The belief that Jesus Christ was an invention of Roman propaganda just does not seem to fit right, let alone that he was used as psychological warfare. (Image Source: Flickr: paulcalypse)
Last week, a press release went viral concerning the existence of the entire purpose of Christianity and a critical figure in Islam, Jesus Christ. Joseph Atwill, a Biblical scholar, is conducting an academic conference on the subject of Jesus in London this week, called "Covert Messiah." In it, he will make claims that Jesus was not only a myth, but in fact a form of propaganda created by the Romans as a form of psychological warfare intended to lull the Jews into submission. Something this dramatic requires a healthy dose of skepticism, not the least of which focuses on Joseph Atwill himself.
Joseph Atwill claims himself a "Biblical Scholar." However, the Author's Statement of his 2005 book, Caesar's Messiah, shows Atwill admitting he never even studied religion in college, taking most likely computer sciences instead. While this does not immediately discount biblical scholarship, for there are plenty of non-collegiate Biblical scholars out there whose theology can be trusted, the Author's Statement shows him reading the studies of the Bible as more a hobby than a serious form of study. This puts Atwill at odds with the likes of more recent rising religious scholars, such as Reza Aslan, who while flamboyant, still possesses far more serious scholarly credentials, such as a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School.
Furthermore, Joseph Atwill says he claims to have discovered the propaganda out of Jewish historian Josephus' book The Jewish War, written in 75 AD. He points out parallels in the Gospels, which were first written in the late first century, with events that occured in The Jewish War, and that they were like planted there by either Emperor Vespasian or Titus. This seems credible, except it fails to take into account Josephus' other book, the Aniquities of the Jews, which mentions one instance of Jesus Christ, as well as several other Jesuses that were likely different men.* If this were Roman propaganda, which would be odd since this was considered a history book, Josephus would have likely put his name in full in more often.
The academic conference, "Covert Messiah," is taking place at Conway Hall in London, a place known more for secular humanism than religious thought, which begs the question of whether it is taking place in a critical environment. Joseph Atwill will claim that the Flavian emperors developed Christianity as a form of psychological warfare, meant to divide the Jews. The problem with this is that it assumes the Jews actually fell for it. The answer to that is, not really: While the first Christians were Jews, by and large most of Judaism in that period, and even now, rejected the existence of Jesus as the Messiah, even in the early days. Given how there are many people claiming to be prophets in any time period, it was unlikely that Jesus' ministry was noted in Jewish records, simply because they probably thought he was another bozo who was a false prophet in their mind. Not a hard thing to do, really. What Atwill also fails to explain belivably is that, even if the Romans created Jesus Christ, then why did they persecute the Christians for two centuries afterward?
Finally, it should be noted that Joseph Atwill has been making the claim of Jesus being a myth since he published Caesar's Messiah in 2005. 2005. It should have caught people's attention then, but it is obvious that this was not the case. Atwill has been making these claims since then, and only because he finally managed to get an audience in London to discuss this is this story is viral. That does not mean it is true.
*The name Jesus comes from a line of transliterations from Latin (Iesus) to Greek (Iesous) to Aramaic (Yeshua) to Hebrew (Yehoshua). The closest modern English translation of Jesus' original name is Joshua. As with today, there were many Joshuas in Judea back then.