Several people on Facebook drew my attention to a misleading press release about Joseph Atwill, who is listed there as a “Biblical scholar,” even though there is no evidence that he has relevant qualifications or research to his name. His view is similar to ones that have been discussed on this blog before. The press release claims “ancient confessions recently uncovered now prove, according to Atwill, that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ.” That such claims were recently uncovered by someone who is not a historian of the ancient world is unlikely to turn out to be true. Even when scholars come into possession of allegedly new and exciting sources, they sometimes turn out to be fakes. I suspect that this sensationalism will turn out to be nothing other than yet another attempt to promote his self-published book Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus:Flavian Signature Edition – and launch another one.
For some reason, Jerry Coyne is also still peddling mythicism, history’s version of creationism. It just illustrates that someone can be a defender of our best scholarly conclusions in one area and cast them aside in another. I wonder whether he’ll jump on Atwill’s bandwagon.
When people make sensationalist claims, and when people believe them only to be disappointed, it just makes the work of scholars that much harder, as we try to come up with scholarly reconstructions, float new ideas to their peers, critically evaluate evidence, and offer nuanced conclusions.