The Gospel of Caesar

- discovering the historical Christ –

Twenty years ago the Italian scientist Francesco Carotta began to suspect that the Gospel narrative of the New Testament originated from the historical accounts of the life and deeds of Julius Caesar.

After years of working as an engineer and software entrepreneur, Carotta sold his company and began a profound investigation, which lasted over a decade. He would eventually conclude that not only the essential story, but that every sentence, name, property and location in the Biblical texts about Jesus Christ originally stemmed from the Roman sources on Caesar’s civil war campaign, from the Rubicon to his assassination and deification: e.g. all of Caesar’s famous sayings mutated into very similar sayings in the gospels. Likewise, every miracle of Christ would then be the transformation of a parallel heroic event from Caesar’s final years.

Carotta wrote about his research in the book War Jesus Caesar? (“Was Jesus Caesar?”), which was first published in Germany in 1999. Although Carotta is a scholar and linguist, only few took him seriously at first, and his theory was granted little academic attention.

One day the Spanish priest Pedro García González, who also had been investigating the origins of Christianity, contacted Carotta to seek help for his own ideas that the traces of early Christianity should rather be searched for outside of Jerusalem.

For many years this empathetic clergyman had staged the Passion of Christ during the Holy Week with the youth of his parish. After intense debates with Carotta over his research, the two asked themselves how they would be able to verify the theory that the Passion account—from the Last Supper and betrayal to the entombment—is a transposed rendition of the pivotal days before and after Caesar’s murder.

They now focus on the obscure funeral of Julius Caesar, which succeeded the Ides of March 44 BC in the city of Rome. They decide to faithfully reconstruct and reenact the primary scenes of the three-day events, based on the historical sources, which could prove to be the origin of the later story of the crucifixion of Christ. Carotta and García González discover a holy Roman story that seems to have mutated into the Gospel over many generations, adapted to new cultural and religious surroundings, relocated from Rome to Palestine together with the civil war veterans, who worshipped the deified Caesar in their new settlements, among other places in the Eastern parts of the Roman empire.

In their quest to unravel the true origins of Christianity, the linguist and the priest travel all across Europe, searching for traces of the deified Caesar in Christian rituals and traditions, written sources, church art and archaeological finds from Cyprus to Spain, from London to Rome. They unearth elements that will be helpful for researching and reconstructing the funeral of the Roman politician and commander, who was also Savior, Redeemer and Son of God. One of their journeys leads them to Bercianos de Aliste, a remote village in Spain, where they examine an ancient Easter ritual that bears many striking resemblances to the occurrences in Rome after Caesar’s assassination.

Francesco Carotta pursues his own research as well, explains central elements of his book and elaborates on the origins of Christianity according to his theory. He meets with other scientists and priests, who regard his work with both skepticism and approval. He also visits the Vatican and presents the results of his research during a symposium on the “Historical Jesus”, led by the Spanish theologian Antonio Piñero. Carotta’s theory is also one of the subjects taught by classical scholar Gerard Janssen at a Dutch high school, where these new ideas are met with enthusiasm and opposition alike. Fotis Kavoukopoulos, a Greek philologist from Athens, expands select elements of Carotta’s book and explains the logic behind the new theory.

In Spain Carotta assists García González in all stages of the funeral reconstruction by comparing ancient rituals, studying the written sources, building props, renting costumes and supervising the rehearsals with the same young cast that has been staging the Easter Passion each year. Angel García Eva is chosen for the role of Julius Caesar, after having played the crucified Christ in preceding years.

An artist from the village builds an effigy of Caesar’s stabbed body, in the same way that the ancient Romans used to. According to the sources on Caesar’s funeral, this effigy had been attached to a tropaeum, a Roman victory sign in the form of a cross. Other artists and carpenters from the village prepare the rest of the necessary props. The reconstruction of Caesar’s funeral will be performed on the same town square that has served as the stage for the annual Easter Passion. Some of their plans are bound to spawn resistance.

Under the educational guidance of Carotta and García González, the cast also visits Rome to explore all the places on the Forum Romanum, where Caesar’s murder and funeral occurred. The priest pays tribute to Divus Iulius, the deified Caesar, at the ruins of his temple, lighting a candle and declaring that Christianity and its fundamental ethics and imagery originated at this historical place.

At the end of their long collaboration the reconstruction of Caesar’s funeral is finally performed. The result is equally fascinating as it is revolutionary: Carotta’s new reading of the sources, combined with the recreation of the funeral, resuscitates an ancient historical event and reveals the image of the first and original Savior on the Cross, who had been forgotten for almost two thousand years.

Quotes Fotis Kavoukopoulos, linguist in documentary

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