Wasn't that a fantastic production! Even tops the one called "Secrets of Herod's Reign" that aired on the National Geographic Channel last year. See:
The Lost Worlds episode presented top-quality video and computer graphics reconstructions of the major Herodian architectural wonders in addition to close-ups of them in their present state. The show claimed that Herod built the first domed roof (at the Herodian fortress) and that Herod generally out-did his Roman contemporaries in monumental Roman construction. Herod is even called the ancient world’s greatest builder.
It is clear that there was an esoteric aspect of monumental construction. The Pyramids weren't the only structures to encode knowledge. And the ancients also thought of writing in the same way. There was the outer form, but also an internal architecture that preserved higher levels of understanding.
Here are some excerpts from a discussion we had recently over at the Caesar's Messiah forum on the subject:
To the educated Roman, multiple accounts of a Christ figure must have been seen as obligatory. The obvious parallel is the four major Roman accounts of Alexander the Great, written by Diodorus, Arrian, Curtius, and Plutarch. They were based on the much earlier and more-or-less eye-witness accounts from the time of Alexander himself and his "disciples", such as Ptolemy I (Alexander's companion and general), Clitarchus (a contemporary writer), Aristobulus (one of Alexander's junior officer's), Nearchus (Alexander's naval commander), etc. All of these earlier histories are now lost, so we must rely heavily on those "four Roman Gospels" of Alexander based on multiple Greek Gospels of Alexander.
In short, the existence of multiple histories of Jesus would not have been perplexing in the Greco-Roman world, and in fact would have been necessary to cultivate the image of a god-man on par with Alexander. The Gospel writer(s) applied their "evil genius" by fulfilling that expectation, and taking it a step further, even in ways that Joe Atwill has discovered. The four Gospels do conspire to make a mockery and a slave of the naive. It is shocking beyond belief.
Modern critical analysis of Biblical texts has identified structure in those texts that is in fact architectural in nature. Architecture was an obsession of the ruling elite. Steve Mason writes in Josephus and the New Testament (pp 66-67):
"... structural features appear to indicate that he [Josephus] had a plan of the whole [of Wars] when he began writing - much as the earlier historian Livy worked from a plan when he began each five-book segment of his massive Roman history. For example, the first story in the Jewish War concerns the high priest Onias, who left Jerusalem to establish another temple in the Egyptian district of Heliopolis (1.31-33). Although Josephus promises to return to this temple, he does not do so until the closing paragraphs of book 7 (7.420-36). This further raises the question whether Josephus gives his book a symmetrical, concentric structure built around a central pivot or fulcrum. Such structures were common in ancient literature, and all four of the canonical gospels have them, at least in broad outline - most obviously Luke-Acts, with its movement toward (Luke 9:51) and away from (Acts 1:8) Jerusalem as the place of Jesus' death and resurrection, and John, where Lazarus's raising both occupies the center (chapter 11) and also dramatically alters the direction of the narrative.
"In the case of Josephus's War, such a structure is, I think, beyond doubt."
Mason discusses similar literary architecture in Josephus' Antiquities and Life later in his book.
John Shelby Spong's, Liberating the Gospels, is another good overview of what critical analysis has learned about structure in the Gospels.
But, I think what Joe Atwill has uncovered goes far beyond previous analysis by showing conscious interpretive structure not only between the writings of Josephus and the Gospels, but between the various Gospels themselves. Still, I'm not quite ready to call it an ancient I.Q. test. It seems more consistent with what we understand about ancient initiation within cults, and what we know about the caste system of ancient society. To "get it" all, you really needed to have a very privileged "God's Eye" view, that is, to be part of the inner circle of the ruling class.
The four Gospels surely wouldn't pass for independent works today, but the integrity of the Gospels' construction is nevertheless still widely accepted. It's been grandfathered in, so to speak.
The typical Christian wouldn't have had access to the written text of even one Gospel much less all four (not to mention Josephus' works), so that would have made it nigh unto impossible to solve the puzzles. And even if a precocious convert did happen to figure out a few things, who would have believed their report. They would have been either ignored or shouted down by clergy and congregationers alike, if not "handed over to Satan for punishment". How dare anyone deny the sacredness of the Scriptures, much less declare it a total "Laurel and Hardy" farce. But what joy, as you say, for the church leaders, at least until they no longer felt any need to indulge in the inside joke ... or did they truly ever lose that sense of humor.
I call Christianity an anti-initiatory cult. The more devout the Christian is, the more ignorant they become. There is no reward, at least intellectually, for the Christian seeker. At least in pagan cults, the initiate gained knowledge as they passed through the various degrees, and experienced the thrill of awakening that went along with knowledge. Christianity is self-described as a "Mystery", but not one that its adherents can ever hope to understand! You have to forsake the religion in order to probe the inner sanctums of its "divine architecture".
Perhaps the Synoptic Gospels did arise more-or-less organically from Mark to meet specific propaganda needs (Matthew tailored for Jewish converts and Luke for Gentiles) , and that certain stories, such as the empty tomb, were tailored based on the sensitivities of the target audience or the redactor's personal biases, but without destroying the main objectives of the original text (of Mark), i.e., to implicitly make the conquering Titus the fulfillment (or complement) of the pacifistic "Jesus of Nazareth".
Certainly the various histories of Alexander the Great differed on many points, but that did not significantly diminish the reputation of Alexander. The Gospels contradict each other far less in regard to its hero. Whether those small differences were deliberately woven into the Gospels to lend credibility to the "witnesses" or create inter-textual jokes, or both, is hard to say in every case with total confidence. However, jokes no doubt abound, inter-textual or otherwise.
Even so, the "inter-Gospel joke" aspect should be considered a lesser claim for Joe Atwill, or at least one that needs more refinement. It certainly comes after the Jesus-Titus and Josephus-Gospel associations Joe has established, which do merit our full confidence.
In my research of Old Testament books, I found that the author(s) often embedded "minority reports". Some of these can be found within a given book. Others have to be discerned inter-textually, that is, by recognizing that different books refer to many of the same individuals, but by different names. Only the privileged/initiated reader would have been able to understand how to reconstruct a balanced history of any given person by pulling together the various accounts associated with their various aliases (within and across books).
It doesn't surprise me, then, to see the same techniques used in the New Testament. In the Book of Acts, a specific historical individual is honored as Paul and also denounced as Simon Magus. If one didn't know that the two were one and the same, then the opposing opinions of that person cannot be recovered.
Likewise, seemingly contradictory details in the Gospels probably had a purpose (or purposes). They could clue the "intelligent" reader to appreciate a more complex scenario and alternative meanings, but also lampoon the very people and events that are addressed, even as Joe Atwill proposes. One cannot escape the feeling that to the royal family life was all one big joke. They had to keep up appearances in public, but privately there was not much point in taking themselves so seriously. One royal knew as well as the next that it was just a great big scam.
The class of people responsible for the Gospels were “architecture freaks”. In an age of limited technology, much importance and passion was applied to monumental building. It is interesting that monumental writing also received much the same planning and artful fabrication. The structure of their writing like that of their buildings was multi-purpose. It could accommodate the sacred and the profane, host both grave and comedic themes. Temples had outer courts, inner courts, and holy places. Likewise, in religious literature words, names, and sequences were chosen carefully in order to convey various levels of meaning to various audiences. To gain access to the higher levels, one had to have (or earn) the appropriate privileges.
It should also be said that ancient royalty applied their Solomonic sense of humor to members of their own class as well as the "hoi polloi". This even comes out in some of the Talmudic episodes commented upon by Eisenman, such as the one in which the pampered daughter of a rich man (whose feet had scarcely ever touched the ground) is tied to a horse and made to run behind it.
Royals delighted in playing jokes on one another. As mentioned in another post, the episode of Mary eating the flesh of her son derives from the O.T. passage 2 Kings 6:24-7:20 in which "Elijah and the Lord" pull a wicked prank on Ahab. Humor generally reflected the pecking order and was endured by subordinates, even royal subordinates, as a mark of their inferiority to a greater person/king. In other words, humor (like another well known substance) flowed downhill.
About the only thing ancient royalty seemed to take seriously was the game of kingly succession.
Modern scholarship is not very good at dealing with the esoteric. This has never been made more clear than in the debate over "The Da Vinci Code". Academics cannot understand the basis for a marriage between Jesus and the Magdalene, because the evidence for it is almost entirely in the realm of the esoteric. Academics prefer direct evidence. We can however get only so far with that approach, because ancient rulers often had much to hide from the public eye and were very much slaves of symbolism and esoteric abstraction in general.
The situation is far from hopeless though, because only members of the royal family could be involved in religious innovation and other "conspiracies". They were also the only ones that could engage in mythic role playing, at least on a "world stage". The candidates are therefore very limited, and the amount of circumstantial evidence linking Biblical characters to royal persons is rather plentiful.
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