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Was Jesus a Roman Hoax to Trick the Jews?

Joe Atwill has been really pissing off Christians and historians this week, which is understandable considering that he’s making claims that undermine the foundation of the former’s beliefs and the latter’s widely accepted truths. Joe purports to have discovered proof that Jesus of Nazareth, the man we read about in history books and in the New Testament, was merely a fabrication of first-century Romans, who created his gospels as a way to quell the messianic fervor of the Jews. Joe, who authored and self-published Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus back in 2006, plans to reveal new research this weekend that he believes will make even his most ardent critics accept the theory that Jesus was a tool of psychological warfare to get the Jews to stop causing trouble and love their Roman overlords.


Personally, I don’t have much skin in the game as to whether or not Jesus was in fact a dude with super powers, or even a dude at all. I blame organized religion for most of the awful things humans do to each other and the only time I go to church is on Christmas and Mother’s Day—strictly out of respect for my momma. So, I’m pretty open to any critiques off the fantastical aspects of Christianity. However, despite being a proud heathen, I think the claims made by Joe about a Roman hoax being at the center of Christianity sound as ridiculous as the claims that the US government flew planes into the World Trade Center on 9/11. It’s not that I don’t think the Romans or the US government wouldn’t do such things, I just don’t think they could pull them off without everyone knowing about it.

Joe has stirred up intrigue around the web for years because of his outlandish findings and canny press releases, and he’s having a big, one-day symposium in London tomorrow to unveil his new research. So I figured this would be as good a time as any to figure out whether he’s a total nut job or a visionary who’s cracked a code that has eluded scholars and historians for centuries. Here’s what he had to say.


VICE: Can you tell me about yourself and what credentials you have to make theories that challenge the pervasive beliefs held by prominent religious scholars?
Joe Atwill: I’m an independent scholar. I have no academic training in what would be considered traditional Bible scholarship.

OK. How’d you start studying the origins of Jesus?
I attended a Jesuit military academy as a kid that studied the gospels. Although I drifted away from the church, later on in life, I retained an interest in the character Jesus Christ.

What intrigued you about Jesus?
Jesus had a more pacifistic and cosmopolitan view of things than the messianic movement of his day, which was very xenophobic. The Jewish perspective of the time was that it wanted the Romans out to have a religious state.

How do you know this?
To get an informed perspective on the gospels you have to read a guy called Flavius Josephus. He lived in Judea, wrote a history of the time and place when Jesus supposedly lived, and documented the war between the Romans and the Jews. If you read his work, you will notice there are parallels between the events in the war and events in Jesus’s ministry that occur in the same…..


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