Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Robert Price, down for the count

On Facebook I had a brief exchange with Robert Price. But he ran away. Price is ambidextrous. He can simultaneously shoot himself in the foot while inserting the other foot in his mouth. 

To repost what I said:

It's just a fact that Price represents the lunatic fringe of Bible scholarship.

Fellow mythicist Richard Carrier thinks Price bombed in his recent debate with Bart Ehrman over the historicity of Jesus.

Robert Price is a throwback to the quaint, oft-discredited notion that Jesus is an iteration of the dying-and-rising god mythotype. For a few correctives:

Or take the entries on "Mystery Religions," and "Dying and Rising Gods" in The Encyclopedia of Religion (2nd ed., 2005), which debunk James Frazer and the whole category of dying-and-rising gods. 

The fact that Price thinks only "apologists" take that position goes to show how uniformed and out-of-date his information is.

Notice Price's sophistical tactic of attempting to preemptively discredit scholars who debunk parallelomania by labeling them as "apologists". 

As far as that goes, observe the double standard. Price is an "apologist" as well. An apologist for misotheism. Someone who's devoted his career to attacking the historical Jesus is just as much an "apologist" as someone who defends the historical Jesus.

In The Historical Jesus: Five Views (Beilby & Eddy, eds.), Price summaries his approach. Let's consider two pillars of his approach:

i) The principle of analogy (a la Troeltsch). He uses that to justify a methodological atheism. Historians go by probabilities. We must assess past claims by what we know. We know the present. Since we don't experience miracles, we must discount reported miracles in the Gospels. 

But even if, for argument's sake, we accept the principle of analogy, it cuts both ways. If there's credible evidence for modern miracles, then that debunks methodological atheism.

As a many of fact, modern miracles are well-documented. Take Craig Keener's two volume collection, or case-studies in the appendices to Robert Larmer's The Legitimacy of Miracle (Lexington 2014) and Dialogues on Miracle (WIPF & Stock 2015).

Keep in mind that as a universal negative, methodological atheism can't afford a single miracle. Therefore, if even just a fraction of reported miracles are authentic, that debunks Price's secular historiography.

ii) Price devotes a lot of time to documenting alleged parallels between Jesus, OT incidents, and even the Homeric epics. Of course, the notion that the life of Christ has many OT precedents is hardly novel. 

More to the point, Price is oblivious to the fact that his literary analysis contradicts his principle of analogy. For if the supernatural is real, then, given the principle of analogy, we'd expect the same kinds of supernatural events to recur in the life of Christ that happened in OT times. 

Ironically, Price's principle of analogy falsifies his literary analysis. If the present resembles the past, then NT history ought to be comparable to OT history. That's to be expected, given the principle of analogy.


  1. Steve once posted this great quote by Carrier:

    I [Richard Carrier] still find many of his [Robert Price's] claims under-documented and his arguments often weaker than they need to be, his methods are often a cipher, and he is bad at clarifying (e.g. he will defend many different mutually-contradictory theories without explaining what we are supposed to conclude from the fact that he does that, such as whether he thinks they are all equally likely or whether he thinks some are more likely than others but that all are more likely than historicity, or if he even thinks they are more likely than historicity rather than only just as likely or unlikely but likely enough to be uncertain of historicity, etc.; and that’s not the only confusion Price will lead you into, it’s just the one that I often notice the most). He also never thoroughly defends a single coherent theory of Christian origins, making him a moving target for critics (contrast with Doherty, who does a generally good job at this, and is the best mythicist to read, although he still stubbornly falls short of dissertation quality argumentation and just complains when I say that rather than trying to work out how to formulate and document arguments in a way that would pass a fair peer review–such as learning to stop crowding strong arguments with weak arguments, and instead drop the weak arguments and just shore up the strong arguments).

    Quote taken from Carrier's suspended blog: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4664/comment-page-1#comment-54444

  2. I didn't know Price had a Facebook account, learn something new everyday!