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walt fristoe
SFN Regular

USA
505 Posts

Posted - 07/11/2005 :  18:50:41  Show Profile Send walt fristoe a Private Message
Hi folks!



I've come across a book about the origin of Christianity that I thought y'all might be interested it reading. Joseph Atwill wrote Caesar's Messiah in an attempt to explain the origin of Christianity as an invention of the Romans, specifically the Flavians. He says their motive was to quell the messianic fervor of the Jews of that time, and to dupe them into unknowingly worshipping Titus Flavius, the son of Vespasius.

If we assume that the story of Jesus was completely fictional, then someone must have invented it, but who?

You can read a summary and reviews here, and Vorkosigan's summary here, and review here.

I hope you all find this book as enjoyable as I did!

Edited by - walt fristoe on 06/29/2006 15:26:09

dv82matt
SFN Regular

760 Posts

Posted - 07/11/2005 :  23:35:12   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send dv82matt a Private Message
I've always been curious about this. So little is known about the origions of Christianity (outside of what's written in the Bible). Thanks for pointing it out. Sounds like a great read.
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walt fristoe
SFN Regular

USA
505 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  17:03:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send walt fristoe a Private Message
Yeah, I haven't quite finished it yet. It's really hard to put down, but duty often calls whether I want it to or not. I've been losing sleep lately trying to finish it, then I plan to read it again and analyse it as fully as I can, check all the references, etc.

I have to be careful with books like this; I want it to be the right hypothesis, so I tend to be convinced too easily. I have to maintain my skepticism until I can thoroughly study it and think about the evidence and implications.

But is is indeed a fascinating read!

"If God chose George Bus of all the people in the world, how good could God be?"
Bill Maher
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markie
Skeptic Friend

Canada
356 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  18:37:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send markie a Private Message

Let us know how he fits in Saul (Paul) of Tarsus, whom most scholars agree was writing his epistles (some of which included earlier Christian sayings) by 50AD or so.

And why would the Romans like Nero (around 60AD?) be killing believers in the new religion they (the Romans) invented?

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walt fristoe
SFN Regular

USA
505 Posts

Posted - 07/13/2005 :  19:04:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send walt fristoe a Private Message
quote:


And why would the Romans like Nero (around 60AD?) be killing believers in the new religion they (the Romans) invented?






How do we know that this persecution by Nero actually occured? I don't remember which early Christian writer it was, maybe Eusebius, who wrote a very unreliable history of early Christianity which claimed this persecution happened, so I'm not convinced that Nero did any of this alleged killing. But of course I could be wrong about that.

"If God chose George Bus of all the people in the world, how good could God be?"
Bill Maher
Edited by - walt fristoe on 07/13/2005 19:06:41
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BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 07/14/2005 :  05:04:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message
Well you can assume that Nero killed lots of people.

Either way its all speculation on both sides of this arguement.

"...things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say." -Lucian on his book True History

"...They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time." -Lucian critical of early Christians c.166 AD From his book, De Morte Peregrini
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markie
Skeptic Friend

Canada
356 Posts

Posted - 07/15/2005 :  08:36:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send markie a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by markie: And why would the Romans like Nero (around 60AD?) be killing believers in the new religion they (the Romans) invented?
quote:
Originally posted by walt fristoe

How do we know that this persecution by Nero actually occured? I don't remember which early Christian writer it was, maybe Eusebius, who wrote a very unreliable history of early Christianity which claimed this persecution happened, so I'm not convinced that Nero did any of this alleged killing. But of course I could be wrong about that.


The (Jewish?) historican Josephus wrote something which (to me) was obviously tampered with by later Christian 'editors', so maybe that's what your thinking of.

But this quote below from the Roman historian Tacitus, written around 100AD, doesn't seem like it was editted by later Christians:
quote:

In order to counteract the rumor [that blamed Nero for the fire] he brought forward as the guilty ones men hated for their crimes and called Christians by the people; and punished them with the most exquisite torments. The founder of their name, Christ, was executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; the superstition was thereby suppressed for the moment, but broke out again, not only in Judea, the land in which this evil originated, but in Rome itself, to which everything horrible or shameful streams from all sides and finds increase. First a few were taken, who made confessions; then on their indications an enormous throng, who were not accused directly of the crime of arson, but of hatred of humanity. Their execution became a pastime; they were covered with the skins of wild beasts and then torn to pieces by dogs, or they were crucified, or prepared for burning and set on fire as soon as it was dark, to give light in the night. Nero lent his gardens for this spectacle and arranged circus games, in which he mingled among the crowd in the clothing of a charioteer or drove a chariot himself. Although these were criminals who deserved the severest punishments, sympathy arose for them as being sacrificed not so much for the general good but to satisfy the rage of an individual.


About twenty years later another historian (Suetonius) related something of the same kind of thing.

I've read that after the Rome fire, Nero heavily taxed the Jews for the rebuilding effort, and this burden had much to do with the Jewish uprising which led to the Roman armies razing Jerusalem around 70AD.

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topos
New Member

19 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2006 :  07:44:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send topos a Private Message
For anybody who's interested, there is now a podcast interview with Joseph Atwill, author of Caesar's Messiah. It's over two hours long. Enjoy.

http://infidelguy.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=116533
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 08/11/2006 :  10:25:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by topos

For anybody who's interested, there is now a podcast interview with Joseph Atwill, author of Caesar's Messiah. It's over two hours long. Enjoy.

http://infidelguy.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=116533

Hi topos, and welcome to SFN!

A few books mentioned in the Skeptic Summary (e.g. #68 or #41) also relate to the questions of early Christianity. I think in general though that most people accept that there was a guy called Jesus. It's just a question of figuring out who he was and what sort of "world" (for lack of a better term) he came from.
Edited by - Cuneiformist on 08/11/2006 10:25:41
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topos
New Member

19 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  00:16:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send topos a Private Message
Thanks for the welcome, Cuneiformist.

It's probably true that most people accept that there was a historical Jesus on which the stories of the New Testament are based. Are you arguing that because a lot of people believe it, it must be true?

I think, most people have been misled about the amount of extrabiblical corroboration that there ever was a Jesus, so their opinions are potentially misinformed.

Prior to Caesar's Messiah, there were a number of writers and a number of books, dating back as far as the 1800s, that argued there was no historical Jesus. Those two books you cited are certainly not among them. Prior to reading Caesar's Messiah, I was of an opinion after reading some of these and researching independently whether their claims were true about the lack of support for a historical Jesus, and about the pre-existence of many strikingly similar god-man myths, that the Christ-myth position is probably correct but that we would never know for certain. After reading Caesar's Messiah, I can now see that not only is the Christ-myth position clearly the correct one, it is possible to know it with complete certainty. I'm confident that unless the Christians manage to suppress the ideas in Caesar's Messiah completely, that eventually the vast majority of bible scholars will come around to this point of view. I would like to see this day hastened so I am attempting to raise awareness of it in the popular mind, so the scholars will have to address it sooner rather than later.

If you want to read some Christ-myth books other than CM, I would recommend Earl Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle or Robert Price's Incredible Shrinking Son of Man.

It's interesting that Joseph Atwill's ideas in Caesar's Messiah haven't necessarily been welcomed by the community of "Christ-mythers". For example, Robert Price wrote a scathing review. But Robert Eisenman, who wrote James the Brother of Jesus, which is a book that takes a position that Jesus was a historical person (he would have to be to have a historical brother, of course) felt CM was well argued enough to let his name be used on the back cover.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on Jesus-as-myth:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus-Myth

Over here at Infidelguy.com I posted a copy of Robert Price's review of CM preceded by my attempt at response:

http://www.infidelguy.com/ftopic-19628-10.html


cheers

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beskeptigal
SFN Die Hard

USA
3834 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  00:39:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send beskeptigal a Private Message
Quite a bit of certainty there, topos. Welcome to SFN.

I was under the impression there isn't much evidence for an historical Jesus so there is some doubt as to whether or not he actually existed.

And I have yet to read the book but from skimming the reviews, the case seems to be being made on circumstantial evidence. So I look forward to reading the book to see if that is the case.

I doubt you'll find many converts from the book or the historical record. People believe and are set up to ignore contradictory evidence as part of their belief system. And I don't see scholars agreeing any time soon. Maybe in few more millenniums when the human race figures out all of it is mythical you may see your predictions fulfilled.
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topos
New Member

19 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  00:49:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send topos a Private Message
Well I appreciate that you took the time to skim the reviews and that you're interested in actually reading it. I will watch for your report.

It is really more than a circumstantial argument, I would argue. Much more.

There is the IG interview available with Atwill from the other day, linked to above. It's two hours and so you can get some considerable detail in it, though it still only scratches the surface. There is a guy who calls in in the middle who says what I am saying, but is not me.

Atwill is converting Christian preachers into disbelievers in Jesus, as he relates in the interview.
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beskeptigal
SFN Die Hard

USA
3834 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  13:23:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send beskeptigal a Private Message
Non-circumstantial evidence would be written historical accounts, archaeological evidence and so on. Do you know what kind of physical evidence the hypothesis is based on? I don't have the two hours to watch just yet.
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  19:48:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by topos

Thanks for the welcome, Cuneiformist.

It's probably true that most people accept that there was a historical Jesus on which the stories of the New Testament are based. Are you arguing that because a lot of people believe it, it must be true?

I think, most people have been misled about the amount of extrabiblical corroboration that there ever was a Jesus, so their opinions are potentially misinformed.
Hi topos. Thanks for your comments. As for a historical Jesus (taking a rather liberal interpretation of 'historical'), I simply follow mainstream scholars of the NT/early turn-of-the-era Palestine. There are probably good reasons to suggest that Jesus is a made-up figure, and I'll have a look at the wiki you cited.

Of course, I'd also say that whatever 'historical' figure there realy was no doubt differs significantly from the actual person. That is, there are numerous problems throughout the stories, and we have to imagine that they errupted from an attempt to explain away unpleasant facts or rumors. Things like the 'virgin birth' and such.

Indeed, those may serve to point to some actual history behind the Gospel myths. But again, I'll do some more reading...
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Ghost_Skeptic
SFN Regular

Canada
510 Posts

Posted - 08/12/2006 :  22:55:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ghost_Skeptic a Private Message
Canadian theologan Tom Harpur (a former Anglican priest) now considers the Christ story to be a myth derived from earlier pagan myths.

Evidently there is good archeological evidence that Nazereth wasn't inhabited until after 100 AD. leeofno sent me several links on this a while ago.

There is even a strong possibilty that there was no historical Mohammed either.


"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. / You can send a kid to college but you can't make him think." - B.B. King

History is made by stupid people - The Arrogant Worms

"The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism." - William Osler

"Religion is the natural home of the psychopath" - Pat Condell

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter" - Thomas Jefferson
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topos
New Member

19 Posts

Posted - 08/13/2006 :  13:28:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send topos a Private Message
quote:
Non-circumstantial evidence would be written historical accounts, archaeological evidence and so on. Do you know what kind of physical evidence the hypothesis is based on? I don't have the two hours to watch just yet.


It's based on parallels between the four canonical gospels and the writings of Josephus, in particular The Jewish War. The parallels between them are uncanny. There is a lot of oddness in Josephus' writings which is generally ignored by mainstream scholarship. And yet anyone can see that these stories are very odd and obviously fictional, like the story of the mother named Mary who roasts and eats her own child (during the siege of Jeruselum by Flavius Titus there was a terrible famine, and it is historically accepted that cannibalism occurred) while making a very bizarre speech the no mother would possibly make, proclaiming that her son will become a "by-word" to the world. There are many other weird bits you will have to read CM about if you are interested (or you can get a copy of Josephus' complete writings from Amazon for about $20). Anyhow, all of the strangeness of both Josephus and the Gospels makes perfect sense under Atwill's interpretation, and because of the fact that the temporal and geographical order is the same (between Jesus' ministry and Titus' military compaign as related by Jospephus) it is essentially impossible that they could arise by accident.

Atwill in the interview mentions as an example the Arch of Titus in Rome, where Titus is depicted as a god, writing on the clouds, along with much portentious proclamation. You don't need archeology to find evidence that Jesus is Titus. It's still standing around.

Another thing supporting Atwill's thesis is the Dead Sea Scrolls, which provided details on the Jewish Sicarii movement that was crushed by Vespasian and Titus in the late 60s and early 70s CE. From their literature, it's pretty clear that the pacifistic Christian cult realy could not have grown out of it, as was previously accepted.

Anyhow it's an audio interview so you don't have sit and watch it. You can download it as a podcast.

Also it's now posted over at infidelguy.com that Atwill is going to debate Robert Price this Wednesday. Price is probably the most mainstream of the Christ-myth bible scholars. Price rejects Atwiill's thesis and has written a scathing, but in my view non-substantive, review of Caesar's Messiah. I posted the review and a response on the IG site forum under the Future Guests topic.
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