Was Jesus Real? The age-old question. For thousands of years Christians have believed in Jesus Christ out of sheer faith. And with the archaeological evidences discovered in the last few centuries, there even seems to be a limited yet defined consensus among scientists that Jesus Christ was in fact a historic figure. Whether or not he was the son of God remains debated (among scientists at least).
A historical scholar named Joseph Atwill has come into light in recent years with his controversial claims that Jesus Christ was a hoax. Atwill’s opinions aren’t of course something new; there have been scholars and philosophers throughout history who’ve shared his opinion. But it is Atwill’s unique presentation of the opinion that is interesting. Atwill believes that Christianity didn’t begin as a religion as it is now. He claims that it was actually an elaborate Roman propaganda to pacify the subjects (the slaves, who made up to 70 percent of the population, in particular) of the vast stretches of the Roman Empire. Atwill asserts his claim with the following point in one of his blog posts:
“What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of (Emperor) Titus Flavius as described by Josephus.
“[Jesus] may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there’s simply nothing left.”
Atwill spoke with PRWeb where he explained how there were Jewish insurgents in Palestine at the time, waiting for a so-called “warrior Messiah” to lead them. They posed a lasting threat to the ambitions of the growing Roman Empire. After all, traditional means failed to stop them, so the Romans invented a sort of a psychological weapon that did the job.
“They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system. That’s when the ‘peaceful’ Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to ‘give onto Caesar’ and pay their taxes to Rome.”
Atwill’s observations, as fascinating as they may be, leave plenty of reasons to be skeptical. Ronald A. Lindsay is a Senior Research Fellow at the non-profit educational organization Center for Inquiry who had authored an essay on the evidence of Jesus Christ in a book titled, “Sources of the Jesus Tradition.” He perfectly summarized this skepticism in an interview with Discovery News, which has been reported by Seeker.
“The reality is we are unlikely ever to know the ‘facts’ about Jesus.
“There are too many different stories about him, all of which have some serious credibility problems and which are inconsistent with one another.
“For the objective historian, he will always remain a shadowy figure, with little substantive biographical content. On the one hand, we have many who will take things on faith, accepting some subset of the stories as unquestionably true. On the other hand, there are those who insist that Jesus is an invented figure, a myth or a hoax. I think both of these extremes are almost equally implausible.”
There are many cases of biblical discoveries reported every year. But more often than not, they turn out to be hoaxes, in some cases carefully implanted to promote a book or a movie. Also new discoveries and theories refuting the Bible, commonly known as “Bible conspiracy theories,” are released every year. Like Joseph Atwill’s claims, they seem intriguing but almost impossible to prove. And whatever conclusion they lead to, they fail to generate a general consensus among scholars, something that is necessary to validate a scientific observation or discovery.
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