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

  1. Jägermeister

    Jägermeister New

    Dec 13, 2014
    Thanks for the paper, I've read the abstract, but will read it later. But the abstract itself bothers me already, as it appears to contradict Rogers paper regarding 'cotton fiber mixed with linen ones'. Perhaps a closer reading will clear the confusion.

    Pointing out deficiencies in a paper constitutes a personal attack? I notice you dismissal did not rebut any of the points I made. You can read the Rogers paper and see for yourself here, if you have not already done so.

    The c14 paper is here.

    Indeed, I have seen many people defend Rogers paper, none of whom appear to have read it. But we appear to be derailing this thread, maybe a new thread is a good idea if one does not already exist.

    Edit: Here is one -
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2014
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  2. Dmitch

    Dmitch New

    Nov 28, 2013
    Yes, We should probably switch to the thread but I think everything that could be debated has been. I apologize for saying you were attacking Dr Ray Rogers instead of his data. I believe the C14 dating is accurate but very well educated scientists dispute that it was free from contamination. Thank you, I went through the C14 paper and note all samples were from one specific area. A claim also stands of a documented repair by nuns in that area in 1973 where the Raes sample was taken.
    I'm not looking to disprove your points. I'm just pointing out there's room for controversy. As for Dr Ray Rogers, he was no slough. People question his science, but he had the credentials. "During his career Rogers published over forty peer-reviewed papers on chemistry. In 1981 he was named Laboratory Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory" (wiki). The shroud itself has so many other facets to it, such as the image, the weave, origin of pollen and dust particles. If it is a forgery, Its defied all scientific scrutiny including the C14.
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  3. There are good scientific reasons why a psychopath would not be able to produce religious works. Because of brain structure psychopaths are not able to understand dualism. It explains a lot.

    Anthony Jack (below) is a physicalist. In trying to develop a physical theory of consciousness he proposes that for most people the problem of consciousness, the appearance of dualism, is caused by different brain networks used for thinking about mechanisms (ie how the brain works) and for understanding social situations (ie how people feel). It isn't a natural gap but a gap due to brain physiology and psychopaths lack social thinking (are callous) so they don't see the problem. Jack A scientific case for conceptual dualism (1).pdf
    A scientific case for conceptual dualism: The problem of consciousness and
    the opposing domains hypothesis.
    Anthony I. Jack
    Department of Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University
    To appear in:
    J. Knobe, T. Lombrozo & S. Nichols (Eds.)
    Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy (Vol. 1)
    Oxford University Press.

    In recent years, a number of scientists and philosophers have suggested that the psychological
    and neural sciences provide support for, and are committed to, reductive physicalism – the view
    that all aspects of the mental are best explained by the physical processes of the brain. Here I
    suggest a different view. Emerging research in neuroscience and psychology suggests a dualism
    in human understanding. Our capacity for understanding physical processes appears to be in
    fundamental tension with our capacity for thinking about the inner mental states of others. In this
    essay, I first review evidence for a divide in our neural structure which maps onto thinking about
    minds versus thinking about the mechanical properties of bodies. This divide is intriguing;
    however it falls short of actually explaining why we perceive difficulties for integrating these
    two types of understanding. I then introduce a bold hypothesis – that our neural structure
    constrains our thinking in a way that limits our ability to integrate these two types of
    understanding. This hypothesis was generated to explain one perceived problem, the apparent
    existence of an explanatory gap, and makes novel and falsifiable predictions. I then review
    behavioral and neuroscientific evidence which confirms these predictions and extends the model
    to address other related issues, including motivational factors associated with belief in
    ontological dualism. By demonstrating that this theoretical framework yields testable predictions,
    these findings lend support to the bold hypothesis. I conclude by exploring some theoretical and
    practical implications of the hypothesized dualism in human understanding.

    we predicted that psychopaths
    would not be able to perceive the problem of consciousness.

    We have developed a measure of belief in metaphysical dualism which comprises five
    items, including “Humans have a soul”, “The mind can be understood completely by thinking of
    it as like a very complicated computer”, and “Thoughts and feelings are nothing more than the
    activity of neurons” (last two reverse coded). In a series of five experiments (Jack, in
    preparation), we found a highly replicable and robust negative correlation (r~-0.34) between
    belief in dualism and the primary psychopathic trait of callous affect7.
    This negative correlation
    survived after partialling out demographic variables, cognitive measures (e.g. the IPT & CRT)
    and measures of religious belief.

    Clearly these findings fit well with the hypothesis (Robbins and Jack, 2006) that
    psychopaths can’t see the problem of consciousness8. Taking these finding together with other
    work on dehumanization and the anti-social effects of denying the soul and free will, they
    present a powerful picture. When we see persons, that is, when we see others as fellow humans,
    then our percept is of something essentially non-physical nature. This feature of our psychology
    appears to be relevant to a number of other philosophical issues, including the tension between
    utilitarian principles and deontological concerns about harming persons (Jack et al., accepted),
    the question of whether God exists (Jack et al., under review-b), and the problem of free will9.
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
  4. From the transcript:
    So first of all, the question I want to ask is if that is accurate? Does your theory hinge on there being no historical evidence for Christianity prior to 73 A.D.?

    Joseph Atwill: Well no, in fact there was Christianity prior to 73. It of course depends on how you’re using the term. I would say that the messianic movement that rebelled against Rome was a kind of Christianity. Christ simply means ‘anointed’ in Greek and it is just referring to the relationship between a Jewish leader and God.
    How does Atwill reconcile this with the fact that Paul's letters referring to Jesus were written before 66 AD the year Paul died. Many of these letters are considered genuine by most scholars (
    Romans 1 NKJV
    1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in
    the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was
    born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the
    Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.​
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  5. From the transcript:
    So the character Jesus Christ has this odd prophecy about somebody calls the Son of Man, which is a Messianic title, and he states he is going to come during the Roman war. He says that when this guy comes you are going to have a Jerusalem encircled, the temple complex will be raised, the abomination of desolation will occur. And these events will occur before the generation that Jesus is talking to passes away. Now this is 40 years, that is the length of time of a generation in Hebraic literature. So basically he is saying that before Passover 73 the Son of Man will come and he will do these things. And these are all events from the Roman Jewish war and in 40 years in fact someone comes and does all these things. That is the individual Titus Flavius,
    The prophesy also warns people about false Christs and says that the real one will descend from heaven accompanied by angles.
    1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples
    came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to
    them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." 3
    Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" 4 And Jesus answered and said
    to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My
    name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear
    of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise
    against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the
    beginning of sorrows. 9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill
    you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. 10 And then
    many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
    12 And
    because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But
    he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the
    kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. 15 "Therefore when you see the 'abomination
    of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 then let those who are in
    Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go
    down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field
    not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and
    to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight
    may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great
    tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no
    flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened. 23 Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not
    believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great
    signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have
    told you beforehand. 26 Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the
    desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it.
    27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so
    also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is,
    there the eagles will be gathered together. 29 "Immediately after the
    tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven,
    and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And
    He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
    32 "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch
    has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near--at
    the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass
    away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away,
    but My words will by no means pass away. 36 "But of that day and hour no
    one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as
    the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38
    For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did
    not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will
    be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one
    will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know
    what hour your Lord is coming.
    43 But know this, that if the master of the
    house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be
    ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 "Who
    then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant
    whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. 47 Assuredly, I say to
    you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. 48 But if that evil
    servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' 49 and begins
    to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 the
    master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 and will cut him in two and
    appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    There are a couple of points I don't understand. According to Atwill this was written as a vanity for Titus, but later used by Constantine to manipulate the masses. According to Atwill the Christians before Titus were not followers of Jesus they were just various messianic cults.

    1) How did the Gospels written as a vanity for Titus become adopted by Christians? Did any Christians ever recognize Titus as the Christ? If so, how did that recognition get lost from the religion? Wouldn't it have been important to Constantine? If no Christians ever recognized Titus as the Christ, why did they accept Jesus from the "fake" Gospels but not Titus?

    2) Why did this vanity for Titus warn people to look out for false Christs and to recognize the real one because he will descend from heaven accompanied by angles, and at that time there will be what seems to be the rapture when some will be taken and others not? Who would recognize Titus as the Christ? How did Titus descend from the heavens with angles?
  6. Parallels between Lincoln and Kennedy–Kennedy_coincidences_urban_legend
    An example of the list is presented here for illustration. Some say that much of the list has been debunked, and a few entries are outright falsehoods. Some urban folklorists have postulated that the list provided a way for people to make sense of two tragic events in American history by seeking out patterns.[4] Gardner and others have said that it is relatively easy to find seemingly meaningful patterns relating any two people or events, but that such patterns often do not stand up to rigorous scrutiny.
    • Both presidents were elected to the House of Representatives in '46.
    • Both presidents were elected to the presidency in '60, after a series of debates with their opponent.
    • Lincoln defeated incumbent Vice President John C. Breckenridge for the presidency in 1860; Kennedy defeated incumbent Vice President Richard M. Nixon for the presidency in 1960.
    • Both their predecessors left office in their seventies and retired to Pennsylvania. James Buchanan, whom Lincoln succeeded, retired to Lancaster Township; Dwight D. Eisenhower, whom Kennedy succeeded, retired to Gettysburg.
    • Both their Vice Presidents and successors were Southern Democrats named Johnson (Andrew Johnson and Lyndon B. Johnson) who were born in '08.
    • Both presidents were concerned with the problems of black Americans and made their views strongly known in '63. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, which took effect in 1863. In 1963, Kennedy presented his reports to Congress on Civil Rights, and the same year was the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
    • Both presidents were shot in the head on a Friday seated beside their wives. Both Fridays preceded a major holiday observed within the week.
    • Both presidents were accompanied by another couple.
    • The male companion of the other couple was wounded by the assassin.
    • Both presidents had a son die during their presidency.
    • Both presidents fathered four children, only one of whom survived into the next century and who served other presidents by political appointment.
    • Both presidents' wives died in their sixties after an untimely decline in health, during the administration of a president who had seen their husbands in Washington, D.C. the same year as the assassination.
    • Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre; Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in a Lincoln automobile, made by Ford.
    • Both presidents' last names have 7 letters.
    • There are 6 letters in each Johnson's first name.
    • After shooting Lincoln, Booth ran from a theatre to a warehouse; after shooting Kennedy, Oswald ran from a warehouse to a theatre.
    • Both Johnsons were succeeded as President in '69 by Republicans whose administrations were considered failures and whose mothers were named Hannah.
    • Both assassins died in the same month as their victim in a state adjacent to the state of their birth.
    • Both assassins were Southern white males born in the late '30s, who were in their mid-20s.
    • Both assassins were killed before being tried, by men who were reared in the North, changed their name as adults, and were bachelors.
    • Both assassins had 15 letters in their name
    • Both assassins shot the fatal bullet while in a building where they worked on a floor above ground level.
    • Both assassins suffered injuries during escape.
    • Both assassins sympathized with a government that was adversarial to the interests of the United States.
    Most of the items above are true, such as the year in which Lincoln and Kennedy were each elected President, but this is not so unusual given that Presidential elections are held only every four years. A few of the items are simply untrue; there is no record to show that Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy; Lincoln's secretaries were John Hay and John G. Nicolay.[4] However, Lincoln's bodyguard, William H. Crook did advise Lincoln not to go that night to Ford's Theatre.[6][7]

    A more recent examination by found that the listed "coincidences are easily explained as the simple product of mere chance."[4] In 1992, the Skeptical Inquirer ran a "Spooky Presidential Coincidences Contest." One winner found a series of sixteen similar coincidences between Kennedy and former Mexican President Álvaro Obregón, while the other came up with similar lists for twenty-one pairs of US Presidents.[5]
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
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  7. Josephus wrote War of the Jews in 75 AD Nine or more years after Paul wrote all those letters about Jesus Christ, "His Son", and "resurrection from the dead".
    Last edited: May 18, 2015

    Richard Carrier summarizes an argument made by Steve Mason in his book Josephus and the New Testament that Luke knew of Josephus' Jewish War (79 CE) and Jewish Antiquities (94 CE). At it's core, the argument stems from a similar purpose behind the writings of Josephus and the Luke–Acts history buttressed by general and specific parallels between the authors.

    Looking at the list of parallels, there don't seem to be any smoking guns. Any of them could arise because both men are telling the history of the same times and place. The strongest evidence seems to be the mentions of Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37; JW 2, JA 18), Theudas (Acts 5:36; JA 20), and "The Egyptian" (Acts 21:38; JW 2, JA 20). Mason makes a case for Luke misunderstanding the relevant history, which Josephus provides in greater detail.

    But the heart of the argument is that both Josephus and Luke made parallels between Greek schools of philosophy and Jewish sects in order to make either Judaism or Christianity palatable to Romans. Was this a tactic both authors could reasonably be expected to innovate separately?

    Carrier's thesis1 is highly improbable. He overstates the similarities between Luke and Josephus, and ignores the possibility that the similarities that do exist could be the result of two historians writing as contemporaries.

    Carrier makes several claims in his conclusion. I'll discuss a few of them:
    Luke-Acts was written in the late 1st or early 2nd century
    Luke "almost certainly" knew the works of Josephus
    Luke found his basic historical framework in Josephus and "cut-and-pasted" it into Luke-Acts
    If Luke hadn't read Josephus, "an amazing series of coincidences remains in want of an explanation"
    If Luke and Josephus were contemporaries, they would have had access to the same sources, thus the appearance of the same characters should not be a surprise. Therefore Carrier is probably right that any similarities are not a coincidence. But the very different way the two authors treat these characters suggests that they were probably not familiar with each other's work.
    So if Luke used Josephus, then he changed the order of events because he did not trust Josephus on this point. If Luke does not trust Josephus on the order, why even use him as a source? Instead if one argues that Luke is in the wrong here, then one would have to show that such errors are common in Luke-Acts. However, Luke-Acts shows just the opposite. Whenever people in Luke-Acts can be established in history, Luke-Acts has them in the right place, at the right time, and with the right title. There are even times when the spelling of a person's name changes slightly depending on if the name was spoken by a Greek or a Jew (e.g. a Greek will call him “Simon” while a Jew will call him “Simeon”). Luke shows many times that he is a very meticulous writer.
    But there is yet another obstacle for those who claim Luke uses Josephus. Why are there only a handful of similarities? If Luke had access to Antiquities 18 and 20, then it is reasonable to assume he had access to others. However, even though Luke and Josephus are covering the same time in history, they do not share many events. For instance, Josephus not only mentions the destruction of the Temple, but his account is the only eyewitness account of the tragedy we have (Wars of the Jews 5, 6, and 7). However, even though Luke places a high emphasis on Jerusalem and the Temple in his two-volume work, he leaves out the defining event of Judaism in the first century.

    Second, Luke shows several Christians under persecution and giving the ultimate for their faith. However, he leaves out the persecution of Nero from 64-67 and the death of James by the Jewish authorities. Josephus mentions James in the "Testimonium Flavium," Antiquities 20:9.1

    Last edited: May 18, 2015
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    Papias, in AD 125, tells us that he knew John personally, and that he died in Ephesus. Irenaeus tells us that he knew Polycarp who knew John personally. Our friend Joseph Altwill says that the very existence of John is a myth.
    Joseph Altwill and his friends are trying to claim that Rome created Christianity and that it was founded in Rome. Never mind that the heartland of Christian population was in Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. They want us to believe that it was headquartered in Rome. Is that true? Rome was a relatively minor church in the first century. By the middle of the second century it had grown and become prominent, but it was not even close to being the most prominent church. The churches in Ephesus, Antioch and Alexandria were far larger and more prominent. Even in the fourth century, when Rome became a prominent church, Christianity was not headquartered in Rome. Even at this time, Carthage, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch and Ephesus were of equal power and authority in the church. Even in the Middle Ages, when Rome clearly became the dominant church in the West, the churches in Constantinople and Antioch did not acknowledge leadership of Rome.
    Bible scholar Joseph Atwill noticed many parallels between this historic account of the war and the events in the life of Jesus in the Gospels. Through his study of the ancient Greek texts and his discovery of an antiquated Hebrew literary genre, he found dozens of parallels between the Jesus story and the war history that occurred in the exact same sequence. This shows that the events of Jesus’ life which supposedly took place forty years earlier, were actually all dependent on the events in the military campaign of the Roman Caesar Titus Flavius. Ancient texts were much more allegorical, multi-layered and complex than today’s writing, and when you read the Gospels and the histories of Josephus side by side, a new meaning arises which reveals the authors of the Gospels to be the Roman Flavian Caesars, their co-conspirators, and their literary team.

    This is not a brand new approach. It is a logical fallacy sometimes called argument by scenario. In this approach to supporting a theory one creates a scenario and then proceeds, having assumed the answer, to find “parallels” in the writings of others which support the scenario. This is called eisegesis (reading into a text) as opposed to exegesis (taking facts from a text). If one has a totally speculative theory of history, literally without a single shred of actual physical or even historical evidence, one creates a scenario and says, “If I am right, then I will find such and such.” Then one proceeds to find such parallels. History tells us that the search for such parallels will bear fruit if one selectively searches long enough. The search for parallels between the book of Revelation and present-day events has led to similar bogus theories that Revelation is about events of the day. This has been applied by every generation since at least the Middle Ages, but such argument by scenario is based on a false kind of reasoning and should be rejected out of hand. What is the name of the members of this “literary team”?

    See my post above on the parallels between Lincoln and Kennedy
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
  10. Can someone to explain how Christianity spread throughout the known world under Atwill's theory. Who brought the religion to different parts of the world? Who founded the local churches? Were they in on the conspiracy? Is it plausible given historical information about the early church?
  11. From the transcript:
    Given the coincidental nature of what a parallel is (see my post on Lincoln/Kennedy, and the above post mentioning perennial end time theories) , it is likely that one could find many parallels out of sequence not found by Atwill because he was not looking for out of sequence parallels. But if you looked for all the possible coincidental parallels some would be in sequence just by chance. How do you identify which are coincidental parallels in sequence by chance and which parallels are in sequence because they are evidence of common authorship? You can't and this is why no mainstream historian gives Atwill's theory any credit.
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  12. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

    Oct 31, 2013
    Alex, I'm catching up on some podcasts I missed or only half-listened to. :) I don't know squat in this field to comment intelligently. But regarding your points here, I've gone from the podcast to a piece Robert Price - I don't know if you've seen it - wrote about Atwill's book where he considers these arguments and doesn't see why they back up Atwill's thesis. I bolded the parts that seem to more specifically relate to your points here. (Apologies if this has been referenced earlier in the thread.)

    Atwill’s theory does have the advantage of accounting for the persistent pro-Roman tendencies of the New Testament, but consider what else it requires us to accept. First, we are to accept a common, if committee, authorship of Matthew, Mark, Luke John, and Josephus’ The Jewish War. The whole idea seems, well, absurd. There is way, way, too much else in any and all of the gospel texts that cannot be dismissed (really, neglected) as mere padding, ballast, which is all it would be if Atwill is right. (“All of Jesus’ ministry was about the coming war with Rome and was designed to establish Jesus as Titus’ forerunner” p. 260.) Are we to dismiss the diverse, systematic, and subtle theological nuances disclosed by Redaction Criticism? Are all the patterns disclosed by Conzelmann, for instance, to be dismissed as optical illusions in order to justify Atwill? (...)

    Can we imagine that Josephus wrote consciously intending that his audience should meticulously compare his text with that of the gospels, and vice versa, for either to make sense? Atwill grants the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum, which even apologists cannot seem to swallow without trimming away the most obviously Christian gristle. He thinks the only reason scholars have dismissed it as an interpolation is that they think it fails to fit into the context, which, however, it does, according to his esoteric reading.

    Atwill claims he has learned to read the esoteric secrets of the gospels, whereby they are seen as black-comedic satires of events in the Jewish War. For instance, when Jesus offers his flesh for consumption at the Last Supper, it is “really” a wink to the reader who is somehow supposed to think of a passage in Josephus set during the Roman siege, when a woman eats the roasted flesh of her own infant. When Jesus offers to make his disciples fishers of men, the line is supposed to sardonically anticipate a wartime episode in which the Romans picked off fleeing Jewish rebels swimming in the Lake of Galilee. Thinking his method justified by comparison to the ancient practice of scriptural typology, Atwill gives himself license to indulge in the most outrageous display of “parallelomania” ever seen. He connects widely separated dots and collects sets of incredibly far-fetched verbal correspondences, from gospel to gospel and between the gospels and Josephus, then uses them to create ostensible parallel accounts. Then he declares himself justified in borrowing names, themes, and intended references from one “parallel” account and reading them into the other, thus supplying “missing” features. Triumphantly, Atwill defies the reader to call it all coincidence, working out the math to show such correspondences could never be the product of chance. Well, of course they are not. They are the product of his own arbitrary gematria in the first place. “That the wicked man in the Fulvia story can be seen as a lampoon of Paul seems difficult to dispute” (p. 247), unless of course one forgot to pick up a pair of 3-D glasses on the way into the theatre. Again, Atwill hammers home the “parallel” between Josephus’ story of a Jewish matron, Paulina, tricked into sleeping with a deceiver, Decius Mundus, claiming to be Anubis incarnate, on the one hand, and that of the supposed deception of disguising Titus as the god Jesus, on the other. What do they have in common? Josephus says Decius came forward to gloat, revealing the hoax three days later, while the adjacent Testimonium Flavianum of Josephus says Jesus was seen alive again three days after his crucifixion. “There is, of course, a difference. Whereas Jesus appears on the third day to show that he is a God, Decius appears on the third day to announce that he is not a god. [But] It is implausible that something as unusual as two ‘third-day divinity declarations’ would wind up next to one another by chance.” (p. 245). But there is no declaration of divinity in either case! As Atwill notes, Decius declares the opposite, while Josephus (or whoever wrote the Testimonium passage) says nothing of Jesus or anyone else declaring him divine as a result of the resurrection. Of such airy bricks is Atwill’s cloudy castle built.

    What is the utility of reading the gospels together as pieces of a single puzzle? If each evangelist meant to send the baffled reader in search of other texts with which to harmonize the one he began reading, it might enable us to iron out the contradictions, say, of the Easter stories. First, as per John 20, Mary Magdalene finds an empty tomb. But it is not that of Jesus. Rather she has mistakenly gone to the recently vacated tomb of Lazarus! She informs Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple that Jesus appears to be missing. The Beloved Disciple plus a third man, simply “Peter,” make their way to the tomb. The Beloved Disciple arrives first but lingers for a moment outside the tomb, nearing the opening. Peter has not reached the tomb yet, but Simon Peter beats him there and walks past the Beloved Disciple, becoming the first to enter the sepulcher, where he spots the grave clothes cast aside when Lazarus left. At this specific moment, less than the duration of a minute, one must suppose, a second Mary Magdalene and her sisters (whose visit is recorded in Matthew 28) approach and see the Beloved Disciple outside the tomb. They think him an angel descended from heaven, and he tells them Jesus has risen. The women depart, and the Beloved Disciple joins Simon Peter inside, whereupon another party of women, including a third Mary Magdalene (this time from Luke 24), approaches and see the two men in the tomb. They take Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciples for angels. They leave, and, moments later, so does Simon Peter. As soon as he vanishes, here comes a fourth Mary Magdalene, this one from Mark, and she spies the Beloved Disciple inside the tomb and thinks he is an angel. He tells her and her companions to relate the news to Peter (who has not yet arrived, remember, only the quite distinct Simon Peter!). The Beloved Disciple returns home, but soon the other (Lukan) Peter (not Simon Peter) approaches, having heard the report of the Lukan Magdalene. He has brought at least one other man with him, a la Luke 24:24. The John 20:12 Mary Magdalene sees these men inside the tomb and thinks they are angels. Then she turns and sees a mysterious figure standing outside the tomb, takes him for the gardener, and asks him about Jesus, then thinks he is Jesus. But in “fact” he is Titus Caesar. The savvy reader (i.e., Atwill) will get the joke: the “Jesus” worshipped by stupid Christians is really Titus. It is all supposed to be “a comedy of errors” a la Plautus.

    Atwill hypothesizes that the Flavian jokesters were compiling the gospels-plus-Josephus as a kind of intelligence test, and Atwill implicitly congratulates himself as the only one in history who has ever passed it. “I would note that the satirical system that unites the New Testament and Wars of the Jews can be seen as an exercise in mind expansion, in that to solve the puzzles the reader must learn to think ‘outside the box,’ so to speak. The authors were making the point that the narrow focus the Sicarii Zealots maintained regarding a few scrolls was a limited and inaccurate mode of thought. The authors seem to be suggesting that only by seeing all sides of a problem can the truth be known. Therefore it is possible that they designed the New Testament as a tool to intellectually uplift the messianic rebels” (p. 225). No it isn’t. “It is possible that the authors of the Gospels created them as a sort of educational tool disguised as a narrative about Jesus. The authors may have wished their readers to work through the various contradictions in logic in order to develop their reasoning ability and thus be able to think their way out of religious superstition. They may have wished the Gospels to be seen by posterity as their contribution to the development of reason” (p. 167). Or maybe as a big Jumble puzzle. “The point I think the creators of Christianity were making with their use of comedy is that there are unlimited ways to interpret scripture and it is easy for the uneducated to see symbolic meaning where there is none. They made this point by creating the New Testament as an example” (p. 234). No, it is Atwill himself whose creation demonstrates the limitless possibilities of perverse and gratuitous interpretations of the text.

    One hates to be so severe in the analysis of the work of an innovative thinker who gives us the gift of a fresh reading of familiar texts, but in the present case it is hard to euphemize. The reading given here is just ludicrous. There are indeed surprising parallels between Josephus and the gospels that traditional exegesis has never been able to deal with adequately, but surely the more natural theory is the old one, that the gospel writers wrote late enough to have borrowed from Josephus and did so. Thus, as per Edgar J. Goodspeed, Matthew 23:35 probably confuses the biblical prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah with the revolutionary martyr Zechariah son of Baruch whose death Josephus relates. But is this because Josephus and his committee of comedy writers are responsible for both references, meaning for us to read them in tandem, as Atwill avers? Or is it because Mathew read the information in Josephus and mixed it up (as Luke did Josephus’ references to Theudas the Magician and Judas the Galilean in Acts 5:36-37)?

    Atwill reasons that Jesus’ prediction of the fall of Jerusalem plainly prefigures Josephus’ account of the actual events, and he infers that both versions (in the future and the past tenses) stem from the same source, Josephus and his Flavian collaborators. Then, he reasons, the Son of Man whose coming was to climax the apocalyptic scenario must be none other than the actual man who did wreak judgment on Jerusalem, Titus. Atwill congratulates the Preterist school of interpreters (like J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia) on recognizing that the Synoptic predictions of the desolation of Jerusalem must have been completely fulfilled in 70 CE, with nothing left over for futurist expectation. Here is one of Atwill’s most attractive suggestions, though he does not put it the way I am about to do. I believe that Bultmann was right that several “son of man” sayings in the gospels referred originally simply to “mankind” in general (e.g., Mark 2:10, 28; Matthew 12:32). In fact, I wonder if they do not retain this non-Christological “Everyman” denotation even in the gospels. Further, I suspect even more of the son of man sayings are intended this way, e.g., Mark 14:21. Perhaps Mark 13:36 (“And then they will see the son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”) is another one. If it were, then maybe what we read there is a reference to Josephus’ account of the end of Jerusalem, heralded, he says, by people beholding in the flame-tinged clouds the forms of battling soldiers and charioteers. After all, the introductory (redactional) question placed in the disciples’ mouths concerns the time of the temple’s destruction.

    Again, Atwill suggests that Mark’s story of Joseph of Arimathea requesting the body of Jesus be taken down and given to him comes from Josephus’ own experience of recognizing three crucifixion victims as former associates of his and securing Roman permission to have them taken down alive and treated, though only one survived. How similar are the names “Joseph of Arimathea” and “Joseph bar-Matthias” (the historian’s full name)! If the gospel story is based on Josephus’ story, that would solve the problem of why Joseph seems to have asked only for Jesus, and what happened to the two other “thieves” crucified alongside him. But to posit such a thing, one hardly need envision a committee writing both stories in the hope that the clever reader would connect them (as if doing so would remotely imply some identity between Jesus and Titus Caesar!).

    Unaware of the work of Theodore J. Weeden, Atwill traces out the numerous striking parallels between the Passion story of Jesus Christ and the Josephus story of Jesus ben-Ananias, his interrogation by the Sanhedrin and the Roman procurator, his predictions of Jerusalem’s destruction, and his flogging and eventual death, suggesting the two Jesuses are one and the same. (It is too bad the rest of Atwill’s parallels are not similarly compelling, even plausible.) But surely, as Weeden argues, the explanation is that Mark simply borrowed the story from Josephus.

    What about the Roman-tilting anti-Judaism (maybe anti-Semitism) of the gospels? Again, the old explanations are quite natural and adequate: we are reading the documents of Gentile Christianity which viewed itself as superseding Judaism and Jewish Christianity. Why do their authors seem to kiss the Roman posterior? For apologetical reasons, to avoid persecution. Brandon, Eisler, and others saw that long ago. One need hardly posit that the gospels are cynical Roman (not merely pro-Roman) propaganda a la Reuchlin and Atwill.

    According to Atwill, “the reader needs to comprehend perhaps the most complex literary satire ever written” (p. 169). But Atwill’s envisioned satire seems so complex as to be incoherent. “Jesus” stands not only for Tiberius but also for a hypothetical Zealot leader named Eleazar, who also appears in the New Testament as Lazarus. Mary Magdalene stands for several different women, “Mary” being, Atwill guesses, a term for any female Jewish rebel or sympathizer. Simon Peter and Peter are not the same, either. The two gospel genealogies, a la Rudolf Steiner, represent two distinct Jesuses. In Atwill’s hands, everything means everything else. And, in the end, you know what that means.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
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  13. Alex

    Alex New

    Oct 25, 2013
    Hi Ian... thx for reviving this thread as this topic is still of great interest to me. As for Price, he's obviously a first-rate thinker and writer, but for my money this analysis misses the forest for the trees.

    Price says "the gospel writers wrote late enough to have borrowed from Josephus and did so"... ok, but I mean this is the whole point of Atwill work. I don't particularly care if he wasn't the first one to say it, he's the only one pounding this drum these days. And what a drum it is... this single fact tears Christianity out by the roots, and renders the dozens and dozens of Christian Apologist bestsellers that have followed Cesar's Messiah worthless.

    As for the more speculative aspects of Atwill's theory... well, I don't have to agree with all of it to appreciate the stunning evidence he presents for a Roman-influenced Bible.

    In the final analysis, one just has to lay the War of the Jews along side the Gospels and read... game over.
  14. Yes. If you did that, you would see that Titus didn't fulfill the prophesy if you read the whole prophesy and not just the part Atwill quotes.

    You can find partial parallels between anything if you pick and choose.’s-messiah-critics.611/page-18#post-67188’s-messiah-critics.611/page-18#post-67190

    How does Atwill reconcile this with the fact that Paul's letters referring to Jesus were written before 66 AD the year Paul died. Many of these letters are considered genuine by most scholars (

    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
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  15. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

    Oct 31, 2013
    That's cool, Alex. :)
    If by fact you're referring to the gospel writers borrowing on Josephus, I'm not sure I'm with you here (I mean by the conclusion you draw from it: that it "tears Christianity out by the roots"). If the gospel writers borrowed from Josephus, yeah I see that it tears the rug out of orthodox or literalist Christianity reading the gospels as accurate, myth-free history, but on the historicity of Jesus and some of the related events in the gospels, I guess I don't see that conclusion. (I have no firm opinion on Jesus having been a historical figure or not, btw.) There could be a big mish-mash of pure legend, fact and strongly distorted fact.

    Plus what Jim said about the Pauline letters especially.

    One time I wanted to read the New Testament documents in their chronological order, and I dug up these dates for the 7 Pauline letters that are undisputed as to their authorship:
    Galatians c.49-56
    First Thessalonians c. 52 (Wiki: The first letter to the Thessalonians was probably the first of Paul's letters, probably written by the end of AD 52, making it the first written book in the New Testament.)
    First Corinthians c. 53-57
    Romans c. 55-57
    Second Corinthians c. 57-60
    Philemon c. 60-62
    Philippians c. 62

    The authorship for Mark is often advanced as circa 70 AD, which would put it ahead of Josephus' War. Wiki says: The book was probably written c.AD 66–70, during Nero's persecution of the Christians in Rome or the Jewish revolt...

    I don't know how firm is the conclusion (even Price's?) that the gospel writers (even Mark?) borrowed from Josephus - but I don't have the required education on these matters to get into this.

    Like Jim, I also tend to think it's easy to find parallels. But then I haven't read Atwill's book (I'd need to a year or two's reading on this subject to just be able to have a conversation! :)) ...
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
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  16. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

    Oct 31, 2013
    Richard Carrier wrote here an article on Luke borrowing from Josephus, and what that means for "Christianity". But if he writes about Luke (who if I'm correct is usually dated later than Mark and Matthew), how strong is the argument that Matthew and Mark, or even just Mark, borrowed from Josephus?
    Here's where I found the link to the Carrier article, and it brings forth arguments against some of Carrier's conclusions:
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  17. I'm a bit confused about the parallels. Is anyone saying that the similarities about the same events are suspicious? If two authors write about the same time frame or the same events of course there will be similarities. They might use the same sources. Is this an issue, if so why?

    There are parallels between what Titus did and the prophesy Jesus made which I understand as an issue but which I explained doesn't hold up if you look at the full prophesy.

    Are there other parallels?
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  18. Alex

    Alex New

    Oct 25, 2013
    more interesting stuff. I'm gonna have to dig more into this, but here are some preliminary thoughts:

    - Carrier/Mason make a strong case for "Gospel borrowing", but again seem to miss the forest for the trees.

    - Josephus isn't a historian, he's a Jewish general from Galilee who turn-coated and became a propagandist for the Romans. This point can't be over-emphasized. So, when we talk about the Gospels borrowing from Josephus we're saying that the Gospels are taking a pro-Roman position that comes to the conclusion that all the Jewish prophesies were wrong and Titus is the messiah

    - here's some more Atwill bashing (not that he doesn't deserve some of it) from former guest Michael Heiser:
    this looks really bad for Atwill until you follow the links and find stuff like this:

    First, and let me be clear, are there striking similarities between Josephus and the Gospel of Luke? Yes, there are. Steven Mason, a real scholar, has published an entire volume on the subject called Josephus and the New Testament. Richard Carrier has also written on the subject of the parallels between Josephus and Luke-Acts. Joel Watts, an actual student of Biblical Studies who has done graduate work in the field (unlike Mr. Atwill), has written an academically-published book on some interesting mimetic elements between Mark and Josephus.
    The difference between what these scholars have written and what Mr. Atwill have written is threefold: (a) all of them have academic training in Greek, (b) all of them published through an academic press (Carrier is the exception, but he has published academically and is qualified on the subject), (c) None of them make the illogical leap that similarities between Josephus (a Jew) and the Gospels (written by Jewish authors) mean that the Romans did it. In fact it is the same misguided leap that some evangelicals make about God. “We don’t know, ergo ‘God did it’.” Instead, all of these scholars agree that the most rational reason for these similarities is that the Gospel authors had copies of Josephus, or Josephus had copies of the Gospels. This sort of interplay of texts is not new in the ancient world.

    -- here's another example of Atwill bashing followed by:
    So, any parallels between Josephus and the Gospels has a far better explanations (the authors had a common fictional source and/or the Gospel writers used Josephus), and many of the parallels Atwill finds are nothing more than what is expected from a fevered imagination.

    and when these guys throw out the possibility that both Josephus and the Gospel writers had a common fictional source (as a way to soften Atwill's point without having to really address it) aren't they forgetting who Josephus was -- again, he was a general in Galilee... he was there... he was with the Romans when they razed Jerusalem.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2015
  19. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

    Oct 31, 2013
    Cool digging, Alex.

    I guess your main point here is that Josephus was a Roman general, so if the gospel writers had access to his book (again, I'm not convinced Mark and Matthew did - that wouldn't work with the time frame, especially Mark) - and by the way you still haven't addressed the dating of the Pauline letters ;) - then they share the viewpoint that "the Jewish prophesies were wrong and Titus is the messiah". I'll have to think about that, but again maybe others can address that point because I'm not read up on all that stuff...

    Re: Mark and the "mimetic elements". That got me curious and I looked up Joel Watts. He has a blog and this is an article he wrote about Atwill:

    A few months ago, when my book on Mimetic Criticism came out, someone emailed and said they were sending snippets to Atwill because we seem to say the same things.


    First, Atwill and others of his ward fail to mention Paul. Second, they must rely on conspiracy theories and not fact. A ‘government project?’

    Third, while I do believe Mark is writing against Rome (Vespasian) and even fellow Jews (Simon bar Giora) by using known stories he is doing so based on a historical figure and a pre-existing outline. This is the only way it would work and the only way Mark could appeal to /an/Christians. As far as the ‘tip to stern’ scenario, this is ludicrous. While there are some passages (Mark 6-8[​IMG]) that bear a nice resemblance to passages in Josephus, it is Josephus who is more than likely looking at the story of Elijah-Elisha to draw reflectively some of the details in his works. This is why Mark 6-8[​IMG] reflects the Elijah-Elisha narratives and Josephus. After all, he pictured himself as the Elijah-spirit to Vespasian’s Governor of the World/Messiah and knows his narratives quite well. It was later recognized by some of Josephus’s peers that he creatively rewrote the history of the Jewish Wars. To be frank, to be challenged in such a way, in such a time, shows easily just how bad Josephus’s history was.

    Turning back to Atwill’s propaganda. Scholars generally do not hold to the definition Evangelicals and others assign to ‘prophecy.’ This is why we have terms like postdiction and Vaticinium ex eventu. Further, I would go further and suggest many ancients were not as naive as we would like to make them out to be and understood this form of storytelling. Read Quintillan. This is why Virgil could get away with recreating Augustus’s birth. Poets were enjoyed because the people could know what they were saying.

    Going further, Titus wasn’t Emperor during the Jewish Revolt. This is an anachronism, something Bill O’Reilly has never heard of and something Atwill cannot get enough of. Another one is Atwill’s insistence on the biography of Jesus. There is no single biography of the historical Jesus written. There are many bios and other writings in other genres written about the theological figure of Jesus. We have four canonical gospels, but canon generally means more to the Church than to the scholar who should investigate non-canonical sources as well if they are really intent on discovering the historical Jesus. Atwill, by the way (at least in his 2005 version of Caesar’s Messiah) says the Jesus in John’s Gospel is different than the Jesuses in the Synoptics. That’s right. There are four different Jesuses, maybe a fifth. Finally, Titus wasn’t Caesar until 79, dying in 81, although he was awarded the title of Caesar (along with his brother) after the Roman Triumph.

    Why Titus? Because Atwill believes — contrary to everything in history — Titus thought himself, or was thought by Josephus, to be the true messiah. Thus, Jesus becomes the ‘Malachi’ (Atwill’s allegoricalizing of the entire OT book is worth noting). Jesus is Elijah. This ignores the actual sayings of the Gospels about John the Baptizer and what Josephus says of himself in relation to Vespasian, as noted above. Not only this, but it ignores how Vespasian and Titus saw themselves later in life.

    As we are reminded in Winn’s masterful work, Vespasian needed the Jewish messianism because of his heritage. He used Egyptian religious thoughts as well, but once he was solidly enthroned, he discarded these. This is why Josephus was ignored and forgotten. By the time Titus arrives, there is no need for propaganda beyond the usual. Clearly, Vespasian’s final quip has fallen on ignorant ears with Atwill.

    Atwill’s reconstruction of history bears no actual similarity to history. Not only that, Atwill cannot even accurately read Josephus! It wasn’t the Flavians who continued to need Jewish propaganda, but Josephus.

    There is so much to write about how idiotic Atwill’s thesis is, but I don’t have the time to correct all the stupidity in the world…
  20. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

    Oct 31, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2015

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