Robert McNair Price (born July 7, 1954) is an American theologian and writer, known for arguing against the existence of a historical Jesus (the Christ myth theory). He taught philosophy and religion at the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary. He is a professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute, and the author of a number of books on theology and the historicity of Jesus.
A former Baptist minister, he was the editor of the Journal of Higher Criticism from 1994 until it ceased publication in 2003. He has also written extensively about the Cthulhu Mythos, a "shared universe" created by the writer H. P. Lovecraft. He also co-wrote a book with his wife, Carol Selby Price, Mystic Rhythms: The Philosophical Vision of Rush (1999), on the rock band Rush.
Price is a fellow of the suspended Jesus Project, a group of 150 writers and scholars who study the historicity of Jesus, the organizer of a Web community for those interested in the history of Christianity, and sits on the advisory board of the Secular Student Alliance. He is a religious skeptic, especially of orthodox Christian beliefs, occasionally describing himself as a Christian atheist.
Robert M. Price
Robert McNair Price
July 7, 1954
|Alma mater||Montclair State University|
Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary
(PhD in Systematic Theology (1981));
PhD in New Testament (1993)
|Employer||Professor of biblical criticism for the Council for Secular Humanism's Center for Inquiry Institute|
|Known for||Views on the historicity of Jesus|
|Political party||Republican |
|Spouse(s)||Carol Selby Price|
|Children||Victoria and Veronica|
Price was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1954 and moved to New Jersey in 1964. He received a Master of Theological Studies in New Testament from Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary in 1978. At Drew University he was awarded one Ph.D. in Systematic Theology in 1981 and another in New Testament in 1991. He was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey. He has served as Professor of Religion at Mount Olive College, Professor of Theology and Scriptural Studies at Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary and Professor of Biblical Criticism for the Center for Inquiry Institute in Amherst, New York.
Price challenges biblical literalism and argues for a more sceptical and humanistic approach to Christianity. Price questioned the historicity of Jesus in a series of books, including Deconstructing Jesus (2000), The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man (2003), Jesus Is Dead (2007), and The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems (2012), as well as in Jesus at the Vanishing Point, a contribution to The Historical Jesus: Five Views (2009).
Price uses critical-historical methods, but also uses "history-of-religions parallel[s]," or the "Principle of Aanalogy," to show similarities between Gospel narratives and non-Christian Middle Eastern myths. Price criticises some of the criteria of critical Bible research, such as the criterion of dissimilarity and the criterion of embarrasment. Price further notes that "consensus is no criterion" for the historicity of Jesus. According to Price, if critical methodology is applied with ruthless consistency, one is left in complete agnosticism regarding Jesus's historicity.[note 1] In Jesus at the Vanishing Point Price acknowledges that he stands against the majority view of scholars, but cautions against attempting to settle the issue by appeal to the majority.
In The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems (2011), Price maintains that the Christ myth theory is the most likely explanation for the origin of Christianity, giving another overview of arguments:
Price argues that if critical methodology is applied with ruthless consistency, one is left in complete agnosticism regarding Jesus's historicity. Price is quoted saying, "There might have been a historical Jesus, but unless someone discovers his diary or his skeleton, we'll never know." He also similarly declared in a 1997 public debate:
If there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn't one any more.
Price notes that historians of classical antiquity approached mythical figures such as Heracles by rejecting supernatural tales while doggedly assuming that "a genuine historical figure" could be identified at the root of the legend. He describes this general approach as Euhemerism, and argues that most historical Jesus research today is also Euhemerist. Price argues that Jesus is like other ancient mythic figures, in that no mundane, secular information seems to have survived. Accordingly, Jesus also should be regarded as a mythic figure. But, Price admits to some uncertainty in this regard. He writes at the conclusion of his 2000 book Deconstructing Jesus: "There may have been a real figure there, but there is simply no longer any way of being sure."[note 2]
Price believes that Christianity is a historicized synthesis of mainly Egyptian, Jewish, and Greek mythologies, viewing Jesus of Nazareth as an invented figure conforming to the Rank-Raglan mythotype.
Price argues that the early Christians adopted the model for the figure of Jesus from the popular Mediterranean dying-rising saviour myths of the time, such as that of Dionysus. He argues that the comparisons were known at the time, as early church father Justin Martyr had admitted the similarities. Price suggests that Christianity simply adopted themes from the dying-rising god stories of the day and supplemented them with themes (escaping crosses, empty tombs, children being persecuted by tyrants, etc.) from the popular stories of the day in order to come up with the narratives about Christ.
Price asserts that there was an almost complete fleshing out of the details of the gospels by a Midrash (haggadah) rewriting of the Septuagint, Homer, Euripides' Bacchae, and Josephus. According to Price, "virtually every story in the gospels and Acts can be shown to be very likely a Christian rewrite of material from the Septuagint, Homer, Euripides' Bacchae, and Josephus [...] virtually every case of New Testament narrative" can be traced back to a literary prototype, leaving "virtually nothing left."}}
Price does not see in the Q document a reliable source for the historical Jesus, simply because Q shows everywhere a Cynic flavor, representing a school of thought rather than necessarily the teaching of a single person. Price acknowledges that outside the New Testament there are a small number of ancient sources (Tacitus, for example) who would testify that Jesus Christ was a person who really lived. However, Price points out that, even assuming the authenticity of these references, they relate more to the claims of the Christians who lived at that time on Jesus, and do not prove that Jesus was a contemporary of the writers of antiquity.
Citing accounts that have Jesus being crucified under Alexander Jannaeus (83 BCE) or in his 50s by Herod Agrippa I under the rule of Claudius Caesar (41–54 CE), Price argues that these "varying dates are the residue of various attempts to anchor an originally mythic or legendary Jesus in more or less recent history."
As editor of the journal Crypt of Cthulhu (published by Necronomicon Press) and of a series of Cthulhu Mythos anthologies, Price has been a major figure in H. P. Lovecraft scholarship and fandom for many years. In essays that introduce the anthologies and the individual stories, Price traces the origins of Lovecraft's entities, motifs, and literary style. The Cthulhu Cycle, for example, saw the origins of Cthulhu the octopoid entity in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Kraken" (1830) and particular passages from Lord Dunsany, while The Dunwich Cycle points to the influence of Arthur Machen on Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror."
Price's religious background often informs his Mythos criticism, seeing gnostic themes in Lovecraft's fictional god Azathoth and interpreting "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" as a kind of initiation ritual.
Most of the early Cthulhu books by Chaosium were overseen by Price; his first book was The Hastur Cycle (1993), an anthology of short stories which traced the development of a single Lovecraftian element, and this was followed by Mysteries of the Worm (1993), a collection of Robert Bloch's Mythos fiction.
Price runs The Bible Geek, a broadcast show where Price answers listeners' questions. In 2010 he became one of three new hosts on Point of Inquiry (the Center for Inquiry's podcast), following the retirement of host D. J. Grothe from the show. Having appeared on the show twice before as a guest (see external links below), he hosted until 2012.
In 2005, he appeared in Brian Flemming's documentary film The God Who Wasn't There, is the subject of the documentary "The Gospel According to Price" by writer/director Joseph Nanni, and appears in the films of Jozef K. Richards in the documentary, Batman & Jesus, and comedy series, Holy Shit.
In 1999, he debated William Lane Craig, arguing against the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. In 2010, he debated James White, arguing against the reliability of the Bible. In 2010, he debated Douglas Jacoby, on Jesus: Man, Myth, or Messiah? In 2016, he debated New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman on the historicity of Jesus.
Note: many of Price's Cthulhu Mythos anthologies have appeared in French and Spanish editions (some unauthorised).
Most of the Dutch Radical scholars, following Bruno Bauer, argued that all of the gospel tradition was fabricated to historicize an originally bare datum of a savior, perhaps derived from the Mystery Religions or Gnosticism or even further afield. The basic argument offered for this position, it seems to me, is that of analogy, the resemblances between Jesus and Gnostic and Mystery Religion saviors being just too numerous and close to dismiss.
[The Traditional Christ-Myth Theory - The first of the three pillars] Why no mention of a miracle-working Jesus in secular sources? ... For the record, my guess is that Eusebius fabricated it [the Testimonium Flavianum] and that the tenth-century Arabic version represents an abridgement of the Eusebian original, not a more primitive, modest version.
The second of the three pillars of the traditional Christ-Myth case is that the Epistles, earlier than the Gospels, do not evidence a recent historical Jesus. Setting aside the very late 1 Timothy, which presupposes the Gospel of John (the only Gospel in which Jesus "made a good confession before Pontius Pilate"), we should never guess from the Epistles that Jesus died in any particular historical or political context, only that the fallen angels (Col 2:15), the archons of this age, did him in, little realizing they were sealing their own doom (1 Cor 2:6-8).
[Dying-and-Rising Gods] The Jesus story as attested in the Epistles shows strong parallels to Middle Eastern religions based on the myths of dying-and-rising gods. (And this similarity is the third pillar of the traditional Christ-Myth theory.)
One wonders if all these scholars came to a certain point and stopped, their assumption being. "If Jesus was a historical figure, he must have done and said something!" But their own criteria and critical tools. which we have sought to apply here with ruthless consistency, ought to have left them with complete agnosticism.
Is it ... possible that beneath and behind the stained-glass curtain of Christian legend stands the dim figure of a historical founder of Christianity? Yes, it is possible, perhaps just a tad more likely than that there was a historical Moses, about as likely as there having been a historical Apollonius of Tyana. But it becomes almost arbitrary to think so.
My point here is simply that, even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn't one any more. (Opening Statement by Robert Price)
The evidence from Paul's letters is that the congregations of the Christ were attractive associations and that their emerging mythology was found to be exciting. A spirited cult formed on the model of the mystery religions ...
[Quoting Robert Price on Burton Mack] "A Christ religion modeled after a Mystery cult is a Mystery cult, a Christ cult worthy of the name" (Price, Deconstructing Jesus, 93). In context, Price is chiding Mack for using the name "Christ cult" while stopping short of explicitly linking it to the mystery cults ...
The Quest of the Mythical Jesus first appeared on the Robert M. Price Myspace page.
[Per] the suggestion of Doherty and me that the sayings of Q, typical Cynical material demanding no single author, were only subsequently ascribed to Jesus, having perhaps originally been attributed to Dame Sophia.
[Per the Toledot Yeshu] One of the chief points of interest in this work is its chronology, placing Jesus about 100 BCE. ... Epiphanius and the Talmud also attest to Jewish and Jewish-Christian belief in Jesus having lived a century or so before we usually imagine, implying that perhaps the Jesus figure was at first an ahistorical myth and various attempts were made to place him in a plausible historical context, just as Herodotus and others tried to figure out when Hercules "must have" lived.
The Cthulhu Mythos remains a popular venue in literature and the media. Since the 1980s Robert M. Price has been a kind of August Derleth redivivus in publishing a dozen or more anthologies of Cthulhu Mythos tales by writers old and new
Joshi's only rival for eminence in the field during the 1980s and 1990s was Robert M. Price
Equally importantly and convincingly, Price analyses the tale as a vision-quest, a coming-of-age ordeal ritual, which I have to say is pretty dead-on.
Dorothy Milne Murdock (March 27, 1960 – December 25, 2015), better known by her pen names Acharya S and D. M. Murdock, was an American writer who supported the Christ myth theory that Jesus never existed as a historical person and was rather a commingling of various pre-Christian mythologies, Sun deities and dying-and-rising deities.Her last published book is Did Moses Exist? The Myth of the Israelite Lawgiver.She wrote and operated a website focused on history, religion and spirituality, and astro-theology. She asserted that the pre-Christian religious civilizations understood their mythologies as allegorical, but Christians obliterated evidence to the contrary by destroying and controlling literature when they attained control of the Roman Empire, which led to widespread illiteracy in the ancient world, ensuring that the mythical nature of Christ's story was hidden. She argued that the Christian canon, as well as its important figures, were based on Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and other cultures' myths. Her theories have been variously received by mainstream scholars, for instance Robert M. Price criticized her first book while praising later ones.
She also wrote against the ancient astronauts theories, asserting that they "may be prompted by the same type of motivation that produced the Bible, a chronicle largely consisting of the plagiarized myths of other cultures" refashioned as historical facts concerning purported historical characters, and may be driven by the attempt to validate Biblical mythology as historical under a new pseudo-scientific interpretation.Azathoth
Azathoth is a deity in the Cthulhu Mythos and Dream Cycle stories of writer H. P. Lovecraft and other authors. He is the ruler of the Outer Gods.Cthulhu Mythos
The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared fictional universe, originating in the works of American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. The term was coined by August Derleth, a contemporary correspondent and protégé of Lovecraft, to identify the settings, tropes, and lore that were employed by Lovecraft and his literary successors. The name Cthulhu derives from the central creature in Lovecraft's seminal short story, "The Call of Cthulhu", first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928.Richard L. Tierney, a writer who also wrote Mythos tales, later applied the term "Derleth Mythos" to distinguish Lovecraft's works from Derleth's later stories, which modify key tenets of the Mythos. Authors of Lovecraftian horror in particular frequently use elements of the Cthulhu Mythos.Deep One
The Deep Ones are creatures in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. The beings first appeared in Lovecraft's novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1931), but were already hinted at in the early short story "Dagon". The Deep Ones are a race of intelligent ocean-dwelling creatures, approximately human-shaped but with a fishy, froggy appearance. They regularly mate with humans along the coast, creating societies of hybrids.
Numerous Mythos elements are associated with the Deep Ones, including the legendary town of Innsmouth, the undersea city of Y'ha-nthlei, the Esoteric Order of Dagon, and the beings known as Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. After their debut in Lovecraft's tale, the sea-dwelling creatures resurfaced in the works of other authors, especially August Derleth.Did Jesus Exist? (Wells)
Did Jesus Exist? is a 1975 book written by the modern German language teacher and amateur historian George Albert Wells who speculated on the evidence of Jesus Christ. Wells argues there was no historical evidence of Jesus existing. A revised second edition was published in 1986.
Wells has since modified his position, and in 2003 stated that he now disagrees with Robert M. Price on the information about Jesus being "all mythical". Wells now believes that the Jesus of the gospels is obtained by attributing the supernatural traits of the Pauline epistles to the human preacher of Q source.Flowers from the Moon and Other Lunacies
Flowers from the Moon and Other Lunacies is a collection of horror and fantasy stories by American writer Robert Bloch. It was released in 1998 and was the author's third book published by Arkham House. It was published in an edition of 2,565 copies. The stories, selected by Robert M. Price, originally appeared in the magazines Weird Tales, Strange Stories and Rogue. The collection includes some Cthulhu Mythos stories.Henry Kuttner
Henry Kuttner (April 7, 1915 – February 3, 1958) was an American author of science fiction, fantasy and horror.Journal of Higher Criticism
The Journal of Higher Criticism was an academic journal covering issues "dealing with historical, literary, and history-of-religion issues from the perspective of higher criticism", published by the Institute for Higher Critical Studies. The editor-in-chief was Robert M. Price. The periodical is held by the Library of Congress and other research libraries.
In the introductory article, the editor criticized modern biblical scholarship as "a toothless tiger or worse yet, covert apologetics wearing the Esau-mask of criticism" and advocated a return to the "golden era of bold hypotheses and daring reconstructions associated with the great names of Baur and Tübingen".During the journal's first decade, it was sponsored by The Theological School at Drew University, where associate editor Darrell J. Doughty taught. The final issue (volume 10, no. 2) appeared in Fall, 2003, shortly before Doughty's retirement.The journal was revived in March 2018. Vol. 13, No. 1, was published to Robert M. Price's website.Lin Carter
Linwood Vrooman Carter (June 9, 1930 – February 7, 1988) was an American author of science fiction and fantasy, as well as an editor, poet and critic. He usually wrote as Lin Carter; known pseudonyms include H. P. Lowcraft (for an H. P. Lovecraft parody) and Grail Undwin. He is best known for his work in the 1970s as editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which introduced readers to many overlooked classics of the fantasy genre.Lin Carter's Simrana Cycle
Lin Carter's Simrana Cycle is a collection of fantasy short stories by American writer Linwood V. Carter, selected and edited by Robert M. Price. It was first published in hardcover, trade paperback and ebook by Celaeno Press in February 2018.The collection gathers together all twelve of Carter's tales set in his Lord Dunsany-inspired "dreamworld" of Simrana, some previously published and a few previously unpublished, including two newly completed by Robert M. Price and Glynn Owen Barrass. One story, previously published in two versions, "The Gods of Neol Shendis" and "The Gods of Nion Parma," is included in both forms. Appended are nine "Dunsanian" stories written as tributes to Carter and Simrana by Darrell Schweitzer, Gary Myers, Adrian Cole, Charles Garofalo, and Robert M. Price, along with some of the original stories that inspired Carter, eight by Lord Dunsany himself and one by Henry Kuttner.Necronomicon Press
Necronomicon Press is an American small press publishing house specializing in fiction, poetry and literary criticism relating to the horror and fantasy genres. It is run by Marc A. Michaud.Necronomicon Press was founded in 1976, originally as an outlet for the works of H. P. Lovecraft, after whose fictitious grimoire, the Necronomicon, the firm is named. However, its repertoire expanded to include authors such as Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Ramsey Campbell, Hugh B. Cave, Joyce Carol Oates, Brian Lumley and Brian Stableford.
Necronomicon Press published critical works by such pioneering Lovecraft scholars as Dirk W. Mosig, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Kenneth W. Faig, and S. T. Joshi, including Joshi's biography, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (1996).
The firm published critical journals such as Lovecraft Studies (now superseded by Lovecraft Annual published by Hippocampus Press) and Studies in Weird Fiction, both edited by Joshi; Crypt of Cthulhu, edited by Robert M. Price; and has also published critical studies of Campbell (The Count of Thirty, edited by Joshi) and Fritz Leiber (Witches of the Mind, written by Bruce Byfield).
Necronomicon Press was awarded the World Fantasy Award in 1994 and 1996 for its contributions to small-press publishing, and the British Fantasy Award in 1995 for its publication Necrofile: The Review of Horror Fiction.
Necronomicon Press' books are mostly illustrated by Jason Eckhardt and Robert H. Knox. Some of their titles, such as Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space, contain original artwork from the amateur writers' magazines of Lovecraft's own time. One issue of Lovecraft Studies was illustrated by Sam Gafford.
A flood in March 2010 caused a loss of more than $20,000 worth of books. The press has since reactivated its website.Prometheus Books
Prometheus Books is a publishing company founded in August 1969 by the philosopher Paul Kurtz (who was also the founder of the Council for Secular Humanism, Center for Inquiry, and co-founder of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry). Prometheus Books publishes a range of books, focusing on topics such as science, freethought, secularism, humanism, and skepticism. Their headquarters is located in Amherst, New York, and they publish worldwide. The publisher's name was derived from Prometheus, the Titan from Greek mythology who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man. This act is often used as a metaphor for bringing knowledge or enlightenment.
Authors published by Prometheus include Steve Allen, Molefi Asante, Isaac Asimov, Jeremy Bentham, Rob Boston, Ludwig Feuerbach, Antony Flew, R. Barri Flowers, Martin Gardner, Guy P. Harrison, Sidney Hook, Julian Huxley, S. T. Joshi, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, John Maynard Keynes, Philip J. Klass, Leon Lederman, John W. Loftus, Joe Nickell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mario Perniola, Robert M. Price, James Randi, David Ricardo, Nathan Salmon, George H. Smith, John Steinbeck IV, Victor Stenger, Tom Toles and Ibn Warraq.
Prometheus Books obtained the bulk of the books and manuscripts of Humanities Press International. It has been building and expanding this into a scholarly imprint named Humanity Books. This imprint publishes academic works across a wide spectrum of the humanities.
In 1992 Uri Geller sued Victor J. Stenger and Prometheus Books for libel. The suit was dismissed and Geller was required to pay more than $20,000 in costs to the defendant.In March 2005, Prometheus Books launched the science fiction and fantasy imprint Pyr. In October 2012 it launched the crime fiction imprint Seventh Street Books.
As of 2006, the company and its various imprints have approximately 1,600 books in print and publish approximately 95–100 books per year. Since its founding, Prometheus Books has published more than 2,500 books.
In 2013 Prometheus Books partnered with Random House in an effort to increase sales and distribution.Robert Harrison Blake
Robert Harrison Blake is a fictional character in the Cthulhu Mythos. The character is the creation of H. P. Lovecraft and appears in his short story "The Haunter of the Dark" (1935).The Dunwich Horror
"The Dunwich Horror" is a horror short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. Written in 1928, it was first published in the April 1929 issue of Weird Tales (pp. 481–508). It takes place in Dunwich, a fictional town in Massachusetts. It is considered one of the core stories of the Cthulhu Mythos.The Sword of Thongor
The Sword of Thongor is a collection of fantasy short stories by American writer Robert M. Price, featuring Lin Carter's sword and sorcery hero Thongor of Valkarth. It was first published in trade paperback by Surinam Turtle Press in September 2016. Some of the pieces were originally published in magazines, the author's website, or the collection Young Thongor (Wildside Press, 2012); the remaining pieces are original to the present work.
The book collects ten tales by Price set throughout Thongor's career, some based on titles or outlines by Carter, together with an introduction by Richard A. Lupoff.To Arkham and the Stars
"To Arkham and the Stars" is a short story by American writer Fritz Leiber, belonging to the Cthulhu Mythos genre of horror fiction. It was written for the 1966 Arkham House anthology The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces. Set in H. P. Lovecraft's Arkham and Miskatonic University, it includes characters from and allusions to several Lovecraft stories.
Robert M. Price, who included the story in his 1992 anthology Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos, said it "has proven to be a seminal Mythos tale, as in it we first see the depiction of Miskatonic University as having, as it were, a Mythos Studies Department." Price traces the influence of Leiber's story on such works as Philip José Farmer's "The Freshman", Lin Carter's "Zoth-Ommog" and Brian Lumley's The Burrowers Beneath and The Transition of Titus Crow.Young Thongor
Young Thongor is a collection of fantasy short stories by American writer Lin Carter, with additional material by Robert M. Price, edited and with a foreword by Adrian Cole. It was first published in trade paperback by Wildside Press in May, 2012. Most of the pieces were first published in magazines, anthologies or other books by Carter; the remaining pieces are original to the present work.