what a great shirtThis story isn’t strictly speaking Jewlicious. Ok, it’s not even loosely speaking Jewlicious. Too bad, Muffti likes it and Muffti has the power to post. The story comes from CNN but you can find it all over the net.

Italy is a great country. In 2002, Rev. Enrico Righi claimed, in the church bulletin, that Jesus exists and was born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. No big deal, right? Well, zealous atheist Luigi Cascioli filed a complaint with the court, claiming that Righi had violated, not merely one, but two Italian laws. (1) a law against “abuse of popular belief” in which someone fraudulently deceives people; (2) “impersonation” in which someone gains by attributing a false name to someone. Righi allegedly violated (1) by lying about Jesus and violated (2) since Righi claimed that Jesus did things really done by John of Gamala.

Prosecutors tried to avoid letting this strange case go to court, but Cascioli was adamant and so Judge Gaetano Mautone set a hearing for next Friday in Viterbo, which is north of Rome. This obliges the court to consider in a legal context the weighty historico-theologico question of whether or not Jesus existed and whether or not he did what Church dogma claims he did. Cascioli, resting on the apparently contradictions in the New Testament and the wealth of data that some of the Gospels were written well after any discipile of Jesus would have been long dead, thinks that he has the upper hand. Righi, on the other hand, claims that Jesus’ existence is easy to demonstrate and rebuked Cascioli:

Cascioli maintains that Christ never existed. If he doesn’t see the sun at midday, he can’t denounce me just because I do. He should denounce all believers!

Muffti has no idea what that means. However, there are quite a few sources attesting to Jesus’ existence: our own Flavious Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger to name a few. And, since no CNN story would be complete without consulting an american, Rev. Scott Appleby from Notre Dame got Righi’s back, claiming:

…what Jesus of Nazareth did and what he means is a different question…But on the question of the existence, there is more evidence of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth than there would be for many other historical people who actually existed. Not only did Jesus actually exist, but he actually had some kind of prominence to be mentioned in two or three chronicles.

There’s an interesting philosophical issue about the semantics of names that is worth exploring, but Muffti won’t bore readers with the details.

Oddly, Cascioli and Righi have known each other for a long time and were actually school mates. Why did Cascioli direct his attention towards Righi rather than, say, the Pope who frequently says things that seem to display a commitment to Jesus’ existence? Cascioli claims:

When one demonstrates that Christ didn’t exist, attacking a simple priest is the same thing as attacking a bishop or cardinal.

Poor Righi was thus the victim of noble equalitarian thought, while Ratzinger can walk around day and night claiming that Jesus existed, walked on water and raised the dead. A better question is why Cascioli waited until he was well into his 70s to launch such a complaint.

I was born against Christ and God…I’m doing it (the complaint) now because I should do it before I die.

Of course, that reasoning was true when he was 20. Oh well. Cascioli’s chances of victory in the overwhelmingly catholic country are about the same chances of, say, the Gomery Commission not exonerating Paul Martin or Saddam Hussein being found innocent in the Iraqi court. His ultimate aim, however, is more lofty: a case before the European Court of Human Rights where he will pursue his case against the court on the grounds of religious racism. Godspeed Yeshar Koach Good luck, Cascioli!

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  • I never realized there was much debate whether Jesus the man existed. This one would be a loser in Court.

    The argument has always been was Jesus the Christ (son of god) as he claimed. Any Court that would take on this one has nothing else to do. Add anyone who would try to take it to a Court.

    My advice to Mr. Cascioli…die with dignity you old fool.

  • Is there evidence that Jesus existed? As far as I can tell, isn’t the evidence flimsier than, say, proving that Moses existed?

    There are some things people take on faith.

  • Isn’t it interesting to consider what the world would be like if Jesus HADN’T existed… ?

  • GM: Josephus Flavius NEVER wrote anything about Jesus of Nazareth. His texts were kept and maintained by the Catholic church through the middle ages, and they edited his text. For example, they have him refer to a person he chronicles as having been executed in Israel (among the hundreds that were by the Romans) as “our Lord…”. Josephus was a believing Jew, and he would never have written that. It’s an obvious modification. They were looking for evidence of Jesus in his texts, and anything that was close they interpreted in the way that they wanted.

  • Off the Derech: Why Observant Jews Leave Judaism–How to Respond to the Challenge -by Margolese, Faranak

    OK, it’s not an atheist book. But is is thoughtful.

  • Cascioli and Rev. Righi were in seminary together. Did Cascioli lose interest? Get kicked out? In 2002 Cascioli published an article in the parish newsletter claiming Jesus was a fable created by the Catholic church, and Righi promptly slammed him in print. Now Cascioli has a BOOK on store shelves called “The Fable of Jesus”. He has a big website and everything. Whether he wins or not, he’s bound to make a fortune selling books. He’s no dummy. Just an atheist with a plan.

  • There was a time when I would have disagreed with Signor Cascioli, but this was before I knew of the dead sea scrolls, and the nag hammadi library

  • The passage in Josephus has been soundly disputed by a host of christian scholars. Tacitus also made numerous false reports [He saw greeks being sacrificed in the temple, etc]. There is no proof of Jesus or anything said in the Gospels; only the belief is genuine.

    The reason we do not have a single relic or contemporary writings of the Gospels, despite that numerous apostles are sited, and that this was a period when writings was commonplace – is because it never happened. The D.S. scrolls put a nail in the coffin of the Gospels by the vaccum seen in this contemporary document, which mentions even minor events like the temple service manual, but nothing whatsoever of any stat of the Gospels. The other nail was that the Gospel does not mention the greatest event in its midst: the sacrifice of 1.2 Million Jews in Rome’s war: this is like a newspaper dated 10/11/01 not mentioning 9/11.

    A better question is how old are ‘ARABS’. My research shows that the Arabs, as a definitive ethnic group or race, occured after Greece conquered Persia, namely 2,500 years ago. This means there is no direct connection of Arabs with Abraham and Ishmael – figures who were not Arabian [Mesopotamia was not arabic], and there is no evidence the Arabs ever followed the Abrahamic or Mosaic belief till islam emerged.

    There is a reference dated 700 BCE, regarded the first mention of the term Arab [if heavily comprised with], which mentions a word Arabaii, with no follow-up thread to Arabs for 300 years. Even this shows the first mention, if accepted, is still 700 years after Ishmael lived. The term Arab was applied to this group generically, extended from the term Arabia. The Jews, Coptics, Kurds are far older races than the Arabs.

  • New book: How strange that a far removed Sikh [Indian] would research and write such a book. Here, one cannot dismiss the author’s conjectures and examples, because there is no proof of the Gospels.

    IMHO, the Gospels could never have been written by Jews, which points only to Greek and Romans. The Romans, such as Tacitus and many others, wrote much fictional things about Jews – e.g. Greek children were sacrificed in the temple, and that he witnessed this numerous times.


    SikhSpectrum.com Quarterly Issue No.26, November 2006

    Was Jesus & Christianity Invented by Rome?
    Joe Atwill


    A fact often overlooked by historians is that Christianity’s origins are suspicious. During the entire era in which the religion purportedly emerged; another Jewish messianic movement, called the Sicarii, fought in Judea against imperial Rome. This militaristic movement interpreted –- quite logically — that the same prophecies that the Gospels claim envisioned Jesus, actually predicted the coming of a warrior Messiah who would lead the Jews against Rome. It is unlikely that such a movement would have permitted Jesus, a multicultural and pacifistic “son of David” (Jesus’ philosophy it should be remembered contradicted the original David who was a xenophobic warrior) to have wandered about the Judean countryside teaching his followers to “turn the other cheek” to Roman authority. Further, the Gospels’ literary style is much closer to the popular Greek and Roman romances of the day — that often featured a hero, empty tombs and resurrection scenes — than the ascetic style of writing used throughout the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Given the above, perhaps the most natural suspects for the creation of the Gospels would have been the Roman Caesars. Certainly the most likely of the Caesars would have been the Flavian dynasty, which lasted from 69 – 96 CE, the period when most scholars believe at least some of the Gospels were written. It consisted of three Caesars: Vespasian, and his two sons: Titus and Domitian. Flavius Josephus, a Jew who was an adopted member of the royal family was their official historian and wrote War of the Jews, the history of the family’s war against the Sicarii.

    Though overlooked by virtually all of New Testament scholarship, this group should be regarded as the prime suspect for the creation of Christianity because they possessed all of the requirements to have done so. They had a strong financial motivation to replace the militaristic religion of the Sicarii that waged war against them with a pro Roman Messiah cult, they were known to have a staff of intellectuals with the expertise in Judaism and philosophy necessary to write the Gospels, and they possessed the knowledge and bureaucracy required to implement a religion (the Flavians created and maintained a number of religions other than Christianity). Moreover, this royal family was the absolute rulers over the territories where the first Christian congregations began and therefore determined which literature was permitted to circulate in the area.

    Further, the Flavians should be considered as the creators of the Gospels simply because the victors write history. Many of Jesus’ “prophecies” are regarding the military victories of the Flavian family. These include the destruction of the Galilean fishing villages, Jerusalem being encircled with a wall, and the leveling of the Temple, which were all “brought to pass” by Titus Flavius during his military campaign through Judea, which concluded with his destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 CE. Titus was also parallel to the Jesus of the Gospels in that he was a “son of God” -– his father had been declared a “diuus” by the Roman Senate following his death — and he founded religions.

    The Flavians are also linked to the origins of Christianity in that a number of royal family members were among the first Christians. In fact, the first Christians for whom there is any archeological evidence were members of the Flavian family. But this begs a question. Why was a cult that advocated poverty and meekness so attractive to a family that practiced neither?

    The best known of the “Christian Flavians” was Pope Clement the first –- the Pope who is recorded in early church literature as having been ordained by the Apostle Peter. He is described within the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia as the first Pope about “whom anything definite is known,”[1] and was recorded by early church literature as being a member of the Flavian family. The notion that Pope Clement was a Flavian was recorded in the Acts of Saints Nereus and Achilleus, a fifth or sixth century work based upon even earlier traditions.

    Titus’ niece, Flavia Domitilla, was another “Christian Flavian.” In the case of Flavia Domitilla there is extant evidence linking her to Christianity. The oldest Christian burial site in Rome has inscriptions naming her as its founder.