|I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 2 John 1:7
News reports are circulating around that a new document claims that Jesus is an invention of the Roman empire in order to pacify its subjects. As expected, atheists are shouting “ah ha!”
Is this really so?
The idea comes from Joseph Atwill who is a self-professed American Biblical scholar. He says he will release the details of his discovery in his work “Covert Messiah” soon. Atwill says he wants people to know the “truth.” He claims that ‘alert citizens need to know the truth about our past so we can understand how and why governments create false histories and false gods.’ While this is not new, the story appeared last year; Richard Dawkins immediately forwarded it on twitter. Ignorant atheists who claim to value the ability to question, ironically do not question this news and blindly accept its contents.
Many Biblical scholars quickly came forward to describe Atwills’ theory has nonsense and unfounded. Some of these scholars are even those who believe Jesus existed but that He was not Divine. Atwills claims a document from a Roman aristocrat says that the Romans invented Jesus in order to control rebels in Rome. You can read more of this in his site: http://www.covertmessiah.com/
Absolutely not! His work can be considered the equivalent of September 11 conspiracy theories. Atwill is simply recycling the same rubbish that Jesus and other deities/figures have some similarities. He then concludes that this must mean that Jesus is made up.
Moreover, he adds a text written by a Roman aristocrat to somehow “prove” his theory. He completely ignores that there are extra-biblical texts supporting the fact that a man named Jesus Christ lived, performed miracles and died over 2000 years ago. Furthermore, these sources clearly depict that this man was worshiped as a God. See my debate with an atheist here:
If we critically analyze Atwill’s work we can see many discrepancies.
- He ignores the other sources proving Jesus existed which no scholar rejects. Even an atheist scholar named Michael Grant said that to claim Jesus is a myth is unfounded.
- Atwill claims Jesus was invented in order to control rebels. Even if this were true, history shows that this did not work and did not happen. The Roman empire was eventually taken over by the Catholic Church. Moreover, how can inventing a male figure control rebels? This makes absolutely no sense.
- Atwill also ignores the witness of early Christians who had nothing to do with Rome. They obviously encountered a person so powerful that they transformed their lives; many even died for the faith this man spread around.
- He ignores that Simon Peter, the first Pope ordained Ignatias of Antioch and that an apostolic succession did occur at a point in time which continues even till today. The Church did not just appear out of nowhere for the heck of it. The Catholic Church is not a random anomaly in space and time. Obviously, something happened to trigger the formation of this huge religion. Ideas last when they provide fruit. It is clear that Christianity has such a strong substance in the past that it developed into the powerful force it is today. Only trees with deep strong roots have a strong foundation and grow strong without interruption.
- Moreover, let’s not forget the billions who encounter Christ even today.
Here are some quotes from scholars, many who are atheists or agnostics. They all testify to the truth that Jesus is real.
“I don’t think there’s any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus …. We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period. ….. We have one author who actually knew Jesus’ relatives and knew his disciples – Paul.”
“[That Jesus was a myth] has again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars …. no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus.”
Marcus Borg, Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University:
“some judgments are so probable as to be certain; for example, Jesus really existed, and he really was crucified, just as Julius Caesar really existed and was assassinated. ….. We can in fact know as much about Jesus as we can about any figure in the ancient world.”
James H. Charlesworth, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature. Princeton University:
“Jesus did exist; and we know more about him than about almost any Palestinian Jew before 70 C.E.” (Jesus Within Judaism)
“No reputable scholar today questions that a Jew named Jesus son of Joseph lived; most readily admit that we know a considerable amount about his actions and his basic teachings” (Jesus and Archaeology, 2005)
Jeffery Jay Lowder:
“I think that the New Testament does provide prima facie evidence for the historicity of Jesus. It is clear, then, that if we are going to apply to the New Testament the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we should not require independent confirmation of the New Testament’s claim that Jesus existed.”
“Research in the historical Jesus has taken several positive steps in recent years. Archaeology, remarkable literary discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and progress in reassessing the social, economic, and political setting of first-century Palestine have been major factors. …. the persistent trend in recent years is to see the Gospels as essentially reliable, especially when properly understood, and to view the historical Jesus in terms much closer to Christianity’s traditional understanding”
“The historical evidence for Jesus himself is extraordinarily good. …. the evidence dovetails together with remarkable consistency, as I and many others have shown in works of very detailed historical scholarship. From time to time people try to suggest that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, but virtually all historians of whatever background now agree that he did, and most agree that he did and said a significant amount at least of what the four gospels say he did and said.”
Professor Robert van Voorst (“Jesus Outside the New Testament”, p14, 16)
“The theory of Jesus’ nonexistence is now effectively dead as a scholarly question. …. Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it as effectively refuted.“
The verdict is in by over 99% of scholars: JESUS DID EXIST!
Christians have no need to be concerned with this guy’s work. He is just trying to sell a book. I can write a book saying Thomas Pain did not exist and claim that because we don’t have his body, I am correct in making this claim. This would be poor research and logic. Atwill is doing the same. He is repeating old refuted arguments and adding a text to them in order to infer that Jesus was an invention only because a Roman around that time period said so. This is called the False Cause fallacy.
It is a sad day in academia when any text can be used to formulate all kinds of theories. Imagine 2000 years from now, some scholar reads your best friend’s journal where he/she speaks ill of you and that scholar then declares you a jerk only because of that best friend’s journal entry.
Jesus Christ existed as living human being who performed miracles proving Him to be Divine; He still exists today and lives among us in the Blessed Sacrament. He also lives in the Word we read at Mass and at home in the Bible. He also lives in our hearts and knocks on the heart of even atheists. He is also in every person we encounter.
May Jesus Christ be praised forever!