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More Conspiracy Nonsense

Poor Hercules, trying to fight the Hydra. Once he lops off *one* head….

So I’ve received several emails over the past couple of days about the breathtaking new announcement to be made on October 19 (assuming the world still is functioning after October 17!) in London by “American Biblical scholar” Joseph Atwill (whom – I have to admit – I have never even heard of, to my recollection) In this announcement Mr. (so far as I can tell, from his blog, he is not a “Dr.”; in what sense is he a “scholar”? Is it because he’s read a bunch of book? Hmm….) Atwill will “prove” that “the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ.”

In other words – brace yourself – Jesus is in fact a myth. Has anyone heard this before?

For the full story, go to

http://uk.prweb.com/releases/2013/10/prweb11201273.htm

Atwill is a different breed from most mythicists. That’s probably good and bad. Good because, well, you wouldn’t like to be like the others. Bad because, well, you really shouldn’t want to be one at all. In any event, here is Mr. Atwill’s case in a nutshell, as described in this earth-shattering press release (referenced above):

“Atwill asserts that Christianity did not really begin as a religion, but a sophisticated government project, a kind of propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire. “Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century,” he explains. “When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare. They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system. That’s when the ‘peaceful’ Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to ‘give onto Caesar’ and pay their taxes to Rome.”

The operative word in this description is the second one: “asserts.” I know sophomores in college who could rip this assertion to shreds. For now, let me just put out some talking points, in hopes that I don’t have to talk about them at any length.

 

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Widespread Misconceptions about the Council of Nicea

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    FrankJay71  October 15, 2013

    Addressing the issue of Jewish missionary activity, I found reference to an incident by way of Wikipedia, of Tiberius expelling the Jews of Rome in 19 A.D. for that reason. There is a footnote sourcing this to one Robert E. Van Voorst, a theologion. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of him, or if he is reliable. Also I hope I’m not spitting hairs.

  2. Avatar
    SHameed01  November 25, 2013

    finished watching Atwill’s documentary some time ago and I must say he probably assumes more than he should, i mean even if there are paralels between the new testament story of Jesus and those of previous pagan gods, one should also look at the factors that puts Jesus aside from all the pagan gods of the past..for example in Mark 10:18 Jesus talks about why call HIM good when no one is good except God alone..now is that something a pagan god like Horus or Dionysis would say?

    Also in John 17, when Jesus is praying to the Father, Jesus tells the Fahter that you alone are the one true god, now does that sound like a person who believes HE is part of the Divine Godhead would say?

    In fact in these words I see the character of a Jewish man. Anyways these were just some of my thoughts.

  3. Avatar
    Steefen  February 7, 2014

    The New Testament we have today is tainted by a Post-Failed Revolt Against Rome and Rome’s need to respond with Religion-Creation-Propaganda to turn an activist Jewish Messiah into a pacifist Jewish Messiah. One caesar adopted a Jewish historian (including a name change from Joseph to Josephus) who worked for the propaganda campaign. This same caesar gave Rabbi Johannan ben Zakkai Yavne University outside of Jerusalem after the Revolt was over. If having a historian and a university president is not enough, Rome also had its own college/university and enforcement over religions within its realms.

    In ancient Rome, the quindecimviri sacris faciundis were the fifteen (quindecim) members of a college (collegium) with priestly duties. Most notably they guarded the Sibylline Books, scriptures which they consulted and interpreted at the request of the Senate. This collegium also oversaw the worship of any foreign gods which were introduced to Rome.

    All the Flavian emperors were members of this college and would have studied the Messiah expectations of the Jews. After saving the lives of Josephus and Yohannan ben Zakkai, and after giving them land outside of Jerusalem on the plains, and after both of these intellectuals were paid off by Rome, Vespasian, Titus, and Dometian had two good study partners for considering what level of activism Messiah expectations would have going into the 25 years following the Post-Failed Revolt 74 c.e. – 99 c.e.

  4. Avatar
    Steefen  February 7, 2014

    Bart Ehrman:
    •What does he mean by “zealous Jewish missionary activity”? I don’t know of any Jewish missionary activity at all in the first century. What’s he thinking of?

    Steefen:
    He’s talking about Jews (even Sicarii) who went to Alexandria. The Sicarii were missionaries for their cause in Alexandria. Non-Sicarii Jews had to take a stand against their missionary activity.

    When Masada was thus taken, the general left a garrison in the fortress to keep it, and he himself went away to Cesarea;
    for there were now no enemies left in the country, but it was all overthrown by so long a war. YET DID THIS WAR AFFORD DISTURBANCES AND DANGEROUS DISORDERS EVEN IN PLACES VERY FAR REMOTE FROM JUDEA;
    for still it came to pass that many Jews were slain at Alexandria in Egypt
    for as many of the Sicarii as were able to fly thither, out of the seditious wars in Judea, were not content ot have saved themselves, but must needs be undertaking to make new disturbances, and persuaded many of those that entertained them to assert their liberty, to esteem the Romans to be no better than themselves, and to look upon God as their only Lord and Master.

    See full account at War of the Jews, 7, 10, 1

    Also, see Chapter 10: The Authors of the New Testament / Caesar’s Messiah by Joseph Atwill.

  5. Avatar
    Steefen  February 9, 2014

    Dr. Ehrman, there is something here with what Atwill has written.

    This is what I read earlier today:

    Joseph Atwill, the author of Caesar’s Messiah looked at the story of the man possessed by Legion.

    The man was possessed by Legion in the city of Gadara.
    Jesus got rid of the demons.
    The demons took possession of pigs/swine.
    The swine started running. They ran into water and drowned.

    Jesus was not a great exorcist in this instance because this is a satire of history. Here’s the history that actually happened.

    By this time John was beginning to tyrannize. Now, some submitted to his tyranny out of fear and some out of goodwill. All of their reasons for militant action against Rome was now being reduced to one head, one leader, John.

    John and his men were too small to be an army but too many to be just a gang of troublemakers. A legion (an ancient army term) is not an army and a legion has more members than just a gang of troublemakers. John and his followers are Legion.

    Let’s say, Gadara was a community with some sense of peacefulness. They had their rich members in the community. Gadara wasn’t looking for trouble with Rome.

    John comes to Gadara and he’s more militant than the Sicarii. He recruits men. Some recruits are made recruits by force. John is the possessor. John and his men are Legion.

    Well, who is Jesus? Jesus is the Roman general who becomes Caesar, or emperor: Vespasian.

    Vespasian comes to Gadara and sends John and his Sicarii running. They ran away from the power of Christ Vespasian. Many ran into the Jordan like the swine in the bible story. The Sicarii were deemed swine because Jews do not like swine (pork) and the Jews of Gadara didn’t appreciate John coming into the city causing trouble, recruiting their sons to their death. The only thing they got for going against the powerful Romans was a split-second of courage before getting stabbed through their guts or through their chest with a Roman sword or chopped in the face with a Roman sword or have their heads cut off at the neck by Roman sword or killed by Roman darts.

    Dart
    Main article: Plumbata

    Late infantrymen often carried half a dozen lead-weighted throwing-darts called plumbatae (from plumbum = “lead”), with an effective range of c. 30 m, well beyond that of a javelin. The darts were carried clipped to the back of the shield.

    So, the New Testament account is nothing more than a satire of what actually happened at Gadara.

    Jesus is not Jesus: Jesus is Rome, Jesus is Vespasian.

    • Avatar
      Steefen  February 9, 2014

      “The Demoniacs of Gadara” appears in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. It is highly likely it would be considered a Q-sourced account. Q-source and Mark cannot be dated complete until Vespasian arrives at Gadara. Discussion appreciated.

  6. Avatar
    mariapcmog  February 26, 2014

    Surprised not to see any commentary following the Atwill claim. The Presentation has been made, his book is public. What is the final idea following his thesis statement?

    Personally, I have an open opinion on the whole mythicist proposal because there are the obvious parallels between the historical deities or is that just a coincidence.
    Ehrman has stated that he is an agnostic. If he believes that Jesus was a real person then why would he no longer be a Christian? Or does he believe that the historical Jesus is just another guy trying to fill some really big shoes of the OT’s foretelling of a future messiah.

    On http://www.aish.com, Rabbi Shraga Simmons presents information on the Jewish perspective on why they do not consider Jesus as the Messiah. Here are his listed reasons:
    Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies.
    Jesus did not embody the personal qualifications of the Messiah.
    Biblical verses “referring” to Jesus are mistranslations.

    Scripture stated that: the Messiah will be born of human parents and possess normal physical attributes like other people. He will not be a demi-god, (2) nor will he possess supernatural qualities.

    A. Virgin Birth
    The Christian idea of a virgin birth is derived from the verse in Isaiah 7:14 describing an “alma” as giving birth. The word “alma” has always meant a young woman, but Christian theologians came centuries later and translated it as “virgin.” This accords Jesus’ birth with the first century pagan idea of mortals being impregnated by gods.

    Check the website out if you want further information on the Jewish view behind not considering Jesus as the Savior.

    Any ideas on the Atwill claim will be appreciated.

    Perhaps a little ayahuasca would do the world good. Never tried it but if it helps brings peace and enlightenment then it should be considered when the bitter pill of truth will be hard to swallow.

    The pot is stirring now, that is for sure.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 27, 2014

      There’s not an expert on the planet who thinks it worth while even responding to it! I’m afraid it’s a completely untenable thesis, so untenable that it’s not a topic of conversation even.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  February 28, 2014

        There was another time when not an expert on the planet thought something was worthwhile:

        The Quest for the Historical Jesus

        Albert Schweitzer concluded that the goal of recovering the historical Jesus that lay behind the Christ of faith was doomed to failure. It could not be done. We could only get back as far as the Jesus who was proclaimed by the church, the Christ of faith, the Jesus of the gospels. He also concluded that the Jesus of history was not even important. What was important was the Christ of faith.

        The truth is, it is not Jesus as historically known who is significant for our time but Jesus as spiritually risen within. What is important is not the historical Jesus but the spirit which goes forth from Him.

        In essence, Swhweitzer agreed with Augustine: spiritual truth, not historical fact, was what mattered.

        The impact of Schweitzer’s Critique:

        For the next 50 years what was important in biblical scholarship was the Christ of faith, not the Jesus of history. From 1906 to the 1960s there was virtually no interest in the historical Jesus among scholars. Historical research came to a halt.

        • Avatar
          Steefen  February 28, 2014

          Bart Ehrman:
          I’m afraid it’s a completely untenable thesis

          Steefen:
          Not able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection, completely?
          Dr. Ehrman, I agree with you at his Chapter 7. See part of my 3-star amazon.com reader review.

          A- for the Introduction

          A+ for Chapter 2: Fishers of Men: Men Who Were Caught Like Fish

          A+ for Chapter 3: The Myth for the World

          B for Chapter 4: The Demons of Gadara

          A- for Chapter 6: Eleazar – Lazarus: The Real Christ

          F for Chapter 7: The Puzzle of the Empty Tomb

          B for Chapter 8: The New Root and Branch

          A for Chapter 9: Until All Is Fulfilled

          C+ for Chapter 10: The Authors of the New Testament

          A+ for Chapter 11: The Puzzle of Decius Mundus

          His Chapter 7 is quite egregious. In a 16 chapter book, 1/16 = 6.25%–on an exam, losing 6 points is nothing. In the Olympics Figure Skating, one fall does not make the whole performance untenable. In a baseball inning, one player out does not ruin the whole inning. Second, many of the points made in the book do not depend on the chapter I’ve graded an F.

          However, there are instances in life where an event has disqualification rules no matter how excellent other parts of the trial are. Joseph Atwill’s Chapter 7 could be seen as something which totally disqualifies him from a hearing.

          It’s my recommendation that Chapter 7 gets removed from the book because it does more harm than good for other chapters that should be discussed in scholarly circles and in the public arena.

          Thank you.

          • Avatar
            Monarch  January 24, 2018

            Hi Steefen,
            Well, it looks like we’re alone on this one. I looked for your review on amazon, but did not find it under your “Steefen” screen name among the three star reviews. Otherwise we could take up the discussion there or elsewhere, and spare Bart the agony. My question to you is, “What problem do you have with Atwill’s Chapter 7, The Puzzle of the Empty Tomb?” I found it to be ingenious. That the gospels should be read as a whole, and that the four resurrection stories should be interpreted in order according to the position of the sun in each, i.e., “while it was still dark,” “as the sun was rising,” “very early in the morning,” and “early in the morning,” and that with these time differentials you can reconcile all the variables in the four stories, from who was with Mary or was she alone, and the number of men or angels at the tomb, and whether they were inside or outside the tomb, and how many in each place at any given time, etc., to the point that (with the Roman’s being poor mathematicians, but very capable gamblers) the odds of all these variables reconciling is 256,800,000/1, thus providing significant proof that the author/s intentionally inserted this puzzle to demonstrate simultaneity of authorship . . . well, let’s just say that the argument made sense to me, and that I like those odds.

          • Avatar
            Steefen  January 27, 2018

            Hi Monarch,
            I downgraded it from a three-star review to a two star review because of the problems of not having an index. See the two-star review by Stephen Campbell. Steefen is the Pen Name I used for the first edition of my book published back in late 2010 / early 2011. Seven years make a difference: I look forward to the second edition of my book, likely to be published under a different title for improved marketing.

            You say you liked his Chapter 7. I say, in this chapter, Joseph Atwill says they got the tombs of Jesus and Lazarus mixed up. One problem with this is The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 15, verse 47: Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.

            Yes, we can take up the discussion at amazon with comments to my review. Did you review his book? Did you review his Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah?

            If you start a thread here in the Member Forum Discussions, let me know.

            Thank you. I look forward to the discussion.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  March 1, 2014

          It’s not clear that you’re read Schweitzer’s book. He does not think the quest to uncover the historical Jesus is futile at all. In fact, he ends his book with his historical reconstruction of Jesus’ life, ministry, and death.

  7. Avatar
    Steefen  May 31, 2014

    I read The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. It is important to have the Bible questioned.

    One part of Joseph Atwill’s book that is an explanation and not a parallel is the Testimonium Flavianum – Decius Mundus chapter. Steve Mason wrote, Josephus was writing at the same time as the writers of the Gospel. Atwill’s TF-Decius Mundus chapter shows Josephus was as critical if not more critical than Thomas Paine.

    Dr. Ehrman, to be on the accurate side of history, we have to accept this about Josephus either through Atwill or by some other means, say, Josephus himself. Scholars, like scientists and mathematicians, have to move forward with all facts and advances in a field.

    Atwill is the first writer I know who connected the Decius Mundus passage (immediately following the TF) to the TF. Who else knew and has written and has gotten on the general public’s reading radar that Decius Mundus relates to Decius Mus, a general who died to save? Who else identified Josephus’ play on words as he changed Decius Mus to Decius Mundus to say, yes, I’m a savior of the World (Mundus) spoken of just a passage ago?

    For the Decius Mundus chapter of Atwill, I say this is no foolishness, this is characteristic of Josephus who saw his Jewish God and Jewish People defeated. Josephus claimed the Messiah was a Roman. A Roman-crucified Jewish man, “if you can call him a man,” was not a god-man (like a Julius Ceasar, like an Augustus, like the Flavian emperors who had cults after they died, they were deified also). But Jesus, says Josephus, was a con-god-man (like Decius Mundus, and if Josephus doesn’t make himself clear with the first passage following the TF, he restates his criticism in the second passage after the TF). Don’t believe the hype of this new Gospel religion.

    Bentsen to Quayle, you’re no Jack Kennedy.
    Josephus to Jesus, you’re no Decius Mus because we are losing the Revolt and will lose the Revolt; Jesus, you’re no Decius Mundus, and if you say you are, you’re a fraud as a god.

    NOW, THAT is more devastating than what Thomas Paine has said.

  8. Avatar
    Steefen  June 25, 2014

    Joseph Atwill’s second book, Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah, continues his presentation of his thesis.

    #1 In the book of Revelation, it is Emperor Domitian speaking as Lord God.
    #2 The churches in Revelation relate to the cities not where Christian churches were but were emperor cult temples were.
    #3 Joseph Atwill’s thesis was recognized by Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare.

    All New Testament Scholars will serve their field better with the sure elements of Atwill’s presentation in his books Caesar’s Messiah and Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah. All New Testament scholars and essayists, German, of the United States, and anywhere else on this Earth, we have a paradigm shift. Our students and/or readers are now living with a new perspective on the origins of the New Testament.

  9. Avatar
    Monarch  January 22, 2018

    Hi Bart,
    I’ve always been a huge fan, have read all of your trade books, and have supported your blog at $20/mo. for over a year now. I encountered Atwill’s book, and, based on the press release, I dismissed it as well. However, seeing all the 5-star reviews, I thought I would give it a go, and was utterly amazed. Frankly, it’s absolutely the most amazing book I’ve ever encountered. Sad that only one person in this disparaging thread–you not being that one person–has even read it. Would you want to have a scathing review of one of your books published by someone who only read the press release? It takes a book to present a theory, not a media blurb, and many of your points against it here are prejudiced, ill-founded, and assumptive. May I strongly suggest that if you ever read another book by a “Mythicist,” or if you read any other book, period, it be this one. At the very least, please spend a few minutes on Atwill’s website, http://www.caesarsmessiah.com/ where he gives his biography and provides a detailed blog entry rebutting Richard Carrier’s attack. Certainly, I doubt you will agree with Atwill completely, but I also suspect that he will repeatedly blow your mind, and force you to re-evaluate many of your fundamental tenets. Aldous Huxley wrote “At their first appearance innovators have always been divided [into] fools and madmen,” and Einstein wrote that “Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds.” I’m not saying you are the latter, I’m just begging you not to be. Obviously, there are plenty-enough of those. “Caesar’s Messiah” is on Audible, and as I know you are busy, I hope that you’ll make it your “commute read.” It’s astoundingly brilliant, and I think you’d be doing yourself, your readers, and the field of Bible Scholarship a huge service by considering it. Thanks.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 23, 2018

      I looked at the book. I don’t know how well versed you are in Roman history, but I’m afraid the book can easily be ripped apart. If I had the energy, I’d do it, but it would take hours out of my day. Sorry!

    • Avatar
      Steefen  January 23, 2018

      Monarch,

      Please read and participate in Member Forums, The New Testament Gospels: Q Source: Bio of Julius Caesar, Parts I, II, and III.

      I’m not sure what Bart is saying about mistakes Joe Atwill makes about Roman History.

      1) There is an historical account of Vespasian making a blind person see and a lame person to walk.
      2) The Star Prophecy attributed to Jesus historically was attributed to Vespasian.
      3) General Titus did sit at the right hand of the Power in that his father Vespasian became emperor.
      4) As Jesus was Savior, General Titus was deemed “Savior” for defeating the rebels who were at civil war, terrorizing the people of Jerusalem.
      5) What Atwill says about Jesus in Revelation vs Domitian is standard biographical information about Domitian.

      Now, how Francesco Carotta shows Jesus to be Julius Caesar is persuasive if an editor goes through his book. I’ve gone through his book and have found at least 20 convincing reasons to see Julius Caesar being a prototype of Jesus in the Gospels. Come on: Gaius Julius Caesar was a god-man, Jesus was a god-man inside the Roman Empire. Gaius Julius Caesar’s Clementia/Mercy: Jesus’ Mercy. An image of Gaius Julius Caesar raised on a cross with his body pierced by Longinus: Jesus raised on a cross with his body pierced by Longinus; both of them died for appearing to be king. Come on ! ! !

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