Review: The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man

Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition?The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man
by Robert M. Price

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man / 9781615920280

I first heard of Robert Price as a interview subject in the documentary "The God Who Wasn't There". I was deeply impressed with his calm, scholarly manner, as well as with the respect he brought towards the subject, and I picked up several of his books out of curiosity.

"The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man" is, in my opinion, probably Price's greatest work. In this scholarly and fascinating work, he looks at the gospel traditions in the New Testament Bible -- as well as consulting dozens of contemporary sources -- in order to pose thought-provoking questions about the realities of Jesus, the disciples, and the reliability of what we think we "know" from the Bible.

Although I am not a Christian, I was raised one and I thought I was fairly familiar with the four gospels. I'd certainly read each of them dozens of times, but I never realized until I read this book just how much disagreement and disharmony exists between the four gospels. Even basic facts like the names of the "Twelve Apostles" vary widely between the four gospels! Modern apologetic works try to harmonize these differences by splicing the accounts together to create nicknames and middle names, but Price here asks us whether or not there might not be simpler, more plausible explanations. His proposed answers will not please the "literalist" groups, but they are certainly well-thought out, well-defended, and highly interesting to read here.

I cannot rave enough about Price's writing style in this book. Although he very occasionally has a tendency to ramble, for the most part, his attention to detail is precise and his explanations and theories are clearly presented. I especially respect and admire the dignity with which he treats the subject -- it's very clear from the writing that this is a man who cares very deeply for the source texts and who endeavors to treat them with respect. If only all conversations about sacred texts could be held with this amount of respect and care!

Whether Price is right or wrong, I don't have the background knowledge to say. I will say that he makes a compelling case for his theories, and I truly appreciate how meticulously he consults and documents outside sources instead of simply relying entirely on Biblical sources; it is refreshing to see some of the "Jesus was the first person to..." mythology respectfully clarified against other contemporary and preceding Jewish sources. Overall, this book is really the perfect example of how to make a scholarly subject an interesting read, and I will admit that I ended up highlighting so much of this book for future reference that in retrospect it would have been easier to highlight the material I *didn't* expect to use or read again!

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews


Library Geek said...

Have you read any of Elain Pagels' books? From your review, Price has an accessible scholarly calm approach that is similar to hers. I especially liked her The Origin of Satan, that shows the difference between the lawyerly Satan of the OT, the nemesis of the NT and how the role continued to grow throughout the proceeding ages.  She also showed how the changes in Satan reflected the demonization of the Jewish and Pagan peoples.
From your review, it looks like I would enjoy Price, so thank you for reviewing the book :)

Pamela Merritt said...

This is an extraordinarily compelling work; supporting my own feelings that the words of Jesus are wonderful philosophies to live by; not historical events squished into dogma.

Post a Comment