I am currently reading Robert Price’s Deconstructing Jesus and I thought I would blog my reflections on each chapter. Although the book was published in 2000, Price is one of the few Jesus Mythicists who has a PhD in a relative field, and so he deserves some attention.
The first chapter is called “Reconstructing Christian Origins.” In the introduction, Price argued that we know almost nothing about the historical Jesus (if there was one). In this chapter, Price suggests the same for the early Christian church.
Price argues that there is no reason to believe that what we call orthodox Christianity was the original Christianity. This is the same argument Bart Ehrman makes in his Lost Christianities.
Price states that the popular notion is that Christianity started “orthodox” and then one by one “heresies” emerged. In contrast, Price argues that there were originally multiple Christianities and only later did the “orthodox” group emerged as the victor.
It is true that there were some early alternative forms of Christianity such as the Ebionites, Docetists, Marcionites, Gnostics and so on. But there is also good reason to believe that they were not original forms of Christianity.
The biggest problem with Price’s theory is that it just so happens that all our first century Christian texts (canonical and noncanonical) fit with orthodox Christianity and oppose the alternative forms.
Price could argue that there were originally other first century texts that taught “unorthodox” Christianity. It is a common claim that Christians tried to destroy any trace of other Christianities by getting rid of the texts. The problem is that until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts, most of what we had for other gospels and scripture-like texts outside the canon was from the orthodox Christian apologists who quoted these texts at length. If these apologists wanted to hide these texts from us, they did not do a very good job.
The textual evidence including the New Testament and other early Christian writers, is that there is a continuity between orthodox Christianity and first century Christianity, with other variations splitting off from that.