Self-professed Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill’s claim that Jesus Christ was contrived by Romans to exert political control has been met with both dismissals and intense scrutiny. TheBlaze interviewed Atwill to learn more about the theory before he unveils purported evidence at a symposium in London, England, on Oct. 19.
Atwill, who lives in California, will outline beliefs he has long-espoused about Jesus. He told TheBlaze that his event, called “Covert Messiah,” will be used to corroborate his contention that the ministry of Jesus was manufactured as a “prefigurement” to Roman emperor Titus Flavius’ military campaign.
It’s no surprise that Atwill’s bold claims about Jesus are sparking a terse response from academics and the general public. Some critics point to the fact that Atwill is not truly a Bible scholar and that he has no formal education in the subject-matter — a fact he openly admits.
“I never make public discussions about the thesis without making sure that everyone knows I am an independent scholar,” he said. “The problem is I am just producing a different quality of evidence.”
Atwill argues that the Gospels and Josephus’ “Wars of the Jews” — a book documenting first century Judea — are intentionally interconnected. Rather than separate works of literature, he claims they were created with a singular perspective.
Thus, the self-professed Bible scholar says that “the ministry of Jesus is dependent on military campaign of Titus Flavius.” A press release surrounding his upcoming symposium further expounds upon these theories:
Atwill’s most intriguing discovery came to him while he was studying “Wars of the Jews” by Josephus [the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea] alongside the New Testament. “I started to notice a sequence of parallels between the two texts,” he recounts. “Although it’s been recognised by Christian scholars for centuries that the prophesies of Jesus appear to be fulfilled by what Josephus wrote about in the First Jewish-Roman war, I was seeing dozens more. What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of [Emperor] Titus Flavius as described by Josephus. This is clear evidence of a deliberately constructed pattern. The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar.”
Atwill argues that the supposedly faux character of Jesus actually leaves hints and predicts that Titus Flavius will be coming.
“Many people read the gospels and come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is the most significant [character] in the literature … Jesus is looking forward to someone who is more powerful,” he said. “The son of man can only be one person. … Titus Flavius is the individual he looks forward to.”
Atwill also told TheBlaze that the Gospels are essentially a “false flag literature” and that the Romans were simply pretending to create a Jewish text so that they could use it as a political weapon. The impact that this has had, he argues, extends well beyond the first century.
“Europeans are still recovering from having both our intellectual capacities taken away from us over the 1000 years,” he said of the faith’s influence.
While Atwill, who was raised a Catholic, said he’s not an atheist, he declined to share his current theological views. In the past, though, he has said that Christianity has been used for both good and evil.
“I think that what the real lesson I see in this whole business is that the ruling class have developed a kind of weaponized anthropology and developed ability to control subjects,” Atwill said. “And religion is a weakness they have identified.”
Atwill not only believes that the Flavians, a Roman ruling class, not only invented Jesus, but that they also intended for Christianity “to be a device of anti-Semitism.”
During a time in which Jewish residents were waiting for their Messiah, he says they were a constant source of insurrection, leading the Romans to seek out an equalizing and tempering force.
“When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare,” Atwill said in the press release. “They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system.”
While his press release claims a “controversial discovery” will be released to the public and that an “ancient confession” will be found, it’s unclear if Atwill will present any new material.
“You will get at the event just a review of the material and a way of essentially demonstrating that,” he told TheBlaze. “It’s something that is a tangible artifact that individuals can look at and verify.”
Atwill said he will be going over the literature to show that his theories hold up when the documents are taken apart and critically analyzed, however there is no evidence that a literal “artifact” will be shared with the masses.
The amateur scholar obviously has no shortage of critics. Among them is Dr. William Lane Craig, a Christian theologian and philosopher. In a press release decrying Atwill’s claims, Craig’s beliefs on the matter are outlined.
At the heart of his counter arguments, Craig believes that the Jesus theory is agenda-driven, as Atwill has called Christianity “damaging and repressive” in the past. In addition to claiming that the overall thesis is wrong, Craig digs into some of the finer details.
“The recorded teachings, deeds, and life of Jesus are too Jewish and too religiously consequential for Roman contrivance,” the statement reads. “Perhaps the reason why Atwill was astonished that scholars have never drawn the parallels between Jesus and the Roman Caesar is because they aren’t there.”
As TheBlaze previously reported, Patheos blogger James F. McGrath agrees with this assessment and doubts that the symposium will be groundbreaking. Of Atwill’s claim to be a Biblical scholar he wrote, “there is no evidence that he has relevant qualifications or research to his name.”
Professor James Crossley from the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England, too, previously told The Daily Mail that theories like Atwill’s are not accepted among academics.
“These types of theories are very common outside the academic world and are usually reserved for sensationalist literature,” he said. “They are virtually non-existent in the academic world.”
Atwill’s views were first made public in his 2005 book “Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus.”
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