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Geezer

Caesar's Messiah-Book Review

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Geezer    2,005

Was there ever an earthly Jesus? That is a question that scholars have debated for eons. No Incontrovertible evidence has yet to be found that answers that question one way or the other. However, no verifiable evidence has been found that conclusively proves a person known as Jesus of Nazareth ever existed either. Outside the Gospels it appears no one ever heard of or met this man known as Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Joseph Atwill, a lawyer by profession, believes he has uncovered how this person known as Jesus of Nazareth came to be and has written a book that explains his theory in great detail. It seems clear the author has invested years studying and researching his theory. I started another topic about this subject before I knew this book existed. My initial thoughts about this book and the authors theory were based on a number of reviews I read mostly by well known historical scholars that ripped the author and his theory to shreds. I'd already bought the book and considered not even wasting my time reading it, but my curiosity got the best of me.

 

I haven't finished the book but I've read a good portion of it, certainly enough to form an opinion. I'm now wondering if these "historians" even bothered to read the book or simply dismissed it out of hand as being based on an absurd theory concocted by an amateur wannabe historian with too much time on his hands. On the face of it the authors theory, at first glance, does seem to be kind of way out there and sort of grasping for straws.

 

After reading much of the book I'm convinced the author's theory is plausible, and certainly not as outlandish as I once believed. However, the Achilles heel in his argument may be the dating of the gospel. Apologist tend to date the gospel from AD 50-90 primarily because that seems to assist in authenticating them as accurate accounts of the exploits of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. Historians, on the other hand, tend to date the NT writing much later, in some cases dating them into the second century. The difficulty in accurately dating these writing is obvious so it will likely never be known for certain when they were written.

 

In order for Atwill's theory to be possible the gospel would have to have been written sometime after AD 70 and falsely dated much earlier than that or his theory falls apart. Basically, this is Atwill's theory. His research has led him to believe that the gospel was written by Josephus, a Jew, who had turned his back on his fellow Jews and become part of Caesar's family and inner circle. That much is validated by historians. In order for the gospel to be accepted it had to have been written by someone who knew Judaism inside and out, in other words a Jew. Additionally, there are creditable historians that believe Josephus is the actual author of the gospel of Luke. So Atwill's thinking isn't without some support in the academic community.

 

Atwill's believes the gospel was written as sarcasm and was intended to mock the Jews, their religion, and their expectation of a coming Messiah. Many Messiah's had already come and died at the hands of the Romans during this time. Remember Flavius Josephus loyalties were now with the Romans and the Flavius family & Roman Emperors  since he was now a member of the Flavius household. Atwill presents his case that the clues are found in Josephus book Wars of the Jews. Josephus created the character Jesus who is actually Flavius Titus, a Roman Emperor, and God was really Titus father Vespasian. The intended joke, Josephus was playing on the Jews, was that the Jews would actually be worshiping a Roman Emperor as God if they bought into his Jesus the Messiah the Son of God scenario he created in the gospel.

 

Each conflict and battle against the Jews lead by Flavius Titus was rewritten by Josephus in the form of typology and inserted into the gospel with Jesus as the main character, but the real main character was Titus in the actual event. Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple, and that came to pass because it had already happened when Josephus wrote Jesus prediction into the gospel. Every sub story and character found in the gospel Atwill has found and identified, what he believes was the the original event involving Flavius Titus not Jesus, in his recording of Wars of the Jews.

 

Atwill's interpretation of these original Roman events, that were rewritten and placed in the gospels with Jesus as the star character, is far to complex for me to give adequate examples. The book would have to be read to get an clearer understanding of his theory as well as to examine the stories origins as well as how these events and characters have been rewritten into the gospel.

 

I have no idea if Atwill's theory is accurate or a fantasy he created and has convinced himself that he stumbled on the hidden truth of the gospel, but he writes an interesting if not compelling book with a theory that seems plausible. If you like religious history then I think you would find this book interesting.

 

 

 

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hockeyfan70    242

Interesting. I might have to get this book. I think Richard Carrier has done some interesting research as well. I'm about 60 percent Jesus is a myth/ 40 percent he wasn't right now.

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I've never heard of the book, so I don't know anything about it beyond what you've written here. I also had never heard anyone ever suggest that Josephus may have written Luke.

 

Anyway, it would seem to me that in order for this theory to have any credibility, Luke would've had to have been the first gospel written. To the best of my knowledge, scholars are pretty unanimous in saying that Mark predates Luke, and from what I can tell, they have very good reason to conclude that, since it seems pretty clear that Matthew and Luke both copied portions of their gospels from Mark. (I use the names loosely here, fully recognizing that nobody knows exactly who wrote the gospels.)

 

That alone seems to me to blow a huge hole in the theory. Even so, that clearly doesn't mean that the gospels are necessarily based on a real person. The jury's still out on that, as far as I can see.

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Geezer    2,005

I've just about finished the book. Atwill's theory is so complex I've had to read some of his theory multiple times to understand the connections he's making. Some of his theory seems plausible and some of it, like the women going to Jesus grave only to find it empty, was one of the parts of his theory I had to read multiple times to see the picture he's painting & even then it was still murky. 

 

Arwill has invested years researching Josephus & Roman history to develope his theory, so this isn't a frivolous effort. I've found most of his theory to be at least plausible. The gospel story, there was only one originally, was created by someone, almost certainly a Jew, but for what purpose? Atwill's theory answers that question. 

 

Christians oviously believe the gospel story reflects an actual historical event but, so far anyway, no verifiable evidence has been found to support that theory. Likewise there is no valid evidence that a man identified as Jesus of Nazareth ever existed in the flesh either. 

 

The existing evidence strongly suggest the gospel story was written in the literary form known as typology aka Jewish mid-rash, in other words OT stories & characters were used to create a new story with new characters. This was & still is a common Jewish tradition. Moses became Jesus in the newly created Jesus story. Moses brought his people out of Egypt, Jesus came out of Egypt. Moses wandered in the desert 40 years, Jesus wandered in the desert 40 days, both Moses & Jesus faced three challenges. They numerous examples of typology in the gospel story is easily identified & found throughout the gospel story & this is also the basis of Atwill's theory.

 

Recognized scholars like Dr. Robert M. Price is one of a growing list of scholars that are convinced Jesus was a literary figure not a real person. The idea that Jesus wasn't a real person isn't new many scholars came to that conclusion hundreds of years ago, but that view remains a minority mostly for social reasons rather than academic ones. 

 

I've explored this theory that Jesus wasn't a real person enough to convince me the gospel story is fiction & so are the characters in it. Atwill's theory is obviously controversial & his theory may be proven to be wrong based on evidence that blows holes in his conclusions, but his theory is still an interesting read. 

 

 

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Geezer    2,005
13 hours ago, Citsonga said:

I've never heard of the book, so I don't know anything about it beyond what you've written here. I also had never heard anyone ever suggest that Josephus may have written Luke.

 

Anyway, it would seem to me that in order for this theory to have any credibility, Luke would've had to have been the first gospel written. To the best of my knowledge, scholars are pretty unanimous in saying that Mark predates Luke, and from what I can tell, they have very good reason to conclude that, since it seems pretty clear that Matthew and Luke both copied portions of their gospels from Mark. (I use the names loosely here, fully recognizing that nobody knows exactly who wrote the gospels.)

 

That alone seems to me to blow a huge hole in the theory. Even so, that clearly doesn't mean that the gospels are necessarily based on a real person. The jury's still out on that, as far as I can see.

 

If historians are correct the Q gospel was the original gospel but that was lost in antiquity. The unedited version of Mark is thought to be copied from Q or at least Q was the source for Mark. The original version of Mark may be an edited version of Q. In any event Mark didn't have a virgin birth element or a resurrection event. Those events were added later. 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Geezer said:

 

If historians are correct the Q gospel was the original gospel but that was lost in antiquity. The unedited version of Mark is thought to be copied from Q or at least Q was the source for Mark. The original version of Mark may be an edited version of Q. In any event Mark didn't have a virgin birth element or a resurrection event. Those events were added later. 

 

Right, and both the hypothetical Q and Mark would predate Luke. That seems to be a very serious problem with Atwill's theory, from what I can tell from your review. How can Josephus have written Luke as the original story if Luke is based on prior versions of the story?

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Geezer    2,005
2 minutes ago, Citsonga said:

 

Right, and both the hypothetical Q and Mark would predate Luke. That seems to be a very serious problem with Atwill's theory, from what I can tell from your review. How can Josephus have written Luke as the original story if Luke is based on prior versions of the story?

 

Yeah that bothers me too. I'm not defending Atwill's theory but I admit it intrigues me. Some of his theory is believable and some of it not so much. As I see it for Atwill's theory to be anywhere near correct the four gospels had to have been written much later than AD70, which is much later than most historians date them. 

 

I think most historians agree that the three gospels were edited & redacted versions of Mark & Mark was also edited & parts rewritten. Assuming Q existed then none of the 4 gospels are original writings. The big question that Atwill's book has put in my mind is why was the original gospel written in the first place; that assume there was no actual historical events being written about. 

 

It is possible, maybe even likely, some event or events took place & that inspired someone to write a fictional version of those events & some of the people involved in them. The author created the Jesus character & to add to his story threw in some miracles & killed off Jesus & then brought him back to life. The basic gospel story was rather common & it has been found in many other cultures. Dying & rising Godmen stories were pretty common. 

 

The nature of the gospel story indicates it must have been written by a Jew, but why?

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Storm    616
3 hours ago, Geezer said:

Atwill has invested years researching Josephus & Roman history to develop his theory, so this isn't a frivolous effort. I've found most of his theory to be at least plausible. The gospel story, there was only one originally, was created by someone, almost certainly a Jew, but for what purpose? Atwill's theory answers that question. 

 

Christians oviously believe the gospel story reflects an actual historical event but, so far anyway, no verifiable evidence has been found to support that theory. Likewise there is no valid evidence that a man identified as Jesus of Nazareth ever existed in the flesh either. 

 

The existing evidence strongly suggest the gospel story was written in the literary form known as typology aka Jewish mid-rash, in other words OT stories & characters were used to create a new story with new characters. This was & still is a common Jewish tradition. Moses became Jesus in the newly created Jesus story. Moses brought his people out of Egypt, Jesus came out of Egypt. Moses wandered in the desert 40 years, Jesus wandered in the desert 40 days, both Moses & Jesus faced three challenges. They numerous examples of typology in the gospel story is easily identified & found throughout the gospel story & this is also the basis of Atwill's theory.

 

This was pointed out in the link I sent you in the other thread, but I wanted to touch on it here. There wasn't only one gospel as far as I know. It is my understanding that there were many gospels circulating the christian world leading up to the canonization of the bible. This was up to centuries after Jesus' life. If it was in fact conspired by the Romans, why so many gospels? What is the purpose of muddying the waters with so many different views if there is a purpose in creating the Jesus the Romans wanted?

 

Then there is the question of whether what we have today in some of the biblical new testament books is only a result of the influence of Marcion and his followers and the competition for followers. This seems to be a serious topic for discussion, at least based on what I understand of some of the background as to how we got the bible we have today. As I understand it, he was heavily influential in the gospel story in the bible, due to his belief in Paul as the primary source of Christianity and Marcion's gospel, which is considered by some scholars to be a possible source for Luke's gospel, potentially throws a wrench in the theory as well. .

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Geezer    2,005

All valid points Storm. I think Q is considered the original, & Mark is assumed to reflect the Q story, & the other 3 gospels were edited versions of Mark. BUT, just to complicate matters, the names Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John had not been attached to those stories. That wouldn't happen until much later. And John appears to be Gnostic so that would seem to eliminate Roman influence altogether. 

 

The numerous other gospels you mentioned presumably came sometime after Q & the four versions of Q. Atwill seems to assume the 4 gospels were written by Josephus or at least edited or rewritten by him but that doesn't seem possible. Atwill's basic premise seems to be that the Jews refused to be assimilated into the Roman culture & this was unusual for a Conquered  culture. Rome would normally adopt the religion of their conquered subjects & incorporate it into the many Roman religions, but the Jews refused to accept the other Roman deities & that was the crux of the problem for Rome. 

 

Atwill's theory is that Josephus was attempting to trick the Jews into worshipping Caesar as their God by either creating or rewriting the gospel story, but the closer that theory is examined the less likely it becomes. I noted early on that the time line for Atwill's theory was a big problem & the belief he wrote all 4 gospels is an even bigger problem.

 

But His theory has got me wondering who wrote Q & why? 

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Storm    616
7 minutes ago, Geezer said:

All valid points Storm. I think Q is considered the original, & Mark is assumed to reflect the Q story, & the other 3 gospels were edited versions of Mark. BUT, just to complicate matters, the names Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John had not been attached to those stories. That wouldn't happen until much later. And John appears to be Gnostic so that would seem to eliminate Roman influence altogether. 

 

The numerous other gospels you mentioned presumably came sometime after Q & the four versions of Q. Atwill seems to assume the 4 gospels were written by Josephus or at least edited or rewritten by him but that doesn't seem possible. Atwill's basic premise seems to be that the Jews refused to be assimilated into the Roman culture & this was unusual for a Conquered  culture. Rome would normally adopt the religion of their conquered subjects & incorporate it into the many Roman religions, but the Jews refused to accept the other Roman deities & that was the crux of the problem for Rome. 

 

Atwill's theory is that Josephus was attempting to trick the Jews into worshipping Caesar as their God by either creating or rewriting the gospel story, but the closer that theory is examined the less likely it becomes. I noted early on that the time line for Atwill's theory was a big problem & the belief he wrote all 4 gospels is an even bigger problem.

 

But His theory has got me wondering who wrote Q & why? 

Just as there is controversy in the Jesus Myth topic, there appears to be equal controversy in the possibility of a Q. I remember listening to a lecture by Richard Carrier (I believe, although it may have been Ehrman) who essentially indicated that it appears that scholars are starting to move away from the Q theory. There are some legitimate questions that shed a negative light on its possibility. I wonder if this would hurt Atwill's theory even more.

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Geezer    2,005

Scholars are definitely not lacking for theories. :D

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Regarding Q, there doesn't seem to be a singular view on what it was, but the way I first heard it described was that Q was believed to have been a collection of sayings of Jesus without narrative, and I didn't take it to have been meant as a source for Mark. Rather, it was presented as a likely separate source in addition to Mark that was used by the authors of Matthew and Luke. That would explain why, when Matthew and Luke add common stories that they didn't get from Mark, their supplied narratives are often highly contradictory (much more so than in stories they copied almost verbatim from Mark). In that view, it would seem to be up in the air whether or not Q (if it even existed) predates Mark.

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Geezer    2,005

 Well, I finished the book & the way he lays out his theory & connects it to Josephus writings is impressive & believable. His theory sounds great until it's analyzed & fact checked. He believes the 4 gospels were written between AD 71-79 & all the other gospels were created sometime after that.

 

I really like his theory & it was an interesting read even if it was fatally flawed. :beer:

 

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L.B.    233

Fascinating that there are theories about theories about HOW these stories could POSSIBLY be true, but there seems to be no possibility of real evidence that the stories themselves are true.

 

See what I mean? People argue over theories about HOW the stories came to be, and where they were plagiarized from, etc - and there still doesn't seem to be a shred of evidence that the stories were anything but fictional from the beginning.

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hockeyfan70    242

I heard David Fitzgerald talk about Atwill. He does not have good things to say about him. David Fitzgerald is a mythicist as well but he, Carrier, and Price seem to be the unholy trinity of scholarship where the jesus myth is concerned.

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I was just watching a video that LogicalFallacy posted in another thread, and in that video Richard Carrier calls Caesar's Messiah "crank" and says he thinks Atwill is "genuinely insane." You can listen to that little exchange in the video below. It should start right at the exchange about Atwill, but if not, then just jump ahead to 1:55:35.

 

 

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Geezer    2,005

I watched the entire video & enjoyed it.  Lots of good information I it. 

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