UPDATE: As concerns the “news” about this thesis rocketing around the net, forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical. This “announcement” is a paid press release, which is significant because it’s not a news item that anyone’s investigated. Rather than some newly discovered confessional document, I’m imagining Joe’s found a “pun” that only works in English in a text we already know about.
Here’s an article that indicates it’s just Josephus Atwill’s talking about, who most assuredly does not make any such confession. My comments about this thesis below remain the same. See also Carrier’s dissection.
Here is an hour-long DVD of a discussion I had with Joe Atwill, author of Caesar’s Messiah. I haven’t actually watched it, but my recollection that it is contains important information. 🙂
Please note that I do not concur with Atwill’s Josephus/Flavian thesis vis-a-vis the origin of the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There remains no clear, scientific evidence for the emergence of the canonical gospels as we have them until the end of the second century, when they suddenly burst onto the scene with a slew of commentary. (For more information, see “When were the gospels written?”)
Joe and I do agree that the “Jesus Christ” of the New Testament is a fictional compilation of characters, real and mythical. We also concur that this effort to create what eventually became known as “Christianity” began in the first century, but the facts indicate that the Vespasian/Titus cult was evidently involved with the cult of Chrestos, not Christos, at that time. The real effort to compose the canonical gospels, moreover, did not occur until the middle of the second century, with the publication of the “heretic” Marcion’s “New Testament” at Rome.
Joe and all the other people involved in this process were very nice, and we had a marvelous time filming it. So, thanks to all those good folks, including and especially Fritz Heede and Nijole Sparkis of NlightningworkZ!
Another link to the DVD:
Is Jesus a fictional allegory created by the most powerful families in the 1st Century as a device for political control?
Could the title of “Christ” actually apply to a Roman Caesar?
In this informal discussion, Acharya S/D.M. Murdock and Joseph Atwill offer their perspectives on Atwill’s provocative “Caesar’s Messiah” Thesis, which concludes that Jesus is not a historical figure, that the Gospels are literature not history, and that the ministry of the fictional character Jesus is modeled on the military campaign of Roman Caesar Titus Flavius as he battled against the Jewish revolt in Judea.
The two scholars discuss why this “savior god” myth needed to be anchored in history in contrast to earlier similar myths that were not. The purpose was to create the ultimate Super State with the authority to represent God on Earth.
Here’s a review of this video:
“In this DVD I could clearly see the depth of Acharya’s knowledge and wisdom. I was riveted by the conversation between her and author Atwill as they exchanged their knowledge of the people and places that may have created Christianity. Although Acharya has said she doesn’t concur with Atwill’s thesis of a ‘politically’ created myth of Jesus, it is pleasure to hear two scholars with differing opinions politely and professionally debate each other. Definitely very enlightening!” Deirdre Simone
One clarification: I do concur that Christianity was created significantly for political reasons, but there is no scientific evidence that the canonical gospels were written by any Flavians, whether Josephus or otherwise, as they do not emerge clearly in the historical record until the last half of the second century. The works of Josephus factor into the picture when the author of Luke-Acts apparently uses them in order to flesh out the tale with “real history.”
Yes, as one can see, I do not go around smearing and sullying the reputation of other scholars and mythicists with calumny and libel, as others have done to me, mendaciously and dishonestly pretending to be experts on my work without even having read it. One of my goals in doing this work, in fact, is to bring people together in a sense of intellectual exchange, rather than the typical competition that we see so abundantly and that has gotten us nowhere. A fascistic tyranny of Jesus mythers is not an improvement over a fascistic tyranny of Jesus believers.
In this quest to unravel Christian origins, the evidence leads us to factor in the biographical details of many individuals, both historical and mythical. This compilation includes not just one emperor/caesar but several, such as Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE) and Caesar Augustus (63 BCE-14 AD/CE), both of whom were likewise considered to be saviors or “messiahs,” the Greek epithet being soter. Many other historical figures such as Ptolemy Soter bore this epithet of “savior” or “messiah,” and many gods were likewise called “Savior,” such as Dionysus and Serapis. Their “biographical” details must also be included in this analysis, as must be those of Horus, Mithra, Attis, Buddha and numerous other figures, not a few of whom resolve themselves to sun gods.
Decades earlier than the time of emperor Titus, some of the “biographical” details attached to the story of Jesus were circulating about the previous emperors Julius and Augustus Caesar. For example, it was said of both Julius and Augustus that their father was the Greek sun god Apollo, thus giving them a divine birth. The very notion of a caesar implies divinity, as he would be given the Latin epithet divus, a word meaning “divine” or “deified” and “god” or “goddess,” “often as epithet for dead and deified emperors.” As Dr. J. Dominic Crossan remarks:
“On every coin you have inscriptions of Caesar as divine. In the ancient world, being divine was a job description, meaning somebody who does something very important for the human race.”
The mythology surrounding the caesars included their resurrection from death and ascension into heaven, events recorded on the coins of Julius Caesar the year he died, 44 BCE. The coins below depict the goddess Nike or “Victory” instructing the lunar goddess Selene to wake Caesar from his death slumber.
Following is the so-called Priene inscription from announcements of the calendar change based on the birth of Caesar Augustus in 63 BCE, “found on marble stelae in all the Asian temples dedicated to Rome and Augustus”:
“Whereas Providence…has…adorned our lives with the highest good: Augustus…and has in her beneficence granted us and those who will come after us [a Savior] who has made war to cease and who shall put everything in [peaceful] order…with the result that the birthday of our God signalled the beginning of Good News for the world because of him… therefore…”
The original Greek here for “Good News” is evangelia, the same term used in the New Testament to describe the “gospel” of Jesus Christ.
The caesar was thus considered the divine “son of God” and “Savior,” whose birth brings the “good news” (evangelia), the same name used in the New Testament to describe Jesus’s “gospel.” Caesar is murdered, resurrects and ascends to heaven – all decades before Jesus supposedly lived and before Titus became emperor.
Adding to these various biographical details of pagan deities and emperors the numerous “messianic prophecies” of the Old Testament used as an outline or “blueprint,” we can account for the creation of the savior/gospel tale, which was expanded upon and worked over by the Gnostics and then Judaized/historicized at the end of the second century.
A piece of the puzzle?
As concerns my remarks to Joe Atwill about his piece of the Christianity puzzle, when/if I have time, I may do a detailed analysis of the aspects of the Vespasian/Titus story that may have been utilized to flesh out the historical framework of the gospel tale, such as the placing of it in Galilee, mainly (except for in the Gospel of John), with the focus on the cities of Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida, etc. However, it is possible that some of these city-names are, like much of the rest of the gospel story, midrash based on Old Testament scriptures. This part of the mythicist position still needs to be worked out in detail, as does the role of the Flavians in the Chrestos cult of the late first century, which appears to be the real contribution of this faction to the Christian effort.
In this regard, I have a lengthy article on the Chrestos cult of the first century AD/CE, which appears to have been given a boost by the Flavians during the last quarter of that period. In consideration of Vespasian’s visits to the multinational cult center at Mt. Carmel, where he purportedly received the oracle’s approval as emperor, and to the temple of Serapis at Alexandria, where he supposedly obtained the gift of healing, we would not be surprised if Vespasian was involved in what would be known as “Christianity.” The hypothesis that Vespasian’s visit to Mt. Carmel was to discuss the amalgamation of Judaism and Paganism, which had already been achieved there for centuries, may possess some truth. Moreover, it is likewise hypothesized that one of the reasons Titus wanted to take the surrendered Josephus under his wing was in order to obtain the Jewish scriptures, generally forbidden to non-Jews. If all of these contentions are true, it becomes obvious that these Flavians were involved in the early Chrestian effort, which was utilized in the later organization at the end of the second century that eventually became Christianity.
Regarding the overall thesis, therefore, a relatively small percentage of the Titus biography would have been used in the creation of the gospel story, but the Flavians, including Josephus, did not compose the canonical gospels as we have them.
The Caesar’s Messiah thesis doesn’t incorporate the thousands of years of pre-Christian mythology that my own work highlights rigorously. It doesn’t investigate the actual GREEK of the texts in question. It doesn’t incorporate the scholarship that the canonical gospels as we have them do not emerge into the historical record until the end of the SECOND century, and it assumes that Josephus composed the so-called Testimonium Flavianum. The thesis also ignores the massive body of mythicist literature dating back centuries, in which this “puzzle” of Christian origins had been solved already and needed no new theories.
As I state, there may have been a few details from Titus’s life used in the creation of the “history,” but even these may have been included based on midrash from the OT and other texts written long before Josephus.