I have heard it all now! According to a recent article in the Independent newspaper, Joseph Atwill, self styled American ‘Biblical scholar’ has just published a book entitled 'Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus'. As keynote speaker at the 'Covert Messiah' conference, at the Conway Hall in London, he asserted that Christianity did not have its origins in Judaism. Apparently he has discovered that the entire Christian faith was actually a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire.
Atwill contends that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ!
Writing on his website at www.caesarsmessiah.com Atwill says, ‘Christianity may be considered a religion, but it was actually developed and used as a system of mind control to produce slaves that believed God decreed their slavery.’ He further argues the Romans developed a ‘peace and love’ narrative centred on Jesus to compete with the nationalist ideology of some Jewish sects who were awaiting the arrival of the 'warrior Messiah' in Palestine. For Atwill, the Romans had resorted to ‘psychological warfare’ to solve a political problem
In Atwill’s words: “Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to 'give unto Caesar' and pay their taxes to Rome."
No doubt Mr Atwill’s book will sell well, particularly amongst the ‘conspiracy theorists’ and secularists who will endorse any crackpot theory which seeks to undermine the Biblical account of Jesus’ life. However, when submitted to rigorous academic examination by real, accredited, Biblical scholars who know their Greek and Hebrew, Mr Atwill’s work fails to stand up.
As a work of fictional entertainment it ranks alongside the scripts of movies such as ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ or ‘The Life of Brian’.
According to the Independent article: “Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and author, well known for his anti-religion views, yesterday tweeted a link to the press release advertising the event in London. However, he later tweeted: I'm not qualified to judge Atwill's thesis. Just thought it might be worth a look."
Clearly Mr Dawkins lacks the ability to discern the difference between fiction and non-fiction.
As a born again Christian, I’m with the Apostle Paul, when almost 2000 years ago he wrote: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength”.
I don’t think many Christians will be rushing out to buy Mr Atwill’s book. Fewer still will be moved to abandon their faith. This is because true faith is rooted in a personal living relationship with the author of the Bible: the living God.