Robert M. Price

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Robert M. Price
Robert M. Price 1.jpg
Born Robert McNair Price
(1954-07-07) July 7, 1954 (age 62)
Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.[1]
Residence North Carolina
Alma mater Montclair State University
(BA, 1976)
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
(MTS, 1978)
Drew University
(PhD in Systematic Theology (1981);
PhD in New Testament (1993)[1])
Occupation Theologian
Employer Professor of biblical criticism for the Council for Secular Humanism's Center for Inquiry Institute[2]
Known for Views on the historicity of Jesus
Spouse(s) Carol Selby Price[3]
Children Victoria and Veronica[1]

Robert McNair Price (born July 7, 1954) is an American theologian and writer,[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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 Jesus Seminar, 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,[7] and sits on the advisory board of the Secular Student Alliance.[3] He is a religious skeptic, especially of orthodox Christian beliefs, occasionally describing himself as a Christian atheist.


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.[1] 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.[8]

Religious writings[edit]

Price believes that Christianity is a historicized synthesis of mainly Egyptian, Jewish, and Greek mythologies.[9] 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 contributions to The Historical Jesus: Five Views (2009), in which he acknowledges that he stands against the majority view of scholars, but cautions against attempting to settle the issue by appeal to the majority.[10] Price challenges biblical literalism and argues for a more sceptical and humanistic approach to Christianity.

Price does not see in the Q document a reliable source for the historical Jesus, simply because Q shows everywhere a bitter and cynical flavor, which does not let glimpse a single wise man who would hide behind. 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.

Price argues that if critical methodology is applied with ruthless consistency, one is left in complete agnosticism regarding Jesus's historicity.[11][12] Price is quoted saying, "There might have been a historical Jesus, but unless someone discovers his diary or his skeleton, we'll never know."[13] Which is a position of agnosticism, he 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.[14]

He views Jesus of Nazareth as an invented figure conforming to the Mythic Hero Archetype. [15] In the documentary The God Who Wasn't There, Price supports a version of the Christ myth theory, suggesting 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.[citation needed]

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.[15] 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."[15]

In Deconstructing Jesus Price points out, "(w)hat one Jesus reconstruction leaves aside, the next one takes up and makes its cornerstone. Jesus simply wears too many hats in the Gospels—exorcist, healer, king, prophet, sage, rabbi, demigod, and so on. The Jesus Christ of the New Testament is a composite figure (...) The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage. But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time."[16] Price also states "I am not trying to say that there was a single origin of the Christian savior Jesus Christ, and that origin is pure myth; rather, I am saying that there may indeed have been such a myth, and that if so, it eventually flowed together with other Jesus images, some one of which may have been based on a historical Jesus the Nazorean."[17] In a discussion on euhemerism, Price cautiously asserts that "a genuine historical figure" may ultimately lie at the root of the Christian religion.[15] That figure (about whom he detects no surviving mundane, secular information) would have eventually been made into God through apotheosis. But Price admits uncertainty in this regard. He writes in conclusion, "There may have been a real figure there, but there is simply no longer any way of being sure."[15]

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."[18][19]

Price maintains that there are three key points for the traditional Christ myth theory:

  • There is no mention of a miracle-working Jesus in secular sources; Price asserts that Eusebius fabricated the Testimonium Flavianum.[20]
  • The epistles, written earlier than the gospels, provide no evidence of a recent historical Jesus; all that can be taken from the epistles, Price argues, is that a Jesus Christ, son of God, lived in a heavenly realm, there died as a sacrifice for human sin, was raised by God, and enthroned in heaven.[21]
  • The Jesus narrative is paralleled in Middle Eastern myths about dying and rising gods; Price names Baal, Osiris, Attis, Adonis, and Dumuzi/Tammuz as examples, all of which, he writes, survived into the Hellenistic and Roman periods and thereby influenced Early Christianity. Price alleges that Christian apologists have tried to minimize these parallels.[22]

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.[23] As a fellow of the Jesus Project he also noted this in an article that he contributed, The Quest of the Mythical Jesus, writing:

I realized, after studying much previous research on the question [of Jesus], that 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. ...A literary origin is always to be preferred to an historical one in such a case. And that is the choice we have to make in virtually every case of New Testament narrative. I refer the interested reader to my essay "New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash," in Jacob Neusner and Alan Avery-Peck, eds., Encyclopedia of Midrash. Of course I am dependent here upon many fine works by Randel Helms, Thomas L. Brodie, John Dominic Crossan, and others. None of them went as far as I am going. It is just that as I counted up the gospel stories I felt each scholar had convincingly traced back to a previous literary prototype, it dawned on me that there was virtually nothing left. None tried to argue for the fictive character of the whole tradition, and each offered some cases I found arbitrary and implausible. Still, their work, when combined, militated toward a wholly fictive Jesus story. [...] There may once have been an historical Jesus, but for us there is one no longer. If he existed, he is forever lost behind the stained glass curtain of holy myth. At least that's the current state of the evidence as I see it.[24]

H. P. Lovecraft scholarship[edit]

As editor of the journal Crypt of Cthulhu[25] (published by Necronomicon Press) and of a series of Cthulhu Mythos anthologies,[26][27][28] Price has been a major figure in H. P. Lovecraft scholarship and fandom for many years.[29] 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[30] and interpreting "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" as a kind of initiation ritual.[31]

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.[32]

Other works[edit]

Price runs The Bible Geek, a broadcast show where Price answers listeners' questions.[33] 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.[34]

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.[35][36]


In 1999, he debated William Lane Craig, arguing against the historicity of Jesus' resurrection.[37] In 2010, he debated James White, arguing against the reliability of the Bible. In 2016, he debated New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman on the historicity of Jesus.[38]


On religion

On the Cthulhu Mythos (as editor or author)

Note: many of Price's Cthulhu Mythos anthologies have appeared in French and Spanish editions (some unauthorised).


Editor of Midnight Shambler and Crypt of Cthulhu.


  1. ^ a b c d Robert M. Price, The Jesus Project, Center for Inquiry.
  2. ^ Robert M. Price, Westar Institute; Advisory Board Secular Student Alliance, accessed April 15, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Advisory Board Secular Student Alliance, accessed April 15, 2010.
  4. ^ Maurice Casey, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?, Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014: "ROBERT M. PRICE," pp. 23–24.
  5. ^ online courses
  6. ^ Journal of Higher Criticism, accessed April 9, 2010; Joshi, S. T. and Schultz, David E. An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. Hippocampus Press, p. 217. ISBN 0-9748789-1-X
  7. ^ Tokasz, Jay. Scholars to explore existence of Jesus, The Buffalo News, November 30, 2008, accessed February 22, 2009.
  8. ^ "About the Show". The Human Bible. Center for Inquiry Institute. n.d. Retrieved March 1, 2017. .
  9. ^ Price, Robert M. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 55ff.
  10. ^ Price, Robert M. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, p. 61ff.
  11. ^ Price, Robert M. (2003). The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition?. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 351. ISBN 978-1-61592-028-0. 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. 
  12. ^ Price, Robert M. (December 31, 1999). "Of Myth and Men: A Closer Look at the Originators of the Major Religions - What Did They Really Say and Do?". Free Inquiry magazine. 20 (1). 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. 
  13. ^ Jacoby, Douglas (2010). Compelling Evidence for God and the Bible: Finding Truth in an Age of Doubt. Harvest House Publishers. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-7369-3759-7. 
  14. ^ Price, Robert M. (1997). "The Price-Rankin Debate: Jesus: Fact or Fiction?". Retrieved 27 November 2016. 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) 
  15. ^ a b c d e Price, Robert. Deconstructing Jesus. Prometheus Books. p. 250. ISBN 1-57392-758-9. 
  16. ^ Price, Robert M. (2000). Deconstructing Jesus, pp. 15–16.
  17. ^ Price, Robert M. (2000). Deconstructing Jesus, p. 86.
  18. ^ Irenaeus (c. 180 CE). Demonstration (74).
  19. ^ See Robert M. Price. "Jesus at the Vanishing Point", in James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy (eds.) The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity, 2009, pp. 80–81.
  20. ^ Price, Robert M. (4 February 2010). "Jesus at the Vanishing Point". In James K. Beilby, Paul Rhodes Eddy. The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-8308-7853-6. [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. 
  21. ^ Price, Robert M. (4 February 2010). "Jesus at the Vanishing Point". In James K. Beilby, Paul Rhodes Eddy. The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-8308-7853-6. 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). 
  22. ^ Price, Robert M. (4 February 2010). "Jesus at the Vanishing Point". In James K. Beilby, Paul Rhodes Eddy. The Historical Jesus: Five Views. InterVarsity Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-8308-7853-6. [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.) 
  23. ^ Price, Robert M. (2005). "New Testament narrative as Old Testament midrash". In Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck. Encyclopaedia of Midrash: Biblical Interpretation in Formative Judaism. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-14166-9. 
  24. ^ Price, Robert M. "The Quest of the Mythical Jesus". Jesus Project - Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  25. ^ Harms, Daniel. The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia. Elder Signs Press. p. XV. ISBN 1-934501-05-0. 
  26. ^ Shannon Appelcline, A Brief History of Game #3: Chaosium: 1975-present on
  27. ^ Joshi, S.T. Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: An Encyclopedia of Our Worst Nightmares. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 126. ISBN 0-313-33780-2. 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 
  28. ^ Mitchell, Charles P. The Complete H.P. Lovecraft Filmography. Greenwood Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-313-31641-4. 
  29. ^ Hite, Kenneth (2008). Tour De Lovecraft: The Tales. Atomic Overmind Press. p. xiii. Joshi's only rival for eminence in the field during the 1980s and 1990s was Robert M. Price 
  30. ^ Price, Robert M. "Introduction". The Azathoth Cycle. Chaosium. ISBN 1-56882-040-2. 
  31. ^ Hite, Kenneth (2008). Tour De Lovecraft: The Tales. Atomic Overmind Press. p. 84. 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. 
  32. ^ Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7. 
  33. ^ The Bible Geek
  34. ^ "Center for Inquiry Announces Three New Hosts for its Popular Podcast, 'Point of Inquiry'". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  35. ^ "Robert Price". King's Tower Productions. Retrieved 2017-02-05. 
  36. ^ "Robert M. Price". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-02-05. 
  37. ^ Video on YouTube
  38. ^ Mythicist Milwaukee (2016-10-25), Robert Price / Bart Ehrman Debate: Did Jesus Exist?, retrieved 2016-10-30 

External links[edit]