I just read The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems by Robert M. Price. I was disappointed that the book was not an integrated overview, but a large number of papers that Price had previously written. In terms of covering the whole subject, the best chapter is the second: “Jesus at the Vanishing Point.” Unfortunately, I had already read this in the excellent The Historical Jesus : Five Views.
The majority of the book is taken up with Price’s very detailed “New Testament Narratives as Old Testament Midrash” from Encyclopedia of Midrash. At over 200 pages, this is an excellent resource, but not exactly fun reading. And honestly, I just browsed it.
The most interesting part of the the book was Price’s paper at the 2007 “Scripture and Skepticism” conference: “James the Just: Achilles’ Heel of Christ Myth Theory?” In this chapter, he lays out what seems to be the most compelling argument against the Christ Myth Theory: the Caliphate of James. Basically, this is the idea that there was a power struggle for who was the natural successor to Jesus after his death. As Price points out, there are lots of recent examples of this kind of thing. The conflict between James and Peter is much like what one saw, for instance, after the death of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in the Nation of Islam. The argument is that there would have been nothing to fight over if Jesus had not actually existed. There are many counter arguments to this, but it is a reasonably strong argument.
For people who are really interested in this subject, the book is a must buy. For those new to the subject, it is pretty technical. On the other hand, there aren’t really any good, simple introductions to the subject. You really have to just jump in and try to get up to speed on the subject. I’ve found that’s worked well enough for me. It is also good to listen to Price’s podcast The Human Bible.
And Now for Something Completely Different
The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems is published by American Atheist Press—a small press out of New Jersey. I’m fine with that; the more publishers, the better. But I do wish that these companies would learn the basics of their trade. The typesetting of this book is horrible. Text is constantly pushed together to make it hard to distinguish between new text and quotes, footnotes are often not clearly distinguished, line spacing is inconsistent. It is just a mess and it offends me. Interestingly, the ebook looks pretty good. But if you are going to sell printed books, don’t be an embarrassment to hundreds of years of a great tradition!