FlimFlam of the Month: “Covert Christianity”
Where does this stuff come from? I just got an email asking about a guy self-described as a “biblical scholar” with a new (to me) notion: Jesus, Christianity & the NT were all invented by the Roman government for the purpose of quieting the Jews from their interest in militant messianism. He calls it “Covert Christianity.”
And, no, I haven’t heard of the guy before either (Joseph Atwill), largely because, well, he’s a nobody in the field of biblical studies. No PhD in the subject (or related subject), never held an academic post, never (so far as I can tell) published anything in any reputable journal that’s peer-reviewed, or in any reputable monograph series, or presented at any academic conference where competent people could assess his claims. Instead, per the flimflam drill, he directs his claims to the general public, knowing that they are unable to assess them, and so, by sheer novelty of the claim he hopes to attract a crowd, sales, and publicity. It’s a living, I guess (of sorts).
So, again, for those who care, it’s wise to consider who is making the claims when you hear them made. Atwill knows he can’t get to first base on his crazy claims with anyone competent in the field. So, he “goes public”, i.e., dodges the scholarly process by which ideas are tested and challenged before being accepted. But he’ll probably get a TV programme out of it. It seems actually to help to propose something kind of weird like this. And when asked why scholars don’t accept it, you respond (yup, you guessed it) “It’s an academic conspiracy to keep these things from the public.” Sigh!
(Oh well, as a colleague noted, if Jesus was invented by the Romans, then, obviously, he couldn’t have been married to Mary Magdalene! I love when the weirdo-theories people cancel each other out.)