Joe Atwill Takes on Covert Culture Shapers |354|

#1
Joe Atwill Takes on Covert Culture Shapers |354|
by Alex Tsakiris | Jun 27 | Spirituality

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Joe Atwill has a deep state, pro-Roman view of the Bible.

photo by: Skeptiko
On this episode of Skeptiko…

Alex Tsakiris: There’s a famous quote about truth passing through three stages: first it’s ridiculed, second it’s violently opposed, and third, it’s accepted as being self-evident. And I’m reading your critics, these scathing criticisms of your work, and I’m thinking, “This is exactly what’s happening here.”

… they’re all saying the same thing, “Atwill’s full of crap; but he’s right about the bible being pro-Roman.” I just want to scream… what the heck do you mean, “The bible is pro-Roman!?” That is the whole story! If the bible is pro-Roman, then Christianity as we know it is not what we think it is.

Joe Atwill: Once you accept the fact that [the Bible is] pro-Roman, then you need to take step back and say, “Well then, the Romans probably had an influence in producing it.” Now, you have these events which are oddly parallel between the Roman military campaign and Jesus’ ministry. At that point, how do you even deny that one is related to the other?

Stay with us for Skeptiko…

So, a couple of weeks ago I was interviewing Jay Dyer of the very excellent Jay’s Analysis website – that Jay Dyer – and we were talking about film analysis and culture analysis and geopolitics, all of which Jay does a really good job of. But since I had dug into Jay’s work beforehand, I knew there was something else that I wanted to talk to him about because Jay is an orthodox Christian, and somewhat of a biblical scholar. I mean that’s part of his training, and that’s part of what he brings to his website, and he’s open about this in terms of how it informs his worldview, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I mean, Jay’s not like a bible thumper who’s trying to inject scripture verses in every sentence. And Jay’s also a really sharp guy who I have a lot of respect for in terms of his work and his analysis. He’s on point on so many things. But this issue of religion, and in particular his Christian worldview, and how it informs things is something that I just can’t really get away from. I think it’s so central to a lot of things we’re going through today, but I also think that it’s an example of what Skeptiko is so much about, in terms of big picture questions, controversy, and intelligent debate.

So, I had this rather lengthy exchange with Jay – got a little bit bible geeky on it – but it was fun and I decided at the end of it that this dialog would be a great way to, kind of bounce me into somewhat of a threaded debate with a guy who I really, really enjoy talking to and I’ve referenced many times on this show, and that is Joe Atwill, author of Caesar’s Messiah.
 
#2
I dislike Joe Atwill for a number of reasons and always delete his interviews when they show up on my phone, but Alex, I listened to yours, and you were able to make Joe interesting. Thank you!

> "What are the implications of a pro-Roman bible."

Just because the Bible may not be the Literal Word of God does not mean it isn't very valuable as a work of history, spirituality, and philosophy.
 
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Ah, so where before Atwill had Josephus inventing Jesus for the Romans, now Atwill is saying the Romans invented Josephus and then invented Jesus through him.

"Wheels within wheels, man..."

"The Bible" is not pro-Roman. Most of it, of course, was written before Rome came on the scene. In the New Testament, some works are more conciliatory. Some (I'm looking at you, Revelation) are anything but.
 
#8
...which is an all-too-frequently misunderstood saying. :)

The most vivid statement in Mark's story that the kingdom of God is directly opposed to the rule of Rome is Jesus' answer to the Pharisees' and Herodians' question designed to entrap him: whether it is lawful to pay tribute to Caesar. This passage has long been read in terms of the separation of church and state, of religion and politics. There was no such separation in the Roman empire or in Israelite tradition. It is difficult for us modern Westerners who simply assume the separation of religion and politics to understand just how "loaded" this issue was. Roman domination of subject peoples focused on the tribute. The Romans viewed failure to "render to Caesar" as tantamount to rebellion, and were prepared to enforce their demand with punitive military action. In Israelite tradition, however, payment of tribute was directly against the covenantal law. The very foundation of Israel's relations to God was the people's exclusive loyalty...According to the Mosaic covenant, moreover, God was also, quite literally, the king of Israel...

Jesus wriggles out of the trap by not saying explicitly that the tribute was prohibited by the law. But everyone present knew what he meant. The key was "the things that belong to" God and Cesar, respectively, as understood in Israelite tradition, which was known by the Pharisees, the high priests, and the crowd that was listening to the confrontation. The land from which the produce came belonged to God, who had given it to the people in their respective family inheritances (see, e.g., Lev. 25). "The things that belonged to God" were therefore everything, all produce, which was in turn for the support of God's people. While couched in a clever circumlocution, Jesus' answer was still a blunt declaration of the people's independence of Roman imperial rule/kingdom, since they belonged directly under the rule/kingdom of God.
Richard A. Horsley, "Jesus and Empire," in Richard A. Horsley, ed., In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 89f.

For similar assessments, see, among many others see Warren Carter, Matthew and Empire: Initial Explorations (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2001), 62-4; Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Gospel. Twentieth Anniversary Edition (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008), 306-313.
 
#12
Atwill is saying the Romans invented Josephus and then invented Jesus through him.
Not really. Atwill is saying they were both "invented" at the same time.

But that's not actually true. What they really did was take existing people, and spin them into a cartoon caricature useful for the political needs of the day. Over time, the original person is forgotten, and the caricature becomes reality.

We see thing same thing happening today with pop characters such as Sir Issac Newton, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy. In the year 2250 after their original papers and letters are "lost" in a fire or war, only the cartoon will remain.

It you really, really dig into the factual, provable documentation of people like Plato, Aristotle, Cleopatra, Livy, Confucius, Epicurus, Julius Caesar, et al. You'll find that none of them actually existed.

That thought is too absurd and offensive for the Normie mind. It recoils in self-defensive horror. The vast majority of people have not performed the years of historical study necessary to understand it, and that's okay.

For me, the learning necessary to become a Certified Public Accountant would be a fate worse than death.
 
#14
Meh.

Something that bothers me is that it seems statements are thrown out and you are expected to swallow them whole. Those statements are then built on to reinforce a point. Atwill asserts in this interview that when Jesus spoke about the "Son of Man" he was speaking of Tiberius. The Christian narrative is that he was speaking of himself and used "Son of God" and "Son of Man" interchangeably. This has always made sense to me in reading the Gospels, but that's how it was presented. This was a minor point in the interview, but it caught my attention and I'm curious if there is anything to back this up other than that Atwill wants it this way.
 
#15
Something that bothers me is that it seems statements are thrown out and you are expected to swallow them whole.
It's the nature of a crank hypothesis. Build a vast superstructure on a combination of the flimsiest of evidence, misinterpretation, and heavy amounts of speculation, all bolted together by a remarkable confidence that you, YOU, are the one who has peeled away all the layers of the onion. Throw in a few "wake up, sheeple" statements and call it a day.

I haven't seen anything of substance in what has been presented. Interacting with an Atwill fan on this forum back in the fall of 2015, I demonstrated multiple failures in his hypothesis and remain, to put it mildly, unpersuaded that there is any smoke, let alone fire.
 
#16
It you really, really dig into the factual, provable documentation of people like Plato, Aristotle, Cleopatra, Livy, Confucius, Epicurus, Julius Caesar, et al. You'll find that none of them actually existed.
Dogma. More aptly it sounds like conspiracy theory dogma.

Yeah, I know the endless loop starts when I make comments like the following, but if the historical figures you listed are literally fabrications why hasn't this been broadly proven and accepted by scholars and laymen alike? What about the factual, provable documentation that asserts they did, indeed, exist? The former, disproving, facts are facts while the latter, proving, facts are "fake news"? Oh yeah, its the Illuminati or some other invisible group of the elite.
 
#17
Christianity, or any religious tradition is supposed to be a template for developing a relationship with the divine. Viewed from that perspective, I'm not sure how important it's historical veracity is.
At the same time Christianity has produced all or most it's own myriad public relations problems.
 
#18
"What are the implications of a pro-Roman bible."
Well, Alex. If Jesus never existed, then literal interpretations of both Christianity and Islam would be threatened. Islam accuses the Christian Bible of corruption, but accepts things it holds in in common -- such as the existence (if not divinity) of Jesus, the virginity of Mary, and Jesus' role in the end times. If there was incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was Flavius' invention, then the Quran would be proven no less corrupt than the Bible.

Here's Atwill's film, "Caesar's Messiah" for anyone interested:


Jesus-like characters were prefigured in ancient religions. Flavius, if he invented him, didn't create him out of whole cloth: his character had been latent for centuries in a number of religions, as had aspects of Christian myths such as the flood, the nativity story, and so on.

Velikowsky thought that many religions originated in the observations by human beings of the collision of a comet with Jupiter which subsequently led to the ejection of material that coalesced into a new planet, which today we know as Venus:


This event is hypothesised to have given rise to a lot of myths and symbols, evidence of which is found all over the world:


So the theory is that actual events gave rise to myths and symbols which have become subsumed into religions, not excluding the monotheistic ones. Whether or not Christianity is literally true, whether or not it is the concoction of Flavius, it retains elements found in previous religions, and indeed in the subsequent Islam. Human motivations have always included political aims, and all religions have been to some extent or other corrupted by these. Nonetheless, underlying the exoteric forms of religion is the perennial human desire to explain who we are and why we are here, and esoteric appreciations interweave with these. The deepest spiritual thinkers in most religions tend to agree on the basic premise that there is but one primal consciousness that gives rise to apparent materiality, although they might use different language -- speak of Maya, Christ consciousness, non-dual consciousness and all the rest.

Most people aren't as sophisticated and need something on which to hang their innermost and largely unarticulated feelings. The religion they either accept or are indoctrinated in could be based on the flying spaghetti monster as long as it articulates for them something they can believe in, and they don't have to figure things out for themselves. They can instead rely on the authority of priests and/or religious authorities, obey the tenets of their faith, and feel more assured that they are prepared for an afterlife.

It's not whether or not orthodox religions are a con game: to some extent, they all are. It's more about to what extent the underlying ethos of particular religions resonate with innate and unarticulated feelings about morality. As religions go, Christianity, which still underpins our attitudes to social justice even when it's in decline, provides a decent framework for Western societies. Even self-confessed atheists like Sam Harris feel the need to anchor their actions in a morality that looks to me suspiciously like Christianity sans dogma and God.
 
#19
[Romans] didn't create him out of whole cloth...
I don't think so either. but I think we gotta chunk this down and just look at Josephus for a minute. I think this is the mistake a lot of mythicists make... they lose the forest for the trees.

the most logical reason for why the Bible is pro-Roman is because the Romans were trying to manipulate the people of Judea.

It's not whether or not orthodox religions are a con game: to some extent, they all are. It's more about to what extent the underlying ethos of particular religions resonate with innate and unarticulated feelings about morality. As religions go, Christianity, which still underpins our attitudes to social justice even when it's in decline, provides a decent framework for Western societies. Even self-confessed atheists like Sam Harris feel the need to anchor their actions in a morality that looks to me suspiciously like Christianity sans dogma and God.
agreed. I think we also have to be open to exploring how genuine spirituality God/spirit/light/whatever weaves into this. I mean, we still have to deal with the light at the end of the tunnel :) and the hierarchy of consciousness.

of course, this is how the atheists lose the forest :)
 
#20
the most logical reason for why the Bible is pro-Roman is because the Romans were trying to manipulate the people of Judea.
Well, first of all, let me reiterate that "the Bible" is not "pro-Roman." There are gradations of assessment of Roman imperial power within the New Testament, and I have already cited scholarship that notes counter-imperial themes in Mark and Matthew. I can quite easily describe the virulently anti-Roman vision of the Revelation in all its glorious, psychedelic detail.

The high point of positivity toward Caesar is typically ascribed to Luke-Acts:

"Luke is not negative or even neutral toward the empire. He has high regard for the imperial government and for those who administer it."
'And so we came to Rome': The Political Perspective of St. Luke by Paul W. Walaskay (Cambridge University Press, 1983), 25.

If that conclusion holds, though, the "most logical reason" is not nefarious Flavian conspiracies, however. Scholars who hold to a more pro-Roman interpretation of Luke-Acts stress its apologetic purposes: "Luke" is being obsequious for the sake of reducing harassment against a marginal, new sect in a culture that values the ancient over the new and under a government that is not inclined to grant more exemptions to participation in the state cult beyond that already afforded to the Jews. So Luke-Acts presents Christians as peaceful, respectful, and standard-bearers for the ancient Jewish faith.

That being said, not everyone agrees that Luke is quite so pro-Roman as he appears. John Howard Yoder made quite the forceful case for anti-imperial themes in Luke in a chapter for his classic work The Politics of Jesus (Eerdmans: 1972). More recently, Amanda Miller employs James C. Scott's theory of "hidden transcripts" to argue that "Luke’s audience would have been challenged to resist the dominant values of Roman imperial culture" (book description). See idem., Rumors of Resistance: Status Reversals and Hidden Transcripts in the Gospel of Luke (Fortress Press: 2014).
 
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