Reception

On this page we present an unbiased and (hopefully) complete overview of the professional reception and notable reactions with regard to Francesco Carotta’s theory, books and articles. If necessary, short corrections or explanations have been added, for example in the [NOTES]. For sources and links please refer to the References.

Nota bene: (1) Many of the negative opinions came from scientists, clerics and journalists, who had never read the book, or who had never dealt with Carotta’s theory in any substantial way. We have decided to include them in this article anyway. (2) Emphasis of personal names in bold face is only applied for scholars and clerics, not for solely or primarily popular journalists, reviewers and authors.



1 Scientific reception [BACK]

In the afterword of War Jesus Caesar? archaeologist and peer reviewer Erika Simon wrote that Carotta’s research ties with preexisting publications on the tight interconnections between Christianity and the Roman world empire, but “goes further and reveals new connections which have never been seen that way.” She hoped that Carotta’s book would contribute “that we remain open to questions concerning early Christianity” (Simon 1999, 375 sq.). Atheist theologian and H.P. Lovecraft scholar Robert M. Price roughly combined several distinct publications on a Roman origin of Christianity, including Carotta’s Jesus was Caesar, and erroneously alleged that in all theories Christianity originated as “ironic residue of Roman propaganda”, and that there was no historical Jesus, although Price failed to prove that Julius Caesar was also a fictitious person (Price 2006, 1180). Based on information gathered from Carotta’s website (Beard 2008 [BEARD]), professor of Latin Maria Wyke considered the parallels between Caesar and Jesus demonstrated by Carotta as “sweeping and often superficial”, despite their being “detailed and justified at book length”. She summarized that “Caesar is no longer the shadow of Christ, but Christ the shadow of Caesar” (Wyke 2007, 255 sq.; cp. Wyke 2003). Commentating on Wyke’s book, classical reviewer Peter Stothard called Carotta’s interpretation of Mark’s gospel as a corrupt retelling of the Roman civil war “highly notable” in the reception theory form of historical scholarship (Stothard 2009). Historian and classical philologian Luciano Canfora called Jesus was Caesar an “original book” and added another argument to Carotta’s framework by showing that both Caesar and Christ only narrowly escaped the desecration of their bodies (Canfora 2008). Carotta’s conclusions were fully endorsed in the foreword to Jesus was Caesar by classical philologian and peer reviewer Fotis Kavoukopoulos (Kavoukopoulos 2005), who also called the theory “a paradigm shift in the history of religion” (Kavoukopoulos 2007). Classicist and Plutarch editor Gerard Janssen wrote that “Carotta has developed an extremely interesting and major theory, which will further require profound examination and verification or falsification” (Janssen 2009). Anthropologist Francisco Rodríguez Pascual stated that Carotta’s theory is a very important working hypothesis for the origin of Christianity and its rituals (infra). Protestant theologian Annette Merz conceded that Jesus Christ was depicted in a way that is “very similar” to Julius Caesar, and that the attributes, properties, literary topoi and symbolisms of Christ mirror those of Caesar, but mitigated Carotta’s arguments by stating that the parallels he found were not “exclusively” Caesarian (Lobosco 2010; cf. also this article). Ancient historian and theologian Manfred Clauss accepted Carotta’s epigraphical research (Carotta 2010) for inclusion in the Clauss-Slaby epigraphical database (cf. this article). New Testament scholar Riemer Roukema wrote that Jesus was Caesar belongs to the “striking” works that do not shun “less common characteristics of Jesus” (Roukema-Deventer-Metz 2010, 1).

[For a complete overview of the Dutch scientists, historians and theologians, who published notable reviews or comments on Carotta’s theory, see the chapter “The Dutch controversy”.]

2 Academic reception [BACK]

In the debate with Francesco Carotta following his lecture at the Complutense University of Madrid (infra) New Testament philologian Antonio Piñero initially commented that a diegetic transposition of Caesar’s vita into the Gospel was “almost impossible” due to the severe cultural differences displayed in the Roman and Biblical sources, and that Carotta’s theory would create “uncertainty” (Piñero 2007). He later published that the theory of the Gospel as a diegetic transposition was one of the most remarkable and ingenious exercises he had read about the problem of Jesus’ historicity, but also noted its complexity as a possible problem (Piñero 2008, 345 sq.).

3 Ecclesiastical and clerical reception [BACK]

Jesuit reverend Stephan Kessler acknowledged the quality of Carotta’s book, lauded the author’s respectful style and “religious discretion”, and wrote that “even if one cannot or will not follow the author’s conclusions, one learns much about Roman religiousness, which became the basis of the development of the Christian faith in the European cultural environment” (Kessler 2000). After Carotta’s lecture in Offnadingen (Carotta 2005b), Catholic theologian, priest and sociologist Antonio Desogus noted the importance of science in explaining the origins of Christianity and its rituals, and appreciated the audience’s considerable approval of Carotta’s theory. He also described Carotta’s theory as an “opportunity” for current and future generations to “return to the Christian religious origins of our European tradition” (Desogus 2005; cp. Dijkhuis 2004, infra). Dominican priest and theologian Jerome Murphy-O’Connor only criticized an abstract of Carotta’s theory and believed that he avoided explanations to support his conclusions. He also expressed unspecified doubt concerning the parallels between Jesus’ and Caesar’s life, and contrary to Carotta’s conclusion claimed that Jesus was an “invented figure” (Murphy-O’Connor 2007, 106). Claretian priest and anthropologist Francisco Rodríguez Pascual stated that Carotta’s theory is a very important working hypothesis, which closes a gap that has never been heuristically investigated from this angle (Rodríguez Pascual 2007). For several years Catholic priest Pedro García González researched into the Caesarian origin of Christianity together with Francesco Carotta, and in 2007 they historically reenacted Julius Caesar’s funeral ceremony in Rascafría, Spain (Friesland 2007, passim). On several occasions García González publicly spoke out for Carotta’s theory (i.a. García González 2005), and has continued to endorse it in his own publications (García González 2009). Catholic priest José Cabral believed that it could be possible that the Nativity originated from the legends and historical accounts about the birth of emperor Augustus, but stated that it could be countered by a strong faith (Cabral 2007). Catholic priest Antoine Bodar stated that the theory was “utter nonsense”, although he admitted that he had not read the book (in Hendriks 2009). The Catholic Center for Theological Studies of the Archdiocese of Seville reviewed Carotta’s and Eickenberg’s 2008 article on the historical origin of the crucifixion of Christ from the funeral ceremony of Julius Caesar, and published it in their academic journal Isidorianum (Carotta-Eickenberg 2009). A debate about Was Jezus Caesar? moderated by Protestant pastor Engele Wijnsma, who believes that Carotta is leading people “on the wrong track”, was noted as a “fascinating” and “instructive” event, while the audience shared the same sentiment as José Cabral (supra), in that science can be met with a strong faith (Wijnsma 2011). Dutch Protestant theologian and pastor Klaas Hendrikse wrote that Carotta’s “very realistic” book is evidence that Bible science “is passed left and right” by professional researchers like Carotta, who make us see more clearly who Jesus really was (Hendrikse 2011).

4 Education [BACK]

4.1 Secondary education [BACK]

In a magazine for Catholic education Italian agricultural historian Gaetano Forni criticized some of the parallels between Christianity and the cult of Divus Iulius as “forced”, disputed the correlations between the Clementia Caesaris and Christ’s forgiveness against common scholarly opinion, but nevertheless stated that Carotta’s book is a “useful examination, particularly for teachers of history”, due to the large amount of historical data and references (Forni 2003, 2). For several years Carotta’s theory has been taught at a Dutch high school by classicist Gerard Janssen, which also resulted in the students’ participation in the documentary film The Gospel of Caesar and subsequent debates (infra).

4.2 Higher education [BACK]

Francesco Carotta was repeatedly invited to hold lectures on his theory (e.g. Carotta 2005b), also in academic contexts, for example at the University of Basel in the theological seminar on alternatives to a purely mimetic origin of the Gospel of Mark (directors: Wolfgang von Ungern-Sternberg, Ekkehard W. Stegemann), and at a symposium on the historical Jesus at the Complutense University of Madrid (director: Antonio Piñero).

5 Reception in the media and the arts [BACK]

5.1 Press and related publications [BACK]

5.1.1 Initial reception of the first German edition [BACK]

Initial press reviews of the first German edition of War Jesus Caesar? (1999) were infrequent and mixed. Based on Carotta’s past as a part-time satirical artist some feuilleton critics and former journalist colleagues assumed that his book was meant as a science parody (Widmann 2000; Sellner 2000), while other journalists praised the book (Höge 1999; cp. Höge 2010) and called it “provoking”, “astounding” and “meticulous” (Euler 1999). A regional German newspaper later noted the book’s accessibility despite its scientific focus (Strohecker 2007). Reviews only became more frequent following the 2002 Dutch translation of the book, which spawned an often fierce and controversial debate in the Dutch media (infra).

5.1.2 The Dutch controversy [BACK]

After the publication of Was Jezus Caesar? (2002) the Dutch debate, which lasted for almost a decade, was mostly characterized by a strong partisan rift between journalists and between scholars in the Dutch media, with one faction at times resorting to hostile antagonisms (Ariëns 2003 [ARIENS]), and the other partially indulging in immoderate eulogies (for an alternate overview cf. Hendriks 2004). Francesco Carotta did not engage directly in the Dutch debates, but used his website to publish rebuttals and corrections of the articles and inaccuracies coming from critics and supporters alike.

Philosopher and columnist Paul Cliteur initiated the publicized debate in early 2003 by refuting the criticism coming from school teacher and former hoofddocent (research fellow) for history Anton van Hooff (Cliteur 2003), who had outright rejected the theory as pseudoscience (Hooff 2002), although he had never read the book (Friesland 2002). Van Hooff reiterated his criticism in a 2003 article, where he called Carotta a “charlatan” (Hooff 2003, 28), and in a later book essay (Hooff 2004), which his editor Henk Procee criticized for its hastiness, lack of rationality, need for revision, and for the fervent “anything goes” emotionality displayed by its author (Procee 2004). Cliteur wrote that Carotta presented an “overwhelming amount of material […] to support his thesis”, which for him was the “key to unlocking a lot of mysteries on the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire” (Cliteur 2002a). He even exulted that Carotta’s “report is of the same order of importance as the scientific discoveries of Darwin and Galileo” and that “his discovery will turn the entire history of civilization upside down” (Cliteur 2002b). Theologian and philosopher Willem J. Ouweneel called Carotta’s theory “comprehensive”, but found it “implausible” (Ouweneel 2002). French political columnist Sylvain Ephimenco on the other hand called Carotta’s book a “sensation” (2002a). He wrote that some of the arguments might seem “farfetched”, some however “compelling” and “more than plausible”, and also expressed his worries that recounting simply a summary of Carotta’s arguments could rather weaken the theory’s reception (2002b). In a short classical review for the Dutch Library Service J. Kleisen wrote that Carotta’s “very popular” book demonstrated an “overwhelming quantity […] of striking, almost systematic parallels” between Christ and Caesar. He noted as significant that the cult of Divus Iulius vanished as soon as Christianity surfaced. The reader would be able to determine whether the argument that the worship of Caesar was replaced by that of Christ is stronger than the unprovable historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth (Kleisen 2003). Theologian Jan Willem van Henten adhered to his belief in a historical Jesus of Nazareth, but did not rule out that the Gospel of Mark was influenced by the stories about Julius Caesar (Henten 2002a [HENTEN]). Philosopher Andreas Kinneging stated the “extreme importance” of Was Jezus Caesar?, which “provides [for] a new opening to the research on the accounts of Jesus’ life” (Kinneging 2002), a view that was shared by many commentators: political publicist and architectural historian Thomas von der Dunk applauded Carotta’s “thoroughly researched and documented study” (Dunk 2002), culture critic and columnist Willem Dijkhuis emphasized the compelling nature of the resulting perspective on the European heritage (Dijkhuis 2004), and professor of Future Studies Wim J. de Ridder stated that Carotta “participates in the development of normative future models which the elite of church and state considers undesirable”, but which for the “average citizen [will be] experienced as inspirational” (Ridder 2003). Anton van Hooff openly called for a publication ban of Carotta’s book, threatening to turn to the Dutch national media commission, for which he drew heavy criticism, for example from historian Thomas von der Dunk, who compared van Hooff’s “stalking, abuse and intimidation” with the ideology of the Spanish Inquisition (Dunk 2003a). Roel Rozenburg admonished that van Hooff was the problem in the debate, not Carotta (Rozenburg 2003).

Accompanying the release of Het Evangelie van Caesar, a documentary feature film about Carotta’s research (infra), the original controversy was reignited, in part because Dutch classicist and Plutarch editor Gerard Janssen had endorsed Carotta’s theory in the film. Based on a random and sketchy overview of Carotta’s research by theologian Matthijs de Jong (Jong 2007 [JONG]) the Dutch Bible Society (Nederlands Bijbelgenootschap) quickly distanced themselves from Carotta in a press release, in which they declared that his book placed itself outside of the scientific discussion, and that it was eccentric fiction disguised as science (NBG 2007). On his blog Catholic theologian Frank G. Bosman acknowledged the “great similarities” between Jesus and Caesar, but believed that the evangelists only drew from the ancient monomyth, and retrofitted the story of Christ by simply copying many appropriate Caesarian historical elements to form the Gospel (Bosman 2007). While most scholars and critics like theologians Rob van Houwelingen (in Houtman 2007) and Jacobine Geel, who also featured Carotta’s research in her national television show (infra), had meanwhile found a more moderate tone with regard to the theory (Geel 2007 [GEEL]), van Hooff harshly criticized Janssen and his students for participating in the documentary and for publicly debating Carotta’s “superstition” (Hooff 2008a). In the most extensive Dutch article on the theory to date, van Hooff attempted to show that Carotta’s book contained severe methodological flaws and factual errors, and accused its author of being a pseudoscientist, although he still compared him to Heinrich Schliemann (Hooff 2008b), whereas Peter Veldhuisen had attested scientificity and verifiability already a few years earlier (Veldhuisen 2003). Shirley Haasnoot, the editor-in-chief of the university magazine De Academische Boekengids, eventually lost her neutrality in the controversy by refusing a balanced scientific debate, and only a short and redacted rebuttal of van Hooff’s article was permitted (Hendriks et al. 2008), while other rebuttals also appeared in the blogosphere (Boer 2008). Van Hooff’s unscientific methods of criticism were also rejected by Paul Cliteur, who like Thomas von der Dunk compared his actions to fanaticism, stalking and libel (Cliteur 2008).

In 2003 Thomas von der Dunk had already summarized the controversy surrounding Carotta’s theory in a scientific journal of history and archaeology (Dunk 2003b):

What truth is and what is not credible can generally not be determined until much later, and an “absolute” truth will sometimes be accepted only after centuries. Today we can say with confidence how stupid it was that Pope Urban VIII opposite Galileo insisted on retaining the Earth as the center of the universe. […] New theories emerged continuously, which subsequently proved to be foolish, but which at the time were decided to not seem foolish. All these wisps are now forgotten, so only the star of Galileo continues to shine. […]

The history of human stupidity is largely also the history of science. To speak with Pilate to Jesus of Nazareth: What is truth? If it was spoken to Jesus at all, because the Italian philologist Carotta has recently launched the bold theory that Jesus was actually Julius Caesar. I will not comment for the life of me. That remains to be seen. But it is striking that the established scientific order in this new “stupidity” reacts like any established order, and therefore just like the Vatican in the case of Galileo. At first ignore it, and then, if ignoring does not work anymore, fight against it with a ferocity as if one is personally being threatened and insulted.

Underlying that fierce reaction are three human impulses. First, the fear of coming forward early, even if one confirms only a mu of the new theory. Second, professional jealousy: It can be hard to swallow for those who have enjoyed decades as a scientific authority when an outsider discovers something that did not occur to them during all this time. And third, if such a theory is true, one’s own entire work needs to be thrown into the trash. In short: The fierce reaction is quite understandable, as understandable as that of Urban VIII in his time, but likewise their reaction is not a priori scientifically correct.

5.1.3 Later reception in the Netherlands [BACK]

In his review of Tommie Hendrik’s book on the chronology of Caesar’s murder and funeral (Hendriks 2008) author of popular history and Asterix scholar René van Royen alleged obiter that “Carotta’s line of thought was no contribution” to established science. To this end he referred to the purportedly documented historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, however without giving any evidence to support his claim (Royen-Vegt 2009, 251). Historian Fik Meijer stated that he did not believe anything in Carotta’s theory, although he had never read the book (in Hendriks 2009). Historian Marc van Uytfanghe dismissed the theory and instead referred to the late Christian interpolation in Tacitus’ account on the great fire of Rome as alleged independent proof of Jesus of Nazareth’s historical existence. Likewise van Uytfanghe had not read Was Jezus Caesar? (in Hendriks 2009). The publishers of the history infotainment magazine Quest Historie featured Carotta’s research in the context of modern conspiracy theories, while the article on his book did not mention this aspect at all (Lobosco 2010).

5.2 Novelists [BACK]

On multiple occasions Mexican classicist and author of historical childrens’ literature María García Esperón praised Carotta’s work on her weblog and her YouTube channel (i.a. García Esperón 2009).

5.3 Radio [BACK]

Following the publications of the first German and Dutch editions of Jesus was Caesar, Carotta’s theory was often featured in radio broadcasts and discussed by scientists, for example on SWR1 (2000), Omroep Fryslan (2007), or on Radio 1 (2002), where theologian Alex van Heusden and historian Thomas van der Dunk had already debated the theory earlier in March 2002 (Hendriks 2004, n. 24). In a 2011 interview on DRadio Wissen Protestant theologian Manuel Vogel declared Carotta’s research to be frivolous and pseudoscientific, although he admitted that he had not read his book, and (like the radio station) he relied heavily on biased information from the German Wikipedia (cf. this article).

5.4 Film and television [BACK]

5.4.1 Film [BACK]

5.4.1.1 The Gospel of Caesar [BACK]

In 2007 the documentary feature film Het Evangelie van Caesar (The Gospel of Caesar) premiered in Utrecht, Netherlands (Louis Hartlooper Complex, 2007-11-02). It was directed and produced by political journalist and former Buitenhof editor-in-chief Jan van Friesland, and co-financed by Dutch public television broadcaster VARA. The English version The Gospel of Caesar premiered in 2008 at the Berlin International Film Festival (Variety 2008, 7). It was screened at several other European film festivals, for example at the Leeds International Film Festival, and as part of academic debates (CREA 2008). The film generally documents Carotta’s research and the reactions to his theory, but also emphasizes Carotta’s collaboration with a Spanish priest in reconstructing and staging the funeral of Julius Caesar according to the historical sources.

The documentary received mainly positive reactions. The reviewers at the Leeds International Film Festival described the film as a “mesmerising”, “thrilling” and “utterly intriguing look” at Carotta and his “controversial idea” (LIFF 2008). Gerry van der List called it a “relentlessly original” film (List 2007). The documentary also revived the scholarly and public debate on Carotta’s theory in the Netherlands (supra). Apart from several Dutch television broadcasts the film has generally been exploited only sparsely and infrequently. It was dubbed for Spanish broadcast, and a German language version is currently in pre-production.

The Gospel of Caesar was the main subject of a scientific analysis as part of a graduation thesis in Media Studies (Cramer 2009).

5.4.1.2 Jesus 2.0 [BACK]

Francesco Carotta has participated in the 2010 documentary feature Jesus 2.0 by Spanish director Emilio Ruiz Barrachina. The film is a supplemental production to the fiction film El discípulo.

5.4.2 Television [BACK]

From early on many documentaries and reports have been produced about the Caesarian origin of Christianity, for example on Hessischer Rundfunk (“Hessenstudio”, 1999), Norddeutscher Rundfunk (“N3 Kulturjournal”, 2000), Onbijt TV (2002) with latinist Daniël den Hengst, or Nova TV (“Jezus van Nazareth was Julius Caesar”, 2002). Carotta himself has participated in and has been interviewed for several documentary films and television reports. An early attempt at documenting Carotta’s research with a feature-length production was canceled due to budgetary restraints and artistic differences, and the production of a television feature documentary was thwarted by the religion department at the Austrian broadcaster ORF (Carotta 2005a, 16; cp. Kessler 2000).

5.4.2.1 Death Masks [BACK]

Based on Carotta’s research of Julius Caesar’s funeral, CGI artists reconstructed some of the funerary props as a three-dimensional model for the History documentary feature Death Masks (2009), most notably Caesar’s wax effigy, which was raised above the bier onto a cruciform tropaeum, and the mechanism used to rotate it. The reconstruction deviated from the historical accounts by omitting the blood and the imperial toga, and did not correspond to previous reconstructions in the technique used to fasten the effigy, in the position of its arms, in its posture as the shepherd/king Endymion (Carotta-Eickenberg 2009b, 19, passim), and in its general appearance as a Dionysian idol (Carotta-Eickenberg 2011).

5.4.2.2 News, entertainment and infotainment [BACK]

Apart from the various films and reports documenting Carotta’s theory, the Caesarian origin of Christianity has also reverberated through television comedy, talk shows and news programs. The award-winning Dutch kabarett artists Arie Koomen and Silvester Zwaneveld gave the theory a funny send-up (2007-11-11), while a more in-depth approach was chosen by Belgian comedians Lieven Scheire and Jelle De Beule in “De Laatste Show” (2009-10-21 [DLS]). Carotta’s theory was prominently featured and debated in television programs like the political forum “Spraakmakers” (2007-11-15), the talk show “Schepper & Co” hosted by theologian Jacobine Geel (2007-11-12), news and information programs like “Buitenhof” (supra) and “De Wereld Draait Door” (2007-10-30), as well as other news formats like “Goedemorgen Nederland”, “NOS Journaal” etc. The German infotainment TV show “Welt der Wunder” named War Jesus Caesar? as an example of a modern conspiracy theory, but did not explain the conspiracy allegedly behind the origin of Christianity (Janna 2008a).

5.5 Theater [BACK]

In a background paper for the Dark Lady Players anthropologist and dramaturgical theorist John Hudson partially supported Carotta’s observations and wrote that passages in the Gospel were “based on events in the history of Julius Caesar”, for example the pericopes of Jesus walking over the water and his triumphant entry into the city on horseback, which has also been noted by other scholars (Weinstock 1971, 330, n. 5). The clearest parallels were to be found in the death, apotheosis and worship of Caesar: Hudson agreed both with Ethelbert Stauffer’s conclusion that the Easter liturgy follows Caesar’s funeral, and with Carotta’s analysis that the Passion and Crucifixion account is also modeled on this ceremony, where a wax figure of the deceased was shown to the people on a cruciform tropaeum, including the geographical transposition of Capitolium to Golgotha, the “place of skull”. Hudson also augmented Carotta’s research by showing that the sun over the cities darkened after Caesar’s and Christ’s death in both accounts (cf. this article for an in-depth analysis of the crucifixion miracles including the darkness). Although Hudson acknowledged a direct modeling on Caesarian sources, including the Passion and Resurrection, which are pivotal to Christianity, he maintained that these dependencies are merely part of a broad cluster of Roman hypotexts, which were rewritten into the Gospel as a Roman satire, especially by including material from The War of the Jews by Flavius Josephus (Hudson 2009).

5.6 Reenactment [BACK]

The funeral ceremony of Julius Caesar was reenacted by Francesco Carotta and local priest Pedro García González in Rascafría, Spain (Friesland 2007, passim). Although the parish and its hermandad participated in the reenactment, the plan to stage the ceremonies parallel to the received Christian rituals of the Holy Week was discarded out of religious respect. Instead the reenactment was moved to the summer months. It was also supported by a Roman military reenactment group (Legio VIII Augusta, Tübingen; cf. also the Rascafría archive here).

6 Internet and popular reaction [BACK]

From the beginning Carotta’s book was frequently mentioned and discussed on the internet, where reactions were mixed and often partisan or derisive. Many discussion groups and forums on religious topics like FRDB superficially dealt with the topic. The contents of a moderated e-mail debate between Carotta, Richard Carrier and Earl Doherty were also made public.

In a brief editorial note on his website Dutch history teacher and author Jona Lendering proscribed the theory as “alternative history” and Carotta as a “crackpot” (Lendering 2007). By associating Carotta with authors like Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von Däniken, Lendering faithfully reiterated the earlier allegations by van Hooff. He has since removed his scathing remarks. Instead of reviewing the theory itself, psychologist and translator Maria Trepp accused Carotta of illogical thinking, and his Dutch followers of fanaticism and distortion of scholars’ reactions to the theory (Trepp 2008 [TREPP]). Carotta’s theory was temporarily embraced by proponents of chronological criticism (Illig 1999; Müller 2000; Pfister 2002, 109 sqq.) and also utilized for atheist and even anti-Christian writings (Breathnach 2008), whose authors occasionally engaged in debates with supporters of Carotta’s research (Janna 2008b). While some authors questioned the seriousness of the new theory altogether (“utter lunacy”; Hannam 2005), others felt compelled to write short reviews (Turton 2005; rebuttal: Janna 2005). Self-taught Bible researcher Roger Viklund, a proponent of the mythological school, endorsed Carotta’s and Eickenberg’s research on the Orpheos Bakkikos stone (Carotta-Eickenberg 2009a) and recapped their findings on his blog (Viklund 2011). “New World Order” theorist Alberta Parish also endorsed the theory, but misused it for anti-Christian ideology by declaring the gospels forged documents, Christianity a deception, and its followers liars (Parish 2011). Jona Lendering returned to the topic in a slanderous blog post, where he called Carotta’s theory “unscientific”, and its author and supporters “stupid” (Lendering 2011 [LENDERING]).

André Lichtschlag, editor-in-chief of the libertarian magazine eigentümlich frei, called Carotta’s book historical revisionism and assumed it was a “bad joke”, although he noted that there were interesting and curious parallels between Jesus and Caesar (Lichtschlag 2009 [LICHTSCHLAG]). Author of popular history and fringe science Walter-Jörg Langbein noted that even if the hypotheses and thoughts in Carotta’s comprehensive book might be peculiar, the author deserved merit for showing a different understanding of many Biblical passages, whose meanings are only reputedly definite. Like many other reviewers Langbein erroneously believed that Jesus has no historicity in Carotta’s framework, although Julius Caesar was clearly a historical person (Langbein 2004, 110). Relying on Piñero’s and Carotta’s publication (supra), Francisco Javier Torrent Rodrigo did not comprehend the theory of a diegetic transposition, and instead alleged that the “obscure life” of Jesus was simply “shaped” by “blatantly copying” from the “illustrious and attractive” biography of Caesar (Torrent Rodrigo 2008, 202, n. 29).

A graduation thesis that primarily analyzed the documentary film Het Evangelie van Caesar (supra) also contained a non-representative qualitative survey of selected film audience members who were asked for their opinion on the Caesarian origin of Christianity. The results show that a large majority held the theory to be “credible beyond doubt” (Cramer 2009, 34–42; cp. Ridder 2003, supra).

7 Notes [BACK]

[BEARD] Mary Beard criticized Wyke for her “solemn discussion” of Carotta’s “eccentric website” as one of the “diminishing returns” in her book; cp. also the review of Wyke’s book, in which Carotta’s theory is alleged to be a “website theory” only (Public Archaeology 5, Leeds 2006, 248).
[ARIENS] Hans Ariëns asked scholars for their personal opinion, and some of their answers document the partially derogatory nature of the debate and a generally negative attitude, e.g. by Henk J. de Jonge, who criticized Paul Cliteur’s exaggerated praise of Carotta’s book (infra) and stated en passant without having read Was Jezus Caesar? that the accordances between Jesus and Caesar would simply be “accidental similarities” and Carotta’s conclusions therefore “nonsensical and unfounded speculation”. Other critics like Henk Versnel also admitted that they had not read the book, but nevertheless still chose to have their dismissive opinions published.
[HENTEN] Van Henten’s response was only “provisional”, because he had not read the book either; cf. Henten 2002b. He later revisited the topic in an academic debate (infra).
[JONG] In deze beschouwing wordt niet een samenvatting van het boek gegeven en ook geen gedetailleerde kritiek. Wat volgt is een korte typering van het boek […] (“This overview neither presents a summary of the book nor a detailed criticism. What follows is a short sketch of the book […]”). A recurring criticism in de Jong’s article was that Carotta relied solely on his synopsis with the Roman sources and their role in forming the Gospel, while disregarding e.g. Old-Testamentarian sources. However, de Jong ignored the many instances, in which Carotta referred to the Jewish context and explained it as a hypertextual framework (Carotta 2002; cf. e.g. midrashim, 51, 146, 214).
[GEEL] Geel chose not to criticize Carotta’s research and retained a neutral position, stating that Church authorities often withheld the truth. With the Caesarian origin of the Gospel narrative being known in antiquity, she expressed her curiosity about the possible motivation of the evangelists and how they still managed to come to the remarkable and convincing story about the life of Jesus. Nota bene: it is highly unlikely that the modern (or ancient) Church knows (or knew) about the transposition from Caesar to Jesus, although a subconscious historical memory arguably exists. Carotta’s research is in fact not a conspiracy theory, where truth is willfully “withheld” as a top-down mechanism. In reality the transformation proceeded as a natural intertextual bottom-up phenomenon for many generations.
[DLS] While most scholars falsely believed that Carotta hypothesizes that Jesus never existed, comedians Scheire and De Beule managed to correctly represent Carotta’s proposed solution of the aporia of the historical Christ: Lieven denkt dat Jezus geen historische figuur is, ik zeg dat Jezus Christus wel degelijk bestaan heeft! En toch hebben we beide gelijk. (“Lieven believes that Jesus is not a historical figure, while I say that Jesus Christ really existed! And yet we are both correct.”)
[TREPP] To support her allegations of distortion, Trepp quoted a private and unverifiable comment by Antonio Piñero, whose reaction (es horrible cómo la gente tergiversa las opiniones) likewise referred to an unverifiable private representation. On the other hand Trepp ignored the praise of Carotta’s theory by Piñero in his book (supra), which was published soon afterwards (binnenkort). Trepp falls into the same questionable pattern as other adversaries of Carotta’s research like Bernard Vermet or Anton van Hooff, whose actions, with which they have tried to extort negative remarks from many scholars who had commented on Carotta’s book, have repeatedly been described as stalking and intimidation (supra). To underline her allegations of “illogical thinking”, Trepp quoted a single sentence from Was Jezus Caesar? out of context: Daar dergelijke voorstellingen typisch voor Jezus Christus zijn en niet voor Julius Caesar, rees de vraag of Jezus nog andere elementen van de vóór hem geboren Caesar zou hebben overgenomen. Here is the full quote in English for a better understanding:

The impetus for this study was an article published in 1959 by R. Herbig, entitled “Neue Studien zur Ikonographie des Gaius Iulius Caesar”. It was apparent from this article that the preserved images of Caesar did not correspond to the mental image we hold of him. The triggering factor for the book in hand was the sight of Caesar’s portrait in the Torlonia Museum (cf. ill. 8, 10, 12, 17) and Erika Simon’s comment that it might be the head of the statue that Antonius had placed on the Rostra after the assassination of Caesar. It bore the inscription Parenti optime merito—”to the most meritorious parent”, in order to awaken feelings of both pity and revenge in the observer. In function and expression the Torlonia head resembled the sorrowful face of Christ in the Pietà and since Pietà representations are typical for Jesus Christ but not for Julius Caesar, the question arose as to whether the later Jesus borrowed other elements from the earlier Caesar. [Daar dergelijke voorstellingen typisch voor Jezus Christus zijn en niet voor Julius Caesar, rees de vraag of Jezus nog andere elementen van de vóór hem geboren Caesar zou hebben overgenomen.]

[LENDERING] Interestingly, Lendering claimed that there would be an easy way to refute Carotta’s theory: it is supposed to be “incomplete” because Carotta allegedly fails to explain why such “colossal errors” produced by the rewriting of Caesar’s vita into the Gospel were not made in the tradition of other ancient texts. This is actually a false argument, because Carotta gives in fact ample historical and philological explanations in his books, peer-reviewed articles and other publications. Lendering did not consider the characteristics of a diegetic transposition, as well as the communis opinio about the environment, in which the gospels were written, characterized by a decremented Koine without any aorist, even with latinisms and aramaisms in the Gospel of Mark, i.e. a text that is only rudimentarily Greek. It is anachronistic and a categorical error to compare e.g. Euripides, his Attic Greek and his textual tradition in ancient high culture, with the humble writings of early Christianity. Already the vast amount of even humbler apocryphal Christian literature contradicts Lendering’s argument. Instances of diegetic transpositions are known throughout literary and religious history, so the rewriting of Caesar’s vita into the Gospel is far from being an isolated incident.
[LICHTSCHLAG] In a peculiar move Lichtschlag chose to briefly mention Carotta’s research in the context of Holocaust denial, contrasting War Jesus Caesar? as a form of traditional scientific and religious heresy with the secular and political heresy of the Society of St. Pius X, both of which would probably be lunacy, the latter being banned under German law, the former fortunately allowed in a liberal and secular society that has rid itself of autocratic Church rule.


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Keywords: War Jesus Caesar?, Was Jezus Caesar?, Was Jesus Caesar?, Jesus was Caesar, Francesco Carotta, reception, Rezeption, Rezension, Besprechung, criticism, Kritik, reaction, Reaktion, review, overview, Überblick.