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'Jesus' was an invention of Roman propaganda..



  • I'd be far more inclined to take the opinion of Hebrew scholars. Anyway, what does it matter, believe or not believe, once upon a time it was Christians persecuting the non believers, now it's the other way around.
  • The Christians were right though, my mum told me.
  • Bloke at my school was called Jed Christian, bit of a clever clogs alright.
  • edited October 2013
    That response is the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and saying 'I'm not listening!'

    Did you read the article Ian? Fascinating stuff. Not least, not least in the slightest, because much of our current political and legal system in the West is modelled on Rome... by coincidence I'm reading Rubicon by Tom Holland - an absolutely brilliant overview of the decline and fall of the Roman Republic - and what it was that motivated Romans to pursue economic and social policies practically identical to the modern neo-liberal capitalist model we have in the West today (and increasingly elsewhere).

    And back to the OP - there is scant historical evidence for the existence of Jesus beyond vague and questionable references in Josephus (for example). This new theory seems like the missing piece in the puzzle to me, and is certainly worthy of serious consideration before dismissing it out of hand.

  • y'ep, read the article.
  • I haven't yet, but I will when I get a chance.
  • What have the Romans ever done for us?
  • They made good candles Dorset.
  • Really? I've never set fire to a Roman.
  • I have an Italian colleague who loves a generous dollop of wax on his hair. He's quite tall as well so I reckon he could burn for a good few hours if anyone's interested? Bring your own sausages and marshmallows.
  • Will he go POP after a while and shed a load of pretty colours into the air? If so, I'm interested.
  • They're looking to build a new ground as well...


  • Hud, it's not true to say there is "...scant historical evidence for the existence of Jesus beyond vague and questionable references in Josephus."  There are many more references than those in Josephus and the historicity of Jesus is generally accepted by those studying antiquity.  This gives an overview:
  • Hysterical Jesus - is that a new posable action figure, a la 'Teen Pregnancy Barbie' (comes with removeable bump, Blackberry and benefits book)?
  • I'm sorry DM, but that simply isn't the case, in fact Hud was being generous. There is absolutely no historical evidence of any veracity for a Jesus of Nazareth, none at all.Not a peep. The gospels as much as anything prove the fictitious nature of the mythological Christ. I'm not saying there wasn't somebody, perhaps quite a few people, whose activities fitted the profile that could be adapted to fulfill a few prophecies, but none of them at the time were significant enough to have been written about, by anyone at the time or for what looks most likely a few hundred years after the event.

    Plenty scholars of antiquity believed in the Turin shroud too.

  • The question is simply was Jesus was a real person.  We’re not talking about religious claims.  There is a wealth of historical evidence that Jesus was a real person.  Here is just a little.

    The epistles of Paul in which he writes about Jesus and refers to meeting James, Jesus’ brother.  It’s universally accepted that Paul was a real person.

    Josephus also wrote of James, the brother of Jesus.  Josephus is another real person who was born just a few years after Jesus’ death and wrote about him around 93AD.

    Tacitus, a senator and one of the greatest Roman historians.  He writes of Christ, his execution and of Pontius Pilate around 116AD.

    The Babylonian Talmud confirms Jesus' crucifixion on the eve of Passover and the accusations against Christ of practising sorcery and encouraging Jewish apostasy.

    And there’s plenty more.  

    It should also be noted that thousands of Christians in the first century AD, including the twelve apostles and Paul, were willing to give their lives as martyrs for Jesus Christ.  People will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie.

  • since neither Paul himself, nor anyone on his behalf down to the present day, has ever claimed that his “seeing” of the Christ was anything but a vision of a spiritual figure, this has to imply that Paul regards the other appearances as being in the same category. In other words, they were all revelatory experiences; none were thought of as encounters with a bodily-risen Jesus of Nazareth.

    Josephus' mention of Jesus, not that he does in all versions of the text, are extremely dubious.

    Tacitus' writing of christians at the time of Nero, a term that wasn't in use during Nero's reign, a bit strange.

    Ultraviolet photo of a critical word from the earliest known extant manuscript of Tacitus (second Medicean, Laurentian library, Italy).

    The photograph reveals that the word purportedly used by Tacitus in Annals 15.44, chrestianos ("the good"), has been overwritten as christianos ("the Christians") by a later hand, a deceit which explains the excessive space between the letters and the exaggerated "dot" (dash) above the new "i". The entire "torched Christians" passage of Tacitus is not only fake, it has been repeatedly "worked over" by fraudsters to improve its value as evidence for the Jesus myth.

    When you take the reference within the Talmud at face-value, it initially seems as though you may have a case:

    On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu (of Nazareth) and the herald went before him for forty days saying (Yeshu of Nazareth) is going forth to be stoned in that he hath practiced sorcery and beguiled and led astray Israel. Let everyone knowing aught in his defence come and plead for him. But they found naught in his defence and hanged him on the eve of Passover.

    Unfortunately, this passage encounters problems even on the surface level. Namely, it does not line up with any of the gospel accounts of Jesus' arrest, trial or execution.

    1) He was incarcerated for 40 days - not the gospel accounts of an illegal, overnight trial followed by an immediate execution
    2) He was arrested for sorcery and sedition - not blasphemy and treason
    3) He was offered the opportunity for redemption but no one was found in 40 days who would speak on his behalf. A herald announced his eminent execution, rather than the secret ordeal portrayed in the gospels
    4) He was sentenced to be stoned - not crucified - and he was hung only after the sentence was carried out.
    5) he was executed by Jewish authorities - not crucified by the Romans

    Scholar John Meier argues credibly that the conclusion reached by Josh McDowell's "Evidence that demands a verdict" is imply improbable - and it makes no headway in the case for a historical Jesus. Although the Talmud does not doubt the historicity of the character known today as Jesus of Nazareth, their silence does not confirm the contrary conclusion either for two reasons.

    1) You can't assume that because the Jews did not question or commit to writing doubts on the historical nature of Jesus of Nazareth that they were in agreement. Concepts of myths and historicity are far different now than they were then - and silence does not equal evidence to the contrary.
    2) Evidence from the Talmud could only be considered as independently sourcing the historicity of Jesus if it came from independent sources. The sources for the the Talmud are undetermined, and as such they cannot be considered as a truly independent source. Since it's sources are questionable and it was written and compiled at such a late date, its credibility is shaky as a source.

    There aren't plenty more DM, in fact there isn't one contemporary witness account of an actual Jesus of Nazareth as we understand him historically.

    People will believe almost anything DM, and were there really Christians in the the 1st century CE? that's by no means a certain, even among theologians. What is almost certain is that in the 2nd and 3rd centuries there were a huge variety of christianities - with very different views about very different kinds of Jesus.

    I'm not questioning anybody's faith (although the many, many forged religious texts does suggest somebody should question the faith of certain members of various churches) If it helps people with their lives, then fine (and I know plenty of people where that seems to be the case) But it simply isn't true that  there is strong evidence for a historical Jesus.

    I don't want to row with you about it, it's a cul-de-sac of a debate, because the case on both sides is all too often fuelled by their own agendas, and because I get the impression that you are a lovely fella.

  • Thanks Zeno.  I don’t take it as row at all.  It’s an exchange of views on a fascinating debate.  I just hope we’re not boring our fellow posters on here.

    I’m not an academic but in my reading on this issue I’ve understood the weight of academic research comes down on the side of there being a historical Jesus.  And again, I do not mean the ‘Christ of faith’.  Am I wrong in this?  Of course, there’s no definitive killer evidence on either side of the argument but that must surely be the case for all noted people of antiquity, such as say….the founder of stoicism!?

    Just a couple of points to pick up on:
    You say there’s not more evidences to the ones I quoted.  However even in the Wikipedia page I posted above there are more - Mara bar Sarapion, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Lucian of Samosata, Thallus, and Celsus.  And then there’s the four Gospels which, regardless of how you approach them, are extremely important historical documents containing reliable information on the first century period.  I realise all of these documents have debates and opinions attached to them, but isn’t that simply the way of scholarship and all ancient literature?

    And the other point as to whether there were Christians in the 1st century.  Certainly there were no Christians as many might understand this term today.  Richard Dawkins says he’s a ‘cultural Christian’ who enjoys evensong; an idea that’s as bizarre as it’s meaningless.  And yes the expression of this new faith was diverse until Constantine made it a state religion in the 4th century.  But none of that has any bearing in the existence of Christians from the 1st century.  The term ‘Christian’ was used early on as were other terms such as ‘Followers of The Way’.  That new groups of believers in Jesus Christ formed in the first century is pretty indisputable.  'The Rise of Christianity' by the American sociologist Rodney Stark (not a Christian) gives an excellent overview.

    Thanks for the discussion.  You raised some really interesting issues, Zeno, some of which are new to me and I must look into them further.
  • Don't fall for the 'lovely fella' image Zeno - the man is a vicious and ruthless thug; expect a knock on the door in the dead of night very soon...
  • Oh my gawd....he's a Jehovah!!!
  • Fecking doorstep breadsellers, they'll be the end of us all. We're dooooooooooomed I tell you - DOOOOOMED!
  • edited October 2013
    I am gratified to have started such an edifying discussion, but disappointed that neither Dave dm or Zeno has addressed the exciting (to me) revelations that Joseph Atwill discusses in the link I provided. I think the ramifications are deep and potent and resonate particularly in today's climate of mass mainstream propaganda, our 'beloved' BBC being an arch proponent. Dave, what do you think about what he reveals? You went off like a rocket to back up your beliefs, but you haven't addressed anything from the OP.

    And in regard to the belief in 'Jesus', there are so many examples of this kind of messianic figure being used by many cultures, right down to all the symbolic details surrounding this particular mythological/quasi-real character, that even that wealth of apocryphal evidence tends to undermine any sense of the physical reality of Jesus Christ. That is not to say that I am not enamoured with him. The idea of a free-thinking, free-speaking radical libertarian socialist appeals to me deeply. And the Roman Empire at the time of JC's purported existence bears harrowing lessons for us today in the ruthless exposition of untrammelled capitalism and rampant individualism taken, much as Marx saw it, over 1800 years later, to its apotheosis in the persons of the Roman dictators, emperors and its general ethos of the triumph of 'success' over everything else (ultimately as it proved, at any cost).

    Although the propaganda and justification for Roman imperialism was that they were 'bringing peace' (where have we heard that before?), they used the most brutal forms of oppression imaginable to achieve their ends, and these ends were primarily and overwhelmingly to the benefit of a small cabal of vested interests, very similar to our own uber-neo-capitalists, who view world domination as their right, under some false interpretation not just of Darwin, but of Christianity and a religious justification.
    (It's interesting to see what the new Pope has to say about Christian ideology, incidentally - )

    So Dave, what's your take on the OP? And the wider ramifications?
  • Listen 'ere cock, how else d'ya think they were going to feed the lions?
  • I focussed on the historical Jesus issue as a response to the link.  Atwell posits the theory that Jesus was an invention.  As historical evidence comes down on the side of Jesus being a real person that is, on its own, a serious challenges to his argument.

    Conspiracy theories around Jesus have been around for a very long time and almost from Christianity’s inception.  Some of the New Testament letters are written to counter such theories from the Gnostics.  Jesus has always been a figure that attracts huge interest from all quarters: political, philosophical, religious, sociological et al.  And here we are debating him on a football website.  Love or hate JC, it is difficult to ignore him.

    My first thought on the piece in the link was to think: why would Rome have bothered with such a sophisticated plot?  They had done just fine using their military strategy to invade and subjugate Israel and didn’t have too much trouble keeping Roman ‘peace’.  When push came to shove they would weld the sword as we know Pilate did on a number of occasions.  Also, the Roman Jewish war started in 66bc some 30 years after Christianity had started.  So for me Atwell’s theory doesn’t add up.

    Atwell’s comment that the biography of Jesus is constructed on the biography of a Roman Caesar is, in part, correct.  Paul the apostle in particular deliberately used language that mirrors language used of Caesar to make the seditious point that Jesus is Lord and not Caesar.  Caesar had decreed that everyone in the Roman empire would greet each other with the salutation, "Caesar is Lord."  One of the earliest Christian confessions was “Jesus is Lord”.  This was not something Roman plotters would have wished to engender.

    I entirely agree with your comment on present world powers being a modern day Roman Empire.  One of the reasons I find Jesus so fascinating is that he is as relevant to today as he was to his own day, and his way of addressing the problem of world domination by a cruel empire as radical as ever.
  • edited October 2013
    Great, thanks for your reply Dave. I think the simplest answer is that we'll never know the truth about Jesus in any tangible historical sense because the evidence is vague - although you say it's more conclusive than that, I can't really agree. But as a symbol, he is potent. I have friends - yourself included, who call themselves Christians, but I've never really been clear what that means - since clearly one man's Christian is another man's ideologue, and what unites Christians is often what also divides them - you can be a right-wing bigot Christian or a left-wing socialist Christian, and often the tenets or philosophy of Christianity are subjugated to the agenda of the individual or movement.

    Personally I like to see Jesus not as some vague magical miracle worker in whose twisted memory a weird world-dominating agenda has been played out (the figure they tried to sell me at my primary school), but as a radical free-thinking revolutionary who believed in the sovereignty of the individual soul over the ugly and rapacious form of brutal neo-liberal capitalism that was practised by Rome, and equally the despotism of monarchism in all its forms, and so on.. And as such (and indeed also as an advocate of peace and unity), one might say that history has shown Jesus to have been a failure, in that we still live in a world dominated by materialism and the gross inequalities and suffering that engenders, but it's a long game, and I believe the tenets of his faith, of a deeper spiritual connection to our reality than the gross materialism of our age may well still be borne out. My analysis of current geopolitics is that we are in the endgame of a long struggle between the old ways, which are limited, infantile and crude, and the evolution of a new way, which is enlightened and beneficial to our spiritual progress.. in a sense, you could say the human race is coming out of angry adolescence into the early stages of maturity. If we make it that far.

  • Could ancient Rome be called neo-anything?
  • Well, yes it could Ben, since they were the first so-called Republican state (as opposed to the first democracy, which was Athens). But I'm using the term neo-liberal there because it precisely explains how the Roman establishment operated, the basic agenda and justification is identical with the current meaning of that term.

  • Oh, and furthermore, it informs the understanding of what modern neo-liberalism is, because they didn't just invent it out of nowhere, much of their thinking, and indeed much of our judicial and political system is based on that of 'ancient' Rome, so it is in fact pertinent.

  • All I know is that you don't get posts like this on
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