The real Roman conspiracy in the first century?
Title Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus: Flavian Signature Edition
Author Joseph Atwill
Publisher CreateSpace, 2011
ISBN 1461096405, 9781461096405
Length 414 pages
This hypothesis is suggested to me regularly for comment and although I responded publicly in Google+ when the book was first announced, I think it is time to do so again, here.
Was Jesus the invention of a Roman emperor? The author of this ground-breaking book believes he was. "Caesar’s Messiah" reveals the key to a new and revolutionary understanding of Christian origins.The clues leading to its startling conclusions are found in the writings of the first-century historian Flavius Josephus,whose "Wars of the Jews" is one of the only historical chronicles of this period. Closely comparing the work of Josephus with the New Testament Gospels, "Caesar’s Messiah" demonstrates that the Romans directed the writing of both. Their purpose: to offer a vision of a “peaceful Messiah” who would serve as an alternative to the revolutionary leaders who were rocking first-century Israel and threatening Rome.Similarly, "Caesar’s Messiah" will rock our understanding of Christian history as it reveals that Jesus was a fictional character portrayed in four Gospels written not by Christians but Romans. This Flavian Signature edition adds Atwill’s latest discoveries of numerous parallel events in sequence which ultimately reveal the identity of the true authors of the Gospels.This was not new to me, for when I began my study of how the divine men of Classical Antiquity were conjured into existence, I entered a long correspondence with Cliff Carrington, whose argument is very similar:
At first, Vespasian disbelieved the prophecy of a treacherous Jew. However, he kept Josephus under close guard with him. Soon after Nero was assassinated and Vespasian was elected emperor by his troops. It then transpired that he did indeed become emperor. Vespasian released Josephus and took him into his service, and continued to favour him for the rest of his life. When the war was over Vespasian awarded Josephus still further by presenting him with the his old home.This contains some sound insights, which I use in my own theory. But Carrington and Atwill both make the same, profound error: they attack the Christian textual tradition whilst also accepting it.
Josephus was not the only one to gain favour with Vespasian and his son Titus. Rabbi Jonathan ben Zakkai was spirited out of besieged Jerusalem in a coffin, carried by his disciples. The coffin was deposited in a cave. Rabbi Jonathan went over to the Romans. He also gave a prophecy that the father and son would rule. His reward was to be given permission to refound a Sanhedrin, to preserve Judaism after the fall and destruction of the temple. He was given a place at Jamnia, or Jabneh or Yavneh, on the coast where he assembled the scholars who had survived the war. The school they established was called ‘the Vineyard’; and they rebuilt Judaism along Pharisaic lines as we know it today.
The Romans now had a ‘tame’ Judaism that it could deal with on a day to day basis. At least until the persecution of emperor Hadrian after the failed Bar Cochaba revolt which ended in 135 CE. At that point Judaism was outlawed throughout the empire and ordaining of Rabbis forbidden in an effort to find a final solution to the Jewish problem. This is when the Christians found it absolutely necessary to distance themselves from the Jews. Their gospels and early church Fathers could not be more anti-Jewish. This is when Christianity took form as a separate religion. The gospels were assembled about this time and orthodoxy became vitally important.
This tradition has a Jesus Christ as a historical figure in the early-1st century, leading to the immediate formation of Christianity. Atwill and Carrington argue that Jesus Christ is a myth (created by the imperial court), but the Christianity which is supposed to flow from this figure is real.
Why cannot they use the same critical thinking to dismiss one myth to then dismiss the other? They are not alone in this failing and I term the reason the glittering web of false assumptions.
The result is both wrong and hilarious:
Q. Do you accept the textual tradition (which describes a historical Jesus Christ)?
Q. Do you accept the textual tradition (for Christianity)?
To which I add this question: on what basis do you accept the textual tradition as history? There is no good answer, just drivel such as "Because everyone else does", which could once have been used to explain how the world believed in Jesus Christ.
I find it a real pity that so much good-quality critical thinking should have gone to waste.
There is a Jesus never existed website which makes the same error. I have tried my best to argue the case with both the site's founders and Carrington, but the result is too hilarious to continue seriously - these 'skeptics' take up the Christian cause with total abandonment of rationality. The Church should give them a medal.
Here are some areas I broadly agree:
- Imperial Rome did remake messianic Judaism as Rabbinic.
- The New Testament used Josephus for much of its background.
- Philo's logos philosophy was used to create a divine man.
- There was a Roman conspiracy to (a) battle messianic Judaism and remake it as Rabbinic; (b) bring the Flavians to power; (a) and (b) are closely connected.
By imagining archaeology for Christianity, whilst ignoring the collective impact of Chrestian archaeology, neither Carrington, nor Atwill are able to discern what was really happening in the 1st century.