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
Part 1: Personal Background and Interest in the Bible
Before getting into Atwill’s thesis, that the Flavian emperors wrote the gospels, and that we can see this from the parallels between the military events described in Josephus and the ministry of Jesus, which I found very convincing, I want to discuss my personal background and interest in the Bible and religion and provide some context and other research about the reasons why people like myself have problems with the Bible.
As far as my background interest in Christianity and the Bible, when I was in my 20s, I managed to free my mind, with a lot of help, from a more authoritarian version of Christianity (or “cult”) called the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), founded by Herbert W. Armstrong.
Part of how I escaped the mental trap of the WCG’s doctrines was through the official reforms of its own leadership. For example, the Church’s internal newsletter, The Worldwide News, during the early 1990’s, systematically dismantled old doctrines. In retrospect, much of this was essential for me because the reformers under Joseph Tkach Sr.’s leadership, as long as I actually did the work of reading what they had to say, did a very thorough job of demolishing old doctrines and helping me to clarify my thoughts and beliefs, even with whatever errors they still had. See http://herbert-armstrong.org/indexWWN1987-95.html.
The other, unofficial road to mental freedom was the ability to read, via the Internet, dissident literature that attacked the abuses and hypocrisy of Armstrong and the Church hierarchy. That provided a more honest picture of the abusive teachings and behavior that had taken place and also helped to keep me away from new splinter groups who were successful in using the older Armstrong-based teachings to attract many Church members who were unhappy with the reforms.
Major unofficial criticism of the Church back then included the online book Daughter of Babylon, the True History of the Worldwide Church of God by Bruce Renehan. See http://www.hwarmstrong.com/wwcg.htm. Pdf: http://www.hwarmstrong.com/daughter-of-babylon.pdf.
A very important unofficial source of documentation is John Trechak’s Ambassador Report. People who are interested in cults and the religious and cultural history surrounding Pasadena, California should find this journal very interesting. See http://www.hwarmstrong.com/ar/index.htm. Pdf: http://www.hwarmstrong.com/ambassador-report.pdf.
As I broke away from the old unorthodox doctrines, I was also exposed to literature that questioned the Bible and Christianity generally. This learning phase was disturbing and exciting at the same time because of the feeling of freedom and the ability to escape the contradictions in my perpetually conflicted mind. In retrospect, I wish I had learned as much as possible earlier in life instead of short-circuiting the learning process and jumping prematurely into a commitment to this belief system. Some of my early articles explain the appeal of the Church’s teachings. See http://www.whatistrue.com/cults_religion.html.
Atwill’s book is about the New Testament, but one example of Old Testament criticism that made it impossible for me to accept the Bible as the Word of God was the story of Moses insisting on the slaughter of women and children. The Israelites had come back without doing this, and he was angry with them:
Numbers 31:14-18 King James Version
14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.
15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
I had accepted passages like this, under earlier mind control–which includes self-deception–because I had accepted and committed to the idea that the Bible was the Word of God. However, when I started to allow myself to use reason and to see the contradictions that are visible when applying my own sense of morality (which I believe tends to be more or less innate and objective in some sense-or natural or God-given), then I am able to make judgments about the behavior of the characters in the Bible (or to allow these judgments to come to the front of my mind and cause actual decisions that have been postponed for a long time – that might be a more accurate way of putting it). In this example of many, the characters referred to as God and Moses were causing human beings to violate my own sense of morality. Regardless of where this sense of morality comes from (from the New Testament or human reason or human nature or God), there is a contradiction.
The Bible, in other words, once I could reach this step, was no longer something I could rely on as an authority, as “the Word of God”, or as something that contained consistently higher values.
A lot of the self-deception could be considered as making up my mind before getting all the facts. Instead, I willfully and lazily decided–and out of fear about the end of the world also–when I was younger that I had found the Book that had all the answers along with the “True” Church with all the correct and most fascinating interpretations of that Book.
By the way, you’ll notice that “atheists” or whatever they are haven’t taken over with their Brave New World completely yet and a lot of free literature is still put out by religious organizations, much of it put out by unorthodox churches or cults. Part of the wider picture is that the Bible had been heavily promoted in our society even though some of us noticed that our families (“nominal” Church-going Christians or as Christian as anyone?) didn’t really encourage us to read it–because I think they often knew we would end up very confused.
There were aspects of the New Testament that I started to question. I started to question many of the teachings of Jesus about being so compliant with others that we turn over our cloaks and “turn the other cheek” and that we should be condemned for being angry or being interested in women. See https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5%3A38-40&version=KJV https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205:21-23&version=KJV
There is a moderate sense in which these verses can be interpreted, and some good teachings about anger, etc. can be extracted, but on their face, all of these things seem to exclude behaviors that allow us to build families, stand up for ourselves and our society against those who undermine, dominate and exploit us. They seem to oppose a natural sense of balance and the promotion of life. So it seems that even pro-family orthodox Church teachings contradict many of the teachings of Jesus, because the teachings of Jesus seem to teach super-human, other-worldly and passive obedience and compliance which I believe that Christians have been explaining away for a long time, which they have had to do in order to build their societies historically. On the other hand, I don’t reject the pro-family teachings of Christianity, and the general causative idea of a personal God and creation, and I can’t reject Christian ideas about the importance of the individual and the importance of mercy and looking after the sick. This means that I have to be selective. I have to pick and choose and use my reason to accept and reject what makes sense and what doesn’t.
At this point, I am not going to get into the other, heretical and New Age forms of Christianity that have been infiltrating us for a long time with the “health, wealth and prosperity” gospel, the government and pharma-compliant, ultra-passive “positive thinking”, population reduction, “end of the world”, earth worship forms of Christianity, except my mention of the Brave New World global religion that is being created, and except to mention that a few of these teachings to some degree are spread by churches like the old WCG, but also by many other Christians, mainstream or otherwise.
However, these teachings of Jesus about compliance towards authority point to the motivation for the Roman creation of the gospels what Atwill is alleging in his book on the origins of Christianity.
Books that opened my eyes to problems with the Bible:
A big subject for me personally was the moral problem with the doctrine of hell. There is a book I studied called Four Views on Hell by William Crockett. I believed in the annihilationist view, but the book is eye-opening because it shows that Christianity has four major contradictory views on the topic–using the same Bible supposedly. I believed an argument could be made that there was something wrong with eternal punishment and torture for mortal sins. I thought that annihilationism had been a good doctrine held by the old WCG, which had made it appealing to me when I adopted the WCG’s teachings. I could not accept the more orthodox traditional ideas about hell and I had a problem with accepting standard Protestant teachings about this subject, which the reformers were slowly cozying up to. When I learned about the other problems with the Bible, I was relieved to not have to worry about this topic in the sense of theological speculation and institutional fear generation. Life after death, if there is such a thing, and maybe there is, becomes more of a practical issue of one-way personal experience! If a person feels afraid because of the suffering they caused others in this life, and what they might face after death, maybe a certain amount of that is healthy and natural as a corrective to help people live better lives in this world and do something about the problems in this world. I don’t want to take that away from anyone who feels that way, but I don’t want to be holding morally unacceptable, unjust and contradictory views in my head about God.
Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason. This book brought out problems with the Bible such as the passage I mentioned above about Moses. See http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/paine/aor/aor22.htm. Paine’s writings were very stimulating, although I don’t agree with all of Paine’s deistic views now because I think that whoever the Creator is, logically speaking, is likely to be active and involved in an ongoing way in his creation. I look at that these questions as a matter of intuition, reason and opinion, and in some cases maybe certain types of personal experiences provide some evidence for this that is personally meaningful to each person.
The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty. See http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/home.htm. The online version I read years ago was important in bringing out the discrepancies between the writings of Paul and the gospels. I had read the Bible multiple times through over the years, so I was able to recognize issues when reading criticism. The main point I remember was that it seems like Paul was only familiar with a spiritual kind of Christ and didn’t seem to know much or talk much about a physical, historical Jesus and his family. I think you can probably confirm this for yourself if you read through the epistles of Paul.
I had also read The Christ Conspiracy by the late Acharya S. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acharya_S. Besides the parallels between the Jesus story and the myths of other gods, the point I remember being convinced about (as I remember it, it was a while ago) was that Paul and others were active Roman agents. If you follow the narrative of the Book of Acts, you could start to ask questions about Paul’s relationship with Rome. So Atwill’s research meshes with this but goes beyond it.
And another book was James the Brother of Jesus by Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Robert Eisenman. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Eisenman. Some might notice it seems long and repetitive, but I do remember more or less enjoying reading it. I suppose I don’t endorse all the points of view these authors have, but I think this book was very effective in bringing out the problems with the New Testament. One of them is the portrayal of the disciples. They hardly seem like real people, especially the majority of them. There were supposed to be twelve apostles but we only hear anything substantial about a few of them. Peter is portrayed very badly and seems to be insulted constantly. Why is this? The New Testament became a big mystery after reading this book and I could see many problems with the Gospels and Book of Acts that didn’t add up. A major question that was clear to me: Why should Paul have the right to take the Church off in his own direction after being involved in persecuting the original Christians? It seems very presumptuous for him to be in a doctrinal power struggle with James in Jerusalem, along with “Cephas” (or Peter? or Simon?), and a huge disconnect for the twelve apostles to be suddenly diminished by the conversion, preaching and writings of Paul.
I feel that Joseph Atwill’s book probably helps to explain and resolve the issues raised in Eisenman’s book.
The same Robert Eisenman is quoted at the beginning of this edition of Caesar’s Messiah:
Challenging and provocative. If what Joseph Atwill is saying is only partially true, we are looking into the abyss.
So with this earlier study I had one, I had to let the Bible go in terms of my belief in it as the Word of God. I think there is some truth in the Bible but there is plenty of reason to be critical of the Bible as a book that is full of inconsistencies and moral teachings that don’t seem to be so defensible.
I would like to agree with people who point to the teachings of Jesus as positive, but I’m sorry that my own reflection was done on this topic years ago and all sorts of doubts about his “walk over me” and “feel guilty about natural feelings” teachings came up at that time. That’s not to say there aren’t good teachings among them such as the Golden Rule, and that there isn’t value in studying the teachings of Jesus.
I also eventually realized that mind control and propaganda is not limited to small groups of unorthodox cult leaders (with massive amounts of money and resources), but that the world is full of mind control and propaganda, and that includes the mainstream religions and also the governments. That doesn’t mean they are wrong about everything or that there aren’t positive doctrines and influences within these institutions. I think we need to be selective point by point and issue by issue.
I am more reluctant to discuss this topic than I used to be –unlike when I was younger and more zealous. I don’t feel like unsettling people and possibly reducing the number of potential friends and allies out there, even some people in alternative media who I respect. I really don’t want to be seen as taking a side in the false and contrived dialectic between atheism and religion that is currently popular. I have nothing to do with that. I don’t see Christianity as the enemy. However, I see problems that have been inevitable with Christianity. I feel it is important to share the actual truth with people as I see it. I think it’s going to save some readers personal grief and time-wasting.
As Joe Atwill indicates in his book, he feels ambivalent about the effect of the truth he was presenting, because for whatever reason, because of the way it was designed, there are aspects to Christianity’s message and philosophy that promote mercy and life and positive aspects in our civilization that are being lost.
In my case, I am keenly aware of how Christianity has been attacked and is being overturned, or is being turned into something else.
I think Atwill has opened the doors to resolving the mystery of the gospels and New Testament. In terms of the Bible and the New Testament in particular, I am convinced that Joseph Atwill has arrived at the answer to the mysteries of what the gospels are really about and what the New Testament is really about. I think he has pulled the final thread that unravels the whole thing.
Somebody has to build a new foundation for an alternative to the New World Order and Brave New World. The foundation has to be built on rock, and on truth and on reality and not on mythology.
Unfortunately, it is clear that Christians (from my own knowledge and experience and observations) are for the most part unable to defend themselves and the minds of their children against the onslaught on the positive aspects of our culture from the subversive arms of the power elite, using institutions such as music television, UNESCO and other international organizations, news media and government education.
Christians for the most part, are completely blind and naive, just as secular people are, and fail to use their beliefs to protect themselves from government and corporate power. Whether it’s sexualization and depopulation propaganda (from the “left”) or the use of bombing, torture, mercenaries and false flag terror (from the “right”), Christians just seem to go along with everything, just as much as the average New Ager or atheist I suppose.
For one thing, people should just research the topic of “propaganda” and start with the books by Edward Bernays and Jacques Ellul for example. Then there are a lot of other different sources they can research such as the works of Machiavelli.
Nobody needs to get all hissy and insulting and repeat CIA phrases such as “conspiracy theorist” just because they can’t figure out and won’t accept that the education system has gone from the Lord’s Prayer every morning (in Canada) to efforts to sexualize children non-stop (not just on television) –which is part of the agenda described in Huxley’s Brave New World.
Aldous Huxley was one of the engineers of this society we live in just like his eugenics brother Julian helped create UNESCO and the World Wildlife Fund (which lobbies for the “environmental” legislation worldwide just like we’d expect King John to do). Just like their grandfather promoted the “theory of evolution” (ideology with a lack of evidence in my view–go for it), the same family has always supported societal “evolution” and transhumanism.
These guys, this “scientific” elite of propagandists, believe in “educating” you and your children. That’s what they’ve been doing all their lives. They believe in the “evolution” of society and turning the human race into something different–better slaves really.
What good has Christianity done recently? If it’s not going to stop our children (if any) from becoming sex slaves for international gangsters (“sexual freedom” described in Brave New World), what good is it? Where’s the power of that? If it’s not stopping wars and propaganda and anti-jobs trade agreements, and if it’s not stopping the destruction of civil liberties and the growth of the surveillance state, and the new types of chemical-soaked “food” everyone’s eating, what good is it?
By the way, the “oneness” replacement global religion of Huxley’s Brave New World – based on pharmaceuticals and sex and thought-stopping artificial mystical “experience” (not to say there are no real ones) – is described in his novel. The religion where everyone just forgets their problems and doesn’t worry about anything and just goes along. Like what most of us are doing. There’s the TV on right now in your living-room with the military-grade pure evil coming through the screen. Have you noticed?
People dismiss “ideas” like this as “conspiracy theories” but people should just read the websites of the international organizations who are actively working on their own united agenda week after week of international agreements and pacts without asking the public’s opinion or consulting any concept of democracy at all.
Complete domination by the secular world government. OK, there’s a problem.
So everybody needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with an answer that works to protect themselves and their families.
So actually, this whole topic ties in again with the actual function that religion served in the Roman Empire as Atwill described–if it was under the control of the Roman Caesars. If it was under their control, then it was a tool that helped create a society that went along with their policies–good or bad.
So I plan to continue an overview analysis of Caesar’s Messiah in Part 2.