Had Jesus and Paul lived in the past ? Will Cthulhu live in the future? A conversation with Robert M. price.
Recently, I interviewed Rober M. price , one of the most famous scholars of the New Testament in the United States and the beginning of Christianity in his books, where he . became the foremost spokesman of the “critical” school of thought,
He had written some very well-known books on the New Testament and the birth of :Christianity such as
Deconstructing Jesus (2000) The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition? (2003) Jesus is Dead (2007) he Historical Jesus: Five View (2009) and The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul (2012)
In these books he had come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was a completely fictional character invented by some writer based on various stories found in the Bible and existing mythologies and developed by other writers in various forms.
Price developed his thesis and concludes that this is true not only for Jesus but also for the rest The characters affected in his stories include his disciples peter and John and the Apostle Paul . They are all fictional characters created by writers in the second half of the first.century AD.
Price has also authored books of genre of novels dealing with the discovery of unknown ancient .scrolls which reveal amazing things about Jesus’ Mary Magdalene Judas and a ancient christianity in General etc. and their impact on the modern world in which examines a book a book in the genre in terms of credibility research.
He even wrote an entire book that mainly analyzed the famous suspense novel “Da Vinci Code” in terms of credibility in the facts presented it turned out to be very few.
Price is also a writer and editor and historian of horror literature and a foremost expert expert of the horror works of horror writer HP Lovecraft , following the various fictional works on a group of alien gods who ruled the earth in the very distant past and threaten to take over again in the near future, they are now eighty years after The death of the original author stands at the center of the comic book industry. Games and movies are the object of admiration for millions, and beyond that serve as the basis for new beliefs and new religions that are convinced that lovecraft was a true prophet and all his writings published as fictional horror stories depict the true cosmic reality.
The following is a comprehensive interview with one of the most important researchers today in the field of early Christian history, and with the greatest researchers in the literature and the Lovecraftian myth on these two different but related topics.
Eli: You are a well-known expert of the New Testament and the beginning of Christianity, but otherwise you also live in another world of writing and editing stories and discussion of fantasy and horror writers : lovecraft Clark Ashton Smith Robert Howard and other authors
You are not just a New Testament scholar but also expert in fiction writing and fiction writer yourself. Do you know others in the New Testament research community who are also fiction writers? Or you are unique?
PRICE: Robert Eisenman and Gerd Theissen have each written a novel. Off hand, .can’t .think of anyone else
.In other words, he is almost unique in his academic field
Eli “Who created Jesus? Was it the writer now called “Mark”? Or somebody else even before him?
Price: Bruno Bauer theorized that Mark (whoever he was) had created Jesus out of whole cloth, based on Seneca’s suggestion in one of his treatises that people should fashion for themselves what we might call an “imaginary friend,” a character we could imagine was always observing us, approving or disapproving our every action. If we contemplate doing something immoral, just imagine what our invisible companion would think about it. Such a figure would simply be a personification of one’s conscience. And, Bauer thought, Mark had created Jesus to serve this purpose for his readers.
While that is possible, I think the creation of Jesus was more complicated. My guess is instead that Jesus was originally pictured as a celestial being (like an angel). There were various sects who worshipped him and claimed to have received revelations from him. In order to establish their own version as definitive, some of these groups eventually claimed that Jesus had appeared on earth a generation or two before their own time and had taught the true doctrines to his disciples, who in turn taught them to their disciples, who had taught it to the leaders of the faction making these claims. One might dismiss anyone’s claims to private visions and revelations as subjective fantasy, but if your leaders could claim to have heard it from a historical founder, this gave them, so to speak, the copyright. Thus every practice, every ritual, every ethical teaching was ascribed to Jesus. Various miracle stories circulating in the early Christian environment were rewritten for Jesus, and many gospel stories were rewritten biblical stories from the Greek Septuagint. Alas, we cannot know who these anonymous contributors to the “life of Jesus” traditionwere.
Eli : Can we know anything about the original writer of the Jesus story ” today? When and where do you think the original Jesus fictional story was actually created?
Price: We can know very little about him, since he was careful about total anonymity I think the composition of a story of a historical Jesus began sometime in the late first century CE (AD) among Hellenized Jews and Gnostics. This may have occurred in Judea or in Alexandria.
Eli : Do you think the original writer simply meant to write a fiction, a novel, or was he trying to create a new myth?
Price: I don’t think it was just a novel for entertainment (though ancient novels did embody religious themes). I think the gospel story was aimed at spreading the Jesus religion, which therefore must be considered already to have been a myth, i.e., a narrative to provide the back-story for a ritual of initiation (which is why, among other things, Mark contains a baptism story, the institution of Holy Communion, and a Passion/crucifixion account). Mark may have created these stories (e.g., using Psalm 22 as the basis on which to build his crucifixion account),but he very likely thought he was just reconstructing what “must” have happened.
Eli I always thought that Jesus might have been a myth, but Paul was certainly real ..that he was the actual founder Christianity. Now you come and say ..that he was a fiction as well.
“There was an old Israeli joke that” Moshe Rabbeinu did not exist but was just a madman who thought he was Moshe Rabbeinu. “So, then, was the” madman “behind the creation ?of the Apostle Paul as a literary figure
?Who you think was the original creator –writer of the Paul character? And when?
Price Based on the examination of the style and ideas of the letters attributed in the New Testament for Paul it is very easy to show that all these letters were written by a series of different people at various times, each of whom attributed his writings to .the character of Paul the Apostle Paul.
These people write in a different style and sometimes write things that are completely opposite to one another. It is now clear in the study that at least a large part of the letters were not written by the “original” Paul. And in my opinion there is not one of them written by the original Paul. .
:I speculate that there was a historical figure behind the “Paul” character of the New Testament. It was the historically attested Simon Magus, a Rasputin-like figure associated with the Herodians. He would have been a Gnostic who, as Irenaeus tells us, preached a gospel of salvation by grace. Gnostics venerated him as “Paul” or “Simon,” while the emerging Catholic Christianity split him into two different individuals: Simon, the founder of Gnosticism, and Paul, the apostle of “Orthodox” /Christianity.
The original writer of the Pauline letters I think was the Gnostic leader Marcion which had originally claimed to find them at the middle of the seconc century a.c. .
I think Marcion made “Paul” a writer of epistles when he (Marcion) wrote what we now call Galatians chapters 3-6, which thinly veil the story of Marcion’s own interactions with the elders of the Church at Rome. Chapters 1-2 are a later Marcionite refutation of Acts’ account of Paul. Various other “Pauline” letters were written by Gnostics, Catholics, etc., all using “Paul” as a mouthpiece for their own ideas, just as the gospel writers spoke their own opinions with the borrowed voice of “Jesus.”
li : And if so, why Marcion choose the character of a Jew as his mouthpiece in his work ? after all he was anti Jewish
Price: Paul is depicted as a Jew, I imagine, because Simon Magus was a Samaritan, which could be considered Jewish. It mattered to Catholics because, unlike Gnostics and Marcionites, they wanted to retain the Jewish Scriptures and so portrayed Paul as not only a Jew but even as a Pharisee, thus a champion of the Torah..
. Catholics wanted to co-opt Gnostics and Marcionites by rewriting their apostle Tand claiming him as their own. I think it likely that it was Polycarp of Smyrna in the second century CE (AD), who “sanitized” the “Pauline” Epistles as well as the portrait of Paul in the Book of Acts. .”
EEli: Why did Paul become such a successful character that so many wrote letters under his name? What was it in the Paul character which had attracted them?
Price: He became so crucial to Catholicism because the writings attributed to him, once revised by Polycarp (“the Ecclesiastical Redactor”), became the real core of the New Testament.
Eli: Who do you think was the actual creator /originator of what we call today “Christian orthodoxy ” or the church of Rome ? from what you describe it was quite a new religion which had simply hijacked the already existing Jesus story for new social purposes.
Price: As for who actually created Orthodox Christian theology, we cannot assign a name, though Polycarp is probably the earliest representative whose name we know. I see Catholic Christianity as a synthesis of Gnostic Christology, the dying-and-rising savior of the Mystery Religions, and the Hellenistic hero cults. Who knows how long this brew had been percolating?
Eli: How do you explain the success of this new “Christian orthodoxy ” in defeating and overcoming all of their various r rivals in the Roman empire and outside and to become the masters of the world in the fourth century, in just a few hundred years?
What they had done so well to convince everybody that their specific story is the important one and the right one?
Why didn’t their rivals in the new sects and religions with other good news and the new stories of John the Baptist ,Simon Magus, Apollonius of Tyana, the God Mitra, the Apostle Mani and all the rest succeed as well?
Price:The key was successful institutionalization. Gnostic groups had a built-in disadvantage: their teachings were esoteric, aimed at the chosen few. Valentinians and other Gnostics existed as clandestine study groups and charismatic cells within public Catholic congregations. If the Catholic authorities could identify them, they could expel them, but then it was more difficult for these little groups to grow or even to survive. They were interested only in cosmic secrets, not building basilicas, renting space, and paying bills. Marcionites did succeed very well, as did Manicheanism in the next century because they did have a slid institutional structure, managed by an “outer circle” of second-class members who had not yet been fully initiated/enlightened. But these groups were outlawed once Catholic Christians came to power. Even so, Manicheanism continued as a world religion for a thousand years!
As Walter Bauer showed, the Catholics prevailed also because of an effective propaganda effort. The First Epistle of Clement was sent from Rome to Corinth to squelch an overthrow of the leaders favored by Rome. The spurious epistles of Ignatius, supposedly written from rest stops along the way to Rome where Ignatius would be thrown to the lions, really emanated from Rome and were addressed to Eastern churches, claiming the sanctity of Ignatius’ martyrdom for Holy Rome (though actually he had been martyred in Antioch)
. The Church Histories of Hegesippus and Eusebius embodied the Orthodox-Catholic party line version of Christian origins. And of course, the ascension of Constantine, a Catholic Christian, to the Imperial throne paved the way for his version of the faith to become the official State religion. History was written by the winners, and so they rewrote the various rival Christianities as a fringe bunch of devil-deceived weirdoes and
trouble-makers whom no one needed to take seriously as theological rivals
Eli: You refer to David Trobisch’s book The First Edition of the New Testament, which seems to prove that Polycarp and his supporters were chiefly responsible for creating the standard edition of the NT used today. Before converting to Christianity, were these men pagans or Jews? If ex-pagans, why would they have had a problem accepting Marcion’s belief in two gods?
Price: Polycarp and company, perhaps originally Gentile “God Fearers” or pagans, may simply have converted to Catholic Christianity without weighing the alternatives. They may not have heard of Marcionism at first, and when they did, they accepted the estimate of it they heard from their Catholic leaders. Either way, they saw no reason to drop the Old Testament because they had been taught to read it as a collection of allegories pointing to Christ.
Eli : Then The Apostles Peter, John, and the rest were all literary characters, not historical figures, in your opinion? Polycarp claimed to be the successor of the apostle John. Do you think that he simply invented it? Or maybe he was simply the successor of some other John who had no particular connection to Jesus?
Price: There is on record no claim by Polycarp to have known the Apostle John. The association between them goes back, second hand, only as far as Irenaeus. Here is what Irenaeus, Polycarp’s disciple, says of his mentor: “I remember how he would speak of his familiar interchange with John and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord. He would call their words to remembrance, anything he had heard from them concerning the Lord, both with regard to his miracles and his teaching. What Polycarp received from the eye-witnesses of the Word of life, he would recount in harmony with the Scriptures.”
Irenaeus also said that Papias, another second-century bishop, was “a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp.” But Eusebius pointed out Irenaeus’ confusion on this point: Irenaeus himself had quoted Papias admitting he had never met any of the apostles: “If, then, any one who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings—what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord’s disciples: which things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say.”
Eusebius concluded that Irenaeus had failed to distinguish between Jesus’ disciple John and a later individual, “John the Presbyter” (i.e., the Elder), both mentioned in this passage, and thus Irenaeus imagined that Papias was a direct hearer of the former, whereas Papias said he’d heard the latter. I think Irenaeus also confused Papias with Polycarp; notice the similarity between what Irenaeus says Polycarp would recall and repeat of the words of the apostolic hearers and what he quotes Papias saying about picking the brains of the “elders” who repeated to him what they had heard from the apostles. Thus I think Irenaeus provides very doubtful evidence of his own teacher Polycarp, having heard the teaching of the Apostle John.
Eli :I see that you are or were a priest. Is there not a problem to be a priest of a religion based on works of fiction?
Price: By the time I became a Baptist minister, I was far beyond the limits of conventional Christianity, though I had not yet abandoned belief in a historical Jesus. I eventually left the Baptists and became a Religious Humanist. Joseph Campbell was right: there is great power in myth, even when you recognize it as myth, not history.
The second part of the interview
Now for the second part of the interview about you connections with the Lovecraft
H.P Lovecraft is a horror writer whose creations have created a series of beliefs that ..come from modern sects and religions
Dr. Robert M. Pryce is a well-known early Christian scholar, but it is likely that he is more familiar with the general public than one of the greatest experts in the world today for the creation of the horror novelist of the twenties and thirties of the last century. It is a kind of myth about a group of beings that apparently aliens from various colonies who settled on the Earth millions of years ago ruled it without straining to wage wars among themselves and were expelled from his masters but are seeking to re-take the world over again .. They are trying to do with cults that exist since the prehistoric era to help them return when “the stars will be right” / “.
Dr. Price wrote stories based on the ideas of Lovecraft edited research journals on the subject and also published works of literature and was published in a series of anthologies that combine the best stories and not so good dealing with different issues and different .; gods of myth
Eli : Now for the second part of the interview about your connections with the Lovecraft religion .I had read your anthologies like The Necronomicon and The Cthulhu Cycle and others
.You are obviously one of the greatest experts today,, on those stories.
Do you think that today, in 2017, the Mythos (and in that I include not just specifical Lovecraft’s stories, but all the stories, the games, the comics, etc., which have grown around the ideas of the Cthulhu Mythos) is in fact more popular than ever?
Price: There is no doubt that the work of Lovecraft and those inspired by him is fantastically popular in all areas of popular culture, like never before.
Eli: Why is it that, eighty years after the death of the original writer in relative obscurity, these stories and ideas speak to more people than in Lovecraft’s own lifetime?
Price: Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and the others were very, very popular with the readers of the pulp magazines (Weird Tales, Strange Tales, etc.) in which their work first appeared. But this was a more limited venue than that available today. Once role playing games, horror movies, rock groups, novelty clothing, toys, etc., were invented, Mythos fans who were attracted to these things brought Lovecraft into them, used them to spread knowledge of his work to a much wider fandom.
Eli : How do you explain all those very popular books claiming to be the “real” Necronomicon and those books and articles writing about the religion of Cthulhu, etc., as if they were not mere fiction? Shouldn’t these writers know better?
Price: Lovecraft himself saw the beginning of this trend. Readers would write letters to him asking if the Necronomicon were real, if Cthulhu was at least a genuine ancient cult deity, etc. His friend William Lumley told Lovecraft that, though Lovecraft himself believed he was only creating fiction, he was actually the unwitting mouthpiece of the Old Ones who were preaching their gospel through him! He had done his work too well! He once remarked that an effective horror writer must employ all the craft of a hoaxer who wanted people to believe his inventions (like once-famous “Hitler Diaries”) were fact. Otherwise the reader could not suspend disbelief, and the story could not scare him. Some are still convinced it is all real. Many more realize it is all fiction, but they love it so much they often play in Lovecraft’s fictional universe. The Cthulhu Prayer Breakfasts at Lovecraft conventions are examples of such play. There is not a huge distance between this and people loving it so much they want to believe it is real—and they do! But isn’t that true of all “real” religions?
Eli : Is it possible that we are at the beginning of an explosion of Lovecraft-related cults and eventually whole religions which might battle one another (like Shi’a versus Sunni Muslims today) and condemn one another as heretics?
Price: Actually, we are now witnessing a schism in the Lovecraft fan movement between zealous “Social Justice Warriors” and those who are more interested in enjoying Lovecraft’s stories than flogging him for not embracing the ideological purity of a later era. S.T. Joshi and I have both been excommunicated from the movement we helped to build.
All fandoms are divided into mutually disdainful factions: classical “hard science” fiction versus Star Trek versus Star Wars. Within each there are further divisions. Some Trekkies consider the Trek movies as spurious apocrypha. Likewise all the TV series after the Shatner-Nimoy series. Still other purists reject the third season of the original series! We do occasionally see violence erupt between fans of rival sports teams, but I have not yet heard of violence in Lovecraft fandom.
Eli: Is it possible that we will watch the appearance of some 21st century version of the Polycarp group, some super organizers who see an advantage in using Lovecraft’s ideas to try to gain control over people?
Price: I see no great probability of actual, sincerely held Lovecraftian religions ever becoming powerful or dominant in society, but history is always full of surprises. Many consider Mormonism a religion founded squarely on a hoax. Michael Moorcock, in his Runestaff series, envisioned a post-apocalyptic Europe in which the Beatles were worshipped as the Screaming Gods. Who knows?