Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Critical Review: Hans Atrott's "Jesus' Bluff"

I have to admit that I did not read more than a fifth of the pages in Jesus’ Bluff (hereafter JB) by Hans Atrott, because it was pretty clear it was not necessary to read more. Tekton Research Associate “Punkish” suggested that I have a look at it, and there was some good reason to do so since Atrott refers to my Christian Crimelime rebuttal a handful of times – maybe 5 times at most – though he only really tries to answer one argument from it. More on that below.

Let’s start with a few problems this book has in terms of comprehensibility. It is fairly clear that English is not Atrott’s native language and that he has a long way to go before he will be competent in English at much more than asking for directions to the restroom. Commas and ellipses, for example, are randomly scattered about as though dumped from a pickup bed into the text. Many words are enclosed in quote marks for no discernible reason. Many sentences are simply incoherent. (“It is a joke wanting to trick reason by Christian ‘New Testament’.” – 15-16) JB is a self-pub job, so we should be a bit more generous than we might be otherwise, but in terms of competence in English, Atrott is far worse than even Solomon Tulbure was.

Adding to the difficulty is that Atrott’s primary mode of expression is the sustained and incomprehensible rant. Paragraph upon paragraph is devoted to accusatory unpleasantries towards Christians en masse; divvying out the actual arguments (which, if collected together, would perhaps comprise a 5 page pamphlet) would require an inordinate amount of leisure time which only persons on permanent disability might legitimately possess.

There are a few techniques of argument that are frequently repeated. One is to simply take for granted that certain deviant documents date early, while the canonical Gospels date late. There is nothing like a sustained argument for this anywhere; we are not treated to a course in how to date ancient documents, nor given an accounting of such things as manuscript evidence or the use of internal and external testimony of authorship. There are a few bare hints that Papias does not refer to canonical Matthew [69] and that is the most detailed “not early” argument there is.

In terms of late documents, the most detailed argument offered is that the Toledeth Yeshu (TY) should be dated earlier than the 6th-12th century because Celsus reports a handful of the same claims in the second century. That the TY instead imitated Celsus (or some brokering source in between) doesn’t seem to be on Atrott’s radar. Nor are objective criteria for dating and authenticating documents.

Another prime tactic is to place negative (and frequently incomprehensible) spins on various NT passages. Some of the usual appeals are here (eg, Luke 14:26); in other cases, Atrott takes passages with positive messages for disciples (eg, those that say they are “sons of God”) and interprets these as flatteries to inspire megalomania. He seems particularly hooked on Luke 5:31-2, in which Jesus says, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners." By some indiscernible means [41] Atrott concludes that Jesus intends for us to understand that he wants to be followed only by “sick” people who stay sick and perform evil acts. Patently ignored is the obvious implication in these words (to say nothing of Jesus’ own initial sermon in the synagogue) that Jesus calls these sick specifically to heal them. In any event, Atrott quotes or alludes to this passages at least once every 5 pages thereafter, using the same idiosyncratic reading as a basis for objection.

There are many other idiosyncratic readings as well. Galatians 5:15, for example (“But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.”) is said to show that Christians practiced cannibalism. [64] Matt. 12:1, in which the disciples pick grain, is pointed out as an example of Jesus and his disciples stealing grain [78]; apparently Atrott has missed the OT provision allowing such plucking (Deut. 23:25). It is hard to take Atrott seriously when he makes so many egregious errors of this sort and uses them as a basis for extended rants about alleged Christian perfidy.

The centerpiece of JB, however, and the strongest indication that it is not to be taken seriously, is stated on the back cover as follows – this is the “bluff” of the title:

Jesus is a cripple (blind in one eye, limping and dwarfish). He did not die on the cross, but gulled Judas Iscariot into dying on the cross in place of him. He laughed up his sleeve at the crucified one. The “official” part of Judas Iscariot as the purported “betrayer” escorting the troops to the delinquent also was screened by another double: Simon of Cyrene. At least two times more he escaped from the death penalty by a stuntman.

Since the verdict of death penalty still was pending on him, he contrived the legend of “Saul ” and “Paul ” under which he secretly lived, while supposedly in heaven. He is the fomenter of the conflagration on Rome in the year 64 as “Last Judgement,” “Doomsday ” or “Armageddon ” he “predicted” for the lifetime of his generation. Who says that he is a wrong prophet...?

By the way, Jesus got Judas to take his place by turning him into “a zombie” with some unspecified drug on the bread Jesus handed him, engaging some sort of “hypnosis” [130] to complete the act. Now there’s a twist on the swoon theory we’ve never heard before. Mix it with Cavin's "evil twin Jesus" hypothesis (multiplied twice) and there you have it.

Sadly but not surprisingly, there’s not much offered to support this theory, which makes Roman Piso look like peer reviewed mastery. One of the very late (but presumed early) deviant gospels is appealed to for a story of how a shipmaster who somewhat resembled Paul was accidentally arrested in Paul’s stead. From this, Atrott reaches for a conclusion that “escaping the death penalty by a stuntman is a general Christian trick.”[23] That’s lunatic enough logic that I hardly need to say any more save what I promised above.

I mentioned that Atrott goes against my answer to the Crimeline here and there. Not much was expected of this and not much was gotten. Like most of this clique of history by paranoid conspiracy, Atrott has the Inquisition burning nearly 50% of the population of Spain at the stake [35] (3 million – the Spanish Inquisition only executed 2000 in its whole history); his ultimate source is not a serious historian like Kamen, but one of Dave Hunt’s unfortunate anti-Catholic diatribes.

We are also told in the notes that Atrott will only quote texts found on a certain website ( because “scriptures published by this society are not withdrawn from the web if opponents or enemies of Christian sects quote from them. This happens too often when quoting from editions of ‘official’ Christian sects…” I imagine most of these editions were airlifted off the web by black helicopters piloted by Bigfoot, too.

In terms of my answer to Crimeline itself, Atrott notes that I described a couple of events as politically rather than religiously motivated; Atrott’s only reply is to proudly point out that I don’t deny the number killed (so?) and to assert blandly that the political designation is “fake”. How this is so is not explained. The only thing close to a depth answer is where, when I said in my reply:

36-67 Peter: Peter allegedly establishes first church and spreads Christian faith from Jerusalem to Rome where he is allegedly crucified in 67; no evidence proves he existed. Vague generalization. We want to know what criteria are used to determine the existence of private persons. The secular historian Michael Grant, who wrote a book on Peter, certainly does not agree with "no evidence".

36-65 Paul of Tarsus: Paul (Saul) of Tarsus allegedly orders destruction of Israel Christian church before converting to Christianity; no evidence proves Paul existed. Ditto. to the above. We would like for "crimeline" to prove to us that Plutarch or Cicero existed.

Only the portions in bold are quoted, though, and Atrott answers rather strangely, saying that this is “indirectly” an admission that there is no evidence for Paul, which it is not, and then incomprehensibly counsels that “it is to doubt if it is impossible to prove the existence of the concerned” (Plutarch and Cicero), which seems to be saying that yes, we can’t prove Plutarch and Cicero existed either!

Atrott thereafter goes off the beam, pointing out that with Cicero and Plutarch, there are no associations of claiming miracles, and no being “obsessed with the wannabes’ top credos,” [452] neither of which has anything to do with establishing objective criteria for knowing if a person in antiquity existed. In the end, the ”logic” is that if one can make claims of such things as resurrections that never happened, it is easy to make up that a person like Paul existed. Once again, history via the means of paranoid conspiracy-mongering.

There’s no need to say much more -- except that if the National Mental Health Association is looking for a spokesman, they should probably scratch Atrott off the list as soon as possible.

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