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ninjacolin's avatar

How likely is a Roman conspiracy to fabricate the entire story of Jesus Christ?

Asked by ninjacolin (13779 points ) October 9th, 2013

Was reading this story today and musing on the fact that I only just heard about this now (and, at the time of this writing, I expect this is the same for most people) and the fact that I really have no idea about who this scholar is or how good his alleged evidence is.

Some would reject the suggestion out right, of course, from a sense of duty. However, we’re most likely all in the same spot of having no clue whether this guy is off his rocker or on the money.

Even as an atheist, I assume he’s full of sh*t and he sounds like just about any conspiracy theorist I’ve ever heard of… so far. But I could be wrong, who knows.

Here’s the article:
American Bible scholar claims ancient ‘confessions’ prove story of Jesus Christ was entirely fabricated by Roman aristocrats

So, without looking into it much further than this article.. I’m curious, how likely would you think it is that this conspiracy really happened?

Do you imagine this scholar’s message has a chance of really catching on?

What will the future hold if his message (or one like it) was successful in gaining a large following in the western world?

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21 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Good question. I don’t think they fabricated it whole cloth, I believe Jesus existed, but I believe they manipulated the hell out of it all for political gain. They’re the ones who came up with saints and all of that business. The Catholic religion, and all the punishments for not accepting it unquestioningly, originated with them.

josie's avatar

No way to really know.
Having said that, Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
That is an amazing leap of faith. Especially in a world where the epistemology of science replaced the non-epistemology of mysticism.
It is a lesser leap to imagine that everything else you hear about his life is historical fact.

filmfann's avatar

To fabricate the story, you would need to have a stronger background in the Old Testament than most teachers of that time had. I don’t believe it.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Extremely unlikely.

There are conflicting ideas about when the Gospels were written, but I vote Mark because it was so short. That Gospel, specifically, was targeting ROMANs, not subject peoples. Some people say Mathew was first, simply because stuff that happens in Mathew appears in all 4 gospels, so they assume it was first, but that makes no sense based on how religious books work, commentaries are always bigger than the source. So Mark is first.

There was very likely an original Gospel, called by scholars “The Book of Q” or the “Q” source. All of the Gospel writers had seen it, you can tell by the gospels having some stories with exactly the same word counts. That Q source might have been written by a roman aristocrat to placate the Jews, but I don’t buy it, because the next Gospel, Mark, is back to the Romans.

ETpro's avatar

@ninjacolin Seems far-fetched to me that Roman aristocrats would fabricate a new monotheistic religion, then spend the next 300 years putting adherents of it to death because they didn’t believe in polytheism and the Roman gods.

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought I’m in the Two-Gospel camp not only because the early church firmly believed in that order, but because Matthew’s ministry was to the Jews, and they needed to be evangelized in some numbers before turning the focus toward the gentiles. It seems likely to me the similarities in Matthew and Luke are due to all being crafted from the “Q” source you mention, each book also being embellished with anecdotes supplied by acolytes of the Gospel’s actual author.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@ETpro If you have a Q, as you say is likely, than Mark is shorter, so it wins. John specifically states he was looking at earlier docs, so you know he was last. So it is Mark or Mathew. You don’t get a Mark if you have a Q and Mathew, you don’t get an author reading Mathew saying I can tell this but shorter. Far more likely you get a Mathew reading Q and Mark, saying I also remember the following.

ETpro's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought Maybe. But you certainly can get people reading a story and saying I can tell this in a more succinct way. It could be either, and we will likely never know.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@ETpro source of a person ever telling a religious story more succinctly? And let me be clear, that story replacing the original?

ucme's avatar

Not fabricated, just hugely exaggerated/romanticised.
Picture yourself spending a quiet afternoon fishing, there you sit on the riverbank minding your own business. You look up to see a man walking on the water, no it’s not Zod & this is not Superman II. Neither are you drunk or high on halloucegenic drugs, no, no…this bugger claims to be the son of God.

ragingloli's avatar

Why would the Romans want to fabricate the jesus fairy tale? christians on the other hand have every reason to.

Kropotkin's avatar

Completely implausible, but seems like a good thesis for selling books to people who don’t know any better.

There’s this rebuttal by Richard Carrier, and another by Robert M Price, both of whom are mythicist scholars. (I think Jesus is a myth also)

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ragingloli I don’t think they fabricated it either, but I do think they exaggerated and expounded on it as a means to control their citizens and gain power for themselves.

If they have fabricated it, they certainly wouldn’t have included the passages that condemn exactly the kinds of thing the Roman Empire was doing. There would have been more “Do what your human leaders tells you to do.”

filmfann's avatar

@Dutchess_III You mean like “Render onto Caesar that which is Caesars?”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes. Exactly. They could have added stuff like that in later.

Aster's avatar

I hope not. I think we should read at least one of the author’s books on it before making an informed decision. Two are on amazon.com . He says he has “proof” the entire scenario was made up.

ETpro's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought “Zi Gong asked, saying, ‘Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?’ The Master said, ‘Is not reciprocity such a word?’ ”

mattbrowne's avatar

Very unlikely, though not impossible, otherwise it would have been major news based on solid historical research.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@ETpro Is you quote longer than “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”? I am gonna do a word count eventually…

ETpro's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought Is “An eye of an eye, a tooth for a tooth” a succinct statement of a universal moral code? Mahatma Gandhi rightly warned, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” It is code for violence, revenge which begets more revenge, the exact opposite of turning the other cheek.

Confucius’ answer, “Is not reciprocity such a word?” is indeed shorter than the vengeance clause in the Bible. But more importantly, it is an entire moral code expressed in a single word. If you can preach a shorter and more effective sermon than that, bring it on.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@ETpro Um, aren’t you proving my point?

ETpro's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought Only if your point is that it’s pointless to try to have a meaningful discussion with you.

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