CPBD 054: Bob Price – The Case Against the Case for Christ

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 11, 2010 in Bible,Historical Jesus,Podcast

(Listen to other episodes of Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot here.)

Today I interview Bible scholar Bob Price, whom I interviewed earlier here. Among other things, we discuss:

  • Are the gospels historically reliable?
  • Did Jesus fulfill Old Testament prophecies of a Jewish Messiah?
  • What does archaeology have to say about the historical Jesus?
  • How strong is the historical case for the Resurrection?

Download CPBD episode 054 with Bob Price. Total time is 55:32.

Bob Price links:

Links for things we discussed:

Note: in addition to the regular blog feed, there is also a podcast-only feed. You can also subscribe on iTunes.

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

MauricXe July 11, 2010 at 7:44 am

What a timely post. I just finished The Case for Christ last week and I am a looking for a good “atheist perspective”

Strobel’s book is nothing more than a one sided affair. He only interviews Christian theologians that are Christian e.g. William Lane Craig.

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Reginald Selkirk July 11, 2010 at 8:08 am

I just finished The Case for Christ last week and I am a looking for a good “atheist perspective”

EbonMuse at Daylight Atheism put together a good set of posts on Strobel’s other book, The Case for a Creator. link

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Hermes July 11, 2010 at 8:14 am

I used to subscribe to The Bible Geek podcast, but it moved to Ustream and I only catch it on rare occasions now;

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/TheBibleGeek

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G'DIsraeli July 11, 2010 at 9:19 am

The Mishnah – At last some Judaism! ;)

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Reginald Selkirk July 11, 2010 at 10:33 am

That must have been an easy interview for you, Price really has his patter down. He must have given a lot of talks on this material. Just an occasional question to get him started, and he’s off for 5 or 10 minutes uninterrupted.

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lukeprog July 11, 2010 at 10:49 am

Reginald,

I know! Bob is a great talker. I would interview him for 50 hours if I could. His interviews were very easy to edit.

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noen July 11, 2010 at 11:52 am

Another rebuttal:

The Rest of the Story (1999) Jeffery J. Lowder

Lowder is not that convincing when attempting to cast doubt on the historicity of Jesus but much better when discussing the likelihood of the resurrection.


Robert M. Price’s book is does not come off that well in the reviews on Amazon with one reviewer saying of The Case Against the Case for Christ that:

“it does not even try to give a balanced look at Strobel’s work, instead relying on personal attack, ridicule and sarcasm, which another reviewer confuses with “humour”. Dr. Price does have a knack for making plays on words in his various chapter titles, but this does not constitute “argument”.”

Preaching to the choir seems to be a popular activity on both sides.

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Fortuna July 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

It doesn’t come off well in one review so far, a review which is itself not coming off well among other commentators. They seem to wonder whether KC even read the book.

Preaching to the choir seems to be a popular activity on both sides.

I’m sure, but what particular reason do you have to suppose that this is an instance of such preaching?

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Reginald Selkirk July 11, 2010 at 1:20 pm

it does not even try to give a balanced look at Strobel’s work…

Balance is greatly overvalued. I want objective, I want fair. But asking for balance is presuming too much. A “balanced” view of whether or not the moon landings were faked, for example, grants too much to insane wingnuts, that their gibberings should be granted equal consideration. A “balanced” view of David Barton’s pseudo-history vs. genuine scholarship on the Founding Fathers’ views on church & state would be another example. A “balanced” view on who is the greater basketball player, Michael Jordan or me, would be another example. Some positions are worthy of ridicule.

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Dan July 11, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Hey Luke,

I’ve missed the last few podcasts, so maybe I’m late – but the audio quality is much improved on your end. Not much one can do to improve the audio of someone over the phone I realize.

Nice, sharp, calming music in the front, too. Very well done. I’m glad to see you’re not just content with the same quality, instead pushing to improve. Good stuff.

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Ron Penrose July 11, 2010 at 2:08 pm

J. P. Holding has begun a chapter by chapter response to Price, here:
http://www.tektonics.org/ezine/pricecase/pricecaseindex.html

I wonder if Price will respond?

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Ryan M July 11, 2010 at 2:13 pm

A review by KC James is generally not a review at all, from what I can see.

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noen July 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Fortuna
I’m sure, but what particular reason do you have to suppose that this is an instance of such preaching?

Usually you can tell by the amount of heat coming from both sides but I think I am going to retract this. I posted my comment before listening to the podcast and it seems that Price’s arguments are directed at evangelicals. So… I think he may have good cause to be frustrated and he is probably correct in his characterization of how they conduct their Biblical “research”.

For myself I think there was a historical person behind the gospels but I highly doubt the resurrection. One detail: Jesus did claim to be “Son of Man” but at the time that title didn’t have the implication it does today. It just meant something like “guru” or some such or other. It was something that a human could become. It was only later Christian theologians who invented the triune godhead.

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lukeprog July 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Thanks, Dan!

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End of Daze July 12, 2010 at 11:23 am

Price might know his religious history but his 70s rock is a little weak. Nazareth didn’t play “The Boys Are Back in Town.” That was Thin Lizzy.

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ShaneSteinhauser July 13, 2010 at 12:44 am

Luke, please do not interview people who once held to the idea that Jesus is just a copycat of Horus.

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lukeprog July 13, 2010 at 1:29 am

Shane,

I’d be very interested to read your comments on the arguments Bob actually makes in my interviews, rather than trying to dismiss his views via ad hominem.

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Josh July 13, 2010 at 7:13 am

I like this new intro music a lot better than the old techno stuff. Keep up the good work, Luke!

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G'DIsraeli July 13, 2010 at 7:35 am

The new opening reminds me a little of New age (bad).On the other hand of Stars of the Lid (Good!).
Fuck, I love Thin Lizzy, great music.
I like Robert M. Price very much, would love to hear shit on the old testament too.

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lukeprog July 13, 2010 at 7:44 am

G’Disraeli,

It’s actually stretched-out Beethoven.

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Luke Barnes July 13, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Can someone with more knowledge of these things than I comment on this reply:

http://www.tektonics.org/ezine/pricecase/pricecaseindex.html

?

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lukeprog July 14, 2010 at 12:22 am

I’m waiting for J.P. Holding to finish his response before I comment.

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Robert Oerter July 14, 2010 at 8:15 am

I have a rather long comment about this interview on my blog:

http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/2010/07/robert-price-mythicist.html

It seems to me that Price is bending the evidence to say what he wants it to say.

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ShaneSteinhauser July 15, 2010 at 9:59 am

Luke I’m not arguing agianst any of Price’s postions, so there’s no ad hominem fallacy. I’m simply saying that people who once thought Jesus was a carbon copy of Horus, Mythras, Osiris etc are not worth taking seriously.

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kilopapa July 17, 2010 at 2:38 am

If you want to see J.P. Holding reduced to the blithering douchebag that he surely is I recommend Farrell Tills detailed debates with him at http://www.theskepticalreview.com.
Farrell Till is a former evangelical minister turned atheist who is one the best “debunkers” of the bible that I’ve come across. I don’t think that he is actively posting these days but his past debates and articles are well worth reading.

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ShaneMcKee July 18, 2010 at 6:47 am

If Price can be dismissed en bloc because he once held to a silly (in my opinion) view that Jesus was a Horus knock-off, then I presume I (and Luke and many many others) can similarly dismissed because we once held to the manifestly ludicrous view that Jesus the Nazarene was the Son of God and died for the sins of the world.

So, other Shane, please do not commit a genetic fallacy here – deal with THIS Price. Your response is the very *epitome* of ad hominem!

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ShaneSteinhauser July 19, 2010 at 6:24 am

@ShaneMckee

Jesus being a carbon copy of other Gods is in a whole other league of stupidity, when compared to belief in christianity. Horus mythicism is the atheist version of creationism. You would have to be either woefully undereducated or have an agenda, that is immune to evidence and reason, in order to think either things. Price went to college so he is not uneducated. Sadly he must have an agenda that is immune to evidence.

An ad hominem is when you say that your opponent is dumb, smelly, too tall, etc and then conclude that their position must be wrong. I say that Price is irrational, but I do not use that to conclude that he is wrong. I simply conclude that whether Price is right or wrong on the issues I should find a better more trustworthy source of information than Robert M. Price.

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ShaneMcKee July 19, 2010 at 10:24 am

OK, that’s convenient, but I don’t see how believing that certain aspects of the Jesus myth are derived from the much older Horus tradition is any stupider than believing Jesus rose from the dead – quite the reverse. But you do seem to be using this to try to discredit what Price says. That is ad hominem. Or perhaps you would like to deal with his points? Play the ball, not the man.

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ShaneSteinhauser July 23, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Well to belive that Jesus rose from the dead you have to be a credulous positivist historian. To believe that Horus died on a cross, had twelve disciples, was betrayed etc. You have to have not even read a basic encyclopedia entry on Horus.

Why would I want to deal with his points on Jesus having not risen from the cross? I agree with him that Jesus did not come back to life.

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ShaneMcKee July 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Yeah, but he *doesn’t* believe that guff about Horus any more, does he? Why are you so keen to dismiss his views without any analysis, simply on the basis of him once having had distinctly nutty ideas? [Actually, what's your source for this? - I don't know enough of the back-story to Price]. FFS, I used to believe in Santa Claus – does that mean that my current arguments can simply be brushed aside? I’m just trying to make a general point here.

-Shane

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ShaneMcKee July 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Actually I’ve found a link to http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/christinegypt.html

The Egyptologist in me wants to bang my head off a wall repeatedly:

* Horus was born on “December 25th” (winter solstice) in a manger.

No he wasn’t.

* He was of royal descent, and his mother was the “virgin Isis-Mery.”

“Mery(t)” simply means “beloved”. Mary in the bible is “Maryam”, which (it has been argued) may be derived from “Meret-n-Amun” – “Beloved of Amun” (which would carry a certain irony). And Iset was no virgin, but then neither was Mary until the authors of Matthew and Luke had a go at her.

* Horus’s birth was announced by a star in the East and attended by three “wise men.”

Nope. Anyway, the bible does not mention *three* wise men.

* At age 12, he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was baptized.

Nope. Unless Josephus himself was in the same boat. Indeed, this temple business looks like a common autobiographical boast.

* Horus was baptized by “Anup the Baptizer,” who was decapitated.

Nope.

* The Egyptian god had 12 companions, helpers or disciples.

Nope.

* Horus performed miracles, exorcised demons and raised Osiris from the dead.

Not quite.

* The god walked on water.

Don’t they all.

* Horus was “crucified” between two “thieves.”

Nope.

* He (or Osiris) was buried for three days in a tomb and resurrected.

Not quite.

* Horus/Osiris was also the “Way, the Truth, the Life,” “Messiah,” the “Son of Man,” the “Good Shepherd,” the “Lamb of God,” the “Word made flesh,” the “Word of Truth,” etc.

He had his epithets, for sure, but these do not match.

* Horus’s personal epithet was “Iusa,” the “ever-becoming son” of the Father. He was called “Holy Child,” as well as “the Anointed One,” while Osiris was the KRST.

Eeeek – that is horribly garbled. Jesus himself was not called “Holy Child” in the bible.

* Horus battled with the “evil one,” Set/Seth.

Set was not “evil” as such – he was a force of disorder & chaos. The concepts are rather different.

* Horus was to reign for one thousand years.

I’m not so sure about this. The Pharaoh was seen as the Horus, and the reigns were typically forecast for “millions of years”.

Sorry to go over all that, but most of those don’t even apply to *Jesus*, never mind *Horus*. There are plenty of parallels, for sure, but that list really is stretching it, and the parallels are massively strained. Dearie dearie me… I mean, I could take my *cat* and draw similar parallels to Jesus or Horus.

Bob, say it ain’t so!!

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ShaneSteinhauser July 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WE6KqJjeE8A&feature=related

There we go. That was Price in 2005 advocating the idea that Jesus is just a carbon copy of Horus, Mythras, etc.

“The Egyptologist in me wants to bang my head off a wall repeatedly”

ROFLOL! Yep. I was willing to check out Price’s claims of Jesus just being a carbon copy of all these other God-Heroes. After reading a 1500 page encyclopedia on mythology I dismissed the claims as mostly nonsense.

If Jesus is a reworked Hercules then Luke Skywalker is a reworked King Arthur.

They have nothing in common aside from following a very vague and loose story telling archtype.

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ShaneMcKee July 24, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Shane, I hate to have to do this, but I really am going to have to back down a tad here. After reading all that, and Bob’s review of that Murdock book on his own website, he has rather a large hill to climb in my estimation (not that I am going to try to hurl him from it!).

Having said that, he does write well, and I don’t think he gets everything wrong… I think he’s right about Nazareth – I have spent a fair bit of time there, and I really don’t think it was the home town of Jesus the Nazarene – for one thing, there is no evidence that the area was even *called* Nazareth back then, and perhaps it is more likely (as some have said) that “Nazarene” referred to “Nazirite” or “Nasorean”, and may even refer to “Gai Nesaret”, or modern Ginosar on Lake Tiberias (where I had a very pleasant night-time swim a few months ago, incidentally). Or there may be no reference to a place name at all.

Didn’t the Reasonable Doubts chappies do a hatchet job on the Horus myth as part of their Zeitgeist takedown? I can’t recall which episode it was.

I should probably comment here that I *do* actually have a smattering of a background in Egyptology, having done a 4 year certificate with the University of Manchester (and getted a v good score for my dissertashun, so I iz ofishuly skolar). I am in no doubt that Egyptian religion has impacted significantly on Christianity in a number of ways, but to claim that the “historical” story of Jesus as told in Mark at least is based on the Horus stories, or even that it is a clever allegory seems to me absurd in the extreme.

As an aside, the details around Horus, and how the stories evolved over Egyptian history, are fascinating. The Pharaoh was seen as “the Horus” – after 30 years (thiry years!!) of rule, he had to perform the “Heb Sed” ritual, in which he would undergo trials, be symbolically “killed”, and then resurrected (i.e. conquer death) to reign for another three years (three years! Year 33!) before having to do it all again. Now you *could* say that 30 years corresponds to the age of Jesus when he started his ministry, and three years to when he was crucified and resurrected, but that really would be stretching a simplistic analogy way way way too far.

Horus-the-younger WAS referred to as “Shed” (“Saviour”), and in the Late Period was frequently shown trampling snakes and crocodiles (“he shall bruise his head, and he shall bruise his heel”), in a manner very reminiscent of much much later “baby Jesus” iconography, transposed to St Patrick of our lovely isle. Ireland doesn’t have any native snakes, and (amazingly) we are pretty low on crocodiles too.

You have got me thinking; perhaps there *is* a need for this Horus stuff to get a jolly good take-down. I’ll maybe post someting about it soon on my blog (link on my moniker). Don’t hold any breath, though! :-)

Cheers, and thanks for a spirited discussion!

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ShaneSteinhauser July 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Well I’m glad that you’ve seen the light. I agree that Price isn’t wrong on everything. I’m skeptical about what he says about Nazareth, but I’m willing to look into it when I have time. Apologists will say that it was a tiny town of 100 people. Too small to be noticed by archeologists. But I just don’t know whether that’s a valid response.

I don’t know anything about the reasonable doubt folks. Have a link to their site?

The catholic church has a history of absorbing pagan traditions into its theology. Isis, St. Patrick, Easter,and Christmas are all good examples of it. Problem is that many of these genuine parallels didn’t exist before the catholic church came along and played copy cat.

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ShaneMcKee July 25, 2010 at 12:43 am

Hi Shane,
Here’s the URL: http://doubtreligion.blogspot.com/

There actually is possibly *some* merit to the notion that “Nazareth” may have existed as a very very tiny collection of huts at the time – after all, it can’t even in principle be *disproven*, although if it was really that wee, it would make something of a mockery of other sections of the bible, i.e. Nathaneal’s dismissive reaction (he’d need to have *heard* of it, and the aphorism would need to have been coined), and the story in Luke of being almost tipped off the cliff becomes a bit less dramatic! I still prefer the notion that the NazarENE-NazarETH is a Greek linguistic error, and the (minimal) stories were woven around it.

As for St Patrick, the Ice Age had already driven all the snakes out of Ireland, but it’s interesting to note that he is the only “Patron Saint” in the British Isles who actually has a strong historical basis in Ireland itself, albeit with many many crazy stories attached in later hagiographies.

Do check out the Reasonable Doubts chaps above – they are v good. Here’s the Zeitgeist one (just found it!): http://doubtreligion.blogspot.com/2010/03/episode-63-zeitgeist-debunked.html

Cheers,
-Shane

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