Evidence for Caesar and Jesus compared

Did Julius Caesar Exist?

'Jesus better documented than any other ancient figure'?
Don't believe a word of it!

Jesus Never Existed –  Imaginary Friend


email the author
Kenneth Humphreys


21.11.11

Home          Section        Complete list of articles           Search

 

 

   

 

 

 

Divus Iulius!

A Real JC

Julius Caesar – man from 100-44 BC, god thereafter.

100 years before the supposed birth of Jesus another god-man was born: Gaius Julius Caesar.

Murdered at the height of his power, Caesar was elevated to a God after his death.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Jesus Seminar

The Incredible Disappearing Messiah


Meeting for the first time in March 1985, the Jesus Seminar has periodically brought together dozens of university scholars and gospel specialists representing every shade of Christian thought, plus a few Jews and atheists.

In their initial study, the scholars collected more than 1500 versions of approximately 500 Jesus parables, aphorisms, dialogues, and stories written during the first 300 years of Christianity.

After 6 years of debate and reflection the consensus was that 82% of the words attributed to Jesus were fake.

In phase two, between 1991 and 1996, the Jesus Seminar considered 387 versions of 176 'Jesus events'. Their conclusion: 84% of the activities attributed to Jesus were bogus.

 

 

 

In contrast, Caesar's words and deeds are fully documented by multiple witnesses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extant Letters –

From Caesar to Balbus; to Oppius; to Cicero.

From Cicero to Caesar; to Basilius; to Atticus; to Matius; to members of Cicero's own family.

From Sallust to Caesar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 13, 100 BC. Caesar is born in Rome to the wife of a praetor, one of the city's six chief law officers.


87 At the age of 13 Caesar is made a priest of Jupiter (flamen dialis). His father dies 2 years later.


84 Caesar marries Cornelia, daughter of Cornelius Cinna, a former consul and ally of Gaius Marius, leader of the populares (the people's party). Cornelia is the mother of his only legitimate child Julia.


81 Arrested at 19 and under the suspicion of the dictator Lucius Sulla, leader of the optimates (the senatorial party), Caesar flees Rome and joins the army.


80-78 Caesar is a staff officer in Asia. Gossip suggests a homosexual relationship with Nicomedes, the king of Bithynia.


75 Caesar is captured by Cilician pirates and held for 38 days. On release, he returns in force and crucifies them.


73 Elected pontifex, senior state priest.


69 Caesar's wife Cornelia dies.


67 Marries Pompeia, granddaughter of dictator Sulla.


65 Elected Aedile, one of 4 supervisors of temples, markets, festivals and games.


63 At the age of 37 Caesar bribes his way into the elected office of Pontifex Maximus (chief priest) and gains an official residence in Rome.

Julius Caesar as Pontifex Maximus on denarius  from 63 BC. He wears the priest's hood.

 


62 Caesar divorces Pompeia in a scandal concerning the violation of the secret rites of Bona Dea.

61 Caesar is appointed Governor of Further Spain with the rank of praetor. In Spain he discovers that war can be politically and financially very profitable.

 

Conquering Hero

Caesar as Imperator (general) and pater patriae (father of his country).


60 Caesar joins Pompey and Crassus in the first Triumvirate and institutes land and tax reforms. His daughter Julia marries Pompey.


59 Caesar becomes consul. He marries Calpurnia of the powerful Piso family. He subsequently gains the governorship of Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul and Illyricum and command of 4 legions.


58-51 Caesar wages war in Gaul and defeats Vercingetorix. Caesar crosses the Rhine and defeats German tribes.


Caesar's own account of this war, De Bello Gallico, still survives.

 

 

55-54 Caesar invades Britain.

54 Julia, daughter of Caesar and wife of Pompey dies, breaking the personal alliance between the two men.


53 Crassus is killed on the Persian front, thus ending the Triumvirate.


52 Clodius, implicated with Caesar's ex-wife Pompeia 10 years earlier, is murdered.


50 The senate majority, led by Cato and the 'Optimates', accuse Caesar of treason.


49 Caesar crosses the Rubicon, provoking civil war between himself and Pompey.

 

Caesar's own account of this war also survives: De Bello Civili.

 

48 Pompey is defeated at Pharsalus and is murdered in Egypt. Caesar has liaison with Cleopatra and pacifies Pontus ("Veni, vidi, vici”). Returning to Rome, his Dictatorship is established but he pardons all his enemies.


45 Final defeat of Pompey's sons in Africa and Spain. Caesar is declared dictator for life and begins reforms.

44 Ides of March. Caesar is assassinated. Antony delivers eulogy at Caesar’s funeral.


"Of what avail, O Caesar, was your humanity, of what avail your inviolability, of what avail the laws? Nay, though you enacted many laws that men might not be killed by their personal foes, yet how mercilessly you yourself were slain by your friends!"

 

Antony in mourning on coinage.

 

July 44. At Caesar's funeral games a great comet appears in the sky for 7 days – a clear sign of Caesar’s ascendancy to heaven.

 

 

Antony shares a denarius with the dead Caesar

 

January 42. The Senate names Caesar 'Divus Julius' (Divine Julius), officially confirming him as a god of the Roman people.

44-29. Octavian, Caesar's adopted son (aka Augustus) avenges Caesar's death and murders Caesar's son by Cleopatra, Ptolemy Caesarion.

 

 

The life of Caesar, Roman statesman and conqueror, may itself have inspired aspects of the Christ myth.

 

One school of thought is that the Jesus legend was an official scam to pacify the Jews.

Or is the Jesus story just a re-write of Caesar's fate?

 

* Be careful – If you try hard enough you could find 12 things in common between any two figures. Caesar wore sandals, Jesus wore sandals ...

 

 

The Rubicon Analogy

Richard Carrier compares Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon with the Resurrection yarn.

Off-site link

 

 

Unlike the mythical Jesus Christ, we know what Caesar looked like and we have a complete history of his life. In turn, general, orator, historian, statesman and lawgiver. We have words written by Caesar himself and words written by both his friends and his enemies. Artifacts confirm his life and death, as do his successors. Caesar established a style of government – and a calendar – which endured for centuries.

Evidence that confirms the existence of Caesar is legion in stark contrast to the utter dearth of evidence for Jesus!

 

Caeasar: Images from his own lifetime

 

An unflattering portrait of Caesar found near Tusculum, carved during Caesar's own lifetime. Later portraits invariably showed Caesar wearing a laurel crown – to hide his receding hairline.

Julius Caesar on denarius from February/March, 44 BC.

Caesar is proclaimed 'perpetual dictator' at the age of 55.

On the reverse of the coin the symbols represent various aspects of Caesar's power and political program.

 

Contemporary images of Jesus? Nothing!

Not only was no "from life" image ever made of Jesus, there is not even one word describing the godman in the entire New Testament.

The earliest Christian iconography was simply cribbed from traditional representations of the god Apollo. Over the centuries, the image of Jesus has been adapted and modified to reflect the tastes (and often the appearance) of earthly powers.

 

< Recognise this clean-shaven young man? A Coptic vision of Jesus from the 6th/7th century.

 

An image of Jesus from the same period from the Syrian church. >

 

 

Fantasy Meets Reality

"... more evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is for anyone else ..."

Let's remind ourselves: Jesus Christ The Legend did some pretty remarkable things. His 'ministry' was a pretty public affair. Many of his tricks were of no particular value (cursing a fig tree?); some would have had disastrous consequences for innocent third parties (remember that herd of  2000 suicidal pigs into which he cast demons? Surely that ruined somebody else's living?).

But certainly, by such 'miracles' he convinced his disciples and the multitude that he was the Messiah, right? Turning a jug of water into wine may have been trivial but resurrecting oneself from death was no mean trick.

But if we are to 'believe' that these stories relate real events what is to be our criteria for acceptance? On what basis should we accept any of this as 'fact' rather than fancy?

 

A complete record of all the things Jesus never said, all the places he never walked, and all the miracles he never worked.

"No Evidence of Non-existence" – Welcome to the Twilight Zone

In an oddly distorted, negative universe Christian apologists declare that there is "no evidence" for their godman's non-existence, as if it should be quite natural to believe in the most fantastic, illogical and unsubstantiated claims unless there was evidence to the contrary. If this stance had any viability, why stop at Jesus? Why not believe in Zeus, leprechauns and the tooth fairy?

A favourite tack of the Saved is to affect a yawn, mutter "that old stuff again" and impatiently declare that Jesus's non-existence is a 19th century rationalist's heresy long since disposed of by "solid evidence".

The ringing claim of "more evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is for any other person of his day" is followed by a potpourri of ancient sources, as if a list made long enough could disguise the fact that NOT A SINGLE SOURCE EVER QUOTED IS FROM THE TIME OF THE GODMAN.

Early non-Christian writers, including the favourite hostages – Josephus, Suetonius, Pliny and Tacitus – are discussed here.

But stepping around the smokescreen thrown up by evidence that early Christians certainly existed (and had a motley assortment of beliefs!), is the evidence for many of history's greatest heroes and villains really so tenuous?

 

 

Caesar: In His Own Words – a great deal

Caesar was an eyewitness to many of the events he describes in his commentaries. He wrote not for posterity but to have an immediate impact on the power players in Rome as he schemed to advance his own career.

The elapsed time between the wars and Caesar's own writing was a matter of months or at most a few years.

The works of Caesar (off-site)

 

Jesus: In His Own Words – Nothing

In contrast, the elapsed time between the gospel reports and the supposed events that they describe is at least 40 years for 'Mark' and 60-70 years for the other three Gospels.

And just who was witness to that fabulous nativity, 30-odd years before the grande finale?

At the most generous understanding, 'Luke' and 'Matthew' were recording hearsay testimony a century after angels, shepherds and wise men went calling.

The unembellished truth is that the gospel accounts were written by eyewitnesses to nothing but their own skills of fabrication.

For good reason, based on spatial and temporal proximity alone, historians give more credence to Caesar's commentaries than to the gospels, no matter how prolifically they were copied.

 

Contemporary Witnesses to Caesar

 

Cicero

Orations and Letters provide eyewitness evidence of Caesar

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) was almost an exact contemporary of Julius Caesar.

In Caesar's struggle with Pompey, Cicero, governor of Cilicia, sided with Pompey but was subsequently pardoned by Caesar.

In March of 44 BC Cicero was a witness to Caesar's murder, though he was not a part of the conspiracy.

Following the assassination, Cicero made a series of speeches known as the "Philippics" which called on the Senate to support Octavian against Mark Antony. Cicero's "Second Phillipics" was an eulogy of Caesar's conquest of Gaul.

Unfortunately for Cicero Octavian reached a temporary rapprochement with Antony, who then ordered Cicero's murder.

Among some 900 preserved letters to and from Cicero are correspondence both about and with Caesar.

"... if Caesar does lose his head all the same, Pompey feels only the deepest contempt for him, trusting in his own and the state's troops ..."

– Cicero to Atticus, 7.8, 50BC.

 

 

 


Sallust

Caius Sallust (86-34 BC) tribune, provincial governor and supporter of Caesar. His testimony is in a history "Bellum Catalinae".

Nepos

Cornelius Nepos (c100-24): "Life of Atticus".

Catullus

Gaius Valerius Catullus (c84-54 BC): "Carmina".

Asinius Pollio

Gaius Asinius Pollio (76 BC-4 AD) was an ally of Caesar and founder of the first public library in Rome. He was a source used by Plutarch.

Virgil

Virgil (70BC-17AD): "Aeneid".

Ovid

Ovidius Naso (43BC-17AD): "Metamorphoses".

Near Contemporary Witnesses


Paterculus

Velleius Paterculus (c19 BC-32 AD): "Historiae Romanae".

Lucan

Lucan (Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, 39-65 AD) followed the example of his grandfather, Seneca the Elder – a young contemporary of Caesar – who in later life wrote a history of Rome.

Lucan wrote his own Pharsalia approximately a century after the civil war it chronicles, using Seneca's work as an eye-witness source.

Plutarch

Plutarch of Chaeronea (45-120 AD) was a Greek moralist, historian and biographer (and priest of Delphi). He wrote his Parallel Lives (matching Greek with Roman lives) during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. He describes in detail the life and assassination of Julius Caesar (as well as Marcus Brutus and Mark Antony).

Appian

Appian of Alexandria (c.95-165 AD): Civil Wars.

Suetonius

The most famous biographer of Caesar, Tranquillus Suetonius, wrote his Lives of the Twelve Caesars during the reign of emperor Hadrian (117-138).

Suetonius was in charge of the imperial archives and in this capacity, had access to some of the best possible information.

 

 

Et tu Jesus?

There is nothing intrinsically improbable in a radical 1st century rabbi called Jesus. And any figure who emerged as a sage or soothsayer in ancient Palestine is unlikely to have left much evidence of his existence.

But whilst we might entertain, perhaps, a few epithets of reported wisdom from such a guru, it would remain extremely doubtful that any attributed words were actually spoken by him, whatever the claims made today for "oral transmission."

Thus, for example, we can accept the report from Josephus (our only source) that a Jesus ben Ananias caused disquiet in Jerusalem with a non-stop doom-laden mantra of ‘woe to the city’ but suspect that Josephus is using poetic licence when he reports this particular Jesus as saying, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against the whole people." (Josephus, Wars 6:3).

Bearing in mind that ancient languages had no symbol for quotation marks and made no distinction between a verbatim account of someone's speech and an accurate paraphrase, Josephus may well be providing a close paraphrase. He was present in Jerusalem at the time (62AD) and wrote his history within about a decade of the event.

Not only was Josephus an eyewitness to much of the drama he described but also had access to Roman imperial archives and military commentaries, the hupomnemata. Josephus can also be checked against archaeological data, and, notwithstanding the occasional exaggeration, what he writes is generally confirmed.

 

A Fake Witness

As it happens, we have an inordinate amount of Jesus dialogue. Nothing particularly novel or unique is put into his mouth, though much of it is contradictory or obscure. None of it comes from a reliable source.

The Gospel of Thomas (found in a Coptic translation at Nag Hammadi and in Greek fragments at Oxyrhynchus), for example, presents 114 "secret" sayings of Jesus, many of which are rephrased quotations from Jewish scripture and over half resemble dialogue which turns up in the New Testament. Others are simply silly:

"Saying 7: Jesus says: 'Blessed is the lion which a man eats so that the lion becomes a man. But cursed is the man whom a lion eats so that the man becomes a lion!'"

"Saying 114: Simon Peter said to them, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life." Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."

 

Regular Christians, of course, are not very happy with the "5th Gospel" and cast doubt on its "reliability." The sayings are not (yet?) embedded in narrative stories to give them a semblance of historical reality and no miracles are mentioned. "Fake teachings, invented by the Gnostics" is the cry.

But does wrapping epithets of folk wisdom into a series of "incidents" and "encounters" – even with a miracle thrown in for good measure – make a fraud any less a fraud? Jesus supposedly spoke in Aramaic but the gospels were written in Greek. Literal translation from one language to another inevitably breaks down at numerous points. Not surprisingly the scholars of the Jesus Seminar dismissed more than eighty per cent of the godman's words as invention.

 

Who Says?

Who would have noted anything "Jesus of Nazareth" said before he emerged as a bona fide spiritual leader? Yet Luke (2.48,49) quotes the godman at the age of 12 in the "temple incident".

Ok, so let's grant that after her son made the big time Mary becomes the proud mum, full of anecdotes about her illustrious offspring ... Maybe she even reminisced about traipsing off to Bethlehem, even Egypt.

But Mary isn't everywhere. Matthew 3 reports dialogue between the godman and John the Baptist (let alone a voice from heaven!) in the wilderness of Judaea. Only when the Baptist gets imprisoned does JC choose his disciples so they wouldn't have been present either. So where does this little story originate, other than in the fertile mind of the gospel writer?

Ok, let's concede "unknown and unstated bystanders" run off to tell the tale ... In fact, we have to rely on such hearsay again and again: JC's night time chat with Nicodemus, his conversation with a Samaritan woman, when his disciples are off shopping, etc., etc.

But we're still not out of the woods. On several occasions the gospel writers quite specifically report Jesus’ conversations when neither they nor any other humans were present.

Who would have had the faintest idea of what Jesus said when he was on his own? For example, chapter 17 of the Gospel of John is entirely taken up with a monologue addressed by a solitary Jesus to God himself.

Matthew (4.3,10) tells of JC in the wilderness and having conversations with Satan.

Now how would Matthew know what was said? Are we to imagine Jesus reminisced, "Hey guys, one time I was in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights and guess who showed up ... ?"

If we take this step we may as well dream up the whole nine yards ...

 

 

Write your own Jesus Lore!

The gospels provide detailed "Jesus action" for the last year or so of his life but are deafeningly silent about the other 30-odd years. 90% of the godman's biography is missing.

No problem! Taking a lead from Holy Mother Church, creative religious fraudsters have had a grand time colouring in the missing years.

If you like, Jesus travelled with Joseph of Arimathea to Britain to learn druidic lore at Glastonbury. He even built a hut with his own hands.

Or if you prefer, our hero went off to India to spend 17 years as both a student and teacher of Buddhist and Hindu holy men. They affectionately called him Issa.

Other options involve Tibet, Japan and, if you're a Mormon, America.

Why not have Jesus visit your own home town?

In days of lore, a man who never existed can not only be anything, he can be anywhere!

 

Jesus tomb – Shingo, northern Honshu, Japan.

Jesus tomb – Srinagar, western Kashmir.


 

Fraud of Ages


Does anyone stand to gain by maintaining a myth?

But of course, a vast global industry of religion. Was this always the case? Why YES, unquestionably after Constantine made Christianity the State religion, but no less so in the preceding centuries. Indeed, priests, shamans, witchdoctors have lived on the backs of others since people started living in groups. Given this venal motive of the "religiously inclined", we would be wise to exercise caution before buying its product and accepting its claims.


In those 2000 years did the Church ever fabricate legends and relics?

The vast Medieval forgery industry is a matter of historical record – a contributory cause of the Reformation. Before the canon of holy books was finalized in the 5th century hundreds of fanciful Jesus stories existed. Rancorous Church Councils decided which were 'sacred' and which were 'pious romances.'


Do the claims for Jesus include the suspension of the laws of physics?

Absolutely. We are not talking of a mere carpenter but a worker of miracles. Setting aside the miasma of "Faith" we require rather more evidence for a miracle than a normal activity, not less.

 

Yet every purported evidence for Jesus turns out to be dubious or non-existent. This includes no contemporary record of Jesus; no evidence for Nazareth in the 1st century; tampered works of non-Christian writers to insert 'evidence'; testimony of early Christians who didn't believe in a human Jesus anyway; gospels which flatly contradict each other; myriad instances of 'Jesus stories' copied from earlier legends and other cultures; and so on and so on.


We have both a motive for Christian fabrication of a myth and the evidence of centuries of myth creation. In other words, what we find "in the beginning" is the same venality and charlatanism that followed, century after century, in each becoming more vicious and ruthless.

 

Sources:
Arthur Ferrill, The Fall of the Roman Empire (Thames & Hudson, 1986)
Edward Gibbon, The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire (1799)
Michael Grant, Jesus (Orion, 1999)
Chris Scarre, Chronicle of the Roman Emperors (Thames & Hudson, 1995)
Pierre Grimal, Rome of the Caesars (Phaidon, 1956)
A. N. Wilson, Jesus (Harper Collins, 1993)
Elmar Gruber, Holger Kersten, The Original Jesus (Element, 1995)
Stewart Perowne, Death of the Roman Republic (Hodder & Stoughton, 1969)
Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars (Penguin, 1980)

 

Related articles

 
A Surfeit of Jesuses! – But No "Jesus of Nazareth"
 
Would they lie? – Copy and Glorify!
 
Non-Christian Testimony? From the authentic pen of lying Christian scribes !!
 
Circus, Circus! – The Jesus Parade is Always in Town
 
Extinguishing the Light – Wrath of God
Home
MAJOR SECTIONS
Do you really think it all began with a sanctimonious Jewish wonder-worker, strolling about 1st century Palestine? Prepare to be enlightened.
Imaginary Friend
Still holding to the idea that some sort of holy man lies behind the legend? Better check out...
Godman – Gestation of a Superhero

A closer look at the glib assertion that the Jesus story "got off the ground quickly and spread rapidly."
What DID the Early Christians Believe?


Many currents fed the Jesus myth, like streams and tributaries joining to form a major river.
Sourcing the legend – The Syncretic Heritage of Christianity


Much of the mythology of Christianity is a rehash of an older and even more transparent fabrication – Judaism.
Jew Story – The Way of the Rabbi


Human ingenuity and cunning is matched by mankind's equally monumental credulity and wishful thinking.
Christianity's Fabrication Factory


Church organisation, authority and membership preceded rather than followed the justifying doctrine. As the organisation and its needs changed so has the ‘Testament of God’ adapted accordingly.
Dogma – The Word in all its Savage Glory

From religious policeman to grandee of the church, from beast fighter in Ephesus to beheading in Rome, Paul's story has more holes than a swiss cheese.
 
St Paul the ApostleDead in the water?


Orchestrated by ambitious Christian clerics, a cancer of superstition, fear and brutality was imposed across Europe.
The Criminal History of the Christian Church


The Christian Heaven may have been a vain folly but the Christian Hell has been real enough.
A Brutal Superstition Spreads Across Europe


With a Jewish father (stern patriarch) and a Christian mother (obsession with guilt and heaven) it is not surprising that Islam grew up a bit of a tartar.
The Challenge of Islam – 'Christendom' Reaps a Whirlwind

Heaven help us. The richest, most powerful nation in history has a psychotic infatuation with Jay-a-sus the Lawd!
The Christianizing of the Americas
 

 

 



 

 

Some fifty articles are now available as a book. For your copy order:

 

 

 

Enlighten a friend e-mail this page

 

 

Copyright © 2005 by Kenneth Humphreys.
Copying is freely permitted, provided credit is given to the author and no material herein is sold for profit.