Tag Archives: conspiracy theory

Why you can be reasonably sure that Christianity was not a Roman conspiracy

There’s another Bible conspiracy theory doing the rounds. Each of these is more inane than the last. And each gets media attention from the tabloids. First there was the claim, from a guy named Reza Aslan, that Jesus was a zealot. A political revolutionary. A rebel. Now we have the apparently completely antithetical claim – that Jesus was a pawn of the Roman empire. An invention. Designed to bring the Jews into line and have them adopt pacifism.

Here is this new theory in a nutshell.

‘Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century.

‘When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare.

‘They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system.

‘That’s when the “peaceful” Messiah story was invented.

‘Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to “give onto Caesar” and pay their taxes to Rome.’

Both claims are odd.

Stupid in fact.

Both claims seem to miss some pretty key elements of the very counter-culture, extremely non-populist, basis of the Christian message, while also relying on the New Testament texts as valid historical documents from which to draw evidence to support their crazy hypothese.

Here’s the thing. According to the New Testament – Jesus died. At the hands of both the Roman Empire, and the Jewish establishment.

He can’t be a pawn for the Roman Empire because the movement claimed another king existed – a king who shared all the titles Caesar had bestowed upon himself. A king who called himself the saviour of the world. A king proclaimed through a gospel – a word used to described the announcement of new emperors. What self-seeking Roman emperor would hatch a plan like this? None. It’s stupid. They were about centralising power, as much as possible, in the hands of the Caesar. Having other kings running around wasn’t good for business.

Jesus saying “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” isn’t even pro-imperial. It’s ambivalent to the empire. He’s making a much bigger claim. Coins might have Caesar’s image on them. People are made in God’s image. Jesus is laying claims to something much bigger than one’s money – he wants their fealty. Their loyalty. Their lives.

In some sense Jesus was a revolutionary – he did come to change the social order – but not in the “rebel without a cause” way Reza Aslan suggests he did. He came to change people’s priorities – Away from Self. Away from success. Away from family. Away from empire. Four pillars of Roman society… So in Matthew 10…

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

He equally can’t be a tool to unite the Jews in a pacifistic movement – because his first spokespeople condemned the Jewish establishment for killing him, and Jesus spent significant time attacking the Jewish establishment as an expert in the Old Testament – the chances of Rome having the sort of sophisticated understanding of the Old Testament required to construct a significantly complex Messianic claim are fairly slim. And the prospect of the masters of propaganda – and that’s what Imperial Rome was, and needed to be for this new thesis to survive – failing to put forward a compelling messianic figure, and coming up with a messiah that most Jews rejected – is risible.

It’s stupid.

But the stupidest bit is the idea that one would select a crucified king as remotely compelling – either that a Roman would come up with the idea, or that a Jew would buy it.

“Lets crucify this king. That’ll work”

Martyrdom wasn’t a particularly effective tool in Rome – so, for example, Cicero was martyred for his opposition to the Empire. And the Empire moved on. Unworried. Execution was meant to kill seditious claims. It usually did. The chances of it starting them are incredibly remote.

And there’s textual evidence from the time to support just how dumb this idea is… Cicero himself said, of crucifixion:

“Even if death be threatened, we may die free men; but the executioner, and the veiling of the head, and the mere name of the cross, should be far removed, not only from the persons of Roman citizens—from their thoughts, and eyes, and ears. For not only the actual fact and endurance of all these things, but the bare possibility of being exposed to them,—the expectation, the mere mention of them even,—is unworthy of a Roman citizen and of a free man…”

Paul, one of the Christian story’s first storytellers – who’d have to be bought in on the conspiracy (and would have the requisite knowledge of Judaism, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s part of the theory… the old “Paul invented Christianity” trick) – was aware that crucifixion was an impossible sell to a first century audience – Jew or Greek. If you wanted a messiah claim to stick, this isn’t how you do it…

“Even if death be threatened, we may die free men; but the executioner, and the veiling of the head, and the mere name of the cross, should be far removed, not only from the persons of Roman citizens—from their thoughts, and eyes, and ears. For not only the actual fact and endurance of all these things, but the bare possibility of being exposed to them,—the expectation, the mere mention of them even,—is unworthy of a Roman citizen and of a free man…”

The problem with seeing Paul as the source of this myth is that he completely distanced himself from the Jewish establishment, and Judaism. Read Acts. The Jews are consistently trying to kill him – and he runs from them, into the Roman court system. As a prisoner. He is beaten. He suffers. He eventually dies. Like Cicero. Like Jesus. He’d have to have been pretty bought in to this mission to subjugate his own people, and he doesn’t leave his Judaism behind easily. He was on a skyrocketing career trajectory before he joined team Jesus.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

Anyway. A crucified messiah just didn’t wash with the Old Testament expectations. It ran counter to them. To be crucified was to be cursed. Which is part of the whole “Jesus taking our curse upon himself” thing that completely defied messianic categories in the first century. Here’s Deuteronomy 21…

“If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole,you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”

That’s precisely what Paul says in Galatians 3…

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

This wasn’t especially convincing to the Jews of his day. They tried to kill Paul too.

And if Crucifixion was stupid and laughable – the claim of a resurrection after that was even further beyond the pale. And yet that is the central claim of Christianity – taught long before Paul came on the scene – such that he can cite it as a creed when he’s writing one of his earlier letters…

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James,then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

He also seems to keep relying on witnesses. People who aren’t him. If you’re going to use parts of his letters to support your theory, you need to consider the whole. These 500 witnesses who his first readers can speak to – that’s an incredibly large conspiracy theory.

Look. It’s a nice modern sociology theory – because it will sell well. But it doesn’t work in practice. It misses the point of the texts it uses as evidence. It requires on completely deconstructing them – using post-modern literary theory on pre-modern texts. The author was very much alive in these texts – and the idea of writing with a clear communicative purpose was also very much alive.

These claims should be dead. They are woeful scholarship. And covering them with so much attention – even if half the story debunks them – is woeful journalism. This isn’t “objective” reporting of a serious story. This is a stupid story.

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Stunning theory about the interconnectedness of Pixar movies…

This is as good as the Radiohead 01 10 album theory, the (confirmed) Tarantino movie and movie within a movie universes (also this), and the Tommy Westphall’s mind theory that connects almost every television series known to mankind. All Pixar movies are connected and occur in the same universe.

Source: Pixar.wikia.com

It’s surprisingly plausible, and utterly convincing.

Here’s something from the middle of that post.

In the beginning of Up, Carl is forced to give up his house to a corporation because they are expanding the city. Think on that. What corporation is guilty for polluting the earth and wiping out life in the distant future because of technology overreach?

Buy-n-Large (BNL), a corporation that runs just about everything by the time we get toWall-E. In the “History of BNL” commercial from the movie, we’re told that BNL has even taken over the world governments. Did you catch that this one corporation achieved global dominance?

Interestingly, this is the same organization alluded to in Toy Story 3:

Toy Story 3 (Buzz's batteries)

Toy Story 3 (Buzz’s batteries)

In Finding Nemo, we have an entire population of sea creatures uniting to save a fish that was captured by humans. BNL shows up again in this universe via another news article that talks about a beautiful underwater world. In Finding Nemo, lines are being crossed. Humans are beginning to antagonize the increasingly networked and intelligent animals.

Captcha conspiracy

Captchas are pretty annoying. I hate them. Google just bought ReCaptcha – the company that makes captcha forms. And they published this little interesting little piece of info about what you’re actually doing when you fill out a captcha – you’re probably indirectly aiding the development of robots who will one day make captchas pointless.

“The words in many of the CAPTCHAs provided by reCAPTCHA come from scanned archival newspapers and old books. Computers find it hard to recognize these words because the ink and paper have degraded over time, but by typing them in as a CAPTCHA, crowds teach computers to read the scanned text.
In this way, reCAPTCHA’s unique technology improves the process that converts scanned images into plain text, known as Optical Character Recognition (OCR).”

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Yawn of a new era

Ben has posted a little bit of conspiracy theory driven speculation over on Vanishing Point which suggests that his blog’s nominally inferred prophecy may come about as the result of a yawn.

The yawn, unlike the sneeze is a subtle evil. Where the sneeze is loud, and produces a certain amount of tangible outbound traffic (spittle), the yawn sneaks under the radar. It is silent. There is no wetness to be felt. And yet the damage can actually be of a similarly devastating magnitude.

I have some of my own theories about yawns, which according to my site search thing I’ve never actually written about. Which is a situation that must surely be rectified. Here. Now.

Yawning, as we all know, is a contagious disease. One person yawns, and in the right circumstances it could set of a perpetual motion loop where everybody in a circle yawns, one after the other, dooming them to a harrowing oxygen fuelled existence.

I have a theory about why yawns are contagious. When we yawn we draw more oxygen into our lungs than a normal breath. To yawn in an enclosed space is to hog oxygen. Which, because we are selfish individuals, explains why everybody else in the vicinity also yawns. We don’t want anyone having more than their fair share.

This could one day pose a problem. If a group large enough gathers, and a yawning epidemic spreads, there will not be enough trees in all the Greenpeace wheelbarrows of the world to photosynthesis enough oxygen to replace the catastrophe that would follow.

Once you understand and embrace this underlying understanding of the nature of yawning you are on the path to enlightenment. You are equipped to deal with and understand life in a way that you have not been before.

This new, secret, knowledge gives you an unfair advantage over your fellow man. So use it carefully. Here’s an example.

If you are a single person and you are sitting in a room full of eligible people of the other gender – and you think that a particular member of the opposite gender has quite literally "caught your eye", if say, you think they are engaging in a little bit of casual "checking out" – just yawn. If they were checking you out your yawn will be irresistible. They’ll respond. If not, well, there’s no reason to get your hopes up and have them cruelly dashed.

There’s nothing so painful as unrequited cross auditorium/lecture theatre/church/conference centre love. Harness the power of the yawn and you’ll never feel that pain again.

Conspiracy convergence

I haven’t really watched much stuff from CollegeHumor – but the stuff I have seen tends to be really awesome, or really quite crass – take that on board if you’re going to follow any links from this video – which fits into the earlier category.

Conspiracy

Hillary Clinton only has to kill four people – then pardon herself – to be the next President of the United States. The Huffington Post has the order of succession as follows:

PRESIDENTIAL LINE OF SUCCESSION (Obama Administration)

  1. Joe Biden (Vice President and President of Senate)
  2. Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House)
  3. Robert Byrd (Senate President Pro Tempore)
  4. Hillary Clinton (State)
  5. Timothy Geithner (Treasury)
  6. Robert Gates (Defense)
  7. Eric Holder (Justice)
  8. TBD (Interior)
  9. TBD (Agriculture)
  10. Bill Richardson (Commerce)

She better watch out though, that Timothy Geithner is a mean looking son of a gun.