Marketing the Messiah

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by Neil Godfrey

I’ve just stumbled across this video featuring David Fitzgerald, Richard Carrier, Mark Goodacre, Amy-Jill Levine, Robert M. Price, Raphael Lataster, “and many more”.

MARKETING THE MESSIAH – How Christianity Became A Thing.



Part of the advertising blurb…..

Over the last century, New Testament scholars have examined the text word by word to tease apart the true history from accepted tradition.

In this light-hearted but factual film, we tell the “true” story of early Christianity with the help of twelve biblical scholars, Renaissance masterpieces and humorous animation.

It’s neither a film about faith nor a film attacking or making fun of Christianity. It’s an honest attempt to piece together a very complex and fascinating story that everyone will enjoy.

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Neil Godfrey

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15 thoughts on “Marketing the Messiah”

  1. Will watch asap! On IMDB it’s rated 9.6! I’ve been wanting to watch the Jesus and Batman film as well. I’m always hoping the History Channel or PBS will present a more realistic view of Christianity but have yet to see this. Thanks for the ‘heads up.’

  2. Watched the movie, after having watched the trailers:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb8yuIDE_JE and knowing that four mythicists appear.

    The plot in a nutshell:

    Cameron Reilly presents the Sunday School version he learned when he was a Catholic:

    Jesus was born in a barn by the virgin Mary. Three wise men gave presents. He turned water into wine, and fed people with bread and fish. On a supper he told his disciples, that this bread was his body, and this wine was his blood. Jews brought him to the Romans, who crucified him. After a few days he rose from the dead, and told his disciples, that this was always the plan, in order to wipe off the sins. They immediately wrote down the gospels. Initially the Romans persecuted the Christians, until they changed their minds.

    When the Son of man shall come, then shall he be using an app called tinder: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

    But when reading the bible, a few things don’t really fit, which seems to trouble only some, because most people don’t read the bible, or just pick a Best of or Greatest Hits of it.

    So Reilly made a journey and started some interviews. They go along the history of the Jews and Christianity. One first son of god (divi filius) and also a savior was Augustus. But who was Jesus? An apocalyptic Jim Jones, a political Ernesto „Che“ Guevara, a wise Dalai Lama, or a hippie John Lennon?

    The idea started among Jews who were conquered by many other people, like being put into Babylonian exile, hellenized by Alexander the great, and finally the Romans made Judea a province. So Jews were looking for a solution. The next chapter tries to describe what a Messiah is. The Jewish concept of a Messiah differs from what the Christians made out of it. They reinvented the concept of a Messiah. In addition Yeshua means god saves, or savior, so that Jesus the Christ means Savior the Savior.

    Some regular people were regarded as a Messiah like Simon bar Kokhba. But the Gentiles didn’t know better.

    Here it is when the author of the seven Pauline Epistles starts.

    Some minor errors like mixing up the Torah with the Tanakh appear in the movie.

    One of the ideas of this author (which I call Paul) was to use Human sacrifice. He also removed the circumcision (and other laws like eating pork etc.) as a prerequisite, and you could still be part of the Jewish trajectory. Paul used as his source scriptures and revelation. He never talks about healings and other miracles, instead he talks about the future coming of Jesus.

    But already in the Epistles we read about different factions of Christians. In the end, everyone who was looking for a savior may think he was a Christian. Paul was aiming at the poor and underprivileged. Still he collected money from them. What was he doing with this money, and how did he deal with the Jews in Jerusalem?

    So Paul started it all. Then the movie goes over the four gospels.

    Someone (the movie is not clear, whether it was the Judean People’s Front or the People’s Front of Judea or the Popular Front?) started three Jewish wars. During the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Jerusalem_(70_CE) Siege of Jerusalem the Second Temple gets destroyed. A lot of Jewish factions living in Judea also gets destroyed as well.

    This lets the author, formerly known as Mark, write his gospel. So he writes:

    “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” Mk 4,11-12.

    Mark invents Yeshua Bar ʾAbbaʾ, ”son of the father” for Yom Kippur.

    While with Paul Jesus becomes the Messiah at the resurrection, Mark already made him at his baptism.

    Then comes Matthew, although a lot of Christians thinks he came first, as his gospel is the first in the New Testament. On the one hand Matthew judaizes Jesus and makes him more Jewish, on the other hand he also goes against the Jews. Probably after the Jewish wars, most Christians wanted to distance themselves from the Jewish troublemakers for political reasons. In Matthew Jesus becomes already divine at birth.

    Luke tries to reconcile the two factions, and adds the acts of the apostles. He idealizes the first Christiansand paints a rosy picture. Besides these three synoptic gospels the Gospel according to John lets Jesus resurrect Lazarus, but leaves out the parables, and is the most antisemitic.

    The movie touches some apocryphal gospels found e.g. at Nag Hammadi.

    All these texts demonstrate that different sects had different christologies. There were Ebionites, Gnostics, Marcionites etc. Eventually they were merged into one, or the ones who refused were declared fake news and heretic.
    In the last ten minutes one more thing is presented: The historicity of Jesus. Was he a myth like Abraham and Moses?
    But in the conclusion this idea is not expanded.

    I liked the movie, but not that much was new. I didn’t really like the final conclusion, but I think the things presented in the movie deserve some more public attention. So go and watch it.

    1. Thanks, Martin. Many will no doubt like the video. I think I will give it a miss, though. In one of the trailers I saw Michael Bird saying “Messiahs just didn’t get crucified” and thought, oh my god, he’s using the platform to do his theology under the guise of faux historical scholarship. No thanks.

      1. Considering the information provided, you won’t won’t miss anything. I do like the cartoons though. The Jews were speaking Yiddish asking whether Jesus was a Mensch, or whether you have to cut of the end of your Schwanz, or whether this is all Bubkis? Jesus tells St. Paul like Darth Vader: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

        The brother James and the first apostle Peter say, that Paul has a lot of cojones.

        A little bit annoying was always showing a clock ticking, that the end of the world was expected any time soon. You might bring it up as a running gag twice, or even three times, but not that often.

        But the thing I disliked most, was, that although they did say, that the Sunday school version most people know, is probably flawed, the alternative history is presented in a way, as if we can already say how it really was, instead of admitting we can postulate certain things as more or less probable, but too many pieces of the puzzle are still missing, and probably might never be recovered.

        So someone without previous knowledge might after watching this movie think:

        Dying and rising gods were known. Son of god was invented by Augustus. Some Jews picked a crucified man and claimed him to be the messiah. After Saul became Paul, he took this guy and used for marketing purpose, that Christians may keep their foreskin, while believing that Jesus will come anytime soon to defeat the Romans. Later the story got inflated and Jesus was resurrected. Once the Christians made Constantine an offer he couldn’t refuse (while having Vito’s white cat on his lap), they put verboten on everything else.

        As good as it is to discard the Sunday school version, but replacing it with another version that also has a lot of inaccuracies in it, is only slightly better.

      2. Bird makes minor ‘contributions’. Amy-Jill Levine, Mark Goodacre, Brent Landau, Geoffrey Dunn, and others, are terrific. All make good contributions to several issues.

  3. Mike Bird has for years now come across to me as one of those arrogant cock-sure fundamentalist types (even though he may not see himself as a fundamentalist theologically) but what is especially loathing in his presentations is his exaggerated efforts to push his “Okker” Aussie/Australian “rough-larrikin” persona in such a showy way — I’m an Australian and he embarrasses me.

  4. Marketing the Messiah, a documentary by Cameron Reilly”
    –this write-up by Al Cannistraro

    “How much do you really know about how Christianity got started? Whether you are a Christian, atheist, or member of another faith, it’s impossible to ignore the impact that Christianity has had on Western civilization. But most people, including many Christians, don’t have a solid grasp of the history of early Christianity – even though it’s hinted at in the New Testament. Many people still think the gospels were written by the people whose names adorn the books. Many people still think those people were eyewitnesses of Jesus. Many people don’t realize how much Paul of Tarsus reinvented early Christianity to suit his own vision, and how much tension he created with the original disciples. Over the last century, New Testament scholars have examined the text word by word to tease apart the true history from accepted tradition. In this light-heated but factual film, we tell the “true” story of early Christianity with the help of twelve biblical scholars, Renaissance masterpieces and humorous animation. It’s neither a film about faith nor a film attacking or making fun of Christianity. It’s an honest attempt to piece together a very complex and fascinating story that everyone will enjoy.
    –Cameron Reilly

    Cameron Reilly interviews a diverse collection of independently thinking experts — historicists and mythicists, academics and non-academics – to put together a fairly coherent but somewhat arbitrary version of a story about Christian origins. Source material goes beyond the canonical Bible. Illustrations include both fine art and animations. This documentary was filmed in Australia and in the US. Breezy, informative, entertaining, probably eye-opening for many, infuriating for some close-minded believers. In my opinion, very watchable. Looks like a pilot for potentially a fine series, depending.

    These are the experts who were consulted and how they are identified, listed in order of first appearance:
    Dr Geoffrey Dunn, Honorary Research Associate, Dept. of ancient Languages and Culture, University of Pretoria
    Dr. Michael Bird, Lecturer in Theology, Ridley College
    Prof. Mark Goodacre, Dept. of Religious Studies, Duke Univ.
    Brent Landau, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies, University of Texas, Austin
    Dr. Chris Forbes, Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Ancient History, Macquarie Univ.
    Dr. Shushma Malik, Lecturer in Classics, Univ. of Roehampton
    Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, Vanderbilt
    Dr. David Runia, Univ. of Melbourne and Australian Catholic Univ.
    David Fitzgerald, author of “Nailed”
    Richard Carrier PhD, author of “On the Historicity of Jesus”
    Robert M. Price PhD, host of “The Bible Geek,” editor of “The Journal of Higher Criticism”
    Raphael Lataster PhD, Lecturer in Religious Studies, Iniv. of Sydney
    David Fisher (listed in closing credits)

    1. Curious detail:

      Why are some names listed as Dr before their names (e.g. Dr Malik) while others (those recognizable as mythicists) are listed as PhD after their names (e.g. Lataster PhD)?

        1. I wondered about that explanation (job title) but quickly saw it was not right. Dr is never a “job title” and I gave the example of two university lecturers, one a historicism with the Dr but the other a mythicist with a PhD — both are employed at universities according to the descriptions. PhD entitles one to be called Dr. I think there’s some subconscious bias at work in the way the names were presented.

      1. I don’t know why each expert was identified as I submitted. I merely wrote down how each expert was identified in writing onscreen on first appearance.

    2. Cameron Reilly interviews a diverse collection of independently thinking experts — historicists and mythicists…

      • and agnostics ?

      Per scholarship on the question of the “historicity of Jesus”, Raphael Lataster identifies three positions held by scholars, being: historicity; agnosticism; and mythicism.

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