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-Was the Story of Jesus ‘Fabricated’ by the Romans to Control the Poor?

by Dr. D ~ October 14th, 2013

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic

                   (Photo credit: jakebouma)

One conspiracy author is asserting that 1st century Roman officials actually fabricated the story of Jesus in order to control the slaves and the poor. Some have even called him a ‘Bible Scholar’ even though he has no advanced degrees or formal education that would justify that designation.

Here’s the story from the Independent (UK):

Christianity was a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire, claims scholar

A controversial American biblical scholar is set to make his first appearance in London next week to present a discovery that he claims proves the story of Jesus Christ was invented as a system of mind control to enslave the poor.

Joseph Atwill, who is the author of a book entitled ‘Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus’, asserts that Christianity did not begin as a religion, but was actually a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire.

At the ‘Covert Messiah’ conference, to be held at the Conway Hall in Holborn a week on Saturday, Mr Atwill will present his theory that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they entirely fabricated the story of Jesus Christ.

<Read the whole article>

Here’s another take on this story: “Self-Professed ‘Bible Scholar’ Makes Explosive Allegation About Jesus That He Believes Could Rock the Christian Faith to Its Core

Response: Any kind of claims that would discredit Christianity get a lot of play on the internet and in the news these days. It really doesn’t even matter whether the claims have any viable historical basis or whether the one or ones making the claims have any academic qualifications and this story proves it.

You can easily find hundreds of references to the Atwill allegations in the media and on atheist sites including a tweet from Richard Dawkins. Fortunately today I did see at least a couple of sites that were calling into question their fellow ‘unbelievers’ unbridled uninformed enthusiasm for this obvious self-serving PR blitz . 

It doesn’t seem to matter to some that no serious historian or real Bible scholar gives any credence to the Atwill theory. Anything that discredits Christianity fits into a preferred template that works for both atheists and the secular major news media. 

One only has to read any of the 1st and 2nd century Roman references to Judaism and Christians which are extant (or lack of them) to see how preposterous this really is. Or better yet, read and compare the New Testament writings to those of Josephus for yourself.             *Top

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2 Responses to -Was the Story of Jesus ‘Fabricated’ by the Romans to Control the Poor?

  1. Brian

    Let me add a few reasons of my own why this theory is nonsense:

    Consider the modern era: One has a lengthy 20th century history of various governments using propaganda and various front organizations to further their aims. Think about CIA front organizations, similar KGB front organizations, etc.

    Consider, now, the ancient era: show me one other example of Rome (or Greece, or Egypt etc) using a front organization to subvert opposition.

    My point is that the entire concept is very modern. If (hypothetically) the Romans did recruit a Jewish carpenter as a covert agent, it would be the first, last, and only time they did so. When something is alleged to have happened, and we have 10 or 20 other examples of that person or that government acting in a similar fashion, we have considerable corroboration that the event actually occurred. On the other hand, when something is alleged to have happened completely out of character for a person (or for a government), one must doubt that it really happened.

    Further, if Rome really was interested in creating a subversive organization within Judea, would they not have turned to the power base with First Century Jewish society to find the people needed to start the subversive movement? Go to the Sanhedrin. Go to the Pharisees. Go to the temple priests. These people already have the status, and the “bully pulpit” to get an organization started. Why go to a nobody from a remote Galilean hill town?

    Finally, the message is in and of itself antithetical to everything Rome believed in and wanted its client states to believe in. Jesus is teaching (consistent with Jewish doctrine) that there is only one God. Rome teaches that there are many state gods, including the Divine Augustus (whoever happened to be Caesar at the moment) and one had to worship the official state gods, including Caesar. The Romans are already very uncomfortable with the monotheism of Judaism, so why create a movement that is even more hostile to Rome’s state religion? Keep in mind that when persecution of Christians begins in earnest in about 65 AD, it will be the refusal of Christians to participate in the state religion of emperor-worship that will be a key factor in motivating Roman authorities to persecute Christians. Any “Roman front” religion would have at least tried to rationalize/justify the participation of its adherents in emperor-worship.

  2. Dr. D

    Thanks Brian, All good points as usual.

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