Continued from Part 1
By Alan Mercer
Joseph Atwill: Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus
Flavian Signature Edition
Websites: www.CaesarsMessiah.com and www.postflaviana.org
The Basic Idea
Summarizing Atwill’s thesis, the Sicarii or Jewish Zealots were waging a rebellion against Rome, and Rome created a version of events that portrayed them as criminals. The works of Flavius Josephus, who was adopted into the Flavian imperial family, present this portrayal explicitly, and the four gospels do this covertly.
The Flavian dynasty, Vespasian and his two sons, Titus and Domitian, took over from Nero and ruled from 69 to 96 AD. As with other Roman emperors, they wanted to be seen as gods. To get the Jews to accept the Emperor as a god was impossible, so the idea was to trick them into a new form of Judaism in which they would unknowingly submit to him. Vespasian became the Father, Titus was the Son, and his military campaign in Palestine paralleled the ministry of Jesus. In my opinion, I think this was the intent, but from what I remember of statements attributed to Paul, possibly Christianity was directed more towards non-Jews as time went on.
Atwill argues that the gospel accounts substitute a pacifistic version of Judaism onto the actual leadership of the militant Messianic rebel movement, thus obscuring their real identities, attitudes and activities.
I think it is a simple enough point to argue that Jesus is the opposite of a militant rebel Messiah. When asked if they should pay tribute or taxes to Caesar, he gives his famous answer in Matthew 15:15-22: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A15-22&version=KJV:
Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
Jesus’ parents are portrayed as paying taxes to Rome in Luke 2:1-5: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+2%3A1-5&version=KJV:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. . . .
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, . . . unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; . . . To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, . . .
One of the disciples was Matthew, who was a publican or tax collector (Matthew 10:3: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+10:3&version=KJV).
Here are more of the “turn the other cheek” teachings of Jesus that are very problematic from my point of view. Matthew 5:38-40: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+5%3A38-40&version=KJV:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
The quote above about “resist not evil” is especially disturbing to those of us who realize how much evil is being perpetrated in this world. Thankfully it seems that many Christians must not have been following this verse literally at different stages of history, or else Christian-directed societies wouldn’t have anything left at all at this stage–this stage being the pits.
Related to this, the Lord’s Prayer (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+6%3A9-13&version=KJV) was removed from public schools in Ontario, Canada years ago, because it was seen as such a terrible thing apparently for children to be reciting phrases like “deliver us from evil.” They, whoever “they” is, felt very offended! Thankfully the world is so bloody enlightened and wonderful now as the “good” people take charge over everything.
The “prophecies” of Jesus about the destruction of Jerusalem
Another evident point that can be made is the series of “prophecies” that Jesus made about the coming of the “Son of Man” and the destruction of Jerusalem. See Matthew 24: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2024&version=KJV, Mark 13: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+13&version=KJV and Luke 21: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+21&version=KJV.
For example, Luke 21:20:
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
Christians have interpreted these passages as a supernatural prophecy that came true 40 years later with the military campaign of Titus Flavius, and many others in modern times believe they mainly prophecy end-time events that haven’t happened yet (as I used to believe).
However, the more logical explanation is that these passages were created to match the version of history written by Josephus in his works.
Also, Jesus refers to the Book of Daniel and the “abomination of desolation” in these prophecies. See Matthew 24:15
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) . . .
Atwill argues that Josephus lines up the time frame used in the prophecy in Daniel 9 to match the supposed period of Jesus’ ministry in the gospels and the historical events forty years later recounted in Josephus’ Wars of the Jews. See Daniel 9:24-27: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=daniel+9%3A24-27&version=KJV:
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
Even though I’m impressed by the parallels Atwill presents (and I’m planning to give some examples), it’s not the point to blindly argue on behalf of his theory, so I don’t mind pointing out various questions I have about it or gaps that need explanation. One thing that comes up in my mind about the “abomination of desolation”, and I think there are other examples like this, is that if Josephus is using this to portray the activities of the Roman general Titus as a fulfillment of the prophecy, he is portraying him as both a Messiah sent by God to punish the Jews and also as a bad guy who defiles the Temple. Maybe Josephus and Titus didn’t care about this apparent contradiction as they were interested in making a psychological warfare impression rather than winning a popularity contest.