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The People of the Lie

Primo Levi, Italian author of If this is a man (1947) — “a pillar of Holocaust literature” according to Wikipedia —, wrote a short fictional story titled “un testamento”, consisting of the last recommendation of a member of the guild of the “tooth-pullers” to his son. Its ends with these words:

From all that you have just read you can deduce that lying is a sin for others, and for us a virtue. Lying is one with our job: we should lie by words, by eyes, by smile, by clothing. Not only to deceive patients; as you know, our purpose is higher, and the lie, not the twist of hand, makes our real strength. With the lie, patiently learned and piously exercised, if God helps us we will come to dominate this country and perhaps the world: but this can only be done on the condition of having been able to lie better and longer than our enemies. I will not see that day, but you will see it: it will be a new golden age, when only the last resorts will force us to pluck out teeth again, while it will be enough for us to govern the State and administer public affairs, to lavish the pious lies that we have learned to bring to perfection. If we prove ourselves capable of this, the empire of the tooth-pullers will extend from East to West until the most distant islands, and it will have no end.[1]Translated from the French: Primo Levi, Lilith et autres nouvelles, Le Livre de Poche, 1989.

There is no literary value in this prose. Its only interest is the question it begs: Who does Levi mean by this society of professional liars, whose trade is passed on from father to son, and whose plan is to conquer the world? Of whom are they the metaphor? And perhaps this other question: What is this “testament” of theirs?

Even if we didn’t know what gang of professional liars Levi belonged to, their “God” would give them away: there is only one god who trained his people to lie and promised them world domination, and that is the god of Israel. “Israel,” remember, is the name Yahweh gave to Jacob, after Jacob lied to his aging father Isaac, by words and by clothing: “I am Esau your first-born,” he said, dressed up in “Esau’s best clothes,” in order to cheat Esau out of his birthright (Genesis 27:15-19). This is, in the literal—and literary—sense, the founding story of Israel. As long as Christians fail to see the malice of it, and its correlation with Jewish behavior, they will continue to play the part of Esau.

What is the biggest Jewish lie in history? Without contest, it is the claim that Jews, of all the nations inhabiting this earth, were once “chosen” by the almighty Creator of the Universe to enlighten and rule over mankind—while all their enemies were cursed by the same Creator. What is truly bewildering is not the enormity of the lie: many individuals may feel chosen by God, and even nations have done so. But only the Jews have managed to convince billions of non-Jews (Christians and Muslims) of their chosenness. How did they do it? “Almost by accident,” wrote Jewish author Marcus Eli Ravage in his must-read 1928 article “A real case against the Jews.” I think the accidental factor was rather minor.

The Christians’ theory that, after choosing the Jews, God cursed them for their rejection of Christ doesn’t contradict, but rather validates the Jews’ claim that they are the only ethnic group that God chose, loved exclusively and guided personally through his prophets for thousands of years. I have argued in “The Holy Hook” that this has given the Jews an ambivalent but decisive spiritual authority over Gentiles. In fact, even the Jews’ “cursedness” that goes with their chosenness in the Christian view has been beneficial to them, because Jewishness cannot survive without hostility to and from the Gentile world; that’s part of its biblical DNA. Jesus saved the Jews in the sense that their hatred of Christianity preserved their identity, which might otherwise have perished without the Temple. According to Jacob Neusner “Judaism as we know it was born in the encounter with triumphant Christianity.”[2]Jacob Neusner, Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine: History, Messiah, Israel, and the Initial Confrontation, University of Chicago Press, 1987 , pp. ix-xi. Christian Judeophobia had an advantage over Pagan Judeophobia: with Christianity, the Jews were not just hated as atavistically antisocial (i.e., Tacitus’ Histories v, 3-5), but as God’s once chosen people, and their Torah became the world bestseller. Chosenness is an unbeatable trump card in the game of nations. If you doubt its power, just ask yourself: would the Jews have gotten Palestine in 1948 without that card? The Holocaust joker alone would not have done it!

As I have become increasingly aware of the resonance between the spiritual and the genetic, as well as of the Jewish war against White identity, I have come to wonder if the revealed notion of Jewish divine preference and predestination has not been a slow debilitating poison injected into our collective soul. Jewish chosenness means a metaphysical superiority that makes us, non-Jews, God’s second choice at best. Sure, this is not an explicit dogma of Christianity—the Credo doesn’t include “I believe that God chose the Jews”—, but only an underlying postulate of Christology. Does that make it less, or more efficient against our rational immune system? It is hard to tell. I believe that Jews have carried their chosenness by the Jealous One as a kind of spooky aura not unlike the mark of Cain that says, “Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance” (Genesis 4:15). (It is appropriate to mention here that Cain is the eponymous ancestor of the Kenites, a Midianite tribe allied to the Israelites during the conquest of Canaan, and that according to the scholarly “Kenite hypothesis,” the Yahwist cult is of Kenite origin.)[3]Read Thomas Römer, The Invention of God, Harvard UP, 2015, pp. 137-138, or Hyam Maccoby, The Sacred Executioner, Thames & Hudson, 1982, pp. 13-51. I broached on this topic in my book “Our God Is Your God Too, But He Has Chosen Us”: Essays on Jewish Power, AFNIL, 2020, pp. 42-45.

How did they do it? How did the Jews manage to smuggle their Big Lie into the exclusive religion of European nations? That is a legitimate and important question, isn’t it? From a purely historical perspective, it remains one of the greatest puzzles; one that secular historians prefer to leave to Church historians, who are comfortable with Constantine hearing voices near the Milvius Bridge. The question is, very simply: How is it that Rome ended up adopting as its spiritual foundation a doctrine and a book claiming that God chose the Jews, at a period of widespread Roman Judeophobia? And how is it possible, that, less than two centuries after turning Jerusalem into a Greek city named Aelia Capitolina, where Jews were forbidden to enter, Rome adopted officially a religion that announced the fall of Rome and a new Jerusalem?

One part of the answer is that uniting the Empire under a common religion has been a major concern of Roman emperors from the very beginning. Before Christianity, it was not a question of eliminating local religions, but of creating a common cult to give a divine legitimacy and a religious bond to the Empire. When they searched for religious inspiration, the Romans generally turned to Egypt. The cults of Osiris (or Serapis, as he came to be called from the third century BC), of his sister-spouse Isis, and of their son Horus (or Harpocrates, Horus the Child) were extremely popular all around the Mediterranean, and provided the Romans with the closest thing to an international religion.

Hadrian (117-138) gave Osiris the features of Antinous, to whom he also dedicated a new city, new games, and a constellation. The origin of Antinous is unclear. The Augustan History tells us that he was the gay lover (eromenos) of Emperor Hadrian, and many historians still reproduce that story, even though the Augustan History has been exposed as the work of an impostor. In all likelihood this story is a Christian propaganda against a competing religion. Antinous, whose name is formed of anti, “like”, and nous, “spirit”, is supposed to have drowned in the Nile on a 24th of October, just like Osiris, and his death was interpreted as a sacrifice. As a divinity, Antinous was assimilated to Osiris, and by extension to Hermes, Dionysos and Bacchus, all divinities of the Afterworld. On a monolithic obelisque found in Rome but built in Antinopolis, Antinous is designated as Osiris Antinous. His cult must therefore be seen as a new expression of the cult of Osiris sponsored by the Empire. Antinous’ face and body, sculpted in thousands of copies, were a self-celebration of the White race that then dominated the world, from Anatolia to Spain, and from Great Britain to Egypt.[4]Royston Lambert, Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous, Phoenix Giant, 1984; Christopher Jones, New Heroes in Antiquity, op. cit., pp. 75–83.

Antinous as Bacchus, colossal sculpture presumed to have been from Hadrian’s villa in Palestrina
Antinous as Bacchus, colossal sculpture presumed to have been from Hadrian’s villa in Palestrina

What a contrast with its competitor, the cult of the Crucified. The question, then, becomes: Why did Christ ultimately supplant Osiris, even absorbing the cult of Isis? How is it that the glorious and self-confident Roman Empire converted to the cult of a Jewish healer tortured and executed by Roman authorities for sedition? This is the Jewish question that few people want to ask. Assuming that Christianity is a human creation—and that’s my premise—, it is obviously a Jewish creation to a large extent. How did Jews manage to create a religion for Gentiles that would ultimately eradicate all other religions in the Empire—beginning with the imperial cult?

A full understanding of this question will probably never be reached, but with what we have learned about Jewish ways in the last hundred years, we can try to formulate some reasonable scenario, one that doesn’t involve God talking to emperors, but another talking device—money—as well as political leverage by a Jewish transgenerational network determined to seize control of the religious policy of the Empire. We, today, know that such Jewish transgenerational networks, capable of driving their host Empires or nations to their ruin, do exist. We also know that they are good at fabricating and promoting their Judeocentric macabre religion for the Goyim.

The Two Sides of the Big Lie

Is this quest really necessary? Can there be any benefit for Western civilization in questioning its already shaky Christian foundation? And is the Big Lie such a big deal? Before proceeding, I want to share my viewpoint on these questions, on which I have thought long and hard.

“The greatness of White civilization sprung from the Christian faith.” Such a statement seems hardly controversial. And yet, I think it is completely mistaken. The achievements of our civilization stem from the inner strength of our race, which include an exceptional propensity to “idealize”, by which I mean both to generate ideas and work toward their realization. The genius of our race is to be creators of powerful Ideas that drive us forward and upward. This capacity, which Søren Kierkegaard calls ideality (In Vino Veritas, 1845), is not to be confused with what we commonly call idealism, although it may be argued that idealism is our vulnerability, the weakness inherent to our strength.

For centuries, the Christian faith has been a vehicle—one could almost say a superstructure—for our yearning to idealize and realize; it has not produced it. Priests did not build the Cathedrals in which they officiated (most churches were collective ventures of cities, towns and villages); the troubadours and poets who elaborated the sublime ideal of love which is our “civilization’s miracle” (Stendhal)[5]Stendhal, Love, Penguin Classics, 2000, p. 83., were not monks; Johann Sebastian Bach wrote Church music, but he was not an clergyman, and his Ave Maria would sound just as great if sung to Isis; many geniuses of our European pantheons, like Dante, Leonardo da Vinci or Galilee, were nominal Catholics by obligation, but secret lovers of Sophia (read “The Crucifixion of the Goddess”). The source of the artistic, scientific and cultural genius of the White race is not Christianity.

Kevin MacDonald makes a discreet but crucial point in his preface to Giles Corey’s The Sword of Christ when he writes that “the adaptive aspects of Christianity” are what “produced Western expansion, innovation, discovery, individual freedom, economic prosperity, and strong family bonds.”[6]Giles Corey, The Sword of Christ: Christianity from the Right, or The Christian Question, Independently published, 2020, p. xiii. This is true if by “the adaptive aspects of Christianity” we mean the aspects that are adopted and adapted from the ancient Greco-Roman-Germanic world, rather than from the Old and New Testament. Among the adaptive aspects of Christianity must be counted its various national colors. Russian Orthodoxy is good for Russia for the same reason that Confucianism is good for China: because it is a national Church, so that being a Russian Orthodox means being a patriot. The same could be said in the past about Lutheranism for Germany or, in a narrower context, Catholicism for Ireland. But these national versions of Christianity are, in fact, in opposition to its universal (katholikos) mission statement—and to papal Rome. Family values are also adaptive aspects of Christianity. Jesus disavowed his family (Matthew 12:46-50) and Paul taught that, “it is good for a man not to marry,” marriage being recommended only for those who cannot help fornicating (1 Corinthians 7). “Christian values” are not Christian at all, they are simply conservative. In fact, if we look at its popular expressions, Catholicism has been so adaptive that it can be said to be more pagan than Jewish. What’s Jewish about Christmas or Mother Mary?

The problem with Christianity is with its non-adaptive and now prominent Jewish aspects. It is not just the grotesque notion that Jews are chosen, but the even more grotesque character of the god who chose them. Paradoxically, with its anthropomorphic—or should we say Judeomorphic—image of God inherited from the Torah, Christianity has laid the foundation for modern atheism, and, perhaps, harmed Gentile ideality irremediably. Because the Old Testament God is “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a […] capriciously malevolent bully,” Richard Dawkins decided to be an atheist, like the vast majority of scholars from Christian background.[7]Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, p. 51. They have all, by their own admission, confused God with Yahweh, and fallen victim to the Big Biblical Lie. And because they cannot conceive God outside of the Biblical paradigm, they ban Intelligent Design from universities under the slanderous accusation that it is another name for the biblical God (watch the documentary Expelled: No Intelligent Allowed), whereas it is in fact a vindication of the Greek Sophia. The sociopathic Yahweh has ruined the reputation of God and led to modern Western godlessness.

And so the Big Jewish Lie begot the Big Atheist Lie—or shall we call it the Darwinian Lie? “Yahweh is God” and “God is dead” are opposed like the two sides of the same coin. Our materialistic civilization is in fact more Jewish than the Christianity it rejected, because materialism (the denial of any otherworld) is the metaphysical core of the Hebrew Bible (read “Israel as One Man”).

If Christianity could include, among its adaptive aspects, the rejection of the Old Testament’s Jealous God and the Big Lie of Jewish chosenness, then it would be redeemable. But Christians would rather sell their souls to the devil than become Marcionites. In two thousand years of existence, institutional Christianity has consistently evolved in the opposite direction, becoming more and more scriptural, Judaized, and Israel-centered: from Orthodoxy to Catholicism, and from Catholicism to Protestantism, the trend is unmistakable. What else can you expect from an institution that has always invited the Jews, and declared that they cease being Jews the moment they receive baptism?

And so Christianity is a dead end. It is now part of the problem, not the solution. It may have served us well for some centuries, but in the long run, it has been an instrument of Gentile enslavement to Jewish power. At least, it has not helped us to prevent it, and it cannot help us to overcome it. Many today ask: why are we so weak? It is high time to consider the obvious: having been taught for generations to worship and emulate the man nailed on the cross under Jewish pressure is not the best incentive to resist martyrdom. There is an obvious correlation between being told yesterday that it is moral to “love your enemies” and getting jailed today for “hate speech.”

I hold no personal grudge against Christianity. Catholicism is a part of my happiest childhood memories, and the sound of Church bells never fails to strike a deep chord in me. My grandparents on my mother’s side were Catholic bourgeois who raised a large and happy family with sound moral values. If I could see any hope in this social class, I would be a political Catholic like Balzac, or a romantic Catholic like Chateaubriand. But Catholic bourgeoisie is near extinct, having never recovered from Maréchal Petain’s demise. Their children called them fascists and their grandchildren are addicted to pornography. Catholicism has deserted the country too: there are no priests, and what good is a country priest anyway if he cannot bless the crops at Easter? Therefore, since I don’t believe that Jesus literally rose from his tomb, I consider that institutional Christianity has exhausted its potential for civilization in the West. Look at our pope, for Christ’s sake!

I speak as a Frenchman, but I doubt that American Catholicism has much more Holy Spirit left. It died in Dallas with Arlen Specter’s magic bullet. Of course, there are brave Catholics like E. Michael Jones, who has captured the evil genius of the Jewish race in his indispensable book on The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit. But Professor Jones is the exception that proves the rule. And I am not even talking of American Protestantism, today a mercenary force for Zion.

Jews in Rome Before the Jewish Wars

Long before it was repackaged for the Gentiles, the Big Lie was a Jewish self-delusion. As I have detailed at the end of my long article “Zionism, Crypto-Judaism and the Biblical Hoax,” in the sixth and the fifth century BC in Babylon, a priestly elite from Jerusalem decided that Yahweh, the national god of Israel, although apparently vanquished, was in fact the only real god, and, by way of consequence, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. A laughable claim, but when the Persians conquered Babylon, those Jews, who found themselves in a favorable position after helping the Persians, set out to pretend that their theoclastic monotheism, based on the exclusion of all other gods, was identical to the tolerant monotheism of the Persians; in other words, that their tribal god Yahweh was Ahura Mazda, the God of Heaven. I have shown that the deception is clearly apparent in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, where only Persians are portrayed as believing that Yahweh is “the God of Heaven,” while for the Israelites he is just “the god of Israel.”

What the priestly Jews achieved in Babylon in the fifth century BC was a preliminary stage for what another generation of the same priestly cast would start planning in the first century AD in Rome, after having been brought there in similar conditions of captivity. While Yahweh seemed again vanquished, he set out to conquer his victor from within. The conspiracy of Babylon’s Jews to fool the Persians with their phony monotheism was the blueprint for the more sophisticated conspiracy of Rome’s Jews to fool the Romans with Christianity.

Between those two stages, Jews seem to have convinced a portion of the Roman aristocracy that they were the first true monotheists, the worshipers of the true God. For Greeks and Romans, the supreme Creator was a philosophical concept, while religious cults were polytheistic by definition. That’s why, around 315 BC, the Aristotelian Theophrastus of Eresus thought of the Jews as “philosophers by birth,” although he was troubled by their primitive holocausts. Some Jewish writers (Aristobulus of Paneas, Artapanos of Alexandria, or even Philo of Alexandria) had even succeeded in bluffing some Greeks with the wild claim that Homer, Hesiod, Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato had been inspired by Moses.[8]Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt, From Rameses II to Emperor Hadrian, Princeton University Press, 1995, pp. 48-49, 66.

Jews are mentioned in Rome as early as the second century BC. It has been surmised that they were mostly converted Phoenicians. Martin Bernal defends that thesis in Jews and Phoenicians,” with the argument that “there is no evidence of Jews in the West Mediterranean before the destruction of Carthage [146 BC],” but “after that date, they were widely reported there,” while Phoenicians faded from the pages of history. Phoenicians and Jews’ languages and cultures were virtually identical.[9]Martin Bernal, Geography of a Life, chap. 45, “Jews and Phoenicians,” pp. 386-394. Peter Myers brings additional light in his well-sourced article “Carthaginians, Phoenicians & Berbers became Jews”, arguing that, “After the destruction of Carthage by Rome, many Carthaginians and Phoenicians converted to Judaism, because Jerusalem was the only remaining centre of West Semitic civilization.” The Encyclopedia Judaica’s article on Carthage, quoted by Myers, supports that hypothesis, adding that the Phoenicians, by converting to Judaism after their political decline, “preserved their Semitic identity and were not assimilated by the Roman-Hellenistic culture which they hated.” This theory, which also explains the mysterious origin of the Sephardim in Spain—a Carthaginian colony—, is of obvious importance to comprehend the attitude of Jews towards the Roman Empire, destroyer of the Phoenician civilization.

Flavius Josephus highlights the ancient affinity between Phoenicians and Jews
Flavius Josephus highlights the ancient affinity between Phoenicians and Jews

In 63 BC, Rome’s Jewish community was enlarged with thousands of captives brought back from Judea by Pompey, and progressively freed (Philo of Alexandria, Legatio ad Caium, 156). It is believed that Julius Cesar introduced legislation to guarantee their religious liberty, and that the law was confirmed by Augustus, who also exempted them from military service. Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) is said to have expelled the Jews from Rome (Suetonius, Claudius xv, 4; Acts 18:2), or at least forbidden them to congregate (Cassius Dio lx, 6). But they seem to have known favorable times under Nero (54-68), whose wife Poppaea Sabina is regarded as an Esther-type secret Jewess in Jewish tradition, because Jewish historian Flavius Josephus calls her “a God-worshipper” (Antiquities of the Jews, xx, 195) and mentions her support for the release of Jewish priests prosecuted in Rome (Vita 16).[10]Nahum Goldmann, Le Paradoxe juif. Conversations en français avec Léon Abramowicz, Stock, 1976, p. 36; Heinrich Graetz, Histoire des Juifs, A. Lévy, 1882 (on fr.wikisource.org), tome I, p. 413-428.

The Foundation of the Roman Church Under the Flavian dynasty

In 70, newly proclaimed emperor Vespasian and his son Titus brought to Rome about 97,000 Jewish captives (Josephus, Jewish War vi, 9), as well as members of the Jewish nobility rewarded for their support in the war in Judea—Josephus being the most famous of them. Soon after, as Josephus started working on his Antiquities of the Jews in 20 volumes, we are told that the Gospels were written.[11]The earliest gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is commonly dated in the late 60s, but that date is much too early, especially since it mentions the destruction of the Temple. In the same period, according to standard Church history, we already have in Rome a Christian church, headed by a certain Clement of Rome (88-99). Clement must have been an educated Jew like Josephus, because his only genuine epistle is characterized by numerous Hebraisms, abundant references to the Old Testament, and a Levitical mindset. An ancient and credible tradition makes him a freedman of consul Titus Flavius Clemens, a cousin of the Flavian emperors. We learn from Cassius Dio that Flavius Clemens was executed by Domitian, brother and successor of Titus, for “atheism” and “deviation toward Judaic customs.” His wife Flavia Domitilla was banished to the island of Pandateria (Ventotene). Over time, Flavius Clemens came to be regarded as a Christian martyr, and this gave rise to the idea of Domitian’s persecution of Christians. But historians now dismiss this notion (there is no clearly attested persecution of Christians prior to the middle of the third century),[12]Tacitus wrote in the Annals (xv, 44) that Nero accused Christians of starting the great fire of Rome in 64, and had many of them “thrown to the beasts, crucified, and burned alive.” But this is the only attestation of that story, and some modern scholars have cast doubt on its credibility: Richard Carrier sees it as a later Christian interpolation, and Brent Shaw argues that Nero’s persecution is a myth (Wikipedia.). There is one other mention of persecution against Christians before the third century, in a letter written to Trajan by Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia (north of Asia Minor). But this letter is of dubious authenticity as well, belonging to a book of 121 letters found in the sixteenth century, copied, and lost again. and assume that Flavius Clemens and Flavia Domitilla were simply accused of Judaizing, and the former perhaps of circumcising himself.[13]Paul Mattei, Le Christianisme antique: De Jésus à Constantin, Armand Colin, 2011, p. 119. One of Domitian’s assassins in 96 was a steward of Domitilla named Stephanus, which may suggests a Jewish vengeance.

The attitude of the Flavians towards the Jews was apparently twofold. On the one hand, they seemed determined to do away with the Jewish religion, which they saw, correctly, as the source of Jewish separatism. Not content with having destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, Vespasian also ordered the destruction of the one in Leontopolis, Egypt. In general, the Romans used to integrate the vanquished gods with a ceremony of evocatio deorum, by which the god was granted a sanctuary in Rome. But the god Yahweh was considered inassimilable, which is why his objects of worship were treated as mere booty, according to Emily Schmidt: “The treatment of the Jewish god can be seen as an inversion of the typical Roman treatment of or attitude towards foreign gods, perhaps as an anti-evocatio.”[14]Emily A. Schmidt, “The Flavian Triumph and the Arch of Titus: The Jewish God in Flavian Rome,” UC Santa Barbara: Ancient Borderlands Research Focus Group, 2010, retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9xw0k5kh

On the other hand, Josephus’ biography shows that Vespasian and Titus were not just merciful, but even grateful to the Jews who had rallied to them in Judea. There is no contradiction between those two aspects of the Flavians’ Jewish policy: they repressed Jewish separatism and forbade Jewish proselytizing but encouraged Jewish assimilation. Assimilationist Jews abandoned circumcision and had no objection to the syncretic assimilation of Yahweh with Zeus or Jupiter. The same basic twofold policy was followed by the Flavians’ successors Trajan (98-117) and Hadrian (117-138).[15]Trajan is said to have had a pro-Jewish wife, Pompeia Plotina, and he once sentenced to death a Greek dignitary named Hermaiskos for having complained that the emperor’s entourage was “full of impious Jews.” (Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt – From Rameses II to Emperor Hadrian, Princeton University Press, 1997, p. 193-196). But Hadrian is credited for having banned circumcision, and, when faced in 132 with a new anti-Roman Jewish uprising in Judea, led by Simon bar Kokhba, he destroyed Jerusalem once more, converted it into a Greek city named Aelia Capitolina, and forbade Jews to enter it.

From these basic facts, and keeping in mind the pattern set by Ezra’s priestly circle in Babylon, it is not difficult to imagine what was going on in Rome in the first century. The theory I’m going to discuss now goes like this: the cornerstone of the Roman Catholic Church was first laid by a secret brotherhood of priestly Jews, who had been brought to Rome by Vespasian and Titus in the aftermath of the Jewish War that destroyed their Temple in 70 AD. Some had gained Vespasian’s favor and protection by handing him the fabulous Temple treasure that made possible his ascension to the imperial throne. Flavius Josephus, who had defected to the Romans in Galilee and was rewarded beyond measure by Vespasian, may have been an influential member of that Jewish circle. Those powerful, wealthy and self-conscious Jews, using assimilation for dissimulation, had the motive, the means and the opportunity to fabricate the syncretic religion that could serve as their Trojan horse.

I borrow this theory from Flavio Barbiero’s book The Secret Society of Moses: The Mosaic Bloodline and a Conspiracy Spanning Three Millennia (2010). The author is not a trained historian, but a scientist with a sharp inquisitive and logical mind combined with a great imagination and a taste for sweeping theories. There is a great deal of speculation in the grand story he unfolds, from Moses to modern times, but it is insightful and consistent. At least it is a good starting point for trying to answer the question of how the Jews created Christianity.

According to that thesis, these priestly Jews brought to Rome by Vespasian and Titus had come to terms with the ruin of their nation and Temple, but they had not given up on their biblical program of Jewish supremacy; they simply reinterpreted it from their new vantage point inside the Empire’s capital. Still jealous of their birth and strictly endogamous, they retained and passed on to their progeny a sense of mission to pave for Israel a new road towards its destiny. Can we not even assume that, under their apparent loyalty to the Emperor, they shared the same hatred of Rome that inspired first-century Jewish texts like the Apocalypses of Ezra and of Baruch? In Ezra, the roar of the Lion of Judah makes the Roman eagle bursts into flame, and a reunited and free Israel is gathered in Palestine. In Baruch, the Messiah routs and destroys the Roman armies, then brings the Roman emperor in chains to Mount Zion and puts him to death.[16]Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Essential Books, 1957, p. 4. The same hatred of Rome permeates the Book of Revelation, where Rome, under the thin veil of Babylon, is called the Great Harlot, whose flesh will be consumed by God’s wrath, to make way for a brand new Jerusalem.

Let us consider, as a working hypothesis, that these Jewish priests had a plan. They adopted the network strategy that had allowed their distant ancestors to infiltrate the Persian court and thereby regain their lost power under the patronage of Ezra. Their goal, according to Flavio Barbiero, was “taking possession of the newborn Christian religion and transforming it into a solid power basis for the priestly family” (p. 146). There existed already a cult of Christ, attested by Paul’s epistles written in the 50s, but the Gospels gave it a completely different orientation in the decades following the destruction of the Temple. The Law-abiding Peter, presented as the head of the Jerusalem Church by the Gospel of Matthew, was made the founder of the Roman papacy in the literature attributed to Clement of Rome, thus establishing a spiritual bond between Rome and Jerusalem.

To get a better understanding of the Jewish community that elaborated these traditions, we must take a closer look at the first Jewish War. In 67, emperor Nero sent his army commander Vespasian to crush the rebellion of the priestly Sadducees who had defied Roman power by banning from the Temple the daily sacrifices offered in the name and at the expense of the Emperor. When, after Nero’s death, Vespasian was declared emperor in December 69, his son Titus was left in Judea to finish putting down the rebellion. In Book vi of Josephus’ Jewish War, we learn that, from the early stage of Titus’ siege of Jerusalem, many Jews went over to the Romans, including “heads of the priestly families.” Titus “not only received these men very kindly in other respects, but […] told them, that when he was gotten clear of this war, he would restore each of them to their possessions again.” Until the last days of the siege, Josephus informs us, some priests obtained safe conduct under the condition that they handed to Titus some of the Temple’s wealth. One, named Jesus, delivered “two candlesticks similar to those that were deposited in the Temple, some tables, some drinking chalices and cups, all of solid gold. He also handed over the curtains [those that were torn as Jesus expired according to Matthew 27:51], the robes of the high priest, with the precious stones and many other objects used for sacrifices.” Another, named Phineas, introduced by Josephus as “the guardian of the Temple treasure,” handed over “the priests’ tunics and belts, a large quantity of purple and scarlet cloth […] and a large quantity of the sacred ornaments, thanks to which, even if he was a prisoner of war, he obtained the amnesty reserved for deserters.”

Those priests obviously bargained their lives and their freedom with parts of the Temple treasure. The Temple was not just a religious sanctuary, it was, in a real sense, a central bank and a giant vault, harboring enormous quantities of gold, silver, and precious artifacts financed by tithes from around the world. One of the purposes of the Temple, we could say, was to satisfy Yahweh’s greed: “I shall fill this Temple with glory, says Yahweh Sabaoth. Mine is the silver, mine the gold!” (Haggai 2:7).[17]According to 1Kings 10:14, the amount of gold hoarded each year into Salomon’s temple was “666 talents of gold” (1 talent = 30kg). Salomon’s treasure may be legendary, but it illustrates what the Jerusalem Temple still meant for the priests of the first century AD. According to the Copper Scroll found near the Dead Sea in 1952, the Temple treasure, amounting to tons of gold, silver, and precious items, had been hidden during the siege in 64 locations.[18]Because the Copper Scroll is part of the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls, which have been wrongly assigned an Essenian origin for decades, its content was long considered fictional. The revision of this misguided theory, pioneered by Norman Golb in Who wrote the Dead Sea scrolls?: The search for the secret of Qumran, Scribner, 1995, has corrected that bias. So it is logical to assume, as Barbiero does, that Titus and Vespasian were only able to get their hands on it with the help of high-ranking priests.

This huge booty, of which the symbolic centerpiece was the enormous menorah depicted on the Arch of Titus (opening picture), certainly helped Vespasian to earn the acclamation of his troops as emperor, and then to convince the Senate. The construction of the Coliseum, between 70 and 80, was entirely financed by this booty.

Flavius Josephus and Christianity

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Barbiero makes the plausible assumption that Josephus had contributed his share of the Temple treasure to Vespasian. Since Josephus plays a big role in Barbiero’s theory, let us first outline what we know about him. Born Yosef ben Matityahu, he was from the first of the twenty-four priestly classes by his father, according to his autobiography. He also tells us that, in his mid twenties, he had spent more than two years in Rome to negotiate with Emperor Nero for the release of some Jewish priests who were prosecuted, probably for tax evasion (Vita 16). In 67, aged thirty, he served as a commander in the Jewish army, then defected to the Roman side the same year. He then served as a translator for Titus and Vespasian, and was able to save the lives of two hundred and fifty members of his priestly circle. When Vespasian became emperor in 69, he granted Josephus his freedom, at which time Josephus assumed the emperor’s family name. Back in Rome, Vespasian lodged him in his own villa (having built for himself a luxurious palace), and granted him a salary for life from the state treasury, as well as a huge estate in Judea. Josephus devoted the rest of his life to writing books celebrating Jewish history, his last book, Against Apion, being a defense of Judaism. Until his death at the turn of the century, he was a prominent member of the Jewish community in Rome, which comprised many other priests.

In Book iv of the Jewish War, Josephus recounts how, after his capture in Galilee, he was brought to Vespasian, and convinced the general to hear him in private. Vespasian consented and asked every one to withdraw, save Titus and two of their friends. Then Josephus delivered to Vespasian a “prophecy” from God, that Nero would soon die and Vespasian rise to imperial power. Vespasian kept Josephus with him and rewarded him for his prophecy when it came true. That particular story lacks the credibility that generally characterizes Josephus’ book. Flavio Barbiero therefore assumes that it should be understood as an embarrassed euphemism: in reality, Josephus provided Vespasian not with a prediction of his becoming emperor, but with the means for becoming emperor. That means was the Temple treasure.

Josephus Flavius was the first of the Jewish priests to fall into the hands of the Romans, and he was the one who obtained the greatest favors. Seeing that he not only belonged to the first of the priestly families, but also occupied a very high position of responsibility in Israel, as governor of Galilee, and that he had a profound knowledge of the desert of Judah, where he had spent three years of his youth, it is legitimate to believe that he knew about the operations to hide the treasure and was perfectly capable of finding the hiding places. During his private audience with Vespasian immediately after his capture, Josephus must have negotiated his own safety and future prosperity in exchange for the Temple treasure. The proposal would have been irresistible for the penniless Roman general, who thus saw the possibility of securing the necessary means for his ascent to imperial power. On that occasion, the two of them probably made a pact, which was to change the destinies of the world.[19]Flavio Barbiero, The Secret Society of Moses: The Mosaic Bloodline and a Conspiracy Spanning Three Millennia, Inner Traditions, 2010, p. 111.

This, rather than some “prophecy”, can explain the extraordinary favor that Josephus received from Vespasian, which, Josephus admits, stirred much jealousy among the Roman aristocracy.

Nevertheless, there is some significance in Josephus’ prophecy that Barbiero misses. It is a reversal of the messianic expectation that had stirred the Jewish uprising against Rome. As Josephus writes in The Jewish War (vi, 5), “the thing that most moved the people to revolt against Rome was an ambiguous prophecy from their Scripture that ‘one from their country should rule the entire world.’” The Jews were deceived in their interpretation of this prophecy, Josephus writes, because it applied in reality to Vespasian, “who was appointed emperor in Judea.” But by turning Jewish messianic prophecy on its head, was Josephus giving up on the destiny of the Jews to rule the world, or was he elaborating a Plan B, one that relied on using the strength of the Roman Empire rather than opposing it? In other words, by recognizing Vespasian as the Messiah, was he not thinking of turning Rome into the long-term instrument of Jewish messianism?

Perhaps he was even thinking already of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. We know that early Jewish Christians did. Two generations after Josephus, Justin Martyr (died 165), born in Samaria and most probably Jewish, but preaching in Rome, wrote in his Dialogue with Trypho that he answered affirmatively the question: “Do you Christians really maintain that this place, Jerusalem, will be built up again, and do you really believe that your people will assemble here in joy, under Christ…?”[20]Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Essential Books, 1957, p. 10.

Barbiero suggests that Josephus was intimately connected to the Jewish founding fathers of Roman Christianity. This hypothesis derives from Josephus’ own writings, which contain three indirect references to Christianity. Book xviii, chapter 3 of the Antiquities includes the famous passage about Jesus, “a wise man” and “a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure,” who was condemned to the cross by Pilate. “And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” The authenticity of this Testimonium Flavianum is debated, but the dominant scholarly opinion is that it is a genuine passage with Christian interpolations. In xviii, 5, Josephus speaks with great admiration about “John, who was called the Baptist,” underlining his great popularity and condemning Herod Antipas for his murder. This is considered a genuine passage. In xx, 9, Josephus expresses the same sympathy for James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ,” and presents him as a respected figure in Pharisaic circles: when he was stoned to death by order of the high priest Anan, it provoked the indignation of all those zealous for the Law, and ultimately the end of Anan’s career. This is also considered a genuine passage, with only the reference to Jesus being called Christ a Christian insertion.

Barbiero’s thesis of Josephus’ involvement with Christianity is plausible. If we accept the consensus that the Roman Church was already organized in the 90s, with a bishop of Jewish priestly blood, then it is unconceivable that Josephus could have been unaware of it. Being aware of it, he could either be hostile or supportive of it. If furthermore we accept the consensus regarding Josephus’ positive references to Jesus, to his forerunner John the Baptist, and to his brother James, we must conclude that Josephus was supportive of the early Christian Church. Was he secretly a Christian?

The question brings to mind another Joseph, a mysterious character present in all four canonical Gospels: Joseph of Arimathea, who assumed responsibility for the burial of Jesus after his crucifixion. He is described as “a prominent member of the Sanhedrin” (Mark 15:43), “a good and upright man” who “had not consented to what the others had planned and carried out” (Luke 23:51), and “who was a disciple of Jesus—though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews” (John 19:38), and sufficiently connected to Pilate to get his permission to take the body of Jesus from the cross, and bury him in his private tomb. The reason I mention Joseph of Arimathea here is to suggest—this is my contribution to Barbiero’s theory—that he might have been invented as a symbolic alter ego of Flavius Josephus.

That being said, Barbiero perhaps overrates the authenticity of Josephus’ references to Jesus, John the Baptist and James. The question remains unsettled. I find the whole Testimonium Flavianum entirely, and not just partially suspicious. It figures in all Greek manuscripts, but could have been added in the second or third century. I’ll get back to this problem.

The Mystery Cult of Mithras

To explain how a secret brotherhood of priestly Jews could ultimately convert the Empire to the cult of a Jewish messiah, Barbiero puts forward another bold theory, based on the intimate connection between Christianity and Mithraism.

The cult of Mithras, associated to Sol Invictus, experienced its rapid development in Rome at the time of Domitian. As Barbiero explains, it “was not a religion, but an esoteric association reserved exclusively for men. All the participants were priests, at least from the fourth level up, and among them, there were differences only of hierarchy determined by the level of initiation” (p. 164). Most mithraea were underground crypts, and many are now found under churches. “Both the written sources and the archaeological testimonies demonstrate that from Domitian on, Rome always remained the most important center of this organization, which had become deeply rooted at the very heart of the imperial administration both in the palace and among the Praetorian Guard” (p. 160).

Mithras slaughtering the bull, c. 150 AD
Mithras slaughtering the bull, c. 150 AD

Tertullian and other Christian authors note the parallels between Mithraism and Christianity and attribute them to imitatio diabolica: Mithras is said to be a demon who imitated the Christian sacraments to lead men astray. Historians generally agree that the imitation proceeded in the opposite direction.

The parallels should not be overstated. For instance, the fact that both Mithras and Jesus were born at the winter solstice is hardly significant since that is a late development in the case of Christianity (it has no basis in the Gospels), and applies to many other divinities. But there are many other similarities, such as the Mithraic ceremony “during which they consumed consecrated bread and wine in memory of the last supper of Mithras” (p. 162).

The Mithraic organization was presided over by a supreme head known as the pater partum [shortened as papa], who governed from a grotto on the Vatican hill in Rome, where Constantine had the basilica of St. Peter built in 322. This cave of the Vatican (the so-called Phrygianum, which is still situated at the foot of the present basilica) remained the central seat of the cult of Mithras until the death of the last pater patrum, the senator Vectius Agorius Praetextatus, in AD 384. Immediately afterward, the cult of Mithras was officially abolished and the cave was occupied by Syricius (the successor of the bishop of Rome, Damasus), who adopted the name of the head of the Mithraic sect, pater patrum, or pope, for the first time in the history of the church. He also adopted the same clothing and sat on the same chair, which became the throne of St. Peter in Rome. Mithraic designs were—and still are—engraved on this throne. Sol Invictus Mithras, who, according to historians, had the belief of the majority in the Roman senate, in the army, and in the public administration, vanished almost immediately, without any killing, persecution, exile, or forced abjuration. Overnight, the Roman senate, stronghold of the cult of Mithras, discovered that it was totally Christian. […] The seat, the robes, the title, and the prerogatives of the pater patrum were not the only things that passed from the cult of Mithras to the church. Besides the similarities in doctrines and rituals, we find in Christian churches the stone table in front of the apse—the altar where the disc of the sun was exhibited in the mithraea. We also find the stole, the bishop’s headpiece (still called a mitre), the robes, the colors, the use of incense, the aspergillum, the candles lit in front of the altar, the genuflexions, and not least of all, the most representative object that dominates the Christian rite: the exhibition of the Host, which is contained in a disc from which the sun radiates, the monstrance. (pp. 162-164)

The cult of Mithras, notes Barbiero, “prospered almost in symbiosis with Christianity—to the point that Christian churches very often rise above or next to places of Mithraic worship. This is the case, for example, with the basilicas of St. Clement, St. Stephen Rotundus, St. Prisca, and so on, which sprang up over grottos dedicated to the worship of Sol Invictus” (p. 32).

Barbiero concludes that Mithraism and Christianity “were not two religions in competition, as we often read, but were two institutions of a different nature that were closely connected,” or “two sides of the same coin.” (p. 163). He gathers that the initiatory cult of Mithras had been transformed under the Flavians into a kind of freemasonry, which promoted Christianity as an exoteric religion for the people.

But obviously Christianity does not derive entirely from Mithraism: it has Jewish roots. How did Mithraism mix with Judaism? This Barbiero explains with the hypothesis that, under the Flavians, the priestly Jews entered the Mithraic priesthood in a concerted strategy to take it over and Judaize it—just like they would do with Freemasonry centuries later. From the time of Domitian, the followers of Mithraism “were freedmen of the imperial family of the Flavians—and consequently, in all likelihood, Romanized Jews” (p. 159). “Sol Invictus Mithras was the cover behind which hid the secret esoteric organization re-created in Rome by the Mosaic priestly family that had escaped the massacre in Jerusalem” (p. 173). I am not convinced here. The hypothesis of the takeover of Mithraism by Jewish priests is a weak link in Barbiero’s chain of hypotheses. Mithraism is clearly not a Jewish cult, and the thesis of its subversion by Jewish priests in the first century AD rests on very little evidence.

However, a closer look at the Eastern origin of Mithraism may enlighten us. Plutarch explains (Parallel Lives xxiv, 7) that the cult of Mithras was first brought from Asia Minor after Pompey defeated Mithridates VI, king of Pontus, who, although of Persian origin, ruled over Anatolia. Mithras is a Phrygian god—hence his Phrygian hat—, and Mithridates means “gift of Mithras.” Roman historian Appian of Alexandria, in The Foreign Wars, describes the third Mithridatic war as a world war, and says that “in the end it brought the greatest gain to the Romans; for it pushed the boundaries of their dominion from the setting of the sun to the river Euphrates.”[21]Cyril Glassé, Mithraism, the Virus that Destroyed Rome, Revelation , 2016. While searching for more information on Mithraism, I came across a book by Cyril Glassé titled in Mithraism, the Virus that Destroyed Rome (2016). Although the book is of unscholarly quality, its central insight is worth considering:

The religion of Mithraism was a Trojan Horse left behind on the beach by Mithridates VI of Pontus as a poison for the Romans to be taken with a bowl of cherries. […] Mithraism was a cult of himself designed to subvert and destroy Rome. That cult has left its mark on Western Civilization.

According to Glassé, the sacrifice of the bull, or Taurobolium, which is represented on countless reliefs, was a cryptic call for vengeance against Rome: the bull represents Rome, while Mithras is Mithridates , This theory is strikingly similar to Barbiero’s, only with Phrygians instead of Judeans as the conspirators against Rome. Glassé’s thesis is also just as unsubstantiated as Barbiero’s, but both can reinforce each other if we remember that Phrygians and Judeans had been vanquished by Pompey during the same military campaign in 63 BC, that there were many Jews in Mithridates’ kingdom, and that many captives of both nations were brought together to Rome in the first century BC. They shared a common fate and, perhaps, a common aspiration for revenge.

I can’t think of a particular reason why the bull would symbolize Rome for the Jewish captives of Pompey, but I came across an interesting detail that could explain why it could symbolize Rome for the Jewish captives of Vespasian: the Roman Legio X Fretensis, who was centrally involved during the Jewish war—from the attack of Judea in 66 to the capture of Masada in 72, through the siege of Jerusalem leading to the destruction of the Temple in 70—, had the bull as its symbol.

The banner of the Legio X Fretensis, and a golden aureus in its honor
The banner of the Legio X Fretensis, and a golden aureus in its honor

Barbiero is leading up to the notion that Jews not only imposed a Jewish religion to the Empire, but actually took over its leadership when the emperor was replaced by the pope:

The goal of the strategy was the complete substitution of the ruling class of the Roman Empire with the descendants of the priestly family that had survived the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. This result was achieved in less than three centuries, by which time all the ancient religions had been eliminated and substituted with Christianity, and the primitive Roman nobility had been virtually annihilated and replaced by members of the family of priestly origin that had accumulated all the power and wealth of the Empire. (p. 184)

This thesis is the groundwork for the last two parts of Barbiero’s book, on “The Judeo-Christian Roots of European Aristocracy,” and on the “the Mosaic Origins of Modern Secret Societies.” These parts, although quite speculative, are rife with informative tidbits and fresh insights into those mysterious and fascinating subjects. The first part about Moses’ bloodline is also original and well argued, but not directly relevant to the issue discussed here.

The Jesus Question: How fake is the Good News?

I regard Barbiero’s book as a fruitful attempt to solve the mystery of how the Jews created Christianity and made it the Roman religion. But it certainly doesn’t give the full story. Much happened in the next three centuries that needs to be clarified. One important context, which is seldom considered, is the “Crisis of the Third Century” (235-284), during which “the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of barbarian invasions and migrations into the Roman territory, civil wars, peasant rebellions, political instability” (Wikipedia), but also cataclysmic events and widespread diseases such as the Plague of Cyprian (c. 249-262), that was said to kill up to 5,000 people a day in Rome.[22]Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, Princeton UP, 2017. In such a context, the apocalyptic flavor of early Christianity must have been a key factor of its success. Interestingly, the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, the latest included into the Christian canon, is considered by some scholars to be a Christianized edition of a Jewish apocalypse, because, except for its prologue and epilogue (from 4:1 to 22:15), it contains no recognizable Christian motif.[23]See for example James Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism, SPCK, 1989.

There are also two important building blocks of Christianity that Barbiero’s focus on Roman Mithraism leaves out: the Gospels’ life of Jesus, and Paul’s mystical Christ. How did they originate, and how were they integrated? The connection between them is one of the most difficult problems concerning the birth of Christianity. For, as Earl Doherty writes in The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity begin with a mythical Christ (1999), a book that has sent a shockwave in Jesus scholarship (here quoted from this 600-page pdf): “Not once does Paul or any other first century epistle writer identify their divine Christ Jesus with the recent historical man known from the Gospels. Nor do they attribute the ethical teachings they put forward to such a man.” Christ is simply for Paul a celestial deity who has endured an ordeal of incarnation, death, burial and resurrection, and who communicates to his devotees through dreams, visions and prophecies. Such gnostic Christology has roots in mystery religions long predating Jesus. It is difficult to explain how a human Jesus could be transformed into such a divine Christ in a few decades, during the lifetime of those who knew him.

The first difficulty is that the vast majority of the earliest Christians were, of course, Jews. ‘God is One,’ says the most fundamental of Jewish theological tenets. Moreover, the Jewish mind had an obsession against associating anything human with God. He could not be represented by even the suggestion of a human image, and Jews in their thousands had bared their necks before Pilate’s swords simply to protest against the mounting of military standards bearing Caesar’s image within sight of the Temple. The idea that a man was a literal part of God would have been met by any Jew with horror and apoplexy.

And yet we are to believe that Jews were immediately led to elevate Jesus of Nazareth to divine levels unprecedented in the entire history of human religion. We are to believe not only that they identified a crucified criminal with the ancient God of Abraham, but that they went about the empire and practically overnight converted huge numbers of other Jews to the same outrageous—and thoroughly blasphemous—proposition. Within a handful of years of Jesus’ supposed death, we know of Christian communities in many major cities of the empire, all presumably having accepted that a man they had never met, crucified as a political rebel on a hill outside Jerusalem, had risen from the dead and was in fact the pre-existent Son of God, creator, sustainer, and redeemer of the world. / Since many of the Christian communities Paul worked in existed before he got there, and since Paul’s letters do not support the picture Acts paints of intense missionary activity on the part of the Jerusalem group around Peter and James, history does not record who performed this astounding feat.[24]Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle: Was There no Historical Jesus? on this 600-page pdf, pp. 33 and 16.

The simplest way to overcome this difficulty is to assume that the transformation of the human Jesus into the cosmic Christ (or the other way round, as Doherty suggests) didn’t happen spontaneously, but was engineered by connecting several elements, with the aim of fabricating a Judeo-Hellenistic syncretic religion.

Paul’s letters were first collected in the first half of the second century by Marcion of Sinope who also included in his canon a short evangelion (he was the first to use the term), but rejected the Jewish Tanakh. Around 208, Tertullian, a Carthaginian of probable Jewish origin, complained that “the heretical tradition of Marcion filled the universe” (Against Marcion v, 19). He also tells us that, during the time of Marcion, another Gnostic teacher named Valentinus almost became bishop of Rome. In the third century AD appeared the Persian Mani, who called himself “apostle of Jesus Christ,” but rejected any Jewish influence. Manicheans became the label pinned by the Catholic Church on all the Gnostic movements that came from the East, such as the Paulicians from Anatolia in the eighth century, or the Bogomils from Bulgaria in the ninth century, the ancestors of the Cathars who were eradicated from the south of France in the early thirteenth century. All these movements, which can be seen as successive waves of the same movement, venerated Paul and rejected the Torah, whose god they regarded either as an evil demiurge, a deceptive demon, or a malicious fiction.

In the fourth century, Gnostic Christianity was still alive and flourishing. The monastic library of the Egyptian Brotherhood of Saint Pachomius, the first known Christian monastery, contained a great wealth of Gnostic literature (including the Gospel of Thomas), amid Platonic, Hermetic, and Zoroastrian books. As New Testament scholar Robert Price tells in his fascinating book Deconstructing Jesus (2000):

Apparently when the monks received the Easter Letter from Athanasius in 367 C.E., which contains the first known listing of the canonical twenty-seven New Testament books, warning the faithful to read no others, the brethren must have decided to hide their cherished “heretical” gospels, lest they fall into the hands of the ecclesiastical book burners.[25]Robert Price, Deconstructing Jesus, Prometheus Book, 2000, archive.org, pp. 44-45.

All these codices were hidden in a graveyard at Nag Hammadi, where they were discovered in 1945, revolutionizing our image of early Christianity. Scholars have since started to question the traditional view of Gnostics as dissenters who broke away from the Orthodox Church; rather, the Gnostics who never ceased claiming that Roman Catholics were corrupting the Gospel under Jewish influence, may have been right all along.

As I started delving into these questions, I discovered that a new school of New Testament exegesis, pioneered by Earl Doherty’s Jesus Puzzle, claims that Christianity was born in myth, not in history. I had always assumed that Jesus’ biography was too historically plausible to be a fiction. In my thirties, I had become fascinated by the quest for the historical Jesus and wrote a book on the “legendary” relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist, which argued that the Gospel writers falsified the genuine prophecies of John, and forged spurious praises of Jesus by John, and that much of the sayings attributed to Jesus (from the hypothetical Q document) were originally attributed to John.[26]Recent scholars arguing along those lines include Karl H. Kraeling, John the Baptist, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951; Charles H. H. Scobie, John the Baptist, Fortress Press, 1964; W. Barnes Tatum, John the Baptist and Jesus: A Report of the Jesus Seminar, Polebridge Press, 1994; Joan Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism, Wm B. Eerdmans, 1996; Robert L. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study, Sheffield Academic Press, 1991; Walter Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition, Cambridge UP, 1968. Nevertheless, I didn’t doubt the historicity of Jesus. But my recent journey into the “Christ Myth” theory has convinced me that the historical Jesus is more elusive than I thought. The Gospels, for one thing, are not as old as generally admitted (between the 70s and the 90s), for, as Doherty points out:

Only in Justin Martyr, writing in the 150s, do we find the first identifiable quotations from some of the Gospels, though he calls them simply “memoirs of the Apostles,” with no names. And those quotations usually do not agree with the texts of the canonical versions we now have, showing that such documents were still undergoing evolution and revision.[27]Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle, op. cit., p. 52 .

A late second-century date for the first narrative about Jesus is consistent with the hypothesis—that goes contrary to Barbiero’s theory—that Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews originally contained a reference to John the Baptist and one to James the Just, but no reference to Jesus, who was later inserted between the two so that John could be presented as Jesus’ precursor and James as his brother and heir. There is much evidence that James, like John the Baptist before him, was a famous figure in his own right. According to biblical scholar Robert Eisenman, author of James, the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, James is identical to “the Teacher of Righteousness” mentioned in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which have been dated too early. Strangely,

the person of James is almost diametrically opposed to the Jesus of Scripture and our ordinary understanding of him. Whereas the Jesus of Scripture is anti-nationalist, cosmopolitan, antinomian—that is, against the direct application of Jewish Law—and accepting foreigners and other persons of perceived impurities, the Historical James will turn out to be zealous for the Law, and rejecting of foreigners and polluted persons generally.

His death by stoning in 62 “was connected in popular imagination with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE in a way that Jesus’ some four decades before could not have been.”

Variant manuscripts of the works of Josephus, reported by Church fathers like Origen, Eusebius and Jerome, all of whom at one time or another spent time in Palestine, contain materials associating the fall of Jerusalem with the death of James—not with the death of Jesus. Their shrill protests, particularly Origen’s and Eusebius’, have probably not a little to do with the disappearance of this passage from all manuscripts of the Jewish War that have come down to us.[28]Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Viking Penguin, 1996.

Jesus scholars of the “mythicist” school—by opposition to “historicist”—refrain from expressing their conclusion in conspiratorial terms. In his book On the Historicity of Jesus, Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, Richard Carrier writes: “the Jesus we know originated as a mythical character,” and only “later, this myth was mistaken for history (or deliberately repackaged that way).” But I find “mistaken” very unlikely, and “deliberately repackaged” much more probable. Carrier actually suggests that the fundamental structure of the narrative was borrowed from a well-established Roman mythical pattern:

In Plutarch’s biography of Romulus, the founder of Rome, we are told he was the son of god, born of a lowly shepherd; then as a man he becomes beloved by the people, hailed as king, and killed by the conniving elite; then he rises from the dead, appears to a friend to tell the good news to his people, and ascends to heaven to rule from on high. Just like Jesus.

Plutarch also tells us about annual public ceremonies that were still being performed, which celebrated the day Romulus ascended to heaven. The sacred story told at this event went basically as follows: at the end of his life, amid rumors he was murdered by a conspiracy of the Senate (just as Jesus was “murdered” by a conspiracy of the Jews—in fact by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish equivalent of the Senate), the sun went dark (just as it did when Jesus died), and Romulus’s body vanished (just as Jesus’ did). The people wanted to search for him but the Senate told them not to, “for he had risen to join the gods” (much as a mysterious young man tells the women in Mark’s Gospel). Most went away happy, hoping for good things from their new god, but “some doubted” (just as all later Gospels say of Jesus: Mt 28.17; Lk 24.11; Jn 20.24-25; even Mk 16.8 implies this). Soon after, Proculus, a close friend of Romulus, reported that he met Romulus “on the road” between Rome and a nearby town and asked him, “Why have you abandoned us?”, to which Romulus replied that he had been a god all along but had come down to earth and become incarnate to establish a great kingdom, and now had to return to his home in heaven (pretty much as happens to Cleopas in Lk 24.13-32). Then Romulus told his friend to tell the Romans that if they are virtuous they will have all worldly power.

[…] Livy’s account [History 1.16], just like Mark’s, emphasizes that “fear and bereavement” kept the people “silent for a long time”, and only later did they proclaim Romulus “God, Son of God, King, and Father”, thus matching Mark’s “they said nothing to anyone”, yet obviously assuming that somehow word got out.

It certainly seems as if Mark is fashioning Jesus into the new Romulus, with a new, superior message, establishing a new, superior kingdom. This Romulan tale looks a lot like a skeletal model for the passion narrative: a great man, founder of a great kingdom, despite coming from lowly origins and of suspect parentage, is actually an incarnated son of god, but dies as a result of a conspiracy of the ruling council, then a darkness covers the land at his death and his body vanishes, at which those who followed him flee in fear (just like the Gospel women, Mk 16.8; and men, Mk 14.50-52), and like them, too, we look for his body but are told he is not here, he has risen; and some doubt, but then the risen god ‘appears’ to select followers to deliver his gospel.

There are many differences in the two stories, surely. But the similarities are too numerous to be a coincidence—and the differences are likely deliberate. For instance, Romulus’s material kingdom favoring the mighty is transformed into a spiritual one favoring the humble. It certainly looks like the Christian passion narrative is an intentional transvaluation of the Roman Empire’s ceremony of their own founding savior’s incarnation, death and resurrection. Other elements have been added to the Gospels—the story heavily Judaized, and many other symbols and motifs pulled in to transform it—and the narrative has been modified, in structure and content, to suit the Christians’ own moral and spiritual agenda. But the basic structure is not original.[29]Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014, p. 56.

Other scholars have long identified strong parallels between the life of Jesus and the legendary lives of holy men such as Pythagoras or Appolonius of Tyana. In the later, for example, we find that Appolonius, after a lifetime of doing miracles, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead, was delivered by his enemies to the Roman authorities. “Still,” according to Bart D. Ehrman’s summary, “after he left this world, he returned to meet his followers in order to convince them that he was not really dead but lived on in the heavenly realm.”[30]Bart D. Ehrman Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, HarperCollins, USA. 2012, p. 208, quoted from Wikipedia.

Robert Price has pointed another likely source for the Gospel narratives: Greek novels such as Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe, Xenophon’s Ephesian Tale, Achilles Tatius’ Leucippe and Clitophon, Heliodorus’ Ethiopian Story, Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe, The Story of Apollonius, King of Tyre, Iamblichus’ Babylonian Story, and Petronius’ Satyricon.

Three major plot devices recur like clockwork in the ancient novels, which were usually about the adventures of star-crossed lovers, somewhat like modern soap operas. First, the heroine, a princess, collapses into a coma and is taken for dead. Prematurely buried, she awakens later in the darkness of the tomb. Ironically, she is discovered in the nick of time by grave robbers who have broken into the opulent mausoleum, looking for rich funerary tokens […]. The crooks save her life but also kidnap her, since they can’t afford to leave a witness behind. When her fiancé or husband comes to the tomb to mourn, he is stunned to find the tomb empty and first guesses that his beloved has been taken up to heaven because the gods envied her beauty. In one tale, the man sees the shroud left behind, just as in John 20:6-7.

The second stock plot device is that the hero, finally realizing what has happened, goes in search of the heroine and eventually runs afoul of a governor or king who wants her and, to get him out of the way, has the hero crucified. Of course, the hero always manages to get a last-minute pardon, even once affixed to the cross, or he survives crucifixion by some stroke of luck. Sometimes the heroine, too, appears to have been killed but winds up alive after all.

Third, we eventually have a joyous reunion of the two lovers, each of whom has despaired of ever seeing the other again. They at first cannot believe they are not seeing a ghost come to comfort them. Finally, disbelieving for joy, they are convinced that their loved one has survived in the flesh.

As I have noted in my article “The Crucifixion of the Goddess,” the love romance pattern is still apparent in the Gospel, where the risen Jesus appears first to his longtime follower Mary Magdalene, who, perhaps for that reason, was regarded as Jesus’ soul mate by many Gnostics.[31]Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979.

Price quotes the following passage from Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe, where Chaereas discovers the empty tomb of his beloved:

When he reached the tomb, he found that the stones had been moved and the entrance was open. [Cf. John 20:1] He was astonished at the sight and overcome by fearful perplexity at what had happened. [Cf. Mark 16:5] Rumor—a swift messenger—told the Syracusans this amazing news. They all quickly crowded round the tomb, but no one dared go inside until Hermocrates gave an order to do so. [Cf. John 20:4-6] The man who went in reported the whole situation accurately. [Cf. John 19:35; 21:24] It seemed incredible that even the corpse was not lying there. Then Chaereas himself determined to go in, in his desire to see Callirhoe again even dead; but though he hunted through the tomb, he could find nothing. Many people could not believe it and went in after him. They were all seized by helplessness. One of those standing there said, “The funeral offerings have been carried off [Cartlidge’s translation reads: “The shroud has been stripped off”—cf. John 20:6-7]—it is tomb robbers who have done that; but what about the corpse—where is it?” Many different suggestions circulated in the crowd. Chaereas looked towards the heavens, stretched up his arms, and cried: “Which of the gods is it, then, who has become my rival in love and carried off Callirhoe and is now keeping her with him…?

Later on, Callirhoe, reflecting on her vicissitudes, says, “I have died and come to life again.” Later still, she laments, “I have died and been buried; I have been stolen from my tomb.” In the meantime, poor Chaereas is condemned to the cross, which he has to carry himself. But in the last minute, just before being nailed, his sentence is commuted, and he is taken down from the cross. “Here, then,” comments Price, “is a hero who went to the cross for his beloved and returned alive. In the same story, a villain is likewise crucified, though since he is gaining his just deserts, he is not reprieved. This is Theron, the pirate who carried poor Callirhoe into slavery. ‘He was crucified in front of Callirhoe’s tomb.’”

Did some Jews, by some concerted and persistent Hasbara, brainwash the Romans with an unbelievable Jewish tale plagiarized from Greek novels, Roman myths, and Mithraic cult? Surely there are other ways to look at Christianity than as a Jewish trick. But I find the hypothesis worth considering. I hear on this webzine a lot of complaint against Jewish cultural colonization. I am merely suggesting that it didn’t start yesterday.

Laurent Guyénot has an engineer’s degree (ENSTA, Paris) and a PhD in Medieval Studies (Sorbonne, Paris). He is the author of From Yahweh to Zion: Jealous God, Chosen People, Promised Land … Clash of Civilizations, and “Our God is Your God Too, But He Has Chosen Us”: Essays on Jewish Power (a collection of earlier Unz Review articles). He has also written JFK-9/11: 50 years of Deep State (banned from Amazon) and is the co-author of a new film on “Israel and the Assassinations of the Kennedy Brothers.”

Notes

[1] Translated from the French: Primo Levi, Lilith et autres nouvelles, Le Livre de Poche, 1989.

[2] Jacob Neusner, Judaism and Christianity in the Age of Constantine: History, Messiah, Israel, and the Initial Confrontation, University of Chicago Press, 1987 , pp. ix-xi.

[3] Read Thomas Römer, The Invention of God, Harvard UP, 2015, pp. 137-138, or Hyam Maccoby, The Sacred Executioner, Thames & Hudson, 1982, pp. 13-51. I broached on this topic in my book “Our God Is Your God Too, But He Has Chosen Us”: Essays on Jewish Power, AFNIL, 2020, pp. 42-45.

[4] Royston Lambert, Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous, Phoenix Giant, 1984; Christopher Jones, New Heroes in Antiquity, op. cit., pp. 75–83.

[5] Stendhal, Love, Penguin Classics, 2000, p. 83.

[6] Giles Corey, The Sword of Christ: Christianity from the Right, or The Christian Question, Independently published, 2020, p. xiii.

[7] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, p. 51.

[8] Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt, From Rameses II to Emperor Hadrian, Princeton University Press, 1995, pp. 48-49, 66.

[9] Martin Bernal, Geography of a Life, chap. 45, Jews and Phoenicians,” pp. 386-394.

[10] Nahum Goldmann, Le Paradoxe juif. Conversations en français avec Léon Abramowicz, Stock, 1976, p. 36; Heinrich Graetz, Histoire des Juifs, A. Lévy, 1882 (on fr.wikisource.org), tome I, p. 413-428.

[11] The earliest gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is commonly dated in the late 60s, but that date is much too early, especially since it mentions the destruction of the Temple.

[12] Tacitus wrote in the Annals (xv, 44) that Nero accused Christians of starting the great fire of Rome in 64, and had many of them “thrown to the beasts, crucified, and burned alive.” But this is the only attestation of that story, and some modern scholars have cast doubt on its credibility: Richard Carrier sees it as a later Christian interpolation, and Brent Shaw argues that Nero’s persecution is a myth (Wikipedia.). There is one other mention of persecution against Christians before the third century, in a letter written to Trajan by Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia (north of Asia Minor). But this letter is of dubious authenticity as well, belonging to a book of 121 letters found in the sixteenth century, copied, and lost again.

[13] Paul Mattei, Le Christianisme antique: De Jésus à Constantin, Armand Colin, 2011, p. 119.

[14] Emily A. Schmidt, “The Flavian Triumph and the Arch of Titus: The Jewish God in Flavian Rome,” UC Santa Barbara: Ancient Borderlands Research Focus Group, 2010, retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9xw0k5kh

[15] Trajan is said to have had a pro-Jewish wife, Pompeia Plotina, and he once sentenced to death a Greek dignitary named Hermaiskos for having complained that the emperor’s entourage was “full of impious Jews.” (Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt – From Rameses II to Emperor Hadrian, Princeton University Press, 1997, p. 193-196). But Hadrian is credited for having banned circumcision, and, when faced in 132 with a new anti-Roman Jewish uprising in Judea, led by Simon bar Kokhba, he destroyed Jerusalem once more, converted it into a Greek city named Aelia Capitolina, and forbade Jews to enter it.

[16] Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Essential Books, 1957, p. 4.

[17] According to 1Kings 10:14, the amount of gold hoarded each year into Salomon’s temple was “666 talents of gold” (1 talent = 30kg). Salomon’s treasure may be legendary, but it illustrates what the Jerusalem Temple still meant for the priests of the first century AD.

[18] Because the Copper Scroll is part of the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls, which have been wrongly assigned an Essenian origin for decades, its content was long considered fictional. The revision of this misguided theory, pioneered by Norman Golb in Who wrote the Dead Sea scrolls?: The search for the secret of Qumran, Scribner, 1995, has corrected that bias.

[19] Flavio Barbiero, The Secret Society of Moses: The Mosaic Bloodline and a Conspiracy Spanning Three Millennia, Inner Traditions, 2010, p. 111.

[20] Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Essential Books, 1957, p. 10.

[21] Cyril Glassé, Mithraism, the Virus that Destroyed Rome, Revelation , 2016.

[22] Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, Princeton UP, 2017.

[23] See for example James Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism, SPCK, 1989.

[24] Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle: Was There no Historical Jesus? on this 600-page pdf, pp. 33 and 16.

[25] Robert Price, Deconstructing Jesus, Prometheus Book, 2000, archive.org, pp. 44-45.

[26] Recent scholars arguing along those lines include Karl H. Kraeling, John the Baptist, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951; Charles H. H. Scobie, John the Baptist, Fortress Press, 1964; W. Barnes Tatum, John the Baptist and Jesus: A Report of the Jesus Seminar, Polebridge Press, 1994; Joan Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism, Wm B. Eerdmans, 1996; Robert L. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Socio-Historical Study, Sheffield Academic Press, 1991; Walter Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition, Cambridge UP, 1968.

[27] Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle, op. cit., p. 52 .

[28] Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Viking Penguin, 1996.

[29] Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014, p. 56.

[30] Bart D. Ehrman Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, HarperCollins, USA. 2012, p. 208, quoted from Wikipedia.

[31] Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979.

 
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