Type 2 mythicism: one more example

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by Neil Godfrey

For the meaning of “type 2” mythicism see two types; for the previous post addressing Caesar’s Messiah see Why and Fishing.

I will post just once more on the mythicist argument in Caesar’s Messiah: the Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus. My previous criticism examined the notion that Josephus, when describing one detail of a battle in Galilee, was subtly referring to Jesus call to his disciples to become “fishers of men”. The strongest rebuttal to my argument seemed to be that readers would associate the killing of drowning soldiers with “fishers of men” in the gospels. Atwill responded to explain that it was the parallel sequence of events that was most telling, but my own view is that if the supposed parallel between any event is not valid then it follows that there can be no sequence of events.

So I will follow up with just one more post for the benefit of anyone who might be wondering about the strength of Joseph Atwill’s overall thesis.

In chapter 3, “The Son of Mary Who Was a Passover Sacrifice”, Atwill writes:

While readers can judge this claim for themselves, it should be noted that Josephus wrote during an age in which allegory was regarded as a science. Educated readers were expected to be able to understand another meaning within religious and historical literature. The Apostle Paul, for example, stated that passages from the Hebrew Scriptures were allegories that looked forward to Christ’s birth. I believe that in the following passage Josephus is using allegory to reveal something else about Jesus. (p. 45, my bolding)

I don’t know of any historical literature in the ancient world that was meant to be read as an allegory. Atwill does not cite any source to verify his assertion that “educated readers were expected to be able to understand another meaning within . . . historical literature”. He does refer to the following passage by Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 (Young’s Literal Translation), however:

And I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,and all to Moses were baptized in the cloud, and in the sea;and all the same spiritual food did eat, and all the same spiritual drink did drink, for they were drinking of a spiritual rock following them, and the rock was the Christ; but in the most of them God was not well pleased, for they were strewn in the wilderness, and those things became types of us, for our not passionately desiring evil things, as also these did desire.

The Douay-Rheims Bible translates “τύποι” (types) as “figure”:

Now these things were done in a figure of us, that we should not covet evil things as they also coveted.

The Gospel of Mark is sometimes interpreted as an allegorical gospel but those who do interpret its characters and stories as allegories do so on the strength of the following passage, Mark 4:34, in the text itself:

And without parable he did not speak unto them; but apart, he explained all things to his disciples.

This saying has been interpreted as a hint that the entire gospel itself is a parable. Indeed, many of the episodes in Mark’s gospel simply make no sense if read as realistic events. It is impossible for any persons to be as dim-witted as the disciples are depicted in that gospel, for example.

Back to Paul. Paul uses “types” or allegories or figures of speech to explain the covenants. But notably he explains to the readers of his letter that he is speaking in allegories; Galatians 4:24:

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.

What we can conclude, then, is that if an author was writing an allegorical scene we can expect him to make it clear to his readers that he is indeed writing allegorically and he explicitly states as much, and warns the reader not to read his account literally.

Conclusion: there are no grounds for thinking that any historian in ancient times, Josephus included, ever wrote allegorically — unless they gave their readers a clear indication that they were doing so. And I don’t know of any historian who ever wrote his account allegorically, period.

It is not the case that “educated readers were expected to be able to understand another meaning within … historical literature.”

Let’s look at the second episode Atwill claims is an allegory of the story of Jesus’ last supper.

I believe that in the following passage Josephus is using allegory to reveal something else about Jesus. . . .

There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezob, which signifies the house of Hyssop. She was eminent for her family and her wealth, and had fled away to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time. The other effects of this woman had been already seized upon, such I mean as she had brought with her out of Perea, and removed to the city. What she had treasured up besides, as also what food she had contrived to save, had been also carried off by the rapacious guards, who came every day running into her house for that purpose. This put the poor woman into a very great passion, and by the frequent reproaches and imprecations she cast at these rapacious villains, she had provoked them to anger against her; but none of them, either out of the indignation she had raised against herself, or out of commiseration of her case, would take away her life; and if she found any food, she perceived her labors were for others, and not for herself; and it was now become impossible for her any way to find any more food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow, when also her passion was fired to a degree beyond the famine itself; nor did she consult with any thing but with her passion and the necessity she was in. She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, “O thou miserable infant! for whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves. This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us. Yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets, and a by-word to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews.

As soon as she had said this, she slew her son, and then roasted him, and ate the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this the seditious came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them, and withal uncovered what was left of her son. Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight, when she said to them,

This is mine own son, and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous, and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also.”

After which those men went out trembling, being never so much afrighted at any thing as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. (Josephus, War 6.3)

I have bolded the passages that Atwill sees as indicators of the passage being an allegory of the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples.

There are difficulties with that allegorical interpretation, however.

1. Mary was not present at and did not eat the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples.

2. The house of Hyssop. Joseph Atwill links the word hyssop to Passover on the correct understanding that hyssop was used to smear the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of Israelites in Egypt at the first Passover (Exodus 12:22). I think, however, given the other many uses of the word hyssop in the Hebrew Bible, there may be other associations that come more readily to mind. Psalm 51 prays to God to be purged with hyssop — with no passover association. Other Pentateuchal passages relate hyssop to sacrifices cleansing lepers and houses and in use at the sacrifice of the red heifer. See the biblegateway references.

3. The image of “piercing” Mary’s soul is, for Atwill, a reminder of Luke 2:35

And a sword will pierce your heart

Commentators are divided over the meaning of this passage. Some say it speaks of Mary’s sorrow to come when her son is crucified; others say it references the time of judgement when all thoughts, even those of Mary, good and bad, will be revealed. But the telling blow to the Caesar’s Messiah interpretation is that the word translated “pierced” in the Whiston translation (the one Atwill uses) of Josephus is not the same as the Greek word used in Luke 2:35.

The word that Whiston translates as “pierced” is ἐξέκαιον. G.A. Williamson in the Penguin translation of Josephus’s War is

while hunger was eating her heart out and rage was consuming her still fast

The Perseus Greek Word Study Tool renders the word as “burn out“. Thackeray translates the passage similarly:

while famine coursed through her intestines and marrow and the fire of rage was more consuming even than the famine

In Luke 2:35, meanwhile, the word translated “pierced” is διελεύσεται, quite different from ἐξέκαιον. Other translations of the biblical passage use “revealed”, though to be fair I do think those are letting personal doctrinal preference decide the word for them.

Thus far

Thus far, we have seen that there is no compelling reason to interpret “hyssop” as a pointer to Passover; and no good reason to think that the two different words translated into English as “pierced” by some translators would be associated by anyone familiar with the Gospel of Luke with the Josephan passage.

A simpler explanation

There is, though, a clear and memorable association between Josephus’s anecdote and the Bible, but the biblical passage is in the Old Testament. 2 Kings 6:26-30

And it cometh to pass, the king of Israel is passing by on the wall, and a woman hath cried unto him, saying, `Save, my lord, O king.’And he saith, `Jehovah doth not save thee — whence do I save thee? out of the threshing-floor, or out of the wine-vat?’And the king saith to her, `What — to thee?’ and she saith, `This woman said unto me, Give thy son, and we eat him to-day, and my son we eat to-morrow; and we boil my son and eat him, and I say unto her on the next day, Give thy son, and we eat him; and she hideth her son.’And it cometh to pass, at the king’s hearing the words of the woman, that he rendeth his garments, and he is passing by on the wall, and the people see, and lo, the sackcloth [is] on his flesh within.

I suspect the Josephan narrative is an adaptation of the 2 Kings passage. In place of two women each with their respective sons, Josephus has given readers one woman and a decision to eat the son over two days. This narrative plot device also allows her horrible action to be discovered.

I cannot say that no-one has suggested that the crucifixion of Jesus in the gospels is an allegory of, or derived from, the 2 Kings 6 passage. I suggest it is equally unlikely that the Josephan passage is a reference to the Last Supper of Jesus. I think the more obvious scenario in Josephus’s mind was 2 Kings 6:26-30.


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22 thoughts on “Type 2 mythicism: one more example”

  1. I also am pondering Joseph Atwill’s (JA) analogies. Having been previously interested in and later disappointed by the late Barbara Theiring’s views on the Dead Sea scroll Community in Relation to Jesus, I’m a lot more cautious of accepting such a systematic theology so easily again. So thanks to Neil Godfrey for his balanced and scholarly approach to JA. While I also have difficulty in seeing all JA’s parallels and motifs, the basic thrust of his work does make a lot of sense : that the Roman elite invented a passive Messiah to diffuse Jewish aggression against the Empire. That D.A Murdoch (Acharya S.) largely supported JA says a lot to me. I know I’ve said this before, but it is a vital factor that keeps emerging in my own understanding of the Jesus story – that the Roman church tried to only allow its history to be understood as it wanted it to be. For anyone wanting a good overview of JA’s ideas I recommend watching the You Tube video of Caesar’s Messiah, presented in a well argued way with scholarly support – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBZH0uoUZH4

    1. If the Flavians had invented Christianity we would have a first book (or a series of books, a ‘mini-canon’) more like Josephus’ Antiquities, rather than the scatter of obscure fragmentary texts and the haphazard web of early ‘church fathers’.

      I don’t think there was a ‘Roman church’ in the first century (and maybe not until the mid to late 2nd century) and by the 3rd century Christianity was dominated first by Tertuallian in Nth Africa and then Origen, Pamphilus and Eusebius in Caesarea.

    2. While I agree that Atwill is a “Type 2” mythicist, if you strip away the unsupportable assertions that render his work “unscholarly,” there actually is some good scholarship there, and I think that gets missed.

      By the way, one of the unsupportable assertions is the ultimate conclusion “that the Roman elite invented a passive Messiah to diffuse Jewish aggression against the Empire.” We cannot divine today the intent of ancient Romans based on the parallels identified between the works of Josephus and the Synoptic Gospels.

      If Atwill had stopped at identifying the parallels, he would have been taken more seriously. I have had exchanges with “Type 1” mythicists who are willing to be more speculative privately, but their peer-reviewed work is invariably based on falsifiable assertions of fact.

    3. I have watched the video and taken notes. I can see that simply tackling the supposed parallels is not sufficient. I may post a review of that video some time. Till then, I suggest we take note of Neville Morley’s advice in my latest post (i.e. never accept anything without the evidence; no need to disbelieve, either — just keep it all hanging till the evidence is shown one way or the other). Another point my own studies of ancient Rome indicates to me — Romans did not need to attempt to create a new religion (esp one with as many contradictions as the one Atwill posits) when they had the sword. They managed to knock those Jewish rebels out quite well with brute force alone. (And those Jewish rebels were not, to contradict the message of the tape, part of some grand Messianic movement. That’s simply not so, despite what some people say Josephus seems to say.)

  2. Hi Neil,

    First, your criticism is incoherent in that it attempts to analyze an element within a typological sequence in isolation. As I pointed out in my unanswered post showing how critical sequence is to comprehend typological connections within the Gospels; the typological connections that are conceptual can only be understood within their place in the sequence.

    So the first question is whether or not Josephus’ cannibal Mary story is found in the correct place in his narration to be linked sequential to the Gospels Last Supper story?

    Certainly it is. Just to place it within between the links whose parallelism you accept, the passage is between ‘encircling Jerusalem with a wall’ and ‘3 crucified one survives’.

    Note that once I posit a typological sequence beginning with ‘fishing for men’ the areas of text I can find the parallels is precisely defined. Thus, as I am sure you will agree, with something as unique as the Last Supper it is only necessary to show that a human Passover lamb occurs at the correct location within Josephus’ narration to create a possible typological linkage. Moreover, as with the ‘fishing for men’ parallel, the location is the same. This is in keeping with the structure of the Moses/Jesus typological system, which I presented in an earlier post and from which the Jesus/Titus system emerges.

    So the next question is can Josephus’ cannibalized child coherently be seen as a human Passover Lamb? A rather important question in that since the concept is so unique if Josephus placed it within a sequence his narration shares with the Gospels’ it may answer the question as to where Jesus Christ was invented.

    Predictably, – and necessary to offer any resistance to my theory – you did not see any ‘human Passover lamb’ linkage whatsoever. You wrote: “It is unlikely that the Josephan passage is a reference to the Last Supper of Jesus”.

    Of course, I could show that there is sufficient parallelism to demonstrate possible typological linkage with simple random sampling tests as I did to overthrow your claim that Matthew’s ‘fishing for men’ metaphor was not parallel enough to have been a typological linkage to Josephus ‘fishing for men’ passage.

    But there is no need to as so many other scholars have seen the conceptual linkage – just not the sequence the parallel fits into – between the two human Passover lambs.

    For example Dr, Honara Chapman wrote: “There is possibly a suggestion, then, that Mary has performed a perverted Passover-type meal, where instead of a lamb, an Israelite baby has been slaughtered.”

    “A Myth for the World”: Early Christian Reception of Infanticide and Cannibalism in Josephus, Bellum Judaicum 6.199-219 Honora H. Chapman, Santa Clara University October, 2000
    (Please read the article for Chapman’s presentation of the Greek language parallels between the Gospels ‘and Josephus’ human Passover lambs.)
    As is well known, Melito in Peri Pascha identifies Cannibal Mary’s child as a human Passover sacrifice.

    Just for one confirmation of this in the aforementioned paper Chapman wrote:“ In the larger picture, Melito’s cannibal mother and her child serve as a counterpart to the Egyptians who lost their firstborn sons during Passover, a scene he has so dramatically recounted in the first section of this homily. Melito has employed many of Josephus’s details from the B.J. for his depiction of mankind’s sinful self-destruction through cannibalism,”

    Moreover, Richard Carrier completely agreed the child was a human Passover lamb.

    He wrote: “by inverting the concept of the Passover in order to represent the inversion of Jewish society among those who remained rebels against Rome. What Josephus seems to have in mind is to communicate that Jewish society had been turned upside down by rebellion, and he does this by turning the Passover upside down. Hence we have here a Jew’s own poetic inversion of the Passover to make a contextual point about the state of society during the siege of Jerusalem.”

    “That the Passover is being turned upside down is given by the fact that those who ate the Passover were specifically avoiding the slaying of their own sons, and sacrifices like this were meant to replace a human (like Isaac) with an animal (Lamb), whereas in this story an animal is replaced with a human, and not just any human, but the very son whose death was supposed to be averted by the Passover.”


    Any reader can simply go to the Flavian Signature chapter of the current edition of CM and exclude from the list of over forty parallels any that do not meet whatever criteria for parallelism you have. I assert, there will still be sufficient self-evident parallels to show a designed parallel sequence and that the human Passover lambs occur at a correct point in the sequence.

    This concept is unique in literature and could not occur within a parallel sequence by chance.


    1. If there are no parallel items it follows that there can be no sequence of those parallel items. To argue that the sequence somehow confirms or helps identify the parallel items I suggest is circular reasoning, and a consequence of willing to see parallels that do not exist by any normal standards.

      Chapman does not argue that Josephus was calling the Passover to mind but makes it very clear that Josephus is drawing upon tragic tropes and details with which his gentile audience were familiar. His ultimate content source, she points out, are books in the “Old Testament”.

      For your argument to work you need more than merely “possible” parallels. And to avoid circularity you need to establish them as more than mere possibilities before you see them in a sequence. Josephus makes no close connection between the cannibalism and the Passover and we see nothing in Josephus’s account of Mary’s action that would cause a gentile audience to associate it with the Passover — not to mention that Josephus would further need to explain the connection with Passover for a gentile audience anyway.

  3. I must first admit that I haven’t read CM. However, from what I’m seeing here it seems that there is an obvious condition that can lead to confusion.

    Neil has pointed out the association between 2 Kings and the passage from Josephus in this one case. This seems to reveal a common source for error, because so much of the Gospel narrative is itself based on the Jewish scriptures, in particular 2 Kings, that it can easily be that both the Gospels and Josephus are making references to many of the same passages in the Jewish scriptures.

    This makes all the more sense if, as I propose, the Gospel of Mark is itself a commentary on the war. So if both Josephus and “Mark” are writing about the war, and both are heavily drawing on the Jewish scriptures for their themes, then it is not at all unlikely that both authors would have made several similar references.

    This could give a vague illusion that Josephus was referencing the Gospels, when in fact he was referencing the Jewish scriptures, which were independently referenced by the writer of the first Gospel.

    I could be totally off-base, as I haven’t read CM, but just sayin’….

      1. The idea that either the Gospel of Mark references The Jewish War of vice versa is not credible. First of all, both works were written at about the same time. The Jewish War was written about 75 CE and the Gospel of Mark was likely written in 75 CE. Even if there were a couple of years between them, it’s hardly time for the proposed scenario to have taken place.

        Not only that, but why on earth would Josephus make reference of the Gospel of Mark anyway? For Josephus to have referenced a Gospel it would require that the Gospel would have been written like 10 years or more prior to the work of Josephus, which would put the Gospel before the war. There are a hundred reasons to conclude that the first Gospel was written after the war.

        If Josephus was referencing a Gospel in 75 CE, that would actually make Josephus the earliest known reference to a Gospel work. And why would Josephus make reference to a work that would have been largely unknown at that time?

        It’s clear that the Gospel stories didn’t really become popularized until the very late 1st century, like the 90s CE.

        And if Josephus was aware of a Gospel, then why didn’t he write anything explicitly about it anywhere else? That Josephus would be the earliest reference to a Gospel and for him never to have expounded on anything from the Gospels explicitly make no sense.

        That Josephus’ work and the Gospels contain some similar themes because they were both written in reaction to the First Jewish-Roman War by people who were heavily influenced by the stories from the Jewish scriptures, however, makes a lot of sense.

        1. I didn’t suggest Josephus made reference of or from the Gospel of Mark. I suggested the author of G.Mark might have been drawn to 2 Kings by reading Josephus – there is quite a bit of recent scholarly argument that the canonical gospels are later than has been previously proposed. And there has been plenty of commentary that the author of Luke-Acts used Josephus.

          1. I think the author of Luke defiantly used Josephus, but the Last Supper comes from Mark, so it would have to be Mark using it. That seems unlikely, although I wouldn’t say its 100% impossible.

            Still to me the more likely scenario is that both the writer of Mark and Josephus came from backgrounds steeped in the same popular scriptural stories and made similar references in their works.

    1. Hi R.G. Price,

      That approach is logical for analyzing a single parallel but not for a sequence of parallels. If there is a sequence of unusual parallels the texts were not connected accidentally and are somehow dependent. The analysis must focus on the source of the dependency.

      I know this is a hard mental switch to flip but irrespective of CM, consider the overall storyline between the two campaigns: Galilean towns get crushed – journey to Jerusalem, period outside the city where there is a struggle with Jews – city encircled – triumphant entrance, AoD, Temple complex razed, three crucified one survives. Stories seem dependent, what force created the dependency?


      1. If both Josephus and the author of Mark were using the actual events of the war as their inspiration, then of course they would have similar narratives. And obviously crucifixion was a common form of execution since Josephus states that it was done to thousands of people. So this is a widespread practice.

        If anything it would be more likely that the author of Mark had read Josephus than the other way around. We know for sure that the author of Mark was basing his narrative on other literary sources.

        It seems clear that the story of Mark is written as a commentary on the war and there are many parallels between the story and the events of the war. It could be that the similarities between the two are due to the fact they are both inspired by the same events or that the writer of Mark had read The Wars of the Jews.

        That Josephus had read the Gospel of Mark, however, makes little sense.

  4. Hey, all of you who (unlike me) actually know something about Roman history and are familiar with the origins of Christianity and Judaism: what about actually reviewing the film Mr Atwood links to above?

    I, ignorant in these fields, feel obliged to give you a scouting report in hopes of provoking you. Again I note JS Mill, ch 3, On Liberty, on how engaging even apparently badly flawed dissident perspectives can help one refine one’s own views. Occasionally, as he notes, one actually finds that a crackpot idea is largely right.

    So I will go ahead and disgrace myself…. I found the video annoying for all the gimmickry (music etc) typical of all such productions of the genre, whether a film revealing how Charles Darwin was a robot created by aliens or a travelogue about the Great Skyscrapers of the World. Also, it necessarily cannot provide adequate detail much less footnotes.

    Nevertheless, although I am moderately prejudiced against seeing conspiracies in history, I found it highly compelling. I also found it so interesting that it was hard to stop intermittently as I was cooking dinner.

    I found it annoyingly compelling. Yes, it was successful as a polemic, but polemics can be largely true. I began hoping for weaknesses. I do not know enough to recognize them clearly. Here is where I hope you, non-ideologically, will find weaknesses. Though I lack the knowledge to see weaknesses, I am left with questions (perhaps not so much if I’d read his book) that may need answering such as the following:

    Did/do all the Experts interviewed (esp Robt Eisenwood) agree with all of Atwood’s theory? Are there inaccuracies or questionable assertions in the depiction of Josephus’s relation to Vespasian and Titus? The video (perhaps because of time constraints) glosses over any religious differences of rulers between Titus and Constantine–comments on that? The video seems to be about to suggest that the Flavians were promoting the Pharisees as much as Christianity–but then dropped the topic->>??? It refers to the Gnostics but only more or less in passing. Did/does Atwood see gnosticism as a preexisting condition or something concocted by the Flavians or how did it arise?>>>??? What about Paul or a Paul concoction or some Paul-like entity or group???!!!??? NT scholars seem to love to focus on Paul, but I think he may be absent from the video. What’s with that??? Is there not a role for a theory that uses some of Atwood’s ideas on Josephus, but then has a group of Pauline types in subsequent generations concocting a religion to get along with the Romans? In other words couldn’t some Roman subjects, inspired perhaps by Josephus, have done much of what Atwood suggests the Flavians did (I bet I get smacked down for my ignorance here!!!)? Again, I’m not the person to be asking these sorts of questions, but someone who knows this stuff should be–after having seen the video.

    Then there’s smaller stuff. The video says that Romans typically had a black sense of humor. True? Makes sense. Doesn’t completely exclude the possibilities of some of the video’s contentions if untrue. For example, one of my German profs said that although Germans use puns for humor much less than Anglophones, Brecht loved using them, so maybe Josephus and the Flavians did love black humor even if Romans didn’t. But I’d be curious if someone knowledgeable were to comment about Romans and black humor. Somewhat important to the Atwood arguments about parallels, though there is the Brecht-puns special case argument.

    That comment leads to the discussion of dozens of parallels betw/ Titus’s entrance to Jerusalem and Jesus’s. I believe Atwood may describe it as proof. I don’t believe it is proof. For one thing there may be ample room for subjectivity in determining which element is included in the series. Additionally, like anything historical it is necessarily flawed by being a retrospective and not prospective sort of experiment. Yet from what I see I believe the apparent phenomenon begs for explanation, not disdain. It does sound as if there are a huge number of similarly described phenomena occurring in a similar order in the two separate narratives. Even if there were far fewer prospective parallels statistically the phenomenon might be a little hard to dismiss. I don’t know the material. Many of you do. I wish you would go to it. I here and now confess to doing it improperly myself. But you–you who know this stuff–what did you think of the video–details???

    1. Did/do all the Experts interviewed (esp Robt Eisenwood) agree with all of Atwood’s theory?

      Eisenman is the only qualified expert on any of the material discussed.

      Are there inaccuracies or questionable assertions in the depiction of Josephus’s relation to Vespasian and Titus?

      Yes. Hope to elucidate some in near future.

      The video seems to be about to suggest that the Flavians were promoting the Pharisees as much as Christianity–but then dropped the topic->>???

      I understood the video’s message to be that the Pharisees were depicted as Jewish enemies of Christ. The point of the thesis is that the Flavians wanted to “promote antisemitism” — a most dubious assertion.

      It refers to the Gnostics but only more or less in passing. Did/does Atwood see gnosticism as a preexisting condition or something concocted by the Flavians or how did it arise?>>>??? What about Paul or a Paul concoction or some Paul-like entity or group???!!!??? NT scholars seem to love to focus on Paul, but I think he may be absent from the video. What’s with that???

      Good questions. I would think Atwill would see gnosticism as a breakaway from the literalist form of Christianity. If so, that raises other problems.

      Is there not a role for a theory that uses some of Atwood’s ideas on Josephus, but then has a group of Pauline types in subsequent generations concocting a religion to get along with the Romans? In other words couldn’t some Roman subjects, inspired perhaps by Josephus, have done much of what Atwood suggests the Flavians did (I bet I get smacked down for my ignorance here!!!)? Again, I’m not the person to be asking these sorts of questions, but someone who knows this stuff should be–after having seen the video.

      You are right to ask the questions and to expect very clear answers with hard evidence.

      Then there’s smaller stuff. The video says that Romans typically had a black sense of humor. True?

      No, not any blacker than any other group has black humour. Flavian humour as depicted in historians like Suetonius is quite light hearted and even self-effacing.

      That comment leads to the discussion of dozens of parallels betw/ Titus’s entrance to Jerusalem and Jesus’s.

      One would expect a secret cabal in a Flavian headquarters writing about Titus in the form of the pacifist Jesus to produce a single gospel, not competing gospels, often contradicting one another. As it stands the parallels are “found” or read into Josephus’s one work on the war, but one has to pick out pieces from one gospel, then another piece from another gospel, to find some things that might remotely be related to a passage in Josephus.

  5. I’ve seen Joseph Atwill’s (JA) video several times at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBZH0uoUZH4 and always find that I have so much “unlearning” to do ! But it’s sobering to remember that it wasn’t until over 1,000 years after Constantine with the Protestant Reformation that the world finally came to see past the authority of Rome. Then to imagine (in the intellectual sense) the manipulation and fabrication of the historical record that the RC church must have done over the centuries to get people to follow the Messiah they wanted. JA and associates point out in the video that the mere fact that the Romans allowed the Gospels to survive is in itself a clear indication that the New Testament as we have it is as THEY wanted us to have it. Yet Protestantism has been unable to let go of the Messiah of the NT that was, as I agree with JA, invented by Rome, as if to hold that God would never have allowed his people to be misled to such an extent. I look forward to the day when JA and Richard Carrier have a debate on their differences; I think that will be of great value to scholarship. Perhaps a round table discussion with those two plus Robert Eisenman, Earl Doherty and Robert M. Price would be even better. JA if you are reading this, is that a possibility ?

    1. Hi Peter,

      CM doc was made by Fritz Heede. He had produced two of my favorite docs – Mystery of the Sphinx and Secret Wars of Desert Storm so I was delighted to be able to work with him.

      Such a roundtable would be fun for us I suspect and maybe useful for public. Have had years of to and fro with all of them so am not sure how the mix would work. Robert m and Earl are scholars and gentlemen and would bring value to any discussion. Eisenman – who stays at my house when he is in town – is a man of great dignity and a human encyclopedia of things NT but not sure how he would deal with Richard who I think even he would admit runs more to the Triumph the Insult Dog style than Robert’s Rules.

      You might find one of the written exchanges between Carrier and myself informative if you haven’t seen it.



  6. Thanks Joe. I’m on the move at present between Queensland and New South Wales so will look at your blog with Carrier next week. Back in Sydney next week Tuesday night 27/11/18 a respected Christian scholar, John Dickson, an Honorary Associate in the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University (Sydney) where he also teaches a course on world religions, will present a paper at the Society for the Study of Early Christianity at Macquarie University titled “Christ or Caesar, a Christmas Reflection” at 7pm at the Museum of Ancient History. It’s a bit tricky to get to so allow time to find it. See


    and go to News and Events. I plan to ask John about some of the ideas in Caesar’s Messiah. I have not met him. He is known to have an open challenge as I understand it, that he will eat the first page of his 2012 book, “Jesus, a Short Life : the Historical Evidence” if anyone can find a PhD professor of Ancient History who believes in the Jesus-myth theory.

    1. I think I have all of John Dickson’s books. I have found him to be a very shallow apologist and little more, and have been meaning to post some reviews of his books when I get the chance.

  7. Hi Neil I also found Dickson’s DVD “The Jesus Tapes” unremarkable and am yet to read his 2012 book, “Jesus, a Short Life : the Historical Evidence” which should arrive on order soon, so let’s see. Have you watched Truthsurge’s “Jesus Hebrew Human or Mythical Messiah” or “Excavating the Empty Tomb” ? I consider them very thought provoking and would be very interested in your opinion, and for that matter, Joe Atwill’s opinion.

    1. No I haven’t seen them yet, but I am beginning to see that I am being left behind in outer darkness if I don’t bring myself up to speed with media beyond the printed word.

  8. I met Dr John Dixon last week when he presented at the Society for the Study of Early Christianity at Macquarie Uni in Sydney. He seemed to emphasise how Jesus was neutral towards Caesar (pay tax, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile), and that Jesus’ followers should take a better way : humility. In contrast to my view the such Biblical teachings may have been concocted by the Romans as propaganda to promote anti-Jewish pro-Roman sentiment, John seemed to take a view that God is simply unwinding his plan of salvation. Here’s where it will depend on one’s assumptions, if I may be sol bold. It may also be, that John is either an optimist or a dreamer and that I
    am either a pessimist or a realist.

    Further I received the impression that he believed that the political backdrop in the early first century was not militaristic and that only small rebellions took place from time to time. There was little or no mention of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70AD. I find that odd, if I am to believe other scholars who see it as an inflexion point. If Jesus never existed, history should be rewritten to make the destruction of Jerusalem the turn from BC to AD. (BC = before the conspiracy to AD = after the deception !). These issues are the subject of another Vridat blogg which I follow keenly to glean the knowledge and views of the more qualified.

    There were several other scholars present, including Emeritus Professor Edwin Judge who wrote “The First Christians in the Roman World: Augustan and New Testament Essays” in 2008. I hope to try and meet with him if he agrees, to get his response to the above, but I won’t be surprised if at 90 he curtails such requests. I recall I also asked John what the 3 strongest non-Biblical evidences were for the existence of Jesus and he said Josephus, Tacitus and Serapion.

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