My Amazon Review of Valliant's And Fahy's Creating Christ

Neil Parille's picture
Submitted by Neil Parille on Sun, 2017-07-02 13:24

James Valliant and Casey Fahy have written this book following a theme that has become somewhat common lately: the court of the Flavian Emperors created the Gospels as propaganda to pacify rebellious Jews and encourage the populace to obey the Roman state. Unlike, say Joseph Atwill, our authors contend that Paul was a real person (although they are uncertain about Jesus) and consider several of his letters authentic and written pre-AD 66. Paul, who preached a pro-Roman and more universalistic religion, clashed with James, who was a more traditional Jew. At some later point (probably after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70) the Gospels were written and made their way into the nascent Christian movement.

I don't find this thesis persuasive, but the reader can decide for himself. If there was a nascent Christian movement centered around Paul and James which did not have the Gospels, how were the Gospels introduced into the church without any trace in the historical memory? And why were they accepted by early Christians?

Some problems with the thesis:

1. For example, Paul's associate Epaphroditus is highly unlikely (as our authors claim) to be the same person as the Roman secretary of the same name or the person to whom Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews is dedicated - the proposed transmission belt for which Flavian ideas of Jesus were inserted into the nascent Christian movement). You'd have to assume Paul was complicit in some Roman attempt to create a different Jesus, which is inconsistent with his letters. It was a common enough name anyway.

2. The Romans were very conservative religiously. The idea of Romans creating a new religion is just bizarre. Remember Cicero saying we are great because we are most pious? You could get arrested for holding a meeting of more than a handful of people they were so paranoid about rebellion. The Romans attributed the success of their nation to the scrupulous nature of their religious observances.

3.The whole Q, Synoptics, John, etc problem is much more consistent with a bottom up religion than a top down. What's more likely - Joseph Smith created Mormonism or the LDS created Joseph Smith? As Twain said, "the Illidad wasn't written by Homer but by some guy they called Homer."

4. If Paul was a conduit between the Roman court and the Christian movement, then why did the Romans kill him? Kind of defeats the purpose.

Here's the problem with the the Flavian thesis: Either: (1) Jesus didn't exist and the Romans created a religion out of whole cloth which people for some reason believed; or (2) Jesus lived and his followers (or their followers) wrote down things they recalled him saying and doing (accurately or not).

And Valliant and Fahey have a bigger problem because they agree that Paul lived and wrote of Jesus (and knows some historical facts).* And James also was real (and probably others such as Peter). So their followers accepted Gospels that they knew probably had little connection to a real Jesus? This is implausible to say the least.

I have a few additional comments:

1. Although the authors breathlessly tell us that they have a combined 60 years of studying the New Testament, they show almost no familiarity with conservative, mainstream or even liberal New Testament scholarship. And they often misrepresent the findings of scholarship when they advance what they purport to be the consensus. There are quite a few scholars who date the Gospels to prior to the fall of Jerusalem and even many critical scholars who contend for a pre-66 date for Mark's Gospel. Our authors tell us that “most” academics reject to the historical accuracy of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and refer to leftists such as Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar. Of course neither Ehrman or any of the members of the Jesus Seminar represent mainstream New Testament scholarship. Perhaps our authors should familiarize themselves with such book as The Historical Reliability of the New Testament by Blomberg or the recent collections by Keener and Licona which evaluate the accuracy of the Gospels in light of the writing of its time.

2. When discussing Paul they rely (in part) on the book Operation Messiah by Voskuilen and Sheldon. Yeah, me neither. Many solid books have been written lately about Paul that could have been referenced such as by N.T. Wright, James Dunn, Michael Bird and Stanley Porter. Although perhaps appearing too late for our authors, Porter's When Paul Met Jesus: How An Idea Got Lost In History presents the evidence (now largely forgotten) that Paul did know Jesus.

3. The authors claim that much of the New Testament is pro-Roman propaganda, urging obedience to the Emperor and the Roman State. They seem totally unaware of recent scholarship (such as N.T. Wright) that sees on the contrary implicit criticism of growing Emperor worship, particularly in the East. I think some of this scholarship goes to far, but it's a useful corrective to our authors claims. (For a more balanced presentation see Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not, by McKnight and Modica.) Our authors attempt to downplay the persecution of Christians by Rome is not persuasive and even they have to acknowledge that the Empire's execution of Paul and Peter runs contrary to their thesis. Apparently early Christians didn't get the message because most early writing touching on war opposed Christians serving in the Roman army.

4. Many matters are presented as fact which are highly debatable. The authors contend that the Virgin Birth is of pagan origin. However, there are relatively few virgin births outside Christianity and they are quite different from what is described in the Gospels. For more information the reader might consult Raymond Brown's The Birth of the Messiah.

5. The book is relatively free from outright errors. The authors confuse the Virgin Birth with the later Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is a common enough mistake.**


*For a good discussion see Dunn's essay in The Historical Jesus: Five Views.

**You can access my review here:

I imagine ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

SOLO has long since been Forum Non Gratum in that circle. Everyone is, eventually. Smiling

Has anyone other than Ed and me read this book?

Neil Parille's picture

I thought Valliant would return to SOLO to promote it.

He's got an active twitter and FB page for it.

Tedious Incomprehensible Obscure God

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Reading thru your scholarly and high-quality book review, Neil, reminds me once again how absolutely disinterested I am in religion. I find it inconceivable that the gods, if they exist, would demand of us poor humans that we should have to wade thru all this convoluted nonsense and try to puzzle it all out. If he, she, it, or they exist, they must do so in some far more obvious way with far more obvious evidence.

More Comments

Neil Parille's picture

I have added more comments, for those who are intrested in these kinds of things.

Creating Christ is as bad as PARC.


Brant Gaede's picture

Are facial piercings what pagans do?

sign me up then!


Brant Gaede's picture

She must be intelligent; she passed the California Bar exam.


ass what?

Brant Gaede's picture

j came before c.


Tore's picture

Christianity was a pagan invention to crush judaism?

Talk about getting it ass backwards!

Amy Interviews Valliant

Neil Parille's picture

Amy did not solicit phone calls so I didn't even try to call in.

Unfortunately Amy knows next to nothing about Christianity. She can't even pronounce "gentiles" and "Josephus" accurately.

Anyway, it's worth listening to if one has some free time.

Put your money where your mouth is

gregster's picture

Do it Neil. Call in. If you have a little dog, talk of it too, that would break the ice with Amy. Put this conspiracy theory of Casey and Jim's to bed with your evidence for that guy's divinity, or any guy's divinity. Lay off the wine a little beforehand.

You Should call In

edpowell's picture

I'd try to call in myself, but I haven't read the book, given that its thesis is a bizarre conspiracy theory. Alex Jones's review would be, "wow, that's what I call unrealistic!"

Amy Peikoff Will Be Interviewing Jim

Neil Parille's picture

On july 12 on her blog talk radio show.

Maybe I'll call in.

Well, Valliant blames

Doug Bandler The Second's picture

Well, Valliant blames Josephus and Paul who were Jewish - so I guess it's another blame the Jews

Yeah, Paul and Josephus were the Zionists in bed with the elite NeoCon Romans. And then Rome would spend a few decades and the equivalent of billions of dollars fighting a useless war in the Near East. And then they would go bankrupt and get deluged with immigrants, etc. The more things change ...


Neil Parille's picture

Well, Valliant blames Josephus and Paul who were Jewish - so I guess it's another blame the Jews . . . .

Wrong Conspiracy

Doug Bandler The Second's picture

If they want to advance a conspiracy theory how about the Israeli's bombing of the USS Liberty or CIA and Mossad involvement in 9/11? Both of those are far more believable than the conspiracy they put forth.

Why take on the Romans? Why not take on the Jews? I think I know the answer.

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