Mod+ 241. JOSEPH ATWILL RESPONDS TO CAESAR’S MESSIAH CRITICS

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by alex.tsakiris, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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  2. Trancestate

    Trancestate Member

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    Alex, I'm surprised you went ahead with the interview after visiting Chris White's Caesar's Messiah Debunked website. The facts cited in White's video alone easily refute Atwill's demented thesis. Then there are the more detailed scholarly opinions he links to. Amazon's one-star reviews of Atwill's book are another good source of more-detailed refutation.

    In my view, the refutations are so totally convincing that Atwill is handily revealed as a crank, and not worth wasting time over.

    Doug
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2014
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  3. Alex

    Alex New

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    did u listen to the interview? those topics are addressed.
     
  4. chuck.drake

    chuck.drake Guest

    I listened to the interview. And I looked at the Amazon one star reviews. And I saw someone stated that the gospels were originally written in Greek and were translated into Latin in the fourth century.

    I've read virtually nothing about this subject.

    Why would the gospels have been written in Greek if Atwill's proposal were correct? I searched the transcript and I don't see that point as being dealt with in the podcast.
     
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  5. Trancestate

    Trancestate Member

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    I read the interview, and saw your references to White and Carrier's refutations. I'm surprised that you proceeded to interview Atwill after you researched the subject.

    Doug
     
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  6. Wendybird

    Wendybird New

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    Wow, Alex, I realize you're exploring on your journey, but I can't believe you've fallen for Atwill's thesis. I've been reading about the historical Jesus for 20 years now, by many biblical scholars and historians. The VAST MAJORITY, many of whom are not Christian nor have any investment in Christianity, agree that Jesus was a real historical person.

    I can buy that the Romans hijacked Christianity via Constantine and made it the religion of the empire, forcing conformity among all the various strains of Christianity that were out there. But earlier? (I think Paul hijacked it earlier in the 50s AD, but that's another story.) And claiming that any messianic movements were types of "Christianity" just because they followed a proclaimed messiah - that's BS. And the idea of lining up and examining the historical chronology of the gospels alongside Josephus is rather ridiculous. Historical events happen in order and many different people can be aware of the same events without having to write them down by copying from one source.

    Scholars know the Gospels were written at different times based on various sources -- Mark was written first. Luke an Matthew came next, each using Mark, but also perhaps a source known as Q (for Quelle), plus each with their own sources (known as L and M). John was written last and is entirely different and does NOT follow the same sequence of events as in the previous 3 synoptic Gospels. John has at least 3 hands in the writing, with an early core going back to perhaps circa 50 AD to a Jerusalem eye witness. A big discrepancy between Luke and Josephus would be Quirinius' census. Josephus/history tells us it happened around 6AD, but Luke tells it happened at the time of Jesus' birth. Most scholars now agree that Jesus was born around 4 BC. If Luke got his info from Josephus, then how is it his memory was off by 10 years? How is that backing up the claim that the Gospels were vanity pieces pointing to Titus as Messiah? Also, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, much of what's found there backs up the eschatological, theological, and revelatory/apocalyptic beliefs found in the Christian Gospels. Josephus knew of these various groups -- he mentions a lot of people and religious figures in passing (including John the Baptist), but that doesn't mean he understood their esoteric teachings, that the Gospels contain. So I doubt seriously that Romans concocted the Gospels as propaganda to quash their own pagan beliefs and rituals.

    The biggest deal-breakers for me are these:
    1) Atwill, like many historians and scholars who are steeped in reason/logic, fails to miss the deeply mystical elements in the gospels regarding the sayings and teachings of Jesus, such as "Seek and you find, knock and the door will be opened to you." and "The kingdom is within you," and the need to become like a little child (which is exactly what eastern mysticism teaches! to empty oneself of the ego and prior learnings/attitudes/belief systems). If the gospels were created by the Romans as propaganda and vanity pieces to get the conquered to toe the line and submit, then WHY would they contain hidden mystical teachings that actually transform and FREE the individual? Atwill completely misses that. And many Jews -- whom the Romans were trying to convince, according to Atwill -- did not accept Jesus as Messiah -- Why they are still Jews today and not Christians. Atwill completely misses the subversive, passive-resistance "Kingdom" meanings of turn the other cheek and go the extra mile in regard to Roman oppressors. Just read Chilton, or many other scholars! They mean the opposite of what Atwill would suggest.

    2) Atwill did not address Paul's letters in this interview -- written in the 50s AD, years before the Jewish War and fall of Jerusalem. Paul's advice for slaves to remain slaves and be content was connected to the belief the end of days/new world was coming very soon, so don't make any big changes in your life. Find peace within and hang tight while you "live in Christ" and a member of the body of Christ. It had nothing to do with Romans keeping their subjects slave-like -- certainly not as Paul was writing those letters. Maybe later, ok.

    I had a really hard time listening to this interview. Atwill may be very earnest and believe he's on to something big, and he can believe what he wants to -- people can look at the evidence and see what they want to see. But I think he missed the boat big time, perhaps because he hasn't got a mystical/spiritual bone in his body.

    Please do bring on a biblical scholar, an expert on the historical Jesus to bring balance to this issue.
     
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  7. Wendybird

    Wendybird New

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    Another thought -- if the Gospels were written by Romans, as Atwill wants us to believe, that might explain Roman/Western Christianity as we have it today (but again, I think that goes back to Constantine, and further back to Paul). But it does not account for EASTERN forms of Christianity, such as Syrian Christianity (very early, probably via Galilee...) and Thomas Christianity which reaches all the way to India.
     
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  8. perandre

    perandre Member

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    Thanks, Wendybird!

    I'm not a scholar, but I did study theology, including two years on early church history. I also read koiné Greek. And: Wow. This is perhaps the worst piece of pseudo science I've ever seen on Skeptiko; didn't even know where to start :) Wendybird nailed it (I might add more later).
     
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  9. chuck.drake

    chuck.drake Guest

    It would be interesting to have him come here to the forum to deal with specific questions. I think we should avoid the character assassinations.
     
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  10. John Maguire

    John Maguire New

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    I don't know whether a man named Jesus who inspired these stories existed or not. It's not absurd to believe either way. What we know for sure is that much of his mythology can be found embedded in other sacrificial god-men stories that preceded him: Krishna, Horus, Dionysus, Mithra, and many others. The mainstream narrative about Jesus is an obvious fiction; so in that sense Jesus, as far as most of us understand him, did not exist.

    Maybe a cult-leader named Jesus actually did exist, but to think we can draw any sound, historical conclusions about who he really was as a person is ridiculous. Bart Ehrman's Jesus Interrupted makes that abundantly clear as well (even though Ehrman himself still comes to the conclusion that Jesus was a true historical figure, although I always found his arguments rather weak). Atwill may be wrong in many ways, but to be so dogmatically committed against his ideas is ridiculous. The lengths that power structures went to to co-opt pagan stories in an effort at hegemony was boundless; Atwill's is not an incredulous thesis. We need to keep ideas on the table at least, even if we choose to rank them in accordance with our own measures of credibility. I don't subscribe to much of Atwill's thesis either, but I at least entertain the possibility that some of it could be true.

     
  11. Alex

    Alex New

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    interesting comments... I've been looking forward to this discussion :) but let's pls keep it light and avoid the personal stuff.

    Here's the stuff the Atwill brings to the table:
    1. ... so in that prefiguration what they’re doing is they are showing that the Old Testament character Moses prefigured. His life was really deliberately and divinely wired into this character Jesus Christ. Jesus is essentially repeating this pattern of events that Moses went through

    ---- this seems self-evident

    2. ...no one ever asked the very simple question of did the character Jesus Christ, who is obviously a typological or prefigured individual, did the authors who created this character using their typologic prefiguration – did they then use the character to typologically prefigure the Son of Man that he predicted?

    --- this flows from point 1, are we really to believe that the NT didn't build in prophecies from events that had already happened... but I'd take it one step back from Atwill's claim, do you think any of the NT authors fudged on any of the prophecies? (goolge it before you answer)

    3. Constantine begins the process in around 304 of making Roman Catholicism the state religion and it is a brutal process. They are destroying other temples, they are killing people who won’t convert, and it is this long process that takes around 70 years and quite a few Caesars are engaged in it. Constantine gets this very positive legacy for some reason for having brought this religion into European culture as the Roman state religion because purportedly it takes us out of what is called paganism, whatever one even means by that. But the fact is that Constantine also issued the edicts which began the feudal system.

    --- WWJD... does anyone really think Constantine was interested in anything other than power and control?

    4. Josephus is the only historian who wrote an existing history of first century Judea, who was actually on the ground... Then when the rebellion broke out in 66 he became the leader of the Galilean forces, a general, he claimed to have been a priest and a member of the Hasmonean family. So somehow he became a leader of the rebellion. The Flavians captured him and now here the story just gets completely weird because he claimed that God communicated with him at that point and told him that the covenant that had existed with the Jews and God was broken.

    --- again, the parallels between Josephus' historical account and the Biblical account are stunning. As Atwill points out, this has been accepted for 100s of years. This is "game over" for the Messiah myth... it's all about Titus

    --- As Atwill points out, he can't -- and doesn't have to --- fill in all the details. his main thesis about Roman influence of the Gospels is extremely compelling. There's just no way of getting around the above points. The issue of the whether they "wrote the Gospels" and whether there was some person who did some of the things Jesus is said to have done is secondary. The big story it that the Romans essentially authored this tradition.
     
  12. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

    1. What do you think of the "Caesar's messiah" theory?

    2. Josephus' account and the gospels have both been intensively studied over the centuries. How come Atwill is the first to have come up with the fresh insight that he has? Isn't it in a way liberating to think that one man can do something like this?
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2014
  13. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    1. What do you think of the "Caesar's messiah" theory?

    2. Josephus' account and the gospels have both been intensively studied over the centuries. How come Atwill is the first to have come up with the fresh insight that he has? Isn't it in a way liberating to think that one man can do something like this?


    I found that, not having been previously aware of this subject and not having read Atwill's book, the interview didn't quite cohere for me. So before I respond, I'm going to have to do a little more research and hopefully learn more so that I can make a decent comment or two.
     
  14. perandre

    perandre Member

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    Typologies = "gospel preaching"; they are tools to explain who they believed Christ was, and what he had done. Lots of OT material used to explain the function of Jesus: Adam, Melchizedek, Isaac, Moses, David, Solomon, Jonah, the Tabernacle, the Temple, etc. This is Christianity 101, and has nothing to do with Atwill's (consipiracy) theory.


    See above. Typologies are considered prophetic, and this is a very Jewish way of interpreting Scriptures. That doesn't have to mean we must share this (super natural) explanation, but there no case for Roman influence here. All very Jewish.

    Constantin is obviously a very problematic person to church history. He deserves his own thread, as this is hundreds of years after the era we should really zoom in on. Hope you agree.

    Josephus was Jewish, Jesus was Jewish, most of the NT writers were Jewish. Did it ever cross Atwill's mind that they have a shared cultural and religious heritage that they all draw heavily from? Scholars agree that NT is extremely Jewish through and through, both in style, motives, ethics, etc. If Jewish writers from the same period didn't have anything in common, THAT would be weird.

    Why didn't Atwill address the scholarly opinions of Josephus' writings? Wikipedia says it all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

    Honestly, I think even on this forum, most people won't find his thesis extremely compelling.

    I think there is.

    The "big story" needs the "secondary" claim, so I think both should be addressed.

    Now, I would like to see an Atwill-proponent comment on the synoptical problem, and also the writings of Paul (Galatians and Romans, not Collosians or Ephesians).
     
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  15. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Haven't had chance to listen to this podcast yet. In the past I've found popular examples of Christian revisionism to be highly speculative and polemically loaded, but we'll see how this goes. I'll comment when I've heard it.
     
  16. Trancestate

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    John, the video you linked to is a clip from Peter Joseph's Zeitgeist: The Movie. The video is based in large part on the work of another pseudo-scholar, Acharya S. (aka D.M. Murdoch). A very good refutation, with many references to scholarly sources, is the following video by Elliot Nesch:

    Zeitgeist Refuted Final Cut

    Aside from the demonstrably false assertions about the births and lives of Horus et al., what I find really preposterous in the Zeitgeist clip are Joseph's three etymologies for the words, "horizon", "hours" and "sunset". As someone with decades-long interests in historical linguistics and Egyptology, the kindest thing I can say about them is that they're not even wrong. Here, I'll show you what I mean:

    At 2:22 Joseph claims, "In fact the term 'horizon' comes from the phrase 'Horus has risen', denoting the sunrise." In truth the word comes from the Greek verb "horizein", meaning "to bound, limit, divide, separate". In turn, this verb derives from the noun "horos", meaning "boundary".

    (Source: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=horizon&searchmode=none)

    At 2:30 he goes on to say, "'Hours' are also derived from 'Horus', as it is the sun tracked throughout the day." In reality, "hour" ultimately comes from the Greek "hora", meaning "any limited time". The English word "year" is a cognate of "hora", meaning, both words go back to a common Indo-European ancestor several thousand years in the past.

    (Sources: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=hour&searchmode=none, and http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=year&allowed_in_frame=0)

    At 2:34, Joseph traces the source of "sunset" to Horus's evil brother Set. "...while in the evening, Set would conquer Horus, and send him into the underworld, hence the term, 'sunset'." In fact, the second word in "sunset" has nothing to do with the god Set. It's simply the English word "set".

    (Source: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=sunset&searchmode=none)

    It's disturbing that Peter Joseph didn't bother to research the true etymologies of these words. Instead, he made up his own or used someone else's (Acharya's?). In any case, these stupid errors cost him a lot of credibility, as far as I'm concerned. He lost the rest with his and Acharya's fictitious parallels between the lives of Jesus and the pagan gods.

    Doug
     
  17. Vortex

    Vortex Member

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    OMG... Global Warming podcast/thread seems to be revivied here! All these "how people can fall for this crazy stuff", "we are not about to give public space to charlatans" type of talk again... :eek:

    Interestingly, why we are so angry and sad when the target of such responses is Rupert Sheldrake? Or Dean Radin? They are also quite far from the "respectable mainstream opinion" on a lot of topics, aren't they?

    Hey, all! We are here on Skeptiko gathered together to deal with CONTROVERSIAL subjects! And the main characteristic of any controversial subject is their debatable nature. There are always critics - and some of them are very passionate ones, one who literally cannot stand being exposed to the ideas they strongly consider to be Heretical and Damned. Such exposure leads them to emotional overload, based on a shock that someone may fail to comprehend the Obvious Truth which is so clear for them.

    The one thing they forget is the fact is that one's Obvious Truth are another one's Damned Heresy. Topics which enrage ones are approached happily by others. What seems to be self-evident for ones, appears to be wild nonsense for others.

    Unfortunately, many people (an overwhelming majority, as it appear to me) are fail to understand that their interpretations are just that - interpretations, and other people may have very different ones.

    One can and should argue, with evidence and argumentation, that his or her interpretation are much better that the one of the opponent.

    But should always remember that the opponent has the same right to present his or her evidence and argumentation - without being Damned for Heresy.
     
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  18. Alex

    Alex New

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    agree! the way this process repeats itself is kinda funny.
     
  19. Alex

    Alex New

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    Murdoch's counter-punch is pretty strong: http://www.truthbeknown.com/chrisforbeszeitgeist.html
    And call her is pseudo-scholar is just ridiculous! Tone is down or take a break.
     
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  20. John Maguire

    John Maguire New

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    Doug,

    Granted there's no 1:1 correlation between any archetypal story; no piece of scholarship gets everything right. Without arguing the finer points let me pose a simple question: do you think the orthodox account of Jesuss life was based mostly on actual events, or simply distorted second, third, fourth hand accounts from people decades and centuries later who never knew him? Do you think the integrity of NT stories really holds up to scrutiny?

    Like I mentioned, Bart Ehrman has basically deconstructed the NT and revealed it to be absolutely inconsistent with anything we should consider a reliable historical document. This doesn't necessarily mean we should come up with any story we want to fill in the gaps, but where in your view is actual reliable information that points to the true details of Jesus' life? The case can be made of course, as Ehrman does, that there are concrete things we can say about the real man. I don't disagree that the myth surrounding Jesus likely started with a real man (just as there are myths surrounding the actual lives of presidents, conquerors, other prophets, etc.), but the arguments about who he really was are not terribly strong. Ehrman himself says all historical scholarship of this sort is "a gamble". Beyond some decent agreement between the scriptures that he came from Nazareth, and was an Apocolyptacist, all the other details are extremely fuzzy.

    As I said it's fine to point out the weaknesses in every argument, that is the point of dialogue: to arrive at a larger truth by discarding fallacy. But what we should be doing then is piecing together a narrative that synthesizes the most reliable parts from all scholarly efforts on the subject. You've obviously done your homework, have seem to have settled on a certain orthodox interpretation, and that's fine; but to throw the baby out with the bath water because you disagree with this or that particular detail of another persons' theory is shutting off a discussion prematurely. There is hardly ever a "Achilles heel" to any one framework; all of them likely get something right, while missing the mark in many other ways.

    Anyway I'm not terribly interested in debating the finer points here so I'll leave it at that. I think its a good thing Alex brings together outside voices on these difficult topics; as Vortex mentioned this is Skeptiko for god's sake. This show is controversial at its very heart, I would expect no less from it. To start throwing derogatory insults at people bringing new ideas to the table ("crank", "pseudo-scholar", etc.) is poisonous for the furthering of knowledge. Ultimately it's the perennial message of Jesus that's important: Love each other, care for one another, and move through your life mindfully. That's all I really care about, and what I choose to take away from his accounts, no matter how muddied they've become over time.
     
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