If you’re still iffy on the whole historical-Jesus-existing business, plan a last-minute trip to London this weekend.
Joseph Atwill, a self-described biblical scholar and avowed Jesus denier, is holding a one-day symposium on Saturday, when he plans to divulge “a controversial new discovery.” Atwill claims to have uncovered ancient confessions that prove Jesus of Nazareth was a fictional fabrication of first-century Roman aristocrats. The entire New Testament, he asserts, was nothing more than Iron Age propaganda meant to placate the masses.
“Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century,” Atwill said in a statement. “When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare.”
The symposium, “Covert Messiah,” promises to offer insight into how the ruling classes have maintained their power throughout the ages. For an admission price of £35 ($55), attendees can watch Atwill’s presentation as he unveils purported evidence to back up his claims. He’s been sounding the alarm for several years -- his book “Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus” was published by Ulysses Press in 2006 -- but for Saturday’s event, he promises new research that will convince even the staunchest skeptic that Jesus was a fabrication.
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But Atwill’s critics -- and there are plenty of them -- say it’s Atwill who is the fake. Recent posts on Patheos, the Blaze, Christian Post and elsewhere cite his lack of credentials and peer-reviewed research. Moreover, the question of whether Jesus was an actual person is not hotly debated among historians, although theories such as Atwill’s persist and in fact are quite prevalent in some parts of the world. Bart Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recently sought to quell the deniers with his book “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.” In it, Ehrman asserts that the historical existence of Jesus is widely accepted in academia.
Atwill has his supporters, however. At the symposium, he will be joined by fellow denier Kenneth Humpreys, author of the book “Jesus Never Existed” and its accompanying website. The event will also include a documentary based on Atwill’s book.
So, was Jesus Christ merely a fictional product of psychological warfare? Since none of us were alive about 2,000 years ago, we’ll just have to listen to the surviving evidence and decide for ourselves.