Atwill’s Cranked-up Jesus


Joseph Atwill is one of those crank mythers I often get conflated with. Mythicists like him make the job of serious scholars like me so much harder, because people see, hear, or read them and think their nonsense is what mythicism is. They make mythicism look ridiculous. So I have to waste time (oh by the gods, so much time) explaining how I am not arguing anything like their theories or using anything like their terrible methods, and unlike them I actually know what I am talking about, and have an actual Ph.D. in a relevant subject from a real university.

Note that I have divided this article into two parts, the second (titled “Our Long Conversation”) is something you can easily skip (see the intro there for whether reading it will be of any interest to you). So although this post looks extraordinarily long, it’s really that second part that gives it such length. You can just read up to the beginning of that section though. You don’t have to continue beyond that to get the overall point.

Atwill Who?

Atwill is the one dude I get asked about most often.[*] And now apparently even Dawkins is tweeting about Atwill, thanks to his upcoming venture into England later this month to sell his weird Roman Conspiracy variety of Jesus mythicism. To get the gist you can check out his PR puff piece. Thomas Verenna has already written a deconstruction of that. Notably even Acharya S (D.M. Murdock) doesn’t buy Atwill’s thesis, declaring that she does “not concur with Atwill’s Josephus/Flavian thesis” and that “the Flavians, including Josephus, did not compose the canonical gospels as we have them.” Robert Price has similarly soundly debunked his book, even after strongly wanting to like it.

Atwill is best known as the author of Caesar’s Messiah (subtitle: “The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus,” Roman meaning the Roman imperial family…yeah). In this Atwill argues “Jesus [is] the invention of a Roman emperor” and that the entire (?) New Testament was written by “the first-century historian Flavius Josephus” who left clues to his scheme by littering secret hidden coded “parallels” in his book The Jewish War. Atwill claims to prove “the Romans directed the writing of both” the JW and the NT, in order “to offer a vision of a ‘peaceful Messiah’ who would serve as an alternative to the revolutionary leaders who were rocking first-century Israel and threatening Rome,” and also (apparently) as a laughing joke on the Jews (Atwill variously admits or denies he argues the latter, but it became clear in our correspondence, which I will reproduce below…it’s weird because making fun of the Jews kind of contradicts the supposedly serious aim of persuading the Jews, yet Atwill seems to want the imperial goal to have simultaneously been both).

Notice his theory entails a massive and weirdly erudite conspiracy of truly bizarre scope and pedigree, to achieve a truly Quixotic aim that hardly makes sense coming from any half-intelligent elite of the era (even after adjusting for the Flynn effect), all to posit that the entire Christian religion was created by the Romans (and then immediately opposed by it?), who somehow got hundreds of Jews (?) to abandon their religion and join a cult that simply appeared suddenly without explanation on the Palestinian (?) book market without endorsement.

I honestly shouldn’t have to explain why this is absurd. But I’ll hit some highlights. Then I’ll reveal the reasons why I think Atwill is a total crank, and his work should be ignored, indeed everywhere warned against as among the worst of mythicism, not representative of any serious argument that Jesus didn’t exist. And that’s coming from me, someone who believes Jesus didn’t exist.

Historically, Atwill’s thesis is more or less a retooled version of the old Pisonian Conspiracy Theory, by which is not meant the actual Pisonian conspiracy (to assassinate Nero), but a wildly fictitious one in which the Piso family invented Christianity (and fabricated all its documents) through its contacts with the Flavian family, and thence Josephus (who indeed adopted that family’s name when they made him a Roman citizen, after he had tricked his officer corps into committing suicide and then surrendered to the Romans during the War…oh, and conveniently declaring Vespasian the Messiah).

This pseudo-historical nonsense is over a century old by now, first having been proposed (in a somewhat different form) by Bruno Bauer in Christ and the Caesars in 1877 (Christus und Caesaren). It has been revamped a dozen times since. Atwill is simply the latest iteration (or almost–there is a bonkers Rabbi still going around with an even wilder version). Atwill’s is very much like Bible Code crankery, where he looks for all kinds of multiple comparisons fallacies and sees conspiracies in all of them, rather than the inevitable coincidences (or often outright non-correspondences) that they really are. Everything confirms his thesis, because nothing could ever fail to. Classic nonfalsifiability. He just cherry picks and interprets anything to fit, any way he wants.

Why the Priors Are Dismally Low on This

There are at least eight general problems with his thesis, which do not refute it but establish that it has a very low prior probability, and therefore requires exceptionally good evidence to be at all credible:

(1) The Roman aristocracy was nowhere near as clever as Atwill’s theory requires. They certainly were not so masterfully educated in the Jewish scriptures and theology that they could compose hundreds of pages of elegant passages based on it. And it is very unlikely they would ever conceive of a scheme like this, much less think they could succeed at it (even less, actually do so).

(2) We know there were over forty Gospels, yet the four chosen for the canon were not selected until well into the 2nd century, and not by anyone in the Roman aristocracy. Likewise which Epistles were selected.

(3) The Gospels and the Epistles all contradict each other far too much to have been composed with a systematic aim in mind. Indeed, they contradict each other in ways that often demonstrate they are deliberately arguing with each other. From the ways Matthew changes Mark; to the way the forged 2 Thessalonians actually tries to argue 1 Thessalonians is the forgery; to how the resurrections depicted in Luke and John are deliberate attempts to refute the doctrine of resurrection defended originally by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5; to how some Epistles insist on Torah observance while others insist it can be discarded; to how Luke’s nativity contradicts Matthew’s on almost every single particular (and not just in placing the event in completely different periods ten years apart); to how Acts blatantly contradicts Paul’s own account of his conversion and travels; to how John invents a real Lazarus to refute a point Luke tried to make with a fictional Lazarus; and so on. (I discuss some of these, and more, in my forthcoming book On the Historicity of Jesus.)

(4) The Gospels and the Epistles differ far too much in style to have come from the same hand, and many show signs of later doctoring that would problematize attempts to confirm any theory like Atwill’s. For example, Mark 16:9-20, John 20 vs. 21, the hash job made of the epistle to the Romans, etc. Even the fact of how the canon was selected creates a problem for Atwill’s research requirements–for instance, the actual first letter to the Corinthians is completely missing, yet Paul refers to its existence in “our” 1 Corinthians.

(5) Christianity was probably constructed to “divert Jewish hostility and aggressiveness into a pacifist religion, supportive of–and subservient to–Roman rule,” but not by Romans, but exasperated Jews like Paul, who saw Jewish militarism as unacceptably disastrous in contrast with the obvious advantages of retooling their messianic expectations to produce the peaceful moral reform of society. The precedents were all there already in pre-Christian Jewish ideology and society (in Philo’s philosophy, in Essene and Qumranic efforts to solve the same problems, and so on) so we don’t have to posit super-genius Aryans helping the poor little angry Jews to calm down.

(6) Pacifying Jews would not have been possible with a cult that eliminated Jewish law and accepted Gentiles as equals, and in actual fact Christianity was pretty much a failure in Palestine. Its success was achieved mainly in the Diaspora, where the Romans rarely had any major problems with the Jews. The Jewish War was only fought in Palestine, and not even against all the Jews there (many sided with Rome). How would inventing a religion that would have no chance of succeeding in the heart of Palestine but instead was tailor made to succeed outside Palestine, ever help the Romans with anything they considered important?

(7) If the Roman elite’s aim was to “pacify” Palestinian Jews by inventing new scriptures, they were certainly smart and informed enough to know that that wouldn’t succeed by using the language the Judean elite despised as foreign (Greek).[*]

(8) The Romans knew one thing well: War. Social ideology they were never very good at.[*] That’s why Rome always had such problems keeping its empire together, and why social discontent and other malfunctions continued to escalate until the empire started dissolving. Rome expected to solve every problem militarily instead–and up until the 3rd century Rome did so quite well. The Jewish War was effectively over in just four years (any siege war was expected to take at least three, and Vespasian was actually busy conquering Rome in the fourth year of that War). So why would they think they needed any other solution?

With all that counting against Atwill, he has a very high burden to meet. And he just doesn’t. He actually has no evidence at all for his thesis, except “Bible Code”-style readings of coincidences among texts, which he seems only to read in English and not the original Greek, all the while relying on egregious fallacies in probabilistic reasoning.

Evidence? Or Insufferable Slurries of Bullshit and Denial?

I see no value in wasting any more time on his work (you’ll see why in a moment), but if anyone who is sensible nevertheless finds some claim in his book remarkably convincing–something so peculiar it seems like it could have no other explanation–and you are genuinely curious how a real historian would respond to it, then present that case to me in comments. Be fair to Atwill: give the page number(s), and all the evidence he presents, and correctly explain the argument (or ideally quote it directly).

To each sensible such presentation I’ll supply a response. But I won’t waste any further time debating it with anyone who doesn’t take facts and logic seriously. I fully expect this thread to be descended upon by armies of time-wasting cranks, possibly Atwill himself, and I refuse to let this suck away any more of my time and labor, on what I now know will be an inevitable getting of nowhere. So I am stating right now: I am done with arguing this crap. So if you don’t like what I have to say and refuse to listen to me, I will stop posting your comments. Period.

In other words, I will be enforcing my usual comments policy extremely strictly here. So the moment you start just gainsaying me or refusing to acknowledge facts or posting vast word-counts of undigestible rambling, you are done. Keep it one example at a time, concise, clear facts and logic, page number. Anything else in defense of Atwillian claims, and your comment goes straight to trash. The more so if you direct any abuse at anyone here. You can whine all you want elsewhere. Just listen to my little violin.

[But also note Item 1 in my comments policy, especially in light of the fact that I am about to depart for Sacramento Freethought Day, hence many comments will sit in the queue until possibly as late as Tuesday. So that delay doesn’t mean your comment was nixed.]

His Best Evidence Is Just Offal

Here is a sample of what Atwill tried to present to me as his “best” examples of evidence supporting his thesis, and why they demonstrate we need waste no further time with him:

(1) Atwill offers “the mention of a fish called the ‘Coracin’ (JW 3, 10, 8, 520), which can be seen as a pun upon Jesus’ prophecy – ‘Woe to you Chorazain’ (Matt 11:23).” He means the korakinoi (KAPPA-omicron-rho-alpha-KAPPA-iota-nu…), the “the Alexandrian raven fish” (the word “fish” is not in the JW, but the appellation is understood by context).

But there is no parallel in the Greek letters or meaning between that word and the city of Chorazin (CHI-omicron-rho-alpha-ZETA-iota-nu…).None. So how is this a parallel? It isn’t. Besides being an example of evidence that doesn’t exist, this is also one of those instances that suggests Atwill does not know how to read Greek. A terrible failing for someone who is trying to perform complicated statistical literary analyses of linguistic parallels between, you know, Greek texts. (Incidentally, he also had the wrong verse–he meant Mt. 11:21–but I assume that was just a slip)

No one could possibly have imagined a pun being intended between these two words or references–except someone who reads only English, and that of course could not have been anyone back then! Moreover, to get a statistically significant result here you need more than one vaguely similar but completely different word. You need something like multiple exact matches of otherwise unusual words, or a series of otherwise unlikely coincidences of ordered events or concepts, or something along those lines (see Proving History, pp. 192-204, for how to conduct a methodologically sound study of literary parallels).

(2) Atwill says “The Sicarii’s ‘emanating’ from John’s head can also be seen, like the demons who came out of the demoniac in that they are a ‘legion’, as they are described as ‘too small for an army, and too many for a gang of thieves’ (JW 4, 7, 408), in other words, a legion. John is confirmed by Josephus later in the history as a source from which ‘wickedness emanated’  (JW 7, 8 263) – ‘John filled the entire country with ten thousand (legion) instances of wickedness’.”

This makes little sense. The word “legion” nowhere appears in these passages. And why does Atwill think “ten thousand” is somehow equivalent to “legion”? The words are nowhere near the same. And the standard complement in a legion was 6000 men (plus auxiliaries), not 10,000 (and of course legions were rarely at full strength).[*] The Gospels also do not say ten thousand, but “two thousand.” And why does Atwill think a legion is “too small for an army” when a legion was by definition an army? Clearly Atwill is struggling just as hard to invent a link here as a biblical literalist struggles to erase contradictions in the Bible.

Moreover, the swine are all killed, but the allegedly parallel soldiers in Josephus are not all killed. It’s also the wrong place. Atwill struggles against all contemporary scholarship to insist that Gadara was the original reading in the Gospels (because his theory requires it to be) when in fact it almost certainly was not. I’ll explain more on that fact below, since it’s one of the most telling examples of Atwill’s incompetence at a study like this, as well as of his inability to humbly admit being wrong, and his repeated resort to ad hoc attempts to deny or assert facts to save his theory, which only dig him deeper into a hill of bullshit, very much just like pretty much any Christian apologist you might ever have had the displeasure of arguing with. As you’ll see, it’s one of the best demonstrations of what it’s like to argue like a crank.

But back to the present point, contrary to the swine story, Josephus says fifteen thousand men are killed and two thousand and two hundred are captured (JW 4.436). But in the swine story, 2000 are killed, not captured, and the number is again 2000, not 2200. Had the Gospels said 2200, that might have been interesting. But in actual fact, the parallels here are far too imprecise to warrant any credible belief in a link. This kind of fabricated parallel is typical of Atwill’s dubious methodology. It is the rankest of retrofitting. The same fallacy bible code freaks use to make biblical prophecy fit contemporary events.

That’s just two examples of many, all falling to the same kinds of objections.

Even His Only Good Example Proves How Wrong He Is

The only good example Atwill sent me is his analysis of JW 6.201ff. Unfortunately, it is not a good example of his thesis, since it does not involve Jesus being mapped onto Titus (as Atwill’s thesis proposes) and the only distinct connection this story has with Jesus is the name “Mary” as the mother of an eaten child, and its connection to Passover. But “Mary” unfortunately was one of the most common Jewish female names (being, as it was, the name of the sister of Moses…one in four Jewish women had the name…you heard that right…one in four), and Passover is a ubiquitous theme throughout Jewish literature. So to have those two items alone as the link does not bode well.

Instead, what Atwill has found is what is certainly a very good instance of Josephus constructing what Josephus himself calls “a forsaken myth” to symbolize the “plight of the Jews” (JW 6.207-208) by inverting the concept of the Passover in order to represent the inversion of Jewish society among those who remained rebels against Rome. This is thus a case of the kind of symbolic-mythic composition employed in the Gospels, but it is notable for being uncommon for Josephus (a fact he himself is aware of, hence he clues us in by deliberately telling us it’s a “myth”). It is also not arguing for a religious doctrine, but simply making a clever literary point. Which was a standard skill taught in Greek schools.

What Josephus seems to have in mind is to communicate that Jewish society had been turned upside down by rebellion, and he does this by turning the Passover upside down. Hence we have here a Jew’s own poetic inversion of the Passover to make a contextual point about the state of society during the siege of Jerusalem. This does not suggest or require any knowledge of or allusion to Jesus or Christianity.

Had the baby been called Jesus, then Atwill might have had something. Or if the Gospels identified the mother of Jesus as “Mary the daughter of Eleazar” or “from the town of Bethezob,” as the Mary in Josephus is. Or had any Gospel identified any other Mary as being the actual daughter of Lazarus (“Eleazar”), instead of his sister, as only one Gospel actually does (Jn. 11:2). But alas, no such connections are there. Otherwise, Mary is too common a name to be remarkable, as is Eleazar. And the Gospels fail to identify Lazarus as from Bethezob but instead from Bethany. So it’s the wrong Lazarus. And Mary is his sister in John, not his daughter as in Josephus. And even this Mary (in John, the only Mary connected to a Lazarus at all, and by the wrong family relation) is not the mother of Jesus. So it’s also the wrong Mary.

So on every count a parallel is refuted here, not established. You have to change too many things to make a fit. And once you have to start changing the text all over the place to get what you want, on the basis of no evidence whatever, you are in crank land.

If the two authors (Josephus and “John”) were contriving parallels to make a joke or sell any deliberate point, they would have gotten their parallels straight, or at least done a much better job of it. For example, not only must we explain how the family relationship changed, and why Josephus meant to allude to Mary the mother of Jesus yet whoever wrote “John” (also Josephus?) got it wrong and made the corresponding Mary a different Mary not related to Jesus, but also why the names (Lazarus and Eleazar) aren’t even spelled the same, which usually indicates a lack of awareness of one writer by the other, not collusion.

That the Passover is being turned upside down is given by the fact that those who ate the Passover were specifically avoiding the slaying of their own sons, and sacrifices like this were meant to replace a human (like Isaac) with an animal (Lamb), whereas in this story an animal is replaced with a human, and not just any human, but the very son whose death was supposed to be averted by the Passover. Josephus clearly chose the name Mary because this is the name of the sister of Moses, the only prominent woman in the Exodus (hence Passover) narrative, especially given the meaning of her name, as Atwill himself notes: “rebellion.” But this “Mary” (the sister of Moses) is “rebellious” due to the OT legend of Num. 12, not from anything in the NT–where the mother of Jesus is never portrayed as rebellious–whereas the OT Mary is rebellious, and was punished for it: she is the woman whom Aaron begged “Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb” (Num. 12:12).

A rebellious Mary from the days of the Passover, associated with a half-consumed baby. Hmmmm. Might that sound like the source of Josephus’ story to you?

There is no connection to Jesus here. Rather, this is a Jew transvaluing the OT. The Numbers passage in the Septuagint even says katesthiei to hêmisu (“half consumed”) while Josephus uses to hêmisu katesthiei, inverted but otherwise identical wording. Since Josephus already calls his story “a forsaken myth” that would represent the “plight of the Jews” (JW 6.207-208), we need look no further for what Josephus is doing here.

Atwill tries to find many other parallels between this “myth” and the Gospels, but they all suffer from the same distorted interpretations as the others, and amount to the same tactics of forcing a fit employed by defenders of biblical literalism. In contrast, the links between the context of this myth in Josephus and the OT are much clearer and more obvious, and require no knowledge of Jesus or Christianity, much less imply any comment on them.

I suggested Atwill seek publication of this parallel, since though it does not specifically support his thesis, it is still very interesting and well worth publishing to the scholarly community. But Awill seems stuck on his thesis. He can’t get away from it, and thus sees parallels everywhere he looks, even when they don’t really exist. And he would never see reason on this point. I expect he still uses it as a proof of his case, as if I had never shown him the evidence above, even though in fact I did.

In all, I gave him a fair shot. But Atwill never has any defensible examples, rarely knows what he is talking about, gets a lot wrong, makes stuff up, never admits an error, and is generally in my experience a frustrating delusional fanatic. He also has no relevant academic degrees that I am aware of. And he appears to have made no effort to acquire fundamental skills (like a working knowledge of Greek or how to use a biblical textual apparatus). Yet he claims to be an expert. When will audiences get a clue?

–:–

Our Long Conversation

The last straw for me was when I realized he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to studying Greek, or manuscripts, or textual criticism, skills that would be essential for anyone defending any thesis like his. This was exposed in an extended email conversation we had years ago. To show what I mean, I will conclude here by pasting in key portions of the emails I sent him then.

What follows is inordinately long (so if you are bored with Atwill already, you can skip the rest of this post). And yet it’s only a fraction of our entire conversation. So it’s length will give you some idea of how much of my time I gave to him. It also shows my descent from giving him the benefit of a doubt and a serious chance, to getting sick of his bullshit (bullshit that became progressively worse as he got pushed into a corner by increasingly uncomfortable facts and logic), and finally giving up on him.

From: Richard Carrier <rcc20@columbia.edu>
Date: Mon Oct 24, 2005  3:37:17 PM America/Los_Angeles

Greetings!

Dear Mr. Carrier:

A friend passed along to me your posts concerning my work, Caesars’ Messiah. Your criticism suggests that I have not, evidentially, explained my thesis clearly enough. Please allow me to correct this. I maintain that the Gospels were designed by Flavian intellectuals to be read inter-textually with the histories of Josephus to create a ‘Raz’, or ‘ secret’ that indicates that Titus Flavius was the ‘son of Man’ that Jesus predicted would bring ‘woe’ to Judea. The Romans did this to mock the messianic Peshers that circulated in Judea during this era and likely inspired the Jews to revolt against the empire.

And to be sure you understand, I find this thesis highly implausible, which only means the burden of evidence is greater on anyone who wants to prove it, not that the thesis cannot possibly be true.

The  form of typology the Flavians used to create this overall ‘Raz’ concerning Titus in the Gospels is the same one used on a micro level by the author of Matthew to produce his ‘secret’ – that Moses’ life had ‘foreseen’ Jesus’ (Caesar’s Messiah, page 9). The author of Matthew combined three  elements – just enough shared information for an alert reader to recognize that  events from Jesus’ life were linked to events from Moses’ life, parallel locations for these linked events, and, most importantly, by a parallel sequence of the related events proving that they were not accidental.

This is certainly true, though it seems clear to me the purpose was a Jewish effort to convey a new message about how to reform society by conforming to God’s true will. The genre is called midrashic haggadah and is exemplified already in the writings of Philo and the 1st century Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum. It is derived from Hellenic modes of mythic discourse. The content only makes sense when understood as a message about how people should behave in order to correct the problems plaguing society, primarily corruption and greed, which inevitably led to violence. The commentaries of Bruce Malina are good studies on this point, but see also my discussion of Mark’s empty tomb narrative in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (esp. pp. 158-67) and Evan Fales’s contribution to that same book, “Taming the Tehom.” Similarly, note the Genesis and “clay pots” themes in Paul’s discourse on the nature of resurrection (ibid. n. 91, p. 206, and associated text and notes; p. 143, with associated notes; note also how Philo does same thing with OT that Matthew & Mark & Paul do: nn. 34-35, p. 202). This is all very clever and would require rabbinical familiarity with the OT and Jewish customs.

As I am sure you are aware, many of the parallels between Jesus’s ministry and Titus’s campaign I show have been noticed by other scholars. What has not been recognized heretofore is that these related events occur in the same order and at the same locations and can therefore be seen as part of the same typological system  established in Matthew.

Even if that is so (and if so, you should get this one analysis published in a peer reviewed journal to start the scholarly discussion properly), such type-mapping does not require Roman authors, nor the flippant motive you suggest.

One critical but obvious parallel has, amazingly, been missed however; the fact that Jesus’ prophecy concerning the coming fates of Simon and John given at the conclusion to his ministry (John 21), is clearly ‘foreseeing’ the fates of Simon and John, the leaders of the Jewish rebellion  handed out at the conclusion of the war. You have asked for a single piece of evidence that can be scrutinized. Though this is not the correct methodology for analyzing literary systems that are created incrementally (for example no single parallel would allow someone to deduce the ‘secret’ the author  of Matthew revealed)…

I do not expect a theory to be proven on one case, but I must start with one case, for the same reason psychical researchers do not waste money setting up experiments to test a psychic who has already failed one good test, and yet these same researchers don’t assume the psychic’s powers can be proven by passing that one test. One must pass several tests in sequence, each test justifying the labor and expense of setting up and conducting the next, but as soon as tests start failing, further inquiry is not warranted. So, too, here: I need one good case that is not ambiguous or flawed and that hints at something significant along the lines of your thesis. Once I confirm that one case, then I can look at the next best case, etc. However, if even your best case fails to convince, then I know I need not waste time on any others. It’s just a requirement of economy.

[N]evertheless, I am certain if you spend a just few minutes comparing the fates of the ‘two sets of leaders of messianic movements in Judea in the second half of the first century engaged in missionary activity’ I am sure you will come to same conclusion I did. Jesus’s prophecy foresees the rebel leaders’ fate.

I don’t follow you. There is no one named “John” in John 21, except Simon’s father, and that name is only there as a patronymic (it’s Simon’s last name, e.g. Simon Johnson). The “beloved disciple” is never named, but is most probably not someone named John, but Lazarus (see Bruce Malina’s commentary on John, esp. pp. 193-211, 290, and cf. Jn. 11 and 12). Simon and John were also extremely common names, and the “fates” hinted here are extremely vague, so no one can demonstrate a link between these characters and any historical persons, even if one were intended by the author.

Moreover, John 21 is not original to the Gospel. Like Mark 16:8-20, John 21 is an additional ending added by someone else later (cf. Jn. 20:30-31, compare 21:24-25), which redacts a story borrowed from Luke, about an event that happened during the life of Jesus, not (as here) after his resurrection (another example of contradictions between the Gospels). None of this makes much sense on your theory, certainly not as much sense as the standard interpretations do (i.e. that the reference to Simon’s fate is simply a nod to what was then Christian legend regarding Peter, as represented in the later Acts of Peter, the Gospel of John having been written by most accounts between 100 and 110 AD with this added ending written between 110 and 130 AD; while the mention of the unnamed disciple’s fate is simply a correction to a legend about Lazarus, that he would never die, having already been resurrected by Jesus).

For me that already makes your claim highly suspect, or highly unprovable.

But please note the pages in your book where you make your case and I’ll take a further look.

Once this parallel conclusion for the two ‘sons of God’ is established the overall typological  pattern in the Gospels becomes clear and their ‘Raz’ is revealed – Jesus’  ministry ‘foresaw’ Titus’ campaign. The life of the second ‘savior of Israel’ foresaw the campaign of the final ‘savior of Israel’. A few examples of the linked events of the ‘ministries’ of the two ‘son of god’ that occur in the same sequence are as follows – ‘fishing for men at the Sea of Galilee, an individual at Gadara from whose ‘one head’ a wicked  group emanated that infects another group who – all together – rush into the water and drown…

You mean Gergesa (aka “Gerasa”). Gadara is a textual corruption. Earlier manuscripts of Matthew had Gerasa or Gergesa (variants of the same coastal-town’s name), not Gadara, as was already known by the time of Origen (early 3rd century) if not before, and has since been confirmed through manuscript textual analysis, and [this] is why Luke and Mark both correctly identify the town as Gerasa, not Gadara, while the geography of all three accounts obviously requires the town to be Gergesa, not Gadara–the latter being nowhere near the water (rather, more than a day’s walk from it).

To come to a clearer understanding of the Roman wit I maintain exists in the Gospels, you may wish to view the Peshers among the DSS. For example, 1QpHab, in which the interpreter looks into his Scriptures for parallels of the travails that his ‘Righteous Teacher’ is suffering at the hands of the Romans. The Romans, evidentially, were amused by  such superstition and decided to create a ‘Righteous Teacher’ whose life had ‘truly’ foreseen the visitation of the real  ‘son of God’ – Titus Flavius, son of the deified Vespasian.

When Romans poked fun at religion, it took forms like that of the Satyricon of Petronius or Lucian’s True Story or his Lover of Lies, or the Satires of Juvenal, not obscure and highly technical rabbinical midrashic haggadah with clearly moral content, not satirical. That’s why I find your theory highly implausible. It defies expectation by having the Romans behaving very uncharacteristically and crediting them with vast and impressive rabbinical knowledge, all just to tell a joke no one would get.

As I see it, the Gospels were indeed written by many different scholars, and subjected to redaction. These facts do not intersect my thesis which only maintains that, however they came into their final form, the editing was done with an awareness of the typology between Jesus and Titus.

That is only half your thesis, since even if true (and it still needs to be demonstrated to the scholarly community) it does not entail that the reason for this mapping was satirical, rather than mytho-ethical, or that it was crafted by Romans, rather than Jews. The latter is the other half of your thesis, and may be even harder to prove than the first half. I certainly think they need to be kept distinct as much as possible. What “is” the case and “why” it is the case are very different as to methods and evidence, especially in history.

I always find it strange that unusual parallels between purportedly Jewish literature such as the Gospels and the works of Josephus, are not even attempted to be read inter-textually, but  rather are only subjected to ‘Gentile’ modes of analysis. Typology runs throughout Judaic literature and, therefore, whenever one encounters unusual parallels in such literature this should be the first, not the last, framework in which to attempt to understand them.

I agree. But most content in the Gospels already has these sources in the OT and Apocrypha and Jewish oral lore, and only occasionally are there clear allusions to distinctly Hellenic contexts (e.g. the Emmaus narrative in Luke is clearly a transvaluation of the legend of Romulus and Proculus, and I believe there is a commentary on Orphic soteriology in Mark’s empty tomb narrative, both with clear moral import). We should thus look first for Jewish parallels that produce meaning (e.g. how Matthew reworks Daniel in his empty tomb narrative: see my discussion in “The Plausibility of Theft,” again in The Empty Tomb: Jesus beyond the Grave), and consider parallels from the Gentile world secondarily. And either way, the greatest problem is always one of retrofitting: loosening definitions so much that almost anything can be made to fit. To avoid that, we have to maintain strict methods and restraint in our assertions.

From: Richard Carrier <rcc20@columbia.edu>
Date: Tue Nov 1, 2005  11:07:07 AM America/Los_Angeles

Dear Richard:

Hope you don’t mind my passing along a correction to your understanding of Origen’s position on Gadara. He did not write that: “earlier manuscripts had Gerasa”, rather he wrote that the “earlier manuscripts had “Gadaraenes”. He is silent as to whether or not any earlier manuscript gave a different location.
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[EDIT: I didn’t notice it at the time, but Atwill actually says here that Origen wrote “earlier manuscripts had Gadaraenes,” which is false. Origen never said that. In Commentary on John 6.41.208-209 Origen says simply “in a few copies we have found, ‘into the country of the Gadarenes’,” nothing more. He goes on to explain that can’t have been the original reading. And he uses this as an example of his general point that “In the matter of proper names the Greek copies are often incorrect.” I am uncertain whether Atwill was lying to me, or somehow misread the text, or meant “few” and accidentally typed the word “earlier.”]

Regardless of what Origen said, we now can determine ourselves from extant mss. [= manuscripts] that Gadara is the corruption (check any textual apparatus for the NT to see why). Origen was aware of there being a corruption, but lacked the data we now have, so he resolved it by appeal to his personal knowledge of geography (and the symbolic employment of the location by the Gospel author)–and his reasoning is entirely correct: Gadara is geographically impossible, whereas Gergesa is clearly the intended location (Origen also discusses a very different city called Gerasa, but we now know that Gerasa is a possible translitteration of Gergesa from local dialects into Greek, and so the original text could have had either, referring to what Origen identifies as Gergesa). That all the earliest mss. that survive of Mark, Matthew, and Luke have Gerasa or Gergesa, not Gadara, confirms this (including an actual papyrus from Luke dated to the very time of Origen), as does the fact that the textual analysis of the manuscript tradition that we can reconstruct from texts all across the Mediterranean confirms that the Gadara reading must have arisen later in the tradition than either Gerasa or Gergesa.

Further, his etymolgical basis for suspecting “Gergesa” as meaning “dwelling of the casters-out” has been dismissed by specialists. Moreover, ‘Gadara’ is defined by Josephus as possessing territory “which lay on the frontiers of the Sea of Galilee” (Life ix, 42)…

Pardon me, but [Josephus] says no such thing there. The text says:

Then Justus through persuasion convinced the citizens [of Tiberias: Life 31] to take up arms, though forcing many against their will, and he went out with all of them and burned the villages of both the Gadarenes and the Hipposians, villages which happened to be lying on the border between the land of Tiberias and that of Scythopolis.

Hippos and Gadara had towns “on the border between” the cities of Tiberias and Scythopolis (which Josephus can only mean in rough terms, since neither could have had towns directly between those two cities, but could have held towns within five or ten miles of a point between Tiberias and Scythopolis, which could have sat on the border of lands held by Tiberias and Scythopolis).

Nowhere is there any mention of the “Sea of Galilee” here, nor geographically would that be possible. Hippos would certainly have had villages near the sea, but they would be between the sea and any villages held by Gadara. So there is no way to read Josephus as here saying there were villages of Gadara near the Sea of Galilee, much less on it.

Indeed, elsewhere Josephus says Gadara is twice as far from Tiberias as Hippos (Life 336): Hippos, he says, is roughly 4 miles from Tiberias, Gadara roughly 8 miles, and Scythopolis roughly 15 miles (all his numbers are short of the actual distance by about 25% but are correct in proportion). Here again he places the sequence in geographic order as: Tiberias, Hippos, Gadara, and Scythopolis. Though these do not sit on a straight line, their relative position north to south is correct. It is roughly four miles from Tiberias to the end of the Sea, where the border of Hippos could have been (if Josephus is measuring to nearest border and not across the water to the actual city), and about six actual miles beyond that in a continuous line (as the coastline points) is Gadara. So Josephus was short by only a couple of miles, yet even his own short estimate places Gadara several hours away from the sea. Josephus likewise says (in Life 44) “some nearby peoples, Gadarenes and Gabarenes and Tyrians” joined an attack on Gischala–these tribes are all over Galilee, and none near the Sea of Galilee. Thus again “nearby” is clearly a relative term–certainly for any sentence that says both the Gadarenes and the Tyrians were “nearby” Gischala!

All in all, there is zero support in Josephus for placing any Gadarenes near the Sea.

This understanding is supported by a number of coins bearing the name Gadara that portray a ship.

Did you actually bother to check the meaning of this? The coins in question were issued only once under Pompey and depict a war galley with the inscription “NAUMA[CHIA].” No Gadarene coins from any other era depict any ships of any kind. A “naumachia” was usually a mock naval battle held in an amphitheater, and may have been in this case, although the Sea of Galilee could have been the most convenient venue at the time. But all the cities of the Decapolis would have been invited to send teams to the competition, not just those on the coast. The Gadarene team probably won, and Pompey honored their victory by issuing a coin celebrating it. This in no way conveys the notion that Gadara was a naval town, much less a military base!

I think your scholarship is alarmingly shallow here, in both your treatment of the text of Josephus and this coin. Do you even read Greek?

From: Richard Carrier <rcc20@columbia.edu>
Date: Tue Nov 1, 2005  1:05:49 PM America/Los_Angeles

Thank you for your response. I want to first point out that I did not send you the synopsis with the hope you would find in it ‘proof’ of my thesis. In fact I do not believe that the thesis can be ‘proven’, as I understand the expression. Rather, I would argue that theories regarding literary systems, which are simply efforts to understand an author’s meaning, can only be judged in terms of their overall explanatory power. My claim is not that the theory presented in Caesar’s Messiah is ‘provable’, but that it has greater explanatory power – can coherently explain more of the Gospels – than any other. I sent the synopsis merely because, as you were commenting upon the thesis, I thought you would appreciate such a description.

I understand all this and I agree with what I think you mean, but this does not mean that all explanations that “work” are therefore equally likely to be true, as I’m sure you would agree. And if explanations that “work” differ in merit, there must be some criterion that distinguishes theories with merit from theories without, the same criteria that can identify the “most likely” explanation from among numerous working explanations. Thus, to “prove” a historical theory true means simply that: to demonstrate, as you put it, that a given theory explains all the evidence better than all other explanations.

Explanatory power is not sufficient to do that, however–it is only one of at least five criteria that have to be met–see my discussion in Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 238-52 [EDIT: now more formally accomplished in Proving History, ch. 4], or–more importantly because it presents a direct parallel of a fringe theory that eventually converted me from a scoffer to an advocate–my discussion of Doherty’s Jesus-myth theory. Thus, when I ask you to make a case, I am not asking for a scientific or mathematical case, I am simply asking for a case that meets the same criteria as any other historical theory that we are warranted believing is most likely true.

And in my experience, the people who advocate that extraterrestrials built the pyramids, or that UFOs are alien spacecraft, or that psychic powers exist, say all the same things you do as to method: that their claim cannot be “proven,” it just “explains more” than any other explanation, and that therefore we should believe it, or at least believe it is more likely than the mainstream explanation(s) otherwise accepted throughout the academic world. Your theory stands in the same place that these theories do as far as consensus goes: it is not accepted by the academic world, not even by a respectable minority. Therefore, you have two options: accept that your theory is less likely to be true than the mainstream theory, or demonstrate otherwise. And to do the latter requires meeting real standards, of peer review, consensus-building, and careful and thorough scholarship.

That’s where you stand. Where I stand is different, because I am in the same position vis-a-vis your theory as I am vis-a-vis the aliens-built-the-pyramids theory. As a matter of mere logical possibility, that theory could be true, but it is simply so unlikely that I cannot warrant wasting time considering it, as I hope you would agree. Thus, when some new pyramidiot comes to me and says he has some amazing new evidence for his theory, which is considerably complicated and requires extensive research to confirm (and they do–having written on this for a national publication years ago I am still a magnet for every guy who thinks he can prove me wrong), I don’t bother checking his supposedly “new” theory against the evidence. And I am right not to bother.

But if he gave me a taste of his case and insisted, just as you do, that the whole case is strong enough to warrant attention, what am I to do? I can’t listen to every bozo who says this. My lifespan simply isn’t that long. So I will ask him to present me with one single piece of his case, the piece that is most “amazing” or suggestive or whatever, and if that checks out and does indeed point where he claims, then I can ask for his next best piece of evidence, and so on, and if he keeps passing the bar eventually I will have examined his whole case and, by then, I should be convinced he’s right. But if he fails to present anything even remotely persuasive even on the first try, then I know it is a complete waste of my time to look at any of his other hundred pieces of “evidence.”

Whether you appreciate this or not is irrelevant. You simply have a choice: meet my standards or walk away. If you walk away, then I remain where all other historians stand: with no warrant to give any credit to your theory. If you are fine with that, then so am I. Otherwise, your only recourse is to meet our terms of demonstration. Yet already you break the rules by barraging me with a dozen cases of mixed value. I told you to pick one–your best–and start with that. Yet none of the examples you sent me are even good examples (except one, which is not good enough [EDIT: meaning Mary the Cannibal, which I addressed above]).

If you wish to understand the thesis, however, there is no shortcut to reading the book, as the system that I maintain exists in the Gospels is both incrementally built and interrelated. Thus, as with the typology in Mathew, no single parallel is capable of even demonstrating the thesis, which can only be understood by viewing the overall mapping. As in Matthew, a number of the parallels between Jesus and Titus can only be seen within the overall mapping scheme.

This sounds like apologetics to me. Either you have a good example or you don’t. If you don’t, then anything you construct from bad examples is not going to get beyond clever retrofitting, and that’s simply not how real history gets done. I hope you understand that I do not mean by “good” example an example that alone proves your case. I merely mean an example that is peculiar enough that it generates a reasonable suspicion that you may be on to something. I think your best examples should be even more impressive than that, but if your very best example merely rises to the level of being what I just defined as a “good” example, then start with that. Otherwise, if you lack even a single “good” example, I am afraid to say you can only have a clever bit of pseudohistory on your hands, a theory that “can” fit the evidence but is not thereby the most likely explanation of those facts.

I would like to proceed as follows; I will send you the related citations (below) you asked for, but I will include with them the very minimum amount of information I deem necessary for any understanding of the linkage between the passages my thesis posits. If, after reviewing this, you wish more information, or have criticisms or questions, we will simply repeat the process until you are satisfied. If you find that you are not interested, or do not have the time for such correspondence, then no harm done, and I will wait for you to get in touch before we resume.

Everything in the Gospels foresees Titus’ campaign. This relationship is satirical and designed to mock the messianic Jew’s belief in prophecy that foresaw them defeating the ‘Kittim’.

Again, please make an effort to distinguish claims as to what is the case from claims as to why. Causal theories are different from theories of fact, and anyone who confuses them will likely get all sorts of things confused. So please take this advice:

(1) You should be able to show that the Gospels map onto Titus in a manner that cannot reasonably be explained by coincidence or noncausal inevitability, and you should be able to do this without making any assertions as to why the evidence maps that way. The key here is that your map must be good enough that coincidence or inevitability become less probable an explanation than deliberate construction of a parallel. That is the bar you must meet for that claim.

(2) Once you have established (1), and only once you have established (1), you should be able to present evidence that the reason this map was created is “satire designed to mock the messianic Jew’s belief in prophecy,” as opposed to some other reason. The key here is that your causal explanation should have specific evidence in its favor that does not support any other causal explanation nearly as well, or specific evidence that actually argues against all other causal explanations except yours.

Even proving (1) but not (2) would be an enormous breakthrough that should be reported and discussed throughout the field of biblical scholarship, and thus warrants submitting papers on it to peer reviewed journals. But proving (2) would be a breakthrough of vastly greater importance in every conceivable way. But you can only establish belief in either that is proportional to the strength of the evidence. If you show that (1) is only slightly better an explanation than coincidence and inevitability, or that (2) is only slightly better than alternative explanations, then your theory only warrants a suspicion of being true–it will not warrant any actual belief. I think you will need a stronger case than that for your work to be of any use to the scholarly community.

But in the following you make no effort at all to untangle (1) and (2). Your presentations confuse both kinds of theory and thus you seem to be confusing yourself even more.

‘Jesus’ was designed as a prophet that actually ‘foretold’ the truth, that Titus would destroy the ‘wicked generation’. His prophetical nature was not confined to his direct predictions – which all were regarding Titus’s military victories –  but, like the relationship between Moses and Jesus, his very life ‘foresaw’ Titus’s campaign.

The most obvious alternative causal explanation to (2), assuming you can establish (1) in the first place, is that Jewish critics of the Jewish elite, following God’s prediction in Daniel of that elite’s downfall at the hands of a Gentile conqueror, crafted the Jesus character as a symbolic link between God’s promise as played out in Moses and God’s wrath as played out in Titus, asking the reader to choose sides (Jesus or the Jewish elite) and by thus choosing, they choose their own fate (destruction, just as at the hands of Titus, or salvation, just as promised to and by Moses).

That is the first theory I would examine for (2) if you establish (1). But you fail even to establish (1) as far as I can see. For not a single example [you gave me] is a “good” example of that as defined above. You can’t count something that “can” fit as a good example. The fit has to be significantly more probable by design than by chance, and that requires actual evidence of an intended fit, not the mere ability to force a fit by reinterpreting whatever you need.

The humor in the Gospels is black and primarily revolves around the Flavians seeing irony in the fact that the Jews, a people too fastidious to eat pork, engaged in cannibalism during the siege of Jerusalem. The basic structure of the humor is for there to be a literal meaning to Jesus’s comments that changes them from seemingly spiritual to black comedy. For example, when Jesus states “to have life in you, you must eat of my flesh”, this is, within the Gospels satirical level, a prophecy that will, as shown below, come to pass literally within Titus’ campaign.

Except that in Paul and the Gospels the idea of eating the flesh of Jesus makes far more sense as a Jewish theological scheme of salvation than as some vastly obscure joke no one got. Surely you know scholars agree Jesus is equated with the atoning lamb whose flesh is and was in fact eaten by Israel, and not only that, but eaten in substitution for human flesh [EDIT: e.g. at the Passover, that of everyone’s firstborn; at the original Yom Kippur, that of Isaac, Abraham’s firstborn]. It is thus a message of communion and salvation, a means to enter the true Israel and thus win the salvation promised by God to Israel. That’s quite clearly the meaning, not some joke on cannibalism.

For example, Jesus clearly is presented as one who merges the Passover Lamb and the Goat of Atonement of Yom Kippur. The Barrabas story clearly indicates this (he is the “scapegoat” of Lev. 16, as his name means “Son of the Father” and thus we have two “Sons of the Father,” one taking on the sins of Israel and being released into the “wilderness,” i.e. the mob, and the other being sacrificed to atone for the sins of Israel). This is the theme in Christian theology throughout all the NT documents, where the sacrifice of Jesus atones for the sins of Israel just like the Goat of Yom Kippur and yet is also the Passover Lamb that unites Israel and wards off God’s wrath. For example, it is by sharing the flesh of the lamb and bread of Passover that one joins or exits the promise of salvation, by joining or exiting the body of Israel, therefore it is by sharing the flesh and bread of The Savior (which is what the word “Jesus” means) that one joins or exits the true body of Israel. There is no cannibalism here, any more than there is “cannibalism” in eating the ram substituted for Isaac–rather, it is a ritual by which one joins the body of Christ by sharing [symbolically] in his flesh, and thus sharing in his fate, which is eternal life (see my discussion in The Empty Tomb, p. 145, etc. [EDIT: I say much more about this, with citations of the scholarship, in my forthcoming book On the Historicity of Jesus]).

The ingenious congruence of texts makes this quite clear as the intended meaning of the Eucharist, and I see no joke here–this is clever and serious. Note my emphasis of key vocabulary:

John 1:29: “On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!”

Thus Jesus is declared to be both the Lamb of Passover and the Goat of Atonement all rolled up in one. Because he is the Lamb who atones, we eat him just as we eat the lamb, and gain the same benefits thereof.

So, therefore:

1 Pet. 1:18-20: “Ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious BLOOD, as of a LAMB without spot: the blood of Christ: who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of times for your sake.”

And this principle of substituted flesh is already Jewish [in Gen. 22:4-18] … That establishes the principle of substitution, “on the third day” eating the flesh of the ram in the place of “[Abraham’s] only son” and by doing this God will guarantee every good thing.

Hence Jesus does this by connecting Yom Kippur with Passover, wherein the lamb must be eaten [in Exodos 12:3-15] … One Passover Lamb that can feed everyone will do, all the Jews will kill the lamb (just as the Gospels and Paul portray as having happened), and those who eat its flesh and take its blood as a sign will be saved from destruction, while those who do not share of the Passover blood and bread will be cut off from Israel (thus by sharing the sacred bread one joins the body of Israel). The symbolic parallel here is clear in Paul [in 1 Cor. 5:4-8] …

Thus, Jesus is our Passover, by eating his flesh we join the congregation by joining the body of Christ and thus we share in his fate. That is why Paul routinely says the Church is Christ’s body, which it becomes by consuming his “flesh” symbolically–in the same way that wine was widely regarded as the blood of Bacchus, and grapes his flesh.

This is in fact the mainstream view–most scholars agree with the general interpretation above. This is the theory that your theory (2) is competing against, and the evidence so far looks stronger on our side than on yours.

The Gospels are oriented to Titus’s first battle, his ‘onset’ at theSea of Galilee. Therefore the events in the Gospels that occur within the typological mapping before that battle are described in the Gospels as occurring “before my time”.  For example, Jesus’s description of himself on Mount Gerrizim as “living water” (John, 4:6-21) foresees the Roman battle with the Jewish rebels on Mount Gerrizim (Jewish Wars, Whiston – henceforth JW – 3, 7, 312) where the Jewish rebels died of thirst and occurred before Titus’s ‘onset’ at the Sea of Galilee.

But [that] encounter with Jesus does not take place on Mount Gerizim. The location is Jacob’s Well, just outside Sychar (4:5). Mount Gerizim is only visible from there (4:20), and its importance is plainly stated [in that passage]: it is the center of Samaritan worship, their parallel to the Jerusalem Temple, thus it is inevitable that Jesus would mention how he will replace it just as he will replace the Temple (Jn. 2:18-22). Had it been some other mountain that otherwise had no reason for both texts to mention, then a parallel might exist with Josephus; otherwise we already have sufficient reason to expect John and Josephus would mention the same mountain.

Likewise, no parallel with dying of thirst on the mountain is drawn, but with drinking the water of Jacob’s well. Hence the “water” reference is exactly the same as Mark’s allusion to the water of Jacob’s Well (Empty Tomb, p. 161, etc.), which makes far more sense of this than your theory (and is clearly the intended sense from the chapter’s entire conversation). Your theory seems to cherry-pick this “living water” mention, and fudges the location for it, in order to force a tenuous parallel in Josephus. Gerizim would inevitably be a center of importance in both authors and “water” is a Johanine theme, mentioned twenty times in that Gospel, usually with theological significance (thus allowing lots of different contexts you could have cherry picked from), including a repeat of “living water” that reveals the actual intended meaning of the phrase:

John 7:38: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water.”

Thus your theory does not make any more sense of the facts than coincidence and inevitability already do.

Therefore, Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman on Gerrizim is said to have occurred “before my hour has come”.  (John 7:6)

This is an implausible stretch of speculation. The mainstream theory makes more sense, or at least just as much sense: i.e. his “time” is the time of death and resurrection when he shall atone for all sins and thus prevail:

Joh 2:4: And Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

Joh 7:6: Jesus therefore saith unto them, My time is not yet come; but your time is always ready.

Joh 7:30: They sought therefore to take him: and no man laid his hand on him, because his hour was not yet come.

Joh 8:20: These words spake he in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man took him; because his hour was not yet come.

John 20:17: Jesus saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father: but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.

The satirical and typological linkage between the Gerrizim events is straightforward…

In the mainstream theory, yes. In your theory, it seems forced and implausible and in no way exceeds the mainstream theory in evidential support, as far as you’ve presented it here.

…and notice that Jesus refers to the coming war.

Where? I see no reference to a war here, or in fact to any specific event on Gerizim. You have to be “inventing” such a reference by conveniently “reinterpreting” what the text says as it suits you. This is the same trick played by biblical literalists who interpret the text however they need to in order to eliminate contradictions.

Jesus refers to himself as ‘living water’ on Gerrizim because this ‘foresees’ the fact that this was where the rebels ran out of water.

Why not just say this? The Gospels have Jesus outright predict details of the destruction of Jerusalem, but here he completely hides any prophetic mention of any specific event behind an otherwise clear theological and soteriological discourse on Jacob’s well and the true salvation of all Israel? That seems improbable to me. So I don’t see your theory coming anywhere near as well supported as the mainstream view of this passage. [EDIT: And again, Jesus does not refer to himself as living water “on” Gerizim…he is not at Gerizim in that story, but Sychar. Atwill seemed never to acknowledge this. He kept going on as if this scene was narrated as occurring on Mount Gerizim.]

This theme reappears when Jesus calls himself “living bread’ at Jerusalem where the rebels ran out of food.

The reference is to mana (“the living bread which came down out of heaven,” and literally “mana” a few verses earlier) and God’s corresponding promise of salvation to Israel, allusions that make less sense on your theory, nor is there here any reference to any prediction of anyone starving anywhere. So again the context already provides a clear, obvious, and far better supported interpretation than yours.

The onset of Jesus’s ministry – his acquiring of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee- is linked to JW 3, 10. The typology is extremely complex and also links to John 21 – where Jesus’s prophecy concerning his disciples ‘fishing for men’ actually comes to pass. Within this overview, I would simply note that the word Titus uses in his speech “horme” can mean, exactly as “onset’ does in English, either a staring point or an assault. Titus also states that “God will be assisting to my onset”, directly after making one comment about his father and another about his being his father’s son. Since at the time JW was being written Vespasian had been deified, it is at least arguable that the ‘God’ Titus is referring to was his father, particularly since the ‘god’ who actually “assisted” his ‘son of god’ – Titus – during the coming battle was Vespasian.

That this “can” be what Josephus intended in no way argues that it “is” what Josephus intended. “Maybe, therefore probably,” is invalid reasoning.

The location – following the format of typological mapping in Matthew – is the same as the onset of Jesus’s ministry. Further, Titus, like Jesus, has been sent by his father, is followed (Luke 5:10), tells his disciples not to be afraid (Luke 5:10)

These are inevitable parallels–they are true of hundreds of people in history. It’s like the scores of “parallels” between Lincoln and Kennedy that circulate on the web. We need good examples, not questionable ones. Not because Josephus couldn’t have intended these parallels, but because we have no way of knowing whether he did from all-too-common attributes like these.

…and of course, there is a reference to ‘fishing for men’ in both ‘onsets’.

Where is this in Josephus?

Also notice that the leader of the rebels is named ‘Jesus’ and that Titus kills him (JW 3, 10, 5, 510)…

There are at least six men named Jesus in Josephus. It was one of the most common of all Jewish names. And Titus kills a lot of leaders, not just this one. So we have here all the ingredients for coincidence. And since the name means “Savior,” the Christian savior had to have that name (indeed, I think it is demonstrable that the Gospel Jesus comes from the OT: the name “Jesus” appears there 214 times! Take all those references, and the OT verses that are linked to them by direct allusion back or forward, and you can construct almost the entire gospel from them).

Notice that the sequence of events [between the mentions of Gadara in Mark vs. Josephus] – again following the typology in Matthew – is the same for both stories, which certainly makes the argument that the parallels are accidental more complex.

It looks like you are retrofitting again–finding anything that is even remotely able to be forced to fit. Otherwise, there is no sequence of events that is the same, unless you yourself arbitrarily “declare” that a wall of spears is a Sea, that some dying and others dispersing is the same thing as all perishing, that rebels recruiting soldiers is the same thing as demons entering pigs (neither story using the concept of “infection”), that recruits “some by will, some forced against their will” is the same thing as all the demons asking of their own free will to be moved into the pigs, and so on. In other words, this “parallel” is far too contrived to be convincing.

Also notice that the ‘legion’s’ behavior in the Gospels is incoherent from any theological perspective, but as a portent of Josephus’ story makes perfect sense.

I see no such sense in it. The parallel is bizarre and barely intelligible, and so tenuous that no one would ever get it. In contrast, that the choice of demons would be to perish is exactly the moral message of the gospel. There is nothing incoherent here–this is perfectly in line with Jewish theology. And that this fleet of demons would get the peculiar label “legion” is yet another reference to the way of violence, and the use of force by the elite to suppress the masses, [as being] the way of demons and thus the way of destruction (in contrast to the way of communism and pacifism that was being offered in its place). For example, when the Jewish “mob” choose Barabbas, the message is that they are choosing the way of insurrection and murder, and hence death, instead of choosing the Atoning Death of God’s Christ, and hence eternal life.

Even beyond that, MacDonald’s theory as to the Homeric meaning of the swine has more evidence in its favor than yours, and though I do find it intriguing, I am not entirely convinced by his theory [on this point], so I can only be even less convinced by yours. Yet he at least has strict criteria and tries to follow them, unlike your approach:

The typology in the passage showing that the child is to be regarded as a ‘messiah’ is complex and I will not go into it in this overview, but I do want to point out that in addition to ‘fulfilling’ the prophecy concerning ‘eating my flesh’ the passage also fulfills two other NT prophecies. One is that given in Luke 2:35 which predicts that Mary will be ‘pierced through’ and is fulfilled in JW 6, 3, 204; the authors use different words that, from the satirical perspective, have the same meaning.

Jesus says “a sword shall pierce through thine own soul” — had Josephus used a phrase closer to this, you might have something. But instead you have to exaggerate what tenuous connections there are, when anyone could describe hunger in a similar way as stabbing pains, while in Luke there is no connection at all even alluded to that such piercing will be related to hunger or would even relate to the body! That’s not a good example. Moreover, you are jumping now between Luke and John to build a parallel–yet any intended parallel would most likely be constructed all in one place (either Luke or John or both, but not spread out at random between them).

The linkage to Jesus’s crucifixion occurs in Josephus, Life, 26. The typology showing that the individual who survives is a messiah is complex and I will only mention here that it exists, but I would note that ‘Joseph of Arimathea’ is an obvious pun upon Joseph bar Mathias.

It is actually a more obvious pun on what the word Arimathaia actually means: “Best Doctrinetown.”

Again, why not simply say Barmathias? Why disguise the connection by spelling both names differently? The Gospels also make clear it is a place, not a person ([using the preposition] “from” Arimathaia). And Josephus’s Life says “Matthias” while the Gospels all say -mathaia, yet an intended parallel would employ the same spelling, don’t you think?

…who are both ‘wise counselors’ who arranged for the ‘survivor’ to be taken down from the cross. I would also point out that the author has provided a path to know exactly when the event occurred relative to the other parallel links – after the fall of Jerusalem but before Titus left Judea.

As far [as] your point that John 21 does not mention ‘John’, I would note that the passage does not mention Simon either, instead calling him by his nickname ‘Peter’.

What!? “Simon” appears seven times in John 21!

[EDIT: Notice how Atwill can never get his facts straight, and is frequently certain that things are true that are demonstrably false.]

The fact that the passage was clearly moved to its position from somewhere else actually supports my thesis, as it has been moved to the correct position to link it to Josephus depiction of the fates of the rebel leaders JW 6, 9, 434.

But how can it have started out at an “incorrect” position when all the Gospels are supposed to have been crafted with the same ends in mind? Did Luke screw up?

For clarification of my thesis I would ask that you accept the straightforward reading of John 21 and attempt to view the passage as a possible prophecy regarding the rebel leaders Simon and John and then locate it within the overall mapping between Jesus and Titus. As with the typology in Matthew, everything becomes clear once someone sees the ‘big picture’. I would also note that my thesis does not require conjectures regarding the texts; but accepts them as they have been presented.

If these are your best examples, the case is closed: your theory is unwarranted. None of the above examples is “good” and thus I cannot warrant wasting any more time on this–unless you have kept your actual good examples in hiding? The only good example you have is neither an example of (1) nor (2) and therefore is not an example of anything relating to your thesis–although it is a very fascinating example of a clever literary device in Josephus, one I would encourage you to get published in a peer reviewed journal.

From: Richard Carrier <rcc20@columbia.edu>
Date: Wed Nov 2, 2005  11:19:42 AM America/Los_Angeles

Dear Richard:

Your statement: “Hippos would certainly have had villages near the sea, but they would be between the sea and any villages held by Gadara” is geometrically incorrect. If you simply take a ruler and chart lines from Hippos, Gadara, Tiberius and Scythopolis to the Sea of Galilee you will find that it is indeed possible for Gadarato have possessed villages next to Lake Tiberius. You are inventing facts (that Hippos possessed villages that ‘blocked’ Gadara from having villages next to the Sea).

You seem to think “can be” is equivalent to “probably was.” Please stop that. I am a historian, and speak like a historian, not like a theologian. I am not arguing for what is “logically necessary” but what is historically probable. The scenario you suggest is certainly logically possible, but it is very unlikely, and again nowhere in evidence–remember, Origen went there and is speaking from personal experience of the geography. Had Gadara held villages on the Sea, don’t you think he would have pointed that out instead of arguing that the town must have been Gergesa? Hence you are the one who has to “invent” towns nowhere in evidence in order to get your parallel to work. But a theory based on pure speculation remains pure speculation. It can never rise above that. I am content to agree that your theory rises no higher than pure speculation. Are you?

Further, your statement that: “yet even his own short estimate places Gadara several hours away from the sea” underscores the logical absurdity of your position – that Gadara could not be the place of the Gospel demoniac story because of its location – since even that distance is within the range of distance a herd of swine could travel…

Oh dear me. Are you serious? The demons flew into the pigs, then the pigs ran six miles to the sea? That’s exactly the kind of silly and desperate contrivance that biblical literalists depend on to eliminate contradictions in the Bible. Just like them, you are trying to eliminate a contradiction between the facts and your own pet theory. If you get to invent hours-long journeys out of “rushed down the slope into the sea” then what theory couldn’t you defend? Don’t you see the self-defeating nature of your own methodology? All you have here is a self-fulfilling theory, by which you can invent anything you need to make it fit. What objective criteria limit what you can do by way of “interpreting” the text? I see none here.

Your statement: “That all the earliest mss. that survive of Mark, Matthew, and Luke have Gerasa or Gergesa, notGadara, confirms this (including an actual papyrus from Luke dated to the very time of Origen)” Is clearly contradicted by Origen who knew of even earlier manuscripts that had ‘Gadara’.

Origen does not know or state the dates of the mss. that had that reading. So it cannot be said any of the Gadara readings were “earlier” even from his remark. Yet what I said is that all the earliest mss. that survive have those readings, so my statement cannot be contradicted by anything Origen said anyway. What Origen lacked access to was all the diverse geography and tradition that current mss. reflect. The fact that so many diverse traditions have that reading (even in translations, such as the Armenian and Syriac and Ethiopian and pre-Jerome Latin, etc.) corroborates statistically the conclusion that the earliest reading was not Gadara (had that been so, we would have more traditions with it–instead, the only extant mss. with that reading are the later and less reliable mss.). Again, though it is “possible” for the normal course of transmission to be inverted, this is not probable, and historians deal in the probable, not what is “merely possible.”

You are also ignoring the point that neither Luke nor Mark have Gadara until later medieval mss. start inserting it. Only Matthew has anything like an early reading of Gadara. That confirms the original reading was not Gadara: since Mark wrote first and Luke and Matthew both copied Mark, the corruption to Gadara had to happen either between Mark and Matthew (or by Matthew) or after Matthew (most likely the latter, since most extant early mss. of Mt. still don’t have Gadara, and Origen himself confirms this…).

Since Gadara only appears in Mark and Luke in late mss., never in earlier mss., and since most mss. of Matthew don’t have Gadara either, even in very isolated traditions (like the Ethiopian and Armenian) where an emendation away from Gadara would be very unlikely to have occurred in both completely isolated mss. traditions (much less numerous such geographically distinct traditions), the conclusions of probability are not with you.

Hence all scholars who know what they are talking about and who have applied the science of critical textual analysis to the mss. agree that Gadara was not original in Mark or Luke and is very unlikely to have been original in Matthew. You are thus again rejecting established expert conclusions which were based on proven skills and criteria, without applying any proven criteria at all, merely to prop up your own dubious pet theory. That’s exactly what the biblical literalists do. It simply isn’t the way real history gets done.

And notice that he only states knowledge of manuscripts with Gadara, he is silent as to whether or not other manuscripts gave another city.

Oh dear me. That is entirely false, and on this I can finally conclude you are not competent as a historian.

Origen says:

“The transaction about the swine, which were driven down a steep place by the demons and drowned in the sea, is said to have taken place in the country of the Gerasenes.”

Gerasenes. Not Gadarenes.

Then he says:

“But in a few copies we have found, ‘into the country of the Gadarenes’ …[but] there is no lake there with overhanging banks, nor any sea.”

Hence a few copies said “Gadarenes.” Emphasis on FEW. Therefore, most did not say Gadara. He does not say of which Gospels, either, but since he doesn’t say “the manuscripts of Matthew” clearly his remark entails that most mss. of Matthew did not have Gadara, either, and probably no other mss. did except a few of Matthew.

Origen then is vague as to where he gets the idea of Gergesa, but from the context it seems clear he either understood Gerasa to be a possible translitteration of Gergesa (as we have now concluded today) or he knew of some mss. with that reading (as we now know there were). At the very least, he does not deny either conclusion, and does not otherwise state his reason for mentioning this town (not even as his own conjecture). But one thing is clear: Gadara was the rare reading even in his day, not the common reading, even in the mss. available to him.

[EDIT: And again, even Origen knew it was impossible, not least because Gadara is nowhere near the Sea, which he confirmed personally. Atwill simply never acknowledged any of this. He just pretended I never said it, or gainsaid it with falsehoods, as you can see he just did above. You might now be getting the idea of why I am sick of this and see no point in conversing with the man ever again. And mind you, I left out half the conversation…there was even more tedious stuff like this.]

Obviously there were ‘early manuscripts’ with Gadaraas why else, your conjectures regarding corruption aside, would the received texts give that city?

Why do any of the several thousand corruptions exist in the Bible? A great many are simple errors of mispelling, misreading, transposition, etc., as we have confirmed countless times in all ms. traditions in and outside of the Biblical field. It was so common, in fact, that the presumption must be toward scribal error, unless we have good reason to argue otherwise (e.g. dogmatic purposes or cross-contamination). That we don’t know exactly why this mistake was made in no way argues against the abundant evidence that it was, in fact, a mistake. Hence you must answer why some mss. say Gazarene, some Garadene, some Gergesthan, some Gergustene, or else concede that such corruptions simply happen–as in fact clearly they have!

Your other email resorts to similar contrivances and inventions as you’ve resorted to above, and neither follows nor articulates any valid method I am aware of, so I won’t answer it. You have not convinced me, despite your best efforts. So I consider our conversation closed.

From: Richard Carrier <rcc20@columbia.edu>
Date: Wed Nov 9, 2005  11:18:39 AM America/Los_Angeles

Richard, I recognize that this has been a painful exchange for you, but when you publicly comment on someone’s work without having read it, you are going to get spanked.

I’m afraid not. You have essentially misunderstood some of what I have said and ignored the rest of it and now you have created a fictional world in which I have been “spanked.” The fact is, my points remain sound, and your argument remains non-credible. But clearly you have given up taking serious scholarship seriously, and you see yourself as a persecuted and misunderstood outsider. That’s fine by me. It just isn’t my gig.

Be well.

–:–

That was my last communication with Atwill. I see no point in continuing to communicate with him or read anything by him. He doesn’t know what he is talking about, he has no valid method, he ignores alternative explanations of the evidence, and he invents anything he needs to force the evidence to fit his theory. And then when he is refuted, he claims he has been victorious. Alas, that pegs him. He is a crank.

Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson says

    Thanks for the post Richard. I find this whole Atwill debacle unsettling and a tad embarrassing because it just reflects poorly on real scholarship. I so hope he doesn’t end up on Fox News.

  2. says

    Er, this is only one of your tiniest points, but I’d been under the impression that the auxiliaries in a Roman legion were generally of numbers comparable to and sometimes greater than the core heavy infantry (the 6000 you mention). Combine that with legions often being below full strength, and 10,000 becomes a pretty reasonable ballpark figure for the number of actual troops of all types in a typical legion.

    • says

      More than 12,000 /= 10,000. My whole point is that parallels cannot be based on “ballparks.” 2000 is “ballpark” for 2200. Yet no one intending a parallel would destroy the parallel by using a ballpark figure rather than the actual figure intended.

      (I should also mention that the word 10,000 is myriad, which very commonly was used in Greek to just mean “countless” rather than an actual number…and in context, it’s clear Josephus was using it in the “countless” sense and not as an exact count of the number of evils John unleashed on the world, as if someone counted.)

    • says

      Yes, of course. It’s just that in your original post it had sounded a bit like you were saying that 10,000 was too high for a legion, so my urge to nit-pick was aroused.

  3. says

    I was going to ask you for your standard elevator speech on this and then…this post. When I first heard the conspiracy theory this morning it sounded somewhat compelling (as far as conspiracy theories go), but then I had a second thought. Killed it for me.

    • says

      I should also remind everyone that though Atwill is selling this as a new thing (and I’m noticing several people seem to think this just came out), he’s been shilling this stuff for many years now. My conversation with him took place in 2005, and he’d been shilling it for several years by then already: though his signature book was published that year, I found an earlier version called The Roman Origin of Christianity published in 2001, 2nd edition in 2003, subtitle “How the Emperor Titus, the ‘greatest forger in history’, created the Gospels and the character of Jesus as a satire of his military victories in Judea.” So this theory of his has been in the public for twelve years now.

  4. ROO BOOKAROO says

    Your eight major criticisms (“Why the Priors Are Dismally Low on This”) are enough to convince me that Atwill’s venture sounds like a desperado’s attempt doomed to failure, and not even worth investigating any further.

    The two examples you provide: “His Best Evidence”, and “His Only Good Example” are enough to show us how tortured is the justification of the validity of Atwill’s contorted parallels, and that, if studying this thesis requires such convoluted mind games, it is not really worth anybody’s time.

    Then, you must complimented for your extraordinary courage and patience to plunge into a substantial review of the strange nuts and bolts of the bizarre argumentation, which sounds cranky from the very first approach.

    Your own motivation in giving this writer your kind of in-depth attention and refutation is a bit enigmatic, unless it may have been for you an exercise in erudition and logic pushed to the maximum, by taking on an extreme absurd theory.
    Then, this could have been considered by you as a mental sport, which had value for maintaining your mental and critical fitness, a kind of advanced chess game where the pieces were aberrant facts of textual and historical relevance from the Greco-Roman period.

    I was willing to follow you in the “Long Conversation”, for the same reasons of mental exercising, but finally decided that there was nothing to learn, since the conclusion seemed obvious based on your 8 critical points.

    —————————

    Still, in those 8 points, there are two statements that I find having been written a little too hastily by you, and which do not seem to be convincing and true.
    They have nothing to do with Atwill, his thesis, or the validity of your refutal.

    (7) “…by using the language the Judean elite despised as foreign (Greek).”

    This sounds perplexing. It can be argued that some of the Gospel writers, who could write Greek, and knew the Greek version of the Hebrew Testament intimately, showed refined education and may have belonged to the Jewish elite, or had been formed as members of the Jewish elite, even if they had become Christian later on (Matthew, Mark?, John?). None of them showed a contempt for Greek as “foreign”.
    Paul and other epistle writers, also well educated and connected, all used Greek, and many started life as Jews, never showing any reluctance to writing in Greek. Josephus and Philo undoubtedly belonged to the stratosphere of Jewish elite, and, to my knowledge, never manifested a deep hatred of Greek as being “foreign”.
    Many texts of the Hebrew Bible were written in Greek (Wisdom of Solomon, Baruch, even the Wisdom of Sirach was transmitted to us in Greek). And there were many more writers of Jewish origin who wrote in Greek during the few centuries of the intertestamental period and after.
    No, your aside is not convincing.

    (8) “The Romans knew one thing well: War. Social ideology they were never very good at. That’s why Rome always had such problems keeping its empire together, and why social discontent and other malfunctions continued to escalate until the empire started dissolving. Rome expected to solve every problem militarily instead”.

    This seems to have been written a little too hastily, perhaps in the heat of your dispute with Atwill, in order to emphasize your point, not to analyze the reasons of the durability of the geographical and cultural Roman world.

    The Roman knew many more things well than just war. Architecture, administration, aqueduct and road building, education, teaching, literature, law, art, engineering, a solid hierarchical structure of society, etc…They were not just soldiers like the Huns. They kept the Roman world and civilization going for 1,000 years, which is more than any of our modern nations has so far been able to do.

    “Social ideology” was not a necessary secret ingredient for maintaining their Empire.
    Any large geographical empire has been maintained by the use of force and military interventions: The Persian empire, Alexander’s Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Austrian Habsburg Empire, the British Empire, the French Empire, all the colonial empires of the last few centuries, the Soviet Empire, the Chinese Empire, the Japanese Empire, etc…

    There was nothing exceptional in the Roman empire needing military interventions to put down rebellions or revolts and maintaining order. Every large social community comprising a huge variety of different cultures and historical backgrounds over large territories has been marked by military conflicts. Look at how the modern European nations were formed: Italy, Germany, Britain, Denmark, France, etc..Even a small country like Yougoslavia was torn by the insolvable hatred between Serbs and Croats.
    In a sweeping view of history, the Jewish rebellion again did not show anything exceptional that had no counterpart in many other rebellious communities: The Scots, Welsh and Irish in Britain; Brittany, Vendee, Basque community, Corsica in France, etc. The Jewish rebellion was one of many that wracked the Roman Republic and Empire, and perhaps would have attracted less attention from later historians without the accidental success of the Jewish offshoot that became Christianity.

    In fact, again compared with other empires, the Romans did very well.
    And they even had some success with “social ideology”, by using some good common sense to respect the established religions of conquered territories, as long as they respected the civil order installed by the Roman administration. They respected Judaism as a legal, bona fide “religio”, whereas the famous Christians were considered adherents to a “superstitio” until Constantine’s edict of Milan (313) [Another strong argument against Atwill, by the way, although it is not necessary.]

    Again, on the whole, considering the enormous problems of communication, transportation, communication between a variety of languages and customs, the Romans did extremely well in maintaining the unity of their Empire for a very long time, much more successfully than most comparable Empires, and their success was due to much more than just military power.

    • says

      Your own motivation in giving this writer your kind of in-depth attention and refutation is a bit enigmatic, unless it may have been for you an exercise in erudition and logic pushed to the maximum, by taking on an extreme absurd theory.

      You have the right intuition. I’ve not wanted to do this, since it is indeed such a waste of time, so I usually just answered the hundreds of emails and comment questions about it that I’ve gotten over the years with short dismissive summaries (you can find these in several of my comment threads on Jesus articles on my blog here, even on Facebook). But now he has Dawkins tweeting it, and several atheist news outlets are getting bombed with email questions about it, and I was directly asked by several atheist celebrities that I really need to do a write up on this, and now. So I did.

      Your subsequent questions are good ones, because they help me make some things clear that a lot of people don’t know about (Atwill included):

      (7) “…by using the language the Judean elite despised as foreign (Greek).”

      This sounds perplexing. It can be argued that some of the Gospel writers, who could write Greek, and knew the Greek version of the Hebrew Testament intimately, showed refined education and may have belonged to the Jewish elite, or had been formed as members of the Jewish elite, even if they had become Christian later on (Matthew, Mark?, John?). None of them showed a contempt for Greek as “foreign”. [etc.]

      The Gospels are anti-elite (quite explicitly). They are also overtly Diasporic. Mark is writing specifically for Gentiles, and Luke is writing explicitly for audiences outside Palestine; John is plastered with disdain for Jewish elitism; only Matthew is less explicit, but scholars conclude it too was written for a Diaspora audience, usually placed in a province north of Judea. Meanwhile, Paul is explicitly a Diaspora Jew writing to Diaspora audiences (none of his letters are directed to Palestinian churches, and the entirety of his actual mission is outside Palestine).

      The NT thus does not represent the conservatism of the Jewish Palestinian elite the Christians rejected (even the Torah observant Christians were anti-temple and anti-priesthood…and none likely would ever have treated letters as scripture anyway, regardless of language).

      The conservative Jewish (specifically Palestinian) elite did not reject Greek texts altogether, they just didn’t regard them as scriptures, unless they were recognized as translations of scriptures, and even then superior (divine) authority attached to the original language, not the Greek (thus Greek texts were found at Qumran and Masada, but few and, when scripture, often in conjunction with copies in the original language). Learning and using Greek was otherwise looked down upon as foreign (much like a Tea Partier would look down on reading books in French, and never treat a French book as authoritative, but not explicitly forbid reading or writing such books).

      In my book (now in peer review) Science Education in the Early Roman Empire (and likewise in my dissertation, which that is based on) I document conservative rabbinical hostility to Greek. They made a special exception for Jewish leaders who needed to learn Greek to communicate with Gentiles, but such was their disdain that they had to make a special exception. This typified Palestinian governing attitudes. There were certainly plenty of wealthy/higher status Jews in Judea (who could be called “elite” in the broadest sense) who did not accept those elite standards and even attacked them, but they were a minority there–rather, they dominated the Diaspora instead.

      Paul and other epistle writers, also well educated and connected, all used Greek, and many started life as Jews, never showing any reluctance to writing in Greek. Josephus and Philo undoubtedly belonged to the stratosphere of Jewish elite, and, to my knowledge, never manifested a deep hatred of Greek as being “foreign”.

      Paul is a Diaspora Jew, not a Palestinian Jew. And he was writing to Gentiles and Diaspora Jews. His missionary activity was entirely in the Diaspora (he founded no churches in Palestine). And he met a lot of friction over this from the original Apostles. He was also explicitly anti-elite (note his rants against the Pharisees, despite his having been one).

      Philo is a Diaspora Jew as well, writing for Diaspora Jews.

      Josephus is Palestinian, but note that he typically wrote his books in Aramaic, and then only translated them into Greek for his Gentile audiences (we just do not have the Aramaic originals).

      Thus, Christianity was a Diaspora movement, targeting Diaspora Jews with its documents and evangelism. Palestinian Christianity simply failed in comparison (and we have no documents from it). This is perfectly explicable when you consider Palestinian hostility to replacing their scriptures with Greek…that would be intolerable to the very Palestinians the Romans were supposed to be persuading. But it would be entirely acceptable to the Diasporans the Christians actually wrote their books for.

      And this is what jars with Atwill’s thesis: his theory can’t make sense of why the Romans targeted Diaspora Jews, in order to pacify Palestinian Jews. As the Romans would have to have been doing, if they composed their fake new bible in Greek (as his theory entails they did).

      (8) “The Romans knew one thing well: War. Social ideology they were never very good at. That’s why Rome always had such problems keeping its empire together, and why social discontent and other malfunctions continued to escalate until the empire started dissolving. Rome expected to solve every problem militarily instead”.

      This seems to have been written a little too hastily, perhaps in the heat of your dispute with Atwill, in order to emphasize your point, not to analyze the reasons of the durability of the geographical and cultural Roman world.

      The Roman knew many more things well than just war. Architecture, administration, aqueduct and road building, education, teaching, literature, law, art, engineering, a solid hierarchical structure of society, etc…They were not just soldiers like the Huns. They kept the Roman world and civilization going for 1,000 years, which is more than any of our modern nations has so far been able to do.

      Granted, if you include things not relevant to the Atwill thesis (like architecture), then “the Romans knew one thing well” is hyperbolic. But obviously I was comparing “War” (which they knew better than anything, including architecture) with “Social ideology.” I wasn’t imagining anyone would take the remark as suggesting the Romans sucked at building. ;-)

      Although “a solid hierarchical structure of society” is not laudable, but actually one of the examples of how they failed at social ideology. The Romans who tried pushing for a more just society were shut out and an increasingly unjust society was developed instead, e.g. by the second century the law started categorizing people as honestiores (upper class) and humiliores (lower class) and gave different laws for each, treating the humiliores more brutally and depriving them of more rights. This is exactly the worst thing to do if your plan is to increase national stability. (As the collapse of the Empire and resulting reduction to its natural course, exemplified by the feudalism of the Middle Ages, demonstrates.)

      An elite who can’t even figure out that justice is essential to pacifying populations, isn’t going to come up with a utopian scheme like Atwill’s theory requires either. To the Romans, pacifying the unruly always meant killing or terrorizing them until they behaved. Because that’s what the Romans were good at. Not social engineering a non-violent solution.

      (That this has often been true of empires throughout history is not relevant to the point; Atwill’s thesis wouldn’t make sense in any of those empires either.)

      In fact, again compared with other empires, the Romans did very well.

      Only during the transition period between the Republic (1st BC) and the decline into debased fascism (3rd AD), when Republican ideals survived a little before being gradually crushed over the intervening two centuries.

      For example, the honestiores / humiliores development was an example of destroying the Republican ideals that actually made the Pax Romana successful–the fact that the Romans didn’t know that, and thus destroyed everything good they did by instituting rather than opposing the honestiores / humiliores distinction, is precisely what I mean by their not being good at social ideology. They didn’t even know why the Pax Romana was working!

      And they even had some success with “social ideology”, by using some good common sense to respect the established religions of conquered territories, as long as they respected the civil order installed by the Roman administration.

      That’s actually normal. All empires did that. Until Judeo-Christian-Islamic ideology governed. The idea of suppressing local religion is actually the aberration, one of the worst diseases inflicted on the world by Jewish theology, especially via the vectors of those Jewish offshoots, Christianity and Islam.

      It’s not as if the Romans did this because they worked out the social ideology of it. They did it simply because it’s what everybody did and it worked and it was easier. To think otherwise requires serious delusionality…such as Christianity has plagued us with.

      They respected Judaism as a legal, bona fide “religio”, whereas the famous Christians were considered adherents to a “superstitio” until Constantine’s edict of Milan (313) [Another strong argument against Atwill, by the way, although it is not necessary.]

      Well, first, to be fair, presumably Atwill would not say by the time of Constantine the original plan was still remembered. His scheme seems to presume the plan was forgotten by the 2nd century (due to the inevitable consequence of having tried so hard to keep it a secret).

      But secondly, you seem to overlook how the Romans caused the Jewish War precisely by so badly botching their treatment of Jewish religion. Pilate’s disastrous march of the standards and looting of the temple is just the most famous provocation; Josephus documents countless others in the JW, running all the way up to the initiation of the war; Philo also wrote several books on Roman disasters in this regard, necessitating repeated embassies to try and get them to see sense.

      Notably, the one smart thing they did (respect Jewish law) was a gift given by treaty for military purposes (it is what Augustus paid for Jewish assistance in the Civil War), not due to social engineering genius. It’s simply what the Jews asked for in return for a military alliance. That treaty then became law under the Romans, which the Romans then frequently flouted and ignored, causing the War.

      Thus, this is actually a perfect example of what I’m talking about: the military tactic of trading boons for subservience was right in line with Roman military genius; they used the tactic a lot, to excellent effect. That in this case it resulted in a (sort of) sensible system of respecting local religion was not a conclusion of social ideology, but an accident of military strategy, which is why the Romans never understood its significance to any plan of pacifying the Jews. Were they savvy in social ideology, they would have known how important it was to respect that treaty, precisely because it would be the most effective thing they could ever do to pacify Palestine for good.

      (I am speaking only in Machiavellian terms, of course; objectively, Jewish law was equivalent to Sharia law and actually a moral abomination that ought to have been destroyed and all people freed from; but one can’t just do that usually, there have to be stages, and there are peaceful ways to do it, although inevitably even those start to radicalize the conservatives who then resort to terrorism when even non-violently religious freedom starts disintegrating their religion…witness the rise of ultra-violent Islamic fundamentalism in response to exactly the same problem, and its concerted effort to destroy religious freedom, correctly recognizing the threat. But as social theory, that’s so advanced even many American elites don’t understand it.)

    • Kilian Hekhuis says

      Paul is a Diaspora Jew, not a Palestinian Jew. And he was writing to Gentiles and Diaspora Jews. His missionary activity was entirely in the Diaspora (he founded no churches in Palestine). And he met a lot of friction over this from the original Apostles.

      Which original apostles do you refer to here? As Jesus is likely mythical, his apostles are as well?

    • says

      You must be confusing “apostle” with “disciple.” Paul calls an apostle anyone who had a vision of Jesus. No historical Jesus was needed for that. Paul never mentions disciples (who would be students in life of a historical person).

      Paul refers to the “apostles before him” as principally Cephas, James and John (the “pillars” — see 1 Cor. 15, Gal. 1-2). He names others in various places whom we otherwise have never heard of. But those three appear to be the founders of the cult (the first to receive visions). Paul was reportedly the last apostle to receive a vision (1 Cor. 15:8, Gal. 1:10-12).

  5. says

    First century Conspiracy theorist nutter of the first order. Ive seen a better job comparing the Iliad to the Bible than Josephus’s works, I mean Vespasian wasnt bright enough to think of it, and if he was bright enough to think of it, he would have been bright enough to know it wouldn’t work…. Cos it didn’t work did it.

  6. says

    As an aside, I’m glad you harped on him so much about the undefined methodology. We get this all the time when it comes to apologists trying to “use science” to provide evidence for a god. We have a time-tested well thought-out methodology and procedures for regular science… yet these people haven’t faintest clue about this, or how to go about building any kind of intelligible case. Most aren’t aware that “standards of evidence” is even a thing.

    Instead, we get a random assortment of whatever disparate arguments and data bits that happen to align with their predefined conclusion…. woven together in a conspiracy-theory-esque narrative.

    Apparently this is not limited to the physical sciences.

  7. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    I can’t see any value in Atwill either. But looking at your argument against him, you are calculating the cost of the fraud and comparing it to the incentives to arrive at probabilities. Which is what I do. Looking at costs is better because they are not conditional or interdependent.

    I think there is actually a plausible possibility of a fraud but not the one Atwil suggests. Nero might not have been the crazy despot described later. He might have been eliminated for other reasons requiring a pretext for the victors in the civil war that followed.

    The great fire of Rome would have been the 9/11 of the times. Nero’s reported reaction certainly suggests it was. And if the example was being made of Jews rather than Christians, it is logical to see some sort of causal link between the great fire and the Jewish war. Somewhat like the invasion of Iraq in response to 9/11.

    Maybe Nero was reading ‘My Pet Goat’ rather than playing his lyre. At any rate, he loses control of a critical province and starts a war that he doesn’t seem able to finish. His initial reaction to the crisis is weak followed by desperation. Now that would certainly seem like a record likely to get a Roman emperor the chop (but a US president gets elected or at any rate re-appointed).

    One of the curious features of Revelation is that John is evidently blaming Nero for the destruction of the temple (666=Nero) but Nero is already dead when the temple is destroyed.

    • Phillip Hallam-Baker says

      I think you give too little value to excluding implausible theories. Blackening the name of a predecessor is a plausible conspiracy well within the capabilities of the Romans that would explain any irregularities in the surviving histories. The PSY-OPS Atwil described are rather far fetched. There are some contemporary parallels but nowhere near as consequential. For example the alleged CIA program to promote abstract modern art in the 1950s because it makes people think purportedly gave us Mondrian, Rothko etc.

      As for Atwil, I am reminded of Kitty Kelley’s book The Royals which was met by near unanimous condemnation by UK republicans which she then tried to pass off as upsetting supporters of the Royal family but was actually coming from their opponents.

      The problem was that the book was just so bad in every way that it helped rather than hurt the Royal family because it was a pack of easily rebutted lies.

    • says

      Blackening the name of a predecessor is a plausible conspiracy well within the capabilities of the Romans that would explain any irregularities in the surviving histories.

      I don’t understand this statement.

  8. Howard Bannister says

    You can bitch all you want elsewhere.

    I think you could express your meaning here just fine without the sexist word.

  9. Dan C says

    You are a very patient man! You clearly tried to steer him in the right direction and Atwell should be very grateful you took as much time as you did. Someday, when (If) I write a book I will correspond with you to get valuable insights as to how to proceed.

    • says

      Well, to be fair, do note that that was 2005; I now get way too many requests to field even a fraction anymore, so I have to be brutally selective (sadly). It’s forced me to be more curt now. And to a lot of people I have to say no (even when I don’t want to; I just don’t have the time). Just FYI. :-)

  10. Randall Johnson says

    I have been an “uninformed” mythicist for about 15 years and then bought into much of the Web chatter and the early books- Tom Harpur. Freik and Gandy (sp?) who confirmed my bias. I noticed most of their citations came from scholars who wrote about 100 years ago and not from original sources. I spent weeks trying to track things back and hit dead ends- like the Horus = Jesus glyphs- and found very little apart from the famous one with Isis raising Osiris. I concluded we had crackpots piggybacking on much older crackpots.

    But I remained a mythicist because I thought at the very least a real historical figure of that importance should at the very least have birthdays and deathdays (particularly with the hoopla surrounding these) pretty well nailed down, that the contradictions and silliness of the gospels voided the Bible’s claims and I still believed the “silence of Paul” was a valid claim (from The Jesus Puzzle). The lack of extrabiblical accounts was just icing on the cake. My BS-ometer pegged off the charts.

    So when I read on Dawkins’ site that this guy Atwill was talking in London about the myth, I found a couple of Atwill talks on line and was going to give them a listen until you spoiled the party. Thanks for saving me a couple hours because nothing other than holy books sets off my BS-ometer more than the word “conspiracy” in a title.

    My question though is this- You mentioned Murdock and Price and I have read/listened to a good bit from them and generally enjoy their stuff. Do you have questions about their work as well? I don’t buy all of Murdock’s conclusions but the research seems solid to my untrained eye and I have a tough time disagreeing with anything Price has put out so a mini-critique would be appreciated. I appreciate your sholrship but surely you can’t be the only one going about this the right way.

    Thanks- RJ

    • says

      Aptly observed.

      (And it’s Freke and Gandy…awful book, yet still not as off the rails as Atwill.)

      Murdock is a mixed bag. She also cites outdated scholarship, is not up on current research as much as she should be, and has a vicious temper (and like Atwill can never admit she’s wrong and gets outraged at any criticism and doesn’t seem to ever change her mind or learn anything). She typically (but not always) under-documents her most controversial or unusual claims, and, in my findings, generally because they don’t have any evidential or logical basis, yet she’ll mix in with those claims that are genuinely established; the problem with this is that laymen can’t tell when she is saying something that is well documented and when she is saying something that has no support at all (even her citations sometimes don’t help with this). So reading her can be more disinformation than information. I’ve written on Murdock before (here, here, here and also briefly here; as well as in here, where you can search the name to find two refs).

      Price is more solid, and typically a much better read (and a more valuable read), but I still find many of his claims under-documented and his arguments often weaker than they need to be, his methods are often a cipher, and he is bad at clarifying (e.g. he will defend many different mutually-contradictory theories without explaining what we are supposed to conclude from the fact that he does that, such as whether he thinks they are all equally likely or whether he thinks some are more likely than others but that all are more likely than historicity, or if he even thinks they are more likely than historicity rather than only just as likely or unlikely but likely enough to be uncertain of historicity, etc.; and that’s not the only confusion Price will lead you into, it’s just the one that I often notice the most). He also never thoroughly defends a single coherent theory of Christian origins, making him a moving target for critics (contrast with Doherty, who does a generally good job at this, and is the best mythicist to read, although he still stubbornly falls short of dissertation quality argumentation and just complains when I say that rather than trying to work out how to formulate and document arguments in a way that would pass a fair peer review–such as learning to stop crowding strong arguments with weak arguments, and instead drop the weak arguments and just shore up the strong arguments).

  11. says

    I suspect if I knew a little bit less about the Bible and a little more about the historical context surrounding it, this idea that the Romans manufactured Jesus might be something I’d jokingly suggest, but I’d never dream of publishing a book about it. I do think Jesus is likely a myth, but given all the contradictions between books, apocrypha, and so forth, it looks to me his myth grew organically and unplanned up until the canon was standardized much later. When I think of synthetic myths, I think of L. Ron Hubbard and strict canon from the start.

    …it’s weird because making fun of the Jews kind of contradicts the supposedly serious aim of persuading the Jews, yet Atwill seems to want the imperial goal to have simultaneously been both).

    I remember a short video clip I watched of a conspiracy theorist. There’s a building in Austin, Texas that, if you look at it from a certain angle, kind of looks like an owl, allegedly representing Moloch, a god/demon/whatever worshiped by the Illuminati, thus signifying an Illuminati base. According to the conspiracy theorist, the Illuminati like to sneak in little things like that so they can mock regular people and feel superior.

    Essentially, they’re depicted like a more subtle version of The Riddler, announcing their plans in ways only “smart” people can perceive. Naturally, such clues are often indistinguishable from pareidolia and apophenia. Of course, The Riddler is a comic book villain defined by his intellectual narcissism. It’s often his downfall since it gives Batman the information he needs to bring him down… Which is probably the narrative the conspiracy theorists want to live out, since they can stroke their own ego by asserting they’re smart enough to see connections normal people don’t.

  12. Will says

    Thanks for addressing Atwill’s thesis. Being a novice to the material I had found some of his points compelling.. but now that I see how much he bungles the sources and fudges the data to fit his theory, I have no hesitance in dismissing him as someone that is unreliable.

    I think what originally grabbed me were the specific predictions concerning the events of the Jewish War in Jerusalem…. but I now think what happened was the more mystical Jesus Christ meme of the early Christians evolved after the war when it underwent the process of euhemerization. I suppose this transformation couldn’t help but reflect the political realities on the ground. As a postwar strand of Jewish redefinition, they probably needed to show that the destruction of the temple was part of God’s plan. And in a world where Roman domination was something that had to be accepted, they crafted a story in which blame for the tragedies of the war is placed squarely on their fellow Jews that missed the point when Jesus was on earth. (hence Jesus demonizing and disputing with them rather than Romans.) Their messiah did come and became the ultimate atonement sacrifice, but the Jews of the time didn’t understand his true role and warnings. At least I see this is a big part of the Gospel Jesus story.

    I realize that the gospels do have rich symbolic depth and allegorical allusions to traditional Jewish themes, but they largely seem to function as a way of showing Jesus and his message as the ultimate and final phase of Judaism that trumps and supplants all other sects and traditions as the only legitimate type Judaism after the war… I know this is oversimplified, but would you agree with this general assessment of the Gospel Jesus traditions? I know that the original Pauline type of Christianity was also such a strand of Jewish redefinition, but it’s referent was the more mystical salvation process that didn’t occur on earth. But I see the gospels as an allegorical historicization working this salvation message into an explanation of the recent tragedies of the war. I hope this makes sense…. not sure how clear I’m being. Do you have any thoughts on these broad points I have sketched? Thanks.

    • says

      …would you agree with this general assessment of the Gospel Jesus traditions?

      In outline, yes. I get more specific on some of the possibilities you touch on in my next book, On the Historicity of Jesus.

  13. Mark701 says

    You pretty much trashed Atwill’s theories, and he probably make millions selling his book. You’re only mistake is that you dignified him with a response.

    • says

      Atwill is already a millionaire (by his own account he made good in business during the 90s and is now independently wealthy). But I doubt his book earns millions (although he has the money to spend on advertising to try and make it so, it’s a lot harder to sell a million dollars worth of books than most people think–making a million in profits typically requires a production run, and complete sale, of at least 250,000 units…or at least no less than 100,000 if he has a good POD contract).

    • says

      You will need to be more specific. The only actual text you could be referring to (with any requisite certainty) would be the authentic Pauline epistles; Atwill’s theory holds that those were forged as well–he wasn’t very clear on this until recently, but this appears to be what his next book is about (the one he is promoting now).

    • says

      Tacitus does mention Pilate as well as Christ, but not Jesus by name. Add in the fact that the Annals weren’t written until the second century, he’s clearly derivative and not an independent witness.

      Suetonius? Also, he simply refers to Messianic disturbances without mentioning Jesus, or any other messiah, by name. Add in that he uses a different but similar Greek word, used by pagans as an epithet. Clearly knew nothing about Judaism. And, non-Christian Jewish disturbances in Rome could have involved Messianic issues without involving an actual Jesus, if he existed. And he, like Tacitus, wrote in the second century. So, nope, no value to the historicity of Jesus from either one.

    • says

      The relevant point here is that Tacitus and Suetonius wrote long after all the Flavians were dead.

      Atwill could argue they were fooled by the Flavian disinformation campaign and thus just repeating the legends they created, not knowing they were fictions.

  14. Tim Wolfe says

    Your final statement was intriguing. I see a lot of the same type of behavior with many Christian fundamentalists, especially presuppositionalists, when trying to discuss/debate the existence of Jesus or God.

    “That was my last communication with Atwill. I see no point in continuing to communicate with him or read anything by him. He doesn’t know what he is talking about, he has no valid method, he ignores alternative explanations of the evidence, and he invents anything he needs to force the evidence to fit his theory. And then when he is refuted, he claims he has been victorious. Alas, that pegs him. He is a crank.”

    Would you agree?

  15. Roger Pearse (@roger_pearse) says

    I remember the Abelard Reuchlin chap. I think I have a PDF of his book. There was also a chap calling himself “Roman Piso” who used to post about it on usenet (presumably the same guy).

    • jBrown says

      Tried posting this several times… hope it works now.

      “Roman Piso” is actually John Duran; see below in my impromptu timeline of Flavian/Pisonian conspiracy theories and similar stuff:

      1877: Bruno Bauer, as Richard wrote above (although I believe Bauer concentrated his hypothesis on Seneca Minor and Philo, not Josephus… but I might be wrong; the Seneca theory also crept up again in Stecchini’s “Nazarenus”-theory, ca. 2001)

      1896: Willem Christiaan van Manen: Acts dependent on Josephus’ works; cf. also the later work by Ralph Ellis (2001), who also connected Paul and Josephus, even though his “theory” goes much further, including Jesus being a Roman client king and the historical basis for King Arthur!

      Was there anything on some Flavian conspiracy in the 20th century until the 70s? Couldn’t find anything.

      1979: “Abelard Reuchlin”: Pisonian conspiracy theory, in which Reuchlin invented some dude called “Arrius Calpurnius Piso”, who allegedly had help by Pliny the Younger in forging the Gospel; that Pliny (Elder? Younger?) was part of the Gospel foundry, is also one of Atwill’s positions, by the way.

      1998: Cliff N. Carrington: Flavian Testament theory, extremely similar to Atwill’s: Josephus manufactured the Gospel under Flavian supervision

      2000: John Duran (= “Roman Piso”): basically an extension of the Piso conspiracy theory; others also worked with Reuchlin’s theory like Duran.

      since at least 2003, or even 2001: Joseph Atwill; he probably based his theory on Carrington’s; either way it’s definitely not original; Atwill has also fused the whole thing with Shakespeare; I remember reading somewhere that “The Single Strand” actually refers to an alleged universal typological framework that originated with the Flavian Gospel conspiracy and was then deliberately woven through the historical literature (Suetonius, Pliny et al.), eventually winding up in Shakespeare’s works, which (sidenote) are really Emilia Lanier’s works. (Can things get any crazier than that?!) This is where John Hudson comes in, a collaborator of Atwill’s and a Shakespeare conspiracy theorist, I believe.

      Lots of other Gospel manufacturing conspiracy theories floating around the web. Even Acharya S once wrote (if I remember correctly) that the Gospel was invented by the Roman elite, secret societies etc., which is actually an old hypothesis that Reimarus already wrote about in the 18th century (Christianity as an intentional Roman imperial fraud). If I remember correctly, Walter Siegmeister, aka “Raymond W. Bernard” wrote some time in the 1940s that Apollonius of Tyana was the historical Christ, which was buried by the 1st Nicea council under a fabricated Gospel narrative. Et cetera.

    • says

      I didn’t know much of what you timeline here, so thanks for that. But you don’t source anything (e.g. where Atwill says a Pliny was involved, etc.), so it will be hard for anyone to research any item in it.

      “Roman Piso” is actually John Duran

      Yes, John Duran is the guy writing under the pseudonym Roman Piso (and pushing an Atwill-like theory crediting the invention of Christianity to the Piso family), but I’m not sure what the relevance of that is. Bauer (appears to have) argued Christianity was invented by Seneca in connection with the (actual) Piso conspiracy against Nero, and then Gospels in support of it were later written by Josephus. So it is true that it’s hard to pin down when the Pisos became the actual prime movers in this creative reimagining of Christian origins.

      (But to make sure I’m not misleading anyone, I replaced “so far as I know” with “in a somewhat different form,” so no one mistakes the Bauer thesis as being the same as, e.g., the Duran thesis, which is one of the revamps).

    • jBrown says

      I wish I could source Atwill’s statement on Pliny’s involvement. It may have been in one of his comments in his now defunct discussion forum. But I remember more clearly now that he was definitely referring to Pliny the Elder’s dedication to Titus Vespasian at the beginning of his “Natural History”. As far as I know Atwill, he probably believes that the dedication contains some clues pertaining to the origin of the Gospel and the “Roman messiah” thing.

      As for the other “theorists”, I can post the titles of their books and the publication date, if you like. (I have it all written down somewhere from a while back when I was researching some rather eccentric Jesus/Christianity theories, modern apocryphal forgeries etc.) But believe me, in the end it’s not really that interesting. It was only a short-lived fad of mine. :)

  16. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    That was a lot of fun!

    The only thing that I’d semi-question would be the Priors #8. Romans were definitely very good at war, but were also highly pragmatic and, if not cultural, then at least theological Magpies. They may have had problems keeping their subjugated lands in check, but they kept it together for hundreds of years (take, say, Carthage defeated 149BCE, the Empire divided in 285CE as 2 arbitrary dates to bookend). Difficult to do this with just the threat of the military. The British Empire, although shorter lived, survived in the same way.

    There was definitely coercion, a big stick, but they had a lot of carrots to offer as well through co-opting the locals. The stick was a last resort, but admittedly the Romans did not mess about when it came to that.

    Definitely agree with what you say here, though. There is absolutely no reason why anyone in the Roman hierarchy would want to invent any sort of character like Jesus – and in the 1st century CE there would have been far more reasons for them not to! Why bother, being first in my mind. ;-)

  17. specialffrog says

    Slightly unrelated but I was wondering if you are familiar with Hugh Schonfield’s work. Some of it has seemed interesting to me, particularly his heavily-footnoted translation of the New Testament. However, I don’t have a good sense of the quality of his scholarship.

    I have noted that while he identifies a lot of passages as obvious later insertions he seems to accept some which you have pointed out in other posts.

    Obviously being dead he can’t easily keep up with the current scholarship. :)

  18. Barry Hofstetter says

    Since I hold to what you would call a conservative Evangelical view of the Scriptures, I would argue with practically everything you believe concerning them. But you are certainly a real scholar and your post here is just a sliver or two away from magnificent. Scholarship is all about disagreements and arguments, but disagreements and arguments based on facts… You have shown that Atwill has no facts at all.

  19. ABCXYZ says

    Richard, instead of Atwill’s Roman conspiracy thesis, what about the polar opposite thesis – that Christianity was a Jewish effort to subvert and undermine Greco-Roman society?

    • says

      I don’t know what you mean by “subvert” and “undermine,” or which Christianity. Original “Christianity” was an insular Jewish sect that had minimal interest in penetrating the Gentile market. It was simply an apocalyptic cult, totally Jewish-centered (it was just anti-temple and counter-cultural). Paul was the first to start seriously expanding its Gentile mission and making a hybrid sect that was attractive to both populations. He does appear to have believed this could solve a lot of problems, and make Judeo-Roman society as a whole more moral and peaceful, if only everyone embraced it. And he used apocalypticism and pie-in-sky resurrectionism and quasi-egalitarianism as carrots and sticks to sell it with. But I would not describe that as “undermining” but as trying to fix a broken society. It would subvert/undermine the unjust hierarchical systems that he saw as a source of the problem. But so did just about any philosopher of the era. If any attempt to fix a society is described as subverting/undermining it, then those words start to lose practical meaning.

    • ABCXYZ says

      Thanks for your response, Richard. I have another quick question for you.

      You stated that Paul was exasperated at the disastrous effects of militant Judaism and was thus attempting to reform Judaism in an effort to avoid future military conflicts between Jews and the Roman government. You also stated that the Jewish conflicts with Rome were primarily instigated by Palestinian Jews and that diaspora Jews were generally not a problem for the Roman government.

      But then you state that Paul directed his teachings at diaspora Jews and gentiles.

      I don’t understand this. If Palestinian Jews were the source of the conflicts with the Roman government, and Paul wanted to reform this group in order to avoid future Jewish conflicts with Rome, then why would Paul target diaspora Jews(and gentiles) with his message rather than Palestinian Jews?

    • says

      You stated that Paul was exasperated…

      Note that one needn’t agree with me, since it is enough as a hypothesis, i.e. it is a far more plausible and probable hypothesis than Atwill’s. I do believe a good case can be made for it of course. But it makes far more sense and has a far higher prior probability even if there were no specific evidence for it.

      But in answer to your question, Paul did evangelize in Judea, eventually (Rom. 15:19, 15:25-26, 15:31). I am fairly certain he believed Palestinian Jews and Diaspora Jews should be united, and thereby become one people with views no longer hostile to Rome. That’s why he tried so hard to link his mission to the Judean churches (see Galatians 1-2). In reality, of course, he probably pushed the Diaspora mission because that’s the only place he could actually carve a niche for himself and thus gain power and authority in the church (Judea was already someone else’s turf…someone who didn’t like him). But what he would have said (if you asked him about this) was that it was by unifying the Roman and Jewish societies that there would no longer be any corruption or animosity and we could all just get along. That was a foolish and utopian vision, but then that’s true of just about everyone who thinks their religion will cure all the world’s ills if people would just buy in. In the end, the Palestinian mission basically failed, Paul never got the original sect to play along (despite attempts at developing his Diaspora churches as a cash cow to bribe them: e.g. 1 Cor. 16:3), and almost all Christianity had left was in the Diaspora. I think Paul would have been profoundly disappointed to have seen that.

  20. Kilian Hekhuis says

    I kinda feel sorry for the guy, just as I feel sorry for the likes of Ken Ham. To be so caught up in your own twisted version of reality it is impossible to get out of it…

  21. says

    Richard, Googling related to this Atwill nonsense led me to what you wrote years ago about Lucan-Josephan interrelationships. I’ve long thought that, at earliest, Luke was written on the cusp of the 1st/2nd century. So, I could see a dependence on not only War but Antiquities. To be on the safe side, we’d put Luke at what, about 105-110 CE and Acts 5-10 years later?

    Oh, on mythicism, what’s your take on the possibility of Jesus having been an actual person – Jesus the Pharisee crucified by Alexander Jannaeus?

    • says

      Q1: Correct. (Except Acts was probably written and released at the same time as Luke; and there is evidence Luke-Acts has been multiply redacted and our copy is not the original version.)

      Q2: Unlikely. But as worth considering as any historicity hypothesis.

  22. Captspiff says

    Thorough and well-researched and reference analysis aside, I would make a suggestion about your tone throughout your writing. You do back it up, but your consistent gripes about Atwill’s authority to write such material and comes off at times as an ad hominem attack and name-calling which, I feel, takes your argument down a notch. Why even attack his authority or character? Just let the facts speak for themselves. The snarky attitude also doesn’t bode well for your ability to reach a broader audience and assume a higher sense of authority in the whole debacle.

    You also mention several times throughout that you don’t even see it worthy of your time or that you don’t understand why we have to go down this road. This comes off as very whiny and in a sense contradictory since you spend a novellas worth of space to make your rebuttal.

    Also, what’s with the nazi comment control prefacing? Why not just let people say what they want or turn them off entirely if you feel they are so intellectually inferior to your post to damage it’s ability to stand on it’s own? Popular science recently turned off it’s comments due to commenters derailing conversations and hijacking good, solid science with nonsense and subterfuge.

    Take from it what you will. Suggestions aside, Richard, thank you for the thorough analysis.

    • says

      This is just tone trolling.

      My tone is actually more honest, frank, and open than what you would want, which is to conceal what I really think and feel behind elitist doublespeak. That would be an inferior product, not a superior one.

      You are the one who should be focusing on my facts and logic and not ignoring it in favor of a factually irrelevant factor like tone.

      But I’m probably wasting my time saying all that. Anyone who compares comment moderation to the Nazis is not a rational human being with opinions worth heeding.

  23. John jG says

    Post a bunch of name calling and distortions, then strut around like a pigeon playing chess, pretending you’ve one. Only people who’re too lazy to read the work themselves will believe such ad hominem slanderous rubish as this.

  24. John jG says

    Anyone who starts off their paper with name calling “crank, mysticists, etc” you know is lying. You guys around here actually use this sand box name calling in the same paragraph with your degrees?

    “Joseph Atwill is one of those crank mythers I often get conflated with. Mythicists like him make the job of serious scholars like me so much harder, because people see, hear, or read them and think their nonsense is what mythicism is. They make mythicism look ridiculous. So I have to waste time (oh by the gods, so much time) explaining how I am not arguing anything like their theories or using anything like their terrible methods, and unlike them I actually know what I am talking about, and have an actual Ph.D. in a relevant subject from a real university.”

    Not to mention your appeals to ridicule, etc. Attack the methods, but then you’ve presented a straw man of what those methods were – a total distortion! And of course you appeal to your own authority – you’re indoctrination, rather than sticking to the details of the argument. But if you think name calling is academic, the joke’s on you.

    Someone who name calls for their argument immediately reveals that they’re intellectually bankrupt and arguing the weaker position. That would be you. Joe is not here name calling like a small child. You are. You have a PHD and all you can do is name call and distort!? LMAO. What a waste of paper. You’d get destroyed in a real debate where you couldn’t use your name calling and slander and straw man arguments to look intelligent in front of your fans. But we see right through your weak lies.

    So you think you’re clever posting up 8 distorted bulletpoints that ignores the research, and then you claim that you can’t waste time with the evidence:

    “I see no value in wasting any more time on his work (you’ll see why in a moment), but if anyone who is sensible nevertheless finds some claim in his book remarkably convincing”

    Anyway, attacks, hit pieces like this, reveal you and your true agenda. That you resort to this type of childish BS doesn’t do anything but fool those dumb enough to be fooled, but for the rest of us who use critical thinking, and don’t allow your fallacious lies to lead us around, it only reveals you for what you really are.

    People, go out and read the work for yourselves, unbiasedly, and don’t believe people simply because they can name call and entirely distort the work while claiming that they don’t have time for the evidence.

    This guy attacking Atwill is not honest. Study logical fallacies for an hour and see right through this guy’s lies.

    • says

      Anyone who starts off their paper with name calling “crank, mysticists, etc” you know is lying.

      This is a hopeless fallacy. When you state a thesis (“x is a crank”) and then document evidence of that thesis extensively, that is the exact opposite of lying. It’s stating a hypothesis and then proving it.

      Also, I don’t know what a mysticist is.

      Not to mention your appeals to ridicule, etc.

      One ought to ridicule the ridiculous.

      One should not be allowed to say ridiculous things without consequences.

      Attack the methods, but then you’ve presented a straw man of what those methods were – a total distortion!

      Then present quotations from Atwill’s book showing that his methods differ from what I have presented.

      And of course you appeal to your own authority – you’re indoctrination, rather than sticking to the details of the argument.

      99% of my article is about the details of the argument.

      But if you think name calling is academic, the joke’s on you.

      Stating a hypothesis and then proving it with evidence is academic.

      So you think you’re clever posting up 8 distorted bulletpoints that ignores the research, and then you claim that you can’t waste time with the evidence…

      How are any of those eight points “distorted”?

      What “research” am I ignoring?

      Anyway, attacks, hit pieces like this, reveal you and your true agenda.

      Right. To debunk bogus claims.

      This guy attacking Atwill is not honest.

      What have I said that is false?

      Study logical fallacies for an hour and see right through this guy’s lies.

      What fallacies do I commit and where?

      Compare my article, which backs its every claim with evidence and particulars, and your comment, which is a string of assertions without a single item of evidence or even one single particular.

      I think you are the pot calling the tile black here.

  25. John jG says

    Robert Price soundly debunked Atwill’s book? Really? That was a debate on a podcast, Infidel Guy Radio show, #383, I have the recording. Price lost that debate – badly. Why would you lie about that?

    You really are out to distort every fact. You clearly have some agenda.

    Maybe we should focus our attention on you to see what your agenda is. Focusing on revealing on all your fallacious, slanderous comments, that are clearly dishonest, for all to see.

    I find it ironic though, and sad, that you need to appeal to what everyone else thinks, rather than what the citations say, that you attack and straw man and ridicule.

    So what is your agenda, Richard? You a sophist? A liar? A religious fanatic with an agenda? Are you one of these racist Zionists?

    • Barry Hofstetter says

      I read Price’s review, and it was also quite good. When skeptics, Jesus Seminar folks, and evangelicals all agree that someone is wrong, I think there might be something to it…

  26. John jG says

    And you actually refused to read his book? That’s incredible. That’s the definition of a straw man argument. Refuse to read someone’s published thesis because you’re too lazy, then demand they send you some excerpts, and then distort those experts to your hearts desire. You are not debunking Atwill’s book, you’re attacking an email where he only tried to help you understand because of your laziness and attacks on him. You approached the entire thesis from a biased, know it all perspective and refused to do some research based on the book’s own merit, point by point, as a published whole thesis. This is very dishonesty of you. And you would now dare to drag your lazy emails and distortions out to debunk him?

    ADMIT TO EVERYONE HERE: “I Richard Carrier have not ever read Joe Atwill’s book. My entire attack is based on a handful of private emails because I refused to read his work and I’ve taken it out of context because I was lazy and used fallacies to attack him rather than the published work itself”. Say it with me, Richard. You’re the sophist here. That’s why all the name calling. That’s why the lazy behavior, attacking a book you’ve never read, and only presenting to understand the thesis as you’ve taken it out of context.

    BTW, how do you know a pig can’t run 6 miles with a mythical demon up its ass? 1) Yes, pigs can run that far, and 2) it’s a mythical story about a possessed pig with a demon up its butt. So how do you know how far a mythical pig with a demon up its butt can run? Did you do some scientific analysis? Your argument is nothing but an absurd straw man distortion.

    Now on to your Wuntian PHD that you love to brag about in all of its ad vericundiam. Did you know that comes from the Prussian system for control of the masses? Yes, it does. It’s a fact, regardless if you attack facts as conspiracy in your appeals to ridicule.

    There’s nothing worse than someone who ignores citations for categorical, not to mention fallacious, dismissals.

    “Notice his theory entails a massive and weirdly erudite conspiracy of truly bizarre scope and pedigree, to achieve a truly Quixotic aim that hardly makes sense coming from any half-intelligent elite of the era ”

    Yes, attack the idea of a conspiracy, something well known in political circles (read a history book), and then to solidify your argument, lets add in that the elite of the time were too stupid (or smart) to make up such things – which is what makes them the elite in the first place. The entire show is ritual to keep the elite in power – just as today. Of course you just speculate and attack. Why wouldn’t they do this? Your evidence? An appeal to ridicule.

    “to achieve a truly Quixotic aim that hardly makes sense coming from any half-intelligent elite of the era ”

    So your a professor who can only come up with “You’re wrong because HAHAHAHA”? That’s really, pathetically, sad.

    But hey, you use words like “Quixotic”, so you must be smart and know what you’re talking about, right? But hey, it must be impracticable because you say so… to you. But that doesn’t mean it’s impracticable to Titus and the elite of the time. This impracticality is based on your own distortions and ignorance of the argument, having actually refused to read the book.

    Who goes out and attacks a book he hasn’t read? Boy, I’ve seen some dishonest, lazy stuff in my life but this thread of yours is really up there.

    But again, you ignore his book and cite an email. How totally, despicably, dishonest.

    You killed the messenger, created a straw man, used ad hominem attacks and appeals to ridicule, on top of your own ad vericundiam and laziness. You call yourself a scholar?

    What a mishmash of fallacious “logic”, Richard. I see how you love to distort to make that piece of paper you have seem like it’s worth a dime.

    You seem to me like someone who loves to pontificate the stink of his own farts while pretending he’s studied a subject to make himself appear intelligent to his followers.

    If you’ve not studied the entire thesis in full, then you’re only capable of straw man arguments, and therefore this makes you entirely unqualified to judge Joe’s work.

    Just admit to all your fans that you’ve not read it, and you attacked Joe because his thesis challenged you. Rather than dealing with each point on its own merit, you attacked the idea and him. You attacked an email because you’re a lazy academic who allows fallacies, rather than the work itself, to lead your conclusions.

    If you were under my tutelage, you’d have a long way to go for that piece of paper you dangle on your neck – so proud.

    • says

      And you actually refused to read his book?

      I didn’t need to read his book. I asked him personally for his best evidence. He presented it to me directly. It was all garbage. I need investigate no further.

      That’s not a straw man argument. It’s simple economy. My email exchange with him, as published here, explains why. You simply are ignoring what I said there.

      BTW, how do you know a pig can’t run 6 miles with a mythical demon up its ass?

      Thus establishing you are a crank.

      Only a crank would not be embarrassed making such an argument.

      The text says they immediately ran down a slope to drown. It doesn’t say they ran six miles for hours and hours to drown.

      Did you know that [the idea of Ph.D.s] comes from the Prussian system for control of the masses?

      This is the funniest argument you’ve attempted yet. Now you’ve gone from crank to crackpot. Why not level up to batshit and be done with it?

      Yes, attack the idea of a conspiracy…

      Because all conspiracies are equally likely.

      Oh, wait, no. That’s not even at all true.

      You’ve once again failed to identify a single actually false thing I’ve said. You name a bunch of fallacies, but don’t explain where or how any of those fallacies occur in my article. You just make assertions without evidence.

      I love especially your “argument from the use of the word Quixotic.” Wow. That’s just awesome.

  27. gshelley says

    Is the idea that Mark at least, was basically a set of Old Testament stories strung together with some theme (Homeric or otherwise) more or less non controversial? Are there non crank explanations for how Mark was written (either by mythicists, or by non mythicists who nevertheless accept that Mark is not actual history)?

    • says

      I don’t quite understand the question.

      Joel Watts, Dennis MacDonald, Randel Helms, Thomas Brodie, Dale Allison, and countless other major scholars have made arguments that Markan construction emulates prior stories to sell a point (rather than trying to record what actually happened, which Mark shows no actual interest in). Not all their arguments are correct, IMO. But they are not crank, either. They make a commendable attempt at sound methodology, and are generally respected, even by scholars who don’t agree with them.

      Is that what you were asking?

    • gshelley says

      Thanks, that is partially what I was wondering, though also
      1) What extent do people who believe in the Historicity of Jesus accept the gospels as History. I thought I recalled you saying the even Bart Ehrman doesn’t think Mark contains a historical account of Jesus, but I could be mistaken, or over interpreting
      2) Are there a range of competing theories for the construction of Mark, and is one (or more) considered stronger and the most likely explanation – ie are there serious scholars who have put forward better explanations than Atwill

      Sorry for being unclear, I was trying to be concise and I think failed.
      Most people (presumably all) who accept one of the mythicist theories would have to believe the gospels are fictional – that as there was no historical Jesus, these are not even embellished historical accounts. So the stories had to come from somewhere, and if we accept Mark as being the first gospel, then we just need to account for his (ignoring John for the moment, as seems to me to so often to be the case).

      Years ago, I remember reading online an analysis of Mark that went through line by line and compared every verse to something from the Old Testament, but it is no longer available. It seemed convincing to me, but I don’t speak or read Greek or Hebrew, so wouldn’t spot most flaws. There is a smiliar sort of account by R.G. Price (presumably Robert Price) http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/gospel_mark.htm

    • says

      What extent do people who believe in the Historicity of Jesus accept the gospels as History.

      Varies widely. Some regard the Gospels as wholly fiction, yet still maintain historicity (e.g. Dennis MacDonald). Others are all the way on the other side as biblical literalists (pretty much any Evangelical scholar). There’s everything in between.

      I thought I recalled you saying the even Bart Ehrman doesn’t think Mark contains a historical account of Jesus, but I could be mistaken, or over interpreting.

      I said he agreed there was fiction in Mark, not that it was all fiction. He clearly thinks some of it is not fiction.

      Are there a range of competing theories for the construction of Mark, and is one (or more) considered stronger and the most likely explanation – ie are there serious scholars who have put forward better explanations than Atwill

      There are tons. None has won any majority consensus. But almost all of them are better explanations than Atwill’s. The closest to Atwill’s that has merit is Joel Watts, Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark. I think he’s wrong, but his thesis is not ridiculous, nor are his methods crank.

      R.G. Price (presumably Robert Price)

      (As you note in your own follow up comment, they are not the same person.)

    • gshelley says

      Just to add, that having looked more at the site I linked, it was a R.G. Price who wrote it, not Robert M, Price, who is actually referenced on a different page.

  28. John jG says

    Richard, deleting my comments only proves that I’m correct and you’ve been called out. You can lie and distort and delete all you want, but you and I both know the truth.

    Admit to everyone that you lied and have never read Joe’s work. Admit that you resorted to childish name calling, appeal to ridicule, straw man arguments and every other manner of fallacious BS to attack someone who tried to explain his thesis to you, simply because you were too lazy to read the published material.

    If you can’t handle citations and need to yell names and conspiracy and all, then you are not qualified to be a professor and your degree is not worth ANYTHING. You have to lie to maintain your appearance.

    You can’t debunk a work you haven’t read. Only a fool would try. What kind of academic would attack a scholar’s work he’s not personally read? Such idiocy: “OMG, this would expose my academic studies as totally invalid, so i need to go out and pump up a bunch of lies and name calling about a work I’ve read to sound intelligent to my followers”.

    Attacking the messenger is the oldest, most pathetic and tired trick in the book, Richard. But that’s you. You’ve got name calling and ridicule and distortions. You play on the ignorance and gullability of your audience to not follow up and read the work themselves – just like you. A lazy email will suffice – if we take every point out of context and repeatedly contradict ourselves and dance around yelling “crank” and “conspriracy theorist”. What sort of historian with any credibility would attack historical conspiracies. Any man with an iota of integrity knows he must address EACH AND EVERY SINGLE POINT INDIVIDUALLY REGARDLESS OF HIS BELIEFS AND BIASES. YOU FAILED, RICHARD, AT THE FIRST STEP AT WHAT AN ACADEMIC IS.

    You remind me of that guy Sir Godfrey Driver that attacked and dismissed an entire academic, philological study, never addressing the actual published work, but only appealing to authority and “fantasy” – and plenty of idiots bought his lies. But in time it backfired on him, just as you have here destroyed your own credibility.

    You’re all the argumentum ad ignorantium and distortions because you were challenged and can’t deal with the specifics, but name calling and lies and distortions. What kind of scholar uses an email to debunk an entire book? Anyone with half a brain knows you MUST study the original, primary work.

    You’ve clearly taken each item out of context and then attacked your own straw man. You are that pigeon on the chess board. But now we’ve got you pegged. You’ve outdone yourself this time. Tick toc, tick toc – the question only remains as to when your facade will fall away – even these people on this board you fool with your rhetoric. You going to spend your life deleting everyone who exposes the truth about your sophism and distortions?

    Let’s not teach your classes and audiences critical thinking, as they’d see through your tricks in a few minutes.

    Ah, yes, indeed…

    • says

      Note to my readers: John jG posted five comments in sequence before hearing any replies. You can go back and look at the progression of his lunacy: he just sat there, shooting comment after comment into the blind, escalating with each one. And then he accuses me of deleting them, even though my article very painfully and clearly explains everyone should expect moderation delays and that this does not mean comments have been deleted. Proving he didn’t actually read my article even remotely closely. This is the kind of batshit insanity I was talking about. He keeps making assertions without presenting any evidence of them (e.g. I supposedly “lied” about something, yet he doesn’t show a single claim in my article is false). I will not post any further comments from him, for the reasons my article stated. This guy is beyond irrational. Yet typical of Atwill defenders.

  29. says

    Thanks for your article! I received an email recently about Atwill’s Book and Presentation. I have to say, due to lack of scholarly experience with the texts of Josephus, an little experience with Biblical linguistics, I was beginning to believe a little in Atwill’s thesis. This discussion will certainly encourage me to bone up on history and languages!

  30. Djt'Heutii says

    Thanks for posting this, I was having a discussion with someone today about this because I am skeptical about the existence of Jesus and they thought I would have to buy into this Atwil guy’s stuff. So frustrating.

  31. Richard Cloutier says

    Atwill is clearly a crank and your blog here nicely exposes why.

    I only want to throw in my two cents on Rome, as a fellow commentator pointed out as perhaps being a mite too hasty:

    Militarily, their success can also be seen as their ultimate failure. Destructive, heavy-handed policies and mercantile plunder-based economics stoked continued resistance. Strategic stodginess eventually caved against their enemies’ adaptability. Movies often portray the Romans in their neat phalanx ranks, armed with catapults and other siege weapons, and their “barbarian” foes to the north in nothing but furs, with maybe some archers, with an advantage only of being big Viking-type shock troops. Wrong. The Gaulic tribes had quickly adapted, taking Roman-styled tactics and armaments as they saw fit. Furthermore, there were problems in the empire the Romans could never solve militarily, and their answer was simply to give up. Ireland, for example. They were terrified of the Celts. Their conflict with the Parthians was never fully resolved; they lost as often as they won against their Eastern foes. Their willingness to adapt was very slow, almost dull-witted, and usually demanded a severe loss (a legion or two) before they’d change anything. And then, usually immediately after, they’d switch right back to the old ways.

    For example, in battle against the troublesome Thracians, who used heavy machete-like swords designed to lop men’s arms off, the Romans temporarily increased their soldiers’ armor, adding thick pauldrons (shoulder plates) to the right side of the cuirass (leather chest piece). After the Thracians were beaten (at least for a while), they restored their armor to the old form. While it proves they would inevitably win by adapting eventually, they also took lumps they didn’t have to take if they weren’t so intractably dull (or arrogant) about battle to begin with. And those lumps add up over time, until you realize you no longer have near enough troops to protect Italy, never mind your entire empire. Rome deserves credit for its victories, but objectively it should also be very clear why it’s short-term credit. In more than one case, victory was obtained only by ruthlessly hurtling legion after legion at the enemy, overwhelming the foe by sheer numbers, and suffering severe casualties in return — but the ambitious commander survived and rose through the ranks of the Senate on the basis of his “great triumph”.

    So by short-term, we mean ultimately centuries of existence. In the scheme of history, that’s a drop in the bucket, and the fact that they could have but didn’t last longer was in part due to mistakes perceived as successes. No empire is “doomed to fail”. They fail because of mistakes that are never corrected. Worse, when successes that are actually mistakes are wrongfully perceived as successes, they will be repeated, accelerating and ensuring that regime’s collapse. (Thus, what I find ironic is that despite having historical examples of empires and kingdoms collapsing, modern civilizations continue to make the same mistakes. The only universal truth about history seems to be that mankind doesn’t learn from history.)

    I am probably mistaken on a few salient historical points. I am a humble undergrad. But one more modern cultural point I want to pluck from my observations are about Hollywood and, by extension, media in general.

    Can we please have people like you slapping these producers and publishers around before the sensationalized drivel is offered to the public? I’m not suggesting an end to free speech. On the contrary, I’m suggesting a push to increase it, so that both sides are heard equally — including the correct side. We all have a right to speak, but we do NOT have a right to willfully lie. There may not be laws against lying, but it’s morally unacceptable in nearly every human culture ever. In fact, in some cultures it’s punishable by death, depending on the circumstances and impact of the lie. In other words, can we stick Atwill in a rocket aimed for Iran?

    • says

      Militarily, their success can also be seen as their ultimate failure.

      That’s certainly arguable. And your overall assessment is not far fetched.

      (But as to your last remark, I’m pretty sure Atwill, who is independently wealthy, is actually paying for all of this. True, publishers like Ulysses could refuse, but they will probably just publish anything they think will make money, as long as it isn’t morally repugnant, while criticizing Ulysses for this would have no effect, as he’d just self-publish through a company of his own making. It would be worth criticizing an academic press for things like this, since that would threaten to destroy the reputation and standards of academics altogether, but so far as I know no academic press would even touch this.)

  32. doozie says

    Sounds like he has a good read, im gonna have to pick his book up. Little doubt in my mind that a lot of lies revolve around the story of jesus.

  33. Bruce says

    ” I’ve not wanted to do this, since it is indeed such a waste of time”

    For you maybe, but not for me. This is the first really good critique of Atwill that I have seen (perhaps others are out there, but I haven’t found them). I will also say that, in my opinion, the review of Caesar’s Messiah by Robert Price was woefully inadequate (useless, actually). I still like Price (as you say, he is a good writer), but my opinion of him dropped a notch after that review.

    I would like to say that I value your work a great deal, and that is not likely to change (and I simply cannot wait for you next book). And I value this critique of Atwill. I say that so that you can evaluate the sorts of things that I value. But having read Caesar’s Messiah, all I can say is, you have not yet convinced me that Atwill’s thesis is in general incorrect (I’m sure there are incorrect details). It may be wrong, but you haven’t convinced me (and I am not asking you spend more time on Atwill). And no, I am not in any way an expert in these matters. I read this stuff (yours and Atwill’s) for fun.

    My point is I would value your critique a great deal more if you had read the book. I don’t expect you to (and would not even recommend that you do in light of what is written above). But if you are ever stranded on a desert island, with nothing to read but Caesar’s Messiah, my recommendation is to read the book.

    Thanks again for the first valuable critique of Atwill (even if not really of Caesar’s Messiah) that I have been able to find. It is because of articles like this (and the Bart Ehrman “issue”) that I follow your work.

    • says

      My point is I would value your critique a great deal more if you had read the book.

      A thousand cranks ask me to do this. I don’t have enough lifetimes to acquiesce.

      So please do this the other way around:

      I presented examples of what Atwill himself said were his “best” evidence, and I showed they weren’t even good.

      If you think there are good examples in the book, then present them here.

      Start with the one you think is the best, page number and quote the argument (and preferably why you find it at all convincing).

      Then I’ll vet it.

      And then we’ll see if it’s worth the bother of looking at another.

  34. Robert Writes says

    Even I knew that Josephus was a Flavian propagandist. The recent surge of interest in Atwill’s theory demonstrates (to me, at least) that a good number of atheists are just as apt to believe anything that supports their point-of-view as the theists they look down their noses at.

    • says

      I’m not sure what you mean. Certainly Josephus was a Flavian propagandist. But that has nothing to do with whether he forged the New Testament and invented Christianity to mock the Jews and make them into pacifists.

  35. says

    Richard, it still seems to me that you have not actually read Atwill’s book in even it’s earlier editions. You are basing your present criticisms still on the IIDB exchange from so many years ago? Am I wrong about this?

    The newest “Flavian Signature” edition has a lot of new material, and I think it should be completely convincing to someone looking at it from the perspective of Bayesian analysis. There are over twenty parallels called out between Josephus and Luke (I think it is), with order preserved. Some of them are completely obvious. Many of them are very interesting. How about, Titus as the Good Samaritan? Titus had just come from Samaria, and paused a night on the road to Jerusalem to re-provision one of the legions that had been attacked by rebels and lost many of its supplies. So here is an event that has a similar storyline, and occurs on the very same road, with Titus having come from Samaria, and occurs in an order in both stories.

    Here’s another one: there is the naked man who escapes capture at the Garden of Gesthemane (and beyond somewhat perplexingly inserted into the middle of the story of Jesus’ capture), while in JW there is a scene where Titus is caught in a rebel ambush without armor (i.e., naked, according to Atwill) in a location which Atwill argues can be inferred to be the very same location. In JW, we also get a sanctimonious lecture about how providence smiles on the righteous, while others may suffer (or some such). In other words, though the fool and false prophet Jesus is captured and punished, the true son of (a Roman Senate deified) God survives to conquer.

    Even apart from the question of the ordering, it seems to me that taking the number of similarities between Josephus’ JW and Luke (say), a strong Bayesian argument could be constructed that this isn’t merely chance. Then taking account of the ordering then makes it a slam dunk.

    Having both Jesus and Titus wandering around in the Galilee, and then Titus fulfilling Jesus’ Son of Man prophesy is pretty fascinating on its face seems to me. Atwill argues that the path Jesus follows is the same as Titus’s. As I recall (from when I read your exchange years ago) you disagreed that they did follow similar paths. But it seems clear that the paths have a lot of similarity. How much is really needed to make the thesis interesting? I think that standard is clearly met, although I am not any kind expert in any of this stuff, abd in fact had no interest in it (i.e., the details of somebody’s obviously made up supernaturalist fairy tale) until I came across Atwill’s book by accident.

    There is an overview of the “Flavian Signature”, which is apparently the “confession” being referred to in the press release, on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UqG8w7ezUQ

    • says

      Email, not IIDB. I asked him to start with his best evidence, and he did. It wasn’t even good. Case closed. He had his shot. I gave him tons of time and opportunity to make a personally direct case to me. And he failed. It’s not worth exploring anything more he has to say, in his book or anywhere.

      Now, if you know of an example in his book that is better than the ones he told me were his best, then present it here.

      Start with the one you think is the best, page number and quote the argument (and preferably why you find it at all convincing).

      Then I’ll vet it.

      And then we’ll see if it’s worth the bother of looking at another.

      On why it has to be done this way, read my email exchange with him above, where I explain in detail why it has to be done this way.

      The vague examples you state without citing aren’t useful. There is nothing significant in the Titus-Samaritan parallels. Why you think they have anything to do with each other escapes me. There are also no parallels of any significance between the boy who has his tunic torn away (a symbol of death–losing the body as garment–see my discussion in The Empty Tomb) and Titus who just happened once to fight without armor. The young man doesn’t fight and isn’t even armed. Titus isn’t naked nor had a linen tunic torn from him nor ran away. Are we honestly going to say Josephus forged every book in antiquity that has someone losing their clothes? Honestly. Think this through. (As for it being the same location: page number for the evidence, then we’ll see. I’m not optimistic Atwill’s case will pan out. It never does. And I gave him plenty of chances. You seem to think it happened in Galilee, which if that’s the case, oh dear.)

      As for parallels between Josephus and Luke, it’s well known in mainstream scholarship that this is because Luke used Josephus as a source. I’ve even written about this. It’s been common knowledge for years. (Some few scholars try to insist Josephus instead used Luke as a source, but either way, such parallels do not require Josephus to have written Luke, and such a thing is vastly less probable.)

      As far as the “paths” being the same, that is all kinds of wrong. But again, if you think he has good evidence of this, let’s see it: give me the page number and the quotation/evidence he has for the paths being the same (with actual citations, e.g. of where in which Gospels a place is said to have been traveled to/from that corresponds to the march of Vespasian).

      But be prepared to accept the same results I have continually gotten with every other example sent to me. Because as the past informs us abundantly, odds are, that’s what we’re going to get.

  36. says

    1st off let me say this was a very interest read. Thank you for the critical analysis.

    Your words. “…I think Atwill is a total crank, and his work should be ignored, indeed everywhere warned against as among the worst of mythicism, not representative of any serious argument that Jesus didn’t exist. And that’s coming from me, someone who believes Jesus didn’t exist.”

    Disclaimer: I was brought up Christian and but lately my faith has left me.

    Now my question. And I ask with the most sincere curiosity.

    It’s obvious you’ve spent years studying biblical history and the like. After all of your extensive study and analysis… you’re above quote (of disbelief in Jesus) baffles me! So I am supremely intrigued. In light of all the information you have about this subject, was there one resounding fact that tipped the scales for you that convinced you Jesus didn’t exist? If so, what was it?

    Looking forward to your response! Thank you.

    • says

      It was reading Earl Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle, as explained here.

      That made me agnostic.

      Then I researched further and discovered the arguments for historicity are based on even more flawed logic than Doherty was aware (as I now demonstrate in Proving History, summarizing the results of my research on this point), and then that the arguments for ahistoricity are even stronger than Doherty was aware (as I demonstrate in On the Historicity of Jesus, due this February).

  37. ralfellis says

    While Atwil’s suggestion that the Romans invented the NT is patently false, the idea that these events all happened in the AD 60s, instead of the AD 30s, is not so illogical. In fact, most of the gospel events have direct parallels in the events leading to and during the Jewish Revolt.

    All you need to know is that: Jesus = Jesus of Gamala, Saul = Josephus Flavius.

    Once this is acknowledged, then many of the gospel events are visible in the history of Josephus and the Talmud. These include:

    The armed assault from the Mount of Olives.
    The 5,000 in the wilderness.
    Jesus (of Gamala) becoming high priest (see Hebrews 7).
    Jesus being a leader of a new sect (the Fourth Sect of Judaism)
    A Revolt being waged.
    A dispute over taxation.
    Jesus fighting Saul (ie: Jesus of Gamala fighting Josephus Flavius)
    Saul arresting ‘Christians’. Under what authority was that??
    Saul changing sides (ie: Josephus changing sides.)
    The three leaders of the Revolt being crucified.
    The leaders of the Revolt being taken down from the cross by Josephus (of Arimathaea)
    One of the leaders of the Revolt surviving the crucifixion.
    etc: etc:

    It is all there, and much else besides. So did Josephus invent all this? Unlikely. It is much more likely that these were real events that have been sprinkled with fairy-dust and presented as a spiritual history of the region, to buttress the emerging Sect of Simple Judaism (ie, Christianity).

    ralph

    • says

      Almost everyone agrees the Gospels were written after the 60s and reflect knowledge of (and even commentary on) the events of the Jewish War. Some even may have used Josephus as a source (Luke, IMO, almost certainly did).

      That in no way warrants believing Eisenman’s crankery (which is what you are echoing here).

      That you have to cherry pick the NT, make stuff up, and elide inconvenient facts to reconstruct these parallels pretty much sinks the case and pegs what you are selling as just more crank.

      Jesus is not the high priest in any Gospel narrative (and even in Hebrews he is only so celestially, not on earth). He leads no assault from the Mount of Olives. There is no revolt in the Gospels. There are variously five and four thousand eating with him in the wilderness, perfectly common numbers, with no implication of being under arms. Lots of people tried starting new sects. Many succeeded (e.g. Paul). Jesus says nothing about taxation even remotely comparable to what Jesus of Gamala did (and Jesus’ comments on taxation clearly derive from Paul, who had no notion of them coming from Jesus). There is no arresting of Christians in Josephus. Acts claims the authority Paul used was the priestly authority to arrest Jews in violation of the Torah law (to be tried by the Sanhedrin), which Acts claims Paul got a writ of authority for (and which authority certainly existed, although whether it held in Damascus would depend on whether, like the Romans, the Damascenes recognized at the time the Jews’ right to enforce their own laws on their own people). Lots of people change sides, and the changing sides of Paul and Josephus have nothing whatever in common. The three leaders of Christianity are not crucified. The men taken down by Josephus were not leaders of any revolt, but just a few among a great many soldiers and officers crucified in the same place–Josephus tried to save only the three hew knew personally. And Josephus is not “from Arimathea.”

      So this is basically just more bullshit.

      Go peddle it somewhere else.

  38. ralfellis says

    Thanks for your considered reply. I know that you don’t like crankery, but the points I made were valid, even if you don’t like them:

    He leads no assault from the Mount of Olives.
    The disciples were armed, and ready to use those arms, so this was not a prayer meeting, that’s for sure.

    There is no revolt in the Gospels.
    Mark 15:7 says:
    “And there was one names Barabbas who lay bound with them, and had made a revolution with him, and had committed murder in the revolution.”
    Sorry, is that is not a revolt?

    There is no arresting of Christians in Josephus.
    As you know, Jesus was not a Christian, so that is not surprising. What Josephus does mention, is an attempt to arrest Jesus (of Gamala). And that was the point I was making. Just as Saul was attempting to arrest Jesus (yes, in the AD 60s), so was Josephus.

    The three leaders of Christianity are not crucified.
    Again, Jesus was not a Christian. It was the three leaders of the Revolt who were being crucified in Josephus’ account. And as Mark 15:7 makes clear (above), Jesus was a leader of the (Jewish) Revolt. And in both cases, one of the victims survives.

    I could mention much more, but you surely cannot deny the synergy in all of this.

    • says

      Thanks for your considered reply. I know that you don’t like crankery, but the points I made were valid, even if you don’t like them:

      It’s not a matter of liking. It’s a matter of facts and logic. And the points you made simply had neither on their side. That makes them by definition invalid. But you refuse to see reason and just throw at me more crazy…

      He leads no assault from the Mount of Olives. The disciples were armed, and ready to use those arms, so this was not a prayer meeting, that’s for sure.

      Not on the Mount of Olives (no mention is made of any arms being taken there). And two swords (that’s right, just two swords) is not an armed body. And again, no assault is led from the mount of Olives. Period. That’s called a fact.

      There is no revolt in the Gospels.

      Mark 15:7 says: “And there was one names Barabbas who lay bound with them, and had made a revolution with him, and had committed murder in the revolution.” Sorry, is that is not a revolt?

      Not in the Gospels it isn’t. That the Gospels refer to a revolt not narrated in the Gospels and that has nothing whatever to do with Jesus or his followers does not warrant the ridiculous crankery you are trying to pull here.

      There is no arresting of Christians in Josephus.

      As you know, Jesus was not a Christian, so that is not surprising. What Josephus does mention, is an attempt to arrest Jesus (of Gamala). And that was the point I was making. Just as Saul was attempting to arrest Jesus (yes, in the AD 60s), so was Josephus.

      That’s not happening in the Gospels. So no parallel with the Gospels exists here.

      The three leaders of Christianity are not crucified.

      Again, Jesus was not a Christian. It was the three leaders of the Revolt who were being crucified in Josephus’ account. And as Mark 15:7 makes clear (above), Jesus was a leader of the (Jewish) Revolt. And in both cases, one of the victims survives.

      Holy crap. Your scattered erudition has driven you mad.

      Mark 15:7 says Barabbas was the leader of the revolt, not the Gospel Jesus; and Barabbas, the actual rebel leader (and the only one mentioned), is not crucified. And the two men were very definitely not the same man…unless you are claiming the Gospels intend us to understand that Jesus could bilocate and simultaneously be crucified and not be crucified, and that Pilate and the Jews all mistakenly thought they were two different people, and sent one to be crucified and released the other. Oh, wait, no, that would be ridiculous.

      Ladies and gentlemen, this is the kind of crank bullshit I’m talking about. I am not going to continue this conversation. It is devoid of facts and logic. It is, in a word, insane. All further comments trying to defend this insanity will be deleted. As I warned in the article above.

  39. ralfellis says

    Regards your point 1.

    >>The Romans were not educated in the
    >>Jewish scriptures and theology.

    I think you will find that Atwill’s argument was that Josephus Flavius devised the gospel text, on behalf of the Flavians. And Josephus was indeed well versed in both Jewish scripture and the events of the Jewish Revolt. So yes, Josephus could have written a gospel, and the Romans might have well appreciated a moderated form of Judaism (Judaism Lite, or Judaism for Gentiles).

    Has Atwill proved his case. No, quite obviously not, as most of his evidences for this are half-baked at best. However, the idea that the gospels were narrating an account of the AD 60s and the Jewish Revolt is not so far fetched.

    For instance, when the Talmud gets animated about Jesus, it is normally in regard to the Jewish Revolt. Look at Gittin 55-57, where the rabbis suggest that Jesus should be boiled in semen and shit. Now why would the rabbis get quite so upset about a pauper carpenter? And why would they link Jesus with Titus and the Jewish Revolt?? The classical understanding of the gospels cannot explain this. However, it seems clear that the rabbis were linking Jesus with Titus and the Revolt because he was indeed the leader of the Jewish Revolt. And the rabbis were SO upset with Jesus because his Revolt had destroyed their precious Temple – no wonder they wanted him boiled in shit.

    The same goes for the Vulgate cycle of Arthurian legend, which includes its own version of the gospels, (which is no more apocryphal than, say, the Gospel of Barnabas). In this gospel, Joseph of Arimathaea is a compatriot of Vespasian, and to achieve his dual role (being active in the AD 30s and the AD 70s), Joseph is made to go to sleep for 3 days, and when he wakes 40 years has passed. So even the Vulgate Cycle has a desperate problem with the classical chronology. Oh, and this gospel also says that Josephus Flavius was the son of Joseph of Arimathaea (just to confuse matters). But if we rebase the gospel chronology into the AD 60s, I think you can see the obvious result – Joseph of Arimathaea and Josephus Flavius become the same person.

    The established chronology of the gospels results in more questions than answers, whereas the AD 60s date answers everything. Jesus was the leader of the Jewish Revolt.

    • says

      If Josephus invented it all, it can’t be claimed Titus did. That is a contradiction. Atwill argues that this was all a joke by the Romans on the Jews. Not by the Jews on the Jews. If it’s all Josephus, then it’s no longer a product of Titus and it’s no longer Romans crafting any of the jokes. So you have to reject Atwill’s thesis at least in part, if you want to maintain Josephus did all the actual inventing.

      You also have the Talmud wrong. The only Jesus the Talmudic rabbis know about died half a century before Romans even arrived in Judea (the only Jesus known in the Talmud was killed circa 75 BC). He is never at any point connected with Titus or the Jewish War or the fall of Jerusalem. Nor are they aware of his ever even predicting the fall of the temple, much less do they blame him for it. I don’t know who sold you the bill of goods to the contrary, but now you know you can’t trust them.

      Then as far as baloney Gospels written a thousand years later, please.

      Still, if anyone was so foolish as to think that counted for anything, do please note the Josephus keeper of the grail in the Vulgate Cycle is never identified as Josephus Flavianus the historian. Oh well. There goes that conspiracy theory. Indeed, the Vulgate Cycle mis-identifies Vespasian as the son of Titus, and a leper rather than the emperor, and says they went questing to find Joseph of Arimathea, not that he was already their friend (or that they commissioned him to write anything whatever).

      So you really have to get your facts straight.

      Because the truth starts with, you know, the truth.

  40. lpetrich says

    Excellent work. Here’s what I think is a good analogy: someone writes a huge treatise that proves that 2 + 2 = 5. How much of that treatise is worth reading? That itself is very unlikely, but there have been numerous efforts to prove various other mathematical impossibilities, like ruler-and-compass angle trisection.

    I must say that I’ve found an even weirder conspiracy theory. That it was Emperor Constantine who invented Christianity, complete with adding mentions of it to various existing books to make it look like it had existed before him.

  41. says

    Having read this web page I need to comment.

    I disliked:

    1. That Atwill’s idea, which required a book of some 400 pages to express was rubbished without reading. (I looked for your earlier posts referred to by Atwill but did not find them).
    2. The argument from authority. It is immaterial whether someone does or does not have a Ph.D. In academic discourse all that counts is argument.
    3. The arrogance with which Atwill was addressed.
    4. The personal nature of the attack.

    I came to this web page to read a critical appraisal of the book. By chance my own copy only came in this morning’s post so I have yet to read beyond the introduction and chapter 1. I have however heard some of the arguments on the internet and thought it would be interesting to see what Richard Carrier made of it. I have enjoyed your internet talks and the idea of bringing Bayes to bear on historical issues. It will be of interest to see how this use of Bayes develops.

    I was eager to hear your opinion because although Atwill’s idea stands in opposition to the “Jesus of the Heavenly Spheres” arguments of yourself and Earl Doherty, the idea was (to me) so outrageous that even if untrue it had to be admired for its audacity. It is rare to encounter a conspiracy theory of this magnitude and historical consequence. Even if many of the facts are wrong or debatable, the extraordinary nature of the argument requires that it be looked at with good will and strengthened where possible.

    Googling I see that there has been an almost hysterical negative response to Atwill’s book. I’m not surprised. It may take time but the publicity and increased book sales as well as his appearance at the “Covert Messiah” symposium in London on the 19th may well result in a some more favourable academic responses. Whatever else, as a story, it takes some beating.

    • says

      I love how people dismiss the pointing out of errors of fact and logic as “a personal attack,” and how actually being qualified in a field is supposedly no longer relevant to one’s ability to know what they are talking about, and how we are supposed to read hundreds of pages of bullshit (which, when we add up all the cranks in the world, becomes millions of pages of bullshit) after we’ve already given the author tons of time and opportunity to show us that it will not be a waste of our time with his own self-declared best-examples and yet he can’t produce even a single good example and the examples he does produce are full of factual and logical errors and betray his ignorance of basic required skills in the subject.

      In truth all of this is the other way around.

      If you can’t fathom that, then you are a kook.

    • says

      Carrier mentions in this very post that he was converted to skepticism about historicity by Earl Doherty, so evidently he doesn’t require someone to have a Ph.D. to take them seriously. You mention Doherty yourself; so you should have been aware of that (or were you unaware that Doherty lacks a Ph.D.)?

    • says

      I have never said I require someone to have a Ph.D. to convince me of something. Lacking one is only a red flag that warrants caution; it is not by itself a ship-sinker. If the facts and logic are there, it wouldn’t matter if it came from a three year old child. It’s just not commonly what happens.

      Although unlike Atwill (so far as I know), Doherty has a B.A. in Classics and reads Greek and knows how to use a biblical textual apparatus and actually employs near-Ph.D.-quality methods and citation practices. In other words, Doherty represents how amateurs should do this sort of thing: get the skills; use and cite established scholarship. Nevertheless, I have explained Doherty’s shortcomings already years ago in my review of his book, including what this means as far as someone who doesn’t have a Ph.D. and wants to count on his scholarship (which is different from someone who does: e.g. I can tell how often he gets things right, whereas a layperson generally will not be able to; thus it matters when a Ph.D. reviews an amateur’s work positively: that counts as a form of peer review, the significant difference being that I simply posted what I would require him to have done to pass peer review, so the public can evaluate the state of his work from an informed position).

      Indeed, as amateurs Doherty and Atwill are nearly diametric opposites in quality of work.

  42. Tom Marking says

    JohnJG,

    Richard already explained that he asked Joe Atwill to send him his best argument. If his best argument fails to pass muster then what more need is there to read all the rest of the arguments in the book? If the rest of the book contains arguments that are all weaker than the best one then how can they contribute to a validation of the hypothesis? Of course, apparently there are several books by Atwill and he may have changed his theory between them. In any case, examining Atwill’s supposed best argument is sufficient for Richard or anyone else to come to a conclusion as to the overall quality of the argumentation.

  43. Tom Marking says

    Richard,

    In all your correspondences with Atwill does he discuss how this Roman conspiracy to write the gospels and create a brand new religion called Christianity could turn to persecution of the new religion by the Roman Empire in such a short time? The time from Titus to Pliny the Younger’s persecution of the Christians is only c. 80 CE to c. 110 CE, 30 years. How can the Roman Empire’s attitude completely shift from fostering a new religion to persecuting it in only 30 years? It makes no sense at all, unless the Roman conspirators underwent amnesia really fast. So that’s another epic fail by Atwill but I’m sure he can rationalize his way around it just like he does with everything else.

    Also, the idea that the hero of this concocted story being crucified would be abhorrent to Roman sensibilities. Crucifixion was reserved for noncitizens, and typically the lowest of the lows – rebels and murderers. In Roman eyes anyone who was crucified was the scum of the earth. They would be the last people promoted as a hero in some fictional story. So the Atwill hypothesis fails on that score too.

    • says

      We never got that far.

      But I assume he would say the Romans forgot what they did (because it was done in secret by an eventually-defunct family) and/or the Christians got out of hand. Somehow. I’m not saying this response would make any sense…since the Christians were pacifists, and the NT does promote the Gentile mission, it is hard to fathom what the Romans could possibly have found objectionable about it later on. They weren’t starting riots. They were doing exactly what Atwill’s thesis entails the Romans wanted.

      In reality, Christians were persecuted by the state (to the extent they were…the reality became exaggerated in Christian legends) because they were an illegal association. In ancient Rome there was no right to assembly, any group that wanted to assemble needed a license from the state, and the Christians never got one…for some inexplicable reason, given that Atwill’s thesis entails they would have been given one from the start.

      I have no idea how he would address that problem. Possibly he is not even aware of these facts.

    • John Owen says

      The history of Emperor Julian 332 -363
      http://www.amazon.com/Julian-Apostate-G-W-Bowersock/dp/0674488822

      shows that there was a good deal of back and forth in the roman leadership between Christianity and “paganism” even prior to Constantine or Justinian what to speak of after. I find your thesis of Paul as the inspiration of Christianity more convincing, yet it is hard to rule out any number of particular “christian mindsets” that might have come and gone during the formative years after Paul during which so many different types of gospels emerged. And I would hesitate to minimize the literary genius of the Romans of the time to fabricate the likes of the four gospels if that would have been their interest, and not necessarily in a moment of satire, but rather in the spirit of the tradition. Many have seen parallels from Aesops fables for instance. One of the only novels of the time that has been preserved might capture your interest: http://www.amazon.com/The-Golden-Ass-Transformations-Lucius/dp/0374531811
      also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Ass might be a pleasant break from the heavy side of history.

    • says

      Julian post-dates Constantine, so I don’t know what you mean there. Constantine is the first Roman emperor to attempt to control or dictate the church. Before that, all emperors were keen to destroy it (3rd AD) or regarded it as a silly fringe cult of little interest and a little repulsive or pathetic (2nd AD) or barely even knew what it was, if even they did (1st AD). They were never actively trying to take a leadership role in it or dictate what doctrines or books it should revere.

      My thesis is not that Paul is the inspiration of Christianity. Paul himself says it originated with Peter and gang. Paul gave us the version of Christianity that prevailed (the original sect died out), but that’s not the same thing as originating the religion.

      And the problem with the NT is not that Romans can’t have included all the classical literary parallels, but that the Roman elite would barely be able to understand the esoteric details of Jewish theology required of them, much less accurately employ the Septuagint and other scriptures. Josephus attests to that: his patrons (e.g. Titus) barely knew anything about Judaism and had to have even the simplest of things explained to them. They could hardly have had advanced erudite Rabbinical knowledge. And if we abandon the silly idea that Titus dictated everything to go into the NT and say, instead, that Josephus did it all on his own, producing a project even his patrons wouldn’t understand the half of (which would destroy any thesis that they designed it to be a joke on the Jews–a joke even they didn’t get could not be a joke they were telling), then the thesis becomes extraordinarily confusing (why would Titus think something he didn’t even understand could work, much less be funny? Why, that being the case, would Josephus attempt it? And if Josephus’s design was to make fun of the Jews, why write the NT, why not just write his own histories as satires? And if he wasn’t making fun of the Jews…and thus Atwill’s thesis is half abandoned…why wouldn’t his mission of pacifying the Jews be designed to persuade Palestinian Jews who were the primary problem? And so on. It just starts to make less and less sense once we start trying to gerrymander Atwill’s thesis to fit).

    • says

      The question of why christians might be persecuted by the system which set christianity in motion is answered by the multiple varieties of christians.

      As is the case today so is likely to have been the case then: schisms of all sorts.

      In particular, the Romans would have favoured the followers of a physical man called Jesus who according to Atwill was the predecessor to Titus Flavius and have disliked followers of a non physical mythical Jesus, as well as those Christians advocating violence against Rome.

      Extraordinary ideas need to be strengthened when young and most vulnerable, and only then attacked.

      I think that there has as yet been no substantive criticism of Atwill’s idea from those who have read his book.

    • says

      Anyone who says an article that extensively exposes Atwill’s ignorance, incompetence, errors, and fallacies is “no substantive criticism” is clearly not someone whose opinion is worth heeding.

  44. Ralph Ellis says

    [Note to My Readers: Ralph Ellis continues to ignore my comments policy and my warning in the very article he is supposed to be commenting on. Consequently, his comments here will now be immediately deleted, as this one was.–RC]

  45. ROO BOOKAROO says

    Protagoras:

    It is not just Richard Carrier, but also Peter Kirby ( well-known for his contribution in having built the exciting and useful “Early Christian Writings” site) who were persuaded in their youth to come to a skeptical position on the question of Jesus’s historicity after the revelation of the “findings” in the “Jesus Puzzle” by the Irish-Canadian autodidact Doherty.

    Although both Carrier and Kirby claim to be motivated by an authentic spirit of scholarship (which comes through very convincingly), neither of them seems to have ever bothered to make a thorough investigation to identify the source of the material and information used by Doherty.

    Which any thorough examination can show that, in fact, the key arguments presented in the “Jesus Puzzle” have been lifted, borrowed, and copied — page by page, paragraph by paragraph, down to the very sentences and phrases, even favorite expressions, and selection of biblical passages used in argumentation, and citations from other scholars — mostly from George A. Wells’s twelve books published between 1971 and 1999 (where Wells put in solid scholarly presentation the arguments already advanced or presented, among others, by John M. Robertson, Arthur Drews, P.L. Couchoud, Archibald Robertson, and Herbert Cutner), with ancillary contributions lifted and copied from John Kloppenborg, Burton Mack, and Gilbert Murray.

    What looks like scholarly presentation in “The Jesus Puzzle” is directly attributable to the solid argumentation of George A. Wells, and the other sources of information. Not only they all had Ph.D.s — which thousands of graduate students do obtain — but they achieved remarkable pre-eminence in their fields.
    In fact the scholarly apparatus of those sources is so considerable and heavy (and tedious to a non-specialist) that the genius of Doherty, a born story-teller, was to clean up their texts from their mountains of scholarly references and discussions, in order to present a kind of summary, an advanced Cliff’s note, where story-telling would be more appealing to the young market of students.

    All scholars resort to the research of other scholars. 90% of their work being devoted to reading what their colleagues have produced. But the mark of authentic scholarship is to unfailingly divulge the sources of any fragment of idea or material and give them credit where credit is due.

    None of the scholars from whom “The Jesus Puzzle” so freely borrowed would advance any idea, discuss any argument (pro or con, especially the cons) without a clear and unmistakable reference to a previous originator.
    It can be like “As David Strauss mentioned”, ors “as this has been argued in sufficient detail in Popper 1957″, or “I owe a great deal to D.P. Walker’s valuable book”, or “to use the expression favored by Rudolf Bultmann”, or “in Wink’s phrase”, or “to borrow the suggestion from Gilbert Murray”, etc.
    This is the heavy armament of references essential to authentic scholarship, and a delight to professionals who know the territory, but that drives young student nuts and bore them to death.
    This is what the “Jesus Puzzle” wisely omitted, or curtailed, to produce a popularizing tale that would be easy to read and digest, and retain the attention of young students.
    And of course, the Internet facilitated the advertising and diffusion of the “Jesus Puzzle”, something that neither Wells nor the other sources mentioned, were able to take advantage of in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Which is one of the main reasons they were ignored of the larger public.

    None of those young readers of the “Jesus Puzzle” ever bothered with “The Jesus of the Early Christians” (Wells, 1971), nor “Did Jesus Exist?” (Wells, 1971/87), or even “The Historical Evidence for Jesus” (Wells, 1982/88), and “Who Was Jesus” (Wells, 1989). Books they had never heard of, never encountered, never read.
    Same thing with the key books of Robertson, Drews, Couchoud, Cutner, Kloppenborg, Mack and Murray. Although Murray’s “The Five Stages of Greek Religion” is now available on the Web.

    One exception, but he was not a “young” reader: Bart Ehrman, who deigned to give an approving nod to “Did Jesus Exist” (Wells, 1975/87) as presenting the best compendium of the argumentation in favor of the non-historicity of Jesus. Ehrman borrowed Wells’s title for his own book “Did Jesus Exist” (Ehrman, 2012), but left me wondering whether he even read Wells’s book or simply leafed through it.

    When it comes to ideas, they all have an origin, and are not floating in the air, to be picked as if on the shelves of an abstract supermarket available to all comers.
    The history of ideas focusses on identifying the routes and connections those ideas — that we now see as part of our familiar mental territory— have used to be finally transmitted to us, the current users, who now can claim to discuss them on the cold “logic” of their “merits”.

    And so, this history of ideas strives to retrace the path towards their origins, if and whenever they can be found. Which is not the kind of investigation any ordinary reader is equipped to undertake, nor for which he feels any inclination.
    And any authentic and honest scholar has the duty to acknowledge the historical path of derivation, retrieve it, and share it with us.
    Same is true of the hypothesis of Jesus’s non-historicity. One has to retrace the whole development of the idea back to its origins, which are dated to around 1790, re-evaluate the original argumentation, its gradual amplification, and draw modern conclusions.
    But, at every step, with the absolute obligation to honestly divulge the source of every nuance of thought, argument, or “evidence”.

    • says

      …neither of them seems to have ever bothered to make a thorough investigation to identify the source of the material and information used by Doherty…

      Seeing as how my actually having done so has resulted in a book that passed peer review at a major respected academic biblical press, your statement is plainly false.

      But you seem not to mean actual sources (i.e. the evidence) but inspirations (i.e. prior scholars who tried but failed to develop a defensible theory of the origins of Christianity without a historical Jesus, which Doherty can be said to have improved upon). This suggests you don’t know how scholarship works. Conclusions must follow from the facts–the evidence–not from what prior scholars have said independently of it. Therefore, only the evidence matters. So when I investigated Doherty’s “sources” all I was interested in were his actual sources: the evidence that entailed or implied his conclusions were correct. If someone else made a discovery in the evidence earlier, they can certainly be credited (once this is known or demonstrated–it is not always known, and merely claiming someone did something, but providing no evidence of it, is not sufficient to establish they did). But that makes no difference to whether the conclusion arrived at from that evidence is correct or not. And the latter is all that matters. The rest is just historiography.

      As to your slanderous accusations against Doherty, I find those dubious and you have done nothing to support them here (indeed, Wells is repeatedly cited and credited in The Jesus Puzzle, so your accusations would even seem to be demonstrably false). But they make no difference to my conclusions or my work, so I will leave that row for you and Doherty.

  46. ABCXYZ says

    Richard, were the Chrestiani a historical group? If so, who/what were they? Were the early Christians related to the Chrestiani?

    • says

      This is debated. The evidence has been regarded as inconclusive, so any answer one gave to that question is hypothetical at present.

      In an article soon to appear in Vigiliae Christianae I argue (citing several scholars who agree) that the Chrestians were a group of Jews similar to the Zealots known for acts of terrorism and political violence in the city of Rome, who had no connection with Christians, but were named after their founding leader Chrestus, a Jewish rebel at Rome who led his followers to violent actions during the reign of Claudius. This group I now suspect probably burned the city of Rome and were the actual culprits Nero targeted (indeed the original reading of the Tacitus manuscript was “Chrestians,” not Christians, and there are very strong reasons to suspect the line about their name coming from a Christ executed by Pilate in Judea is a later, possibly accidental interpolation–I cite and outline previous peer reviewed arguments to that effect, and expand and improve on them, in my forthcoming article).

      This is a shocking theory. But the evidence for it is reasonably strong. I’m not alone in having advocated it (the argument has been made under peer review more than once before), and no one has produced a sensible rebuttal to the case we can make for it. But it is so little known, any consensus one cited against it would almost certainly be too under-informed to make a relevant argument with. And historians in my experience often do not reason rationally, and thus their opinions in matters that go against their prior assumptions are often untrustworthy. This is substantially what I demonstrate in Proving History (and others have done so before me: not only in Jesus studies, which works I also cite, but for the whole of history most devastatingly in Fischer’s Historians’ Fallacies).

    • ABCXYZ says

      Thanks again for your detailed response, Richard.

      What about the radical anti-social teachings in the NT gospels and the genocidal mass murder fantasies in the book of Revelation? Can any of this material be connected with the Chrestiani and/or the Zealot movement?

    • says

      I’ll have to leave it to someone else to answer that question. I see no obvious evidence of it. And it would be a needless chore for me to research every speculation like that, as you might imagine.

      (Certainly, Revelation was written by the anti-Pauline Torah-observant sect, in the 80s or so. So it is definitely rabidly anti-Gentile. But there were lots of Jewish factions and individuals who felt that way.)

  47. Tom Marking says

    Doesn’t an argument from silence work against this idea? If there was a Jewish leader named Chrestus who instigated the Great Fire at Rome one would think there would be some biographical material concerning him in Josephus and other Jewish and Roman writers of the era. After all, Josephus gives coverage to Theudas and some unknown Egyptian prophet who certainly did less damage to the Roman Empire than this supposed Chrestus did. Also, if this Chrestus was the one mentioned by Suetonius as causing such a stir in Rome in the 50’s CE he probably would have been kicked out of Rome (Suetonius says these troublemakers were ejected from Rome) or even killed in which case he can’t be around to start the Great Fire in 64 CE. So I think it’s pretty weak linking someone named Chrestus to the Fire at Rome. There may have been someone with that name operating at Rome during the reign of Claudius. Mi dos centavos.

    • says

      Chrestus and his riot are discussed in Suetonius. So it’s a historically attested fact.

      And if we are correct, also in Tacitus (the passage now believed to be about Christians was originally about the followers of Chrestus). Note that Tacitus would be talking about the Chrestian faction, not Chrestus himself (who may have been dead by then). In other words, a movement he started, that continued after him. Just like the Zealots. The Chrestians are thus identified as starting the fire, not Chrestus himself.

      That’s pretty much all the evidence we’d expect (all the events of antiquity are not well documented, e.g. we’d know next to nothing about the events of the Jewish War had it not been for the fortuitous preservation of a single author, Josephus; and the most important texts for an event like this, e.g. Pliny the Elder’s history of Rome, as told by a guy actually living there at the time, we don’t have at all).

      Meanwhile, Josephus wouldn’t dare mention the Chrestus group, since it would destroy the entire propagandistic thesis of his books, that the Jewish War was a fiasco caused by radical Zealot factions in Judea for which the Jews as a whole can’t be blamed. If he were to admit a faction of Diaspora Jews were setting Rome itself on fire and starting riots there immediately before the war, that would put a serious chink in his preferred narrative. That Suetonius mentions the Chrestus riots, but Josephus doesn’t, is enough to tell us Josephus is deliberately not telling us something.

    • Tom Marking says

      Only Tacitus doesn’t think the Chrestians started the fire. In Annals 15.38 he says “A disaster followed, whether accidental or treacherously contrived by the emperor, is uncertain, as authors have given both accounts, worse, however, and more dreadful than any which have ever happened to this city by the violence of fire.” So either it was an accident or Nero dunnit. Suetonius in the Twelve Caesars is more explicit: Book VI, 38: “For under cover of displeasure at the ugliness of the old buildings and the narrow, crooked streets, he set fire to the city so openly that several ex-consuls did not venture to lay hands on his chamberlains although they caught them on their estates with tow and fire-brands”. Suetonius says that guys known to work for Nero were caught with firebrands so he doesn’t even mention Chrestians as possible culprits. Given as how there is still disagreement over who started the Reichstag fire back in 1933, less than a century ago, with some historians saying the Nazis did it and others saying that Marinus van der Lubbe acted alone I doubt we will ever get to the bottom of a fire which took place almost 2,000 years earlier. Still, I wouldn’t think the Chrestians (whoever they were) actually doing it would be high probability being as how both Tacitus and Suetonius contradict this claim.

    • says

      We can’t always trust ancient historians on points like who is to blame for things. Read Greek and Roman Historians: Information and Misinformation for more on this point.

      Tacitus lets the truth slip when he admits many of those arrested confessed to the crime, and when he essentially admits they deserved to be prosecuted as arsonists.

      That Suetonius omits even that part of the story (whether Christians or Chrestians) only belies Suetonius’ effort to frame Nero the more, thus demonstrating he is even more unreliable than Tacitus. See The Great Fire of Rome: The Fall of the Emperor Nero and His City for more on this point.

      Meanwhile, Tacitus does not contradict the Chrestian culprit story. His text actually says Chrestians (with an “e” — later Christian scribes tried to erase and replace it with an “i”…as has been visually confirmed), and makes more sense that way, whereas the line about Christ is very probably an interpolation (that’s what my article in VC argues, as have other peer reviewed articles before mine).

  48. says

    Hi, Richard I won’t take much of your time. I’m not learned in the topic at hand, at all, beyond some reading (and a minor crush on Francesca Stavrakopoulou), but I just wanted to report what I asked Atwill (more or less) at the presentation today (yes, I was there, with my skeptic hat on).

    Maybe you can comment on my question, purely as an alternate take on Atwill’s own points, if nothing else.

    Firstly, is Atwill correct in suggesting, as he did, that the Jews were in some respects happier with Roman occupation than they were with Hellenistic Expansionism?

    Secondly, were the Parthians a threat to Roman-occupied Judea/Palestine, as was also suggested?

    If the answer to the first is yes, then my follow-up question to Atwill is semi-relevant, and was as follows:

    If there are any parallels at all between The Jewish Wars and the Gospels, particularly in Matthew, and if Matthew also includes multiple references to the Pentateuch, couldn’t it be that Josephus was writing The Jewish Wars as a flattery of the Flavians, whilst also writing a satire set against the cultural artifacts of the Pentateuch (given the parallels of the Pentateuch in Matthew)?

    In this way it’s Josephus that is inventing a public, Roman-friendly text (all the while sending up Titus, et al.), that still retains the shape of the Pentateuch, but sounds like Roman Propaganda (to Roman ears).

    Matthew 6:6 contains the obvious admonitions to carry on practicing proper Judaism at home (go into your room, close the door, pray to your Father, etc.). Meanwhile, the Roman knack for syncretism runs its course.

    I appreciate this doesn’t resolve the slew of problems you’ve raised with Atwill’s thesis, but it does away with the implausibility of the Roman joke, by making it a joke at the expense of the Romans by Josephus, and one that the intended audience would actually get.

    Meanwhile, the Romans hung around with a seemingly pliant Jewish people (but for the more militant Messianic groups), and this at least meant that the Parthians were unlikely to attack.

    Of course, this would make Josephus either the direct author of, or a major source for, Matthew.

    On a completely unrelated note, is it utterly impossible for the 2000/2200 (swine) to be some kind of transliteration or joke relying on a different source other than the now canonical?

    For example, as I understand it, in I Kings 5:16 Solomon used 3,300 workers, but in II Chronicles 2:18 the number was 3,600. And there are multiple discrepancies between the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, such as the families of Arah (775 or 652, respectively) or Azgad (1222 or 2322, respectively), and so on.

    Many thanks if you choose to answer. I completely understand if you choose not to.

    • says

      Firstly, is Atwill correct in suggesting, as he did, that the Jews were in some respects happier with Roman occupation than they were with Hellenistic Expansionism?

      That would depend on which Jews you meant. And what one means by “Hellenistic Expansionism.” I presume that’s a reference to the Seleucids. Certainly Seleucid rule was way worse for the Jews of Judea than Roman rule was, and many Jews would have said so. But it was precisely when Roman rule was becoming similarly intolerable that the Jews went to war with Rome. Twice. So I’m not sure what use the comparison has.

      Secondly, were the Parthians a threat to Roman-occupied Judea/Palestine, as was also suggested?

      In much the same sense that the USSR was a threat to Europe during the Cold War. Rome being the analog to America in that analogy.

      (Although it doesn’t follow that the Parthians wouldn’t have treated the Jews the same or better than the Romans did. That would be hard to analyze.)

      I appreciate this doesn’t resolve the slew of problems you’ve raised with Atwill’s thesis, but it does away with the implausibility of the Roman joke, by making it a joke at the expense of the Romans by Josephus, and one that the intended audience would actually get.

      I agree getting rid of the “joke” part of the thesis substantially raises its prior (though even raised it remains extremely low).

      But since most of his “evidence” is evidence of “jokes,” what he would gain in priors he loses in evidential likelihoods.

      Lose-lose.

      On a completely unrelated note, is it utterly impossible for the 2000/2200 (swine) to be some kind of transliteration or joke relying on a different source other than the now canonical?

      You would need evidence for it. If you just presume it, then you are making every presumed transmission error equally likely, and that drops you right in the middle of a multiple comparisons fallacy: if the text could have said anything you need it to have said, then you can make it fit any passage in any text by any author you want…Atwill simply can’t defend a thesis that way.

  49. says

    Richard Carrier criticizes Joseph Atwill AND Rod Blackhirst, Ph.D. as follows. My humble reader responses are below my comprehension of Richard’s statements.

    1. Rome was not smart enough in Jewish scripture to compose a Gospel.

    Rome was smart enough to get Virgil to compose the Aenid.

    2. Too many gospels were floating around for this to be true. The four selected and the letters selected for the NT weren’t selected until long after Titus.

    I think there was some weight of Roman influence on messianic writings circulating during the Flavian period.

    3. Too many contradictions for all of the NT to be under the Flavians

    “how the resurrections depicted in Luke and John are deliberate attempts to refute the doctrine of resurrection defended originally by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5”

    Richard, you’re making an intriguing statement. Where do you expound on this? I’d like read what you’re saying. Thanks for the link on the nativity ten years apart discrepancy.

    “John invents a real Lazarus to refute a point Luke tried to make with a fictional Lazarus”

    Ditto here. I’d love to read more about this. Are they in one of your books?

    4. Gospels and Letters differ too much stylistically.
    “the hash job of Romans”

    Richard, I’m almost finished reading the book The Gospel of God: Romans as Paul’s Aenid by David R. Wallace who taught Greek and New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.

    Wallace seems to successfully advance the idea the Romans overtakes the salvific message of Virgil and Octavian Augustus Caesar.

    5. Rome didn’t care about Peace from the Jews. Paul and the Jews cared before the Romans about their zealots.

    After the defeat of the Jews and throwing them out of Jerusalem, Rome wouldn’t want to do that again. The Jews were unruly. Rome needed to at least lean their weight on messianic-rebellious literature. The Ancient Jewish rebellion problem reared its head again in the history of Jewish revolts against Rome.

    6. Gentile Christianity would not pacify Jews.

    Given the sermon series I heard at Highland Park United Methodist Church, Dallas, TX this past summer, Gentile Christianity was good for the Hellenistic Jews under the leadership of the martyr Stephen. Gentile Christianity was also pacifying the church at Antioch. Third, Christianity in Edessa, in the Osrhoene, and likely Adiabene had made some headway. Ralph Ellis wrote a book that brought to my attention something not taught in churches: Queen Helena’s son King Izates had political clout in Edessa, the Osrhoene, and Adiabene. His family tree (“beyond the Eurphrates”) helped the Jews revolt, according to Josephus.

    7. Jews wouldn’t accept new scripture written in Greek

    Hellenistic Jews would accept scripture in Greek. Rev. Walt Marcum’s sermon series on Acts of the Apostles introduces to readers of the New Testament a group not mentioned in the gospels: the Helenistic Jews in the Helenistic synagogues, some of which had accommodations for Helenistic Jews who would come from far during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover.

    8. Social ideology was not Rome’s strong suit. Military solutions was Rome’s only approach.

    I disagree to the extent that Rome was good at building aqueducts. In Josephus, Pilate tried to increase the flow of water (aqueduct) in Jerusalem and he ran into resistance from Jews.

    The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 1. (55), note (60)

    More important, Rome is known for its building investments in Palestine. Wouldn’t building a large Herod’s Temple earn them some brownie points with the Jews?

    Richard Carrier also says
    He actually has no evidence at all for his thesis

    I would say Atwill does appeal to the “follow the power and the money” investigative tactic. It’s odd that the Roman Catholic church would not make saints of Queen Helena and King Izates who fed more than 5,000, saving Judea from famine, a Christ-like act but would make saints of Christian Flavians. It seems the daughter of Flavia Domitilla the Younger was a saint.
    newadvent.com (Catholic Encylopedia) states:

    The Prefect of Rome during Nero’s persecution was Titus Flavius Sabinus, elder brother of the Emperor Vespasian, and father of the martyred Clemens. Flavia Domitilla, wife of the Martyr, was a granddaughter of Vespasian, and niece of Titus and Domitian; she may have died a martyr to the rigours of her banishment The catacomb of Domitilla is shown by existing inscriptions to have been founded by her.

    Thank you for helping me with a significant part of my life’s purpose: to study and write about the historical accuracy of the Bible which includes getting as clear of a picture of the first 100 years CE and the 100 years before (as well as year 0).

    I think Jesus is part myth and a compilation of historical characters (including Josephus’ Egyptian Prophet). Maybe scholars would say the Egyptian Prophet is a weak connection to Jesus but I agree with Christian scholars who do believe Jesus spent some time in Egypt. The Babylonian Talmud says Jesus went to Egypt and learned Egyptian magic. Please see Jesus in the Talmud by Peter Schafer, published by Princeton University Press. (Schafer says nothing in the Babylonian Talmud should be taken as historically accurate, only bitter criticism against the rise of Gentile Christianity. I do not totally buy into that.) Given Moses and Joseph, and Egypt’s oversight of Jerusalem during the best estimate of King David’s reign, the Judaic purist styling of Jesus has to stand on Egyptian soldiers; and, as such Jesus is a Jewish Prophet. Josephus speaks about rebels who had innovations for government. I see Jesus’ Son of Man movement as an innovation for government.

    • says

      1. Rome was not smart enough in Jewish scripture to compose a Gospel.

      Rome was smart enough to get Virgil to compose the Aenid.

      Romans knew Homer and Latin like the back of their hand. But the Septuagint and Rabbinical theology? Hardly.

      So your analogy fails here.

      It looks like you are mistaking the words “clever” and “educated” as “smart,” as if I said the Roman elite had lower IQs than Jews.

      Um, no. What I said was “The Roman aristocracy was nowhere near as clever as Atwill’s theory requires. They certainly were not so masterfully educated in the Jewish scriptures and theology that they could compose hundreds of pages of elegant passages based on it.”

      That they could masterfully transvalue Homer into Latin (the Aeneid) is, by contrast, exactly the sort of thing we’d expect from the Roman elite (so that has, to the contrary, a very high prior).

      2. Too many gospels were floating around for this to be true. The four selected and the letters selected for the NT weren’t selected until long after Titus.

      I think there was some weight of Roman influence on messianic writings circulating during the Flavian period.

      It is not clear what you mean by “influence” that would be at all relevant to Atwill’s actual thesis.

      Cultural influence certainly existed. But that has no relevance to what Atwill is actually claiming.

      3. Too many contradictions for all of the NT to be under the Flavians

      “how the resurrections depicted in Luke and John are deliberate attempts to refute the doctrine of resurrection defended originally by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5”

      Richard, you’re making an intriguing statement. Where do you expound on this? I’d like read what you’re saying. Thanks for the link on the nativity ten years apart discrepancy.

      The evidence for this is in my “Spiritual Body” chapter in The Empty Tomb.

      “John invents a real Lazarus to refute a point Luke tried to make with a fictional Lazarus”

      Ditto here. I’d love to read more about this. Are they in one of your books?

      That will be in my next book, On the Historicity of Jesus. (Along with its bibliography; I’m not the first to demonstrate it.)

      4. Gospels and Letters differ too much stylistically.
      “the hash job of Romans”

      Richard, I’m almost finished reading the book The Gospel of God: Romans as Paul’s Aenid by David R. Wallace who taught Greek and New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.

      Wallace seems to successfully advance the idea [that] Romans overtakes the salvific message of Virgil and Octavian Augustus Caesar.

      Plausible, but not relevant to Atwill’s thesis.

      Note that Romans is probably a stitch work of three different letters. (Bibliography on that again in my next book.)

      Christianity as a whole is a transvaluation of Roman values and ideals (e.g. the way Mark and Luke transvalue the Romulus narrative, which I discuss a little in Empty Tomb and more in Historicity).

      That does not in any way support the idea that it was a contrivance of emperor Titus or authored by Josephus (or that it was simultaneously a joke and not really serious).

      5. Rome didn’t care about Peace from the Jews. Paul and the Jews cared before the Romans about their zealots.

      After the defeat of the Jews and throwing them out of Jerusalem, Rome wouldn’t want to do that again. The Jews were unruly. Rome needed to at least lean their weight on messianic-rebellious literature. The Ancient Jewish rebellion problem reared its head again in the history of Jewish revolts against Rome.

      I don’t see anything relevant in those remarks that requires response.

      6. Gentile Christianity would not pacify Jews.

      Given the sermon series I heard at Highland Park United Methodist Church, Dallas, TX this past summer, Gentile Christianity was good for the Hellenistic Jews under the leadership of the martyr Stephen. Gentile Christianity was also pacifying the church at Antioch. Third, Christianity in Edessa, in the Osrhoene, and likely Adiabene had made some headway. Ralph Ellis wrote a book that brought to my attention something not taught in churches: Queen Helena’s son King Izates had political clout in Edessa, the Osrhoene, and Adiabene. His family tree (“beyond the Eurphrates”) helped the Jews revolt, according to Josephus.

      Why do you think Stephen has anything to do with Gentile Christianity?

      (He almost certainly never existed…his story is multiply improbable, and his name a give-away: “crown,” just as what martyrs would receive. More on this in the works of Richard Pervo, but I detail the case again in Historicity.)

      And what has Antioch to do with rebellions in Judea?

      Ralph Ellis is another crank (indeed, IMO, genuinely insane).

      7. Jews wouldn’t accept new scripture written in Greek

      Hellenistic Jews would accept scripture in Greek.

      Not relevant to any plan to pacify the Jews in Judea.

      Which is precisely the problem with Atwill’s thesis.

      8. Social ideology was not Rome’s strong suit. Military solutions was Rome’s only approach.

      I disagree to the extent that Rome was good at building aqueducts. In Josephus, Pilate tried to increase the flow of water (aqueduct) in Jerusalem and he ran into resistance from Jews.

      The Romans weren’t building aqueducts as an ideological social engineering policy. They were building aqueducts because they needed water. It is precisely the socially ignorant and disastrous way they went about doing that that demonstrates how clueless they were about socially engineering Jewish pacifism.

      More important, Rome is known for its building investments in Palestine. Wouldn’t building a large Herod’s Temple earn them some brownie points with the Jews?

      Google “carpet bagger.” That analogy is more apt.

      (Also, Herod’s Temple was built by Herod, not the Romans. So I am nixing that example altogether. Likewise major urban developments like the founding of the city of Tiberias, and thus its water supply. Also Herod. Not Romans.)

      I would say Atwill does appeal to the “follow the power and the money” investigative tactic. It’s odd that the Roman Catholic church would not make saints of Queen Helena and King Izates who fed more than 5,000, saving Judea from famine, a Christ-like act but would make saints of Christian Flavians. It seems the daughter of Flavia Domitilla the Younger was a saint.

      What medieval Christians did can have no bearing on how ancient Christianity began. Societies not even remotely similar. Different millennium, different geopolitics, different doctrines, different legends. And medieval Christians knew less about their own ancient past than we now do (as has been abundantly confirmed by all scholarship of the 20th century refuting every Catholic legend about the first three centuries…which constitutes almost every Catholic belief).

      Flavia Domitilla, wife of the Martyr, was a granddaughter of Vespasian, and niece of Titus and Domitian; she may have died a martyr to the rigours of her banishment The catacomb of Domitilla is shown by existing inscriptions to have been founded by her.

      Medieval legend. Didn’t happen. She had no connection to Christians, and there is no credible evidence that Domitian ever persecuted Christians at all. All we have are ridiculous Christian myths that come far later and make no sense in context. (See Not the Impossible Faith, p. 157 with notes.)

  50. ROO BOOKAROO says

    IN ANSWER TO YOUR COMMENT 49.1, October 18, 2013 at 10:37 am
    “…neither of them seems to have ever bothered to make a thorough investigation to identify the source of the material and information used by Doherty…”

    Dear Richard,

    Yes, historiography is vastly important. It’s nothing more than the history of ideas and theories.
    You added “As to your slanderous accusations against Doherty, I find those dubious and you have done nothing to support them here.” I could easily dispute the labeling of “slanderous”. Dohery became your epiphany only because of the new generation of “children of the Internet.”

    You’ve said: “It is a needless chore for me to research every speculation”. You’re doing so much, and covering so many fronts, research, activism, household duties, that it is perfectly reasonable to try to eliminate the cranks like Atwill and other crackpots.

    And in the same spirit, it is (to me anyway) an unbearably boring chore to research the sources of Doherty’s allegations and statements in the “Jesus Puzzle”. Especially when you have to scrutinize Doherty’s turgid prose word by word, line by line.

    But anybody who’s read and studied the 12 books by George A. Wells written between 1971 and 1999 cannot but be struck by seeing the key themes and conclusions of Wells all repeated, copied, paraphrased in “The Jesus Puzzle”.

    ONE PARAGRAPH, AS AN EXAMPLE, Ch. 6, p. 56; 1999

    As one example, let’s take one paragraph of Ch. 6, “From Bethlehem to Jerusalem”, about Ignatius and the early Christian letters of the 2d c.
For the sake of completion, I’ve added the similar passage as reworded in the “MAIN ARTICLES: The Jesus Puzzle” on Doherty’s site, “Part One: A Conspiracy of Silence”.

    For this paragraph, I have used only the first four books of G.A. Wells on the question of Jesus’s historicity:

    [JEC] The Jesus of the Early Christians, (Pemberton, 1971)
    [DJE?] Did Jesus Exist? (Prometheus Books, 1975; 2d ed. 1987) 
[HEJ] The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Prometheus Books, 1982, 2d ed. 1988)
    [WWJ?] Who Was Jesus? A Critique of the New Testament Record (Open Court, 1989)

    The following text is from Doherty.
The references in brackets show the passages of Wells’s books where the primary evidence, the discussion, and the conclusions are presented by Wells, and which are the sources of Doherty’s summaries and paraphrases in his text.

    “Ignatius in the first decade of the second century believes in a Jesus born of Mary [WWJ? 54], baptized by John [HEJ, 103], executed by Pilate in the days of Herod [DJE? 56, 58, 61]. He does not seem to be familiar with a written Gospel [JEC, 171-3, 184; DJE? 78, 84, 92-3; HEJ, 103-4, 127], for he does not point to one to support his claims. Does anyone before him, outside the early Gospel writers, possess this biographical data about Jesus? [DJE? 65]. To judge by all the surviving Christian correspondence, the answer is no. (The one reference in the epistles to Pilate, in 1 Timothy 6:13, if authentic, probably comes slightly later than Ignatius: see Appendix 1) [JEC, 150-1; DJE? 18, 56, 61; HEJ 48-55” (Ch. 6, p. 56; 1999)

    This passage from the “Jesus Puzzle” book (1999) is reworded in the “MAIN ARTICLES: The Jesus Puzzle” on Doherty’s site, “Part One: A Conspiracy of Silence”

    Before Ignatius, not a single reference to Pontius Pilate, Jesus’ executioner, is to be found [JEC, 151, 170-1; DJE?, 58, 65; HEJ, 79, 98, ]. Ignatius is also the first to mention Mary [JEC, 171; HEJ, 103]; Joseph, Jesus’ father, nowhere appears [HEJ, 103]. The earliest reference to Jesus as any kind of a teacher comes in 1 Clement [JEC, 167-8], just before Ignatius, who himself seems curiously unaware of any of Jesus’ teachings [JEC, 222; HEJ, 204]. To find the first indication of Jesus as a miracle worker, we must move beyond Ignatius to the Epistle of Barnabas [JEC, 175; HEJ, 105; WWJ? 17]. Other notable elements of the Gospel story are equally hard to find. [In his desire to summarize, not to be mired in details, and deliver a glib rounded sentence, D. here forgoes mentioning again that 1 John alluding to Jesus’s baptism, HEJ, 101, and that Ignatius does indicate the baptism of Jesus by John, HEJ, 103].

    This strange silence on the Gospel Jesus which pervades almost a century of Christian correspondence cries out for explanation [JEC, 184]. It cannot be dismissed as some inconsequential quirk, or by the blithe observation made by New Testament scholarship that early Christian writers “show no interest” in the earthly life of Jesus. [JEC, 317].
    Something is going on here. [JEC, 3, 131-160, 183-4, 220-2, DJE? 56-7, 65, HEJ, 47-8, 105-6, 217-8].
In Part One, we are going to take a close look at this “Conspiracy of Silence” to which Paul and every other Christian writer of the first century seems to be a party. [JEC, 3, 131-151, 151-160, 184, 219-220.]

    The “something going on here” is not additional scholarship, but the “conspiracy of silence” which is the title of this Chapter 2 of “The Jesus Puzzle.”

    Compare the detailed in-depth discussion of every point by Wells, —repeated and amplified in all the four books, with full references, discussion of opposite views — with the schematic Cliff’s note summary of Doherty.
    
Both authors do not belong in the same league. One is a scholarly, exhaustive, accurate, discussion, the other simplifies and summarizes, only wanting to tell a gripping tale digestible for neophytes who’ve never read anything about the “Frage nach der Historizität Jesu”. One is a scholar, the other a literary borrower, a story-teller.

    WELLS AS A “TERTIARY” SOURCE

    In your “Proving History!” article,
    Feb. 8, 2012, ” Proving History! » in Richard Carrier Blogs

    You declared:
    “I do not read Wells enough to give him a fair critique. He is kind of like a tertiary source, i.e. just repeating what secondary sources [actual experts] have already said (so I just go to those sources directly), and when he slips into directly analyzing evidence himself, he gets enough wrong that I don’t deem him worth my time (not egregious errors or tons of errors, mind you, just enough to put him at the end of the line as far as works demanding my attention). But books like Cutting Jesus Down may be great introductions for laymen, insofar as he isn’t really saying anything radical, but just repeating the experts themselves. However, I would sooner recommend books in Ehrman’s opus, e.g., Jesus Interrupted, which is superb, reliable, perfect for laymen, and by an expert square in the field.”

    An amazing evaluation of a British scholar with the right Ph.D.s, who has spent more than 66 years studying the question of Jesus’s historicity, 1946-2012, and who was the president of the British Rationalist Press Association, which has counted as members some of the most remarkable brains of the 20th c.

    You, a Columbia Un. Ph.D. in ancient civilization, have labeled Wells a “tertiary source”, a work that is “just repeating what “secondary sources” (actual experts studying the original documents, “primary sources”) have already said”. You claim an authentic scholar should “just go to those sources directly”.

    Of course, Wells, in his 66 years of research, with a guaranteed income, his own house, no need to sell books and give lectures to survive economically, a wife to take care of his household, and a secretary to do all his typing, his knowledge of the best German biblical scholarship, an obsession for German “Gründlichkeit” (thoroughness), and overriding honesty, never paid attention to the primary material.

    
He, too, had his epiphany about Jesus’s historicity when encountering Albert Schweitzer’s epoch-making book, “The Quest of the Historical Jesus” (1906/13) when a 20-year old student in Switzerland in 1946, the event which launched him on his own quest for the truth. Indeed, Wells spent his time “repeating what secondary experts [actual experts] have already said. Who would dare call G.A. Wells “an actual expert”, but a misguided naïve reader like myself?

    WELLS’S HORRENDOUS ERROR INVALIDATES ALL HIS WORK ON JESUS’S HISTORICITY

    Of course, Wells made the horrendous mistake of referring to Tacitus’s labeling of Pilate as a “procurator” instead of his real title of “prefect”, as additional evidence for the hypothesis that Tacitus’s famous passage on Christ is an interpolation.
    As you emphasized, this horrendous mistake is a sure sign that Wells “gets enough wrong that I don’t deem him worth my time (not egregious errors or tons of errors, mind you, just enough to put him at the end of the line as far as works demanding my attention)”.

    And what did Doherty say about Tacitus? That Tacitus “is not known as a thorough researcher, which is illustrated by the fact that he gets Pilate’s title wrong.” Doherty borrowed Wells’s argument and repeated the horrendous mistake.
    
However Wells has explained his position more clearly in JEC, 185-9; DJE?, 13-4; HEJ 16-7; WWJ? 20.

    And so, bottom line, in fact, you never bothered ever to read Wells’s books at all.
    His horrendous mistake about Pilate the procurator (so said Tacitus) marking all of Wells’s work as negligible and not “worth my time (… just enough [errors] to put him at the end of the line as far as works demanding my attention)”. This is a remarkable method to eliminate the work of a scholar like Wells, now dismissed as only a “tertiary” source.

    DOHERTY AS A QUATERNARY SOURCE

    But you found the time to analyze “The Jesus Puzzle” line by line, and magnificently demonstrated that Doherty’s book was only the work of a rank amateur who’s never learnt the rules of real scholarship. You gave plenty of advice to make it “good” and quotable, but no other professional scholar took note. Nobody else made a thorough review of the book.

    And the revised version of “The Jesus Puzzle”, ten years later, with another title, (“Neither God nor Man”, 2009) showed that your generous advice had been wasted. The methods of scholarship have to be learnt and practiced in young age, not in one’s 60s.

    However, of course, once Wells dismissed, you never were able to detect that all the reliable evidence, primary quotations, discussions, and conclusions in the “Jesus Puzzle” are simply literary borrowings, liftings, copyings, paraphrasings not only from Wells, but through Wells, from a whole handful of genuine experts in the question of Jesus’s historicity (including John M. Robertson, Arthur Drews, P.L. Couchoud, Archibald Robertson, Herbert Cutner) as well as Gilbert Murray, John Kloppenborg, Burton Mack, many of them with reliable Ph.D.s from the best universities.

    In this line of reasoning, we could easily dismiss Doherty’s and all his writings as a “quaternary” source, one who is just repeating what “tertiary” sources have already said.

  51. Ed-M says

    I have an opinion about the deposition from the cross in Josephus’ Life 75 and the end of Mark 15. There is a parallel, but in my opinion it explodes Atwill’s thesis.

  52. says

    Quasi-related question. There was (merely talking did such a person exist?) an alleged Roman record of someone with the name supposedly crucified bandied about years ago. Was that debunked, or merely insufficient evidence (common name, punishment)? Sorry I don’t recall more details.

    • says

      I would need more specifics to know what you mean. There have been several bogus claims along those lines (modern hoaxes, which I don’t keep track of because they never amounted to anything), but there are also several ancient forgeries that attempted much the same (e.g. a correspondence between Pilate and Herod invented in the Middle Ages; a correspondence between Pilate and Tiberius forged in the second century; etc.).

  53. says

    Well once one realizes that Joseph from Arimathea (Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ Ἀριμαθαίας) looks tweaked from Josephus of Matthias (Ἰώσηπος Ματθίαου — note I’m using the genitive for Matthias, meaning “of Matthias.”) Just take out a few letters here, add some letters and words there, and voila! we now have Joseph from Bestdoctrinetown! Consequently, Josephus’ three friends on the cross (actually execution utility pole) become Jesus and the two thieves. Josephus’ friend who was taken down, taken to the medical tent, and survived under care of the physicians becomes Jesus who is wrapped in a shroud and resurrects, whereas the other two who were taken down and given the same treatment and died anyway become just so much “chopped liver” in Mark 15, i.e., they are ignored by Mark’s writer.

    Unfortunately for Atwill and his conspiracy “theory”, Josephus’ Life was written in 95 CE! This is far too late for the so-called “Flavian invention of Christianity” because Domitian would now be emperor and he would soon, according to Church tradition, be persecuting Christians in Rome. So the more succint hypothesis, that Jewish Christians copied Josephus’ works to come up with Mark and the other gospels, would be a better explanation by far.

    Let me just close in saying that Atwill’s “hypothesis” is just so far out there, that even Francesco Carotta would have nothing to do with it!

  54. says

    Great post Richard.

    I used to be excited and perhaps inspired (?) by Atwill’s theory, because I wanted to believe it so badly. My critical thinking mind could never fully digest it. I then read Robert M. Price’s review of “Caesar’s Messiah” and it confirmed my suspicions.

    That Atwill finally concluded his communications with you by remarking “…when you publicly comment on someone’s work without having read it, you are going to get spanked,” sounds an awful lot like the conspiracy crank he has been colluding with for some time now. Not sure if you’ve heard of a guy called Jan Irvin, who runs podcasts and such on his “Gnostic Media” website. If you look at his material, you can tell he’s obviously a conspiratorial crank with a bit of xenophobia thrown in for good measure. This Irvin guy also likes to sell what he thinks is the true “Trivium,” based on the historical classical Christian version, which is branded as corrupt.

    Bizarre stuff. Is this a small world or what? I’m just a bit familiar with Irvin’s crap, so many of Atwill’s comments to you in email sound highly reminiscent of conspiratorial cranks.

  55. Randy Mabe says

    Richard,

    I am a big fan of your work and it is with all due respect I present my theory to point #3.

    Specifically, I would like to address the discrepancy between Matthew’s and Luke’s birth narratives.

    Actually, I don’t even call it a discrepancy, I call it a “Mystery.”

    Now that I have labeled this a “Mystery” I am going to solve this mystery based on the religious ideas at the time. Mystery School Religions based on Sun Worship and Astrology.

    According to Matt’s narrative Jesus was born prior to Herod’s death or 4bc. There is a Star of David made by the planets on March, 2 5 bc. This star is only visible on an “Astrologer’s” chart, so this fits the idea that only the Magi(astronomer priest) could see.

    So for Matt’s narrative I will be using 5 bc.

    For Luke we have the years 6-7 ad.

    I will be using 7 ad.

    There is no year zero. This is important because 5 + 7 = 12
    Note we are using the dates 5 bc and 7 ad which is 12 years different.

    The “Mystery” is solved by looking at the birth of the Sun at the Winter Solstice ,where the Sun is born or “Born Again.”

    The Sun is born at the Winter Solstice, goes around the “12 Ages” of the Zodiac, and is born again at age 12.

    Also, the other reasons that the stories are different is astrological as well.

    In Matthew’s narrative you are looking at the stars in the South horizon. Luke is looking to the North horizon.

    The following is more support for the astrological allegories in the birth narratives.

    The Infanticide: The Sun is born Dec.21st(Gregorian). The Sun is born in the sign of Sagittarius(The Hunter) who is in opposition to Gemini(The Age of the 2 Children). Thus, Hunting for the children under the age of 2.

    This happens when the Sun is “hidding” in a valley that is pointed at by the 3 belt stars of Orion and Sirius. (A good visual of this can be seen in a youtube video called “Astrotheology Debunked” at 20 seconds into the video.

    Look at the image and you see the Sun Hiding in a valley, that is pointed at by Sirius(the star of Isis who is the Throne) and the 3 belt stars sitting on the “Throne” are 3 kings. Thus, the Sun is hiding in the valley of the Kings or Egypt.

    I will keep it short, because I know you are not a big fan of Zeitgeist, so I won’t go on an on about astrological allegories.

    • says

      Not sure what your point is.

      Indeed, it’s weird imagining someone taking the time to find the comment field, enter that sentence, and hit send.

      And not even spellcheck it.

  56. ROO BOOKAROO says

    Richard,

    It’s my turn to have committed a horrendous error.

    Not to prolong discussing the topic, but, as much as you do, I hate errors, especially mine.
    So allow me to post this CORRECTION.

    Concerning the non-Christian witnesses to the historicity of Jesus, the most famous passages are those of Josephus and Tacitus. But if Wells supports the allegation of interpolation for the Josephus texts, he never did so for the Tacitus text (Annals, XV, 44), as I absent-mindedly reported in my previous comment above.

    In fact, in “The Jesus of the Early Christians” (JEC, 1971, p. 186-88), Wells notes that it is the French writer P. Hochart (Paris, 1885) who “regards the passage as interpolated on the ground that Tacitus mentions Pilate only on this occasion, yet fails to tell us what province he governed and on what charge he condemned Jesus; and that this suggests that the passage was written by a Christian who had Christian readers in mind, to whom Pilate would be a familiar name needing no elucidation.” As to Wells, he “proposes to regard the passage as authentic”.

    In “The Historical Evidence for Jesus” (HEJ, 1982, p. 16-7), Wells further developed the argumentation that Tacitus’s passage is simply repeating hearsay from contemporary Christians in his own time (around AD 120).

    The reasoning is exactly summarized in “Did Jesus Exist?” (DJE?, 2d. ed. 1987, p. 14).

    “The only supposition which would make Tacitus’s testimony independent of Christian tradition, and therefore of great value, would be that he derived his information from a Roman record of the crucifixion. But that his statement was not based on any such close inquiry into the matter is suggested by the fact that he gives Pilate an incorrect title. An inscription found in 1961 records the dedication by Pilate of a building in honour of Tiberius, and shows that the was “prefect”, not procurator, of Judaea (A. Toynbee, ed., “The Crucible of Christianity”, London, 1969, with an article by D. Flusser, 215-34, gives a photograph, p 224).

    C.H, Dodd (Prof. of Divinity, Cambridge, d. 1973, “Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel”, CUP, 1963, p. 96n. ) thinks that the title used by Tacitus is an anachronism; for provincial governors of equestrian status bore the title “procurator Augusti” only from the time of Claudius (i.e. from AD 41). That Tacitus used the term current in his own lifetime suggests, then, that he did not obtain his information from records or archives. The same conclusion is also supported by his failure to name the executed man. He says nothing of “Jesus” and uses the title “Christ” as if it were a proper name.”

    Thanks for allowing me this correction, which is certainly due in all scholarly rigor. That is the problem in quoting from memory, while entertaining too many thoughts in one’s brain at the same time. Without double-checking, or taking the time for editing review, errors can too insidiously creep in.

    • says

      Just FYI, my article surveying the evidence and scholarship arguing (IMO indeed all but proving) the Tacitus passage an interpolation already passed peer review and will appear in a forthcoming issue of Vigiliae Christianae.

      Also, the “procurator” argument is invalid, and I pointed this out to Wells many years ago (so he is now aware of it), but others haven’t gotten the memo (like Ehrman; see my discussion and links here).

      Although the conclusion is still sound (even if the passage is authentic, it is far more probable Tacitus learned it from Christians, directly or through intermediaries–most likely his friend Pliny–and thus it is not independent evidence).

  57. Giuseppe says

    Richard,
    you write ”even if the passage is authentic, it is far more probable Tacitus learned it from Christians”. But IF Chrestus = Christus, and fragment 2 of Tacitus in Sulpicius Severus is authentic, then there is independent evidence and Eric Laupot would be right in his conclusions, do you agree? The HJ in that case would be Judas the Galilean or his son. My question, in this hypothesis, is : you can still talk about a ”Historical Jesus”, with that disconcerting identity ?

    Or that identity can still adhere to your definition of mythicism (the celestial Jesus of Paul became later historicized in a zealot figure)? I confess I don’t know classify this expression, if it’s storicity or mythicism:

    it has been suggested that various first century preacher/Zealots and would-be Messiah
    figures who agitated for revolutionary or apocalyptic change, and were usually dispatched by the
    military authorities (perhaps one was even executed by Pilate!), provided a partial model for the
    creation of Mark’s Jesus figure, or perhaps even that of Q at some stage. But this is a far cry
    from saying that the Gospel Jesus represents an historical figure in any meaningful fashion, or
    that thereby we can say that “there was an historical Jesus.”

    (Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle, p.26)

    thanks,
    Giuseppe

    • says

      IF Chrestus = Christus, and fragment 2 of Tacitus in Sulpicius Severus is authentic, then there is independent evidence and Eric Laupot would be right in his conclusions, do you agree?

      That’s a tautology. Those are Laupot’s conclusions. So you are saying if Laupot’s conclusions are correct, then Laupot’s conclusions are correct.

      Sure. But they aren’t correct. Fg. 2 is not from Tacitus but more likely derives from a lost Christian author. And there is a much better case to be made that Tacitus in Ann. 15.44 was talking about followers of Chrestus and not Christ (i.e. that Chrestians are not the same group as Christians and Ann. 15.44 is about the former and not the latter and Tacitus never discussed the latter).

      My article in VC covers the latter point. On Laupot, this (the substantive points of which his rebuttal doesn’t really address).

  58. Giuseppe says

    I’m sorry, I wanted intentionally to say a tautology. My question really was: under the assumption (obviously false) that Laupot is right, and that the Jesus of the Gospels is an allegory of Judas the Galilean, for example, this is mythicism or historicity? Atwill, for example, claimed that the ”historical Jesus” was Eleazar, one of the characters chosen at random from Josephus. This is historicity or mythicism (assuming only for a second that is ”true”) ?

    It is sufficient that you answer me just yes or no, you reason I will be able extract it from your next book.
    best regards,
    Giuseppe

    • says

      It depends on what exactly they then propose. If Laupot actually argues (and I am not assuming he does) that Christians were originally a sect founded by Judas the Galilean and “Jesus” is just a code name used for him in tales about him, then we are looking at historicity (a rather convoluted and bizarre historicity thesis, but a historicity thesis all the same). If, however, the argument is that Christianity originated with (say) Peter talking about a revelatory archangel named Jesus, and then later the biography of Judas the Galilean was just selected as a convenient database to mine when creating stories about that revelatory archangel, then we are not talking about historicity.

      Likewise any other scenario.

  59. says

    hello me again,from the jesus in joshepus blog, you know!…the one that got some hits although you probably wont admit it, I had left your blog, but now since you are activley talking about, and trying to dismiss Atwill off-hand, you have invited me back to the dance.

    I am going to try and post this little comment,”first” because I think I forgot the email address that I signed on here(your Blog!) with in the first place, if successful, I’ll know I am using the right email address that I initially used to join your blog, if not, then back to the drawing board!

    • says

      Extensively engaging with Atwill directly for months over his own-selected best examples, and showing his facts and reasoning hopelessly flawed in result, is the exact opposite of dismissing him “out of hand.”

      So I don’t think you know what the phrase “dismissing something out of hand” means.

  60. says

    hello dr. Carrier and again, as I said on the jesus and Joshepus blog, thank you immensely for offerring your< I am sure, well booked time for lay people to understand more on scholarly issues with biblical and ancient historical studies.

    Now, First you said that the Roman empire did not know enought about Judaism to make up a story like what Atwill purposes.

    well i dont know why not!, the Romans had first came into rome about 70 years before, and pompei had even went into the holy of holies, so nothing was outside the Roman reach for 70 years; Antipater was the romans indirect ruler when Rome initially took over the Jewish state, then his Son the first Herod and a lot of this family afterwards. The herods where Idumeans(Edomites) who from my studies and from the bible, the edomites where a branch of the midianites, the peole who worshipped the God YAHWEH before the Jews, AND THAT iS BACKED BY THE kEMETIC(EGYPTIAN) INSCRIPTIONS ABOUT THE shasu( BIBLICAL ESAU) THE Edomites, and prior to the Roman conquest OF Judea, when the Maccabees took over the whole area, including the area where the edomite kingdom was,(Petra or parts thereof) where king Herod was from, that area was annexed by the Maccabees, and the inhabitant males made to except (Forced!) circumcision, so even if the edomites were not familiar with Jewish customs by the time they(edomites) became part of Petra, they definantly got a crash course from the Maccabees and company.

    In joshepus works I think 7.56. It says, and this is a paraphrasing on my part, That vespasian took the jews law, I believe this was the Torah, after the temple was destroyed and the Jewish temple pieces were being taken as booty.

    Later in 756. page 909 Joshepus complete works by W.Whiston the first example I site about the Roman confiscation of the Jewish Torah was on page 908; anyway, it goes on to discribe the pieces taken form the temple but says in effect, and this again a paraphrase, that Vespasian took the Jews Laws, (Torah) and they Romans, had the Septugint A greek translation of The Hebrew scriptures, and the biggest point, is that the Flavians had alot of escaped jewish priest, whom they(flavians) had given grant money and land, to go on and create rabbinic judaism, now you said that the Romans had no need to create a social policy concerning the jews, well, why did they give grant money and land, as a headquarters for this new type Judaism, that would look to the temple.

    Afterall, you said it yourself, and it in Joshepus' works, that Titus and some council, had debated amongst themselves, whether to leave the temple standing, since it represented such amazing accomplishment, indeed, herods 2 temple is considered one of the eighth wonders of the world, but Titus and others decided that the Temple was a large part of this problem with the Jews that kept pooping up, so they destryed it, and not only that, but he whound up destroying the whole city of Jerusalem and not only that, but the Temple in Samaria, and Egypt too, he wanted to destoy anything that this messianic ferver could or would rally about.

    Why would he do this, because the romans probably had Already recheda consensus with the many, priest and snhedrin, already in collabartion long before the war.

    So the romans did have acess who did have the Knowlegge of Jewish ways, and also, you mention Philo as being one of these Jews that was actively trying to change Judaism in the Greco-Roman direction, well Alexander Lysamarcus, was Tituses best friend and admierer, who was left by Vespasien to help his son titus
    finish taking jerusalem, while he(Vespasien) went back to Rome, to become Emperor.

    Also, Titus was enthralled with Bernice, One of the Herods (Antipas or Agrippa..I think) She was also the Daughter of a descended of the Maccabee line through her mother Maryamne or Maryam(Mary) who was murered by Herod for ellegedly sleeping with her relations, another Maccabee named Josheph, hmmm…are you smelling something yet!, but lets not get off track, or uncle Carrier will call us a crank, so lets stick with whats at hand.

    Bernice was Titus' mistress, and you just dismiss the analogy of jesu?titus starting their respective campaigns on galilee, but not only that,but they use similar words, like follow me do not be afriad.Jesus…on the onset I will go first as always but do not desret me(…in other words do not be afraid follow me…) Titus.
    also in JW joshepus comes out and says that that his countrymen are mistaken,(about the messiprophecy) he says that now Gods providence had gone to the Italians, and Titus and Vespasien would be the ones to come out of Judea as the world conquerors(messiahs), Tacitus I think tacitus in the annals or dissertations, says the samething, will post more later, I am at the Library and my time has ran out, am going to another Library to continue.

    • says

      This string of fact-challenged non sequiturs and possibiliter fallacies violates my instructions:

      In other words, I will be enforcing my usual comments policy extremely strictly here. So the moment you start just gainsaying me or refusing to acknowledge facts or posting vast word-counts of undigestible rambling, you are done. Keep it one example at a time, concise, clear facts and logic, page number. Anything else in defense of Atwillian claims, and your comment goes straight to trash. The more so if you direct any abuse at anyone here. You can whine all you want elsewhere. Just listen to my little violin.

      The only reason I didn’t delete it was to let it hang here as an example of the kind of illogical rambling Atwill defenders like to throw at me.

      But I will not allow you to post further here. You broke the rules. You are done.

  61. says

    …and a further, in JW there was a battle between believe it or not, A messianic Jew named Jesus, who Joshepus describes as some one popular with fisher and the poor(who in the world does this sound like!)and titus, and this I believe Titus’ first battle, when he is in full command of his fathers army, in essence his first campaign, who’s men being persumableyfishermen, where the Romans wrecked their boats, and the ones draughning in water,the Romans caught up(like fish) and cut off their hands and feet, the gospel account says that Jesus called his first disciples who were casting nets to scope up fish, and in matthew or luke, I’ll you the percise later, thhen he says in I think mark, come with me I’ll make you fishes of men, in matthew or luke he say youll catch men or Ill make you catchers of men.

    Now if this a what Joe atill said it is, and I think it is, then yes that would be dark comedy of the actual events of the war, military men, correctional officers and lawenforcement most have that sense of dark comedy, I have been in the military, a correction officer, and have been in situations where I have worked closley with police, and yes that type of dark comedy at someone elses humilition, and humiliating and terrible perdicament, even in a horrible death, is alive and well today, and the Flavians were firstly military men, descending from a military man Petro Flavianus who was a soldier under I believe Pompeii or mark anthony mark Anthony in the Civil war between Him(ant’ney’) and Octavian.
    If you loook at the first book of JW it is called VIDA(Life) meaning Joshepus’ Biography, but this Biography is of himself as Joseph Mttihiyuu, and when you first open the book, it gives a gneolgical record and says that his father is Matthiyuu or matthew, and his brother is matthew, so in essence we can call him Joseph Matthew as what his name son of matthew can be concocted, also in the Vida, he says that jewish rabbi’s or teachers came from all around to here his joshepus’ understanding of jewish scriptue, and he claims to have been about 14 years at synogouge.

    in the first book of the Gospel(matthew) there is a geneology, then in Luke they say that a 12 or 13 year old Jesus was amazing the Jewish teachers with his intepertation of scripture.
    Now why is matthew also the first Book in scripture as in JW. Now I know youre gonna say that matthew and Luke sound verbatim just Like mark, and since mark has less details about Christ that it is the fist book, and the others were copied, I say that they all written by the same group, probably coming out of Yavna or Gophna, where the Flavians, gave the Jws who cooperated, land and monies to rework a Judaism, not dependant on temple worship, and the conquest of the world unde a messiah, their messiah had already come Titus caeser, He was the son, and Vespasien the father to them.

    The Radical messianic Jews,moslley the underclass had killed most of these wealthy Jews and got their Nation ravaged, the phaiseic Joshephus class Jews wee ready to proclaim Titus the Messiah, as joshepus just plainly said in JW, another rabbi, Jochonan I believe, the porported father of rabbinic judaism, supposedly said similar if not the same, I am tired of writting, will post more evidance tommorow if not soon after,

    P.S now Dr. Richard Carrier, I know you like to think that we all and existance is just something that sorta just happened(and it might a) But that heavenly theory of yours, where Christianity just sorta happened, is only partially right, they(Jewish leader in league with Rome was tinkering at it, but when the gauntlet fell in the 60’s .66, and the radicals destroyed, then they and the Emperors then came out with christianity, and why did they make Titus the Jesus Messiah, because in JW he says that no matter how much even the children were
    tortured that even they would not call the Caesers messiah, and that was one part of why the war happened.
    Tacitus says that their was a oracle at Mt. carmel concerning the messiah, and that Vespasian was told as he offered sacrifics to the Oracle that the Prophecy was about him, Joshepus plainly says in the JW somewhere that the jews were wrong about an ambiguous prophecy(the messianic one) and that Titus and vespasin where the ones to come out of Judea as the Messiahs, and that tGods will had turned to the Italians concerning the chosen reference and concerning the Mesianic Prophecys.

    If you look at all religions they start at the top, where the ruling class trickles down to the masses, about what religion everybody will adhere to, very few if any comes about from grassroots soursces, you and your phd collegues just missed it for about two-hundred years, so now you gotta trash Atwill, with just silly machinations, the litte highly unlikely alternatives that you use to debunk all this evidance and the ton more I will give you when When I feel like it again(a day or so) will finally show everybody, even if dosent satisfy you and price, the later who all he could say while sublimally admitting that atwill was right was to say, if Atwill couldnt see how the scripture was written by phantom holy men, then he felt sorry for atwill, he ought a felt sorry for himself, and you gonna put up here that Price destroyed Atwill in a Blog, please.
    Another price or the same one I dnt know, got destroyed in a debate, which I am sure you will too, you just blew off the hits that atwill did get, with a kennedy lincoln style conspiracy nut senerio, which all establishment people do, when they have now explanation, and I suppose youl do the same with me, but your explanations for alternative answers will sound like the explainations in the excorsists, when medical science was at a loss tried to hypnotize the demon,which they thought was the girls own mind, till a hand grabbed the hypnotist psychologist nuts and he fell to the floor.
    Even Dr Eisenman a guy even more PHDed than you admitted to me on my old Blogtalk radio show, which I will rekindle directly, that he thought Titus was in the gospels as Jesus but so too where others in what he said was novellas that then started to snowball.

    He didnt agree that all of Jshepus was about the Flavians, or that all the Gospels were about Titus, he thinks that Domitian had nothing to do with it, if you can find those archives listen for yourself.
    .
    I let the show kinda go cause I had to write my new Book no matter wha it is on amazon kindle e-book i digress for a moment, where I create A religion mainley for BLACK PEOPLE, but their are ascension meditations for everybody the book is NEW AFRIKAN HOODOO.

    THERE IS ANOTHER PHD FEMALE WHO HAS WRITTEN A PIER REVIEW PAPER THAT SOME OF THE GOSPELS IS tITUS’ ARCH, AND THAT THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS WERE TRYING TO SAY THAT jESUS WAS REALly ruler of the world and only through Jesus would you find salvation as we know was said of the imperial Sabastiae, but she is a christian apologist trying to make sensce out of why the gospels especially about Jesus is a copy of the titus arch.

    Well enough, for now, other of your colleagues have noticed this, so it is not something out of the wall, another female scholar wrote a paper perrr review, about the flavian rekindleing of the Imperiel cult, check out Dominic crossan on you tube talking about the language applied to christian worship is the language of Imperial veneration or just plaine ole’ emperor worship, I will name the female PH’s of whom I speak of later, DR.Carrier you are on the wrong side of history, all if not most of you are if people se that you couldnt evennotice something as plain as the nose on your face.

    then you try to debunk it all of you cause you didn’t see it.

    ,

    • says

      No, you didn’t. The rules were laid down in the post you commented on. Thus before anyone commented on it. You just ignored the rules. This is getting to be a habit with you.

  62. Jerry Russell says

    Hello Dr. Carrier,

    I’m coming a little late to the party here — I just found this discussion a few days ago by Google search, and I hope we can bring it . And I’m not exactly here to defend Atwill, either: reviewing the way he addressed your points about Gadara (for example) in your email dialog, I’d certainly have argued differently. But as you mention, the Roman Origins theory has some rather deep roots (going all the way back to Bruno Bauer) and has attracted a good deal of support over the years, from many authors; in my opinion Atwill has some of the strongest arguments, but Francisco Carotta, Robert Eisenman, and Gary Courtney are also excellent in my view. Ralph Ellis has some very creative ideas that might be spot-on, and are certainly interesting to think about. If there’s any truth in the Piso theory, I can’t find it either — so at least we agree about that.

    So the Roman Origins theory is a very broad topic, and I’ve noticed that neither Atwill nor any of his other supporters here, have complied with your request to address just one “good point” at a time. I don’t think it’s such a great approach either. But it’s your blog, and I haven’t posted here before. So I’ll try playing by your rules, and we’ll see how it goes.

    I’ve read your book “Proving History” on Bayesian historical analysis, and I appreciate the objective framework it provides. Also, I’m optimistic about the civility promised by the method: rather than calling each other cranks, we can hurl numbers at each other. “P=0.999!!” “No, it’s 0.001!!” It seems so much more polite, as well as precise. Let’s see if the numbers help us to reach a mutual understanding.
    You mentioned that “The only good example Atwill sent me is his analysis of JW 6.201ff”, Josephus’ Cannibal Mary story. So let’s look more closely at that. It seems that everyone agrees that Josephus is constructing a typological and literary parallel, and the question is whether the parallel is sufficiently explained by Old Testament sources (as you maintain: call this H1), or whether the passage also betrays a knowledge of the New Testament (as Atwill argues: call this H2). The two hypotheses are mutually exclusive, and I can’t think of any other possibilities worth considering, so we can normalize P(H1)+P(H2)=1.0.

    It seems to me you’ve done a pretty good job of covering Atwill’s arguments that map the Josephus passage onto the Old Testament story of the Jewish passover, but omitted Atwill’s demonstration of the specific parallels to the New Testament — thus possibly giving your readers the impression that Atwill might not have thought of this problem, or given any attention to it. So I would like to cover this aspect. First I will sum up Atwill’s argument as cogently as I can; and then, as you requested, I will give you the quotes from Atwill’s book. I will finish by responding to some of the specific points you’ve already raised in your discussion of this.

    The first point is that Josephus describes the incident as “so portentous to posterity, but that I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age.” Why would this event be “portentous to posterity” and how would Josephus have “innumerable witnesses”? Although the event was reportedly discussed among many, there could be at most a modestly countable number of the “seditious” who witnessed the Cannibal Mary in the act of eating her son, and no witnesses at all to Mary’s speech, or the actual event. Atwill doesn’t specifically point this out, but the reference to “innumerable witnesses” seems to be a reference to the multitudes who reportedly witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, which indeed was a myth “portentous to posterity”. My score on this evidence term: P(E | H1)=0.2, P(E | H2)=1.0.

    Mary describes the event as a “myth for the world”, and a “fury to the varlets” that would “complete the calamities of the Jews”. Atwill further sees a pun on the words “mythos” (myth), “mysos” (an atrocity), and “misos” (inspiring bitter hatred, in this case the bitter hatred by the Romans against the Jews.) This again seems uncalibrated and inappropriate as a commentary on the plight of the starving Jews; but if it’s talking about the anti-Semitic effects of the Christian myth against the Jews, it is tremendously perceptive, if not prescient. But, I’m willing to give some significant weight to the possibility that Josephus is just thinking about the OT here. P(E | H1)=0.5, P(E | H2)=1.0.

    The Josephus passage is not, however, only a diffuse reference to New Testament in general. It is also tied to the synoptic pericope of Luke 10:38-42 and John 12:2-3. In this NT pericope we meet Lazarus, supposedly just raised from the dead. However, he’s been dead for 4 days, which is one day later than his soul would have departed from his body, according to Jewish lore. So unless you’re inclined to believe in very unlikely miracles (from either a Gentile or Jewish perspective), Lazarus is nothing but a dead body.

    In the story, we also meet Mary, who is served a meal of “the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” This, of course, is exactly the same portion which Cannibal Mary has saved for herself of the child. And if Lazarus is dead, “they made him a supper” can only mean one thing.

    The gestalt seems clear enough. In Josephus, Mary is eating her child; in the NT pericope, Mary is eating the body of Lazarus, who allegedly was resurrected but is obviously dead; and according to Christianity’s spiritualized interpretation, the believers are eating the body of Christ the son of Mary, after his alleged resurrection on the third day. The central and distinctive themes of the Eucharist and its macabre association to cannibalism, the Passover sacrifice of Jesus, and the Resurrection. But it’s also pulled together by the very specific verbal motif of the “good portion… not taken away.”

    It seems to me that this is so powerful and interpretable, that I’ve got to give it a very strong Bayesian score, and I don’t see any way this could’ve happened without Josephus being aware of the NT pericope. Also, the arrow of causality only runs one way here, because Josephus is clearly writing a dark satire of the Christian motif. So on this evidence, I award P(E | H1)=0.1, P(E | H2)=1.0. I am being relatively modest on my order-of-magnitude estimate only because of the depths of my own ignorance about the OT, and the possibility that there’s some text I’m unaware of.

    The three evidence terms seem to be independent. So, multiply them together to obtain a combined evidence term of P(E | H1)=0.01, P(E | H2)=1.0. Your numbers, Dr. Carrier? Also, the next step is obviously to evaluate the priors, so we can get to a posterior estimate P(H1 | E); if I still have posting privileges after you read this, I’ll address this topic in my next post.

    Of course my summary cannot do justice to Atwill’s original exposition, which I will now excerpt for you. (Sorry, no page numbers: I’m working from a review PDF preprint that Joe sent me.)

    From Atwill’s Chapter 3:

    If the passage was a satire of Jesus then a number of statements Josephus makes within it can be seen as double entendres. The reader need only read these statements from the perspective that the Flavians had invented Christianity and their satirical meaning will become obvious. Some of these are found in Josephus’ narration:

    I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age . . .

    But the most important play on words is found within Mary’s address to her “miserable child,” wherein she states

    “ . . . be thou a fury to these seditious varlets and a myth to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews.”

    As I have suggested above, this quote seems to have been invented by Josephus. Not only were there no witnesses to hear them, but they are, on their face, dubious. Would a mother who has eaten her son really wish him to become a myth to the world? Further, taken literally, Mary’s words seem incoherent. Why would her child become a “fury” to the “varlets”—that is, the Jewish rebels against Rome—by being cannibalized? And why would this “complete the calamities of us Jews”?

    Within the context of a lampoon of Jesus the meaning of the phrase becomes clear. The author is not merely ridiculing Christ. He is stating the spread of the myth of the Christ that the Jews killed will “complete” the destruction of the Jews.

    This interpretation indicates that Christianity was designed to promote anti-Semitism—a concept that is plausible, historically. A cult that produced anti-Semitism would have both helped Rome prevent the messianic Jews from spreading their rebellion and punished them by poisoning their future.

    [….] once I became suspicious that Josephus’s passage about “a myth for the world” was a satire of the Gospels’ human Passover lamb; I began studying it in its original Greek. While doing so I discovered something that confirmed the passage’s connection to the Gospels. There is a confession by the Flavians in the story that is clearly visible in the original language. It is a confession that they invented both Christianity and anti-Semitism.

    To construct the confession the author used a series of puns linked to the word ‘mythos’ or myth. As noted above, in the passage Josephus described Mary’s son as a “mythos” or ‘myth for the world’ (BJ 6. 207). He goes on to state that the killing of the myth for the world will be seen as a “mysos” (BJ 6, 212) or ‘atrocity’, that will be responded to by the Romans with “misos” (BJ 6.214) or ‘bitter hatred’.

    Though other scholars have recognized that the puns were designed to work together to tell a story, the meaning of the story, which is completely transparent, has somehow been ignored. The story describes the creation of Christianity. There is, of course, only one individual who can be seen as a ‘myth for the world’, who was a son of Mary and a human Passover lamb, and whose killing was an ‘atrocity’ that created ‘bitter hatred’ of the Jews. Notice that the story told by the linked puns is not only a description of the invention of Christianity; but a proud declaration of the invention of anti-Semitism.

    Scholars as far back as Melito in the second century have understood that the child in Josephus’s passage was a symbolic Passover Lamb. In fact the child is the only human Passover Lamb, other than Jesus, in literature. It is self evident that something as rare as a coherent description of the invention of Christianity did not occur accidentally in the passage describing literature’s only other human Passover lamb.

    And from Chapter 6:

    I will now analyze the puzzle regarding Eleazar that reveals the most significant characteristic he and Jesus share. It is the puzzle that reveals that Lazarus was a son of “Mary” whose flesh was eaten as a Passover lamb. To solve this puzzle the reader must first combine two parallel passages within the New Testament and then combine that “combined story” with its parallel counterpart in Josephus. While this may seem complex, the authors create a clear path to follow. As in the puzzle above regarding the “certain young man” captured on the Mount of Olives, the puzzle is about determining the name of an unnamed character, and again the answer is Eleazar.

    The puzzle begins with a passage from the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus gives advice to Martha when she is troubled that her sister Mary is not helping her to serve the food. If Jesus’ words are interpreted symbolically, he appears to be saying that listening to his teaching is more important than serving or eating food. [….]

    Luke 10:38–42 is strangely disconnected from the narrative both before and after it. Scholars have recognized that the passage seems related to another story regarding the serving of food found in the Gospel of John, which I call the “feast of Lazarus.” During this “feast of Lazarus” Martha is described, as she is in the passage above from Luke, as serving food. Martha’s sister Mary is also present at this feast, as is their brother, Lazarus, whom Jesus has recently raised from the dead. Thus, these passages can be combined as follows:

    “Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him.
    John 12:2–3

    At this point, the piece of the story that occurs in the Gospel of Luke can be seamlessly woven in.

    “But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
    But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
    one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

    Luke 10:40–42

    While the scene created by combining the two passages may seem trivial, the fact that it joins the Lazarus story with Mary’s “good portion” is critical in solving the puzzle of what, exactly, Mary’s “good portion” is. Is Jesus speaking metaphorically here or can his words be taken literally, as I have shown they can in the expression “fishers of men?” I believe that, once again, those who see spiritual meaning in Jesus’ words are being played for a fool. Though a character named Mary who has a “fine portion” that is “not taken away from her” is quite rare in literature, a character with the same name and attributes is also found in War of the Jews, contained in the passage that describes the Mary who ate her son, which I have analyzed previously.

    The passage above from War of the Jews shares four overt parallels with the New Testament passages regarding Lazarus: a fine portion, the fact that the portion was not taken away, a character named Mary, and a relative named Eleazar (Lazarus).

    However, these four parallels are not the only ways in which the passages are linked. As noted above, Josephus’ passage describing the Mary whose “good portion was not taken away from her” also contains a number of elements that parallel the New Testament’s symbolic Passover lamb. These are a mother named Mary who would be “pierced through”; a house of hyssop; a sacrifice; one of Moses’ instructions regarding the Passover lamb; the eating of a son’s flesh who was to become a “byword to the world”; and Jerusalem as the location of the incident.

    Adding the “good portion that was not taken away” to the previously mentioned parallels with the New Testament’s Passover lamb puts to rest the question of whether Josephus’ “son of Mary whose flesh was eaten” passage and the New Testament’s Passover lamb are part of a comic system. Lightning may strike twice in the same place, but it does not strike nine times in a passage of less than two pages—a passage written by a member of a family with so many connections to Christianity.

    Though I did not understand the reasons for the numerous parallels between the “son of Mary whose flesh was eaten” in War of the Jews and the Passover lamb of the New Testament when I first encountered them, their point is now clear. Read intertextually, the passages indicate that the “good portion” that was not taken away from Mary in the New Testament was the same “good portion” that was not taken away from the Mary in the passage from Josephus. Therefore, the “good portion” that was being served at the feast of Lazarus was human flesh. But whose flesh? What was the name of the “son of Mary”?

    The parallels simply work in reverse to provide the answer. The Lazarus described in the New Testament shares parallel attributes with Mary’s unnamed son in War of the Jews. Both have relatives named “Mary” who have a “good portion” that was not taken away. The author thus “informs” the alert reader that, again, since they share parallel attributes, Mary’s unnamed son in War of the Jews had the same name as his counterpart in the parallel tale in the New Testament—that is, “Lazarus.” The comic point is that the “good portion” Mary and Jesus enjoy is the flesh of Lazarus. Notice the grim wordplay in the passage, “They made him a supper.”

    Now as I promised, I will respond to some of your earlier comments about Atwill’s treatment of this theme.

    Unfortunately, it is not a good example of his thesis, since it does not involve Jesus being mapped onto Titus (as Atwill’s thesis proposes)

    In my opinion, the importance of this item is that it demonstrates Josephus’ intimate understanding of Christian theology, as well as his willingness to mock it. But, FYI: Atwill goes on to relate this to Titus, both by the immediately following report of Titus’ comments on the incident in Josephus (JW 6.214ff) and by the position of the incident within Atwill’s “Flavian Signature” sequence.

    and the only distinct connection this story has with Jesus is the name “Mary” as the mother of an eaten child, and its connection to Passover. But “Mary” unfortunately was one of the most common Jewish female names (being, as it was, the name of the sister of Moses…one in four Jewish women had the name…you heard that right…one in four),

    Regarding names, of course there is also the incidence of Lazarus in the related NT pericope. Mary doesn’t differentiate between NT and OT, but Lazarus does. In the Bayesian context, Lazarus is surprising in an OT frame of reference, so it contributes to the posterior.

    Instead, what Atwill has found is what is certainly a very good instance of Josephus constructing what Josephus himself calls “a forsaken myth” to symbolize the “plight of the Jews” (JW 6.207-208) by inverting the concept of the Passover in order to represent the inversion of Jewish society among those who remained rebels against Rome. This is thus a case of the kind of symbolic-mythic composition employed in the Gospels, but it is notable for being uncommon for Josephus (a fact he himself is aware of, hence he clues us in by deliberately telling us it’s a “myth”). It is also not arguing for a religious doctrine, but simply making a clever literary point. Which was a standard skill taught in Greek schools.

    As Atwill points out, the parallel of this Josephus passage to the Jewish Passover has been well known for a long time. So if Atwill were to follow your advice and try to publish this as a novel finding, he might not get too far. And furthermore, the parallel is established in spite of the fact that various aspects of the Passover have been omitted, transfigured or altered. In the Josephus passage, where is Mary’s brother Moses? Lazarus? Surely not. And where is the idea of leprosy, and what does this have to do with Hazeroth? Nothing. But it doesn’t mean the passages aren’t parallels.

    Had the baby been called Jesus, then Atwill might have had something. Or if the Gospels identified the mother of Jesus as “Mary the daughter of Eleazar” or “from the town of Bethezob,” as the Mary in Josephus is. Or had any Gospel identified any other Mary as being the actual daughter of Lazarus (“Eleazar”), instead of his sister, as only one Gospel actually does (Jn. 11:2). But alas, no such connections are there. Otherwise, Mary is too common a name to be remarkable, as is Eleazar. And the Gospels fail to identify Lazarus as from Bethezob but instead from Bethany. So it’s the wrong Lazarus. And Mary is his sister in John, not his daughter as in Josephus. And even this Mary (in John, the only Mary connected to a Lazarus at all, and by the wrong family relation) is not the mother of Jesus. So it’s also the wrong Mary.

    So on every count a parallel is refuted here, not established.

    All of this portrays an unreasonable expectation: that in a typological mapping, every detail should be expected to match. Diversification of details is an inevitable result of the storytelling process. If everything matched, the stories would be identical, and there would be nothing to analyze. What’s significant is the specificity and interpretability of the overlap, not the extent of the differences. In the place names Bethezob and Bethany, the data is in the shared function and the shared first syllables, not the pun in the final syllables. This makes a contribution to the evaluation of the Bayesian posterior. Atwill makes this point (without mathematical terminology) many times.

    You have to change too many things to make a fit. And once you have to start changing the text all over the place to get what you want, on the basis of no evidence whatever, you are in crank land.

    I’m sensitive to this criticism, and I think Atwill is probably guilty of this from time to time in some of his examples. But in this case I don’t see where anything that has been done that would be unlawful, that is, in violation of a Bayesian mathematical approach. The following methods are applied (1) combining synoptic pericopes across multiple sources; (2) playing between symbolic and literal interpretations of the passages; (3) evaluating verbal puns as evidence. In my view, those are all valid methods for extracting statistical information from free text.

    And as to the criticism of multiple comparison, I would say on the contrary that Atwill applies his multiple comparisons persistently in an ordered fashion to sequential texts, and thus builds on rather than hurts the value of each individual test. But you would have to read his entire book to see that.

    Josephus clearly chose the name Mary because this is the name of the sister of Moses, the only prominent woman in the Exodus (hence Passover) narrative, especially given the meaning of her name, as Atwill himself notes: “rebellion.” But this “Mary” (the sister of Moses) is “rebellious” due to the OT legend of Num. 12, not from anything in the NT–where the mother of Jesus is never portrayed as rebellious–whereas the OT Mary is rebellious, and was punished for it:

    You’re partly correct on this point: the rebellious aspect of Mary does not rule out the OT connection. However, in Atwill’s view, the overall context of the NT is indeed a rebellion, and Mary the mother of Jesus would have been part of that rebellion. So while this does not weigh in favor of Atwill’s thesis, neither does it weigh against it.

    • says

      Um, how is it that you start with a Bayesian argument, but fail to end with one?

      All you end yup saying is that this case affords no evidence for Atwill’s thesis.

      Yeah. My point exactly.

      Case closed.

      (In Bayesian terms, the likelihood ratio ends up 1:1, which means this evidence = zero; no update to priors.)

      But since you have been duped again by Atwill’s evidently (from this example) quite complete lack of knowledge of Greek, let me burst your bubble further:

      …if Lazarus is dead, “they made him a supper” can only mean one thing. The gestalt seems clear enough. In Josephus, Mary is eating her child; in the NT pericope, Mary is eating the body of Lazarus

      Let’s set aside the fact that this is the wrong Mary (not the mother of Jesus). And that Lazarus isn’t Jesus. Nor a baby. Although all that’s fatal enough.

      Do you really think “they made him a supper” can mean in Greek they made him into a supper?

      Why? Because you trust Atwill to know what he’s talking about? To know Greek competently, like such an argument requires?

      Uh, sorry, a sucker is evidently born every minute.

      This becomes another good example of my point: Atwill doesn’t know what he’s talking about and pulls bullshit arguments like this out of his ass without even knowing that the double entendre he sees in English doesn’t exist in the actual Greek.

      The Greek (Jn 12:2) is: poiêsan oun autô deipnon, [they made] [for him] [supper].

      In actual fact, the “him” refers to Jesus (as the rest of the line makes clear by adding that Lazarus was also there, thus the “for him” was not Lazarus, but Jesus). But we’ll set that aside. (Oh, yeah, a second thing refuting his thesis, being set aside. When will it end? Sigh.)

      No, let’s just look at the grammar: it reads they made for him a supper. It does not read they made him into a supper–which would require auton, not autô.

      Thus, a double entendre in English vanishes in the Greek. Ooops.

      Atwill just doesn’t know what he is talking about and he should just admit that already and stop this sham.

      (And no, this stupid, incompetent argument can’t be rescued by trying to make the second half of the verse mean “they served Lazarus to Jesus” or any such thing, because there is no way to get the original Greek to mean that, but hopefully I won’t have to explain why that is; it should be clear already that Atwill doesn’t know Greek and shouldn’t be making arguments that require knowledge of Greek, much less resting his case on them.)

    • says

      “it reads they made for him a supper. It does not read they made him into a supper–which would require auton, not autô.

      “Thus, a double entendre in English vanishes in the Greek. Ooops.”

      Exactly. It’s also missing the preposition eis, “into”. A double dip on that Ooops. :)

  63. Pete M says

    Hello Richard.

    I’m interested in your views on the following:

    1. When do you consider that the concept of Jesus first arose?

    2. Who were the gospels written for (and by), and with what intent?

    I know there are no firm answers, but your views would be the next best thing.

    Regards,
    Pete M

    • says

      There are many possibilities in the realm of the plausible, so I can only answer as to what I think is the most probable, presently.

      (1) The concept of a celestial Jesus arose sometime before the early first century (it was already a going thing in Diaspora theology as of the 40s, as we find it in Philo as well as Paul), and the idea of that being so-called arose a century or more earlier at least (as we have evidence of it in the Dead Sea Scrolls, albeit just not there being assigned the name “Jesus,” although we only have a fraction of the library that was there, and mere fractions of the books we do have from there). The concept that this celestial Jesus came to earth and toured Galilee etc. most probably arose in the later first century (first evidence of it is in GMark, written sometime between 70 and 140, most likely more toward the former, but it may have been developed before that, as an allegory, which the author of GMark might still have regarded it as).

      (2) The Gospels were written by Christians for Christians, to sell specific Christian dogmas, teachings, and morals, in competition with other Christian sects teaching other different things. They were crafted as models for instruction (Jesus is an archetype for how the ideal Christian missionary should behave and address issues) and faith-reinforcement (to inspire and motivate Christians to stick to the party line about such issues as faith over evidence), and to prefer certain dogmas over others (e.g. fleshly resurrection over Pauline two-body resurrection; Mark & Matthew appear to be the only Gospels allegorically on Paul’s side, but to argue against that Luke & John create a new resurrection account). They also were designed to have a double meaning (as Mark has Jesus explicitly say in Mk. 4), on which see here.

  64. Jerry Russell says

    Is there any way to preview posts here to see how they look? I have no idea if my html formatting worked. And I think my first sentence got chopped? Not sure.

  65. Jerry Russell says

    Hello Dr. Carrier,

    Preview is fixed! Thanks.

    I appreciate your view on John 12:2, which is translated in the KJV, “There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” Your claim is that the Greek actually reads “they made for him a supper”.

    I can’t claim to be fluent in biblical Greek. However, using the tools available to me as a layman, I found substantial support for Atwill’s view. In this verse, the third person personal pronoun αυτω (him) is in the dative case. According to the online guide to Classical Greek at http://www.ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/nouns1.htm, the dative case is most commonly used to denote the indirect object, which would confirm your point. However, “it may also indicate the means by which something is done or accomplished.” If this secondary meaning is appropriate in this context, it would suggest that the personal pronoun in this sentence was the means by which making the meal was accomplished. The double entendre is further supported by the use of ανακειμενων “To recline, as a corpse or at a meal”. At this point there is an interesting variant reading, as the Tischendorf version gives only this word, while the Byzantine/Majority oddly inserts a correction συνανακειμενων “to recline in company with, at meat” following ανακειμενων. (The variants and definitions are from the Manuscript Comparator at openscriptures.org.) Is it possible that some ancient scribe noticed the lack of clarity, and thought it needed to be straightened out?

    Besides, even if you were correct that the Greek rules out Atwill’s double entendre, it would have nothing to do with the case that Atwill is laying out here, that Josephus was aware of the New Testament when he wrote the Cannibal Mary passage. If the double entendre is real, it’s suggestive that John was also in on the joke; but since the double entendre could be unintentional (even assuming it exists) we can’t prove from this whether John knew Josephus.

    To your point:

    Let’s set aside the fact that this is the wrong Mary (not the mother of Jesus). And that Lazarus isn’t Jesus. Nor a baby. Although all that’s fatal enough.

    I don’t follow your reasoning here, and I don’t agree that this is relevant. To illustrate my point, I will use another example.Supposing that you are looking at a poem, such as:

    Atwill says that Coracin’s
    a Flavian pun on Chorazain;
    Carrier shouts that “Atwill lies!”
    But I believe my eyes.

    Okay, so I’m even worse at composing poetry than I am at parsing Greek. But leaving that aside, surely you can see that the word “lies” rhymes with the word “eyes”, even though out of four letters, there are only two in common. And the rhyme, I can guarantee you, is a function of the author’s (my) intention.

    The fact that Lazarus isn’t a baby, or that the Cannibal Mary is obviously a different person from Mary mother of Jesus, has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of Atwill’s parallel, any more than the fact that “lies” and “eyes” are two different words, doesn’t disprove the rhyme.

    So putting this in more mathematical terms, and looking at the Greek:

    KAPPA-omicron-rho-alpha-KAPPA-iota-nu

    CHI-omicron-rho-alpha-ZETA-iota-nu

    The two words both have seven letters. Out of those, five are identical. Over the set of letters in the greek alphabet, we could define a metric of distance of one letter to another based on the configuration of the vocal apparatus necessary to produce the sound; using that metric, kappa and chi would be closer together than most random pairs of letters, and similarly for kappa and zeta.

    If you were to choose any two words at random from a Greek corpus, they wouldn’t be any where near this close to each other, by any reasonable distance metric. In fact, from what little Greek I do know, the English transliterations look like a pretty accurate phonetic representation of the two words, and they’re almost the same phonetically.

    Furthermore, on a Zipf distribution of Greek words, both Coracin and Chorazain would be extremely low-frequency words. That increases the statistical significance of their appearing together in a parallel context.

    Atwill has been accused of “multiple comparisons”, but how many passages are there in Josephus that invoke the “fisher of men” motif? And how many in the New Testament evoke this same theme? That is the very small set from which this comparison is being drawn. As you point out, the “fisher of men” schema appears in Homer, so that could be a common source; but the incidence of this Coracin / Chorazain pair confirms that the parallel is being consciously implemented by either Josephus or Matthew or both.

    I’m curious if you think you will win me over to your side by calling me a “sucker”? Because it doesn’t seem to be working.

    • says

      Okay, this is the last post on this. You don’t know what you are talking about and are only making Atwill look even worse with your even worse attempts to defend him. Cases in point…

      However, “it may also indicate the means by which something is done or accomplished.”

      This is why amateurs shouldn’t be doing this. You do realize that “means by which” means agent, right? So then the sentence would say he is the one who made the dinner (or helped make the dinner), not that he was the one made into a dinner. But the context makes clear that’s not what’s being said anyway. And you can’t just ignore grammatical context. Not in any language.

      Moreover, the “him” is Jesus, not Lazarus. A point you mysteriously somehow forgot, even though I had just told you. The grammar makes this absolutely clear. So you can’t get this to say they made dinner with Lazarus. Even with an agency reading it says they made dinner with Jesus, i.e. Jesus helped them make dinner. But of course that’s not at all what the sentence is saying, since the context makes clear it means they made dinner for Jesus, i.e. they threw him a dinner. Only someone who didn’t know how to comprehend basic sentences would think it said anything else.

      Likewise, you seem not to know that it was the cultural custom at the time to recline to eat, not sit on chairs. So it would be silly to think any allusion to corpses was meant, as if “they” were all corpses because “they” were reclining, as everyone always did for dinner. Oh, and yes, the word for “lay” is the plural: it refers to everyone there, not just Lazarus. Once again, not knowing Greek fucks up your argument. When will you realize this is a trend and stop pretending to know how Greek works?

      Josephus was aware of the New Testament when he wrote the Cannibal Mary passage. If the double entendre is real, it’s suggestive that John was also in on the joke; but since the double entendre could be unintentional (even assuming it exists) we can’t prove from this whether John knew Josephus.

      Um, you do realize Atwill’s thesis is that Josephus wrote John, right? (Or sometimes Atwill will retreat from that absurdity and admit it was someone in cahoots with Josephus, but still, conspiring with him.)

      even if you were correct that the Greek rules out Atwill’s double entendre, it would have nothing to do with the case that Atwill is laying out here

      Nothing to do? WTF? It’s evidence he states in support of his thesis. That has everything to do with it. Because (a) the evidence doesn’t exist (and thus his thesis has less support; and ultimately none, once we see none of the evidence holds up, like this does not) and (b) it proves Atwill doesn’t read Greek and can’t make any competent argument about the language (yet his thesis absolutely requires such competence), which means we cannot trust anything else he says about the language or the text, because here we just discovered he is completely wrong, and so ignorant he doesn’t even know it. As here, so everywhere else in his work. He is thus not a trustworthy analyst. If you can’t grasp that, you have a problem.

      surely you can see that the word “lies” rhymes with the word “eyes”, even though out of four letters, there are only two in common. And the rhyme, I can guarantee you, is a function of the author’s (my) intention.

      If rhymes count, then Josephus wrote every book in the entirely of Greek literature.

      Think about it.

      how many passages are there in Josephus that invoke the “fisher of men” motif?

      Actually, in fact, none. The motif exists nowhere in Josephus. Atwill “invents” it by “reinterpreting” something Josephus said that isn’t at all such an idiom or even connected to it.

  66. says

    Hi Richard,

    I respected you when you said that the universe is like a “black hole factory” in a 2005 documentary, but that’s been called into question by your failure to read Atwill’s book or see the “bigger picture” of his discovery.

    If somebody makes up a new law of physics, but gets it wrong, that doesn’t invalidate all the previous laws of physics that have been applied and tested, proving them to be accurate. No one law of physics is more significant than another, but they work together in the “model of the universe”, and constants like pi (3.142) crop up time and time again in overlapping equations. In Joe’s “Flavian model” or “Flavian Signature” the same concepts apply:
    *Each parallel is like a different law of physics (they don’t have to all be right; and Joe may not have discovered all of them yet)
    *Certain constants result from solving parallels (or combinations of parallels) in the Flavian model, ie. Son of Man = Titus or Certain Young Man = Lazarus. All the important male character’s names are matching in both gospels and Josephus (Joseph/Josephus, Lazarus/Eleazar, John and Simon etc), so the Flavians who invented Christianity have made it quite easy for us to detect their creation. Mary has a son who is a human Passover lamb in both works.
    *Additional information (subtext) to the surface narration derived from solving a parallel text in context can be used to test other things in the same Flavian model for accuracy, i.e. if Titus is the Son of Man then let’s test if that works for other Son of Man quotes.
    *The whole model works together to provide us with truth and reality via simultaneous parallels like simultaneous equations in science/mathematics (4 different Mount of Olives assaults reveal x and y), proving that the parallels exist by design and have a purpose (a lot of Jesus’ sayings have no moral or theological purpose without their counterpart passage in Josephus).
    The origin of Christianity has less to do with theology and more to do with mathematics, patterns, logic, holism, typology, pre-configuration, psychopaths, literary games, etc.

    Most parallels by their consistent sequencing carry what you might call a “timestamp” that suggests where you will most likely find a counterpart in either book, so the more parallels you find in sequence, the more accurately they and others become fixed in place by coordinates, ahead of analysing the text itself in that section of the book. If you find divisions between 3 and 2 halfway through the Gospel of Luke then don’t be surprised if you see the same divisions between numbers about halfway through Wars of the Jews starting with Book 3 where the parallel system begins. If you find yourself disagreeing with subtle details, understand the designer may not always be technically accurate, though the more basic concepts of the parallel should be obvious matches. In fact the whole of Jesus’ doomsday prophecies and Josephus’ “Woe saying Jesus” are like a mini “Flavian signature” in itself – occurring in a single chapter of Josephus (NT: Matt 23 and 24) – though no need for a sequence being that tight! However, the Romans didn’t want to make it too obvious that a system existed so certain things had to be placed out of sequence with the entry to the system at the start of Luke (and other synoptic gospels) the hardest to detect, but once somebody with sufficient logic and humour realises a system is there, it then becomes easy to understand what the designer wanted us to know, and Titus wanted it to be discovered for posterity because the Flavians were vain (you would need a Psychology professor to prove that one though!).

    My new unofficial website is still work-in-progress, but there’s enough there to prove a common source for the gospels and Josephus based on Joe’s book, though there is still another 3-4 ways it can be proven that will be covered in the final 3-4 pages remaining for the site. Please forgive the cosmetics side – up until now I have only concentrated on the content instead of the user experience – but would be good if you could please take a look? Also, my English is not that great, so feedback is welcome on improving my statements.

    If you trust DNA evidence then there’s no reason why you wouldn’t trust Joe’s book (but you have to read it of course!)

    Thanks and Regards,

    Giles
    http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com

    • says

      If all the premises are shit, even a thousand of them can’t make a sound argument.

      And if we can demonstrate a scholar doesn’t know even basic rudimentary facts (like how Greek works or how the ancient world operated), then we have no reason to trust anything he does is reliable.

      So, if perhaps you can identify the hundreds of mistakes Atwill makes, and thus scrub them out, and thus know better than even Atwill apparently does where his only valid (and thus best) arguments are (something Atwill himself couldn’t do even after months of my giving him the chance to in direct personal correspondence), then by all means present your one best example here. Then if that passes muster, we can look at the next, and so on, until we’ve accumulated enough to make a good case.

      But get ready. Because if your best example sucks, right out of the gate, I have no reason to look at any others. Because you will have proved you don’t know how to identify valid evidence. Therefore I have no reason to trust you have identified any.

      So it all hinges on you being able to present one good example. Something Atwill failed to do with me. Despite having ample opportunity.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Richard,

      Thanks for continuing to allow my comments through. I haven’t done anything to violate your posting rules, so I trust you’ll continue, in spite of your ongoing vows to the contrary.

      FYI, Atwill has completely pwned you on the Gadara issue over at his blog. He makes you look really bad. Seriously. http://caesarsmessiah.com/blog/2013/12/richard-carrier-the-phd-that-drowned-at-gadara. (Interesting term, pwned. I never heard that before I read it in your blog.)

      About my “ignoring everything you say”, I have the opposite impression: that I’ve responded quite comprehensively to your arguments, and all too often your response is (like this) to hurl insults rather than come up with any substantive reply. I can see that your mind is made up, and it makes me wonder how long ago you stopped even reading what I’m trying to say to you.

      But I do realize that there’s one consistent point you’ve made, which I haven’t been able to fully respond to. I understand that any cross-textual comparison is going to yield some level of parallelism, just by coincidence. There are going to be some rhymes and other phonetic parallels, some conceptual level parallels and some shared vocabulary, even without any intent on the part of the original authors. And there will be shared allusions to common background material (such as, in this case, the OT) creating further levels of unintentional parallelism.

      Measuring the signal-to-noise ratio on Atwill’s theory is a mathematical problem, and although I’ve argued for P=.99 on the Cannibal Mary parallel above, I understand that there needs to be some sort of correction for multiple comparisons and for unintentional parallelism rate. Bonferroni? False discover rate? Planned comparisons? Further research needed.

    • says

      I don’t see a single valid argument in that article you claim “pwns” me. In fact, Atwill simply ignores all the facts I presented. As if they didn’t exist. Stock crank behavior.

      That you don’t see that is what tells me you are as lost in delusion as he is.

    • Jerry Russell says

      LOL. Once again your reply gives no indication that you’ve even read what Atwill has to say, much less had any comprehension of it.

  67. Giles Gaffney says

    Hi again Richard,

    It’s very difficult to prove that all “components” of a “system” have been designed by a common source by just looking at one component alone. The 4-5 smoking guns are dependent upon seeing a connection between NT and Josephus as well as the satire – at a bare minimum – before solving any conundrums.

    How much in agreement are you with Robert Price regarding the following?
    1) NT and Josephus’ Wars of the Jews share similarities
    2) The gospel writers borrowed from Josephus

    If you agree with those 2 statements then the next step is to get you to agree there is satire (3); two ways I can think of:

    One way to go about this is via the 15 simple Verbatim and Near-Verbatim parallels with perhaps a handful of Conceptual parallels that happen to occur in sequence (a total of 20 simple convincing parallels without the fishers of men, say, and without the Sicarii lampooned swine). You then have no choice but to agree with the fishers of men parallel since both passages become more and more lumped together (preceded by both Jesus and Titus preaching the “Good News” and proceeded by other obvious verbatim/near-verbatim parallels), sharing enough verbatim and basic concepts in itself (fishermen on a lake in boats predicted to next be catching men vs. Romans on a lake catching Jews from their vessels as they attempt to swim to safety).

    Or, another way, if you agree with (1) and (2), perhaps single parallels can be used to convince you of existing satire (3) as you like to work with single examples: Two Jesuses (Christ in NT Luke 11:43-52 and one Jesus in Wars of the Jews, 6, 5, 300-309) suddenly start saying “Woe”, “get taken up” and scourged, i.e. crucified, and both “give up the ghost”. Therefore, one is obviously a lampoon of another. That in itself is representative of (1) and (2) but is not clear satire (3). However, when you read what happens before one of the Jesuses “gives up the ghost” then the satire becomes obvious: Jesus says “Woe Woe to myself also” and whilst making those utterings is killed by a stone from a Roman siege engine! :)

    In fact, if you come to understand the “Flavian model” or system then you know how the Lord once saw himself as a stone that could “utterly crush” to further add to the satire, but you don’t need to know that at this stage. You are halfway to seeing the Human Passover Lambs, and now this should be enough to convince you of deliberate satire (3) providing you agree that both works share similarities (1) and one book is based on another (2).

    Let me know where you stand regarding (1), (2) and (3) and then we can take it from there re: 4-5 proofs of a common source.

    Regards,

    Giles

    • says

      It’s very difficult to prove that all “components” of a “system” have been designed by a common source by just looking at one component alone.

      Christ. Please pay attention.

      I am not and have never said you have to prove that all “components” of a “system” have been designed by a common source by just looking at one component alone. I have very explicitly said I am not doing that. In the very article you claim to be commenting on.

      All I am asking is one example that doesn’t collapse under scrutiny as ignorant, factless, or innumerate. Then, if you can present even so much as one such thing, we can look at another. And then another. Until you have enough to prove all “components” of a “system” have been designed by a common source.

      But doing that requires having at least one passable example. (And ultimately more than one, but we have to start with one.)

      So far, you have presented none here. Zero. Zip.

      A system consisting of zero elements is non-existent.

      P.S. You may be wondering why I say Jesus ben Ananias isn’t a valid example (that’s who you are talking about): that’s because it is far more likely (far, far more likely) that Mark is using that story–not necessarily from Josephus, BTW, but easily he could be, since the Wars was published right around the time Mark would have been writing–whereas there is no evidence that Josephus wrote Mark, or that Josephus and Mark even knew each other, or that Mark is using the story as satire, rather than cultural commentary to frame a common trope in Jewish literature–again, not knowing this was a common trope in (non-satirical and perfectly serious) Jewish literature is another example of why amateurs should get out of this business.

      In Bayesian terms, the priors hugely favor Mark borrowing from Josephus or Josephus’s source (given the lack of evidence of anything to the contrary and the evidence of typical practices in literature elsewhere, as well as all the other points regarding priors I made, e.g. no one would attempt what Atwill claims in Greek, they would write in Hebrew or Aramaic if they wanted to pacify Palestinian radicals), but even setting that aside, the likelihood of this evidence on “Mark used Josephus or Josephus’s source to model a common Jewish hero-type” is no less (and arguably more, since there is specific evidence in favor of it, which you would know if you actually read real expert literature on this instead of just Atwill’s crankery) than the likelihood of this same evidence on “Josephus wrote Mark to play a joke on the Jews and simultaneously convince them to be pacifists” or “Josephus conspired with the author of Mark to do that” or any other bizarre iteration of Atwill’s crank notions.

      And that you fail to get this, even now, suggests you are lost in the same delusion he is–and either fail to know or don’t respect how to do history expertly and competently.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello again Richard (and hi, Giles!):

      I think that Giles’ Jesus ben Ananias example is excellent. It’s perfectly obvious from the interpretation of the parallel, that Josephus is writing a satire and Mark was in the role of the straight man. So Mark must have come first, and Josephus afterwards; or (just as likely) the two were written together. It’s impossible to write a satire without having something to be writing a satire of. In my mind, that trumps your various heuristics suggesting that Josephus had priority.

      The “Cannibal Mary” example is also very powerful. It isn’t a direct and complete proof of Atwill’s entire thesis, but just one component of the intellectual structure; but I showed you that it is significant at 99% as a demonstration that Josephus was satirizing John. Instead of addressing my math or any of my relevant arguments, you drilled down on the issue of the double entendre in John; which, if valid, would only confirm that John was also in on the joke.

      And if it’s possible that the dative “him” could represent agency, then the ambiguity of the double entendre is preserved perfectly. It’s not that I forgot that you told me that “him” could only refer to Jesus, but rather it’s that I disagree with you about that. John 12:1 discusses both Jesus and Lazarus, and so the reference “him” in John 12:2 is ambiguous. I see no reason to think this is any different structurally in Greek than in English. Based on our discussion, and the agency interpretation of the dative, here is my revised translation of John 12:1-2 (original was KJV, my mods in bold):

      “1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2 There they made with him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that reclined [as a corpse] at the table with him.”

      The double entendre is still there. To your point that “them that reclined” is plural, it might be that only one is reclining as a corpse.

      As to whether I am making Joe look bad, it should go without saying that any errors I make are my own. I am not here to defend Joe (he needs no defense) but I am here to support him. There’s a difference. And I admit that I don’t know Greek, but you certainly haven’t provided any evidence that has convinced me Joe doesn’t. It looks to me like a baseless and gratuitous insult directed at him, and I don’t understand why you have this huge chip on your shoulder.

      Richard, I see that in your book “Proving History” that your example of a fully valid parallel is “Daniel in the lion’s den becomes Jesus in the empty tomb”, a comparison of Dan. 6 vs. Matt. 27-28. In this case Matthew simply bludgeons the typology home, quoting Daniel over and over again until it should be obvious to the average kindergarten student. It’s true that none of Atwill’s examples rise to that level. I would predict that if there was a conspiracy, the perpetrators would be unlikely to provide any evidence that’s not subject to some kind of plausible denial. It will require a certain level of intellectual sophistication to see the pattern.

      Also, Richard, I want to thank you for allowing me to post the link to my Amazon review. But on the other hand I’m puzzled as to why you handed down your “last post” edict, because you haven’t accused me of violating your posting rules, and I can’t see where I’ve done anything that would justify you taking that position.

    • says

      It’s perfectly obvious from the interpretation of the parallel, that Josephus is writing a satire and Mark was in the role of the straight man.

      No, it isn’t obvious. In fact, there is no evidence for this at all. You have to be ignoring all literature on these passages, the entire context of Josephus, the purpose Josephus uses that story for in his narrative, the way Mark employs and adapts the elements (and what he changes), and the complete disconnect between those two purposes as evident from their respective contexts. Plus all the other things (radically different authorial styles, the illogicality of Josephus even attempting such a silly thing, and so on).

      Mark is not writing a satire. He is writing a serious critique of the Jewish and Roman elite using a well-known Jewish hero type, to which the Ananias story conforms, and Mark makes it conform even more clearly. This is well established in serious literary analysis on this issue. Which you evidently still don’t give a shit about. (Although maybe you are confusing “satire” with “irony,” since it’s a well-established fact Mark uses irony, but that’s not satire, and isn’t used as a joke but to make a serious political and cultural point.)

      Likewise, the Cannibal Mary story only makes sense as a riff on the OT (and again as a literary commentary on the war composed by Josephus using Jewish scripture as a type-source for comparison). It makes zero sense as a riff on the NT, and nothing in the NT comes anywhere near being similar to it. You did not show any similarities to John. I showed they were all non-existent or otherwise bogus and the two stories have no significant connections at all. You made no credible response.

      And now you are completely ignoring all I said about grammar (the “him” is not Lazarus, and cannot mean the thing being prepared, and “recline” is a common word always used for dining and thus has zero innate connotations of corpsity), which completely disallows the “new” reading you are attempting. So now you are just ignoring everything I say and making shit up.

      I have to conclude you are barking mad.

      We’re done here.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Richard,

      I’m not ignoring what you’re saying about Greek grammar. I’m disagreeing with it, and giving my reasoning. Is that against the rules here, to disagree with you and tell you why?

      To your point “recline… has zero innate connotations of corpsity”, I didn’t make that up. The definition I gave you came straight from the dictionary at the Manuscript Comparator at openscriptures.org.

      To your point, “Mark is not writing satire”, what I said is that Josephus is writing satire. It seems clear enough to me from reading the text (yes, in English translation), without needing to read all the literary criticism that’s ever been written on the topic. There’s a much more extensive discussion about this in Joe’s book, which lays out the reasons why this passage in Josephus can only be read as satire of the NT, but of course you can’t be bothered to read it.

      About the Cannibal Mary story’s dependence on the New Testament: I don’t see where you made any responses at all to my substantive points. So there was nothing for me to offer any reply to. However, I can see that I didn’t persuade you. We’ll have to agree to disagree. Bygones, and let the readers decide.

      Finally, with respect to your opinion that I am “barking mad”: I’m curious if you have a PhD in psychology, or are somehow qualified to render a diagnosis like that? What is the DSM-IV category for “barking mad”? I happen to have a PhD myself, in cognitive psychology, so you’re arguing on my territory now. I’ve been through extensive Freudian analysis (it’s something we psychology professionals do just for the sheer pleasure of it), and my analyst assures me I’m perfectly normal. So you need to find some other explanation for why I’m continuing to disagree with you.

      And you can delete my words here if you want, but the Internet will route around that. My review comments will stand at Amazon.com, and now Joe has posted my review at his blog as well. I don’t see how you can hide from this debate that you’ve started.

    • says

      I’m disagreeing with it, and giving my reasoning.

      You can’t “disagree” with grammar.

      You don’t get to decide how Greek works.

      The Greeks do.

      About the Cannibal Mary story’s dependence on the New Testament: I don’t see where you made any responses at all to my substantive points.

      Then you haven’t been reading this comment thread. Examine every discussion of it above (starting with the one in my article) and you’ll see your every substantive point has been refuted, without any credible rejoinder. And you just keep ignoring that, as if it never happened.

      The definition I gave you came straight from the dictionary at the Manuscript Comparator at openscriptures.org.

      Sigh. The fact that you think this is a valid argument shows me you are incapable of reason.

      That a word is sometimes used in contexts of burial in no way means it carries that connotation when it is used of dining, as this word routinely was.

      Otherwise, every description of dining in the whole of Greek literature is alluding to burials.

      This is the kind of irrationality I’m talking about.

      You don’t seem to have even a rudimentary grasp of how language works.

      That you continue to think these things are sound ways to reason is precisely what tells me you are definitely delusional. I don’t need a psych degree to see when someone is completely off the rails of common sense and basic logic–and refuses to admit it even when it’s been shown to them repeatedly.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Richard,

      First of all, and in all sincerity, I’d like to thank you for hanging in there with me for another round of this discussion. I understand that your patience has run out awhile ago, but I’m still hoping that we can reach a better mutual understanding.

      To your point “you are incapable of reason” (etc.), Dog knows I’ve made plenty of mistakes and believed all kinds of crazy things in my life. It seems to be part of the human condition. I look around me and see people (some with PhD’s no less) who think that Joseph Smith received the Book of Mormon on golden tablets from the Angel Moroni. And clinically they seem to be perfectly sane!! Imagine that. Seems bonkers to me, but I never seem to win any points with those people by just telling them straight out that I think they’ve got a screw loose.

      But as I was saying: I’ve certainly made errors of reasoning before in my life, and managed to identify and fix a few. And somehow with all my intellectual limitations, I managed to finish my PhD too, just like the big boys. I think the secret of my success (however limited) is that I keep trying to understand things, and to fix my mistakes.

      So again, thanks for bearing with me. One of us here is making an error, and it’s certainly possible it could be me. But you haven’t convinced me yet.

      To understand where I’m coming from about the double entendre, perhaps it might help to look at an English example, such as Abott & Costello’s “Who’s on first.”

      Abott: […] Well, let’s see, we have on the bags, Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third…”

      […]

      Costello: Well then who’s on first?

      Abbott: Yes.

      Costello: I mean the fellow’s name.

      Abbott: Who.

      Look at how this works. In normal English usage, “Who” is a relative pronoun. No mother in the true history of the English speaking world has ever named a child “Who”. Costello hears Abott through the lens of conventional grammar and expects that Abott is referring to someone who should have a name, while Abott means that Who IS “a fellow’s name”. Eventually the audience catches on to what Abbott is doing, but Costello never does, so the convolutions get more and more hilarious. And look at that phrase “I Don’t Know is on third…”: it completely violates all rules of English grammar. “I don’t know” is a sentence fragment, rather than any kind of name, noun or pronoun, so it’s incorrect to follow it with a verb.

      So the essence of double entendre is an alteration of the surface reading of a sentence that’s forced by the context into an alternative reading. It’s a trick that sometimes works even in defiance of ordinary grammar rules. And the laughter comes with the perceptual switch from the more obvious, conventional reading to the forced, esoteric reading.

      To amplify on what I said earlier: in the Lazarus pericope (Jn 12:2 etc), you can cite chapter and verse of Christian apologists who insist on the conventional reading that Lazarus and Jesus are sitting at dinner together eating their meat, and Lazarus’ resurrection represents hope, life, Jesus’ magic powers of redemption, yadda yadda. Of course that’s the surface reading! Of course that’s exactly what the Greek is trying to say! (Or at least, at first glance.)

      But all the PhD peer reviewed papers in the world can’t take away from Joe Atwill’s creative insight that if you’ll just read the same passage as a secular humanist or a skeptical Roman aristocrat who doesn’t believe in Jesus or the resurrection of the dead, then in reality there must be a stench. (For that matter, the NT admits as much.) And the picture of Lazarus as a reclining corpse becomes inevitable. It’s lurking as an inherent aspect of the text, just as sure as the surface reading, and it can’t be argued away by complaining about minor grammar problems.

      On the contrary: out of our grammatical discussion, the remarkable thing to me is how well constructed the Greek seems to be, to support both the conventional reading and the forced esoteric context-switched meaning. There’s no grammatical flaw at all that you’ve been able to demonstrate to me. People keep telling me that the evangelist should’ve written “they made him into a supper”, which of course would support the humorous reading, but in the process it would completely ruin the double entendre by smashing the conventional reading.

      If John was intentionally constructing a double entendre, the use of the dative pronoun that can support either the indirect or the agency reading seems to be a stroke of genius, as does the choice of a word for “reclining” that carries the double meaning of reclining at a meal, or reclining like a corpse. On the other hand: if you were to argue that there’s no proof that John intentionally created this, based on this one single example, then I would have to agree. Double entendres get created accidentally all the time, especially if the basic situation is hilarious to begin with, as life often is.

      You mentioned that “You don’t get to decide how Greek works. The Greeks do.” But no one alive can claim to be a native speaker of classical Koine Greek. All we have to work with is a relatively small corpus of ancient manuscripts, to determine what the rules are. When it comes to evaluating the lawfulness of double entendres based on the dative case and related to cannibalism, we may not have a lot of examples to work from. This is something that with your expertise in ancient Greek, you might be able to help with. But you have to show your work if you want to be convincing at an academic peer-reviewed level. Blustering and argument from authority really is not going to settle the question.

      Regarding “your every substantive point has been refuted” I honestly don’t see it. Here are the points that I believe have gone unanswered.

      My point:

      Josephus describes the [Cannibal Mary] incident as “so portentous to posterity, but that I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age.” Why would this event be “portentous to posterity” and how would Josephus have “innumerable witnesses”? Although the event was reportedly discussed among many, there could be at most a modestly countable number of the “seditious” who witnessed the Cannibal Mary in the act of eating her son, and no witnesses at all to Mary’s speech, or the actual event. Atwill doesn’t specifically point this out, but the reference to “innumerable witnesses” seems to be a reference to the multitudes who reportedly witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, which indeed was a myth “portentous to posterity”. My score on this evidence term: P(E | H1)=0.2, P(E | H2)=1.0.”

      Your response: ???

      My point:

      Mary describes the event as a “myth for the world”, and a “fury to the varlets” that would “complete the calamities of the Jews”. Atwill further sees a pun on the words “mythos” (myth), “mysos” (an atrocity), and “misos” (inspiring bitter hatred, in this case the bitter hatred by the Romans against the Jews.) This again seems uncalibrated and inappropriate as a commentary on the plight of the starving Jews; but if it’s talking about the anti-Semitic effects of the Christian myth against the Jews, it is tremendously perceptive, if not prescient. But, I’m willing to give some significant weight to the possibility that Josephus is just thinking about the OT here. P(E | H1)=0.5, P(E | H2)=1.0.

      Your response: ???

      My point:

      The Josephus passage is not, however, only a diffuse reference to New Testament in general. It is also tied to the synoptic pericope of Luke 10:38-42 and John 12:2-3. In this NT pericope we meet Lazarus, supposedly just raised from the dead. However, he’s been dead for 4 days, which is one day later than his soul would have departed from his body, according to Jewish lore. So unless you’re inclined to believe in very unlikely miracles (from either a Gentile or Jewish perspective), Lazarus is nothing but a dead body.

      In the story, we also meet Mary, who is served a meal of “the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” This, of course, is exactly the same portion which Cannibal Mary has saved for herself of the child. [I should have quoted directly here, from Josephus 6: “She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them, and withal uncovered what was left of her son. Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight, when she said to them, “This is mine own son, and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous, and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also.”]

      It seems to me that this is so powerful and interpretable, that I’ve got to give it a very strong Bayesian score, and I don’t see any way this could’ve happened without Josephus being aware of the NT pericope. Also, the arrow of causality only runs one way here, because Josephus is clearly writing a dark satire of the Christian motif. So on this evidence, I award P(E | H1)=0.1, P(E | H2)=1.0. I am being relatively modest on my order-of-magnitude estimate only because of the depths of my own ignorance about the OT, and the possibility that there’s some text I’m unaware of.

      The gestalt seems clear enough. In Josephus, Mary is eating her child; in the NT pericope, Mary is eating the body of Lazarus, who allegedly was resurrected but is obviously dead; and according to Christianity’s spiritualized interpretation, the believers are eating the body of Christ the son of Mary, after his alleged resurrection on the third day. The central and distinctive themes of the Eucharist and its macabre association to cannibalism, the Passover sacrifice of Jesus, and the Resurrection. But it’s also pulled together by the very specific verbal motif of the “good portion… not taken away.

      The three evidence terms seem to be independent. So, multiply them together to obtain a combined evidence term of P(E | H1)=0.01, P(E | H2)=1.0. Your numbers, Dr. Carrier?

      Your response: you’ve drilled down on the double entendre issue, but neglected to address the parallel of “the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” This is a conceptual-level parallel that is highly specific, whether or not the Greek words are perfect matches.

      Even if you deny the cannibal theme (and I can’t see any valid reason why you would) then the parallel still includes this as well as Lazarus. Neither factor applies to the OT parallel that you identified.

      You also gave this general response to my entire argument:

      All you end yup saying is that this case affords no evidence for Atwill’s thesis.

      Yeah. My point exactly.

      Case closed.

      Which I viewed as a misdirection, since I’d already agreed that the hypothesis I’ve been discussing is not directly to Atwill’s primary thesis, but rather it’s only a small step in his overall chain of reasoning.

      And this:

      Let’s set aside the fact that this is the wrong Mary (not the mother of Jesus). And that Lazarus isn’t Jesus. Nor a baby. Although all that’s fatal enough.

      Not fatal at all. You even explained this yourself in your own book, remember? It’s not the amount of variance between the passages that’s significant in determining mimesis, it’s the level and distinctiveness of the shared items. I’ve reminded you of this several times.

      My point:

      Richard, I see that in your book “Proving History” that your example of a fully valid parallel is “Daniel in the lion’s den becomes Jesus in the empty tomb”, a comparison of Dan. 6 vs. Matt. 27-28. In this case Matthew simply bludgeons the typology home, quoting Daniel over and over again until it should be obvious to the average kindergarten student. It’s true that none of Atwill’s examples rise to that level. I would predict that if there was a conspiracy, the perpetrators would be unlikely to provide any evidence that’s not subject to some kind of plausible denial. It will require a certain level of intellectual sophistication to see the pattern.

      In other words, don’t expect Atwill to come up with a single best example that’s as good as Dan. 6 vs. Matt. 27-28. Expect a bunch of comparisons that evaluate out to 60% or so. To gain confidence, you need to be patient, analyze the overall pattern, and look at sequences. It’s the “smoking gun” fallacy, to evaluate allegations of elite criminality and conspiracy with the expectation that you will find a perfect proof in a nutshell that’s obvious at first glance. They just don’t work that way.

      Your response: ???

      Cheers! and happy thanksgiving. Please feel free to stop the conversation at any time, as long as you’re willing to let me have the last word…

      -Jerry

    • Jerry Russell says

      I meant to leave a reply to thread 76, but the system seems to have put it under thread 75 instead. That’s OK: what I had to say is just as relevant to thread 75.

      As to my goal of convincing you to change your mind, I am admitting defeat for the moment, and it’s back to the drawing board with the math.

  68. John Owen says

    Thank you for providing this service Richard! You must be very busy, so if you could refer me elsewhere, that would be fine, but references “the diaspora” are constantly made, and I used to think I knew what this meant, such as a 6th century BCE diaspora, etc. But since Judaism was not formalized until much later, and also the early christian period is intermixed with Jewish influence, and since there were non Hebrew speaking Jews of many generations living throughout the roman empire, and perhaps even the Greek empire, and since the historical record of the old testament is suspect, is there a better historical source or theory on what was going on with Jewish populations in Alexandria, Babylon, Rome, Athens? Evidently there were more mixed race Jews outside of Palestine than in Palestine at a very early time. Diaspora may not be an adequate historic model to understand the phenomenon, which then would bear on how we view the originations of Christianity or its early development.

    Thanks, John

    • says

      Diaspora just means Jewish communities outside Palestine. Being such, they underwent a lot of cultural and religious syncretism (e.g. adopting Greek as their primary language for reading and interpreting Scripture; incorporating Hellenistic education into their theology and cosmology and exegesis; etc.). Diaspora communities were highly diverse, but less so within the Roman Empire, where they were predominately influenced by a common cultural package of Hellenism, that being primarily the only educational system available to them. Diaspora communities outside the Empire differed from that type (e.g. being more influenced by Persian culture).

      So, given that clarification, I’m not sure what you are asking about.

  69. Giles Gaffney says

    Hi Richard,

    Try not to devalue people with every response because it only makes you appear to be narcissistic instead of a professional scholar. You may not be aware but you are upsetting a lot of people simply by your condescension.

    For all the satiric examples we’ve thrown at you, others may be convinced by your dismissals or attempt to explain away the evidence, but not me. So I would like to thank you for your time and wish you good luck with your on-going career!

    Cheers,

    Giles
    http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com

    • says

      Right. You come in here, deny the facts of Greek grammar and basic principles of language and ignore half of everything I say and pretend I never said it, I call you out for the irrationality of all that, and you try to reinforce your cognitive dissonance by convincing yourself the only reason I could have said those things is that I’m narcissistic (which makes zero sense; I don’t think you know what narcissism is). Rather than because, you know, I’m correct. And you have the gall to ask me why I think you are too delusional to have a rational conversation with.

  70. John Owen says

    If you look at two or three generations of Greek speaking persons identified as Jews in lands far from Palestine, and take away the implication that they are unified or linked with Palestine by blood or history as the primary driver, then you end up with more of a question mark in terms of what these groups were and what became of them.

    I think that its possible that the existing paradigm is assuming more about these groups than has been historically verified. “The Bible Unearthed” questions the myths of Jewish migrations. The early development of Christianity and the creation of a formal Judaism that only came about after 70 CE mean that a possible reboot of any assumptions about these groups may help us to get an insight into the time.

    Monotheism was not originally inherent to the people of Yahweh. Philo was a student of Greek philosophy, and Paul of Tarsus would have been exposed, the schools of Aristotle were still in existence. In other words, there was an intellectual cross fertilization in many groups and a single god emerged triumphant across all the groups at the end of this transition. The Socratic schools were preserved in Byzantium until the 15th Century. These factors are more compelling than Atwell’s thesis, but I am not sure I have seen an intelligent perspective that exposes that the likes of Philo were not going to stick with the formalized Judiasm that emerged after 70 Ad, and some form of gospel might have fit the bill for those who were called Jews but were “Hellenized”. Paul would be another example of a Hellenistic “Jew” that might not have found the post 70 CE Judaic version acceptable. Yet there were groups in Armenia that were unrelated to Palestinians who did eventually adopt a version of Judaism centuries later, and then emigrate to northern Europe. These two religions that Europeans were taking up, they might have had less of a Palestinian component than many think. They may have been set in Palestine in the same way other earlier stories were set in Egypt. Right? We have seen ferments like this come up with a new synthesis in many places and times. Isn’t that part of your point, that there was a demand for a new story? That the story supplied had to morph until it could resonate with a new mindset of a transformed world? And that the final audience was the final arbiter of what would fit, and what wouldn’t? I don’t think our present use of the word diaspora is helping to enlighten this picture. Ask Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s kids about the Indian diaspora. What kind of religion might they adopt? Some kind of Star Trek cult maybe.

    • says

      I don’t see what you are getting at.

      Diaspora isn’t meant to communicate anything except “adherents of a Jewish religion outside Palestine.” You seem to think someone (who?) is using it to communicate something more than that. Perhaps you mean my assumption that RE Diasporans (not all Diasporans, just those in the RE) were typically Hellenized? That’s well established in the evidence (particularly for early Christianity).

      It sounds like you might be trying to say that maybe Christianity did not originate in Palestine, but that is refuted by Paul’s letter to the Galatians (in conjunction with Romans and 1 Corinthians). It very definitely originated in or around Jerusalem (though indeed Paul provides no indication it ever had anything to do with Galilee).

    • John Owen says

      “It very definitely originated in or around Jerusalem”. I hope one of your past books or the one shortly coming out addresses this matter in detail.

      Perhaps you have helped me to find words for the central question I am trying to pose.

      There could have been a thousand John the Baptists, a thousand Jesus type messiah type’s of characters, a thousand Pauls.

      The four gospels were probably not compiled in Palestine, the largest and most active Christian groups at the time the four gospels were written were probably not in Palestine, so the setting of the story and the tellers of the story are getting too highly associated in our minds. Paul did not tell the story that is in the Gospels. All we have is people who do not speak Aramaic telling us that Palestine is where all this came from or happened, and not being very consistent or convincing about it.

      The material in the Gospels might have been created in a different context, by individuals or groups that were operating within a particular literary mindset. Think back to the literary mindset that created the fiction in the old testament, telling the story of an exile that never happened, but relating a story that resonated with the teller and with the audience. There is a name for this kind of writing. It is how mythology develops. These myths end up nourishing the mentality of churches and nations.

      The audience of the Gospels “wrote” them, and they were mostly not in Palestine. What happened or didn’t in Palestine was irrelevant to what made Christianity “sell”. But the storyline, that is what made the gospels sell. The storyline had mythical appeal, intellectual appeal, emotional appeal. There were no facts on the ground anywhere that had that kind of appeal. The story had to be made up, over the course of decades and generations, after Paul. Paul did not tell the story of the gospels. He helped build a tiny group, a group that are not documented to have told all the stories that are found in the Gospels. That group was diaspora Jews and non-Palestinians familiar with the same kind of stuff Philo was. The diaspora Jews, there is little evidence that they were racially predominantly Palestinian. I think we need to keep an open mind about this, because Judaism was not that well defined at the time, not in Palestine, and especially not outside of Palestine.

      And the transition from Yahweh as one of many gods to monotheism, I don’t think you addressed that. The pantheism of Greece and Rome doesn’t even make it onto the religion section of the library. But try to get monotheistic books moved to the mythology section! The pantheism of Rome and Greece was already on its last legs during the formation of the Gospels. The pantheism of Yahweh was as well. How do you address this? Or do you?

      Thanks. And Happy T-day! In dog I trust.

    • says

      “It very definitely originated in or around Jerusalem”. I hope one of your past books or the one shortly coming out addresses this matter in detail.

      That’s such basic entry level knowledge in the field, I am surprised I even have to explain it here. Though I do discuss some of the passages making this clear, it never occurred to me that I should have to write a chapter marshaling all the passages in order to establish something that is a standard established fact in the field already. I shouldn’t have to. Read Gal. 1 (with 1 Cor. 15:1-8 and 16:3) and Rom. 15.

      There could have been a thousand John the Baptists, a thousand Jesus type messiah type’s of characters, a thousand Pauls.

      I don’t see the relevance of that to explaining the origin of the religion being spoken of in the letters of Paul.

      The four gospels were probably not compiled in Palestine…

      Certainly they were not. But neither were they composed at the origin of the cult, but two lifetimes later. So where they were composed can have little bearing on the question of where and why Christianity arose.

      All we have is people who do not speak Aramaic telling us that Palestine is where all this came from or happened, and not being very consistent or convincing about it.

      Incorrect. Paul wrote decades earlier, tells us he was fully educated in Hebrew, and says he personally knew the cult’s founders, and that they and the first churches were in Jerusalem and Judea.

      That pretty much settles it.

      What the communities who wrote the Gospels thought is irrelevant (other than that it reinforces the same conclusion).

      What happened or didn’t in Palestine was irrelevant to what made Christianity “sell”.

      That’s definitely true. But it doesn’t relate to the question of the evidence we have (in Paul) that Christianity began in Jerusalem and Judea.

      The diaspora Jews, there is little evidence that they were racially predominantly Palestinian.

      I’m uncomfortable with your racial essentialism here. Race is irrelevant. A culturally raised Jew is a Jew. (Even by Torah law, incidentally; but especially for the purposes of any argument regarding thought patterns and belief systems.)

      How do you address this? Or do you?

      I don’t know what you mean. Pantheism is not a correct description of any form of Jewish theology in antiquity. I think you meant polytheism. In that respect, in my next book I do prove that Judaism (even in Palestine) was in fact polytheistic, and only claimed monotheism by semantic devices. But I don’t know what that has to do with the rest of what you are saying.

  71. Rod Elliot says

    John Owen.
    Paul did not tell the story that is in the Gospels.
    ____________________________

    Indeed.

    Paul (Saul) did not tell the story in the Gospels, because the Gospel events had not happened yet. They happened in the late AD 60s, during the Jewish Revolt – much as Atwill claims, but did not manage to prove. So of course Saul could not write about the Gospel narrative.

    And of course this totally undermines the classical Christian chronology. Here is a fervent believer, and yet he forgets to tell his new followers all about the dramatic events that happened 20 years ago back in Jerusalem. Oh yes? I don’t think so.

    • John Owen says

      Thanks Rod Elliot for your thoughtful words. I was looking into Reza Aslan recently and the point that Paul’s version of Christ got so fully treated in the New Testament as of 326 CE (First Council of Nicaea) represented a victory for a certain point of view compared to the point of view supposedly attributed to James, Thomas and others.

      I guess where I am going with this is that in the dim light of what can be surmised to have happened, within the myriad versions and modifications that happened between the Damascus road story of Paul (approximately 33 CE) and 326 CE, we have dozens if not hundreds of versions of relatively more or less complete pictures of Christ, and then after 326, we have a much more restricted and consistently supported version of the story. Each of these versions really deserves to be named, detailed, and categorized, and also to be recognized as primarily fictional. There would also be less documented potential versions predating 33 CE, based on any number of early Judaic references to messiahs, any number of which could have inspired the likes of Philo or Paul and could have entered into the collective subconscious of the time, and perhaps even be reflected in the writings of the Essenes, and not be summarily dismissed as inconvenient to the Christian project. I think we tend to reinforce a Christian project that emerged after 326 with undeserved validity. It may have eventually prevailed, but there is no reason to think that from 33 CE to 326 CE that it had a prevalent influence. If the less well known developments prior to 326 had a substantially different flavor, then no matter what the final Jesus might have been, it is the facts of the origination, known or unknown that must be primarily acknowledged. By the time a structured institution had evolved, it was another entity altogether, and the study of that is a separate study, although no less interesting. Only a lover of the classics with no axe to grind could find this interesting on its own merit. The rest are only licking their chops with the ultimate goal of prevailing in an ultimate argument in which the victor will be a believer or a vanquisher of believers.

      In other words, between all the versions, there is very little overlap. The points of overlap would “tend” to point to a slightly higher probability of an accurate picture of an historical figure, but since the points of overlap are so scarce, the only possible historical figure (lets call it “potential prototype figure number 1) pointed at is some notion of a messiah figure that went by several names and was upsetting to the status quo of the leading Jews and maybe also the leading Romans of the time. The dates, locations, the death of such figure, and any other details would be lacking in this picture. Of course, if you pick any one of the versions used for the exercise of the overlap and projected the trajectory forward, based on any number of embellished versions, a more detailed version begins to emerge, and of course, more contradictions as well. It goes without saying that the NT version that emerged after 326 was one of the more detailed accounts, and also one with a high number of contradictions, including the implication that the audience has become Greek speaking and not residents of Palestine. Of course the destruction of the Jewish infrastructure in Palestine in 70 CE, which happened early in the referenced time frame might have a lot to say about all this.

      One of the elements of interest to me is that during the referenced time frame (33 to 326 CE), Judaism itself, not only Christianity, was taking a form that had never existed before, and the ultimate audience for Judaism was shifting as much as the ultimate audience of Christianity was. I find it hard to believe this parallel was not of utmost historical import.

      In conclusion, during the same period (33 to 326 CE), paganism and polytheism were in their death throws and monotheism was forming as a new de facto standard such that within a few centuries, only monotheism would endure. That paganism and polytheism happened to be in their last days, and that Greek philosophy/culture had changed the shape of the intellect in the eastern Mediterranean region during the centuries leading up to the referenced time frame and continued to do so even afterwards, also cannot be mere coincidence.

      Atwill projected a malevolent intent on the emergency of Christianity, the neo-Atheists project an ignorant “believer” and politically motivated accident of history from obscurity to dominance approach. But a more sophisticated approach, somewhat kindred to Reza Aslan’s analysis but addressing the points noted above may eventually get a hearing, acknowledging an evolutionary progression that is historically contextual to the philosophical impacts of the earlier Greek classical period.

      John Owen 12/6

  72. Rod Elliot says

    happened between the Damascus road story
    of Paul (approximately 33 CE)
    ____________________________________

    But if you take this later chronology to its full extent, as Atwill has done, then Saul was not on the road to Damascus in AD 33. Saul becomes the alter-ego of Josephus Flavius, and these events actually happened in the AD 50s and 60s. That is the whole point of this reevaluation of the gospel story and linking it to the Jewish Revolt.

    The theory is not fully fleshed out yet, in my mind, but if one opposes it simple for the sake of doing so (because it is new), then we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water.In reality, there are many points in favour of this new chronology.

    For instance, Saul and Josephus appear to have been on the same shipwreck, and were both taken to Naples and then to Rome to see Nero. This is one reason why Saul may be Josephus, and yet this all happened in the early 60s AD.

    Likewise, Saul was persecuting Jesus in Galilee (Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me…). And at the same time, Josephus was also persecuting Jesus – Jesus of Gamala in Galilee (possibly the governor of Tiberias). This is another reason why Saul may be Josephus, and again, this is AD 60s material.

    And then we have Prof Eisenman who spends some 500 pages proving that Mary and Martha Boethus (from the Talmud) were Mary and Martha of Bethany (i.e.: Mary Magdalene). And his evidence is quite sound. But the Talmud says that Mary/Martha Boethus married Jesus of Gamala. Oh, dear….

    You see where this is going……? But you cannot explore these options, unless you have an open mind.

    Rod.

    • says

      Sure. If we go off our rocker and make all sorts of bizarre and unjustified suppositions so far out of left field that we aren’t even in the ballpark anymore, then [insert any conclusion you want here].

      One must not have a mind so open their brains fall out.

      For anyone who buys into any of this nonsense, their brains are evidently on the floor somewhere. My advice to them is to take care not to trio on them. And hopefully scoop them back up and put them in again.

    • jBrown says

      @RodElliot: There are some significant similarities between the vita of Josephus and the biographical parts on Paul in Acts II, and I believe Atwill isn’t the first to notice this. Btw, this is substantiated by the conversion story: in Christian art Saul’s conversion to Christ is often depicted as Saul falling from the horse, but there is no mention of this in the text. We do find the horse in Josephus’ vita, however, before his conversion to Caesar, which we would expect, if Paul’s vita was dependent on Josephus’. So there are textual and iconographical similarities, and that’s conspicuous, but it does not mean that Saul/Paul and Josephus are one and the same person, or that Paul is a Christianized alter ego, or even that Josephus wrote the original versions of the Pauline epistles etc. It’s probably just an incursion to fill a biographical vacuum. You can’t put the cart before the horse and say: “Paul’s and Josephus’ vita are similar, so Atwill’s theory is true.” There could be a different reason, so first you would need to prove Atwill’s theory itself, and I’m with Richard here: That’s simply not possible, because it’s pseudo-scientific.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Jbrown: Atwill doesn’t claim that Paul is the same person as Josephus, and I don’t think Eisenman would make that claim either. But, please explain to me: why would the author of the book of Acts choose to fill in a vacuum of details of St. Paul’s life, with tidbits taken from Josephus?? Or conversely, why would Josephus falsify or invent his biographical information to make himself look like St. Paul of all people? Please explain.

      In its most basic form, Atwill’s theory is that the Roman imperial court was responsible for promoting Roman Catholicism beginning as early as the 1st century CE, and that they generated (or, at least, heavily redacted) the version of the New Testament that we now have. He also claims that an inter-textual reading of Josephus and the New Testament reveals an occulted claim that the Flavians were the true fulfillment of Jewish messianic prophecy. That doesn’t seem like a pseudo-scientific claim to me, but on the other hand I don’t understand the relevance of Richard’s demand that the theory be “falsifiable”. History isn’t like a lab experiment that we can re-run as many times as we need to, until we understand what happened. The historical scientific process is a matter of identifying the relevant hypotheses, and then evaluating them against the evidence.

    • says

      I thought Atwill’s new book argues Josephus wrote the Pauline letters? That would mean “Paul is Josephus” correctly describes Atwill’s (new) theory.

      As to your first question, it is widely (though not universally) agreed among mainstream scholars that Luke composed Luke-Acts by adapting material from Josephus. I’m not defending the thesis proposed here about Luke drawing ideas from Josephus for Paul’s conversion. I haven’t examined whether it has any merit. I can say I am initially skeptical, since that account far more clearly derives from Tobit and Luke’s own Emmaus narrative, leaving very little to link to Josephus of any significance. But it’s at least plausible, given that we have mainstream evidence Luke did adapt Josephus on occasion. Possibly Mark did as well, unless the Jesus ben Ananias parallels (which I agree are credible) came from a source Mark and Josephus shared. Don’t forget that it is not crank to propose the Gospel authors employed the works of Josephus. That’s a mainstream theory, with ample background evidence and precedent. It is not Atwill’s theory, however.

      As to your second question, on how history is falsifiable: I don’t think you understand what falsification-in-principle means. Obviously, I dearly hope, Atwill admits there could in theory arise evidence refuting his theory. That makes it falsifiable-in-principle. If you are actually rejecting even that minimal standard, and actually saying you can claim to know things about history that can never, even in principle, be disproved, then you are farther off your rocker than I thought. You do realize if you a priori exclude even the possibility of evidence against any claim you make, that you can never know your claim is false even when it is? And that guarantees you will be trapped in delusions–delusions wholly undetectable to you, because you reject all evidence anything you believe is false.

      It is not possible “to evaluate relevant hypotheses against the evidence” if one of those hypotheses can never be ranked less likely than the others, even in principle. Meanwhile, showing that a hypothesis thus ranks less likely is falsification (by degrees, as all falsification in every empirical science is).

      Atwill can’t even get his facts straight (e.g. the Gadarene example is a travesty of false claims and inaccuracies), or do any math correctly (e.g. he never adjusts for multiple comparison fallacies). Why, then, do you defend him?

    • Rod Elliot says

      J Brown.
      But it does not mean that Saul/Paul and Josephus are one and the same person, or that Paul is a Christianized alter ego, or even that Josephus wrote the original versions of the Pauline epistles etc.
      ______________________________

      I think you have not chosen the best comparison between Saul and Josephus.

      The best similarity is that they appear to have been on the same shipwreck in the early AD 60s, and then taken to Rome to see Nero. Like every minor rebel from Judaea in this era had an audience with Nero.

      Oh, and Saul and Josephus appear to have shared the same scribe / assistant – Epaphroditus.

      And you will no doubt say that that Josephus was born too late to be Saul. But as others have pointed out, if Josephus had his bar-mitzvah in AD 51, then he could have travelled on all Saul’s evangelical missions as a man – under the guidance of Barnabas. This is especially so if you believe Eisenman, who says that the stoning of Steven happened in the early AD 60s.

      And Saul being Josephus does explain an awful lot, especially the similarities between Luke, Acts, and Josephus’ secular works. And this link would also tie in nicely with Atwill’s argument that Rome was manipulating the gospel story – because Josephus was Vespasian’s favorite Jewish puppet, who could and would write anything that Vespasian asked him.

      Somewhere at the top of this thread Richard Carrier said that the Romans could not fabricate something like the gospel story, as they knew nothing about Judaism. Come now, Richard – with Josephus in the pay of Vespasian, the Romans could have written anything they liked. Josephus wrote his own version of the Old Testament, so he was perfectly capable of writing a New Testament.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Richard,

      Isn’t this taking reviewing from ignorance to a new level: claiming to know what’s in a book that Atwill hasn’t even released yet? His theory about the authorship of the New Testament is more nuanced than you give him credit for, even in Caesar’s Messiah, and it’s evolving over time.

      Thanks for pointing out that the Josephus / Paul conversion narrative could possibly derive from Tobit. I’ll look into it.

      I think we’re more or less on the same page about the meaning of historical falsifiability. I would caution that when it comes to ancient history, there are massive problems with fraudulent archaeological artifacts, copying errors & late interpolations, and possibly even entirely fraudulent documents, not to mention the obvious bias of all the authors — so from a Bayesian perspective I would think it would be risky to put too much certainty on any single item. Thus, rather than “saying you can know things about history that can never… be disproved”, I would say that you can never really know anything about history at all, at least not to a certainty of P==1.000000. Maybe you can claim to know some things at P>.99 or much better, and maybe that’s good enough. It’s not like a lab experiment where you can determine the probability of some physical law like the probability a photon will go through a slit, to any arbitrary degree you want, just by repeating it often enough.

      That being said, I don’t see that there’s any problem evaluating Atwill’s hypothesis against any other New Testament authorship hypothesis, by evaluating the Bayesian posterior as you discuss in your book.

      When it comes to the New Testament authorship question, I’m not even sure whether the other hypotheses that are being discussed among mythicists are even in contradiction with Atwill’s theory. I think your argument is that the Gospels were sectarian literature within a broader Christian movement. I think Atwill would have to agree with that: the Roman Catholic church was certainly a Christian sectarian movement, and it wasn’t the only one. Acharya says the Gospels originated with Diaspora Jews in Alexandria, and Atwill would agree with that too (although Atwill would ask for an earlier date, and would point out that those Diaspora Jews who were in power in Alexandria were allied with the Flavians.)

      About the Gadara example, let me clarify that I think in the initial email dialog Atwill did make some errors which you were correct to point out. Absolutely yes, he misquoted and/or misunderstood Origen’s statement. So he screwed up in a private email. It happens. But over at his blog recently, he posted what appears to be the correct quote from Origen (implicitly acknowledging his error) and went on with quite a long follow-up discussion. I already gave you the link but I don’t think you took the time to read it. The gist is that archaeologists have recently discovered an ancient port facility that is most likely Gadara’s port; that numerous Gadarene coins (not just one) show ships; that some of the earliest extant mss give the Gadaraene reading; that there is no such scholarly consensus as you claim about this issue; that it’s ridiculous to be debating how far demon-infested swine can run to get to the sea anyhow.

      As to why I’m here to support Atwill — I’m working on a book in the “world meta-history” genre, and it’s going to include a chapter about Christian origins. In that connection, I’ve been communicating with Joe for awhile, and I consider him a friend. He’s not perfect — for one thing, Joe’s not a mathematician, and IMHO he should refrain from making mathematical claims of certainty about his hypothesis. But I hate to see him coming under such a heavy personal attack as you’re dishing out here.

      And I do think that the “Roman Origins” hypothesis is on the right track, and that Atwill’s reading of Josephus and the NT is fascinating — and my hunch (my bias, I admit) is that if we’re able to do the math it will prove him right.

    • says

      Isn’t this taking reviewing from ignorance to a new level: claiming to know what’s in a book that Atwill hasn’t even released yet?

      Are you saying his own description of his own book is incorrect?

      I would think it would be risky to put too much certainty on any single item.

      That diminishes the probability of all hypotheses, Atwill’s included. So this does not help him. That we cannot always be certain about history does not permit the conclusion that you can be certain about history. There is no safety in claiming all evidence is doubtful. All theories die by that sword.

      Otherwise, you are not saying anything I haven’t already myself argued. History is a question of comparative probabilities, not certitudes.

      I’m not even sure whether the other hypotheses that are being discussed among mythicists are even in contradiction with Atwill’s theory.

      They aren’t in contradiction with the theory that alien beings influenced the origin of Christianity, either.

      Needless to say, the standard for whether a theory is true (like “alien beings influenced the origin of Christianity”) is not whether it can be made compatible with other, more plausible theories. So whether Atwill can tool his theory to be compatible with others is not a sufficient principle.

      But it’s worse when it contradicts theories that are far more plausible than his, as for example theories that hold that Paul was telling the truth about how the cult began in 1 Corinthians 15 and about how he was converted to it in Galatians 1 and that the Gospels represent Judaizing attempts to compose missionary manuals decades later for an already-existing cult Paul had joined.

      Those things are far more likely, on both the evidence and prior probability. Yet by being true, they render his false. Axiom 10 (Proving History, p. 33).

      he misquoted and/or misunderstood Origen’s statement.

      And that was the only factual error I listed.

      Oh, wait. No it wasn’t.

      Nice try pretending that was his only mistake.

      He can’t even get the numbers involved to line up. (“Josephus says fifteen thousand men are killed and two thousand and two hundred are captured (JW 4.436). But in the swine story, 2000 are killed, not captured, and the number is again 2000, not 2200.”) Watch how he dodges that with so much handwaving. Can you not see how you are being duped?

      Indeed, you link to a page that contains endless ramblings by Atwill (10,000 words) that I am supposed to read. I am not an idiot. I’m not going to waste my time reading thousands and thousands of words that are proven bullshit. If he could cut to the chase of actual arguments and evidence, he’d be worthy of my time at least. But he has no valid arguments. So he clouds them in thousands of words, hoping to trick people like you. And waste the time of everyone, including me. I’m not falling for that.

      Yet you are falling for his baloney. Again.

      Atwill ignores the fact that the coins he now cites still all relate to a naumachia (a game), not a port. And all he finds are games the Gadarenes won a century and a half after the time in question. That proves nothing relevant to my point. (I can’t imagine why he thinks coins centuries later are relevant to my point at all. Or why you do.) And the “archeological finds” he cites don’t contain any evidence the port in question belonged to Gadara. It’s just a religiously based conjecture (the same way archaeologists keep claiming to have found the actual “house” of John the Baptist and other such nonsense). You ironically point out the unreliability of religiously biased readings of evidence, and then here buy exactly that, hook line and sinker. Why? You do the same when Atwill selectively finds religious believers who want to insist Gadara was the original reading largely because they want it to be and not because of any objective argument. Why is that credible to you? And nothing Atwill says about the manuscripts contradicts what I said about them. My arguments aren’t even being refuted. He is just ignoring what I actually said and trying to handwave his way to the conclusion he wants in exactly the same way Christian apologists do with evidence like this. Why can’t you see he is doing the exact same thing they do? Indeed, he’s totally snowed you if you actually thought Codex Alexandrinus is an “earliest” manuscript. It’s eighth century! [I was looking at the wrong ms.; Alex. is same as] Ephraem [which] is fifth century, but that’s still two centuries later than the manuscripts that I was referring to [= over two centuries later than the manuscripts known to Origen, and one papyrus we actually have; and almost two centuries later than the earliest mss. after that]. Did you not know this? Or did you for some inexplicable reason think it didn’t matter?

      Seriously.

      When do we stop wasting our time on this?

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hi Richard,

      Remarkably enough, Joe appreciated my support here so much that he asked me to do peer review on his upcoming book. The contents are very much in flux. So I wouldn’t say he even knows exactly what the book is going to say yet.

      I trust you’re joking about Paul “telling the truth” in 1 Corinthians and Galatians. But if the Gospels were simply Judaizing attempts: then why did they contain so much pro-Roman and anti-semitic content?

      I believe your point has been conceded, that the numbers of men and swine don’t line up between Josephus and the Gospels. I don’t see this as a problem. The parallel is largely at a conceptual level.

      Gadara was in exactly the same place a century and a half later as it was during the Jewish war, and so was the facility that seems to be its port, which is why the later coins are relevant. I don’t see why you think it wouldn’t be. The religious believers think that this port facility belongs to Gadara for the simple reason that it’s located in a logical position for that connection. Even a religious believer can draw reasonable conclusions from a map, why can’t you?

      Atwill also mentioned Vaticanus and (by implication) Sinaiticus, which are the earliest of the four uncials. No, I’m not sure what earlier mss you were referring to, because you didn’t say. But I do understand that the earliest mss are fragmentary and also relatively late, so it seems to me that any claim to a high level of certainty about the contents of the original autographs in the face of the extant variant readings, can’t possibly carry much weight. And if you’re going to do scholarship by headcount, I don’t see how you can reject the Christian scholars with extreme prejudice, while accepting all the namby-pamby “historical Jesus” advocates and liberal Protestants at face value.

      It seems like there’s a continual stream of interest in this topic, with new posters appearing regularly more than two months after you originally posted your critique. So I imagine your readers will determine when you can stop talking about it. I hope you don’t mind my jumping in when I see points where I can contribute to the discussion.

    • says

      So I wouldn’t say he even knows exactly what the book is going to say yet.

      How strange. So he might reject the conclusion that there are Josephan parallels in the Pauline Epistles that indicate Josephan authorship as they are supposed to for the Gospels? He certainly can’t agree with the mainstream conclusion that Paul wrote the Epistles in the 50s and still think his thesis can be true–since if Paul wrote the epistles in the 50s, as Paul says he did, then Christianity pre-existed the Flavian dynasty by decades. Instead, Atwill claims his new book proves the whole “New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats,” and that the Epistles were forged. So his thesis must at least be that the letters were forged by someone, at the behest of the Flavian cabal, to look like they dated to the 50s (I assume that’s the intention behind these remarks). But how would he prove that, if not by finding stamps of Josephus in the epistles? There must indeed be something radically else he will be arguing, if not that. Yes?

      I trust you’re joking about Paul “telling the truth” in 1 Corinthians and Galatians. But if the Gospels were simply Judaizing attempts: then why did they contain so much pro-Roman and anti-semitic content?

      Huh? You do know 1 Corinthians and Galatians aren’t the Gospels, yes? And that they show no knowledge of the Gospels or the Gospels’ peculiar content? And that the mainstream view is that the Gospels were written decades (in some cases half a century or even a century) after the Epistles, and long after Paul was dead and the church had been transformed over several generations, and that the canonical Gospels (which are the ones you are referring to; despite there being dozens of others) were selected by an anti-semitic Gentile sect of Christianity nearly two centuries after the cult began? Please tell me you didn’t just forget all that.

      I believe your point has been conceded, that the numbers of men and swine don’t line up between Josephus and the Gospels. I don’t see this as a problem. The parallel is largely at a conceptual level.

      Which is maximally subject to a multiple comparisons fallacy. If anything gets to count at such an abstract level, then we could prove Josephus wrote all the books in the history of ancient Greek literature. Once unique parallels are abandoned, no parallels can make causal connections probable.

      More importantly, how could Atwill have made this mistake in the first place, if he was at all trustworthy and competent? Why does he concede he was incorrect about these facts, facts crucial to his thesis, only after I caught him at it?

      Moreover, you keep ignoring all the mistakes he continued making in our discussion, as he repeatedly misread (or misrepresented?) the Greek in an attempt to rescue his claim, revealing again and again he doesn’t actually have any requisite competence in this field. For example, he said “‘Gadara’ is defined by Josephus as possessing territory “which lay on the frontiers of the Sea of Galilee” (Life ix, 42),” which is completely false, as I showed (in the article above).

      Gadara was in exactly the same place a century and a half later as it was during the Jewish war, and so was the facility that seems to be its port, which is why the later coins are relevant.

      Why are you continuing to link the coins to the port? There is no connection. The port contains no evidence of any link to Gadara; the coins mention no port. The coins only mention Gadarene victories in water games. Which any city could participate in, whether it was coastal or not. Why, then, do you continue to think the coins refer to a port, much less some random port some guy found that doesn’t contain any identifying contents linking it with Gadara?

      The religious believers think that this port facility belongs to Gadara for the simple reason that it’s located in a logical position for that connection.

      No, it isn’t. That’s my point. Saying such a thing is wholly specious. Why would a city have a port miles away from its borders? And how could Jesus and the pigs have been miles away from Gadara and still have been in Gadara? And why does Origen, a guy who was actually there, agree with me on both points? That Gadara had no port (which pretty well proves it didn’t, since if it did, he would have known it and said as much) and was miles away from the sea.

      How can you not see how ridiculous it is to maintain the absurd and wholly baseless claim that this port is Gadara? When Origen never heard of such a thing, despite having been there. When there is no evidence for it even now. And when it makes no sense for a city to have a port miles away from itself. Can you see why you are starting to look delusional here?

      Atwill also mentioned Vaticanus and (by implication) Sinaiticus, which are the earliest of the four uncials.

      Um, do you think he said those mss. read “Gadara”? Those are the ones who read Gerasa. They are in fact the earliest complete mss. we have; one a century earlier, a papyrus fragment, also reads Gerasa (not Gadara). Hence my point: he has tricked you into thinking he corrected me, when in fact he didn’t even contradict anything I said, but merely confirmed my point: Gadara is not the reading in any of the earliest mss. (except one instance, only in Matthew).

      I had some dates wrong in my previous comment, which I emended; here I give a complete chart of the extant readings up to the 5th c., in chronological order:

      MARK 5:1:

      4th c. Sinaiticus [aleph] = Gerasenes
      4th c. Vaticanus [B] = Gerasenes
      5th c. Washington [W] = Gergustenes
      5th c. Alexandrinus [A] = Gadarenes
      5th c. Ephraemi [C] = Gadarenes
      5th c. Bezae [D] = Gerasenes

      MATTHEW 8:28:

      4th c. Sinaiticus [aleph] = Gazarenes (later changed to Gergesenes)
      4th c. Vaticanus [B] = Gadarenes
      5th c. Washington [W] = Gergesenes
      5th c. Alexandrinus [A] = —
      5th c. Ephraemi [C] = Gadarenes (later changed to Gergesenes)
      5th c. Bezae [D] = —

      LUKE 8:26/37:

      early 3rd c. p75 = Gerase[nes] / Gerasenes
      4th c. Sinaiticus [aleph] = Gergesenes / Gergesenes (later changed to Gadarenes)
      4th c. Vaticanus [B] = Gerasenes / Gerasenes
      5th c. Washington [W] = Gadarenes / Gadarenes
      5th c. Alexandrinus [A] = Gadarenes / Gadarenes
      5th c. Ephraemi [C] = — / Gerasenes (later changed to Gergesenes)
      5th c. Bezae [D] = Gerasenes / Gerasenes

      If I continued the dates, we would see Gadara become increasingly more common a reading. Thus, the reading started as Gerasa, occasionally morphed into Gergesa, with one exception in the 4th century, and then the Gerasa reading started to be erased and replaced with Gadara over the ensuing centuries, thus indicating the order of distortion: Gadara was the corruption, which later scribes started preferring, changing all their bibles centuries later to agree with that, rather than the widest and earliest reading.

      The evidence for Gerasa as the correct reading is not merely decided by the fact that it’s the most common early reading (and it is, and is the only reading in all the earliest mss. but one, and becomes common only later, showing the trend in distortion was toward making Gadara the reading and not away from it) and becomes eclipsed only centuries later; there are other converging lines of evidence, including Origen’s testimony not only to the manuscripts, but the geography (conspicuously not mentioning Gadara having any port, and instead noting it was many miles away from the sea and could not be the location described in the few mss. he found that reading in), and the fact that Luke consistently reads Gerasa even as early as the 3rd century, yet Luke is copying from Mark and thus is thereby attesting to the earlier readings in Mark. Which thus corrects Matthew: since Matthew and Luke both were copying Mark, and all the earliest readings of Luke and Mark are for Gerasa or Gergesa, it is evident Matthew was the source of the corruption: had he copied Gadara from Mark, and Mark was later emended, then we would see Gadara in Luke, because Luke also copied from Mark (and IMO, from Matthew, per the Goodacre thesis, which would then mean Luke’s ms. of Matthew also read Gerasa, but that depends on the auxiliary theory of Goodacre); instead, we find Gerasa/Gergesa in all the earliest mss. of both Mark and Luke, which confirms Matthew is the one where a distortion to Gadara occurred, and yet not in the original of Matthew, but a later copy, since other traditions based on the original read Gergesa (including numerous later mss., which thus must be preserving the earlier reading in Matthew).

      Note that Josephus cannot be the cause of the changing of bibles in the middle ages to read Gadara. Yet it’s extremely unlikely medieval Christians revised the text to agree with Atwill’s thesis. And there is no evidence they did it because they had any knowledge of the original reading. Medieval Christians simply started preferring Gadara over more widely attested early reading of Gerasa, most likely because Gadara was a famous city, and Gerasa was not (and thus was probably unknown to medieval scribes).

      There is no sound case to be made for the contrary conclusion. Just the wishful thinking of religious traditionalists.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Richard,

      If this were a peer review process, this is where I would thank you again most profusely for all your comments, your time and effort, and your deep knowledge and wisdom.

      But since this isn’t exactly peer review, I can take the liberty of admitting that it’s getting difficult for me to be so polite as that — considering your ongoing stream of insults, misunderstandings, and cut-and-paste repetitiousness. But I can see there is some real effort here in what you’ve written, a sincere search for truth, and even some original thought and research. So when all is said and done, I really do appreciate the dialog.

      And I take it back about calling you lazy! That was ridiculous. What was I thinking?? Whatever else is going on here, you’re obviously very diligent and hard-working. Sorry.

      Now, on to your points.

      How strange. So he might reject the conclusion that there are Josephan parallels in the Pauline Epistles that indicate Josephan authorship as they are supposed to for the Gospels?

      “Caesar’s Messiah” argues for a Flavian origin for the Gospels. Furthermore, Atwill interprets Josephus JW 7,10 as an enigma or puzzle which, when solved, yields a confession that Josephus, Bernice and “Alexander” were the authors. In the “Flavian Signature” edition (2009) Atwill notes that “Alexander” could mean either Marcus Alexander or Tiberius Alexander, and that by extension the Josephus puzzle could possibly be interpreted to include other members of the Herodian, Flavian or Alexandrian families as well. Josephus is certainly a prime suspect for authorship of the Gospels, but Atwill’s book admits a broad swath of possible authors.

      The Josephan parallels in Acts and the Epistles are not a sign of Josephan authorship; on the contrary, the authors of Epistles and Acts were drawing a typological parallel between Paul and Josephus, who both played a role in the foundation of Christianity. Joe has an amazing new solution regarding Pauline authorship, and I don’t want to steal his thunder by giving away any more than that.

      Price’s new book “The Amazing Colossal Apostle” argues that the Pauline corpus has multiple layers, with some portions dating back to the 50s or even earlier, while other aspects can only be explained in terms of 2nd-century theological concerns. I’m trying to convince Joe that this is correct, and he seems receptive to the idea; and I’m inclined to agree that some form of Christianity existed before the Flavians. In fact I’d go further, and argue that the earlier form of Christianity was also a Roman-generated religion based on Julius Caesar, as Francisco Carotta explains in his book “Jesus was Caesar”.

      Huh? You do know 1 Corinthians and Galatians aren’t the Gospels, yes? And that they show no knowledge of the Gospels or the Gospels’ peculiar content? And that the mainstream view is that the Gospels were written decades (in some cases half a century or even a century) after the Epistles, and long after Paul was dead and the church had been transformed over several generations, and that the canonical Gospels (which are the ones you are referring to; despite there being dozens of others) were selected by an anti-semitic Gentile sect of Christianity nearly two centuries after the cult began? Please tell me you didn’t just forget all that.

      I’d mostly agree with everything you’re saying here, and I think Atwill would also. I’d add that the Gospels were clearly based on earlier sources which might date back to before 70 CE, and that the epistles continued to accrete some materials into the 2nd century. Constantine commissioned 50 copies of Scripture to be made in 331 CE, so there must have been some sort of concept of the Roman New Testament canon by then, as defined by the books included in those copies; but I think there was obviously a selection bias in favor of the four canonical gospels operating well before that.

      This isn’t my specialty so it’s easy for me to forget stuff, but I’m doing my best.

      [Conceptual parallel] Which is maximally subject to a multiple comparisons fallacy. If anything gets to count at such an abstract level, then we could prove Josephus wrote all the books in the history of ancient Greek literature. Once unique parallels are abandoned, no parallels can make causal connections probable.

      First of all, Richard, I want you to know that I do understand what you’re driving at here, and I’m sensitive to the problem. There’s a guy named Hoagland who claims that there’s a carving of a human face on the surface of Mars. When you look at his pictures you can see what he’s talking about, but the images are so fuzzy that I feel pretty comfortable believing he’s just seeing some randomly placed mountains and craters.

      Kids look in the clouds and see all kinds of things, and the man in the moon is a matter of folklore, but we grownups understand that it’s all a matter of imagination.

      I get that you think the same delusional process is happening here, that Atwill has conceived of a system of interpretation of the NT and Josephus that’s purely out of his own imagination, and that was not any part of the original intention of the authors.

      My answer is basically that Atwill’s conceptual framework is so powerful, and the number and variety of specific verbal parallels as well as conceptual parallels is so uncanny, that I feel very comfortable believing that he’s found something real. Joe tells me that out of everyone who takes the time to read the book, about 80% wind up agreeing with this. But until you read the whole thing, you just aren’t going to “get it”, nor even have any credibility in your claim that he’s wrong.

      I understand that there’s a high bar in terms of constructing a mathematical proof of this, and Atwill hasn’t met that burden — although in Caesar’s Messiah, Atwill was under the mistaken impression that he had constructed a proof. He knows better now.

      I don’t agree, however, that all parallels are equivalent at a conceptual level, or that everything is equally parallel to everything else. Atwill has even suggested a methodology for approaching this problem, starting in his interview with Price on the Infidel Guy in 2006. He suggested that you could construct an experiment using a number of readers looking at comparisons between various randomly selected paragraphs, vs. the allegedly parallel paragraphs, and observe what percentage of the readers select the alleged parallel as being, actually, the most highly parallel. He claims that he’s done this experiment with one of his parallels (I think it was the Gadara one) and found that 100% of his test subjects selected the Gadara pair as the most highly parallel from among a number of randomly selected (non) parallels. That’s amazing to me, especially considering how many people can’t even analyze the simplest of verbal parallels in IQ tests. But when Joe says this is what happened, I believe him.

      Also, this criticism of “multiple comparisons fallacy” hardly applies at all to Atwill’s “Flavian Signature” analysis. He’s not doing multiple comparisons, he’s doing sequential comparisons within a pair of specifically selected documents, and his parallels are completely dense covering the entire text of Luke books 4 through 21. Within that sequence, many of the parallels include direct verbal parallels of varying degrees of significance. The parallels don’t densely cover the text in Josephus, and some of them involve drawing in synoptic materials from the other Gospels and out-of-sequence works of Josephus, so there are some multiple comparison issues, but it’s not anywhere near as bad a problem as you’re implying.

      More importantly, how could Atwill have made this mistake in the first place, if he was at all trustworthy and competent? Why does he concede he was incorrect about these facts, facts crucial to his thesis, only after I caught him at it?

      The facts are exactly and correctly reported in the relevant chapter in Caesar’s Messiah, and they aren’t crucial at all to his thesis. If he made an error while quoting from memory in private email writing about something that doesn’t matter anyhow, frankly I don’t give a damn.

      Moreover, you keep ignoring all the mistakes he continued making in our discussion, as he repeatedly misread (or misrepresented?) the Greek in an attempt to rescue his claim, revealing again and again he doesn’t actually have any requisite competence in this field. For example, he said “‘Gadara’ is defined by Josephus as possessing territory “which lay on the frontiers of the Sea of Galilee” (Life ix, 42),” which is completely false, as I showed (in the article above).

      Well, the way this happened is that the esteemed Bruce Metzger in “A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament” wrote: “‘Gadara’ is defined by Josephus as possessing territory “which lay on the frontiers of the Sea of Galilee” (Life ix, 42),” and Joe quoted that. So if there was any error, it was from Metzger, and in what appears to be a peer reviewed publication, and I’ve seen it further quoted all over the place. Errors in publications by esteemed professors!! Imagine that. But, there may not be any error at all, because Tiberias is on the frontiers of the Sea of Galilee, and some of the villages of Gadara are also most likely on the coast as well. So nobody made any error in saying this, and quite frankly, Richard, you are coming across as nothing but an anal-retentive prick in this quest of yours to prove that there’s something wrong with Joseph Atwill.

      Why are you continuing to link the coins to the port? There is no connection. The port contains no evidence of any link to Gadara; the coins mention no port. The coins only mention Gadarene victories in water games. Which any city could participate in, whether it was coastal or not. Why, then, do you continue to think the coins refer to a port, much less some random port some guy found that doesn’t contain any identifying contents linking it with Gadara?

      Sheesh. The coins are linked to a port because water games happen in ports. They’re linked to Gadara because they’re Gadarene coins. The port at Tel Samra discovered by Mendel Nun, who says it’s linked to Gadara because he found Gadarene coins there, and because it’s the closest port to Gadara on the sea of Galilee. He further remarks that because of its grand facilities and spaciousness, this port is an ideal site for water games. All this was written up in what appear to be legitimate peer reviewed journals. Again, imagine that, an error in a peer-reviewed journal! But again, there’s no error, Tel Samra was Gadara’s port.

      Why would a city have a port miles away from its borders?

      Gee, why would Athens have a port at Piraeus? Because it’s miles from the water, and cities need ports.

      And how could Jesus and the pigs have been miles away from Gadara and still have been in Gadara? And why does Origen, a guy who was actually there, agree with me on both points? That Gadara had no port (which pretty well proves it didn’t, since if it did, he would have known it and said as much) and was miles away from the sea.

      Umm, let me think, what could this possibly mean… Gadara has a port, and yet Origen says it doesn’t. Well, Origen lived in Caesaria, which is really not that close if you travel by foot or horse-cart. So if he visited Gadara at all, he might not have been there long. So maybe Origen just didnt know Gadara has a port.

      Or, maybe Origen was trying to say that Gadara didn’t actually own the port; maybe the affiliation was more casual than that.

      Or maybe he was lying, because he was catching heat from somebody in his congregation who noticed the parallel to Josephus, and he was trying to weasel his way out of the problem. I really have no idea, and I’m certainly not saying that must have been the case — but it’s as good an explanation as any.

      The NT doesn’t say Jesus was in Gadara, he says he was in the land of the Gadarenes. So this is a non-issue, even given the fact that it’s ridiculous to even argue about how far demon-infested pigs can run to get to the ocean. You must think I’m really stupid if you think I’m going to buy this bullshit you’re trying to foist on me about Gadara. And maybe I am really stupid, to think it’s worth my time to be arguing with you about it. But here we are.

      I had some dates wrong in my previous comment, which I emended; here I give a complete chart of the extant readings up to the 5th c., in chronological order:

      Wow, even the great Richard Carrier made a mistake!! How could that happen?? I’m incredulous.

      But, this is interesting information. Thanks for gathering the data. Without actually drawing the scatter plot, it does look like there’s some sort of a trend here, and maybe it’s even statistically significant. It seems pretty dangerous to me to extrapolate a 4th & 5th century process back to the 1st century and guess what the original autograph says, but in the Bayesian world I guess we do what we can, and Gerasenes looks like the leading candidate. I’d be curious to see how that numerical analysis would turn out.

      Francesco Carotta has an alternative theory: that the original source said Ceraunians, because that’s where a parallel incident in the life of Julius Caesar occurred. But that made no sense in a Palestinian context, so the various New Testament scribes amended it in random ways according to their preference. That seems as reasonable as anything to me.

  73. Andrew Brown says

    Richard,

    A bit off topic, but on these comments you made earlier in this thread:

    “Paul is a Diaspora Jew, not a Palestinian Jew. And he was writing to Gentiles and Diaspora Jews. His missionary activity was entirely in the Diaspora (he founded no churches in Palestine). And he met a lot of friction over this from the original Apostles. He was also explicitly anti-elite (note his rants against the Pharisees, despite his having been one).

    “Josephus is Palestinian, but note that he typically wrote his books in Aramaic, and then only translated them into Greek for his Gentile audiences (we just do not have the Aramaic originals).

    “Thus, Christianity was a Diaspora movement, targeting Diaspora Jews with its documents and evangelism.”

    I do believe you think the gospels are theology (i.e., fiction), Acts is theology and legend (i.e., fiction) … exactly what reasons did the Christians then have to document supposedly real events (Paul’s “friction over this from the original Apostles”) in supposedly real “letters” in their scriptures? These people have no credibility. They made things up all the time. As you said in one of your videos, “The Christians were big-ass liars.”

    Christianity was indeed a Diaspora movement, but Jews weren’t the audience, God-fearing Gentiles were.

    And the note in Josephus about “Aramaic originals” is as ridiculous and false as “Hebrew originals” to Matthew. The fiction was told for the same reason, to establish authenticity, not to reflect reality.

    • says

      exactly what reasons did the Christians then have to document supposedly real events (Paul’s “friction over this from the original Apostles”) in supposedly real “letters” in their scriptures?

      This question is nonsensical. Other Christians didn’t “document” Paul’s letters. Paul wrote them. Then some later Christians selected some of the letters of Paul they felt were useful and kept them and used them to promote certain things (not necessarily the things Paul intended).

      As best I can tell, you are asking why I think Paul’s seven authentics (or six if we exclude Philemon, which I am sympathetic to but not convinced of) are actually authentic and not forgeries. I’ve addressed that elsewhere. There just isn’t any good case for forgery. They make little sense as forgeries and bear all the hallmarks of being written by one person who had no knowledge of the Jewish War or its outcome, or any of the Gospels, and who wrote letters so problematic for their preservers that they had to be cut up and stitched together by someone else who left out key sections (something a forger would not have to do, but someone wanting to spin some real letters their way would).

      Christianity was indeed a Diaspora movement, but Jews weren’t the audience, God-fearing Gentiles were.

      Not true. Several texts in the NT are actually hostile to Gentiles, unless they become Jews (as Torah law allowed, e.g. via circumcision). For example, Matthew, Revelation, and the Epistle of James. In fact, Luke-Acts is designed to try and smooth-over the conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christians (although favoring the Gentile side). And Paul’s letters are likewise full of the same mission. Galatians is all about reconciling the two factions, and reveals that he is the one who created the Gentile faction in the first place, and that Christianity before he came along was solely targeting Jews and Judaizers. The letter to the Romans is specifically addressed to Jews and Jewish Christians and attempting to explain why they should get along with Gentile Christians. So you are simply not correctly describing the New Testament.

      And the note in Josephus about “Aramaic originals” is as ridiculous and false as “Hebrew originals” to Matthew. The fiction was told for the same reason, to establish authenticity, not to reflect reality.

      You mean when Josephus says he wrote the Jewish War in Aramaic/Hebrew and later translated it into Greek, you somehow “know” he is lying? Why would he lie about that? (Remember, Josephus isn’t a Christian and has no connection with Christianity.)

  74. Rod Elliot says

    Richard:
    Sure. If we go off our rocker and make all sorts of bizarre and unjustified suppositions so far out of left field that we aren’t even in the ballpark anymore, then [insert any conclusion you want here].
    One must not have a mind so open their brains fall out.
    ____________________________________

    Yeah, I know. There was a crazy guy once, who proposed a spooky force that acted at a distance, with no connection between the two bodies whatsoever. Some nutter who delved into alchemy. Newton was his name.

    Back on topic, we are looking for a guy called Jesus. He was a bit of a revolutionary who started a new Judaean sect and managed to cause problems to the Judaean aristocracy and the Romans alike, something to do with taxation, and some of his followers called him the high priest. Anyway, he related a story about the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, and eventually managed to get himself crucified.

    We are told this guy lived in the AD 30s, but people have been searching for this famous guy for nearly 2,000 years and nobody has found him. Bit of a problem that, when you are searching for historical events.

    However:

    If we look in the AD 60s, we find a guy called Jesus, who was a bit of a rebel who led a new sect of Judaism and was in a tax dispute with both Judaea and Rome. He also became high priest in the early AD 60s, and according to Prof Robert Eisenman he married both Mary and Martha of Bethany (the high priest of Jerusalem had two wives). Anyway, this Jesus guy appears to have been a leader in the Jewish Revolt, when Jerusalem was laid siege to, and the three leaders of the Revolt were crucified, but saved by Joseph(us).

    Jesus of Gamala was his name, the brother of James and Simon. Sound familiar at all?

    Now really, one does wonder what kind of scholar would not take time to pause and consider the possibilities here.

    Cheers,
    Rod

    • Jerry Russell says

      No, Rod compared Eisenman and Ellis to Newton. Atwill has never claimed that Jesus of Gamala was to be equated with historical Jesus. Once again, Richard, you seem to be having reading comprehension difficulties.

    • says

      Oh, right. Now we’re defending Eisenman. By comparing him to Newton.

      In a comment on an article about Atwill.

      How far off the rails need we go before we realize we might need to stop and admit we might not be of sound mind?

    • Rod Elliot says

      Richard:
      How far off the rails need we go before we realize we might need to stop and admit we might not be of sound mind?
      _______________________________

      Richard, what you have done once more is deflect the question, so you don’t have to answer it. The point being made here, is that are many comparisons to be found between the biblical Jesus and Jesus of Gamala, and some of those comparisons are quite strong – as Ellis et al have pointed out. But you have avoided the question several times on this thread.

      So, once more. Is it really a large change to this ‘history’ – to relocate it 30 years later, when all these characters may well appear in the talmudic / historical record? Is that such a huge change, that you cannot contemplate it? What, after all, is this AD 30s chronology based upon? The mention of Pilate? And that is about it really. But there are many other arguments that point to and AD 60s date, including Jesus’ description of the siege of Jerusalem.

    • says

      Richard, what you have done once more is deflect the question, so you don’t have to answer it. The point being made here, is that are many comparisons to be found between the biblical Jesus and Jesus of Gamala, and some of those comparisons are quite strong – as Ellis et al have pointed out. But you have avoided the question several times on this thread.

      They are not relevant here–this is a comment thread about a critique of Atwill.

      It is amusing to see someone endorsing a derailing tactic complaining that I don’t take the bait and allow the comment thread to be thus derailed.

    • Jerry Russell says

      This is an entirely relevant topic, first of all because a central aspect of Atwill’s theory is that Biblical Jesus (that is, fictional Jesus) was thrown backwards in time exactly 40 years so that he could predict the events which came to pass in the Jewish War as reported by Josephus; secondly because Ralph Ellis stopped by to advocate for this aspect of Atwill’s theory in this thread way back at item 41 (but with his own wrinkle that Historical Jesus was a participant in the Jewish War); then Richard falsely attributed Ellis’ version of the theory to Eisenman before summarily dismissing it; and because Atwill studied with Eisenman in graduate school, and wrote an endorsement of Atwill’s book which appears on the jacket, and their theories do correspond in many important aspects.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Richard,

      Your evasiveness here is becoming quite transparent. Would you care to comment on Atwill’s time-shift theory? I believe his position is more or less as I stated: that Biblical Jesus (that is, fictional Jesus) was thrown backwards in time exactly 40 years by the Gospel authors, so that fictional Jesus could predict the events which came to pass in the Jewish War as reported by Josephus, with the 40 year delay required by the prophecies in the Book of Daniel. There’s an entire chapter specifically on this thesis in Caesar’s Messiah.

    • says

      Now you are starting to sound crazy. Why do you think that is at all relevant here?

      I am in fact entirely sympathetic to the case that Jesus was positioned in history because of reasoning like that. But that does not even imply Atwill’s theory is correct.

      Let me repeat that, since you seem not to understand it:

      That Jesus is mythical and positioned in history, relative to the end of the temple cult, by some religious reasoning, does not even imply Atwill’s theory is correct.

      Even if it’s true that Jesus is mythical and positioned in history, relative to the end of the temple cult, by some religious reasoning, it does not follow that any distinctive aspect of Atwill’s theory is correct.

      Atwill’s theory can be entirely false, and it could still be the case that Jesus is mythical and positioned in history, relative to the end of the temple cult, by some religious reasoning.

      That Jesus is mythical and positioned in history, relative to the end of the temple cult, by some religious reasoning, does not increase the probability of Atwill’s thesis at all, relative to any other mythicist theory.

      That Jesus is mythical and positioned in history, relative to the end of the temple cult, by some religious reasoning, is not evidence for Atwill’s thesis, at all, because it equally supports any and every other mythicist theory besides his.

      Get it?

    • Jerry Russell says

      Richard,

      I’m glad you agree with this time-shift hypothesis. Armed with this information, I’m surprised you say that you couldn’t do any better than downside odds of 1 in 3 that historical Jesus existed. I would think this is all you need to prove that Biblical Jesus is fictional, to any reasonable Bayesian expectation. And that historical Jesus, if he did exist, lived in ~70 AD rather than being crucified under Pontius Pilate.

      But let’s see how much farther you might be willing to go with Atwill. He argues that Josephus deliberately falsified his historical timeline and distorted the timing and even the sequence of events, so as to conform to his particularly jiggered interpretation of Daniel’s prophecies. He did this without explicitly identifying any candidate for who was this Messiah that was associated with the fulfillment of Daniel. Elsewhere, Josephus applied the Star Prophecy (from Numbers 24) to Vespasian, but nowhere does he draw the obvious conclusion that Titus was the Messiah who was acting out the end-time prophecy of Daniel.

      Of course, this exact same jiggered interpretation of Daniel is found in the Gospels, where Jesus is found making prophecies which are fulfilled like hand in glove in Josephus’ distorted chronology.

      Now, from a strictly mathematical / logical point of view, I suppose it’s possible that Josphus did indeed write the Wars based entirely on Old Testament sources, and that the Gospel authors copied the timeline from Josephus, and that Josephus was thinking only about Titus when he wrote his work, even though he forgot to mention it. But the idea that a Jew (any sort of Jew) would think that a Jewish Messiah would murder Jews by the hundreds of thousands and burn the Temple to the ground, is historically and literarily absurd.

      So, Atwill’s conclusion is that Josephus wrote his chronology of the Wars and its fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies, for the specific purpose of enabling the match with Jesus’ gospel prophecies.

      What do you think, Richard? Could there be something to that?

    • says

      I’m glad you agree with this time-shift hypothesis.

      !?

      Um…

      When did I agree with it?

      I would think this is all you need to prove that Biblical Jesus is fictional

      Everyone agrees the biblical Jesus is fictional (apart from fundamentalists). Bart Ehrman included. That’s the mainstream view.

      A historical Jesus who started Christianity in 70 BC would be a historical Jesus, not a mythical one.

      You don’t seem to grasp the distinction.

      But the idea that a Jew (any sort of Jew) would think that a Jewish Messiah would murder Jews by the hundreds of thousands and burn the Temple to the ground, is historically and literarily absurd.

      You haven’t read many Jewish apocalypses, then. They are all about how the messiah will kill all the bad Jews who have abandoned God and save the good Jews (who conveniently are the Jews who agree with the author of whichever apocalypse you are reading). And the book of Daniel says the Temple will be destroyed, and that that is part of God’s plan. That’s mainstream Jewish scripture.

      It seems clear to me by now that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    • says

      Except Christians are notorious for jiggering and poking the Daniel’s Seventy Weeks Prophecy: from 445 BCE when the Persian King Artaxerxes (?) issued the decree to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem, the Christian apologists, since Tertullian at least, count 483 360’s in order to reach either the date of his crucifixion or more often the start of his 3-1/2 year ministry. 483 years from 445 BCE gives us 39 CE (-445 + 483 +1 because of no zero year). Add another 3-1/2 years and you have him crucified under Claudius, which may be why Irenaeus stated Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, Procurator for Claudius! (Dem. Ap. Prch. 75)

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Richard,

      [time-shift hypothesis]

      !? Um… When did I agree with it?

      Where you said:

      I am in fact entirely sympathetic to the case that Jesus was positioned in history because of reasoning like that.

      So I’m left wondering what it is you’re sympathetic to, if it’s not the time-shift hypothesis as it’s been expressed here.

      In a recent blog post, you said that you spend two chapters in your upcoming book, defining what you mean by “historical Jesus”. And since your book isn’t out yet, I don’t see how you can fault me for not fully understanding all the nuances behind your use of the terminology.

      Would you say that if some individual “started Christianity”, then that person was a “historical Jesus” regardless of what year he lived in — whether 70 BC or 70 AD?

      It seems clear to me by now that you don’t know what you are talking about.

      It seems clear to me now that when you dish out an insult, that’s when you’re trying to pull the wool over my eyes, Richard…

      The way I read Daniel and the other prophets, there’s no problem recognizing who the bad Jews are. They’re the ones who turn away from Yahweh, and worship Baal and all the other Canaanite gods.

      And it isn’t the Messiah who destroys the Temple. It’s the people of the “prince to come”, whoever that is; but it isn’t the Messiah, because he’s been “cut off.” (Daniel 9:26). The Messianic Jews of 1st century Palestine were certainly not expecting a Messiah to come and destroy themselves.

      If what you’re saying is true, why didn’t all the Jews acclaim Titus as the Messiah, without any need for subterfuge whatsoever? He did destroy the Temple, right? Oh — the problem is, he didn’t save any of the “good Jews”, nor did he kill any Romans, as the Messiah was expected to do.

    • says

      Wow. You don’t know how English works.

      I don’t think Jesus existed at all. Thus, when I say I am sympathetic to the notion that such reasoning led to where he was placed in history, that has nothing whatever to do with your time shift hypothesis. It simply is agreeing that Jesus may have been placed in history in the 30s AD because of scriptural and theological reasoning like you suggested.

      Would you say that if some individual “started Christianity”, then that person was a “historical Jesus” regardless of what year he lived in — whether 70 BC or 70 AD?

      Uh, yeah. Historical is historical. If he existed, he existed. Why do I have to explain this to you?

      It seems clear to me now that when you dish out an insult, that’s when you’re trying to pull the wool over my eyes, Richard…

      The way I read Daniel and the other prophets, there’s no problem recognizing who the bad Jews are. They’re the ones who turn away from Yahweh, and worship Baal and all the other Canaanite gods.

      This is my favorite transition yet. You claim I was just insulting you, then immediately concede my refutation of what you just said (thus confirming I didn’t just insult you but actually made a valid and correct point) and move the goal posts by inventing on the fly a new explanation, as if you never had said the plainly false thing I just pointed out you said. If that’s not crazy, Jerry, what is?

      And it isn’t the Messiah who destroys the Temple.

      There is a good case to be made that that is indeed who the Prince is–as it is what the Prince does in Daniel 12: come from heaven and destroy the temple (when you line up the timeline in Dan. 12 with Dan. 9 it’s clear the archangel Michael is the same Prince in both). Notably, that is exactly how Mark and Matthew read the text–and Matthew was still Jewish when he wrote.

      But that’s irrelevant. God wanted the temple razed. It thus would not matter who did it. They would be an agent of God in result, no matter what.

      The Messianic Jews of 1st century Palestine were certainly not expecting a Messiah to come and destroy themselves.

      Yes, they were. Not literally exactly them-selves, of course, since each thought he would be among the chosen and thus saved; it was always those other Jews God intended to kill. But God was going to melt the earth in the end, and burn all enemies, Jewish and Gentile alike. This was standard Jewish messianism. Rabbis even invented the belief that we would be raised with wings so we could fly above the rubble of the ruined planet (melted temple and all) and ascend to the true temple in heaven that would replace all that. In Qumran, e.g. 11Q13, we have the messiah specifically doing or leading all the killing of the bad Jews. And likewise in other Jewish apocalypses.

      If what you’re saying is true, why didn’t all the Jews acclaim Titus as the Messiah, without any need for subterfuge whatsoever?

      Titus wasn’t a Jew. And nevertheless, some did indeed proclaim him (or rather Vespasian) the messiah.

      He did destroy the Temple, right?

      Not every messianic belief was identical. That some Jews expected or allowed that the messiah would do the destroying of the temple, not all Jews agreed or assumed that it would be literally by his hand, and a messiah had to meet a lot of other attributes than that–most particularly, raising the dead, and restoring the independence of Israel. Neither of which Titus did.

      And it is ridiculous that I have to explain these things to you. The mere fact that I have to is exactly what proves you don’t know what you are talking about. You are making shit up from the armchair, barely informed about anything, and not at all self-critical or even thoughtful. And when I point this out, you pretend your errors weren’t just exposed or even uttered, move the goal posts, and try to invent a new claim without ever admitting the mistake you just made.

      That’s insane, Jerry. Literally.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Richard,

      Uh, yeah. Historical is historical. If he existed, he existed. Why do I have to explain this to you?

      I think it’s an interesting point, because the way I read Ehrman, he feels that the historical Jesus needs to meet certain historical parameters (lived in Palestine ~30AD, brother James, crucified under Pontius Pilate, etc) to be worthy of the name.

      If “historical Jesus” is defined as “the historical creator or inspiration of Christianity” then doesn’t it follow that he must have existed in some form? That is, unless you argue that Christianity was invented by some sort of committee, or that it developed by such a long and convoluted evolutionary process that you couldn’t identify any single creator who had more than a small iota of influence.

      This is my favorite transition yet. You claim I was just insulting you, then immediately concede my refutation of what you just said (thus confirming I didn’t just insult you but actually made a valid and correct point) and move the goal posts by inventing on the fly a new explanation, as if you never had said the plainly false thing I just pointed out you said. If that’s not crazy, Jerry, what is?

      Not crazy, Richard, just being conversational. Although it’s not easy when I’m continually being insulted.

      The insult was the part where you said I don’t know what I’m talking about, because I haven’t read enough Jewish apocalypses. And this isn’t my specialty, so it’s true that I haven’t read a great many of them. But I have read Daniel and Revelation, and that should be enough to hold my own in the conversation at this level.

      The thing I originally said wasn’t “plainly false”, but based on your remarks I would certainly re-write it to clarify that I didn’t mean it the way you interpreted it. Or in other words, please consider it a flawed first draft. I don’t consider it necessary to grovel before you if I fail to achieve the level of academic precision you’d like to see.

      Rabbis even invented the belief that we would be raised with wings so we could fly above the rubble of the ruined planet (melted temple and all) and ascend to the true temple in heaven that would replace all that. In Qumran, e.g. 11Q13, we have the messiah specifically doing or leading all the killing of the bad Jews. And likewise in other Jewish apocalypses.

      Fascinating — thanks for that information. There’s a place in the world for specialists, Richard.

      some did indeed proclaim him (or rather Vespasian) the messiah.

      Indeed, and this is one of Atwill’s key points (not that he’s the first to ever notice by any means.) The ones who proclaimed Vespasian the Messiah were Josephus, and Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, as well as a few assorted Roman historians. Neither Josephus nor Zakkai would fit the profile of a typical messianic Jew of the time.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Ed M,

      In “Caesar’s Messiah”, Tertullian (“E.U. Chapter 8″) is the very source given for the count of 483 years from the construction of the 2nd Temple under Darius, to its destruction under Titus. Sulpcius Severus’s “Sacred History” (403 AD) is given as an alternative source.

      I don’t doubt that Christians have since re-evaluated this calculation to point to Jesus’s ministry, since the evaluation pointing to Titus as the fulfillment of the prophecy is seriously incriminating. As to when the 483-year clock starts, there is the ambiguity about whether to count from the reconstruction of the temple, or the reconstruction of the walls; and whether to count from the authorization or the completion of those projects. Also, according to Wikipedia, there’s a wide range of variance of estimates as to when all these events occurred.

      But, I’d be interested to trace when the Christians re-evaluated these dates. Are you sure it was Tertullian, and if so, do you happen to have a reference?

    • says

      Sure. Go to Newadvent.org, [Church] Fathers, Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, ch. 8. Tertullian discusses the seventy “hebdomads” or weeks in that chapter. Tertullian appaears to have some goofy and confusing ideas about the seventy weeks, but apparently I was mistaken about him saying it statred with Artaxerxes and it was seventy weeks of 360-day stretches.

      http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0308.htm

    • says

      I found it! And Aye-yi-yi! How J. Africanus compressed 490 years into 475 is enough to make your head spin! And 490 *normal* 365-1/4 day years from his starting date land you in the reign of Claudius Caesar. Now I have an inkling why Irenaeus stated Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Claudius Caesar! (Dem. Apost. Preaching 75)

      And here’s Julianus’ timeline:

      It is by calculating from Artaxerxes, therefore, up to the time of Christ that the seventy weeks are made up, according to the numeration of the Jews. For from Nehemiah, who was dispatched by Artaxerxes to build Jerusalem in the 115th year of the Persian empire, and the 4th year of the 83d Olympiad, and the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes himself, up to ibis date, which was the second year of the 202d Olympiad, and the 16th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, there are reckoned 475 years, which make 490 according to the Hebrew numeration, as they measure the years by the course of the moon; so that, as is easy to show, their year consists of 354 days, while the solar year has 3651/4days. For the latter exceeds the period of twelve months, according to the moon’s course, by 111/4 days. Hence the Greeks and the Jews insert three intercalary months every 8 years. For 8 times 111/4 days makes up 3 months. Therefore 475 years make 59 periods of 8 years each, and 3 months besides. But since thus there are 3 intercalary months every 8 years, we get thus 15 years minus a few days; and these being added to the 475 years, make up in all the 70 weeks.

      (Extant Writings, Fragment 16)

  75. says

    Lets Look at the paralells with Jesus at galilee and Titus at galilee(Titus is the second-half or vice president with his father Vespasian of the Flavian Emperors,) Titus starts his galilean campaign withe the words to his soldiers
    and exhorts them to not desrt him, jesus tells his disciples to not be afraid, and joshepus works in war of the Jews, is what i am paralalling with the nt, any way the soldiers are somewhat intimadated by the jews waiting in plainsight for them, and titus exohorting them to not desert him is like saying do not be afraid, which is what jesus in the nt said to his disciples, then titus says and this is all paraphrase”to my onset I will go first as I always do” in otherwords ” follow me” jesus in the new testament tells his disciples to follow him.

    Richar carrier, I saw your video on youtube where you said that the way jesus told the fishermen to follow him was a proff, that the new testament was myth becase people dont act like that, well if you were oin the flavian roman circle, you would know that these fishermen in one sense was titus’ military and tha was him exohrting them.

    Then when they engage in battle at the gallilee, then Titus is met by a Jesus soon of shopat, who is this well the son of shophat in the old testament was Elijah, a definite type that jesus was a type too.

    then this jesus ben shopat was described as on popular with mariners(fishermen) and the poor, who all does this sound like to you…gotta go cause my library time is out

  76. hugo2 says

    Hello Richard,

    i already believe jesus is a myth, mostly after reading Ken Humphreys jesusneverexisted website. i am not saying i like his propagandist style and lack of scholarship references, but for me, it was an introduction to the historical context and processes that could have generated the jesus myth. however, the huge amount of circumstantial evidence plus my own atheist bias is enough to be sure jesus IS A myth with almost not historical core if any.

    I am also a complete amateur and get completely lost trying to follow these biblical scholar debates and defenetly i dont want to aquire the huge amount of knowledge I need to properly judge them, i rather focus in other interests. that said, i came across this ceasarmessiah theory and i found it quite interesting and a possible solution to the genesis of at least some gospels and christianity. the basis of the theory, is that typologies are found both in mostly matthew gospel and josephus war on the jews. as i understand it, the name of the places, characters and so on, don’t have to be exact between both. so, if you have similar stories even if vaguely, found in the same sequence, then, we can use some kind of statistical analysis to confirm the odds of it being intentional or not. i see this site:

    http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com/nearverbatim.htm

    to have so many connections, in the same order, even if you doubt many, is at least statistical significant no? what are the odds on this? can we make such correlation between any 2 works of literature? can this be proven and disproven just mathematically instead of reading boring “my greek is better than yours” arguments? i dont say this to dismiss your knowledge, but please, try to make a mathematical argument like these for us mere amateur mortals of biblical studies, because unfortunately, linguistic arguments and appeals to authority and other ad hominems so common in these debates wont convince me and others like me of nothing.

    also, you might claim there is thousands of such bogus stuff out there that dont deserve your full attention, but, if a certain swindler attracts so many amateurs,, and all the “illuminated” can do is dismiss the core of the arguments mostly with ad hominens , then thanks for nothing i guess.
    Hugo.

    • says

      His statistical math is invalid (as I note in the article above, with link, he commits multiple comparison fallacies, among other things) and his facts are often wrong (he forces a fit when none exists, e.g. the Gadara case, the Alexandrian fish case, etc.). So he is basically scamming you. Possibly he is delusional and doesn’t realize he is scamming you. But a scam is what it is.

      As to your last point, I demonstrate his logical and factual errors extensively above. Please identify anywhere where there even is an ad hominem argument in my article (as in, an actual fallacy, which is an argument to a conclusion, and not the conclusion of an argument). And then show how such a thing is the “core” of my “arguments.”

      Failing that, accept what’s really going on here: Atwill is dishonestly or delusionally engaging in mathematical fallacies and false reporting of the facts.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hello Hugo2,

      As you’re evaluating this, you can compare Richard’s analysis of Gadara and the Alexandrian fish case with Richard’s, and I’m sure you’ll see that Atwill is correct as far as the facts are concerned.

      Atwill is clearly not a mathematician, but please note that Richard hasn’t proven his case mathematically either. All he does is wave his hands and claim “Multiple Comparison Fallacy” and then fall back on his abundant ad hominems.

  77. Brian Jones says

    In Jwoj, titus tells his troops to not desertt him for fear of jews, and that “he” titus flavius, to his onset(start) will go first, in other words, dont desert me is dont be afraid, and To my onset(start) I will go first, jesus in the new testament says,”dont be afraid,follow me” now dont desert me of titus in jw sounds alot like dont be afraid, why else would his troops desert him, as it is explained in jw, they(his troops) saw the jews some outside of the city, and got somewhat intimidated, so titus gave his speech and “to my onset I will go fisrt, sounds like follow me in nt, this is all paraphrasd. Keep in mind this is all happening at sea of galilee, where jesus’ first arrival and titus’ campaign toward Jerusalem. Now Titus meets of all people, one Jesus son of shopat, who is shopat, but elijah for elisha was the son of shopat, now we got an old testament type that was used as one of the ot god-men that jesus was a typology of. Not,only that, but this Jesus son of shopat was said from JW to be popular with mariners(fishermen) and the poor, who else is this a reverse typeology but to oleJC himself, it gets more satirical, now as jesus tells his disciples they they will fish for men, or in luke or matthew, it says, nt that is, that the apostoles will catch men, now in the sea battle between titus and jesus son of shopats sailors, the roman boats sunk the messianic jewish vessels led by jesus, and the romans caught them up from the midst of the water amd cut off their head and hands, just like fishing, or catching men, now that is just too much and cant easly be explained away. I saw on a video you did on youtube you said that one way you know that jesus was fake is because the way he tld his apostles at sea of gallilee to come follow him and they came, and people just dont act this way in real life, well, if you are a first century roman, before all the 2000 yr fog, of an assumed christianity, you would these men were a metaphore for Titus’ soldiers just following orders and following their general besides, paul names Epeaphorditis as his fellow soldier in the supposed buddng early pauline church, and Joshepus gives the same Epaphorditis the same type of praise and names him as the publisher and patron of all his works, now if Joshepus knew epep, and if epap really was achristian, dont you you think he would have told joshepus, unles they were fellow conspirators in the jesus fabrication as jdissertation on hades sounds exactly like pauls celestial body ideology, paul was made up as was jesus more later, oh and by the way, this is the smoking gu

  78. Davewhatever says

    Thanks for going into the Josephus Mary story here. I had found it interesting and actually found your post looking for more commentary on it. Eleazar looks like a nephew of Moses also which fits with your interpretation that it refers back to the OT.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Hi there Joe,

      Richard asked me above “why am I here defending Joe Atwill”, and I ‘fessed up that we’ve known each other for awhile.

      Now that you’re here, I’d like to turn the question around and ask Richard Carrier the same question. In item 5 above, Carrier mentions that he really didn’t want to be doing this, but “I was directly asked by several atheist celebrities that I really need to do a write up on this, and now. So I did.”

      So I’d like to ask Richard: who were those “atheist celebrities” who put you up to this? And why can’t they take this on themselves, if it’s so important?

    • says

      I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that you think people who aren’t qualified in a field are the ones who should be writing expert opinions in it.

      Otherwise I can’t fathom why you think I even need to answer your question.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Apparently these “celebrities” felt sufficiently qualified to badmouth Joe behind his back, and recruit your assistance. In a court of law, it’s considered fair for the accused to meet their accuser face to face. But apparently scholars don’t operate by that code of honor.

      Or perhaps your friends did ask you in a more kind-spirited way, to review Joe’s arguments. If so, I would think they would be disappointed in the job you’re doing. A minimum standard of competence in a book review would be to at least read the book. Or did your professors in graduate school teach you otherwise? If so, shame on them.

      In an ideal world, peer review should be about scholars helping each other hone their arguments, rather than striving for one-upmanship and dishing out insults. But if your friends the “atheist celebrities” were just looking for you to do a quick and dirty hatchet job, you did give them that.

    • says

      these “celebrities” felt sufficiently qualified to badmouth

      Funny how you assume they didn’t instead just ask me what I thought about it and to write it up for the public good. Instead, you assumed they “badmouthed” Atwill for some unstated reason and somehow (?) commissioned me to attack him.

      That’s paranoia. You should see to that.

      They were skeptical, as anyone ought to be who isn’t an expert and is faced with a claim wildly against the consensus of experts in a field and claiming to new miraculous knowledge about the ancient world. But they didn’t assume my answer to their query would be what it was. If I had told them his argument had merit, they would have wanted me to write that up as well.

      As to your stupid taunting, I’m not falling for that shit. I’ve explained in the article you are commenting on why we should not waste our time reading books by people who can’t even get basic facts right when given ample opportunity to make their case. There are millions of pages of bullshit like this. We cannot read it all. And it is stupid to expect we should. We have to have a standard of efficiency. I explained that standard in the article. It is a thoroughly reasonable and entirely necessary standard. Atwill failed to meet it. Period. He proved himself incompetent. He proved himself unworthy of any further attention.

      If you don’t understand that, re-read my article until you do.

      Otherwise, your continued failure to get it is making you look delusional.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Richard,

      First of all, you’ve confirmed my suspicion that your “celebrity friends” were skeptical of Atwill’s views. I hope you’re correct that the reasons they asked you to write a review were as you stated.

      Did you read my second paragraph, where indeed I already offered the alternative view that perhaps your celebrity friends asked you in a kind-spirited way, to review Joe’s arguments? If that’s what happened, perhaps the reason is that Joe is getting a lot of attention and his book is selling really well, and the video documentary is getting a lot of views. Public opinion seems to be doing an end-run around this scholarly peer review process that you put so much trust in. And I think perhaps that’s a good thing.

      We’re not here talking about “millions of pages of bullshit like this”. We’re talking about one particular book, that seems to be a best seller in its field, and that makes a lot of sense to me.

      None of your arguments have demonstrated to me any incompetence on Atwill’s part. Whereas your refusal to even read the book that you’re claiming to review, is a sure sign of laziness at the very least.

    • says

      you’ve confirmed my suspicion that your “celebrity friends” were skeptical of Atwill’s views.

      That you think people shouldn’t be is disturbing. Do you not agree that any radical new theory against all mainstream consensus should be approached with initial skepticism?

      We’re not here talking about “millions of pages of bullshit like this”. We’re talking about one particular book, that seems to be a best seller in its field, and that makes a lot of sense to me.

      Now you are getting Narcissistic. Do you not realize that for every Atwill there are a hundred other crackpots asking me to read their books and manuscripts? And there ten times more than that, whom I know about, but who just haven’t bothered emailing me yet.

      Atwill is one of thousands of crackpots with hundreds of thousands of words they insist I read. That adds up to millions of pages, in print and online.

      That is why experts like me need an efficient vetting procedure. We cannot read every crackpot’s book. We simply don’t have the lifespan to try, nor would anyone consider it a useful expense of our time.

      Thus, we use a time-saving method of vetting piece-by-piece to confirm the person making a radical claim knows what they are talking about and has any evidence supporting them. When, instead, they show, five times in a row, that they don’t know what they are talking about and are getting numerous facts wrong and don’t actually have any evidence supporting them, we know we needn’t waste any further time on them. We can then move on to someone who actually deserves our time.

      Atwill had his shot. He blew it. Spectacularly. And he has done nothing to rehabilitate himself. All he does is handwave and distort and ignore the actual mistakes I called him out on and why they entail his conclusion has no support. That he cannot even see this is why he is a crackpot.

      And that you cannot understand any of what I’ve just said establishes you as delusional. You are astonishingly resistant to grasping facts or logic. You can’t even grasp why this vetting procedure is the only reasonable procedure an expert can employ (otherwise we’d have to read millions of pages of bullshit, every crackpot’s book ever written), nor will you even admit how spectacularly Atwill failed to pass this most basic test, even though I gave him numerous tries. Nor will you admit that his failing this basic test is sufficient grounds for us to dismiss him. Until he passes it. But so far, he hasn’t. Even his latest attempt to rehabilitate himself only shows he still cannot pass that basic test. He is instead resorting to the same fallacies of cherry picking, retrofitting, red herring, straw man, ad hominem, and presenting no new facts that challenge anything I said (although he has duped you into thinking he has).

      It is because you can’t even see that this is what’s happening, that I can only conclude you are trapped in a serious delusion, which prevents you from admitting the truth even to yourself.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Now you are getting Narcissistic. Do you not realize that for every Atwill there are a hundred other crackpots asking me to read their books and manuscripts? And there ten times more than that, whom I know about, but who just haven’t bothered emailing me yet.

      Atwill is one of thousands of crackpots with hundreds of thousands of words they insist I read. That adds up to millions of pages, in print and online.

      That is why experts like me need an efficient vetting procedure. We cannot read every crackpot’s book. We simply don’t have the lifespan to try, nor would anyone consider it a useful expense of our time.

      I wasn’t going to answer this, because to some extent I would be repeating myself. But it’s possible that you didn’t understand me, so this could possibly be a “teaching moment” if I’m able to get my point across to you.

      Your argument would have made perfect sense back in 2005, when Joe was one of a million struggling authors. I do take a little bit of narcissistic pride in that I first noticed his book when it was self-published and out of print, and I paid almost $100 for a used copy because I was interested in Roman Origins theories.

      Joe finally got Robert Price to do a review, and he did read the entire book. He allowed as to how Joe had some good points, and that the Roman Origins theory might have some truth to it. On the other hand, he also pointed out some serious errors, and he had the same objection as you do about the “parallelomania” in Joe’s book. So the interview basically came across as a hatchet job, and it’s taken Joe awhile to recover from the damage. Joe’s 2009 edition of the book is a big improvement over the earlier edition, probably as a result of all the criticism he’s taken.

      But now, Joe is giving symposia in London to mob-size crowds, his book is a best-seller in the field, his documentary is getting a ton of views, Dawkins is tweeting him, and in short he’s a way bigger “atheist celebrity” than you are, Richard.

      So at this point, if you want your “atheist celebrity” friends to be proud of you, Richard, you’re going to have to come up to a higher standard of criticism. I’m sure there are still problems in Atwill’s book, and maybe you can find some. But all this nitpicking of yours just makes you look like an idiot. You’d best go read the book, if you care at all about your reputation.

    • Rod Elliot says

      Jerry Russel:
      So I’d like to ask Richard: who were those “atheist celebrities” who put you up to this? And why can’t they take this on themselves, if it’s so important?
      ______________________________

      Just as interesting, is why would an “atheist celebrity” be worried by Atwill’s book. Surely an Atheist would be delighted if the gospels were proven to be fictional. At a guess, these are not really Atheists, are they? But it would be much better if an Atheist were to challenge the book and its author, than, say, a devout Mormon.

    • says

      I am disturbed by the paranoid style of thinking here.

      “Everyone is skeptical of a radical new theory and want it to be checked by experts and those experts to report to the public, one way or another, for everyone’s benefit…therefore everyone is afraid we’re right and out to get us.”

      That’s insane. And I mean that seriously. This is paranoia, a form of insanity.

      It’s all the worse that you think “the gospels were proven to be fictional” = “Jesus didn’t exist,” an illogical inference even atheists have been refuting for decades; it’s actually an increasingly common mainstream view that “the gospels were proven to be fictional,” and mainstream experts know that that does not mean Jesus didn’t exist, only that the hagiographies spun about him are fiction–this has been shown again and again in peer reviewed academic journals and books–yet you seem to think “the gospels were proven to be fictional” is some sort of new scary idea rejected by mainstream experts. That is another symptom of paranoia.

    • Rod Elliot says

      Richard Carrier:
      That is another symptom of paranoia.
      ———————————–

      That is your only rebuttal to everything, isn’t it – paranoia.

      No, Richard, paranoia is keeping your reasons for debating Atwill’s book a secret, and thinking everyone is out to get you. It makes people support Atwill, even if they were not going to do so. Or cannot you see that?

    • says

      It’s not a rebuttal. It’s an observation. One that should worry you. You have no basis for your fears. Yet you see enemies everywhere, and you dismiss all criticism as enemies out to get you, rather than you just being wrong. That insulates you from ever discovering when you are wrong.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Richard,

      I can certainly understand why this seems paranoid. But, can I assume that you’re familiar with all the evidence that the CIA and other agencies do make organized efforts to influence what’s discussed in the media, and that they do indeed have shills on the payroll? If you don’t know this, you have some reading you really need to be doing, and I could get you started with a few links.

      Since you mentioned that you only decided to do this because certain celebrities encouraged you to do it, this could represent an opportunity to do actual research to find out what’s going on, and whether there actually is a whispering campaign against Joe that’s being organized at some official level. This doesn’t need to happen in public, or you could make some inquiries yourself if you don’t want me or Joe nosing around.

      But since you’ve refused to answer my simple question, we can only speculate as to why your friends asked you to write about Atwill, or why you agreed. It can’t be any fun for you to be here arguing with “delusional idiots” like me, and I doubt that you’re getting paid for it.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Richard,

      Here’s a quiz for you: do you have any idea how large the combined budgets of the CIA, NSA, FBI and Homeland Security might be? You can be sure it’s a very large number, though I’ll bet you can’t find out just how large it is.

      It’s not paranoia to be wondering what on earth they’re doing with all that cash.

      But in answer to your question: no, I don’t think the CIA is working with you or even any of your atheist friends. If any of you were, you should be getting a lot more money.

      But I still would like to know why there has been this broad-spectrum attack against Atwill lately. It’s not just you who’s attacking him, and this isn’t the first time Joe ever did a press release. Like I say — if you don’t investigate, we’ll never know.

      My guy is more famous than you because he has more money therefore he’s right?

      No. My guy is more famous than you, therefore your superficial understanding of his work and your nitpicking attacks on his minor errors in private emails, should no longer be sufficient to satisfy those atheist friends of yours who asked you to come up with a critique.

      If you don’t care about your reputation, you can keep right on scoffing.

    • says

      [Oh. My. Gods. He literally, actually just wrote that. The CIA is out to get Atwill, and proving Atwill makes numerous fundamental logical and factual errors is just “nitpicking,” and my extensively investigating and confirming this is “not investigating” and so I’ll “never know” if Atwill makes fundamental logical and factual errors. This is full-on tinfoil hat, people.–RC]

    • CCK says

      Re:

      Tinfoil hat, the poster has it all wrong. The top US military brass is largely Dominated by what Seymour Hersh described as radical Catholics, loyal to Dick Cheney. Further, the CIA was inundated by Mormons in the 80s per the New York Times. If anything, these organizations want you to believe in whatever makes it easier to control you, whatever makes you more of an unquestioning, obedient, little authoritarian who works well with the system (eg, forks over your earnings to Wall Street by one or more methods provided). They also probably want you to think there’s a giant atheist conspiracy. Atheists have a great deal of trouble just getting elected to office. Finally, don’t worry. George W. Bush is currently spending money trying to convert Jews to Christianity in order to facilitate the end of the world. So…sleep well Christians. Not so much atheists.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Richard,

      Who is it that’s having trouble reading English here?

      In my opinion, you haven’t shown that Atwill has made any logical or factual errors at all, aside from completely trivial errors in private emails. That’s why I say you’re guilty of “nitpicking”. Your critique fails to even rise to the basic competence level of reading Atwill’s book to see what he’s saying.

      What I say you’re refusing to investigate further, is: why has there been this concerted attack on Atwill from many sources, and why are your “atheist celebrity” friends calling you? Is there a CIA agent at the bottom of this?

      “Tin foil hat” is the standard insult that’s hurled at people investigating elite criminality. People who don’t believe Oswald killed JFK alone, or that Bin Laden did 911. Par for the course, also, for people who would dare to suspect that the Romans invented Christianity.

      I’m used to it, Richard. Bring it on.

      By the way, here’s the scenario on Epaphroditus: Nero was found dead, and Epaphroditus was holding the bloody knife. Epap said Nero told him to do it.

      In your mind, is that where the investigation stops?

    • says

      you haven’t shown that Atwill has made any logical or factual errors at all, aside from completely trivial errors in private emails.

      That you think those errors are trivial is why you are insane.

    • Jerry Russell says

      To CCK, I’m not sure who you’re saying “poster has it all wrong”. If the Roman Origins theory is correct, and can be defended persuasively, wouldn’t “radical Catholics” and Mormons be threatened by that? Not that I believe it’s very likely that the CIA is actively, consciously, intentionally organizing this attack on Atwill — I think, on the contrary, it’s more likely happening on a self-organizing model, as Richard is arguing.

      Richard, let’s keep thinking about the CIA & military intelligence, with all their radical Catholic, Mormon and evangelical connections. Could it be that they or their Wall Street cronies are funding some of those nice Temple Priesthood positions (er, I mean, academic appointments) that you are so respectful of? Could this be part of the reason why the so-called “peer reviewed literature” on the topic of, say, the historicity of Jesus Christ: is ultimately such a completely worthless pile of drivel, for all its great learning and precision?

      You also didn’t answer the question about Epaphroditus. We’ve already established here that you think I’m insane, so tell me something I don’t know already.

  79. Kilian Hekhuis says

    “Do you not realize that for every Atwill there are a hundred other crackpots asking me to read their books and manuscripts?”

    “Atwill is one of thousands of crackpots with hundreds of thousands of words they insist I read.”

    Though both undoubtedly true, the main difference between Atwill and most of the other crackpots is that he has gotten some international media exposure, often very uncritical exposure. I’m not saying that therefore, Richard Carrier should read the book and debunk it sentence by sentence, but that could be a good reason to do so, and not for all the others.

  80. ingas says

    Paul’s letters are characterised by writing of extraordinary power, beauty and complexity. Only repeated reading, study and reflection can bring this out. I don’t see how anyone could have had his letters written ‘to order’. The idea that even ‘the Romans’ could have conjured an author of the stature of Virgil out of the air to write something they didn’t believe is not credible. Is it possible that someone wishing to deceive could have come up with Paul’s passage on love in 1 Corinthians 13? Or his ironic treatment of foolishness and boasting in 2 Corinthians 11? Or the famous passage on the resurrection of the body in 1 Corinthians 15? Paul’s writing is also often highly concentrated and this makes it challenging even for many Christians to understand. It is easy to gloss over important theological assertions. The greeting alone in the first six verses of Romans 1 contains over 20 tenets of Christian doctrine. Ronald F. Hock’s essay ‘Paul and Greco-Roman Education’ in J. Paul Sampley’s ‘ Paul in the Greco-Roman World’ (2003) gives very useful insights into the level and depth of Paul’s level of education in Greek and rhetoric, and it is this, combined with the power and intensity of his faith and mission that have fascinated and inspired Christians for 2000 years.

    • says

      Yeah! Josephus and other highly educated Greco-Roman, Judaic, writers, you make Atwill’s point exactly, it’s too good to be from just any Jewish Rabbi.

    • says

      Atwill argues it was all directed by Titus (he originally even argued it was all written by Titus). Who was of course an erudite Jewish rabbi. Oh wait, no he wasn’t.

  81. says

    Are you saying that I am crazy for pointing out that there is an Epaphorditus, which shows up as Paul’s fellow soldier and courier , that he(Paul) so praised beyond almost any other of his disciples in the NT, and a Epaphorditus courier for Nero, who also seems to be the man That Joshepus praises in Vita and against the Greeks , as his(Joshepus)patron is not in Joshepus. True there is said to be two Epaphorditus’ but careful scrutiny shows easily that he is one and the same, Here is proff from Proff. R. Eisenman concerning said subject since we can only publish one item at a time, if I am allowed I will post the biblical and Joshepan places for this.

    In the midst of the war in Judea, Nero is assassinated. Among those accused of having a hand in this would appear to be our Epaphroditus, Paul’s associate and the focus of our discussion, whom he calls in Philippians 2:25: his “brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier”,his (not “Jesus”‘) “Apostle” – a man (Josephus tells us in his dedication to The Antiquities), who “participated in many important events”. Though some might object to this tripartite identification, not only do Suetonius and others affirm that Epaphroditus was Nero’s secretary – which would make Paul’s intimations in Philippians 4:18 about “Saints in the household of Caesar” (which is just where Paul says he is sending him) all the more accurate – but this same “Epaphroditus” re-emerges, survivor that he seems to have been, in the early 80’s as Domitian (81-96 CE)’s secretary as well.

    Not long before Domitian, too, was assassinated in 96 CE, Epaphroditus (it is hard to separate the two, since he is working in the same capacity for both Emperors and being “Secretary for Greek Letters” gave him no mean writing skill) appears to have run afoul of him too – purportedly over his behaviour at the time of Nero’s assassination which Domitian seems to have used as a pretext to execute him, complaining that he (Epaphroditus) had dared to raise his hand against an Emperor! This is most peculiar, indeed, coming from a man like Domitian and there would appear to be more behind these events than appears on the surface.

    • says

      What are you talking about? Nero wasn’t assassinated. And you seem to be confusing different people named Epaphroditus (for no intelligible reason).

      This is just babbling nonsense. Go sell your tinfoil hat somewhere else. Please.

  82. says

    [In direct and blatant violation of my repeatedly emphasized comment policy for this article, this fellow proceeded to post seven thousand and eight hundred words here claiming zillions of supposed parallels between the NT and Josephus, as if I had thousands of years to waste time on such nonsense. Which I have duly deleted. I asked that only one example, the best, be presented. Then I’d analyze that one and see if it has merit, and then, and only then, ask for another example, if the first checked out. These lunatics can’t even grasp the basic methodology of history. And just as I predicted, in their raving madness, they simply can’t shut up or leave anyone alone, or listen to basic instructions. I’m getting fucking tired of this shit and I know everyone else is, too.–RC]

  83. says

    Okay, i am sorry, look, I idnt write that about Epap but its from Eisenmans book James Brother of Jesus, and it seems you didnt read right because it explains why Eisenman thinks that Epap, that Paul talks about and the other supposedly different Epaphodites is the one and same.

    Titus is now taking over his fathers army on the sea of galilee, jesus is beginning his ministry at same sea, titus tells troops do not abandon me, for his troops felt itimadation(fear) titus tells them to nt abandon him (fear not) and that he Titus would go first, in other words follow me as Jesus said in the bible.

    Also titus meets a jesus son of shopat, who is said to be popular with fshermen and the poor, also son of shopat is elisha, a old testament prophet that Jesus is typed onto, titus, men began catching jewish rebels with their boats and caught them up, STEVIE WONDER could see through this.

  84. says

    Why cant you give an answer to my the parallels between the titus /jesus sea of galillee and the fight there between an obvious jesus son of shophat ,/,elisha of which,jesus is a typology of,.IT goes on to further make the reader understand who they mean when this Jesus is, popular with fisherman and the poor .Who else can this be?. YEAH! you give rise against some of Atwills theory but not most, you cant anser the decius mundus question posed by someone in your josepus jesus blog nor me here,plese dont delete this when I am about to debunk you, let your phd colleagues put this in their blogs,and the question posed here dont just say I am crazy whith the tinfoil hat that you can put on now.

    • says

      Your English is barely intelligible. I’ve already shown why the parallels don’t exist, and Atwill didn’t even have the facts right, or the numbers, and engages in specious Christian-style apologetics to try and avoid what the facts entail.

  85. says

    i do believe your jesus angel theory but from the deadsea scrollthe passage where it mentions the gentiles hope with yoshua tov, daniel in the old tes. always mentions a gods elect one with the gentiles, as if some sortof apperatus for them to come onto the hebrewgod.

    • says

      I read this passage myself in Flavius Josepus!, and also if the vida of joshepus, when you ope the book(of Josephus works, it is first, as in the New Testament the book of matthew is first. Joshephus flavius’ name was really, or can be said to have been, given a gentile patronym, Josheph Matthews, so the vida(life) or a sort of auto-biography) like the old testament can be Matthew.

      There is a Jesus geneology in Matthew of the New Testament, and a geneology of Josephus, where he names his father and brother as being named Matthew, at the same place, in the beginning of both NT and JW, and there in Josephus Vida, it says that many jewish scholars wanted to hear his, Josephus’ take on their law(Torah) because of his prodigical memory when he was 14, and in Luke of the NT, mary and Joseph, went looking for Jesus and found where, but teaching the jewish scholars, and how old was Jesus, 12, very close to Josephus Vida, given all the real parallels I just gave in above.

      I know you gave alternatives to a lot of stuff, like the Arimatia(town of sound doctrine or something like that)

      but it doesn’t seem as good as Joe Atwill gave, and people of a time not long after the traditional gospels suspected or knew early on that Joseph of Arimathia was an anagram for JM, and they were closer to the ancient Greek, hell! they were there.

      I just started ancient greek class, Ancient Greek 2, I studied for about a coupla months getting all I could off youtube, learned the alphabet in a coupla days.

      I can hang already with the Greek 2 class, my teacher is somewhat amazed

      I know my English writing is terrible, I went to bad schools that were indifferent, but seem to be learning Greek grammer just fine, but learning English grammer to know the Greek.

    • says

      About the Jesus/Titus, sea of Galilee, Jesus son of Shopat, one popular with fishermen and the “poor,” parallels.

      All you said was,and this is a survey of what you answered in your presentation of you and Atwills emails, was that just because Jesus and Titus was on the Sea of Galilee and how their campaigns, one of ministry, the other a military campaign, that any parallels there was probably coincidental.

      Then you covered any possible parallels by saying that if there were any parallels, then that didn’t mean what Atwill said it did(whatever that meant?) probably a sort ah’ tacit twisted-lip acknowledgement that Atwill might have something, and then a denial that Titus did it, or had Josephus and company do it, if proved to be a hit.

    • says

      All I said!? You clearly aren’t even reading the article you are here commenting on. There can be no point in having a conversation with you if you aren’t even going to read the piece.

  86. says

    Hi Richard… I realize I’m jumping into this thread a little late… and am not an expert on these topics to boot… but have been digging into Atwill work and have some basic questions:

    1. Is it possible that Atwill got some of the big picture right, but whiffed on the details… e.g. is it possible that the Romans sought to undermine/tweak Christianity by influencing/rewriting the Gospels?

    2. Atwill suggests the Dead Sea Scrolls are in conflict with the NT Gospels… is that true?

    3. I found Atwill’s connection between the 2nd coming and Titus’s siege of Jerusalem intriguing… is there anything to it? i.e. paraphrasing “the messiah will return when Galilee falls, Jerusalem is encircled and the temple is destroyed”

    4. How about the connection between with Roman Cult of the Emperor and the Constantine’s Christianity? And the Flavian influence in the early church? And Constantine’s oppressive feudal system? Atwill suggests these show a savvy system of state run mind control… any truth to this?

    Many thx,
    Alex
    skeptiko.com

    • says

      1. Is it possible that Atwill got some of the big picture right, but whiffed on the details… e.g. is it possible that the Romans sought to undermine/tweak Christianity by influencing/rewriting the Gospels?

      It’s possible the Romans flew ships to the moon.

      So the question must be, is it probable. No. For all the reasons I lay out. Which is why you would need extraordinarily good evidence to confirm it. Atwill doesn’t even have good evidence, much less extraordinary evidence.

      Atwill suggests the Dead Sea Scrolls are in conflict with the NT Gospels… is that true?

      Sure. Depending on what one means by “in conflict.” But since the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by a pre-Christian Jewish sect, and not by Christians, I don’t see the relevance of any conflicts between them–at all, much less to Atwill’s thesis.

      I found Atwill’s connection between the 2nd coming and Titus’s siege of Jerusalem intriguing… is there anything to it? i.e. paraphrasing “the messiah will return when Galilee falls, Jerusalem is encircled and the temple is destroyed”

      He would need to prove this. As I noted, if he could, he should be able to get this one claim published in a peer reviewed journal in biblical studies. He won’t even try. I suspect because he has no arguments that come anywhere close to satisfying even minimal peer review standards.

      For the Gospels, that is.

      That Josephus wrote his story to make Titus fit a messianic narrative is actually explicitly stated by Josephus (who proclaimed Vespasian the messiah, the father of Titus and under whose military banner Titus was conducting campaigns in Judea).

      But making a story fit a political claim your life and welfare conveniently depend upon is not really a sign of anything but the author’s self-interest. It has no bearing on the writing of the Gospels or the origin of Christianity.

      4. How about the connection between with Roman Cult of the Emperor and the Constantine’s Christianity?

      Irrelevant to the Atwill thesis. What happened centuries later is moot. Atwill is advancing a thesis regarding what originated Christianity in the first century. Constantine is neither here nor there.

      And the Flavian influence in the early church?

      No evidence.

      And Constantine’s oppressive feudal system?

      Irrelevant. (Per above.)

      Atwill suggests these show a savvy system of state run mind control… any truth to this?

      I don’t know what that sentence means. That the Romans were governed by the X-Men and Vespasian and Constantine had the same mutation as Professor Xavier?

    • says

      man, oh, man, Richard, how can you put up with these conspiracy theorists and not go absolutely bonkers from their crazy ideas? IMO if the Romans wrote any gospels, they wrote the synoptics or at least one of them, in order to discredit Christianity and nip it in the bud. And even that, we have no proof. Just circumstantial evidence in the form of “poison pills” — anecdotes and vignettes that make Jesus out to be the neighbor from Hell. The fig tree incident, for example (Mk 11). And Jesus’ off-hand remark, “The poor you always have with you,” when the unknown woman poured pure nard costing a year’s wages on top of his head (Mt 26).

    • Rod Elliot says

      1. Is it possible that Atwill got some of the big picture right, but whiffed on the details… e.g. is it possible that the Romans sought to undermine/tweak Christianity by influencing/rewriting the Gospels?
      ________________________________________

      Entirely possible.

      And the only difference you need to understand to see how the Romans achieved this, is to understand that Saul was Josephus Flavius. It was through Josephus (the Roman’s pet Jew) that the Gospels were written (under the pseudonym Saul).

      Check out the shipwreck of Josephus and the shipwreck of Saul, they are identical. And many other facts and commonalities besides. And if Saul was born in AD 37, he would have been a man of about 14 years old, under the guidance of Barnabas, when he went on his evangelical missions. This is why he was called Paul (small or perhaps junior).

      And if you don’t think that many of the gospel events could have taken place in the AD 60s, as this idea demands, then read Lena Einhorn’s analysis of this conundrum:
      http://lenaeinhorn.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Jesus-and-the-Egyptian-Prophet-12.11.25.pdf

      Using Saul-cum-Josephus as the Roman’s chief historian and scribe for Jewish affairs (a man who was most certainly batting for the Romans), the Gospels were then written in the reign of Vespasian (after the Jewish Revolt). Which is why Josephus’ ‘publisher’ and Saul’s ‘publisher’ were the same – Epaphrodutus. (Saul-Josephus would have needed a professional scriptorium for all this scribbling.) And it is likely that this was Nero’s scribe, Epaphroditus, who helped Nero in his suicide. Oh, joy of joy, the cunning and conniving pair who hated Nero, able to give the coup de grace.

      And why did the Romans do all this? Because the Jews were a pain in the Imperial backside. They would not eat with Romans, not bathe with Romans, nor pray with Romans, and they had a habit of not paying their taxes and fomenting revolt. What Rome wanted, was a Rome-friendly form of Judaism – Judaism Lite or Simple Judaism – a Judaism that would accept Gentiles, eat with Romans, bathe with Romans, even pay their taxes (render unto Caesar) and be less rebellious (turn the other cheek). etc: etc: etc:

      The creation of Simple Judaism for Gentiles (aka: Christianity) was a masterpiece of political propaganda. The fact that the propaganda eventually grew to be more powerful that the emperor was, err, unfortunate and obviously not planned.

      That, in a nutshell is the true history of the creation of Christianity. Which makes Saul the most influential person in the last 2,000 years (with Muhummad 2nd, I suppose). Jesus was a mere icon for this new Rome-friendly Simple Judaism, it was Saul who created it.

      So how did we loose such an influential person like Saul from the historical record? How did Saul evade the quills of the contemporary historians? Well we didn’t lose him at all, he is Josephus and we know all about him.

    • says

      [Note how an unproven, intrinsically implausible claim, “Saul was Josephus Flavius,” leads to a whole cascade of wild inferences. This is not how we do history. There is no reason to waste time responding to stuff like this. It’s off the rails from the word go.]

    • says

      If you read the post you are here commenting on, you would know the answer to your question, because I devote an entire paragraph to what I will not accept here and what I will. So go back and actually read the article you are commenting on. Finally. Then you won’t ask questions that expose the embarrassing fact that you still haven’t done that.

  87. ric lopez says

    Carrier, you got your academic ass kicked. Take note. Give up. you’re not just looking stupider, you’re being stupider. Your schooling is old and played out. Give up. Lay down. Quit fighting. Help people. close down the site. Simply go back to school for a while. Freshen up, and try it again. Save face.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Is that a conspiracy theory, Richard, that someone has programmed a computer to generate “undemonstrated claims” for your website? Having trouble coming to terms with the fact that someone has read through this whole argument, and concluded you got your ass kicked?

    • says

      Is that a conspiracy theory, Richard, that someone has programmed a computer to generate “undemonstrated claims” for your website?

      Are you serious? You do know what a joke is, right?

      Having trouble coming to terms with the fact that someone has read through this whole argument, and concluded you got your ass kicked?

      Winning an argument does not consist in declaring you won. Especially when you lost.

      The extent of your delusionality here is mind boggling.

  88. Rod Elliot says

    >>This is not how we do history.

    Which is why New Testament history is in such a mess.

    Problem:
    Two of the word’s most famous charters over the last 2,000 years – Jesus and Saul – go missing from the historical record. How did they avoid the quills of contemporary historians? Who were they?

    Possible reasons:
    You are either looking in the wrong region or perhaps the wrong era.

    Possible solution:
    Shift the Gospel era to the AD 60s, and the Jewish Revolt. And link Saul with Josephus, because their life-stories are very similar.

    Benefits:
    We then end up with the agreeable situation where Saul was chasing Jesus around Galilee and locking up his followers (Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me); while simultaneously Josephus was also chasing Jesus around Galilee and locking up his followers (Jesus of Gamala). Under what authority was Saul arresting people? If Saul was Josephus we know exactly how and why, for he was the army commander in charge of Galilee.

    Since the classical historical premise has singularly failed to provide any answers to who Jesus and Saul were, is it not about time we broadened our horizons somewhat? Can you not see the synergy that this association between Saul and Josephus brings to the table?

    Rod

    • says

      This is all fallacious reasoning. Right from the start.

      Most historical records were lost, and most people were not recorded at all, or more than once, in writing, are all propositions you are delusionally forgetting, even though they are far more demonstrably true than the conclusion you want to reach, and yet being true, reduce your conclusion to far too small probability to consider. (By providing far more probable explanations for the “facts” you delusionally find “suspicious”.)

      The same goes for the rest.

      You are simply not arguing like a rational person here. Conversing with you is therefore a waste of time. I am shutting this stream of consciousness down. Do not post here again.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Richard,

      You are the one who is getting the priors wrong here. Of course “most people” weren’t recorded at all. But we’re not talking about “most people”, we’re talking about world-historical individuals. As the founders of a great world religion, characters like Jesus and Paul should be far more notable and far more written-about than just any average carpenter or itinerant preacher.

      We know a lot about the Caesars, from many different sources. That’s because they were not just ordinary people, they were famous world-historical people. If there was a claim that someone was Caesar, but there was no documentation, you’d think that was odd, wouldn’t you? And we know a lot about Jesus, Saul and Josephus also — if we just read the sources for what they actually say, and also follow their obvious implications and their sense of humor.

      “Rod E” makes a very interesting argument, that both Saul and Josephus were reportedly “chasing Jesus and his followers around Galilee and locking up his followers” during the period around 60 AD. (Actually, according to the New Testament, Jesus had gone to heaven by that time — but I understand what he’s trying to say.) So either Saul was the same as Josephus, or else he was working for / with him, or perhaps Saul of Acts was a fictional character based on elements taken from Josephus.

      Also, isn’t it odd that Josephus mentioned so many Jesus characters living ~60 AD in Palestine, doing and saying things that sound so reminiscent of biblical Jesus? This time-shift hypothesis has a lot of merit.

      But, “Rod E”, you’re going too far when you say that the shipwrecks of Paul and Josephus were exactly the same. Actually there were huge and important differences in the two narratives; perhaps even interpretable literary differences.

      Also, “RE”, I’m curious what you think about sock-puppeting? I tried it once, and found I wasn’t fooling anybody. I agree that Carrier’s comments policy of blocking people’s accounts is obnoxious, and his asking you not to post here any more is just plain creepy. But I would think it’s not worth stooping to the same level, just to talk to the likes of him. We can always talk about Carrier over at Joe’s blog.

    • says

      You are the one who is getting the priors wrong here. Of course “most people” weren’t recorded at all. But we’re not talking about “most people”, we’re talking about world-historical individuals.

      No, we’re not. These were extremely insignificant persons. Indeed, well near the bottom of historical significance. Yet we have less surviving record of many contemporary kings of the period. And you are claiming to be surprised at the lack of data on two fellows who never held any significant political or military office and did nothing any more notable than thousands of other people we know even less about.

      That’s insane, Jerry.

      And this is why I am no longer going to converse with you about this. I will not allow through any more comments from you on this thread. You are simply so beyond all rationality there is no possibility of having a sane conversation with you. We’re done.

      And if your delusion starts to impact your life negatively (or anyone close to you is telling you it is), you need to see a doctor. I’m being quite serious.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Ha ha. Viewing the founders of a world religion as significant persons is “insane”?

      I am a doctor. PhD cognitive psychology. What the f* do you know about what sanity is?

    • says

      Viewing the founders of a world religion as significant persons is “insane”?

      Yes. Because their teachings didn’t become world religions until centuries after they were dead. So attributing the fame of a religion centuries later to its founder who was in fact incredibly obscure at the time is not a sane thing to do.

      That you have a Ph.D. in cogsci and don’t even know how crazy you sound here, how irrational you’ve been, how you tick off every symptom on the DSM for delusion, is disturbing, but not uncommon in my experience. Unlike an actual psychologist, you are not required to undergo regular therapy to maintain your license. You therefore have no external check, yet all the internal tools to fool yourself into thinking you are not suffering from a severe delusion that is intensely crippling your ability to act rationally about the object of your delusion.

      Note to both Jerry and my readers: Jerry is so much engaged in protective behaviors to avoid admitting he is suffering from a delusion that he looked up my phone number and called me to personally list the reasons why he is not insane (which reasons he started with were complete non sequiturs), and I cut him off because that behavior is not only unprofessional, it is an enormous red flag for insanity. If someone on the internet tells you you are showing signs of a mental illness and that this is making it impossible for them to have a rational conversation with you and that you should stop communicating with them, and the first thing you think to do is that you have to track them down and tell them personally why you are sure you are not insane, odds are, you’re insane. Talk to a therapist about this behavior, Jerry. I mean it.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Richard,

      “Their teachings didn’t become world religions until centuries after they were dead” is only partly true: it took some time to grow to become truly a world religion, but was very likely started in that direction remarkably quickly.

      It’s a well-known fact that conversations held purely by email or on chat boards, tend to go horribly wrong, and that making a phone contact can often resolve the issues. It wasn’t hard to “track you down”, your phone contact info is on your website. I decided to start with the “insanity” issue because it’s the issue you consistently come back to. The information I was starting to give you, was to indicate to you that I have a high degree of functionality in my life, which is not consistent with a DSM diagnosis of delusionality. On the contrary, you are continually using it as an ad hominem argument here. I’m sure your readers can see through it, but I think maybe you’re blind to what you’re doing.

    • says

      I have a high degree of functionality in my life, which is not consistent with a DSM diagnosis of delusionality.

      Then you haven’t read the DSM. Delusional persons are entirely functional in all aspects of their life unaffected by their delusion. Read the wikipedia page for a summary.

      This is not an ad hominem, as I have actually addressed all your arguments that relate to anything I’ve actually said, repeatedly (indeed, most are already refuted in the original article, despite your delusional claims to the contrary). I am calling out your symptoms as the reason I no longer want you to converse with me or post comments here. You are irrational and no rational conversation with you is possible. Go away.

    • says

      Ahem!

      The REAL reason New Testament history is such a mess, is that the Imperial Church deleted nearly everything, save the obvious fictions that are the gospels and the book of Acts. Almost all of what we know about early Church history can be found in Eusebius’ writings. And he was sponsored by the criminal, Constantine.

  89. says

    Thx for your reply, Richard… but I don’t understand the tone… why so aggressive/condescending? More questions:

    1. I understand some of your criticisms of Atwill’s scholarship, but I don’t get your resistance to the general theory. It seems obvious to most that most rulers/nation states have used the coercive power of religion to manipulate their subjects. The only question is whether the Romans used Christianity in this way, and when they started… agreed?

    2. You even seem hostile to the Flavian influence in the early Roman Catholic church. Again, I’m not a biblical scholar or historian, but it took me about 30 seconds to find this in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
    “Flavia Domitilla — A Christian Roman matron of the imperial family who lived towards the close of the first century. She was the third of three persons (mother, daughter, and grand-daughter) who bore the same name. The first of these was the wife of the Emperor Vespasian; the second was his daughter and sister to the Emperors Titus and Domitian; her daughter, the third Domitilla, married her mother’s first cousin to Titus Flavius Clemens, a nephew of the Emperor Vespasian and first cousin to Titan and Domitian.” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06098b.htm

    — this seems to directly contradict your “no evidence” claim?

    3. Finally, whether Atwill’s theory is published in a peer-reviewed journal or not I would expect scholars like you to have a better response the parallels between Jesus’s “prophecies” re the fall of Jerusalem and the historical account of 73 AD. I don’t know about the rest of Atwill’s parallels, but these are striking.

    — Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, “These things which you see; the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

    — “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations.”

    • says

      I understand some of your criticisms of Atwill’s scholarship, but I don’t get your resistance to the general theory.

      A general theory only stands on particular evidence. I asked Atwill for his best evidence. All of it wasn’t even good evidence. As I demonstrate here. Therefore, any other evidence he has, which by his own admission is weaker than the evidence he presented me, is even worse. Therefore his general theory has no good evidence to stand on. QED.

      It seems obvious to most that most rulers/nation states have used the coercive power of religion to manipulate their subjects. The only question is whether the Romans used Christianity in this way, and when they started… agreed?

      That’s not Atwill’s thesis. If he was arguing the Roman state finally started using Christianity as a vehicle of power in the 4th century, he would be arguing a well-established mainstream thesis supported by huge swaths of good evidence. But that’s not what he is arguing.

      You even seem hostile to the Flavian influence in the early Roman Catholic church. Again, I’m not a biblical scholar or historian, but it took me about 30 seconds to find this in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
      “Flavia Domitilla — A Christian Roman matron of the imperial family who lived towards the close of the first century. She was the third of three persons (mother, daughter, and grand-daughter) who bore the same name. The first of these was the wife of the Emperor Vespasian; the second was his daughter and sister to the Emperors Titus and Domitian; her daughter, the third Domitilla, married her mother’s first cousin to Titus Flavius Clemens, a nephew of the Emperor Vespasian and first cousin to Titan and Domitian.” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06098b.htm

      Why are Jesus mythers such suckers for Christian apologetics? Yeah, Catholic encyclopedia. Do you really expect that to admit what mainstream scholars know, that this is all a late Christian legend, that the original story is entirely different, and the only religion involved was Judaism, not Christianity? Maybe you should learn to go to the original sources, and not trust late Christian hagiography so much.

      Finally, whether Atwill’s theory is published in a peer-reviewed journal or not I would expect scholars like you to have a better response the parallels between Jesus’s “prophecies” re the fall of Jerusalem and the historical account of 73 AD. I don’t know about the rest of Atwill’s parallels, but these are striking.

      If they are so striking, why can’t he get them past peer review? It’s not because there is hostility to the idea–many scholars have published articles arguing similar or even stranger theses.

      The reason professional historians with high standards exist is because we should all want a professionally constructed history subject to high standards. Why are you trying to insist we should have non-professionally constructed histories subject to no high standards?

      – Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, “These things which you see; the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

      – “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations.”

      I don’t fathom what you think these quotations from Matthew and Luke have to do with the thesis you were just talking about. It’s standard knowledge that they wrote after, and expanded upon Mark (which lacks these passages), and most mainstream scholars agree Mark and Josephus both wrote after the war and thus recorded what they (and every Gospel author afterward) knew to have happened, and it being the same thing can simply be the product of the fact that it was the same event. Some mainstream scholars have argued Mark used Josephus as a source (there are far better passages in defense of that thesis than Mark 13), and I think that’s entirely possible, but that is entirely different from arguing that Josephus wrote Mark (despite having no significant stylistic similarities and being notably ignorant of most of each other’s respective contents), much less that Mark was not a believing Christian writing for an already-existing Christian community to address issues that had arisen there after decades of development and struggle, and in particular after the destruction of the temple failed to bring on the coming of Christ as all had hoped.

      Meanwhile, that Luke used Josephus as a source is well nigh certain. But notably, Matthew and Mark do not employ Josephan material anywhere near as much as Luke does, and neither use material from the Antiquities, which was written around 93 (as opposed to the War which was written around 75), thus we know Matthew and Mark, if they relied on Josephus (this is less certain for Matthew), wrote before 93, while Luke wrote after. Notably, this undermines any thesis that Josephus wrote all of them.

      So again, this is not even good evidence of Atwill’s thesis.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Alex,

      I’m curious what you think is wrong with Atwill’s scholarship? Between Joe and I, we’ve replied to every single complaint that Carrier has brought up. Aside from a few trivial mistakes in private emails, Joe has said absolutely nothing wrong that I can find.

      About the evidence of early Flavian Christians, it’s not so late or purely hagiographic as Carrier seems to think. I’d encourage you to do as he suggests, and check it out for yourself.

    • says

      I’m curious what you think is wrong with Atwill’s scholarship? Between Joe and I, we’ve replied to every single complaint that Carrier has brought up. Aside from a few trivial mistakes in private emails, Joe has said absolutely nothing wrong that I can find.

      That is a mind bogglingly delusional statement. I cannot fathom any possibility of rational conversation with anyone who would say that and actually believe it.

    • Jerry Russell says

      Richard, I asked the question of Alex. We’ve already established that you think I’m insane, so you’re repeating yourself.

  90. says

    I am reading your replies to Atwill’s sea of Galilee now, titus did do battle with Jesus son of shopat and the campigns on the beachhead of Galilee, between Titus and Jesus are Identical.

    Can you comment on the parallels that I posted above concerning the Nt Matthew parallels and the Vida or bios on Josephus.

    • says

      You were in violation of my comments policy. Read the article you are commenting on. It contains an entire paragraph about how to warrant a response from me in comments. Follow those instructions or stop posting here.

      (I am deleting all other comments from you in the queue as they continue to violate my comments policy for this post. Get it right or get gone.)

  91. Sean Mulloy says

    ” If you read the post that you are commenting on….then you won’t ask questions that expose the embarrassing fact that you still have not done that.”. Haha..Richard, if you read the book that you are attempting to debunk, you would stop making posts that expose the embarrassing fact that you have not done that. Please don’t stop though. This post is wonderfully quixotic and hilarious.

    • says

      Once again you show you didn’t read the article you are commenting on. Because if you did, you would know it already, and explicitly, answers that non sequitur of an argument you just made. And you would know what that answer was.

  92. says

    I’m curious what you think is wrong with Atwill’s scholarship? Between Joe and I, we’ve replied to every single complaint that Carrier has brought up. Aside from a few trivial mistakes in private emails, Joe has said absolutely nothing wrong that I can find.

    About the evidence of early Flavian Christians, it’s not so late or purely hagiographic as Carrier seems to think. I’d encourage you to do as he suggests, and check it out for yourself.

    I don’t know… this seems like a pretty big topic… more complex than I originally thought. I appreciate where Carrier is coming from (to a degree), but something about his “get a peer-reviewed paper and then I’ll talk to you” position seems odd… especially in this field.

    I’d love to do a show on this topic… is Joe up for a pointed debate on these topics?

    How about you Richard… are you willing to hash some of this out? i.e. explore what might lie beyond QED? :)

    I could host a threaded debate on Skeptiko where I interview and each of you separately and then give the other a chance to respond.

    Alex

    • says


      I’m curious what you think is wrong with Atwill’s scholarship?

      Read the article you are commenting on.

      It answers your question.

      Indeed, that’s the entirety of the article.

      And yes, asking for major new thesis challenging the consensus in a professional field to be published according to the standards of that field (which are peer review in a recognized venue) is not odd. It is, in fact, the only way a professional field can claim to be professional.

      Meanwhile, Atwill refused to debate me in a fair format. One was being organized, but when fair debate rules were proposed, he dropped out. It’s clear he will not submit to any fair debate format.

    • says

      Richard… you merged my comment with another poster (Jerry Russell) and replied to the mash-up… perhaps you can fix.

      So, if I can get Atwill on Skeptiko will you come on for a rebuttal interview?

      Alex

    • says

      I don’t understand what you mean. The comment by you here is not written by you? That would indicate a fundamental software error in the WordPress comments utility. So I want to make sure that’s what you are actually reporting.

      Regarding a debate, yes, I’ll do a rebuttal interview on a subsequent episode, but Atwill will tell you that’s “unfair” and he should get to do a “counter-rebuttal,” and you’ll want my reply to that, and on and on, so it will just go on forever (this is the standard tactic of fringe delusionoids: they will never stop talking, and will complain when you cut them off).

      Indeed, from the debate preparations that fell through I can already give you my rebuttal to what I expect he’ll say: 90% of what he will tell you I said I didn’t say and therefore his rebuttal to it is moot (straw man and red herring fallacies); 90% of what I actually said he will not even mention and give no response to, so all one has to do is read my original article to see him refuted (confirmation bias and concealment of damning evidence); and the remaining 10% of what he says will be goal post moving: instead of addressing the points I made, he will ignore those and start down a whole new path with a whole new “example,” conveniently one I haven’t exposed yet, forcing me to continually research and respond to countless more “examples,” exactly the thing cranks should never be allowed to do: bog down honest research with bullshit fact-checking of an endless stream of crazy claims–and it will be endless: that’s his strategy–and for why this should not be allowed, read my article’s point again above, about why all we need are enough examples to prove Atwill an incompetent, illogical crank to justify no longer listening to him, and that this is simply required by the basic principles of efficiency: we can’t waste a thousand lifetimes fact-checking a thousand piles of endless bullshit–if we did, nothing worthwhile would ever get done, and the lunatics would be running the asylum.

  93. brian jones says

    You can delete my posts all you want when you know you cant answer certain questions that I put forth.
    I am starting a blog where I will debunk you on Atwill, and link to dawkins and all your friends, you can respond to this site or not.
    you wont be able to hide behind censorship on my site!

    • says

      I don’t need to. I already rebutted all your arguments that had anything to do with anything I actually said. I’m quite content to let anyone else reach that conclusion on their own. Because it’s quite obvious to anyone who is sane. So by all means, spin your crazy on your own blog. That’s what free speech is all about.

    • says

      Look! Idou! All you do, like you say cranks do, is ignore that you couldn’t answer any of my questions, satisfactory and then declare victory, and the fact that you call someone who has bested you insane means that you’re insane, or better yet an arrogant almost idiot savant!

      Are you denying, that Josephus works and the new testament, the only books to come out of the conflict with the jews, all within roughly the same time period, and the JW, being affirmed and the only historical work allowed by Vespasien and Titus to be written at that time about that place in question does not show considerable parallels and that JW, put a character, Jesus Ben Shopat , which is an elusion to Elisha, the old testament prophet that JC is a type of, and that further, this Son of Shophat is futher identified with JC of the new testament, by referring to him as popular with fishermen and the poor; who battle with Titus, and Vespasien, whom Josephus does not hesitate call the true world leaders to come out of Judea prophesized in the OT, and this titus saying what Jc did in the NT on the shores of the same place, Galilee, essensially the same, Jesus,”do not be afraid, follow me, Titus, Do not desert me(from fear,) in other words don’t be afraid, and I will go first into harm, which means follow me, if this does not intrigue you, and I don’t care the sequence, then just because you have alphabets after you name, you are no true scholar, and you silly theory about a celestial jesus is just as silly as applying basian theory or whatever you call it to some made up biblical trickery.

    • says

      Note to my readers: I am allowing this through moderation because it is so unintelligible it verifies my concern that Brian Jones is insane. I do not recommend interacting with him further.

      (I have otherwise rejected several other comments from him; they all violate the comments policy for this thread. I even warned him about that. Yet he won’t stop. He appears to have no impulse control or respect for rules.)

    • says

      I have a fine finger dexterity disability, that’s why my writings are piss poor, but, and how can you not see the parallels in Jesus and Osirius and not see the parallels in JW and the NT, that just confounds me, you must still be drinking that good scotch from your recent interview, or you must have been drinking it your whole academic life, and I think my last post can be understood.

      By the way I am challenging you to name a time to come on google plus and discuss it, and when I convince you of at least some similarity’s you can give me a bottle of that scotch plus a good cigar to boot!

  94. BadMillennial says

    If this is the same Atwill who chastised me for suggesting the Nine Inch Nails song “Heresy” be the Heretic’s Prayer on that Roman Piso site back in 2000, then I applaud you for deconstructing him.

    • says

      No.. You just don’t want your ass kicked! on a live media, why don’t you debate Atwill, Robert price was left looking like a deer caught in the head lights after he got destroyed by Atwill, now all you letter guys do is talk shit on your Blogs, and ignore questions you can’t answer, and call those that shut you down crazy, but you won’t come out and have a live discussion on this subject.

      I understand though, “Better to remain quiet and thought a fool, than to open ones mouth and remove all doubt”

    • says

      Atwill is a hero because of Chapter 11 of Caesar’s Messiah, Flavian Signature Edition. The name of that chapter is The Puzzle of Decius Mundus.

      BrianJones Jones, I gave Chapter 7: The Puzzle of the Empty Tomb an F but I gave Chapter 11 an A+.

      Without Joseph Atwill, I debated his statements as I read his work. Let me know if you want to have it out here about Chapter 7. You can also reach me at the Facebook Page, The Greatest Bible Study in Historical Accuracy by Steefen.

      Dr. Carrier definitely defeats Atwill on thesis but not on the planks of his thesis.

      Now, Mr. Jones, if you don’t think Chapter 11 deserves an A+, please let me know why.

      Until then, Atwill’s suggestion that the passage immediately following the Testimonium Flavianum is related to it because Decius Mundus is a reference to Jesus as Savior of the World via self-sacrifice and, two, the appearance to loved one/s on the third day. Third, Decius Mus prayed to Gods, all hosts of heaven and the underworld that his death may save his people: Jesus prayed in agony, for similar reason/s. Conclusion, the TF is not out of context!

    • says

      I pretty much concur, you are a very apt pupil of biblical studies and history as well, you know that Domitian put on a Anubis mask in Suetonius, I think, or Tacitus, when he got caught behind enemy lines, to exscape detection when his fathers troops were fighting in Rome for the Emperorship.

  95. says

    Dr. Richard Carrier,
    When I reviewed Joseph Atwill’s book, I found it had problems. However, the matter below seems to stand.
    We would appreciate a fair assessment of the following.
    Thank you.

    Jesus said beginning at Matt 21: 42:

    Have you never read in the Scriptures (Isaiah 28: 16): The stone which the builders rejected has been made the cornerstone: this cornerstone came from the Lord, and is wonderful in our eyes? {The Stone is the Roman Empire, a more sure foundation than what Israel and Judah can provide. Who presides over Jerusalem now that Herod the Great is gone? It is the Romans.}

    Jews built Judaism but New Judaism, Judaism-Lite of St. Paul who says you don’t need the Law, you don’t need to be circumcised, you don’t need to keep Kosher–what do you get then? You get Judaism-Lite: Christianity; and, Roman-modified Judaism has been made the cornerstone of a new iteration of Judaism.

    Jesus continues. That, I tell you, is the reason why the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you (Israel in the north and Judah in the south where Jerusalem is) and given to a nation (Rome) that will exhibit the power of it.

    The stone, the cornerstone, Rome came from the Lord, and since it came from the Lord God, it is wonderful in the eyes of the holy people.

    Now that Palm Sunday has failed, the Kingdom of the Son of Man will pass to the Romans and Titus will be the Son of Man.

    He who falls on this stone will be severely hurt; but he on whom it falls will be utterly crushed.

    The stone will utterly crush a person, Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, Book V.

    “The engines [of war] that all the legions [of Rome] had ready prepared for them [the Rebels] were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion: those that threw stones were more forcible and larger than the rest.

    As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was white and could therefore be seen and when it came at them it made a great noise [traveling through the air and making a loud wind sound].

    The Jews did not yell: The Stone Cometh (get out of the way); they actually screamed The Son [of Man/of God/of Vespasian–what have you] Cometh; get out of the way. So, they just got out of the way. The watchmen of the Jews could see when the white stone took off. The stone fell to the ground and did them no harm.

    Well, the Roman soldiers said, I’m still gonna getcha.

    “But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone. They could then aim at the Jews with success without them discerning beforehand. So, the Romans destroyed many of them at one blow.”

    “Stone is another important self-designation Jesus uses. Jesus compares himself to a stone, one that if it strikes will “utterly crush.” In other words, he is saying that the Son of God/Son of Man is a stone who will crush those who reject him.” I combine this with Jesus parable where he says bring those who did not want me as king and slay them before me.

    Jesus saw the handwriting on the wall. Should he not succeed as the Son of Man, the Son of Man crown would pass to another nation: Rome. The Jews got mad and tore their clothes when Jesus and the Martyr Stephen said I see the Son of Man (Titus) at the Right Hand of the Jewish God.

    Jesus: That, I tell you, is the reason why the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you (Israel in the north and Judah in the south where Jerusalem is) and given to a nation (Rome) that will exhibit the power of it.

    Josephus lampoons what is held sacred in the gospels. So, this is an instance when the gospel comes not after Wars of the Jews but before Wars of the Jews or the gospels come in tandem with Wars of the Jews.

    Here is a lampoon.

    Flavian Rome and its propaganda engines knew the gospels well. They made Jesus a pacifist messiah and the contempt shows; for, in the Roman approved history of the victors written by Titus Flavian Josephus, we see the same quote of Jesus about the stone utterly crushing used against Jesus himself.

    In the Bible, Jesus warns the Temple authorities: Woe unto you, this, that, and the other thing (Matthew 23: 13-29). Jesus is captured, brought to a procurator, whipped, and is killed by the Romans.

    In the Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 5, Jesus, Son of Ananus warns the Temple authorities:
    Woe unto you, this, that, and the other thing.
    This Jesus is captured, brought to a procurator, whipped by the Romans, and killed.
    How is he killed? He’s killed by the stone “that utterly crushes.” Flavian Rome let posterity know their anti-rebel propaganda was grafted onto Jewish Messianism and became the new cornerstone:

    308 …”Woe, woe, to the city again and to the people, and to the holy house!” And just as he added at the last, –“Woe, woe, to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages, he gave up the ghost.

    • says

      I can’t follow any logic in the above. Already from the start you are off the rails when you claim Mt. 21:42 refers to Rome. It refers to the Levitical Temple cult, not Rome. And I have no idea why you think it’s the other way around. He is not speaking to Romans in that scene, but the “chief priests and elders” in the temple (Mt. 21:23), and the remaining series of points are all directed at them (Mt. 21:45). So everything that then follows in your (Atwill’s?) analysis is entirely ignorant of the actual context and point of the passage in Matthew. Plucking verses out of context and inventing wholly implausible interpretations of them that suit one’s own agenda and pay no attention to the original author’s obvious intentions is the behavior of fundamentalists, not scholars.

      (And the Jesus ben Ananias parallels indicate Mark used Josephus as a source, or a source they shared in common. It does not indicate that Josephus knew anything about Mark.)

    • says

      I can’t follow any of the logic above, either. But I know that the apologists are going to have a field day when they decide that you and Joe Atwill may be “right,” that the Jewish Wars are a “parody” of The Gospels. When that didn’t check Christianity, Antiquities 18.3.3. “was included,” “showing” Christianity to be nothing but a scam.

      As if.

      The more succint hypothesis is that the Christians drew from all manner of sources, including but not limited to The Tanach, Josephus, and the history of Julius Caesar.

  96. says

    This destroys your stretch on the “best doctrine town” nonsense for the Joseph of Arimathea, for some reason it feels like you and some other scholars are trying to protect something.

    Rod Blackhurst, of some Australian University of which slips me right now, said in a video on youtube, and this guy is one of the most lettered guys I’ve ever seen, but he came to the same conclusion independently of Atwill.

    In keeping with your guidelines, I will provide American scholars who have found the Flavians in the new testament in regards to principal passages on Jesus, after this one. Here is the refutation of your theory I stated above on Joseph of arimathea.

    • says

      I have no idea what you are talking about. You provided no links to anything.

      Nor are you even responding to what I actually wrote in the article you are commenting on. That the Gospels might contain allusions to the Jewish War and its prosecution by Titus is not the Atwill thesis, but a mainstream view that has been proposed and speculated on often in mainstream literature. Atwill is claiming this proves Josephus or the Flavians themselves wrote the Gospels. That is a non sequitur. Many of the things he thinks are allusions to the Jewish War and its prosecution by Titus in the Gospels are also bogus or dubious or pure speculation. But the general idea that some such things may be there is not even fringe. But neither does it entail Atwill’s thesis. You seem to be confused as to which is which here. [But not in your follow-up below.]

  97. says

    …oops I made a mistake and didn’t post the evidence in above, so here it is

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    ← Atwill’s Response to J.P. Holding’s Criticism of “Caesar’s Messiah”

    Terrific review →

    Scholar David Oliver Smith endorses Atwill

    Posted on September 3, 2012 by admin

    The bible scholar and author David Oliver Smith has agreed with my analysis of the “three crucified one survives” parallel that I discovered and presented in Caesar’s Messiah. What is important about David’s concurrence is that he the author of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul: The Influence of the Epistles on the Synoptic Gospels, a highly regarded work that includes analysis of numerous parallels between the New Testament and Jewish Scripture. Robert Price, the scholar who charged me with “parallelmania” in his negative review of Caesar’s Messiah, wrote the foreword to Smith’s book. In the foreword Price simply raves about David Smith’s accuracy in determining real parallels from “parallelmania”: Price wrote:

    “some will cry foul, charging David Smith with parallelmania but it is a simple pitfall to avoid and you will see that Smith is ever on guard against it. With David Smith as your guide you will find yourself gasping at features of this terrain as if you had never held them before.”

    With his co-author David Smith’s endorsement of my analysis of the critical “three crucified one survives” parallel, it will be interesting to see if Price recants his deeply flawed review of Caesar’s Messiah.

    Below is the actual letter from David Smith posted on the “Jesus Mysteries” Yahoo website:

    Hi Joe, GR, James, Jim, Rik and Sid,

    Let me begin by saying that I agree that Mark’s character Joseph of Arimathea is a hat tip to Flavius Josephus, and I didn’t realize that Joe was the first to recognize it. I’ll give him credit in the future.

    You guys seem to banter around linguistics without looking at the evidence. First, Mark is the first to have the character of Joseph of Arimathea (assuming Markan Priority). Second the assumed pun or hat tip involves the Aramaic “Bar” meaning “son of”. Third, while this is Aramaic, Mark wrote in Greek (Jack Kilmon notwithstanding). Fourth, Mark used Aramaic phrases in his gospel more than the other evangelists; therefore, he knew Aramaic and may have been a native Aramaic speaker.

    Let’s look at how Mark handled the Aramaic “Bar” in other portions of his gospel. There are 3 uses: in the name of the disciple Bartholomew (Son of Ptolomy), Bartimaeus (Son of Timaeus) and Barabbas (Son of the father). In the Greek rendition (at least in the textus receptus), Mark renders these “Bar”: beta alpha rho. Curiously, when introducing James and John, he does not use “Bar” but calls them “son of Zebedee.”

    Another interesting fact is that when Mark is naming the 12 disciples at Mk 3:16-19, the disciple Bartholomew is named immediately prior to the disciple Matthew. Coincidence? This is the only time the name “Matthew” is used in Mark and only one of 3 times he uses the prefix “Bar.” So, what we can say is that Mark knew Aramaic, and when he had a character who was a “son of” he transliterated the “Bar” in Aramaic into Greek (except in the cases of James and John).

    To answer Joe’s question, in order to make a pun on Josephus’ Aramaic name, Mark may well have dropped the beta in “Bar” and added a vowel between the rho and mu. One would not put a consonant between a rho and a mu, resulting in 3 consecutive consonants. So, he either had to put a vowel or nothing. Mark is nothing if not subtle, so using “Armathea” (without a vowel between rho and mu”) might not have been subtle enough for him. Mark wants you to work to get his gospel.

    This from expert Oliver Smith.

    • says

      So, this “expert” can’t even tell that Mark wrote apo Arimathea, and thus clearly identified it as a town he was from and not his father’s name? That doesn’t seem very expert to me. He also violates basic logic when he shows Mark consistently used either “bar” or the ton tou construction, and notably used neither in this one case, “therefore” (?) it is reasonable to think Mark meant the same thing here. Huh? That is exactly opposite the way it works. That Mark consistently references fathers in either of two ways, and doesn’t use either here, but something completely alien to his usual practice, refutes any claim that that is what Mark meant here. Instead he used a clear designation of place.

      This “expert” does not seem to grasp basic facts of Greek grammar or rudimentary methodology in the field of stylistics.

      And his endorsement is supposed to make Atwill look good?

      [What qualifications does this guy actually have again?]

  98. says

    Dr. Richard Carrier:
    Mt. 21:42 It refers to the Levitical Temple cult, not Rome

    stephencampbell:
    Mt. 21:42 refers to three things in this discussion.

    1) Matthew is quoting Jesus.
    Mt. 21: 42 is not about Jesus saying “you’ve rejected the Levitical Temple cult.”
    It’s about Jesus saying “you, Temple authorities, have rejected me.”

    2) Jesus is quoting Isaiah 28: 16
    Dr. Carrier, you are informing us that Isaiah said, the Levitical Temple cult is being rejected. If so, then, thank you for providing more information about the original context of the passage Jesus is quoting; however, Jesus is not trying to win people over to his contemporary Temple cult as he found it and experienced it.

    3) Atwill says the rebels rejected Rome (That is what the Jewish Revolt was.)
    Jews built their notion of God and a religion and kingdom around it.

    The cornerstone of a global God is to have some sense of global power.
    The Jews are not known for having global political leadership with military support on the scale of the Babylonian Empire, the Empire of Alexander the Great, or the Roman Empire. They built a nation-of-Israel God, a god of 12 tribes. Well, the human population was larger than those 12 family trees.

    Jews were rejecting Hellenism. Jews were rejecting Rome. Jews revolted against Rome and when they did, they rejected a cornerstone of a future God, religion, and nation which exhibited more than a parochial paradigm of God and people.

    “Jesus continues. That (for your insistence on chosing a small geographical and 12-tribe notion of God over a larger scale God reigning over a geo-political empire stretching to the Atlantic Ocean), that I tell you, is the reason why the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation, no, an empire (Rome) that can and will exhibit the power of a Kingdom of God.”

    Atwill’s application of these scriptures fit and hold a valuable lesson.

    To move the discussion from rejection of Jewish cult to rejection of Jesus to rejection of the Roman Empire is instructive.

    Did the notions of God, religion, government, and government services need to stay at the level of the zealous rebels or, since, Jerusalem was not self-governing, did the notion of a Global Kingdom of God exhibiting such power need to be widened to encompass an empire?

    • says

      Dude. Seriously? That whole conversation is Jesus talking to the priests in the temple, and giving multiple reasons why God is rejecting the temple cult. That’s all the evidence we need. There is, meanwhile, zero evidence he is talking to or about Romans. The “kingdom of God” that Jesus says was given to them (the priests) and will be taken away from them (the priests) is not the kingdom of Romans but literally the kingdom of God, which the priests mediate through the temple cult. Jesus says that mediating role is being taken away from them and given to the Christian church (as Christians themselves then became God’s temple, as Paul repeatedly explains in his letters). And Matthew even says he was talking about them (v. 45), not the Romans (who already conquered and controlled the temple, and thus could not have been made future recipients of it, nor would that make sense, since the Christians are the future recipients of God’s kingdom, not the pagan Romans; and there is no reference to it being taken away from Romans either, but away from the Jewish priests in the temple; the passage is explicit about this).

      And again, Jesus is here being portrayed as against the temple cult, not for it. That was in fact fundamental to the Christian gospel since even before Matthew wrote. This whole chapter is about how Christianity will replace the Temple.

      Atwill’s thesis here is bonkers. It completely ignores the actual context of this passage and invents facts that aren’t there to spin his circular argument out of nothing, all the while betraying the fact that he is ignorant of basic facts in the field of early Christian studies.

    • says

      Did you read my posts? >>liver Smith who did commentary in one of your boy Oliver Smiths books. Another reason Atwill’s take makes more sense, is that the New Testament and Josephus Works, are the only two works to be “allowed” to be distributed in the empire at that time(Titus put to death another writer, who wrote a history of that war and his slaves who copied that writers work) and oversaw JW, and gave his stamp of approval to it, are suspiciously the only works of literature “ever”! to have a guy, both priest, both Pharisee’s both named Joseph one named “Arimathea, the other Barmatthias or B- take off the B then add an i, it is Ar (i)mathia or mathea, who has three people taken off the cross and one survives, that’s the JW, supposedly historical take: the New Testament has Jesus between two thieves, so that makes three on the cross, and a Joseph of Arimathea takes his dead body off, and then he resurrects, or survives, and the other two die on earth, is this just a coincidence?!,

      Look, that’s the problem that I have with some of you college “Vetted” Scholars, you play it too straight too linear. You actually look at this even with what I just told you and what you already know from JW, like the writers of the gospel had to be thinking and acting like Columbia trained scholars or the same for Josephus.

      Can’t you see that a game is being played! use your head! you see the similarity’s, that can’t be a coincidence! and stuff like this is all through both documents and you think calling him from Arimathea in one document and his name, Bar mathias in another. means anything! or from a town in one, and his name in the other

      Look at the parallels!, and if JW, supposedly a history about the Messianic movement and the war with said messianic movement and the Romans was the only history(from a guy that the emperors Titus and Vespasian adopted) that was the only document of this sort allowed to go through, and actually had the imperial name “Flavius” on it.

      The New Testament, the supposed religion of the messianic movement, the only document to be allowed to circulate, about that same palestinean Movement, but written in Rome as was JW. Why then did the real Messianic, Palestinean movement have to bury the actual religious document of that movement and it took us two-thousand years to find it.

      You guy cross all your T”s and dot all your I”s like a “Good Ivy league Boy Should” but real common sense–is hard to come by!

    • says

      I see. So I point out the actual facts of Greek grammar and stylistics, and your response is to dismiss all expert arguments whatever, because you know better than someone who actually is an expert in these things, because reasons.

      Got it.

      [Note to my readers: This is the same Brian Jones I told to stop communicating with me because I believe he is insane. I gave him one more chance, then he started once again sending long half-intelligible crazy nonsense that ignores all my warnings and comments policy. All deleted. And they will continue to be.]

  99. says

    Dr. Richard Carrier:
    He is not speaking to Romans in that scene, but the “chief priests and elders” in the temple (Mt. 21:23), and the remaining series of points are all directed at them.

    stephencampbell:
    I agree that Jesus is not speaking to the Romans in that scene: I wrote: Jesus continues by telling the Jews the Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation that will exhibit the stone’s power to crush utterly.

    We have Jesus talking about an utterly crushing defeat. The Romans gave an utterly crushing defeat to the Jewish Revolt.

    The Jews rejected Jesus as Stone-Son of Man. (Jesus saying you’ve rejected me for that role.)
    The Stone-Son of Man will be taken from you and given to another nation.
    The Jewish position of rejection does not change. (We don’t care what you say, Jesus. God can give it to the Chief Priest and we still would reject it, we do not want to talk up sedition. We’re not looking for an Exodus miracle against Rome.)
    They reject it no matter if the Kingdom of the Son of Man is Jesus’ kingdom or Rome’s kingdom.
    All the Temple authorities want is the status quo. All the rebels want is self-determination, their Monotheistic God of the 12 tribes of Israel and their Mosaic Law.

    I apologize for the earlier misunderstandings.

    • says

      The “kingdom of God” is the Christian church. Obviously. Why anyone would think it would be the Roman Empire I have no idea. There is no reference to that here at all. This is a fabrication of Atwill. The text is clear: Jesus is saying the kingdom of God will be taken away from the priests and handed to the Christians (v. 43) and God’s wrath will crush and scatter all who try to destroy them (v. 44). Them being the Christians. Not Romans. That would make no logical sense here.

      This is even clearer when you see how this section references the parable he just told about the heir (vv. 33-41):

      …But the husbandmen, when they saw the son, said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and take his inheritance. And they took him, and cast him forth out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the lord of the vineyard shall come, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those miserable men, and will let out the vineyard unto other husbandmen, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

      Get it? The “other husbandmen” are the Christians; the ones who kill the son and whom God will destroy, those are the priests.

      So when Jesus says immediately after that (vv. 42-45):

      Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; This was from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God [= the field in the parable] shall be taken away from you [= the old husbandmen = the priests], and shall be given to a nation [= the new husbandmen = the Christians] bringing forth the fruits thereof [= the same fruits referenced in the parable that Jesus is now explicating with scripture]. And he that falleth on this stone [= those who attack the kingdom of God] shall be broken to pieces: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it [= the kingdom of God] will scatter him as dust. And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.

      Hence he is saying the field (God’s promise of inheritance to the Jews) these priests have been tending (via the Temple cult) will be taken from them and given to new tenders of God’s promise (the Christians).

      This has nothing whatever to do with Romans nor would make a lick of sense that way.

    • says

      I don’t know what you’re talking about, though my writings are not the best English grammer they can be understood, the post you deleted showed scholars, who have discovered the Flavians in the gospels, so that’s why you deleted it and them.

      I showed many parallels between JW and the Gospels, that can’t be ignored, and you know that, no matter how I write, I defeated you and everyone on here knows that,

      You tried to dismiss me by calling me crazy because of my grammer. I will be posting a blog everybody, with those scholarly articles so, good bye sore loser!

    • says

      You tried to dismiss me by calling me crazy because of my grammer.

      It’s not because of your grammar.

      But I understand you have to invent some excuse to dismiss what I’ve said. That’s standard avoidance behavior for anyone suffering an extreme delusion.

  100. says

    Dr. Carrier:
    Jesus said the “kingdom of God” was given to them (the priests) and will be taken away from them (the priests) and given to the Christian church.

    stephencampbell:
    The new state of the unified kingdom of Israel and Judea, with that new state being the Kingdom of God ruled by the Son of Man, was given to them and will be taken away from them and given to a nation, it says explicitly–not to a new religion. You are buying into a Post Failed Revolt where Political Messianism was downgraded to Spiritual Messianism.

    However, I want to bring Dr. Bart D. Ehrman into this discussion. In his Great Lectures program, From Jesus to Constantine, he references his work in his book Early Christianities. He asks why did the Roman Church survive over all the other Christianities. Joseph Atwill speaks to this as well.

    Why would the global nation, Kingdom of God, lose its political skin and pass to the religion of Christian communities away from Jerusalem, away from Palestine, away from Antioch Syria, but to Rome?!

    The Messiah and the Son of Man were political leaders. You know what was in the War Scroll. You know what was in Zecharia.

    But back to your position that the Kingdom of God would pass to the Christians. You are jumping over many steps before we get to the King of God passed to the Christians. That same Jesus said the King of God was at hand. What kingdom was at hand and operating in Jerusalem, keeping the Chief Priest’s garment for Passover? The answer is Rome.

    Furthermore, we know the nation to whom the Kingdom of God was given is Rome because of all the Early Christianities, as Bart Ehrman explains, it is the Christianity that grew out of Rome that survived, even to this day.

    • says

      There was no “unified kingdom of Israel and Judea” when Jesus is speaking. It was a Roman province. And Jesus is talking about God’s promise to Israel as a corporate people: eternal life and world dominance. The Romans cannot represent that, as they are not the heirs of God’s promise. The Christians are. (And the non-Christian Jews were supposed to be.) That’s the whole point of the entire Gospel.

      I am not referring to a spiritual kingdom. I am referring to the second coming of Christ and who gets to live or die when that happens. And what will happen to anyone who tries to destroy that kingdom as it grows within the church in the meantime. This is a physical reality. It is also, obviously, a post-temple reality. Because Matthew is writing after its destruction.

      There is nothing whatever in here about anything “passing to Rome.”

      You are notably ignoring all the evidence I just presented that Jesus is in Matthew’s story talking about God’s promise to the Jews as a people, a promise mediated by the priests whom Jesus said God will remove from that role and give that role to a new people, the Christians (whom Matthew regards as a subset of Jews, the “true” Jews, who have no need of the temple or its cult).

      Again, the meaning in context is perfectly clear. You are the one ignoring everything I have pointed to in that context and inventing illogical fantasies to replace them with. And if you are just going to ignore all the evidence I present and ignore the text itself, then there is no point debating with you, is there?

      P.S. “it is the Christianity that grew out of Rome that survived, even to this day” — that is multiply false; (a) Matthew wrote centuries before that happened, so it cannot have been on Matthew’s mind; and (b) it’s not even true: Alexandrian Christianity and Byzantine Christianity dominated in the East (and still do), not Roman Christianity, and indeed even farther afield are the Assyrian and Nestorian Christians who weren’t even in the Roman Empire when they developed. Paul himself preached the Gospel outside the Roman Empire (in Arabia) from the very beginning, and the Jews outside the Roman Empire who compiled the Talmud only wrote about the version of Christianity that developed outside the Roman Empire (and thus not only not from Rome, but not even from Rome’s imperium).

    • says

      People that call everyone else crazy!, should look in the mirror, maybe you are psyco-analyzing yourself
      cause that’s the only person that you,with now psychiatric credentials are qualified to speak on.

      Stop slandering people that don’t agree with you, makes you look like a immature frat boy!

  101. says

    Dr. Carrier, I have to stop here until I can figure out what you’re saying when you write: “Jesus is in Matthew’s story talking about God’s promise to the Jews as a people.” I’ve said all along that I agree with you. The Jewish Messiah was promised to the Jews. They didn’t lift him up to a place of authority. They arranged his exeuction accdording to the Bible. According to the Bible, Jesus knew he was being rejected. Jesus knew the Temple Authorities were rejecting God’s promise. You have agreement from me on this. I’m sorry both of us do not see we are saying the same thing. Second, you know some Bibles say nation, some Bibles say people. Nation and people are synonymous. I will hear your point as being more persuasive if you say the original Greek is NOT nation and it cannot even mean nation. The way you’re interpreting nation/people is people as members of a religion, not members of a nation/country/empire.

    Second, there are scholars and ministers who tell us that Jesus did not set out to create Christianity, so Jesus could not have been talking about God’s promise passing from Jews to Christians. Third, the Christianity of Paul was not approved by James and it would not have been approved by Jesus. Fourth, you’re taking the Son of Man out of God’s promise. The Son of Man cannot be dropped: the Son of Man IS the rejection (it was the last straw for Jesus’ opponents in the Temple who arranged his crucifixion AND it was part of the stoning of Stephen or which ever king you wish to identify as Stephen).

    You Say Matthew regards the “true” Jews who have no need of the temple or its cult. Would Matthew not count James, the brother of Jesus as holy and a Jew who was not true? The answer is: James would be true.

    Dr. Carrier, what Dr. Ehrman is talking about is the Vatican and the Lutheran Reformation, breaking from the Vatican tracing back to the early Christianity of Rome with its successors to Peter. Dr. Ehrman and I do recognize the other Christianities you mention. We are in agreement on that as well.

    • says

      None of this gets you to the conclusion you want. Matthew’s Jesus in that passage simply isn’t talking about the Roman Empire nor would it be at all logical for him to be. Full stop. I’ve explained why. You are just ignoring me.

  102. says

    Dr. Richard Carrier:
    There was no “unified kingdom of Israel and Judea” when Jesus is speaking. It was a Roman province.

    stephencampbell:
    What I would like to do is compare the geographical coverage of King David’s and King Solomon’s united kingdom to the geographical coverage of Herod the Great. During the time of Jesus, it was under Roman governance. With Jesus as messiah, there are allusions to David (line of David) and Solomon (Palm Sunday references to Solomon’s entrance to Jerusalem). I believe the Messiah was supposed to restore the united kingdom of David and Solomon in addition to bless the world with a kingdom of righteousness.

    “The Son of man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire [and utterly crush them as if the Son of Man was a stone; as Jesus said in a parable, bring them so they may be slained before me–the Son of Man will see his victory]. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Atwill says this has to happen and did happen when Jerusalem was set on fire by Titus. Titus did at least one of the things that had to be done when the Son of Man passed from Jesus to him.

    “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” The Kingdom of God at hand (Rome) did come in 70 AD , with power, with stones that utterly crushed. You say Christianity was the kingdom of God. They didn’t bring their fire until the Inquisitions, long after people living in 30 Common Era who may still have been living in 70 Common Era.

    Dropping the fullness of the Son of Man and jumping over fulfillments of Jesus’ “prophecies” of the destruction of the Temple and the city being surrounded (both done by Titus, Son of Divine Vespasian (after Vespasian died he became divine and there was a cult for this former emperor by the urging of his son) that took place during the Jewish Revolt does not give a complete picture.

    There are other areas where Atwill has problems but for the discussion above, with this matter I do think he gets a passing grade.

  103. says

    Thank you for the former discussion.

    Another point I need to make is one of appreciation. My minister says Luke wrote that he knew there were other gospels out there but he was trying to write a better gospel. According to your article, “More than any other Gospel writer, Luke includes references to the non-Christian world of affairs” (Mason) . So, thank you Dr. Carrier for that.

    Second, Reza Aslan says the moving around for the census is so ridiciulous that it cannot be historical. Your article shows the notion is not ridiculous. Thank you, again.

    I wonder if you’re going to call Aslan on that. Have you reviewed Zealot, Aslan’s book?

    ~ ~ ~

    The issue deeper than what you’ve titled “Atwill’s Cranked-Up Jesus” is Josephus’ Cranked-Up Messiah, (Vespasian, Titus, or both).

    I’ve read your “Luke and Josephus (2000)” article. You know Josephus wrote for a Roman audience. You know the similarities between Josephus and Paul (for one example, both were shipwrecked on the way to Rome). You know Chrisitans believe Luke and Paul are reported to be acquaintes. Then you say Luke was influenced by Josephus.

    If Josephus had to choose between a Jewish Messiah and a Roman Messiah, he eventually chose a Roman Messiah. If the gospels had to be written during a Post-Failed Jewish Revolt, would you have a successful Roman Messiah like Josephus had or would you have a Pacifist, Spiritual Jewish Messiah with a few political overtones (for example, riding into Jerusalem as if he was going to be king)? You couldn’t have any of the Jewish Revolt rebels as a victorious messiah. So, Paul puts his victory in a Roman crucified messiah, a pacifist messiah who still does not upstage Rome by having his followers leading and winning the revolt 40 years later.

    So, I put this question to you

    If Josephus used the cenus of Quirinius to introduce rebels, what is wrong with Atwill saying Luke used the cenus of Quirinius to introduce Jesus as not being a rebel but a child of parents who would go out of their way to pay Roman taxes?

    Have you come across any scholarly writings which explain why Josephus says a Roman soldier chased a Jewish rebel leader (I think on the Mount of Olives), rode low, grabbed him by the ankle and carried him away? Atwill says this is impossible; and, because it is impossible, it is a reference to Roman botanist making a cure to tame a wild plant (analogy to rebels). The botonist needed to grab a plant in the same manner that the Roman grabbed the rebel leader. Atwill is saying, the Romans had to acknowledge the success of the Macabbees and the Zealot, Activitst-not Pacifist–Messiah tradition. This was the wild plant. The rebel leader was wild.

    Long story short: Pacifism needed to be grafted onto Messiah ideal to make it less wild.

    There are nation building documents (sacred scripture). There are movement-making documents (War Scroll), Star Prophecy, etc. Did Rome need to put some propaganda out there to tame some of the militancy?

    So, the two questions deal with 1) Jesus’s parents paid their Roman taxes, does it emphasize the taming of a Messiah just as Give unto Caesar… and 2) a strong man cannot ride a horse and pick up another strong man by his ankle as Josephus records, what is the meaning Josephus is trying to convey?

  104. says

    Glad to get some details to put some meat on the question about picking up a man by his ankle while riding a horse:

    Pedanius Dioscorides was the chief physician and botanist accompanying Vespasian and Titus into Judea.

    Roman botany considered that by introducing tamed specimens into a colony of wild plants, hybrid and tamer plant would result.

    Josephus mentions a plant named rue that has a root named baaras which has the power to dispel demons. Josephus defined demons as the spirit of the wicked.

    Pedanius Dioscorides studied and wrote about this plant. In his textbook On Herbalism, he explains the dangers of the wild or mountain rue and the benefits of the domesticated rue.

    Atwill:
    The Romans attemped to “domesticate” the rebel Jews by pruning the root of their demonic wickedness (rebel against Rome), the Messiah Eleazar, and then grafting in the root that is the Pacifist (behave under Rome) Jesus who has the power to dispel demons (rebelliousness).

    Josephus Wars VI, ii, 157-158, 161-163 (paraphrased):

    Many of the seditious were so pressed by famine that they got together and made an attack on those Romans upon the Mount of Olives. The Romans saw the coming attack. One named Pedanius (like our botanist) spurred his horse on their flank with great vehemence and caught a certain young rebel by his ankle.

    The rebel who was caught by the ankle was of a robust body and in his armor; so, low did Pedanius bend himself downward from his horse, even as he was galloping away. Great was the strength of Pedanius’ right hand and of the rest of his body, (and strong was the horse). Pedanius was highly skilled in horsemanship to pull this off.

    Pedanius rode to Titus. Titus admired his strength. As for the rebel, Titus ordered that he be pruned for his attempt to attack the Romans on the Mount of Olives.

    Josephus Wars VII, vi, 178-185
    There grew a sort of rue that deserves our wonder.
    There also is a place called Baaras which produces a root by the same name.
    It is not easily taken. It recedes from the hands of the person who was take it.
    It is certain death by one who takes it (even if they pour something on the plant) UNLESS anyone take and hang the root itself down from his hand and carry it away (like the botanist did with the rebel). It’s value is that it drives away demons which are no other than the spirits of the wicked.

    Josephus Antiquities VIII, ii, 46-48 (Note: some editions mispring “foot” instead of “Root.”)

    Eleazar released people from demons. He did this in front of Vespasian, Titus, captains, etc. He put a ring that had a root to the nostrils of the demoniac (demon-possessed person) after which he drew out the demon. [Here, Josephus says the root was like the one of King Solomon, not the one of Pedanius.]

    The interesting thing about Josephus’ use of Eleazar is that Eleazar was a dead man walking when he was a rebel. (The Roman general Bassus seeks to make the Jews inside the Herodian fortress Macherus surrender by threatening to crucify Eleazar in front of them.) The Romans captured him and was going to crucify him but they saw how his community mourned and would do anything so that he would not be killed. So, the Romans let him go because the people promised not to be rebels anymore. Now we have Eleazar doing his community service by exorcising demons (analogy to getting them not to be rebels against Rome).

  105. says

    Hopefully, you will find this to be of more weight.

    Atwill says Josephus did not give us accurate dates because he was too busy trying to make history fit the prophecies of Daniel and a 40 year typology.

    70AD when the woe-saying Jesus of Ananus was killed had to be (for Josephus) 40 years after the biblical Jesus’s ministry began in 30 C.E. A generation is 40 years in Jesus’ day. Jesus’s prophecy of a destroyed Temple had to happen approximately within 40 years.

    The Wars of the Jews documents Daniel’s prophecies had come to pass within the first century. Josephus was aware that the “son of God” foreseen by Daniel had appeared earlier in the century and had been cut off (by the crucifixion of the biblical Jesus). Josephus was conscious of an important religious mystic wandering Galilee. Josephus was keenly aware that his work demonstrated that Daniel’s prophecies had come to pass and that Jesus was the Christ which the prophecies had envisioned. When Jesus failed to be the Messiah by Jewish rejection, Titus became Messiah and Son of Man.

    With Jesus dying 15 Nisan year 33 and Masada slaughter 15 Nisan 73, we have another 40 year period. This is Christianity wandering in the desert and finally with the end of the Jewish Revolt, the promise land of Christianity.

    ~ ~ ~

    Now, the question is: did Jesus die in 33?

    The problem here is that the crucifixion of Jesus does not work on calendars until 36 C.E. Nisan 15 falls on a Thu. in 30, a Tue. in 31, on a Tue. in 32, on a Sat. in 33, on a Tue. in 34, on a Tue. in 35 and on a Sat. in 36. Author Joseph Raymond writes: “In only two years [30-36 Common Era] did 15 Nisan fall on a Saturday, with Passover beginning the previous evening (on Friday)—33 and 36 C.E.”

    When would Jesus stage a Palm Sunday in 33 or 36? Well, it is not until 36 that (quoting Raymon) “50% of the Roman troops for the Syrian province, were engaged in a campaign over 500 miles to the east. Furthermore, a large Jewish army allied with the Romans under Antipas had just been defeated by Aretas, king of Nabatea,” giving Palm Sunday even less resistance.

    • says

      This is all speculative fantasy. There is nothing here about evidence verifying Atwill’s thesis. Perhaps you don’t understand the difference between hypothesis and evidence. Because you seem to be treating hypotheses as evidence throughout the above.

    • says

      Well Stephen, the dates you give for the crucifiction (and it’s ALL fiction in my opinion) firther confirms in my mind that Atwill simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

      Care to provide me a link where I can verify those dates? I’m working on a multipart article called “Was Jesus Even Crucified?” over on my blog and would like to use them, provided they are not false.

  106. says

    Your article about the parallel between Josephus and Luke-Acts (which I have read), Josephus and the New Testament by Steve Mason (not yet read) may not have fully revealed the literary context and criticism one needs to know when a) evaluating the New Testament and b) evaluating Josephus’ treatment of the first century C.E.

    Atwill, in my opinion, has made mistakes in the version of Caesar’s Messiah: Flavian Signature Edition I read. Hopefully, he will get an editor and second, he will tighten up his argument and produce a subsequent edition of the book. Perhaps, he should incorporate your article and Steve Mason’s book into the next edition.

    I believe your article and Steve Mason’s book are additional reasons why Josephus is imjportant for New Testament studies–how can one fully cover Luke-Acts without doing so?

    No, I cannot give you evidence verifying Atwill’s thesis that Jesus is Titus. I think his Thesis should be Titus is the Son of Man.

    No, I cannot give you evidence verigying Atwill’s thesis that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were under the “publishing house” of the Flavians. He does not explain how, on the one hand there is satire on both sides, but members of the Flavian bloodlines became Christians. Satire and holding something sacred are not easy partners, meanwhile, Titus has an emperor cult for his father, Vespasian.

    Yes, Josephus is telling us that the Romans could not torture the Sicarri enough to make them behave the way Rome needed their cooperation. Atwill puts this forward, Josephus explicity says if the various rebellious factions are fighting one another, Vespasian and Titus gave them time to kill each other as opposed to losing Roman soldiers for doing the lethal job they were doing to each other.

    You have opened the same door Atwill has opened: consider Josephus when studying the New Testament, there’s something of value there. You said yourself that