Introduction from the book 

Introduction

Religious fanatics from the Middle East are waging an assault on Western civilization and have just struck a demoralizing blow to the very capital of foreign “decadence.” Leery of war with an entire people, the West acknowledges only advocates of peace to be “true” followers of the terrorists’ religion. Indeed, Western leaders proclaim that their attackers’ own dogma commands peace.

The year: 66 CE. The civilization under attack: the Roman Empire. And the terrorists: an ancient fanatical sect of Judaism.

Today, religious intolerance is readily associated with Islam. Before the last two or three centuries, however, Christianity was used to justify the same practices: heretics were burned alive, holy inquisitions tortured and executed those suspected of deviant beliefs, priceless books were lost to posterity, pagan temples and art were destroyed, and sacrilegious sex acts were punished with death. For many centuries Europe was plagued with brutal and bloody wars waged decade after decade merely between different sects of Christianity. On a scale of sheer insanity, those atrocities equal any committed in the name of Islam today.

Pre-dating both Christianity and Islam, however, monotheistic Jews in the 1st Century divided into querulous factions and rebelled against their ruthless Roman conquerors, ultimately igniting the first Jewish War and altering the course of Western Civilization forever.

By the middle of the 1st Century CE, the Romans had carved out an empire through conquest stretching from Spain to Turkey and from Egypt to the Scottish border. Cosmopolitan, multinational and multiethnic, Rome was, at first, a religiously diverse leviathan that endured through its military skills, no doubt, but also through its political genius.

One way the Roman Empire tried to integrate its many diverse peoples was by actively supporting local religions and cultural traditions. Romans not only allowed but built temples to regional gods and shrines that embraced their various theologies within the hierarchy of official Roman state religion. Both local and Roman deities were venerated together—inscriptions throughout the Empire record their side-by-side worship, including dedications made by wealthy or political Romans to a number of regional gods.

At the Empire’s zenith, a wide variety of international deities were worshiped by Romans of all classes and sexes—even in the capitol city of Rome itself. The most remote provinces saw alien cults emerge that had first developed thousands of miles away in some distant part of the Empire, deities such as the Egyptian Isis and Serapis, and Cybele from present day Turkey.

At this time religion and politics were one, and the Romans’ policy of religious tolerance proved to be a political advantage that helped their empire endure for centuries. The strict monotheism of Judaism, however, would present Roman policy with its greatest challenge.

At first, cultural and religious compromises with the Jews were attempted, such as the granting of special exemptions from the public worship of Roman state deities. However, so strict had the traditions of Jewish monotheism become that any cultural integration was emotionally repulsive “pollution” to many pious Jews. Meanwhile, many Romans developed an ugly anti-Semitism as they accused Jews of being anti-social “haters of all humanity.” Violent conflict—religious, cultural, political and military—was inevitable.

At the Empire’s zenith, a wide variety of international deities were worshiped by Romans of all classes and sexes—even in the capitol city of Rome itself. The most remote provinces saw alien cults emerge that had first developed thousands of miles away in some distant part of the Empire, deities such as the Egyptian Isis and Serapis, and Cybele from present day Turkey.

At this time religion and politics were one, and the Romans’ policy of religious tolerance proved to be a political advantage that helped their empire endure for centuries. The strict monotheism of Judaism, however, would present Roman policy with its greatest challenge.

At first, cultural and religious compromises with the Jews were attempted, such as the granting of special exemptions from the public worship of Roman state deities. However, so strict had the traditions of Jewish monotheism become that any cultural integration was emotionally repulsive “pollution” to many pious Jews. Meanwhile, many Romans developed an ugly anti-Semitism as they accused Jews of being anti-social “haters of all humanity.” Violent conflict—religious, cultural, political and military—was inevitable.

The first Roman census and tax in Judea immediately resulted in the emergence of rebel groups, who the ancient historian Josephus went so far as to label philosophical “innovators” although they are more properly understood as extreme cultural conservatives within Judaism. They were resisting what was, in their eyes, the corrupting influence of foreign paganism.

Violent conflicts between Jews and Greeks exploded in Alexandria during the reign of the notorious Emperor Caligula during the 1st Century. In the reign of his successor, Claudius, still more violent disturbances between Romans and messianic Jews erupted in the capitol of Rome itself, as we will see. In the end, two prolonged, bloody wars were fought in Judea in the 1st and 2nd Centuries, wars that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, the enslavement of thousands more, the complete and final destruction of the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem and a legal expulsion of the Jews from Judea that extended the Diaspora for two thousand years. Though obscured by the passage of time, the conflict between Romans and Jews was a cultural and military cataclysm that would reverberate through the centuries to this day.

According to an eyewitness historian of the 1st Century Jewish Revolt against Rome, Flavius Josephus—himself a Jewish priest and aristocrat who fought first for the Jewish rebels and then went over to the Roman side—the underlying causes of the conflict were religious in nature. The sacred literature of the Jews, he explained to the pagan audience of his histories, contained prophecies that a Deliverer would come, a Savior, a world ruler who would emerge from Judea and lead them to victory. At several desperate moments in their long history, Josephus writes in his later works, they had known great leaders, sometimes miracle-workers, who defeated the foreign enemies of the Hebrews and achieved for them the political and cultural independence that their strict form of monotheism required of them.

So, despite the heavy odds against taking on Rome’s powerful war machine in the 1st Century, they rebelled and kept fighting even after defeat was certain. Described by the historian Josephus as a misinterpretation of their messianic prophecies, their xenophobia was compelled by strict adherence to Mosaic Law—and their rallying cry was “Messiah!”

It was at this moment in history that a new religion emerged, one that was at once radically different from messianic Judaism and yet seemed to be an offshoot from it. It would come to be known as Christianity, the world’s second major monotheistic religion.

The letters ascribed to the Apostle Paul, or at least some of them, may have been written within a decade or so before open warfare in Judea broke out. The Gospels and most of the rest of the New Testament were probably composed in the decades following the First Jewish-Roman War (66-71) during the imperial rule of the Flavian dynasty of Roman emperors and immediately after. The oldest of the Gospels, Mark, may have been written during or shortly after the First Jewish-Roman War. The latest material in the Bible may not have been written until a few decades later. That is to say, the New Testament was written in the years just before and in between the two great Jewish Revolts, from the middle decades of the 1st Century through the early decades of the 2nd.

An apparent outgrowth of messianic Judaism, the emergence of Christianity during this period of intense religious conflict between messianic Jews and the Roman Empire cannot be a coincidence. The only mystery is the nature of the causation: exactly how and why did this conflict between Jews and Romans frame the emergence of Christianity? Just how closely are these two historical movements related? That is the topic this book explores.

For most of their ancient history, Romans had never legally required the worship of any single deity or cult, and this is why religious tolerance was never a major problem in their empire—until the monotheism of Judaism. This new conflict between cultures and religions in 1st Century Rome makes it easy to understand why the Roman state began to encourage solar cults like those of Mithras or Sol Invictus. Ironically, such gods tended to be worshiped exclusively and began to prefigure a new imperial monotheism.

As gods like these flourished across the Empire at this time, as far north as Roman Britain and as far east as Syria, the Romans came to seek a single unifying political force in religion for themselves. And, over time, the consolidation of the many faiths of their diverse peoples was regarded as increasingly desirable for political order and stability.

The opening centuries of the Common Era were rife with religious innovations, including outright religious fraud practiced nakedly as political statecraft. The audacious deification of Roman emperors is only one example. Arguably, this was the most religiously dynamic period in all of Western history.

Modern readers readily acknowledge religious fraud in long-dead faiths from this period, like the gaudy emperor cults. When even educated 2nd Century Roman historians report with credulous sincerity that the 1st Century Roman Emperor Vespasian miraculously cured the blind and lame, a 21st Century audience readily sees this as outright religious fraud and simultaneously crass political propaganda. During this time, however, Christians were also engaging in religious improvisation.

 

Through literary forensics we now know, for example, that some letters attributed to St. Paul are not likely to have been written by him. The letters’ author(s) may have been influenced by Paul’s theology—but his language, his concerns and context, and some of the ideas that he develops, all suggest someone other than Paul wrote them at a later date. Scholars of Christian literature actually have a term for this type of material. They call it “Pseudepigrapha.” As the name suggests, this material is considered to be falsely attributed. The letters ascribed to St. Peter and the names that tradition credited as the authors of the Gospels have also been persuasively challenged.

After these Christian fictions were revealed, even more creative liberties by editors’ activities in the New Testament were discovered. During the first two or three centuries we can see that there was a veritable explosion of Christian creativity that displays a remarkable range of bold innovations and bald contradictions.

In this book, we will see how, by the 4th Century, Christians began modifying the actual text of previous writers (such as the historian Josephus) in order to make those older texts more consistent with their current views. We will also reinvestigate the apocryphal letters between St. Paul, author of what may be the oldest material in the New Testament, and the Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca the Younger, tutor and advisor to the Emperor Nero himself. So similar were the ideas of these two contemporaries that such a correspondence seemed to help explain why there are such uncanny echoes between them. Today, however, this correspondence is known to be a fraud, again simply by language and content. And it must have been a relatively early fraud since it was already known to St. Jerome, who wrote about it around the year 400.

Explanations for this kind of “creativity” among early Christian writers, to put the matter generously, range from so-called “pious fraud” (e.g., sincere Christians who had themselves had ecstatic visions or other religious experiences that personally confirmed for them, for example, that it was Paul’s words that they were writing down and not their own), to innocent misattribution or simple error, and, finally, to outright fraud (e.g., it is hard to imagine the phony correspondence between Seneca and Paul, or the enhancement of existing texts like that of Josephus, to be anything less than conscious and deliberate).        

 

For both the Roman state and the early Christians, this was a period of liberal religious invention in which practicing outright religious fraud was a matter of routine. Against this historical backdrop, the first Gospels of the New Testament were being set down on paper for the first time.

 

In this book, we will reveal how and why the calamitous clash of civilizations between the Romans and the Jews brought into existence a new religion. For the first time, we will present astonishing new evidence proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the Roman government, in direct response to this bitter clash of cultures, created the religion known today as “Christianity.”

 

Although we will in the course of this book agree with nearly all of the accepted factual conclusions of historians who have covered the subject of Christianity’s origins, we will require no conspiracy-theory-like leaps of faith or logic to establish what we are suggesting—quite the opposite. The theory presented reconciles all of the seemingly contradictory evidence of Christianity’s origins for the first time with none of the convolutions employed by scholars and historians for centuries.

Over the 30 years of research that produced this book, it was only at the very end, when we discovered the last piece of the puzzle we had suspected would be there at the beginning, that this hypothesis, which resolves mysteries concerning the history of Christianity that are age-old, was at last confirmed by physical evidence. Not only did our theory and all of the other evidence predict it must exist, but by the current understanding of Christianity’s origins it was impossible that it could exist. And, though we anticipated it, what we discovered was far more conclusive than we ever imagined.

 

During the 30 years since we began our research what can only be described as a new school of thought regarding Christianity’s origins has been emerging—one that is starting to reveal a long-buried secret. In various ways, an increasing number of scholars are recognizing that most of the New Testament has a Roman provenance.

First and foremost, in 1996 came the work of Prof. Robert Eisenman, a pioneer of this school. His works, such as James the Brother of Jesus and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians, note the strange way that the New Testament appears to invert the ideology—and the very language—of both the Dead Sea Scrolls sectarians and the “Jewish-Christians” who came before Paul.

 

Two important theories were published in 2005, Francesco Carotta’s Jesus Was Caesar, which observed certain interesting relationships between the imperial cult and the beginning of Christianity, and Joseph Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah, which finally began to investigate the role of the Flavian emperors.

Then, 2008 saw the publication of Operation Messiah by Thijs Voskuilen and Rose Mary Sheldon, which argued nothing less than the hypothesis that St. Paul was a Roman intelligence operative.

 

Each of these writers made several of the same observations that we had made—and each added many more to our burgeoning mountain of evidence. Most crucially, in some important way, each recognizes the importance of the contemporary political context to the emergence of Christianity.

 

None of these writers completely agrees with any of the others, and readers will see that we ourselves hold back from making all of the same arguments and drawing all of the same conclusions of any of them, as well. However, the work of these writers illuminates important new aspects of an emerging understanding.

 

In light of this revolutionary new understanding, it is time to give the historical evidence of Christian origins a fresh look.

We do not profess to know whether the man named Jesus referred to in the New Testament ever existed. Such a thing may never be known with certainty. What we can show, however, is that this war-torn period of ancient history inspired one side to create a form of religious “psy-ops” in a sophisticated attempt to counter its enemies’ religious fervor. And that ancient project, launched for long forgotten reasons, has endured and shaped Western history ever since. (1)

 

While this subject has interest for the religious, those completely uninterested in religion will have much to gain from this book, as well. Religions forged more than a millennium ago continue to be a rising force in world events, with ominous implications for everyone, perhaps especially the non-religious. Understanding the origins of these forces is increasingly important in the world today, for both believers and non-believers.

It was only the relatively recent separation of religion and law in the West, which Americans call “the separation of Church and State,” that officially ended violence in the name of God and allowed, at the same time, the freedom to publish just such a book as this.

 

Even in modern American politics, however, religion persists as a powerful force in the 21st Century. It is widely believed that no candidate who is not a Christian, for example, could ever be elected President of the United States even though the American Constitution expressly forbids any such qualification. (2)

 

The endurance of religions is a testament to how indispensable fundamental ideas are in guiding human life. When freely chosen, religious faith is a deeply personal pursuit. When conflicts are religious, even where the difference of opinion is no longer fatal, emotions run high. Many who live in free societies understandably bristle, for example, if they believe faith is being exploited to push a political agenda.

Given our modern context, any evidence that Christianity itself was created for political purposes two thousand years ago is therefore all the more relevant.

In the text that follows, we will reveal the historical context in which Christianity arose by examining the source material widely accepted by scholars, both believers and non-believers. Utilizing their best scholarship, all of the relevant sources, and archeological evidence presented here for the first time, we will demonstrate how a revolutionary theory solves all of the historical dilemmas in the conventional understanding—by simply taking the evidence at face value.

When evidence contradicts a theory, a good scientist discards the theory instead of the evidence. Again and again, as we shall see, Biblical scholarship has twisted the evidence to conform to the pre-conceived assumptions of scholars rather than allowing conflicting facts to simply tell their story.

When references to names and people in Christianity’s history appear to implicate the same person in a problematic way, for example, such figures are often split into separate historical people, with unlikely reasoning, in order to avoid confronting a confusing coincidence. When a perceived paradox aims in a direction that is uncomfortable to follow, the words of contemporaries, historians, and even the New Testament itself are often boldly reinterpreted rather than simply taking them literally. As we shall see, even scholars’ interpretations of the first symbols that archeology and Church historians recognize as “Christian” have been inverted in a way that has disguised what the evidence tells us.

 

Ironically, any questioning of the Gospels’ scenario of Jesus as an itinerant preacher and healer in pastoral Galilee is itself automatically branded a Da Vinci Code-like “conspiracy theory.” Considering how Hellenized and non-Jewish Christ’s own teachings actually are, and how pro-Roman the positions of Paul and all of the Gospels happen to be, what is more surprising is that scholars could accept as unquestionable the central tradition of a purely Jewish origin for the Gospels.

It has always been tempting to search for obscure, hidden and ulterior meanings in the New Testament. Even Jesus’s own words are themselves blatantly conspiratorial:

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Emphasis added.) (3)

 

Jesus sometimes instructs his disciples, and those he heals, not to reveal his miracles to anyone. (4) He even orders his disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah. (5)

        

Mystery surrounds why code-names were adopted by so many of the first Christians in the New Testament. Simon was renamed Peter by Jesus, since he was to be the “rock” (petra or πέτρα means “rock” in Latin or Greek) upon which the early Church would be founded. Barnabas, Paul’s associate, was really named Joseph. Paul was originally Saul. (6) While it may have been true that many 1st Century Jews had second “Greek” names, sometimes the name of the disciple is completely suppressed in the literature, as in the case of the famously unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved.” (7)

 

Notably, members of the rebellious sect of Jews that preserved the famous Dead Sea Scrolls used titles such as “Teacher of Righteousness” rather than reveal the names of any individuals. Secrecy more emblematic of war than religion marks both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament.

In the following pages we will embark on the opposite of a “conspiracy theory.” By considering the simplest answer from all of the evidence, we will ask the reader to take all of it at face value. In the process we will advance a theory that uniquely integrates all of the seemingly contradictory evidence without tortured reasoning or the unprovable speculations employed in much of Christian scholarship.

 

What follows is not, therefore, a conspiracy theory. It is, however, the story of a conspiracy hatched almost two millennia ago that had consequences far outlasting any intended purpose. For we will demonstrate that most of the “new” Testament—a text full of magic, mystical visions, astrological portents, demonic possessions, resurrections of the dead, the fulfillment of ancient prophecies, and allegorical mystery—was known by its authors to be a work of fiction.

 

This book does not address the questions of the existence of God. Nor does it explore the origin or content of the Hebrew Bible. Such matters stand well outside our purview. (8)

Many may wonder why the subject of this book, if it is so readily observable, has never been explored in such comprehensive detail before in the 20 centuries since Christianity’s inception. One simple answer is that, since Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, it has only been legally possible in the last three centuries for anyone to publicly question Christianity’s origins without incurring a charge of heresy—for which a sentence of death was not uncommon.

 

Even today, many biblical academics and other specialists have concluded that approved scholarly qualifications are required to grasp the history of Christianity. However, after 30 years of research, 60 years cumulatively between the authors of this book—an effort well beyond what most could ever devote to such an investigation—we must deny this cloistered view. In this respect, some modern scholars are nearly as guilty of dogmatism as the mystics they often critique from a modern vantage.

 

This book is the product of painstaking examination and comparison of all the available sources with an open mind. To this end, we have endeavored to provide exhaustive citations and extensive quotes from the most important original sources so that anyone can follow the arguments made and so that anyone can readily check the full range of those sources. Wherever possible, large segments from the source material itself are directly provided so that readers may examine the primary evidence for themselves. A map, timeline and family tree are appended at the end of the book for additional insight into the historical context in which the New Testament was composed. The Notes section provides yet another layer of scholarship for those wishing to dig deeper into the evidence.

 

No membership in an anointed authority or elite is required to understand what is presented in this book. The only requirement for anyone who reads what follows is an inquisitive mind open to taking the evidence at face value and following it where it leads.

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© 2019  James S. Valliant & Warren Fahy     All Rights Reserved.

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