Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
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11-06-2014, 09:43 PM (This post was last modified: 11-06-2014 11:02 PM by John.)
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I'll try to keep this answer brief and to the point. I've spent way too much good time trying to understand the history.

Thanks for the breakdown! I think I'll comment on the bits you wrote.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This Jesus character, if he ever existed, must have been a Jew, not a Christian. His family and followers were Jews too.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  His very Jewish family continued to exist and lead a bunch of fundamentalist Jews called the Nazarenes for a few hundred years after Jesus' death.

I'm not sure why you'd think his family had anything to do with the movement. Paul allegedly mentions one brother, James, and doesn't say anything about him. The Gospels on the other hand merely mention some of his siblings by name and give the impression that Jesus wasn't well received in his hometown, i.e. among the people he knew best. Apart from James (the Just, brother of Jesus?) I'm not aware of traditions that link his family members to the movement, except for maybe the one page long Epistle of Jude (probably pseudonymous), the author of which claims to be the brother of James and a servant of Jesus, weirdly enough.

In addition, if his family were active in the movement, it would seem extremely strange that there weren't people claiming to be his authoritative relatives, and others trying to debunk such claims, as is the case with Muhammad (fleas be upon him), where we have countless people to this day tracing their ancestry to the prophet's family, if not to the prophet himself.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  If one reads the gospels with a critical eye it is very obvious that this Jesus character was a political insurgent who tried to start a war with Rome. He he grew up in Galilee, an area with a long history of political upheaval against the Romans. He led a troop of young galilean men around the countryside, marched into Jerusalem, upset the tables in the temple, was arrested and crucified by the Romans. He has "zealot" written all over him. Yet in the gospels he is usually presented as a benign preacher who told people to love their enemies, for give everyone, pay their taxes to Rome, and turn the other cheek. What balderdash!

I'm not so sure how obvious this is. To my mind each gospel has quite a distinct character and I find their provenance to be an unresolved problem. They certainly don't look like a product of well thought out design to me.

I'm inclined to accept Markan priority as the least problematic hypothesis, but Mark is in so many respects absurd that I struggle to fathom who in their right mind would write something like it and what for -- to me Mark comes across as serious enough to not be a joke/satire, but it makes the closest followers of Jesus look like fools while elevating outsiders, e.g. gentiles, the centurion and women, and Jesus isn't all too appealing either. Matthew seems to get rid of the buffoonery but turns 180 in the question of law observance, whilst embellishing the plot with anything he finds in the OT that a superstitious first century jew might have associated with the messiah. Luke looks like a sad attempt of reconciliating differing views under the umbrella of fictitious history, and John is a chapter in itself.

I can see why someone would write Matthew, Luke or John, but Mark is just... weird. In any case, the liberty with which the derived synoptics treat the original one is so alarming that I dismiss them as disingenuous propaganda, albeit not Roman government one. If anything, the gospels seem to portray a long, messy rivalry between competing factions, and that within what came to be orthodoxy, nevermind the humongous pile of what came to be unorthodox literature.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  The Jews, at least the common Jews, were brainwashed by priests. They thought they were God's chosen people and that they were really special. Yet here they were suffering from the burdens of landlessness, taxation and violence. They dreamed about the Messiah would lead them in a battle against their Roman rulers and establish a kingdom of God on earth. They wanted to be what the Romans actually were... The people at the top of the pecking order.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  So I think the Roman world invented the story of Jesus to convince the Jews that their Messiah had already been and gone and he wasn't a political King but some saviour of souls. I suspect they borrowed details of the real Jesus and reinvented his motives and his personality and his religion to suit themselves.

In light of how diverse the Christian literature was (or at least rapidly came to be), and how unaware Roman authors seemed to be about Christianity well into the 2nd century, I find this one difficult to square. There's also a huge stumbling block I find: Paul. More on that below.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This was as best I can remember something I didn't read anywhere... it just grew in my mind. I found a number of other authors around the world that had the same suspicions and then I found Atwill who proposed how it was done.

I think the Flavians did invent "Jesus." I think Paul was working for the Roman government. As you so rightly point out, Paul knows bugger all about a flesh and blood Jesus… because he wrote before the Gospels. The gospels were written after the first Jewish war.

For the occasion, I re-read the 7 'authentic' letters of Paul with the mindset of trying to envision him as working for the Roman government. It didn't turn out well for the Flavians. In all the letters there was just one piece that I thought could be definitely considered pro-government:

Romans 13:1-7 Wrote:Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

In addition, outside of Latin names in the greetings in Romans and elswhere there was no sign of Paul associating with any Romans, let alone Roman officials, except for 2 bits in Philippians, which Paul supposedly writes from prison in Rome:

Philippians 1:12-14 Wrote:Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard [πραιτωρίῳ] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

This looks like a weird thing to mention if Paul's working for the government, since apparently he'd be in prison for propagating the very thing the government want's him to propagate. It hardly makes sense as a lie either.

Philippians 4:22 Wrote:All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

In light of what Paul wrote before, this can hardly be taken as confirmation that he's associating with the Roman elite, since they're the people who we're given to understand locked him up in the first place. Rather he seems to have made converts among the slaves (= lowliest in the household) and finds it worthwile to mention as a positive accomplishment whilst being incarcerated, to boost his reputation among the recipients, his supporters, I suppose.



Sadly that's all there's to it, apart from the overarching theme of love and benevolence, one piece in Romans seems to be the only thing in the Pauline corpus that a Roman government would wish to promulgate. I was actually disappointed to find so little support for the idea in Paul's letters. To the contrary, however, I did find quite a lot of material that would speak against Paul working for the government, in the Corinthian letters:



1 Corinthians 2:6-8 Wrote:We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

I realise that the mythicists take "the rulers of this age" to mean Satan/demons, but if you're working for the government and by the assumption that a Roman ruler crucified the Lord, you might wan't to choose your words more carefully or avoid such passages alltogether. Next we have:


1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Wrote:I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

And

1 Corinthians 6:1,5-6 Wrote:If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

If you're working for the government, it seems odd that you'd encourage people to avoid civil court and resolve disputes among themselves.


1 Corinthians 7:21 Wrote:Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.

This reading (NRSV) is disputed, but in this interpretation Paul encourages slave converts not to pursue freedom (= be pro-government). The alternative reading (NIV, for instance) reads exactly the opposite and encourages slaves to seek freedom (= be anti-government), but in any case it is shortly followed by this rather unambiguous verse:

1 Corinthians 7:23 Wrote:You were bought with a price [Christ's crucifixion]; do not become slaves of human masters.

Which doesn't quite sound like something Caesar would approve of.

1 Corinthians 7:31 Wrote:[...], For this world in its present form is passing away.

Not exactly pro-government.

1 Corinthians 15:24-25 Wrote:Then the end will come, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Not exactly pro-government.

2 Corinthians 2:4-6 Wrote:The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

Not exactly pro-government.


To these more or less anti-government quotes I'd add that, in general, Paul doesn't seem to be concerned with anything that I could imagine the government wanted to propagate, thus rendering him a rather lousy government employee. The following subjects are what Paul mostly rambles about:
  • abstaing from sexual immorality
  • abolishing food laws
  • ceasing the practice of (un)circumcision
  • loving just about everything
  • importance of faith without deeds
  • collecting money for his racket
  • guidelines for profesying
  • guidelines for glossolalia
  • covering head during prayer(!)
  • resurrection and judgement day
  • persecution of himself


If I had to describe Paul, I'd probably go with something like:


Manipulating hypocritical deluded raving lunatic.


How this guy ever made a single convert in the cradle of Western civilization is beyond me. Which is actually another big problem. Paul is almost exclusively concerned with gentiles, not the troublemaking jews who the Roman government would wish to see adopting more benign religious views. If Paul is trying to achieve that, then judging by his letters, he most definitely sucks at his job.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I think Marcion introduced Paul's writings to the catholic church in Rome in the 140s. I think Paul's Christ was then written into the Gospels. This could be why the original version of Mark (probably the first gospel to be written) didn't contain resurrection appearance of Jesus until much later in its life.

I haven't really done my homework thoroughly enough to have a take on the Marcionites, but so far from what I understand this sounds plausible. I'm intrigued by the idea that all of the extant gospels are 2nd century production and for the most part preceeded by Marcion and his forerunners. It's not like the 'genuine' Pauline epistles have a firm date either -- they make no reference to anything historical that could be verified, safe for the mention of King Aretas (2 Cor 11:32), which means that the dating has to rely on spurious works like Acts or questionable internal evidence, and thus, is fair game for speculation.

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12-06-2014, 02:07 AM
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
(10-06-2014 07:51 PM)djkamilo Wrote:  
(10-06-2014 03:31 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  Yet you miss my point.

Justin never mentions any specific gospels. He knew of no such thing as Matthew, Mark Luke or John...

So it's not surprising that one can find the occasional quote in Justin that resembles stuff that ended up in the canonical gospels, as you have demonstrated.

No, you miss my point. Mark seriously virtually every time Justin Martyr quotes Jeebus and he says he's quoting Jeebus he is quoting from one of the big four. I am beginning to see that you haven't read Justin Martyr and are just repeating empty talking points. I really could add more instances were Justin quotes Luke, John, Mark and Matthew.

(10-06-2014 03:31 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  So please do go on. I'm happy to be proven wrong if you can demonstrate that Justin was familiar with, and therefore quoted from, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. I would love to "get" any idea you can share that is true.
I doubt you are happy to be proven wrong. I didnt say that Justin was familiar with the modern forms of Luke, Matthew, Mark or John. That's just ridiculous.
I never said that. I demonstrated that he only quotes from the four gospels. Which you assured us he never did. You and I know very well that the headings of "according to Luke" or "according to John" are not in the earliest manuscripts. So saying that he didnt classify them as John's or Luke's gospel is an easy way out of being shown to be incorrect.

(10-06-2014 03:31 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  There is a whole lot of stuff he wrote about our Jeebus that he got from apocryphal stories, something that your source conveniently neglects to mention.

Proof please? I'd love to see one Justin Martyr quote of Jeebus from a gospel outside the big four.


Look...the truth here is complicated. I think we're both "right." Have a read of this...

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=Wu6N...es&f=false

pages 120-40
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12-06-2014, 02:35 AM
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
(11-06-2014 09:43 PM)John Wrote:  
(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I'll try to keep this answer brief and to the point. I've spent way too much good time trying to understand the history.

Thanks for the breakdown! I think I'll comment on the bits you wrote.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This Jesus character, if he ever existed, must have been a Jew, not a Christian. His family and followers were Jews too.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  His very Jewish family continued to exist and lead a bunch of fundamentalist Jews called the Nazarenes for a few hundred years after Jesus' death.

I'm not sure why you'd think his family had anything to do with the movement. Paul allegedly mentions one brother, James, and doesn't say anything about him. The Gospels on the other hand merely mention some of his siblings by name and give the impression that Jesus wasn't well received in his hometown, i.e. among the people he knew best. Apart from James (the Just, brother of Jesus?) I'm not aware of traditions that link his family members to the movement, except for maybe the one page long Epistle of Jude (probably pseudonymous), the author of which claims to be the brother of James and a servant of Jesus, weirdly enough.

In addition, if his family were active in the movement, it would seem extremely strange that there weren't people claiming to be his authoritative relatives, and others trying to debunk such claims, as is the case with Muhammad (fleas be upon him), where we have countless people to this day tracing their ancestry to the prophet's family, if not to the prophet himself.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  If one reads the gospels with a critical eye it is very obvious that this Jesus character was a political insurgent who tried to start a war with Rome. He he grew up in Galilee, an area with a long history of political upheaval against the Romans. He led a troop of young galilean men around the countryside, marched into Jerusalem, upset the tables in the temple, was arrested and crucified by the Romans. He has "zealot" written all over him. Yet in the gospels he is usually presented as a benign preacher who told people to love their enemies, for give everyone, pay their taxes to Rome, and turn the other cheek. What balderdash!

I'm not so sure how obvious this is. To my mind each gospel has quite a distinct character and I find their provenance to be an unresolved problem. They certainly don't look like a product of well thought out design to me.

I'm inclined to accept Markan priority as the least problematic hypothesis, but Mark is in so many respects absurd that I struggle to fathom who in their right mind would write something like it and what for -- to me Mark comes across as serious enough to not be a joke/satire, but it makes the closest followers of Jesus look like fools while elevating outsiders, e.g. gentiles, the centurion and women, and Jesus isn't all too appealing either. Matthew seems to get rid of the buffoonery but turns 180 in the question of law observance, whilst embellishing the plot with anything he finds in the OT that a superstitious first century jew might have associated with the messiah. Luke looks like a sad attempt of reconciliating differing views under the umbrella of fictitious history, and John is a chapter in itself.

I can see why someone would write Matthew, Luke or John, but Mark is just... weird. In any case, the liberty with which the derived synoptics treat the original one is so alarming that I dismiss them as disingenuous propaganda, albeit not Roman government one. If anything, the gospels seem to portray a long, messy rivalry between competing factions, and that within what came to be orthodoxy, nevermind the humongous pile of what came to be unorthodox literature.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  The Jews, at least the common Jews, were brainwashed by priests. They thought they were God's chosen people and that they were really special. Yet here they were suffering from the burdens of landlessness, taxation and violence. They dreamed about the Messiah would lead them in a battle against their Roman rulers and establish a kingdom of God on earth. They wanted to be what the Romans actually were... The people at the top of the pecking order.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  So I think the Roman world invented the story of Jesus to convince the Jews that their Messiah had already been and gone and he wasn't a political King but some saviour of souls. I suspect they borrowed details of the real Jesus and reinvented his motives and his personality and his religion to suit themselves.

In light of how diverse the Christian literature was (or at least rapidly came to be), and how unaware Roman authors seemed to be about Christianity well into the 2nd century, I find this one difficult to square. There's also a huge stumbling block I find: Paul. More on that below.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This was as best I can remember something I didn't read anywhere... it just grew in my mind. I found a number of other authors around the world that had the same suspicions and then I found Atwill who proposed how it was done.

I think the Flavians did invent "Jesus." I think Paul was working for the Roman government. As you so rightly point out, Paul knows bugger all about a flesh and blood Jesus… because he wrote before the Gospels. The gospels were written after the first Jewish war.

For the occasion, I re-read the 7 'authentic' letters of Paul with the mindset of trying to envision him as working for the Roman government. It didn't turn out well for the Flavians. In all the letters there was just one piece that I thought could be definitely considered pro-government:

Romans 13:1-7 Wrote:Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

In addition, outside of Latin names in the greetings in Romans and elswhere there was no sign of Paul associating with any Romans, let alone Roman officials, except for 2 bits in Philippians, which Paul supposedly writes from prison in Rome:

Philippians 1:12-14 Wrote:Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard [πραιτωρίῳ] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

This looks like a weird thing to mention if Paul's working for the government, since apparently he'd be in prison for propagating the very thing the government want's him to propagate. It hardly makes sense as a lie either.

Philippians 4:22 Wrote:All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

In light of what Paul wrote before, this can hardly be taken as confirmation that he's associating with the Roman elite, since they're the people who we're given to understand locked him up in the first place. Rather he seems to have made converts among the slaves (= lowliest in the household) and finds it worthwile to mention as a positive accomplishment whilst being incarcerated, to boost his reputation among the recipients, his supporters, I suppose.



Sadly that's all there's to it, apart from the overarching theme of love and benevolence, one piece in Romans seems to be the only thing in the Pauline corpus that a Roman government would wish to promulgate. I was actually disappointed to find so little support for the idea in Paul's letters. To the contrary, however, I did find quite a lot of material that would speak against Paul working for the government, in the Corinthian letters:



1 Corinthians 2:6-8 Wrote:We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

I realise that the mythicists take "the rulers of this age" to mean Satan/demons, but if you're working for the government and by the assumption that a Roman ruler crucified the Lord, you might wan't to choose your words more carefully or avoid such passages alltogether. Next we have:


1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Wrote:I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

And

1 Corinthians 6:1,5-6 Wrote:If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

If you're working for the government, it seems odd that you'd encourage people to avoid civil court and resolve disputes among themselves.


1 Corinthians 7:21 Wrote:Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.

This reading (NRSV) is disputed, but in this interpretation Paul encourages slave converts not to pursue freedom (= be pro-government). The alternative reading (NIV, for instance) reads exactly the opposite and encourages slaves to seek freedom (= be anti-government), but in any case it is shortly followed by this rather unambiguous verse:

1 Corinthians 7:23 Wrote:You were bought with a price [Christ's crucifixion]; do not become slaves of human masters.

Which doesn't quite sound like something Caesar would approve of.

1 Corinthians 7:31 Wrote:[...], For this world in its present form is passing away.

Not exactly pro-government.

1 Corinthians 15:24-25 Wrote:Then the end will come, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Not exactly pro-government.

2 Corinthians 2:4-6 Wrote:The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

Not exactly pro-government.


To these more or less anti-government quotes I'd add that, in general, Paul doesn't seem to be concerned with anything that I could imagine the government wanted to propagate, thus rendering him a rather lousy government employee. The following subjects are what Paul mostly rambles about:
  • abstaing from sexual immorality
  • abolishing food laws
  • ceasing the practice of (un)circumcision
  • loving just about everything
  • importance of faith without deeds
  • collecting money for his racket
  • guidelines for profesying
  • guidelines for glossolalia
  • covering head during prayer(!)
  • resurrection and judgement day
  • persecution of himself


If I had to describe Paul, I'd probably go with something like:


Manipulating hypocritical deluded raving lunatic.


How this guy ever made a single convert in the cradle of Western civilization is beyond me. Which is actually another big problem. Paul is almost exclusively concerned with gentiles, not the troublemaking jews who the Roman government would wish to see adopting more benign religious views. If Paul is trying to achieve that, then judging by his letters, he most definitely sucks at his job.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I think Marcion introduced Paul's writings to the catholic church in Rome in the 140s. I think Paul's Christ was then written into the Gospels. This could be why the original version of Mark (probably the first gospel to be written) didn't contain resurrection appearance of Jesus until much later in its life.

I haven't really done my homework thoroughly enough to have a take on the Marcionites, but so far from what I understand this sounds plausible. I'm intrigued by the idea that all of the extant gospels are 2nd century production and for the most part preceeded by Marcion and his forerunners. It's not like the 'genuine' Pauline epistles have a firm date either -- they make no reference to anything historical that could be verified, safe for the mention of King Aretas (2 Cor 11:32), which means that the dating has to rely on spurious works like Acts or questionable internal evidence, and thus, is fair game for speculation.

Hi John, thanks for this excellent post. A lot of work went into it and I really appreciate that. I'm going to address all of your points. I'm intrigued by what you've written about Paul and I'm not quite sure what I'm going to say to some of your points but give me some time and I'll get there.

I must start by "schooling" you a little about the Nazarenes. You don't seem to know much about them. You write

"I'm not sure why you'd think his family had anything to do with the movement."

Let me tell you why. This is long, but I believe seriously important if you want to understand the real history. Please read it.

The Nazarenes
Yeshua was a Nazarene, as stated in the bible: Acts referred to “Jesus Christ the Nazarene” (Acts 2:22, 3:6, 4:10, 6:14, 22:8, 26:9, NJB.) Most Christians assume the term “Nazarene” referred to the fact that Jesus came from the village of Nazareth. This was, after all, what Matthew claimed, (Matt. 2:23) but Nazareth the place was probably not the real origin of the term. On (almost) every occasion that Jesus was referred to as being “of Nazareth,” the real meaning is “the Nazarene” (http://www.essene.com/What is a Nazarene.htm.) As mentioned, Nazareth the village probably didn’t exist in Yeshua’s time. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxEJHO8KIXY). Calling him Jesus “of Nazareth” was a ploy to distract from his sectarian affiliations. The bible made it clear the term “Nazarene” referred to a sect, when in the book of Acts, Paul is accused of being a Nazarene.
“The plain truth is that we find this man a perfect pest; he stirs up trouble among Jews the world over, and is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect.” (Acts 24:5, NJB.) An important religious sect would not have been named after an obscure Galilean village.

Hugh Schonfield, who devoted his life to studying Judaism and Yeshua, claims Nazarenism was an ancient version of Judaism. (http://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A”Hugh J.Schonfield” AND subject%3A”Nazarenes”). He thought the original founder of the Nazarene sect may have been a Jewish-Arabian prophet named Essa in approximately 400 BCE. So, if he was right, they were already well established in Jesus’ time.

Many eminent scholars have linked the Nazarenes with the Essenian sect at Qumran. One might consider the Nazarene sect a strongly developed messianic form of “Essenism.” (http://www.essene.com/History&Essenes/TrimmNazars.htm).
John the Baptist, Yeshua’s family, disciples and followers were all Nazarenes. The “pillars” Paul refers to (James, Peter, and John) in his second letter to the Galatians, were the leaders and key figures of this group after Yeshua’s death. They too were Jews, not Christians. They practiced circumcision, believed in baptism, and were strict about the Sabbath. They were vegetarians who didn’t approve of the slaughter of animals, either for food or sacrifice. They developed their own “Halacha,” which was their interpretation of the Torah. They were true believers in the power and glory of Israel, saw themselves as God’s chosen people, and were vehemently opposed to the Romans. I think they were zealots, willing to take the Romans on, which was why the Roman world considered a Nazarene “a pest” who “stirs up trouble among Jews the world over.”

They considered the temple was the house of God, but were opposed to the Sadducees who they regarded as Roman collaborators. They had a broad base of support among Jews throughout Judea and much of the Roman Empire. Many ordinary Jews and Pharisees would have considered the Nazarenes brothers in the struggle against Rome.

Yeshua became their chief after John the Baptist’s death, and he remained in charge for (probably) a few years. Leadership was inherited from blood relations, which explains it passing from John the Baptist to Yeshua, and after Yeshua’s death, on to James, his brother.

James and the other Nazarenes didn’t think Yeshua was the son of God, or that he needed to die to save anyone from their sins (http://www.petahtikvah.com/Articles/nazarenes.htm). They believed he was a (human) prophet who they hoped could be Israel’s messiah.

We read very little about this group in the pages of history because mainly Gentiles wrote that history, and the early Christians ignored the Nazarenes, or wrote them off as heretics, or tried to claim that some of them believed in the divinity of Christ. I think the modern reader interested in Jesus should be interested in their story.

What Happened to the Nazarenes?

“It is to the Nazarene records that we ought chiefly to look for our knowledge of Jesus, and we must regard Nazarenism as the true Christianity. As the Nazarenes throughout the period of personal recollection and down to the third generation, that is to say at least seventy five years after the death of Jesus, denied his deity and his virgin birth, we must recognize that these are alien doctrines subsequently introduced by a partly paganized Church, as Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century more or less admits. The Church which received them had no other course open than to belittle the Nazarenes and denounce them as heretics. The historian here has no difficulty in detecting the real heretics.” (Hugh Schonfield)

The Nazarenes were Yeshua’s bona fide disciples. Much of their history is missing, probably because early Christians destroyed it. Yet their tale can be pieced together.
I think Paul masqueraded as a Nazarene in the 50’s and early 60’s. He sent what is now a famous letter to “the Romans,” urging them to obey their Roman rulers. He was trying to outgun Nazarene doctrine with his own pro government perspective. To all true Nazarenes, Paul was a heretic and a traitor to Judaism. The cordial relationship described in Acts is a fiction. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, (d. 236 CE) Tertullian, Origen, Epiphanius, (c. 310 – 403 CE, bishop of Salamis) and Jerome all confirmed that the Ebionites (as the Nazarenes were later called, see below) opposed Paul as a false Apostle. So Christian theology is not based on the historical Yeshua.

The Roman Emperor Nero may have blamed the Nazarenes in Rome for the great fire of 64 CE, and persecuted them. Christians today often incorrectly call Nero’s casualties Christians. There’s a Christian “tradition” that this was when Peter was crucified, but there’s no contemporary evidence to confirm the claim.

Hegesippus, (c. 110 - 180 CE) a Christian chronicler of the early Church who may have been a Jewish convert, writes that after the death of James in 62 CE, the Nazarenes selected Symeon, (aka Simeon) son of Cleophas, to be their new leader. He was one of Yeshua’s relatives, possibly a cousin.

During the first Jewish war of 66-70 CE, some of the Nazarenes may have fled across the River Jordan to Pella. Yet many of them probably tried to defend Jerusalem and therefore perished. The survivors must have been bitterly disappointed by the defeat. The remaining rebels reorganized and moved back into Jerusalem in 72 CE, although they never recovered their status and influence after the war.

Prior to 80 – 90 CE, the Nazarenes were still worshipping in synagogues alongside Pharisees. Yet they soon began to be viewed by their fellow Jews as trouble causers, probably because of their nationalistic ambitions. The Pharisaic Jews referred to them as “minim” (Hebrew for heretic.) A heretic is someone who still remains within the faith, but believes in elements not acceptable to the orthodoxy, so mainstream Jews never considered them Christians. A deep schism formed, and by 90 CE, Nazarenes were excluded from some synagogues. I suspect some Jews opted out of Nazarenism, or were intimidated by it, because opposing Rome was dangerous.

In his “Ecclesiastical History,” Eusebius of Caesaria wrote of the grandchildren of Jesus’ brother Jude, who were living in Galilee during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, (81–96 CE) Vespasian’s son and Titus’ younger brother. (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250103.htm, book 3, chapter 20.) He says they became dynastic leaders of various “Christian” (a misnomer) churches, and continued to be so up until the time of the Emperor Trajan (98–117 CE.)

Kamal Salibi, a former Emeritus Professor at the American University of Beirut, Department of History and Archaeology, wrote that after Symeon’s death, twelve others followed in turn whose names are preserved down to 135 CE (the time of the Second Jewish Revolt.) So there were fifteen leaders of the Nazarene sect after Jesus, all of who were circumcised Jews and relations of Jesus. The word “Desposyni” was reserved uniquely for Jesus’ blood relatives and literally meant “belonging to the Lord.” They governed the Nazarenes. Each carried one of the names traditional in Jesus’ family: Zachary, Joseph, John, James, Joses, Symeon, Matthias, and others, although no later Desposynos was ever called Yeshua.

Sextus Julius Africanus’ (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articl...africanus) reference to “Desposyni” is preserved by Eusebius:
“For the relatives of our Lord according to the flesh, whether with the desire of boasting or simply wishing to state the fact, in either case truly, have handed down the following account... But as there had been kept in the archives up to that time the genealogies of the Hebrews as well as of those who traced their lineage back to proselytes, such as Achior the Ammonite and Ruth the Moabitess, and to those who were mingled with the Israelites and came out of Egypt with them, Herod, inasmuch as the lineage of the Israelites contributed nothing to his advantage, and since he was goaded with the consciousness of his own ignoble extraction, burned all the genealogical records, thinking that he might appear of noble origin if no one else were able, from the public registers, to trace back his lineage to the patriarchs or proselytes and to those mingled with them, who were called Georae. A few of the careful, however, having obtained private records of their own, either by remembering the names or by getting them in some other way from the registers, pride themselves on preserving the memory of their noble extraction. Among these are those already mentioned, called Desposyni, on account of their connection with the family of the Saviour. Coming from Nazara and Cochaba, villages of Judea, into other parts of the world, they drew the aforesaid genealogy from memory and from the book of daily records as faithfully as possible. Whether then the case stand thus or not no one could find a clearer explanation, according to my own opinion and that of every candid person. And let this suffice us, for, although we can urge no testimony in its support, we have nothing better or truer to offer. In any case the Gospel states the truth.” (Eusebius, Historica Ecclesiae, 1:7:11.)

Eusebius also preserved an extract from a work by Hegesippus, (c.110–c.180) who wrote five books of Commentaries on the Acts of the Church. The extract refers to the period from the reign of Domitian (81–96) to that of Trajan, (98–117) and includes the statement that two Desposyni brought before Domitian later became leaders of the churches:
“There still survived of the kindred of the Lord the grandsons of Judas, who according to the flesh was called his brother. These were informed against, as belonging to the family of David, and Evocatus brought them before Domitian Caesar: for that emperor dreaded the advent of Christ, as Herod had done.

So he asked them whether they were of the family of David; and they confessed they were. Next he asked them what property they had, or how much money they possessed. They both replied that they had only 9000 denaria between them, each of them owning half that sum; but even this they said they did not possess in cash, but as the estimated value of some land, consisting of thirty-nine plethra only, out of which they had to pay the dues, and that they supported themselves by their own labor. And then they began to hold out their hands, exhibiting, as proof of their manual labor, the roughness of their skin, and the corns raised on their hands by constant work.
Being then asked concerning Christ and His kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they returned answer that it was not of this world, nor of the earth, but belonging to the sphere of heaven and angels, and would make its appearance at the end of time, when He shall come in glory, and judge living and dead, and render to every one according to the course of his life.

Thereupon Domitian passed no condemnation upon them, but treated them with contempt, as too mean for notice, and let them go free. At the same time he issued a command, and put a stop to the persecution against the Church.

When they were released they became leaders of the churches, as was natural in the case of those who were at once martyrs and of the kindred of the Lord. And, after the establishment of peace to the Church, their lives were prolonged to the reign of Trojan.” (Eusebius, Historica Ecclesiae, 3:20.)

Eusebius wrote that they didn’t fight in the second war (132-6 CE) against the Romans, as they considered Simon bar Kochba, the Jewish commander, to be a false messiah. After this war, the fifteenth Nazarene leader was exiled with the remaining Jewish population when the Emperor Hadrian banned all Jews from Jerusalem.
Over the next few centuries, the Nazarenes headed by Yeshua’s relatives continued as a movement that some Jews joined. They were well respected in their own locales. They moved northeastward, eventually making their way to the Tigris-Euphrates basin, spreading throughout Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia.

The early Christians considered them a heretical sect, so ignored and later suppressed them. Justin Martyr denigrated their beliefs. The developing orthodox Catholic Church deliberately called them the “Ebionites,” “the poor ones” (although Jews did not consider this term derogatory; in fact they used the term to refer to the righteous.) Christians prior to Irenaeus didn’t use this term. He wrote “Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates.” (These men were Gnostics who believed Jesus was a very human teacher.) “They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavor to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practice circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God” (Against Heresies 1:26.)

The Gospel according to Matthew that Irenaeus refers to was probably the same Gospel that Jerome (342–420 CE) and Epiphanius (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13393b.htm) called the “Gospel of the Nazarenes/Hebrews,” which was written in Aramaic. Jerome mentions that he made translations of it into Greek and Latin. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, no significant part of this Gospel survives today. Some scholars believe that it was loosely linked to canonical Matthew, which fits with Matthew being the most pro-Jewish Gospel of the four. It’s possible that this was how some facts about Yeshua the Nazarene insurrectionist made it into the Gospels.

Much later, Eusebius considered the Nazarenes heretics because “they regarded [Jesus] as plain and ordinary, a man esteemed as righteous through growth of character and nothing more, the child of a normal union between a man and Mary; and they held that they must observe every detail of the Law—that by faith in Christ alone they would never win Salvation” (Ecclesiastical History 3.7.) I think Irenaeus and Eusebius depicted the Nazarenes correctly in these quotes.

Gentile Christians came to refer to them indiscriminately as “Jewish Christians” because of their link with Jesus, yet this was another misnomer, because they never were Christians.

By the beginning of the fourth century, the Roman Catholic Church was becoming dominant and there were confrontations with Jews, including the Nazarenes. With the Synod of Elvira, held in 306 CE, prohibitions against eating, marriage, and sex with Jews were enacted in the Roman Empire. Nazarenes were included in this ban, which in effect excluded them from all social and religious association with those in the growing Gentile Christian church.

The Emperor Constantine appointed Sylvester as the head bishop of the Catholic church in 313 CE. According to the Irish Jesuit historian Malachi Martin, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malachi_Martin) a meeting took place in 318 CE in Rome between Pope Sylvester I and the Desposyni. Sylvester provided sea travel for the Nazarene leaders as far as the Roman port of Ostia, thirty kilometers west of Rome. The fact that Sylvester thought it necessary to meet with them suggests that he was curious, yet he initiated the meeting with the intention of exerting his pontifical authority over them.

The Nazarene leaders who appeared before Pope Sylvester quite rightly thought they represented Yeshua’s true legacy. They were, after all, his blood relations, part of at least three well-known lines of legitimate blood descent from Yeshua’s family. They were eight in number, and Joses, the oldest of them, spoke on their behalf. They bluntly refused to recognize the Roman church as having any authority, and made the following demands:
(1) that the confirmation of the Christian bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus and Alexandria be revoked;
(2) that these bishoprics be conferred on members of the Desposyni;
(3) that the Law be reintroduced, which included the Sabbath and the Holy Day system of Feasts, and
(4) that Christian Churches resume sending money to the Desposyni Church in Jerusalem, which was to be regarded as the “Mother Church.”

Such bold claims must have come as a surprise to Sylvester, who refused their demands. They were told that the leadership of Jesus’ church had moved to Rome, and that they had no jurisdiction. Sylvester must have known his church was the impostor, but that didn’t concern him. The politics of power were more important than the truth. This was the last known formal dialogue between Christian and Nazarene leaders.

A few years later Nazarenes began to surface in southern Upper Egypt. In this remote locale, far from the center of Gentile Christianity, they continued to practice their beliefs.

In 364 CE, the Catholic Council of Laodicea decreed anathema on any “Jewish Christians” who continued to observe the seventh-day Sabbath. Historical references to Nazarenes became scarce thereafter. The few remaining believers petered out.

To summarize, the Nazarenes were a Jewish sect that, at least in the first century, had strong anti Gentile political ambitions. Christianity, something quite separate, became a religion for Gentiles. It stole Yeshua the Nazarene’s identity to create Jesus, and reinvented him, not only as its founder, but also as God incarnate and the savior of the world. Christians then suppressed the Nazarenes, who struggled on for about four centuries before they disappeared.

If Yeshua, his family, and his original admirers could speak today, they’d be dumbfounded at the distortion of their legacy.

References:
Eisenman, Robert H. “James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls”
Klinghoffer, D. 1965 “Why The Jews Rejected Jesus”. Doubleday. United States Of America.
Lockhart, D. 1997 “Jesus The Heretic”. Element Books. Dorset.
Lockhart, D. 1999 “The Dark Side Of God”. Element Books. Dorset
Schonfield, H. 1969 “Those Incredible Christians”. Bantam. New York.
Thijs Voskuilen and Rose Mary Sheldon co-wrote “Operation Messiah”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4kTNS18ses
http://ia600401.us.archive.org/34/items/...onites.mp3
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebionites
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ebionites
http://douglaslockhart.com/pdf/THE NAZORAEAN SECT.pdf
http://www.yashanet.com/library/nazarene_judaism.html
http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/ebionites.html
http://www.yashanet.com/library/temple/nazarenes.htm for the above information.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=b7bn...2C&f=false
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=jVyz...on&f=false
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_the_Hebrews
http://www.conorpdowling.com/library/council-of-elvira
http://www.askwhy.co.uk/christianity/0370Ebionites.php
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/te...ippus.html
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12-06-2014, 03:01 AM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2014 03:17 PM by Mark Fulton.)
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
(11-06-2014 09:43 PM)John Wrote:  
(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I'll try to keep this answer brief and to the point. I've spent way too much good time trying to understand the history.

Thanks for the breakdown! I think I'll comment on the bits you wrote.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This Jesus character, if he ever existed, must have been a Jew, not a Christian. His family and followers were Jews too.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  His very Jewish family continued to exist and lead a bunch of fundamentalist Jews called the Nazarenes for a few hundred years after Jesus' death.

I'm not sure why you'd think his family had anything to do with the movement. Paul allegedly mentions one brother, James, and doesn't say anything about him. The Gospels on the other hand merely mention some of his siblings by name and give the impression that Jesus wasn't well received in his hometown, i.e. among the people he knew best. Apart from James (the Just, brother of Jesus?) I'm not aware of traditions that link his family members to the movement, except for maybe the one page long Epistle of Jude (probably pseudonymous), the author of which claims to be the brother of James and a servant of Jesus, weirdly enough.

In addition, if his family were active in the movement, it would seem extremely strange that there weren't people claiming to be his authoritative relatives, and others trying to debunk such claims, as is the case with Muhammad (fleas be upon him), where we have countless people to this day tracing their ancestry to the prophet's family, if not to the prophet himself.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  If one reads the gospels with a critical eye it is very obvious that this Jesus character was a political insurgent who tried to start a war with Rome. He he grew up in Galilee, an area with a long history of political upheaval against the Romans. He led a troop of young galilean men around the countryside, marched into Jerusalem, upset the tables in the temple, was arrested and crucified by the Romans. He has "zealot" written all over him. Yet in the gospels he is usually presented as a benign preacher who told people to love their enemies, for give everyone, pay their taxes to Rome, and turn the other cheek. What balderdash!

I'm not so sure how obvious this is. To my mind each gospel has quite a distinct character and I find their provenance to be an unresolved problem. They certainly don't look like a product of well thought out design to me.

I'm inclined to accept Markan priority as the least problematic hypothesis, but Mark is in so many respects absurd that I struggle to fathom who in their right mind would write something like it and what for -- to me Mark comes across as serious enough to not be a joke/satire, but it makes the closest followers of Jesus look like fools while elevating outsiders, e.g. gentiles, the centurion and women, and Jesus isn't all too appealing either. Matthew seems to get rid of the buffoonery but turns 180 in the question of law observance, whilst embellishing the plot with anything he finds in the OT that a superstitious first century jew might have associated with the messiah. Luke looks like a sad attempt of reconciliating differing views under the umbrella of fictitious history, and John is a chapter in itself.

I can see why someone would write Matthew, Luke or John, but Mark is just... weird. In any case, the liberty with which the derived synoptics treat the original one is so alarming that I dismiss them as disingenuous propaganda, albeit not Roman government one. If anything, the gospels seem to portray a long, messy rivalry between competing factions, and that within what came to be orthodoxy, nevermind the humongous pile of what came to be unorthodox literature.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  The Jews, at least the common Jews, were brainwashed by priests. They thought they were God's chosen people and that they were really special. Yet here they were suffering from the burdens of landlessness, taxation and violence. They dreamed about the Messiah would lead them in a battle against their Roman rulers and establish a kingdom of God on earth. They wanted to be what the Romans actually were... The people at the top of the pecking order.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  So I think the Roman world invented the story of Jesus to convince the Jews that their Messiah had already been and gone and he wasn't a political King but some saviour of souls. I suspect they borrowed details of the real Jesus and reinvented his motives and his personality and his religion to suit themselves.

In light of how diverse the Christian literature was (or at least rapidly came to be), and how unaware Roman authors seemed to be about Christianity well into the 2nd century, I find this one difficult to square. There's also a huge stumbling block I find: Paul. More on that below.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This was as best I can remember something I didn't read anywhere... it just grew in my mind. I found a number of other authors around the world that had the same suspicions and then I found Atwill who proposed how it was done.

I think the Flavians did invent "Jesus." I think Paul was working for the Roman government. As you so rightly point out, Paul knows bugger all about a flesh and blood Jesus… because he wrote before the Gospels. The gospels were written after the first Jewish war.

For the occasion, I re-read the 7 'authentic' letters of Paul with the mindset of trying to envision him as working for the Roman government. It didn't turn out well for the Flavians. In all the letters there was just one piece that I thought could be definitely considered pro-government:

Romans 13:1-7 Wrote:Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

In addition, outside of Latin names in the greetings in Romans and elswhere there was no sign of Paul associating with any Romans, let alone Roman officials, except for 2 bits in Philippians, which Paul supposedly writes from prison in Rome:

Philippians 1:12-14 Wrote:Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard [πραιτωρίῳ] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

This looks like a weird thing to mention if Paul's working for the government, since apparently he'd be in prison for propagating the very thing the government want's him to propagate. It hardly makes sense as a lie either.

Philippians 4:22 Wrote:All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

In light of what Paul wrote before, this can hardly be taken as confirmation that he's associating with the Roman elite, since they're the people who we're given to understand locked him up in the first place. Rather he seems to have made converts among the slaves (= lowliest in the household) and finds it worthwile to mention as a positive accomplishment whilst being incarcerated, to boost his reputation among the recipients, his supporters, I suppose.



Sadly that's all there's to it, apart from the overarching theme of love and benevolence, one piece in Romans seems to be the only thing in the Pauline corpus that a Roman government would wish to promulgate. I was actually disappointed to find so little support for the idea in Paul's letters. To the contrary, however, I did find quite a lot of material that would speak against Paul working for the government, in the Corinthian letters:



1 Corinthians 2:6-8 Wrote:We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

I realise that the mythicists take "the rulers of this age" to mean Satan/demons, but if you're working for the government and by the assumption that a Roman ruler crucified the Lord, you might wan't to choose your words more carefully or avoid such passages alltogether. Next we have:


1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Wrote:I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

And

1 Corinthians 6:1,5-6 Wrote:If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

If you're working for the government, it seems odd that you'd encourage people to avoid civil court and resolve disputes among themselves.


1 Corinthians 7:21 Wrote:Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.

This reading (NRSV) is disputed, but in this interpretation Paul encourages slave converts not to pursue freedom (= be pro-government). The alternative reading (NIV, for instance) reads exactly the opposite and encourages slaves to seek freedom (= be anti-government), but in any case it is shortly followed by this rather unambiguous verse:

1 Corinthians 7:23 Wrote:You were bought with a price [Christ's crucifixion]; do not become slaves of human masters.

Which doesn't quite sound like something Caesar would approve of.

1 Corinthians 7:31 Wrote:[...], For this world in its present form is passing away.

Not exactly pro-government.

1 Corinthians 15:24-25 Wrote:Then the end will come, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Not exactly pro-government.

2 Corinthians 2:4-6 Wrote:The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

Not exactly pro-government.


To these more or less anti-government quotes I'd add that, in general, Paul doesn't seem to be concerned with anything that I could imagine the government wanted to propagate, thus rendering him a rather lousy government employee. The following subjects are what Paul mostly rambles about:
  • abstaing from sexual immorality
  • abolishing food laws
  • ceasing the practice of (un)circumcision
  • loving just about everything
  • importance of faith without deeds
  • collecting money for his racket
  • guidelines for profesying
  • guidelines for glossolalia
  • covering head during prayer(!)
  • resurrection and judgement day
  • persecution of himself


If I had to describe Paul, I'd probably go with something like:


Manipulating hypocritical deluded raving lunatic.


How this guy ever made a single convert in the cradle of Western civilization is beyond me. Which is actually another big problem. Paul is almost exclusively concerned with gentiles, not the troublemaking jews who the Roman government would wish to see adopting more benign religious views. If Paul is trying to achieve that, then judging by his letters, he most definitely sucks at his job.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I think Marcion introduced Paul's writings to the catholic church in Rome in the 140s. I think Paul's Christ was then written into the Gospels. This could be why the original version of Mark (probably the first gospel to be written) didn't contain resurrection appearance of Jesus until much later in its life.

I haven't really done my homework thoroughly enough to have a take on the Marcionites, but so far from what I understand this sounds plausible. I'm intrigued by the idea that all of the extant gospels are 2nd century production and for the most part preceeded by Marcion and his forerunners. It's not like the 'genuine' Pauline epistles have a firm date either -- they make no reference to anything historical that could be verified, safe for the mention of King Aretas (2 Cor 11:32), which means that the dating has to rely on spurious works like Acts or questionable internal evidence, and thus, is fair game for speculation.

You write..

"Paul allegedly mentions one brother, James, and doesn't say anything about him."

James is an of essential character in the story....

James, Jesus’ Brother

I’m indebted to Professor James D. Tabor for providing many of the following insights in his book The Jesus Dynasty.

Josephus and other historians mention at least a dozen Jewish leaders from the first century CE who were hailed as messiahs but killed by the Romans or in sectarian fights with their countrymen (http://www.livius.org/men-mh/messiah/messiah00.html - overview). Each time, the movements they inspired faded into nothing after the demise of their leader. The movement Yeshua was part of (the Nazarenes) was different, because it definitely didn’t fade away until centuries later.

To take over the Nazarene leadership was a risky proposition. Both previous leaders, John the Baptist and Yeshua, had been executed. They now needed a new charismatic commander. James, Yeshua’s brother, was just the man.

Yeshua had been a potential legitimate king and messiah because he was of the royal bloodline of David. James too was of this bloodline, and of the same flesh and blood as Yeshua through at least one parent in common, their mother. It’s possible James was the “disciple Jesus loved,” (John 13:23 and 19:23–25 NJB) not named because Gentile editors wanted to minimize his importance.

Paul, writing in the 50’s CE, stated that he went to Jerusalem to
“meet Peter and James, the brother of the Lord” (Gal. 1:19, NJB.) This hinted at the important status of James. Later in Galatians, Paul wrote,
“So James, Peter, and John, these leaders, these pillars…” (Gal. 2:9, NJB.) That James was in charge is convincingly confirmed by the following quote from Paul:
“When Cephas came to Antioch, however, I opposed him to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong. His custom had been to eat with the pagans, but after certain friends of James arrived he stopped doing this and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision” (Gal. 2:11–12, NJB.) Peter (Cephas) was careful to be seen doing what James wanted.

The book of Acts also portrays James as the leader of the disciples (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?sea...sion=KJV).
Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340 CE,) the most important early Christian historian of all, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eusebius_of_Caesarea) wrote that:
“James, whom men of old had surnamed ‘Just’ for his excellence of virtue, is recorded to have been the first elected to the throne of the Oversight of the church in Jerusalem” (Church History 2.1.2.)

Saint Jerome, a prolific commentator and translator of early Christian material, quoted from Hegesippus’ (a first century writer) account of James from the fifth book of his lost “Commentaries:”
“After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels’ knees.” (De Viris Illustribi.)

The “Holy of Holies” was a term referring to the inner sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem. Since it was unlawful for anyone but the high priest of the temple to enter it, and then only once a year, this suggests James was considered a de facto high priest. The official high priest at the time had been chosen by Rome, and the Nazarenes considered him illegitimate.

James had obviously managed to achieve a high status among his own people. He was described in terms that emphasized his association with the temple and Judaism. His vegetarianism, unshaven state and wearing of linen were all Essenian traits.

Josephus also described James as a pious Jew who was well respected, and observed all the obligations of Judaism. (http://historical-jesus.info/appc.html).

He was clearly a leading Jewish figure in Jerusalem until his death in 62 CE, yet he’s barely mentioned in the bible or in the annals of church history. The Gospel writers and church historians have deliberately diminished his importance for obvious reasons; he was too Jewish, and his beliefs were diametrically opposed to Paul’s proto-Christian theology. His existence as Jesus’ successor also discredits the untrue Catholic idea that the leadership of the movement was transferred to Peter.

Let’s consider the community led by James in the two decades after Jesus’ death. The traditional story about this group is in the book of Acts, (discussed in chapter 17) in which they’re portrayed as Christians, but I think this was a deliberate misrepresentation. The loss of two leaders in close succession, John the Baptist and then Yeshua, must have devastated them. Matthew and John have the disciples going back to Galilee, yet Acts and Luke have the risen Jesus telling them not to leave Jerusalem. What’s clear is that over the next few decades, they settled in Jerusalem.
There’s no doubt that for them, Jerusalem was a dangerous place. Yeshua had been crucified there. The Sadducees and a garrison of Roman troops were an ever-present threat. I think they settled in Jerusalem because they were still dreaming about the kingdom of God, centered in the capital of the Jewish world. The author of Acts explains that this kingdom was still a general expectation when, in the first chapter, the resurrected Jesus appears:
“Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 1:9–12, NJB.) The author was writing seventy-plus years after Yeshua’s death. At this late time the second coming of Jesus hadn’t happened, so he was advising his readers they’d better not hold their breath waiting. This was in marked contrast to what Paul wrote in the early 50’s CE:
“Brothers this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29–31, NJB.)

The Nazarenes called themselves “saints” or “followers of the way” or “the faithful” or “disciples” or “the poor” or the “children of light.” They saw themselves as preparing “the way” for the return of Yahweh as described in Isaiah:
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3, KJV.) They saw themselves as God’s chosen people, and were true believers in the power and glory of Israel. They had a broad base of support among Jews throughout Judea and much of the Roman Empire. All other Essenes and zealots throughout Judea would have regarded them favorably, as would many Pharisees and common Jews. The Roman world considered any member of the Nazarenes “a pest” who “stirs up trouble among Jews the world over,” (see Acts 24:5) with good reason, as they were xenophobic and militant.

They were fundamentally opposed to Paul’s doctrine, (the basis of Christianity) didn’t accept him as an apostle, and quite rightly considered him an annoying heretic allied to the Gentile world. So Yeshua’s family and friends were, therefore, strongly opposed to what became Christianity.

Some early church fathers claimed they wrote an early Hebrew version of Matthew’s Gospel, from which Jesus’ genealogy is derived, but one without the pro-Gentile changes. (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/alexander_a/can...i.v.html). That would definitely have made an interesting read, but not surprisingly, no copy has survived. It would bear only a passing resemblance to what has become today’s Gospel of Matthew.

Some Nazarenes were sent out as missionaries to other cities. The author Douglas Lockhart believes that by the time James died in 62 CE, (discussed in chapter 5) the Nazarenes had boosted their numbers to about eight thousand by recruiting Jews. Peter went to Antioch (as described in Galatians 2.) These missionaries may have even got as far as Rome.

Many historians, particularly those favorably biased towards the “traditional” story put forward in Acts, don’t accept that James and Yeshua’s original disciples weren’t Christians. The writers of the Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, have made a deliberate choice not to discuss the Nazarenes, despite the fact they are mentioned in the bible and by some church fathers. I think the encyclopedia’s authors would have some difficult explaining to do if Catholics around the world started learning about James and the Nazarenes.

References;
Tabor, J. 2006 “The Jesus Dynasty.” Harper Collins. London.
Eisenman, Robert H. “James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls”
This Voskuilen and Rose Mary Sheldon “Operation Messiah”
http://www.thenazareneway.com/james_the_..._jesus.htm
http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/siljampe.htm
http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/james.html
http://www.philipharland.com/Blog/2009/0...ebionites/
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12-06-2014, 03:25 AM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2014 03:15 PM by Mark Fulton.)
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
(10-06-2014 07:52 AM)gilius2k14 Wrote:  For those wishing to judge Atwill’s evidence themselves without having to rely on Richard Carrier’s expert opinion from the perspective of a Biblical scholar (and without needing to judge Atwill personally), start with this:
http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com/signs.htm
http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com/pics/signs.jpg
http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com/pics/model.jpg

The patterns between both books are self-evident; all you need is common sense to realise that.
Comparing the short segments in the above link, all these words/phrases are repeating: Jesus, Jerusalem, Woe x 8, temple/holy house and the signs that preceded its destruction, “false prophets”, famines, quaking, clothes/garments, east, west, clouds, “four winds”, thieves, robbers. You can’t have all those matching elements clustered together in relatively short spaces occur coincidentally/circumstantially.

Same here with the first 2 parallels:
http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com/pics...allels.jpg

Once you start to find parallels in sequence, indicating design, then there is a bias that other parallels with only conceptual matches are likely to be part of the parallel system that was put there on purpose. This is how the Moses-Jesus parallels were discovered, but the “passing through water” one wasn’t obvious at first. And the NT/Josephus parallels are even part of an itinerary framework of Jesus’ ministry and Titus’ campaign with matching locations, which adds another layer to the design:
http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com/location.htm

Domitian was even responsible for complex 3-way typologies, so he’s obviously trying to go “one better” than his brother:
http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com/sevenseals.htm

Once you realise the sophistication of the parallel system and the interpretable satire then it can be proven that both books were authored by the same team, and there are at least 5 ways of reaching that conclusion. The gospel writers didn’t just borrow from Josephus otherwise they would not have included all the satire directed towards Jesus, the Jews and the Christians (the point of designing most parallels). Josephus didn’t just borrow from the New Testament authors because he would have had to invent all the Maccabean names who appear historically on coins based on the names of Jesus and his disciples:

“If you consult the Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names in Web-
ster’s Unabridged, you will find hundreds of Hebrew first names.
Notably, in both Josephus and the New Testament the same few Jew-
ish names proliferate. In War of the Jews there are nine Eleazars,
three Jacobs (Jameses), six Jesuses, five Matthiases (Matthew), one
Mary, four Mariammes, eight Johns, seven Josephs, ten Judases, and
thirteen Simons. In the New Testament the same pattern occurs:
there are seven Marys, nine Simons, two Johns, two Josephs, four
Judases, two Lazaruses (Eleazar), two Matthiases (Matthews), two
Jameses, and, at the minimum, three Jesuses. From the standpoint
of probability, it is unlikely that this set of names would even over-
lap in two works that have so few named characters, let alone with
this many duplications.”

“The answer lies in the fact that this same set of names was
known to have been used by a third group, the Maccabees, the fam-
ily that ruled Israel during the first and second centuries B.C.E.,
until they were replaced by the Romans with Herod.”

When you analyse the typology between the Jesus and Moses, all you get is this:
•8+ parallels with matching verbatim, names, locations and concepts, in sequence
•Parallels that prefigure a person/character based on a type

When you analyse the typology between Jesus and Titus, amazingly you get parallels with the following attributes/make-up:
•50+ parallels with matching verbatim, names, locations and concepts, in sequence
•Parallels that prefigure a person/character based on a type
•Additional information to the surface narration interpretable from most parallels
•Anti-semitism and dark comedy (satire) interpretable from most parallels
•Parallels with deliberate puzzle elements
•Prophetic phrases in future tense that are paralleled by matches specifically in present tense
•Parallels that occur not only in sequence, but in an itinerary framework
•Consistent patterns with corruptions of names and locations in parallels
•Pseudonyms identified from parallels that make sense when applied to other parts of the book(s)
•Parallels that can be combined intertextually/interactively to produce further parallels and information
•Parallels with dates and mathematical patterns
•Parallels with blunders
•Parallels with interpretable confessions
•Complex 3-way parallels and typologies

Moses-Jesus was designed by NT authors who did not tamper with the OT (parallels too unsophisticated).
Jesus-Titus was designed by the authors of Josephus AND NT since they are way too sophisticated to be constructed single-sided.

Atwill’s new book Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah shows that Shakespeare discovered the same patterns as Joe several hundred years prior and began the first play, Titus Andronicus, based on the puzzle of Decius Mundus:
http://www.caesarsmessiahproven.com/puzzle.htm

Thank you for posting this. It's complicated stuff that takes some effort to understand so.... thank you.
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13-06-2014, 04:50 AM
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
Hi Mark, no problem, but I'm interested to know how far you get before you find it complicated or requiring more effort than a Sudoku puzzle or crossword?
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13-06-2014, 04:46 PM
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
(13-06-2014 04:50 AM)gilius2k14 Wrote:  Hi Mark, no problem, but I'm interested to know how far you get before you find it complicated or requiring more effort than a Sudoku puzzle or crossword?

True.
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13-06-2014, 04:49 PM
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
(11-06-2014 09:43 PM)John Wrote:  
(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I'll try to keep this answer brief and to the point. I've spent way too much good time trying to understand the history.

Thanks for the breakdown! I think I'll comment on the bits you wrote.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This Jesus character, if he ever existed, must have been a Jew, not a Christian. His family and followers were Jews too.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  His very Jewish family continued to exist and lead a bunch of fundamentalist Jews called the Nazarenes for a few hundred years after Jesus' death.

I'm not sure why you'd think his family had anything to do with the movement. Paul allegedly mentions one brother, James, and doesn't say anything about him. The Gospels on the other hand merely mention some of his siblings by name and give the impression that Jesus wasn't well received in his hometown, i.e. among the people he knew best. Apart from James (the Just, brother of Jesus?) I'm not aware of traditions that link his family members to the movement, except for maybe the one page long Epistle of Jude (probably pseudonymous), the author of which claims to be the brother of James and a servant of Jesus, weirdly enough.

In addition, if his family were active in the movement, it would seem extremely strange that there weren't people claiming to be his authoritative relatives, and others trying to debunk such claims, as is the case with Muhammad (fleas be upon him), where we have countless people to this day tracing their ancestry to the prophet's family, if not to the prophet himself.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  If one reads the gospels with a critical eye it is very obvious that this Jesus character was a political insurgent who tried to start a war with Rome. He he grew up in Galilee, an area with a long history of political upheaval against the Romans. He led a troop of young galilean men around the countryside, marched into Jerusalem, upset the tables in the temple, was arrested and crucified by the Romans. He has "zealot" written all over him. Yet in the gospels he is usually presented as a benign preacher who told people to love their enemies, for give everyone, pay their taxes to Rome, and turn the other cheek. What balderdash!

I'm not so sure how obvious this is. To my mind each gospel has quite a distinct character and I find their provenance to be an unresolved problem. They certainly don't look like a product of well thought out design to me.

I'm inclined to accept Markan priority as the least problematic hypothesis, but Mark is in so many respects absurd that I struggle to fathom who in their right mind would write something like it and what for -- to me Mark comes across as serious enough to not be a joke/satire, but it makes the closest followers of Jesus look like fools while elevating outsiders, e.g. gentiles, the centurion and women, and Jesus isn't all too appealing either. Matthew seems to get rid of the buffoonery but turns 180 in the question of law observance, whilst embellishing the plot with anything he finds in the OT that a superstitious first century jew might have associated with the messiah. Luke looks like a sad attempt of reconciliating differing views under the umbrella of fictitious history, and John is a chapter in itself.

I can see why someone would write Matthew, Luke or John, but Mark is just... weird. In any case, the liberty with which the derived synoptics treat the original one is so alarming that I dismiss them as disingenuous propaganda, albeit not Roman government one. If anything, the gospels seem to portray a long, messy rivalry between competing factions, and that within what came to be orthodoxy, nevermind the humongous pile of what came to be unorthodox literature.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  The Jews, at least the common Jews, were brainwashed by priests. They thought they were God's chosen people and that they were really special. Yet here they were suffering from the burdens of landlessness, taxation and violence. They dreamed about the Messiah would lead them in a battle against their Roman rulers and establish a kingdom of God on earth. They wanted to be what the Romans actually were... The people at the top of the pecking order.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  So I think the Roman world invented the story of Jesus to convince the Jews that their Messiah had already been and gone and he wasn't a political King but some saviour of souls. I suspect they borrowed details of the real Jesus and reinvented his motives and his personality and his religion to suit themselves.

In light of how diverse the Christian literature was (or at least rapidly came to be), and how unaware Roman authors seemed to be about Christianity well into the 2nd century, I find this one difficult to square. There's also a huge stumbling block I find: Paul. More on that below.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This was as best I can remember something I didn't read anywhere... it just grew in my mind. I found a number of other authors around the world that had the same suspicions and then I found Atwill who proposed how it was done.

I think the Flavians did invent "Jesus." I think Paul was working for the Roman government. As you so rightly point out, Paul knows bugger all about a flesh and blood Jesus… because he wrote before the Gospels. The gospels were written after the first Jewish war.

For the occasion, I re-read the 7 'authentic' letters of Paul with the mindset of trying to envision him as working for the Roman government. It didn't turn out well for the Flavians. In all the letters there was just one piece that I thought could be definitely considered pro-government:

Romans 13:1-7 Wrote:Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

In addition, outside of Latin names in the greetings in Romans and elswhere there was no sign of Paul associating with any Romans, let alone Roman officials, except for 2 bits in Philippians, which Paul supposedly writes from prison in Rome:

Philippians 1:12-14 Wrote:Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard [πραιτωρίῳ] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

This looks like a weird thing to mention if Paul's working for the government, since apparently he'd be in prison for propagating the very thing the government want's him to propagate. It hardly makes sense as a lie either.

Philippians 4:22 Wrote:All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

In light of what Paul wrote before, this can hardly be taken as confirmation that he's associating with the Roman elite, since they're the people who we're given to understand locked him up in the first place. Rather he seems to have made converts among the slaves (= lowliest in the household) and finds it worthwile to mention as a positive accomplishment whilst being incarcerated, to boost his reputation among the recipients, his supporters, I suppose.



Sadly that's all there's to it, apart from the overarching theme of love and benevolence, one piece in Romans seems to be the only thing in the Pauline corpus that a Roman government would wish to promulgate. I was actually disappointed to find so little support for the idea in Paul's letters. To the contrary, however, I did find quite a lot of material that would speak against Paul working for the government, in the Corinthian letters:



1 Corinthians 2:6-8 Wrote:We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

I realise that the mythicists take "the rulers of this age" to mean Satan/demons, but if you're working for the government and by the assumption that a Roman ruler crucified the Lord, you might wan't to choose your words more carefully or avoid such passages alltogether. Next we have:


1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Wrote:I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

And

1 Corinthians 6:1,5-6 Wrote:If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

If you're working for the government, it seems odd that you'd encourage people to avoid civil court and resolve disputes among themselves.


1 Corinthians 7:21 Wrote:Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.

This reading (NRSV) is disputed, but in this interpretation Paul encourages slave converts not to pursue freedom (= be pro-government). The alternative reading (NIV, for instance) reads exactly the opposite and encourages slaves to seek freedom (= be anti-government), but in any case it is shortly followed by this rather unambiguous verse:

1 Corinthians 7:23 Wrote:You were bought with a price [Christ's crucifixion]; do not become slaves of human masters.

Which doesn't quite sound like something Caesar would approve of.

1 Corinthians 7:31 Wrote:[...], For this world in its present form is passing away.

Not exactly pro-government.

1 Corinthians 15:24-25 Wrote:Then the end will come, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Not exactly pro-government.

2 Corinthians 2:4-6 Wrote:The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

Not exactly pro-government.


To these more or less anti-government quotes I'd add that, in general, Paul doesn't seem to be concerned with anything that I could imagine the government wanted to propagate, thus rendering him a rather lousy government employee. The following subjects are what Paul mostly rambles about:
  • abstaing from sexual immorality
  • abolishing food laws
  • ceasing the practice of (un)circumcision
  • loving just about everything
  • importance of faith without deeds
  • collecting money for his racket
  • guidelines for profesying
  • guidelines for glossolalia
  • covering head during prayer(!)
  • resurrection and judgement day
  • persecution of himself


If I had to describe Paul, I'd probably go with something like:


Manipulating hypocritical deluded raving lunatic.


How this guy ever made a single convert in the cradle of Western civilization is beyond me. Which is actually another big problem. Paul is almost exclusively concerned with gentiles, not the troublemaking jews who the Roman government would wish to see adopting more benign religious views. If Paul is trying to achieve that, then judging by his letters, he most definitely sucks at his job.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I think Marcion introduced Paul's writings to the catholic church in Rome in the 140s. I think Paul's Christ was then written into the Gospels. This could be why the original version of Mark (probably the first gospel to be written) didn't contain resurrection appearance of Jesus until much later in its life.

I haven't really done my homework thoroughly enough to have a take on the Marcionites, but so far from what I understand this sounds plausible. I'm intrigued by the idea that all of the extant gospels are 2nd century production and for the most part preceeded by Marcion and his forerunners. It's not like the 'genuine' Pauline epistles have a firm date either -- they make no reference to anything historical that could be verified, safe for the mention of King Aretas (2 Cor 11:32), which means that the dating has to rely on spurious works like Acts or questionable internal evidence, and thus, is fair game for speculation.

Here's some of my spiel on Paul. I'll address your specifics shortly.

Was Christianity a Product of the Roman Government?

There’s a fascinating angle to consider; that the Roman government was the driving force behind Paul’s pagan propaganda. Paul taught that the Jewish messiah was the Christ, and he’d already been and gone, I think because he didn’t want Jews rallying under a yet to arrive militaristic messiah who would challenge Roman rule. I strongly suspect the government employed Paul, because they wanted to mar the power of messianic Judaism, and particularly Nazarenism. They were trying to stop a war.
Rome knew a revolt was brewing in Palestine in the 50’s and 60’s. The government sent many different procurators to Palestine to control the unrest, yet many of them were corrupt, which only made matters worse. All Jews in the Diaspora felt a connection with Jerusalem and the temple; they even sent money as an annual gift to the priests in the temple. The government was aware that many Jews didn’t assimilate well in a political and social sense, and that made them suspicious of their Palestinian connections. Jewish extremists throughout the empire (such as Yeshua) promoted the subversive idea that their own Jewish king should govern the world on behalf of God and in place of Caesar. If the government couldn’t pacify these Jews, it would set a dangerous precedent for other races to revolt. They needed to keep control over the trade routes to Asia and Egypt. They were frustrated at having to repeatedly use force to suppress Jewish extremists, as it was disruptive, expensive, and taxing on morale. They thought that if they could undermine Jewish extremism using propaganda it would prevent a whole world of hassle.

There might have been many “Pauls” working as government agents. One of the reasons I suspect this is that he wrote to a community in Rome to introduce himself, and it’s obvious from his letter that this group already had some beliefs about a Christ. The government was worried that Judaism was attracting converts from Gentiles. Paul’s role was to stop the spread of the subversive religion. He tried to infiltrate the Nazarenes to undermine them and their messianic message. I suspect (but can’t prove) he passed information about them on to Roman authorities. His “conversion,” in which “God’s” new ideas were revealed only to him, and by which he became the founding member of his own Christ fan club, was his modus operandi. This explains why he wrote with such passion; he was desperate to sell his watered down, non-militaristic version of Judaism, one that downplayed the importance of the temple and all the ethnocentric antisocial practices. His aim was to counter Jewish messianic fervor, which was building in momentum and needed to be quelled. He failed, because Jews in Palestine revolted in the war of 66 -70 CE.

This theory fits with the fact Paul was a Roman citizen, and that he had little genuine respect for Pharisaic Judaism. It could be why he didn’t publically reveal he was Roman until he was about to be physically assaulted by Roman soldiers. It would explain how he managed to support himself financially. It might also be why he hoped a financial gift to the Nazarenes in Jerusalem would be accepted; he was trying to endear himself to the Nazarenes using bribery. It explains why he often insisted that the Torah was obsolete, and why he was like a dog gnawing at a bone promoting his own theology instead. It makes clear why he wrote this to a Roman community:
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:1-7 KJV.) A government agent wrote this, not a Jesus fan who had seen the light!

It explains the way he finished off his letter to the Philippians:
“All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22, KJV.) This confirms that he had contact with the Emperor Nero’s family.
It fits with the fact the book of Acts states:
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Acts 13:1, KJV.) So the earliest Christian community at Antioch boasted a member of Herod Antipas’ family, the pro-Roman Tetrarch who had murdered John the Baptist, and Paul (Saul) was associated with him.

It clarifies the real reason why, in the book of Acts, he was repetitively roughed up by traditional Jews nearly everywhere he went, yet was never attacked by Gentiles. It explains why once the local Roman authorities knew who he was and what he was up to, he was treated so well, despite the fact he so regularly disturbed the peace. Paul’s so called “arrest” by Roman troops in Jerusalem doesn’t mean he wasn’t in league with them. Things had got a little out of control and he ended up being a source of civil unrest. He’d become a diehard dogmatist causing trouble wherever he went. Instead of undermining Judaism, he incited Jews to the point of violence, something Rome didn’t want. The “arrest” was, in fact, for his own safety. Reading between the lines, he was never treated like a prisoner. Rather, there were remarkable Roman resources used to protect him. He had to be moved to Rome, as it was the best place his safety could be guaranteed (this will be discussed in chapter 17 about the book Acts.)
We don’t hear from Paul after the early 60s. The anti-Jewish propaganda project hadn’t worked, and the time for talk was over; the military had to be bought in. He had become redundant. There is a Christian “tradition” he was executed in Rome, but no valid reason why that would have happened, and no good evidence to say it did. (http://archives.politicususa.com/2011/12...ink.html).

If this theory is true, Paul was a spy and a charlatan; a cog in the wheel of a cunning government plan. I’m not suggesting that he didn’t wholeheartedly believe in the value of what he was doing. If the project had been successful the first (66-70CE) and second (132-5 CE) Jewish wars would have been averted. I think he knew he was promoting manufactured dogma as a means to an end.

This means Rome, via Paul, created the Christ, a benign pacifist messiah.
Thijs Voskuilen and Rose Mary Sheldon co-wrote “Operation Messiah,” and come to a similar conclusion. They postulate that Paul was “…supporting the imperial structure, benefiting from it, cooperating with it, often saved by it. The end product for Rome was exactly what it wanted - a loyal, other –worldly, spiritual movement that was completely divorced from Palestinian revolutionary movements, from Jewish nationalism and from any challenge to Roman imperial authority. Its followers were supposed to pay taxes and be loyal citizens of the emperor.”

The government hoped the story of the new idol would convince people that true spirituality and the promise of eternal life were synonymous with getting along with them. It was the winners that wrote the history.

Ever since ancient times, people in power have always tried to control popular opinion, and haven’t hesitated to flagrantly manipulate the facts, and I think this was one such example. It’s ironic that the Gospels, said to be so truthful, became one of the most successful literary enterprises ever undertaken in the history of the world, yet were so manufactured. Yet the Gospel authors too never achieved their original intention, as they didn’t prevent the second major war with the Jews in 132-6 CE.

In modern times, this is called propaganda, disinformation or psychological warfare. It’s fascinating to imagine these subversive tactics as part of the first-century Roman Empire and jaw-dropping to realize the dogma has survived without being exposed for what it probably is, and is still coloring the way people, and in particular trusting Christians, look at the world. Today, most Christians misunderstand what the actual (Jewish) Messianic movement was. This misunderstanding was Rome’s doing.
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13-06-2014, 05:11 PM
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
(11-06-2014 09:43 PM)John Wrote:  
(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I'll try to keep this answer brief and to the point. I've spent way too much good time trying to understand the history.

Thanks for the breakdown! I think I'll comment on the bits you wrote.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This Jesus character, if he ever existed, must have been a Jew, not a Christian. His family and followers were Jews too.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  His very Jewish family continued to exist and lead a bunch of fundamentalist Jews called the Nazarenes for a few hundred years after Jesus' death.

I'm not sure why you'd think his family had anything to do with the movement. Paul allegedly mentions one brother, James, and doesn't say anything about him. The Gospels on the other hand merely mention some of his siblings by name and give the impression that Jesus wasn't well received in his hometown, i.e. among the people he knew best. Apart from James (the Just, brother of Jesus?) I'm not aware of traditions that link his family members to the movement, except for maybe the one page long Epistle of Jude (probably pseudonymous), the author of which claims to be the brother of James and a servant of Jesus, weirdly enough.

In addition, if his family were active in the movement, it would seem extremely strange that there weren't people claiming to be his authoritative relatives, and others trying to debunk such claims, as is the case with Muhammad (fleas be upon him), where we have countless people to this day tracing their ancestry to the prophet's family, if not to the prophet himself.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  If one reads the gospels with a critical eye it is very obvious that this Jesus character was a political insurgent who tried to start a war with Rome. He he grew up in Galilee, an area with a long history of political upheaval against the Romans. He led a troop of young galilean men around the countryside, marched into Jerusalem, upset the tables in the temple, was arrested and crucified by the Romans. He has "zealot" written all over him. Yet in the gospels he is usually presented as a benign preacher who told people to love their enemies, for give everyone, pay their taxes to Rome, and turn the other cheek. What balderdash!

I'm not so sure how obvious this is. To my mind each gospel has quite a distinct character and I find their provenance to be an unresolved problem. They certainly don't look like a product of well thought out design to me.

I'm inclined to accept Markan priority as the least problematic hypothesis, but Mark is in so many respects absurd that I struggle to fathom who in their right mind would write something like it and what for -- to me Mark comes across as serious enough to not be a joke/satire, but it makes the closest followers of Jesus look like fools while elevating outsiders, e.g. gentiles, the centurion and women, and Jesus isn't all too appealing either. Matthew seems to get rid of the buffoonery but turns 180 in the question of law observance, whilst embellishing the plot with anything he finds in the OT that a superstitious first century jew might have associated with the messiah. Luke looks like a sad attempt of reconciliating differing views under the umbrella of fictitious history, and John is a chapter in itself.

I can see why someone would write Matthew, Luke or John, but Mark is just... weird. In any case, the liberty with which the derived synoptics treat the original one is so alarming that I dismiss them as disingenuous propaganda, albeit not Roman government one. If anything, the gospels seem to portray a long, messy rivalry between competing factions, and that within what came to be orthodoxy, nevermind the humongous pile of what came to be unorthodox literature.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  The Jews, at least the common Jews, were brainwashed by priests. They thought they were God's chosen people and that they were really special. Yet here they were suffering from the burdens of landlessness, taxation and violence. They dreamed about the Messiah would lead them in a battle against their Roman rulers and establish a kingdom of God on earth. They wanted to be what the Romans actually were... The people at the top of the pecking order.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  So I think the Roman world invented the story of Jesus to convince the Jews that their Messiah had already been and gone and he wasn't a political King but some saviour of souls. I suspect they borrowed details of the real Jesus and reinvented his motives and his personality and his religion to suit themselves.

In light of how diverse the Christian literature was (or at least rapidly came to be), and how unaware Roman authors seemed to be about Christianity well into the 2nd century, I find this one difficult to square. There's also a huge stumbling block I find: Paul. More on that below.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This was as best I can remember something I didn't read anywhere... it just grew in my mind. I found a number of other authors around the world that had the same suspicions and then I found Atwill who proposed how it was done.

I think the Flavians did invent "Jesus." I think Paul was working for the Roman government. As you so rightly point out, Paul knows bugger all about a flesh and blood Jesus… because he wrote before the Gospels. The gospels were written after the first Jewish war.

For the occasion, I re-read the 7 'authentic' letters of Paul with the mindset of trying to envision him as working for the Roman government. It didn't turn out well for the Flavians. In all the letters there was just one piece that I thought could be definitely considered pro-government:

Romans 13:1-7 Wrote:Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

In addition, outside of Latin names in the greetings in Romans and elswhere there was no sign of Paul associating with any Romans, let alone Roman officials, except for 2 bits in Philippians, which Paul supposedly writes from prison in Rome:

Philippians 1:12-14 Wrote:Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard [πραιτωρίῳ] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

This looks like a weird thing to mention if Paul's working for the government, since apparently he'd be in prison for propagating the very thing the government want's him to propagate. It hardly makes sense as a lie either.

Philippians 4:22 Wrote:All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

In light of what Paul wrote before, this can hardly be taken as confirmation that he's associating with the Roman elite, since they're the people who we're given to understand locked him up in the first place. Rather he seems to have made converts among the slaves (= lowliest in the household) and finds it worthwile to mention as a positive accomplishment whilst being incarcerated, to boost his reputation among the recipients, his supporters, I suppose.



Sadly that's all there's to it, apart from the overarching theme of love and benevolence, one piece in Romans seems to be the only thing in the Pauline corpus that a Roman government would wish to promulgate. I was actually disappointed to find so little support for the idea in Paul's letters. To the contrary, however, I did find quite a lot of material that would speak against Paul working for the government, in the Corinthian letters:



1 Corinthians 2:6-8 Wrote:We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

I realise that the mythicists take "the rulers of this age" to mean Satan/demons, but if you're working for the government and by the assumption that a Roman ruler crucified the Lord, you might wan't to choose your words more carefully or avoid such passages alltogether. Next we have:


1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Wrote:I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

And

1 Corinthians 6:1,5-6 Wrote:If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

If you're working for the government, it seems odd that you'd encourage people to avoid civil court and resolve disputes among themselves.


1 Corinthians 7:21 Wrote:Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.

This reading (NRSV) is disputed, but in this interpretation Paul encourages slave converts not to pursue freedom (= be pro-government). The alternative reading (NIV, for instance) reads exactly the opposite and encourages slaves to seek freedom (= be anti-government), but in any case it is shortly followed by this rather unambiguous verse:

1 Corinthians 7:23 Wrote:You were bought with a price [Christ's crucifixion]; do not become slaves of human masters.

Which doesn't quite sound like something Caesar would approve of.

1 Corinthians 7:31 Wrote:[...], For this world in its present form is passing away.

Not exactly pro-government.

1 Corinthians 15:24-25 Wrote:Then the end will come, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Not exactly pro-government.

2 Corinthians 2:4-6 Wrote:The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

Not exactly pro-government.


To these more or less anti-government quotes I'd add that, in general, Paul doesn't seem to be concerned with anything that I could imagine the government wanted to propagate, thus rendering him a rather lousy government employee. The following subjects are what Paul mostly rambles about:
  • abstaing from sexual immorality
  • abolishing food laws
  • ceasing the practice of (un)circumcision
  • loving just about everything
  • importance of faith without deeds
  • collecting money for his racket
  • guidelines for profesying
  • guidelines for glossolalia
  • covering head during prayer(!)
  • resurrection and judgement day
  • persecution of himself


If I had to describe Paul, I'd probably go with something like:


Manipulating hypocritical deluded raving lunatic.


How this guy ever made a single convert in the cradle of Western civilization is beyond me. Which is actually another big problem. Paul is almost exclusively concerned with gentiles, not the troublemaking jews who the Roman government would wish to see adopting more benign religious views. If Paul is trying to achieve that, then judging by his letters, he most definitely sucks at his job.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I think Marcion introduced Paul's writings to the catholic church in Rome in the 140s. I think Paul's Christ was then written into the Gospels. This could be why the original version of Mark (probably the first gospel to be written) didn't contain resurrection appearance of Jesus until much later in its life.

I haven't really done my homework thoroughly enough to have a take on the Marcionites, but so far from what I understand this sounds plausible. I'm intrigued by the idea that all of the extant gospels are 2nd century production and for the most part preceeded by Marcion and his forerunners. It's not like the 'genuine' Pauline epistles have a firm date either -- they make no reference to anything historical that could be verified, safe for the mention of King Aretas (2 Cor 11:32), which means that the dating has to rely on spurious works like Acts or questionable internal evidence, and thus, is fair game for speculation.

I agree with a lot of what you've said. I'll just pick out a few things that maybe we can look at from another angle...

"This looks like a weird thing to mention if Paul's working for the government, since apparently he'd be in prison for propagating the very thing the government want's him to propagate."

Paul was arrested on Jerusalem. He was then given a guard of 500 soldiers to protect him. He stayed, in the palace at Caesaria, for two years. I admit that he claims he was in chains in Rome, but was he really? Would it not be more likely that he had a guard to protect him from angry Jews in Rome? He obviously had access to pen and paper and the mailman in Rome. He sends greetings from people in Rome to others. That doesn't sound like someone who is in prison.

His life was actually saved by the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. I suspect that when he he revealed to them that he was working for the government he was kept under their protection.
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13-06-2014, 05:15 PM
RE: Atwill Documentary...excellent stuff
(11-06-2014 09:43 PM)John Wrote:  
(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I'll try to keep this answer brief and to the point. I've spent way too much good time trying to understand the history.

Thanks for the breakdown! I think I'll comment on the bits you wrote.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This Jesus character, if he ever existed, must have been a Jew, not a Christian. His family and followers were Jews too.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  His very Jewish family continued to exist and lead a bunch of fundamentalist Jews called the Nazarenes for a few hundred years after Jesus' death.

I'm not sure why you'd think his family had anything to do with the movement. Paul allegedly mentions one brother, James, and doesn't say anything about him. The Gospels on the other hand merely mention some of his siblings by name and give the impression that Jesus wasn't well received in his hometown, i.e. among the people he knew best. Apart from James (the Just, brother of Jesus?) I'm not aware of traditions that link his family members to the movement, except for maybe the one page long Epistle of Jude (probably pseudonymous), the author of which claims to be the brother of James and a servant of Jesus, weirdly enough.

In addition, if his family were active in the movement, it would seem extremely strange that there weren't people claiming to be his authoritative relatives, and others trying to debunk such claims, as is the case with Muhammad (fleas be upon him), where we have countless people to this day tracing their ancestry to the prophet's family, if not to the prophet himself.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  If one reads the gospels with a critical eye it is very obvious that this Jesus character was a political insurgent who tried to start a war with Rome. He he grew up in Galilee, an area with a long history of political upheaval against the Romans. He led a troop of young galilean men around the countryside, marched into Jerusalem, upset the tables in the temple, was arrested and crucified by the Romans. He has "zealot" written all over him. Yet in the gospels he is usually presented as a benign preacher who told people to love their enemies, for give everyone, pay their taxes to Rome, and turn the other cheek. What balderdash!

I'm not so sure how obvious this is. To my mind each gospel has quite a distinct character and I find their provenance to be an unresolved problem. They certainly don't look like a product of well thought out design to me.

I'm inclined to accept Markan priority as the least problematic hypothesis, but Mark is in so many respects absurd that I struggle to fathom who in their right mind would write something like it and what for -- to me Mark comes across as serious enough to not be a joke/satire, but it makes the closest followers of Jesus look like fools while elevating outsiders, e.g. gentiles, the centurion and women, and Jesus isn't all too appealing either. Matthew seems to get rid of the buffoonery but turns 180 in the question of law observance, whilst embellishing the plot with anything he finds in the OT that a superstitious first century jew might have associated with the messiah. Luke looks like a sad attempt of reconciliating differing views under the umbrella of fictitious history, and John is a chapter in itself.

I can see why someone would write Matthew, Luke or John, but Mark is just... weird. In any case, the liberty with which the derived synoptics treat the original one is so alarming that I dismiss them as disingenuous propaganda, albeit not Roman government one. If anything, the gospels seem to portray a long, messy rivalry between competing factions, and that within what came to be orthodoxy, nevermind the humongous pile of what came to be unorthodox literature.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  The Jews, at least the common Jews, were brainwashed by priests. They thought they were God's chosen people and that they were really special. Yet here they were suffering from the burdens of landlessness, taxation and violence. They dreamed about the Messiah would lead them in a battle against their Roman rulers and establish a kingdom of God on earth. They wanted to be what the Romans actually were... The people at the top of the pecking order.

I'm with you.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  So I think the Roman world invented the story of Jesus to convince the Jews that their Messiah had already been and gone and he wasn't a political King but some saviour of souls. I suspect they borrowed details of the real Jesus and reinvented his motives and his personality and his religion to suit themselves.

In light of how diverse the Christian literature was (or at least rapidly came to be), and how unaware Roman authors seemed to be about Christianity well into the 2nd century, I find this one difficult to square. There's also a huge stumbling block I find: Paul. More on that below.

(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  This was as best I can remember something I didn't read anywhere... it just grew in my mind. I found a number of other authors around the world that had the same suspicions and then I found Atwill who proposed how it was done.

I think the Flavians did invent "Jesus." I think Paul was working for the Roman government. As you so rightly point out, Paul knows bugger all about a flesh and blood Jesus… because he wrote before the Gospels. The gospels were written after the first Jewish war.

For the occasion, I re-read the 7 'authentic' letters of Paul with the mindset of trying to envision him as working for the Roman government. It didn't turn out well for the Flavians. In all the letters there was just one piece that I thought could be definitely considered pro-government:

Romans 13:1-7 Wrote:Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

In addition, outside of Latin names in the greetings in Romans and elswhere there was no sign of Paul associating with any Romans, let alone Roman officials, except for 2 bits in Philippians, which Paul supposedly writes from prison in Rome:

Philippians 1:12-14 Wrote:Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard [πραιτωρίῳ] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

This looks like a weird thing to mention if Paul's working for the government, since apparently he'd be in prison for propagating the very thing the government want's him to propagate. It hardly makes sense as a lie either.

Philippians 4:22 Wrote:All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

In light of what Paul wrote before, this can hardly be taken as confirmation that he's associating with the Roman elite, since they're the people who we're given to understand locked him up in the first place. Rather he seems to have made converts among the slaves (= lowliest in the household) and finds it worthwile to mention as a positive accomplishment whilst being incarcerated, to boost his reputation among the recipients, his supporters, I suppose.



Sadly that's all there's to it, apart from the overarching theme of love and benevolence, one piece in Romans seems to be the only thing in the Pauline corpus that a Roman government would wish to promulgate. I was actually disappointed to find so little support for the idea in Paul's letters. To the contrary, however, I did find quite a lot of material that would speak against Paul working for the government, in the Corinthian letters:



1 Corinthians 2:6-8 Wrote:We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

I realise that the mythicists take "the rulers of this age" to mean Satan/demons, but if you're working for the government and by the assumption that a Roman ruler crucified the Lord, you might wan't to choose your words more carefully or avoid such passages alltogether. Next we have:


1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Wrote:I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

And

1 Corinthians 6:1,5-6 Wrote:If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

If you're working for the government, it seems odd that you'd encourage people to avoid civil court and resolve disputes among themselves.


1 Corinthians 7:21 Wrote:Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.

This reading (NRSV) is disputed, but in this interpretation Paul encourages slave converts not to pursue freedom (= be pro-government). The alternative reading (NIV, for instance) reads exactly the opposite and encourages slaves to seek freedom (= be anti-government), but in any case it is shortly followed by this rather unambiguous verse:

1 Corinthians 7:23 Wrote:You were bought with a price [Christ's crucifixion]; do not become slaves of human masters.

Which doesn't quite sound like something Caesar would approve of.

1 Corinthians 7:31 Wrote:[...], For this world in its present form is passing away.

Not exactly pro-government.

1 Corinthians 15:24-25 Wrote:Then the end will come, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Not exactly pro-government.

2 Corinthians 2:4-6 Wrote:The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

Not exactly pro-government.


To these more or less anti-government quotes I'd add that, in general, Paul doesn't seem to be concerned with anything that I could imagine the government wanted to propagate, thus rendering him a rather lousy government employee. The following subjects are what Paul mostly rambles about:
  • abstaing from sexual immorality
  • abolishing food laws
  • ceasing the practice of (un)circumcision
  • loving just about everything
  • importance of faith without deeds
  • collecting money for his racket
  • guidelines for profesying
  • guidelines for glossolalia
  • covering head during prayer(!)
  • resurrection and judgement day
  • persecution of himself


If I had to describe Paul, I'd probably go with something like:


Manipulating hypocritical deluded raving lunatic.


How this guy ever made a single convert in the cradle of Western civilization is beyond me. Which is actually another big problem. Paul is almost exclusively concerned with gentiles, not the troublemaking jews who the Roman government would wish to see adopting more benign religious views. If Paul is trying to achieve that, then judging by his letters, he most definitely sucks at his job.



(11-06-2014 05:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  I think Marcion introduced Paul's writings to the catholic church in Rome in the 140s. I think Paul's Christ was then written into the Gospels. This could be why the original version of Mark (probably the first gospel to be written) didn't contain resurrection appearance of Jesus until much later in its life.

I haven't really done my homework thoroughly enough to have a take on the Marcionites, but so far from what I understand this sounds plausible. I'm intrigued by the idea that all of the extant gospels are 2nd century production and for the most part preceeded by Marcion and his forerunners. It's not like the 'genuine' Pauline epistles have a firm date either -- they make no reference to anything historical that could be verified, safe for the mention of King Aretas (2 Cor 11:32), which means that the dating has to rely on spurious works like Acts or questionable internal evidence, and thus, is fair game for speculation.

"Paul is almost exclusively concerned with gentiles, not the troublemaking jews who the Roman government would wish to see adopting more benign religious views. If Paul is trying to achieve that, then judging by his letters, he most definitely sucks at his job."

But think of it like this. He was trying to water down the very nationalistic messianic Judaism. He was trying to dilute Judaism with Gentiles.
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