Rebutting 'Christianity was a Flavian invention' conspiracy theory

I’ve actually had two people throw this conspiracy theory at me, that Jesus was invented by the Flavians as a way to deceive the Jewish people into becoming good Roman citizens or something. I know where this idiocy originates; some unqualified scholar who wanted to disprove Christianity came up with this theory and published a book on it; I won’t dignify it by naming him.

Anyway, the basic concept is that the Flavian emperors invented Christianity shortly after destroying the Jewish Temple in AD 70; the main points of ‘evidence’ are that there is no historical evidence of Christianity prior to AC 70, and that Flavias Josephus was in on the conspiracy and wrote a bunch of parallels in his writings that matched up with New Testament writings.

I know that it’s like trying to punch through a brick wall, but has anyone else come up against this and had a good rebuttal? Logic apparently doesn’t work on the proponents of this theory.

It probably would help if you named the book.

Anyway, it sounds like your friends have decided to reject certain evidence, then accept a worldview based on that new circumstance. A reasoned argument from you will probably not help, at least not at first, because they are choosing to be irrational. I recommend two things:

  1. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for them (see here and here).

  2. Use Socratic questioning when they engage you on this topic. In a nutshell, that means asking “why” a lot, in different ways because repeating the word over and over would just be obnoxious.

Edit: Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox is a great primer on this method of questioning. There’s plenty on YouTube.

Um, how did Flavius “invent” the faith in Ethiopia, or India, both of which were far outside of the Roman sphere of influence? A faith which pre-dates Flavius? He was a historian, not an inventor.

Ah, excellent! Kerala in India is a pretty strong rebuttal to the Flavian conspiracy, since they weren’t influenced by Imperial Rome in the slightest. I doubt it will have an impact on the ‘true believers,’ but it’s good to have that in hand, anyway. Thanks!

Saint Paul’s epistles date to the early 50s. So unless Flavian had a time machine, there’s no way he could invent Christianity in the 70s.

If Christianity was fabricated to make Jews better Romans, why did the Romans still kill Christians?

A little logic goes a long way.

Oh, they have an explanation for that one. See, the Flavians were gone by then, and the new Emperor thought Christianity was a real thing, so they hated it and persecuted them. Or something. Like I said, logic doesn’t work on these people.

Don’t engage with stupid or crazy. Problem solved.

The way that I would engage with this kind of thing is to point out very calmly that their disagreement is actually not with you, or me, or with Catholics, or Christians.

Rather, their disagreement is with every professor of ancient history at every university in the world. So how is it our problem?

(If they question that point, ask them to produce even one person holding a teaching post in ancient history at a university - and check any name they offer, as these people are often deluded)

There’s a general apologetic principle here: we don’t owe anybody anything. It is a standard anti-Christian ploy to demand “prove stuff to me”, and then just sit there and throw stones. It requires no effort, no education, just malice. And attempting to prove anything is invariably futile, as they have no actual idea about how history is done, and will merely find an excuse to ignore whatever you offer.

Christians spend too much time trying to prove stuff. What we should do, in this case, is turn it around. Get them to produce proof, if they can, of their own seedy religious beliefs, of the values and ideas by which they live their lives. As a rule they will refuse and try and change the subject back to “prove to me that Christianity isn’t dirt”. Never allow them to.

This principle applies here also. Take the view that nobody respectable holds this view; and invite them to prove it. Then just dismiss their claims with “you don’t have any evidence for that”.

I can think of at least three nut-jobs peddling versions of this particular claim.

  • Joseph Atwill
  • Roman Piso, repeating “Abelard Reuchlin”'s stuff - this is mostly Jewish invective
  • Ralph Ellis (endless volumes of claims repeated as fast as he can type).

All the best,

Roger Pearse

It would be impossible to invent Christianity as it stands. You would need to stark raving mad, or an absolute genius.

Simple - if the Flavians thought Christianity was such a wonderful thing for Rome then why on Earth did they neither become Christian themselves nor make it the official religion (or at least AN officially tolerated religion) of Rome?

Heheh, no implication is intended from the following:

Great wits are sure to madness near allied.
John Dryden

Ask them for their references (properly referenced). Insist they do the work to prove their theory. Make them prove it. Don’t get sucked into goof ball theories by people that have no concept of reality.

Ten of the twelve were exicuted for the faith - Paul also - John was the only one who wasn,t . They truely did witness Christ they assure us of this and died for it - who would sacrifice themselves for a lie??

Well, they didn’t exist either, according to this theory. See, the whole thing was invented after Jerusalem was wiped out in 70 AD. So none of those people existed.

The theory is really flimsy and stupid, but they cling to it like a life preserver off the Titanic.

Many people have given their lives for religious views that they sincerely believed in - including Catholics, Muslims, Protestants and Buddhist monks.

I trust you are not suggesting that merely because a belief is held sincerely enough to be motive for martyrdom it must therefore be “not a lie” (ie the truth)?

If so, how to reconcile all the conflicting religious “truths” that I’ve just referred to?

It was not belief to them they were witnesses to it and lived it - so do you say they are liars?

If they are liars then it is pure evil. And it would of die out long ago as all false faith doctrine will.

Especially with what they say that they witnessed - someone rising from dead. Here we are today 2000 years later and its still alive and growing.

The followers of David Koresh made all sorts of messianic claims about him. Each and every one of them interacted with him during his own lifetime. I’m sure some of their claims, which I don’t have the inclination to research, were every bit as dramatic as claiming that someone has risen from the dead - which is not a claim unique to Christianity by the way. The followers of Koresh were fully prepared to die, and did in fact die, for what they claimed to have witnessed personally.

The only point I am trying to make is that anyone - or any group of people - can make a claim, whether true or false, whether it be that Mohammad is a prophet of God, that Buddha achieved enlightenment or that Christ rose from the dead, and die for that claim.

Their willingness to die does not by itself prove the truth of their claims, it merely proves the strength of their commitment to them. This doesn’t make them liars. Many an honest and utterly convinced person is still misguided. As a lawyer of some years, I can vouch for how easy it is for eyewitnesses to end up being confused and demonstrably, if honestly, wrong.

Also, Buddhism is hundreds of years older than Christianity. Hinduism is thousands of years older. Neither religion shows any sign at all of dying out. Longevity in and of itself is, again, not necessarily a sign of the truth of a religion.

I am Catholic, proudly so, and very convinced of the truths of Catholicism. But not by its martyrs nor by its longevity.

[sneaking in and keeping my head down and not wanting to get into a row about it but . . .]

Establishing the fates of the Apostles might be difficult with a critical audience. :wink:

None of them can claim the following.

As Paul taught, (paraphrased)

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, appear to the apostles and many others after He dies, talks to them again, eats with them again, and is seen by these same eyewitnesses, rising back to heaven, then we’re idiots for what we believe, we’re dead in our sins, so eat drink and be merry folks for tomorrow we die.

(without the paraphrase)

1 Cor 15:
*14 if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

snip

32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.*

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.