Critics' Pick

Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus (NR)

Documentary 84 December 31, 1969
By Chuck Wilson
Jesus Christ did not exist. He was, instead, a fictional character created by Roman emperors seeking to cultivate religion as a tool more powerful than war. Such is the thesis set forth by historian Joseph Atwill in his 2005 bestseller and in this provocative documentary by director Fritz Heede. The Jesus backstory Atwill and other scholars relate on-screen is crazily complex, but the gist of it is that the Flavian family of Rome supervised the writing of the Gospels as part of a calculated effort to create a “peaceful messiah” whose message would calm the rebellious masses. To be honest, this reviewer isn’t deeply knowledgeable about Biblical history, so this names-and-dates-jammed film made me feel as if I’d walked into the wrong lecture hall in the middle of the semester—lost! Heede and Atwill presumably intend to inspire a dialogue with open-minded Christians, yet they begin with this voiceover proclamation: “No doubt Christians have done a lot of good for the world. But then, there are other Christians, often the most dogmatic [cue a photo of President George W. Bush], who create wars, hatred, and other harm under the disguise of religion.” That said, a calm, methodical history lesson ensues, but will any Christians stick around to hear it?
Fritz Heede Joseph Atwill, Rod Blackhirst, Robert Eisenman, Nijole Sparkis, John Hudson Nijole Sparkis


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