Was Jesus invented by the Romans as a covert Messiah in an attempt subdue Israel with a message of peace?
By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries
Self-proclaimed biblical scholars Joseph Atwill and Kenneth Humphreys claim to have made a startling discovery. Their assertion: Jesus never existed, and was, in fact, an invention of first-century Roman aristocrats in an attempt to put an end to the constant conflict between the Romans and Israel. Israel's belief in a conquering Messiah motivated the Jews to resist and rebel against Rome. No matter how hard Rome crushed the rebellions, the Jews continued to rebel.
So, covert psychological warfare was employed. The Romans, possibly conspiring with Jewish historian Josephus, and probably under instruction from the Roman emperor, invented Jesus Christ as a peaceful, submissive, and sacrificial Messiah to compete against the idea of the conquering Messiah. Myths and legends about Horus, Osiris, Mithras, Dionysus, and others were woven into the fabricated life of Jesus. And from this "insidious form of mind control" was birthed Christianity, which has been the most powerful and influential religion for the past 2000 years.
For more information, see the press release and the website.
So, is there any truth to this? Should all Christians now abandon the faith, freeing themselves from what is, according to Atwill, a "damaging and repressive" religion that leads to "blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war"?
To put it mildly, the entire "covert Messiah" theory is bunk. It is simply a repackaging of the same atheistic and anti-Christian propaganda that has been repeatedly and soundly refuted throughout Christian history and especially in the past 100 years.
The idea that the story of Jesus is borrowed from the legends of Horus, Osiris, Mithras, Dionysus, and others is nothing new. It has been clearly demonstrated that the similarities between the stories are greatly exaggerated. The ancient manuscripts that contain genuine similarities are dated to after the rapid spread of Christianity, making it far more likely that followers of Horus, Mithras, etc., attached the miracles attributed to Jesus to their "god" in an attempt to blunt the power of Christian Gospel. Atwill's claim that "in fact he [Jesus] may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources" is absurd and ludicrous. This hypothesis is rejected by the vast majority of scholars, whether Christian, non-Christian, or anti-Christian. For more information, see our articles on The Jesus Myth and Did Jesus Exist.
The idea that the Romans invented Jesus to create peace with Israel is perhaps even more ridiculous. In 70 A.D., Jerusalem was destroyed and the vast majority of Jews were killed. I have no doubt the Romans were seriously annoyed with the constant rebellion from the Jews. But, they had no qualms with crushing those rebellions militarily. If the story of Jesus was invented in the late first-century, for whom exactly was the story intended? The few Jews who remained in Jerusalem after 70 A.D.? The Jews who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire and were not rebelling against Rome anyway?
Further, if the plan was to convert Jews to the idea of a peaceful and submissive Messiah, why does the New Testament, which was supposedly "written by first-century Roman aristocrats," consistently describe Jews rejecting Jesus rather than accepting Him? The Pharisees rejected Jesus. The Sadducees rejected Jesus. The scribes rejected Jesus. The High Priest rejected Jesus. The Jewish people rejected Jesus. Once the Christian message spread, as recorded in the Book of Acts, far more Gentiles than Jews received the message of Jesus Christ as Messiah. Does this sound like a "deceive the Jews into following a peaceful Messiah" propaganda effort to you?
The premise of "covert Messiah" would be laughable if it was not so sad. I have no doubt that many people will be deceived by this concept. Why? People long to believe a lie and suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-32; 2 Thessalonians 2:11).
In summary: There is overwhelming evidence that Jesus existed. There is no evidence that the story of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, was borrowed from mythological legends. It is a completely baseless conspiracy theory to insinuate that Jesus was the invention of the Romans in an attempt to subjugate the Jews. The entire "covert Messiah" / "we invented Jesus" concept is without merit.
If only people would spend as much time actually reading the teachings of Jesus as they do attempting to prove He never existed.
Tags: Controversial-Issues | False-Teaching | Jesus | Reviews-Critiques
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