, like they say: 'We catch 'em, He cleans them.' One does not often find a Christian application of Habakkuk 1:14-16; here a contemporary author compares church growth gimmicks to Habakkuk's idol-nets: "'Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet' (Hab. 1:15-16). Instead of honoring God, the fisherman offers worship sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet. The methods and the tools of the trade are honored more than the Almighty, who alone grants victories and provides all that we have." (Jim Cymbala, Storm, p. 26).  Disciples are likened to fish in the Talmud, which however does not really develop the simile: "As to disciples, R. Gamaliel the elder compares them to the following four kinds of fish. . .By a fish from the Jordan is meant a scholar who has studied all the mentioned subjects, but has not acquired the faculty of answering questions put to him. And by a fish found in the Ocean is meant a scholar who studied all the above subjects and has the ability of answering the questions put to him." (The Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Volume 9, Tract Aboth, Chapter VI, Kindle location 30452).

Wouldn't it be remarkable, Dear Reader, if the number '153' were actually found in a story about Pythagoras! Is it? Well, no. If the number of fish was ever any part of that story, it is not found in Iamblichus, Diogenes Laertius or Porphyry.

"Meeting with some fishermen who were drawing in their nets heavily laden with fishes from the deep, he predicted the exact number of fish they had caught. The fishermen said that if his estimate was accurate they would do whatever he commanded. They counted them accurately, and found the number correct. He then bade them to return the fish alive into the sea; and, what is more wonderful, not one of them died, although they had been out of the water a considerable time."

(The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library: An Anthology of Ancient Writings Which Relate to Pythagoras and Pythagorean Philosophy (Kindle Locations 2805-2808). Porphyry, Life of Pythagoras, Chapter 25. Red Wheel Weiser.)

That's it. That both are stories about 'catching fish' is a legitimate point of comparison. The moral, the participants, their motives, and the narrative, differ. Pythagoras predicts the number of fishes which will be caught, like guessing the number of beans in a jar at the county fair, although the story-tellers would stress, he is not guessing, given his remarkable powers of divination. Jesus makes no prediction, but brings the fish. The vegetarian Pythagoras liberates the fish, Jesus does not. Both are stories about catching fish, one must concede that point. This is characteristic of our author's alleged Hellenistic borrowings, which are at best vague and general, if not so alien in character that it is hard to find any point of commonality.

Given the lack of any real resemblance between the miraculous draught of fishes and the Pythagoras story, where does this come from? Evidently from respect for precedent, "If we add to this, that the ancient legend was fond of occupying its wonder-workers with affairs of fishing, as we see in the story related of Pythagoras by Jamblichus and Porphyry; it will no longer appear improbable, that Peter's miraculous draught of fishes is but the expression about the fishers of men, transmuted into the history of a miracle. . ." (David Friedrich Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, p. 318). What does that mean, "the ancient legend was fond of occupying its wonder-workers with affairs of fishing"? Nothing, it's just drivel, to cover the sleight-of-hand of the disappearing fishes. There are pagan myths touching on every topic under the sun, no more having to do with fishing, a major economic activity and food source in the Mediterranean, than about farming, warfare, metal-working or any other human activity.

The philosopher, theurgist and 'god' Pythagoras lived long before the gospel era, although unfortunately no contemporaneous biographies of him are extant. Those biographies which do exist were written subsequent to the promulgation of the gospel. Iamblichus tells not only the story of the released fish-catch, but also a story about a compassionate inn-keeper who cares for a Pythagorean disciple who falls ills, sadly, even to death. In his dying moments he scratches a Pythagorean symbol into the table, so that a passing Pythagorean could pay the expenses he had incurred in his final illness, because the friends of the Pythagorean brotherhood held all things common. Sound, not exactly, but a little like the story of the good Samaritan? It does seem there is a bit of patterning going on here, but it cannot possibly run from the pagan prototype to the gospel, because this story saw print long after the gospel saw print, not before it.

While not stooping to accuse Iamblichus of myth-making, it may be that his selection of stories, from the range available to him in his sources, was based on a protocol of keeping up with the Joneses, and the stories underwent a nip and a tuck here and there as they were squeezed into the mold made popular by the rival camp. There is no good reason to declare that what is in objective fact the earlier story was copied from the later. One sees this pattern with Julian the Apostate's efforts to redeem paganism: there was no compelling reason why the pagans couldn't care for the sick like the Christians did, except it had never occurred to them to do so until after the Christians had done it. And there is no good reason why the followers of Pythagoras couldn't produce a winsome and accessible biography of their master, at least those of them not still sworn to silence, if they were willing to wink at the sect's demand for secrecy, except that it had never occurred to them to do so until after the gospels appeared. But it does strain credulity to proclaim that the earlier, original stories which provided the prototype were based on these later ones which followed the pattern.

Our author's version of the Criterion of Dissimilarity requires ejecting the material if a pagan parallel can be found, and he often states or implies that the gospel story was copied from these pagan exemplars. But in order to establish his looked-for genetic link, our author ought at some point to come to grips with the many, very real dissimilarities between the pagan stories and the gospel. If the early Christians were, in fact, Pythagoreans, what has happened to Pythagoras' food fetish against beans? Real Pythagoreans of old time were willing to die rather than walk through a field of beans. Or why are the members gathered for fellowship after church not bent over, working on geometrical demonstrations? He is too quick to declare victory, as if two stories which feature a man sitting down to eat a bowl of soup are undeniably identical, even though the man is different, the setting is different, the soup is different, etc.

A different pagan abundant fish catch story is found in Herodotus, as told by Cyrus the Persian:

"And when he heard that which they proposed to him, he spoke to them a fable, saying that a certain player on the pipe saw fishes in the sea and played on his pipe, supposing that they would come out to land; but being deceived in his expectation, he took a casting-net and enclosed a great multitude of the fishes and drew them forth from the water: and when he saw them leaping about, he said to the fishes: 'Stop dancing I pray you now, seeing that ye would not come out and dance before when I piped.'" (Herodotus, Histories, Volume I, Book I, Chapter 141.)

Wow, a two-fer! What has it to do with the gospel? Not one blessed thing. Nor was Pythagoras the only ancient marine animal-rescuer, Coeranus is another:

"From this the wild tales about Coeranus gained credence. He was a Parian by birth who, at Byzantium, bought a draught of dolphins which had been caught in a net and were in danger of slaughter, and set them all free. A little later he was on a sea voyage in a penteconter, so they say, with fifty pirates aboard; in the strait between Naxos and Paros the ship capsized and all the others were lost, while Coeranus, they relate, because a dolphin sped beneath him and buoyed him up, was put ashore at Sicinus, near a cave which is pointed out to this day and bears the name of Coeraneum." (Plutarch, Moralia, Whether Land or Sea Animals are Cleverer, Chapter 36, Complete Works of Plutarch, Kindle location 60422).

This is an even niftier story because the dolphins later show up for his funeral, although the tale strains the credulity of even its own narrator. Again, as with Pythagoras's fish rescue, it offers no meaningful parallel to the miraculous draught of fishes. The fish in the gospel narrative don't turn up at anybody's funeral but their own, gracing somebody's dinner-plate. Aelian retells the Coeranus story, which he took for historical: "One Coeranus by name, a native of Paros, when some Dolphins fell into the net and were captured at Byzantium, gave their captors money, as  it were a ransom, and set them at liberty; and for this he earned their gratitude." (Aelian, On Animals, Book VIII, Chapter 3, p. 181). Certainly the setting free might have happened, although the dolphins' respectful attendance at his funeral does seem to be laying it on a bit thick.  A more meaningful parallel to these animal-rescue stories are the tales of people buying birds to set them free, etc. There's no doubt some people actually did this kind of thing, Pythagoras was not the only vegetarian in antiquity, many people were horrified that somebody proposed actually to eat those helpless creatures, and of course if you believe in reincarnation like Pythagoras it's even worse than that, they are family.

Readers interested in a rationale for ancient vegetarianism may enjoy reading Porphyry, 'On Abstinence from Animal Food.' Porphyry, it will be recalled, was a vitriolic critic of Christianity. Like a modern author such as Sam Harris, he couches his attacks on Christianity as if reason and logic were his only concern; but when you find out what he himself believes, you'll realize reason is the least of his concerns:

 On Abstinence from 
Animal Food

The question of pagan parallels for Christian things is a vexed question, because some people feel they really ought to be there, and are thus highly motivated to 'find' them. After all, if God intended from eternity past to send a Savior, then wouldn't He implant in the human heart an expectation that a Savior would come? If we are made to respond to the Savior's call, then God cannot have left it to chance that His voice would echo unheard. And if God has implanted such an expectation in the human heart, the Desire of Nations, then one must also expect some false positives to arise, when this implanted expectation is triggered prematurely. But whatever may be the case with legitimate pagan parallels, if any, to the Christian faith, there can be no doubt our author has cast the surly bonds of earth and gone over into parallelomania. He 'finds' parallels that amount to little or nothing, and then insists they reveal a genetic relationship. One could easily 'find' comparable parallels all the livelong day, and they mean little or nothing.


Dionysus, Mithras et al

"For the same reason, December 25 was also celebrated as the sun god's birthday in Egypt, Persia, Phoenicia, Greece, and Germany. Dionysus, Adonis, and Horus shared the birthday." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 44).

Stop and think a minute: Dionysus was a vegetative god, a personification of the vine and its fruit. Why would his birthday fall on December 25th, a day of no special significance in viniculture? Can you ever trust an atheist to give you the right date for Dionysus' birthday?


Universal Birthday Close Enough for Government Work
Clement of Alexandria Epiphanius of Salamis
Speculation vs. Revelation Bible Evidence
Course of Abijah Sheep
Baptism Feast of Tabernacles
The Case Against Christmas The War On Christmas
O Christmas Tree Why December 25th?
Census Gee Whiz
Columbus Day Easter and the Equinox

Jesus Christ Pantocrator

The Supernatural

"If miracles happened in the past, there is no way to detect them." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 20):


An Example Immutable God
Cautionary Note The Enlightenment
Benedict de Spinoza Pinball Machine
David Hume Natural Explanations

Not There

Robert Price does not commit himself so definitely to any particular thing as to assert that Jesus does not exist, though that is a popular theme nowadays amongst atheists. He does seem to believe that, if Jesus did exist, we wouldn't know anything about it. He closes his book, 'The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man,' with the portentous question, "Dare we step through that door to what Schweitzer called 'thoroughgoing skepticism'? Even if doing so will mean that the historical Jesus will have shrunk to the vanishing point?" (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 354). Is it possible Jesus did not exist?

The Thesis Tacitus
Celsus Suetonius
Mara Bar-Serapion Euhemerus
Talmud Atoms and the Void
Gospel of Thomas Osiris et al
Mutual Annihilation Embarrassment
Jesus Denial Today Little Gods
Adequate Explanation Zeitgeist, the Movie

What is clear enough is that the door these people have opened leads nowhere. They evolved a methodology, premised on the assumption that the New Testament information about Jesus is a screen or a veil which must be shredded to reveal the truth. This methodology has been tried and found wanting; it leads to nothing of value or interest, either when applied to Jesus or to any other historical personage. Error is too common and too uninteresting to cherish or conserve the means of arriving at it.


Gospel of Mark

According to Robert M. Price, the gospel author Mark had no concept that Jesus was God:

"Needless to say, the thought never entered Mark's head that Jesus might be an incarnation of God." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 118).

The gospel of Mark begins with a chain of Old Testament prophecies:

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.’ ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.”’” (Mark 1:1-3).

Mark does not leave the author in long suspense over who this precursor might be; he says, "John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (Mark 1:4). John the Baptist, therefore, is going before the face of one. . .who? Whose face?:

“‘Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1).

Taken very literally and very simply, before the face of the Lord of Hosts.

Modern reductive Bible scholarship grew partly out of Unitarianism; when the Unitarians took over the academy, this is what happened. They used to claim, contrary to all common sense and normal understanding of language, that no Bible author ever believed that Jesus was God, that this belief was invented by Constantine in the fourth century A.D. But the pretzel logic the reader must bend into in order to avoid noticing that the prologue to the Gospel of John ascribes deity to Jesus Christ was just too much, and so now it is very common for these authors to admit that Paul and John believed that Jesus was God. However they hope they can hold the line at the synoptics, having been chased into this last redoubt. Can they?:

Jesus is God

Who is Jesus?

The Son is God.

Your Throne, O God The Work of Your Hands Let Angels Worship
True God Express Image Visible and Invisible
For Himself Son of God Kiss the Son
A Son is born Honor the Son Only-begotten God
Pantocrator Believe on the Son Only Savior
The Dead were Judged Everlasting to Everlasting

Jesus is Jehovah God.

Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Jesus is Jehovah.

A Voice Crying Temple Visitor Stone of Stumbling
The Rock of Israel The First and the Last Lord of all
The LORD our Righteousness Holy, holy, holy Captivity Captive
House of David Answered prayers With all His saints
Israel's Savior Giver of Life Every Knee Shall Bow
Pastoral Supply I send you prophets Who forgives sin
I am He He is Lord Call upon the Name
Doxology God with Us Lawgiver
Great Shepherd You Only Lawful worship
Builder I AM THAT I AM Moses' Veil
Wine Press Lord Willing Secret Things
Boasting Excluded King of Israel Fount of Living Waters
Searches the Heart Till Death Do us Part Angel of the LORD
Take Refuge Has Reigned On His Forehead
Me Whom they have Pierced Stretched Out My Hands Head
Keeper of Israel The Amen

Jesus is God.

Jesus our Lord.

Jesus Christ is God.

The Eyes of the Blind Thought it not Robbery Eternally Blessed God
Fullness of the Godhead Great God and Savior Faith in Him
Redeemed King of Kings Spirit of Christ
Destroyed by Serpents Lord of Glory Renewed in the Image
New Jerusalem's Lamp Now is Christ risen Upholding all Things
Light to the Gentiles My Companion Miracles
Prosecutors' Indictment Sun of Righteousness Thirty Pieces
Testator's Death Author of Life The Blood of God
My Lord and My God One Mystery of godliness
God was in Christ The Word was God Shared Glory
Omniscience Omnipotence Omnipresence
Change Not Yesterday, Today and Forever Whose Hand?
Not of Man Receive my Spirit Believe in God
Only Holy Sole Proprietor Priests
Walk on the Water

Incidentally, the infiltration and persistence of Unitarianism in the academy can serve as a test case for our author's assumption that people believe and understand what they have been told. In the movie, 'Full Metal Jacket,' the Marine trainee is taught to say, 'The private has been instructed but he does not remember,' to avoid seeming to fault his instructors for failing to impart the information. Upon their first assault upon the church, the Unitarians insisted the Bible taught what they believe; the New Testament did not drop from their hands, it was pushed, by orthodox defenders of the deity of Jesus Christ. So the Bible fact that the apostles misunderstood many things is very little proof that they had not been told.

Although our author claims the thought cannot have entered Mark's head that Jesus was God, he also claims this author represents Him as a "demigod:"

"What we have here, manifestly, is another case of Mark's anachronistic misrepresentation of Judaism. What he surely has in mind is decades-later Hellenistic Christology that made of Jesus a demigod walking the earth, Son of God in the same sense as Pythagoras and Apollonius or, more to the point, like Hercules of Perseus. Jews of a latter era did indeed view these beliefs as blasphemies against the unity of the Godhead. Mark has naively retrojected the later situation into the earlier, as so often." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 311).

Needless to say neither Mark nor any other Christian has ever viewed Jesus as a "demigod," although Arius and his followers were accused of so believing. They did not cop to the charge, but vigorously defended themselves against it, as must any monotheist. Since Mark was a monotheist, the thought that Jesus Christ was a "demigod" cannot have entered his head.



According to the Bible, the prophets of old spoke in accord with the spirit of the Messiah:

"Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow." (1 Peter 1:10-11).

To the reader aware of these things, it must come as a surprise to learn that we are obliged to discard as fictive not only every event which fulfills a scriptural prophecy, but even every statement of Jesus which cites scripture! What public speaker does not quote himself, and recycle his best material; but Christ cannot repeat Himself, no exceptions or exemptions allowed. Moreover, a voice from heaven, to avoid being laughed down, must not quote prior scripture either:

  • “. . . The theological point of this rich mosaic of conflated texts is to combine in Jesus Christ the roles of king, servant, and sacrifice. It is both clever and profound. But it is not historical, unless one wishes to imagine God sitting with his Hebrew Psalter, Greek Septuagint, and Aramaic Targum open in front of him, deciding what to crib. Only then does it come to seem ridiculous. ”
  • (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition?, pp. 120-121).

Why accuse Him of 'cribbing,' when He wrote it all? One wonders what the problem is with a heavenly voice quoting scripture; the various versions have only brought out facets of what God first implanted, and what should the heavenly voice quote, the 'Tropic of Capricorn'? Not only can the heavenly voice not quote scripture, Jesus cannot quote scripture either, if He should slip up and do so, the result is tossed; it is not historical, it never happened:

  • “Of course, there would be nothing stopping the historical Jesus from quoting Scripture. . .But, as Bultmann pointed out, who remembers the great man quoting someone else? He may have done it, but it is unlikely to be remembered. . .Again, Jesus quoting Scripture? Likely we would never hear of it.”
  • (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition?, pp. 134-135).

One wonders how much would be left of the Talmud if the Rabbis were not allowed to quote scripture; perhaps they get a special dispensation. First of all, He is not quoting "someone else"; He is the living word of God. Moreover, Jesus must have been a very atypical first-century Jew, if He never quoted scripture; but recall, this author's version of the 'Criterion of Dissimilarity' requires Him never to have said what a first-century Jew might have said. It is hardly surprising to watch Jesus 'shrink' before our eyes, once a methodology is adopted according to which every scriptural allusion that falls from Jesus' lips must get tossed. Scripture is a rich system of mutually interlocking self-quotation:

Pure Words Sufficient
Blind Eyes The Logos
Unbroken Doctrine of the Trinity
To What Purpose? Tradition

Of course it is normal for these people to toss any event which conforms to scriptural prophecy, merely because it does conform. They all do that, not only Robert M. Price. This is simply to assume a priori that theism is in error, that prophecy is impossible, and what is more, it will not even make an exception for coincidence, i.e., that Jesus, it may be, just happened to be born in Bethlehem, or to be 'pierced' in the crucifixion as foretold in Psalm 22. Moreover, the undeniable fact that some people would find His Messianic claim more plausible if He had happened to have these characteristics,— we are more likely to have heard of a Messianic aspirant who has something going for him rather than nothing,— can be allowed no play either.

God is both omniscient and omnipotent, so His habit of talking about things before they have happened, in our time-bound experience, should be nothing remarkable: "Known to God from eternity are all His works." (Acts 15:18). The same God who foreknew these things from eternity also makes it so. To our author, the fact that a story is significant is proof it is fictive. But if reality is writ by the same undying hand that wrote the gospels, then everything is significant, it could not be otherwise. To modern 'scholarship,' every event coinciding with a prophecy must be flat-out denied; it never happened, no exceptions allowed. This seems like really nervous atheism; is it really necessary to go to these lengths to salvage this illusion?

Can prophecy be ruled out a priori? Is it simply not possible that the gospels were written prior to 70 A.D., if there is identifiable mention of events of 70 A.D.? Or is there a statistical problem with allowing false prophecy, showing that people were making real-time predictions, but allowing nothing truthful to slip into the historical stream? Is it 'philosophical naturalism,' or something else, to say that people can make false predictions, and only false predictions, that they can call the coin toss wrong, but not right?:

Isaiah Deuteronomy
Dividing Line Track Record
Copernican Revolution Joseph Atwill
70 A.D. Selection Bias

People will go to great lengths to avoid cognitive dissonance; certainly that's so of atheists. Mr. Price need never worry that experience will discredit his belief that prophecy is impossible; he has ruled that out in advance, because whenever prophecy is fulfilled, he diagnoses 'fiction:'

"As always, we must credit the scriptural citations to Mark who is, so to speak, foraging building blocks from an old structure to build a new one." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 296).

In his mind, scriptural fulfillment is diagnostic of fiction. Period. Even if the prophesied events are in no way supernatural, they are multiply attested, and attested even by hostile witnesses. He allows no exceptions. He even tries to wrest this desperation into polemics,

"What are we to make of this very strange circumstance, that no memory of the central saving event of the Christian religion survived, that when someone first ventured to tell the story of the crucifixion of the Savior, the only building blocks available for the task were various Scripture texts?" (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 322).

Psalm 22 describes a crucifixion. How likely is it that a man would be crucified, and not fulfill Psalm 22:16, "they pierced my hands and my feet"? There's nothing supernatural in a man being crucified, it was a common way to die in first century Judaea. Surely Tacitus, Josephus and the Talmud pursued no apologetic agenda in recording that this is what happened. And yet the instant that Mark verifies His hands and feet were pierced, it's just got to be fiction! This is bullet-proof atheism, no experience on record can ever overturn it.


Nothing Human Here

Jesus was a healer; He never sicced an angry mob on a troubled, damaged human being. His effort was always to restore human fellowship with those left outside society's warm embrace, not to injure them, much less kill them.

That is not everyone's agenda however. When Apollonius came to town during a time of sickness, he managed to convince a frenzied mob that a homeless, elderly man without a defender was the source of the epidemic. The 'proof' he offered that the man was not even human was the fact that, once the mob got done with him, following Apollonius' lead, there was nothing recognizably human left. Apollonius, you see, was the kind of healer who preferred to convince the community that those who are less than perfect are monsters who need to be destroyed to preserve social purity. The tragedy of Robert Price is that he can look at these two figures, Apollonius of Tyana and Jesus of Nazareth, and he cannot tell them apart:


Magic Mushrooms

Jesus nick-named two of His followers 'Boanerges,' interpreted to mean 'Sons of Thunder.' But no,

"Perhaps the best guess is that of John M. Allegro: Boanerges represents an old Sumerian term, Geshpuanur (just switching the prefix to a suffix), 'upholder of the vault of heaven,' which means the same as the title of one of the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces)." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, pp. 188-189).

No doubt ancient Sumerian terms of adoration to the luminaries of their pantheon were on everyone's lips in Galilee. John M. Allegro is the great revealer who discovered that Christianity is a psychedelic mushroom cult. It's a shame that Geshpuanur doesn't sound remotely like Boanerges, even inverted as per instructions. Maybe you need to sample the mushrooms to see the connection.

Another modern author Robert Price likes to quote is Margaret Barker. A believing scholar, she retains good relations with Anglicans and Greek Orthodox people, though the Baptists would have given her the left foot of fellowship long ago. I'm not sure why mythicists like her; she does not deny the historical Jesus. In her mind, He was, not a revolutionary, but a conservative who wanted to to restore the divine kingship of ancient Israel. She is very near to being a Euhemerist; in her reconstruction of the 'First Temple,' Jehovah God was in residence,— but in reality it was a mere man over whom a few words had been spoken. You can always have a God in your temple under those terms, you probably don't even have to pay him much. It's no more a difficult trick than having a Santa Claus in your department store. This toothless Jehovah would have had to borrow a ladder to climb up to the heavenlies:


Second Chance

Gnostic groups like the Cathars who dominated the South of France in medieval times had a two-tier system of organization: the 'pure' (Cathari), celibate ascetics with a sure hope of salvation, and the mass of adherents, who were not ascetics and therefore had no immediate hope of salvation. What they did have, however, was the hope that, if they provided generously for the needs of the 'pure' in this lifetime, in their next incarnation, they might themselves get the chance to be one of the upper crust! But wait: Christianity knows nothing of reincarnation; doesn't the Bible say,

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:. . ." (Hebrews 9:27).

Jesus was offered the chance to sign onto this system, but declined: “And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.'” (John 9:2-3). The Eastern answer to this question is: the man himself sinned; this is the scolding every disabled child comes in for under this system, 'it's your own fault.' Disabled children cannot expect sympathy, not from reincarnationists. How can this be, that it's the retarded or crippled child's own fault? Because he sinned in a prior lifetime, and his sin found him out in this lifetime. Jesus didn't buy it. Why should we?

Isn't this the beauty of the 'Criterion of Dissimilarity:' everything Jesus was, is taken away from Him; born Jewish, but He cannot say anything Jewish-sounding; the Christians are so named because they follow Him and hang on His every word, but He cannot be allowed to say anything they might be minded to repeat. However into this now empty vessel, any alien content you like can be freely poured, so get ready for the Buddhist Jesus!:

  • “The bodhisattvas of the Son of man, too, in this manner traded spiritual value for physical. See also the Druze oral tradition first recorded by Sami Nasib Makarem: 'The Emir [Fakhruddin II (ca. 1572-1635 C.E.)] ironically once asked his uncle, "Why have I been granted all this power and wealth in spite of my ungodliness and impiety?" The sage replied, "Perhaps in a  previous life, once having found someone sleeping in the sun you were kind enough to wake him up and ask him to move into the shade. This kindness to someone deserving is enough for you to experience a life such as you are now living.”'”
  • (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition?, pp. 208-209).

For some reason these people always prefer Buddhism to Christianity; Madame Blavatsky was an instance of the same phenomenon. Of course their 'two-track' system doesn't work without reincarnation, in which Christians do not believe:



According to Robert M. Price, the evangelists perform a brain dump when they sit down to write; there is no circumstance they know of that they do not report:

"Matthew has added an adjunct to this story, in which Peter, too, walks on the water (Matt. 14:28-33). Mark knows nothing of this sequel, nor does John (6:16-21). No one can imagine Mark and John neglecting to mention such an event had they known of it. And if it had happened, they certainly would have heard of it. Who would omit it?" (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 256).

No one can imagine an author making an editorial decision? Why do all authors not write like James Joyce, in stream of consciousness style?


No Evidence

In our author's world, the fact that the Bible says Jesus said something is, not insufficient evidence to determine what He, or others, did say, it is literally "no evidence:" "And yet, no evidence is no evidence. On the other hand, insofar as Mark has attributed to Jesus a halakhic opinion common to scribal opinion, the criterion of dissimilarity rules it out anyway." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 261).

How can a book which presents itself as history be dismissed as "no evidence"? The atheists ought to say, 'insufficient evidence,' or 'non-credible evidence,' when they are in a mood to reject the evidence, not 'no evidence;' for testimony is 'evidence,' whether compelling and credible or otherwise.

If the security camera captured the suspect holding up the bank while wearing an ill-fitting toupee, and the police apprehend him a short distance down the side-walk with effluvia from the exploded dye-bomb in the money-pack all over him, then this is certainly evidence. If the defense calls his friend Lefty, a companion in prior capers, to the stand to testify that the accused spent the whole afternoon at his place playing poker, then this is 'evidence' also, albeit no one can blame the jury for discounting it. The newspapers cannot accurately report the resultant 'guilty' verdict by saying, 'The defense presented no evidence,' because they did present evidence, Lefty the alibi witness. When the atheists toss out the Bible, which they consider a tissue of myths, they should not say, 'no evidence was presented,' but rather, 'we did not find the evidence presented credible.'



Readers of James G. Frazer's tour-de-force 'The Golden Bough' will recall that Jesus is therein presented as just another run-of-the-mill vegetation god:

  • “On the other hand, when we hear the words of a savior bequeathing to his devotees bread as his body and wine as his blood, we know we are in the presence of some Frazerian Corn King like Tammuz, Osiris, or Dionysus, whose impending death means the death of vegetation and whose coming resurrection marks the return of it.”
  • (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition?, p. 297).

Like the solar devotees who amalgamated all other deities into their adored Sol, James G. Frazer thought they were all vegetation gods, the whole lot of them. It's not that we don't understand what we are expected to believe, that Jesus is just another dying-and-rising vegetation god, it's just that nobody has ever succeeded in ascertaining what species of vegetation it is with which we have here to deal. Visitors to churches will often see clipped ornamental shrubbery outside; can Jesus be the vegetation god of clipped ornamental shrubbery? Robert Price's dates are all wrong moreover, clipped ornamental shrubbery does not die off in the spring, at Passover, as did Jesus; nor does vegetation ever 'rise again' in three days, at least I don't know of any plantations with such a short growing span. When the pagans observed the yearly cycle of the drama of the fields, autumnal murder at the hands of the death-dealing harvesters, then new life in the spring as the first tender shoots spring up from the sowers' seed, they personated the crop as a deity, as 'Dionysus' the vine, or 'Demeter' the wheat crop, or whatever it may be; presumably even 'turnips' have got their place in the pantheon because the pagans were nothing if not thorough. And as Paul notices, this annual 'miracle' is indeed a creaturely image of resurrection, a dim reflection in the waters, though beseeching the May-pole to share its gift of life with you is futile and ill-considered.

Our author sees Osiris everywhere:

"The second biblical version of Osiris, as Randel Helms has shown, is Lazarus in John, chapter 11. Bethany, where the sisters Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus live, is a Hebraicized version of 'House/City' of Annu/On,' Heliopolis, the city of Osiris. Martha and Mary are Nephthys and Isis, mourning their brother. Lazarus (from Aramaic 'Eleazar') represents 'El-Osiris.'" (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Man, p. 288).

That this is so would not occur to most people, because losing a loved one is a universal human experience, weeping over a grave is what we all do, not what Isis alone does. As always there are many different versions of the myth, and careful selection is required; Isis' sister does not appear in most versions, but she is needed here and so, there she is. But Mary is not Lazarus' sister/spouse as is Isis, nor is the body dismembered, nor must she travel the length and breadth of Egypt to reassemble him. Lazarus died of natural causes. In fact is it more difficult to see what point of similarity we are supposed to find, amidst the overwhelming differences.

Our author wants it understood that this is the type of Messiah Jesus was, or would have been had He existed, the hitherto neglected dying-and-rising vegetation god Messiah, anointed as a dead body in the tomb:

"Because of this anointing, Jesus was known as Jesus Christ, Jesus the Anointed One, signifying Jesus the Resurrected One. It had not a thing to do with Jewish messianism, except insofar as it kept alive the ancient themes of the dying and rising god that had once been integral to the royal ideology of the divine king." (Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, p. 289).


Pagan Affinities
Alexander Hislop
Changing God
Masked Gods
Hindu Modalist Trinity
Jehovah's Witnesses
Isis, Osiris and Typhon
Zeus, Hera, and Athena
At Random
Jupiter, Mars and Venus
Bus Herds

I'm not sure when the Vegetable Messiah was ever 'anointed,' although one might well drizzle a little oil into the wok when stir-frying the vegetable deities. Is this off-season manuring, or dousing with 'Round-up' or whatever insecticides vegetation gods must endure to have poured over them during the fallow season, what makes Jesus the 'Messiah,' or is He plainly the Davidic Messiah? Even their own methodology allows for the 'Criterion of Embarrassment,' another machine for unmaking Christianity, and the New Testament records complaints from deflated followers:

"But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done." (Luke 24:21).

Their glum mood suggests they perceived the crucifixion as tending to discredit Jesus' claims. Had he claimed only to be a prophet, they would not have been disillusioned by His death; people expect prophets to die at the end of their course. But the Messiah is different. Then, after the resurrection, they rejoiced, at another perceived chance to get it right!:

"When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).

So yes, He did claim to be the Davidic Messiah, not the seldom-mentioned Vegetation Messiah, whom even the vegetables are not expecting as far as we can tell.

There are some legitimate parallels between certain of the stories about the pagan nothings and the gospel, because God has pre-programmed us to respond to a certain story. When the events are not known to have unfolded, our very eagerness to respond to this story can invent the long-desired narrative, as when a starving man hallucinates a banquet. But many of this author's parallels are just hokum. The Homeric epics are well worth reading on their merits; if parallels must be sought, why not concur that a good king is very much like a shepherd, whether David or Menelaus? Indeed this similitude thrust itself into public consciousness long before the Iliad; the Chaldaeans called a king the shepherd of his people: "The first king of the region, so they say, was Alorus. He spread a report about himself that he had been chosen by god to be the shepherd of the people, and he reigned [over them] for ten sars. . . " (Chronicon, Eusebius of Caesaria, Kindle location 184). If the parallel were strained, then look for influence; but if it is obvious, isn't that sufficient explanation for its popularity? Why pretend blind Bartimaeus has got something to do with Tiresias? Yet he claims Mark drew his story from the Odyssey (p. 147)! Among other divergences, Tiresias' sight was never restored. The similitude between a healing miracle and a. . .non-healing, is not apparent. Other characteristics of Tiresias, like his variable gender, are unshared. Robert Price's idea of a pagan god who is just so exactly like Jesus as to discredit the latter's historicity is found in Euripides' classic drama 'The Bacchae:'

 The Bacchae 

Long before the hippies, there were the Bacchae, who adored their deity Dionysus through drunken rioting. It would have been more efficient for the aging hippies of the 'Jesus Seminar' to go right to the source in finding something they can relate to, rather than remolding Jesus into their image! Agave is a devoted servant to this god. What is to be her reward, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over? He rewards her for her faithful service by causing her to rip her own son, Pentheus, limb from limb, without anesthesia, leaving him as a bloodied, dismembered carcass. The reader wonders how she is to live with herself after doing such a thing, without throwing herself down a precipice. In Mr. Price's eyes, however, this deity is so very much like Jesus, as to entitle us to discount the latter's historicity, which is after all the point of the 'Criterion of Dissimilarity.'

Staring across the abyss into the glowing coal red eyes of this devil, who has not taken the trouble to disguise himself as any angel of light but shows himself in his natural, comfortable, true self, one shudders at the spiritual blindness which could gaze upon a devil and say, 'Ah! The Son of God!'


Daily Planet

Robert Price wants to know why 'The Daily Planet' wasn't reporting on Superman. In other words, if Jesus really was performing wonders in Palestine, then, he assumes, the pagan historians would have trampled each other on their way in to the land to witness and report. It's interesting, incidentally, that both the Talmud and Celsus concede that Jesus was a wonderfully successful healer, though they ascribe his healings to "sorcery."

In the current day, some people say that many are healed at Benny Hinn crusades, while others imagine none are healed but all go away worse than when they came. In truth, neither group has conducted an objective study, handing out questionnaires to attendees and monitoring their responses. Instead of doing this, people just plug in their existing biases and assumptions about the world. It is likely people did this in the first century also, and that most pagan historians would share Tacitus' contempt for the degraded superstition of Christianity, as he saw it, without making any effort to talk to Christians or investigate their lives, and hear about what Jesus has done for them.

In fact this can't be done by a simple poll. The results must be compared both to a control group of similarly ill people receiving no treatment, and also to a group receiving a placebo, a sugar pill. Those who aspire to market a pharmacological drug in the United States must demonstrate, not only its safety, but also its efficacy, which is defined to mean that it is more effective than a placebo. And a placebo, all by itself, is powerful medicine! Hope is the active ingredient. Doing this type of research is very, very expensive, which is why no one does it! Determining success, whether for a drug or for a spiritual discipline, is not so straightforward as represented, because most medical conditions self-resolve; look at it that way, and everything works. This fact probably helps to explain how medicine got through the dark ages, when they had very little to offer that actually helped people, and much of what they did offer, such as blood-letting, probably did a lot more harm than good. People talk as if they had done this very costly and time-consuming research, but they have not.

To the extent that any such research has been done by any one at any time, it tends to show that religion is good for your health, yet without really showing why, leaving atheists free to posit psychological mechanisms if they prefer. What the target would be is open to dispute; no source that promotes prayer, including the Bible, advertises 100% success, rather, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16). Not overly righteous folks, not so much. God has specifically warned certain folks that He's not listening "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." (Isaiah 1:15). So non-righteous people whose hands are full of blood can expect correspondingly little; they might want to adopt the pessimistic slogan, 'Man proposes, God disposes.'

Those who promote the 'prosperity gospel' might expect better results. If the Daily Planet wanted to finance this type of research, the results would be interesting; I would expect to see the prayer group showing better results than the placebo group but substantially less than 100%. Of course they do no such thing; rather, they interview one 'success story' and one from the ranks, and they are numerous, who came to the revival in a wheelchair and left in a wheelchair, and call that 'balanced.' Of course Benny Hinn is a magnet for all kinds of accusations, of personal failings and doctrinal deviations, and so they will quote those sources as well. They would have done the same with Jesus of Nazareth, who had His critics as well. Uncritical acceptance of Jesus' miracles is not what would be expected of pagan historians, especially since the people among whom He lived and walked were despised on general principles. They did not have an open mind, on the crucial point of whether the God of Israel was the true and living God. The same pagan historians who tell us that the object of the Jews' worship was an ass are not likely to acclaim His wondrous works of their own time.

Let us query one of the reporters for the Daily Planet, Tacitus; perhaps he can explain to us the origin of the religion of Israel:

"So the Hebrews were searched out and gathered together; then, being abandoned in the desert, while all others lay idle and weeping, one only of the exiles, Moses by name, warned them not to hope for help from gods or men, for they were deserted by both, but to trust to themselves, regarding as a guide sent from heaven the one whose assistance should first give them escape from their present distress. They agreed, and then set out on their journey in utter ignorance, but trusting to chance. Nothing caused them so much distress as scarcity of water, and in fact they had already fallen exhausted over the plain nigh unto death, when a herd of wild asses moved from their pasturage to a rock that was shaded by a grove of trees. Moses followed them, and, conjecturing the truth from the grassy ground, discovered abundant streams of water. This relieved them, and they then marched six days continuously, and on the seventh seized a country, expelling the former inhabitants; there they founded a city and dedicated a temple.
"To establish his influence over this people for all time, Moses introduced new religious practices, quite opposed to those of all other religions. The Jews regard as profane all that we hold sacred; on the other hand, they permit all that we abhor. They dedicated, in a shrine, a statue of that creature whose guidance enabled them to put an end to their wandering and thirst, sacrificing a ram, apparently in derision of Ammon." (Tacitus, Histories, Book V, Chapters 3-4).

Alrighty then. So the Jews worship an ass, a statue of which graces the Holy of Holies. This is what we discover reading the Daily Planet. Is it likely this reporter believes God appeared amongst His people in Israel? When He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding on a donkey, the foal of an ass, no doubt the people were acclaiming the ass as God, not Him. All this time people have missed the point! Maybe it's just me, but I don't think Tacitus had an open mind.



Critics of mythicism object that, while Christianity was set upon by detractors from the very start, none ever took this tack until the enlightenment. What answer have the mythicists?

"First, is Christ mythicism some kind of novelty dreamed up by skeptics living far enough after the events to be able to get away with it? Bart and many others think so. He says 'the idea that Jesus did not exist is a modern notion. It has no ancient precedents.' Again, 'Even the enemies of the Jesus movement thought that Jesus had existed. Among their many slurs against the religion his non-existence is never one of them.'
"I'm not so sure of that. Justin Martyr ascribes to his dialogue partner Trypho the allegation, 'You have received a futile rumor and have created some sort of Christ for yourselves.' . . .It seems less contrived to take Trypho as charging that the Christian savior was a figment of pious imagination." (Robert Price, Debate with Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? 36:28-37:57).

Is this true? Is Trypho, a character in Justin's dialogue who may have been based on Rabbi Tarphon, a mythicist before the enlightenment? Well, no, of course not. He thought that Jesus was crucified:

“And when I had ceased, Trypho said, 'These and such like Scriptures, sir, compel us to wait for Him who, as Son of man, receives from the Ancient of days the everlasting kingdom. But this so-called Christ of yours was dishonorable and inglorious, so much so that the last curse contained in the law of God fell on him, for he was crucified.'” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 32).

How is a man who thought that Jesus was crucified, and that that fact alone disqualified him from candidacy for Messiahship, a mythicist? If some of what a character says might be compatible with a stance of mythicism, but other statements not, what do you expect a mythicist to do? Quote the helpful stuff, ignore the other stuff. You will not find a more intellectually disreputable corner of the internet than the mythicist movement, which inhibits its popularity amongst youthful atheists not one iota.

Trypho's challenge to Justin is, not to prove that Jesus of Nazareth existed; he does not dispute this point,— but rather to prove that this Jesus was the Christ. I am not inferring this, but just repeating what he says: "'Now show if this man be He of whom these prophecies were made.'" (Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, Chapter 36). Trypho has two sources of information about Jesus, one being hearsay from the Christians, the other being input from the "teachers" of Israel: “And Trypho said, 'Sir, it were good for us if we obeyed our teachers, who laid down a law that we should have no intercourse with any of you, and that we should not have even any communication with you on these questions.'” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 38). Evidently neither of these two divergent sources of information had communicated mythicism to Trypho.

And how can he think he can get away with ascribing mythicism to Celsus, the early pagan critic of  Christianity?:

“He [Celsus] then goes on to rail against us after the manner of old wives. “You,” says he, 'mock and revile the statues of our gods; but if you had reviled Bacchus or Hercules in person, you would not perhaps have done so with impunity. But those who crucified your God when present among men, suffered nothing for it, either at the time or during the whole of their lives.'” (Origen, Against Celsus, Book 8, Chapter 41).

How would he know that those who crucified Jesus never suffered for it,— and indeed, since the Lord pleaded for their forgiveness, one would hope they did not,— if he believed Jesus never existed? You realize after a point that the audience for this material consists of teeny-boppers raised in Christian homes, who want to joint the party put on by their age-mates; these people are not going to go to the trouble of finding out what Celsus actually said, so the product put out by Price is plenty good enough to meet the market. Celsus knows of the slur against Mary, that Jesus was the illegitimate child of a German soldier:

“But let us now return to where the Jew is introduced, speaking of the mother of Jesus, and saying that 'when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera;' and let us see whether those who have blindly concocted these fables about the adultery of the Virgin with Panthera, and her rejection by the carpenter, did not invent these stories to overturn His miraculous conception by the Holy Ghost. . .” (Origen, Against Celsus, Book 1, Chapter 32).

An individual who is the illegitimate child of a German soldier is not non-existent. The very many specific allegations Celsus throws against Jesus, for instance that one of His followers betrayed Him, showing that He had no good influence upon even the small band that travelled with him, are in no way compatible with mythicism. I hope that the reader will study Celsus' 'On True Doctrine,' and see how it works:

 On True Doctrine 

Celsus thinks that the Christians talk about the "tree of life" because of the happenstance that their leader was crucified:

"And in all their writings is mention made of the tree of life, and a resurrection of the flesh by means of the ‘tree,’ because, I imagine, their teacher was nailed to a cross; so that if he had chanced to have been cast from a precipice, or shoved into a pit, or suffocated by hanging, there would have been invented a precipice of life far beyond the heavens, or a pit of resurrection, or a cord of immortality. Or if the ’tree of life’ was an invention because he—Jesus—is reported to have been a carpenter by craft, it would follow that if he had been a leather-cutter, something would have been said about a sacred leather; or had he been a stone-cutter, about a blessed stone; or if a worker in iron, about an iron of love!" (Celsus, On True Doctrine).

Celsus is misinformed about the origin of the 'tree of life,' but he does believe it is a happenstance that He was crucified, which is not characteristic of a non-entity. Mythical personages do not 'happen to have' any particular characteristics, only those attributes fittingly assigned to them by those who invented them. Alert readers should draw the relevant conclusions. Is it really true that Celsus and Trypho were mythicists before their time, as alleged? Or is this not even defensible before any reader who hastily scans the documents? What we are dealing with here is not even honest scholarship.