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Dominion (book) Judea v. Rome (masthead of this site) New Testament St Paul Tom Holland

How the Woke Monster originated, 2

by Tom Holland

Holland’s book in my bedroom—Editor. For the
first instalment of this abridged series see here.

 
Mission AD 19: Galatia

Only the Jews, with their stiff-necked insistence that there existed just a single god, refused as a matter of principle to join in acknowledging the divinity of Augustus; and so perhaps it was no surprise, in the decades that followed the building to him of temples across Galatia, that the visitor there most subversive of his cult should have been a Jew.

The Son of God proclaimed by Paul did not share his sovereignty with other deities. There were no other deities. ‘For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live’ (Romans 8.6).

Now, by touring cities across the entire span of the Roman world, Paul set himself to bringing them the news of a convulsive upheaval in the affairs of heaven and earth. Once, like a child under the protection of a tutor, the Jews had been graced with the guardianship of a divinely authored law; but now, with the coming of Christ, the need for such guardianship was past. No longer were the Jews alone ‘the children of God’ (Deuteronomy 14.1). The exclusive character of their covenant was abrogated. The venerable distinctions between them and everyone else—of which male circumcision had always been the pre-eminent symbol—were transcended. Jews and Greeks, Galatians and Scythians: all alike, so long as they opened themselves to belief in Jesus Christ, were henceforward God’s holy people. This, so Paul informed his hosts, was the epochal message that Christ had charged him to proclaim to the limits of the world.

‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28-9).

Only the world turned upside down could ever have sanctioned such an unprecedented, such a revolutionary, announcement. If Paul did not stint, in a province adorned with monuments to Caesar, in hammering home the full horror and humiliation of Jesus’ death, then it was because, without the crucifixion, he would have had no gospel to proclaim. Christ, by making himself nothing, by taking on the very nature of a slave, had plumbed the depths to which only the lowest, the poorest, the most persecuted and abused of mortals were confined…

To repudiate a city’s gods was to repudiate as well the rhythms of its civic life. It was to imperil relations with family and friends. It was to show disrespect to Caesar himself.

By urging his converts to consider themselves neither Galatian nor Jewish, but solely as the people of Christ, as citizens of heaven, he was urging them to adapt an identity that was as globalist as it was innovative. This, in an age that took for granted local loyalties and tended to look upon novelty with suspicion, was a bold strategy—but one for which Paul refused to apologise. If he was willing to grant the Law of Moses any authority at all, then it was only to insist that what God most truly wanted was a universal amity. ‘The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ (Galatians 5.14) All you need is love.

Paul wrote to a second church, preaching the redemption from old identities that lay at the heart of his message. Corinth, unlike Galatia, enjoyed an international reputation for glamour.

As much as anywhere in Greece, then, Corinth was a melting pot. The descendants of Roman freedmen settled there by Julius Caesar mingled with Greek plutocrats; shipping magnates with cobblers; itinerant philosophers with Jewish scholars. Identity, in such a city, might easily lack deep roots. Unlike in Athens, where even Paul’s greatest admirers found it hard to pretend that he had enjoyed much of an audience, in Corinth he had won a hearing. His stay in the city, where he had supported himself by working on awnings and tents, and sleeping among the tools of his trade, had garnered various converts. The church that he had founded there—peopled by Jews and non-Jews, rich and poor, some with Roman names and some with Greek—served as a monument to his vision of a new people: citizens of heaven.

Among a people who had always celebrated the agon, the contest to be the best, he announced that God had chosen the foolish to shame the wise, and the weak to shame the strong. In a world that took for granted the hierarchy of human chattels and their owners, he insisted that the distinctions between slave and free, now that Christ himself had suffered the death of a slave, were of no more account than those between Greek and Jew. ‘For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave’ (Corinthians 7.22).

Like the great salesman that he was, he always made sure to pitch his message to his audience. ‘I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some’ (Corinthians 9.22). Despite this claim, and despite the convulsive transformation in his understanding of what it meant to be a Jew, in his instincts and prejudices he remained the product of his schooling…

That the law of the God of Israel might be read inscribed on the human heart, written there by his Spirit, was a notion that drew alike on the teachings of Pharisees and Stoics—and yet equally was foreign to them both. Its impact was destined to render Paul’s letters—the correspondence of a bum, without position or reputation in the affairs of the world—the most influential, the most transformative, the most revolutionary ever written. Across the millennia, and in societies and continents unimagined by Paul himself, their impact would reverberate. His was a conception of law that would come to suffuse an entire civilisation. He was indeed—just as he proclaimed himself to be—the herald of a new beginning…

[Left, Paul the Apostle – Catacombs of St. Tecla, c. 380 C.E.—Ed.] Paul was not the founder of the churches in Rome. Believers in Christ had appeared well before his own arrival there. Nevertheless, the letter that he had sent these Hagioi from Corinth, a lengthy statement of his beliefs that was designed as well to serve as an introduction to ‘all in Rome who are loved by God’ (Romans 1.7) was like nothing they had ever heard before. The most detailed of Paul’s career, it promised to its recipients a dignity more revolutionary than even any of Nero’s stunts. When the masses were invited by the emperor to his street parties, the summons was to enjoy a fleeting taste of the pleasures of a Caesar.

But Paul, in his letter to the Romans, had something altogether more startling to offer. ‘The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children’ (Romans 8.16). Here, baldly stated, was a status that Nero would never have thought to share. It was not given to householders filthy and stinking with the sweat of their own labours, the inhabitants at best of a mean apartment or workshop on the outskirts of the city, to lay claim to the title of a Caesar. And yet that, so Paul proclaimed, was indeed their prerogative. They had been adopted by a god.

To suffer as Christ had done, to be beaten, and degraded, and abused, was to share in his glory. Adoption by God, so Paul assured his Roman listeners, promised the redemption of their bodies. ‘And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you’ (Romans 8.11). The revolutionary implications of this message, to those who heard it, could not help but raise pressing questions. In the cramped workshops that provided the Hagioi of Rome with their places of assembly, where they would meet to commemorate the arrest and suffering of Christ with a communal meal, men rubbed shoulders with women, citizens with slaves. If all were equally redeemed by Christ, if all were equally beloved of God, then what of the hierarchies on which the functioning of even the humblest Roman household depended?

The master of a household was no more or less a son of God than his slaves. Everyone, then, should be joined together by a common love. Yet even as Paul urged this, he did not push the radicalism of his message to its logical conclusion. A slave might be loved by his master as a brother, and renowned for his holiness, and blessed with the gift of prophecy—but still remain a slave. Despite his scorn for the pretensions of the Caesars, Paul warned the churches of Rome not to offer open resistance to Nero. ‘Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established’ (Romans 13.1).

If Roman power upheld the peace that enabled him to travel the world, then he would not jeopardise his mission by urging his converts to rebel against it. Too much was at stake. There was no time to weave the entire fabric of society anew. What mattered, in the brief window of opportunity that Paul had been granted, was to establish as many churches as possible—and thereby to prepare the world for the parousia. ‘For the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night’ (I Thessalonians 5.2). And increasingly, it seemed that the world’s foundations were indeed starting to shake…

In AD 66, the smouldering resentments of the Jews in Judaea burst into open revolt. Roman vengeance, when it came, was terrible. Four years after the launch of the rebellion, Jerusalem was stormed by the legions. The wealth of the Temple was carted off to Rome, and the building itself burnt to the ground. ‘Neither its antiquity, nor the extent of its treasures, nor the global range of those who regarded it as theirs, nor the incomparable glory of its rites, proved sufficient to prevent its destruction’ (Josephus Jewish Wars 6.442).

God, whose support the rebels had been banking upon, had failed to save his people. Many Jews, cast into an abyss of misery and despair, abandoned their faith in him altogether. Others, rather than blame God, chose instead to blame themselves, arraigning themselves on a charge of disobedience, and turning with a renewed intensity to the study of their scriptures and their laws. Others yet—those who believed that Jesus was Christ, and whom the Roman authorities had increasingly begun to categorise as Christiani [1]—found in the ruin visited on God’s Chosen People the echo of an even more dreadful spectacle: that of God’s Son upon the gallows.

The gospels written in the tense and terrible years that immediately preceded and followed the annihilation of Jerusalem were different [than Paul’s letters—Ed.]. The kingdom of God was like a mustard seed; it was like the world as seen through the eyes of a child; it was like yeast in dough. Again and again, in the stories that Jesus loved to tell, in his parables, the plot was as likely to be drawn from the world of the humble as it was from that of the wealthy or the wise: from the world of swineherds, servants, sowers.

_____________

[1] Tacitus explicitly states that those condemned by Nero were abusively referred to by the name of Chrestiani.Unsurprisingly, then, neither in Paul’s letters nor in the Gospels does the word appear; but already, by AD 100 at the latest, Christians themselves seem to have begun to appropriate it.

Categories
Jewish question (JQ) Laurent Guyénot Literature New Testament Richard Carrier Romulus St Paul

How Yahweh conquered Rome, 5

by Laurent Guyénot

 

The Jesus question: How fake is the Good News?

I regard Barbiero’s book as a fruitful attempt to solve the mystery of how the Jews created Christianity and made it the Roman religion. But it certainly doesn’t give the full story. Much happened in the next three centuries that needs to be clarified. One important context, which is seldom considered, is the ‘Crisis of the Third Century’ (235-284), during which ‘the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of barbarian invasions and migrations into the Roman territory, civil wars, peasant rebellions, political instability’ (Wikipedia), but also cataclysmic events and widespread diseases such as the Plague of Cyprian (c. 249-262), that was said to kill up to 5,000 people a day in Rome.[22] In such a context, the apocalyptic flavor of early Christianity must have been a key factor of its success. Interestingly, the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, the latest included into the Christian canon, is considered by some scholars to be a Christianized edition of a Jewish apocalypse, because, except for its prologue and epilogue (from 4:1 to 22:15), it contains no recognizable Christian motif.[23]

There are also two important building blocks of Christianity that Barbiero’s focus on Roman Mithraism leaves out: the Gospels’ life of Jesus, and Paul’s mystical Christ. How did they originate, and how were they integrated? The connection between them is one of the most difficult problems concerning the birth of Christianity. For, as Earl Doherty writes in The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity begin with a mythical Christ? (1999), a book that has sent a shockwave in Jesus scholarship (here quoted from this 600-page pdf): ‘Not once does Paul or any other first century epistle writer identify their divine Christ Jesus with the recent historical man known from the Gospels. Nor do they attribute the ethical teachings they put forward to such a man.’ Christ is simply for Paul a celestial deity who has endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection, and who communicates to his devotees through dreams, visions and prophecies. Such gnostic Christology has roots in mystery religions long predating Jesus. It is difficult to explain how a human Jesus could be transformed into such a divine Christ in a few decades, during the lifetime of those who knew him.

The first difficulty is that the vast majority of the earliest Christians were, of course, Jews. ‘God is One,’ says the most fundamental of Jewish theological tenets. Moreover, the Jewish mind had an obsession against associating anything human with God. He could not be represented by even the suggestion of a human image, and Jews in their thousands had bared their necks before Pilate’s swords simply to protest against the mounting of military standards bearing Caesar’s image within sight of the Temple. The idea that a man was a literal part of God would have been met by any Jew with horror and apoplexy.

And yet we are to believe that Jews were immediately led to elevate Jesus of Nazareth to divine levels unprecedented in the entire history of human religion. We are to believe not only that they identified a crucified criminal with the ancient God of Abraham, but that they went about the empire and practically overnight converted huge numbers of other Jews to the same outrageous—and thoroughly blasphemous—proposition. Within a handful of years of Jesus’ supposed death, we know of Christian communities in many major cities of the empire, all presumably having accepted that a man they had never met, crucified as a political rebel on a hill outside Jerusalem, had risen from the dead and was in fact the pre-existent Son of God, creator, sustainer, and redeemer of the world. Since many of the Christian communities Paul worked in existed before he got there, and since Paul’s letters do not support the picture Acts paints of intense missionary activity on the part of the Jerusalem group around Peter and James, history does not record who performed this astounding feat.[24]

The simplest way to overcome this difficulty is to assume that the transformation of the human Jesus into the cosmic Christ (or the other way round, as Doherty suggests) didn’t happen spontaneously, but was engineered by connecting several elements, with the aim of fabricating a Judeo-Hellenistic syncretic religion.

Paul’s letters were first collected in the first half of the second century by Marcion of Sinope who also included in his canon a short evangelion (he was the first to use the term), but rejected the Jewish Tanakh. Around 208, Tertullian, a Carthaginian of probable Jewish origin, complained that ‘the heretical tradition of Marcion filled the universe’ (Against Marcion v, 19). He also tells us that, during the time of Marcion, another Gnostic teacher named Valentinus almost became bishop of Rome. In the third century AD appeared the Persian Mani, who called himself ‘apostle of Jesus Christ,’ but rejected any Jewish influence. Manicheans became the label pinned by the Catholic Church on all the Gnostic movements that came from the East, such as the Paulicians from Anatolia in the eighth century, or the Bogomils from Bulgaria in the ninth century, the ancestors of the Cathars who were eradicated from the south of France in the early thirteenth century. All these movements, which can be seen as successive waves of the same movement, venerated Paul and rejected the Torah, whose god they regarded either as an evil demiurge, a deceptive demon, or a malicious fiction.

In the fourth century, Gnostic Christianity was still alive and flourishing. The monastic library of the Egyptian Brotherhood of Saint Pachomius, the first known Christian monastery, contained a great wealth of Gnostic literature (including the Gospel of Thomas), amid Platonic, Hermetic, and Zoroastrian books. As New Testament scholar Robert Price tells in his fascinating book Deconstructing Jesus (2000):

Apparently when the monks received the Easter Letter from Athanasius in 367 C.E., which contains the first known listing of the canonical twenty-seven New Testament books, warning the faithful to read no others, the brethren must have decided to hide their cherished ‘heretical’ gospels, lest they fall into the hands of the ecclesiastical book burners.[25]

All these codices were hidden in a graveyard at Nag Hammadi, where they were discovered in 1945, revolutionizing our image of early Christianity. Scholars have since started to question the traditional view of Gnostics as dissenters who broke away from the Orthodox Church; rather, the Gnostics who never ceased claiming that Roman Catholics were corrupting the Gospel under Jewish influence, may have been right all along.

As I started delving into these questions, I discovered that a new school of New Testament exegesis, pioneered by Earl Doherty’s Jesus Puzzle, claims that Christianity was born in myth, not in history. I had always assumed that Jesus’ biography was too historically plausible to be a fiction. In my thirties, I had become fascinated by the quest for the historical Jesus and wrote a book on the ‘legendary’ relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist, which argued that the Gospel writers falsified the genuine prophecies of John, and forged spurious praises of Jesus by John, and that much of the sayings attributed to Jesus (from the hypothetical Q document) were originally attributed to John.[26] Nevertheless, I didn’t doubt the historicity of Jesus. But my recent journey into the ‘Christ Myth’ theory has convinced me that the historical Jesus is more elusive than I thought. The Gospels, for one thing, are not as old as generally admitted (between the 70s and the 90s), for, as Doherty points out:

Only in Justin Martyr, writing in the 150s, do we find the first identifiable quotations from some of the Gospels, though he calls them simply ‘memoirs of the Apostles,’ with no names. And those quotations usually do not agree with the texts of the canonical versions we now have, showing that such documents were still undergoing evolution and revision.[27]

A late second-century date for the first narrative about Jesus is consistent with the hypothesis—that goes contrary to Barbiero’s theory—that Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews originally contained a reference to John the Baptist and one to James the Just, but no reference to Jesus, who was later inserted between the two so that John could be presented as Jesus’ precursor and James as his brother and heir. There is much evidence that James, like John the Baptist before him, was a famous figure in his own right. According to biblical scholar Robert Eisenman, author of James, the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, James is identical to ‘the Teacher of Righteousness’ mentioned in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which have been dated too early. Strangely,

The person of James is almost diametrically opposed to the Jesus of Scripture and our ordinary understanding of him. Whereas the Jesus of Scripture is anti-nationalist, cosmopolitan, antinomian—that is, against the direct application of Jewish Law—and accepting foreigners and other persons of perceived impurities, the Historical James will turn out to be zealous for the Law, and rejecting of foreigners and polluted persons generally.

His death by stoning in 62 ‘was connected in popular imagination with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE in a way that Jesus’ death some four decades before could not have been.’

Variant manuscripts of the works of Josephus, reported by Church fathers like Origen, Eusebius and Jerome, all of whom at one time or another spent time in Palestine, contain materials associating the fall of Jerusalem with the death of James—not with the death of Jesus. Their shrill protests, particularly Origen’s and Eusebius’, have probably not a little to do with the disappearance of this passage from all manuscripts of the Jewish War that have come down to us.[28]

Jesus scholars of the ‘mythicist’ school—by opposition to ‘historicist’—refrain from expressing their conclusion in conspiratorial terms. In his book On the Historicity of Jesus, Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, Richard Carrier writes: ‘the Jesus we know originated as a mythical character,’ and only ‘later, this myth was mistaken for history (or deliberately repackaged that way).’ But I find ‘mistaken’ very unlikely, and ‘deliberately repackaged’ much more probable. Carrier actually suggests that the fundamental structure of the narrative was borrowed from a well-established Roman mythical pattern:

In Plutarch’s biography of Romulus, the founder of Rome, we are told he was the son of god, born of a lowly shepherd; then as a man he becomes beloved by the people, hailed as king, and killed by the conniving elite; then he rises from the dead, appears to a friend to tell the good news to his people, and ascends to heaven to rule from on high. Just like Jesus.

Plutarch also tells us about annual public ceremonies that were still being performed, which celebrated the day Romulus ascended to heaven. The sacred story told at this event went basically as follows: at the end of his life, amid rumors he was murdered by a conspiracy of the Senate (just as Jesus was ‘murdered’ by a conspiracy of the Jews—in fact by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish equivalent of the Senate), the sun went dark (just as it did when Jesus died), and Romulus’s body vanished (just as Jesus’ did). The people wanted to search for him but the Senate told them not to, ‘for he had risen to join the gods’ (much as a mysterious young man tells the women in Mark’s Gospel). Most went away happy, hoping for good things from their new god, but ‘some doubted’ (just as all later Gospels say of Jesus: Mt 28.17; Lk 24.11; Jn 20.24-25; even Mk 16.8 implies this). Soon after, Proculus, a close friend of Romulus, reported that he met Romulus ‘on the road’ between Rome and a nearby town and asked him, ‘Why have you abandoned us?’, to which Romulus replied that he had been a god all along but had come down to earth and become incarnate to establish a great kingdom, and now had to return to his home in heaven (pretty much as happens to Cleopas in Lk 24.13-32). Then Romulus told his friend to tell the Romans that if they are virtuous they will have all worldly power.

Livy’s account [History 1.16], just like Mark’s, emphasizes that ‘fear and bereavement’ kept the people ‘silent for a long time’, and only later did they proclaim Romulus ‘God, Son of God, King, and Father’, thus matching Mark’s ‘they said nothing to anyone’, yet obviously assuming that somehow word got out.

It certainly seems as if Mark is fashioning Jesus into the new Romulus, with a new, superior message, establishing a new, superior kingdom. This Romulan tale looks a lot like a skeletal model for the passion narrative: a great man, founder of a great kingdom, despite coming from lowly origins and of suspect parentage, is actually an incarnated son of god, but dies as a result of a conspiracy of the ruling council, then a darkness covers the land at his death and his body vanishes, at which those who followed him flee in fear (just like the Gospel women, Mk 16.8; and men, Mk 14.50-52), and like them, too, we look for his body but are told he is not here, he has risen; and some doubt, but then the risen god ‘appears’ to select followers to deliver his gospel.

There are many differences in the two stories, surely. But the similarities are too numerous to be a coincidence—and the differences are likely deliberate. For instance, Romulus’s material kingdom favoring the mighty is transformed into a spiritual one favoring the humble. It certainly looks like the Christian passion narrative is an intentional transvaluation of the Roman Empire’s ceremony of their own founding savior’s incarnation, death and resurrection. Other elements have been added to the Gospels—the story heavily Judaized, and many other symbols and motifs pulled in to transform it—and the narrative has been modified, in structure and content, to suit the Christians’ own moral and spiritual agenda. But the basic structure is not original.[29]

Other scholars have long identified strong parallels between the life of Jesus and the legendary lives of holy men such as Pythagoras or Appolonius of Tyana. In the later, for example, we find that Appolonius, after a lifetime of doing miracles, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead, was delivered by his enemies to the Roman authorities. ‘Still,’ according to Bart D. Ehrman’s summary, ‘after he left this world, he returned to meet his followers in order to convince them that he was not really dead but lived on in the heavenly realm.’[30]

Robert Price has pointed another likely source for the Gospel narratives: Greek novels such as Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe, Xenophon’s Ephesian Tale, Achilles Tatius’ Leucippe and Clitophon, Heliodorus’ Ethiopian Story, Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe, The Story of Apollonius, King of Tyre, Iamblichus’ Babylonian Story, and Petronius’ Satyricon.

Three major plot devices recur like clockwork in the ancient novels, which were usually about the adventures of star-crossed lovers, somewhat like modern soap operas. First, the heroine, a princess, collapses into a coma and is taken for dead. Prematurely buried, she awakens later in the darkness of the tomb. Ironically, she is discovered in the nick of time by grave robbers who have broken into the opulent mausoleum, looking for rich funerary tokens […]. The crooks save her life but also kidnap her, since they can’t afford to leave a witness behind. When her fiancé or husband comes to the tomb to mourn, he is stunned to find the tomb empty and first guesses that his beloved has been taken up to heaven because the gods envied her beauty. In one tale, the man sees the shroud left behind, just as in John 20:6-7.

The second stock plot device is that the hero, finally realizing what has happened, goes in search of the heroine and eventually runs afoul of a governor or king who wants her and, to get him out of the way, has the hero crucified. Of course, the hero always manages to get a last-minute pardon, even once affixed to the cross, or he survives crucifixion by some stroke of luck. Sometimes the heroine, too, appears to have been killed but winds up alive after all.

Third, we eventually have a joyous reunion of the two lovers, each of whom has despaired of ever seeing the other again. They at first cannot believe they are not seeing a ghost come to comfort them. Finally, disbelieving for joy, they are convinced that their loved one has survived in the flesh.

As I have noted in my article ‘The Crucifixion of the Goddess,’ the love romance pattern is still apparent in the Gospel, where the risen Jesus appears first to his longtime follower Mary Magdalene, who, perhaps for that reason, was regarded as Jesus’ soul mate by many Gnostics.[31]

Price quotes the following passage from Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe, where Chaereas discovers the empty tomb of his beloved:

When he reached the tomb, he found that the stones had been moved and the entrance was open. [Cf. John 20:1] He was astonished at the sight and overcome by fearful perplexity at what had happened. [Cf. Mark 16:5] Rumor—a swift messenger—told the Syracusans this amazing news. They all quickly crowded round the tomb, but no one dared go inside until Hermocrates gave an order to do so. [Cf. John 20:4-6] The man who went in reported the whole situation accurately. [Cf. John 19:35; 21:24] It seemed incredible that even the corpse was not lying there. Then Chaereas himself determined to go in, in his desire to see Callirhoe again even dead; but though he hunted through the tomb, he could find nothing. Many people could not believe it and went in after him. They were all seized by helplessness. One of those standing there said, ‘The funeral offerings have been carried off [Cartlidge’s translation reads: ‘The shroud has been stripped off’—cf. John 20:6-7]—it is tomb robbers who have done that; but what about the corpse—where is it?’ Many different suggestions circulated in the crowd. Chaereas looked towards the heavens, stretched up his arms, and cried: ‘Which of the gods is it, then, who has become my rival in love and carried off Callirhoe and is now keeping her with him…?’

Later on, Callirhoe, reflecting on her vicissitudes, says, ‘I have died and come to life again.’ Later still, she laments, ‘I have died and been buried; I have been stolen from my tomb.’ In the meantime, poor Chaereas is condemned to the cross, which he has to carry himself. But in the last minute, just before being nailed, his sentence is commuted, and he is taken down from the cross. Here, then, comments Price, is a hero who went to the cross for his beloved and returned alive. In the same story, a villain is likewise crucified, though since he is gaining his just deserts, he is not reprieved. This is Theron, the pirate who carried poor Callirhoe into slavery. He was crucified in front of Callirhoe’s tomb.

Did some Jews, by some concerted and persistent Hasbara, brainwash the Romans with an unbelievable Jewish tale plagiarized from Greek novels, Roman myths, and Mithraic cult? Surely there are other ways to look at Christianity than as a Jewish trick. But I find the hypothesis worth considering. I hear on this webzine [Editor's Note: The Unz Review] a lot of complaint against Jewish cultural colonization. I am merely suggesting that it didn’t start yesterday.

________________

[22] Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, Princeton UP, 2017.

[23] See for example James Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism, SPCK, 1989.

[24] Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle: Was There no Historical Jesus? on this 600-page pdf, pp. 33 and 16.

[25] Robert Price, Deconstructing Jesus, Prometheus Book, 2000, archive.org, pp. 44-45.

[26] Recent scholars arguing along those lines include Karl H. Kraeling, John the Baptist, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951; Charles H. H. Scobie, John the Baptist, Fortress Press, 1964; W. Barnes Tatum, John the Baptist and Jesus: A Report of the Jesus Seminar, Polebridge Press, 1994; Joan Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism, Wm B. Eerdmans, 1996; Robert L. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study, Sheffield Academic Press, 1991; Walter Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition, Cambridge UP, 1968.

[27] Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle, op. cit., p. 52 .

[28] Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Viking Penguin, 1996.

[29] Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014, p. 56.

[30] Bart D. Ehrman Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, HarperCollins, USA. 2012, p. 208, quoted from Wikipedia.

[31] Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979.

Categories
Ancient Rome Catholic Church Jewish question (JQ) Josephus Judaism Judea v. Rome (masthead of this site) Laurent Guyénot Nero New Testament Vespasian and Titus

How Yahweh conquered Rome, 4

by Laurent Guyénot

 

The foundation of the Roman church under the Flavian dynasty

In 70, newly proclaimed emperor Vespasian and his son Titus brought to Rome about 97,000 Jewish captives (Josephus, Jewish War vi, 9), as well as members of the Jewish nobility rewarded for their support in the war in Judea—Josephus being the most famous of them.

Soon after, as Josephus started working on his Antiquities of the Jews in 20 volumes, we are told that the Gospels were written.[11]

In the same period, according to standard Church history, we already have in Rome a Christian church, headed by a certain Clement of Rome (88-99). Clement must have been an educated Jew like Josephus, because his only genuine epistle is characterized by numerous Hebraisms, abundant references to the Old Testament, and a Levitical mindset. An ancient and credible tradition makes him a freedman of consul Titus Flavius Clemens, a cousin of the Flavian emperors. We learn from Cassius Dio that Flavius Clemens was executed by Domitian, brother and successor of Titus, for ‘atheism’ and ‘deviation toward Judaic customs.’ His wife Flavia Domitilla was banished to the island of Pandateria (Ventotene). Over time, Flavius Clemens came to be regarded as a Christian martyr, and this gave rise to the idea of Domitian’s persecution of Christians. But historians now dismiss this notion (there is no clearly attested persecution of Christians prior to the middle of the third century),[12] and assume that Flavius Clemens and Flavia Domitilla were simply accused of Judaizing, and the former perhaps of circumcising himself.[13] One of Domitian’s assassins in 96 was a steward of Domitilla named Stephanus, which may suggests a Jewish vengeance.

The attitude of the Flavians towards the Jews was apparently twofold. On the one hand, they seemed determined to do away with the Jewish religion, which they saw, correctly, as the source of Jewish separatism. Not content with having destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, Vespasian also ordered the destruction of the one in Leontopolis, Egypt. In general, the Romans used to integrate the vanquished gods with a ceremony of evocatio deorum, by which the god was granted a sanctuary in Rome. But the god Yahweh was considered inassimilable, which is why his objects of worship were treated as mere booty, according to Emily Schmidt: ‘The treatment of the Jewish god can be seen as an inversion of the typical Roman treatment of or attitude towards foreign gods, perhaps as an anti-evocatio.’[14]

On the other hand, Josephus’ biography shows that Vespasian and Titus were not just merciful, but even grateful to the Jews who had rallied to them in Judea. There is no contradiction between those two aspects of the Flavians’ Jewish policy: they repressed Jewish separatism and forbade Jewish proselytizing but encouraged Jewish assimilation. Assimilationist Jews abandoned circumcision and had no objection to the syncretic assimilation of Yahweh with Zeus or Jupiter. The same basic twofold policy was followed by the Flavians’ successors Trajan (98-117) and Hadrian (117-138).[15]

From these basic facts, and keeping in mind the pattern set by Ezra’s priestly circle in Babylon, it is not difficult to imagine what was going on in Rome in the first century. The theory I’m going to discuss now goes like this. The cornerstone of the Roman Catholic Church was first laid by a secret brotherhood of priestly Jews, who had been brought to Rome by Vespasian and Titus in the aftermath of the Jewish War that destroyed their Temple in 70 AD. Some had gained Vespasian’s favor and protection by handing him the fabulous Temple treasure that made possible his ascension to the imperial throne. Flavius Josephus, who had defected to the Romans in Galilee and was rewarded beyond measure by Vespasian, may have been an influential member of that Jewish circle. Those powerful, wealthy and self-conscious Jews, using assimilation for dissimulation, had the motive, the means and the opportunity to fabricate the syncretic religion that could serve as their Trojan horse.

I borrow this theory from Flavio Barbiero’s book The Secret Society of Moses: The Mosaic Bloodline and a Conspiracy Spanning Three Millennia (2010). The author is not a trained historian, but a scientist with a sharp inquisitive and logical mind combined with a great imagination and a taste for sweeping theories. There is a great deal of speculation in the grand story he unfolds, from Moses to modern times, but it is insightful and consistent. At least it is a good starting point for trying to answer the question of how the Jews created Christianity.

According to that thesis, these priestly Jews brought to Rome by Vespasian and Titus had come to terms with the ruin of their nation and Temple, but they had not given up on their biblical program of Jewish supremacy; they simply reinterpreted it from their new vantage point inside the Empire’s capital. Still jealous of their birth and strictly endogamous, they retained and passed on to their progeny a sense of mission to pave for Israel a new road towards its destiny. Can we not even assume that, under their apparent loyalty to the Emperor, they shared the same hatred of Rome that inspired first-century Jewish texts like the Apocalypses of Ezra and of Baruch?

In Ezra, the roar of the Lion of Judah makes the Roman eagle bursts into flame, and a reunited and free Israel is gathered in Palestine. In Baruch, the Messiah routs and destroys the Roman armies, then brings the Roman emperor in chains to Mount Zion and puts him to death.[16] The same hatred of Rome permeates the Book of Revelation, where Rome, under the thin veil of Babylon, is called the Great Harlot, whose flesh will be consumed by God’s wrath, to make way for a brand new Jerusalem.
 

______ 卐 ______

 
Editor’s note: Already from Nietzsche’s texts it was clear that the author of the Book of Revelation was a Jew who hated Rome in a hellish way. If there is one overtly anti-Roman text in the New Testament it is the one attributed to the Jew John of Patmos (not to be confused with John the Evangelist, let alone the fictional figure of John the Apostle).

It was a book written after the destruction of Jerusalem. No wonder the Jew John of Patmos dreamed of a ‘New Jerusalem’ in the final book of the Bible!

______ 卐 ______

 
Let us consider, as a working hypothesis, that these Jewish priests had a plan. They adopted the network strategy that had allowed their distant ancestors to infiltrate the Persian court and thereby regain their lost power under the patronage of Ezra. Their goal, according to Flavio Barbiero, was ‘taking possession of the newborn Christian religion and transforming it into a solid power basis for the priestly family’ (p. 146). There existed already a cult of Christ, attested by Paul’s epistles written in the 50s, but the Gospels gave it a completely different orientation in the decades following the destruction of the Temple. The Law-abiding Peter, presented as the head of the Jerusalem Church by the Gospel of Matthew, was made the founder of the Roman papacy in the literature attributed to Clement of Rome, thus establishing a spiritual bond between Rome and Jerusalem.

To get a better understanding of the Jewish community that elaborated these traditions, we must take a closer look at the first Jewish war. In 67, emperor Nero sent his army commander Vespasian to crush the rebellion of the priestly Sadducees who had defied Roman power by banning from the Temple the daily sacrifices offered in the name and at the expense of the Emperor. When, after Nero’s death, Vespasian was declared emperor in December 69, his son Titus was left in Judea to finish putting down the rebellion.

In Book vi of Josephus’ Jewish War we learn that, from the early stage of Titus’ siege of Jerusalem, many Jews went over to the Romans, including ‘heads of the priestly families.’ Titus ‘not only received these men very kindly in other respects, but […] told them, that when he was gotten clear of this war, he would restore each of them to their possessions again.’ Until the last days of the siege, Josephus informs us, some priests obtained safe conduct under the condition that they handed to Titus some of the Temple’s wealth.

One, named Jesus, delivered ‘two candlesticks similar to those that were deposited in the Temple, some tables, some drinking chalices and cups, all of solid gold. He also handed over the curtains [those that were torn as Jesus expired according to Matthew 27:51], the robes of the high priest, with the precious stones and many other objects used for sacrifices.’ Another, named Phineas, introduced by Josephus as ‘the guardian of the Temple treasure,’ handed over ‘the priests’ tunics and belts, a large quantity of purple and scarlet cloth […] and a large quantity of the sacred ornaments, thanks to which, even if he was a prisoner of war, he obtained the amnesty reserved for deserters.’

Those priests obviously bargained their lives and their freedom with parts of the Temple treasure. The Temple was not just a religious sanctuary, it was, in a real sense, a central bank and a giant vault, harboring enormous quantities of gold, silver, and precious artifacts financed by tithes from around the world. One of the purposes of the Temple, we could say, was to satisfy Yahweh’s greed: ‘I shall fill this Temple with glory, says Yahweh Sabaoth. Mine is the silver, mine the gold!’ (Haggai 2:7).[17] According to the Copper Scroll found near the Dead Sea in 1952, the Temple treasure, amounting to tons of gold, silver, and precious items, had been hidden during the siege in 64 locations.[18] So it is logical to assume, as Barbiero does, that Titus and Vespasian were only able to get their hands on it with the help of high-ranking priests.

This huge booty, of which the symbolic centerpiece was the enormous menorah depicted on the Arch of Titus (opening picture), certainly helped Vespasian to earn the acclamation of his troops as emperor, and then to convince the Senate. The construction of the Coliseum, between 70 and 80, was entirely financed by this booty.

______________

[11] The earliest gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is commonly dated in the late 60s, but that date is much too early, especially since it mentions the destruction of the Temple.

[12] Tacitus wrote in the Annals (xv, 44) that Nero accused Christians of starting the great fire of Rome in 64, and had many of them ‘thrown to the beasts, crucified, and burned alive.’ But this is the only attestation of that story, and some modern scholars have cast doubt on its credibility. Richard Carrier sees it as a later Christian interpolation, and Brent Shaw argues that Nero’s persecution is a myth. There is one other mention of persecution against Christians before the third century, in a letter written to Trajan by Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia (north of Asia Minor). But this letter is of dubious authenticity as well, belonging to a book of 121 letters found in the 16th century, copied, and lost again.

[13] Paul Mattei, Le Christianisme antique: De Jésus à Constantin, Armand Colin, 2011, p. 119.

[14] Emily A. Schmidt, ‘The Flavian Triumph and the Arch of Titus: The Jewish God in Flavian Rome,’ UC Santa Barbara: Ancient Borderlands Research Focus Group, 2010.

[15] Trajan is said to have had a pro-Jewish wife, Pompeia Plotina, and he once sentenced to death a Greek dignitary named Hermaiskos for having complained that the emperor’s entourage was ‘full of impious Jews.’ (Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt – From Rameses II to Emperor Hadrian, Princeton University Press, 1997, p. 193-196). But Hadrian is credited for having banned circumcision, and, when faced in 132 with a new anti-Roman Jewish uprising in Judea, led by Simon bar Kokhba, he destroyed Jerusalem once more, converted it into a Greek city named Aelia Capitolina, and forbade Jews to enter it.

[16] Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Essential Books, 1957, p. 4.

[17] According to 1Kings 10:14, the amount of gold hoarded each year into Salomon’s temple was ‘666 talents of gold’ (1 talent = 30kg). Salomon’s treasure may be legendary, but it illustrates what the Jerusalem Temple still meant for the priests of the first century AD.

[18] Because the Copper Scroll is part of the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls, which have been wrongly assigned an Essenian origin for decades, its content was long considered fictional. The revision of this misguided theory, pioneered by Norman Golb in Who wrote the Dead Sea scrolls?: The search for the secret of Qumran, Scribner, 1995, has corrected that bias.

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Ancient Rome David Skrbina Jewish question (JQ) New Testament St Paul The Jesus Hoax (book)

The Jesus Hoax, 6

CHAPTER 6: TAKING STOCK, LOOKING AHEAD

Let’s take stock at this point by briefly recapping the central facts.

The oldest existing Bible dates from the year 350; as we move backward in time from there, our confidence in the actual text diminishes significantly—some parts being much more uncertain than others. Expert consensus is that the four Gospels date to the years 70 to 95 AD, and Paul’s letters to 50 to 70 AD. Paul, the Gospel authors, Jesus, Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and all twelve apostles were Jews. Many Jews had been in active and passive resistance to Rome from virtually the beginning of the takeover in 63 BC. Between the years zero and 93 AD we have absolutely no independent, corroborating evidence for such things as the Bethlehem star, any of Jesus’ 36 miracles, any of the apostles’ miracles, or any of the Christian-specific events depicted in the New Testament.
 

Critiquing antagonism

My thesis addresses the question of motive, something that’s utterly lacking in the other skeptics. I have shown how the Jews had a deep hatred for the Gentile masses and the Romans in particular, and thus how individuals would have done anything—including lie, and including placing themselves at mortal risk—to benefit the Jewish people. The mythicists and other skeptics have no good account of a motive… The Antagonism Thesis is by far the most credible analysis. It best accounts for all the known facts, and identifies an actual and fact-based motive for the whole construction. All signs point to a Jesus Hoax.

So, what’s the counter reply to the Antagonism Thesis? The basic elements of it have been around for over a century. Obviously it had been considered before and apparently rejected, since none of the recent Jesus skeptics defend it. What would they say in reply, to challenge that thesis?

In fact I have raised this question with a number of experts, precisely so that I could gauge the strength of the thesis. Let me mention their comments and then offer my responses.

“It’s not clear that all the Gospel authors, apart from Matthew, were Jews. John certainly was not.”

As I’ve replied earlier, the Gospel of Mark was written for a Gentile audience and thus takes on the superficial appearance of a Gentile work. There is a strong consensus that Mark himself was Jewish. The extensive OT references in all four Gospels argue strongly for Jewish authorship. There is no real evidence that Luke was a Gentile save his name, but as we know from Paul, it was not unheard of for Jews to change to Gentile names. The scattered anti-Jewish statements in all the Gospels—especially John—more reflect an internal Jewish battle over ideology than an external, Gentile attack. Paul is clearly and obviously Jewish.

“You are making sweeping generalizations. Not all Jews opposed Rome, and not all NT writers and characters are necessarily Jewish.”

On the first point, of course, as I stated, many Jews acquiesced to Roman rule. Probably a large majority accepted it, even if begrudgingly. But the elite Jews were sure incensed, and there was certainly a substantial minority of Zealots and others violently opposed. My thesis doesn’t require that all or even most Jews opposed Rome, only that a small band—Paul and friends—did so, and acted on that basis. Regarding the NT writers, that’s addressed above. Regarding the characters in the story—Jesus, Mary, Joseph, et al—we can only go by the words written down, and the text is conclusive: all were Jews.

One knowledgeable colleague listed a number of specific problems for any such hoax theory:

  • Needs a motive. Discussed above. The motive was revenge against Rome, and an attempt to undermine its support by confusing and corrupting the masses.
  • The depiction of Jesus as Messiah conflicts with Jewish expectations of the time. Certainly, and that’s why the majority of the Pharisees opposed Paul’s gang. Paul didn’t concoct his hoax for the Jews; it was strictly for the ‘benefit’ of the gullible Gentiles [1] …

There is no reason that the militant Jews would have given up; rather, they changed direction. [S.G.W.] Brandon’s best defense is that the last Gospel, John, does indeed drop most all talk of revolution, as I noted previously. But that is better attributed to John’s new, more intellectual audience than to any utter resignation on the part of the cabal.

The main point, though, is that the apologists never quite get around to explaining how exactly the Zealot thesis has been “discredited.” And they can’t. They can point to Jesus saying “love thy neighbor” and “turn the other cheek,” but that’s about it.

Let me take a moment to respond to a number of questions that may arise at this point—some of which I’ve covered already, and some not.

Question: “Okay, as a Christian I’ve read and absorbed your whole shocking message. What am I supposed to do about all this?”

Answer: First, try to confirm as much of the evidence cited here as possible [Editor’s note: This image doesn’t appear in Skrbina’s text. He is wise, but an amateur New Testament scholar. I suggest that the reader begin studying a professional NT scholar, for the reasons given in my book Daybreak. Skrbina continues—his italics:] You have been swindled. Tell them you want your money back. And your time. And your life—everything that you’ve invested, and lost, in the most famous hoax in history.

Question: “What about all those pro-Roman, anti-war passages?: ‘Render unto Caesar’ (Mark 12:17), ‘let every person be subject to the governing authorities’ (Rom 13:1), ‘pay your taxes’, ‘perish by the sword’ (Mt 26:52), ‘turn the other cheek’ (Mt 5:39)—not to mention, ‘love thy neighbor’! Don’t these undermine your thesis?”

Answer: This is the “peaceable Jesus” reply. We all know those famous lines, and they get repeated ad nauseum. My general reply is (a) the Jewish cabal was compelled to insert such lines for cover; too much explicit talk of rebellion was dangerous. Also (b) these relatively few lines are outnumbered by far more that imply rebellion and war—see my discussion in chapter five. And in any case, “rendering to Caesar” says nothing about not also working for his downfall. And sure, you may perish by the sword, but that’s what happens in war. I particularly appreciate “love thy neighbor”: Who, after all, was “the neighbor” if not the Jew?

Question: “The Jews come off looking pretty bad here. Isn’t all this terribly anti-Semitic?”

Answer: People are overly sensitive these days, particularly about Jews, probably because we hear so much about them and anti-Semitism in the media… I see no good reason why Jews should continue to merit special sensitivity, especially in light of Israeli crimes in the middle East. (Editor’s note: The last ten words appear in the printed book, not in the online version available on the internet. Skrbina probably made some last-minute changes.)

Question: “How could so many people be fooled for so long? It doesn’t seem possible.”

Answer: Actually there have been several famous examples in history when many people, even many smart people, have been fooled for a very long time. The Donation of Constantine was a fraudulent document in which Emperor Constantine allegedly gave his empire to the Catholic Church in 315 AD. In fact it was forged in the 700s and not exposed until 1440 by Lorenzo Valla.

Witches have been condemned and burned since at least 300 BC, and during the peak period in Europe—from 1450 to 1750—some 500,000 were killed. In all these cases, millions of people were fooled, deceived, or otherwise attached to false beliefs for centuries. It’s no surprise that millions could still be wrong.
 

Media, Government, Hollywood

All the Abrahamic religions worship the Jewish God; Muslims simply changed his name.

Governments everywhere want compliant populations. They want citizens who will respect authority without question, follow the laws, accept its power, and not be too inquisitive. They like people who simply have faith in government, and who more or less blindly trust them…

Colleges and universities are somewhat better, often having panels or speakers who challenge the Christian view. But the Antagonism Thesis is particularly difficult to discuss since it casts blame on Jews, and any negative talk about them risks ostracism or worse, even in our “liberal” and “free speech” universities.

What about our irreverent media and Hollywood filmmakers—those who are so willing to commit sacrilege against any social norm or moral standard? I suspect this has something to do with the extensive role played by Jewish Americans. It’s uncontroversial that Hollywood has been dominated by Jews for decades; a relatively recent article in the LA Times cites Jewish heads of nearly every major Hollywood studio.[2] And it’s not just the movie business. All the major media conglomerates have a heavy Jewish presence in top management. If they should decide that Jewish malevolence at the heart of the Christian story “looks bad,” then they obviously won’t bring it up at all—not in the news, not on TV, not in books…

“It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish savior in a time and place where there was strong suspicion of Judaism.” Actually, not difficult at all: the “Christian” writers were Jews who were trying to build an anti-Roman church based on a Jewish God and a Jewish savior. They just had to make sure that the enemy was “the devil” and not “Rome.”
 

Whither Christianity?

I rest my case. By all accounts, and despite protests to the contrary, Christianity indeed seems to be a “cleverly devised myth” (2 Pet 1:16)—a lie, a hoax—foisted upon the innocent and gullible masses simply for the benefit of Israel and the Jews.

It’s in the Gospel of John that we read one of the bluntest statements of truth, wherein Jesus says, “You [Gentiles] worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews” (4:22). We know what we are doing, say the Jews. You Gentile Christians don’t even know what you’re worshipping—which in fact is us and our God. But that’s okay. Just leave everything to us; “salvation is of the Jews.”

But it’s Paul who’s really the star of this show. Paul comes across as a masterly and artful liar—one of the all-time greats in world history, a man who can lie with impunity about the soul, the afterlife, God, everything. This unprincipled scoundrel, who admits to being “all things to all men,” would do anything or say anything to win his “kingdom of God” here on Earth. His mournful cries of “I do not lie!” are revealed as nothing other than an inveterate liar caught in the act.

With his fabricated “Jesus” and his fabricated “afterlife,” Paul drained all value from this world, the real world. It turned believers into weak and subservient sheep, ones whose lives are oriented around the manufactured sayings of a marginal rabbi and of prayer to Jehovah, the invisible God of the Jews.

It took a few hundred years, but when enough people fell for the hoax, it helped to bring down the Roman Empire. And when people—lots of people—still believe it after two thousand years, it cannot but degrade society, weighing us down, blocking us from attaining that which we are capable of, that which was only hinted at in the greatness of Athens and Rome. And all for the salvation of the Jews.

___________

[1] Paul famously declared himself to be “Apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13, Gal 1:16).

[2] “How Jewish is Hollywood?”, by Joel Stein (Dec 19, 2008).

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Adolf Hitler Arthur Schopenhauer David Skrbina Friedrich Nietzsche Immanuel Kant Jewish question (JQ) Joseph Goebbels Judaism Judea v. Rome (masthead of this site) Martin Luther New Testament St Paul The Jesus Hoax (book) Voltaire

The Jesus Hoax, 5

CHAPTER 5: RECONSTRUCTING THE TRUTH

To recap, I am reconstructing the likely sequence of events, based on a total picture and complete analysis of the situation.

Just as Paul’s life was ending, war broke out and the great Temple was destroyed. We can only imagine the distress and outrage of the Jewish community. Their hatred of Rome must have reached atmospheric heights. If the Jews had any illusions about peaceful coexistence, those were crushed. Military responses were no longer an option. Perhaps Paul’s ‘psychological’ ploy, the Jesus hoax, would work after all. But it would have to be taken to the next level.

(Note of the Ed.: Left, representation of Mark the Evangelist.) Thus it was that Paul’s surviving followers—perhaps Mark, Luke, Peter, John, and Matthew—decided to pick up the game. This band of “little ultra-Jews”[1] needed a more detailed story of Jesus’ life; Paul’s vague allusions to a real man would no longer suffice. Someone—“Mark”—thus decided to quote Jesus extensively and directly. Unlike Paul’s letters, this “gospel” (Paul’s word) would be intended for mass consumption. It had to be impressive—lots of miracles from their miracle-man. It would end up with 19 Jesus miracles wedged into the smallest of the four Gospels. And there were several other firsts. Here we read, for the first time ever, about the 12 apostles, Jesus as a carpenter, and the concept of hell. Here too Jesus makes a clever “prophecy” that the Jewish temple would be ruined (13:1-2)—an easy call to make, given that the temple was just actually destroyed!

It seems that Mark’s anger against his fellow Jews, however, got the better of him; for centuries afterward, Christians would blame the Jews for killing Christ, not realizing that the whole tale was a Jewish construction in the first place. Perhaps there’s a kind of justice in that irony after all.

The Gospel of Mark evidently sufficed for some 15 years. It must have been effective at drawing in Gentiles and building a functioning church. But then perhaps things stalled a bit. Maybe the little Jewish band got impatient. Maybe they splintered over tactical issues. Whatever the reason, some time around the year 85, two of the group—“Luke” and “Matthew”—decided that they needed to write an even more detailed account of Jesus’ life. But evidently the two couldn’t agree on a single plan, so they worked apart, drawing from Mark’s story while weaving in other new ideas they had jointly invented. Each man went off on his own, drafting his own new gospel.

The new documents had much more detail than Mark; in fact, both were nearly twice as long as their predecessor. They had to keep the same basic story line, of course, but each man added his own embellishments. What was new? The virgin birth in Bethlehem, for one, and the whole manger scene. These now appeared, for the first time ever, some 85 years after the alleged event. We scarcely need to ask how much truth is in them. (I note as an aside that Matthew included the bit about the star, whereas that was apparently an unimportant detail to Luke, since he omitted it completely.) Luke included a vignette about Jesus as a 12-year-old (2:41-51), something utterly lacking in the other three Gospels. The Sermon on the Mount appears for the first time, though Matthew has a much longer version than Luke. In the sermon we find a number of famous sayings, all of which were never seen before: “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5), “you are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14), turn the other cheek (Mt 5:39; Lk 6:29), love thy enemies (Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27), “cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24), “judge not” (Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37)—all now recorded, for the first time, some 50 years after they supposedly occurred.

Followers must now virtually abandon their families for the cause. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). These are remarkably cult-like dictates, but perhaps appropriate for the Jewish-led Christian movement.

Then we have passages of outright militancy. In Matthew, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (10:34)—how very un-Christ-like! Luke has Jesus say, “I came to cast fire upon the earth… Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (12:49-51). Every man must do his part: “let him who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (Lk 22:36). Jesus becomes downright ruthless: “as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me” (Lk 19:27). All this is necessary because “the devil” rules all the kingdoms of the world (Lk 4:5-6). But not to worry; if we all stick to the plan, and “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world,” then “the end will come” (Mt 24:14). And so, sometime around the year 85, two new Gospels were released into the world.

Once again, these apparently sufficed for a good decade or so. But then one more member of the cabal, “John,” breaks rank and moves in yet a different direction. He feels the need for an intellectual and esoteric Jesus story, and so constructs a gospel using abstract, almost philosophical terms and concepts. It ends up as mid-length essay, between the short Mark and the longer Matt/Luke. Miracles are still there, but they are now down-played— just eight appear. We can imagine that John understood that his new, more intellectual audience would likely not be taken in by such nonsense…

“Saint” Paul and his Jewish cabal turn out to be blatant liars. In fact, the epic liars of all recorded history.

Recall my explanation above, regarding how Paul and the Gospel writers had two sets of enemies: the Romans and their fellow elite Jews. In fact, they had a third enemy: the truth. Paul and crew knew they were lying to the masses, but they didn’t care. The Gentiles were always treated by the Jews with contempt, as I showed in chapter four. They could be manipulated, harassed, assaulted, beaten, even killed, if it served Jewish ends. This was not a problem for them…

In the early 1500s Martin Luther—founder of the Lutheran church—wrote a rather infamous book titled On the Jews and their Lies. There he declared that “they have not acquired a perfect mastery of the art of lying; they lie so clumsily and ineptly that anyone who is just a little observant can easily detect it”—a statement that could well be a motto for the present work. I also note the striking irony of a man like Luther who was so opposed to Jewish lies, even as he himself fell for the greatest Jewish lie of all.

In 1798, the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant called the Jews “a nation of deceivers,” and in a later lecture he added that “the Jews…are permitted by the Talmud to practice deceit”. In his final book, Arthur Schopenhauer made some extended observations on Judeo-Christianity. He wrote, “We see from [Tacitus and Justinus] how much the Jews were at all times and by all nations loathed and despised.” This was due in large part, he says, to the fact that the Jewish people were considered grosse Meister im Lügen—“great master of lies”. Employing his usual blunt but elegant terminology, Nietzsche saw it in this way:

In Christianity all of Judaism, a several-century-old Jewish preparatory training and technique of the most serious kind, attains its ultimate mastery as the art of lying in a holy manner. The Christian, this ultima ratio of the lie, is the Jew once more—even three times a Jew.

Similar comments came from express anti-Semites. Hitler called the Jews “artful liars” and a “race of dialectical liars,” adding that “existence compels the Jew to lie, and to lie systematically”. And Joseph Goebbels, in his personal diary, wrote: “The Jew was also the first to introduce the lie into politics as a weapon… He can therefore be regarded not only as the carrier but even the inventor of the lie among human beings”.

Finally, a remark by Voltaire seems relevant here. The Jews, he said, “are, all of them, born with a raging fanaticism in their hearts… I would not be in the least bit surprised if these people would not someday become deadly to the human race”. If a Jewish lie were to spread throughout the Earth, eventually drawing in more than 2 billion people, becoming the enemy of truth and reason, and causing the deaths of millions of human beings via inquisitions, witch burnings, crusades, and other religious atrocities—well, that could be considered a mortal threat, I think.

This, then, is my “Antagonism thesis”: Paul and his cabal [2] deliberately lied to the masses, with no concern for their true well-being, simply to undermine Roman rule. This little group tempted innocent people with a promise of heaven, and frightened them with the threat of hell. This psychological ploy was part of a long-term plan to weaken and, in a sense, morally corrupt the masses by drawing them away from the potent and successful Greco-Roman worldview and more toward an oriental, Judaic view.

As we know, it took some time but the new Christian religion did spread, eventually permeating the Roman world. In the year 315, the emperor himself, Constantine, converted to Christianity. In 380, Emperor Theodosius declared it the official state religion.

_______________

[1] Nietzsche, The Antichrist (sec 44). In German kleine Superlativ Juden.

[2] I’ve been using cabal throughout the present text. It is, I think, precisely the right word. A cabal is “a small number of persons secretly united to bring about an overturn or usurpation, especially in public affairs.” That’s a perfect description of Paul and his band.

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David Skrbina Jewish question (JQ) Josephus New Testament Richard Carrier Tacitus The Jesus Hoax (book)

The Jesus Hoax, 3

CHAPTER 3: WHY THE JESUS STORY IS FALSE

The point bears repeating. During Jesus’ entire lifetime, from, say 3 BC to 30 AD, not one person—not a Christian, not a Jew, not a Roman, not a Greek—wrote anything about the miracles, what Jesus said, or what his followers did. No one wrote anything. It’s as if nothing extraordinary happened at all…

The Romans were excellent record-keepers; surely any such astonishing letters would have survived. And yet we have not one.

At the same time there lived a famous Jewish philosopher, Philo. He was born around 20 BC, and thus was an adult at the time of the Bethlehem star. He lived well past the crucifixion, dying about the year 50 AD. He would have been the ideal man to record everything about a Jewish miracleworker and savior. He wrote about 40 individual essays, which now fill seven volumes. Yet he says not one word about Jesus or the Christian movement.

It gets worse. For the next 20 years after the crucifixion, we still have no evidence. From the years 30 to 50 AD, not one thing has survived that documents Jesus or his miracles: not a letter, not a book, not an engraving, nothing. Nothing by Jews, nothing by Christians, nothing by Romans—nothing.

And yet, it’s worse still. We know that, from the year 50, we have a few letters by Paul. These letters are finished when Paul dies around the year 70. Now, of course, his letters cannot count as evidence, because it is exactly his accounts of Jesus that we are trying to validate. Apart from Paul’s letters, from the years 50 to 70, we still have no evidence. Nothing by other Christians, nothing by Jews, nothing by Romans—nothing.

And still it gets worse. The Gospels appeared between 70 and the mid-90s. But they, too, cannot count as evidence because it is precisely these documents that need confirmation. Apart from the four Gospels, from 70 to the mid-90s, we still have no evidence.

In sum: for the entire period of the early Christian era—that is, from say 3 BC to the mid-90s AD—we have no corroborating evidence from anyone who was not party to the new religion. Not a shred of anything exists: documents, letters, stone carvings—nothing at all. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this problem…

Men such as Petronius, Seneca, Martial, and Quintillian all lived in the immediate aftermath of the crucifixion and would have been ideally situated to write about Jesus’ extraordinary life. So too with Philo, the Jewish philosopher, as I noted above. And yet not one of these men wrote a single word about him…

The Roman perspective

Josephus is important because he is the first non-Christian to confirm that a Christian movement existed, at least by the late first century AD. But what about the Romans?

 

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Editor’s note: Remember that the NT scholar who has most influenced me is Richard Carrier, who believes that Josephus’ couple of brief mentions of ‘Christ’ were later interpolations by Christians. For apologetic reasons, they put words into Josephus’ mouth. Skrbina continues:
 

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Tacitus was born in the year 58 to an aristocratic family. Between 98 and 105 AD he wrote four books, including the highly important work Histories. As it happens, not one of them so much as mentions Jesus or the Christians.

But his final work, Annals, which dates circa 115 AD, does include two sentences on them. In section 44 of Book 15 we read the following:

…a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace… a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

The passage is likely authentic but yet odd in that we have no other reference to Christians in Rome at the time of Nero. But this is not relevant here. What matters is the stunning fact that it took until the year 115—80 years after the crucifixion, nearly 120 years after the miracle birth—for the first Roman to document the Christians. And even then, he grants them all of two sentences.

A second Roman reference—and the third non-Christian [Ed. note: Remember that Skrbina is taking one of the brief paragraphs in Josephus’ book as legit]—comes from Pliny. Like Tacitus, Pliny was an educated and highly literate aristocrat. By the year 110, at around age 50, he had assumed the position of imperial governor of a province in the north of present-day Turkey. In a letter to Emperor Trajan, from about the same time as Tacitus’ Annals, he writes an extended critique of the Christian movement. Over the course of about five paragraphs, Pliny explains his need to repress the Christians, including executing the non-citizens and shipping citizens to Rome for punishment. Christianity is described as a “depraved, excessive superstition,” and Pliny is worried that the “contagion of this superstition” is spreading. But still, he thinks it “possible to check and cure it.”

Pliny’s suggestions aside, what we find here is a fascinating account of a growing but troublesome new religion. The Romans were generally tolerant of other religions, and thus we must conclude that there was something uniquely problematic about this group. It may perhaps have been their Jewish origins, or the fact that they embodied particularly repellent values. We lack the details here to determine the cause of the enmity. But in any case, it seems clear that the early Christians were not simple apostles of love. Something else was going on with this group that the Romans found truly galling and, indeed, a kind of threat to the social or moral order.

And yet, something happened. We know for certain that by the mid-90s or early 100s latest, Christians were becoming noticed and causing trouble for the empire. We are fairly sure that Paul lived and wrote between the mid- 30s and late-60s, and that the Gospels first appeared between 70 and 95.

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David Skrbina Judea v. Rome (masthead of this site) New Testament Old Testament The Jesus Hoax (book)

The Jesus Hoax, 2

 
CHAPTER 2: JUST THE FACTS…

We are fairly confident that a people called “Israel” existed, thanks to the discovery of the Merneptah Stele—an engraved stone created around 1200 BC. It is the earliest known reference. The stele includes this line: “Israel is laid waste and his seed is not.” This sentence has some interesting implications that I will discuss later on.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which date to the first century BC, contain fragments from every book of the Hebrew Old Testament (OT), and thus are our earliest proof that the complete document existed by that time. Whether it appeared any earlier is a matter of speculation. If we are to accept the tradition, then, the OT was written over a period of some 1200 years…

An overall picture thus comes into view: There was a Jewish people, called “Israel,” in the region of Palestine from at least the 1200s BC who engaged in a number of conflicts with the surrounding peoples, including the Egyptians. They recorded their own history in the books of the OT, but with substantial amounts of embellishment and speculation, such that many claims are unsubstantiated by modern research. And from the texts themselves, we know that this people viewed themselves as specifically chosen or blessed by their god, Yahweh or Jehovah, and that they saw all others as pagan non-believers, to be treated with contempt.

 

Enter the Roman Empire

The Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, who governed Palestine from 26 to 36 AD, was known for his aggressive treatment of the Jews. But things grew even worse for them after his removal from power and the ascension of Emperor Caligula in Rome. Hayim Ben-Sasson writes, “The reign of Caligula (37-41 AD) witnessed the first open break between the Jews and the Empire… Relations deteriorated seriously during this time.”
 

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Editor’s Note: Remember that history is written by the victors, and that Caligula was slandered with infinite hatred by the Judeo-Christians, while they destroyed almost all pagan literature in Latin when they seized power. It is essential to remember what Evropa Soberana wrote about Caligula. See for example pages 142-44 of Daybreak: ‘Thus, we do not have a single Roman emperor who participated in the harsh Jewish reprisals who was not defamed with accusations of homosexuality, cruelty or perversion. The Spanish historian José Manuel Roldán Hervás has dismantled many of the false accusations against the historical figure of Caligula’.
 

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Years later, Emperor Claudius issued his third edict, Letter to the Alexandrians, in which he accused those Jews of “fomenting a general plague which infests the whole world.” This is a striking passage; it suggests that Jews all over the Middle East had succeeded in stirring up dangerous agitation toward the empire. It also marks the first occurrence in history of a “biological” epithet used against them. By the year 49, Claudius had to undertake yet another expulsion of Jews from Rome.

(Left, sculpture of Emperor Claudius.) All this set the stage for the first major Jewish revolt, in the year 66. Also called the First Jewish-Roman War (there were three), this event was a major turning point in history. It eventually drew in some 75,000 Roman troops, who battled against perhaps 50,000 Jewish militants and thousands of other partisans. The war lasted for four years, ending in Roman victory and the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70. It remains in ruins to this day; only the western wall (“Wailing Wall”) still exists.

There would be two more Jewish wars: in 115-117 (the Kitos War), and in 132-135 (the Bar Kokhba Revolt). Thousands died in each, but both ended in Roman victory.
 

“We are among Jews”

Returning specifically to Christianity, I must note a central fact of the entire religion: The Bible is an entirely Jewish document. Front to back, cover to cover, A to Z, Old Testament and New—the Bible is an entirely Jewish document. The morality, the theology, the social attitudes, the worldview… all thoroughly Jewish. The Old Testament obviously so; it was written by Jews, about Jews, and for Jews. The same holds with the New Testament, although with a slight twist: it was written by Jews, about Jews, but for non-Jews. This twist is crucial to the whole Jesus story.

So let’s look specifically at the New Testament. Regarding this most important document, Nietzsche put it well, I think: “The first thing to be remembered, if we do not wish to lose the scent here, is that we are among Jews.” That is, all the characters are Jews, and all the writers—as far as we can determine—were Jews.
 

Paul and the Gospels

Born as Saul in Tarsus (modern-day Turkey) around the year 6 AD, Paul was a Pharisee, an elite, orthodox Jew, “a Hebrew born of Hebrews” (Phil 3:5). He also may have been a Zealot, advocating violent resistance to Rome. Speaking in Acts (22:3), Paul says “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia.” He continues: “I was a zealot for God…” (CJB, DLNT) or “I was zealous for God…”—the translations vary. Elsewhere he says, “I was more of a zealot for the traditions handed down by my forefathers than most Jews my age…” (Gal 1:14). There is a subtle difference between him saying “I was a zealot…” and “I was a Zealot…”; the text is not clear, and interpretations differ. But it seems clear that he was an ardent Jewish nationalist opposed to Roman rule, as was the case with most elite Jews of the time…

He changed his name from the Jewish ‘Saul’ to the Gentile ‘Paul’ (Acts 13:9) and began his work…

If Paul was dead by the year 70, then he just missed the destruction of the Temple that dealt a shattering blow to the Jewish community. But something else happened around that time, something equally significant: the appearance of the first Gospel, Mark. Why didn’t Paul cite the Gospels? The conclusion is obvious: They did not yet exist. And indeed, this is what modern scholarship confirms…

The other major problem with the Gospels is authorship. Formally they are anonymous. Mark is “the Gospel according to Mark.” It’s written in third-person grammar, like a textbook, rather than as the personal account of a specific man. The same is true of Matthew. Luke is different; it’s a first-person essay directed to a generic person, “Theophilus,” which simply means “beloved of God.” The fourth Gospel, John, returns to the third-person style of Mark and Matthew.

In any case, it’s almost certain that all the Gospel writers, whoever they were, were Jews. All four contain numerous references to the OT, something that would only be expected of elite and educated Jews. Matthew has the most references—something like 43 direct citations. Mark and Luke have about 20 each, John around 15. But if we include indirect references, parallel wording, and other allusions, the numbers double or triple.

Matthew is clearly and heavily Jewish, the “most Jewish” of the Gospels. No scholars dispute this. Mark has been challenged by some writers, calling him, if not a Gentile, then “a heavily Hellenized” Jew—but still a Jew nonetheless. The confusion seems to arise because he was writing to and for Gentiles; this is an important fact, as I will explain. But it doesn’t change the Jewish authorship.

Luke, though, is claimed by some to be a Gentile work. But this doesn’t hold up to critical analysis. First, Paul himself claims that the word of God was given to the Jews (Rom 3:2) and therefore the Gospel, as the word of God, must have been written by a Jew. Second, the claim that ‘Luke’ is a Gentile name is irrelevant; other Jews, notably Paul, changed their names upon conversion to the cause. Third, Luke is never cited as a Gentile, and his alleged companion, Paul, is never condemned for fraternizing with such a Gentile. Luke furthermore had detailed knowledge of Jewish religious customs, as we see in (1:8-20); Gentiles would not know this. Finally, he claims intimate knowledge of the Virgin Mary, including what is “in her heart” (2:19)—something that a non-Jew would be unlikely to know.

But what about the final Gospel, John? This appears to be the most anti- Jewish—some would say, anti-Semitic—of the four. This could not possibly have been written by a Jew, true? Not quite… As James Dunn says, “John, in his own perspective at least, is still fighting a factional battle within Judaism rather than launching his arrows from without, still a Jew who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, Son of God, rather than an anti-semite”…

Even if the Gospels underwent later modification by Gentiles, as Price and others suggest, this does not change their essentially Jewish nature.

The remainder of the NT also seems very likely to have had Jewish authors. The lengthy Hebrews—which is claimed by some to have been written by Paul—is addressed to Jews and contains at least 36 direct references to the OT. James is addressed to “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion,” and so is 1 Peter. It’s clear that Gentiles would not be lecturing to Jews about God. The other short letters are ambiguous but contain nothing to indicate Gentile authorship.

At some point, of course, Gentiles did join the church and start writing about it. The earliest Church Fathers were probably Gentiles, including Clement of Rome (died ca. 100) and Ignatius of Antioch (d. 110). The same holds for the second generation of Fathers, which would include Quadratus (d. 129), Aristides of Athens (d. 135), Polycarp (d. 155), and Papias (d. 155). Certainly by the time of figures like Marcion, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen—in other words, mid-second century to mid-third century—we are dealing strictly with Gentiles…

To summarize this section: Paul now appears as a religious fanatic and ardent Jewish nationalist, willing to resort to violence and even kill non-Jews in order to drive out the Romans. (Later I will also affix to him the label ‘master liar.’) Paul knew nothing of “the four Gospels,” because they did not exist in his lifetime. The Gospel writers themselves were all Jews, as likely were the anonymous authors of the remainder of the NT. The Gospels as documents were likely written between 70 (Mark) and the mid-90s (John). With this factual background in place, we can now examine precisely why the traditional Jesus story is not true. Then we will be one step closer to my central argument: namely, that since the biblical Jesus story is false, it was evidently constructed by Paul and his fellow Jews in order to sway the gullible Gentile masses to their side and away from Rome.

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Bible David Skrbina Friedrich Nietzsche Jesus Jewish question (JQ) Judaism New Testament The Jesus Hoax (book)

The Jesus Hoax, 1

Editor’s note: This Monday I begin quoting excerpts from The Jesus Hoax by American professor David Skrbina. As his book is six chapters long, unless something unforeseen comes up I will finish quoting these excerpts from his book on Saturday.

 

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CHAPTER 1: SETTING THE STAGE

There are about 2.1 billion Christians on Earth today, roughly 1/3 of the planet, making Christianity the #1 religion globally. The United States is strongly Christian; about 77% of Americans call themselves Christians.

But some historians and researchers have made a startling claim: that Jesus, the Son of God, never existed. They say that Jesus Christ was a pure myth. Is that even possible? Surely not, we reply. This most-influential founder of the most-influential religion of Christianity surely had to exist. And he surely had to be the miracle-working Son of God that is proclaimed in the Bible. How could it be otherwise? we ask. How could a venerable, two thousand-year-old religion, with billions of followers throughout history, be based on someone who never existed? Impossible! Or so we say.

If that were the case, if Jesus never existed, imagine the consequences: an entire religion, and the active beliefs of billions of people, all in vain. All of Christianity based on a myth, a fable, even—as I will argue—a lie. Why, that would be catastrophic…

Note that it’s very important to distinguish between the two conceptions of ‘Jesus.’ If someone asks, “Did Jesus exist?” we need to know if they mean (a) the divine, miracle-working, resurrected Son of God (sometimes called the biblical Jesus), or (b) the ordinary man and Jewish preacher who died a mortal death (sometimes called the historical Jesus). Christianity requires a biblical Jesus, but the skeptics argue either for simply an historical Jesus—which would mean the end of Christianity—or worse, no Jesus at all.

I will, however, accept the historical Jesus…
 

Another Jesus Skeptic?

So, why this book? Why do we need yet another Jesus skeptic?

To answer this question, let me give a brief overview of some of the prominent skeptics and their views. I will argue that their ideas, though on the right track, are woefully short of the truth. They lack the courage or the will to look hard at the evidence, and to envision a more likely conclusion: that Jesus was a deliberately constructed myth, by a specific group of people, with a specific end in mind. None of the Christ mythicists or atheist writers have, to my knowledge, articulated the view that I defend here.

But first a quick recap of the background and context for the idea of a mythological Jesus. The earliest modern critic was German scholar Hermann Reimarus, who published a multi-part work, Fragments, in the late 1770s. Strikingly, his view is one of the closest to my own thesis of any skeptic. For Reimarus, Jesus was the militant leader of a group of Jewish rebels who were fighting against oppressive Roman rule. Eventually he got himself crucified. His followers then constructed a miraculous religion-story around Jesus, in order to carry on his cause. They lied about his miracles, and they stole his body from the grave so that they could claim a bodily resurrection. This is quite close to what I will call the ‘Antagonism thesis’—that a group of Jews constructed a false Jesus story, based on a real man, in order to undermine Roman rule. But there is much more to the story, far beyond that which Reimarus himself was able to articulate.

In the 1820s and 30s, Ferdinand Baur published a number of works that emphasized the conflict between the early Jewish-Christians—significantly, all the early Christians were Jews—and the somewhat later Gentile-Christians. This again is a key part of the story, but we need to know the details; we need to know why the conflict arose, and what were its ends.

In 1835, David Strauss published the two-volume work Das Leben Jesu—“The Life of Jesus.” He was the first to argue, correctly, that none of the gospel writers knew Jesus personally. He disavowed all claims of miracles, and argued that the Gospel of John was, in essence, an outright lie with no basis in reality.

German philosopher Bruno Bauer wrote a number of important books, including Criticism of the Gospel History (1841), The Jewish Question (1843), Criticism of the Gospels (1851), Criticism of the Pauline Epistles (1852), and Christ and the Caesars (1877). Bauer held that there was no historical Jesus and that the entire New Testament was a literary construction, utterly devoid of historical content. Shortly thereafter, James Frazer published The Golden Bough (1890), arguing for a connection between all religion—Christianity included—and ancient mythological concepts.

It was about at this time that another famous Christian skeptic emerged: Friedrich Nietzsche. In his books Daybreak (1881), On the Genealogy of Morals (1887), and Antichrist (1888) he provides a potent critique of Christianity and Christian morality. Nietzsche always accepted the historical Jesus, and even had good things to say about him.

 

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Editor’s note: I think I am a better scholar of Nietzsche than Skrbina. In one of his excellent translations of Nietzsche’s books, the Spaniard Andrés Sánchez Pascual quoted a passage in which Nietzsche said that Jesus was an idiot. Seven years ago I quoted Nietzsche’s posthumous fragment here.

I first read that fragment from the isolated manuscripts left by Nietzsche in one of the books published in Spain by Alianza Editorial, but I haven’t heard of English speakers quoting it. I refer to page 132 of El Anticristo, which I read in 1976, where Sánchez Pascual speaks of Nietzsche’s criticism of Renan regarding Jesus’ alleged ‘genius’ and ‘heroism’. Skrbina continues:

 

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But he was devastating in his attack on Paul and the later writers of the New Testament. He viewed Christian morality as a lowly, life-denying form of slave morality, attributed not to Jesus but to the actions of Paul and the other Jewish followers. Along with Reimarus, Nietzsche provides the most inspiration for my own analysis.

Into the 20th century, we find such books as The Christ Myth (1909) and The Denial of the Historicity of Jesus (1926), both by Arthur Drews, and The Enigma of Jesus (1923) by Paul-Louis Chouchoud. All these continued to attack the literal truth claimed of the Bible.

More recently, we have critics such as the historian George Wells and his book Did Jesus Exist? (1975). Here he assembles an impressive amount of evidence against an historical Jesus. Bart Ehrman has called Wells “the best-known mythicist of modern times,” though in later years Wells softened his stance somewhat; he accepted that there may have been an historical Jesus, although we know almost nothing about him. Wells died in 2017 at the age of 90.

Similar arguments were offered by philosopher Michael Martin in his 1991 book, The Case against Christianity. Though a wide-ranging critique, he dedicated one chapter to the idea that Jesus never existed. Martin died in 2015.

Among living critics, we have such men as Thomas Thompson, who wrote The Messiah Myth (2005); he is agnostic about an historical Jesus, but argues against historical truth in the Bible. By contrast, Earl Doherty (The Jesus Puzzle, 1999), Tom Harpur (The Pagan Christ, 2004), and Thomas Brodie (Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus, 2012) all deny that any such Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. Richard Carrier, in his book On the Historicity of Jesus (2014), finds it highly unlikely that any historical Jesus lived.

Perhaps the most vociferous and prolific Jesus skeptic today is Robert Price, a man with two doctorates in theology and a deep knowledge of the Bible. Price’s central points can be summarized as follows:

1) The miracle stories have no independent verification from unbiased contemporaries.

2) The characteristics of Jesus are all drawn from much older mythologies and other pagan sources.

3) The earliest documents, the letters of Paul, point to an esoteric, abstract, ethereal Jesus—a “mythic hero archetype”—not an actual man who died on a cross.

4) The later documents, the Gospels, turned the Jesus-concept into an actual man, a literal Son of God, who died and was risen…

With the exception of Nietzsche, all of the above individuals exhibit a glaring weakness: they are loathe to criticize anyone. No one comes in for condemnation, no one is guilty, no one is to blame for anything. For the earliest writers, I think this is due primarily to an insecurity about their ideas and a general lack of clarity about what likely occurred. For the more recent individuals, it’s probably attributable to an in-bred political correctness, to a weakness of moral backbone, or to sheer self-interest. In recent years, academics in particular are highly reticent to affix blame on individuals, even those long-dead. This is somehow seen as a violation of academic neutrality or professional integrity. But when the facts line up against someone or some group, then we must be honest with ourselves. There are truly guilty parties all throughout history, and when we come upon them, they must be called out…

For now I simply note that none of our brave critics, our Jesus mythicists, seem willing to pinpoint anyone: not Paul, not his Jewish colleagues, not the early Christian fathers —no one. A colossal story has been laid out about the Son of God come to Earth, performing miracles, and being risen from the dead, and yet—no one lied? Really? Can we believe that? Was it all just a big misunderstanding? Honest errors? No thinking person could accept this. Someone, somewhere in the past, constructed a gigantic lie and then passed it around the ancient world as a cosmic truth. The guilty parties need to be exposed. Only then can we truly understand this ancient religion, and begin to move forward.

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David Skrbina’s book

David Skrbina published his book The Jesus Hoax in 2019. Evropa Soberana re-published Rome v. Judea; Judea v. Rome in 2013 (it seems that his previous site, where he first published it, was suspended). The similarities between the two books are striking (remember that Soberana’s is the most recommended essay in The Fair Race’s Darkest Hour), although Soberana wrote his book in Spanish and Skrbina in English.

In a new series I’ll quote some passages from Skrbina’s The Jesus Hoax. What struck me most about this book, published in Detroit by Creative Fire Press, is that Skrbina quotes Hitler favourably and accuses first-century Jews of mythmakers! Except for the book by Soberana that we translated for The Fair Race, I was unaware of any other recent attempt to blame the Jewish authors of the New Testament (NT) for the brainwashing that their work represented for the West.

Recall that Soberana’s site was cancelled by Blogger last December. I don’t know if this Spaniard died because I haven’t received a reply since that month, when I sent him an email. Be that as it may, I saved his posts and will be uploading PDFs of them, in the original language in which they were written, once a year has passed since the site ‘Evropa Soberana’ was cancelled.

But not even this Spaniard was the first to discover that the gospel message was a psyop of Jewry to corrupt the Greco-Roman world. The first to say so in the modern world was Nietzsche, whom both Soberana and Skrbina quote (we ignore whether Celsus or Porphyry also said so because Constantine had their books burned).

While I agree with both of them that the NT has been a psyop to tame us, I disagree with both of them on the existence of Jesus. Until November 2018 (I was very influenced by NT scholar Morton Smith) I believed there was a historical Jesus if only we ignore the miracles the evangelists tell us about. I had to make an effort to digest Richard Carrier’s work to realise that even that human Jesus didn’t exist (watch this lecture by Carrier, though I studied his thick treatise on the non-existence of Jesus).

The issue is important because, as we saw in my Daybreak’s featured essay, it is not the same thing for a human Jesus to have existed as for the tale about his life to have been a hundred per cent the literary fiction of the Jew Mark, who was extremely pissed off about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Romans.

The other big difference between me and Skrbina is that, since now I don’t believe Jesus existed, I give more weight to the one who penned the elaborate tale—Mark the evangelist—than to St Paul. While potentially subversive, Paul’s theology, the first Christian author, is too esoteric and only the literary genius of Mark could paint for us a flesh-and-blood Jesus who spoke in parables and sat down to eat with publicans and sinners. Paul’s cryptic theology wouldn’t have conquered the white man’s soul unless it was transformed into an entertaining story, which is what the first evangelist did (the Jews Matthew and Luke only added verses of their own inventiveness to Mark’s original gospel).

I also disagree with Skrbina in that, unlike Nietzsche and Soberana, he doesn’t seem to realise that the egalitarian and pro-poor ideas of the NT were poison to the ancient Romans. Although Skrbina is white he doesn’t seem to be a racialist, and has barely glimpsed what his predecessors, Nietzsche and Soberana, saw more clearly.

But as I said, I am impressed that someone has published a book whose thesis is analogous to Soberana’s, which I have called the ‘masthead’ of The West’s Darkest Hour. Next week I’ll start posting excerpts from The Jesus Hoax.

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Daybreak (book) Jesus Judea v. Rome (masthead of this site) New Testament Romulus Transvaluation of all values

The most recommended article on ‘Daybreak’

This Monday I am still in the process of correcting the syntax of Daybreak, a task I will finish this week.

Just as the previous collection of essays, The Fair Race, has a ‘masthead’—the struggle between Judea and Rome that a Spaniard wrote and we translated for this site—so Daybreak has its central essay.

I refer to ‘Romulus & Jesus’. Anyone who has assimilated the essay by the Spaniard will understand the implications of this article, which I reproduce below after having used DeepL Translator to modify its syntax. The difference is that the Spaniard’s essay is very long and the following one very short, but they are complementary.
 

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Romulus & Jesus
[pages 141-143 of Daybreak]

In The Fair Race I mentioned the work of Richard Carrier. ‘All the evidence we have’, Carrier said in a public debate with an American Christian, ‘strongly supports the conclusion that there were actually literal rabbis that originated the sect’ (Christianity). They simply used the story of the Hero-God founder of the Romans: Romulus. The idea of those who wrote the New Testament was simply to use the mythological biography of the white God to convince the Romans to worship, instead, the god of the Jews. The parallels between the old Romulus and the new Jesus invented by the rabbis are so obvious that it is worth mentioning some of them.

Both are sons of God; their deaths are accompanied by wonders and the earth is covered with darkness; both corpses disappear; both receive a new immortal body superior to the one they had; their resurrected bodies were sometimes luminous and shining in appearance; after their resurrection they meet a follower on a city road; a speech is given from a high place before the ‘translation to heaven’; there is a ‘great commission’ or instruction to future followers; they physically ascend to heaven and, finally, are taken up into a cloud.

Everyone in the West has heard the story that the New Testament authors invented about Jesus. But who knows the original legend, that of the white Hero-God Romulus? It really seems that the Gospel writers plagiarised the founding myth of Rome to sell us another founding myth. But the new Christian myth did more than just substitute the Aryan Romulus for the Jewish Jesus, something infinitely more subversive as we shall see.

In the draft of ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ I had said that all whites are heading for Jerusalem, a metaphor to be understood in the context of my essay ‘Ethnosuicidal Nationalists’ (also in this book). How did Christianity manage to reverse the moral compass of the Aryans from pointing to Rome to pointing to Jerusalem? Remember: according to Richard Carrier in his magnum opus On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, there is no historical Jesus, but rather authors of the Gospels. Also, keep in mind what we have been saying on this website about the inversion of values that occurred in the West when whites, including atheists, took the axiological message of the Gospels very seriously. Building on this and the crucial part of Evropa Soberana’s essay on Judea vs. Rome in The Fair Race, let us look at what Carrier says at the beginning of chapter 4 of On the Historicity of Jesus.

Romulus appears to Proculus Julius.

In Plutarch’s book on Romulus, the founder of Rome, we are told that Romulus was the son of God, born of a Virgin, and that there were attempts to kill him as a baby. As an adult, the elites finally killed him and the sun went dark, but Romulus’ body disappeared. Then he rises from the dead. Some doubted and, along the way, Romulus appears to a friend to pass on the Good News to his people (see image above). It is revealed that, despite his human appearance, Romulus had always been a God and had become incarnate to establish a great kingdom on earth (note these italicised words in the context of the indented quote on the next page). Romulus then ascends to heaven to reign from there. Before Christianity, the Romans celebrated the day Romulus ascended to heaven. Plutarch recounts that at the annual Ascension ceremony the names of those who were afraid because they had witnessed the feat were recited, something that reminds me of the true ending of Mark’s Gospel (Mk 16:8) before Christians added more verses. Carrier comments that it seems as if Mark is adding a Semitic spin to the original story of Romulus: an Aryan story that seems to be the skeleton on which the evangelist would add the Semitic flesh of his literary fiction. Carrier’s sentence in bold has convinced me that his treatise On the Historicity of Jesus deserves our attention.

There are many differences in the two stories, surely. But the similarities are too numerous to be a coincidence—and the differences are likely deliberate. For instance, Romulus’ material kingdom favoring the mighty is transformed into a spiritual one favoring the humble. It certainly looks like the Christian passion narrative is an intentional transvaluation of the Roman Empire’s ceremony of their own founding savior’s incarnation, death and resurrection. [page 58]

The implications are enormous. It does seem that the Gospel writers, presumably Jews, thoroughly plagiarised the founding myth of Rome to sell us another myth. This new myth not only involved the substitution of an Aryan hero (Romulus) for a Jewish hero (Jesus). It did something infinitely more subversive, what Nietzsche called the transvaluation of values.

It is becoming increasingly clear: Not only Jesus of Nazareth didn’t exist. The evangelist Mark stole the myth of the Aryan God Romulus for incredibly subversive purposes (see my boldface above). That is why they tried to erase any trace of the Romulus festivals when they destroyed almost all the Latin books, from the 4th to the 6th century. It cannot be a coincidence that Mark wrote his gospel in 70 c.e.—chronologically, the first gospel of the New Testament ever written—right after the Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem!

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Posted in two entries (‘The resurrected Jew’ and ‘Unhistorical Jesus’) on September and October 2019. In addition to Carrier’s scholarly volume, see Catherine Nixey: The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World.