Atwill’s Cranked-up Jesus Richard Carrier Blogs Freethought Blogs Review

Richard Carrier believes Jesus was not crucified on Earth. Richard Carrier has a reading comprehension problem. When asked for his peer-reviewed article which will show whether or not he has examined the Testimonium Flavianum as a sarcastic inclusion by Josephus, he does not provide the name of the journal and the name of the article so a person can search for it at a seminary library.

“Others propose that Josephus included the passage so as to curry favor with the Christians, because he was in trouble with his own Jewish compatriots. Still others interpret the passage as intended sarcasm, though the argument for that view is too convoluted to summarize here.”
– p. 234 of Josephus and the New Testament, Second Edition by Steve Mason

In a thorough examination, even challenging views must be heard for a final decision to be claimed. One version of the sarcasm view is not all that convoluted. Joseph Atwill advises that one simply read the passage after the Testimonium Flavianum and see 1) Decius Mundus as a sarcastic reference to Savior of the World/Mundus and 2) Decius Mundus appeared to one who loved him on the third day, as did Jesus appeared to those who loved him on the third day.

Re: Page 225-227 of Josephus and the New Testament, Second Edition by Steve Mason

My reply:
I would like to introduce my reply with a preview of the bottom line, which is beyond page 227, but on page 236, and I quote: “…since most of those who know the evidence agree that [Josephus] said something about Jesus, one is probably entitled to cite him as independent evidence that Jesus actually lived, if such evidence were needed. But that much is already given in Josephus’s reference to James (Ant. 20.200) and most historians agree that Jesus’ existence is the only adequate explanation of the many independent traditions among the NT writings.”

What you have written is this:

The most credible alternative theory of Christian origins is that Jesus began life as a celestial being, known only through private revelations, who was believed to have been crucified and resurrected in the lower heavens. The Gospels were the first attempts to place him in history as an earthly man, in parables and fables meant to illustrate Christian theology and ideals. Their picture of Jesus then became the most successful among the competing varieties of Christianity over the ensuing generations, and the eventually triumphant sects only created and preserved documents supporting their view, and very little supporting any other.

To date the best case presented for this hypothesis is by amateur historian and classics graduate Earl Doherty (in his two books, The Jesus Puzzle and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man). My own forthcoming book, probably titled On the Historicity of Jesus, inspired by his work, will be the first making the case for this hypothesis to pass academic peer review. It will be published this February by the publishing house of the University of Sheffield.


Moving on, if you would have mentioned the title of the article and the journal, I could have been on my way to Dallas Theological Seminary or Bridwell after work or on a weekend to do some reading. Your comment 145.1 does not give me and other readers that information. So your criticism is premature. I REALLY WANT TO READ WHAT YOU’VE WRITTEN ON THIS TOPIC.

Now, I want to clash directly with what you’ve written: “Josephus is just listing disasters that increased tensions between the Romans and the Jews. None of those disasters are commentaries on Christianity. They are simply things that happened that increased tensions between the Romans and the Jews.”

My reply, the Decius Mundus passage is a story about a believer in Isis. The Decius Mundus passage did not make the zealots and rebels more angry at Rome! You are mistaken. ON page 226, Mason even relates this not to an expulsion of Jews from Rome but an expulsion of Egyptians from Rome. I direct the readers of this post to score this point to me.

What Mason does say about the Isis Decius Mundus incident is this: it shows both that the Jews are no worse than other national groups and, second, and more important: Jews share the morals of the Romans.

Steve Mason does not catch the connection of Jesus appearing to believers on the third day and Decius Mundus appearing to a believer on the third day. So, your claim, Richard Carrier, is wrong: the Decius Mundus – Isis passage was not written to give a count of incidents that fueled the rebels, bandits, and zealots. So, while you thought you scored a point on me, I’ve justified my statement, and on top of that, I’ve proven your reading comprehension of page 226 of Mason’s book is in error.

2 responses to “Atwill’s Cranked-up Jesus Richard Carrier Blogs Freethought Blogs Review

  1. Richard Carrier (I am paraphrasing from his peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Early Christian Studies):

    The fact that the next story [the con-man-god who is not the Savior of the World] is told at great length, longer than the TF, but on a much more trivial affair, suggests that Josephus would have written a great deal more about the Jesus affair had he written anything about it at all. The TF’s astonishing content normally would require several explanations and digressions, which are curiously absent).

    My response:
    Have you or have you not definitely proven Jesus is a myth? If you are objectively 100% mythicist, then there is no way Josephus could write anything more about Jesus than the standard myth party line. I find this so disingenuous. You are obligated to the scenario that there is no history of Jesus, one real man (“if you can call him a man”) upon which Josephus could expound and go on digressions. Josephus is agreeing with the mythicists, and you, a mythicist, are insisting that Josephus expound upon him as if the biblical Jesus was an un-mythologized, singular, human being. Josephus could have been a whistle-blower about his contemporary gospel writers, if the mythicist position is 100% correct; but, the early Church of Rome had patrons.

    Given the Christian Flavian (as Atwill points out): “Flavia Domitilla, wife of the Martyr, was a granddaughter of Vespasian, and niece of Titus and Domitian; she may have died a martyr to the rigours of her banishment. The catacomb of Domitilla is shown by existing inscriptions to have been founded by her.” Given this, Josephus could not be a mythicist, whistle-blower. Now, why you insist that Domitilla comes much later in history, we’d like to know. Number one, she seems to be the granddaughter of Vespasian, even if you have some evidence that the catacomb inscriptions are faulty.

    Furthermore, with Josephus being adopted by the Flavians, and with Rome having a habit of absorbing gods to ensure the Pax Deorum (peace of the gods), Josephus could only satirically speak against the way the early Church of Rome absorbed Jesus, the New Born King, Savior of the World.
    In conclusion, I have not ignored you I have directly clashed in my disagreement with the way you’re not seeing your definitive mythicist position to its logical conclusion: Jesus was a myth to Josephus and Josephus, the historian, could not expound in a straightforward manner about the Romanized Jewish Messiah, absorbed probably by the Quindecimviri Sacris Faciundis (college responsible for tracking non-Roman gods and religions to be absorbed into the Empire’s religious culture). The Flavian emperors were members of these colleges, so Josephus, adopted by them, was not about to disturb the Pax Deorum.

  2. Ed-M: As Richard has replied both to you and to me, Josephus would have discussed Christianity in much more detail and treated the life of the historical Jesus at much more in-depth.

    Steefen: Consider Against Apion where Josephus is speaking of the Hellenist held in captivity in the Temple for an annual sacrifice. Now, how would Apion know about this? He wasn’t a high priest who would know this. Besides, there’s a long, long shot that it is true. The short shot is that the Josephus-Apion passage on human sacrifice at the Temple of Jerusalem IS Josephus discussing Christianity in much more detail.

    So, there you have it: Josephus did discuss Christianity further. Richard Carrier is in error. Jesus, “if you can call him a man” would require a different style of writing than the “more detail,” “more in-depth” writing due to someone you can call a man, no qualifications for being a singular person as opposed to a composite literary character, personification of an ideal, or any other makeup.

    Ed-M: Methinks it was the Romans, who were teaching the Empire’s schoolchildren that the crucifixion occurred in the 7th year of Tiberius (21ce), who inserted the original forgery in this location, fully aware of what Josephus wrote about Decius Mundus and the Temple scam artists immediately following, and intending to make a congruent pair.into a matched set of three.

    Steefen: The Romans taught the Empire’s schoolchildren about the crucifixion of a Jewish prophet. That is Joseph Atwill’s point: Rome grafted content onto Jewish history. With Rome buying and keeping Josephus works, the copyists of Rome had quite a number of years to corrupt Antiquities Book 18 before Eusebius comes along. Decius Mundus is less of a problem for Roman insertion than insertion by Eusebius.

    CONCLUSION: You would need to say Josephus in Against Apion speaking about annual Good Friday, Hellenist human sacrifice wasn’t written by Josephus in order to say Josephus didn’t write summarily about Christianity in the TF. We have TWO places where Christianity is quite specifically referenced. AND when you add what was said by another rabbi-friend-of-Vespasian, Rabbi Johanan ben Zakai who speaks of the immaculate conception, we know it wasn’t just Rome doing the teaching but vested friends of Rome (Josephus and Johanan) too. Concluding statement in bold: You don’t need to take the pen out of Josephus’ hand and give it to a native Roman, and you do not need to give it to Eusebius.

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