Interestingly enough, it was this column where Cecil took on the task of straightening the dope on whether Jesus actually lived, was my introduction to The Straight Dope column, so this is relevant to my interests.
I was of the opinion that the evidence that Jesus Christ did exist (the man, not as the Jewish messiah) and though it was relatively settled historically.
I also think that I have seen in recent years an uptick of Jesus Denialism, if you will. Some subsets of people - first Jews and then hardcore Atheists - started making claims that Jesus never existed. I even got into an argument with one of the latter types online, even using TSD as a cite, and it was like arguing with a conspiracy theorist.
Still, does this new evidence hold water? Enough to invalidate the evidence that we did have which prompted Cecil to echo historians views that “whether or not JC was truly the Son of God, he was probably the son of somebody” as the master put it?
Why is he waiting till the 19th? Why is he presenting it to the public and not to specialist scholars who could judge the document’s authenticity? Where did he find the document, and what exactly is it?
I’m not a believer and have no real stake in whether Jesus existed or not, but Mr. Atwill has all the tells of an attention seeking fraud, rather than an actual scholar.
I am an atheist and my reaction nonetheless is similar to what I have towards most conspiracy theories on any topic that I have run across - this “sophisticated government project” was kept secret SO well that word didn’t leak out about it way back then? I’d have to see much more evidence from multiple sources before I would even consider the possibilty of thinking about whether I might ponder the likely validity of it.
Christians often ask why atheists don’t hold other ancient documents to the same standard as they do the Gospels. The answer is that we do — we accept mundane stuff about X was appointed governor or whatever, but not that the Emperor was divine.
IMO this alleged document would fall into the category of an extraordinary claim, which would require very, very strong evidence to believe. Even if it’s proven genuine, i.e. it was actually written by powerful Romans in the first century, that doesn’t make it true — it might be a disinformation campaign for some reason that is lost to us.
I planted the (as yet) unrevealed document upon arriving in that century after I finish inventing my (as yet) unfinished time machine in hopes to nip the horrendous religious fallout that follows in the bud; when in fact all I’ve seem to have done is only muddy the waters!