The following is a response to an essay called “Was Jesus a Roman Fiction?” Jimmy Akin posted it to a website named Strange Notions. As best i can tell, Akin’s conclusion is that the concept is so absurd as to be dismissable. Being an absurdist myself, I find that short-sighted. Not only is it possible Jesus was a Roman fiction, it’s plausible. However, that’s only part of the story. There were many hands in that pot. I repost my response here, because that website appears to be slanted in favor of the historicity of Jesus, and I’m not certain it’s gonna remain where I left it on that website. They’re within their rights to remove it, so I’m putting it here as a backup. Share and enjoy.
“Nobody is going to invent a fake religion and then plant in it a satire..” Ever heard of The SubGenius Foundation? How about Discordianism? There are countless others. I know people who make up religions as a hobby.
First, it should be made clear this concept of satire is a relatively modern phenomenon. The word comes from the Latin, but they didn’t really HAVE satire as we understand it today. They may have done satire, but Romans weren’t going around afterwards elbowing each other and shoving each other into bushes giggling like schoolgirls.
I don’t think Christianity was invented out of whole cloth by the Romans, but as the Roman Empire evolved along with modern humanity, it adapted to cultural changes among its people, notably the messianic hogwash that had successfully competed with Rome’s own laborious process of adding gods from multiple cultures to their own tired pantheon. By the time Constantine was “converted” to monotheism and essentially handed the Roman Empire over to The Roman Catholic Church (I know it’s more complicated than that lets not split hairs), he didn’t see that as a loss. He thought he was winning. In fact one can argue that the Roman Catholic Church is STILL the Roman Empire, adapted to the needs and desires of its people. If you can’t conquer the world by mere land mass, conquer the hearts and minds of that land’s people.
Riddle me this: why does the book of Mark use The Sea of Galilee as an epic backdrop for many of Jesus’ adventures, when its just essentially a boring lake? And why do some stories in the gospels mimic previous myths of Greek and other cultures? People like what’s familiar to them. It’s comforting. Two thousand years later it’s still comforting to some, and reading some Joseph Campbell can help explain why. There’s an over-arching tale of belonging and redemption that echoes throughout humanity’s tales it tells itself. People still find comfort in those words, even today. Perhaps satirists molded and shaped some of the new testament, and simply did their jobs too well.
Maybe some Romans simply tapped into what was already happening, and manipulated it to serve their needs for control and manipulation. Even today, politicians use what they believe their followers believe in order to control and manipulate. I don’t think the Roman Empire invented Christianity, but once they realized it might become a threat to their dominion, they used it to serve their purposes. I think history already confirms that as more than merely a theory.
What I find most amusing about this avenue of historical reasoning, looking back with what we think is 20/20 vision but also marred by our own modern presumptions, one thing is clear: religion is a cultural man-made phenomenon that has evolved over time. Religion proves evolution. It’s not the other way around.
Here’s a perhaps disturbing afterthought:
Once one abandons the presumption that an omnipotent god would impregnate a virgin magically with himself and live among his own creation inside a flesh vessel for a couple decades only to allow his creation to sacrifice himself to himself in order to appease himself for the sins of his own creation which consist of actions they commit that he allowed them to commit which he found to be unpleasant.. well, one gets to look at the history of humanity from a very different vantage point.
It’s not a question of whether or not the Jesus story is a myth. That’s obvious when you look at it objectively, unattached to the behavioral conditioning inbred inside The Church. There may or may not have been an actual Jesus of Nazareth. That’s no longer really important. What is important is that billions of people believe there was, without any substantial proof. How could this happen? What power could possibly instigate this to such a degree that it would take such a hold on humanity and wouldn’t relinquish that hold for thousands of years?
There’s now a crime against humanity that has been committed. Like with any crime, what one would need to do is uncover who is responsible. Who are the suspects? Who has the motive? Who has the means? How could this have happened? Looking at history, there really is only one suspect available. The Roman Empire. It had motive; to control its people. It had the means; countless men and resources at its disposal.
What if the “marytrs” to the cause of Christianity, seen by the masses as fighting the Roman Empire to bring truth to the people, were occasionally smart enough to realize what the Roman Empire (and later the Roman Catholic Church) was really doing? Maybe some of the “saints” were investigating the dogma and realized where the dots really connected? Maybe they got too close and threatened to reveal the ‘satire’ to the masses. What better way to silence the truth but to kill potential whistle blowers and then use their deaths as proof to the authenticity of that religion?
Suddenly this impossible absurd concept becomes VERY plausible, and might even explain later bloodshed like The Spanish Inquisition, or Witch Trials. You only really have to kill a fraction of the public, if you display the bodies properly, and make everyone feel that martyr’s pain. Suddenly, the chaos of mankind will become much more malleable to those with enough resources to control them. In some parts of the world, this may still be happening today.
I’m not saying I believe any of this. Could be just more hokum. However, it’s no more or less believable than a fucking talking snake.