covertMessiahA press release came out two days ago about an upcoming conference in the UK where the world will learn from two scholars that the Romans actually invented Christianity.

A concerned man read the press release and, feeling a bit shaken, contacted the Credo House for help. The press release for the conference can be found here:

Here was our quick response so when it hits the news in the next couple weeks you will hopefully have already thought through it a bit:

Whenever something like this comes up we first need to say, “Ok, show me your evidence.” Is Joseph Atwill’s evidence more compelling than the idea that Jesus was who Christians believe him to be.

In this realm I think Dr. Mike Licona’s book on the historical reliability of the Resurrection is helpful, Dr. Craig Blomberg’s book on the historical reliability of the Gospels and Dr. Darrell Bock and other scholar’s many works on the historical Jesus. There are many more works in this vein that show how we should go about having confidence in the historical reality of the events communicated in the Bible. Even an atheist like Dr. Bart Ehrman will think it is historically absurd to claim that Jesus never existed.

It looks like Joseph Atwill is building his whole argument off of a new way to interpret the writings of Josephus. A way that might even be hard for people to understand. He even admits in the article that he thinks he has seen something in Josephus that all other scholars have missed. He writes, ” Many of the parallels are conceptual or poetic, so they aren’t all immediately obvious. After all, the authors did not want the average believer to see what they were doing, but they did want the alert reader to see it. An educated Roman in the ruling class would probably have recognised the literary game being played.”

It seems from an observation of history, however, that educated Romans were not making the claims of Mr. Atwill. Paul’s interaction with the Aereopagus on Mars Hill is a good example. All people involved were educated Romans yet this idea of a Roman concoction of Jesus was never mentioned. We have absolutely no evidence, at least that I’ve ever heard, that anyone claimed the whole story of Jesus was invented by the Romans.

You may think Joseph Atwill is completely unbiased, but there seems to be an agenda driving the interpretation of history. Atwill even grants, ” what my work has done is give permission to many of those ready to leave the religion to make a clean break. We’ve got the evidence now to show exactly where the story of Jesus came from. Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history. To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East.”

A fellow scholar presenting with Mr. Atwill is Kenneth Humphreys who is the author of the book, “Jesus Never Existed.” This is a title that Bart Ehrman, and many other atheists, would consider a historically absurd statement.

All-in-all I consider Joseph Atwill to fall into the “What If?” camp. This is a camp of people who believe one “What If?” statement without any concrete historically reliable evidence can carry the same weight of tons of historically reliable orthodox evidence. It would be like me saying the entire existence of the world is actually a dream I am currently having. JFK never lived. JFK only lived as a subpart of my dream where I conceived of a president of a country that was assassinated.

Instantly, if I was trying to convince the world that they existed only in my dream, they would start pointing to all sorts of evidence. There would be historical evidence. Archeological evidence. Physical books written and copied (the field of textual criticism). There would also be a lot of philosophy to assist our epistemological question.

At the end of the day I wouldn’t be able to give very much strong historical evidence. The greatest argument I would have is, “What If?”

I think Joseph Atwill has taken up the “What If?” banner. He will more than likely be shown tens of thousands of points of historical evidence toward the contrary of his view but he will probably be able to make millions and speak to millions by saying over and over again, “Yes, I know, I’ve heard all the evidence. But what if my unique way of understanding Josephus is correct!” Crowds will applaud. I think Jesus will find it all amusing as someone cashes in on his non-existence.

    35 replies to "Ancient Confession Found: ‘We Invented Jesus Christ’"

    • Carrie J

      I watched some of it and its quite convincing. Im surprised that there isnt any responses to this.

    • C Michael Patton

      I actually read an article one time that was, in a certain vacuum, convincing that the earth was flat too. That is not in jest.

      It all depends on whether one has studied enough to see the folly in claims that are overthetop and rejected by just about every thinking person. There are going to be many people who think this presents a valid alternative.

    • Matt

      This is nothing more than the same agenda that is attempting to drive all thought of religion out of academy. There were a lot of people that were convinced statements made in the Da Vinci code were true; there are a lot of people that believe everything they hear in the news. Lord, let me be more like the Bereans, taking what I hear and bouncing it off what your word truly says.

    • Kevin

      I haven’t read the book or seen the documentary but I intend to. What I find interesting is that when claims like this are made the christian response is so weak. False claims and practices have been endorsed by the church for many years but we embrace them as fact and defend them to the death. Why is it that when the hard questions are asked our response is that we must have faith that it is true or God’s ways are not our ways? I get faith but it cannot take the place of truth. I know God’s ways are not my ways but if He really loves us and made such a sacrifice so that we may all be saved, why does He hide behind riddles and parables that all can’t understand? I see many atheist arguments against christianity that make way more sense than the weak christian responses. We can’t just always dismiss opposition to our faith as silly and unbelievable when those claims make more logical sense and have every bit as much or more merit than the illogical, absurd theology that we are expected to believe by faith. It is so far fetched and subjective that any idiot with ambition can plant a church or go on tv and make ludicrous claims to the world “in Jesus name.” I’ll be glad when, instead of writing people or ideas off, we gain the courage to seek to understand and answer the deep questions in a way that doesn’t just seek to destroy or discount the validity of the question or thought. Why is it that we are so willing to defend our faith against outsiders but not against those that seek to distort the truth from within? Oh don’t get me wrong, I know we all attacked Rob Bell for his heresy! But then again it’s ok to beat him up because we can tag him as a heretic and cast him out. After all, we can justify Gandhi being in hell because God’s ways are not our ways. Mother Theresa is probably there too because she was Catholic and we all know that church is a cult! I am to the point of leaving the church because I can no longer stomach the christian way!

    • Jared

      Kevin, a couple of things stand out to me.

      First, you apparently are not familiar with the many non-weak responses Christianity has to offer. Second, the idea that (presumably most) Christians would believe that Mother Theresa is in hell and that Catholicism is a cult.

      Don’t leave the church, stop hanging around fundamentalists.

      (if in fact you really are in the church and this is a real post. No offense intended if you are legit, but I’ve seen fake comments with similar content before)

    • Kevin

      Thanks Jared but it’s not a fake comment. I actually attended The Theology Program at Credo House for awhile and I have been intently seeking truth for many years now but I continue to be more and more disheartened and discouraged by the church and so-called christians. I don’t seek to hang around fundamentalist but they are everywhere! Even those so-called teachers of grace spew legalism at every turn. I am very familiar with many of the christian responses and yeah I know there are good teachers out there but I don’t understand why we cower in fear to address real issues of the Church and there is no structure or format to police crap theology being spread like wildfire! I don’t believe Mother Theresa is in hell or that Catholicism is a cult but there are many out there that teach such things although they may not come out and make such a bold proclamation. I can’t make the bold proclamation that there even is a hell because there are too many reasons to believe that the translations of the words into hell and the traditional teaching of the church on hell just don’t add up to the teaching of the salvation we have been given through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross! Why is it such a threat to even discuss this? I am not looking to prove there is or isn’t I just want to understand why words like Sheol, hades and Gehenna have all been translated as one word to mean eternal fire and punishment? Why must we insist on a theology that seeks justification of those that have sinned against us be punished forever and ever in fire and brimstone? I don’t know Jared, I just know I started out overwhelmed by grace and so eager to serve a God that would sacrifice so much to save me and now I’m hanging on by a thread because I feel like our primary purpose is to prove others wrong in the name of seeking and saving the lost. I’m broken by the love I feel but crushed by the contempt I have. I just don’t get it anymore.

    • Dave

      Such an emphasis on the mind and intellect. It’s todays biggest idol and is the enemy of God because it doesn’t see or know him. Time to recognize those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. Thanks for posting this as I had no idea what this was about. Makes me feel ashamed my country is hosting such an event. These guys need to pull their rulers out their

    • Jared


      I certainly don’t insist on a theology that seeks to punish those who have sinned against me. I would hope that I have a theology that seeks to save those who have sinned against me. I’m sure I fail in that ideal at times, but nobody who claims to follow Jesus should hope for anyone’s eternal punishment.

      Those different words that are commonly translated as “hell” actually are debated as to their real meanings inside of Christianity. There’s actually quite a bit of commentary about this, and a lot of different theological positions have risen from what these different words mean. For some, there is no Hell at all (though I disagree), but an annihilation. I’m sure entire denominations have split over these words.

      How to steer away from bad teachers, and why is there no structure to police crap theology? Well, this is the biggest downside to non-denominationalism and congregationalism, IMO. There’s nothing to stop bad teachers or bad theology at all, except for the members voting with their feet. If this is a stumbling block though, there are other arrangements in church government. Perhaps a Presbyterian (PCA) or Lutheran (LCMS) church would be a place you could find rest. You’re guaranteed to not have some jackass ranting and raving about gays and Obama, at least.

      Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I’m really sorry that you’ve not been around those who can help you do this, but have instead burdened you further.

    • CarsonWayne

      Two historical facts immediately jump out to me as contradictions to Atwill’s line of thinking. The first issue is that the Jews never thought of Jesus as the Messiah. They didn’t then, and still don’t today. I understand that there are many Jewish Christians, but they are in the severe minority. Always have been. The followers of Christ, on the otherhand, were so few and far between that they would hardly have amounted to a blip on the radar of the Roman Empire. If this was the Romans’ gameplan, it didn’t work. Christians were persecuted by the Jews almost as much as they were by the Romans. It didn’t really matter that much back then, though, because, frankly, there weren’t enough Christians to matter.

      But what if the Romans’ grand scheme had worked, and hundreds of thousands of Jews had converted to Christianity (which we know didn’t happen), we’re supposed to believe they were going to just put down their swords and surrender? Huh? Atwill does know that the Romans come off as bad guys in the Gospels, right? You know, the whole crucifying thing? You see, if you take the time to concoct propaganda you have to hope that it works, right? In this sense, working would’ve been the surrender of the Jews. Well, if you convince them that Jesus is the Messiah, aren’t you just going to anger them all over again by murdering their savior? It just doesn’t make any sense does it?

      I know Atwill wants to believe that there is no God, no Jesus, nor any power higher than humanity, but he’s just going to have to go on believing that without this little piece of nonsense to help him. I only hope that others think for themselves and see through to his real agenda.

    • Mike O

      It will be interesting to see people so willing to discard the Bible as a 2000 year old game of telephone, sit in this conference and swallow whole the writings of Josephus (also 2000 years old) on the chance they may discredit Christ.

      I have made up an axiom (I think it’s an axiom, anyway): People will not believe anything about Jesus, no matter what the evidence, and will believe anything contrary to Jesus given any evidence whatsoever. In other words, People will believe anything, so long as it isn’t the truth. Then they need “proof.”

    • Jared

      I do wonder why the Romans would go through the trouble of creating a fake religion, only to then persecute and murder its followers.

    • Michael T.

      Just as an FYI the only two living Christ Myther’s of which I am aware who actually have Ph.D’s in a relevant field of study are Richard Carrier and Robert Price (and Price’s stance is questionable). Both of these guys who are already so far out of the mainstream they aren’t even in the solar system of mainstream historical scholarship soundly reject this guys thesis. When even the most extreme of the Atheist/Agnostics with an actually relevant degree are calling you a nutjob you know something is up.

      Richard Carrier

      Robert Price

    • C Michael Patton


      Since you are in OK, would you be willing to start meeting with me on a personal basis. I would love to discuss all of this with you.

      Certainly, the last place I go to when doubting is comments on the internet either on blogs or forums. Emails are even difficult when you are in your position.

      I am not saying I can make all the frustration go away, but I can tell you that I have been there and know how direct this stuff. Let me know. You can email me at michaelp @ credo house. org

    • Rod McBoyle

      This story happens around every five years. Gullible (non) believers get fleeced with the latest shock revelation, the latest controversial author pockets his money and heads off into the sunset…..and nothing changes…real historians just sit back and smile at the Dan Brown school of history yet again.

    • theoldadam

      All the religions of the world focus on ‘us’…and what we do to gain the good graces of the Divine…or to rise to a higher level of spirituality or consciousness.

      Christianity is truly different. It’s not at all about what we do. And it paints God’s people as scumbags, liars and murderers.

      It’s so unlike us…that we (humans) would NEVER have cooked it up.

    • Dave Z

      So did the Romans also fabricate all the OT prophecies related to Christ? Or did they have such an amazing understanding of Jewish scripture that they were able to come up with a scheme that is consistant with centuries of Judaism? And fool guys like Paul. Or wait…did Paul exist? Was there a church in Corinth? Did any of the apostles exist?

      Yeah, these guys will draw some attention, make some money and satisfy the non-critical, but I’m not going to get worked up about it. These “Jesus never existed” claims have been around for a while without gaining traction. I expect this will be the same. Some believers will get all worked up about it for a while, Ken Ham will buy billboards and then it will fade faster than the Emerging Church.

      And the faithful will preach the gospel.

    • Jason Leyland

      Nothing new in all this. Just Satans old tricks again. Let the dead bury their own dead.

    • Chad Gibbons

      Actual Biblical scholar Larry Hurtado weighs in on this:

      His question is the one we should be asking. Why isn’t Atwill presenting his conclusions to fellow scholars? Why is he going straight to the public?

      And furthermore: Why are so many non-believers quick to chastise people for believing things outside the mainstream scholarly consensus, while at the same time jumping on these types of conspiracy theories whenever it suits them? This stuff is so obviously ridiculous, it’s frustrating to see people carried away by it. If his reading of Josephus holds water, then what do actual Josephus scholars say about it? If this person had any credibility, he would publish something that can be peer-reviewed by people who know what they’re talking about.

    • Caleb Smith

      I’m not sure this ridiculous of a theory even needs refuting. From his own statements cited in the article, it sounds as though it is basically just a product of his own imagination. Who will believe his claim, “It would have been obvious to a sophisticated Roman, but every single other person who has studied the Gospels and Josephus missed it until me. But that’s because it’s very subtle and poetic.” Does that even seem remotely credible?
      I’m all for defending the faith, but this is more like a gnat buzzing around the face than a legitimate threat to Christianity.

    • Some of this so-called “evidential” stuff is simply a waste of time. History is better served if we presuppose our own Judeo-Christian authority! Btw Jesus was a Jew, and died historically as “The King of the Jews”!

    • Brian Hutchinson

      Exodus 14:14
      English Standard Version (ESV)
      14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.

    • Amen to Exodus 14: 14! 🙂 And btw, the Christological aspect to the OT stands solid! And Luther, following Augustine related Holy Scripture to personal existence, this was the essence of his hermeneutic, with Christ Himself!

    • Nick Peters

      If Joseph Atwill and Ken Humphreys are scholars, then the term is definitely being used loosely.

    • James-the-lesser

      I am constantly amazed that the press has nothing better to do than give some nincompoop a platform to propagate such trash. One would think that with all the misery, poverty, and injustice going on in the world that they would have enough newsworthy stuff to keep them busy. 🙁

    • Jared


      In fairness to the press, PRWeb is a paid press release service. Nobody thought this story was interesting and covered it, the two guys promoting this paid them to publish it.

    • The sad thing is too is that P&P gave it this much press of their own! Again, one of the weaknesses of Evidential apologetics.

    • Josh

      I don’t know if someone has shared this, but I’m assuming Atwill has an explaination for the historicity of Roman persecution and the Apostle Paul. Was he invented too?

    • […] Ancient Confession Found: ‘We Invented Jesus Christ’ « Parchment and Pen […]

    • Thomas Henry Larsen

      Even Richard Carrier – not exactly a proponent of evangelical Christianity – thinks Atwill’s speculations are ludicrous, as does P. Z. Myers. This is not a matter of a “weak Christian response.” There really is no case to actually respond to, let alone take seriously in light of what can be demonstrated by qualified historians.

    • Derek
    • […] and Pen has an introductory analysis: Ancient Confession Found: ‘We Invented Jesus Christ’ (Hint: no “ancient confession” has been […]

    • Wesley "Dr Ley" Rose

      My dearest in Christ,
      one consensus is that this is sensationalism at its best. To be sure, many have learned that sensational ideas, even ridiculous claims receive much more attention than the normal, everyday, happenings and beliefs. It is unfortunate that some people, in a deep desire to “make their mark on the world” are willing to defraud, lie, and even make open challenges to the conventions of reality. Yes, they need to develop some fantastic and controversial story to get some attention, especially in scholarship, where they never would be noticed otherwise. This same type of physcosis and neurotic display is common in certain criminal thought processes as well as those who believe they can manipulate people and consequesntly prove their prowess or superiority in some miniscule way. But basically, this is just a cry for attention and a feeble attempt to draw followers. It is important to scholar wanna-be’s to invent a new platofrm or jump on an old band wagon with supposed new insights and proofs. It merely displays their ignorance and pathetic need for attention – a sad ostentatious display that is suppose to raise eyebrows and elicit public response. The best thing to do is afford such egotistical outbursts with the level of importance they deserve – not more than they deserve. As the Bible tells us in many ways and forms, “the truth will set you free”. I would say that any current claims such as these are sad but it would be better stated that they are laughable and not worty of any broad response. Writers of Apologetics did not concern them selves with the ravings and rantings of every person who came along with a far fetched story. It was always about contending for the faith against real threats. Granted, atheism, is a force today throughoutr the world, but it is not greater today than it has been in the history of the world. Knowledge and belief in the one true God was not common knowledge in the world. But the truth is still the…

    • alan

      I think this is a far more credible explanation than most things I’ve read on whether Jesus Christ existed. You have to remember that the poor populace were illiterate, thus susceptible to being easily indoctrinated. So the followers of Christ were those who believed the myth and it turned into a cult. And the Christians who caused trouble for Rome and were persecuted were pacified by Rome converting to Christianity, thus quelling any rebellion. It seems a very plausible theory. Far more plausible than a supernatural son of God who came to save mankind and promise the kingdom of heaven.

      • Nick Peters

        How does illiterate in the culture equal “Susceptible to being easily indoctrinated?”

        You can be illiterate. It doesn’t mean you’re gullible or stupid.

      • Jeremiah

        The problem is that they’re not really presenting it as a theory, but as a fact, “Jesus never existed”. The ‘theory’ that Jesus existed, whether he was the Son of God or not, is definitely more plausible and is historically accurate, as many have already noted. They are trying to deny the existence of Jesus, which is historically absurd.

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