Mike Bull points to a report on the maverick Bible scholar, Joseph Atwill , who claims that Roman aristocrats invented Jesus to compete with Jewish zealotry and wrote the gospels. One of his crowning pieces of evidence are parallels between Roman campaigns against the Jews and Jesus’ itinerary in the gospels:

“Atwill’s most intriguing discovery came to him while he was studying Wars of the Jews by Josephus [the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea] alongside the New Testament. ‘I started to notice a sequence of parallels between the two texts,’ he recounts. ‘Although it’s been recognised by Christian scholars for centuries that the prophesies of Jesus appear to be fulfilled by what Josephus wrote about in the First Jewish-Roman war, I was seeing dozens more. What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus’ ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of [Emperor] Titus Flavius as described by Josephus. This is clear evidence of a deliberately constructed pattern. The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar . . . .’

“How could this go unnoticed in the most scrutinised books of all time? ‘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.’ Atwill maintains he can demonstrate that ‘the Roman Caesars left us a kind of puzzle literature that was meant to be solved by future generations, and the solution to that puzzle is, We invented Jesus Christ, and we’re proud of it.””

I can’t verify that the parallels are actually there, but if they are, it would be quite the discovery. For a believer, it would be a remarkable providence if Jesus’ prophecies about the Roman destruction of Israel were fulfilled by a Caesar who followed in Jesus’ footsteps. Jesus went here and there calling Israel to a way of peace; when Israel refused, Titus went to the same here and there bringing the desolation Jesus warned about.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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