Answering Joseph Atwill

According to fans of Joseph Atwill, his book 'Caesar's Messiah' delivers the death blow to Christianity. This book belongs to the 'Jesus-did-not-exist' genre popular with atheists. According to this author, Jesus of Nazareth is a fictional character who was invented subsequent to the Jewish War, in an effort to substitute a pacific religion for Jewish Zealotry. Let there be no mistake: our author means to uncover great wickedness, committed by malefactors of great wealth; indeed, it is not going too far to imply it was the devil who authored the New Testament. The most evil thing of all is to love one's enemy: "My analysis suggests that what has been seen as most original about Jesus— his instruction to love one's enemy— was the aspect of his ministry that was most evil." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 6435).

  • “Though the acts revealed by the declaration are perhaps the most evil in history, it is hard not to give the devil his due. The authors of the subtly shifting 'mythos' wordplay possessed a literary skill only surpassed by their wickedness. They not only punished the Jews for their rebellion by poisoning their future, but were able to notify posterity that they had done so using only erudite puns.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 1036).

The Flavians Black Humor
Prophetic Perspective Quality Control
Tie a Red String Highly Prefigured
Son of Man The Supreme Pontiff
To the Lions U.S.S. Missouri
Cannibal Feast Replicants
How Many Gods? Malachi

The Flavians

According to Joseph Atwill, Christianity was forged to put an end to Jewish rebellion: "The effect of Christianity is also recorded within the satire. Its effect was to end the rebellion." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5514), although somehow or other that never happened; the Jews kept rebelling, under bar Kochba, until their national existence was finally destroyed at the hands of pagan Rome. Even though it evidently didn't work, it was intended, he claims, to to this end: "It is clear, therefore, that the religion that was the basis of Western morality was invented for the pacification of slaves." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 6505). Three Roman emperors, Vespasian, and his sons Titus and Domitian, members of one family, are fingered as the culprits responsible for Christianity:

  • “My efforts to understand this relationship led me to uncover the amazing secret that is the subject of this book: This imperial family, the Flavians, created Christianity, and, even more incredibly, they incorporated a skillful satire of the Jews in the Gospels and Wars of the Jews to inform posterity of this fact.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 61).

Joseph Atwill states, "The Testimonium [of Josephus] contains the only non-New Testament first-century description of the life of Jesus." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5323). Is this true?:

The Thesis Tacitus
Celsus Suetonius
Euhemerus Talmud
Atoms and the Void Gospel of Thomas
Osiris et al Mutual Annihilation
Embarrassment Jesus Denial Today

One of the oddities of our author's approach is that the Emperor Vespasian, who himself claimed to be the Messiah prophesied in the Jewish scriptures, also commissioned the writing of a work of fiction championing the claims of a rival:

Ten Thousand Moses of Crete
Yemeni Madman Simon bar Kochba
Emperor Vespasian Serene
David Alroy Abraham Abulafia
Asher Lemmlein Sabbatai Sevi
The Franks Rabbi Menachem Schneerson

If Vespasian after all intended to support the Messianic claim of a fictional rival, then why make the same claim himself? He cannot compete with a made-to-order 'Messiah;' he was not, after all, born in Bethlehem. The conspiracy theorists always ask, cui bono, who benefits? Unfortunately this question was not asked here, because Vespasian cannot benefit from undermining his own Messianic claim. This would be the same as if the historic personage, Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Hebrew Messiah, had commissioned a work of fiction assigning that role to a made-up figure, Moses of Sepphoris. Why would you do that? Promoting this fictive rival, who is intended to be taken as fact, will accomplish no more than to sabotage your own claim. Why make the claim in the first place if you also intend to discredit it?

There was probably some risk to Vespasian in claiming the identification in the first place, because the Messiah is a king, while the Roman emperors or emperors-to-be studiously avoided calling themselves kings. Little Roman school-children learned to take pride in their noble ancestors who expelled the kings from Rome, and so even though they had one-man rule, and in this period they even had hereditary succession— Titus was Vespasian's biological son,— the word 'king' was not used. There is a little set-piece in the Talmud where Rabbi Johanan b. Zakkai, the founder of Rabbinic Judaism, who, like Josephus, deserted and went over to the Romans, by 'playing dead,' encounters Vespasian and is rebuked for calling him 'king:' "When he reached the Romans he said, Peace to you, O king, peace to you, O king. He [Vespasian] said: Your life is forfeit on two counts, one because I am not a king and you call me king, and again, if I am a king, why did you not come to me before now?" (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Gittin 56a).

So Vespasian must have felt this self-identification as the Messiah was worth something, for him to willingly accept the political risk that went along with embracing it. This was a serious claim; why make it, and also undermine it? People who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, do not believe that Vespasian is the Messiah; people who believe that Vespasian is the Messiah, do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. As to the concept that being the Messiah can possibly be the family business, it is absent from the New Testament. (Somehow this Messianic claim has to pass from the one who made it, Vespasian, to Titus, Mr. Atwill's 'Son of Man,' and ultimately even Domitian, who did not claim to be the Hebrew Messiah.)

Our author explains that Vespasian's family intended the fictional story of a perfect, 'highly prefigured,' Messiah to appeal to the unwashed masses:

"I believe that the Flavians did not intend to have sophisticated people like themselves take their invention, Christianity, seriously. Josephus describes the individuals who fomented the rebellion in Judea as 'slaves' and 'scum.' These are the individuals that Rome would have seen as being susceptible to an infatuation with militant Judaism. It was for this group, hoi polloi, that they created the religion." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5135).

The gospel authors plainly intend their work to be read as real history, and their work describes Jesus as the 'only-begotten' Son of God, the unique Messiah, who was made incarnate, suffered and died under Pontius Pilate, rose again, and will come again the second time for His people. Those 'slaves' and 'scum' who believe these representations can safely rule out Vespasian as Messiah. Joseph Atwill claims there is another layer of the gospels, a parody; but anyone who credits his 'parody' will not come away believing that Vespasian was the Messiah, but rather will join the author in his contemptuous mockery of religion. So for whom was the claim that Vespasian is the Messiah made? By whom was it expected to be believed? Middle-brow people? Civil servants?

He situates the writing of both works, the New Testament and the 'War of the Jews,' in a six-month period after Vespasian's death; why? to get away from the problem of Vespasian debunking Vespasian's own claim? Was Titus a 'rebellious child,' who wanted to discredit a claim his father made with all apparent seriousness? The answer, it turns out, is absurd: ". . .Domitian used his historian Suetonius to create a history of his life that linked to Revelation and the Pauline literature and thereby show that he, not his brother, was the final 'Christ.' By winning a petty game of literary one-upmanship with his dead brother, Domitian sought to replace Titus as 'Jesus' and make himself the 'god' that Christians have worshipped for two thousand years." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 7067). We end up with four or five people playing 'leap-frog' with the title 'Messiah,' each debunking the others' claim.


Black Humor

As to the sardonic 'black humor,'— the gospels are supposed to be a burlesque of Titus' military campaign through Galilee,— I must leave that to the reader who can make sense of it. It comes as no surprise that nobody 'got' the joke for two thousand years, until our intrepid author came forward. The analogies,— for instance that an disastrous war-time lake engagement in which drowning men were showered with javelins and struck with swords and decapitated, which is kind of like fishing or at any rate like harpooning, is supposed to remind us that Jesus told His followers they would be 'fishers of men,'— are more than a bit 'off,' like perceiving a Walking Dead movie as being very much like Christianity, because involving a 'resurrection' of sorts. This author imagines he can make this problem of 'missing-the-target' work for him by recasting it as 'satire' or 'black humor.'

Our author's methodology allows him to 'find' a parallel either between two passages he has bracketed, or in other unconnected passages which feature a character of a similar name, or share usage of the same word, because these crafty authors deliberately concealed their handiwork. Since the evidence is hidden, the seeker must often wander to an unconnected passage to find that missing name or other link. "If the satiric connections between the New Testament and Wars of the Jews were meant to be seen easily, they would not have remained hidden for 2,000 years. In this case the satirical connections between Jesus and Eleazar have been hidden by placing the key parallels to Jesus into a number of different characters named Eleazar or Lazarus." (Joseph Awill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 2900). Using his techniques, our intrepid author has cracked the code:

"The authors of Christianity intended that their puzzles would eventually be solved and Titus' complete triumph be thereby revealed, a sorry task that has fallen to this author." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5697).

The statistical probability that you can find a convergence either in two passages targeted as 'parallel,' or, if not, then in a passage that shares a word with one or both of these passages, must hover somewhere around 100%. The wonder is that, using these techniques, this author comes up with as little as he does. For instance, there is the 'eleven page' rule: "In the Whiston translation of Wars of the Jews, which I cite throughout this work, there are only eleven pages of text between the 'Son of Mary whose flesh was eaten' passage and the passage that contains the character that I refer to below as the 'woe-saying Jesus.'" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 4339). What could someone who knew the Bible not do with the 'eleven page' rule?

Such coincidences as he does find are not especially remarkable. Finding the trinity in Vespasian-Titus-Domitian (say good-bye to filioque) as he asserts, is hardly compelling. Why not from here instead?: "The third tower was Mariamne, for that was his queen’s name. . ." (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 4, Section 3, p. 1657). There are 'three' of something there, as in his index case. In some cases there is an actual parallel, albeit a weak and uncompelling one, but in other cases it is impossible to retrace the thought process that identifies a parallel: for instance, Jesus' healing of the paralytic is coupled with a massacre committed by Vespasian. In Mr. Atwill's world, 'healing' and 'murder' are precise parallels, because,

"When the Gospels describe an 'illness' or 'demonic possession' of a Jew, they are referring to the 'fever' that caused them to rebel from Rome. 'Healing' them of their demonic illness depicts one of two things: either a rebellious Jew recognized that Caesar is the Christ — as in the case of Josephus — or 'healing' the 'infection' by killing the Jews that do not." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 2738).

When did Jesus ever kill anybody, and pronounce him 'cured'? What a happy place first century Galilee must have been if there were no actual diseases, only political rebellion! It is difficult however to fathom how it is that 'healing' is supposed to be just exactly the same sort of thing as 'murder;' usually they are thought to be different. Certainly one way of making a book about a travelling healer match up with a book about a war is to redefine 'healing' to mean 'killing.' Redefining 'healing' to mean 'auto racing' would be similarly helpful in aligning a book about a travelling healer with a chronicle of auto racing.

In a similar vein, his parallel for Jesus' speech to the Samaritan woman at the well, offering her the Living Water, is an incident in the Jewish War where Samaritans suffered from heat prostration and even died of thirst (I'm not making this up):

"'Now it happened that the Samaritans, who were now destitute of water, were inflamed with a violent heat (for it was summer time, and the multitude had not provided themselves with necessaries) insomuch that some of them died that very day with heat.'" (Josephus, quoted by Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 6970).

So two things can be identified as type and anti-type if a.) they are like each other (Christians are on board here), or b.) they are 180 degrees different from one another (this is sardonic humor, as in 'heh-heh, dying of thirst is really just like drinking living water'), or c.) they are somewhat like and somewhat unlike. What other possibilities are there? He has boxed the compass.

Our author discovers that Mary Magdalene is Peter's mother-in-law; how, you ask? Because the mother-in-law had a high fever; 'high' is 'megalo,' μεγαλω, which sounds a little like 'Migdal,' though it's the wrong language and it's missing the 'd.' Oh, please. I can do better than that, without even trying. Mary Magdalene is Diana of the Ephesians! Of whom it is said, “Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, 'Great [μεγαλη] is Diana of the Ephesians!'” (Acts 19:28). As it happens, 'megas,' meaning 'great,' is a very common word. A one megaton bomb is a big bomb. Since, as it turns out, he's got multiple Mary Magdalenes running around all over the place, we can have fun going through scripture and making all the women of whom something is said to be 'great' into 'Mary Magdalenes,' like the Canaanite woman: "Then Jesus answered and said to her, 'O woman, great is your faith!'" (Matthew 15:28).

Mr. Atwill's parallel for the Tower of Siloam falling and killing eighteen people lacks a tower, gravity, eighteen victims, and the vicinity of Siloam. It does have the word 'fall,' not used, however, in the same signification; "'. . .he [Titus] also fell upon great numbers as they marched down the hill. . .'" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 2324). Josephus' 'Decius Mundus' is supposed to make us think of the historic Publius Decius Mus, father and son, even though he does not have the same name, and even though Decius Mundus' suicide, had he committed suicide, would have been to no one's benefit (Jesus, incidentally, did not commit suicide). These are not exactly smoking gun type of parallels; there is some slight similitude but it is very weak. If Josephus is, as he claims, writing fiction,— in his world, Josephus is one of three New Testament authors, and his 'Histories' are not historical,— why can he not come up with stronger parallels, if he does indeed desire the reader to make a connection?

Two crucified men died and one survived? ". . . he was the sole survivor among three crucified men. The two must be among the few individuals in history to have survived a crucifixion." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 4284). What "two"? Jesus did not survive: He died! Had He not, how could He have tasted death for all of us? The outcome of what this author calls the "cruci-fiction" was a dead man buried in a tomb. Can Mr. Atwill possibly be buying into the 'swoon' theory? But his 'Jesus' is fictional; his only characteristics are those he has in the text, and in the text, He dies!

A charitable reader might describe these as exceedingly mangy and threadbare parallels. But 'non-existent' might come closer. The parallel for, "Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way." (Luke 4:30), as stated by our author, is,

"'So when the fighting men were spent the rest of the multitude had their throats cut (by Titus' soldiers).' Wars of the Jews, 3, 7, 304)." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 2557).

I'm not making this up. Our author starts back in horror at the evil of the New Testament, which he perceives as "perhaps the most vicious tale ever written" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 2888), interpreted his way, because it's got all that killing and all those stacks of dead bodies in it. Except it doesn't.

There is an incident recorded by Mark, where a young man runs away naked, at Jesus' arrest:

"Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked." (Mark 14:51-52).

It has long been speculated that this is a 'signature,' that the 'young man' is Mark himself. Otherwise, as Mr. Atwill points out, it is a fairly trivial incident; why include it? For Mr. Atwill, of course, the naked young man has to be Titus; why? Because everybody has to be Titus! But the intent of typology is not to establish that everybody in the room, and even people walking along on the street, are all Titus, because these claims in fact negate one another; if the naked young man is Titus, then since the naked young man is not Jesus, neither is Titus! The parallel offered is an incident in which Titus, who was 'young-ish' if not a young man, went out for an inspection tour not wearing full armor, but was set upon by skirmishers and had to fight his way out. He was fully clothed of course. Josephus does not use the word 'naked' nor call him a 'young man.' In a sense, a man not wearing his armor is like a naked man; but this is not a strong linkage, and this 'scorched earth' approach to prophecy, where everybody on the planet has to be Titus, could benefit from a touch of careful discrimination.

His parallel for Jesus' resurrection is a statement by an insidious seducer that he is not really a god. A venial Roman who despaired of being able to seduce a lady, set up an elaborate scheme by which he achieved his dreams through impersonating a god, with the help of corrupt priests of Isis. This story is related by Josephus. "In fact, in all of literature these are the only two stories I am aware of that describe anyone coming on a 'third day' to proclaim that he is or is not a god." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5323). First of all, Jesus does not rise on the third day in order to come back and proclaim that He is God (not a god), He has already made that proclamation, and there are Unitarians who deny His deity but who believe in His resurrection; the two things are not identical. But this is a quibble. Notice, please, that his author claims the right to find a parallel whenever a given condition does, or does not, obtain. Between what two things can one not find a parallel if 'is' equates to 'is not'? Let no one ever say that atheists are logical people; with this rule-book in hand, our author disappears down the rabbit-hole with Alice.

One anomalous thing about our author's 'black humor' is that it's not funny. It may be he is of an adolescent mind, inasmuch as some thirteen-year-olds do perceive gross things, as such, as funny. But for the rest of us, the idea that, somebody dies, horribly, yuk-yuk, doesn't quite compute. We are expected to assume without proof that the Romans 'got' this type of humor. The reader should incidentally be careful of this author's habit of quoting himself, i.e., of putting his own words in quotes; check to see whether Josephus said 'infected' or 'fishing' before taking the author's word.


Law of Prophetic Perspective

There is a principle employed in Christian Bible study sometimes called 'The Law of Prophetic Perspective.' Just as an automobile traveller approaching a mountain range sees at first an undifferentiated mass, which then resolves itself into a sequence of peaks and valleys, so events which might have appeared single from a viewpoint in advance, are revealed in their fulfillment in multiple stages. For example, Joel prophesies of a day when, not a few gifted charismatics, but all orders of society, will be filled with the spirit of God:

“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28-29).

In those days: in what days? Apparently, in the "the great and awesome day of the LORD:" the final judgment. However, Peter sees this prophecy fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost: "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel. . ." (Acts 2:16). So even though the end is not yet, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is not a yet-t0-be-looked-for event, this sign of the Messianic era is already here.

Certainly an outside observer is at liberty to consider this approach as illegitimate, but is rare for a student of Christianity to be altogether unaware of it. The New Testament, written prior to the destruction of the temple, prophesies that destruction, and the siege of Jerusalem:

“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.'” (Luke 19:42-44).

Christians believe, as recited in the Nicene Creed, that Jesus will come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; this event, the general resurrection and the final judgment, has not yet happened. But in some passages, this event is juxtaposed with some other circumstance already arrived; the Law of Prophetic Perspective legitimates our disassociating them once subsequent events have unfolded and made clear the sequence.

As with most conspiracy theories, this author devotes a great deal of energy to explaining why the evidence which would substantiate his thesis is missing or non-existent: because, of course, the bad guys destroyed it:

  • “The literature of the Sicarii movement is most likely missing because the Romans destroyed it. . .The only works to have survived this century of religious warfare, the Gospels and the histories of Josephus, had a pro-Roman perspective.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 330).

Is his really even true? In what sense do the gospels have a "pro-Roman" perspective? The Talmud, which was compiled at a late date but incorporates sayings from earlier figures, even the irenic first century rabbis like Hillel and Gamaliel, includes scorching anti-Gentile invective, which must date from the Jewish War and the bar Kochba revolt. It is normal in war-time to demonize the enemy, and some of the rabbis were up for the task, although the Rabbi Akiba of the Talmud is a chastened, repentant figure. The Book of Revelation is not pro-Roman, and Philo Judaeus, one of Atwill's 'bad guys' who gets sucked into the conspiracy because his nephew was an apostate, criticized the emperor Caligula in his 'Embassy to Gaius:'

 Embassy to Gaius 
by Philo Judaeus

The real life Philo was a democrat, not a toady for autocracy:

"But there are two species of cities, the one better, the other worse.  That is the better which enjoys a democratic government, a constitution which honors equality, the rulers of which are law and justice; and such a constitution as this is a hymn to God." (On the Confusion of Tongues, XXIII, 108).

". . .being desirous of the establishment of democracy in the soul, the most excellent of constitutions instead of tyrannies and absolute sovereignties, and wishing also to introduce law and justice instead of lawlessness and injustice, which had prevailed up to that time." (On Abraham, Chapter XLI.)

One reason why his preferred viewpoint is so under-represented in the surviving literature is very likely because it was, at all times, a minority view. If the Jewish people had been united under the leadership of the Zealots, they might have stood a chance; but not only were the people not united behind them, the Zealots could not refrain from fighting each other. The siege of Jerusalem coincided with a civil war. The modern celebration of the Zealot viewpoint is obliged to overlook a lot.

Should the Lord tarry, some future archaeologist may discover in the ruins of New York City a treasure-trove of Jehovah's Witness literature. It would be a big mistake, however, for him to present this literature, representing a minority viewpoint, as if it were the key to understanding twentieth century American Christianity. Such a development would be an undeserved posthumous victory for the Witnesses, whose viewpoint was so unpopular they were obliged to make a huge investment in man-hours to win even a few converts. Our author's researches into the Dead Sea Scrolls have left him wearing distorting glasses: everything he sees is conformed to a pattern which may, perhaps, be more hospitable to Zealotry than is mainstream Judaism or Christianity. This group was not the voice of the people; or if they were, why did their numbers never rise higher than four digits?


Quality Control

According to Joseph Atwill, the Roman emperors invented Christianity for the sake of pro-Roman propaganda. What is not apparent is why they thought this goal best accomplished by portraying the Messiah, Jesus, as crucified upon a Roman cross. Might the goal not have been better accomplished by showing Him receiving Merit Badges from the Roman authorities, and collecting Good Citizenship awards? Whether it is clear in the gospels that Jesus admires the Romans, as this author claims, it is certainly clear that they do not much care for Him. How is the stark fact of a Jewish Messiah dying upon a Roman cross, which is, according to him, a completely invented fact, supposed to promote devotion to Rome? According to Mr. Atwill, Jesus, "after endorsing Rome, left the planet." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 6653). When  Jesus 'endorsed' Rome is unclear, but Rome surely did not endorse Him, nor His followers.

Mr. Atwill takes a 'leftist' political perspective, which blames Christianity for inducing political quietism:

"The passage is also Josephus' last depiction of the 'domesticated' Christ that the Romans created and it provides us with their vision of his future. He is at Rome, working for the imperial family by calming the rebellious, just as he has been for the last 2,000 years." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 4326).

(One of Mr. Atwill's mob of 'Jesuses' and 'Christs' is an exorcist who, he imagines, performs exorcisms at Rome. Tight typology this is not.) His diatribe is strangely at odds with his contemporary leftists, who do not commonly excoriate Christians for political quietism, but for excessive political involvement. Did the Jesuits who seem to have provided his only window into the Bible inculcate political quietism? If so, I wonder whether he has ever considered whether this was a 'directed' interpretation, because many interpreters fail to find any instructions for political quietism in this document. Some people pick up the Bible and say, 'I must become a do-gooder and make the world a better place.' To be sure they cannot become terrorists, not unless they suffer from a reading disability. If indeed the New Testament was forged for the express purpose of inculcating political quietism, why does it not do so more univocally?

And for whom is this program designed? The Jews, to wean them away from Zealotry? But he also claims Christianity "was designed to promote anti-Semitism:" "A cult that produced anti-Semitism would have both helped Rome prevent the messianic Jews from spreading their rebellion, and punished them by poisoning their future." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 969). If, as he claims, the New Testament is anti-Semitic, why would it appeal to Jews at all, as he claims it was designed to do? This would be like custom-crafting Ku Klux Klan literature to appeal to African-Americans.

"Thus, Titus certainly had read the passages describing the Mary who ate her son and, considering the traditions connecting his family to Christianity, could well have understood its ironic parallels with the mother of Jesus." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 949). Um. . .did Titus not get along with his mother. . ?

As with many atheists, logic is not this author's forte. Whatever his train of thought, he cannot help but interrupt to rail against Christianity and against the 'fictional character' Jesus, whether that indulgence helps or hurts his cause.


Jesus Christ Pantocrator

Tie a Red String

Sometimes people who are prone to being forgetful find it helpful to tie a red string around a finger. Post-it notes help, too. Sometimes our author considers Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah-figure, but sometimes He is not: He is Elijah, the John the Baptist precursor to Titus the Messiah. Our author realizes that the Emperor Vespasian claimed to be the Messiah, and even advances that fact as if it helped his cause. However a reader who accepts the New Testament cannot accept Vespasian as Messiah, because the New Testament presents Jesus of Nazareth as a real person who is really and truly the singular Messiah. Devotees of bar Kochba killed Christians, because Christians could not follow bar Kochba as Messiah. Yet our author is not telling us how Vespasian killed Christians because they could not accept him as Messiah, he is telling us that Vespasian invented Christianity. Why not say, bar Kochba invented Christianity, it would make as much sense.

And besides our author doesn't really want Vespasian to be the Messiah, he is holding out for his son, Titus. But four's a crowd, not to mention five if we add Eleazar the Zealot. There are too many Messiahs; who, after all, is supposed to be the Messiah-figure? The New Testament knows nothing of any group Messiah or cluster of Messiahs. Our author leads the reader down a daisy-chain of Messiahs: Vespasian, who indisputably claimed to be the Messiah, but according to our author, did not commission the New Testament, Titus did; then on down to Domitian, who reportedly forged the book of Revelation. . .to steal the Messiah title away from his brother!— though history does not record his use of it. Why can he not get it straight who he is presenting as the Messiah?: Jesus, a fictional character created in the wake of the Jewish War (who is incidentally no one's precursor), or Vespasian, or Titus, or Domitian, or one or all of the Eleazars, or some other party? Why does it keep changing?

If he really prefers for Jesus to be the precursor, the John the Baptist forerunner who goes ahead and clears the way for Vespasian and company, then it's really a shame the gospels make it clear He is the Messiah, not the Messiah's forerunner. Why were they written this way, if the emperor Vespasian, who himself claimed to be the Messiah,— not 'a' Messiah, 'the' Messiah,— inspired them? They were certainly not written to defend his Messianic claim, though it is a historically verifiable claim. Why were they not written so as to communicate that Jesus was 'Elijah,' who went before Titus, or Vespasian, or 'Eleazar,' or whomever? The cognoscenti who crack the code (which evidently none but he has done in 2,000 years) come away believing, not that Vespasian is the Messiah as he himself claimed, but that there is no Messiah. Our author assigns to his thesis the virtue of simplicity, from which it is as foreign as the old comedy routine, 'Who's on first?'

His complex self-referential parodying system spits out at least four Messiahs, not one,— three Flavian emperors plus Jesus of Nazareth,— even though the literature he says they fabricated knows only one. This less than elegant result, however, is not a bug but a feature:

"The New Testament describes more than one person as 'Jesus,' and refers to Jesus by a number of different names. I began to wonder if the New Testament was somehow indicating that there could be more than one Messiah, or 'Christ'—in other words, that the New Testament was calling more than one character 'Jesus.'" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 2865).

In New Testament Christology, there is only one Christ. This is what terms like 'only-begotten' mean.

Not only are there multiple 'Christs' in this project, there are multiple 'Jesuses,' and according to him the Romans called all Jewish women 'Mary.' These were indeed common names in the period, but he finds a way to link them into one complex agglomeration. Don't even bother trying to count the 'Eleazar/Lazarus's,' they are the default position:

"And in every case the name of the unnamed character is Eleazar." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 4095).

There seems to be an issue of over-abundance here. The over-worked reader runs from one 'Christ' to another without ever finding a stopping place.


Highly Prefigured

It is common in modern secular Bible scholarship to assume that if an event fulfills prophecy, then the 'prophecy' can safely be dated subsequent to the event, because everybody knows that prophecy is impossible. That is basically why the four gospels are commonly dated subsequent to the Jewish War, believed to be 'prophesied' therein. Our 'scholars' thereupon complete the circle when they explain that, given that 'scholars agree, the gospels were written post-70 A.D.,' therefore there is no prophecy, and there is no God.

This author did not originate that approach, but certainly takes it to the next level:

"Titus backdated Jesus' ministry to 30 C.E., hereby enabling him to foresee events in the future. In other words, Jesus was able to accurately prophesy events from the coming war with the Romans because they had already occurred. As part of this scheme, the fictitious histories of Josephus were created so as to document the fact that Jesus had lived and that his prophecies had come to pass." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 376).

If Josephus' histories are 'fictitious,' why was it necessary to wait until the Jewish War was over to forge the gospels? Fiction can be written at any time. As it turns out Josephus does not actually 'work' for this author any better than does the New Testament, so grab the scissors. He accuses Josephus of 'falsifying history:' "Josephus' works deliberately falsified history to provide support for Christian dogma." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5662), and so he dismisses whatever Josephus says that he dislikes. Josephus, incidentally, is one of his troika of gospel authors. Certainly it is an efficient policy to make the world safe for atheism, if, every time a person or an incident comes along that appears to fulfill prophecy, you rectify the situation by denying the person or incident ever existed!

From our author's standpoint, all 'prophecies' are, by definition, either fictional or after the fact. First comes the event, then the 'prophecy:'

"Josephus then describes Titus' encircling of Jerusalem with a wall. This event has always been understood by scholars as the basis for Jesus' prophecy above." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 2442).

It would be accurate to say it has always been understood as the (partial) 'fulfillment' of Jesus' prophecy. If the date the prophecy was recorded cannot be moved forward, as the Old Testament Messianic prophecies cannot, then their fulfillment must be declared fictive. We are on familiar modern ground here, as our author cannot conceptualize how any event can be 'called' successfully unless it is retroactively. However, if God exists as theists assert, and is not bound by time, then it is undoubtedly possible; moreover, strangely, these people are not even willing to make allowance for familiar experiences like winning bets:

Isaiah Deuteronomy
Dividing Line Track Record
Copernican Revolution Joseph Atwill
70 A.D. Selection Bias

There are real correspondences between the New Testament and Josephus' histories, such as the destruction of the temple. Traditional commentators who follow the end-times approach defined by Augustine did not fail to make mention of these fulfilled prophecies, although modern 'Futurists' will sometimes demand these prophecies (although not others) be fulfilled as a unit, thus requiring the temple to be rebuilt, so it can be destroyed a third time. These bona fide correspondences are the main reason why secular Bible scholarship dates the gospels post-70 A.D. Although our author comes off as a voice from the outer edge, he is actually mainstream in his approach at this point. But it is really a foolish approach. Just as no one can conduct a drug trial testing the efficacy of a new nostrum by making the assumption that all untreated persons will sicken and die,— some untreated persons will likely get better,— even so we cannot evaluate statements about the future, which are made all the time for instance in stock market forecasting, under the assumption that all statements made in real time about the future will be false. All statements about the future cannot possibly be false. (This is how they infer any true statements were not made about the future, but the past.) This popular, 'mainstream' approach is no more than ill-considered atheist polemics.

Our author misunderstands the orthodox prophecy consensus that prevailed until the nineteenth century:

"Jesus' doomsday prophecies were directed against the 'wicked generation' of Jews who rebelled against Rome. Therefore, his threatened 'second coming' was predicting the 80 C.E. destruction of Jerusalem. This was the understanding of most Christian theologians until this century and is still the way the Preterist Christians understand these prophecies." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5579).

"[M]ost Christian theologians" most emphatically never thought the second coming occurred in the first century, rather, we await this event; what Preterists believe, I can't say. "[M]ost Christian theologians" did believe the prophecy of the temple's destruction had been fulfilled, however. He 'agrees' that "All of Jesus' ministry. . .was designed to establish Jesus as Titus' forerunner." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5585), but he is 'agreeing' only with himself. According to him, Titus' arrival on the scene was the 'Second Coming,' which has already occurred on ". . .the day that the Romans under Titus pitched camp outside Jerusalem, the 'Second Coming.'" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 6172). His assumption that it was ever a mainstream idea that Jesus was "Titus' forerunner" is one the nuttiest things about a very nutty book.

Truth to tell, as he also points out, there are some amazing correspondences between the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, and Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus indeed is 'highly prefigured.' Christians look at the same evidence as does Mr. Atwill, and say, 'Jesus must be the Messiah.' Mr. Atwill looks at the very same evidence and says, 'Jesus must not exist, because as everyone knows prophecy is impossible.' The very same evidence believers marshal to show that Jesus is the Messiah, also does double duty as proof of His non-existence:


Born at Bethlehem Pierced
O God His Bones
Cast Lots Born of a Virgin
Mother's Children Lifted Up
Stretched Out My Hands On a Donkey
Weeks The Grave
Thirty Pieces of Silver Light to the Gentiles
Out of Egypt House of David
House of My Friends With the Transgressors
Eyes of the Blind With the Rich
I thirst Darkness over the Land
Gall and Vinegar Shame and Spitting
Familiar Friend Son of Man
Den of Thieves Afar Off
E'er the Sun

The Son of Man

In the gospels, Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of Man:

“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?'” (Matthew 16:13).

While Mr. Atwill would prefer the 'Son of man' to be another party, other than Jesus, saying "he usually spoke of his individual in the third person and not as himself," (Kindle location 266), the identification of Jesus as the Son of man is very clearly and repeatedly made. He claims that Jesus predicts the Son of man, rather than that He is the Son of man. His 'Son of man' is Titus Caesar: ". . .the 'Son of Man,' whose coming the New Testament predicts will bring destruction to Jerusalem, is Titus." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 1455). Most of the people that do this kind of thing are arbitrarily ruling out those gospel passages which clearly identify Jesus as the Son of man. However Mr. Atwill's thesis is that the New Testament is a very late forgery, written on commission by one set of authors after the Jewish War, so on what basis he gets to toss out what he doesn't like is unclear. It should be one unitary composition, like the Koran, if his description of the circumstances of its composition is correct.

Mr. Atwill himself quotes one of the verses in which Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of man: "And He said to them, 'The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.'" (Gospel of Luke 6:1-11, quoted in Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 1839). If the 'Son of man' were some party to come in the future, like say Titus Caesar, why would the fact that this absent figure was "Lord of the Sabbath" impact permissions given to Jesus' disciples in the here and now?

Mr. Atwill seems to concede that Jesus' words, in the gospels, cannot be understood otherwise than as identifying Himself as the singular Son of man: "However, while Jesus did accurately predict events from the coming war, there was a flaw in his foreknowledge — that is, that the person whose visitation actually brought about the destruction of Jerusalem was not Jesus but Titus Flavius." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 285). The idea of a "flaw" in the foreknowledge of a post-dated fictional figure is problematical. Whether this is 'sardonic humor,' or Toto disarranging the Wizard's curtain, I leave for the reader to judge.

Many of the 'Son of man' passages refer explicitly to events of the first advent, they are by no means exclusive to the Second Coming:

"And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." (Mark 8:31).

There is no prophecy that the Son of Man will encircle Jerusalem with a wall, any more than there was that Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed the first temple, would be God incarnate. This author tends to 'bundle' things together; if there is a 'wall,' and somewhere in the vicinity where the wall is mentioned, the 'Son of man,' then the prophecy states 'the Son of man builds the wall.' He repeats this incessantly, as if Jesus really had said it: "Jesus predicted that a 'Son of Man' would encircle Jerusalem with a wall and destroy its temple. . ." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5650).

  • “As I noted above, Jesus predicted that a 'Son of God' would come to Judea before the generation that crucified him had passed away, then encircle Jerusalem with a wall and destroy the temple. Titus is the only individual in history who can be seen as having fulfilled these prophecies.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 1492).

According to Mr. Atwill, "Jesus predicted that a Son of Man would come to Judea before the generation that would crucify him had passed away, encircle Jerusalem with a wall, and then destroy the temple, not leaving one stone atop another. Titus was the only individual in history that could be said to have fulfilled Jesus' prophecies concerning the Son of Man." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 811). As noted above, there is no such prediction in the Bible. There is a prediction that the Son of Man will return,— Christians live in this hope,— and there is in Luke a prediction of the circumvallation of Jerusalem, and there is the repeated prediction that the stones of the temple will be thrown down:

“And Jesus answered and said to him, 'Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.' Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?'. . .But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.” (Mark 13:2-27).

The disciples do seem to be making the assumption that these events will all be simultaneous, but the Lord's reply makes no such assumption. The prediction of the stones' disarrangement was fulfilled in 70 A.D., but the predicted Second Coming of the Lord has not yet occurred.


The Supreme Pontiff

Joseph Atwill claims that the hierarchical form of church polity that would characterize the medieval church was present from the outset:

  • “When one looks at the form of early Christianity, one sees not Judea, but Rome. The church's structures of authority, its sacraments, its college of bishops, the title of the head of the religion — the supreme pontiff — were all based on Roman, not Judaic, traditions.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 382).

Is it very likely that anything like this was the "early," original or authentic form of church polity? Why do Baptists follow a non-hierarchical, democratic form of church organization instead?

Joseph Atwill wonders, "And why was Rome, supposedly the center of Christian persecution, chosen as the church's headquarters?" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 460). A better question would be, when was Rome chosen as the church's headquarters; the answer is, the Middle Ages:

Bible Testimony Paul and Timothy
Quench Not Elections
Cyprian Synagogue
Ecclesia The Theory
Bad Government French Revolution

If, indeed, the Christian church had a native structure of hierarchy, that would be puzzling. Rome, prior to the collapse of the Republic, had a mixed constitution with some democratic elements combined with aristocratic institutions like the Senate. The emperors brought in totalitarianism. The scheme of top-down hierarchical rule is more similar to the structure of the empire than to anything known to the synagogue. However, since early Christianity knew of no such institution, these musings are somewhat beside the point.


To The Lions

The Roman emperors, from Nero onward, persecuted the Christian church; Nero blamed them for the fire of 64 A.D. According to Mr. Atwill, Jesus of Nazareth was invented subsequent to the Jewish War, in an effort to substitute a pacific religion for Jewish Zealotry which would draw off the pressure from this damaging anti-Roman stream. Oddly enough, even though the Roman emperors invented this religion to suit their own requirements, they also persecuted it, which seems a bit indecisive. Christianity, it is claimed, is "a version of Judaism aligned with their interests" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 702). Was it tailor-made for their purposes,— and if so why persecute it; or not,— and if so, why invent it?

In our author's topsy-turvy universe, the gospels teach that Vespasian is a god: "In fact, the Gospels could have been presented to the Roman senate as 'proof' of he absurd premise that Vespasian's life had been that of a god." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5644). In real life, the Christian martyrs went to their deaths rather than confess Caesar as a god:

According to Joseph Atwill, the gospels "proclaim the divinity of Caesar;" (Kindle location 708); and yet the martyrs died rather than acknowledge the divinity of Caesar. Why were they put to death for refusing a token act of veneration to Caesar, when they actually were worshipping Caesar, or so he says?: "Put simply, the puzzles reveal that Titus is the 'Jesus' Christianity has unknowingly worshipped." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 2883):

  • “It is the moment that 'foresees' Titus switching himself for the Jewish Messiah—which actually occurs in John 21. That is when, following his killing 'Jesus,' Titus begins to be the 'Jesus' of Christianity. . .Titus' problem is that the Sicarii refuse to call him Lord, even after being tortured. To circumvent this stubbornness, Titus simply switches himself into the Jew's [sic] Messiah. The ultimate cruel joke of Christianity is that it causes Jews to call Caesar their Lord without their knowing it.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 3914).

As a further refinement of this "cruel joke," the Caesars tortured and killed those Jews and Gentiles who followed the Messiah and therefore refused to worship Caesar. If anyone in the world was supposed to 'get' this joke, it would have been the Roman emperors who purportedly forged the New Testament; but they obtusely failed to 'get' their own joke. Alas, no one 'got' it until Mr. Atwill made his appearance amongst us.

Either this identification 'Jesus=Titus,' is nugatory, inasmuch as the worshippers of Jesus do not intend to worship Caesar, in which case why bother with it, or it is significant, in which case why persecute Christians to death, as the empire undeniably did? He claims the Christians were in fact worshipping Caesar:

"One of the primary causes for the war between the Romans and the Jews was the Jews' refusal to worship the Roman emperors as gods. Though the rest of the empire did, the Jews would not call Caesar 'Lord.' As I have pointed out, the cruelest deception of Christianity is that by replacing the Jewish God and son of God with Roman emperors, it tricked Jews into calling Caesar 'Lord' without knowing it. Christianity stole the identities of the God of Judaism and his messiah Son, as well as those of John and Simon, the leaders of the messianic rebellion." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5691).

Either stealing these identities did not change the situation at all, in which case why steal them, or the identities were really stolen and worship directed toward Jesus counted as worship of Titus, in which case why throw the Christians to the lions for refusing to worship Caesar?

According to Mr. Atwill's thesis, the Roman emperors invested a sizeable sum of money in producing Christianity, and then, just as their new religion began to succeed in attracting attention, they proceeded to try to stamp it out by murdering its adherents. (Although in this case, the persecution actually began before the religion even existed; go figure.) How did the Romans ever conquer the world, if they were so prone to sabotaging their own efforts? If you want the religion to spread, then don't simultaneously try to stamp it out. Small doses of common sense, judiciously applied, would have saved Mr. Atwill years of fruitless labor.


U.S.S. Missouri

When the Japanese dignitaries climbed on board the Battleship Missouri to sign the surrender documents ending the war in the Pacific, they must have paused to reflect, if war is the answer, then what was the question? Their cities lay in smoking ruins, the flower of their young manhood was gone, and the thought of a magical, instantaneous return to the status quo ante before the war must have been appealing. Whatever the problems before the war for which militarism had seemed the solution, at least their friends and relatives were alive. War is a zero sum game, starting a war is a throw of the dice, and over the long haul a combatant's chance of success using this method cannot be better than 50-50. Militarism has its allure, but it often proves fool's gold.

There is an arrogant assumption in the world today that of course the first century Zealots were altogether and entirely in the right, everyone who disagrees with their approach is anti-semitic, and every other form of Judaism but Zealotry is false and inauthentic. Joseph Atwill buys into these common modern assumptions, although he cannot, like Reza Aslan, create a world more to his liking by reinventing Jesus as a Zealot; his Jesus is fictional! Although all available evidence suggests that the 'Fourth Philosophy' was a minority viewpoint, Mr. Atwill puts reality on notice that no one not an adherent will be admitted into first century Judaism, but must suffer the mournful fate of being declared fictitious:

"Like his 'Apostles' Simon and John, the real 'Savior Messiah' would have been completely in accordance with the messianic movement that fought against Rome. He would have been a militaristic Zealot." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 3399).

But isn't this like making David Koresh of Waco into a saint. These people destroyed Judaea. They were the falsest of false prophets; they ran though God had not sent them; they made wild and blasphemous claims, which proved altogether worthless when it all came crashing down on them. If God Himself had not come down and warned them not to do this, one might excuse them by saying, they didn't know. The consequence of their presumption was unmitigated disaster; the Jewish War and the bar Kochba revolt combined left Palestine with a majority Gentile population, left millions of Jews dead or enslaved, and eradicated the Jewish homeland. With the Japanese and German militarists, it seems like people can see that they were wrong: they brought ruin upon their countries, what they promised did not happen but only horrifyingly unwanted and unintended consequences. It is strange that people cannot see the same thing about the Zealots. If these people are the friends of Judaism, who are its enemies?

The Zealots' penchant for mass suicide is a striking characteristic of their movement. It happened not only at Masada, though that is the most famous incident. Josephus was a survivor of a group suicide; it would be as anomalous to expect someone to come away from an experience like that with a positive attitude toward the people who tried to kill him, as to expect a survivor of Jim Jones' Jonestown to come away with a positive feeling toward Rev. Jones. Joseph Atwill believes about the world whatever he chooses to believe, and since the Zealots are his heroes, the stories of their repeated mass suicides must be "complete fiction (Kindle location 6727). But thank goodness we are not under the governance of these madmen. The Zealots had no concern for the consent of the governed, they seized power by violence and governed through terror, like the Bolsheviks.

The Rabbis' complaints about the Zealots centered around their indifference to public sentiment, their failure to observe due process, which is a bedrock requirement of Mosaic law, plus the Rabbis did not think it was a good outcome for everybody to end up dead, like in an old-fashioned opera. Even though our author first arrived at the conclusion that Christianity was a false front through the erroneous perception that everybody in first century Palestine was a Zealot, the realization that the Rabbis were, by and large, no more Zealots than are Christians does not cause him to go back and re-examine his thesis. Rather, he simply throws his net wider, imagining it is plausible that not only Christianity but also Rabbinic Judaism was invented by the Flavians: "These facts provide a basis for speculation about the extent to which Rome was also involved in the creation of Rabbinical Judaism." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 6936):


Cannibal Feast

This author's concept of Christian resurrection calls to mind Uncle Fester, whose project of 'raising the dead' involved a shovel:

  • “This interpretation indicates a different origin for the Christian concept of 'resurrection' than that traditionally held. It is not based on the Pharisaic belief that God will return the dead to life, but rather is a satire of the 'raising' of the dead by Titus at the end of the siege. In other words, the Gospels' concept of 'resurrection' refers to those Jews found 'buried' within the 'tombs' under Jerusalem at the end of the siege.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 1384).

It seems more likely the Christian concept of resurrection owes a lot to the Old Testament concept of resurrection, rather than to the idea of shovelling out dead bodies which remain dead:

"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Daniel 12:2).

This author believes Lazarus' raising was the prelude to a cannibal feast. Josephus recounts a tragic and horrifying instance of cannibalism that occurred during the siege of Jerusalem. This half-cannibalized baby is supposed to remind us of the Passover lamb, which in turn is a type of Christ. The mother of this child is named 'Mary,' which is hardly remarkable. Reportedly, in excess of one fifth of the women in Jerusalem in the first century were named 'Mary,' so how arresting can it be to come across a woman of that name?

"We have a data base of about 3000 named persons (2625 men, 328 women, excluding fictional characters). Of the 2625 men, the name Joseph (including Yose, the abbreviated form) was borne by 218 or 8.3%. (It is the second most popular Jewish male name, after Simon/Simeon.) The name Judah was borne by 164 or 6.2%. The name Jesus was borne by 99 or 3.4%. The name Matthew (in several forms) was borne by 62 or 2.4 %. Of the 328 named women (women’s names were much less often recorded than men’s), a staggering 70 or 21.4% were called Mary (Mariam, Maria, Mariame, Mariamme)." (Richard Bauckham, March 1, 2007, Guest Blog Entry).

'Mariamne,' mentioned often by Josephus, bears the same name, and her sons were killed as well, though she did not cannibalize them. (Coincidentally enough, neither did Mary, mother of Jesus.) It is not correct that the baby-eating Mary is "the sole Mary in Wars of the Jews" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 1664).

The half-cannibalized baby is a tragic historic circumstance recorded by Josephus. This is of course the fulfillment of a curse: "You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you." (Deuteronomy 28:53), which is, however, no reason to believe it didn't happen. The history of the Russian people also shows that, in conditions of extreme food shortage, some people will resort to cannibalism. Nor was this even the first fulfillment in Israel's checkered history:

"The hands of the compassionate women have cooked their own children; they became food for them in the destruction of the daughter of my people." (Lamentations 4:10).

But somehow our author leaps from this tragic historic circumstance to the discovery that Jesus was a cannibal who devoured Lazarus:

  • “Lazarus' resurrection is a cruel joke. Jesus merely raises Lazarus' body from his tomb. Someone who has been dead for four days cannot be restored to life. This also explains why Lazarus never speaks after he is 'raised' from his tomb.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 3369).

His loved ones then proceed to make a meal out of him. You wonder why someone who is prone to thinking like this doesn't just check himself into a psychiatric facility. He expects us to share his horror at the wickedness of people who would think like this, without noticing that there are no other people who think like this.

Who has not encountered an atheist who first assures you that 'God' is a fictional character, then proceeds to rail against God? So likewise with out author here. His thesis is that 'Jesus' is a fictional character from the New Testament, forged by three Jewish authors, one of whom also wrote a fictional 'history' which conforms to the other fiction. Yet, although this is his thesis, he cannot stay within his own box:

"In each of the Gospels, following the 'resurrection,' the disciples are described as encountering a character named Jesus. However, the dead cannot come back to life." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 3880).

Who is it who believes that the dead cannot come back to life? Josephus? There is no evidence he held any such belief. Rather, Mr. Atwill holds this belief. Moreover, Josephus was, ex hypothesi, writing fiction, and in fiction anything can happen: if the authors want to make people rise from the dead and then fight with light sabers, who can stop them? This project is an odd mixture of our author's religion (atheism) and views that other people may, or may not, have held.

This problem in endemic through out; Josephus, he explains, believed that the cult of Isis and the Jewish religion were "interchangeable:"

"Josephus has also indicated that the cult of Isis and the Jewish religion are interchangeable by deliberately reversing which story he tells first and which religion was 'at Rome.'" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5378).

Certainly our author, who is contemptuous of religion, might well feel that the cult of Isis and Judaism are "interchangeable," but there is no evidence whatever that Josephus, who wrote an apologetic work, 'Against Apion,' attacking, among other things, the Egyptian religion, ever felt this way at all, if one goes by ordinary standards of evidence versus 'conspiracy theory' rules (Josephus was a 'sleeper,' an atheist pretending to theism).


 Against Apion 
by Josephus


Readers of 'Caesar's Messiah' are familiar with the process by which one becomes many; there is a crowd of 'Jesuses,' 'Mary Magdalenes,' and 'Lazaruses' running around. Like the globules rising in a lava lamp, these characters bud into multiples, then re-amalgamate as one with their name-sakes. One of the processes that initiates the splitting is our old friend, the 'Bible contradiction' so beloved of atheists:

  • “The notion that the New Testament is referring to more than one individual as 'Jesus,' while seemingly far-fetched, is actually the only way to resolve the contradictory facts within it. In fact, as with 'Mary Magdalene,' the authors made it logically impossible for the 'Jesuses' described in the four Gospels to have been the same person. . .Likewise, the Jesus who is crucified in the Gospel of John could not be the Jesus who is crucified in any of the Synoptic Gospels, because he is crucified on the day before Passover, whereas all the other Jesuses are crucified on Passover itself.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 3854).

This "herd of Jesuses" is "an ironic joke," which it may well be, though who the joke's on is up for debate,

"As the New Testament's final dark comic stroke, each Gospel concludes with a different individual as its Jesus. Of course, the final Jesus is the one described in John 21, the very end of the Gospels. That Jesus is Titus, the 'true' Son of God whom Christianity worships.
"I suspect that the herd of Jesuses roaming about at the conclusions of the four Gospels are an ironic joke. . ." (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 4046).

Is there no way out of this 'Wrong Day' 'Bible contradiction' than to replicate 'Jesuses,' or is this 'Bible Contradiction,' like most of that class, a great big Nothing-Burger:

I Thirst Timothy the Gentile
Faith vs. Works Love Your Enemies
Paul the Maverick Seeing God
Realized Eschatology He Hanged Himself
Uncorroborated False Witness
Atonement Head Covering
Men and Angels From Everlasting
Preach the Faith Bishops and Deacons
Cock Crow Wrong Day
Two Genealogies Editor's Choice
Sermon on the Mount. . .or Plain The Twelve

Another process that initiates the bifurcation is what one might call false prophecy, or lack of similitude between type and anti-type. The way our author does typology is, he cheats. Jesus of Nazareth, he claims, is a fictional character expressly designed to match up with Titus Caesar. But many the most well-known events of Jesus' life conform to nothing that ever happened to Titus, neither in the interval after his father's death when he purportedly commissioned the composition of the New Testament, nor afterwards. Was Titus ever crucified, or could he have wished or expected to be? Um. . .got to be one of those other 'Jesuses. . .' For typology to work, it is by no means necessary for the anti-type to conform to a perfect mirror image of the type; however, given that in this case the type is purportedly no more than a fictional pointer, the lack of similitude is puzzling.


How Many Gods?

Christianity is a monotheistic faith:

“Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”’” (Mark 12:29-30).

But that won't do, how can Vespasian, Titus and Domitian be gods if there is only one God? Fortunately, in the Land of Make-Believe, changing things is just as easy as, well, changing them:

"Christian theologians have made numerous efforts to explain Jesus' meaning here. My explanation is that it is a revelation that Jesus was a 'god' and not 'God.'" (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 5604).

When Joseph Atwill lays down the law, that if Josephus' histories show the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecies, then Josephus must have been writing fiction, is unfortunately not anything out of the ordinary for modern 'scholarship;' they routinely date texts after prophesied events. However some of these people realize Mr. Atwill is not an asset to their cause. Perhaps they are uneasy that he assumes the chapter headings in Josephus go all the way back to the original author, although they probably do not. He is nevertheless very highly regarded by atheist worthies like Richard Dawkins:



The Old Testament prophet Malachi foretold a fore-runner who would announce the advent of God:

“'Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,' Says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1).

It would be different if Christians were left to speculate on this party's identity; but he is explicitly and unambiguously identified as John the Baptist: “As it is written in the Prophets: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.”’ John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Mark 1:2-3). So, as far as Christians are concerned, that's who Malachi's fore-runner is: John the Baptist:

But this will not do for our author. As noted, he has this Round Robin going on where the Messianic claim of Vespasian, who historically did indeed self-identify as the Hebrew Messiah,— Josephus, after all, is a reliable historian,— must somehow elide over to his son Titus, who is not reported to have himself embraced the same claim, and there is nothing in the Messianic thought of the day to suggest that the Messiah will found a dynasty of Messiahs, or will be the first in a sequence of Messiahs, although pagan observers may not have realized this,— because Titus, not Vespasian the Messianic claimant, is Mr. Atwill's Son of of man who, he claims, must encircle Jerusalem with a wall. Not only must the claim begin slip-sliding on that end, but at the commencement, John the Baptist must move over from his position as fore-runner, to make way for Jesus who now must become Malachi's fore-runner:

  • “I shall show that Jesus' ministry was designed to prove that he was the Malachi, or messenger, of the 'true' Messiah.— Titus Flavius. Malachi means 'my messenger' in Hebrew and was used as a cognomen for the prophet Elijah.”
  • (Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, Kindle location 690).

If in fact, as he claims, the New Testament was written by three Jewish authors in the employ of Titus subsequent to the death of Vespasian, then why does it not portray Jesus as Malachi's fore-runner, as it very easily could have done? Why does it deliberately and unambiguously assign this role to another party, John the Baptist, long dead by this time? No wonder the wondrous fact that Jesus was Titus' fore-runner was kept secret for 2,000 years, because the New Testament authors say nothing about it, and what they do say rules it out.