Chapter 6 starts with some material on the Jesus Seminar, and Price’s personal leanings, which contains little to nothing in the way of substantive argument; it’s mostly description and appeal to diversity of views, coupled with some “I’m rubber you’re glue” commentary directed to Strobel and Greg Boyd, as well as professions to not be holding to certain views as virulently as he supposes Boyd makes it out to be (though with Price, such moderations of his claims seem to emerge only when he is called on the carpet for them and called to defend them). I can certainly note, however, that Price’s estimation of the results of oral tradition study with respect to the Gospels is merely an oversimplified caricature; on this see the first section of Trusting the New Testament.
Other than that, we don’t get to any substantive argument until about halfway through the chapter; the main subject is whether the recorded words of Jesus are historical, or invented. My comments here will not necessarily take up with Boyd’s arguments; I go for a somewhat simpler, less philosophical approach of demanding the critics like Price produce actual arguments for why Jesus did not say or do what is recorded in the text. My series here, while mainly about harmonization, also lampooned some of the premises of those who deny the historic words and deeds of Jesus: Using the same techniques, one could easily divest any historical figure of any words and deeds one pleased. Does Price have anything that would answer such critiques? No, of course not: His recourse is to the bankrupt “principle of analogy,” which is merely Hume warmed over and history placed in a straitjacket. Amazingly Price is still using the same foolish argument about Samson (Judges 15:14-17) which we defeated a decade or so ago:
Price is not doing justice to the dimensionality of the stories being told. Where are we told that "the thousand Philistines lined up to be killed one by one" or that Samson "overcame the simultaneous onslaught of a thousand men"? This is not what we are told happened in either case. We are told that a thousand men were killed - period.
But Price, stuck with the silly idea that the story has Samson killing the thousand one after the other as if on an assembly line, on that grounds declares the story a “legend”. He also erects the same straw retort we defeated in a review of Deconstructing Jesus:
Arice asks: "Does the mother have to be named Mary? Does the divine child have to be named Jesus?" Answer: No, and this is no more than Price erecting a straw man: No one has demanded such a level of precision before a parallel can be drawn. What would be acceptable (merely to begin making a case -- there's lot more that's needed; see here) is another case of divine fiat.
Price’s notion of an “ideal type” is nothing but a vague, generalizing type of categorization that he uses as an excuse for why the parallel is weak, non-existent, or lacking in meaningfulness: The category needed is simply altered, trimmed, or manipulated in order to include within it whatever one wants (or exclude what one does not want). The appeal to the “dying and rising god” type is a classic example; theorists like Price necessarily resist attempts to impose discipline on the study, for the obvious reason that to do so would expose the bankruptcy, arbitrariness, and artificiality of the typecasting.
In terms of particulars offered, I would not differentiate Jesus, at least, from Jewish miracle workers like Hanina ben dosa, denying historicity to one and not the other, as Boyd does. Nor would I do as Price does and dismiss them as history just because of some imagined likeness to prior events: eg, stilling of storms, with parallels to Jonah. It would never occur to an unimaginative thinker like Price that in this culture, to re-enact older events was considered a way to display your authority. If Jesus multiplies food like Elijah did, it is precisely to show that he has the power and authority Elijah had, if not more. Strangely as well, it never occurs to Price that whatever motives he supposes some later church author had for attributing this miracle to Jesus are more aptly motives able to be ascribed to Jesus himself. Sadly for Price, when he hauled out Occam’s Razor, he didn’t account for certain cultural values that render his explanation anachrionistic.
In an interlude Price complains of how his remarks were edited on Strobel’s Faith Under Fire such that he was misrepresented. I rather doubt that, given Price’s proclivity for seeking any available excuse for failure, but in any event I am told by Strobel that the editing was done by someone else.
It is hard to find a coherent point in some of what follows, leading us to wonder if Price edited his own book with the help of the Fox Network. He considers Jesus’ use of Isaiah in Luke 4 impossible because the scattered verses would be “a lectionary conflation impossible on a single Sabbath,” as if teachers were in some way physically constrained by threats of torture from using amalgamations of text apart from allegedly assigned and inviolable lectionary readings. In fact, such usages would have bestowed considerable honor on a teacher, showing them to be masters of the text. Once again the main problem seems to be Price’s latent fundamentalism, which makes him think that there could be no variability in such things as text selections. Price’s commentaries about how Jesus asked for miracles seems little but aimless wandering otherwise, and it is not clear what it is he is trying to prove.
There a section after on Apollonius of Tyana, a subject we have written on here. I am inclined to agree that the real issue here is not that Philostratus copied from the Gospels, as Price says; and of course, Price denies without serious or worthwhile arguments early enough dates to the Gospels, a subject discussed in Ch. 1. He appeals to his comparisons of Sabbatai Sevi which we answered here -- Price has still learned nothing in the interim. But back to Apollonius, he says there is “no reason to think any less of Philostratus than of Luke,” which we have shown is simply false, and nothing Price says does anything to counter our own points. I don’t, however, go along with most of Boyd’s own points (like the use of tentative statements by Philostratus).
The next section is another one of Price’s appeals to pagan copycat deities, and you’ll find no names or arguments we didn’t cover here. Price also misuses the words of Justin Martyr for what must be the hundredth time in his career: See here.
And that’s pretty much it – stale bread thrown to dead ducks, one might say, with very little actual argument concerning the real point of the chapter. But I’ll close with a little something special for Price, who makes much of Boyd’s closing commentary about “falling in love with Jesus” and so on: I find such language as anachronistic as Price’s own arguments in this chapter. Price, who makes so much of those who places feelings on a pedestal, and thinks it a worthwhile argument to point that out, can’t play that card with J. P. Holding. And I’m sure he knows it.
I’m also sure that’s the real reason he won’t respond to me any more – no sense in coming to the battlefield naked, after all.