Was Jesus Christ a Roman Fabrication?

MessiahHaving recently read Reza Aslan’s excellent book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, I find the suggestion that Jesus was a fiction created by the Romans to keep the Jews in check to be difficult, but not impossible, to accept. Aslan, despite making a strong argument that Jesus was an unsuccessful messiah (one of many) who became the impetus for other more ambitious Romans to base a new religion on, never doubts that Jesus was a real person.

But I can see how the two narratives actually are not that far apart.

As reported by Ashley Curtin in Nation of Change:

Jesus Christ is a fictional character. At least that is what American Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill claims. Atwill’s recent controversial discovery says that the first-century Romans, who wrote the New Testament, fabricated the story of Jesus Christ. He will reveal his theory in his first public appearance at the “Covert Messiah” Conference on Oct. 19 in London.

Christianity, as Atwill described it, started as a “sophisticated government project,” not a religion. It was used as a pacifier for the subjects of the Roman Empire, according to a press release. Atwill claims that Jewish sects in Palestine were “waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah” during the rebellious first century, but when the Romans’ conventional ways of squashing violence didn’t work, they used reverse psychology. That is when the fictional character of Jesus Christ, the peaceful “messiah”, was invented. The Jews “gave into Caesar” and paid their taxes to Rome.

“I present my work with some ambivalence, as I do not want to directly cause Christianity any harm,” Atwill was quoted in a press release. “But this is important for our culture. Alert citizens need to know the truth about our past so we can understand how and why governments create false histories and false gods. They often do it to obtain a social order that is against the best interests of the common people.”

Atwill insists that Jesus Christ is a fictional character in literature and his entire life can be traced back to different sources.

“Once those sources are all laid bare, there’s simply nothing left,” he was quoted in a press release.

While his theory is said to upset Christians and contradict other scholars’ beliefs, Atwill said it is conclusive and confident. He said that there are many “parallels,” which are either conceptual or poetic, but the authors of the highly studied books put it out there for “alert readers” to figure out. Atwill said that the “Roman Caesars left us a kind of puzzle literature that was meant to be solved by future generations.”

So as many people ponder the theory that Jesus Christ might be a fictional character, the future of Christianity is at a breaking point.

Atwill will present his theory with fellow scholar Kenneth Humphreys, who is the author of the book, “Jesus Never Existed.”

Aslan makes the point that the actions of Jesus of Nazareth—the messiah who came to free the land of the Jews from the occupation of the Romans—was essentially a failure. However, it was the Romans, specifically Paul, who used the myth of Jesus to build an elaborate fiction which eventually became known as Christianity. It was men, men outside of the Holy Land, that made the decisions to shape the institutions we now associate most closely with Jesus and the Christian God. The original Jesus was not divine, was not God come down to earth as a man, did not have anything to do with writing the Bible or even with most of the things ascribed to his life in the books of the Bible dealing with his life.

Whether there was a real Jesus or not, the narrative from the New Testament is fiction. It was developed by the Romans in order to control the people of the Empire who didn’t respond to the sword but were gullible enough to fall for a made-up religion.

I look forward to reading more about Joseph Atwill’s theory and will probably look up Kenneth Humphreys too. It would be very interesting to experience a discussion between Aslan, Atwill, and Humphreys. There might be some synthesis there. Too bad Hitch died …

4 responses

  1. Seriously you need to read your history properly. I find it amazing that there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that the Roman ever did what you claim they did. Have you even studied Roman history. Whats even more laughable is that the same bible that is so corrupted and rewritten is being used side by side with Josephus to prove all of this. Wow what great scholarly work. Why even bother to explain anything, just keep reading your historical accurate books you are reading. I am sure if I compare that book with the Bible I will come to the conclusion that the Jews created Jesus. Oh I forgot they did..

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    • You need to take more care in your accusations. I made no claims but rather referenced an article which in turn referenced a writer who has a theory that differs from what others contend. The main thing I got out of all my reading is that the Bible is at best historical fiction and as to proof, using the Bible to prove anything is folly. Also, the Jews didn’t create Jesus …Jesus was a Jew (assuming he actually excited which I accept). Perhaps you should question Bill O’Reilly about the accuracy of his book?

      What stuck me, however, is the way the Christian Church was opted away from it’s Jewish roots and carefully orchestrated by Romans, like Paul, to become a replacement for the Jewish religion (note, the “New” Testament). There is beaucoup d’evidence that the development of Christianity was under political control and that many of the Christian writings, even the Gospels, were in effect propaganda. A secret Roman plot? As I say, I don’t see it but it’s not that outlandish to contemplate.

      Fact is, the church developed from the teachings of Jesus (real or imagined) was moved away from its Jewish beginnings and developed as a Roman church. That fact doesn’t seem to match up well with the idea of using the new church to control the Jews so I can’t accept Atwill’s major premise.

      Yet, there is the whole messiah thing: a Messiah was to come and free the land of the Jews—land given to them by God—from the Roman conquerers. I suspect that giving the Jews their messiah might be a tactic to control them but it is, of course, highly flawed thinking. If there was a Jesus and if he declared himself the Messiah, then he failed at freeing the land of the Jews from Roman control.

      But did the Romans see an opportunity here, however flawed, to put one over on the unsuspecting believers? Who knows …

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      • You make a rather compelling argument my friend. Just so you know I wasnt attacking you. I can see how my argument came as harsh. I apologize.

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    • A minor argument for the existence of the historical Jesus is that Jesus is prominent in Islam too. Of course, his status there is only as a profit, which makes sense; after all, the god-status for Jesus was appliquéd onto the narrative much later … by men of the Roman persuasion. Also, the whole idea of the messiah as a leader who would reclaim the land given by god to the Jews was obviously not for Moslems.

      A second argument is that at least one of the Books of the New Testament is written by what we might call nowadays, a Jew for Jesus, and quite significantly it is written by the brother of Jesus (kind of puts the myth of the virgin birth behind the curtain, right?). It is interesting that most all of the Books of the New Testament were written by Romans (the Roman Empire) and even though there were examples of religious works written by Jews about the life and times of Jesus, the men who decided what would be codified as the Bible at the Synod of Hippo selected texts from authors who had no experience with the historical Jesus and didn’t even speak or write in the language that Jesus understood.

      Again: was it a Roman plot? Not at first but evidence does suggest it was coöpted rather early on by the Romans and fictionalized for their purposes. In a sense the Romans stole Jesus from the Jews.

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