On Thursday, October 10, Rob Williams of The Independent reported that controversial Bible scholar Joseph Atwill will be sharing his theory that the New Testament stories about the life of Jesus Christ were actually an attempt by Romans to end a series of violent uprisings in first-century Israel at a conference in London, England on October 19.
According to Williams, "Joseph Atwill, who is the author of a book entitled 'Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus', asserts that Christianity did not begin as a religion, but was actually a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire.
"At the 'Covert Messiah' conference, to be held at the Conway Hall in Holborn... Atwill will present his theory that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they entirely fabricated the story of Jesus Christ."
In the first century A.D., Israel, then officially known as Palestine, was a hotbed of political and religious unrest as various Jewish factions fought against each other and the Roman Empire. Several false messiahs led revolts that resulted in what amounted to terrorist attacks on Romans and fellow Jews who preferred trying to coexist peacefully with their pagan rulers.
Christ taught people things that were the exact opposite of some of the beliefs of the Zealots and other militant factions in Israel. He told people they should pay their taxes, cooperate when asked to do things by Roman soldiers and turn the other cheek instead of fighting back when they were wronged.
Atwill believes these teachings were really a form of psychological warfare used to persuade extremists to adopt less violent methods.
According to Williams, "Outlining his ideas in a blog posting on his website Mr Atwill writes: 'Christianity... was actually developed and used as a system of mind control to produce slaves that believed God decreed their slavery.'
"Atwill says that acts of insurrection by Jewish sects, who were awaiting the arrival of a so-called 'warrior Messiah' in Palestine, were a perpetual problem for the Roman Empire and that after the Empire had exhausted all traditional means of dealing with the problem they resorted to psychological warfare."
Williams added that Atwill started noticing some parallels between the New Testament and a book called "Wars of the Jews" by the historian Flavius Josephus that led him to believe that the stories of Christ's ministry in Israel were actually based on a military campaign led by the Roman Emperor Titus Flavius. Atwill claims that Christ and Flavius went to the same places in the same order.
According to Atwill's blog, "His findings led him to a startling new conclusion about the origins of Christianity – that a Roman imperial family, the Flavians, had created Christianity to pacify the Jews' rebellion against Rome, and even more incredibly, they had placed a literary satire within the Gospels and 'Wars of the Jews' to inform posterity of this fact."
Simon Tomlinson and William Turvill of The Daily Mail added that Atwill believes his theory will eventually be accepted by professing Christians. However, most other Bible scholars disagree with him.
According to Tomlinson and Turvill, "... bible academic Professor James Crossley, from the University of Sheffield, compared Atwill's theory to a Dan Brown fiction book.
"He told Mail Online: 'These types of theories are very common outside the academic world and are usually reserved for sensationalist literature.
"'They are virtually non-existent in the academic world.'
"He also suggested the theories are not taken seriously by experts.
"Crossley said: 'People do debate about how much we can know about Jesus, but the idea that Romans invented stories about Jesus is outside of the academic world.'"