Caesar’s Messiah: Rome Invented Jesus?




I try to be as level headed as possible in my critiques .


The claim made by the book discussed below is one of the most absolute, demonstrably false, completely ignorant pieces of dribble I’ve ever come across.

And that has nothing to do with the religious implications of Jesus being nothing more than the invention of a Roman empire desperate to “pacify the Jews.”


My beef is with this jackass’ utter lack of historical scholarship or even the slightest bit of reason in his claim.

For starters, Joseph Atwill, a “self taught biblical scholar” (need I say more?), claims that because the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t explicitly mention Jesus that somehow negates his existence because, Atwill assumes, they surely would have been buddies and the Essenes surely would have written about their pal.

What Atwill fails to mention (among other related issues) is that several of the ideas written down by the Qumran community were so similar to the teachings of Jesus and the early church that some believe Jesus may have even been an Essene before moving on to start his own ministry. Though I’m certainly no expert, I personally don’t think he was, but the idea that the Dead Sea Scrolls somehow negate Jesus’ existence simply because his name isn’t mentioned is absurd.

But not as absurd as Atwill’s next claim…

According to Atwill, Flavius Josephus makes no mention of Jesus.

Apparently he didn’t read Antiquities of the Jews Book 20, chapter 9 or Antiquities of the Jews book 18, chapter 3, both of which explicitly mention Jesus and describes events also mentioned in the gospels.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the words about Jesus being “the Christ” were redacted by later Christians and not written by Josephus himself, but (in my admittedly unauthoritative opinion) I believe they were redacted because the mentions of Jesus were already there and those early Christians were seeking to add more credibility to their messianic claims.

But both of those things fail to compare to what I think are Atwill’s 2 biggest problems.

The first: the very real friends, family, and followers of Jesus.

There were people who actually knew Jesus and there were those who knew them who wrote about him in numerous documents beyond what now constitutes the New Testament.*

But just for the sake of the argument, let’s say they only claimed to know Jesus or knew someone who claimed to know Jesus. Atwill would have us believe that it is more reasonable to believe that Rome got bored and created an elaborate religious consiparcy including the production of numerous documents and the collaboration of countless people willing, for some inexplicable reason, to join the Roman empire they hated in an elaborate attempt to “pacify the Jews?”

That’s more believable than the idea that there was a historical person named Jesus from Nazareth who lived and taught in the first century?


But that just leads us to Atwill’s final problem….

In what world is he living where he thinks the Jewish people (particularly religious leaders) would be pacified by (or were even looking to be pacified by) what would have been for most of them, the blasphemous idea of a man claiming to be the incarnation of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

That’s in addition to believing the Jewish people would be excited about a guy showing up and pronouncing that he came to destroy the temple, quite literally the house of God.

Yeah, that makes sense.

So to sum up, Atwill completely ignores or flat out misrepresents the historical evidence and then wants us to believe that the Roman empire got bored and created the most incredibly elaborate hoax in human history because they thought the Jewish people were itching for someone to flip upside down and essentially put an end to the religious establishment they held dear.

And for that jackassery, they’re making a movie based on his book.

The end is nigh my friends. The end is nigh.

Caesar’s Messiah: Rome Invented Jesus, New Doc Claims

By Edmund Newton, Village Voice

Those were trying times for Rome. Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian Caesars and a big spender with a reputedly homicidal temper, was on the throne. Stories abound of how he attempted to poison his mother, kicked one of his wives to death, and personally ordered the upside-down crucifixion of St. Peter. Lies and half-truths, most of those tales, but stuff like that sticks. More important, Nero’s Roman Empire was going broke.

While Rome simmered, Palestine cooked. The Jews loathed the Romans. They didn’t want statues of Roman emperors in their temples, didn’t want to pay taxes to prop up the empire, and, most of all, didn’t want Caesar’s emissaries making claims on their promised land. And they were recklessly brave in battle. Hot rebellion was in the air.

Through all that, a loose cannon of a prophet was reportedly roaming through the Judean war zone, preaching pacifism and spouting profundities like, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”

That’s the situation, more or less, that JosephAtwill describes at the beginning of Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus, the new documentary movie based on Atwill’s book of the same name. (The film screens at Laemmle Music Hall 3 staring September 28 and is available for sale at Atwill’s website,

The wandering prophet was, of course, JesusChrist. Atwill, a self-taught biblical scholar, contends that not only was there no historical figure of that name, but also the legends that accumulated around him were actually created by the Romans as a way of pacifying the Jews. The evidence is overwhelming, he says.

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*UPDATE: Reading back through I realized that in my just rage I misspoke. What I originally meant to say, as I said later on, was there were those who knew Jesus personally and who knew those who knew him who wrote extensively. Likewise, it is very reasonable to assume that as much of the New Testament is filled with actual letters written by the apostles there were undoubtably countless other letters written by those apostles and the people mentioned in those letters which have simply been lost to time.

  • Greg D
    September 26, 2012

    Never mind the fact that calling Jesus “Lord” was a direct affront to Caesar. Why the Romans would create a man who would essentially be called Lord and thus dethrone their own leader by name simply doesn’t make sense.

  • Magershey Flavius
    September 27, 2012

    Zack – You are at a severe disadvantage because you have not read the book, Caesar’s Messiah: The Flavian Signature. Responding to a few of your points: 1. “For starters,…about their pal.” – This is not what Atwill said. Briefly, his point is that in the DSS there is a lot of talk about a violent messiah who will throw out the invaders. JC was the opposite (a pro-Roman “messiah”). Please see CM for more on this. 2. Atwill & Josephus – Much of CM is based on what Josephus Flavius wrote. And he was an adopted Flavian (at least that’s how the story goes…). 3. “There were people who actually knew Jesus and who wrote about him in numerous documents beyond what now constitutes the New Testament.” – Who are you talking about? 4. “Rome got bored” – this paragraph is historically inaccurate. The messianic jewish rebellion was one of the greatest (if not the greatest) threats to Rome. For years. The Flavians had both the means and the motives to create the NT. 5. @Greg – Your comment is one of the reasons why the Flavian created the NT. Atwill answers the question thoroughly in his book. Ok, ‘nuf for now. Please read the book before reviewing! 🙂 Atwill is pretty thorough and you will learn a lot from reading CM, even if you end up disagreeing with him. – MF – PS. The documentary is coming out tomorrow. I’ll have more on my blog soon.

    • ZackHunt
      September 27, 2012

      Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal.

      If you can find 1 recognized/credible New Testament/early church theologian/historian (meaning someone I’ve actually heard of working at a respected academic institution) who will agree that Atiwll’s thesis (and I’m using that term generously) is correct, then I’ll read the book (sometime when I don’t have a pile of actual scholarship to read for school).

      Until then, and to be frank, even after that, I’m not backing off one inch from what I said.

      Greg hit the nail on the head. The idea that the Roman empire, which was constantly slaughtering rebels and any would be pretender to the throne, would inexplicably create the most elaborate hoax in human history in order to push a Jesus who rides into Jerusalem as king and declares himself Lord instead of Caesar, that idea is the absolute, most ridiculous thought ever put forth in the field (and again I’m using this term VERY generously because Atwill is in no way, shape, or form a scholar) of biblical scholarship,

      • J
        April 7, 2013

        I’ll tell YOU what, I’ll finish reading your knee-jerk reaction where you criticize others for being self-taught when you figure out what the word “redacted” means… um kay??

    • Steve Willy
      October 10, 2013

      Stfu, you neck bearded asswipe.

  • Ralph Ellis
    November 3, 2013

    The gospel events did take place in the late AD 60s, which is why Jesus describes the siege of Jerusalem in Luke 19:43.

    If you want the complete evidence for this, and find out who Jesus really was, you? need to read ‘King Jesus’ and ‘Jesus, King of Edessa’.

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