As Bad as Mythicism: Jesus as Caesar

Mythicism is just one of several categories of implausible claims that one will encounter in connection with Jesus. The Life of Antoninus Pius has a blog post about another one, that proposed by Francesco Carotta, who claims that Jesus was Caesar. Click through to read about it, and why no one ought to find it persuasive.

Carotta’s argument (found in his book Jesus Was Caesar: On the Julian Origin of Christianity: An Investigative Report) has many similarities of approach to that of Earl Doherty and other mythicists, showing the same disregard for counterevidence, the same willingness to allow one dubious interpretation of a detail to override evidence that is much clearer, and the same willingness to treat texts which make sense as narrations of legends and stories about a historical figure, as instead elaborate codes that mean something completely other than they appear to.

They differ in the details, but share a lot of things which fringe theories of this sort tend to have in common.

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  • Geoff Hudson

    Caesar’s Messiah, by Joseph Atwill, seems to be a step in the right direction.  

  • Geoff Hudson

    Atwill is saying that the Gospels came from the Roman imperial court who invented Jesus to control some Jews with a peaceful Messiah. 

    Well there may be some truth in that idea.  But I don’t believe it was the origin of ‘Christianity’ which was Jewish.

    For a start he bases his arguments on the existence of Josephus who I believe was also a Roman invention.        

  • Edward

    Carotta’s hypothesis is that the mythos of Julius Caesar was transposed into the mythos of Jesus Christ. Obviously, he doesn’t want to deal in conspiracy theories, he’d rather see an evolution of one myth out of another. Yet gMark seems too well written for this evolutionary hypothesis, despite the increasingly variant texts the further back you go, the atrocious Koine Greek with obvious Latinisms, the geographic errors, the obvious similarities in the towns and events in Caesar’s campaign after crossing the Rubicon, etc.

    I’m not sure if I can buy Atwill’s hypothesis, either. Yet it looks like SOMEBODY plaigarized gMark from a biography of Caesar, overlaid it with events from Homer’s Odysseus, then wrapped it up in midrashed LXX scriptures. And eventually, there were four NON-HARMONIZED Gospels each with discrepancies and irreconcilable contradictions one from another.

  • Fulvius

    @ ’Carotta’s argument […] has many similarities of approach to that of Earl Doherty and other mythicists’

    Nevertheless there is a big difference: Mythicism claims Jesus Christ never existed, is merely a myth (Atwill the same: an invention of the Romans). But if he was Caesar, even as a diegetic transposition, as Carotta claims, he existed, really, historically. The contrary of a myth.

  • beallen0417

    Dr. McGrath, if Caesar is the historical source for Jesus, does that mean Jesus of Nazareth existed?


    @beallen0417, first you have to look at it the other way around: if “Jesus of Nazareth” really existed, then the historical person behind the Biblical figure called “Jesus Christ” cannot have been Julius Caesar under any circumstances. However, vice versa, if the historical person behind Christ was actually Caesar, and his story was rewritten into the Gospel, then (of course) there was no “Jesus of Nazareth”, no deified itinerant preacher from Galilee. But there would still be a “historical Jesus”… which would be a big relief, don’t you think? :) “Jesus of Nazareth” would nevertheless continue to exist, as the diegetic transposition of Caesar: in this sense “Jesus of Nazareth” has existed for almost 2000 years, and that cannot be undone. And why should anyone want that? Nobody wants to rewrite the Gospel! It’s perfectly fine the way it is.


    By the way… we have published a rebuttal here:

    • James F. McGrath

      Thanks for sharing that. I find the attempt to read ancient texts as coded statements about what other texts say or about historic events to be unpersuasive in most instances, and this doesn’t appear to be one that is an exception.

      I found your conclusion in your blog post to be a false antithesis. Why must one choose between Jesus not having existed or his having been Caesar?

  • Antoninus Pius
  • Edward

    “I found your conclusion in your blog post to be a false antithesis. Why must one choose between Jesus not having existed or his having been Caesar?”

    Almost all mythers believe that both Carotta and Atwill’s hypotheses are absolute rubbish. At least Carotta’s hypothesis attempts to use the laws of evolution and people making sense of things to account for the diegetic transposition, as opposed Atwill’s “The Flavians did it.”

    Well, a transposed Julius Caesar is clearly visible in Mark. Yet Homer’s Odysseus is also clearly visible in it! Looks to me the Christians were so embarassed by the historical Jesus (if any), and found Paul’s version so much preferable, that they invented a new Jesus out of whole cloth. And the historical Jesus? Lost to history!

    • James F. McGrath

      You say that “a transposed Julius Caesar is clearly visible in Mark.” My questions to you are (1) how would you persuade someone who does not find this to be “clearly visible” and (2) if there are slight points of intersection, how do you determine that these reflect a “transposition” as opposed to an attempt by the Gospel author to highlight contrasts and/or similarities between Jesus and Caesar?

      • Fulvius

        @ (1) It’s impossible to persuade someone who does not find this to be “clearly visible”. Why? If you consider that e.g. all the names of persons and locations in both narratives coincide, and that the famous sayings of Caesar are also found in the Gospel, etc., and if “someone” nevertheless does not find this to be “clearly visible”, then, of course, he belongs to those who “seeing see not”.The mental reason is clear: if you believe that Jesus had an autonomous historical existence, of course you cannot accept that the Gospel is a retelling of Caesar’s narrative. Why? Simply because this would disturb your belief. Not your faith—for the faith it would be better if Jesus Christ had a secure historical existence instead of a questionable one. But yes, the belief would be disturbed. And for some people their belief is more important that the faith.@ (2) That we might have to deal with “the attempt by the Gospel author to highlight contrasts and/or similarities between Jesus and Caesar”, was the working hypothesis of Carotta. He tried to verify or falsify this hypothesis, and he noticed that the (in your words) “points of intersection” are so systematical, so chronologically conforming, without any exceptions whatsoever, that the working hypothesis was insufficient to explain it. That’s why he was obliged to abandon it and reformulate a more explicit and informative hypothesis: the diegetic transposition. And that hypothesis seems to work: until now no contradicting facts could be uncovered.

        • James F. McGrath

          It is quite common for someone to find no contradictory evidence when exploring a scenario of which they are persuaded from the outset and which involves not the spotting of intersections but the imagining and concocting of them.

          • Fulvius

            This may be true in general. In this specific case it is not probable, because it is not possible to be persuaded from the outset that the historical Jesus Christ was Caesar. This idea was never formulated before, and it appears at first glance to be absurd, beyond anyone’s imagination. So I don’t believe that Carotta could have been convinced of it from the outset. Furthermore, in order to “concoct” all the sayings, events etc. of Caesar within of the Gospel, you would have to be an Evangelist yourself, or rather be all four at once: Mark, Matthew Luke and John. But alas, we were born 2000 years late for that. 😉

          • James F. McGrath

            It seems to me that you might not fully appreciate the awkwardness of claiming that the “plain meaning” of a text is one that only a single individual or small group sees.

  • Philippus

    Has this “Associate Professor” (who exactly is he associated with, the zombie of Antoninus ‘Pius’ or rather ‘Liar’ perhaps) actually read and studied what he cares to dismiss en passant? Or asked differently: Is the above your level of scholarship, Dr. McGrath? Are they handing out doctoral degrees just like that these days? Shame on academia in that case. Or did you perchance win it in the lottery?
    One does not need a Th. D. to see that your little rant above does not only lack any substance but rather indicates baseness.
    But the solution is simple: no one ought to care about your ill-informed and dishonest opinion, Sir, but rather simply read Carotta’s book and watch the documentary film themselves.

    • James F. McGrath

      Wow, what a strange insulting comment. Information about my credentials, and an explanation of what the professorial ranks are called at universities in the United States, can all be found readily available online. Apart from that, since insults don’t actually constitute an argument, there’s presumably nothing else that needs to be said.

  • Philippus

    It was you, who started the insulting, just look at the title of your blog post above. It is an insult to any intelligent reader, who has actually bothered to study Carotta’s work. Instead of focusing so much on technology you should rather teach your students how to read discerningly, or maybe you should learn that yourself first.
    A more correct title for your cheap remarks  above would have been something like:
    As bad as dyslexia: Lectures by Dr. James McGrath

  • Ryan Nichols

    hmm , i haven;t read either of the aforementioned books . i have read the bibles . st joseph , king james , septuagint , scofields et cetera . my belief is that the many attributes of caesar were attributed to jesus to prove a lineage . perhaps jesus was caesaerion ? in the bible jesus repeatedly says he is not come for any but the lost sheep of the house of israel . this to me is convincing testimony that jesus was looking for his own blood relatives . his ‘teachibngs’ can be found in the earlier Hindu Vedas . nothing new there . jesus purports to be the son of god and is said to be son of a virgin . the roman senate declared julius augustus ( caesar ) as god , his girlfriend CleopatraVII proclaimed herself to be the reincarnation of Isis , which made her an instant virgin , although a mother . No other 2 people in history have these claims at the time of jesus . the similarities between caesaerion and jesus are beyond coincidental IMO . the bible , of course has been much altered from the original . the old testament figures have no actual proof of existence , however , there are historical figures with remarkably similar attributes . legends and myths sometimes have a basis in fact . i dofind it peculiar that in the bible “god”is called ” I am (that) I Am ” and that in French Jesuis ( Jesus) means ” I am ” , then the further reduction of “IamIam ” would be the name of the holy spirit > ” I’m ” . Let’s all sing a bar of the Existential Blues . the god worshipped by all christians, muslims and protestants is the same ? well that god is > Amen , or Amon , or Omon ,or Aman ,  they had no vowels . the egyptian sun god Amun is their god . the vatican has an obelisk in the front yard , why a heathen symbol of worship to a heathen god if Amun isn’t really the god the christians worship ? also the temple in jerusalem  has a golden dome to reflect the sun , which is also a representation of worship to the sun god amen .  the swastika is a symbol of the sun as well as of gold , the sun appears golden . if the earth is 7,000 years old , how come the bones found in egyptian tombs are not stone fossils ? likely the sang real is the blood lineage of jesus and his sister-wife selene/ mary magda-lene.which would make george bush and queen elizabeth II direct descendants of jesus/caesaerion . but also direct descendants of amenehet /abraham , who was NOT of royal blood . therefore all the kings queens and lesser so-called nobility are usurpers of the throne . a nice little charade that lasted for thousands of years of inbreeding . it is time to decide our future . are we to live the fantasy or shall we oppose tradition and depose these illuminati scum and their bilderberger brethren ? these inbred bastards live like kings and hoard all the worlds riches for themselves . make wars to thin us out . control the media to set us against each other while we forget that it is they who are the cause of all our problems .it is time to awaken and open our eyes . they wrote the bible , then changed it . they invented god . time for a new god . they are pushing towards a new world order that puts them in charge . a world without any rights . no right to speak against them . no right to live .  already they installed 2 patriot acts that were not allowed to be discussed and that actually did away with the us constitution . do you really believe that 3 planes caused usa to lose its mind ? the towers were demolished and it was planned by the illuminati . the patriot act was written way before september 11th . they just needed an excuse to put it into effect . monsanto , dow , etc own the rights to all our food seeds as well as even our genetics . they can claim that since you ate their food and their GMOs are inside you that you have stolen their patented items and the courts which they control would side with them . already us president  obama has decided that it is okay to imprison innocent people for crimes that they may or may not commit in their lifetime . indefinite detention . for NO crime . just because they can . you may be all for that now , but when they come for you will you be so happy to accept indefinite detention for a crime they say you maybe might commit someday ? with the power they have due to harry s, truman ( an illuminati member) Standing Army Act , they control the militaries of the planet , many will be murdered if we uprise and change will not likely happen in a short time . arrest the illuminati and  detain them . charge them with crimes against humanity . be the police , judge , jury and executioner . quit letting them decide your fate , decide theirs . sure they will counter that you are kidnapping them , but quote the constitution and stand firm . if they point their weapons at you kill your prisoners immediately .if you have time videotape the arrests , the hearings and the execution of sentence . put it on the web . draft a new constitution that clearly states not only our rights but what the politicians can and cannot do as well as what cities counties and states cannot do . the fed may not take your freedom to gather peacefully but already there are city ordinances that remove your right of free assembly . this bullshit has got to stop . they have taken away the right to bear arms from convicted felons , what a joke , those people will just steal a gun , they don’t need to be able to buy one at a gunshop . remember during hurricane katrina  the new orleans police were stealing cadillacs and stopping people from leaving the city . the FEMA failed us . the feds would not allow good samaritans to enter to help anyone and they themselves stood by idly while people died .  if you want to believe in some phony bogus bullshit religion then you are  only enabling them and hurting the people of the planet as well as the planet . connect the dots it makes a pretty clear picture . you want to prosecute the drug dealers ? then find out who is behind the drugtrade >  the queen of england, the fbi , cia , us military , the pharmaceutical companies . not the guy on the street corner .

    • Paul Regnier

      Jesus = Je suis?

      You are kidding right?