Rebellion in the epistles!

PART 4 of my Historical Jesus series

Paul’s epistles are seriously neglected in the rebellion paradigm. Eisler traced rebellion in Josephus, [1] which is great because as Robert Miller said, the background of the gospels is that of Josephus. [2] 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. [3] I have also blogged about hints of rebellion all over the patristics, especially the church fathers countering accusations from anti Christian polemicists. (See part 3).

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 is two stages removed from Jesus, (stage one, original Aramaic, stage two Hellenistic diaspora), his missionaries were with people who did not need to fight for their land, so that obviously would change things.


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).

“If Christian tradition handed down in the fourth century by Eusebius can be trusted, the Roman search for Jewish revolutionaries from the time of Vespasian until Trajan affected also the family of Jesus, suspected of propagating hopes for the return of the Messiah…… were put on a political blacklist under Domitian, and Symeon son of Clopas, the cousin of Jesus and the successor of James the brother of the Lord as bishop of Jerusalem, suffered a martyr’s death under Trajan in the first decade of the second century CE.” [4]

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. [5] 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)” [6]

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).” [7] 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.” [8]

Frank Moore Cross [9] 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.

The 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.” [10]

         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” [11]

“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; Rom. 14:17).

In that verse above there are references to Jesus’ kingdom’ basileian (βασιλείαν), which indicates that he was somehow considered a king [12].


Jesus proclaiming the kingdom of God explains why he ended up on a cross as Paul states he had been crucified. In one of the places Paul references Jesus as crucified he uses the word Stauros. (Philippians 2:8). Josephus uses this term Stauros to tell of Romans crucifying Jews. Mythicists claim that Jesus was crucified in outer space but this is not necessary at all. To support this ad hoc hypothesis they claim 1 Thess. 2:14-16 as an interpolation, but the reasons given are suspect and weak. Most of Carrier’s arguments are directed at the verse “But wrath has come upon them at last!” as he associates this with the Temple destruction, but that is only reading the epistles retrospectively. [13] Robert Jewett rightly stated, “From the perspective of those who know about the Jewish-Roman war, it is surely the most appropriate choice. But to someone who lived before that catastrophe, several of the other events could easily have appeared to be a final form of divine wrath.” [14] This is what happens when you are reading this with hindsight, there were plenty other disasters, famines, persecutions etc, plus the fact that “wrath of god” is standard Jewish trope since the time of Amos. As Robert Jewett noted:

“I Thess. ii. 16, ‘but God’s wrath has come upon them at last’, may refer to the disturbance which occurred in Jerusalem during the Passover of 49 when twenty to thirty thousand Jews were supposed to have been killed. (Ant. 20.112 and War 2. 224-7). Since this disturbance was instigated by Zealots (War 2.225), Paul could well have interpreted the massacre as punishment for the persecution against the Christians in Judea.[15]

Much of scholarship has now come around to arguing against this verses’s inauthenticity and as to the verse being anti Jewish, the “Judains” in 1 Thess is referring to the leaders and Sanhedrin, not the people group. I mean “first, that Paul is negative to Jews; [elsewhere] second, that these verses do not apply to all Jews; and, third, that Ἰουδαῖος has a geographical rather than ethnic meaning in this context.” [16]

With 1 Thess. 2:14-16 out of the way the mythicist paradigm is now free to say about 1 Corinthians 2:8, that Paul wasn’t referring to physical, earthly rulers at all, but the ‘Archons of this age’ instead. Archons being the spirit beings that crucified Jesus in the sublunar realm. The word “archon” in Greek is also used elsewhere in the Bible, including Matt 9:18, Acts 4:8, and Acts 7:27, where I think it’s pretty clear that it’s referring to human rulers.

But just like our word “ruler” could refer to either spiritual or physical rulers, there’s nothing that requires an “archon” to be spiritual in either 1 Cor 2:8 especially when cross referenced with the Thessalonians passage. Paul also uses the word in Romans 13:3; where Paul clearly used the word to refer to human authorities (in paying taxes). Where the confusion comes in for mythicists is that I definitely find it more plausible to interpret Paul as thinking of cosmic, spiritual powers as the ultimate culprits behind the historical crucifixion of the historical Christ – even if those powers were allying themselves with human political actors. The “Archons” and the human “rulers” are intimately connected. Archons are influencing people.

Bermejo-Rubio using scholarship from Kuhn showed that 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). [17] 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.”[18] In an excellent paper by Bermejo-Rubio, showed 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.” [19]

       The reason Paul downplayed the political “dynamite” language was out of fear as seen from Antonio Piñeros comment in light of Paul’s former persecution of this movement.

“Paul feared the new political consequences of the emergence of a new sect that continued to proclaim that Jesus was the Lord, the Messiah, who was going to establish a kingdom despite having died on a cross. The announced messiah was a seditious threat against the Empire, as it’s kind of death implied! And this proclamation was both religious and political: the Romans could harden their repression against the Jewish people in the face of the exaltation of a messianic king, even if he had already died.” [20]

       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). [21]

              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. [22]

        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]” [23]

       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.” [24] 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,”. [25] It was Ernst Käsmann that made the famous statement: “apocalyptic was the mother of all Christian theology” [26] 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.” [27] 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.” [28] 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” [29] 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. [30].

“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” [31] 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. [32] 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).” [33]

“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.” [34]

Dale Allison using Robert 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.” [35]

Paula Fredriksen simply notes “that in these Hellenistic Christian documents we begin to encounter the literary vestiges of the older, Aramaic, apocalyptic tradition.” [36]

I would have to add a preliminary stage to Robert 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” [37] 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)” [38].

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),” [39] 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.” [40].

    In the 40’s and 50’s there was a fierce nationalistic zealot swing that would ultimately lead to the Roman Jewish War 66-70. This lead to the agitators that Paul complained about in his letter to the Galatians, for circumcision as part of a stricter observance of the Torah. The background to the Jerusalem Assembly who kept checking up on Paul and their reason for being stricter on Pauls missionary is explained by Robert Jewett:

“The background of the missionary movement which touched Galatia may be found in the troubled political situation in Judea and Galilee during the period from the late forties until the outbreak of the Jewish War in A.D. 66. It was during this period that the Zealot campaign to undermine Roman control through terror tactics was increasingly effective.2 During the procuratorship of Ventidius Cumanus (A.D. 48-52), the resistance movement felt strong enough to rob an official Roman courier on the main highway from Jerusalem to Caesarea (Josephus, Ant. xx, 113) and shortly afterwards to arouse the whole countryside into a revenge attack against Samaria which could only be put down by use of most of Cumanus’ forces (Ant. xx, 118). The frequency of such incidents reported by Josephus makes plain that for practical purposes the countryside was in the control of the Zealot underground movement by the late forties. This meant that persons in the villages of Judea or Galilee who maintained close relationships with Gentiles or who did not zealously seek the purity of Israel were in mortal danger.” [41]

           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). [42]


[1] Robert Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, English Translation, (LINCOLN MACVEAGH, 1932).

[2] Fergus Millar, “Reflections on the Trial of Jesus”, Tribute to Geza Verme, Essays on Jewish and Christian Literature and History. Eds.: Philip R. Davies, Richard T. White. (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), p.357

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

[4] Vermes, Geza, Searching for the Real Jesus: Jesus, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Religious Themes, (SCM Press, 2009), p.17.

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

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

[7] 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.

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

[9] 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).

[10] Fredriksen, Paula, From Jesus to Christ, The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus, 2nd Ed. (Yale, 2000), p.173

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

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

[13] Carrier, Richard C., “Pauline Interpolations.” In Hitler Homer Bible Christ, The historical papers of Richard Carrier 1995-2013 (Philosopher Press, 2014), pp. 203-11

[14] Jewett, Robert, The Thessalonian Correspondence: Pauline Rhetoric and Millenarian Piety (Foundations and Facets), (Fortress Press 1986), p.37.

[15] Jewett, Robert, The Agitators and the Galatian Congregation, New Testament Studies, 1971, Vol. 17/02, p.205, fn. 5.

[16] Jensen, Matthew, The (In)authenticity of 1 Thessalonians 2.13-16: A Review of Argument, Currents in Biblical Research, 2019, Vol. 18(1) pp.59–79, quote at p.70.

[17] 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.

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

[19] 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

[20] Piñero, Antonio, Guía para entender a Pablo de Tarso: Una interpretación del pensamiento paulino [Guide to Paul of Tarsus:An interpretation of Pauline thought], (Trotta, 2015), p.40.

[21] 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.

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

[23] 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

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

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

[26] 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.

[27] Fredriksen, Paula, From Jesus to Christ, The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus, 2nd Ed. (Yale, 2000), p.18 and fn.1.

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

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

[30] ibid, p.35f

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

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

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

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

[35] 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.

[36] Fredriksen, Paula, From Jesus to Christ, The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus, 2nd Ed. (Yale, 2000), p.19

[37] 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.

[38] 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

[39] Allison, ibid, p.74

[40] Allison, ibid, p.51

[41] Jewett, Robert, The Agitators and the Galatian Congregation, New Testament Studies / Volume 17 / Issue 02 / January 1971, p. 204

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


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