The Gospels Behind the Gospels is a fascinating book written by Dr. Robert M. Price. He theorizes that the gospels in the new testament aren’t completely cohesive narratives created by their authors (nor the author of Q if such existed). Rather, he believes that there were many different beliefs and traditions present in the first centuries of the common era, and that the gospel authors stitched these together for their own purposes. In this book, Dr. Price attempts to “peer behind the curtain”, using what we have in the Bible as well as other sources, in order to try a see what might lay behind.
The book is divided into nine chapters, each of which explores a different potential way of seeing Jesus, the gospels, and the other closely associated characters.
- Chapter 1 explores parallels between Jesus and John the Baptist (who might have been the leader originally of a competing sect).
- Chapter 2 looks at how Jesus could be seen as the return of Elijah/Elisha.
- In Chapter 3, we learn how the gospels attempt to show Jesus as the new Moses.
- Chapter 4 examines other divine hero myths and the similarities to the stories of Jesus.
- Originally, Yahweh was a son of El Elyon (God most high). In chapter 5, Dr. Price argues that Jesus may be seen as Yahweh/an epiphany of Yahweh in this older sense (as opposed to Yahweh who became El Elyon, the one true God).
- Chapter 6 examines Gnosticism and places in the Bible which may show influence thereof.
- In Chapter 7, Dr. Price looks at how Jesus may have originally been a messiah in line with the traditional expectation of one seeking to be a Jewish king.
- Chapter 8 compares Jesus with the cult of Dionysus.
- Chapter 9 explores how the primary figures of Peter, Paul, and Apollos might have had their own sects whose followers thought of them as the savior as opposed to Jesus.
Whether you agree with Dr. Price or not, this book is worth reading. Price offers these a ideas to explore and is not dogmatic about them. Some or all of the ideas may not reflect the way things actually happened. Regardless, it’s invaluable for a student of the Bible to be aware of these similarities and how they may have influenced its writing.