Modern day Christianity has something to hide about its origins. It seems to be so embarrassing for modern day church scholars that they avoid mention of it, perhaps in the hopes that no one will notice. Unfortunately for them, a book by Joseph Atwill, Caesar's Messiah, directly exposes some of the most embarrassing aspects of Christianity's origins. In essence, what is now regarded as a major embarrassment for church scholars today was precisely what earlier Christian scholars had proudly regarded, and indeed boastfully celebrated, as the sole indisputable proof that Jesus had really existed and was divinely descended straight from none other than, the Hebrew God of the Old Testament himself.
Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, the only surviving, first-hand descriptions of first-century Judea were the Bible's New Testament and the written works of Josephus Flavius, which as Joseph Atwill reminds us, "provided the New Testament with its primary independent historical documentation." (page 41, Caesar's Messiah) This is merely the tip-of-the-iceberg of what church scholars are reluctant to discuss today. Josephus [Joe-"SEE"-fus] Flavius was the adopted son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian Flavius and the official family historian for the Flavian dynasty, which lasted from 69 to 96 C.E. When Vespasian returned to Rome to become Emperor in 69 C.E., he left his son Titus Flavius behind in Judea to command the military campaign against the latest rebellion of the lower-class Jewish people, the Sicarii. This 69-73 C.E. war was depicted in one of Josephus Flavius's most famous works Wars of Jews, where "all the precise details Jesus foresaw for Jerusalem did indeed come to pass," as Christian scholars proudly boasted for almost 2,000 years. (23) Thus, right up until the end of the 19th century, the Wars of the Jews document itself was equally revered by Christian scholars as the definitive proof that Jesus had indeed lived and seen into the future.
From the very start of Christianity's surviving documented history, right up through to the end of the 19th century, Josephus Flavius's depiction of Rome's 66-73 C.E. war against Judea was considered by Christian scholarship to be the sole justification for believing that Jesus had actually existed and was the divine Messiah sent by the Jewish God of the Old Testament. As Joseph Atwill explains in his book Caesar's Messiah,
"Early Christians believed that the events Josephus described in Wars of the Jews proved that Jesus had been able to see into the future. It is difficult to find even one early Christian who taught another position. " They were in no way unusual in holding this view, it was held by the majority of Christian scholars until the end of the 19th century." (22-25)
In short, Rome's 66-73 C.E. war against Judea is the origin or rather, the keystone in the foundation of Christianity. We can either continue to ignore this centuries-old fact and allow their founding claims to remain unchallenged -that the accuracies of Jesus's predictions about the 66-73 C.E. war are proof of a divine miracle- or as Joseph Atwill suggests, we can look to see what "non-supernatural explanation" there is for it first. (26) Fortunately, his book Caesar's Messiah provides us with more than enough hard evidence to do just that . . . and more.
The Flavian dynasty ruled Rome during a time when the regulation of religion was such an important tool of the state that the Emperor himself was involved with it. (61) Historians of this era are well aware that the absorption and control of all religions was common state policy for imperialist Rome, as well as its most cost-effective tactic to control the citizenry, co-opt and conquer its enemies, and maintain the power of the state -by "neutralizing an enemy's religion by making it their own, rather than fighting against it," as Atwill describes it. (43) But by 73 C.E. it became clear to Titus Flavius and his powerful Jewish allies (the Herods and the Alexanders) that this tactic was not going to work on the Jewish working-class zealots, the Sicarii. For more than a hundred years (before Titus Flavius), Rome tried everything to get the Sicarii Jews in line and to submit to Roman rule over their religion. But what had worked on everyone else with all other religions, would not work on the Sicarii Jews who steadfastly refused to allow the forced worship of Roman Emperors in their temples as Roman law required. (18)
Over the past hundred years, the Sicarii Jews had relentlessly staged insurrections against the Roman Empire. These repeated uprisings were showing no signs of stopping and were becoming far too expensive and dangerously wearisome for Rome to keep having to fight against and temporarily contain until the next Sicarii rebellion broke out. It was imperative for Rome to come up with an entirely new solution, a new tactic to co-opt and contain this militant Judaism, in order to prevent its rebellious ideology from spreading. Because the last thing Rome needed was Sicarii rebellions inspiring other groups of people to revolt against Rome. The root of this problem, as Josephus Flavius recorded (and later confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947) was that what had most inspired the Sicarii Jews to fight against Roman Empire was their belief that their Hebrew God would send them a Messiah/Christ who would lead them to final military victory over Rome. (14)
Although the Roman imperialists had confiscated and nearly destroyed all Jewish literature of the first-century, having locked up the Torah and other Jewish writings inside the Flavian palace in Rome, (26-27) they could not stamp out the core belief of the Sicarii Jews that their Hebrew God would send them a militaristic Messiah/Christ who would help them defeat Rome once and for all. In the immediate aftermath of the 66-73 C.E. war, however, what enraged Titus Flavius more than anything else, as noted by his own personal historian Josephus Flavius, was that no matter how Titus tortured the Sicarii Jews, they still refused to bow down to Titus or his father, the then Roman Emperor Vespasian Flavius, as their Lord and God. (18)
In all my years of Catholic indoctrination as a child growing up in the 1970's and early 80's, I don't recall any mention whatsoever, of this 66-73 Roman war against Judea nor of the other numerous deep connections between Christianity's origins and the Flavian dynasty -connections which Joseph Atwill also details in his book Caesar's Messiah (as well as other researchers like Warren Fahy and James Valliant who spent 30 years investigating the archaeological evidence of the Flavian authorship of Christianity in their 2018 book, Creating Christ: How Roman Emperors Invented Christianity). As Joseph Atwill summarizes it,
"[T]he Flavians are linked to Christianity by an unusual number of facts and traditions. Early church documents flatly state that the family produced some of the religion's first martyrs, as well as the pope who succeeded Peter. The Flavians created much of the literature that provides documentation for the religion, were responsible for its oldest known cemetery, and housed individuals named in the New Testament within their imperial court. Further, the family was responsible for Jesus' apocalyptic prophecies having "come to pass." (42) Jesus predicted that a "Son of God" would come to Judea before the generation that crucified him had had passed away, then encircle Jerusalem with a wall and destroy the temple. Titus is the only individual in history who can be seen as having fulfilled these prophecies." (91)
With this information at hand, it becomes plainly obvious why the Church is so embarrassed over the Flavian connection to the origin of Christianity now. The only way out of the inescapable conclusion that Titus Flavius is the fulfillment of the apocalyptic "Second Coming" predicted by Jesus, is to deny precisely what Christian scholars proudly promoted for almost 2,000 years, as the solitary "proof" that Jesus really existed. And just like that, the only surviving document that "provided the New Testament with its primary independent historical documentation" -Josephus Flavius's Wars of the Jews- is suddenly a source of great embarrassment for Christian scholars, never to be mentioned in any Christian-run institutions again. And that famous Christian prophecy, Matt 24:33-34, that has Jesus specifically telling the Jews "in solemn truth that the present generation alive would certainly not pass away without all these things having first taken place," suddenly it doesn't matter that Jews of that era saw a generation as lasting 40 years, or, as Atwill points out, that "Titus' destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. fit perfectly into the time frame Jesus gave in his prophecy,"(24) because church scholars today now insist that previous church scholarship had it wrong, all this time, for almost 2,000 years.
So, after almost 2,000 years of Christianity's celebration of Titus Flavius as the "Second Coming" predicted by Jesus, it suddenly became so embarrassing by the end of the 19th century that church scholars realized they had to invent a new official story-line- mainly, that Jesus's prophecies had nothing to do with Titus's 70 C.E. destruction of Jerusalem but that, instead, Jesus was really talking about some far-off "end times" which have not occurred yet.(79) But to get around that other prophecy Jesus made about the destruction of the "wicked generation" of Jews, church scholars officially decided that this was really in reference to when the entire "race" of Jews dies out. Unfortunately, this attempt by modern church scholarship to change the definition of "generation" to mean "race," however, only intensifies the anti-Semitism which is already inherent in Christianity's origins. Because, then there is no other way to interpret Jesus's most famous prophecy, "the meek shall inherit the earth," except to mean some 'end times' scenario when the "wicked generation" (-er, excuse me "wicked race"?) of Jews dies out.
In any case, the inescapable anti-Semitism of Christianity's origins is easily another reason why church scholars today are so intent on denying the connection between the predictions of Jesus and Josephus Flavius's Wars of the Jews -a connection which we would do well to remember, had the earliest church scholars convinced it not only "proved God had sanctioned the events" of Rome's war against the working-class Jews of Judea, (306) but also, as Atwill points out, that "the unspoken point, since God has condemned Judaism, is that Christianity is its replacement." (339)
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