No, Joe Atwill: Rome Did Not Invent Jesus

Note:   There are some updates below from 10/9 and 10/10–scroll down to see them.

Apparently Joe Atwill has made a “documentary” of his book Caesar’s Messiah.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Jewish texts discovered in caves in Israel in 1947, give a different picture than the idyllic first century Holy Land of the Gospels. From year one, there were battles and confrontations between the Romans and the Jews, the Scrolls note, and there was no turning of the other cheek by the likes of rebel leader Judah of Galilee. And there was nary a mention in the Scrolls of the peaceable prophet Jesus Christ.

“This is where I came into Christian scholarship,” says Atwill, 63, an investor who lives by the proceeds of a dot-com sell off in the 1990s. “There was supposedly this character, Jesus, wandering around in Galilee. Nobody knew anything about him. Galilee is only 30 miles long. Jesus and other historical figures of the time would have known each other.”

Atwill, an admittedly bookish man, dived in headfirst, digging out whatever historical records he could find, studying the Scrolls, and reading Roman accounts, notably that of a family member of the Flavian dynasty of Caesars named Josephus. He found no historical Jesus in any of those writings. But there were some uncanny connections between the story of Jesus as told in the Gospels and the family of Roman emperors who took power after Nero was forced to commit suicide following a coup d’état.

I mean this is just golden cow scat.  Seriously.  Why?  Because that is what you’re watching.

Let’s start with the blurb itself.  Just the little snippet above should put anyone off from even considering this hypothesis.

  1. The Dead Sea Scrolls were not all written in the first century, but spread out over many.  There are more than 200 years of texts here, from the terminus a quo of the earliest manuscript to the terminus ad quem of the latest (3rd Century CE – 1st Century CE).  So no, Atwill, you’re not going to find a match to the Gospels because these were written after the Dead Sea Scrolls had been hidden away in the caves of Qumran.  In fact the site was probably destroyed by Romans during the First Jewish War–prior to when it is generally believed Mark wrote the first Gospel around 70 CE.
  2. The Gospels follow a pattern of what is called ‘Biblical Rewriting’ which was a common Jewish practice, just as ‘Homeric rewriting’ was common with Greek and Roman writers.  So actually the Gospels fit quite well within the scribal framework of the Jewish community at the time.
  3. Why would the Dead Sea Scrolls mention Jesus when the settlement where these scrolls were probably written is over 130km (80 miles) away from Galilee?  That is the distance between New York City and Philadelphia.  Additionally, the sect at Qumran seems to have kept to themselves, living strict pious lives of obedience to god and to their laws.  I do not believe them to have been Essenes–though probably quite close to them.
  4. Who else would have mentioned him?  We have no  contemporary attestation to anything from the 30’s CE from Galilee beyond archaeological finds (coins, epigraphical evidence, etc…).  But that does not mean to suggest none existed from the region.  Between the Jewish wars, the passing of time, we’re lucky we have anything from the region.  This is a weak argument from silence.
  5. If you’re coming ‘into Christian scholarship’ from this position, you’re doing it wrong.
  6. Your argument that “Nobody knew anything about him” is incredible (Fixed!) since we have Gospels and epistles probably dating to the First Century CE.  These may not have been accounts of what Jesus said and did, but they certainly demonstrate that a figure of Jesus was well-known to at least some people in the First Century.
  7. If you’re claiming to have ‘dived headfirst’ into the sources, does that mean you have a grasp of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Nabataean, and Hebrew?  What about just Greek–since you predominately use Josephus?  I suspect that, given your book only has something like 7 footnotes and almost all of them are from Josephus, you haven’t quite managed to take into account all the sources.

Atwill then suggests the following hypothesis so centric to the thesis of his book:

Sometime in the mid 70s AD, Atwill suggests, Greco-Roman intellectuals wrote the now-well-known stories—in Greek, not the popular Aramaic of the Judaic populace—about the Jewish messiah who defied the Judaic traditions of militancy to preach a sweet, accommodationist message.

I’ll break this down too.  What the hell.

  1. You’re not using ‘Greco-Roman’ correctly. (You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means)
  2. Greek was commonly used by Jews in antiquity–Josephus, Philo, some of the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, various Jewish pseudepigrapha, the Maccabees (though maybe from a Hebrew original–uncertainty here), Jesus ben Sira (i.e., Sirach), various apocrypha (Tobit, for example–though maybe originally written in Aramaic, more uncertainty here).  It depended upon their education and their level of assimilation which anyone familiar with the socio-cultural period of the Hellenistic-Roman periods would be able to explain easily.  Atwill clearly has no grasp of these concepts, probably because he didn’t bother reading anything related to this despite his self-acclaimed ‘bookish-ness’.
  3. Jesus’ message in the Gospel is not new or anti-Judaic.  In fact, it is quite Jewish (see anything written by James Crossley, for goodness sake).

All in all, Atwill proves he is incapable of taking this subject seriously–his not being a scholar aside, he completely misses the more logical argument to make from the Josephus-Gospel parallelisms, which also happen to be the same arguments made by Steve Mason in his now-famous work on Josephus and the New Testament: that either the Gospel authors or Josephus were using each other as intertextual references (I think it quite obvious that Luke had copies of Josephus, actually–a point Mason glosses over in a paragraph but never admits fully, but also what Richard Carrier argues here).

If you are planning to go see this movie, please, bring a disposable bag so you can properly rid yourself of the dung that undoubtedly will be thrown at you during the presentation.

**UPDATE 10-9-13**

Since this “documentary” first appeared, it seems that Mr. Atwill is again trying to profit off the ignorance of others.  Now, self-styled as an ‘American Biblical scholar”, Mr. Atwill is peddling his book of lies and misleading theories to those in the UK.   This nonsense does not deserve another post; but I will update this one because it can’t go along unopposed.

First, and let me be clear, nothing Joe Atwill has written is ‘conclusive’.  In order for it to be conclusive, it would have to surmount all arguments against it.  Unfortunately for him, he fails to grasp even basic knowledge about the subject.  For example, he makes the rather bizarre claim that:

“In fact he [Jesus - ed.] may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there’s simply nothing left.”

Yet this is simply false.  The Hebrew Bible is full of fictional literary characters whose entire life story can be traced to other sources.  His hyperbole is bizarre.  But even so, is Atwill seriously suggesting that fictional stories cannot be written about historical people or events?  Wonder Woman is a highly fictionalized and heroicized literary figure inspired by an actual person, the creator’s wife, Elizabeth Marston.  Wonder Woman meets Atwill’s classification as a “fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources.”

So it might be argued that maybe he was referring to ancient literature, but even then he is ignorant of basic figures that anyone with a minutiae of Classical education can speak upon.  In ancient literature, the figure and legendary king of Sparta, Lycurgus, is entirely mythicized in literature yet may have been a real person (scholarship is split on this).  The mythological tale of Gilgamesh, who we have no actual historical information on, is considered to be a historical figure and ancient king by most leading Sumerologists and yet his entire life story is one of our earliest extant written sources and one of our earliest written myths period.   The biographies of Plutarch are propagandist fantasies of his about the lives of historical people like Alexander the Great (mixed in with purely fictional figures like Romulus).

This should be enough to make my point; Atwill makes claims that cannot be supported when those with some basic knowledge of the subject explore the claims further.   This is a serious flaw in Atwill’s work.  He makes claims but doesn’t seem to realize how ridiculous they actually are; it is that scholars find his work “outlandish”.  It is just plain wrong.  I mean it is still crazy talk, but it is more that his whole premise is wrong.

For example, like all sensationalist crap-dealers, Mr, Atwill claims to have discovered the secret, super-dooper, hidden code in the text.  Amazing!  A self-proclaimed “Biblical scholar”, with no formal training in the material, has used his magic decoder ring and stumbled upon a code!  How clever of him.  He states:

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.”

First, and let me be clear, are there striking similarities between Josephus and the Gospel of Luke?  Yes, there are.  Steven Mason, a real scholar, has published an entire volume on the subject called Josephus and the New Testament.   Richard Carrier has also written on the subject of the parallels between Josephus and Luke-Acts.  Joel Watts, an actual student of Biblical Studies who has done graduate work in the field (unlike Mr. Atwill), has written an academically-published book on some interesting mimetic elements between Mark and Josephus.

The difference between what these scholars have written and what Mr. Atwill have written is threefold: (a) all of them have academic training in Greek, (b) all of them published through an academic press (Carrier is the exception, but he has published academically and is qualified on the subject), (c) None of them make the illogical leap that similarities between Josephus (a Jew) and the Gospels (written by Jewish authors) mean that the Romans did it.  In fact it is the same misguided leap that some evangelicals make about God.  “We don’t know, ergo ‘God did it’.”  Instead, all of these scholars agree that the most rational reason for these similarities is that the Gospel authors had copies of Josephus, or Josephus had copies of the Gospels.  This sort of interplay of texts is not new in the ancient world.

Second, Notwithstanding this damning evidence against him, Atwill’s premise is quite narrowed and simplistic, demonstrating a critical lack of understanding of the cultural dynamics of Judea in the first century.

"Crap...why didn't we just use psychological warfare against these guys?"

“Crap…why didn’t we just use psychological warfare against these guys?”

There exist over 30 Jewish sects that we know of from the first century, and have some basic understanding of their belief structures.  There are some dozens more we just know by name.  On top of that, we have to conclude there are perhaps dozens, if not hundreds, more Jewish sects  of which we simply have no record.  What is so interesting is how incredibly different each sect is from each other.

Despite Atwill’s unlearned claim that the Jewish people were expecting a ‘Warrior messiah’, in truth there is no universal version of a messiah.  Even among the same sect, over time, the concept of their messiah would change.  In the Dead Sea Scrolls, which Mr. Atwill seems to think he knows so well, the language of the messiah and his purpose changes (in fact at one point, we see two distinct messiahs at once–one a priestly messiah and another a kingly messiah).  Some sects did not even expect a messiah at all.  Any of the numerous works on messianic expectations published in the last two decades utterly annihilates any claim that Atwill is making about some uniformity in Jewish thought and ritual.

Even logically, his analysis is flawed.  If this tactic was used against the Jews, why didn’t the Romans use it against an even greater threat: the Gauls?!  The Jewish people were never as serious a threat to the Empire as much as the Gauls were–who sacked Rome twice and destroyed Legions.  Atwill never seems to consider how basically incompetent his thesis is in this regard.  If the Romans had such success against the Jews using this “psychological warfare” (anachronism alert!! Danger! Danger!), why don’t we see this happening against all of their enemies?  It is just so beyond absurd.  It really is.

Here is the thing; it may be that Mr. Atwill is completely clueless about this.  Maybe he isn’t just trying to scam everyone and sell a bunch of books to a group of gullible people.  Maybe he legitimately hasn’t read anything relevant on this subject or any recent scholarship on it.

"What?  'The Romans Invented Jesus'?  What a rip off!"

“What? ‘The Romans Invented Jesus’? What a rip off!”

But that is troubling–would you want to read a science book written by a layperson who hasn’t read a single relevant scientific study?  Would you pick up a book on engineering written by someone with a background in computer science, and trust that book enough to build a house based upon its designs?  I hope not.  I sincerely hope that no one would agree to trust either of these books.

This is the issue with Mr. Atwill.  He may sincerely believe he has discovered the secret code off a cereal box with his 3-D glasses he found inside; that doesn’t make him an expert in the subject, it doesn’t make him knowledgeable enough to give lectures on it.  It certainly does not make him credible.

Mr. Atwill is just like all the other amateur-Scholar-wannabes who refuse to put in the time and effort to earn a degree in the field, who want to advance their pet theories to sell books and dupe you over.  He relies on popular media and the ignorance of the layperson to score points rather than publishing in a credible academic journal or publishing academically.  He knows he can’t do that, because he has no clue how academics work, how they think, or what they actually argue on the subject.  He might as well claim that Jesus lived on Atlantis, which came from Mars.  That theory is about as ridiculous as the notion that Rome invented Jesus.

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Image courtesy of Steve Caruso.

*UPDATE 10-10-13*

You’ll want to check out some additional take-downs:

(Shameless plug): For an academically published volume on the historicity of Jesus (which does not contain wild conspiracy theories), consisting of essays from scholars all over the world (the first such book of its kind to my knowledge), consider my co-edited volume ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ The Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus (Sheffield: Equinox/Acumen, 2012/2013).

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93 Responses

  1. Geez, can anyone get a documentary now? And did his book really sell well enough to warrant a film?

  2. It pains me to say I have actually seen “Caesar’s Messiah” in an area Barnes and Noble, where I have never seen many other far more scholarly, believable, and important works. Sigh.

  3. Aaron, I’m not sure if the book has sold enough copies to warrant any attention, but often it is the nuttier concepts that get the documentaries–after all, the more controversial the higher the value (from a marketing standpoint). So you’ll probably never see a serious documentary on the agnostic position on the figure of Jesus. But You will see movies like Zeitgeist or Caesar’s Messiah, because they are just batty.

  4. That is quite sad, Chuck. I remember when I worked at Borders back in 2007, we used to have copies of Acharya S on the shelf and I used to cringe every time someone saw it and asked about it. And yet scholars like NP Lemche or Philip Davies or Thomas Thompson barely found shelf space.

  5. Wow, there’s so much anger here, and that pict is definitely in bad taste. It says more about you than about Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah. Shameful.

    I’d suggest actually reading the book first before you try to “debunk” it.

    It’s amazing how many people have opinions about a book they haven’t read, and a thesis they obviously don’t understand.

    Better luck next time! :)

    MF
    ps. Enjoy:

    “…But I have yet to read an argument against his work that was anything other than an emotional outcry and a groping for old worn out, baseless, yet preferred beliefs about the new testament and Jesus…”

    I think your attack falls into that category.

  6. Oh look, an Atwill fanboy!

    (1) I have read the book. In fact it is sitting on my bookshelf:

    I’ve also spoken with Atwill many times over the years and then as now I find his research to be practically nonexistent, his scholarship to be subpar, and his conclusions are weak–and that is being quite polite about it. He has no background in the subject he speaks about and that is clear just from his misuse of words. I am not wrong about his book: it is a pile of crap. Had you any background in the subject, maybe you’d agree.

    (2) As for the image, well, sorry to say, the truth is the truth. If my image offends you, I can’t help you with that. Atwill’s book is offensive to serious scholarship as a whole and my reaction to it has nothing to do with emotion or some ‘preferred’ or ‘baseless’ belief about Jesus or the new testament. Do you even know who you’re talking to, or do you always make presumptions about those who don’t find anything useful (or correct, for that matter) in Atwill’s book?

    Oh, I removed the link in your post because, frankly, Atwill has done enough damage. I’ll be correcting his mistakes for years. So I refuse to give his work any more of a platform on my blog.

  7. Not a fanboy, but I find it very interesting, and well, I’ve never seen a real debunking of his theory – just a lot of uninformed, emotional, ad hominen attacks.

    (And if he’s so wrong, debunking it should be pretty easy… And, no, you haven’t done it here, seems to me you’re not even close… which is why I thought you hadn’t read the book… you presented no evidence that you had.)

    As for the pict, and who I am talking to, as I wrote, it says more about you than his work. Do I really need to know more? What kind of person posts that on his blog? You should really do some thinking about that. I think you’ll eventually agree with me and end up removing it, especially if you want people to take you seriously.

    Too bad you removed the link to Atwill’s blog though, that’s telling too. Anyone interested though can simply google “caesar’s messiah” and find the blog (and that quote) for themselves.

    Also, they should read the book too and then make up their own minds… please don’t listen to reviews done by people who haven’t read the book and aren’t willing to discuss the thesis politely. You will find it interesting, and thought-provoking, even if you end up not agreeing with him.

    As for you, if you do actually “correct his mistakes”, in a real book, let me know. I’d buy your book and give you a fair hearing.

    In fact, it would be great if you could get a new copy of his book (that picture shows an old edition), go through it and show where he’s wrong… I’m especially interested in the Flavian signature chapter… Seems to me the case is pretty clear… maybe I’ll even make a list and let the Flavian worshippers attempt to debunk it line by line. They certainly haven’t done it yet!

    I think the “fishing for men” parallel is interesting too…

    “…And how will you be able to avoid being ashamed, if you do not
    show equal courage with your commander, when he goes before you into danger? For you know very well that I shall go into the danger first, and make the first attack upon the enemy. Do not you therefore desert me, but persuade yourselves that God will be assisting to my onset. Know this also before we begin, that we shall now have better success than we should have, if we were to fight at a distance.”…” – War of the Jews – Book III – Chapter 10

    What are you going to do when his next book (The Single Strand) comes out? Should be interesting!

    If Atwill’s wrong, those pesky parallels are one heck of a strange coincidence!

    MF, A fan, but not worshipper, of the Flavians :)

  8. Not a fanboy, but I find it very interesting, and well, I’ve never seen a real debunking of his theory – just a lot of uninformed, emotional, ad hominen attacks.

    Bullocks.

    (And if he’s so wrong, debunking it should be pretty easy… And, no, you haven’t done it here, seems to me you’re not even close… which is why I thought you hadn’t read the book… you presented no evidence that you had.)

    My blog post here was to debunk to blurb related to the movie and that was done quite easily. If the movie follows the blurb, the movie is trash. It Atwill’s new book (or his new edition) follows the blurb, his book is trash. If you contest anything I wrote, state what you disagree with. We’ll go from there.

    As for the pict, and who I am talking to, as I wrote, it says more about you than his work. Do I really need to know more? What kind of person posts that on his blog?

    A person who recognizes garbage when I read it. I didn’t tell you to come post here or to read my article. If you don’t like it, there is the door. Don’t let it hit you and your persecution complex on the way out.

    You should really do some thinking about that. I think you’ll eventually agree with me and end up removing it, especially if you want people to take you seriously.

    If someone refuses to take me seriously because I have a picture of cow dung on my blog, they have some major critical thinking issues and then I don’t really care what they think. Those who matter judge me by my character–and apparently I’m judged quite highly. Think about that for a while.

    Too bad you removed the link to Atwill’s blog though, that’s telling too. Anyone interested though can simply google “caesar’s messiah” and find the blog (and that quote) for themselves.

    They sure can. But my blog won’t be a billboard for his terrible book.

    Also, they should read the book too and then make up their own minds… please don’t listen to reviews done by people who haven’t read the book and aren’t willing to discuss the thesis politely. You will find it interesting, and thought-provoking, even if you end up not agreeing with him.

    Apparently you have a comprehension problem. I have read the book. His book is crap. Hence the picture of manure. Honestly, follow along–it isn’t hard. Just because someone finds the book terrible doesn’t mean they didn’t read it. It just means they read it and found it terrible. This is why you sound like a fanboy.

    As for you, if you do actually “correct his mistakes”, in a real book, let me know. I’d buy your book and give you a fair hearing.

    No, I’ll just correct them here on this blog because, unlike Atwill, I’m not just bullshitting my way through history to make a buck off of people’s ignorance. But that will have to wait when I have time to dedicate to that. I’m usually busy working, doing course assignments (because unlike Atwill I’m actually educating my self professionally on the subject), publishing, editing, or writing new submissions to publish. Because that is what people in the field do: they work in the field.

    I also find it amusing that you wrote ‘real book’ because Atwill’s book is (a) not a real book (it is self-published) and (b) I have published a real book–an academic collection of essays in fact, that I co-edited, and have a chapter on Paul in which, interesting enough, delves into intertextuality (the term used to describe the function of the ‘parallels’ you mention below) and the use of certain terms found in Josephus (that includes going back to the original Greek, discussing links between concepts, socioculturally, etc…)–none of which Atwill has done in his ‘real book’.

    In fact, it would be great if you could get a new copy of his book (that picture shows an old edition), go through it and show where he’s wrong… I’m especially interested in the Flavian signature chapter… Seems to me the case is pretty clear… maybe I’ll even make a list and let the Flavian worshippers attempt to debunk it line by line. They certainly haven’t done it yet!

    Wow you’re a gullible sort, aren’t you? First, your use of ‘Flavian worshippers’ is evidence of your fanboydom to this crappy idea that Atwill has clearly fooled you over. Using terms like this shows you are incapable of critical thinking and seek only to wallow in your own obsessed little world. Like a creationist talks about evolutionary biologists as ‘evolutionists’ or ‘science worshippers’ because they can’t comprehend the math, you call scholars of Josephus ‘Flavian worshippers’ because you don’t comprehend historical methodology. Kind of pathetic actually.

    Also, I won’t buy another book from Atwill. Tell him (I presume you’re not him? Maybe you are; you’re coming across as someone who would sock-puppet) to publish his thesis in an academic journal or submit it to peer review. Then I’ll consider it. Until then you and Atwill can stand back and throw stones at credible scholars from your glass house.

    I think the “fishing for men” parallel is interesting too…

    “…And how will you be able to avoid being ashamed, if you do not
    show equal courage with your commander, when he goes before you into danger? For you know very well that I shall go into the danger first, and make the first attack upon the enemy. Do not you therefore desert me, but persuade yourselves that God will be assisting to my onset. Know this also before we begin, that we shall now have better success than we should have, if we were to fight at a distance.”…” – War of the Jews – Book III – Chapter 10

    What are you going to do when his next book (The Single Strand) comes out? Should be interesting!

    If Atwill’s wrong, those pesky parallels are one heck of a strange coincidence!

    None of Atwill’s parallels are convincing, least of all this one. Does he analyze them philologically? I doubt it, since he has no grasp of Greek or Hebrew. His biggest failure is that he fails to recognize that correlation does not equal causation. Parallels can exist but have no direct relationship between the two objects under comparison. That is one of the biggest challenges of literary criticism. Atwill doesn’t deal with this, he presumes his case and marches on. Apparently you would prefer to fall in step with him than deal with the issues of his volume.

    Let me know when Atwill publishes academically. If his thesis can’t pass peer review, I’m not interested.

  9. MagersheyFlavius wrote: “And if he’s so wrong, debunking it should be pretty easy”

    Perhaps you’d be interested in this.

    http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/rev_atwill.htm

  10. Atwill has got it right and he deseerves credit for unravelling all the BS and myth in the bible stories and the bronze age Jewish literature-mythology. Mr Atwill deserves our praise for his scholarly work and if you feel you cannot praise him for wrecking that mythological life which maintains you in a state of ignorance, at least buy his book–and read it.

  11. Besides your comment making absolutely no sense, you are commenting under my post where I clearly have a picture posted of Atwill’s book on my bookshelf. Keep commenting though, so you continue proving my point that Atwill’s only followers are deluded morons with no interest in credible scholarship.

  12. I have an interest in the history of early Christianity, and I know a fair bit about the topic. I found Atwill’s book fascinating and for me it rung true. You sir, need to cool your jets, pull your head in, and show some respect for people like Atwill. You also need to show some good evidence you have actually read a book when you critique it.

  13. I appreciate your passion for the subject, but ‘knowing a fair bit about the topic’ does not qualify you to make decisions on the accuracy of a claim. His arguments do not hold merit. Additionally, respect is earned, not given freely. Especially in academia. Joe Atwill is wrong, and until he decides to publish this hypothesis of his through peer review, it will never be a respectable position to hold. It is just another lame conspiracy theory by an amateur.

  14. If you don’t even know Greek, you are a layman. Period. This is basic, first year classics stuff. Trying to compare texts in translation is perilous – parallels can exist in English that don’t hold up in the original.

    Furthermore in Ancient Greek(attic is the dialect I studied) words can have multiple very disparate meanings. From what I’ve seen of Atwill’s book it’s nothing but an exercise in literary pareidolia.

  15. I recently reviewed one of Atwill’s blog posts in which he uses a passage from Histroria Augusta to uphold the claim that “Jesus and Serapis were the same god.” Atwill doesn’t realize everyone in the field recognizes the “Hadrian Serapis” passage is a late fourth-century forgery. Pretty amateur.

    http://benstanhope.blogspot.com/2013/03/joseph-atwills-blunder-serapis-and-jesus.html

  16. Very nice point for point refutation of Atwill’s claims, and I know you were just getting started. We can’t forget the obvious fact that if Rome intentionally made up Christianity, there would not have been the numerous attempts to violently wipe it out. His claims defy logic.

  17. Just because the book is on your bookshelf, doesn’t mean you’ve read it. Mr. Verenna has presenting NO REFUTATION at all, just a bunch of whining about the book and how it doesn’t convince him without actually mentioning a single legitimate reason why. There was something about scrolls not mentioning shit that happens in the bible, well no fuck, but that’s irrelevant. The thesis is about how the new testament is a constructed parallel of actual events in the Roman Empire, particularly in the writings of Josephus. This is the nail in the coffin for Christianity as a religion.

  18. Sorry, Triynko no. I’ve read the book, and no I don’t need your approval for that. I’ve also been disgusted by the book; it is a terrible work of “scholarship” which doesn’t take into account any of the implicating questions. For example: why would the Romans both invent a religion *and* then either (a) persecute that religion or (b) pretend to persecute that religion? It defies basic logic. He completely ignores the fact that the authors of the Gospels were simply educated Jewish mystics with a grasp of Roman mythology. Or that the Gospel authors had access to Josephus and used his work to supplement their claims about their portrayal of Jesus in a way that might bring about Roman converts. So many other, stronger cases have been made (read anything by Steve Mason or Louis Feldman for Pete’s sake).

    Mr. Atwill is not a scholar, he has zero training in New Testament or Historical Jesus studies nor on Josephus. Reading a few books does not qualify one an “expert” on it. That Mr. Atwill now champions himself to be a “Biblical Scholar” is beyond despicable and misleading–it is a downright lie. To my knowledge he chooses not to publish through an academic press or in a journal, but in a self-published book. This is not how an actually scholar challenges consensus. And Mr. Atwill isn’t writing about just one consensus defying topic, but many (e.g., he doesn’t believe Josephus existed either and is an invention of Rome as well). It’s a string of one inadequately argued opinion after another.

    In order to challenge a consensus perspective, you need to start by validating your own theory through peer review. It involves publishing little bits of your thesis in journals over time to get feedback, which makes them stronger or proves them insufficient without revisions. One needs to weigh every critical rebuttal they might receive when writing their consensus-defying work (read something by Mark Goodacre on Q for a good example of a scholar writing an academic volume that goes against consensus) and incorporate it into their defense. This is not something that Mr.Atwill does well, if he does it at all (and where he tries to do it, it is often on a tangent or through a weakly defined thread of connections which falls apart under scrutiny).

    Your dogmatic love of this book notwithstanding, Atwill’s “thesis” is neither accurately deduced or based on rigorous study of the primary texts within the contexts of their composition. It is a pet theory and he has played you and a lot of other really gullible people. You’re just another notch in his belt; someone who has such a hatred for Christianity, with such an ignorance of its history, that they’ll believe literally any crappy theory that goes against it. Congratulations on being duped.

  19. Quite so, emtvalerie.

  20. I haven’t read the book and I”m not a biblical scholar. I just wanted to comment that States/Governments do many things that defy logic in order to serve a larger, self-interested purpose. A government creating a religion in order to control, manipulate, a population is completely within the realm of possibility.

    This whole scenario reminds me of The Matrix where “The Programer” tells Neo that he is just another ‘Messiah” in a chain of messiahs that the system uses for its own ends.

    As a student of modern and contemporary history, an ancient ruling class creating stories to control populations seems par for the course and completely probable.

  21. Except it isn’t par for the course. You’re anachronistically applying a modern interpretation of Medieval Europe to the period of Late Antiquity. It is not just implausible, but wrong. The ancient Roman Empire didn’t need to tell a story to dominate other cultures. They had LEGIONS to do that for them. Again, this is why you have to have a basic grasp of the history of the period to write on it. Otherwise we all just spout speculation. Speculation is great for mystery novels. But not so great as historical constructions.

  22. I loved your post. Quite a number of my friends have been talking about Atwill’s nonsense and what this could mean for the future of the Christian religion. I simply link your page, and the fire simmers down.

    Thanks for the information. It certainly helped me, who possesses little to no knowledge about ancient Rome or Judaism, attain a small level of understanding. It will certainly help Atwill, who apparently knows even less than me, should he read it.

  23. Thanks! I appreciate your comment. Gives me hope!

  24. […] has an update on Joe Atwill’s latest ‘project.’ But, I wanted to cover just a […]

  25. Sounds like some of the stuff coming out of Toronto and NC

  26. Tom, you are very, very young. Your style of writing is very elegant and professional, and you come across as quite staunch. It seems like you want (or need) to believe. Similarly, this will not be, “the nail in the coffin for Christianity.” Many people rely on religion day-in and day-out. They would be lost if that was taken away from them.

    First of all, I am a software engineer, majored in computer science. So if I were to write a book about engineering, I think people should listen when I talk about engineering. Furthermore, I built an addition on to my house.

    I am certainly not claiming to be a biblical scholar, or anything close to it. I haven’t even read any version of the bible cover-to-cover. I don’t believe in any higher power and believe we are here by little more than chance, for what it’s worth.

    However, a character named Jesus likely existed – but many of the stories cited are likely false. That is, if a friend was to tell you one of the stories and replace the names with modern day names/places, they would be laughed at. Similarly, it isn’t possible that they happened ~2000 years ago.

    In science, you must prove the affirmative – not the negative. It’s not Atwill’s job to prove religion is constructed by government. It’s is religion’s job to prove that there is a higher power. You can point to all of the coincidences and good things in life and call it God, but until you can prove that, I am going with evolution. That’s science. We’ve proved it. All Atwill did was release a book, with many of his personal speculations that he believes to be true. Consumers have the right to purchase or disregard the book.

    Here is a question for you: Did you start reading the book with the intent to prove it as false? If so, don’t you think you were biased before page 1? Next time, have a colleague with opposing views read the book, draw up his own notes, and compare them. If both of you arrive at the same conclusion – it is likely correct. If you arrive at different conclusions, a healthy discussion may ensue.

  27. Tom, you are very, very young. Your style of writing is very elegant and professional, and you come across as quite staunch. It seems like you want (or need) to believe. Similarly, this will not be, “the nail in the coffin for Christianity.” Many people rely on religion day-in and day-out. They would be lost if that was taken away from them.

    I’m 30, but thanks for the complements. Also, not sure what you mean by “I want (or need) to believe” since this implies that you think I’m religious or a Christian. I’m neither. A look over my blog posts will be adequate proof of that. Also my ‘about me’ section says it also.

    First of all, I am a software engineer, majored in computer science. So if I were to write a book about engineering, I think people should listen when I talk about engineering. Furthermore, I built an addition on to my house.

    I never said anything about a software engineer. Second, being a compsci major doesn’t ipso facto make you a structural or mechanical engineer, now does it? Kudos to you on being able to build on your home; something with which I imagine I’d have trouble.

    I am certainly not claiming to be a biblical scholar, or anything close to it.

    No, but Atwill is. And that is the problem.

    I haven’t even read any version of the bible cover-to-cover. I don’t believe in any higher power and believe we are here by little more than chance, for what it’s worth.

    Ok.

    However, a character named Jesus likely existed – but many of the stories cited are likely false. That is, if a friend was to tell you one of the stories and replace the names with modern day names/places, they would be laughed at. Similarly, it isn’t possible that they happened ~2000 years ago.

    Ok.

    In science, you must prove the affirmative – not the negative. It’s not Atwill’s job to prove religion is constructed by government. It’s is religion’s job to prove that there is a higher power.

    Wow, false analogy alert! (1) Atwill’s thesis is not about the existence of god. Even if his theories on Jesus proved to be correct (they aren’t), that would not disprove the existence of a god or deity. (2) Atwill is defying academic (secular) consensus about thirty subjects—which include the value of Josephus as a historian, the context of the first century, Assimilation/Acculturation issues between Jews and their Hellenistic/Roman setting, Jewish beliefs in the first century, and more. His thesis is a slipshod mix of pet theories and roughly argued “theses” which are no different than saying, “There’s a bulge under this mass of water, therefore it must be Atlantis.” (3) Religion is a very general term. Perhaps you mean ‘Christianity?’ And if so you’re going to have to specify as there are thousands of denominations which all share different perspectives on Jesus, on the church, on god, and on what classifies as salvation. Your generalizations are unhelpful.

    You can point to all of the coincidences and good things in life and call it God, but until you can prove that, I am going with evolution. That’s science. We’ve proved it. All Atwill did was release a book, with many of his personal speculations that he believes to be true. Consumers have the right to purchase or disregard the book.

    I’m. Not. A. Christian. Do read my ‘about me’ section before posting again. Please.

    You’re right that all consumers have the right ot their own opinions; well, I also have the right to mine. And I also have the right to review all content he publishes publicly.

    Here is a question for you: Did you start reading the book with the intent to prove it as false?

    No. I read the premise and then read the book looking to be amused by its absolutely incredulous claims. I was not amused. I was disgusted by how horribly argued and poorly researched the book actually was. And I’m continually disappointed in the droves of atheists and secularists out there who want to pounce upon any book or notion that happens to coincide with their anti-Religious attitudes. It’s pathetic. You can’t claim to be a ‘free-thinker’ if the first crappy argument you see that conforms to your beliefs is worth jumping upon and reposting without any critical thought. For shame.

    If so, don’t you think you were biased before page 1? Next time, have a colleague with opposing views read the book, draw up his own notes, and compare them. If both of you arrive at the same conclusion – it is likely correct. If you arrive at different conclusions, a healthy discussion may ensue.

    My entire post was a refutation of his book and his thesis. No, I don’t need your validation or approval on this. I’ve written what I wanted to say and it is there for all to see. Those who want to read it will read it. I sincerely hope you do, because clearly you haven’t bothered yet to do so.

  28. This article is a bunch of biased rambling. Nice try, though.

  29. Your statement doesn’t make it so. Nice try, though.

  30. This article is very good. Daniel Slow Pokes McDonald is just a frustrated atheist. This guy Atwill was exposed several times. Thanks Tom

  31. I am amazed to see how disperate are these atheists today…the nail in the coffin of Christianity they say…..they claim reason and they adopt and accept any bogus, any non-sense, any lie, any scam to disprove Christianity.
    Thank you Tom for the review. Last month Reza Aslan , now this guy Atwill…whats next? Jesus was an alien?

  32. Thanks for your comment, Laura, but it isn’t helpful to generalize. I would say the same to any atheist who claimed that something about ‘all Christians’ or ‘all Muslims’, etc…

  33. Bogdan Lupu,

    You’re welcome. But I would be careful to generalize or throw people into categories that they haven’t accepted. Daniel might not be an atheist. Maybe he just hates me? =)

  34. Most atheists don’t actually care WHAT you believe, because they are only interested in what you can PROVE. I feel under no pressure to disprove the existence of a man whose actual existence has never been proven in the first place. Show me a second source, beyond the Bible, to verify even his existence.

  35. Why is the bible special?

  36. Thanks for your comment, Jim. I do take issue with what you wrote, however. It seems to be an argument based upon special pleading, isn’t it? The “Bible” came about long after these texts were written. The authors of Mark, Matthew, Luke-Acts, and John did not know they were going to end up in the same collection together. Certainly Paul didn’t account for his letters being used as they were. It is both ignorant and anachronistic to ignore the biblical texts as useful simply because of how they are used today. I’m not saying we need to trust them without caution, nor am I suggesting that we should accept premises within based on faith. However, I do think that there is some very useful historical information within the New Testament, specifically, and also the Hebrew Bible, which can (and has) been used to justify certain aspects of the past.

    Paul, for example, was first used (according to some of the Church fathers) against the Catholic church by the gnostics (particularly by Marcion), but Paul seems to believe Jesus existed (though the manner in which he existed, i.e., whether physically human or heavenly, is up for discussion–in my humble opinion). Paul was later reinterpreted for use by later Christians (courtesy of Acts). So using Paul to justify historicity is not considered taboo.

    ‘Proof’ is a little much to ask.

  37. I am an atheist, who is studying classics. There are many who are very deeply invested in there being no historical Jesus. He probably did exist, but precious little from that period and region that be proved conclusively.

  38. Paul, what is the context of your question?

  39. I was asking Jim Hughes why the bible should be so special that it ought not to be considered a source.

  40. That is why I’m an agnostic on the question, Paul.

  41. Tom, first off, I am a follower of Jesus’ teachings, which is to say I’m from the “Christian Left,” but you never hear about us. We are unconditionally loving and affirming of ALL people and accept that other faiths have merit; that living in love is the most important thing.

    You have, to coin a phrase, the patience of Job! I found your blog on one of those Joe Atwill “whatevers,” Even if every one of his suppositions was correct (and you’ve laid out a scholarly roadmap of why they are NOT), it would not shake my faith in the words of Jesus as written in the Bible.

    The Bible… all of it may be true. Some of it happened. A lot of it is used by people to kill, maim, cause wars,, disfigure gay people, and cause a lot of anger and mayhem.

    Here’s a poem that sums up my beliefs. If you want, you can check it out. I thank you for your courage in facing the army of sad, angry folks on this blog. Amy

    http://sharplittlepencil.com/2013/03/31/nothing-to-prove/

  42. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Many of my friends are ‘on the Christian left’. They call themselves progressives, I believe.

  43. […] (and had a frustrating debate with Atwill on The Infidel Guy radio show). A year ago, Tom Verenna had gotten wind of this film project and showed why he thought it would be a pile of […]

  44. Very helpful article. I found people talking about this guy today, and it’s easy for atheists and agnostics to get wrapped up in anything “disproving” Christianity. I know because I’m one of them. However, I couldn’t find anything that said this man was credible or even educated, and your post sealed the deal–this guy really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    I’m worried that a lot of people don’t know the importance of peer-reviewed research. Anyone can have a theory and come up with plausible points on most topics; having professionals read through and check facts helps sift out the baloney. He has followers because they want to believe, not because he is reputable.

  45. I, for one, am GIDDY after reading this article. I have personally debated D.M. Murdock (AKA “Acharya Sannig”) and she ran off and could not take anymore. It is hard for me to prove that, as i doubt she remembers me (this was years ago, after Zeitgeist first came out) … but then i stumbled upon this article after having seem some of Atwill’s claims on Facebook.

    And while you are not a “christian” per se (I do not make the same claims about myself either), I can say that I am SATISFIED with your debunking efforts at Atwill. Thank you for writing and sharing this EXCELLENT article! (I also agree with many of your follow up comments, Mr. Verenna — BRAVO!)

  46. That wonder-woman reference you made is similar to what Atwill said in his book. A fictional character. You just logically implied that wonder woman is similar to Jesus Christ but you haven’t actually proved that Jesus’s life story isn’t fabricated. Request you to kindly read the book before you start your attempt to debunk it. Religion is man made – all scriptures just indicate a way to live. Its the man who use these to his own personal agenda.

  47. I have long suspected that Murdock does not have the education she claims to. I find it incredible that someone with her background could be as incompetent.

    > > > >

  48. Sudhakar Vemuri,

    You have a reading comprehension problem if you think my argument was anything similar to what you claim I argue. It isn’t that Wonder Woman is a fictional character, it is that she is a fictional character *inspired by a historical person*. Fictional stories can be written about historical people. Atwill’s claim is not even this sound–his argument is that Jesus isn’t based on or inspired by a historical individual but completely fabricated by Roman elites.

  49. All I can say is…THANK YOU! When I was critical of this guy on a thread on FB, somebody challenged me, that this guy wasn’t a “conspiracy nutcase”; your posting has made it much easier to back up what I said.

  50. I just heard about the book and haven’t read it yet. The headline in the news article was sensationalist enough to give me pause. I would have to read the book in order to comment on its content, though.

    However, reading your remarks and criticism, I don’t find you rely on established facts. You list reasons why YOU don’t think his work is legitimate. Then you make personal attacks on Atwill’s character, along with endless tirades about how bad his research is.

    I would be more inclined to continue to read your opinion and “debunking” of his work if it actually did rely mostly on facts and attempted to replace his alleged flawed logic and research with something that educated the reader. You haven’t done that at all.

    The more people call you on your own lack of evidence and scholarly instruction, the more emotionally you tend to react to the comments and seem to resort to personal attacks. That gives me pause as to whether you are “highly regarded” by others, or whether you’re the only one who thinks that highly of your opinion.

    Finally, for someone with such a low opinion of the author’s work – and of the author himself – you sure seem to feel threatened by Atwill and the attention he is getting for his book. I think that the kids nowadays call this “butthurt”!

  51. First, I adore your “golden cow scat” comment. It just makes me giggle.

    Second, I’m a religious studies major – BA at UNC CH – and in no way am I any kind of grand scholar, but when I read the write-up of the presentation in London on this subject, I knew enough to know it sounded pretty darn ridiculous. Even with what little I know, the idea that Rome created Christianity (and apparently Josephus) flies in the face of everything I’d ever heard about first century Christianity and Rome. Never mind the fact, that if the Romans were trying to somehow brainwash the Jews, they did a pretty poor job of it since they continued to revolt resulting in the destruction of the second temple. And, of course, the Jews weren’t that fond of Christians – or visa versa.

    I am confused about something…is Atwill claiming the Romans wrote all four gospels and Josephus after 70 CE thus introducing for the first time the whole idea of the Jesus figure and everything he did? So, up to that point, there was no Christianity? It just sprang into existence without any direct witnesses or group memory, or anything – and people just fell for it hook, line and a trip to the mouth of the nearest lion? A group of people started martyring themselves, going to prison, spreading their belief because they read some books? I recognize that a lot of people fall for things they read in books, but when it comes to religion there is usually some kind of charismatic figure leading the way. I suppose it’s possible; there are certainly stories today of people finding a copy of the Bible, reading it, and being convicted. Of course, our Bible is in a neat little package and not four, well, five, scrolls floating across the Roman empire. I just wanted to confirm if I was understanding the timeline correctly. And, if so, what it Atwill’s argument for how and why Christianity was able to take root so quickly and efficiently? Especially since it’s target audience, the Jews, were clearly NOT interested.

    ps – As a student at UNC, Bart Ehrman is our Religious Studies Department Chair. If there was ever an atheist scholar who would probably love to prove Jesus never existed, it would probably be Bart. But, he has written a number of books on the Historical Jesus. I would love to see Ehrman and Atwill in a debate…

  52. Very nice article Tom!

  53. JSJaneiro,

    I just read through your entire rant but found nothing in it that addressed any argument I actually made. You spend a lot of time complaining about what I’ve written, but haven’t supported any of your assertions that I don’t rely on established facts. This leads me to conclude (1) you haven’t read my arguments, (2) you haven’t understood them, (3) or you read them, understood them, but now wish to lie about what you’ve read and understood. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt here and allow you to post again–this time, I ask you bring some meat to your comment, rather than an empty bottle of whine. If not, I’m just going to delete them. I don’t have time to devote to fanboys of Awtill’s work who haven’t bothered to critically vet them for themselves, who then refuse to engage with any other vetting either. This goes for all other future commenters as well.

  54. My wife and her mother have experienced miracles, so atheism is false, and the Bible’s type of story, a story in which God speaks and does things, is true. Don’t take presuppositions for granted, but question them; don’t say “impossible,” but consider whether the worldview that admits the possibility might be correct. If you doubt it, isn’t the prospect that Jesus is God, so God can empathize with us; that he died for our sins, so God loves us this much; that he rose up alive on the 3rd day, so God’s power works in this world–aren’t these wonderful if (and only if) true? Consider that you might be wrong,and they may be true! (I have considered that they might be false. I consider that they are true.)
    For amateur scholarship, try my http://voices.yahoo.com/dating-testament-7451094.html?cat=37: Jesus was a Jew, so the most blatantly Jewish Gospel, Matthew, is the oldest, and even liberals might admit that John 11:49-52, from the last Gospel, makes more sense written, with its editorial comment, before A.D. 70 than after. As for what I do with this, I think God’s people show love freely rather than by wielding an IRS gun: http://voices.yahoo.com/jesus-libertarian-7724306.html?cat=37. Even Harnack, an old liberal, came to admit that Luke-Acts had been written while Paul was still imprisoned in Rome, early A.D. 60s. So follow Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way the truth and the life; no man comes unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6).

  55. Tom thank you for this excellent defense of the gospel and critique of this kook’s libelous work.

  56. My wife and her mother have experienced miracles, so atheism is false, and the Bible’s type of story, a story in which God speaks and does things, is true.

    This is my blog, not a forum for you to preach. Please be considerate of other commenters.

    Don’t take presuppositions for granted, but question them;

    Okay. I don’t accept your presupposition that ‘atheism is false’ because your wife and mother-in-law have claimed to experience miracles. Are we done with this now? Can we move on to the actual topic of my blog post?

    Jesus was a Jew, so the most blatantly Jewish Gospel, Matthew, is the oldest,

    Actually, no. Sorry, but stating an assertion based entirely on an uncritical portrayal of Jesus does not a fact make. Matthew shows indications that he altered and changed Mark’s Gospel in ways that could have only been possible if he wrote after Mark. For a good overview of this, consider reading any introduction to New Testament book written or revised within the last decade and academically published through a scholarly press. This is pretty basic, first-year, 101-level stuff.

    Even Harnack…

    You’re citing a scholar who died 83 years ago; a lot has happened and changed in scholarship since 1930. Your reliance upon Harnack (who incidentally was wrong since he doesn’t account for the Josephan imitations in Luke-Acts which would place their terminus a quo around 100 CE at the earliest) is the first indication you’re a dilettante and haven’t read any new scholarship on the subject of Luke-Acts and its cultural setting, its authorship and composition, or its substance; e.g., Richard Pervo & Joseph B. Tyson to start with, but also Todd Penner and Heikki Leppä–these scholars have all published within the last decade and have proposed greater theses on Luke-Acts and their context within the timeline of early Christianity.

    If you post another long-winded proselytizing comment, I’m just deleting it. Try to stay on topic.

  57. Thanks, but it isn’t a defense of the gospel. It’s a defense of solid historical methodology, which Atwill has attempted to hijack.

  58. […] the Dead See Scroll, his first and biggest error I think. Here is a good summary of what is wrong: No, Joe Atwill: Rome Did Not Invent Jesus | The Musings of Thomas Verenna __________________ We've tended in our cosmologies to make things familiar. Despite all our best […]

  59. Hopefully my question is not off topic, and thanks for your critique on Atwill’s ideas. I opened and read the link which Manoj Joseph attached above on Price’s critique of Atwill.
    I wasn’t aware that Josephus and the Gospel writers “traded” so many stories. My question – who was copying from whom? What came first – the Gospels or Josephus’ writings?
    And if I may, the Roman Empire and the Roman ways have interested me for a long time.
    The Romans were not the kind to conquer and/or control others through “peaceful” methods. Using mercenaries they enjoyed causing suffering to others. It was even part of their way of entertaining themselves. Their arenas, not just the Coliseum in Rome, but all over the Empire, where show places where they enjoyed gladiators killing each other, wild animals tearing people apart, even comedy night in which they would take two elderly slave women whom they had starved for weeks, then put them in the arena armed with weapons with a sumptuous meal laid out before them with the winner getting to eat. They also used midgets as gladiators as another way to get a good laugh.
    Thanks, again.

  60. Hopefully my question is not off topic, and thanks for your critique on Atwill’s ideas.

    This seems like an excellent on-topic, which I’ll happily answer below.

    I opened and read the link which Manoj Joseph attached above on Price’s critique of Atwill.
    I wasn’t aware that Josephus and the Gospel writers “traded” so many stories. My question – who was copying from whom? What came first – the Gospels or Josephus’ writings?

    Honestly, who knows with any certainty? In my opinion, Josephus wrote first. I think the evidence is pretty good. You can check above (main article, under update from yesterday, 10/9) for links to books by the likes of Steven Mason–he takes a position of agnosticism, though admittedly he has a slight bias towards gospel authenticity, so keep an eye on whatever implications that might have on his conclusions. Richard Carrier argues that the evidence fits best with Josephus writing first. I find his arguments to be the most compelling. Also, I know of some future publications which argue for a late dating to Luke-Acts and their place within the Synoptic Tradition (i.e., that Luke knew of Matthew’s Gospel, and used his Gospel to respond to both Matthew and Mark). Joseph Tyson and Richard Pervo have argued similarly (for a late dating, and their conclusions are pretty solid in my opinion). If that is the case, then Josephus most assuredly wrote first since he is said to have completed his final book before he died at the turn of the second century (proposals for Luke-Acts new date is around early-mid second century).

    I’m not sure what your background is in, but if you’re interested in Romans (and you haven’t already done this or considered it), you should take a few Classics courses at your local university. Worth your time, I think.

  61. Wanted to just write another note of support. I recently gave up on writing on Gnostic studies because they’re so full of the kind of poor thinking and conspiratorial nonsense Atwill and his defenders promote (Paul of Tarsus was Simon Magus– they were the same person! Gnosticism was destroyed by the Roman Catholic Church! OMG!). Coming under constant attack from sophists and “mythicists” when you’re trying to explore actual history is exhausting– so exhausting that I stopped putting myself out there on the subject online. Hope you’re able to avoid the same kind of burn-out.

  62. Thanks Jeremy, I know what you mean all too well! I’ve published on the subject, but people seem more interested in this sort of sensationalism than actually, useful scholarship. Sad, really.

  63. […] 06:22 PM Interesting little blurb I found regarding this: No, Joe Atwill: Rome Did Not Invent Jesus | The Musings of Thomas Verenna "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain." Friedrich von […]

  64. I’m no Bible scholar, or anything scholar. However, I don’t understand why some people took such an affront to you dissecting Atwill’s points, and going so far as to claim that you didn’t really do anything but complain. I could definitely see why you got snippy and condescending (I’m using those words in a literal, definite sense, not with a negative connotation, mind you) because, my word, did they not read? How could I, who has very, very, very little knowledge of what is literally said in the Bible, understand how you criticize Atwill?

    They were numbered!!!! NUMBERED!!! YOU QUOTED AND NUMBERED THEM!!!

    My apologies, but I didn’t quite sense the rage from you that I felt was needed.

    In any case, I was reading snippets of the book and found it interesting. An atheist on my page and his uncle were arguing about it, although the atheist never said Atwill was telling the truth (and that he was interested in Atwill because he wondered how Jesus became such a magical figure). Eventually, the atheist posted a link to this page, and I presume he have moved on.

    Well, thanks for clearing everything up. I did a bit of googling and found Atwill is crap. I shall also move along.

  65. […] in better detail better here, but the fake historical Jesus theories arrive and depart in Internet-rhythm cycles with varying […]

  66. Why is it that people have only recently been saying Jesus wasn’t real? Why did the Greeks go through the trouble of persecuting early Christians if Jesus was made up? Would people really be willing to die for this unless, they knew back then he was real? There’s historical proof for some of the other people mentioned in the new testament, so if Jesus wasn’t real it seems tom that we would have found something by nhere someone explicitly says Jesus wasn’t real. All were getting now is people stretching things with no real facts to support them. Doing simple research proves the claims made in zeitgeist and Caesar’s messiah have no factual support.

  67. I find his theory very interesting and I’ve sent the article (Joe Atwill’s) the my 650 friends. Some were hurt…some agreed. This theory is at least possible, compared to Noah, talking snakes, the moon shinning light or the countless other errors in the Bible. The myth has helped people deal with the unknown but now it clearly hampers advancement as politicians refer to these ignorant sand dwellers for guidance in a modern world. Woman, Gays and other biblical undesirables or “lessers” than MAN are subjugated in the name of Him. Give us a talking snake, a burning bush, a parting of the seas give us one thing…now that we all have video phones…but he works in mysterious ways… He also he gave us 10 rules to live by with 4 asking our obedience to Him. 4…not 1. And He leaves out rape and slavery…why? Could it be, as explained in the Bible, under certain circimstances..it’s ok? The Bible even gives us rules to beat our slaves! I know I know…you’ll whip out 10 different apologies to make this round peg fit any shaped hole one could imagine. Once you take off those goggles…you’ll find this all quite sad and amusing. The hold is fierce, I know. What is the harm…I’ll believe in case. If you’re there your journey to independance has begun, I encourage you to continue.

  68. I find his theory very interesting and I’ve sent the article (Joe Atwill’s) the my 650 friends. Some were hurt…some agreed.

    Then that makes you a gullible person who just got duped into spreading a crappy pseudoscholar’s work around without any critical thought about it. Good job, gullible person. You know, ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary either.

    This theory is at least possible,

    No it isn’t. In fact if this theory is possible then so is…

    …Noah, talking snakes, the moon shinning light or the countless other errors in the Bible.

    Because you seem to think “possible, therefore plausible”. Stop. Doing. That. This pet hypothesis of Atwill’s is just as stupid as any of these conclusions you’ve written that can’t be possible; but it’s worse, because Atwill, who is not a scholar and has no real knowledge of the period, is pretending to be a scholar. So no, this theory is so far beyond possible that to even give it any sort of legitimacy beyond ridicule is akin to giving creationism and the flat earth theorists legitimacy. That is how much it is not possible.

    The myth has helped people deal with the unknown but now it clearly hampers advancement as politicians refer to these ignorant sand dwellers for guidance in a modern world.

    Sorry, but this isn’t a forum for you to spout off against religion. It isn’t a forum for people to spout on about religion either. Take that somewhere else. We’re talking about Atwill here. The next post you write, if it is not directly related to proving to me how Atwill’s theories are remotely possible, will be deleted without a second thought. You’ve been warned.

  69. pksbn,

    People haven’t been “only recently” been saying this. I encourage you to read any of the scholarship from over the last two-hundred years. Atwill’s theory isn’t new–it was first championed by Bruno Bauer a century ago. The problem ism, it was a crappy theory then and its a crappy theory now. The difference is that at least Bauer had the appropriate credibility and credentials to write on the subject. Atwill doesn’t even have that.

    Why did the Greeks go through the trouble of persecuting early Christians if Jesus was made up?

    You’re thinking of the Romans, not the Greeks. And for that question, you’ll want to read Candida Moss’s book The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (HarperOne, 2013).

  70. TO EVERYONE: Please be aware, this is my blog. This thread, about this topic, is not for you to have conversations about your views on how Jesus is awesome or how religion is stupid. If you don’t have anything to offer to this conversation, I have tons of other posts on this blog which you can read and comment on that have something to do with the god/no god debate. This thread isn’t one of them. Let’s keep it clean, civil, and on topic.

  71. […] Joe Atwill: Rome Did Not Invent Jesus Full Article Excerpt to peak interest: No, Joe Atwill: Rome Did Not Invent Jesus Posted on September 25, […]

  72. “I have long suspected that Murdock does not have the education she claims to. I find it incredible that someone with her background could be as incompetent.”

    It is rather incompetent of someone to make personal attacks on an author whose work one has clearly not read. If you are listening to Verenna’s putrid trash about my work, you are doubly incompetent.

    And, yes, my credentials are exactly as I’ve stated.

  73. Ms. Murdock,

    I’m surprised you have had the decency of coming out of your hole by yourself without your countless, feckless minions behind you.

    To your point, I have nothing to do with anyone’s opinion of you. I do not know the person who made that comment but rest assured I have no doubt about your credentials. I just don’t think they mean much in your case.

    Thanks for commenting! Stop by more often.

  74. Verenna, you are just a very jealous, nasty little person who began attacking me with your vile and dishonest remarks long ago. I did not start this trashy business – you did. And you continue this depraved abuse all these years, while I have done my best to ignore you.

    In the meantime, you have not studied my work, and your TRASH about it is just that. So please just quit with your ugly comments. You are the JP Holding of mythicism, Tommy.

  75. That must be it. Thanks for sharing.

  76. I don’t believe Murdock exists.

  77. Ms Murdoch, I’m wondering about your appearance on the thread here considering Tom hasn’t mentioned your work before now, and the post isn’t about your work at all. Are you one that finds promise in Joe Atwill’s work and you feel the need to get defensive? Trying to understand the apparent instant anger.I usually need at least a few comments to get my blood boiling.

  78. To clarify, I mean Tom hasn’t mentioned your work before in this post until your comment. I know Tom has talked about your work in other places, but your commenting here is what I’m curious about.

  79. DM Murdock, on October 11, 2013 at 8:57 pm said:

    Verenna, you are just a very jealous, nasty little person who began attacking me with your vile and dishonest remarks long ago. I did not start this trashy business – you did. And you continue this depraved abuse all these years, while I have done my best to ignore you.

    Your best at ignoring him apparently includes taking the trouble of looking up his site and then posting on it, several times. I think you can do better. Why not start now?

  80. Sorry …. Can I know because my first post was censored? ..

  81. […] these are Robert Price in his review of the 2005 book and Tom Verenna in his updated post that is far from charitable in dealing with Atwill’s […]

  82. Giannino,

    Yes, please read through the comments in this thread and you’ll see why I deleted your posts. Keep it on topic and, if you’re going to defend Atwill, provide more than just sensational claims without supporting evidence. Thanks.

  83. […] James Patrick Holding Ceasar’s Messiah Conspiracy Theory is Easily Refuted – Cris Putnam No, Joe Atwill: Rome Did Not Invent Jesus – Tom Verenna Reviewed by Robert M. Price Atwill’s Cranked-up Jesus – Richard Carrier […]

  84. […] Historian Tom Verenna writes, “No, Joe Atwill: Rome Did Not Invent Jesus“ […]

  85. […] Historian Tom Verenna writes, “No, Joe Atwill: Rome Did Not Invent Jesus“ […]

  86. “Real” scholars like Elaine Pagels from Princeton do publish peer-reviewed analyses and she shows how mainstream religious “historians” are biased and scared to face “real” historical facts on this topic, for example, that modern Christianity is a construct done around the Council of Nicea 325AD. And that modern Christianity defaulted to the more jihadist “orthodox” sect, who defeated militarily the other sects. As to Mr Atwill, I am reading on this topic with an open mind and initially, the typology that you admitted to being real in this angry “take down” is very convincing of some manipulation by authors of gospels. Now if the Nicean construct was manipulation, why wouldn’t the Romans have also had such bright ideas? Your main argument against Atwill is that they weren’t smart enough to have done this but Pagels, a peer- reviewed academic on this topic, proves that this WAS going on at the time.

    “Some hoped to penetrate the various accounts and to discover the “historical Jesus”. . . and that sorting out “authentic” material in the gospels was virtually impossible in the absence of independent evidence.”

    -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University

  87. First, you’re No True Scotsman fallacy is shameful. Anyone with a PhD in a relevant field related to Biblical Studies is a “real scholar”, regardless of their religious affiliations. Some of the best academic work comes from (and has come from), not atheist scholars, but religious theologians who recognize the difference between theological narrative and historical accuracy.

    Second, if you think that Christianity came from the Council of Nicaea, you need to actually read some books about Christian origins. That notion is flat out inaccurate. Besides the fact that we have attestation from second century sources relating to Christianity, our gospel manuscript evidence from the second century buries the notion that Christianity came later (it couldn’t have, since we have Christian source evidence from 200 years prior to the Ecumenical council at Nicaea). The only thing that came out of Nicaea were affirmations of dogmatic elements of the unified Christian church (which became the Catholic church); questions like “was Jesus divine?” or “should we accept the concept of a trinity?” were asked and debated and answered. Some were excommunicated. But the issues at that time were relatively trivial in the grand scheme of Christian origins. Christianity had already been established for generations at that point. This is all very basic 101 stuff that any introduction to the New Testament will give you–I suggest you stop reading Pagels until you have the necessary background to really appreciate what she has to say.

  88. NOTE: I have edited this comment from the original format because this person, John Flanklin, is clearly disturbed and I’ve no use in reposting his whole comment. If he wants to start a wordpress blog, he is welcome to do so. And on that blog he can say whatever it is he wants. On this blog, however, he will not be permitted to post again.

    John Flankin wrote: Can’t take the criticism huh Tom? All you can do is take my second comment out of context and provide some cynical lying deflecting response.

    Tom Responds: No, I just don’t have the time to deal with fanboys who ignore my post(s) and what I’ve already said. If you can’t find the time to actually read what I’ve written, then I don’t have the time to approve your comments.

    John Flankin wrote: I don’t even necessarily believe Atwill and haven’t even read his book but your nasty little piece of shit take down is offensive to me and reminds me why I’ve generally despised most academics in correspondence. They are trite little shits like you.

    Tom Responds: And yet you’ve been spamming my comments thread for three days. It can’t offend you that much, seeing as you spend so much time here. My guess is that you despise academics because they don’t give you the time of day. After reading through some of your rantings here, I can see why that might be the case. You’ve done nothing at all here but complain and carry on and I’ve got better things to do, more important things to do, than moderate your comments.

    Good day.

  89. Tom Verenna, your personal attacks of Atwill are unprofessional and you are soundly dismissed as a pseudo-scholar. I also see where you are verbally abusing and deleting comments here.

  90. Ren,

    Thanks for commenting. No, sorry, but pseudo-scholars are those who speak on subjects with which they have not published nor have they had any formal training. Unlike Mr. Atwill, I am academically published and I have formal training (and continue to receive more formal training). Please take the time to read up on actual definitions of words before attempting to project your insecurities onto me. Thanks.

    As for deleting comments, yes I have absolutely done this. This little piece of the interwebs is my blog and I reserve the right to moderate comments as I see fit. You actually don’t have to come here and read what I’ve written. If you choose to read what I have to say, and then choose to comment under your own volition, it must meet the comment policy I have laid out here. Sometimes I am more lenient on that policy than others (for example, I’ve let your comment through even though it is erroneous and unsupported), but I am not so lenient where I’d allow crazy rantings and complaints here for no reason. If you don’t like that, you are welcome to go and voice your opinions on what I’ve written on your own site or blog. I have left several very clear warnings on this blog and in the comments that I will not allow blind defenses of Mr. Atwill to be posted. Nor would I allow this thread to turn into a debate over the existence of god. I have other blog posts that discuss those issues.

    If you, or anyone else, cannot be counted on to follow a simple guideline for posting comments, I should not have to waste my time engaging them either. It’s a very basic concept that I am sure you’ll have no trouble grasping. If you’d like to comment again, please do so under these guidelines.

    And am I verbally abusive? I tend to think of myself as blunt. After all, if you have some weird obsession or psychosis where you absolutely positively have to comment on my blog to tell me how horrible I am ’cause you can’t stand for someone being wrong on the interwebs, then follow the comment policy and we’ll have no problems. If you can’t be obliged to follow basic etiquette, well then neither can I. This is standard communication skills at play–be nice to me, and I’ll be nice to you. Respect is not freely given, it is earned.

  91. I appreciate this critique of Atwill. I’m shamed to admit that i was almost taken in by his theories at one point. I have done undergraduate work in Religious Studies but am by no means an expert. But even with my limited knowledge it did seem extremely problematic that Atwill has to invert the chronology making the Pauline material come ATER the gospels. And then to explain early persecution of Christians he pretends that the word “Christian” referred also to the violent messianic Jews in the disaspora. So he has to flip the chronology of the NT writings (going against the scholarly consensus) and he has to arbitrarily invoke a kind of terminological equivocation in order to accomodate his theory. Classic retrofitting. Anyway, keep up the good work Tom.

  92. Did Jesus Christ exist?

    Atwill is a computer programmer with zero training in history and no background in the origins of Christianity. And no scholar on the planet takes his kooky theory seriously. Here is a critique by a guy who isn’t even convinced Jesus existed but who c…

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