Jesus At The Vanishing Point
Jesus at the Vanishing Point is the first chapter of The Historical Jesus: Five Views, a book that covers the field of research on historical Jesus. The Book’s editors, Eddy and Beilbly provide a survey of the five stages of the quest for historical Jesus in forty-six pages. Each of the five views has a full chapter devoted to it, with responses from authors of the other chapters at the end. The first chapter is authored by Robert Price, and advances the argument that Jesus as a historical character featured in the writings and beliefs of ancient Christians did not exist in reality. Mr. Price argues that the character of Jesus was a product of invention in the imagination of ancient people, which led to the birth of Christianity.
The chapter starts with a description of the approach a historical research takes. Mr. Price makes the case that since there is no way of knowing with certainty events that took place in the past, rather than dogmatize it, historians deal in probabilities. A historian’s evaluation of ancient sources has no option but to assume that events that do not occur in the present did not occur in the past either. Mr. Price uses the analogy that although there may be a possibility the laws of physics have been different in the past, from the perspective of historical research, there is no valid reason to believe them to have been so. It follows that any historical event other than the existence of Jesus is possible. Mr. Price cites Baur’s idea of the role of a historian as being to determine what is probable, since anything is possible (60).
Mr. Price’s methodological approach is arguably objectionable. He introduces the criterion of dissimilarity, whose use has been a subject of discussion, and even abandoned by historians, owing to problems identified as having arisen out of its use. Imagining a historical figure without either a continuity with his preexistence or a wider historical and cultural context is arguably implausible. It is also not plausible to imagine a group – Christians in this case – that considered a historical figure as its founder, and yet kept no records of anything regarding the founder in whatever form. Mr. Price’s methodological approach appears to consider
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anything associated with continuity as possibly inauthentic, which should not apply to historical figures such as Jesus. While it is appropriated from a historical research sense that material under consideration may have been a product of ancient people’s invention, to deduce from the same methodological approach that Jesus may not have said the words recorded and, so he did not exist, seems to be an inaccurate use of the methodological tool.
Mr. Price’s remarks that all materials about Jesus had a Sitz im Leben are also contestable. What Mr. Price appears to imply is that story of Jesus is so suited to the social and religious context of the time that they have been concocted to serve a certain purpose and function at the time. Contrary to those remarks, a number of things recorded as having been said by Jesus conflict with the contextual purpose and function as purported by Mr. Price. In fact, some of Jesus words are to some extent construable as antireligious. For instance, he said that he could destroy the temple and build it in three days. The idea of destroying the temple would have been unimaginable at the time. Moreover, it is not clear as to what purpose and function destroying the temple would serve, yet this remark by Jesus, among other disagreeable ones, are recorded. It is apparent that the inclusion of such objectionable words implies a lack of the Sitz im Leben that Mr. bases his argument on in his refutation of the existence of a historical Jesus.
Mr. Price also seems to contradict his introduction regarding the role of history as being to determine what is possible, since anything is possible. He advances the argument that the origin of Christianity and its associated written records is anything but possible, rather than merely probable. While it may be arguable that it is possible that early Christians stitched the story of Jesus from pieces of Jewish Scriptures, the motivation for having this done is not clear. It raises a lot of questions as to why someone may have decided to construct from Jewish Manuscripts the story of a figure who has good qualities, as well as objectionable words such as destroying the temple, and who ends up being rejected and finally crucified by his contemporaries. However, Mr. Price argues that the historical account of Jesus was possibly constructed from pieces of Jewish Scriptures, and even invokes the principle of Occam’s razor. His argument that, owing to its simplicity, the account of Jesus would have been better than the ancient Jewish manuscript begs the question of why somebody may have gone through the painstaking process of putting together Jewish scriptures rather than just focusing on the complete small part about Jesus. Yet, Mr. Price considers it as a possibility, apparently discounting or ignoring the similarity of historical events, which should explain the perceptible similarities between the bible and Jewish Scriptures that inform his argument for the origin of the former.
Mr. Price’s allusion to the hypothesis of the tired, dying and rising gods in an attempt to explain that the story of Jesus may have been invented from myths fails to serve its intended purpose. The chapter seems to imply that since during the time of Ezekiel the Judean Religion was still polytheistic, monotheists such as Paul could have based their writing on myths about such gods as Tammuz. Even if it is assumed that Paul and his associates borrowed in such a manner, there is a significant difference between a dying god and a dying Messiah. In fact, responses to Mr. Price’s chapter argue against such borrowing. Crossan criticizes Price’s deliberate decision to leapfrog the issue of Testimonial Flavianum as an unacceptable argument from a scholarly perspective, and describes it as concerning. Johnson highlights that the phenomenon of early Christianity consists of historical characteristics and data that repel the myth-based endeavors to simply deflect them. Dunn describes as sad the apparent willingness of Price to be content with an explanation of Christianity as having originated in ancient myths. It follows that the existence of Jesus cannot be discounted based on ideas drawn from comparison between the bible an ancient myths, at least not according to Price’s argument.
Jesus at the Vanishing Point’s attempt to make the case that a historical figure referred to as Jesus in Christian beliefs and associated texts did not exist fails to provide a convincing argument in that regard. The chapter begins with a description of the approach to historical research, explaining that role of a historian as being to determine what is probable, since anything is possible. However, it subsequently presents its premises against the existence of Jesus as possible, rather than probable. Mr. Price uses the criterion of dissimilarity, which historians have objected to, owing to identified problems, especially with respect to historical figures. The author’s remark that all materials about Jesus had a Sitz im Leben is undermined by the fact that Jesus said things like destroying the temple. When he points to similarity between ancient myths and the story of Jesus as his argument that Jesus’ account was constructed, Mr. Price does not address the fact that there exist similarities among historical events. The chapter fails to make a strong case.
Jesus at the Vanishing Point is the first chapter of The Historical Jesus: Five Views, a book that covers the field of research on historical Jesus. Robert Price, who advances the argument that Jesus as a historical character featured in the writings and beliefs of ancient Christians did not exist in reality, is the author of the chapter. Mr. Price argues that the character of Jesus was a product of invention in the imagination of ancient people that culminated in Christianity, rather than a true historical account.
The chapter starts by describing the approach to historical research, clarifying that the role of history is to determine what is probable, as anything is possible. However, it contradicts this assertion by presenting as possible, rather than probable, premises against the existence of a historical figure named Jesus. Mr. Price employs the criterion of dissimilarity, which historians have identified problems with, especially with regards to historical figures, and found objectionable. The author’s remark that all materials about Jesus had a Sitz im Leben is undermined by the fact that Jesus said and did things that the society of the time would thought of as disagreeable, for instance Jesus’ statement that he would destroy the temple.
[/ihc-hide-content] When Mr. Price exploits the perceived similarities between ancient myths and the story of Jesus as his argument that Jesus’ account was constructed, he does not address the fact that there exist similarities among historical accounts. The chapter does not make a strong enough case in support of its premise.
Beilby, James K., and Paul R. Eddy. The historical Jesus: five views. Downers Grove, Ill:
IVP Academic, 2009.
Evans, Craig A. The Routledge encyclopedia of the historical Jesus. Routledge, 2014.
Stein, Robert H. Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13.
InterVarsity Press, 2014.
 James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy. 2009. The historical Jesus: five views (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2009), 56.
 Ibid, 60.
Craig A Evans. The Routledge encyclopedia of the historical Jesus (Routledge, 2014), 43.
 James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy. 2009. The historical Jesus: five views (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2009), 60-61.
 Robert H Stein. Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13 (InterVarsity Press, 2014), 57.
 James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy. 2009. The historical Jesus: five views (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2009), 74.
 Ibid, 86.
 Ibid, 91.
 Ibid, 95.