One More Nutty Attack on Christianity

A “self-professed Bible scholar,” has announced that he cooked up a new theory that will “rock Christianity to the core.”

This one should at least get a D- for extravagant tall tale telling. It seems that this guy has come up with the notion that the Roman government invented the jesus story in order to control their populace.

I won’t even go into all the ways this thing won’t fly. I’ll leave that to those with the patience and the spreadsheet for it. You can read all about at TheBlaze. Or, you could just round file it alongside jesus’ grave, the passover plot and the whole cacophony of attacks on Christianity out there in the hustings.

These things are a clever way to make a few bucks. If you can’t write well enough to create something that people would want to read on its own merits, cook up a witches’ brew of attacks on Christianity. Attacking Christ and Christians has become so popular that the attackers have exhausted their arguments. They have to settle for battering Christians with personal insults and repeating cliched attacks against the faith that have been rattling around so long that they’ve been worn slick.

From that perspective, any new line of attack is going to be welcomed in certain quarters. It may not make much sense, but it will be treated as if it does simply because it’s a new bucket of mud to sling.

From TheBlaze:

On Oct. 19, self-professed Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill is planning to make public some very flammable allegations. At a day-long symposium called “Covert Messiah” in London, England, he’s set to unveil purported evidence that Roman aristocrats manufactured Jesus Christ – a claim that, if substantiated, would devalue the core of the Christian faith.

The only problem? Most Biblical experts disagree with the scholar’s pronouncements.

press release announcing the purported new evidence claims that Atwill has discovered “ancient confessions” that purportedly prove that Romans invented Jesus Christ in the first century. He has long argued that the faith system was used as a political tool to control the masses — something he says is still going on today.

“I present my work with some ambivalence, as I do not want to directly cause Christians any harm, but this is important for our culture,” he said of the alleged debunk – one that he believes will eventually be universally accepted.

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  • Heather Irwin

    Even atheists are considering him a “total crank” – as Dr. Carrier, an actual (not self-proclaimed!) scholar of ancient history, specializing in the origins of Christianity, calls him in his lengthy refutation. His article addresses Atwill’s many historical and textual problems; it’s here if you care to read it:

  • Heather Irwin

    And this isn’t even new… this book was first published in 2006, and he released a “documentary” based on it in 2011. The only thing new is his latest round of press releases and speaking engagement(s?).

    Not to mention that the whole thing is a (uncredited) reworking of a theory first published more than a hundred years ago, a theory that was refuted in academic circles long ago.

    • hamiltonr

      I didn’t know that Heather. Thanks for the information. It certainly does underscore the motives, doesn’t it?

  • FW Ken
  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    What horrifies me is the hideous, swinish ignorance – not from the man himself, that is part of it – but from anyone in the media who have given him so much as a paragraph on Page 35. In the name (if you will not have God) of sense and truth and honesty and elementary knowledge, is there anyone there who has the least idea of the Romans? Of who these people were, how they thought, and how they acted? This creation of front movements in order to drain the support of rival movements – fake trades unions to diminish real ones, front democratic parties to deceive grassroots activists, and so on – is a strictly twentieth-century phenomenon. Even the imperial powers of the nineteenth century did not think of it. You can even point at the place when it was first thought of and created: Austria-Hungary, the eighteen-nineties, when someone set up a “national socialist party” to draw the support of German speakers in the empire away from the swift-growing socialist parties of the time.

    That movement got nowhere, though the name, of course, had a huge future; it took the rise of the Communist Party, with its huge fertility in front movements and corporations and its habit of taking over other people’s trades unions and even churches by subversion, fraud, and force, to make the creation of front movements a serious matter in politics. But until then, no Englishman in India, no Frenchman in Algeria, no Austrian in Italy or Spaniard in Cuba or Russian in Central Asia, had ever considered creating a front movement among their imperial subjects. It was impossible: they did not have the culture required.

    And much less did the Romans. If you read Tacitus, who is, ONE, among the best known and most widely read classical authors today, and thus one whom anyone interested in Rome would be likeliest to know, and, TWO, a Senator and former Consul of the Empire, at the centre of politics and as knowledgeable about it as anyone; if you read Tacitus, I say, you will find that he knew little of the Jews and understood even less. His passages on the Jews and the Jewish war of 64-70 AD are classics of cultural misunderstanding, quoted in every course. And these people are supposed to have set up the Christian movement as a false flag operation? A movement, mind you, that offended Temple and Pharisaical/Rabbinic Judaism so deeply that the most savage writings against it went on for centuries and well on into the middle ages, even when Jews were living largely within a Christian society and cursing Jesus and his followers was clearly dangerous? A movement whose tenets make no sense in terms of Roman and Greek thinking – just read, in succession, some Tacitus or Pliny the Younger, and the First Letter of John – and which shows in every line of its sacred writings an almost incredible originality with respect both to contemporary Hebraism and to the official Greco-Roman culture? Give me a break.

    What this is, alas, is the symptom of a culture that has completely uprooted itself from its own past and from the world around it, that lives in a made-up universe designed exclusively on its narrowest present-day experiences. I have observed it in cases where even intelligent, educated people, not only college students but college teachers, take so-called “gay marriage” not only to be a right but to be universal, found everywhere, rather than the purely local caprice it is. It arises from post-modernist readings that extend to all our past the late-twentieth-century categories of gender and sex, of post-colonialism and resistance and so on. Anyone who has had a humanities-related course inflicted on them in college is likely to know the sort of thing I mean. (But it is not only the PC college brigade who are responsible for this: I found an equal incapacity to step outside one’s own contemporary little prejudices and lies among second-amendment NRA fanatics, with their completely false and fraudulent idea of even very recent history.) We write and read books that actively make us more ignorant – more elaborately, purposefully and self-centredly ignorant, making ignorance a matter no longer of isolation but of will and party allegiance, and turnginmoving it from a misfortune to a sin which involves the whole soul in arrogance, vanity and denial – in sin. No wonder that it always turns against Jesus.

  • Bill S

    After experiencing the utter emptiness of atheism and a thwarted attempt to end my life, I have learned that stuff like this is bs. Judging a tree by the fruit it bears should be the main focus of our lives. Do I believe that Jesus rose and ascended? Not really. Does it matter? Saint Paul tells us that if it isn’t true then we are to be pitied. Not so. I have no natural explanation for what really could have happened and I do have a natural explanation for how I was rescued from exercising the ultimate rejection of God’s love for me. But unexplainable things happen all the time and I totally give up trying to make sense of it all. Jesus, I trust in you.

    • hamiltonr

      Bill, just relax. St Paul also said that we see things through a glass darkly while we’re in this world. God is immortal, we are mortal. He is transcendent, we are temporal. Don’t punish yourself because you can’t fully understand a Being who is so vast. Jesus is God incarnated human. He did this, among other reasons, to make God as explicable as He could to us humans. He came and lived among us to teach us a new understanding of God, to correct our misapprehensions. We can not understand God in full because He is beyond our understanding. He is caught in this temporal trap where we exist. He created time and is totally outside it. There’s an old hymn that goes, “Trust and obey. There’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
      Trust and obey Bill. The rest will take care of itself.
      As for your attempted suicide, thank God you were given back to us. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because there are human explanations that God isn’t working in a situation. If the devil can walk in on human feet, so can God send his human messengers.
      Your life has purpose and meaning because this temporal coil. You are an immortal child of the everlasting God. Nothing you can do will make God love you less … or love you more. He loves you with an everlasting love already. You are His beloved child. Of all the creatures on this planet, you are a human, the one creature that was given to itself to do with itself exactly as it would chose. Thank you for coming back here, my friend.
      Welcome back, and welcome home.

      • Bill S

        Thank you Rebecca. I hope you will find this as amusing as it is to me. I was explaining to Liela Miller at Little Catholic Bubble what had happened and it occurred to me that it was a string of small miracles. I wrote to her again and told her that I was asking Jesus to help me with my unbelief. She responded that that was the right approach. I then imagined myself telling Jesus that although I didn’t believe that he was real, I could imagine him as my imaginary friend. My imagination then made me see him as laughing and responding ” Ok Bill. Whatever blows wind up your skirt.” Of course I know that was my imagination but what I took from it was that if Jesus is real and not just imaginary, he is not the slightest bit offended at my not being able to see him as a real living person.

        • hamiltonr

          Of course He isn’t Bill. Jesus was incarnated human, remember? Everything we feel, He has felt, including when He hung on the cross, the shame and misery of sin. He Who had no sin, became sin for our sakes.

          • Bill S

            I only know it feels good to put my trust in him. All he has to be to me is a lifesaver (not the candy) that was thrown to me when I was sinking. At this point I don’t care if he is God or a figment of my imagination. I trust him with my life.

            • Barbara

              Bill, my conversion experience was something like this. I came to realize that what set Christians apart from other people I knew was they had something, it was light, life and goodness. It was this intangible, indescribable liveliness that I wanted more than anything else. So I took the wager. It really is a wager. Knowledge can only bring us to the edge of faith, but faith itself is an act of the will. And just as you describe, that choice was immediately confirmed by an overwhelming sense of his presence and reality. If it was a delusion, it was a powerful one, unlike anything I had experienced before. And I had been around different religions. I had been a Neopagan and a new age gnostic and neither of those had ever produced an experience like that. As for belief in the incarnation, I talk with my father about this all the time. He is an Anglican priest who doubts the incarnation. I always tell him that if the incarnation is true, it is simply the most astonishing thing to ponder, that the creator of the universe would become one of us and experience every suffering in order to be close to us. It is also the most important thing to ever happen in all of human history.

              • Bill S

                Thank you Barbara. I am inclined to lean toward your father’s opinion. I don’t have to know everything that Jesus is. Being our Saviour is more than enough. A while back I sent a letter to my high school calculus teacher, Father Casselli, telling him that he was the best teacher I ever had. He sought me out at an alumni mass and told me that letters like that make everything that he and the other teachers do worthwhile. When he died, I read that he had founded my school. I never knew that but it didn’t change the love I had for him as my calculus teacher. That’s who he was to me. Being a Saviour is more than enough for Jesus to be to me.

                • Dave

                  Hi Bill, I am really glad to hear that your suicide attempt failed. Even though we have disagreed, sometimes sharply, I have always enjoyed the conversations with you. For myself, and I am sure, for many others, there would be a big hole without you, so I am very grateful and touched that your journey is continuing and that our merciful Christ is gently drawing you back. (How’s that for a run-on sentence?!) I will keep you in my prayers, brother!

                  • Bill S

                    Thanks Dave. My reconversion story is filled with small miracles and I am in a good place now. It’s not going to turn me into a republican or make me join the Tea Party, but I do feel a connection with Jesus in my day to day thoughts and actions. Still going to Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning mass with my wife and it means something to me again.

                    • Dave

                      When I scanned the Gospels, I didn’t find Jesus speaking about the need to join the Republican party, so I think that you are doing OK. ;-) Feeling a connection with Jesus throughout the day is wonderful, and what Pope Francis is calling the Church to refocus on.

    • FW Ken

      I’m glad you are in a good place, Bill.

      One bit of unsolicited advice: faith doesn’t mean an end to troubles, specifically depression. If you have recurring bouts with it, don’t lose faith, but get help. There are excellent meds, and counseling can be helpful.

      I know whereof I speak.

      As to politics, well… that’s another story. :-)

      • Bill S

        Not to worry, Ken. I’m getting excellent care. Things are good. Thanks for your concern.