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.

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

Footnotes for Rebellion Paradigm for Jesus

[1] Prchlík, Ivan, Tacitus’ knowledge of the origins of Christianity, Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Philologica 2/ Graecolatina Pragensia, (2017), pp.96 f.

Under UV light it showed that Tacitus had originally written ‘Chrestiani’. Ivan Prchlík says “Tacitus’ orthography of the names Chrestiani and Christus, as occurring in the passage … emphasized that the form Chrestiani had been the popular one.” Prchlík suggests Tacitus knew the originator of the movement had been Christos. He did not use the name Jesus. “In contemporary Greek, however, <ι> and  <η> were already pronounced in the same manner, and so the pagans, or at least a majority of them, coming across the title Χριστός certainly considered it a personal name“ just like the name Χρηστός is.

[2] Hasan-Rokem, Galit, “Polymorphic Helena – Toledot Yeshu as a Palimpsest of Religious Narratives and Identities”, in Peter Schäfer, Michael Meerson, Yaacov Deutsch, Ed.s, Toledot Yeshu (“The life story of Jesus”) Revisted, (Mohr Siebeck, Tübingin, 2011), p.250.

[3] Price, R. M., Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, (Prometheus, 2003) p. 40

[4] Schonfield, According to the Hebrews,

(London: Duckworth, 1937), p.24.

[5] Ehrman, Bart, Jesus, Apocalyptic prophet for the new millennium, (Oxford University Press 1999), p.220.

[6] Winter, Paul, On the Trial of Jesus, (Walter De Gruyter 1974), p.34.

[7] Fredriksen, Paula, When Christians Were Jews, The first generation, (Yale University Press, 2018), p.56-7.

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

[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.xxvi.

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

[11] 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).

[12] 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.

[13] 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

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

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

[16] Ehrman, Bart, Paul as persecutor of the church,

[17] Fredriksen, Paula, Paul, The Pagans Apostle, (Yale, 2017), ch. 3; Fredriksen, Paula, When Christians Were Jews, The first generation, (Yale, 2018), p.144-147.

[18] Maccoby, Hyam, Paul the Mythmaker, Paul and the invention of Christianity, (Harper Collins: Barnes & Noble, 1986), p.59.

[19] 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.

Another hypothesis put forward by Eisenman is that Damascus was in Judea (at Qumran) within the jurisdiction of a warrant from the High Priest.  There were several places called Damascus.  The name may also have been used allegorically by a later Pauline school since it means “blood cup” or “cup of blood” (“dom” “blood”, “chos” “cup”).

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

[21] Voskuilen, Thijs, Operation Messiah: Did Christianity Start as a Roman Psychological Counterinsurgeny, Small Wars & Insurgencies, (Routledge, 2005) 16/2, 196. [online paper].

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

[23] 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.

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

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

[26] ibid, p.35f

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

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

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

[30] 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, 2007), pp.103–8.

[31] 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.

[32] 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

[33] Allison, ibid, p.51

[34] Allison, ibid, p.74

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

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

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

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

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

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

[41] 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 

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

[43] ibid, p.137.

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

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

[46] 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[57] 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.

[58] 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)

[59] 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.

Rebellion Paradigm for Jesus

Neither Tacitus nor Lucian are aware of Jesus’ name, Tacitus calling him “Christos,” [1] whereas Lucian calls him the “crucified sophist.” This suggests that they are not using Christian literature or getting their information from Christians as they would have been able to obtain his name from them. Calling him a sophist suggests Lucian was drawing from a source different from the gospels, such as the original TF that I have just reconstructed.

       The opponents of the church father apologetists all seem to be working off an original TF. For example, Justin Martyr answers his opponent, “He was no sophist, but His word was the power of God.” (1Apol.14 Cf Lucian, Peregr. Proteus, ch. xiii.). Justins interlocutor has got his charge that Jesus was described as a sophist, probably information that was contained in the TF. Judas the Galilean was also described as a sophist by Josephus War2 §118. Celsus is under the impression that Jesus was the leader of a seditious movement as described by Origen:

“Again Celsus proceeds: “If you should tell them that Jesus is not the Son of God, but that God is the Father of all, and that He alone ought to be truly worshipped, they would not consent to discontinue their worship of him who is their leader in the sedition…..[Origen denies what Celsus has just said by adding the following]… Jesus is, then, not the leader of any seditious movement, but the promoter of peace….”(Contra Celsum 8.14)

       Here are some more examples that will build a picture of how the anti Christian polemicists viewed the Jesus movements. Firstly a quote of the pagan Caecilius Natalis written by one of the earliest of the Latin apologists for Christianity, namely Minicius Felix: 

“that a man fastened to a cross on account of his crimes is worshipped by Christians, for they believe not only that he was innocent, but with reason that he was God. But, on the other hand, the heathens invoke the Divine Powers of Kings raised into Gods by themselves; they pray to images, and beseech their Genii.”(Minucius Felix, Octavius ch29).


 “he who explains their ceremonies by reference to a man punished by extreme suffering for his wickedness, and to the deadly wood of the cross, appropriates fitting altars for reprobate and wicked men, that they may worship what they deserve.” (Minucius Felix,Octavius, ch9)


       Lactantius a Christian writer and an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, complains about his interlocutor:

“But he affirmed that Christ, driven out by the Jews, gathered a band of nine hundred men and committed acts of brigandage’: ‘Christum … a Iudaeis fugatum collecta nongentorum hominum manu latrocinia fecisse.’ (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book v. Ch. 3.)

 He also stated in the same chapter:

 “If Christ is a magician because He performed wonderful deeds, it is plain that Apollonius, who, according to your description, when Domitian wished to punish him, suddenly disappeared on his trial, was more skilful than He who was both arrested and crucified.” And of course Lactantius hits back at these pagan critics, “…than from that very cross which you as dogs lick”. (ibid, Div. Inst. v.3).

       In the next passage quoted in full below Celsus makes the following claims, that Christ and members of his church have been put to death in a way appropriate to robbers and Celsus also asks what makes the two “robbers” crucified with Jesus any different from Jesus. Bear in mind the term ‘robbers’ (lestai, λῃσταί:sing; λῃστής, lestes: plural) was a term used by Josephus to mean brigands.

       “Celsus in the next place says, with indescribable silliness: “If, after inventing defences which are absurd, and by which you were ridiculously deluded, you imagine that you really make a good defense, what prevents you from regarding those other individuals who have been condemned, and have died a miserable death, as greater and more divine messengers of heaven (than Jesus)?” [Origen interjects here]: Now, that manifestly and clearly there is no similarity between Jesus, who suffered what is described, and those who have died a wretched death on account of their sorcery, or whatever else be the charge against them, is patent to every one. For no one can point to any acts of a sorcerer which turned away souls from the practice of the many sins which prevail among men, and from the flood of wickedness (in the world). But since this Jew of Celsus compares Him to robbers, and says that “any similarly shameless fellow might be able to say regarding even a robber and murderer whom punishment had overtaken, that such a one was not a robber, but a god, because he predicted to his fellow robbers that he would suffer such punishment as he actually did suffer,” it might, [Origen tries to answer the charge by Celsus] in the first place, be answered, that it is not because He predicted that He would suffer such things that we entertain those opinions regarding Jesus which lead us to have confidence in Him, as one who has come down to us from God. And, in the second place, we assert that this very comparison has been somehow foretold in the Gospels; since God was numbered with the transgressors by wicked men, who desired rather a “murderer” (one who for sedition and murder had been cast into prison) to be released unto them, and Jesus to be crucified, and who crucified Him between two robbers. Jesus, indeed, is ever crucified with robbers among His genuine disciples and witnesses to the truth, and suffers the same condemnation which they do among men. And we say, that if those persons have any resemblance to robbers, who on account of their piety towards God suffer all kinds of injury and death, that they may keep it pure and unstained, according to the teaching of Jesus, then it is clear also that Jesus, the author of such teaching, is with good reason compared by Celsus to the captain of a band of robbers. But neither was He who died for the common good of mankind, nor they who suffered because of their religion, and alone of all men were persecuted because of what appeared to them the right way of honouring God, put to death in accordance with justice, nor was Jesus persecuted without the charge of impiety being incurred by His persecutors.” (Origen, Contra Celsum 2.44).

       The Sefer Toledot Yeshu (Generations of Jesus), a Jewish anti gospel is also under the impression that the Jesus movement comprised of insurgents:

34 Now as he was fast in their hands, he answered and said to his fellows before the queen, Concerning me it was said, Who will rise up for me against the evil-doers ? And of them he said. The proud waters. Yea, of them he said, They have made their faces harder than a rock.

35 When the queen heard this she threatened the insurgents, and said to the wise men of Israel, See, he is in your hands. (Toledot ch iii, 34-35).

The Queen here is a literary invention of the Toledot, but depending on what various manuscripts you use, she is either based on Queen Helena of Adiebene (who chronologically matches the historical framework of the Toledot) or Helena Augusta, Constantine I’s mother. 

        As Hasan-Rokem said:

“The “textual milieu” where Toledot Yeshu best fits in is neither Rabbinic literature nor the canonical gospels, but rather some texts of the early Christian literature known as apocryphal, both the gospels and in particular some of the apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, which carry on the prose tradition of the Hellenistic novel, which has also been found to reverberate, although in less consistent modes in late antique Jewish, rabbinic, literature.” [2]

While the Toledot is a late composition first mentioned in the nineth century by two different bishops, Agobard and Amulo,  it drew from early apocryphal gospels. Robert M Price has said, “the Toledoth Jeschu [is] (dependent on a second-century Jewish-Christian gospel)”. [3] Hugh Schonfield speculates this could be the lost Gospel according to the Hebrews, of which we have only fragmented quotes. Schonfield has a tantalizing prospect with the following reasoning:

This is all the more likely when it is remembered that it was the Jewish custom to name their books from the opening words. Thus Exodus is in Hebrew Shemoth from the opening words of this book ‘ we-ekh shemoth.’ The title Toldoth Jeshu (Generations of Jesus) must then have been taken from a book beginning with these words, The only known Gospel which does so is of course Matthew which opens with “The book of the Generations of Jesus,’ Now it was commonly held that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was the lost Hebrew Gospel of Matthew ; and it is possible that if this work should ever be recovered entire, it will show itself to be the basis of many of the Toldoth stories.” [4]

       Let us examine Mark and Matthew who also used the term “robbers,” lestai, the same term that is used in Josephus for brigands: 

“Then were there two robbers — (dyo lēstas ) crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. (Matthew 27:38).

“And with him they crucify two robbers (dyo lēstas); the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.” (Mark 15:27)

“And there were also two other malefactors (kakourgoi dyo), led with him to be put to death.” (Luke 23:32).

“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place  of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus and the midst.” (John 19:17-18).

        After the Roman Jewish war, all literature became the literature of fear. Note that it would have been absolutely critical for the movement to erase any recollection of disciples dying with Jesus. If they had, it would indicate that the movement at large had been condemned by the Romans. It would reveal the entire “conviction for blasphemy by the Sanhedrin” as a fraudulent fabrication. As Bart Ehrman [5] said when Jesus said to the High Priest that he will see the son of man coming on clouds, Caiaphas shouted – blasphemy, but it wasn’t blasphemy at all. (Mark 14:62-64). Neither was claiming to be the messiah blasphemous, that is only delivering the people into gods kingdom. Many before and after Jesus claimed this title and never got accused of blasphemy (many got accused of sedition). As the religion developed, it would also undermine the salvation concept of Jesus’ death as a unique sacrifice. As Paul Winters says, “No grounds must be given for the inference that Jesus was in any way connected with subversive activities such as those which had resulted in the recent rising. The Evangelists therefore contrived to conceal that Jesus had been condemned and executed on a charge of sedition.” [6] So we see a vigorous attempt by the Synoptic writers to disparage the two who died with Jesus, or in Luke’s case to disparage one and show the other as a random soul saved at the last minute.

        The Synoptics wanted to brand those crucified with Jesus as “robbers”, whereas John would be more historical and see the others crucified as their own and would refer to them as others. John’s gospel also shows the real reason why Jesus ended up on the cross. “John’s gospel, in other words, depicts no full priestly council the night of Jesus’ arrest and, even more strikingly, no charge of blasphemy. For John, what motivates the Sanhedrin’s decision about Jesus—taken even before Jesus comes up to the city for the last time—is politics, not piety. The Sanhedrin fears Rome.” [7]

        It is quite likely the two who died with Jesus were followers. John says flat out that they were subject to arrest. The Synoptics show it was only Jesus, not the disciples, who was arrested — the conviction for blasphemy, the dramatic kiss of Judas which isolates Jesus only as the one to be arrested and led away, the invention of the moral corruption of the two who died with him. The remarkable thing is that the idea that the disciples were subject to arrest, and the inference that two may have been crucified with Jesus, survives in the gospel of John.


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” [Davids 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 Exodus15:17-18, Amos9:11) for the restoration of Davids 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 written sometime in the first century BCE, showed the hope for a Davidic end time messiah, very similar to that of Paul. [8]. 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, o 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 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).” [9] As Paula Fredriksen notes, “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.” [10]

       Frank Moore Cross [11] believes the doctrine of the two messiahs found at Qumran 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.

       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 Erin, Moses brother. (Lev 16). [12]

       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”.

       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 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]” [13]

       In the Pauline epistles there are references to Jesus’ kingdom’ basileian  (βασιλείαν), which indicates that he was somehow considered a king [14]. 

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).

       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.” [15] 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).

       Before Paul converted he writes of persecution of the Christian church in retrospect in his letters and therefore would have looked at these activities differently from when he was writing them. As he said in Galatians:

 “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the assemblies of God and tried to destroy it.” (Gal.1:13; Cf 1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:23; Phil 3:6). 

Acts expands on this: 

“But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3).

This has perplexed many a scholar who sees the Jesus movements as only religious and they don’t see any authorities or Paul (by his own admission in his letters) getting in on the act to persecute a religious sect, it’s just implausible under a Roman jurisdiction. [16] Fredriksen struggles with Pauls use of the word persecution. She tries to compare the persecution Paul receives with his use of persecution he directed against the Jesus movements. She states when Paul refers to the persecution he receives, namely the 39 lashes is an internal punishment, given by leaders of the synagogues. (2 Cor. 11:24-25) This is done as a correction to somebody that is of their own movement. Yet the persecution Paul tries to dish out to the assemblies of James’s organization is not internal and not done as a correction but an attempt to destroy this movement. [17]

       A clue is given in Acts 9:1-2, (cf Acts 26:9-11) that Paul worked for the High Priest. High Priests were appointed by Roman governors to help in collaborating the rule of Rome. In effect they were their own chief of police and could flog offenders. Any serious offense such as sedition and the prisoner would be handed over to Rome.  As Hyam Maccoby writes in his book:

“Thus, if Jesus’ movement had been a heretical one, espousing theological doctrines that contradicted the traditional tenets of Judaism, the High Priest would have been entirely unconcerned, being no theologian. If the movement had been opposed to the Pharisees in matters of religion, the High Priest would even have been pleased, for that was his position also. …..The only circumstances under which the High Priest would employ his police force to arrest and imprison people would be if they had shown themselves in some way to be a political threat to the Roman regime. If Paul was employed by the High Priest to arrest people and imprison them, it can only mean one thing: that Paul was a member of the High Priest’s police force and his job was to arrest anyone who constituted a threat to the occupation…..The only solution that makes perfect sense is that Paul ….. persecuted the Christians for exactly the same reason that the High Priest persecuted them – because they were opposed to Roman domination of the Holy Land.” [18]

The Psuedo-Clementines Recognitions says of Paul, that he:

 “had received a commission from Caiaphas, the high priest, that he should arrest all that believed in Jesus….” (Ps. Clem. Rec. 1 LXXI)

This reflects an organization that had started out from rebellious beginnings. (This position is also supported by the anti Christian polemic such as Origen, Contra Celsum 8.14, 2.44; Minucius Felix, Octavius xxix; Lactantius, Divine Institutes, v. 3, 4; all discussed above). This has better explanatory power on Paul’s King Aretus IV incident mentioned in second Corinthians:

“In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.” (2 Cor. 11:32-33).

Paul working outside his legal jurisdiction, on direction of the High Priest, chasing a nascent Nazorean movement, would have landed him in hot water with the nabatean ethnarch king. This incident also provides an anchor date for Paul’s epistles in general. [19]

       The alternative Ebionites tradition (obvious polemic story that was attributed to Paul) as reported by Epiphanius is even more interesting:

 “They declare that he (Paul) was a Greek…”He went up to Jerusalem, they say, and when he had spent some time there, he was seized with a passion to marry the daughter of the priest (High Priest). For this reason he became a proselyte and was circumcised. Then, when he failed to get the girl, he flew into a rage and wrote against circumcision and against the sabbath and the Torah” (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.16. 6- 9)

This story reflects Paul’s association with the High Priest.

       Eisenman suggested that Paul was a Herodian [20] but I think Maccoby’s suggestion is stronger that he worked for the high priest originally. Eisenman makes some good points showing the connections Paul has made with the Herodians, all this would fit in with Paul being on the opposing side of this nascent Nazorean group originally before he changed sides. 

          “After Jesus’ execution, the movement was still persecuted. [This is where Paul comes in]. Jesus’ movement remained a political threat in the eyes of the Romans. There is no reason to assume that the Romans stopped viewing the movement as a threat to their rule in the midst of a highly volatile region, merely because its leader had been killed.” [21]

       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,”. [22] It was Ernst Käsmann that made the famous statement:  “apocalyptic was the mother of all Christian theology” [23] 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.” [24] 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” [25] Apocalyptism 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. [26].

         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” [27] 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. [28] Pauls 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. 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.” [29]

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.” [30]

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. K L Knoll recognised this 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” [31] 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)” [32].

       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),” [33] 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.” [34].

           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)


       It was S. F. G. Brandon who stated the most damning piece of evidence for the rebel paradigm is Jesus getting “crucified by the Romans as a rebel against the government in Judea.” He showed the gospels tried to cover up this fact and it was also mentioned by Tacitus. [35] 

        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.”[36] 

       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). [37]  As discussed later in this chapter, 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. There are clues left in the gospels of the real background, the one full of trouble and revolts, such as 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.” [38]

       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.” [39]

       In Mark 8:15 Jesus tells his disciples to watch out for the yeast of Antipas and Luke 13:32 describes him 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.”[40].

       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. [41] 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’). [42] 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. [43] 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. [44]

       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.” [45] 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. 

       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.” [46] 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, apocalyptism 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, 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)

Ehrman has shown as 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. [47]

        With the ““efflorescence of apocalyptic writings: Daniel, the Dead Sea Scrolls, various pseudepigrapha. 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).” [48]

       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 [49] 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).

Figures like Jesus

       Jesus fits the mould of other self styled prophets who rose up against Roman maladminstration. The ‘Samaritan’ who promised to show the crowds “sacred vessels which were buried [at Mt. Gerizim], where Moses had deposited them”…. are all similar type 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” 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 3:12-13:

 “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.” 

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. [50] 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) [51]

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).[52]

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.” [53]


“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. [54]

          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. [55] 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. 

       Eisenman [56] made some good observations that can be used to date the epistles:

-In his epistles to the Romans, Paul referred to and greeted “his kinsmen Herodian, the littlest Herod”. This was a reference to Herod of Chalcis, King Herod Agrippa’s brother. (Romans 19:7,10)

-Paul also greeted all those in the household of Aristobulus. This was a reference to Herod Agrippa’s son.(Romans 16:10)

       Douglas Campbell [57] shows Paul’s King Aretus IV incident discussed above provides an anchor date for Paul’s epistles in general.

        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 [58] 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.

         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.” [59]

         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.

Footnotes link here:

Footnotes for Testimonian Flavianum Reconstructed

[1] Eisler, Robert, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist: According to Flavius Josephus’ recently rediscovered ‘Capture of Jerusalem’ and the other Jewish and Christian sources (Lincoln Macveagh,The Dial Press, New York; English ed. by Alexander Haggerty Krappe, PhD, January 1, 1931); examples given on page 51.

[2] Dornsieff, Franz, “Lukas der Schriftsteller. Mit einem Anhang: Josephus und Tacitus,” ZNW 35 (1936): 148-55.

Sir Roger L’Estrange in 1762 argued that Tacitus had read Josephus and that the Testimonium Taciteum was based on the Testimonium Flavianum, thus being evidence of its authenticity. This is found in his translation of Josephus:    

L’Estrange, Sir Roger, The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated Into English by Sir Roger L’Estrange … To which are Prefixed, Two Discourses [by John Willes, with Notes by John Hudson] … The Sixth Edition, Etc: Volume 1, Flavius Josephus. Jan 1762.

The latest adherent of this thesis is Stephen S Carlson, who argues that there are many incidents where Tacitus is reliant on Josephus:

Stephan S Carlson, A Pre-Eusebian witness to the Testimonium, Hypotyposeis blog (2004).

[3]  Wells, G. A., The Jesus of the Early Christians  (London: Pemberton, 1971); ibid, Did Jesus Exist?  (London: Pemberton, 1975; 2d ed., 1986); ibid, The Historical Evidence for Jesus  (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1982);  ibid, Who Was Jesus?  (Chicago: Open Court, 1989);  ibid, The Jesus Legend  (Chicago: Open Court, 1996).

As cited by Van Voorst, Robert E., Jesus Outside the New Testament, An Introduction

to the Ancient Evidence, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000), p.13.

[4]  Ken Olson, “Eusebius and the Testimonium Flavianum,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 61 (1999): 305–22.

Also see “A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum”, Ken Olson

[5] Ken Olson blog, A Eusebian reading of the Testimonium Flavian.

[6] Hopper, Paul J., A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus: Jewish Antiquities xviii:63. Linguistics and Literary Studies: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers Eds. Monika Fludernik and

Daniel Jacob. Berlin: de Gruyte,160.

Compare in Greek the similarities of the Apostles creed and the TF:

σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ παθόντα, καὶ ταφέντα, καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς…

Cf. the Testimonium:

παρ᾽ ἡμῖν σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου

…ἐφάνη γὰρ αὐτοῖς τρίτην ἔχων ἡμέραν πάλιν ζῶν τῶν θείων προφητῶν…

[7] Gary J. Goldberg, Ph.D, The Coincidences of the Emmaus Narrative of Luke and the Testimonium of Josephus, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13 (1995) pp. 59-77

[8] Richard Carrier, On the historicity of Jesus, ch8.

[9] John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew ,Rethinking the Historical Jesus Volume1, 64.

[10] Alice Whealey, “Josephus, Eusebius of Caesarea, and the Testimonium Flavianum” in Josephus und das Neue Testament, edited by Christoph Böttrich and Jens Herzer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007) 73-116.

[11] ibid, 82.

[12] Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament, ch6.

[13] Alice Whealey, ibid, 83-4.

[14] ibid, 84.

[15] Alice Whealey, Josephus on Jesus, 16-7.

[16] ibid,16

[17] Did Jesus Exist?, Bart Ehrman, ch2.

[18] Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament,171.

[19] J. Carleton Paget, “Some Observations on Josephus and Christianity,” Journal of Theological Studies 52, no. 2 (2001):539–624.

[20] Bermejo-Rubio, Fernand, Was the Hypothetical Vorlage of the Testimonium Flavianum a “Neutral” Text? Challenging the Common Wisdom on Antiquitates Judaicae 18.63-64 Journal for the Study of Judaism, 2014, Volume 45; Issue 3.

[21] Feldman, 1982: “The Testimonium Flavianum: The State of the Question.” In Christological Perspectives: Essays in Honor of Harvey K. McArthur, 182

[22] Feldman, “On the Authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum Attributed to Josephus”, in New Perspectives on Jewish-Christian Relations, Elisheva Carlebach and Jacob J. Schacter (ed.s), Brill, 2011, pp. 13-30, p.15

[23] Schreckenberg, Heinz; Schubert, Kurt, Jewish Historiography and Iconography in Early and Medieval Christianity., (Van Gorcum. 1992b). p.58

[24] Nodet, Etienne, “Josephus and Discrepant Sources,” in Flavius Josephus: Interpretation and History, edited by Jack Pastor, Pnina Stern, and Menahem Mor, (Brill 2011), pp. 266-269.

[25] Kirby, Peter, The Greek Table of contents to Antiquities 18,

A blog in the following link:

[26] Allen, Dave, An Original NegativeTestimonian, The Journal of Higher Criticism Volume 15 Number 1, (2020), 67-90.

I released a paper on Dr R M Prices Journal of Higher Criticism of the same name as chapter 3 of my book. I have since updated on the advice of Dr Price whose main objection is that my first reconstruction was a bit vacuous. This was so because I had attempted to reconstruct what we can reasonably know, (what was originally written) using all the variants of the TF. But it still would not reflect the reality that a reason would have to be given for Jesus’ crucifixion (all the gospels reflect a taxation issue) and what kind of movement Jesus represented (which is contained in the anti-Christian polemic discussed at length in chapter 4 of my book). I am indebted to Stephen Nelson for advising on the reconstruction Greek text.

[27] Eisler, Robert, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, ibid (English Translation), 50.

[28] ibid, footnote 2.

[29] ibid, p.130.

[30] Meier, John P., A Marginal Jew ,Rethinking the Historical Jesus Volume one: The Roots of the Problem and the person, Doubleday, (1991), p.60.

[31] Olson, Ken, A Eusebian Reading 

of the Testimonium Flavianum, Eusebius of Caesarea Tradition and Innovations, Edited by

Aaron Johnson and Jeremy Schott. Center for Hellenic Studies (2013), 101-3.

[32] ibid, 101

[33] Twelftree, Graham H., Jesus the miracle worker, InterVarsity press (1999) p.254.

[34] Whealey, Alice, “Josephus, Eusebius of Caesarea, and the Testimonium Flavianum” in Josephus und das Neue Testament, edited by Christoph Böttrich and Jens Herzer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), pp.83-4.

[35] ibid, 84

[36] Paula Fredriksen, When Christians Were Jews, The first generation, (Yale University Press, 2018), page 80.

[37] Rosen-Zvi, Ishay and Ophir, Adi, Paul and the Invention of the Gentiles, The Jewish Quarterly  Review, Vol. 105, No. 1 (Winter 2015) pp.1-41.

[38] Horsley, Richard A, What has Galilee to do with Jerusalem? Political aspects of the Jesus movement, (1996) HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, Vol. 52, No.1, pp.88-104.

[39] Torrents, José Montserrat, Jesús, El Galileo Armado, [Jesus, The Armed Galilean], (Jerusalem 2011) chapter 7.

[40] Thiel, Nathan, The Use of the Term “Galileans” in the Writings of Flavius Josephus Revisited, Jewish Quarterly Rebiew, University of Pennsylvania Press, Volume 110, Number 2, Spring 2020, pp. 221-244. (Quote from p.221).

[41] Abramson, Henry, Who was Josephus, the Roman Jew? Jews of Italy pt. 3, Part of the Jews of Italy series at, (2019).

[42] Sanders, E.P., Jesus and Judaism, (First Fortress Press, 1985) pp. 61-76.

Ian Mills in an interview with Derek Lambert on his Mythvision podcast (linked) drawing on the arguments of E P Sanders discussed in his book.–4UBCOo

[43] Winter, Paul, On The Trial of Jesus (De Gruyter 1974), p.40.

[44] Pines, Shlomo,  An Arabic Version of the Testimonium Flavianum and its Implications. (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Science and Humanities, 1971).

[45] Whealey, Alice, The Testimonium Flavianum in Syriac and Arabic, New Test. Stud. 54, (Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 573–590.

[46] There are three options entertained in the scholarly community over 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16. (A) Full authenticity (even held by atheists Ehrman, Ludemann, Casey), (B) partial interpolation, and (C ) full interpolation.Reading the scholarly literature, it seems pretty evenly split between these three options.

I go for option (B) where I see a later anti-Semitic Christian inserted the following section as the interpolation: “ who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit.The wrath of God has come upon them at last”

The partial interpolation also neutralizes the arguments provided by Richard Carrier for a full interpolation, in the following paper:

Carrier, Richard, ‘Pauline Interpolations’, Hitler Homer Bible Christ, The historical papers of Richard Carrier 1995-2013, (Philosopher Press 2014), pp. 203-11; Most of his analysis is only applicable to the passage when “But wrath has come upon them at last!” is included. 

Also referring to all Jews as much of Carrier argument seems to, just doesn’t work in context.

Carrier should concede this passage as being positive evidence of historicity as he does the brother James passage.

[47] Whealey, Alice, “Josephus, Eusebius of Caesarea, and the Testimonium Flavianum” in Josephus und das Neue Testament, edited by Christoph Böttrich and Jens Herzer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), pp.83-4.

[48] Feldman, Louis H.,  “On the Authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum” ,  In Carlebach, Elisheva; Schacter, Jacob J. (eds.). On the Authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum Attributed to Josephus. New Perspectives on Jewish-Christian Relations. The Brill Reference Library of Judaism. 33. (Leiden: Brill, 2012), p.26

[49] Feldman, Louis H., ibid, p.25

[50] Whealey, Alice, “Josephus, Eusebius of Caesarea, and the Testimonium Flavianum” in Josephus und das Neue Testament, edited by Christoph Böttrich and Jens Herzer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), pp.100ff.

[51] Eisler, Robert, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, ibid, (English Translation), pp.68-9.

[52] Coleman-Norton, P. R. “St. Chrysostom’s Use of Josephus.” Classical Philology, vol. 26, no. 1, 1931, pp. 85–89.

Testimonium Flavianum Reconstructed

“And after such statements, showing his ignorance even of the number of the apostles, he proceeds thus: “Jesus having gathered around him ten or eleven persons of notorious character, the very wickedest of tax-gatherers and sailors, fled in company with them from place to place, and obtained his living in a shameful and importunate manner.” Let us to the best of our power see what truth there is in such a statement. It is manifest to us all who possess the Gospel narratives, which Celsus does not appear even to have read…….” (Origen, Contra Celsum 1.62.)

Origen complained about what Celsus said in his book “The True Doctrine” as quoted in Contra Celsum 1.62. From this passage it shows that Celsus could have got his information from somewhere else other than the gospels. (He may have had a disapproving look at Christian literature but he had access to other sources on the Christians that I will examine here).

       I suspect many of these anti Christian pagans preserved in the apologetics of church fathers made use of an original negative Testimonium Flavianum (referred to as the TF from now on) before Christians had the power to change the wording of the original books. Christians did not control the books until the time of Eusebius, any pagan commentator could easily check any of Josephus works (without interpolations) in public libraries. It was Robert Eisler in his book The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist that suggested the opponents of Justin Martyr and Origen made use of the original TF (therefore making them a pre Eusebian witnesses of the TF). [1] Also another German scholar Franz Dornsieff [2] has said that Tacitus also made use of the negative original TF. It has been suggested that Tacitus got his information about Christians from his friend Pliny the younger. This maybe true but the information Tacitus has about Christians is more than that Pliny would have given him and matches the TF on four points. It is probable that Tacitus would have received his information from both Pliny and a negative TF. Tacitus used this original Testimonian Flavianum before it mentioned ‘Christ’ or ‘Christians’. The original TF was about Jesus and his movement. It was G A Wells [3] that argued that the sources for Tacitus were not independant and therefore do not corroborate Pauls epistles. In this paper I argue that all the anti Christian polemic worked off of the original TF and that Josephus got his information from imperial or more local army records independent of Christians, for Josephus was on very good terms with Titus and the imperial secretary Epaphroditus. He did the same for the ‘Samaritan’ (Ant 18.4.1) and Theudas (Ant 20.5.1) who were not important enough to make into his first book, The Jewish War, but on consulting records included them in his more detailed second book Antiquities of the Jews. Many of these messianic groups including the Jesus movement saw Josephus as a traitor who sided with the Romans, so it is very unlikely they would offer him any information. 

       To understand the historical context of the TF you have to understand that Jesus was only about as famous as many other messianic figures found in Josephus Works and to some extent he was even less famous than many of them. The gospels exaggerated out of all proportion the happenings around Jesus that nearly went unnoticed by his contemporaries. (I said nearly as I show that Jesus eventually got a mention in Josephus second book, Antiquities of the Jews).


       First let us analyze the TF word for word and set forth reasons for thinking there was an original negative TF. Ken Olson has written a thesis showing the Testimonium Flavianum (TF) being more Eusebian than Josephean, [4] Eusebius was the first church father to introduce and reproduce it and therefore has come under suspicion of being the interpolator. Eusebius was the main redactor for the TF, and he was using it specifically in his propaganda fights with Porphyry of Tyre and Eusebius’ contemporary Hierocles and the earlier critic Celsus as well. Ken Olson explains why he used the TF specifically and therefore changed it specifically.[5]. Hopper has shown that Eusebius used some existing Christian creeds in his endeavour to overwrite the TF. As he says, “Some credal elements are clearly present: Jesus was the Messiah; he was crucified under Pontius Pilate (passus sub Pontio Pilato, in the words of the Apostles’ Creed); he came back to life on the third day after his death; the movement founded by him the Christian church continues to flourish; he performed miracles; the biblical prophets foretold many details of his life.” [6] But the most likely outcome as Goldbergs study in 1995 is useful in showing that the Emmaus narrative in Luke which resembles the TF, could have been the source of the rewrite. [7]. Both the creedal statements and the rewritten TF are so similar to Luke’s verses 24:19-21;25-27, that you can see the Emmaus narrative being used as a framework to rewrite the TF.

Here is the extract so you can see the similarities with the textus receptus:

“The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a man, a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; and how the chief priests and leaders of us delivered him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we had hoped he would be the one to liberate Israel. Yes, and besides all these things, is passing this third day today since these things occurred. […]” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things in all the scriptures about himself.” (Luke 24:19-21;24:25-27).

       Yet it is unlikely that Eusebius created the entire text ex nihilo. Carrier [8] dismisses the TF by comparing the Emmaus narrative to the textus receptus (passage found in the manuscripts of Antiquities). This argument that the TF was created ex nihilo using the Emmaus narrative is moot for two reasons. Firstly  the Luke narrative was used to rework the TF. Secondly it is only like the textus receptus found in the MSS of Antiquities and we know through textual variants that there were earlier versions of the TF. So as there is an earlier version you cannot dismiss it over the Emmaus narrative, (as this narrative would not match an earlier version). Other considerations Carrier brings up are adequately dealt with in my reconstruction, such as the unlikely situation of Josephus calling Jesus ‘Christ’. I agree with Carrier here on that point as Josephus reserved this title for Vespasian. Other considerations such as why Jesus was crucified and what kind of movement it was, is all adequately given in my reconstruction later in this chapter. Another question to consider was asked by John Meiers, “What would be the point of a Christian interpolation that would make Josephus the Jew affirm such an imperfect estimation of the God-man? What would a Christian scribe intend to gain by such an assertion? [9] Nobody to my mind including Ken Olson has adequately answered this question. Whealey explained in her response to Ken Olson [10] many of the words in the textus receptus are not unique to Eusebius. Whealey has shown that some phrases in the TF are more Josephean than Eusebian. Whealey explained in her response that many of the words in the textus receptus are not unique to Eusebius and in fact look like they were inherited from the original TF. The phrase “παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής” doer of strange deeds would not be Eusebius first choice to describe Jesus. “παραδόξων specifically for Jesus’ deeds is seldom used in ante Nicean literature before Origen perhaps because the word only appears once in the New Testament for one of Jesus’s miracles (Luke 5:26) and in a context that could mean magic which had illegitimate connotations.” [11] (If Luke used Josephus as Mason has suggested that would tie in nicely actually) [12] .Whealey [13] explains that this is not a preferred description Eusebius would have for Jesus and therefore looks like he inherited this from the original TF. One passage Eusebius has in his Commentaria in Psalmos (PG23 1033d-1036a) where he comments on Psalm 85:8-10 LXX, Eusebius “characterises many of the prophets as παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής, and thereby indicates that παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής was not a term that adequately conveyed the full stature of Jesus, since for Eusebius Jesus was Gods pre existent logos and not just παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής like all the prophets before him” [14]. It’s obvious that an original TF has influenced Eusebius to use this term of phrase and not like Olsen argues made up by Eusebius. As Whealey said Origen knew of some form of the TF. [15] First of all his assertion that Josephus did not believe Jesus as the Christ (Contra Cels. 1.47). He saw some version of the TF that did not even mention Jesus was the Christ. It’s not good enough to say Josephus would not have acknowledged Jesus as the messiah because he is Jewish- why would he even mention this assertion unless Jesus was mentioned. There is no reason to bring that up unless in Origen’s copy a mention about Jesus, missing the line “he was the Christ” existed. Another reason we know Origen was aware of the TF was his remark that the Jews do not connect John with Jesus nor the punishment of John with that of Jesus (Contra Cels. 1.46). In Antiquities it does not connect the Baptist movement with the Jesus movement. Also the execution of John and Jesus are not related or connected in any way. Origen did not quote the TF as it was negative. There are other examples of Origen knowing of documents without quoting them. He was aware of the two epistles 2 John and 3 John without ever quoting them. Origen could not quote a negative TF in light of his fights with Celsus. It is more likely that it was Celsus quoting the TF making it difficult for Origen to combate him. The TF would have been negative but not hostile, just the same as all the other passages of messianic pretenders. As Whealey says, “Origen’s claim that Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Christ does not match the statement of the Textus Receptus Testimonium ‘ ὁ Χριστὸς οὗτος ἦν.’ It has also been argued however, that Origen’s certainty that Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Christ must be derived from some sort of Testimonium…. Origen… statement that ‘the Jews do not connect John with Jesus, nor the punishment of John with Jesus’. It is precisely Antiquities18 that mention both the execution of Jesus and of John without in anyway connecting the two events or figures”.[16]

       As Bart Ehrman in his book Did Jesus Exist? has said it is too short to read like a Christian apocrypha. [17] It is more likely that Eusebius simply “improved” the TF with the help of the Emmaus narrative onto the framework of the original negative TF in available manuscripts. Steve Mason states “if the Christians had written the paragraph from scratch, they might have been expected to give Jesus a little more space than John, and to use language that was more emphatically Christian”. [18]. Paget notes that it is odd for a wholesale interpolation to place the Jesus passage before the Baptist passage instead of the in the order found in the Canonicals. [19] This argues in favour of Josephus placing these two messianic figures in this order. Also of note Bermejo-Rubio says “It is not really an internally consistent paragraph, but rather a kind of hybrid text, which betrays the presence of at least two distinct hands in its redaction. A wholly genuine text or a complete forgery would have probably resulted in a more homogeneous passage.”[20] To me it must have been negative because Origen never used it, it would have been useless as a defense against Celsius (but he did acknowledge it in Contra Cels. 1.47). There is no reason for Origen to assert that Josephus did not call Jesus the Christ unless he saw a passage about Jesus. 

Next I will deal with Feldman’s arguments as he wrote in 1982, “A point that has not been appreciated thus far is that despite the value that such a passage [the Testimonium Flavianum] would have had in establishing the credentials of Jesus in the church’s missionary activities, it is not cited until Eusebius does so in the fourth century. This is admittedly the argumentum ex silentio, but in this case it is a fairly strong argument against the authenticity of the passage as we have it, especially since we know that Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century (Dialogue with Trypho 8) attempted to answer the charge that Jesus had never lived and was a mere figment of Christian imagination. Nothing could have been a stronger argument to disprove such a charge than a citation from Josephus, a Jew, who was born only a few years after Jesus’ death.” [21] This is a position he reiterated in 2011. [22]. Feldman is wrong on both points here:

1. Origen asserted that Josephus did not like to call Jesus the ‘Christ’…. well there is only one way he could have known that.

2. Typho was denying Jesus was the ‘Christ’ by saying a messiah was not born yet, not that Jesus was not born yet. As Origen did not have Jesus “was the Christ” in his copy of Josephus, Martyr could not have used it in this argument. It was only in Fieldman senior years he changed his mind completely on the authenticity of the TF. Yet the two points above discredit his reasons for doubting its authenticity.

        In 1992 Schreckenberg and Schubert noticed that the Testimonian was absent from an ancient Table of contents (argumenta) [23]. Etienne Nodet [24] has shown that all that meant is that Josephus did not consider it important and has shown what was not already mentioned generally in his earlier book War 2, did not generally make it into his table of contents. So it is entirely expected that the TF also would not make it in. Peter Kirby [25] mathematically tested this, he noted a relationship between material that is not mentioned in the table and material that is not mentioned in War 2 (as the majority, about 75%, of the material not in the table is also not in War 2 but only 25% of the material not in the table is in War 2). 

        I do not claim to have what Josephus wrote but will build a model of the textus restitutus, showing what he may have originally. I do this using the framework of the textus receptus, also by using all the variants of the TF and by making use of all the anti-Christian polemics. These polemics seem to be working from the TF.

Analysis of the TF

Here is the model textus restitutus of Ant 18.3.3:

“And there is about this time a certain man, a sophist and agitator. He was one who wrought surprising feats. A teacher of men who revered him with pleasure. Many of the Judaens, and also many of the Galilean element, he led to himself; he was believed to be a King: [For he opposed paying the tax to Caesar.] And many souls were roused, thinking that thereby the tribe of Judaens could free themselves from the Romans. [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.] And, when on the accusation of the first men among us Pilate condemned him to be crucified. Many of his followers, the Galileans and Judaens were slain and thus checked for the moment. The movement again broke out with great abundance when it was believed he appeared to them alive. Those that followed him at first did not cease to revere him, their leader in sedition and this tribe/group has until now not disappeared.” ~ Proposed original of Ant18.3.3.


The portions that are in brackets [ ] are outside the evidence available but it would be unrealistic to have no reason for Jesus’s execution. Without its inclusion, the reconstruction would be vacuous [26]. Josephus would have given a reason. He would have also given a famous prediction that these messianic types usually gave. The reason for Jesus’ execution, seems to have been an issue with the paying of Roman tax – an issue well attested in all the gospels and many of the apocryphal gospels. Also given is a crazy messianic claim typical of these messianic figure types. (Discussed later in this paper).

Here is the first line of the TF:

Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον Ἰησοῦς σοφὸς ἀνήρ

And there is about this time Jesus, a wise man,

And here is the proposed change:

Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον ἀνήρ τις ταραχτικός τε σοφιστής

And there is about this time a certain man, a sophist and agitator.

Here are the reasons:

First word:

•Γίνεται ‘there arose’:

•For the first word in the passage ‘γίνεται’ (there arose) Robert Eisler has observed, “The verb Γίνεται (Ginetai) does, however, occur quite frequently in Josephus, particularly at the beginning of paragraphs; but the subject of the sentence is then almost without exception a word such as θόρυβος (tumult), or στάση (rebellion), or ταραχή (trouble), or some such term…..” [27].

He then goes on to give many examples in footnote 2: War 1,4,7 § 99; 1.4.2 § 85; 1.12.1 § 236; 1.33.2 § 648; 1.8.6 § 171; 1.10.10 § 216; 4.3.13 § 208; Antiquities 18.9.1 § 310; 19.9.2 § 366; 20.2.6  § 51; 20.6.1 § 118; 20.8.7 § 173. [28]

As the passage before and after the TF are negative describing tumults and as Eisler observed that many a time Josephus often put in a word describing a tumultuous situation, I have included the word ‘agitator’ ταραχτικός in the reconstruction.

Second phrase:

Jesus Ἰησοῦς 

to ‘certain man’ ἀνήρ τις

•The interpolation of the TF into Slavonic Josephus War also does not name Jesus in the passage but refers to him as “there appeared a certain man”~Slavonic War 2.9.3/4.

It is not unusual for Josephus not to know the name of a popular messianic figure. Case in mind is the ‘Egyptian’ (War 2.13.5) who led a revolt of thousands and featured in both Antiquities and War yet he could only call him the ‘Egyptian’. Same goes for the ‘Samaritan’. (Ant 18.5.1).

•There is a variant found in one of the manuscripts (Codex A of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 1.11.7 (Dem. ev. 3.5.105). This reading offers the pronoun τις after Ίησούς referring to “a certain Jesus.” I have used this word ‘certain’ in the reconstruction, but instead of a certain Jesus, I have said a ‘certain man’. This is the same reading as the Slavonic. This derogatory expression argues against the TF being made up of whole cloth. (This phrase ‘τις’ was also used for Judas the Galilean, War 2§118). No scribe would have interpolated the word τις but this phrase could have escaped a copyist attempting to interpolate the original TF. The use of ‘certain’ suggests a figure not well known. The qualification of ‘certain’ would only be omitted if the figure was well known.

Third phrase

σοφὸς ἀνήρ ‘a wise man’

to ταραχτικός τε σοφιστής ‘sophist and agitator’

•Josephus usually uses the expression σοφὸς ἀνήρ ‘a wise man’, as his highest praise for people. There is only two cases where he uses it: King Solomon and the prophet Daniel; it is not a phrase he uses for the messianic leaders he reports. Usually it is not σοφὸς (wise) but σοφιστής (sophist).

Example: In War 2 §118, Judas the Galilaean is described as having σοφιστὴς ἰδίας αἱρέσεως (sophisticated ideas).There is a clue this word sophist was originally written when Justin Martyr says:

 “He was no sophist, but His word was the power of God.” (1Apol.14). 

Justin had heard off of his interlocutor that Jesus was a sophist, information he may have got off the TF. 

Cross reference this with what Lucian wrote in his satire called The Passing of Peregrinus:

“Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once, for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws.” (Lucian, Peregr. Proteus, ch. xiii).

It is common knowledge that Jesus was a sophist, information that was easily accessed and out in the public. Information easily got from Josephus Antiquities.

• I did not name Jesus in this reconstruction as the Slavonic version which is so bloated, has in fact preserved this point. (Slavonic War 2.9.3-4). The most telling part of Slavonic is the fact that it says so much about Jesus except his name. This suggests that this recension is on a different transmission line to the textus receptus (working off a very early Greek exemplar) and has preserved the notion that Jesus was not named in the original TF. A number of Greek words are taken over literally by the Russian, (Eg: igemon, metropolja, archierei, skinopigja, katapetasma, aramatji) showing the Slavonic had a Greek exemplar. [29] As damaged as the Slavonic is with Christian gloss, it is on a different transmission line than the Arabic and Michael the Syrian recension. Therefore it is valuable as it came from a pre Eusebian Greek exemplar.

         The fact Jesus is not named and the fact of the TF being a negative original could explain why Origen never cited this passage in all his works, (but he did acknowledge it). Most church fathers would simply quote the gospels (discussed below) when it came to Jesus, as the gospels had a glorious history of Jesus as opposed to any negative history found anywhere else (such as a negative TF).

The next section:

εἴγε ἄνδρα αὐτὸν λέγειν χρή 

if one may properly call him a man.

•Meier has seen this line interpolated by Eusebius [30] along with the line he was the Messiah. Ken Olson [31] evaluates this phrase in the wider context of where Eusebius made use of this phrase in an argument contained in Demonstratio Evangelica, book III (Demonstration of the Gospel). He cites the TF at Dem. Ev. 3.5.106. Here Ken shows “Eusebius is carrying on an extended defense of the incarnation and answering the charges of critics of Christianity. One of these is Porphyry’s argument against the divinity of Jesus.” [32] What makes us suspicious that Eusebius interpolated this phrase is that he needed to show both the human and divine nature of Jesus. Also a Jewish hand could never have written this. 

Therefore we will cut this section out of our reconstruction.

The next phrase:

ἦν γὰρ παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής

He was one who wrought surprising feats

•This could be original and not touched because Christian redactors would have seen the word παραδόξων (paradoxōn) as miraculous. Josephus could have used this particular word more negatively to describe Jesus as doing ‘strange deeds’, in the same vein of other false prophets he reported on. It can also translate as “the maker of strange works”. Josephus would not have meant miracles, except as a type of wonder worker, but later Christian scribes would have thought that was what Josephus meant, thus ensuring the survival of this particular line. [33]. Whealey [34] explains that this is not a preferred description Eusebius would have for Jesus and therefore looks like he inherited this from the original TF. One passage Eusebius has in his Commentaria in Psalmos (PG23 1033d-1036a) where he comments on Psalm 85:8-10 LXX, Eusebius “characterises many of the prophets as παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής”, ([those who] wrought surprising feats). He “thereby indicates that παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής was not a term that adequately conveyed the full stature of Jesus, since for Eusebius Jesus was Gods pre existent logos and not just παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής like all the prophets before him” [35]. An original TF has influenced Eusebius to use this term of phrase. Olson’s argument that it was made up by Eusebius is refuted by Whealeys investigation on how Eusebius used this description elsewhere. (As used in Commentaria in Psalmos (PG23 1033d-1036a) discussed above).

Here is the second line of the TF:

διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἡδονῇ τἀληθῆ δεχομένων

a teacher to those who receive the truth with pleasure.


διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων τῶν σεβομένων αὐτὸν ἡδονῇ

A teacher of men who revere / worship him with pleasure.

•The second line is witnessed by the recension found in Eusebius Demonstratio evangelica iii 5. Whealey does say that the MSS of the Demonstratio is later than that of the Theophania MSS, but that does not follow which is the later reading. 

Josephus usually uses the words διδάσκαλος , “teacher,”  and σεβομένων ‘who reveres or worship’ in a sarcastic negative way. A Christian copyist who had noticed this and changed ‘who worship’ (σεβομένων) to replace it with ‘ who receive’ (δεχομένων). We saw the same thing when another Christian copyist had deleted the derogatory τις.

Next line:

καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους, πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ ἐπηγάγετο

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


καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους, πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Γαλιλαίου ἐπηγάγετο

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

• I replaced the line, “and many Jews (a Christian translation of Judaens, same word), and also many of the Greek element, he led to himself;” With “and many of the Judaens, and also many of the Galilean element, he led to himself” as the original line sounds Paulinist. As Paula Fredriksen said Josephus “is the only one of our early sources to name gentiles (those “of Greek origin”) as among Jesus’ original followers. No New Testament source corroborates this claim,…. the movement that formed after Jesus’ death seems to have involved gentiles only eventually and tangentially, and not from its very initial stages.” [36] Fredriksen thinks that this was written anachronistically by Josephus but as Rosen-Zvi and Ophir noticed about Josephus is that the syntactic construction is playing on the Jew/Gentile binary, which is not a feature of Josephus’ language anywhere else. [37] Therefore it is more likely that  Eusebius swapped out Ἑλληνικοῦ (Greek) for Γαλιλαίου (Galilean). Also the Greek does suggest two groups as ἐπηγάγετο means the source of, the spring of. It is tantalizing that the Jesus movement was big enough to lead two groups of people into a revolt! One from his area Galilee who came down for the Passover, joining with those more local from the south, the Judaens. A failed revolt consisting of two groups would see one side blaming the other. Judas Iscariot may be a literary construction in the gospels (discussed below) to represent the Judean element being at fault for the failure. The size of this messianic group would explain that the Jesus movement was big enough to make it into Josephus. [38] It shows Jesus leading a full on revolt of at least two groups before he got executed. Jesus was not a nobody, a nobody would not make it into Josephus and be the cause of the rise of the NT literature. Romans crucified for sedition, they were never interested in common thieves. Crucifixion was used as a deterrent to rebellion. “Jesus was condemned to aggravated death. If we look at the ten chapters [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 lesa-majesty.” (law of Treason, lex maiestatis) [39] (Cf The Digesta 48:1, 3)

       There was a two-fold advantage for Eusebius to replace the word “Galileans” with the word “Greeks”.  Firstly he would get rid of a negative rebellious connotation by getting rid of a ‘Galilean’ reference. Secondly having ‘Greeks’ makes this movement sound universal, Eusebius wished to confirm Jesus’ “letter” (this was made up by Eusebius) to King Agbar.  (H.E. I.13.1). Also the early followers of Jesus were known as Galileans, as attested by Epictetus, Diss. 4.7.6. Circa 110-115CE (Cf Luke 13:1-2; Mark 14:70):


 “Well then, if madness can cause people to adopt such as attitude towards these things [not being scared at the swords of tyrants] and habit too, as in the case of the Galileans, can’t reason and demonstration teach people that God has made all that is in the universe, and the universe itself as a whole, to be free…” (Diss. 4.7.6)

This passage shows that Christians were known to be persecuted by the Emperor Nero, and Epictetus had been within close proximity to the Emperor’s household. Also Epictetus’ opprobrious mention of the Galileans means they could just as easily have been messianic rebels. The gospel of Mark may also have preserved the fact that this movement was Galilean:

 “Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” (Mark 14:70).

Josephus views the galileans as a separate ethnos. (E.g. War 3 § 42). He views them condescendingly, they mainly reside in the urban centres of Galilee. Thiel says that Josephus described them as “restive and emotional mob ready to ignite at the slightest indignation” [40]

Next bit:

ὁ χριστὸς οὗτος ἦν.

He was the Christ.


ἐνομίζετο βασιλεὺς εἶναι

He was believed to be a King.

• As with many messianic figure followers reported in Josephus works, they usually declared the would be leader a King, (this is a messianic title). Many messianic figures in Josephus works such as Simon of Pereae, a slave of Herod the Great (Ant 17.10.6) and Athronges the shepherd (Ant 17.10.7 ) were declared King (βασιλεὺς) at a drop of a hat. This is a common theme throughout Josephus, this line is telling: 

“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.” (Josephus, Ant 17.10.8).

This theme of popular messianic figures expected to lead the disgruntled has gospel tradition too, example:

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

Also the Titulus crux, where Jesus crime was stated “King of the Jews” points to sedition.

Therefore I replaced “he was the Christ” using Jeromes Latin recension with the more primitive phrase “he was believed to be the Christ”. For the Greek I used the verb νομίζω (consider) i.e. “ἐνομίζετο”.  I also replaced Christ (χριστὸς) with King (βασιλεὺς) as Josephus did not use this term for all the other messianic figures. If you read Josephus you would be surprised with how many messianic contenders were declared to be a king. Therefore I used the term ‘King’ in this reconstruction. Origen stated that Josephus did not like to use the term “Christ” in relation to Jesus. Josephus preferred to apply that title to Vespasian in his Roman propaganda, citing the Balaam prophecy (War 6.312-313). In a lecture, Henry Abramson explains why Josephus could not have wrote ‘Christos’ in this passage, “When Josephus uses the word Mashiach, [hebrew for Christ] that’s like game over, end of time, that’s like resuscitation of the dead. The world ends as we know it. We go into a brand new period of history unlike anything we had before. For him to go on to write another few volumes with only one passage about this one event is just beyond belief… a modern analogy is to say we have found intelligent alien life but we will finish this lecture. Another impossible event.” [41] Of course the word ‘Christ’ does fit into Paul’s letters as Paul is describing the end game. Paul’s epistles do describe this brand new age of history already started by Jesus the messiah, Jesus being ‘first fruits’ is the first of the dead to resurrect.

Next section:

[ἀντεῖπε γὰρ τὸ διδόναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι.]

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

[For he opposed paying the tax to Caesar.] 

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

•A new line added in brackets as there was no reason given for Jesus Crucifixion rendering our current TF vacuous. There was originally a reason which I suspect was cut out. The reason I add this reason is that it is well attested in all the canonical as well as many of the apocryphal gospels. Many of the gospels have a controversy over paying tribute to Caesar (Matt 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26; Papyrus Egerton 2:3). “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be a King Messiah.” (Luke 23:2). There could have been a mention of this in the original TF, that was cut out. If Josephus had originally described Jesus as a messianic rebel, in particular one who had advocated tax resistance, there would have been a strong motive to eliminate that from the record.

       In the following sentence contained in the Slavonic TF could have come from an original TF, “And many souls were roused, thinking that thereby the Jewish tribes could free themselves from Roman hands.” The word tribe is also in the last sentence of the TF.

Next Section also in brackets:

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

[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.]

• Ian Mills in an interview with Derek Lambert on his Mythvision podcast [42] thinks Jesus actually made this crazy claim of an miraculous event of the destruction and restoration of the Temple. (Many messianic figures made crazy claims as seen from the ‘Egyptian’ and ‘Theudas’ discussed later in this paper). Mills thinks that when the Temple really got destroyed that this was a memorable prophecy. This in turn meant the gospel of Mark included it in his gospel, with a qualifier that it was a false report. Ian Mills drawing from E P Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, says the gospels are uncomfortable with a failed prophecy of Temple destruction. (Mark 13:1-31). Mark is writing after the destruction, and therefore highlighting this prophecy of Jesus. It is very unusual for those trying to glorify Jesus, to put in a failed prophecy, it is not something you make up from scratch. If you keep reading into Mark’s gospel, onto the trial of Jesus (Mark 14:57-59) you will read about people falsely accusing Jesus that he will destroy the Temple and rebuild it:

“Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” (Mark 14:57-58).

While Jesus was on the cross people mock him about it:

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Mark 15:29-32)

Mark knows his readers are well aware of the prophecy and tries to refute it. You do not try to refute a non-existent failed prophecy, that is one of the reasons for suspecting that this prophecy was circulating. 

[After the ‘Egyptian”’s failed revolt, I can picture those around him, mocking him as to why the walls of Jerusalem didn’t come tumbling down. I discuss the Egyptians crazy messianic claim later in this paper. The belief he may have had about being a messiah would have been shattered like what happened to other messianic movements in the event of failure. Without gods intervention- they can’t be the messiah. Really Jesus was not unique and had similar problems experienced by other messianic types. The gospel of Mark tries to get around peoples opposition to Jesus being the messiah by inventing a literary construct of the messianic secret]. 

John 2:19 also had this prediction of destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days. Mark is in denial about the prediction whereas John spiritualized it. 

       Stephens speech also has it about the prophecy in Acts:

“They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” (Acts 6:13-14).

Even the gospel of Thomas has this prophecy, saying 71:

“I will destroy this house, and no one shall be able to build it again.”

Next section:

καὶ αὐτὸν ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου

And, when on the accusation of the first men among us Pilate had condemned him to a cross.

•Paul Winters, an expert in Jewish and Roman Law in first century Palestine sees this line as genuine. “The balanced distinction between ἐνδείξει (verb ένδείχνυμι) writ of indictment, attributed to Jewish leaders, and the act of awarding sentence (επιτιμάν σταυρῷ) is not likely to be the work of a Christian interpolator …Such an interpolator would scarcely have been content with reproaching Jewish leaders for drawing up an indictment against Jesus whilst stating that the imposition of sentence by crucifixion was an act of Roman justice.” [43]

•Shlomo Pines [44] had thought this line was not in the original TF as the Agabius Arabic version does not blame the Jews for the death of Jesus. The key phrase “at the suggestion of the principal men among us” reads instead “Pilate condemned him to be crucified”. But Whealey has proved that the Agapius version is a paraphrase. She proved this as she showed Michael the Syriac recension used the same source. Therefore it is most likely that this line is original. [45].

John 11:47-50 reflects the collaborating High Priest’s fear of the danger posed by a messianic figure:

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.”

This is also backed up in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15:

For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s Assemblies in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those Assemblies suffered from the Judeans….. [46] 

The Dead Sea Scrolls mention an earlier high priest, seen as a collaborator, whom they dubbed the “Wicked Priest,” (“cohen resha” mentioned in 1QpHab; cf 4QpPsa) which shows one need not read the Josephus business about priestly involvement in Jesus’ execution as a product of vilification by Christian interpolators.

Next section:

οὐκ ἐπαύσαντο οἱ τὸ πρῶτον ἀγαπήσαντες

those who loved him from the beginning did not forsake him

When Celsus was quoting the TF, he did not see that line, in his copy, the following line could have been there:

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

those that loved him at first did not cease [worshipping],

εἰ μὴ καὶ τοῦτον, ὅσπερ ἐστὶν αὐτοῖ τῆς στάσεως ἀρχηγέτης

only Him,who is their leader in sedition.

•We have seen the word for “to worship, or to revere” (σεβομένων) in line two as attested by Eusebius, Demonstratio evangelica iii. 5. This word is again seen in Contra Cels. 8.14.

We see this when Origen is quoting Celsus’ book The True Doctrine:

“If you should tell them that Jesus is not the Son of God, but that God is the Father of all, and that He alone ought to be truly worshipped, they would not consent to discontinue their worship of him who is their leader in the sedition.” (Origen quoting Celsus in Contra Celsum 8.14)

The church fathers are all denying what was common knowledge to the ancients (especially the church fathers’ interlocutors) about Jesus. As Origen answers against Celsus disagreeing with him: “Jesus is, then, not the leader of any seditious movement, but the promoter of peace.” (Contra Cels. 8.14). Origen was denying what Celsus could have picked up as common knowledge that would have been contained in an original TF, that Jesus was the leader of a seditious movement.

Next phrase:

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

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


εἰς νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦδε οὐκ ἐπέλιπε τὸ φῦλον τοῦτον

And this tribe/group has until now not disappeared.

•In a survey of Eusebius use of the term φῦλον (tribe/group)  we find he usually used it for groups of people he generally disliked such as the examples Whealey [47] provides: Contra Hieroclem 22; praeteritio XIII 15.5; d.e. IV 9.12; Eusebius use of this term disparagingly makes it likely the term τὸ φῦλον came from the hand of Josephus. 

•Eusebius used his own phrase for “still to this day” εἰς ἔτι τε νῦν when he was interpolating the word Christians. It was Louis Feldman who noticed this and saw this as evidence of Eusebius tampering. [48] It’s unlikely Josephus used the word ‘Christians’ which Louis Feldman also noted, “The passage refers to “the tribe of the Christians,” but it is unlikely that Josephus referred to the Christians as a new nation, distinct from Jews and gentiles. The word “Christians” is

 found nowhere else in the works of Josephus. [49] But Josephus as caught in another manuscript had used his own phrase for “still to this day”  εἰς νῦν as Whealey has detected and reconstructed the original Josephean phrase for “until now” as the phrase εἰ τε νῦν was found in Oecumenius’ Commentarian in Apocalypsium that quotes the final sentence of the TF. Whealey thinks the sigma from εἰ was dropped as two of the oldest MSS have the phrase εἰς τε νῦν (W and A). [50] It’s a minor change but shows tampering which is what I argue for anyway. Eusebius used the phrase “still to this day” in place of Josephus using the phrase “until now”.

A few more points:

•   As we can see our textus restitutus is larger than the textus receptus. Eisler noticed that there was more space left for the TF than the size of the textus receptus. “In the Codex Vossianus, now in the University Library of Leyden, …. we have the Testimonium at the end of the second book of the War…….. The whole insertion is not the work of the scribe but an addition written by a second hand, from which it follows that the original scribe had purposely left a blank for such an insertion. Of the curious fact that the space thus provided was far too large for the insertion of the usual Testimonium Flavi­anum I can offer no other explanation than that the scribe found a passage of just this length in his original [version]…..” [51]

• The TF could not have been neutral because of what was written before and after it. I stated the Galileans were slain because of the opening line of the passage after the TF:

 “About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder..” (Ant 18.3.4)

and also see what was written before it:

“Who laid upon them much greater blows than Pilate had commanded them; and equally punished those that were tumultuous, and those that were not. Nor did they spare them in the least.“(Ant 18.3.2)

•Significantly, the TF is to be found right in the very middle of the rebel passages. This argues against an ex nihilo interpolation, since it is highly unlikely that Christian scribes would have chosen to put their testimony to Jesus right in the middle of the rebel section of Antiquities. This observation supports the rebel paradigm for Jesus. This is underappreciated.

•The incident that happened in Ant18.3.2 reminds me of unarmed protesters being shot in Northern Ireland that started a 30 years guerilla war. This gives me a suspicion that the Jesus movement was reactionary in its resistance. Luke’s gospel picks up on this:

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’” (Luke 13:1-5).

•Church fathers before Eusebius would have had both histories of Jesus, that of the gospels and that of the passage found in Antiquities. The gospels shed the best possible light on Jesus with their glorification. The original negative TF would have shed a very bad light. Put yourselves into the shoes of these church fathers and ask yourself, if you were discussing Jesus, would you use those histories that put Jesus in the best possible light or would you use that negative passage. This is what P. R. Coleman-Norton prescribed when he examined John Chrysostom’s use of Josephus. For all his reports of Jesus he went to the gospels. [52]

Footnotes link here.

Historical Jesus

On the back of two papers I released on Dr Prices Journal of Higher Criticism I am going to start blogging a three part series on the historical Jesus, the man behind the myth.

These are the two papers I will be expanding on:

Dave Allen, The Original Testimonium Flavianum. R M Price, ed.,Journal of Higher Criticism 15/1 (Spring 2020),

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.

For each blog I will be providing the links here, stay tuned.

Part 1

Testimonium Flavianum Reconstructed

Part 2

Part 3

Christ, Christianity and Jewish Messianists.

Gospels and Acts devoid of history? Not a chance!

Most people dismiss Acts as worthless when determining history. What they fail to recognise is that it is a wonderful ancient document, by recognising it for what it is, real history can be determined from it.

Let’s try some higher criticism on this wonderful propaganda piece:

(This I got from Doston Jones):
Acts 16:6-8 mentions that while Paul traveled on his preaching missions, he and his traveling companions came upon Asia but the Holy Spirit did not permit them to preach while in Asia. The narrative elaborates to say that Paul attempted to specifically enter into the locale of Bithynia, Marcionite country but the “Spirit of Jesus did allow them” to go in. So they moved on to another locale.

Conspicuously, no explanation whatsoever is given for this prohibition from entering Bithynia. More striking is that there is no other instance in the entire Acts narrative where Paul was required to avoid a specific place and not make any contact with his gospel.

The author of Acts is disassociating Paul from Marcion by making expressly clear that of all the many places Paul traveled and preached, he did not even set foot in the hometown of Marcion (by order of divine guidance).

( This is my own)
Another note of interest is that Acts has no mention of Alexandria. It does not mention Christianity in Egypt, so Acts is also disassociating from Valentines Christianity. Acts does admit in a curious text about an Alexandria Jew name Apollos who visited Ephesus but Paul and others judged his Christianity to be defective.

(This is from Steve Mason):
From the following passage the Baptist movement can easily be seen as an independent separate movement: Acts19:1-5 “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
But these two movements had existed separately as shown in Acts the Baptist movement had existed in Asia Minor independent to Christianity, both existed after the death of both Jesus and John the Baptist.

(This is from Tyson):
“….the extensive parallels in Acts between Peter and Paul. The two perform similar miracles,experience life changing visions, deliver apologetic and evangelistic speeches, and undergo imprisonments followed by remarkable releases. In content some of the speeches of Peter sound a lot like Paul as we know him from his letters…..Contrariwise, the speeches of Paul, with one exception, do not sound like Paul of his letters …… Luke would produce this kind of history as a first step at reconciliation.”~Tyson,Marcion and Luke-Acts, 3-4.

These were Schneckenburgers observations, (as stated in Tyson’s book), and Baur acknowledging these observations concluded that Acts “chief tendency is to represent the difference between Peter and Paul as inessential and trifling”~Baur,”Paul, the Apostle”1:6

Much much more history can be determined as I’ve posted about Eisenman writing out James as head of the Jerusalem Assembly etc etc

Caesar cults that had a huge impact on Christianity.

When a comet appeared shortly after Julius Caesar’s murder, Octavian urgently promoted and the people willingly accepted it as his father’s apotheosis, his divine spirit ascending to take his place among the heavenly gods. Octavian ubiquitously displayed that star as consolidating his power. It was engraved on ring gemstones, pressed into clay seal impressions and cheap glass beads, and minted especially on coins whose legends drew the logical conclusion that, if the father was now divine, the adopted son was therefore “Son of a Divine One” or “Son of God.” That Latin title DIVI FILIUS is on most of his coins.(Pliny, Natural History, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958). Cf Suetonius, “Iulius,” 88, in The Lives of the Caesars; Dio Cassius, Roman History 45.7.1; Servius on Virgil, Eclogues 9.46.)

Cross reference this with the star prophecy in Matthew.


The most astonishing for the study of the Gospels is a Greek inscription from Priene, a city just south of Ephesus on the western coast of what is now Turkey. The two-part inscription, copied and distributed across what was then called Asia Minor, contains the earliest and most striking instance of the term “Gospel” or “good tidings” to proclaim Caesar’s Roman imperial theology. Part one records how the Roman governor of Asia, Paulus Fabius Maximus, proposed to the Asian cities that they change their calendar so that Augustus’s birthday would be henceforth New Year’s Day.

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ” [in Marks gospel] closely matches the formula found on a monument erected by the Provincial Assembly in Asia Minor (1st century BCE):[here is a quote from the inscription]…

“the birthday of the god has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel (ευαγγελιον) concerning him”~Price,The Christ Myth Theory,63.


The following extract from Litwas book, tells a common trope of a prophecy of a child’s future greatness is a well-known mythological motif.

“Nigidius Figulus was reputed to be a diviner who foretold the future. It was this Nigidius who met Augustus’s father on his way to the Senate house. When he inquired about Octavian’s tardiness, the latter explained that his son had just been delivered. When Nigidius learned the precise time of the child’s birth, he shouted out before astounded witnesses, “the ruler of the world had been born!” Octavian, afraid that his son would grow up to overthrow the Roman Republic, planned to kill the child.~ Livy, From the Foundation 2.3–4 [cf gMatthew,Herod attempting to kill the baby Jesus].

Yet Nigidius dissuaded him, remarking that it was impossible for the child to evade his imperial fate.~ Suetonius, Deified Augustus 94.5.

When Jesus’s parents are in Jerusalem, they offer the customary sacrifice at the temple. Suddenly an old man emerges from the shadows of the temple courts, scoops up the child from Mary’s arms, and delivers a prophecy. He addresses the Jewish deity in a prayer heard by all: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace . . . for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32).”

~Litwa, How the Gospels became History, ch6.


The cult provides the context for understanding the famous Pontius Pilate inscription. Found flipped upside down and reused in the seating of the theater, the fragmentary Latin inscription reads “. . . this Tiberium, Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea, erected. . . .” While many think that the inscription’s importance lies in proving that Pilate existed (and, by extension, that the Gospels are historically reliable), the inscription’s significance lies in showing that during Jesus’ lifetime a Tiberium, a structure dedicated to the worship of Tiberius, existed at Caesarea, and that the Latin text along with the building clearly communicated the fact that Rome ruled.


Titles such as “Lord,” “Savior,” and “Son of God,” as well as use of the term “good news” or “good tidings” (Greek: euaggelion; English: Gospel) for the Emperors acts of public beneficence, show the inextricability of what we today would call “religious” and “political” discourse. As Peppard has shown in his book “Son of God in the Roman World”, there were only two people at that time that held the title “son of God”, that is the Emperor and Jesus. There was no “separation of church and state” in the Roman Empire, and that a human being could be seen as “divine” and could be hailed as bringing “Gospel” was by no means anomalous. This imperial cult penetrated even into Jesus’ Galilee: the fragmentary Latin inscription that records the name of Pontius Pilate comes from the Tiberium, a structure erected for the worship of the emperor Tiberius, in Caesarea.


The adoption of the word “Parousia” by early Christians has a meaning for the coming into town of an Emperor. From the Ptolemaic period to the second century of the common era “parousia” was used in the East as a technical expression to denote the arrival or visit of a king or emperor, and celebrated the glory of the sovereign publicly. In memory of the visit of Emperor Nero to the cities of Patras and  Corinth, advent coins were struck that carried the legend Adventus Augusti Corinth. The Greek word parousia here corresponded to the Latin word advent. The numerous journeyings of the Emperor Hadrian were celebrated by many advent coins, and often new eras were reckoned from date of the parousia.

In the New Testament the word parousia came to refer to the second coming of Christ. (Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8, 9; James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28.)


The story of the Magi in Matthews gospel may have been inspired by a visit of the Magi to Nero in worshipping Nero as a god.

“Both in Apollonius of Tyana and Matthews birth narrative were “inspired by the visit of Tiridates I [of Arminia] and his train to Nero that culminated in their reverencing him as a god. Matthew’s tale belongs to a body of material that attributes to Jesus titles and claims characteristic of the Emperors and their cults. People said that Tiridates and his magi had initiated Nero in their mysteries and secret meals. The gospel story implies that Jesus needed no initiation: he was the predestined ruler of the magi, as well as of the Jews; but unlike the ignorant Jews the magi knew this. They understood the star that signalled his coming and came themselves to meet him, make their submission, and offer the gifts due their ruler.”~ Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician,96.


The fact that the proclamation of Vespasian was issued from Judea led Josephus to interpret an ancient oracle foretelling that a ruler from Judea should acquire dominion over the entire world as an allusion to Vespasian (Wars6.5.4; cf Tacitus,Hist.v. 13 and Suetonius, Vespasianus,§ 4). The new emperor left his son Titus in command of the army, while he himself hurried to Rome to take possession of the throne. Vespasian is greeted with “good news” in Wars4.10.6.

James Steven Vallient discusses the cult of Vespasian and its parallels to Jesus in his book Creating Christ, “Vespasian is the only Roman emperor who is reported to have actually performed miracles during his earthly existence. Vespasian performed these feats at the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria. Moreover, they were healing miracles. And they happened to be exactly the same healing miracles that Jesus performs in the New Testament.”~Creating Christ, James Stevens Valliant. (Cf Tacitus Histories book IV,81;Suetonius, Vespasian,7).


With the shrewd rise of King David over all the tribes, a precedent was set and historical prototype for subsequent messianic movements, from bandit chieftain to King. During the time of Jesus all these tales of messiah savior “kings” gave rise to many messianic movements such as those reported by Josephus.


* The cleansing of the Temple scene in Mark preserves some faded memory of the entry of Simon bar-Gioras into the Temple to clean out the robbers (Zealots) of John of Giscala on the eve of the Temple’s destruction.(Mark11:15-19; Wars4.9.11-12).

“So they got together, and slew many of the zealots, and drove the rest before them into that royal palace…..the Idumeans [loyal to Simon] fell in with them, and drove the zealots out thence into the temple, and betook themselves to plunder John’s effects….. Accordingly, in order to overthrow John, they determined to admit Simon: and earnestly to desire the introduction of a second tyrant into the city…….. Accordingly he, in an arrogant manner, granted them his lordly protection; and came into the city, in order to deliver it from the zealots. The people also made joyful acclamations to him, as their saviour, and their preserver. “(Wars4.9.11).

(Also note of Simon Maccabee entering Jerusalem with people laying palms: 1Macc13:51 (cfZachariah9:9-10;Psalm118)

“Whereupon John, with his multitude of zealots, as being both prohibited from coming out of the temple, and having lost their power in the city: (for Simon and his party had plundered them of what they had:) were in despair of deliverance. Simon also made an assault upon the temple, with the assistance of the people; while the others stood upon the cloisters, and the battlements, and defended themselves from their assaults.”(Wars4:9:12)

We notice how Simon bar Gioras was welcomed into the temple to cleanse the sacred precinct from the “thieves” who infested it, Zealots under John of Gischala.

After this triumphant entry he commenced the cleansing of the temple, “sweep( ing) the zealots out of the city.”

* Tacitus, Hist. v. 12;

“All the most desperate characters in the country had taken refuge there[Jerusalem] which did not conduce to unity. They had three armies, each with its own general. The outermost and largest line of wall was held by Simon; the central city by John, and the temple by Eleazar.514 John and Simon were stronger than Eleazar in numbers and equipment, but he had the advantage of a strong position. Their relations mainly consisted of fighting, treachery, and arson: a large quantity of corn was burnt. Eventually, under pretext of offering a sacrifice, John sent a party of men to massacre Eleazar and his troops, and by this means gained possession of the

temple.515 Thus Jerusalem was divided into two hostile parties, but on the approach of the Romans the necessities of foreign warfare reconciled their differences.”

* Just like Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem people thought of Simon bar Giora as a king.

Simon, with “a strong body of men,” overran villages and became a threat “to the cities.” He had men of power, slaves and robbers, and “a great many of the populace” who “were obedient to him as their KING.” According to Josephus, it was no secret that he was “making preparations for the assault on Jerusalem” (Wars 4.9.4).

* Jesus movement was from the backwater of Galilee, simple country folk where Jesus told many agrarian parables. Jesus was a faith healer and teacher where he soon had thousands following him.

Simon bar Giora’s movement composed of Judean and Idumean villages and towns. He built up vast following. Eventually became one of the main leaders in the Jerusalem revolt.(Wars4.9.4).

* People venerated Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem

Yet the Jews had the highest regard for, and fear of, Simon. They were also very ready to take their own lives, if he would have given such a command: “Above all, they had a great veneration and dread of Simon; and to that degree was he regarded by every one of those that were under him, that at his command they were very ready to kill themselves with their own hands” (Wars 5.7.3).

* 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.(Mark14:47).

* 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.”(Wars7.2.1) ;(Cf 1Macc10:20,62 for the purple robe reference.)

* The trial of Jesus with Pilate (Mark15:4-5) and his willingness to be taken as in Mark (14:21) “For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born”

…………does chiastically parallel with

“Thus did God bring this man to be punished for what bitter and savage tyranny he had exercised against his countrymen, by those who were his worst enemies: and this while he was not subdued by violence, but voluntarily delivered himself up to them to be punished”


He 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.”

He appeared like an apparition would make a parallel with the resurrection.(Wars7.2.1).

* Caesar’s triumphal procession is described in Wars 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 (Wars 7.5.6). This matches the crowd turning against Jesus as he was to be crucified.


Source Josephus Jewish Wars

Simon the son of Giora (69 – 70 C.E.); (JW.2.1.2/ 521; 22.2 / 652 -4.94, 9.8 / 538 – 544; 10 / 556 – 565; 11 / 573 – 574; 4.3.1/105; 6.1/ 248 – 253; 3 / 266 – 274; 4 / 278 – 279; 13, 1 / 527- 533; 6.1; 7.2.1/25; 2 / 26 – 36; 5,1-7; 8, 1 / 265 – 267) Tacitus Hist. V 12

Also mentions by Dr Price about parallels of Simon bar Giora and Jesus prompted me to look into this.



The most significant and compelling parallel is Mark14.60,

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Procurator Albinus actually asks Jesus Ben Ananias the exact same question and he also made no answer!

* Both came to Jerusalem during major religious festival.

(Mark14:2 , JW 6.301)

* Both enter Temple area‘s and rant against Temple.

(Mark11:15-17 , JW 6.301)

* Both quote same chapter of Jeremiah.

(Jer7:11 in Mark , Jer7:34 in JW)

* Both preach daily in the temple.

(Mark14:49 , JW6.306)

* Both declared “woe” on to Judea or the Jews.

(Mark13:17 JW6.304.306.309)

* Both predict the temple would be destroyed.

(Mark13:2. , JW 6.300.309)

* Both are for this reason arrested by the Jews.

(Mark14:43 , JW 6.302)

* Both are accused of speaking against the temple.

(Mark14:58 , JW 6.302)

* Neither makes any defence of himself against the charges.

(Mark14:60 , JW 6.302)

* Both are beaten by the Jews.

(Mark14:65 JW6.302)

* Then both are taken to the Roman Governor.

( Pilate in Mark , Albinus in JW)

* Both interrogated by the Roman Governor.

(15:2-4 , JW 6.303)

* Both asked to identify themselves.

(Mark15:2 , JW6.303)

* Neither says anything in their defense.

(Mark15:3-5 , JW6.305)

* Both beaten by the Romans.

(Mark15:15. , JW 6.304)

* Not released in Mark15:6-15 ; released in JW6.309

* Killed in Mark15:34 by execution.

Killed in JW6.308-309 by artillery.

* Both utter lament for themselves immediately before they die.

(Mark15:34 , JW6.309)

* Both die with loud cry.

(Mark15:37 , JW6.309)



The Egyptian prophet (between 52 and 58 CE)

[Sources: Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 2.259-263 ; cf Jewish Antiquities 20.169-171; Acts of the apostles 21.38.]

Story: According to Flavius Josephus, there were many people during the governorship of Festus

who deceived and deluded the people under pretense of Divine inspiration, but were in fact for procuring innovations and changes of the government. These men prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, pretending that God would there show them the signals of liberty.[Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 2.259.]

He continues with the following story.

There was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him; these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives. He was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place; and if he could but once conquer the Roman garrison and the people, he intended to rule them by the assistance of those guards of his that were to break into the city with him.[Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 2.261-262.]

In his Jewish antiquities, Josephus retold the story. The number of followers seems to be less exaggerated and the prophet’s threat to use violence are ignored.

about this time, someone came out of Egypt to Jerusalem, claiming to be a prophet. He advised the crowd to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of a kilometer. He added that he would show them from hence how the walls of Jerusalem would fall down at his command, and he promised them that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those collapsed walls. Now when Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and came against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen from Jerusalem, and attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He slew four hundred of them, and took two hundred alive. The Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, but did not appear any more. And again the robbers stirred up the people to make war with the Romans, and said they ought not to obey them at all; and when any persons would not comply with them, they set fire to their villages, and plundered them. [Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.169-171.]

Comment: Like Theudas, the Egyptian prophet took Joshua (the man who made the walls of Jericho fall;Joshua 6.20) as an example. The Roman governor was rightly alarmed: like Joshua and Moses, the Egyptian claimed to lead the Jews to a promised land without enemies. This was clearly a messianic claim, even though Josephus does not mention it. The nameless Egyptian may have called himself “king Messiah”, because Josephus uses the Greek verb tyrannein (“to be sole ruler”) in the first quotation. It should be noted that the Mount of Olives was regarded as the place where God would stand on the Day of Judgment, fighting the battle against Israel’s enemies.[Zechariah 14.4.]

The commander (chiliarch) of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, Claudius Lysias, makes mention of the Egyptian to Paul in Acts 21:38.

In conclusion, there seems to be a pattern, where a number of episodes described in the New Testament display significant similarities to events described by Josephus, but with a fairly consistent delay of fifteen to twenty years

* Like Jesus, the Egyptian had lingered in “the wilderness” or “desert” (ἐρημία).

* Both speak of tearing down the walls of Jerusalem (cf. Luke 19:43-44).

* Both had lived in Egypt.

* Both are described as messianic leaders with a great following.

* Both are perceived as major threats by the authorities.

* “The Egyptian” is defeated on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus was arrested.

Jesus and the Egyptian are the circumstances surrounding their defeat: Jesus is arrested on the Mount of Olives, crucified, resurrected, and then vanishes. The Egyptian is defeated in a battle on the Mount of Olives, and then vanishes.


Mark 15:7 states that “a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection”. The author uses the definite form, as if we should already know which insurrection is intended. The fact is, however, that Mark describes no insurrection, nor do the other gospel authors. The only reported disturbances are the ones occurring when Jesus is arrested on the Mount of Olives (meeting his adversaries with the words: “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a robber?”). But the conflict seems predominately religious, and it is the Sanhedrin which sends out people to arrest Jesus, as indeed Mark, Matthew and Luke all write.

One Gospel, however, differs. In John 18:12, we read that “the Jewish police” are accompanied by “the soldiers” and “their officer” (NRSV). But it is when we go to the Greek original of John that we get the full picture: The word for “soldiers” is σπεῖρα, speira. A σπεῖρα is a Roman cohort with a paper strength of one thousand soldiers. So as to confirm that this is indeed what John describes, he uses the word χιλίαρχος for their commander (“the commander of one thousand”).

If John’s account is correct, then what occurred on the Mount of Olives must have been some sort of battle. It is difficult to imagine that the Romans would send out hundreds of soldiers to arrest one resting man. It is also worth noting that prior to the departure for the Mount of Olives, Luke 22:36 has Jesus admonishing his disciples that “the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one”. Thus, judging by John, the events preceding the arrest of Jesus bear distinct similarities to the events surrounding the defeat of the Egyptian. And the location is the same.

Assuming that John is correct, and that Josephus’ narrative on the fate of the Egyptian is accurate, the one clear remaining difference between the Egyptian and Jesus is the crucifixion. Although this may be a decisive distinction, one event in the gospel accounts deserves to be mentioned in this context: the release of Barabbas. Unlike Jesus, Barabbas (or, as he is called in Matt. 27:16-17, Jesus Barabbas, meaning “Jesus, Son of the Father”) escapes crucifixion. That Jesus from Nazareth and Jesus Barabbas could be one and the same person is a proposition that has been made previously, by scholars as well as in fictional accounts. The peculiar resemblance of the names, as well as a failure to find either a biblical or an extra-biblical precedent for the described custom of releasing a prisoner at the feast, are generally cited as reasons for the hypothesis.

The word for “soldiers” is σπεῖρα, speira. ( John 18:12 )A σπεῖρα is a Roman cohort with a paper strength of one thousand soldiers. So as to confirm that this is indeed what John describes, he uses the word χιλίαρχος for their commander (“the commander of one thousand”).

Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, John 18:3 and 18:12 state that Jesus on the Mount of Olives was confronted by a speira – a Roman cohort of 500 to 1,000 soldiers.

[The word for “soldiers” is σπεῖρα, speira. A σπεῖρα is a Roman cohort with a paper strength of one thousand soldiers. So as to confirm that this is indeed what John describes, he uses the word χιλίαρχος for their commander (“the commander of one thousand”)]

This suggestion of a battle preceding Jesus’ arrest is reminiscent of an event described by Josephus in the 50s (A.J. 20.169-172; J.W.2.261-263), involving the so called ‘Egyptian Prophet’ (or simply ‘the Egyptian’). This messianic leader – who had previously spent time “in the wilderness” – had “advised the multitude … to go along with him to the Mount of Olives”, where he “would show them from hence how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down”. Procurator Felix, however, sent a cohort of soldiers to the Mount of Olives, where they defeated ‘the Egyptian’.



Pontius Pilate is not really Pilate at all in the gospels:

Changing the names of authority figures in the gospel texts, in order to detect (or disguise) parallels in the historical sources, would at the same time be a simple and a radical intervention. It would with one stroke of the pen move the narrative to a different era, but it would also likely bestow upon these authority figures characteristics and circumstances which are not in reality theirs. When comparing the gospel descriptions of various dignitaries with those from Josephus, not only does such a pattern indeed seem to emerge; in addition, there is some consistency with regard to which dignitaries would change names, and when they are active. Procurator Felix (52-ca. 59 C.E.), as he is depicted in Josephus’ texts, in several ways appears to bear stronger similarities to the Pilate described in the Gospels, than Pilate himself. In Josephus’ accounts of Pilate we find no co-reigning high priests, or open conflict between Galileans and Samaritans. Under Felix, and under Cumanus, we do.

There are other examples. Luke 13:1 reads: ”At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” This statement fits poorly with Pilate. To begin with, Pilate was not the ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas was. Secondly, the only registered violent encounter between Pilate and the Jews occurred in Jerusalem – thus in Judea – when non-violent protests against the aqueduct prompted Pilate to instruct his soldiers “with their staves to beat those that made the clamour” (JW.2.175-177).

This stands in stark contrast to what occurred under Felix. Felix, unlike Pilate, was the ruler not only of Judea, but also of “Samaria, Galilee, and Peraea” (JW.2.247; the western part of Galilee after 54 C.E.). At this point, “the country was again filled with robbers and impostors”, a disproportionate amount of whom were Galileans, and Felix was exceptionally cruel in dealing with these insurgents. As Josephus writes: “But as to the number of the robbers whom he caused to be crucified, and of those who were caught among them, and whom he brought to punishment, they were a multitude not to be enumerated” (JW.2.253).

Tacitus, in turn, puts much of the blame for the emerging rebellion on Felix and Cumanus (Annuls 12.54).

There are other, more personal, examples: the Gospels attribute great influence to Pilate’s wife (Matt. 27:19: “While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man …’”). The Gospels also mention a feud between Pilate and the Jewish king (Luke 23:12: “That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.”)

In contrast, Josephus does not mention Pilate’s wife, and, more significantly, fails to mention any animosity between Pilate and Herod Antipas (Philo does mention one possible occasion of disagreement – when “the four sons of the king” [Herod] are asked by the people to implore Pilate to remove the guilt shields, or ensigns, from Jerusalem).

Josephus does, however, describe a significant – and very personal – disagreement between Felix and Herod Agrippa II. The conflict concerns the procurator’s wife. Felix had fallen in love with Agrippa’s sister, princess Drusilla (A.J. 20.141-144). But Drusilla was not only married; Agrippa had forced her first husband, king Azizus, to convert to Judaism. Now Felix “endeavored to persuade her to forsake her present husband, and marry him”, which Drusilla did, thus “transgressing the laws of her forefathers” (A.J. 20.137-144; cf. Acts 24:24).

Hence, a prominent wife, and a personal disagreement with a Jewish ruler, are aspects of Felix’ life; not, as far as is known, of Pilate’s.

In fact Pilate as depicted in Philo’s writing and Josephus does not bear any resemblance on Pilate of the gospels.



Menahem was leader of the sacarii till 66AD till he got assassinated. (2.17.8-9)

Menahem’s procession from Masada to Jerusalem “like a king” and his messianic posturing in the Temple appear as striking comparative material for interpretation of Jesus’ “triumphal entry” and “cleansing of the Temple”.



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. Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere.

Luke20:20 “They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” 26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.”

Judas the Galilean encouraged Jews not to register and those that did had their houses burnt and their cattle stolen by his followers. He ended up getting crucified.

Josephus described Judas the Galilean as a sophist, in Jewish terms that would be somebody very learned in the Torah, somebody like that would be exalted by his peers, something that could have happened to Jesus, the start of his exaltation could have been from his peers.

As a coincidence he had two sons with the same names as Jesus’s brothers

Ant20.102 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”.



Titus won the battle of Tarichaeae by crossing over the Sea of Galilee. This set Titus up for glory in the Jewish War.

The Roman army was “fishing for men” after Titus had figuratively driven the demons into the water. (CfMark5:13 and JW3.10.5-10).



Gospel of Mark calls ‘Simon of “Cyrene’, ‘the father of Alexander and Rufus’, who, ‘coming from a field, carried the cross of Jesus’ (15:21). The way Mark refers to ‘Alexander and Rufus’ they are known in some Gentile Christian Community – presumably Rome, from which Mark is often thought to originate.

In Josephus, coincidental or otherwise, there is another ‘Rufus’, a Roman soldier again, who at the end of the War does somewhat parallel things. What he does is make a daring foray, again across Jordan near Machaeros, where John the Baptist met his end, and ‘carry off’ one of the local Jewish partisans. This man is then crucified before his own town and because of his pitiful cries many surrendered, and those who did not “were butchered and the women and children enslaved – this the ‘carrying off’ and ‘cross’ themes associated with one ‘Rufus’ in Josephus. Wars7.199-209.


Simon the son of Giora (69 – 70 C.E.); (BJ, II, 19, 2 / 521; 22, 2 / 652 – 654; IV, 9,4;

9, 8 / 538 – 544; 10 / 556 – 565; 11 / 573 – 574; V, 3, 1 / 105; 6, 1 / 248 – 253; 3 / 266 – 274; 4 / 278 – 279; 13, 1 / 527- 533; VI, 1, 7 / 72; VII, 2, 1 / 25; 2 / 26 – 36; 5,1-7; 8, 1 / 265 – 267) Tacitus Hist. V 12

The Egyptian prophet (between 52 and 58 CE)

[Sources: Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 2.259-263 ; cf Jewish Antiquities 20.169-171; Acts of the apostles 21.38.]

Jesus Ben Ananias (JW6.301-309)

Procurator Felix (JW.2.247; JW.2.253

Tacitus Hist. Annuls 12.54;

Pontas Pilate (JW.2.175-177)

Menahem (JW.2.17.8-9)


It’s hard to tell which traditions actually belong to a historical character, easier to see which traditions that were attributed to him.

It seems to me to use the messianic hopefuls as reported in Josephus works as archetypes for Jesus.

Ch2 in Brandon’s book “Jesus and the Zealots” was about comparing Judas the Galilean described as a sophist in Josephus, in Jewish terms that would be somebody very learned in the Torah, somebody like that would be exalted by his peers, something that could have happened to Jesus, the start of his exaltation could have been from his peers.

Then you could take Lena Einhorn who thought a Jesus was the ‘Egyptian’. Obviously the ‘Egyptian’ would make a good archetype also.

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.

Reza Aslan in his Zealot book says “One of the most fearsome of all the bandits, the charismatic bandit chief Hezekiah, openly declared himself to be the messiah, the promised one who would restore the Jews to glory.”(Jewish War 1.204-205).

As the Testamonian Flavian (Ant 28.3.3) is an obvious overwritten, all of it rubbed out and overwritten piece, then all you can do is reconstruct what could have been originally written there. That is all you can possibly know about Jesus.