On Oct. 19, self-professed Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill is planning to make public some very flammable allegations. At a day-long symposium called “Covert Messiah” in London, England, he’s set to unveil purported evidence that Roman aristocrats manufactured Jesus Christ – a claim that, if substantiated, would devalue the core of the Christian faith.
The only problem? Most Biblical experts disagree with the scholar’s pronouncements.
A press release announcing the purported new evidence claims that Atwill has discovered “ancient confessions” that purportedly prove that Romans invented Jesus Christ in the first century. He has long argued that the faith system was used as a political tool to control the masses — something he says is still going on today.
“I present my work with some ambivalence, as I do not want to directly cause Christians any harm, but this is important for our culture,” he said of the alleged debunk – one that he believes will eventually be universally accepted.
In the release, Atwill said that governments often create “false histories and false gods” and that this is often done in an effort to secure social order.
Rather than a theology, Atwill believes that Christianity was concocted as a government project that was used to control Roman citizens. During a time in which Jewish residents were waiting for their Messiah, he says they were a constant source of insurrection, leading the Romans to seek out an equalizing and tempering force.
“When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare,” Atwill explains in the press release. “They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system.”
And that’s when Jesus was allegedly created – a man who advocated peace rather than violence. Atwill contends that the Christ that billions embrace never actually existed and that he is a “fictional character.”
He bases his theory on a study of “Wars of the Jews,” a book by Josephus, a scholar who provided insight and documentation first-century Judea. The historian contends that the prophesies of Jesus line up with Josephus’ writings about the Jewish-Roman war and are, thus, proof that “the biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar.”
“Is this the beginning of the end of Christianity?” the press release cryptically asks.
While Atwill doesn’t think it is, he did say that the purported discovery will give those who are looking to leave the Christian faith the perfect motivation to do so. He maintains that his evidence shows exactly where Jesus’ story came from.
“Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history,” he said. “To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East.”
Patheos blogger James R. McGrath, though, doubts that the symposium will be groundbreaking. Of Atwill’s claim to be a Biblical scholar he wrote, “there is no evidence that he has relevant qualifications or research to his name.”
Atwill’s biography claims that, while he went to school for computer science, he has spent years studying the origins of Christianity.
Professor James Crossley from the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England, agreed with Atwill’s critics, telling The Daily Mail that theories like Atwill’s are not accepted among academics.
“These types of theories are very common outside the academic world and are usually reserved for sensationalist literature,” he said. “They are virtually non-existent in the academic world.”
Atwill’s views are no surprise. Online articles and a book he wrote in 2005 entitled, “Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus,” all include similar themes. His view that Jesus was manufactured is well-documented. Most mainstream Bible scholars, though, don’t seem to be buying into it.