"Ancient Confession Found: 'We Invented Jesus Christ' "

That’s not the kind of propaganda he’s talking about. He’s transferring modern ideas - psychological warfare against a whole population - back into the past, where the concept just didn’t exist in the way he’s describing. I’m trying to think of a near parallel. The Romans had grand military symbolism, true. Don’t forget about Napoleon either :). But don’t forget, the Romans abandoned most of this symbolism themselves before they fell. The 6th C. army of Heraclitus in the Eastern Roman empire look almost nothing like the 1st C. Marian army of imperial rome. And don’t also forget, most of the time the reformed Roman army fought itself, not foreigners ^^. It was the Republican army that did most of the expansion.

The Hellenistic kingdoms created a kind of patronage reinforcement model among the Greek city states around the eastern Mediterranean, where after doing some “good deed” the grateful citizens of the city would inscribe in stone around some prominent temple their over-generous thanks for the despot’s intervention in their civic life, declaring feasts for him or her in perpetuity, declaring them to be god-like or actually gods, ect. The Roman’s mostly just kicked ass and took names. Before the Principate Roman interests in the Eastern Med were almost personal, extracting wealth for their personal use back in Rome. It seems hard to grok where this idea that Jesus was a plant would even come from in the Roman world, especially when the default Roman solution was LEGION SMASH.

Just taken as an intellectual conjecture, why would any Romans bother to create this very, over-subtle mythology, and not do the same with the Gauls, Carthaginians, Armenians or Britons? And then, who would be able to write such a thing? Presumably, the only possible one would be a Hellenised, pro-Roman Jew like Josephus is here assumed to be? But then who would read it? Most of the populace was probably illiterate; you’re going to conquer a province by ghost-writing a counterrevolutionary book and releasing into the wild? Eh…

Still, I can readily think of two examples which would fit this idea of propaganda.

-Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars.
-Seneca’s role as speechwriter to a young Nero (who later turned on him and forced him to commit suicide).

However, the Atwill theory makes no sense, in that it would require a massive rewriting of history and to ignore some key facts of the period.

Without even bothering to verify why the article in question is probably false or misguided, I can’t get past these two points:

Anyone who sincerely believes in Christianity wouldn’t give this two seconds’ honest consideration.

Those of us who don’t already have plenty of reasons for disbelief (eg miracles, historical inaccuracies, rational arguments against, etc), making any such discovery redundant at best.

This is about as newsworthy as the story of Joseph Smith.

I’m sure if there were a spec of truth to this Mr. Atwill would have met with an untimely “accident” long before taking this public. Way too much money, power and control involved in the Catholic church for them to risk anything that earth shattering to be revealed. The Da Vinci Code may be fiction, but don’t think for a moment that the Vatican doesn’t have some pretty far reaching influence and the money and power to keep it’s dirty secrets from becoming known.

Even if you aren’t a christian, the work in question is by no means redundant, unless your disbelief in christianity is based upon an ignorance of historical fact.

I mean, you can debate whether or not Jesus was a divine being, but you can’t really debate whether or not he actually existed. He was a man, of whom we have historical records.

The same goes for Islam… you can debate whether or not Mohamed was a prophet and ascended to heaven, but you can’t pretend like he didn’t exist.

I once accidentally failed to participate in the US census, but Jesus was so miraculous he managed to participate in a Roman census that didn’t even happen!

But I’m not really invested in whether Jesus actually existed. The validity of the religion isn’t helped by his existence, and its influence certainly doesn’t rely on it. So I still maintain: what’s the point?

If by historical records you mean that there’s a bunch of people who wrote about him decades after the fact, then sure.

It’s an interesting topic though. There seems to be “universal consensus” that he existed, but to me it seems like there is no actual proof. So where does the consensus come from then?

The trouble with many both pro-Jesus and con-Jesus reconstructions of Jesus is that the reconstructors focus on aspects of the Jesus figure which are salient to them for one reason or another. For example, Atwill focusses on the “gentle Jesus meek and mild” idea, but the trouble with that is that you could also quote him as “coming with a sword”.

Other reconstructions focus on him as being a political dissident or agitator, or a magician, or a mystic, etc., etc.

Having been fascinated by this subject, and looked into it a lot, from all sorts of angles, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t think there was a Jesus Christ, that he is indeed an invention, but not a Roman invention, rather a sort of agglomeration probably based on a small, core mystical cult at the beginning (i.e. visions, hallucinations based on poring over LXV - i.e. greek OT - Scripture), that eventually meant all things to all men, which was picked up by the Roman authorities precisely because of that “catholic” nature.

Another way of looking at it might be that “Jesus Christ” was the Jewish version of what happened with other local religions in the Graeco-Roman context - i.e. just as eclectic Roman cults were made of “foreign” gods like Attis, Mithras, etc., so an eclectic Roman cult was made out of the nearest Jewish equivalent to a “god” in that sense, the Messiah.

There may be a historical figure at the root of the myth, but even if there is, it looks like none of the texts we have (NT or near-contemporary stuff) can tell us anything about him, what he did or said, etc., since all the textual stuff we have, when analyzed turns out to be more plausibly based on other sources (OT, other mythology, etc.). e.g. lots of the sayings and doings of “Jesus” look like they’re permutations of other material.

Basically, we have a bunch of scribblings and a religion, and the job of the historian is to explain how they came to be. The hypothesis that it all started with a man called “Jesus” is one hypothesis, which definitely has some prima facie plausibility. But given the nature of the writings when you look at them closely (mainly, their apparently being based on other stuff), it’s not necessarily the clear-cut go-to hypothesis, even if it’s the reason that’s been given traditionally by Christianity.

I think there very likely was a historical, individual person at the heart of the religion, and the reason I believe this are the scriptural gymnastics that the Gospels have to overcome to link Jesus to the House of David in the Christmas stories.

See, Jesus is from Nazareth, a Podunk region somewhere in the ass-end of the Levant. That’s fine and dandy, but in order to make his the Messiah a mess of prophets say he has to be related to King David, and David’s clan all live waaaaaay to the south near cosmopolitan Jerusalem… and plus, Micah said that the Big Guy would come from Bethlehem. So the Nativity story has to invent all sorts of silly things to get a Nazarene to be born 150 miles away from where he grew up in a time when few people traveled more than 10 mikes from their birth-places: a Roman census of a kingdom the Romans didn’t tax; the ludicrous idea that rather than counting people where they lived (which might have been useful to the Romans after Herod died) the census required men to travel to where their distant ancestors were born instead; and the idea that a carpenter would drag his nine-months-pregnant wife on a cross-country trip when only the men were being counted in this fictitious census.

So the whole thing is silly to begin with, and a fairly transparent effort to tie a popular, back-woods preacher to the Old Testament prophesies. BUT, if some conspiracy were familiar enough with Hebrew prophesies to create a Messiah out of whole cloth, why not just invent him as coming from Bethlehem or Jerusalem in the first place? The logical conclusion is that Jesus of Nazareth was a real guy whose origins were familiar enough to the contemporary folks that they would need some explanation as to how a hillbilly was related to a long-dead king.

There’s no “point” besides the fact that it’s historical fact, agreed upon by historical scholars.

Not sure about this one, it could end up on the shelf next to the Lizard Men, but it might be interesting to find out more:

I don’t know if I’d go quite as far as ‘historical fact’—and I say that as a Christian who accepts the historiocity of Jesus—but denying the existence of a historical Jesus is definitely well outside the mainstream as far as classicists and classical historians go. BartEhrman talks a little bit about it.

It seems likely that there was a Jesus that preached he was the son of god, since that claim seems so outside of the Jewish prophetic tradition, and it’s likely he did cause a disturbance at the Temple, since that appears what he was executed for.

There is much of the story that doesn’t make sense. John the Baptist seems like an appropriation of a possibly more famous contemporary figure (I think John is mentioned by Josephus). Why does Jesus let himself be baptized by John, John accepting his divinity, then goes off and does other things? It’s seems like maybe Jesus was baptized early on but his later followers couldn’t allow John the authority over Jesus and changed some of the story to reflect their take on events.

It’s likely much of the strangeness of Jesus’s story was due to addressing contemporary concerns whose context was completely obliterated after the Romans sacked Jerusalem and scattered the Jewish people. Jesus’s life and times were within 75 years part of a lost and increasingly mythical past with few direct living witnesses. Into that void of cultural history Christianity could adopt the Jewish religion, adapt it, and spread beyond Jewish populations.

All IMO obviously.

I wouldn’t (personally) call it really outside of the Jewish prophetic tradition that much, since many of the prophets weren’t exactly loved, and were in fact murdered, but I’d definitely say it wasn’t what most expected or wanted. For example, Isaiah 66 especially 18-24 would have most likely enraged the Jews for a variety of reasons, but one that is often missed is the use of the term worship. John 4:20-24 correlates with this. Although most of Christianity gets it wrong, there was a large message that basically involved removing a time and place for worship and making it be a 24/7 deal. Yet Christianity for the most part seems to have stuck with the notion of “going to worship on X day of the week.”

I have been met with some hostility when I have pointed out that Abraham worshiped more than God, and that people worshiped Abraham. This comes from a misunderstanding of the various words (shachah, kadad, kara, sagad, etc.) and the concept of submission. The Jews were changing submission into tradition every chance they could, and they understood what various prophets were saying. Modern day Christianity, as I said above, doesn’t seem to understand the significance, but the end result is kind of the same.

But that is just my 2 cents.

EDIT: Oops, I think I just realized what Enidigm was saying. Nvm then!

Some of you guys are still thinking of the NT as historical testimony of some sort. But the point of some of the research that’s getting into what’s called “mythicism” (as opposed to the “historicism” of the traditional approach) is that the more you look at it, there doesn’t seem to be any historical testimony in the NT at all, that it’s all culled, cribbed, transmogrified (something called “midrash”) from other sources. That includes both the sayings and the doings of the character. (Hence the title of one of the most cogent mythicist books of recent times: The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man.)

It’s a bit like this: suppose a thousand years from now future archaeologists unearth a Spiderman comic. It sure mentions real things otherwise historically known to be true, like streets in New York, it also mentions a few historical people here and there, like presidents of the US. Does that mean it contains history? Even if you could say there was some real person who inspired Ditko and Kirby (maybe a fitness fanatic geek with a fondness for spiders and a particular ineptitude keeping his girlfriends happy, say), in order for it to be possible to say of the Spiderman stories that some of the quotidian (non-superheroic) elements of the story were based on the doings of that real person (e.g. some of his misadventures with his girlfriends), that real person would have to be independently identified and verified first. And that kind of triangulation is precisely what we don’t have. There is absolutely no external (non-cultic) contemporary evidence for Jesus, apart from two highly dubious and debated passages in Josephus.

The trouble with the Jesus Christ story is that it’s actually like most other mythological beings, even in terms of the detail. But scholars have deduced that it’s highly likely that all the gospels are derived from GMark, so actually there’s only one original story that’s embellished and theologically reworked in the other gospels, and that first written down story is usually tentatively dated (even by orthodox scholars) as 70 CE, i.e. shortly post-Diaspora. On the other hand, with the (genuine - some have been known to be fakes for a long time) Pauline Epistles, it’s notoriously the case that these earliest of all the Christian texts available to us, seem to be totally unconcerned with any earthly doings, apart from a sketchy “died, buried, resurrected” - even with sayings, there are only a few echoes of the later gospels. And Paul’s relationship with Jesus is purely spiritual, his Jesus being a spiritual entity he sees in visions.

Like other mythological beings, Jesus is a kind of a Jewish superhero figure. That’s what “the Messiah” was to the Jews, a prophesied superhero type of character who’d biff the Romans on the nose and put the Jews on top; only as Atwill poits out, the values are revalued in the Jesus Christ figure. He’s more of a spiritual Messiah, whose victory is over death, is spiritual in the first instance, and only in the hoped-for “second coming” actually material and semi-military.

But if other mythological beings can have detailed biographies with superpowers and all the rest of it, and not exist, why not Jesus? And in fact, when you look at the gospels and their development objectively, it reminds you of nothing so much as the continuous “retconning” done in comic books. It doesn’t look like they’re dealing reverently with actual history, but with a myth each editor thinks he has the “real” version of, and everyone else is “wrong on the Internet” about.

I’m not particularly enthused about arguing about whether Jesus as an actual person did or did not exist, because the lack of direct evidence makes such debates by their nature unresolvable.

But i do think it’s somewhat misguided to dismiss ancient literary figures like Jesus out of hand for two reasons, and this is imo of course; the ancients just lacked the imagination to invent things from whole cloth like we do today, and the “heroic” factor of personal genius changing history at the moment of right circumstance has been decisive in world events. It was clear that Israel was in a state of near insurrection and religious foment, in a way the first in Western history, when the figure of Jesus arrived, where instead of syncretic, city-state, officially supported gods, without written liturgy and whose attributes stretched back only into living memory and slowly changed over the centuries, there had developed this enormous canon of written literature, accessible to everyone, encouraging the populace to reject the authority of the state if the state rejected the national religion rather than the national god. Nothing like this had happened before - it was perhaps similar to philosophic idealism of Classical Greece but founded on faith and not on reason. It seemed like Jewish sects were springing everywhere, rejecting the authority of the centralized Temple, and itenerant preachers going out into the populace preaching and prophesying. It wasn’t like Jesus just popped out of the air into Athens one day and started going on about this god that no one had heard of and talking about kingdoms in the air to a bunch of cynical, materialistic philosophers; Israel was ripe territory for innovative religious ideas. And instead of running off into the desert, carrying all sorts of scrolls of prophecy and arguing about which calendar the ceremonies should be set to, it’s certainly plausible to see a figure like Jesus preaching new things, that “he” was the messiah, and not only that, but that he was a god, and that the whole money-grubbing Temple and the priests that ran it were disobeying their religion; because such a thing was probably so shocking and unexpected that followers inevitably sprang up around him and transmitted the shock to a new generation. Scientology isn’t an inevitable historic collusion or end point between modernity and religion, after all.

But it’s also likely only through a pure fluke of history that Jesus worship survived at all. It probably should have remained as a minor sect in Judea until the Jesus followers got bored of waiting for him to return and went off and did other things. But then the Romans destroyed Judea, destroyed the Temple and many (most) of the religions major figures, and sent the survivors fleeing. Suddenly the handful of emendations to the faith such as allowing non-Jews into the club became crucial for the cult’s survival. And what a cult! Christianity must have been the ultimate mystery cult. Followers of Isis or Mitra has some secret handshake mumbo-jumbo at the bottom of a sewer. Christianity carried away a thousand year old religion with hundreds of years old books, and soon came up with writings of its own to add to the pile.

Romulus and Remus say hi.

That’s just founder myth stuff which was apparently more important in the days of city states than we understand today. From what I understand every Greco roman city had a founder myth more or less. There’s obviously some allegorical content about the nature of Rome that Rome wants to portray.

I’m sure that there were a bunch of guys named ‘Jesus’ or Yeshua or the like. But there is no, zero, zilch historical PROOF that a guy by that name ever called himself the son of god. That all came hundreds of years later. And if you don’t understand that you’re just pounding sand.

That’s antiquity for you.