Several folks asked:
Did your hear about this “Covert Messiah” thing? It sounds like a typical conspiracy theory kind of thing, but some of my friends are really confused by it. Can you give me a good way of responding to it?
There has been some noise on the internet recently about a man named Joseph Atwill having “discovered” that the story of Jesus was created, and the Bible written, by the Romans as a way to pacify the rebellious Jewish subjects in 1st century Judea.
This whole thing is another example of the need to remember that just because something is in a book, or in the news, does not mean it has any validity; it means someone is trying to sell a book or gain ratings/newspaper sales. Let’s look at some facts.
He claims to have “discovered” parallels between the New Testament and the historical account given by Jewish-Romans historian Josephus, but those similarities have been known by scholars for years. (http://www.amazon.com/Josephus-New-Testament-Steve-Mason/dp/0801047005/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381687963&sr=1-1&keywords=josephus+and+the+new+testament)
Mr Atwill’s book on this subject was not published by a University Press (it was published independently) , and was originally published in 2005. http://www.amazon.com/Caesars-Messiah-Conspiracy-Flavian-Signature/dp/1461096405/ref=pd_sim_b_3
The reason Mr Atwill is in the news now is because he is having a conference in London to present his theory. This is not an academic conference. Anyone can get in for a fee of £25. (http://www.covertmessiah.com)
This is not a case of an academic discovering new historical evidence. It is a case of someone coming up with an outlandish statement and trying to make some money off of it. The theory is not respected in the academic community, nor even in many anti-religion communities who think Mr Atwill’s bad history is harming their cause.
The sad thing about all of this is that reason so many people want so badly to disprove Christianity is because of Christians. People who claim to follow Jesus often act in mean, judgmental, bullying ways. So of course people who have been mistreated by them want to try to strike back at what those people claim to believe in.
The answer to things like this for Christians is not to shout louder, or counterattack. It is to live the way Jesus actually called his followers to: a life of loving, of looking out for people, helping others. If Christians were known for behaving that way, I don’t think Christianity would have so many people who wanted so badly for it to be untrue.
-Matt from The Bridge