James J. O'Meara
Robert M. Price & the [Un]-Making of the New Testament
The Human Bible New Testament
Translated and introduced by Robert M. Price
Cranford, N.J.: American Atheist Press, 2015
“It is certain that the New Testament was not written by Christ himself, nor by his apostles, but a long while after them, by . . . I know not what sort of half Jews, not even agreeing with themselves, who made up their tale out of reports and opinions merely, and yet, fathering the whole upon the names of the apostles of the Lord or on those who were supposed to follow the apostles, they maliciously pretended that they had written their lies and conceits according to them.” — St. Faustus, Fifth Century French Bishop
The last time I was rapping at ya’ll, the topic was the resurgence of the idea of the Mythic Christ, particularly the efforts of Kenneth Humphreys in his Jesus Never Existed: An Introduction to the Ultimate Heresy, which accounts for the rise of Christianity by looking not for a divine founder but at the social process of religious syncretism.
Now, if there is no need, as Humphreys insists, for a man or god-man to account for Christianity, they perhaps there is also no need to rely on a man, or men, or even God, to explain the origin of the New Testament itself.
While logically distinct, there is a pleasing symmetry to the idea. Although, as we saw, just about everybody takes for granted the idea of some kind of real Jesus, the most fervent of them also seem to be wedded to the idea of a New Testament written by certain definite men, under some kind of “divine inspiration.” While only the duller ones think the author is King James, or even “Saint James,” owing to the famous “version” erroneously attributed to him as an author, the rest are sure they are reading actual letters of Paul and the other apostles, along with “eye-witness” accounts of Jesus.
The reality, as our author says in his Introduction, is that
The understanding of Jesus . . . gelled . . . from a volatile mixture of Hellenistic syncretism.
Well, we can’t push the analogy too far here. Somebody did intentionally construct it out of that mixture — unlike the tornado in a junkyard that the New Atheists think can account for the origin of life — but the point is it was assembled, like an artefact, and the letters aren’t letters, the “eye-witness” accounts aren’t, and none of it was written by the apostles (who were, after all, illiterate fishermen).
And no, it wasn’t Lovecraft either, of course – now there would be a weird tale! – nor do I mean by my title something like “Jefferson’s Bible,” although the book under review is also a kind of a reshuffling of the received text. I just find it interesting, in another case of taking an analogy too far, that the author, Robert M. Price, is a prominent Lovecraft scholar, and writer of weird fiction, as well as being, in his real life, a prominent New Testament scholar and, like Lovecraft, a religious skeptic.
As Price himself says on his website:
Lovecraft was a scholarly soul, and part of the effect of his stories, with their gradual build-up from the mundane to the spectacular, is their scholarly, treatise-like tone. The reader gets the feeling he is reading a deposition, a reluctant account, the report of a case. Such narration comes naturally to me, too, because of my prior experience in scholarly writing. It is perhaps something of a limitation, but then if one’s goal is to imitate a limited writer, maybe it is an asset, too!
Indeed, what better preparation for dealing with what more than one writer – Nietzsche, for one – has compared to the records of a madhouse? Not only was Lovecraft skilled in creating verisimilitude through the skillful manipulating of texts, he also found himself creating an actual religious or at least magical text, the Necronomicon, which people to this day believe is a real book he discovered, or even wrote himself.
Hence, we have here the idea of the human Bible – not a book written by some guy, but a library of texts, by various authors, and subject to various levels of rewriting by various editors with various agendas, and needing to be read as such – with caution.
Living in an evangelical environment, most Americans simply take for granted the idea that the apostles had some scriptures, if not a book, which they waved around, sermonized from, and gave people to read and be converted by. A moment’s thought shows this is quite unlikely, and some investigation will prove it to be entirely false.
A related notion, is that based on these scriptures, there was some kind of original orthodox belief and believers, which was occasionally threatened by heretics like “the Gnostics” and charlatans like Simon Magus. Again, untrue.
Rather than the myth of one group of faithful disciples, spreading one consistent “gospel” and repelling the encroachment of various bands of “heretic” with their “false” gospels, the texts in the New Testament are the patchwork results of a couple of centuries of warring factions seeking to overcome each other by various forgeries.
Much of the work of so-called Form Critics since the 19th century has consisted in identifying these layers, whilst the public, and the preachers, continue to try and impose a consistent interpretation of a supposedly unified text — the “Word of God.”
Guénon and the other “orthodox” Traditionalists deplored such “modernism,” but I think wrongly. Apart from making themselves look like fuddy-duddies, the Christian scriptures are quite unlike the holy books of the East, which are organic products of each pagan ethnos, and at least purport to be produced by sages returning from altered states and verifiable by anyone who chooses to follow the directions supplied.
The Bible, on the other hand, is obviously a rag-bag of fake histories and forged correspondence, claiming to be as real as the morning papers (the “Good News” indeed), and on that basis impudently imposing itself in the place of our native traditions as being “the Truth,” yet deigning only to acknowledge allegiance through blind faith; if you weren’t told it was scripture (by a Church, or the word “Holy” on the cover) you’d see it for what it is: a massive work of Judaic chutzpah.
As fellow Christ Myther Acharya S – who has reached the same conclusions, through almost entirely different sources — says, reviewing an earlier book of Price:
When these facts are clearly understood, it becomes abundantly evident that, rather than representing a free-flowing transmission of mystical and divine origin, the New Testament is a highly contrived text worked over numerous times for the specific purpose of establishing iron-clad dogma and doctrine.
Since both related ideas – the Original Book and Original Sect — are false, it should be no surprise – though it usually is – that the truth is also two related ideas, but reversed. The first canon of official scriptures was cobbled together by a man later deemed an arch-heretic, but at the time as orthodox as anyone else in that “volatile mixture”: Marcion. And the faith Marcion was attempting to establish he traced back not to Jesus but Paul, a gnostic, and, Price argues, the false face given to the historical “father of all heresies,” . Simon Magus.
Now, Marcion is somewhat familiar to some alt-Right types, since he has been a great favorite of those trying to set up their own, modern, alternate canon of Christian scriptures, so as to create or “rediscover” an Aryan form of Christianity. Marcion makes for an obvious role model here.
Despite such a modern fan club, Marcion, as Price presents him, was not anti-Judaic as such. Sure, the God of the Jews was a violent, dangerous nutjob, but he was their god, and they were welcome to him. It was a perfectly valid religion, for them; but Paul had brought the Good News of a new god, who gave the gentiles, and any Jews who wanted out, an escape from the world ruled by the vengeful sky-god JHVH-1.
The real problem came from those calling themselves “Catholic,” meaning “universal.” To Marcion, this was a “syncretistic mess” created by the disciples who, as is clear from the Gospels themselves, were too stupid to understand the message of Jesus. Thus, Paul had been sent to straighten things out; hence all the stories of the controversies between Paul and the other “apostles” and “brothers of Jesus.” And Marcion was going to finish the job.
Marcion’s story was that “the risen Jesus had to go outside” the circle of the apostles, “to find someone else, a man with no proper credentials, to get his message across.”
We should stop and note here, are Price himself does, that the situation facing Paul and Marcion is the same as that presents itself to the individual, scholar or not, vis-à-vis the “scholarly consensus” that, of course, Jesus existed, or of course, you’re just throwing your vote away on a third party (Price’s example), or (not mentioned by Price) of course exactly six million Jews were deliberately murdered in WWII, or of course, the planet is getting hotter because of my (but not Al Gore’s) “carbon footprint,” and of course, IQ is a myth (and liberals are smarter than us for believing this), and there are no “races” anyway (but the white race needs to be abolished).
Price rightly dismisses this kind of maneuver as nothing but the logical fallacy of Appeal to Authority, and a self-fulfilling prophecy, to boot; and elsewhere even cites my own scientific role model, Paul Feyerabend:
Consensus is no criterion. The truth may not rest in the middle. The truth may not rest with the majority. Every theory must be evaluated on its own. If we appeal to “received opinion” or “the consensus of scholars,” we are merely abdicating our own responsibility. . . . I accept the dictum of Paul Feyerabend at this point. The only axiom that does not inhibit research is “Anything Goes.” Let’s just see how far. It matters neither whether a particular hypothesis comports easily with the majority paradigm nor with owns own other hypotheses. Since all must be but tentatively and provisionally held anyway, we must follow the evidence wherever it seems to be taking us.
Ironically, the New Testament was itself put together to challenge the “existing consensus.” Here’s how it was done, more or less.
Paul (actually, Price believes, Simon Magus) “appears out of nowhere with a different doctrine and a massive constituency that the Jerusalem establishment simply could not dismiss with indifference. . . . This is what lies behind the stories of his separate calling as an apostle and his subsequent uneasy alliance with the Christianity of the twelve.”
At this time there are no gospels, and no epistles; so Marcion began to write them.
Tertullian notes that Marcion “discovered” the Epistle to the Galatians, and on analogy with Deuteronomy and the Book of Mormon, this would seem to mean that he had written it himself.
To these Marcion added a single gospel, a sort of Ur-Luke. And that’s it: the Evangelion and the Apostolicon, the Gospel and the Apostle.
Whence come the 27 books of the “canonical” New Testament?
Someone, most likely Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, a noted opponent of Marcion, decided to try to co-opt Marcionism by embracing their idea of a uniquely Christian scripture, adding a New Testament to the Old, retaining both. The “Pauline” Epistles, hitherto shunned as heresy, could be adapted to Catholic usage by judicious redaction.
Then, to paper over the disputes between Paul and the Twelve, Polycarp (or whoever) doctored up Mark, padded out Marcion’s Luke, heavily edited the Gnostic Gospel of John, translated an Aramaic history of the Apostles into Greek, and added his own material, creating Acts, which pumps up the role of Peter as an equal to Paul, then adds in the Catholicizing “Pastoral Epistles” and a few random texts attributed to some apostles to beef up their roles.
Voila! Bow down before the Word of God!
Perhaps exhausted by all this forgery, Polycarp finished up by grabbing an entirely non-Christian text, from the Essenes at Quorum, added a hasty “say hi! to Timothy” at the end, and produced The Epistle to the Hebrews.
The big surprise here is Revelation, which, from its position — at the end — and subject matter – end times – most people assume was written last. Though controversy about including it also lasted right up to the end of the canonization process, it is, in fact, the earliest text here, and was the subject of that quote from Price I used at the beginning; its surrealistically shifting visions of various Jesi – sometimes the angel Gabriel, sometimes Zeus, sometimes the planet Venus — come from a period of the “volatile mixture of Hellenism” when the image of Jesus had not yet “gelled.” The orthodox simply added the equivalent of “cover letters” to various churches, and created yet another “holy book.”
Price now undertakes to reverse the process and present the reader with each of the canonical books in order of composition, preceded by introductions – short, but packed with information and insights – and freshly translated, with various typographical conventions to help sort out the editorial work that was done to make them “canonical.”
One advantage of Price’s unfamiliar – shall we say, unorthodox? – arrangement is that it gives his translation a chance to start off with a bang, rendering the rather dull opening of Hebrews, as in the New Revised Standard Version:
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various way by the prophets . . .
By dribs and drabs, in various ways, God has anciently spoken to the fathers by the prophets . . .
It is, as Vince says in Pulp Fiction, the little things, and throughout Price does things like that, using his literary talents to give us a translated text that is based on sound scholarship but rendered in a way that is faithful to, or at least suggests from time to time, the rather racy original (written, as it is, in a kind of Ebonic Greek).
Another nice touch is Price’s insistence on rendering the word doulos correctly as “slave.” This is not just a common noun in the New Testament but a title wore with pride by the apostles and others, as in “a slave of Christ” etc. Most translations try to smooth this out by rendering it as “servant,” as if we are to imagine someone like Jeeves or Alfred the Butler. Perversely, modern PC types try to eliminate it altogether, as something distasteful to modern sensibilities. It is repugnant, at least to Aryan people, of course, but that’s why Price is right to render it as “slave,” and if modern Christians cringe at being reminded of their belonging to a slave religion, then hooray!
Now, Here’s an example of a rendering that though racy shows accuracy has some limits:
“Oh no! Lord, I am not worthy to have you actually set foot under my roof! Just use some incantation, and my servant boy will be cured. I know how it works, since I myself am a man under authority, and I have soldiers under my command. And I order this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and I order my slave, ‘Do this’ and he does.” – Matthew 8:8-9
Note “slave” but also note “servant boy.” The latter is pais, ‘boy.’ Why does Price render pais as ‘servant boy’ just as the New Revised Version does? Now both doulos and pais were also terms for what we might call a “boy toy” or “love slave” (in the parallel story in Luke, it’s doulos again), and as James Neill among others has pointed out, it’s hard to believe a Roman centurion, proud of his race and rank as we see, would be distraught enough to seek out a Hebrew magician (“use some incantation” not the liturgical “say but the word”) to heal a mere “servant.” Both Price and the New Standard Version are trying to work around the oddity that the only time Jesus meets up with a pagan “homosexual” he neither condemns him, nor says, as he does to the adulterous woman, “go and sin no more,” but instead praises the “gay” goy for greater faith than found in Israel.
Now and again, of course, I find something, amateur that I am, a bit frustrating; take the Gospel of John, for example. The text itself is, as Price says, “a bit of a mess” (there’s that Hellenistic syncretism again) from which no consistent Christological doctrine can be derived, but he also seems less concerned with explaining his translational decisions. Thus, in the famous opening, Price renders καὶ θεός ἦν ὁ λόγος as “and the Word was a God,” thus blithely siding with the Gnostics and Jehovah’s Witnesses in a typically long and bitter dispute over the Incarnation and Trinity. While it’s always good to see the outsiders win one, I’d like to see his reasons.
Similarly, in John 6:58, we find “Amen, amen: I say to you, I existed before Abraham did!” rather than the traditional, and much used, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Here, Price gives us a footnote, and a reference to a book which “thoroughly debunks the popular mistranslation of Jesus’ declaration as ‘before Abraham was, I am.’” I’ll bet he’s right, and that it does, but it sure would be nice to have at least a hint as to why ego eimi doesn’t mean “I am” here.
The kindle version is a mixed bag itself. Footnotes have been renumbered to consecutively run throughout the text, and hyperlinked to the endnotes; this is good. What’s odd is that despite all this attention to detail, the text continues to be broken up by periodic chunks of blank space, with the recurring line “Human Bible New Testament .indb” followed by the page number of the printed text; I assume this is some production tag. It’s not really a drawback, but just, as I say, odd that no one noticed or cared, and judging from reviews on Amazon many if not all of American Atheists Press kindles have the same appearance. It’s just odd.
So there we have it: the Human Bible. It is human, because it was written by humans, not some divine being; and because it is addressed to humans. If we in turn are to approach it as a human, rather than a Christian “slave” or a humble servant of some bogus “scholarly consensus,” then we must read and evaluate it ourselves, for ourselves. That task has been considerably facilitated by Dr. Price’s Bible, which I hope all readers here at Counter-Currents will, as the child said to Augustine, take and read.
 “Tales of the Christos Mythos,” here.
 “It’s a volatile mixture of cool jazz and hot munitions.” MST33k, Episode 612, The Starfighters.
 Price seems to keep his two careers quite separate — like many on the alt-Right do — and the only hint I find here of the weird is when he glosses Docetism as “Had [Jesus] actually been, in the phrase of Robert W. Chambers, the Phantom of Truth?” The Phantom appears in The King In Yellow, one of Lovecraft’s favorite weird books; see commentary here.
 “No weird story can truly produce terror unless it is devised with all the care and verisimilitude of an actual hoax.” – Letter to Clark Ashton Smith, October 17, 1930. We’ve discussed the factual approach of Lovecraft as essential to his method to produce horror in the essays collected in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012)
 Who was it said that “the history of Europe was determined by the absence of madhouses in 1st century Palestine”? It was the late Alisdair Clarke who suggested that the Middle East was a “Lovecraftian pit of evil” needing either a cordon sanitaire or nuclear eradication for Europe to find peace. See “Pit of Evil in the Middle East,” Aryan Futurism, March 28, 2006, online here.
 Interestingly, Lovecraft himself had no interest in Biblical criticism, since he assumed that no sane person could truly believe the Bible to be dictated by Jehovah anyway. See S. T. Joshi’s “Lovecraft on Religion,” reprinted in his Lovecraft and a World in Transition by S. T. Joshi – Collected Essays on H. P. Lovecraft (New York: Hippocampus Press, 2014).
 Nietzsche, his philologist’s nose disturbed, suggested wearing gloves.
 See Bart D. Ehrman, Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why The Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2011); Ehrman, who believes in a vanishingly small “real Jesus,” concludes that forgery is the one distinctive talent of the Christian. Nietzsche knew this back in The Antichrist: discussing St. Paul, he sneers “Well lied, lion!”
 Relating back to the related issue of the Christ Myth, Coomaraswamy wrote to a Harvard professor in a letter dated July 10, 1942: “I am not convinced of the historicity of either Christ or Buddha,” which seems fairly clear, but here again we see correspondence given the sanction of scripture and given an “orthodox” interpretation — son Rama insists that “My father was much too intelligent not to believe in the historical Jesus,” availing himself of the same cheap sophism we’ve already examined. See “Coomaraswamy – The Man, Myth and History” by Whitall N. Perry; Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Summer, 1977). P. 4; online here.
 The Pre-Nicene New Testament, reviewed here. The reviewer notes that this with this 1,200 page work, “Price has produced a book that could literally serve as a weapon in the pummeling of logic into the human mind.” More pacific than that, The Human Bible is an attempt to produce a smaller work – still over 500 pages – by restricting itself to the works that actually made it into the canon.
 See Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Paul (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975).
 See “The Marcionite Heresy” in The Gnostic Origins of Alfred Rosenberg’s Thought by James B. Whisker, here.
 Nor even really much of a Gnostic. Price notes that the unknown author of so-called “1 Timothy” “confuses Marcionism with Gnosticism, but this is not uncommon even today.”
 On the other hand: “I did find myself perplexed at Price’s definitive statements as to what Marcion thought, felt and believed as he created and circulated the first New Testament, particularly since we do not possess any original writings of the man in which he thus expressed himself. In my own studies, I did not gather several of the impressions Price did regarding Marcion, particularly since the pertinent data are not composed of Marcion’s own writing and words but constitute reportage from his detractors and enemies. Hence, we are on shaky ground as to what Marcion truly thought, felt and believed.” Acharya S., op. cit.
 Price adduces the example of the prophet Amos, a rural outsider who, therefore, was the only one who could challenge the “professional” prophets of Jerusalem, who had become a self-perpetuating, self-selecting caste of yes-men.
 See, “Tales of the Christos Mythos,” op. cit.
 See, “Dachau Blues: Applying History to Science and Science to History,” here.
 The sage advice given to his lazy colleagues by A. E. Housman; see his “The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism,” in A. E. Housman: Selected Prose, ed. John Carter (Cambridge, 1961). Online here, and listed as one of the Top Ten Essential Works in New Testament Textual Criticism here, despite making no mention of the Bible at all. I consider it the one essay you need to read in order to be able to think at all; afterwards, you can skip college altogether.
 The Christ Myth Theory and Its Problems (Cranford, N.J.: American Atheist Press, 2011), “Methodological Presuppositions,” his italics.
 What, no Necronomicon? That had to wait for the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, of course.
 Timothy and Titus, the worst of the lot, containing all those pesky Flanderisms that make people hate Protestants. Women be talking too much! Oddly, these “Catholic” epistles are the absolute favorites of radio preachers, by my informal survey; stripped of Titus, Timothy, and perhaps Peter, they’d be almost silent. How typical, that Christianity in practice is mostly derived from the worst texts available?
 Price notes that later scribes noticed that “Paul” had forgotten to mention Jesus anywhere, so they added “Jesus” or “Christ” in various places, sort of the ancient equivalent of cut and paste.
 See James Neill, The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies (McFarland, 2009), kindle loc. 4394-4407.
 Neill goes on to note that the aforementioned King James I, sponsor of the English Bible, used Jesus as a defense of his own conduct towards George Villiers: “Jesus had his John, and I have my George.” As always, everyone has their favorite Beatle.
 For the other side, see here, for example, and generally here.
 Not that it matters, but Neville, the midcentury Alan Watts of the New Thought Movement, laid great store by all those “I am” passages (or “I AM” as he would render it). See, among hundreds of examples, Your Faith is Your Fortune, chapter 2, “Before Abraham Was.” You can find it in the recent anthology The Power of Imagination The Neville Goddard Treasury (New York: Penguin/Tarcher, 2015), where the Introduction: “Neville: A Portrait by Israel Regardie” (1947) discusses the importance of the phrase “I AM” in Neville’s books and lectures. Interestingly, as Regardie notes, Neville regarded the whole Bible as mythological – or rather, psychological – and not historical, thus putting him on the side of Kenneth Humphreys and the other Christ Mythers, including Price himself.
 As Nikolas Harnoncourt has said, the “historically authentic performance” movement is intended not to gain for us some – impossible – “original” experience of music, but precisely to enable us to gain our own relation to the music, free of 19th-century Romantic “traditions.”
 “I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or girl, I know not which, coming from a neighbouring house, chanting, and oft repeating, ‘Take up and read; take up and read.’ Immediately my countenance was changed, and I began most earnestly to consider whether it was usual for children in any kind of game to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So, restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose up, interpreting it no other way than as a command to me from Heaven to open the book, and to read the first chapter I should light upon.” The Confessions of St. Augustine (Book 8, Chapter 12) translated from the Latin by J. G. Pilkington, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church edited by Philip Schaff, Series I, Vol. I (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1882).
Western Civilization Is Destroying Its Historical Heritage, Part II
Anti-Racism Comes for the Church: The Case of Thomas Achord
Western Civilization Is Destroying Its Historical Heritage, Part I
Meet the Hunburgers
What a Nation is Not
Prioritizing Prestige Over Accomplishment: Britain from 1950 to 1956
The Honorable Cause: A Review
Thanks James. This book is on my list. Just looking at his website — all his books and his reading list — my goodness. I have read some Ehrman. I guess there is something to this post modern deconstruction after all. Perhaps, more to the point, it can be useful for certain topics which were once taboo.
Yes, I was going to call attention to his enormous output in all kinds of genres, as wells as his podcasts (called, of course, The Human Bible). The Human Bible is a 550 page redaction of a 1200 or so page work that has everything they ever thought of including. As he says somewhere about something, “Who can keep up with all this research? I can!”
We could have been saved a lot of trouble if only this wonderful atheist wisdom had been available before the 21st century. The scholars of the past sure were stupid! I wonder if Dr. Price will soon turn his attention to the other sacred scriptures of the world, deconstruct them as well?
I won’t be holding my breath for that. This comes at just the right time, reminding me as it does that there can be no marriage of spirituality and the New Right. It’s a puzzle to me, for I well recall Bowden’s statement that right-wing views are spiritual views of man, nature and the world. The close association with Evola, Guenon, et al, can lead one to assume that those perspectives will be dominant here – yet they are not. Instead, the Darwinian Nietschean atheist worldview colors all perspectives. Exactly like… Well, any mainstream liberal website.
The rest of us should treat Counter-Currents like any other hostile service, like, say, Huffpo: pick from it as necessary if anything useful turns up, but by no means contribute monetarily.
If this is snarky venting is the best you can produce, you should just shut up and send donations.
“The close association with Evola, Guenon, et al, can lead one to assume that those perspectives will be dominant here”
Asked and answered in footnote 9 above, courtesy of Studies In Comparative Religion:
“Coomaraswamy wrote to a Harvard professor in a letter dated July 10, 1942: “I am not convinced of the historicity of either Christ or Buddha.”
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