To quote Paula Fredriksen on how the gospels in their cognitive dissonance of why Jesus was crucified, the gospels simply tried to cover up the facts yet left in their narratives, clues as to the real reasons:

“The legal or practical grounds for Jesus’ arrest (e.g., disturbing the peace, sedition, etc.) are nowhere stated, which enhances the evangelical theme that Jesus died for religious reasons. Certain hints, however, point another way. At the moment of his arrest, Mark’s Jesus exclaims, “Have you come out as against a robber (lestes, a political outlaw), with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the Temple teaching, and you did not seize me” (14:48-49). Perhaps Jesus was arrested as a lestes: he was certainly executed as one, crucified between two others (duo lestai, 15:27); and he was charged with making a seditious claim, that is, that he was “The King of the Jews” (15:26)” [1]

        In an excellent paper by Bermejo-Rubio, showing those crucified with Jesus would have been executed for sedition and were probably followers (which makes historical sense), he stated: “when the Romans controlled Judaea from 63 BCE until the Jewish War, they only crucified seditionists or those thought to be sympathetic to them.” [2]. He backs this up with a scholarship from Kuhn showing Roman law restricted  this type of execution to seditionists (see, e.g., Dig. 48, 19, 28 § 15; Dig. 48, 19, 38 §§ 1-2).  Their supporters were subjected to identical punishment as seen from Julius Paulus a Roman Jurist under Severus in case reports (i.e. Imperiales sententiae, Decreta 5, 3, 4). [3] Jesus was condemned to aggravated death. If we look at [Roman Law] by which this type of death was inflicted on individuals of pilgrim and humble status, we will see that only two of them can be taken into consideration: popular uprising and crime of lese-majesty.”[4]

       It was S. F. G. Brandon, who stated the most damning piece of evidence for the rebel paradigm, that Jesus got “crucified by the Romans as a rebel against the government in Judea.” He showed the gospels tried to cover up this fact and this fact was also mentioned by Tacitus. [5] Dr R M Price has always said that Brandon had done a fine job of higher criticism showing that Jesus had been sanitized in the gospels. He comments that even though he was whitewashed and changed beyond recognition there were some fossils, stories about the historical Jesus that just made it into the gospels simply because they were too good to leave out. These incidents escaped the censorship editors such as the disciples armed with weapons starting to defend him against the arresting mob in Gethsemane. Jesus asked at the last supper have you got any swords. The kingdom of god advances with violence, Jesus saying “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34)  and many other such incidents discussed below. 

        In one interesting review, Dr Price shows one of these sanitising incidents in practice:

“In Matthew 17:24­-27, we find the famous legend of the coin in the fish’s mouth. Simon Peter has just assured the collectors of the Jewish Temple Tax that Jesus intends to pay the tax. Jesus then asks him: “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes- -from their own sons or from others?” “From others,” comes Peter’s answer. “Then the sons are exempt,” replies Jesus. The whole point is that Jesus, being God’s son, has no intention of paying. So far so good. But the story continues: “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” The saying is thus defused, and the point is completely reversed. Someone, afraid of the original radical threat of the passage, has tacked on a pious legend which makes the text “safe.” May we not wonder if exactly the same thing has not transpired with respect to Jesus’ teaching on another tax, that paid to Caesar? [6]

        Reza Aslan has a good follow up on Caesar’s tax:

“Give back (apodidomi) to Caesar the property that belongs to Caesar …” The verb apodidomi, often translated as “render unto,” is actually a compound word: apo is a preposition that in this case means “back again”; didomi is a verb meaning “to give.” (Ἀπόδοτε Mark 12:17 and pars). Apodidomi is used specifically when paying someone back property to which he is entitled; the word implies that the person receiving payment is the rightful owner of the thing being paid. In other words, according to Jesus, Caesar is entitled to be “given back” the denarius coin, “not because he deserves tribute, but because it is his coin: his name and picture are stamped on it. God has nothing to do with it. By extension, God is entitled to be “given back” the land the Romans have seized for themselves because it is God’s land: “The Land is mine,” says the Lord (Leviticus 25:23). Caesar has nothing to do with it.

        So then, give back to Caesar what is his, and give back to God what belongs to God. That is the zealot argument in its simplest, most concise form. And it seems to be enough for the authorities in Jerusalem to immediately label Jesus as lestes. A bandit. A zealot” [7]

       The denarius Jesus demanded to see was roughly equal to a day’s pay. Roman taxation was onerous and burdensome. There is another point about this incident made by Crossan and Borgs book, The last week:

“In the Jewish homeland in the first century, there were two types of coins. One type, because of the Jewish prohibition of graven images, had no human or animal images. [Thus the need for the money changers at the Temple]. The second type (including Roman coinage) had images. Many Jews would not carry or use coins of the second type. But Jesus’s interrogators in the story did. The coin they produced had Caesar’s image along with the standard and idolatrous inscription heralding Caesar as divine and Son of God. They are exposed as part of the politics of collaboration.”[8]

        Jesus calling the Syro-Phoenician woman and her child “dogs” in a healing episode in Mark 7:24-30, is more than likely historical. This is one of the sayings that escaped the sanitizing editors. A reluctant Jesus tells the woman, “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” This of course is contrary to the image the gospel has of Jesus and more reflects the xenophobic messianism of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They looked forward to the destruction of all those they hated at the end of days. The Jesus of this episode is a glimmer of the historical Jesus.

        Greame Lang had noticed that “Jesus himself is recorded as expressing some rather strong opinions about the wealthy. After meeting the rich young man who sadly declines to sell all he has and give the money to the poor, Jesus tells his disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god” (Mark 10:23-25). Many attacks in the Jewish war were carried out by the poor against the upper classes. Ananias’ palace and Herodian palaces were burnt down; all of the debt records were destroyed (War 2.17.6). The Dead Sea Scrolls offer a window into the minds of these Jews and in the scroll 4Q171 describes “the time of testing” doing a pesher on psalm 37. It uses the typology of testing on Exodus and Wilderness. All this together with the reversal of fortunes expected at a realized eschatology meant….. “some of [Jesus’] rhetoric certainly would have been received without much argument by some of the revolutionaries described by Josephus.” [9]

         W. Domeris sees in the third beatitude in Matthew 5:5, a call by Jesus to restore the land to the oppressed peasants. He says Jesus quotes Psalm 37:11, a psalm that gives hope to the peasants against the evil landowners. He goes on to say that Jesus in Matthew 11:29 aligns himself with the poor and oppressed of the Beatitudes, through the anticipation of his own humiliation and oppression. As usual with many episodes in the gospels this takes on eschatological proportions when the fortunes of these peasants are promised to be inverted in the kingdom of God. They were destined to replace the existing political hierarchy. [10]

          Horsley comments on the dire conditions of the Jewish peasants due to conquest, bad administration, civil wars and famine and asks “why so many hundreds, even thousands of Jewish peasants, were prepared to abandon their homes to pursue some prophet into the wilderness, or to rise in rebellion against their Jewish and Roman overlords when the signal was given by some charismatic “King” or to flee to the hills to join some brigand band. Peasants generally do not take such drastic action unless conditions have become such that they can no longer pursue traditional ways of life.” [11].

  • The Influence of the Maccabees

         Torrents has said the beliefs and imagination of the Jewish population subjected to the Roman yoke were inspired by the exploits of the Maccabees, who freed the Jews from Greek domination. The Maccabeans’ independence dream remained constantly alive in popular imagination. This is seen as most of book one of Josephus War is taken up with Maccobean history and also 4 Maccabees was being composed in the first or second century. The Maccabees were priests and kings.[12]

1 Macc 3:19

Victory in battle does not depend on who has the largest army; it is the Lord’s power that determines the outcome.

That quote reflects the expectation of God’s intervention in any revolt that these messianic rebels instigated, thus a mindset that made them like a loaded gun.

       Paula Fredriksen has said the Maccabees “thus served as a model of piety to later generations oppressed by the power of Rome. The great hope, in light of Maccabean success, was that the restoration of Israel could be inaugurated or achieved militarily by warriors whose piety matched their prowess—a combination of attributes that characterized no less a person than Israel’s first king and God’s messiah, David.” She went on to say that the people who lived through these events drew no distinction between the political and religious spheres: “armed insurrection was an expression of religious hope.” [13]

           N T Wright, has explained that Judas Maccabee, against the odds beat the Seleucids with a type of guerilla warfare, that together with their piety showing politics and religion were completely mixed:

“Judas Maccabaeus and his companions accomplished the unthinkable, and organized a protracted insurgency that routed, and eventually wore out, the Seleucid forces. Antiochus IV abandoned the campaign against the Judean rebels….

Then, three years to the day after the Temple’s desecration (25 December 164 BC), Judas cleansed and reconsecrated it. A new festival (Hanukkah) was added to the Jewish calendar to celebrate the event. The Maccabean revolt became classic and formative in the same way as the exodus and the other great events of Israel’s history. It powerfully reinforced the basic Jewish worldview, as you might find it in many passages, for instance Psalm 2.”[14]

James D G Dunn has seen:

“the term ‘Judaism’ (Ioudaismos) first appears in literature in 2 Maccabees (2.21; 8.1; 14.38). These passages clearly indicate the emergence of a self-understanding determined by and expressive of the Maccabean resistance to Syrian oppression. The term itself was evidently coined as a counter to ‘Hellenism’ (hellenismos – 2 Macc. 4.13) and ‘foreignness’ (allophylismos – 2 Macc. 4.13; 6.24). That is to say, for the author of 2 Maccabees, ‘Judaism’ was the summary term for that national and religious identity which was marked from the first by its unyielding insistence on maintaining distinctive and defining Torah practices like circumcision and food laws (1 Macc. 1.60-3; 2-46; 2 Macc. 6).”[15]

            Much of religion and politics were inseparable. The Lord’s Prayer is concerned with the strife of the peasants hoping they get enough to eat and to cancel their debts. (“Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses”). John Dominic Crossan tells us that the “Our Father” contains retributive justice like that contained all over the Prophets and Psalms, in his book “The greatest Prayer”. It tells of the kingdom of god that is to come,(“thy Kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven”),  a kingdom that was to be established right here on earth. (Daniel 2:44). “The Lord’s Prayer is … both a revolutionary manifesto and a hymn of hope.” [16]

        The War Scroll (1QM) at Qumran also shows where religion and politics, even that of violence are completely mixed. Gmirkin believes the War Scroll – in part practical, in part eschatological – should be understood against the highly charged historical background of the Maccabean crisis”. [17] This scroll describes the final battle between the sons of light and and the sons of darkness. This compares to gospel of John:

 “Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” (John 12:36).

               When Jesus says “Come, follow me …..and I will make you fishers of men. ‘ At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20). This all sounds very like a military oath of allegiance. As Harnack said, “the word of Jesus that one should leave all for his sake and the confession of faith in him at baptism could be conceived to be similar to a military oath of allegiance. To the extent that the sayings of Jesus were later torn from their historical context” [18]

        The kiss of Judas is only the dramatic story telling of the gospels. The only dealings the Roman administration would have with a movement like the Jesus movement is through the payment of informers, whether Judas is a literary invention or not – that is what he represents. Paul’s epistles only say on the night Jesus was handed over without naming Judas. (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Tom Dykstra sees Judas used by Mark (Mark being a Paulinist downplays Jesus’ family and the twelve) to emphasize the 12 before Paul were inferior. “The most straightforward interpretation is that the evangelist wanted to place extra heavy emphasis on the fact that Judas was one of the twelve; or, in other words, he wanted to leave no possibility that his hearers would miss the point that one of the twelve betrayed Jesus. The reader must naturally infer that mere membership in the ranks of “the twelve” – or, in the context of a Pauline epistle, mere status as one of “the apostles before me” -should not automatically confer authority on anyone.”[19] 

       Many scholars today think that Iscariot means man of Kerioth as the “Is” in Hebrew means “ish” in English, implying Judas was Keriothish, (transliteration of Is-Qeriyot). Given there was no village Kerioth at the time of Jesus it is more likely that this is a Greek rendering of the Sicarii, (an assassin group who had small daggers under their clothing on the pretense of a sacrifice), this implying the name meaning “man of the daggers.” Judah Sicarii became Jude Iscariot, then Judas Iscariot – sicarii after their knife (sicae-Latin/ sikkah-Aramaic). [20]  As discussed later, many more disciples had descriptive names associated with the zealots. 

            The gospels are the opposite of the background they were set in, they were describing a kingdom of god that Jesus was ushering in. A land of milk and honey where everybody gets healed and fed. At the eschaton a messiah will rule a transformed earth, one of non violence and peace, such as the Pax Romana as a result of conquering Empire. (Cf Isaiah 25:6-8 where the Lord will “wipe away the tears from all faces.”) 

        John Dominic Crossan in his book God and Empire cannot forgive John of Patmos for describing a warlike Christ in his Great Apocalypse, but Revelation could be describing the earliest realistic layer of Christianity. Crossan commented on Revelation in contrast to the gospels: “The First Coming has Jesus on a donkey making a nonviolent demonstration.The Second Coming has Jesus on a war horse leading a violent attack.” [21] But the gospels are not only trying to do a bios of Jesus but describe the “kingdom of god” he was ushering in. This meant the sick got healed, the hungry fed and a peaceful background that was all inaugurated by Jesus. In Jewish literature the eschaton involved a transformation of the earth where violence would be transformed into an era of peace. Crossan in the same book uses “the Jewish Sibylline Oracles that date from around 150 years before the time of Jesus”, to demonstrate this point. Firstly he shows the new age will have an abundance:

For the all-bearing earth will give the most excellent unlimited fruit to mortals, of grain, wine, and oil and a delightful drink of sweet honey from heaven, trees, fruit of the top branches, and rich flocks and herds and lambs of sheep and kids of goats. (Sibylline Oracles 3.744–48)

And next it shows there will “no longer be any violence in all the world:

Wolves and lambs will eat grass together in the mountains. Leopards will feed together with kids. Roving bears will spend the night with calves. The flesh-eating lion will eat husks at the manger like an ox, and mere infant children will lead them with ropes. For he will make the beasts on earth harmless. Serpents and asps will sleep with babies and will not harm them, for the hand of God will be upon them. (Sibylline Oracles 3.788–95 cf Isaiah 11:6–9) [22]

This is the reason for the peaceful background to the gospels as opposed to the real background as seen in Josephus’ Works. It is the gospels that add the peaceful layer.

  • Influence of Antipas

         There are clues left in the gospels of the real background, the one full of trouble and revolts, such as those reported by Josephus. The background atmosphere you could cut with a knife. Not only downplayed by the gospels but even downplayed by translations, one downplaying is held in Matthew 4:12 where Jesus retreats to Galilee as a safe haven. As Bruce Chilton writes, “Many translations water down the meaning of anakhoreo [ἀνεχώρησεν, anechōrēsen] in Matthew’s Greek, giving us “he withdrew.” That is because they ignore the fraught political context that the execution of John by Herod Antipas produced for all John’s disciples.” [23]

       Paula Fredriksen gives an overview of the political entities under Roman rule at the time of Jesus:

“…for the whole of Jesus’ lifetime, the Galilee was an independent Jewish territory ruled by Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great. Another of Herod’s sons, Archelaus, had once ruled Judea. The reign of both sons began only with their father’s death, in 4 “B.C.E. But Archelaus proved inept, and Augustus finally removed him in 6 C.E. Thereafter, Judea—and Judea alone—was placed under Roman provincial rule. No Roman authority presided over the Galilee.

The Roman provincial governor or “prefect,” together with his three thousand troops—local pagans in the employ of Rome—exercised authority only in Judea.” [24]

       So to give some background:

After Herod’s death, three of his sons divided the kingdom. Archelaus’s rule of Judea (4 BC – AD 6) was vicious and feared. He was titled an “ethnarch” (ruler of a nation) ….. after “both Samaritans and Jews to appeal to Augustus for his removal, this materialised in 6 CE when his territory was placed under the jurisdiction of Roman governors.

        Antipas retained his rule over Galilee and also controlled Perea, the region east of the Jordan River (4 BCE – 39 CE). Because he ruled a “part” of the kingdom, he was officially called tetrarch. “Antipas rebuilt Galilee’s ancient capital, Sepphoris, and made it his base. “Later Antipas built a new capital for himself on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, calling it Tiberius.

         Philip ruled as tetrarch over the northern regions of the kingdom (4 bc – ad 34): Gaulanitis, Auranitis, Batanea, Trachonitis, Paneas, and Iturea. These areas were chiefly Hellenistic, and he found little difficulty leading them. He built Caesarea Philippi (to distinguish it from Caesarea on the coast) as his capital. [25]

       In Mark 8:15 Jesus tells his disciples to watch out for the yeast of Antipas and Luke 13:32 describes Antipas as ‘that fox’. Another allusion is the “reference to ‘a rod, shaken by the wind’ in Matthew 11.7 may have contained a critical reference, barely veiled, to Antipas itself, which used that symbol on the coins he minted.”[26].

       A very good book on the political history background of the New Testament said that Capernaum (Jesus’ hometown, Mark 2:1) “was also on the border with Philip’s territory and thus a tax station for commerce moving down the highway. If Jesus was ever pursued by Antipas, he could “just slip across the border by boat (Mark 6:45). [27]

       The gospels are aware of the rebellion that Jesus was a part of, they presumed the readers already knew of the rebellion, but downplay it in the shame of crucifixion. Here is the original Greek of Mark 15:7:  ἦν δὲ ὁ λεγόμενος Βαραββᾶς μετὰ τῶν συστασιαστῶν δεδεμένος, οἵτινες ἐν τῇ στάσει φόνον πεποιήκεισαν. 

This translates to: “There was (in prison) the one named Barabbas, tied together with the co-insurrectionists, that at the rebellion, they committed murder.”

       This verse says ‘the’ rebellion. “στάσει” means rebellion, mutiny, insurgency or insurrection. It also says “the one” named Barabbas. The Greek text has insurrectionists [plural] that committed murder, not just Barabbas alone. In historical context as seen in Josephus, the number of rebels the gospels allude to would have been substantial. 

       Some manuscripts of Matthew 27:16 have ‘Jesus Barabbas’ prompting some people to see Barabbas (literally means in Aramaic ‘son of the father’) as an alter ego for Jesus. Another Markan literary construct. [28] Tischendorf thought that this was a Greek corruption, but that was before the discovery of the Sinatic palimpsest of the of the Old Syriac Version where the name Jesus is before Barrabban. (This is ‘son of a teacher’). [29] Later scribes found it detestable that Barabbas bore the same name as the son of god and would have discarded it. As Matthew copied his trial narrative from Mark he must have found ‘Jesus Barabbas’ in his copy of Mark. [30] Therefore the earliest copies of Mark originally had Jesus Barabbas. As the Paschal Pardon is not historical, this incident too is an obvious literary construct. Robert Merritt discusses similar Greaco festivals such as  Dionysus Eleuthereus that may have been used to recreate this literary construct. [31]

       In the gospel of Luke Jesus advises his disciples to buy swords: 

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied.(Luke 22:36-38, NIV). 

At the arrest those around him, seeing what was going to happen, said:

“Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49). 

The word used here is μαχαίρῃ  machairē. The machairē was a single edged sword, larger than a Xiphos and could refer to a gladius. “Let us remember that Luke mentioned both swords. Here the singular word sword clearly appears as distributive, [having the same meaning as], ‘Do we take our swords?’. The author of Luke wishes to say that Jesus’ companions were willing to offer armed resistance.” [32] Even if machairē refers to the sacrificial knives as suggested by many scholars such as Paula Fredriksen and Dale Martin, this does not discount them being used in any resistance operations. These sacrificial knives would be carried by many at the Passover. It was these types of weapon, easily concealed, that the Sicarii used when they assassinated the high priest Jonathan. 

       There are many hints in the gospels that some of Jesus’ followers were zealot resistance types. As Carmichael said,  “The echo of the Zealots, for instance is arresting. One Simon the “Kananean” (in the list of the twelve appointed by Jesus) is mentioned (Mark 3;18). The two sons of Zavdai (John and Jacob) are called “sons of rage,” echoing the violence associated with the Kingdom of God activist. Also, Simon the Rock is called “Baryon,” as though it meant “Bar Yonah,” or son of Yonah, but “Baryon” meant “rebel, outlaw,” a political or social outcast living “on the outside,” away from the settled areas controlled by the state.” [33]

I’ll unpack all those points raised above.


Mark 3:18 (Cf Matthew 10:4) has Simon Kananean as one of the disciples. The Hebrew word ‘cana’ means zealot and thus modern translations now translate it as Simon the Zealot. 

Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13 had him as Simon the zealot all along.


James and John, the sons of Zebedee were known as ‘Boanerges’, Boanerges is a transliteration of Aramaic benai regesh which means “sons of anger”, not “sons of thunder” as Mark misrepresents it.This name was a reflection of their violence seen in Luke 9:53-56.

“James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us what- ever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink,”(Mark 10:35-38).

Just as Mark severely treats the twelve as disciples that just don’t get it, he also reprimands the Heirs of Jesus. He has James and John skip over Jesus’ death for their own glory. “We have already mentioned how central the theme of failed discipleship is to Mark’s gospel and to Thursday in particular. Judas betrays Jesus, Peter denies him, and the rest flee.” [34] All this is actually a polemic of the Jerusalem church. It was Weeden that wrote, “Mark is assiduously involved in a vendetta against the disciples. He is intent on totally discrediting them. He paints them as obtuse, obdurate, recalcitrant men who are at first unperceptive of Jesus’ messiahship, then opposes its style and character, and finally rejects it. As the coup de grace, Mark closes his Gospel without rehabilitating the disciples.” [35]

Kelber has provided the reason for Mark’s actions, namely he wants to show that the disciples provide instances of a defective Jesus tradition. This is a polemic against those that derive their authority directly from the family of Jesus. [36]


Markus Bockmuehl asks in his paper was Simon Peter a ‘Son of Yonah’ or a ‘Terrorist’? [37] 

The Greek for Simons name is clumsy in Matthew 16:17

ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ Μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι ἀλλ’ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς·

-“Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ”(Simon Bariona):

Shimon (Simon) is Hebrew, bar is Aramaic for son, and Jonas or Jona is a Greek form of the Hebrew name Yonah. However in the Greek text, the name reads as bariona (Βαριωνᾶ). We know this word had a connotation for outlaws from the Talmud, b. Gittin 56a, Bariona – this word has no resonance in Greek, it has a precise meaning in Aramaic – fugitive or outlaw. In the Talmud bariona and it’s plural – biryonim – are used to describe the zealots who fought against Rome. Even if we take the clumsy Greek rendering, there is a known comparable reference to zealot types that has a parallel in one of the Dead sea scrolls (4Q541) where a messianic figure is called “hayonah”, “the dove”.  S(h)imon barjonah could be read as S(h)imon son of the dove.

       As Javior Alonso writes, “The image of an absolutely pacifist Jesus does not correspond to the reality of the historical character, but to a later theological creation that modifies, although it fails to hide, certain politically incorrect behaviors of the Nazarene.” [38]

  • The Son of man:

         The ‘“primitive Christian community …. was a primarily eschatological group, which expected the end of the world immediately and the return of Jesus as judge. [39] This is the reason that the son of man title eventually got applied to Jesus by the evangelists as I will explain next.

       The son of man became a fixed title with eschatological connotations in the Synoptics. Originally this term just meant “human being” but developed in Daniel 7 (cf 4Q246) into an eschatological figure who would judge mankind at the end of days. The book of Enoch developed on this concept. “…..those behind the Parables of Enoch [1 Enoch 37-71] are Jews who were interpreting the Son of Man in Daniel in creative ways about 100 years after the composition of Daniel. These Jews seem to be the ones who alone developed the concept of the Son of Man who will come in the near future to serve as the cosmic and eschatological Judge.” [40] Christians derived this title from the book of Daniel, a known Jewish resistance apocalyptic book, resisting the Seleucid persecution of Jewish culture. As discussed above, apocalypticism was usually mixed up with planned military action as seen from the war scroll in the DSS. This apocalyptic redeemer, used by the gospels, was influenced by a resistance book. As Ehrman stated Jesus’ later followers assumed the son of man referred to Jesus himself, but yet earlier strata of the gospels show that Jesus himself was referring to a cosmic judge at the end of the age, for example in Mark:

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. ‘”(Mark 8:38;cf 13:26, 14:62).

Ehrman has shown that this goes against the general gospel references that show the title applied to Jesus; this gives it a greater likelihood of belonging to a more original tradition of Jesus expecting this “son of man” to come. [41] In the next part I will be discussing that all the messianic figures in the lead up to the Jewish Roman War belonged to some sort of Joshua cult, seeing Joshua as some sort of militaristic role model in their fight against Rome. The Son of man reminds you of an angelomorphic figure that came to Joshua’s assistance in Joshua 5. ( (Joshua 5:13-4). This Son of man title for a divine being who was to appear as a cosmic judge at the end of time appears in Jewish literature before (Daniel, Enoch) and after (Fourth Ezra) the time of Jesus.

        I think the ‘son of man’ tradition goes back to Jesus believing some cosmic judge to appear at the end of time, lots of Jews believed this as seen from Jewish literature. 

        What Mark is doing is reworking the the ‘son of man’ tradition. I’m going to leave a quote from a book by Borg and Crossan- The Last Week to demonstrate my point:

“Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, but far from applauding him, Jesus “sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him” (8:29–30). Such injunctions to silence in Mark usually do not mean, “You have it right, but keep it secret,” but rather, “You have it wrong, so keep it quiet.” In other words, “Please, shut up!” Peter and the others may well have been imagining Jesus as a militant messiah who would free Israel from Roman oppression using violent means, and it was that notion that Jesus wanted to discourage.

But right after that wrong and silenced misunderstanding about Jesus as Messiah comes that correct and open announcement of Jesus as Son of Man: “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly” (8:31– 32a). Jesus names himself as Son of Man,” [42]

        The general bodily resurrection (Cf 1 Cor. 15) became part of the apocalyptic eschatology due to the problem of martyrdom during the Seleucid persecution of homeland Jews in the 160s BCE. Where was god’s justice for these executed bodies of martyrs? Daniel 12:2-3 explains the general resurrection of the dead at the end of the age. In 2 Maccabees 7 “a mother and her seven sons refuse to deny God and disobey Torah even while being tortured to death. The dying words of the mother’s second and third sons insist that their tortured bodies will be returned to them by God’s future justice.” [43]

        With the “efflorescence of apocalyptic writings: Daniel, the Dead Sea Scrolls, various apocryphal literature. The production of such texts, and the missions of various charismatic figures who left no writings—John the Baptizer, Jesus of Nazareth, Theudas, the Egyptian, and those men whom Josephus refers to collectively as the “signs prophets”—continued as Israel was caught up in Rome’s bumpy transition from republic to empire, in the uncertainties of Roman hegemony (especially following Herod’s rule, 37–4 B.C.E.), and ultimately in two devastating wars against Rome (68–73 C.E. and 132–35 C.E., Bar Kokhba’s revolt).” [44]

       The Hazon Gabriel or Gabriel’s vision is an inscription on the stone discovered in 2000 (also known as the messiah stone) and is believed to have been created by followers of the Messianic leader, a group of people who followed him and he was killed during his war against the Romans. Israel Knohl [45] believes the messiah claimant to be Simon of Peraea (Ant. 17.10.6) who died four years before Jesus was born. This movement also tried to survive upon the death of their messiah claimant. This is the only literature left for this particular messianic movement, so we are spoiled with the amount of literature left in the aftermath of the Jesus movements, epistles, gospels and an apocalyptic piece by John of Patmos. 

“the kingdom of the heavens is taken by violence, and the violent claim it” (Matt. 11:12).


[1] Fredriksen, Paula, From Jesus to Christ, The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus

2nd Ed. (Yale, 2000), p.116

[2] Bermejo-Rubio, Fernando, (Why) Was Jesus the Galilean Crucified Alone? Solving a False Conundrum, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Vol.36, No.2 (2013), p.130

[3] Bermejo-Rubio, cit op. Fn.19: Kuhn, Heinz-Wolfgang 1982 ‘Die Kreuzesstrafe während der frühen Kaiserzeit. Ihre  Wirklichkeit und  Wertung in der Umwelt des Urchristentums’,  ANRW  25.1, p.724.

[4] Torrents, José Montserrat, Jesús, El Galileo Armado, (edaf 2011), ch 7.

[5] Brandon, S. F. G., Jesus and the Zealots, A study of the political factor in primitive Christianity, (Manchester Press 1967), p.1.

[6] Price, R. M., NUMBERED AMONG THE TRANSGRESSORS, in the following link:

[7] Aslan, Reza, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, (Random House, 2013), p.97.

[8] Borg, Marcus J. and Crossan, John Dominic, The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem (SPCK Publishing; 1st Edition,2008), p.64

[9] Lang, Greame, Oppression and Revolt in Ancient Palestine: The Evidence in Jewish Literature from the Prophets to Josephus, Sociological Analysis, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Winter, Oxford, 1989), pp. 325-342, first quote at 327, second quote at 329.

[10] Domeris, W., Meek or oppressed? Reading Matthew 5:5 in context, Acta theol. vol.36  suppl.23 Bloemfontein  2016

[11] Horsley, Richard A. and Hanson, John S., Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs, Popular Movements in the time of Jesus, (Winston Press, 1985), p.50

[12] Torrents, José Montserrat, Jesús, El Galileo Armado, (edaf 2011), ch 3 and 7.

[13] Fredriksen, Paula, From Jesus to Christ, The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus

2nd Ed. (Yale, 2000), p.78-79.

[14] Wright, N. T. and Bird, Michael F., The New Testament in Its World, An Introduction to the History, Literature and Theology of the First Christians, (Harper Collins, 2019), ch 5.

[15] Dunn, James D. G., The Partings of the Ways, Between Christianity and Judaism and their significance for the character of Christianity, 2nd Ed. (SCM Press, 2006), p. xvi

[16] Crossan, John Dominic, The Greatest Prayer, Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer, (Harper, 2010), p.4.

[17] Gmirkin, Russell, The War Scroll and Roman Weaponry Reconsidered, Dead Sea Discoveries, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Brill., 1996), pp. 89-129.

[18] Harnack, Adolf, Militia Christi, (English Translation, Fortress Press 1981), p.28-29.

[19] Dykstra, Tom, Mark Canonizer of Paul, (Ocabs Press 2012), p.117.

[20] Crossan, John Dominic, The Historical Jesus: the Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant.  (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 118 ff

[21] Crossan, John Dominic, God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. (HarperCollins, 2008), p.218

[22] ibid, p.79ff.

[23] Chilton, Bruce, Rabbi Jesus, An intimate biography, (Random House Inc.;Doubleday, 2008), Ch4, fn 1.

[24] Fredriksen, Paula, When Christians Were Jews, The first generation, (Yale University Press, 2018), p.19.

[25] Gary M. Burge, Lynn H. Cohick, and Gene L. Green, The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament Within Its Cultural Context, (Zondervan, 2009), p.42-43.

[26] Bermejo-Rubio, Fernando, La invención de Jesús de Nazaret, (Siglo XXI de España Editores, S. A., 2018), ch. 6.

[27] Gary M. Burge, Lynn H. Cohick, and Gene L. Green, The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament Within Its Cultural Context, (Zondervan, 2009), p.132.

[28] MSS support for this variant reading are v16 ιησουν βαραββαν Θ f1 700* l844, Sinaitic Syriac

v17 ιησουν τον βαραββαν f1, Sinaitic Syriac

ιησουν βαραββαν Θ 700* l844 

[29] Winter, Paul, On the Trial of Jesus, (Walter De Gruyter 1974), p.138, fn16.

[30] ibid, p.137.

[31] Merritt, Robert, Jesus Barabbas and the Paschal Pardon, JBL 104 (1985), 57-68.

[32] Torrents, José Montserrat, Jesús, El Galileo Armado, (edaf 2011), ch 7.

[33] Carmichael, Joel, The Birth of Christianity: Reality and Myth, (Hippocrene Books, 1989), p.189.

[34] Borg, Marcus J. and Crossan, John Dominic, The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem (SPCK Publishing; 1st Edition,2008), p.126

[35] Weeden, T.J., Mark: Traditions in conflict. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971), p.50-1.

[36] Kelber, W.H., The kingdom in Mark: A new place and a new time, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974), p.64.

[37] Bockmuehl, Markus, Simon Peter’s Names in Jewish Sources, journal of jewish studies, vol. lV, no. 1, spring 2004, p.65.

[38] Alsonso, Javier, El contexto judío de la pasión, essay in La Verdadera Historia De La Pasión, Según la investigación y el estudio histórico, Piñero, Antonio, and Segura, Eugenio Gómez, Ed. (Edaf, 2011), p.89.

[39] Piñero, Antonio, ¿La verdadera historia de la Pasión de Jesús?, essay in La Verdadera Historia De La Pasión, Según la investigación y el estudio histórico, Piñero, Antonio, and Segura, Eugenio Gómez, Ed. (Edaf, 2011), p.116

[40] Charlesworth, James H., “Did Jesus Know the traditions in the Parables of Enoch?” essay contained in Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift (Jewish and Christian Texts),James H. Charlesworth and Darrell L. Bock, Ed. (T&T Clark, 2013) p.174.

[41] Ehrman, Bart, Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the new millennium, (Oxford, 1999), ch 9.

[42] Borg, Marcus J. and Crossan, John Dominic, The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem (SPCK Publishing; 1st Edition,2008), p.93

[43] ibid, p.173.

[44] Fredriksen, Paula, Paul, The Pagans Apostle, (Yale, 2017), p.27.

[45] Knohl, Israel, The Messiah before Jesus, (University California Press, 2000).

Attributing the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE

St. John Chrysostom [c347-407 CE], when composing his Homilies on St. John, (Homily13) appears to have had a manuscript of Josephus that attributed the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple to the death of John the Baptist.[1]

Pseudo Hegessipus rewrote Josephus in Latin to a “Christian” perspective as he claims that Josephus was too Jewish and failed to see the real cause of the destruction of Jerusalem was down to the death of Jesus. 

   Origen stated that Josephus attributed the fall to James the Just in Against Celsus I.47:

“So great a reputation among the people for Righteousness did this James enjoy, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Antiquities of the Jews in Twenty Books, when wishing to show the cause what the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the Temple was razed to the ground, said that these things happened to them in accordance with the Wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called the Christ.”

Eusebius has the same argument but recalls that he saw it in War:

“And these things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, for the Jews put him to death, not withstanding his preeminent Righteousness.” (EH2.23.20). [2].

Jerome follows on this argument:

“This same Josephus records the tradition that this James was of such great Holiness and repute among the people that the downfall of Jerusalem was believed to be on account of his death.”

(Vir ill 2)[Lives of illustrious men]

       So you see that Jesus was not alone in the tradition that the fall of Jerusalem happened because a righteous man was slain. Even with the Christian traditions we have three separate candidates that this was attributed to, James the Just, John the Baptist and Jesus.

Josephus himself attributes the fall of Jerusalem to the fourth revolutionary philosophy. At another stage in Ant15.267 he says that Herod bringing in Greek customs undermining Jewish ones was another cause for the destruction of Jerusalem. Then we have this interesting passage from War 4.5.2  § 318

“I should not be wrong in saying that the capture of the city began with the death of Ananus; and that the overthrow of the walls and the downfall of the Jewish state dated from the day on which the Jews beheld their high priest, the captain of their salvation, butchered in the heart of Jerusalem.

    A man on every ground revered and of the highest integrity, Ananus, with all the distinction of his birth, his rank and the honours to which he had attained, had delighted to treat the very humblest as his equals. Unique in his love of liberty and an enthusiast for democracy, he on all occasions put the public welfare above his private interests. To maintain peace was his supreme object”

Anyway going back to Origen, he just made up like other Church fathers a reason for the fall of Jerusalem to the execution of a righteous man ( in Origens case it was James).

Here in his Commentary on Matthew you can see Origen performing his own exegesis Origen like other church fathers and used his own exegesis on the James passage to attribute this as the reason for the fall of Jerusalem:

“Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Antiquities of the Jews in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James” (Comm. Matt. 10.17)

(I have two options what could have happened as Origen recalls things from memory and doesn’t even remember where he read these items. Option A Origen could have mistaken this James passage that was not really about James the Just, just picked out ‘James son of Joseph’ as explained here, Option B, he could have seen this passage in Hegesippus, Acts of the Church also see below), ie picked out earlier passages and then said that is the reason Jerusalem eventually fell. Different fathers picked out different passages, then moved forward to the destruction.



[1] Frank Zindler, The Jesus the Jews never knew, Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest of the Historical Jesus in Jewish Sources, 45-48;

To quote Zindler:

It is in Homily 13, on the subject of John the Baptist, that we last hear of Josephus from St. John Chrysostom:

What then is it which is set before us to-day? “John [the Baptist] are witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.” The Evangelist is very full in making fre­quent mention of John, and often bearing about his testimony. And this he does not without a reason, but very wisely; for all the Jews held the man in great admiration, (even Josephus imputes the war to his death; and shows, that, on his account, what once was the mother city is now no city at all, and continues the words of his encomium to great length) and therefore desiring by his means to make the Jews ashamed, he continually reminds them ofthe testimony ofthe forerunner.

Now there is no extant manuscript of Josephus in which the Jewish revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem are described as the consequence of executing the Baptist.

Chrysostom also somewhere else attributes the fall of Jerusalem to Jesus in another Homily:

Chrysostom first refers to Josephus in Homily 76 of his Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew. Preaching on the text of Matthew 24:16-18 (“Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains,” etc.), supposedly dealing with the coming de­ struction of Jerusalem, Chrysostom refers his audience to Josephus’ description of the siege of Jerusalem and tells them that Jerusalem was destroyed because of the crucifixion ofJesus:

And let not any man suppose this [the horror of the coming destruction] to have been spoken hyperbolically; but let him study the writings of Josephus, and learn the truth of the say­ ings. For neither can any one say, that the man being a believer, in order to establish Christ’s words, hath exaggerated the tragical history. For indeed he was both a Jew, and a determined Jew, and very zealous, and among them that lived after Christ’s coming.

What then saith this man? That those terrors surpases all tragedy, and that no such had ever overtaken the nation. For so great was the famine, that the very mothers fought about the devouring of their children, and that there were wars about this; and he saith that many when they were dead had their bellies ripped up.

I should therefore be glad to inquire of the Jews. Whence came there thus upon them wrath from God intolerable, and more sore than all that had befallen aforetime, not in Judrea only, but in any part of the world? Is it not quite clear, that it was for the deed of the cross, and for this rejection?

[2] Eusebius in another part of his Church History asserts that the fall of Jerusalem came about because of Christ’s crucifixion but was delayed 40 years due to James and the apostles (HE 3.7.7–9).

Rebellion in the epistles!

I’ve decided to blog this as a separate entity as Paul’s epistles are seriously neglected in the rebellion paradigm. Eisler traced rebellion in Josephus, which is great because as Robert Miller said, the background of the gospels is that of Josephus. Brandon noticed the editors of the gospels did not whitewash the gospels completely in their bid to sanitize Jesus and left clues of rebellion and rebellious sayings. I have also blogged about hints of rebellion all over the patristics, especially the church fathers countering accusations from anti Christian polemicists. 

What’s wrong with all the above is that no serious study has been done on the epistles. I am about to correct that. My main argument is that Paul is working off the old messianic language and transforming it. It is this old language that ties the epistles to the rebels!

Paul says that Jesus was born “from the line of David” (Rom 1:3). This is repeated later in Romans as the “root of Jesse” [David’s father]:

And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse, will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”(Rom 15:12)

To apocalyptic Jews of the time the messiah was going to be of “the seed of David” i.e. somebody descended from the line of David. All messianic movements claimed their line from King David. This was all over Jewish literature as seen from Jeremiah:

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” (Jeremiah 23:5)

Like other apocalyptic Jews, early Christians thought that Jesus was the messiah that came from the branch of David. Jews went to these two verses in the Hebrew Scriptures to say that the messiah would come from the branch of David:

“bless the house of your servant, that it may be in your presence forever—since you, Lord God, have promised, and by your blessing the house of your servant shall be blessed forever.” (2 Samuel 7:29)

“For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel..”  (Jeremiah 33:17).

In the Talmud, the rabbis had it as a given statement:

“Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi once said to Rabbi Ḥiyya: Go to a place called Ein Tav and sanctify the New Moon there, and send me a sign that you have sanctified it. The sign is: David, king of Israel, lives and endures.” (b.Talmud Rosh Hashanah 25a); 

According to Eusebius, Emperor Domitian was hunting down the grandchildren of Jude, a brother of Jesus as they claimed to be descendants of David. (Eusebius,EH 3.19; 3.20.1-6).

In the Dead Sea Scrolls we also see a set of apocalyptic Jews who wanted the restoration of the Davidic line. In 4Q174 Col. I lines 10-13 we have a Midrash on 2 Samuel 7:10-14 (and the use of Exodus 15:17-18, Amos 9:11) for the restoration of David’s house (dynasty). The branch of David is going to rise as somebody in Zion (Jerusalem) as an interpreter of the law. This branch is going to be the righteous messiah:

“10 [And] Yahweh has [de]clared to you that he will build you a house (2 Sam 7:11c). I will raise up your seed after you (2 Sam 7:12). I will establish the throne of his kingdom 

11 f[orever] (2 Sam 7:13). I wi[ll be] a father to me and he shall be a son to me (2 Sam 7:14). He is the branch of David who will arise with the interpreter of the Law, who 

12 [ ] in Zi[on in the la]st days according as it is written: “I will raise up the tent of 

13 David that has falle[n] (Amos 9:11), who will arise to save Israel.” (4Q174 I 10-13).

         The Psalms of Solomon contain some references to Pompey who conquered Jerusalem in 63 BCE, and show hope for a Davidic end time messiah, very similar to that of Paul. [1] The only difference is that to Paul, Jesus is not an expectant figure but a figure that has already been realized, the ‘first fruits’ as I discuss later, in the meantime it is worth reproducing the extract of the psalms here:

“See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over Israel, your servant, in the time which you chose, oh God, Undergird him with the strength to destroy the unrighteous rulers, to cleanse Jerusalem from gentiles who trample her to destruction; …….And he will bring together a holy people whom he will lead in righteousness. And he will judge the tribes of the people that have been made holy by the Lord their God. He will not permit unrighteousness to pause among them any longer, and any man who knows wickedness will not live with them. For he will know them that they are all children of their God. He will distribute them in their tribes upon the land; the sojourner and the foreigner will no longer dwell beside them. He will judge peoples and nations in the wisdom of his righteousness. …… And he will be a righteous king over them, taught by God. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all [will be] holy, and their king [will be] the Lord Messiah. (Psalms of Solomon 17:21-32).

Lord Messiah, christos kurios is the same phrase Paul uses for Jesus. Paul also developed the theme of people being right with God, to Paul if the gentiles have faith without keeping the law, through God’s grace they will automatically be “righteoused”. (Cf Genesis 15:6). Hebrew root צדקים , tzedek, in the biblical sense this meant right covenant relationships, that is with others and God. E P Sanders has said that English word righteous for the Greek word dikaiosis does not quiet capture the meaning, therefore he used the word ‘righteoused’:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is righteoused from sin. (Rom. 6: 6–7)” [2] 

        Paul has a “continu­ing recognition of God as ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 15.6; 2 Cor. 1.3; 11.31; Col. 1.3; Eph. 1.3, 17).” [3] As Paula Fredriksen notes when the messiah mythology was being applied to Jesus:

“Paul, as others before him, refers this honorific Christos to Jesus. In texts roughly contemporary with his letters, Christos most commonly stands for an End-time Davidic warrior and ruler. Traditions visible both in Paul’s letters and in the later gospels also present Jesus as such a redemptive End-time figure: returning with angels, coming on clouds of glory to gather his elect, bringing in the Kingdom with power.” [4]

       Frank Moore Cross [5] believes the doctrine of the two messiahs found at Qumran (the Damascus Document, the Rule, the War Scroll, the Testamonia (4Q175) and the Testaments of twelve patriarchs all show the doctrine of the two messiahs), has its roots in the restoration of a diarchy, that of a perfect King and a perfect High Priest, who shall take office standing by the side of the Lord of the whole earth. (Zechariah 4:14). People had hoped that these would come about at the end of days. This is known as an eschatological concept coming from the Greek ἔσχατος eschatos meaning “last” and -logy meaning “the study of”. These eschatological Jews hoped to establish a new kingdom right here on earth in the last days.

Some Jews believed in a physical resurrection ( Ezekiel 37:1-6), so these people could live in this restored kingdom. It was Paul that tried to transform these Jewish concepts so that the kingdom was now “in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16) and resurrection was spiritual (1 Cor. 15). Pauls transforms the Jewish concept of messiah into a mystery type saviour fighting cosmic forces. He minimizes the political aspects of the messianic movement, as Paula Fredriksen says:

“Thus Paul radically redefines the concept of redemption as he does the concepts of Kingdom and Christ: through the original political vocabulary of liberation, he praises a reality that is utterly spiritual.” [6]

         Niko Huttumen puts it very nicely describing this earlier stratum that Paul is working off:

“While Paul seems to have a tendency of seeing eschatology as something that will be realized spiritually in heaven and individually in the future, the other dimensions are still visible. Revolutionary or even anarchic dynamite can be felt, for example, in the claim that Christ will give the kingdom to God after destroying “every ruler and every authority and power” [7]

“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom (βασιλείαν) to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”(1 Cor. 15:24-25, cf. 6:9-10, 15:50, 4:20; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 14:17).

In that verse above there are references to Jesus’ kingdom’ basileian  (βασιλείαν), which indicates that he was somehow considered a king [8]. 

       There is a pattern of messianic types being made a King, (a priestly messiah would be out of the question for any peasant charismatic Jew as you had to come from the line of Levi and achieve high priest status such as Onias III who was also known as a messiah). It was much easier for a peasant rebel to achieve the status of a “king messiah”.

       Before the first century CE, Priesthood became restrictive to the tribe of Levi. We can track the shift in Numbers:

“I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine,” (Numbers 3:12).

In Leviticus we have God speaking through Moses, letting it be known that the priestly class was then restricted further within this group, namely the descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother. (Lev 16). [9]

              Many of the messianic rebels throughout Josephus’ works were declared a king. Judas the Zealot (Ant 17.10.5), Simon of Peraea, a slave of Herod the Great (Ant 17.10.6) and Athronges the shepherd (Ant 17.10.7 ) were all supported by multitudes, both Simon and Anthronges were declared King at a drop of a hat, by their rebel followers, just like it was suggested that Jesus was ‘King of the Jews’. (No royal blood necessary, but as King David has so many sons it is at least possible). The ‘Egyptian’ (War 2.13.5) may have called himself “king Messiah”, because Josephus uses the Greek verb tyrannein (τυραννεῖν “to be sole ruler”). Many others such as Simon Ben Giora, John of Gischala and Menehan were all declared King in Josephus. As Matthew V Novenson notes:

“John Barclay comments on the Antiquities and Against Apion, “These works show us a Diaspora Jew making a supreme—and in fact the last extant—effort to interpret Judaism for non-Jews in the Graeco- Roman world.” This is the most compelling explanation for why Josephus calls the Jewish insurgents “diadem-wearers” and not “messiahs.” It is not, as de Jonge and Rajak suggest, that they were not messiahs. In all likelihood, at least some of them were, as Josephus implies in the passage about the “ambiguous oracle” that drove them to war. [War 6.5.4- the same passage that applied this same oracle to Vespasian]. Nor is it the case that, as Momigliano suggests, Josephus was blithely unaware of Jewish messianism; here again, Josephus gives us reason to think that he does know something about it. [Examples given in footnote 131 by Novenson:  War 6.312–13; Ant. 10.210; Ant. 17.43–45] Nor, finally, contra Feldman, does Josephus avoid the word “messiah” because he fears that using it would make him sound anti-Roman. On the contrary, Josephus presents himself as a reporter, not a partisan to the revolt, and he makes the insurgents’ anti-Romanness more clear, not less so, by rendering it in a Roman idiom. The explanation, rather, is that Josephus is constrained by literary convention, by his own chosen project of cultural translation from a Jewish idiom to a Roman one. He calls the insurgents “diadem-wearers” for the same reason that he calls the Pharisees “Stoics”: because that is the term by which his audience will understand what he means. [10]

        As shown from book 17 and 18 of Josephus Antiquities it was extremely dangerous for messianic types to gather a crowd. They usually got easily squashed by the Romans. Jesus was no exception, the Romans crucified Jesus for being ‘King of the Jews’. To be accused of being a King meant you were an insurrectionist. (Mark 15:2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied).

       In Judaism the title messiah has royal connotations. There are some instances in the psalms and prophets in the LXX that express messianic beliefs and “the strongest claims for the status of the King as God or son of god are found in the royal psalms, especially psalms 2,45, 72, 89 [LXX 88:27] and 110[LXX 109]” [11]

       Burton Mack sees the term “handed over” παρεδίδετο in first Corinthians as a militaristic term, (many modern translations wrongly translate this as ‘betrayed’, when in fact it really means ‘handed over’):

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over (παρεδίδετο), took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood;  do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25).

 As Mack says, “In this case the mythic features are that Jesus himself explained the symbols and that it happened “on the night he was handed over.” Handed over was a term taken from the history of warfare and used in martyrologies to indicate the shift in power that set the situation up for a martyrdom. It did not need any narrative elaboration.” [12] To explain the etymology of the term παρεδίδετο and see it is used for “deliver over” and for a militaristic “surrender”, you have to get to the heart of the term which is to “give over something that you posses (even yourself) against your will. (against = παρά, give = δίδω).

       You can cross reference this with Mark 1:14

“Now after John *was arrested*…”

“μετὰ δὲ τὸ *παραδοθῆναι* τὸν Ἰωάννην…” (Mark 1:14).

παραδοθῆναι is the aorist passive infinitive of παραδίδωμι (“to hand over” – here translated as “to be arrested”). The definite article (τό) makes the verb function like a noun phrase – i.e. “(after) John’s arrest”. παρεδίδετο as found in 1 Cor. 11:23 is the imperfect indicative passive of the same verb παραδίωμι.

              Christianity was born out of the messianic fervour that existed before the Roman Jewish war. The apocalyptic worldview was all part of this messianic fervour, a sense of urgency that god’s kingdom was at hand. (Romans 13:11-12). As John J Collins notes in a forward he wrote for Anathea E. Portier-Young’s book that “ Scholars have long recognized that apocalyptic literature originated as resistance literature,”. [13] It was Ernst Käsmann that made the famous statement:  “apocalyptic was the mother of all Christian theology” [14] Paula Fredriksen sees the language of the early Christian writers had its provenance in Jewish restoration theology.  i. e. “Restoration theology is the anticipation of the redemption of Israel and the world at the establishment of God’s Kingdom.” [15] Apocalyptic Jews were even more dangerous than just disgruntled peasants. They thought the end of the world was approaching, they also thought that they could abandon their way of life and become revolutionaries. As Porter-Young stated “The apocalyptic worldview envisioned a radical relocation of power and in this way redefined the possible and the real, thus clarifying the context for action and empowering the work of resistance.” [16] This egged on many piecemeal revolutionaries to initiate a revolt against Roman maladministration, even with little prospect of success. 

         The apocalyptic eschatology in Paul’s epistles “shows traces of the warlike messiah transferred to Jesus, and in the ethical admonitions images of war are found from the start” [17] Apocalypticism was always mixed up with military action expecting God’s intervention. 

       Even as this movement moved away from its rebellious past, many of the military metaphors are retained in the epistles and Pastorials. Examples such as found in1 Thess 5:8; 2 Cor. 6:7; [Rom. 6:23 has wages, ὀψώνια = opsōnia which is a military wage]) Many of the images have their origins in the prophets, sayings that had driven on previous messianic movements in their wars with Rome, now Paul had spiritualised them to battling their demons. [18].

         In Philippians 2:8 it says that Jesus died on a Stauros. Josephus uses this term Stauros to tell of Romans crucifying Jews. The Romans did not crucify petty thrives but those who broke the law of Treason, lex maiestatis. Crucifixion was done as a deterrent to others not to rebel. 1 Thess. 2:14-15 has Jesus crucified in Judea. “Those who died as insurrectionists against the system of this age and refused to be ‘conformed to this world’ (Rom. 12:2) are now the resurrected” [19] It was resurrection that secured Paul’s authority and somehow (in his own head at least) put him above those super apostles and put his particular ‘gospel’ (or good news doctrine) ahead of that belonging to the Jesus movements. [20] Paul’s message of resurrection had transformed the failure of Jesus’s life and failure in an ignominious revolt that would disqualify Jesus from being a messiah. 

        Hoffman has recognised that Christianity was born out of controversy and that Paul’s preaching “centering on the humiliation and execution of a little-known Galilean rabbi, was either insanity or mere nonsense (I Cor. 1.23).” [21]

“but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” (1 Cor. 1:23).

        The failed promised intervention of God has now in fact been initiated by Jesus’ resurrection, turning his failure in life to a success by Paul’s interpretation. Bart Ehrman has shown how Paul transformed Jesus from being a failed militaristic messiah to being a savior messiah. This is more in line with the savior deities of the Greco Roman world and similar to the mystery religion cults. Pauls thinking was like that of Computer technicians using “reverse engineering” in order to tap into their competitors knowledge:

“Paul started with the “fact” that Jesus was alive again. Since Paul also knew that Jesus had died by crucifixion, his reappearance meant that he had experienced a resurrection. God performed a miracle by raising Jesus from the dead. If God raised Jesus from the dead, that would mean that Jesus really was the one who stood under God’s special favor, the one chosen by God. But if he was in God’s special favor, why would God let him be executed?…… Paul drew what for him was the natural conclusion: Jesus must not have died for anything he himself had done wrong, since God favored him. He was not being cursed for his own deeds. He must have been cursed for the deeds of others.” [22]

Dale Allison using Paul Jewett’s scholarship shows three different stages of the Jesus movement as it transformed from followers of a militaristic Davidic type messiah to a salvation mystery type messiah. This is shown in a critical study of Rom. 1:3-4, this is worth quoting in full as it shows each of these stages encapsulated in a pre Pauline tradition:

“The earliest form, on his analysis, contained or consisted of: “who was of the seed of David [and] appointed Son of God by resurrection of the dead.” This line, Jewett thinks, originated in the “Aramaic-speaking early church.” Its Sitz im Leben was celebration of the eucharist. Its sponsors understood “Son of David” to be a royal messianic title, and they held an adoptionistic christology like that in Acts 2:36 and 13:33, a christology derived from an application of Ps. 2:7 (“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”) to Jesus’ resurrection. 

At a secondary stage, Hellenistic Christians shaped the confession by adding the dichotomy between flesh and spirit. This devalued Jesus’ Davidic origin and diminished the importance of the historical, bodily Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3; 15:44-46). 

Finally, Paul formulated the present opening (“concerning his Son”), inserted “in power,” qualified “spirit” by “holiness,” and composed the ending (“Jesus Christ our Lord”). Through these alterations, the apostle aimed to block adoption- istic ideas and to oppose a possible libertine reading of the dualistic, Hellenistic add-on.” [23]

        Paula Fredriksen simply notes “that in these Hellenistic Christian documents we begin to encounter the literary vestiges of the older, Aramaic, apocalyptic tradition.” [24]

I would have to add a preliminary stage to Paul Jewetts three stages. This preliminary stage involves Jesus adoption before his resurrection or execution. He was anointed  like the Psalm Jewett cited (Psalm 2 and also Psalm 72). He was king and the king was the Son of God – it was a royal title. When Jesus got crucified the belief in him as “son of god” as a royal title must have evaporated, like so many before and after him the spell of being a messiah where god did not intervene got shattered. This was rectified with his believed resurrection and only then did this belief get reinstated.

Dr R M Price has often said when you peel away all the layers, you are left with nothing of the historical Jesus, but this is only because too many layers are peeled away. (The third quest rightfully put back the Jewish layer). K L Knoll recognised this, (peeling away too many layers) when commenting on J J Collins who wrote “How Jesus came to be identified as the Davidic messiah remains one of the great puzzles of early Christianity” [25] Knoll said, this is only a mystery if you favour a peaceful Jesus and peel away his violent layer. “….the Jerusalem pillars preached a Jesus who claimed to be a son of David and expected to wage holy war on behalf of the Jewish god in the near eschatological future (in other words, a Davidic messiah similar to those in Ps. 2, the Qumran texts or Psalms of Solomon). The proclamation of the cross fits very nicely with this hypothetical ‘Gospel according to the Jerusalem Pillars’, for any Roman governor would have viewed this type of Jesus as a foolish but potentially dangerous criminal, and the pillars would have used the story of the resurrection to affirm how wrong that Roman governor had been (1 Cor. 1:20–25)” [26].

       Dale Allison cannot figure out who the 500 were that Jesus appeared to in his ressurection appearances, ἔπειτα ὤφθη… πεντακοσιίοις ἀδελφοῖς, after that he appeared to…five hundred brothers (1 Cor. 15:6). But then he gives us a hint of who they might be but as a Christian scholar cannot conceive of it: “with reference to the five hundred, speaks of “brothers” (ἀδελφοί), not “brothers and sisters” (ἀδελφοί καὶ ἀδελφαί),” [27] I bet that these were the remnants of the group that had revolted in Jerusalem. Dr Price had thought this part as interpolated as the gospels do not report such an incident. I would say that the suppression of this had more to do with the gospels trying to suppress the movements rebellious past, a movement trying to survive persecution in the aftermath of the Roman Jewish war. “Whereas the apostle was writing to people in Greece, the appearance to the five hundred must have occurred in Israel, where surely the majority of surviving witnesses still lived.” [28].

           The Pastorials show a need to move away from any rebellious past, they say the rebellious sons or sons of disobedience, υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας are controlled by the demon in the sky. It is no surprise that this past is spiritualized to mean those moving away from god will bring the wrath of god.

“in which you formally walked in the course of this world according to the prince of power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the sons of the disobedient/ rebellious.” (Ephesians 2:2, cf Ephesians 5:6; Col. 3:6)

Gerd Ludemann sums this up lovely:

“According to I Thess. 4:13-17, the Second Coming of Jesus will occur in the immediate future; according to 2 Thessalonians, the day of the Lord is not immediately imminent, for the rebellion must come first, and the man of lawlessness must be revealed, “the son of lawlessness who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself Is God” (2 Thess. 2:3c-4, Ludemann’s own translation). [29]


[1] Fredriksen, Paula, Paul, The Pagans Apostle, (Yale, 2017), p.134.

[2] Sanders, E. P., Paul, A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford, 1991), ch. 6

[3] Dunn, James, D. G., The Partings of the ways, Between Christianity and Judaism and their significance for the character of Christianity, 2nd Ed. (SCM Press, 2006), p.xxvi.

[4] Fredriksen, Paula, Paul, The Pagans Apostle, (Yale, 2017), p.135.

[5] Cross, Frank Moore, “Notes on the doctrine of the two Messiahs at Qumran and the extracanonical Daniel Apocalypse (4Q246)”, essay contained in: Current Research and Technological Developments on Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 20, edited by Parry & Ricks.

(Brill, 1995).

[6] Fredriksen, Paula, From Jesus to Christ, The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus

2nd Ed. (Yale, 2000), p.173

[7] Huttumen, Niko, Early Christians Adapting to the Roman Empire: Mutual Recognition (Brill, 2020), p.102.

[8] Bermejo Rubio, Fernando, La invención de Jesús de Nazaret, (Siglo XXI de España Editores, S. A., 2018), ch 1.

[9] Levine, Amy-Jill and Brettler, Marc Zvi, The Bible With and Without Jesus, How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently, (HarperOne: 2020), ch5.

[10] Novenson, Matthew V., The Grammar of Messianism: An Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and Its Users, (Oxford, 2017), p.147-8.

[11] Collins, John J. and Collins, Adela Yarbro, King and Messiah as Son of God. Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature, (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008), p.56

[12] Mack, Burton L., Who Wrote the New Testament?, (HarperCollims, 1996), pp.91ff

[13] Portier-Young, Anathea E., Apocalypse against Empire, Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011), Forward (by J J Collins).

[14] Käsemann, Ernst, “The Beginnings of Christian Theology,” in New Testament Questions of Today, trans. W. J. Montague (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969), pp.82–107, quote at 102.

[15] Fredriksen, Paula, From Jesus to Christ, The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus

2nd Ed. (Yale, 2000), p.18 and fn.1.

[16] Portier-Young, Anathea E., Apocalypse against Empire, Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011), p.4.

[17] Harnack, Adolf, Militia Christi, (English Translation, Fortress Press 1981), p.32

[18] ibid, p.35f

[19] Segundo, Juan Luis, Jesus of Nazareth yesterday and today, vol. II, The historical Jesus of the Synoptics (English Translation) (Orbis books, 1985) p.5.

[20] Markus, Vincent, Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity and the making of the New Testament, (Ashgate, 2011),  p.27.

[21] R. Joseph Hoffmann, Celsus On The True Doctrine, A discourse against Christians, (Oxford, 1987), p.5.

[22] Ehrman, Bart, The Triumph of Christianity, How a forbidden religion swept the world, (Simon & Schuster, 2018), ch 2.

[23] Allison, Dale C., Jr., The Resurrection of Jesus, Apologetics, Criticism, History, (Bloomsberry, 2021), p.32

Here he is using the scholarship of Robert Jewett, Romans: A Commentary, Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), pp.103–8.

[24] Fredriksen, Paula, From Jesus to Christ, The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus

2nd Ed. (Yale, 2000), p.19

[25] Collins, J. J., ‘What Was Distinctive about Messianic Expectation at Qumran?,’ in J. H. Charlesworth, ed., The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls. II. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran Community (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2006), pp.71–92, quote at 85.

[26] Knoll, K. L., “Investigating earliest Christianity without Jesus”, in T. L. Thompson and T. S. Verenna, Ed., ‘Is this not the Carpenter?’, The question of the historicity of the figure of Jesus., (Equinox, 2012) p.252, footnote 62

[27] Allison, ibid, p.51

[28] Allison, ibid, p.74

[29] Gerd Lüdemann, Paul: The Founder of Christianity, (Prometheus Books, 2002), Ch. 1.


“Rabbi Eliezer the Great says: from the day the Temple was destroyed, the sages began to be like scribes, scribes like synagogue-attendants, synagogue-attendants like common people, and the common people became more and more debased. And nobody seeks. Upon whom shall we depend? Upon our father who is in heaven. In the footsteps of the messiah insolence (hutzpah) will increase and the cost of living will go up greatly; the vine will yield its fruit, but wine will be expensive; the government will turn to heresy, and there will be no one to rebuke; the meeting-place [of scholars] will be used for licentiousness; the Galilee will be destroyed, the Gablan will be desolated, and the dwellers on the frontier will go about [begging] from place to place without anyone to take pity on them; the wisdom of the learned will rot, fearers of sin will be despised, and the truth will be lacking; youths will put old men to shame, the old will stand up in the presence of the young, “For son spurns father, daughter rises up against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law a man’s own household are his enemies” (Micah 7:6). The face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, a son will not feel ashamed before his father. Upon whom shall we depend? Upon our father who is in heaven.” ~ Mishnah soter 9.5

The Mishnah preserves the fact that much of the blame for their dire circumstances comes from all the messianic figures who tried to strike a blow against oppression. In the footsteps of the messiah came suffering. In the immediate aftermath of the great revolt, (Roman Jewish war of 66-70 CE) messiahs were seen for bringing on trouble instead of being revered. This is also preserved in Josephus’ works who refuses to give the title messiah to any of these rebels who had been declared a king (and thus a king messiah). Instead Josephus alludes to that title for Vespasian. As stated in part 1 of my series of blogs on the historical Jesus, Josephus preferred to apply that title to Vespasian in his Roman propaganda, citing the Balaam prophecy (War 6.312-313). In part 2 of my blog series I gave a very important quote from Novenson who said “Josephus calls the Jewish insurgents “diadem-wearers” and not “messiahs.” Novonson said Josephus was not trying to hide the word but rendered it in a Roman idiom, actually highlighting these figures in a bad light. [1] Jesus being one of those messianic figures would have been described in a similar manner, I see no reason why Jesus would be the exception. Over the course of my other 3 parts in this series I see Jesus as the same as all the other Davidic militaristic messiahs and do not see why we should accept an exception in this matter either. It is the gospels that added the later pacific layer on top of Jesus. I have also shown in part one why it is extremely unlikely Josephus a Jew would have used the title messiah for Jesus which does not fit in with how he described all the other messianic figures. This also applies to the James passage found in Antiquities 20.9.1. I have already argued in part 1, that Josephus did not mention Christ in the Testimonium Flavianum, and here in this fourth part I will argue that he did not mention Christ in the James passage either.

          Allen [2] in his paper goes one step further than Richard Carriers’ [3] claim that the James passage in “Antiquities of the Jews” (AJ) contains an interlinear scribal error. Allen instead claims it was an actual Christian interpolation. I do think it was an inter linear scribal error just like Carrier suggested but I do not agree with the Jesus ben Damneus hypothesis. Josephus would never have introduced Ben Damneus twice (he is introduced at the end of Ant 20.9.1) as Carrier suggests. On Carriers’ hypothesis he would be introduced twice. The first time where Carrier speculated that it should read “James the brother of Jesus Ben Damneus.” The second time at the end of the passage. It also violates Josephus’ naming conventions. When Josephus references people to be a relation to siblings, it is because their parents are unknown or they had different parents. For example:

“brother of his, by the father’s side, whose name was Eliakim” (Antiquities 10.5.2).

So the Damneus idea is stretched.

I have a new theory how this came about.

Let us examine the line found in Ant 20.9.1, “James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ”. Why didn’t Josephus say “James son of Joseph” which is the proper Jewish form of address? Actually at the start of 20.9.1 there is a high priest Joseph mentioned who was deprived of his position by Agrippa, perhaps it was originally written >>James, son of Joseph<<.

(“But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood”~ Ant20.9.1).

Instead of >>”brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James”<<

If a scribe came across what could have been originally written by the hand of Josephus-  “James son of Joseph”, he would automatically think “the brother of Jesus”. Origen may have also automatically thought this was the same James that was “the brother of Jesus, who is called Christ”. A scribe familiar with Origen’s writings could write this very phrase in the inter-linear column. Later scribes would mistake this as part of the text and may have added “who was called Christ”. This “James son of Joseph” may have got Origen thinking that this is James the Just when he did his exegesis in attributing it to the fall of Jerusalem. If the interpolation was of Origen school, he may have been influenced by what Origen has written before, as we will examine now.

“the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James” to describe James is seen in three passages taken from Origen’s writings:.:

1. COM, X, 17 / 5268: “James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ”;

2. Cels, I, 47: “James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus called Christ”; and

3. Cels, II, 13: “James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ”.

Origen mentions Josephus’ reference to James on four occasions: twice in his COM, X, 17 / 5268 – 5269, once in Cels. I, 47 and again in his Cels. II, 1

I will reproduce some of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew 10.17

“Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Antiquities of the Jews in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered so great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said, that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great:” (Comm. Matt. 10.17)

As seen below, “called Christ” has gospel tradition and seen from the quote, Origen discusses a passage instead of quoting it. The phrase “James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ” is pulled from gospel tradition. In the very next line then Origen writes “though he did not accept Jesus as Christ” so we can see “called Christ” was not pulled from the James passage. Same is going on with Contra Celsum 2.13 where Origen writes, “Josephus says, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ.” We know “James the Just” is not quoting the passage and neither is “who was called Christ.”

This makes much more sense than Carriers explanation and it fits as there is a high priest named Joseph deposed at the start of the passage. It makes for a very intriguing high priest rivalry where Ananus the Elder had dominated the high priesthood for most of the preceding decades, with eight high priests all coming from his family. It was Ananus II that had James executed. The Romans did not consider it illegal as they only removed Ananus from office, it was the fact he convicted James in the absence of a Roman official, an interregnum of procurators had existed and therefore the Great Sanhedrin had overstepped its authority and had upset the Romans.

A very good reason for suspecting that the James passage (or at least the words “who was called Christ”) was not original to Josephus was the fact that Josephus did not like to use the term ‘Christ’ in relation to Jesus.

You can see this by two comments from Origen.

CONTRA CELSUM 1.47 ( Origen)

“Now this writer [i.e. Josephus], although not believing in Jesus as the Christ….”


“And the wonderful thing is, that, though he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great; and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James.”


The participial phrase “(who is/who was) called Christ” (c.f. Antiquities, does not actually include the verb “to be”. This is simply added into the English translation.

This is literally what it says in Greek:

“…and *having brought* before them (the council) the brother of Jesus, who *being called Christ*, *James – his name*…”

The participial phrase indeed matches the gospels. There is NO implication of PAST TENSE in «Ἰησοῦ τοῦ λεγομένου Χριστοῦ». And there’s no way to rephrase it to imply a present tense more explicitly.

Since, in the context of the current form of the text, Jesus is assumed to have died previously, it is totally appropriate to translate it in English as “…was called…”. The Greek phrasing should be totally non-controversial.

The same expression “called Christ” is both John 4:25 and Matthew 1:16: “of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” The phrase is found in a similar form in Matthew two more times, then in 27:17 and 27:22; and the author of the Gospel of Matthew has Pilate both times designating Jesus as that “Jesus who is called Christ”. The manner of letting a non-Christian witness identify Jesus as the one who was “called Christ” can accordingly be traced back to the Gospels. This would reasonably imply that it would not have felt unnatural for a Christian person with knowledge of the Gospel accounts to designate Jesus as the one called Christ, if he later found that Josephus ought to have mentioned Jesus.

“Called Christ” are the EXACT SAME phrase in different grammatical cases (nominative for ‘subject’, accusative for ‘direct object’ and genitive for ‘possessive’).

So what we observe in the English translations is a juxtaposition of the tense forms of “to be”, where past tense (“was”) is appropriate for Josephus and Origen (narrating events after Jesus’ death); while present tense (“is”) is appropriate for the Gospels (narrating events during Jesus’ life). English translators are forced to make a choice, while the Greek authors were not bound by such rules.

Ἰησοῦ τοῦ λεγομένου Χριστοῦ (genitive).

(Iêsou tou legomenou Christou)

Jesus who (was) called Christ

(Antiquities of the Jews 20:200).

Ἰησοῦς ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός (nominative)

(Iêsous ho legomenos Christos)

Jesus, who (is) called Christ (Matt 1:16).

ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός (nominative)

(ho legomenos Christos)

he] who ( is)called Christ (John 4:25).

Ἰησοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον Χριστόν (accusative)

(Iêsoun ton legomenon Christon)

Jesus who (is) called Christ (Matt 27:17).

Ἰησοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον Χριστόν (accusative)

(Iêsoun ton legomenon Christon)

with Jesus who (is) called Christ (Matt 27:22).

The only other early author (apart from the disputed Josephus) to mention James before the close of the second century C.E. is Hegesippus (cf. Fragments from the Acts of the Church; Concerning the Martyrdom of James, the Brother of the Lord, from Book 5), who as early as c. 165 – 175 C.E. tells his reader in great detail that James (as brother of the Lord) was hurled from the top of the Temple and then because he survived this attempt on his life he was then summarily stoned to death. Hegesippus also tells us that this happened immediately before the destruction of the Temple by Vespasian and as such it would point to a date of c. 68 – 70 C.E.

If this account is in any way accurate it means that the JP is in direct contradiction to both the date as well as the manner and circumstances of James’ death (The JP states that James was stoned along with “others” after due trial and sentencing by a high priest).

As Eisenman pointed out in his book James, the brother of Jesus, the issue is further compounded by the fact that, by the fourth and fifth centuries it was more normal for the mainstream church to defer from referring to Jesus as having flesh and blood brothers. In this regard, it will be recalled that in his DVI, 2 Jerome (c. 347 – 420 C.E.) maintains that James was Jesus’ cousin and the biological son of Mary of Cleophas. Jerome stresses that James was not the son of Joseph by another wife.

Although, in his Contra Celsum. II, 22, Origen makes it clear that he thinks that the death of Jesus was the ultimate cause for the destruction of the Temple, he repeatedly makes mention of Josephus’ reference to James in his many writings. He records Josephus as blaming the death of James for the destruction of Jerusalem and as has been clearly shown, Origen recurrently employs the almost identical phraseology as found in the JP today.

So to sum up, Josephus never introduced a figure twice in one passage. I have suggested a much better hypothesis where there was a high priest Joseph at the start of the passage. Ant 20.9.1 is about high priest rivalry and the stoning of this James in the interregnum of governors. If the passage originally read “James son of Joseph ” that would have given any scribe a hard-on and made him write in the interlinear column —- the brother of Jesus. It would have made all those commenting on it think it was a passage about James, when really this particular James may have had nothing at all to do with Christianity in the first place.



[1] Novenson, Matthew V., The Grammar of Messianism: An Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and Its Users, (Oxford, 2017), p.147-8.

[2] NPL Allen, Clarifying the Scope of Pre-5th Century C.E. Christian Interpolation in Josephus’ Antiquitates Judaica (c. 94 C.E.),chapter 4, 291-328.

[3] Richard Carrier, “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200” in the Journal of Early Christian Studies (vol. 20, no. 4, Winter 2012), pp. 489-514.

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Figures like Jesus

“Should he be described primarily as a teacher, prophet, miracle worker, magician, Galilean charismatic, or militant revolutionary? The list of possibilities could be extended. These types are not mutually exclusive, and it is possible—indeed likely—that a given individual would have combined different roles.” [1]

       James Tabor [2] in his blog names 22 messianic figures in Josephus, but there were even more than that and also many were unnamed. Some scholars have seen a lot of these messianic movements emanating from the adventures of Joshua.

         Jesus fits the mould of other self-styled prophets who rose up against Roman maladministration. The ‘Samaritan’ who promised to show the crowds “sacred vessels which were buried [at Mt. Gerizim], where Moses had deposited them”…. are all similar types of movements to the Jesus movement. His movement was also cut down by the Pilates administration just like the Jesus movement.

        The ‘Egyptian’ claims to make the “walls come tumbling down”  (Ant. 20.8.6) in Jerusalem which is a clear allusion to the battle of Jericho. (Joshua 6:20). Theudas’ claim to be able to divide the river is a clear allusion to Joshua 3.14-17, which has everything to do with the redemption of Israel. Even the gospels play out this Joshua theme for Jesus with his 12 disciples using midrash on Joshua:

“Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.” (Joshua 3:12-13).

In one of the Tanakh images Hebrews uses, the author sees Jesus as the true Joshua who had led his people to the promised land (Hebrews 4:8-11). Whoever wrote Hebrews, it is pre Temple destruction, (Hebrews 10:1-3 shows the Temple still in operation), so we get from a different Jesus missionary using a comparison to Joshua.

As Joshua is spelt the same as Jesus in the Septuagint, Ιησούς, some modern scholars such as Richard Carrier have suggested that many have belonged to some type of Joshua cults. [3] They all saw Joshua’s success as an inspiration in their own fight with Rome. “If Jesus equals Joshua, then it follows that Jesus is “the prince of the military forces of the Lord,” as Origen said in his homily on Joshua. (Hom. in Jesu Nave 6) [4]

Many a messianic rebel was inspired by the role model of Joshua. In Joshua 5 they would have seen god’s intervention through an angelomorphic figure commanding the army of god fighting on Joshua’s side:

“When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood before him with his drawn sword in hand; and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but as commander of the army of YHWH I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshipped, and said to him, “What does my adonai bid his servant?” And the commander of YHWH’s army said to Joshua, “Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13-4).[5]

These signs prophets in desperate times looked into their scrolls for inspiration, for some, Joshua was the perfect role model in their battle with Rome, Paula Fredriksen sums this up lovely with the following passage:

“All of these promised miracles recalled biblical episodes from Israel’s foundational history. Theudas’s parting the waters of the Jordan echoed both Moses’s leading Israel across the Red Sea and Joshua’s leading the twelve tribes across the Jordan on into the promised land. Going into the desert to seek deliverance would recapitulate the liberation from Egypt and the giving of the Torah on Sinai. The miraculous crumbling of Jerusalem’s walls recalls the miraculous fall of Jericho, Joshua’s point of entry into the Land. Enacting key moments in the birth of the nation, these signs prophets signaled the eschatological nearness of final redemption. Their grounding in biblical miracle also accounts for the size of their popular followings. Scriptural authority undergirded not only their own message; it also supported the hopes and convictions of their followers.” [6]

        Lena Einhorn [7] noticed many parallels between Jesus and the ‘Egyptian’. The Egyptian gathered at the Mount of Olives before his battle with the Romans. (War 2.13.5). Jesus was arrested at the Mount of Olives. 

       I will have to pour cold water on Einhorns hypothesis though, as it should be noted that Mount of Olives was regarded as the place where God would stand on the Day of Judgment, fighting the battle against Israel’s enemies:

“On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives …”  (Zechariah 14:4)

         This passage  talks about a messiah that would come to the Mount of Olives and enter Jerusalem, so this is a common messianic trope. As the mount of olives comes from Zechariah, therefore both Josephus and Mark used this common trope (or the messianic figures themselves enacted the trope) in their retellings and the rebels themselves re-enacting.

The gospel of John uses the word σπεῖρα,(speira), that is a cohort consisting of 500 to 1000 Roman soldiers and the word χιλίαρχος, (chiliarchos), for their commander, this is a commander of one thousand. (John 18:11). The Egyptian passages in Josephus works use the same words. This led Lena Einhorne to see this as a parallel to the ‘Egyptian’ but a much more likely explanation is that the evangelist John used Josephus and more specifically the ‘Egyptian’ passages. It has been shown that Luke had used Josephus by such scholars as Mason and Carrier. [8] When I reconstructed the Testimonium Flavianum [9], it was a passage that held so little information that the evangelist John simply started to use other passages as a framework for his gospel.

        It was Morton Smith who hit the nail on the head when he observed what is really significant about the passage in Acts 5:33-39, is not that Luke got his fake history wrong (again putting Theudas before Judas and making up a story about Gamaliel) but that “Even this Christian propaganda shows that the Christians themselves expected Jesus to be seen as the same social type as Judas and Theudas.” [10] (Emphasis is Morton Smiths).

        The same thing is going on here, it is not the fact that John used the ‘Egyptian’ passage, what is telling is the fact he saw Jesus in the same social class as the ‘Egyptian’.


1.Bar Kokbha

“the Jerusalem Talmud tells of the recruitment of four hundred thousand fighters who were in Bethar during the siege of the city. Half of them were recruited after they stood the loyalty test of a severed finger; and the other half, after they had uprooted a cedar of Lebanon while riding a horse.” [11]

“Jerusalem Talmud Ta‘anit 4.5: “Ben Kozebah was there, and he had 200,0000 troops who had cut their little finger . . . Whoever cannot uprooted a cedar of Lebanon while riding on his horse will not be registered in your army. So there were 200,000 who qualified in one way, and another 200,000 who qualified in another way.” [12]

And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into gehenna.(hell).(Matthew 5:30)

Found a great parallel with Jesus’s last words on the cross:

Babylonian Talmud Gittin 57a (passages about the bar Kokbha revolt) there are comments that Bar Daroma kept repeating the verse from Psalms 60:12:

“you have rejected us O God; God, you do not march with our armies.”[13]

both Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 have:

My god my god why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1).

2. Simon bar Giora 

Simon bar Giora was the leader of the rebel faction called the sicarii, who hid their daggers underneath their cloaks. This has a parallel where one of the disciples drew his short sword (a dagger) during Christ’s arrest.(Mark 14:47).

       During Christ’s march to Golgotha the Roman soldiers put a purple robe on him, but later removed it again. Simon bar Giora was also known as Simon bar Poras, the latter word a shortened version of the Latin word purpura (porpora in Italian) for the colour purple. When Simon bar Giora was arrested, he put on his purple cloak before he surrendered, probably as a declaration that he was the one they wanted most.

       Toward the end of the Roman siege of Jerusalem, John Levi and many others had already been captured by the Romans, but Simon was still underground and hoping to escape. Josephus recorded his bizarre behavior when he finally emerged dressed like a king, hoping to trick the Romans, but was captured and kept for the eventual celebration in Rome.

“And now Simon, thinking he might be able to astonish and elude the Romans, put on a white frock, and buttoned upon him a purple cloak, and appeared out of the ground in the place where the temple had formerly been.”(War 7.2.1) ;(Cf 1Macc 10:20,62 for the purple robe reference.)

         Simon stayed three days underground and then appeared suddenly out of the ground.

“…appeared out of the ground in the place where the temple had formerly been…..At the first indeed, those that saw him were greatly astonished, and stood still where they were.”(War 7.2.1).

He appeared like an apparition would make a parallel with the resurrection.

          Caesar’s triumphal procession is described in War 7.5.1-7. Simon was called “the general of the enemy” and his execution was in “the last part of this pompous show…at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.” A rope was put around his head and he was tormented as he was dragged along. All the people shouted for joy when it was announced that he had been killed (War 7.5.6). This matches the crowd turning against Jesus as he was to be crucified.

3.  Judas the Galilean

One of the birth narratives of Jesus contained in the gospel of Luke corresponds with the Census of Cyrenius (6 CE), which in turn corresponds to the major tax revolt of Judas the Galilean. (Josephus, War 2.117-118 and Antiquities 18.4-25). Judas the Galilean was also an apocalyptic prophet who wanted to establish God’s kingdom (just like Jesus) right here on earth: 

“Under his administration [Coponius] it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt; and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords.” (War 2.118). (I take the emphasis from Unterbinks book and reproduce some parallels Unterbink noticed. [14]

As seen here Judas wanted God’s kingdom and not the Romans. Judas the Galilean, or Judas of Gamala, was a Jewish leader who led resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Judea Province around 6 CE. Luke has his Jesus born around the tax revolt. Later on the tax issue is used to entrap Jesus. (Luke 20:20-26). And the following passage in Luke sounds very similar to Judas the Galilean:

“And they began to accuse him, saying, we have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be a king messiah (christ)…. He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

(Luke 23:2-5)

          Judas the Galilean encouraged Jews not to register and those that did had their houses burnt and their cattle stolen by his followers. As a coincidence he had two sons with the same names as Jesus’s brothers:

“In addition to this, James and Simon, sons of Judas the Galilean, were put on trial and by order of Alexander were crucified; this was the Judas who – as explained above – had incited the popular revolt against the Romans, while Quirinius was carrying out the census in Judea”.(Ant. 20.102).


    So Lena Einhorn thought Jesus was the ‘Egyptian’ in her book A Shift in Time. Daniel Unterbink in his book The three Messiahs says he is Judas the Galilean. Then you have Eisenman in his James, the brother of Jesus book who has said the Jesus movements were suspiciously like the ‘Samaritan’ passage in Ant 18.4.1. [15] The reason Jesus sounded like all those other messianic figures is that he was one of them.

         The beauty of studying these other messianic types is that these passages had no importance to anybody who happened to be attached to any particular creed or theology, that what you get is from the hand of Josephus, untampered with ‘improvements’, incisions, additions and other such alterations, that the Christian passages suffered. Therefore these comparable figures are invaluable in building a picture of Jesus in the historical context and political atmosphere that was so strained that you could cut it with a knife.


“These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretence of divine inspiration, but were for procuring innovations and changes of the government; and these prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, as pretending that God would there shew them the signals of liberty.” (War 2.13.4).

       Paul tells us practically nothing of the miracles of Jesus but there are hints of it. As Paul tells us practically nothing about any of Jesus’s life, any traces will suffice to show it was part of Jesus’s ministry. As Jesus’s messianic goals were a failure, (not restoring Israel from the hands of the Romans, same as with all other messianic figures, it is very understandable that Paul would not talk about Jesus’s life but about his success, which is, in Paul’s mind, that God raised him). Here are two hints that Jesus ministry practiced signs of wonder:

  1. when Paul says, what Christ has accomplished

 “through me … by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit,” (Rom 15:18-19) 

it shows here that his ministry, which included miracles, was a reflection of Jesus’ ministry.

  1. Paul says that the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power, dunamei. (1Cor. 4:20) With the close association between powers, or miracles, and the kingdom of God in the Synoptic Gospels, it is not unreasonable to assume that Paul here is reflecting a knowledge of this association in the life of Jesus. [16]

          Jesus’ opponents saw him as a magician of some sort. All these self-styled prophets gathered crowds with deeds of wonder and promised to overthrow the Romans with God’s intervention. Jesus, too, was seen to perform wonders, putting him in the same comparative type as these religious resistance leaders:

“Was Christ not a magician? But lest any one should meet us with the question, What should prevent that He whom we call Christ, being a man born of men, performed what we call His mighty works by magical art, and by this appeared to be the Son of God? We will now offer proof, not trusting mere assertions, but being of necessity persuaded by those who prophesied [of Him] before these things came to pass, for with our own eyes we behold things that have happened and are happening just as they were predicted; and this will, we think appear even to you the strongest and truest evidence.”

(Justin Martyr 1 Apology XXX).

And from Tertullian: “As, then, under the force of their pre-judgment, they had convinced themselves from His lowly guise that Christ was no more than man, it followed from that, as a necessary consequence, that they should hold Him a magician from the powers which He displayed.” (Apology XXI)

And from Celsus: “Continuing to pour abuse upon Jesus as one who, on account of his impiety and wicked opinions, was, so to speak, hated by God, he asserts that ‘these tenets of his were those of a wicked and God-hated sorcerer.’” (Origen, Contra Celsum 1.71)

The anti-Christian polemic comes close to recovering the historical Jesus, as can be seen from these three ancient quotes:

Cf John 6:15. “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

Cf Ant 17.10.8 “And now Judea was full of robberies. And as the several companies of the seditious light upon any one to head them, he was created a King immediately, in order to do mischief to the publick.”

Cf Against Celsus 3.7 “that in the days of Jesus others who were Jews rebelled against the Jewish state, and became His followers.”

Crazy messianic claims:

  “These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretence of divine inspiration, but were for procuring innovations and changes of the government;” (Josephus, War 2.13.4).

Gamaliel’s speech in Acts 5:34-39 associates the Jesus movement with those of Theudas and Judas the Galilean. Theudas also enacted prophetic actions and expected God’s intervention. Judas the Galilean wanted to set up a theocracy. He called the people “cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords.” (War 2.118). All our sources point to Jesus’ eschatological concepts, all of which fit the historical context of these messianic figures.

       Jesus making the claim of the Temple being destroyed and restored miraculously, may have been a pesher (commentary finding meanings in the scriptures for today’s events), on the first Temple destruction in Daniel 9:26 or Jeremiah 7. This is exactly the type of claim these messianic figures made.

            Let us examine in the first person from Josephus, the miraculous messianic claims made in order to convince their followers with prophetic promises:

“Come follow me to the river Jordan, for I am a prophet and on my command I will divide the river like Moses so that you can cross” ~ Theudas as reported in Ant 20.97

“Just like with Joshua and the walls of Jericho, on my command the walls of Jerusalem will come tumbling down, I’ll lead you in to conquer the city of David”.

~ The ‘Egyptian’ as reported in Ant 20.170

“Come to Mount Gerizim, on your arrival, I’ll show you sacred vessels that are buried there since Moses deposited them there.” ~ The ‘Samaritan’ believed to be the Taheb, as reported in Ant 18.5.1

“On my command, this corrupt Temple, built by human hands will be destroyed, not one stone shall be standing on another, in three days a pure Temple will be restored not by human hands”

~ Jesus the Nazorean, whitewashed from Josephus but recovered as explained above.

John the Baptizer, thought the kingdom of god was held up by people’s sins, you could imagine him saying, “We’re going to go out into the desert and re-enact the exodus, waters wash your body and sins, once pure, god will come.”

On top of all these crazy claims Josephus reports another along the same lines:

“A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” (War 6.5.3). 

This was said by Jesus ben Ananias four years before the war began. This prophecy only became interesting as it rang true. This was a prophecy of a madman who was not a messianic rebel, so it would not have made it into Josephus War book, only that it happened to have come true to events of the war. To Josephus this prophecy became memorable and interesting in the aftermath of the Temple destruction. It would have been another worthless prophecy made by a madman (not worth reporting or writing about) if the Temple hadn’t been destroyed. The same is happening to the gospel of Mark. A prophecy by Jesus that half came true made Jesus more interesting as a remembered war hero (messianic rebel) over other remembered war heroes. 

        If the gospel of Mark had invented the prophecy or had heard of Jesus ben Ananias prophecy he would not have written what did not happen, “not one stone shall be standing on another” but instead have written “nothing shall remain except the ruins of a wall”. Mark trying to refute this prophecy argues in favour of a failed prophecy circulating that triggered Mark’s gospel in the aftermath of the real Temple destruction. (Mark 15:37).

       Of all the claims made by the messianic figures, it’s Jesus’s prophecy that got remembered- destroy a corrupt temple, build a pure one in three days. The reason Jesus’ prophecy got remembered over the other messianic figures is that his prophecy came half true. The destroying but not the restoring.

        James Sweeney sees a connection between Paul and Jesus with the Temple metaphors used by Paul. [17] This crazy messianic claim has support in the earliest layers of NT literature. Paul has reworked this claim as a metaphor:

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Cor. 3:16–17). 

Marks attempted refutation of the crazy messianic claim suggests it actually goes back to a messianic rebel and was currently circulating. When Paul was writing one very obvious point is that the Temple was still standing.

    As N T Wright stated:

“The various ‘Passion predictions’ should not be dismissed as ex eventu prophecies of Jesus’ death, projected back into Jesus’ life as an apologetic device….. Neither are these predictions the melancholic musings of a man with a martyr complex. Rather, they represent the realistic reflection of someone proclaiming God’s kingdom, challenging Israel’s official (Sadducean) and unofficial (Pharisaic) leaders, attracting crowds, exciting eschatological fervour, imbibing messianic dreams, challenging boundaries about who is ‘in’, and making a powerful protest in the Temple which appears to be a symbolic foretelling of its downfall. (There are curious modern parallels. The Pakistani minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, himself a Catholic Christian, never married because he ‘knew’ that one day he would be killed by Islamic extremists. This belief came true on 2 March 2011, when he was ambushed by militants.) Jesus knew what risks he was taking, what opposition he would face, and how the story was going to end.” [18]

Eisenman [19] made some good observations that can be used to date the epistles.

“Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. (Romans 16:10-11) 

Paul greeted all those in the household of Aristobulus. This was a reference to Herod Agrippa’s son. Herodion, or “Little Herod,” is assumed to be the son of Herod of Chalcis.

Douglas Campbell [20] shows Paul’s King Aretus IV incident provides an anchor date for Paul’s epistles in general. It looks like he ran out of Damascenes, but escaped to carry on further missionaries. Richard Carrier shows that Aretas could have briefly held Damascus between 35-37 CE period. [21]

        A third anchor date is provided by the Erastus stone found in Corinth with the inscription:  “Erastus, Commissioner of Public Works”. Romans says: 

“Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.” (Romans 16:23).

Goodrich’s [22] paper goes into detail on this inscription, “Erastus (Rom 16.23) has featured prominently …. how one renders his title (ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως)”. The associations of both Erastus’ with the city of Corinth and their job titles referring to a city “financial manager” position of some kind plus the timing make it likely that these two people were the same. Goodrich posits he served as a quaestor. Goodrich then argues that a provable link between Oikonomos (οἰκονόμος) and Quaestor means that it is highly probable that Paul’s Erastus from his letter to the Romans was, at the time Paul writes, the Quaestor of Corinth.

On top of these datable clues the epistles all assume the temple cult is still standing (1 Cor. 3:16-17) and Jerusalem still populated (Gal 1:18); that Judea is not in a war, so they fit right in with the 50’s.

As a matter of interest (even though I don’t generally trust Acts), Acts also has Paul preaching in the 50’s where he is accused before Gallio a proconsul of Achaia. The interesting thing is that an inscription was found in Corinth showing Gallio was proconsul between 51/52 CE.

         So this was not Jesus replacing the Temple idea in the aftermath of its destruction. So these metaphors Paul uses, is Pauls genius in reworking a failed crazed messianic claim (especially where god was supposed to intervene). Pauls asks a rhetorical question:

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? “ ( 1 Cor. 6:19)

This shows you why this Jesus movement survived where most other messianic movements collapsed. Dunn acknowledges that the traditional categories of temple, priesthood, holiness, and purity have been reworked by Paul. His suggested explanation is that the aforementioned cultic categories have been “replaced by the image of the body of Christ.” [23]

         So a different take on oral tradition. All the prophecies of these mad messianic figures were circulating. Jesus’s prophecy hit a chord when the Temple got destroyed.

       It’s the reason why Jesus is remembered and popularized in NT Literature and not the Egyptian or Theudas. Oral tradition was not about “Jesus only” traditions. Other messianic prophecies were circulating and stories of other messianic figures were circulating. That is why we have composite stories in the gospels. This is real life, people love prophecies and they get repeated much more than anecdotal stories do.

[1] Gray, Rebecca, Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Jewish Palestine, The Evidence from Josephus, (Oxford, 1993), p.3.

[2] Tabor, James, Messiahs in the time of Jesus, Taborblog:

See also Horsley, Richard, A., Popular Messianic Movements around the Time of Jesus, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 3 (1984), pp. 471-495

[3] Carrier, Richard, On the Historicity of Jesus, Why we have reason to doubt, (Sheffield, 2014), ch 4.

[4] Harnack, Adolf, Militia Christi, (Fortress Press 1981), p.51.

[5] Gieschen, Charles A., Angelomorphic Christology, Antecedents and Early Evidence, (Brill, 1963), p.64-5.

[6] Fredriksen, Paula, When Christians Were Jews, The first generation, (Yale University Press, 2018), p.177f.

[7] Lena Einhorne, A Shift in Time, How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth about Jesus, (Yucca, 2016)

[8] Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament, (Hendrickson, 1992), ch 6; Richard Carrier, Luke and Josephus (2000), online paper:

[9] Dave Allen, The Use of the Testimonium Flavianum by Anti-Christian Polemicists. R M Price, ed.,Journal of Higher Criticism 16/1 (Spring 2021), 42-105.

[10] Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician,(Barnes &Noble, 1978), p.20.

[11] Menahem Mor, The Second Jewish Revolt, The Bar Kokhba War, 132–136 CE, p.327

[12] ibid footnote 200

[13] ibid, p. 97.

[14] Daniel  T.  Unterbrink, The Three  Messiahs: The  Historical  Judas  the  Galilean,  The Revelatory  Christ  Jesus,  and  The Mythical  Jesus  of Nazareth, iUniverse,  Inc. New  York  Bloomington 2010.

[15] Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls, (Penguin, 1998), ch. 15

To quote:

“under Pontius Pilate and coinciding with our ‘Jesus’ episode in the Gospels – Josephus records another disturbance or uprising led by such a Messiah-like individual in Samaria. Looking suspiciously like the ‘Jesus’ episode in the Gospels, this Uprising was also brutally repressed by Pilate, including, it would appear, a number of crucifixions – only the locale was not the Mount of Olives but Mount “Gerizim, the Samaritan Holy Place.”

[16] Twelftree, Graham H., Jesus the miracle worker, InterVarsity press (1999), ch 9.

[17] Wright, N. T. and Bird, Michael F., The New Testament in Its World, An Introduction to the History, Literature and Theology of the First Christians, (Harper Collins, 2019), ch 11.

[18] Sweeney, James, Jesus, Paul, and the Temple: An exploration of some patterns of continuity, JETS 46/4 (December 2003), 609 ff

[19] Eisenman, Robert, Paul as Herodian, Journal of Higher Criticism, 3/1 Spring 1996, pp.110-122.

[20] Campbell, Douglas A. “An Anchor for Pauline Chronology: Paul’s Flight from ‘The Ethnarch of King Aretas’ (2 Corinthians 11:32-33).” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 121, no. 2, 2002, pp. 279–302.

[21] Carrier, Richard, blog entitled, How Do We Know the Apostle Paul Wrote His Epistles in the 50s A.D.?

[22] Goodrich, John K., Erastus, Quaestor of Corinth: The Administrative Rank of ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως (Rom 16.23) in an Achaean Colony, (Cambridge University Press: 2009)

[23] Dunn, James D, Theology of the Apostle, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), p.721 f and 533–64, esp. pp. 543–48 (sec. 20.3: Community without cult) as quoted by Sweeney, ibid.

Appendix of the Testimonian Flavianum reconstructed

This is an appendix belonging to my four part series on the historical Jesus, found here

Here is the textus receptus of Ant 18.3.3 as found in all Greek manuscripts of the Antiquities by Josephus:

And there is about this time Jesus,

Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον Ἰησοῦς, 

a wise man, if indeed it is necessary to say that he is a man;

σοφὸς ἀνήρ, εἴγε ἄνδρα αὐτὸν λέγειν χρή

for he was a doer of miraculous works,

ἦν γὰρ παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής, 

a teacher of men 

διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων 

who receive true things with pleasure,

τῶν ἡδονῇ τἀληθῆ δεχομένων, 

and many Jews, 

καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους,

and also many of the Greek element, he led to himself; 

πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ ἐπηγάγετο·

He was the Christ. 

ὁ Χριστὸς οὗτος ἦν·

And, when on the accusation of the first men among us 

καὶ αὐτὸν ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ᾿ ἡμῖν 

Pilate had condemned him to a cross, 

σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου

those who had first loved him did not cease; 

οὐκ ἐπαύσαντο οἱ τὸ πρῶτον ἀγαπήσαντες· 

For he appeared to them

ἐφάνη γὰρ αὐτοῖς 

on the third day

τρίτην ἔχων ἡμέραν 

Living again

πάλιν ζῶν,

the divine prophets having said both these things and myriads of other wonders 

τῶν θείων προφητῶν ταῦτά τε καὶ ἄλλα μυρία 

concerning him.

περὶ αὐτοῦ θαυμάσια εἰρηκότων

Still to this day the tribe of Christians, named from this man, has not been lacking.

εἰς ἔτι τε νῦν τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἀπὸ τοῦδε ὠνομασμένον οὐκ ἐπέλιπε τὸ φῦλον.

Here is the model textus restitutus of Ant 18.3.3:

(For a detailed analysis of how I reconstructed the textus restitutus see this link here)

And there is about this time a certain man,

 Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον ἀνήρ τις 

a sophist and agitator. 

ταραχτικός τε σοφιστής 

He was one who wrought surprising feats. 

ἦν γὰρ παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής 

A teacher of men 

διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων 

who revered him with pleasure. 

τῶν σεβομένων αὐτὸν ἡδονῇ 

Many of the Judaens, 

καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους, 

and also many of the Galilean element, he led to himself;

πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Γαλιλαίου ἐπηγάγετο 

he was believed to be a King: 

ἐνομίζετο βασιλεὺς εἶναι

[For he opposed paying the tax to Caesar.] 

[ἀντεῖπε γὰρ τὸ διδόναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι.]

And many souls were roused, thinking that thereby the tribe of Judaens could free themselves from the Romans. 

πολλαὶ δὲ ψυχαὶ συνεχύθησαν ὡς οὕτως τὸ τῶν Ἰουδαίων φῦλον ἐλευθερώσῃ ἑαυτό ἐκ τῶν Ῥωμαίων.

[He claimed the Temple would be destroyed and that not one stone would be standing on another and that it would be restored in three days.] 

[ὁ δ’ ἔφη ὅτι καταλυθῇ ὁ ναός τ’ οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ ὧδε λίθος ἐπὶ λίθον τ’ οἰκοδομήσῃ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις] 

And, when on the accusation of the first men among us 

καὶ αὐτὸν ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν 

Pilate condemned him to be crucified. 

σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου

Many of his followers, the Galileans and Judaens, were slain and thus checked for the moment. 

πολλοὶ τῶν αὐτὸν ἀγαπησάντων, τῶν Γαλιλαίων τε καὶ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἀπώλοντο. οὕτως δ’ αὐτίκα κατέσχοντο.

The (movement) again broke out with great abundance, when it was believed he appeared to them living again 

αὖθις ἐνεωτερίσθη εἰς ἀφθονίαν, πιστευσάντων ὅτι ἐφάνη αὐτοῖς πάλιν ζῶν

Those that followed him at first did not cease [worshipping]

οὐκ [ἂν] ἐπαύσαντο [σέβειν] οἱ τὸ πρῶτον ἀγαπήσαντες,

only Him, who is their leader in sedition.

εἰ μὴ καὶ τοῦτον, ὅσπερ ἐστὶν αὐτοῖ τῆς στάσεως ἀρχηγέτης

and this tribe has until now not disappeared.” 

εἰς νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦδε οὐκ ἐπέλιπε τὸ φῦλον τοῦτον

The Messiah Ossuary

An Ossuary discovered at Giv’at Hamivtar, Jerusalem in 1971 is believed to have “belonging to the house of David” on the unusual place, the rim of the ossuary. Amos Kilmer was the primary archaeological report in 1972 [1] “Of the house of David” in Hebrew would be של בית דוד but the inscription is missing a ‘ת’. The inscription, the text could mean “son of David” or “house of David”, the latter reading appears to be the most probable. The Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palestinae has accepted David Flusser [2] reading which translated דוד as David. (CIIP 1.1.45). So the actual inscription שלבידוד (sheleVE daVID) is now accepted in scholarship as “belonging to the house of David.”

Kokkinos has written:
“In a penetrating analysis of Ant. 17.43-45, prompted by the discovery of an important ossuary of an individual claiming to belong to ‘the House of David’, Flusser suggested that the ‘slave’-wife of Pheroras [Herod the greats brother] may have been [thought] of Davidic descent, and that the ‘Pharisees’ …. hoped that she would become the mother of the expected Messiah.” [*3]

Ant 17.43-45:
“ In order to requite which kindness of hers, since they were believed to have the foreknowledge of things to come by divine inspiration, they foretold how God had decreed that Herod’s government should cease, and his posterity should be deprived of it; but that the kingdom should come to her and Pheroras, and to their children. 44These predictions were not concealed from Salome, but were told the king; as also how they had perverted some persons about the palace itself; so the king slew such of the Pharisees as were principally accused, and Bagoas the eunuch, and one Carus, who exceeded all men of that time in comeliness, and one that was his catamite. He slew also all those of his own family who had consented to what the Pharisees foretold; 45and for Bagoas, he had been puffed up by them, as though he should be named the father and the benefactor of him who, by the prediction, was foretold to be their appointed king; for that this king would have all things in his power, and would enable Bagoas to marry, and to have children of his own body begotten.”

Herod the Great was threatened by a potential messiah figure and a prophecy of the end of his dynasty so he slaughtered everyone- gospel of Matthews slaughtering the innocents sounds like political commentary to me.
[*1] Kilmer, Amos, “A buried cave of the Second Temple Period at Giv’at Hamivtar, Jerusalem” (in Hebrew), Qadmoniot, 19-20 (1972), 108-9.

[*2] Flusser, David, “The house of David on an Ossuary” The Israel Museum Journal, 5 (Spring, 1986), 37-40.

[*3] Kokkinos, The Herodian Dynasty p.173

Critical response to Steve Mason commentary on the Slavonic Testimonian.

This is in response about a recent mythvision podcast about John the Baptist, (excellent commentary by Mason on the Baptist BTW) and Masons brief comment on the Slavonic.

First of all I will have to say that this is an excellent video and I ended up agreeing with all of it except the brief commentary on the Slavonic. Admittedly Mason did put in a qualifier that he was not an expert in the Slavonic. Basically he said that the Slavonic was of no use in Testimonian Flavianum studies. I will now outline the reasons why this is wrong.

   All scholars recognize that the Slavonic has been destroyed with Christian gloss as explained very well by Van Voorst:

“The Slavonic Josephus reflects the growing Christian tendency to excuse Pontius Pilate for Jesus’ death and to blame the Jews, even to the point of saying that the Jews themselves crucified Jesus. To make this point, the Slavonic version has to ignore Josephus’s original statement that Pilate crucified him….The Slavonic Testimonium uses the New Testament extensively at several points to develop its story.” [1].

But then Van Voorst goes on to say that the Slavonic does “not provide an authentic textual alternative to the main Testimonium Flavianum in the Jewish Antiquities.” [2]

        So after he said that Christians were trying to bolster up the TF he fails to explain why they dropped his name “Jesus” and title “Christ”. That is my point that Van Voorst does not explain (or notice) if the Slavonic came from the textus receptus found in the MSS of Antiquities. Of course it is easier to explain if the Slavonic came from a Greek exemplar that existed before Eusebius fiddled with it. It would explain it perfectly if it came from an exemplar before Eusebius added the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’.

A number of Greek words taken over literally by the Russian, (Eg: igemon, metropolja, archierei, skinopigja, katapetasma, aramatji), which just shows that the Slavonic is working off an early Greek exemplar.. [3].

I never agreed with Eisler that it came from an Aramaic original, that’s where Eisler got it wrong but it did come from a pre eusebian Greek exemplar!

The Slavonic is so bloated, it is laughable. The most telling part of Slavonic is the fact that it says so much about Jesus except his name. This suggests that this particular line of transmission has preserved the notion that Jesus was not named in the original TF.


[1] Van Voorst, Robert E., Jesus Outside the New Testament, An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, (Eerdmans, 2000), p.87-88.

[2] ibid, p.87

[3] Robert Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, ibid, (English Translation), p.130.

Footnotes for Christ, Christianity and Jewish Messianists

[1] Torrents, José Montserrat, Jesús, El Galileo Armado, (edaf 2011), ch 7.

[2] Berays, Jacob, “Uber die Chronik des Sulpicius Severus,” in Jahresbericht des jiidisch-theologischen Seminars “Fraenckelscher Stiftung” (Breslau, 1861).

[3] Dunn, James D, Beginning from Jerusalem (Christianity in the Making, vol. 2), (Eerdmans, 2008), p. 58, fn. 25.

[4] Feldman, Louis H., Studies in Hellenistic Judaism, (Brill, 1996), p.2

[5] Laupot, Eric , Tacitus’ Fragment 2: The Anti-Roman Movement of the “Christiani” and the Nazoreans,Volume:54 (2000), Vigiliae Christianae, p.233

[6] Laupot, ibid, p.234

[7] Laupot, ibid, p.234

[8] Laupot, ibid, p.234

[9] Dunn, James D. G., The Partings of the Ways, Between Christianity and Judaism and their significance for the character of Christianity, 2nd Ed. (SCM Press, 2006) p. xv.

[10] Prchlík, Ivan, Tacitus’ knowledge of the origins of Christianity, Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Philologica 2/ Graecolatina Pragensia, (2017), p.107.

[11] Carrier, Richard, On the Historicity of Jesus, ibid, p.303.

[12] Johnson, Edwin, Antiqua Mater: A Study of Christian Origins, (Trübner & Co., Ludgate Hill, 1887), ch1.

[13] Pervo, Richard I., Dating Acts: Between the Evangelists and the Apologists (Polebridge Press, 2006).

Pervo comes to the conclusion that Acts of the Apostles has a date range of 110-120 CE due to its use of Paul’s epistles, Pastorials and Josephus.

[14] Dunn, ibid, p. xvii.

[15] Dunn, ibid, p. xv, fn 23.

[16] Laupot, ibid, p.237.

[17] Johnson, ibid, p.5

[18]  Johnson, ibid, p.6-7.

[19] Bond, Helen, The First Biography of Jesus, Genre and Meaning in Mark’s Gospel, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2020) Introduction.

[20] Schmidt, T.E. 1995 ‘Mark 15:16–32: The Crucifixion Narrative and the Roman Triumphal Procession’, NTS 41, pp.1-18.

[21] Winn, Adam, Tyrant or Servant? Roman Political Ideology and Mark 10.42-45, Journal for the study of the New Testament 2014, Volume: 36 issue: 4, pp. 325-352.

[22] Goud, Thomas E., The Sources of Josephus “Antiquities” 19, 480 ff. [Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Vol.45, no.4 (1996), pp. 472-482].

[23] Van Voorst, Jesus outside the New Testament, An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000), p.50-1.

[24] Winter, Paul, On the Trial of Jesus, (De Gruyter, 2nd Ed., 1974), p.1.

[25] Carmichael, Joel, The Birth of Christianity: Reality and Myth, (Hippocrene Books, 1989), p.189.

[26] Bockmuehl, Markus, Simon Peter’s Names in Jewish Sources, journal of jewish studies, vol. lV, no. 1, spring 2004, p.65.

[27] Chilton, Bruce, “James in Relation to Peter, Paul, and Jesus,” in Bruce Chilton and Jacob Neusner, eds., The Brother of Jesus: James the Just and His Mission (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), pp.155–56.

[28] Kennard, J. S., “Was Capernaum the Home of Jesus?” Journal of Biblical Literature 65, no. 2 (June 1946): pp.131–41; and “Nazorean and Nazareth,” Journal of Biblical Literature 66, no. 1 (March 1947): pp.79–81, responding to W. F. Albright’s reply in “The Names Nazareth and Nazoraean,” Journal of Biblical Literature 65, no. 4 (December 1946): pp.397–401.

[29] Laupot, Eric , Tacitus’ Fragment 2: The Anti-Roman Movement of the “Christiani” and the Nazoreans,Volume:54 (2000), Vigiliae Christianae, p.233

[30] ‘netser’ meaning branch which conceptually meant descendants as in descendants of the Davidic line, a concept so important to Jewish messianism. This word transliterates to Ναζωραῖος and Ναζαρηνός I.e. nazorean. The branch was meant as the royal descendant of King David.

The transliteration of “tsadi” in English can be “ts” or “tz” or “z”, therefore sometimes you will see netzer or netser.

[31] Lawson, C. H., Reconstructing Jesus: What if the historical Jesus was the heir to the throne? A reconstruction based on the First Century Dead Sea Scrolls. (Hamilton, Ontario: Freedom Publishing, 2019) pp.15-16.

[32] Smith, William Benjamin, Meaning Epithet Nazorean (Nazarene), The Monist , January, 1905, Vol. 15, No. 1 (January, 1905), 27-6. Published by Oxford University Press.

[33] Price, R.M., Deconstructing Jesus ch2, footnote 25. Also notice Matthew alters Marks use of rabbi/teacher and the way Mark uses Lord to merely mean sir. Matthew alters this so only outsiders call Jesus Rabbi but insiders call him Lord. In Christianity Kyrios (Lord) is used here in relation to the resurrected Jesus. To Matthew Jesus is not just a Rabbi, no he is a Lord in the exalted sense, no longer just one of Jewish sect. Even the exception to this rule is telling where Judas calls him rabbi.

[34] Schonfield, Hugh J., The Passover Plot, (1st edition 1965), Special 40th Anniversary Edition: The Disinformation Company 2005, p.39.

[35] Turton, Michael A., Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark.

[36] Bart Ehrman blog: Did Luke originally have chapters1-2?

[37] Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, ibid, ch10 fn34.

[38] A full discussion of the etymology between Nazareth and Nazorean is discussed on this forum:

Basically one is with a ז and the other is with a צ.

The difference is one of the hardest thing for non-Hebrew speakers to figure out. 

‎נזר is like Nazerth and ‎נצר Is like the Nazarenes/Nazoreans..

[39] Smith, David Oliver, Unlocking the Puzzle, Wipf and Stock, Eugene, (2016) pp.33-4.

[40] Dark, Ken, Roman-Period and Byzantine Nazareth and its Hinterland (The Palestine Exploration Fund Annual), (Routledge 2020).

As cited by Elliot, Mark, The Archaeology of Nazareth in the Early First Century, here in this blog Mark Elliot gives an outline of the findings in Prof. Ken Darks book:

[41] Maccoby, The Mythmaker, Paul and the invention of Christianity, (Harper Collins: Barnes & Noble, 1986) p.120

[42] Price, R M, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition? (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000), pp. 51–54.

Back to Christ, Christianity and Jewish Messianists

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Christ, Christianity and Jewish Messianists.

Christianity started out as just one of many groups of Jewish messianists. The term itself ‘Christianity’ or christiani in Latin originally referred to groups of Jews who followed a leader whom they believed was one anointed with oil (Heb. Mashiach) by God.  The Israelites would select “one whose head had been smeared with oil” to deliver them from immediate crises. The Jews were downtrodden and oppressed and expected a warrior type figure to rise up and usher in a new Kingdom of god. This meant the existing power (that is the Romans) would be done away with and a new power, a diarchy of a Priest messiah and a King messiah would rise up to rule. It was the king messiah that would lead them out of trouble. Josephus reports many sporadic revolts against the localized maladministration of the Romans. Many messianic figures were reported in Josephus works, and many of the downtrodden Jews had believed these charismatic figures would lead them out of oppression from the Romans. 

       Because of the successes of the Maccabees over a century before Jesus, the “beliefs and imaginary of the Jewish population subjected to the Roman yoke were inspired by the exploits of the Maccabees, who freed the Jews from Greek domination.” [1]

Victory in battle does not depend on who has the largest army; it is the Lord’s power that determines the outcome. (1 Macc. 3:19).

       Let us now look at evidence from Tacitus. Tacitus’ Annals cut off around 66 CE before the Jewish Revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem. Tacitus’ Histories is likewise incomplete, ending in early 70 CE when it is believed to have recorded events through to 96 CE. 

     Back in 1861 Jacob Berays [2] noticed that Sulpicius Severus, a Christian writer born in the mid-fourth century used Tacitus as a source in his best known work, Chronicle or Sacred History, written in 403 CE. James D. G. Dunn suggests that the citation may come from the lost portion of Annals, noting that it “breaks off in book 16, when his account had reached the year 66, before the outbreak of the Jewish War”. [3].

I go with Louis Feldman myself where he says “most scholars have . . . adopted the suggestion of Bernays that Sulpicius’s source was none other than a lost portion of Tacitus’ Histories.” [4] The gap in Tacitus Histories is thought to be preserved in Sulpicius Severus Chronica 2.30.6-7. This piece that is preserved is known as: Tacitus’ Fragment 2. Laupot makes the case in his paper [5] that Sulpicius used Tacitus as a source:

“ [The] evidence takes the form of the discovery of a significant statistical relationship among the following three words: The metaphor (1) stirps (Latin for branch, descendants) used to describe the (2) Christiani (Latin for messianists) in fragment 2, and (3) Ναζωραῖος and Ναζαρηνός; (Nazorean), describing the New Testament sect associated with the Χριστιανούς (Christians) of Acts 11.26. The connecting link among, as well as the common source for, the three words listed above appears to be the Hebrew netzer (branch, descendants-apparently influenced by Isa 11.1), which both translates into stirps and transliterates into Ναζωραῖος/Ναζαρηνός;”

          Laupot mistakenly thinks that the ‘Christiani’ in frag. 2 were a particular group that revolted against Rome in the first Jewish revolt of 66-73 CE. [6] I will show that this was a generic term for Jewish messianists.

Sulpicius, Chronicle2.30.6-7:

(2.30.6) It is reported that Titus first deliberated, by summoning a council of war, as to whether to destroy a Temple of such workmanship. For it seemed proper to some that a consecrated Temple, distinguished above all that is human, should not be destroyed, as it would serve as a witness to Roman moderation; whereas its destruction would represent a perpetual brand of cruelty. 

(2.30.7) But others, on the contrary, disagreed-including Titus himself. They argued that the destruction of the Temple was a number one priority in order to destroy completely the religion [per Severus. Tacitus or another classical author would have used the word superstitio (alien religious belief). Compare Hist. 5.8 and Ann. 15.44 (exitiabilis superstitio)] of the Jews and the Christiani: For although these religions [i.e., superstitiones] are conflicting, they never the less developed from the same origins. The Christiani arose from the Jews: With the root removed, the branch [stirps] is easily killed’. [7].

Josephus gives a parallel to this account in War 6.236-243, but this is a biased account in favor of Titus. Severus has probably preserved Tacitus’ less biased account.

       Laupot doesn’t think the Christiani in Tacitus are the same Christians as “Pauls Christians” (Laupots expression). [8] But they could be! All Christiani meant is Jewish messianists! As James Dunn states when discussing the term used in Acts 11:26:

“Christianoi is a Latinism (Christiani), on the model of Herodianoi (Herodians), or Kaisarianoi (Caesareans) – that is, supporters of or members of the faction which regarded the one named as their leader. This suggests that the title was coined by Roman authorities in Antioch who recognized the growing body of followers of the one known as ‘Christ’ as a significant faction within the melting-pot of Jews and Jewish adherents in Antioch.” [9]

No Christian can accept rebellious beginnings and as such many lacunae exist (such as the Caligula/Claudius gap in the Annals). Ivan Prchlík [10] has made the interesting observation on the missing years of 29–31 in Tacitus Annals, the loss in “book V would also become well explicable when some monk angry about the way Tacitus had spoken of Jesus in it would have damaged it.” If Jesus was mentioned as a rebel here, this would explain the destruction and non preservation of this section better than as Carrier has said, that Jesus was not mentioned at all. This would not be enough of a reason to tear out these pages. Carrier is right about the deliberate cutting though, “That the cut is so precise and covers precisely those two years is too improbable to posit as a chance coincidence.” [11] Edwin Johnson has said in his book Antiqua Mater that the Romans used the term Christiani as a name for Jewish Messianists. [12]. He brilliantly explains that Roman commentators of the time simply named any messianic Jews as Christiani. (A movement that followed a messiah figure, this figure was usually a militaristic figure). The passage above also explains why the sectarian group at Qumran were destroyed after the Roman Jewish war, all Messianists who were so troublesome during the war were destroyed by the Romans. It is worth repeating the last line of the quote above in light of this:

“The Christiani arose from the Jews: With the root removed, the branch [stirps] is easily killed’.”

(Sulpicius, Chronicle 2.30.7).

Here Christiani simply meant all the rebellious Jewish messianists that caused so much trouble in the Roman war. The nazorean movement that Jesus joined only started to adopt the name Christiani for themselves in the second century as attested by their 2nd century document- The Acts of the Apostles [13]. The use of the term Christians is used anachronistically in Acts 11:26, but was more likely only adopted by this Nazorean group at the time of composition. “Christianity first appears in our sources once again in the early second century, that is, in the Apostolic Fathers (Ignatius, Magn. 10.1-3; Rom. 3.3; Phil. 6.1; Mart. Pol. 10.1).” [14] James Dunn went on to say that in Antioch that many Greeks and God-fearers or ‘judaizers’ were during this period attracted to Jewish ways and mixed themselves with the Jewish com­munity. Josephus shows that this was typical of many places. (War 2.462-3; 7.45). [15] This is where Laupot has gone wrong thinking Tacitus was commenting on an actual sect instead of just all Jewish Messianists in general. This in turn also suggests that the Jesus messianic group had rebellious beginnings.        

       Laupot is right in seeing how these Roman commentators described these messianic Jews.

It should be noted that “Tacitus’ description in Annals 15.44 of the “Christiani’s” superstitio as dangerous (exitiabilis), sinister (atrocia), an evil (malum), etc. and Suetonius’ portrayal of the “Christiani” in Nero 16.2 as following a “new and dangerous [malfica] superstitio.”[16] Pliny the Younger (who was on about the actual Jesus sect) accuses them of being  “infected by this contagious superstition.” (Pliny the Younger, Book 10, Letter 96). 

       This of course makes sense of Seutonius’ so called mention of Jews in Life of Claudius 25.5 about a Chrestos that got thrown out of Rome during the reign of Claudius. He did not mean the Jesus movement as some apologist scholars equate this Chrestos (a common slave name) with Christ but Jewish Messianism in general. Jesus would hardly be living in Rome in 49 CE! Jewish messianism and religio-political revolt go hand in hand. There were other expulsions of Jews such as reported in 139 BCE. Also in 19 CE reported in Seutonius, Tiberius 36: 

 “He abolished foreign cults in Rome, particularly the Egyptian and Jewish, forcing all citizens who had embraced these superstitions to burn their religious vestments and other accessories.” 

This makes more sense as the Jesus movements were hardly in Rome during the reign of Claudius. (Cf Acts 18:2, where Paul is said to have met two of these expelled messianic Jews. Acts associating with these religious-political rebellious types just shows the common traits between early Christianity and rebellious Jewish Messianists).

As Edwin Johnson [17] comments, Tacitus “could have known nothing of the distinction between believers in a Messiah and believers in the Messiah, Jesus. In writing of the event of the year 70, he enables us to understand how the Messianic expectation shaped itself to the thought of a Roman.” And…

“Our explanation then of the passage in Tacitus is that the term Christiani had for him a value altogether different from that which it has long borne for us and the history of the world since the great Messianic illusions faded away…. [Messianists] who were inflamed with those ardent and passionately confident hopes of the downfall of the Roman Empire and of the establishment of a kingdom of Hagioi and the elect which are reflected in the Book of Enoch and the Apocalypse.[18]

       This of course shows that Roman commentators did not mean what we think they meant when they used the term ‘christiani’. They did not mean Christianity but Jewish messianism. And the type they meant was the troublesome type, the type that gave them so much trouble during the Roman Jewish war. Later the Christian movement adopted this term in the 2nd century but were originally known as the Nazoreans.

Tacitus omits the name Jesus, so if he was using my reconstructed TF, this would be consistent as Josephus (we know through textual criticism) did not seem to know Jesus’ name either.

Helen Bond in her latest book “The first biography of Jesus” says that the gospel of Mark:

“accounts for the air of persecution that hangs so heavily over this work, [Mark 4:17; 8:34; 10:37–40; and 13:9–13], persecution that broke out brutally and unexpectedly under Nero in 65 CE, and might well have continued to threaten the community of Christ followers after the war.” 

 A knowledge of the Flavian triumph, celebrated in Rome in 71, might also explain the “anti-triumph” motif that several scholars have detected in Mark’s account of the crucifixion.” [19].

There is an apparent allusion to Nero in Revelation via gematria that adds weight to Neronian persecution and its relevance to the Jesus Christians. (Revelation 13:18). Schmit recognises a “particular segment of the crucifixion narrative (Mark 15.16-32) evoking a Roman triumphal procession, and that Mark designs this ‘anti-triumph’ to suggest that the seeming scandal of the cross is actually an exaltation of Christ.” [20]. Winn using Schmidt’s paper lists these parallels:

  1. the Markan reference to the ‘Praetorian’ that parallels the presence of the Praetorian Guard at a Roman triumph (15.16);
  1. the Markan reference to the presence of an ‘entire cohort’ at Jesus’ trial that parallels the presence of such a unit at a Roman triumph (15.16);
  1. Jesus being adorned with a purple robe, a garment also worn by the Roman triumphator (15.17);
  1. Jesus adorned with a crown of thorns, paralleling the triumphator who wore a laurel crown (15.17);
  1. Jesus receives mock honor from Roman soldiers, paralleling the honor given to the triumphator (15.18-19);
  1. Jesus’ triumph culminates at Golgotha, ‘the place of the skull’, and a Roman triumph culminates at the Capital, named for a skull that was found when the buildings’ foundation was laid (Mk 15.22; Livy 1.55);
  1. Jesus is offered and refuses wine to drink, paralleling the offer of wine to the triumphator who refuses the offer (15:23);
  1. immediately after the offer of wine Jesus is crucified, whereas a bull is sacrificed directly after the triumphator refuses wine (15:24);
  1. Jesus is crucified between two thieves while the triumphator was usually seated between two people (15:27);
  1. after his death Jesus is hailed ‘Son of God’ by a Roman centurion, a common claim for a triumphant Roman emperor (15:39). [21]

       The mockery of Jesus as a Jewish king finds an approximate parallel in Philo Flaccus 6.36-39; On the occasion of King Agrippa I’s visit to Alexandria the people seized a lunatic named Carabbas. As Agrippa was not popular the local populace staged a mock coronation on poor Carabbas. The evangelist interest in portraying Jesus as Caesar’s rival has made him correspond this periscope more closely with Agrippa I story found in Flaccus 6.36-39. The Carabbas incident shows the mocking these messianic rebels would have got at their execution. No doubt Mark used this incident to write his gospel.

[(Cf Isaiah 50:6-7; 4 Macc. 6:1-30, for treatment of Eleazer; 1 Macc. 10:20,62 for the purple robe reference.)

Also cf Josephus War.6.301-309 for similarities with Jesus Ben Ananias.]


Some of the less well known figures that failed to get a mention in Josephus first book War, made it into his later book Antiquities. These figures were not major players in the lead up to the Roman Jewish War 66-70 CE. By the time Josephus was writing Antiquities these same figures that were not thought of off hand were now included. Josephus had by then, full access to the imperial and senatorial records. Josephus was very good friends with Titus and made full use of the imperial secretary Epaphroditus. He dedicated his book Antiquities to Epaphroditus. The level of detail that Josephus knew of Caligulas assassination, the plot and its aftermath meant that Josephus main source was a Roman source. As Goud says a senatorial and a pro Claudian source, together with a third Jewish Herodian source was used. [22] This is an advantage that Josephus had over even other imminent Roman historians such as Tacitus who claimed he did not have access to imperial records. (Histories  4.40). Van Voorst argued that Tacitus did not get his information from Christians as can be seen for his contempt for Christians. He also did not use Jesus’s name. Tacitus using the textus restitutus (reconstructed above) would easily explain this. Van Voorst has suggested that Tacitus could have got his information about Christians and Nero’s fire from the Acta Senatus (archives of the Senate). [23]

       One such figure, the ‘Samaritan’ who only got a mention in Josephus second book Antiquities, would have used such records as Acta Pilati as a source. Another similar figure where Josephus would not have thought of while composing War was a certain man, may have been referred to as ‘the Galilean’ in the Roman or Herodian records, (cf Ant 18.3.3), and here too Josephus would have had to go to the Acta Pilati for his information.

By the time the church fathers were writing they acknowledged the Acti Pilati, but made up completely what was in them. They would not have had access to these and just made incredible claims that Pilate was reporting the divinity of Jesus and that he had resurrected (Martyr 1 Apology 35; Tertullian Apology 5,21). As Paul Winters said, “In second century literature there are sporadic allusions to minutes, acta, supposed to have been taken at Jesus’ trial on Pilate’s order. Such references are of an apologetic nature …… The writers making such allusions made them without having access to any official archives” [24] The anti Christian polemics also reworked the real Acta Pilati, making Eusebius comment that these Acta Pilati reported by the anti-Christian pagans were forged for their propaganda. (EH 9.5.1; 9.7.1). These anti-Christian pagans would have worked from the original Acti-Pilati to create their particular polemics during the reign of Emperor Maximins. What we have now is a Christian Acts of Pilate, now known as the Gospel of Nicodemus. This is a pious forgery to counteract the reworked Emperor Maximins Acta Pilati (but now destroyed). Emperor Maximin Acta Pilati had reworked the original Acta Pilati. Emperor Maximin Acta Pilati were seen as the polemic Acts of Pilate, so the stories of the gospels were transposed onto a new Christian Acts of Pilate so that it was thoroughly reworked. Even though thoroughly reworked there is still evidence of the previous Acts of Pilate released by Emperor Maximin that is contained in the gospel of Nicodemus. Passages such as where Pilate informs the Jews that Jesus heals by the god Asclepius: 

“Pilate saith unto them: By what evil deeds? They say unto him: He is a sorcerer, and by Beelzebub the prince of the devils he casteth out devils, and they are all subject unto him. Pilate saith unto them: This is not to cast out devils by an unclean spirit, but by the god Asclepius.” (Acts of Pilate, ch. 1, First Greek form).

 It shows even the Christianizing of the Acts of Pilate still left in some of the pagan bits, thus it looks like the Maximins Acts of Pilate rewritten. The original Acta Pilati is completely lost. We saw the same thing happen in regard to the TF, the Emmaus narrative in Luke was used in reworking an original negative TF.

         So to sum up, for Josephus to include the minor figures in his later book, Antiquities, would have had to consult the Roman records, (being the Flavian footstool he would have had full access to these). For such minor figures as the ‘Samaritan’ or ‘the Galilean’ (i.e. Jesus), he would have had to consult the Acta Pilati (no longer existing). The early Church fathers acknowledged the Acta Pilati but made up what was inside them. Meanwhile the anti Christian polemics made use of their version of Acta Pilati to which Eusebius complained and protested. It was from the time of Eusebius that Christians had full power of the books and must have destroyed these damaging Acts of Pilate. A new Counterforgery Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Nicodemus) was composed as a counter narrative. It is suspected they simply reworked the pagan Acts of Pilate. In turn the pagan Acts of Pilate would have reworked the original Acts of Pilate. It was the original Acti Pilati that Josephus would have made use of in composing his history for Antiquities. This would argue for an independent source for Christianity. This puts Jesus’ historicity on the same level as all those other messianic figures found in Josephus works.

        I think it’s very plausible there was an original TF that described Jesus as a seditious leader as attested in the anti Christian polemic. This is what Eusebius was covering up. This is the reason for the interpolation.

       Paul attests the crucifixion, granted he doesn’t attest under Pilate. As Whealey has shown the Josephus’ passage as having existed, (not created ex nihilo) even if we can’t use the reconstruction as evidence, we can use the fact that it existed as a negative original. Even without reconstruction it is in the middle of the Pilate passages and therefore it can be used for crucifixion under Pilate. I believe Josephus got his information from other than Christians, just like he probably got his information from other than Samaritans about the ‘samaritan’. Josephus was very good friends with Titus and had the full use of the imperial secretary- Epaphroditus. Christians, Samaritans, Sicarii, or any other such messianic group were well below Josephus’ feet, his consultations would have been the records.

        These anti Christian polemics of Jesus being a seditious leader can even be seen in the gospel of Luke. As we see in Luke 23, Jesus was considered dangerous enough to raise a sedition:

“…the Sanhedrin says to Pilate “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be, a king Messiah.” So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. (Luke 23:2-3)

Elsewhere Pilate said, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion.”

(Luke 23:14).

As was common for many messianic leaders, to raise a crowd was a dangerous occupation and usually would end up getting you executed, this is all reflected in the gospel of John:

“Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

(John 11:47-50).

       I see the Jesus movement as reactionary as he lived in bad times. I am not placing any judgment value on the term seditious leader, Jesus lived during very bad times. If you study the position of the Testamonian Flavianum, and read the paragraph before the TF, (i.e.Ant 18.3.2), a load of unarmed Jews were slaughtered by Pilates men. In modern times U2 sang a song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” about the killing of a load of unarmed Irish protesters, which started a 30 year guerrilla war. I see the Jesus movement as the same type of reactionary resistance movement, where Jesus got crucified for sedition (king of the Jews).

The reconstructed TF suggests Jesus led a movement of two groups, the Judaens and the Galileans into revolt (reflected in Marks impossible event of the Temple cleansing but works as a literary construction) causing his execution by crucifixion.

There are many hints in the gospels that some of Jesus’ followers were zealot resistance types. As Carmichael [25] said,  “The echo of the Zealots, for instance is arresting. One Simon the “Kananean” (in the list of the twelve appointed by Jesus) is mentioned (Mark 3;18). The two sons of Zavdai (John and Jacob) are called “sons of rage,” echoing the violence associated with the Kingdom of God activits. Also, Simon the Rock is called “Baryon,” as though it meant “Bar Yonah,” or son of Yonah, but “Baryon” meant “rebel, outlaw,” a political or social outcast living “on the outside,” away from the settled areas controlled by the state.”

I’ll unpack all those points raised above.


Mark3:18 (Cf Matthew10:4) has Simon Kananean as one of the disciples. The Hebrew word ‘cana’ means zealot and thus modern translations now translate it as Simon the Zealot. 

Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13 had him as Simon the zealot all along.


James and John, the sons of Zebedee were known as ‘Boanerges’ which is a transliteraton of Aramaic “benai regesh” which means “sons of anger”, not “sons of thunder” as Mark misrepresents it. This name was a reflection of their violence seen in Luke 9:53-56.


Markus Bockmuehl [26] asks in his paper was Simon Peter a ‘Son of Yonah’ or a ‘Terrorist’?

The Greek for Simons name is clumsy in Matthew 16:17

ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ Μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι ἀλλ’ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς·

-“Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ”(Simon Bariona):

Shimon (Simon) is Hebrew, bar is Aramaic for son, and Jonas or Jona is a Greek form of the Hebrew name Yonah. However in the Greek text, the name reads as bariona (Βαριωνᾶ). We know this word had a connotation for outlaws from the Talmud, b. Gittin 56a, Bariona – this word has no resonance in Greek, it has a precise meaning in Aramaic – fugitive or outlaw. In the Talmud bariona and it’s plural – biryonim – are used to describe the zealots who fought against Rome. Even if we take the clumsy Greek rendering, there is a known comparable reference to zealot types that has a parallel in one of the Dead sea scrolls (4Q541) where a messianic figure is called “hayonah”, “the dove”.  S(h)imon barjonah could be read as S(h)imon son of the dove.

      So to sum up some of the points of this paper, we see the anti-Christian polemics having an independent source to the gospels and the main source I suspect was the original TF. Josephus I suspect got his information from imperial records as he was well in with Titus. The original TF was the corroborating evidence for Jesus before it was overwritten. This puts Jesus on the same level of historicity as all those other messianic figures found in Josephus works.


The most convincing aspect of Jesus’ historicity is that he belonged to a messianic group of Nazoreans. The gospel of Matthew redefined the meaning of Nazorean to say it was a person who came from Nazareth, this may work in English or Greek but in Aramaic/Hebrew the two words have nothing to do with each other, (The name Nazareth is not in any way related to the title “Nazorean” discussed below). Chilton noticed in the gospels their handling of the term nazorean: “But more is going on here. Jesus is rarely called “of Nazareth” or “from Nazareth” . . . He is usually called “Nazoraean” or “Nazarene.” Why the adjective, and why the uncertainty in spelling? The Septuagint shows us that there were many different transliterations of “Nazirite”: that reflects uncertainty as to how to convey the term in Greek . . . Some of the variants are in fact very close to what we find used to describe Jesus in the Gospels. . . .”[27]

There are two possible origins for the word nazorean, either explanation would denote a sect as opposed to a geographical location as the origin. 

          First explanation was given by J. S. Kennard who sees Nazirites as a title for the separated coming from Numbers 6. [28]. It comes from the noun נזיר (nazir) or from the verb נזר (nazar), to separate or consecrate, (or to dedicate oneself). The Hebrew base for Nazirite is NZR. With the term Nazarite, the Greek letter zeta is rendering the Hebrew letter zayin.  So this gives the Hebrew base as NZR, as opposed to NZTR discussed next.

       The second possible origin of the word nazorean comes from the Hebrew base NTZR, from which comes two Hebrew words that are identical (except for their vowels). The first word is netzer נֵצֶר as given by Laupot [29] who sees the name derived from Isaiah 11:1 which connects the Hebrew word ‘netzer’ (branch) NTZR [30] to the Greek transliterated word Ναζωραῖος and Ναζαρηνός (nazorean). This word ‘netzer’ comes from the exact same Hebrew base for ‘keepers’ as discussed next. (Hebrew did not have vowels so words can only be interpreted from their context). Branch was used as a term for the royal descendant of King David, so important to all Jewish messianist groups. All messianist Jewish groups claimed descent from the house of David. Isaiah 11:1 used netzer to refer to a Meshiach (Messiah).

       Another meaning from NTZR was “Keepers /Guardians of the covenant” from the collective plural Hebrew word “nazorim”.  They were also followers of the messianic heir who was called the Branch (“netzer”).  These followers called themselves “netzerim”. 

       The phrase “keepers of the covenant” or “guardians of the covenant” (“natsorim ha brit”) appears repeatedly as a sectarian name in the DSS. In Aramaic the collective plural word for “keepers” (as in jail-“keeper”, or “guardian”) is “natsorim” “natzorim” “nazorim” (all variant transliterations of nun, tsadi, resh, mem) [compare Hebrew “shomrei”, a root word for Samaritans]. The Acts of the Apostles admits that this was a sectarian name [“NazOraios” with an omega (Ω) in Greek showing it was derived from Aramaic “NazOrim” and not from the place name NazAreth].[31].

        In the Talmud, Jesus is known as Yeshu ha notsri as seen in the manuscripts, (Avodah passages) also a derivation from branch.

       William Smith says Nazorean occurs “without any suggestion of tendency, especially in Acts, and more than all, it is used in the plural as the name of the new religionists (Acts 24:5) : Tertullus describes Paul as a ringleader of the heresy of “the Nazoreans.” It seems impossible that this name should have become their vulgar designation, unless it had been a very early and important designation……In Mark the epithet is so distinctive that it is put into the mouth of the maid as the name of the arrested one: “Thou also wast with the Nazarene (Jesus)” (Mark14:67). All this indicates that this epithet was from the start highly distinctive and familiar, a name in itself, which would be passing strange, if it was indeed derived from a most obscure village otherwise unknown.” [32] Of course the gospel of Mark suggests Capernaum as Jesus’ hometown. Capernaum was really the hometown of Jesus in the gospel of Mark:

-Mark 2:1 When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.

-Mark 2:15 : While he was at table in his house

-Mark 3:20: He came home …

       Dr R M Price has seen why Jesus’ epitaph was changed –  “Christians could no longer imagine their Lord had himself been simply a “believer” [ie a Nazorean] like themselves, so they inferred that his famous epithet that had denoted he had hailed from Nazareth” [33].

     Schonfield saw the main reason for this change: “The name he bears, Jesus the Nazorean, has northern sectarian implications….” [34]. If you wanted to cover up the implication of the name for a sectarian group of Nazoreans, a convenient way would be to say the name derived from being from Nazareth. Both Luke and Matthew copying an earlier MSS of Mark 1:9 do not have Mark’s one mention of Nazareth. As Turton [35] says Mark 1:9’s reference to Nazareth “does not appear in the parallel passages in Matthew or Luke. In Luke Jesus goes to the baptism from Galilee, but there is no Nazareth. Luke’s evidence is even more compelling, given according to Ehrman [36] that the birth narratives, chapter 1 and 2 are later additions to Luke, therefore Luke had not already introduced Jesus as being from Nazareth. Turton goes on to say, “ this is the only use of the word “Nazareth” in Mark; all other usages are a Greek word, nazarhnos, generally translated as “Nazarene.” “Nazarene” can mean either a sectarian designation, or “of (the location of) Nazara,” but it cannot mean “of Nazareth.”

As Carrier noted “there is no good reason Jesus was called a nazorean (Mt. 26:71; Lk18:37; Jn.18:5-7 and 19:19) and his followers nazoreans other than that this term originally was unconnected with Nazareth and originally was a sect. Nazoraios has no grammatical connection to nazar, Nazaret or Nazareth. Nazor- and nazar- are completely different routes. Matthew knows no other spelling than Nazoraios (Nazorean) and he was using Mark as a source.” [37].The name Nazareth is not in any way related to the title “Nazorean” because sectarian names did not denote a location.  

      Nazoraios has no grammatical connection to nazir, (root of Nazirite). “Natzor” and “nazir” are completely different roots.  The “z”s are the major difference in the root. The “z” in Nazareth is the letter tsadi in Hebrew.  The “z” in “Nazirite” is the letter zayin in Hebrew. Nazareth: נָצְרַת (with tsadi) and Nazarite: נזיר (with zayin) are not related. The words are not at all related in any way. [38] A person from Nazareth would be a Nazarethenos or Nazarethaios from the Greek and if it were in Hebrew then Nazareth would be Nazrat and a person from Nazareth is then a Nazrati, but never a Nazarene or Nazorean. Further, there were movements to separate Jesus towards sophisticated Greek culture and away from Judaism, and in particular to distance him from extreme fundamentalist Judaism, (especially a messianist group such as the Nazoreans. At the time of composing the gospels after the Roman Jewish war, all messianists were looked on with suspicion).

       David Oliver Smith [39] sees that Nazareth breaks the chiastic structures that the gospel of Mark was so fond of. It is possible that Mark’s Original Gospel at 1:9 had “Nazarene,” and “Nazaret” is a later redaction. There are a several reasons that the use of “Nazaret” in this verse is suspicious:

1. Mark identified Jesus as “Nazarēnou” four times (there are different endings for the different cases) and 1:9 is the only time “Nazaret,” is used. While absolute consistency is not required, it is curious that 1:9 is different from the other four times.

2. Matthew eliminated Mark’s “Nazarene” in all of Matthew’s passages that are parallel to Mark’s use of “Nazarene.” At Matt 3:13 when Jesus is coming to be baptized he describes Jesus as “the Jesus from the Galilee” eliminating the “Nazarene” or “of Nazareth,” whichever was there originally in Mark. At Matt 2:23 Matthew says that Jesus and family move from Egypt to Nazareth, and he adds that this fulfills the prophecy that he would be called a “Nazōraios” (Nazorean).

3. Mark usually used an article before “Jesus” as he did at 1:14 “came the Jesus into the Galilee,” as did Matthew at Matt 3:13, just quoted. However, an article is not found before “Jesus” at 1:9 in Canonical Mark. This may be evidence of a later redaction.

4. If “of Nazareth” found at 1:9 was originally “Nazarene,” there would be an exact match of three words in the (K, K’) stich of the chiastic structure in which Chapter 1 of Mark is paired with the passion from 14:33-16:8. This, of course, is a self-fulfilling prophesy, but given the previous ten matches and the following four matches, it could well be that Mark intended an exact word match with this stich. Perhaps in the original Gospel both 1:9 and 16:6 identified Jesus as a “Nazarene/Nazorean’.

       Matthew tries to cover up Jesus’ association with some pre-Christian insurrectionist ‘sect of Nazoreans’ but has retained the use of the term in his gospel (luckily for us). He can do this as he has redefined the term to mean it as somebody coming from Nazareth—— therefore he didn’t have to stop using the term nazoraios. The term must have been too well known, not to use.

He does it in this verse here: Matthew 2:22-23

“Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazorean.” 

This reason is not found anywhere in the Tanakh that through the prophets, he shall be called Nazorean. As we have seen Matthew in downplaying Jewish messianism and downplaying the bad connotation of the term nazorean. He does this by redefining the origin of the term to that of a person coming from Nazareth.

       Even if Jesus was born in Nazareth, the fakery of the gospels trying to get Jesus from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy and have him born there, is an argument in favour of Jesus being born in Nazareth. (I do not argue for a dichotomy, just because Nazorean has nothing to do with being from Nazareth, does not mean that Jesus was not born in Nazareth. If he was born in Nazareth, the gospel of Matthew used this fact to cover up the real meaning of being a nazorean). This is clever as nazorean had northern sectarian messianic connotations. This is part of the sanitizing process we see in relation to Jesus, furthering him away from opprobrious roots. The gospels being written post Roman Jewish war, meant Jesus could not be associated with Jewish messianist to ensure the survival of this movement. 

       The latest archaeology by Prof.Dark on Nazareth shows the rebellious times of Jesus. Discovered were special silos with features that were cut into by narrow burrow-like tunnels characteristic of hiding places from the period of the Jewish Revolts. In the “artificial underground spaces” the  “earliest features were rock-cut pits for the storage of crops (silos), cisterns for water storage, and installations for the production of wine and olive oil.” [40] Some of these underground food storage units were used as hiding places for people during the troublesome times Jesus was born into.

       “This leads to the further puzzling question: if Jesus, as the Gospels say, chose Peter as the leader of the Church, why were the Nazarenes, after Jesus’ death, led not by Peter, but by James . . . a person who is not even mentioned in the Gospels as a follower of Jesus in his lifetime? This is the kind of contradiction that, if logically, considered, can lead us to the true picture of the history of Jesus’ movement in Jerusalem, as opposed to the picture which the later Church wished to propagate.” [41]. All this shows one of many cover ups, such as the importance of Jesus’ brother in leading the movement after Jesus’ death.

[As an interesting side note: The translations of “Nasorean/Nazorean” (natsorim ha brit keepers) are the same as the translations for Samaritans/Shomrim.  Samaritan in Hebrew: ࠔࠠࠌࠝࠓࠩࠉࠌ, that’s a transliteration Shamerim ( שַמֶרִים‎, ‘Guardians/Keepers/Watchers (of the Torah)’. We have another interesting similar sect operating around Samaria and not Judah, that of the Mandaeans the descendants of John the Baptist group. It shows this group was similar to the Nazorean group led by Jesus. This all plays in well with the propaganda of the Good Samaritan in Lukes gospel.]

It’s worth ending this paper with a quote from Dr R M Price:

“Despite the rendering of many English Bible translations, Jesus is very seldom called “Jesus from Nazareth” in the Gospels. Mark calls him “Jesus the Nazarene,” as does Luke twice (Mark 1:24, 10:47, 14:67, 16:6; Luke 4:34, 24:9), while Matthew, John, and Acts always call him “Jesus the Nazorean” (Matt. 26:71; John 18:7, 19:19; Acts 2:22, 3:6, 4:10, 6:14, 22:8, 26:9), with Luke using this epithet once (Luke 18:37, the Bar-Timaeus episode, where he has replaced Mark’s “Nazarene” with it)……the difference between “Nazarene” and “Nazorean” does give us reason to suspect that the familiar epithet does not after all denote Jesus’ hailing from a village called Nazareth. “The Nazarene” would imply that, but not “the Nazorean.” That seems to be a sect name, equivalent to “the Essene” or “the Hasid.” Epiphanius, an early Christian cataloguer of “heresies,” mentions a pre-Christian sect called “the Nazoreans,” their name meaning “the Keepers” of the Torah, or possibly of the secrets (see Mark 4:11, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but to those outside all is by way of parable”). ….”Nazorean” occurs once unambiguously in the New Testament itself as a sect designation, in Acts 24:5: “a ring leader of the sect of the Nazoreans.” ….. It should be clear that such a scenario, while quite natural historically, is offensive to the Christological beliefs of some, since it presupposes Jesus was a disciple, that he needed to learn religion. How could that be if he were the incarnate Son of God? Harold Bloom (The Anxiety of Influence [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997]) describes “the anxiety of influence’ as the reluctance to acknowledge the degree to which one’s “distinctives” are owed to one’s predecessors..” [42]


The fascinating observations of this paper is the model of what Josephus would have honestly wrote about Jesus before it was tampered with. The Jesus passage is right in the middle of the rebel passages, arguing against ex nihilo interpolation, it was not a good place to interpolate the passage. It also does not agree with the chronology of the gospels as John the Baptist is mentioned later in Josephus. The paper shows the transmission abuses by the all controlling Christians (from the time of Eusebius), it shows why the passage was changed as the original passage gave too much fuel to the anti Christian polemics. Jesus being a rebel of advocating tax resistance would have to be erased from the record. The most tantalising aspect of the TF is Jesus leading two groups – the Judaens and Galileans into some sort of Temple revolt later glorified by a literary construct contained in Marks gospel known as the Temple cleansing scene. This paper invites further study on Jesus comparative figures, such as the messianic rebels found in Josephus works. Finally it brings the historical Jesus back down to the reality and context of his own time. A man born in troubled times when the residents of Sepphoris were wiped out, he died in troubled times when he was crucified for sedition. The gospel of Matthew has Jesus born around the time when Publius Quinctilius Varus who brought three legions into Israel, after sacking Sepphoris, he went onto Jerusalem and crucified 2000 Jews. (War. II, §75; Ant. XVII, §295). The reason Jesus was crucified has been wiped from Josephus, but all the indications are for a rebellion. Jesus was a “King Messiah” a title claimed by most messianic rebels, his followers were messianists, referred to by Roman observers as ‘Christiani’ (followers of a messiah figure). This derogatory term used by the Romans for troublesome messianic Jews (who caused them so much trouble in the Roman Jewish war) was eventually adopted by the Jesus movements (the Nazoreans/Galileans) as seen from their second century document -Acts of the Apostles.

Footnotes link:

Footnotes for Christ, Christianity and Jewish Messianists

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