According to Atwill, Gospel is a word Rome used to announce a military victory (Euaggelion(1)).
A vital discussion must be held before reviewing Joseph Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah 2011. Is Joseph Atwill an antisemite? Jacob Berman’s History Valley discusses the issue in The End of Caesar’s Messiah after noting having asked Atwill about it point blank. According to Berman, Atwill gave an indirect answer. To me, this is an appropriate response. No one can judge their prejudices for themselves. Beyond citing a belief in equality, which some will use as evidence of the accusation, a direct denial is practically meaningless. However, questioning researchers’ motives is pertinent since even aiming for truth, a higher purpose for some, creates tremendous possibilities for horror, as related by the expatriate German scientists who built the nuclear bomb.
In Berman’s lesson, Atwill displays a swastika, arguing against its proponents by trying to tie it into Masonry by its right angles, which he contrasts against the Masonic square, building a case of fear against masons as Nazis. From what I’ve watched, Atwill is being ignorant. Ignorance means not knowing. Being ignorant is when you characterize a group you consider other in the absence of a direct quote. Masons accept all religions and philosophies of good repute, including, presumably, at the time, Nazis. But, Masons maintain secrecy, against which Jesus railed (Mk 4:21), while seemingly proposing secrecy himself (Mt 6:3, 6:6, 7:6). Depending upon your definition, Masons also dabble in the occult, specifically, per me, the Egyptian “magic” of equality (2) demanded by death that “took over the world” on July 4th, 1776, “stealing” it from royalty. (“Magic” is Rome’s terminology for Egyptian practices, but that’s another story.) Hitler’s dabblings in the occult are well known, as is his close and early relationship with Catholics and Jews. Martin Niemuller, the protestant minister, after his early support of Hitler, wrote a famous poem explaining the monster that Hitler became.
The Berman video continues with Atwill proposing a group of elites who supply both Germany’s might and its opposition. I must say that I was surprised that a Biblical historian would think to have the expertise to discuss WWII. Similarly, Berman’s panel got into the discussion. As not a historian, I wonder how much world history a degree in biblical history might provide. Although I initially took Berman’s team at their word, comments on the video suggest my extended faith was mistaken. Supporting Atwill’s proposition, the book Voltaires Bastards also explains that munitions corporations will pander to a violent foreign minority. Atwill’s trouble comes when he suggests that part of this group was Jewish.
However, Atwill’s suggestion is not like David Icke’s proposition of an elite child-sacrificing reptilian group of bankers, for which Icke has been banned from many countries as an instigator, and rightly so. In the fifteenth century, Spain created an inquisition seeking similar “evidence”. Icke’s proposals have the possibility of creating kangaroo courts and convicting the innocent in star chambers without the participation or representation of the accused. Additionally, on Atwill’s behalf, Britain did supply Germany with war materials until Chamberlain discovered the monster he had created. Therefore, Atwill, at this point in Berman’s video, might still be arguing to prevent future genocides.
The concern would be, as per David Nirienberg’s Anti-Judaism, the Western Tradition, that from its inception, the Bible created a paradigm of a Jewish elite. The High Priest’s Sanhedrin counseled the authorities to do its violent bidding (Mt 26). The Bible leaves out that Herods appointed the High Priests and that Romans maintained control of the priestly vestments, doling it out as a privilege. In the Middle Ages, Church rules prevented the Jews from many occupations, and there was seemingly a regular cycle of kings hiring Jewish communities as tax collectors and bankers but later appropriating the acquired wealth and eliminating the kingdom’s debt by banishing the community (4). Also, as for the Biblical account of the crucifixion, the Jewish mob at the trial would have presumably been in Caesarea. Herod was given an audience (Lk 23:12). Similarly, Rome held Paul’s trial in Caesarea (Acts 23). In Caesarea, the Jewish crowd would have been beset by Samaritans and one of Rome’s most violent legions (3). With Jewish lives in the balance, as noted by the High Priest, `one man for the nation` (Jn 11:50), the mob would have been merely a pawn in the play of passions. Atwill, by merely suggesting the possibility of a Jewish elite in control of creating the second world war, is treading in dangerous waters. Atwill seems to recognize this, making only a part of this group Jewish.
However, Atwill continues, going beyond the pale. Per Berman’s video, Atwill suggests that these Jewish members had a motive to stoke antisemitism as a method of encouraging the repatriation of Israel by a new exodus from Europe. The principle at play here is consideration. Suggesting Jewish leaders as split in motivations is unconscionable. Motives, themselves, as unobservable, are not proper topics of discussion outside of a direct quote. And, even if Atwill should, at some point, provide a direct quote, it might best be left behind at this point, as the proposition ought to have been left unstated in the video. Victim blaming is unacceptable.
Berman wraps up with accusations of Price and Carrier. Price conflates mythic heroes from different centuries, and Carrier is well known as an overly vicious defender of his work. Like Star Trek’s Darmoc (5), Berman implies that others might reproduce Atwill’s work as coincidental since many others followed both Jesus’s and Vespasian’s travels from Galilee to Jerusalem. Atwill overlooks the X Fretensis, Galilee’s Roman legion’s standard, the Boar, when discussing Rome’s unconscionable drowning of two thousand pigs (Mk 5:13). Even when supporting his contentions with additional metaphors, as required by hermeneutics, Atwill’s links are weak. For example, against Atwill’s unspeakable “living water” (pg 379), Thomas’s Gospel explains that water means philosophy and the pericope, as including changing water into wine. Similarly, Atwill’s bread come down from heaven, by me, is a reference to the Star of Bethlehem – Egypt’s eternal life via the North Star, since Bethlehem means the house of bread and was a school per Pierre Krijbolder. Unfortunately, even the good stuff Atwill does, teasing apart the roles of Eleazar, John, and Simon, in the temple destroyed by Rome, is overshadowed by his unrelated video on WWII.
Regardless of whether Atwill is antisemitic, his insensitivity to Jewish listeners precludes discussion.
1) Eugglion means military victory – pg 150 Atwill, Caesar’s Messiah
2) “equality” – Josephus, Wars 7.10.1
3) The Caesarean regiment was the first to be banished due to brutal unmitigated cruelty – James, the Brother of Jesus, Eisenman, 1997, p. 21
Tumult of Samaritans and Jews in Caesarea and Lydda, Josephus, Wars 2.12.3-8
Tumult of Syrian Greeks and Jews in Caesarea, Josephus, Wars 2.13.7
Paul meets Agrippa in Caesarea, Acts 25
4) Kings appropriating Jewish communities –pg 208 Nirenberg
5) Darmoc – Communication by Strategy – Shaka, When the Walls Fell – The Atlantic