PART 5 of my Historical Jesus series

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

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

It was S. F. G. Brandon, who stated the most damning piece of evidence for the rebel paradigm, that Jesus got “crucified by the Romans as a rebel against the government in Judea.” He showed the gospels tried to cover up this fact and this fact was also mentioned by Tacitus. [2] I showed in the last part that the Romans only crucified for sedition, the same as a farmer would string up a crow as a deterrent. Dr R M Price has always said that Brandon had done a fine job of higher criticism showing that Jesus had been sanitized in the gospels. He comments that even though he was whitewashed and changed beyond recognition there were some fossils, stories about the historical Jesus that just made it into the gospels simply because they were too good to leave out. These incidents escaped the censorship editors such as the disciples armed with weapons starting to defend him against the arresting mob in Gethsemane. Jesus asked at the last supper have you got any swords. The kingdom of god advances with violence, Jesus saying “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) and many other such incidents discussed below.

Even in the transmission of the gospels Jesus was still being sanitized as Bart Ehrman shows when discussing Mark 1:41 which has two different readings, Jesus feeling compassion, splangnistheis and Jesus becoming angry, orgistheis. (codex Bezae). Usually the harder reading is the preferable but Matthew and Luke clinch the deal as they both drop the word angry when copying this verse. Elsewhere they also drop Jesus being angry from other verses of Mark (example copying Mark 3:5, 10:14, Luke or Matthew have no anger), and Mark has no problem with showing Jesus as angry in his gospel.[3] This all shows the image of Jesus was still being whitewashed after the gospels were written, still being changed in transmission.

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

“In Matthew 17:24­-27, we find the famous legend of the coin in the fish’s mouth. Simon Peter has just assured the collectors of the Jewish Temple Tax that Jesus intends to pay the tax. Jesus then asks him: “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes- -from their own sons or from others?” “From others,” comes Peter’s answer. “Then the sons are exempt,” replies Jesus. The whole point is that Jesus, being God’s son, has no intention of paying. So far so good. But the story continues: “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” The saying is thus defused, and the point is completely reversed. Someone, afraid of the original radical threat of the passage, has tacked on a pious legend which makes the text “safe.” May we not wonder if exactly the same thing has not transpired with respect to Jesus’ teaching on another tax, that paid to Caesar? [4]

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

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

So then, give back to Caesar what is his, and give back to God what belongs to God. That is the zealot argument in its simplest, most concise form. And it seems to be enough for the authorities in Jerusalem to immediately label Jesus as lestes. A bandit. A zealot” [5]

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

“In the Jewish homeland in the first century, there were two types of coins. One type, because of the Jewish prohibition of graven images, had no human or animal images. [Thus the need for the money changers at the Temple]. The second type (including Roman coinage) had images. Many Jews would not carry or use coins of the second type. But Jesus’s interrogators in the story did. The coin they produced had Caesar’s image along with the standard and idolatrous inscription heralding Caesar as divine and Son of God. They are exposed as part of the politics of collaboration.”[6]

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

Greame Lang had noticed that “Jesus himself is recorded as expressing some rather strong opinions about the wealthy. After meeting the rich young man who sadly declines to sell all he has and give the money to the poor, Jesus tells his disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god” (Mark 10:23-25). Many attacks in the Jewish war were carried out by the poor against the upper classes. Ananias’ palace and Herodian palaces were burnt down; all of the debt records were destroyed (War 2.17.6). The Dead Sea Scrolls offer a window into the minds of these Jews and in the scroll 4Q171 describes “the time of testing” doing a pesher on psalm 37. It uses the typology of testing on Exodus and Wilderness. All this together with the reversal of fortunes expected at a realized eschatology meant….. “some of [Jesus’] rhetoric certainly would have been received without much argument by some of the revolutionaries described by Josephus.” [7]

W. Domeris sees in the third beatitude in Matthew 5:5, a call by Jesus to restore the land to the oppressed peasants. He says Jesus quotes Psalm 37:11, a psalm that gives hope to the peasants against the evil landowners. He goes on to say that Jesus in Matthew 11:29 aligns himself with the poor and oppressed of the Beatitudes, through the anticipation of his own humiliation and oppression. As usual with many episodes in the gospels this takes on eschatological proportions when the fortunes of these peasants are promised to be inverted in the kingdom of God. They were destined to replace the existing political hierarchy. [8]

Horsley comments on the dire conditions of the Jewish peasants due to conquest, bad administration, civil wars and famine and asks “why so many hundreds, even thousands of Jewish peasants, were prepared to abandon their homes to pursue some prophet into the wilderness, or to rise in rebellion against their Jewish and Roman overlords when the signal was given by some charismatic “King” or to flee to the hills to join some brigand band. Peasants generally do not take such drastic action unless conditions have become such that they can no longer pursue traditional ways of life.” [9].

Much of religion and politics were inseparable. The Lord’s Prayer is concerned with the strife of the peasants hoping they get enough to eat and to cancel their debts. (“Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses”). John Dominic Crossan tells us that the “Our Father” contains retributive justice like that contained all over the Prophets and Psalms, in his book “The greatest Prayer”. It tells of the kingdom of god that is to come,(“thy Kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven”), a kingdom that was to be established right here on earth. (Daniel 2:44). “The Lord’s Prayer is … both a revolutionary manifesto and a hymn of hope.” [10]

When Jesus says “Come, follow me …..and I will make you fishers of men. ‘ At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20). This all sounds very like a military oath of allegiance. As Harnack said, “the word of Jesus that one should leave all for his sake and the confession of faith in him at baptism could be conceived to be similar to a military oath of allegiance. To the extent that the sayings of Jesus were later torn from their historical context” [11]

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.”[12]

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). [13] As discussed later, many more disciples had descriptive names associated with the zealots.

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

John Dominic Crossan in his book God and Empire cannot forgive John of Patmos for describing a warlike Christ in his Great Apocalypse, but Revelation could be describing the earliest realistic layer of Christianity. Crossan commented on Revelation in contrast to the gospels: “The First Coming has Jesus on a donkey making a nonviolent demonstration.The Second Coming has Jesus on a war horse leading a violent attack.” [14] But the gospels are not only trying to do a bios of Jesus but describe the “kingdom of god” he was ushering in. This meant the sick got healed, the hungry fed and a peaceful background that was all inaugurated by Jesus. In Jewish literature the eschaton involved a transformation of the earth where violence would be transformed into an era of peace. Crossan in the same book uses “the Jewish Sibylline Oracles that date from around 150 years before the time of Jesus”, to demonstrate this point. Firstly he shows the new age will have an abundance:

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

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

Wolves and lambs will eat grass together in the mountains. Leopards will feed together with kids. Roving bears will spend the night with calves. The flesh-eating lion will eat husks at the manger like an ox, and mere infant children will lead them with ropes. For he will make the beasts on earth harmless. Serpents and asps will sleep with babies and will not harm them, for the hand of God will be upon them. (Sibylline Oracles 3.788–95 cf Isaiah 11:6–9) [15]

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

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. [16] 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’). [17] 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. [18] 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. [19]

       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.” [20] Even if machairē refers to the sacrificial knives as suggested by many scholars such as Paula Fredriksen and Dale Martin, this does not discount them being used in any resistance operations. These sacrificial knives would be carried by many at the Passover. It was these types of weapon, easily concealed, that the Sicarii used when they assassinated the high priest Jonathan.

There are many hints in the gospels that some of Jesus’ followers were zealot resistance types. As Carmichael said, “The echo of the Zealots, for instance is arresting. One Simon the “Kananean” (in the list of the twelve appointed by Jesus) is mentioned (Mark 3;18). The two sons of Zavdai (John and Jacob) are called “sons of rage,” echoing the violence associated with the Kingdom of God activist. Also, Simon the Rock is called “Baryon,” as though it meant “Bar Yonah,” or son of Yonah, but “Baryon” meant “rebel, outlaw,” a political or social outcast living “on the outside,” away from the settled areas controlled by the state.” [21]

I’ll unpack all those points raised above.


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

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


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

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

Just as Mark severely treats the twelve as disciples that just don’t get it, he also reprimands the Heirs of Jesus. He has James and John skip over Jesus’ death for their own glory. “We have already mentioned how central the theme of failed discipleship is to Mark’s gospel and to Thursday in particular. Judas betrays Jesus, Peter denies him, and the rest flee.” [22] All this is actually a polemic of the Jerusalem church. It was Weeden that wrote, “Mark is assiduously involved in a vendetta against the disciples. He is intent on totally discrediting them. He paints them as obtuse, obdurate, recalcitrant men who are at first unperceptive of Jesus’ messiahship, then opposes its style and character, and finally rejects it. As the coup de grace, Mark closes his Gospel without rehabilitating the disciples.” [23]

Kelber has provided the reason for Mark’s actions, namely he wants to show that the disciples provide instances of a defective Jesus tradition. This is a polemic against those that derive their authority directly from the family of Jesus. [24]


Markus Bockmuehl asks in his paper was Simon Peter a ‘Son of Yonah’ or a ‘Terrorist’? [25]

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

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

-“Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ”(Simon Bariona):

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

As Javior Alonso writes, “The image of an absolutely pacifist Jesus does not correspond to the reality of the historical character, but to a later theological creation that modifies, although it fails to hide, certain politically incorrect behaviors of the Nazarene.” [26]

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


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

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

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

[3] Ehrman, Bart, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, (Harper, 2005), p.133-139.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] ibid, p.79ff.

[16] 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

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

[18] ibid, p.137.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Attributing the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE

PART 12 of my Historical Jesus series

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jerome follows on this argument:

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

(Vir ill 2)[Lives of illustrious men]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

To quote Zindler:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Historical Jesus

Rebellion in the epistles!

PART 4 of my Historical Jesus series

Paul’s epistles are seriously neglected in the rebellion paradigm. Eisler traced rebellion in Josephus, [1] which is great because as Robert Miller said, the background of the gospels is that of Josephus. [2] Brandon noticed the editors of the gospels did not whitewash the gospels completely in their bid to sanitize Jesus and left clues of rebellion and rebellious sayings. [3] I have also blogged about hints of rebellion all over the patristics, especially the church fathers countering accusations from anti Christian polemicists. (See part 3).

What’s wrong with all the above is that no serious study has been done on the epistles. I am about to correct that. My main argument is that Paul is working off the old messianic language and transforming it. It is this old language that ties the epistles to the rebels! Paul is two stages removed from Jesus, (stage one, original Aramaic, stage two Hellenistic diaspora), his missionaries were with people who did not need to fight for their land, so that obviously would change things.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“10 [And] Yahweh has [de]clared to you that he will build you a house (2 Sam 7:11c). I will raise up your seed after you (2 Sam 7:12). I will establish the throne of his kingdom 11 f[orever] (2 Sam 7:13). I wi[ll be] a father to me and he shall be a son to me (2 Sam 7:14). He is the branch of David who will arise with the interpreter of the Law, who 12 [ ] in Zi[on in the la]st days according as it is written: “I will raise up the tent of 13 David that has falle[n] (Amos 9:11), who will arise to save Israel.” (4Q174 I 10-13).

The Psalms of Solomon contain some references to Pompey who conquered Jerusalem in 63 BCE, and show hope for a Davidic end time messiah, very similar to that of Paul. [5] The only difference is that to Paul, Jesus is not an expectant figure but a figure that has already been realized, the ‘first fruits’ as I discuss later, in the meantime it is worth reproducing the extract of the psalms here:

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

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

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

Paul has a “continu­ing recognition of God as ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 15.6; 2 Cor. 1.3; 11.31; Col. 1.3; Eph. 1.3, 17).” [7] As Paula Fredriksen notes when the messiah mythology was being applied to Jesus:

“Paul, as others before him, refers this honorific Christos to Jesus. In texts roughly contemporary with his letters, Christos most commonly stands for an End-time Davidic warrior and ruler. Traditions visible both in Paul’s letters and in the later gospels also present Jesus as such a redemptive End-time figure: returning with angels, coming on clouds of glory to gather his elect, bringing in the Kingdom with power.” [8]

Frank Moore Cross [9] believes the doctrine of the two messiahs found at Qumran (the Damascus Document, the Rule, the War Scroll, the Testamonia (4Q175) and the Testaments of twelve patriarchs all show the doctrine of the two messiahs), has its roots in the restoration of a diarchy, that of a perfect King and a perfect High Priest, who shall take office standing by the side of the Lord of the whole earth. (Zechariah 4:14). People had hoped that these would come about at the end of days. This is known as an eschatological concept coming from the Greek ἔσχατος eschatos meaning “last” and -logy meaning “the study of”. These eschatological Jews hoped to establish a new kingdom right here on earth in the last days.

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

“Thus Paul radically redefines the concept of redemption as he does the concepts of Kingdom and Christ: through the original political vocabulary of liberation, he praises a reality that is utterly spiritual.” [10]

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

“While Paul seems to have a tendency of seeing eschatology as something that will be realized spiritually in heaven and individually in the future, the other dimensions are still visible. Revolutionary or even anarchic dynamite can be felt, for example, in the claim that Christ will give the kingdom to God after destroying “every ruler and every authority and power” [11]

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Bermejo-Rubio using scholarship from Kuhn showed that Roman law restricted this type of execution to seditionists (see, e.g., Dig. 48, 19, 28 § 15; Dig. 48, 19, 38 §§ 1-2). Their supporters were subjected to identical punishment as seen from Julius Paulus a Roman Jurist under Severus in case reports (i.e. Imperiales sententiae, Decreta 5, 3, 4). [17] Jesus was condemned to aggravated death. If we look at [Roman Law] by which this type of death was inflicted on individuals of pilgrim and humble status, we will see that only two of them can be taken into consideration: popular uprising and crime of lese-majesty.”[18] In an excellent paper by Bermejo-Rubio, showed those crucified with Jesus would have been executed for sedition and were probably followers (which makes historical sense), he stated: “when the Romans controlled Judaea from 63 BCE until the Jewish War, they only crucified seditionists or those thought to be sympathetic to them.” [19]

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

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

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

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

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

In Leviticus we have God speaking through Moses, letting it be known that the priestly class was then restricted further within this group, namely the descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother. (Lev 16). [21]

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

As Matthew V Novenson notes:

“John Barclay comments on the Antiquities and Against Apion, “These works show us a Diaspora Jew making a supreme—and in fact the last extant—effort to interpret Judaism for non-Jews in the Graeco- Roman world.” This is the most compelling explanation for why Josephus calls the Jewish insurgents “diadem-wearers” and not “messiahs.” It is not, as de Jonge and Rajak suggest, that they were not messiahs. In all likelihood, at least some of them were, as Josephus implies in the passage about the “ambiguous oracle” that drove them to war. [War 6.5.4- the same passage that applied this same oracle to Vespasian]. Nor is it the case that, as Momigliano suggests, Josephus was blithely unaware of Jewish messianism; here again, Josephus gives us reason to think that he does know something about it. [Examples given in footnote 131 by Novenson: War 6.312–13; Ant. 10.210; Ant. 17.43–45] Nor, finally, contra Feldman, does Josephus avoid the word “messiah” because he fears that using it would make him sound anti-Roman. On the contrary, Josephus presents himself as a reporter, not a partisan to the revolt, and he makes the insurgents’ anti-Romanness more clear, not less so, by rendering it in a Roman idiom. The explanation, rather, is that Josephus is constrained by literary convention, by his own chosen project of cultural translation from a Jewish idiom to a Roman one. He calls the insurgents “diadem-wearers” for the same reason that he calls the Pharisees “Stoics”: because that is the term by which his audience will understand what he means. [22]

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

In Judaism the title messiah has royal connotations. There are some instances in the psalms and prophets in the LXX that express messianic beliefs and “the strongest claims for the status of the King as God or son of god are found in the royal psalms, especially psalms 2,45, 72, 89 [LXX 88:27] and 110[LXX 109]” [23]

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

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

As Mack says, “In this case the mythic features are that Jesus himself explained the symbols and that it happened “on the night he was handed over.” Handed over was a term taken from the history of warfare and used in martyrologies to indicate the shift in power that set the situation up for a martyrdom. It did not need any narrative elaboration.” [24] To explain the etymology of the term παρεδίδετο and see it is used for “deliver over” and for a militaristic “surrender”, you have to get to the heart of the term which is to “give over something that you posses (even yourself) against your will. (against = παρά, give = δίδω).

       You can cross reference this with Mark 1:14

“Now after John *was arrested*…”

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

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

Christianity was born out of the messianic fervour that existed before the Roman Jewish war. The apocalyptic worldview was all part of this messianic fervour, a sense of urgency that god’s kingdom was at hand. (Romans 13:11-12). As John J Collins notes in a forward he wrote for Anathea E. Portier-Young’s book that “ Scholars have long recognized that apocalyptic literature originated as resistance literature,”. [25] It was Ernst Käsmann that made the famous statement: “apocalyptic was the mother of all Christian theology” [26] Paula Fredriksen sees the language of the early Christian writers had its provenance in Jewish restoration theology. i. e. “Restoration theology is the anticipation of the redemption of Israel and the world at the establishment of God’s Kingdom.” [27] Apocalyptic Jews were even more dangerous than just disgruntled peasants. They thought the end of the world was approaching, they also thought that they could abandon their way of life and become revolutionaries. As Porter-Young stated “The apocalyptic worldview envisioned a radical relocation of power and in this way redefined the possible and the real, thus clarifying the context for action and empowering the work of resistance.” [28] This egged on many piecemeal revolutionaries to initiate a revolt against Roman maladministration, even with little prospect of success.

The apocalyptic eschatology in Paul’s epistles “shows traces of the warlike messiah transferred to Jesus, and in the ethical admonitions images of war are found from the start” [29] Apocalypticism was always mixed up with military action expecting God’s intervention.

Even as this movement moved away from its rebellious past, many of the military metaphors are retained in the epistles and Pastorials. Examples such as found in1 Thess 5:8; 2 Cor. 6:7; [Rom. 6:23 has wages, ὀψώνια = opsōnia which is a military wage]) Many of the images have their origins in the prophets, sayings that had driven on previous messianic movements in their wars with Rome, now Paul had spiritualised them to battling their demons. [30].

“Those who died as insurrectionists against the system of this age and refused to be ‘conformed to this world’ (Rom. 12:2) are now the resurrected” [31] It was resurrection that secured Paul’s authority and somehow (in his own head at least) put him above those super apostles and put his particular ‘gospel’ (or good news doctrine) ahead of that belonging to the Jesus movements. [32] Paul’s message of resurrection had transformed the failure of Jesus’s life and failure in an ignominious revolt that would disqualify Jesus from being a messiah.

Hoffman has recognised that Christianity was born out of controversy and that Paul’s preaching “centering on the humiliation and execution of a little-known Galilean rabbi, was either insanity or mere nonsense (I Cor. 1.23).” [33]

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

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

“Paul started with the “fact” that Jesus was alive again. Since Paul also knew that Jesus had died by crucifixion, his reappearance meant that he had experienced a resurrection. God performed a miracle by raising Jesus from the dead. If God raised Jesus from the dead, that would mean that Jesus really was the one who stood under God’s special favor, the one chosen by God. But if he was in God’s special favor, why would God let him be executed?…… Paul drew what for him was the natural conclusion: Jesus must not have died for anything he himself had done wrong, since God favored him. He was not being cursed for his own deeds. He must have been cursed for the deeds of others.” [34]

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

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

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

Finally, Paul formulated the present opening (“concerning his Son”), inserted “in power,” qualified “spirit” by “holiness,” and composed the ending (“Jesus Christ our Lord”). Through these alterations, the apostle aimed to block adoption- istic ideas and to oppose a possible libertine reading of the dualistic, Hellenistic add-on.” [35]

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

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

Dr R M Price has often said when you peel away all the layers, you are left with nothing of the historical Jesus, but this is only because too many layers are peeled away. (The third quest rightfully put back the Jewish layer). K L Knoll recognised this, (peeling away too many layers) when commenting on J J Collins who wrote “How Jesus came to be identified as the Davidic messiah remains one of the great puzzles of early Christianity” [37] Knoll said, this is only a mystery if you favour a peaceful Jesus and peel away his violent layer. “….the Jerusalem pillars preached a Jesus who claimed to be a son of David and expected to wage holy war on behalf of the Jewish god in the near eschatological future (in other words, a Davidic messiah similar to those in Ps. 2, the Qumran texts or Psalms of Solomon). The proclamation of the cross fits very nicely with this hypothetical ‘Gospel according to the Jerusalem Pillars’, for any Roman governor would have viewed this type of Jesus as a foolish but potentially dangerous criminal, and the pillars would have used the story of the resurrection to affirm how wrong that Roman governor had been (1 Cor. 1:20–25)” [38].

Dale Allison cannot figure out who the 500 were that Jesus appeared to in his ressurection appearances, ἔπειτα ὤφθη… πεντακοσιίοις ἀδελφοῖς, after that he appeared to…five hundred brothers (1 Cor. 15:6). But then he gives us a hint of who they might be but as a Christian scholar cannot conceive of it: “with reference to the five hundred, speaks of “brothers” (ἀδελφοί), not “brothers and sisters” (ἀδελφοί καὶ ἀδελφαί),” [39] I bet that these were the remnants of the group that had revolted in Jerusalem. Dr Price had thought this part as interpolated as the gospels do not report such an incident. I would say that the suppression of this had more to do with the gospels trying to suppress the movements rebellious past, a movement trying to survive persecution in the aftermath of the Roman Jewish war. “Whereas the apostle was writing to people in Greece, the appearance to the five hundred must have occurred in Israel, where surely the majority of surviving witnesses still lived.” [40].

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

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

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

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

Gerd Ludemann sums this up lovely:

“According to I Thess. 4:13-17, the Second Coming of Jesus will occur in the immediate future; according to 2 Thessalonians, the day of the Lord is not immediately imminent, for the rebellion must come first, and the man of lawlessness must be revealed, “the son of lawlessness who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself Is God” (2 Thess. 2:3c-4, Ludemann’s own translation). [42]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Cross, Frank Moore, “Notes on the doctrine of the two Messiahs at Qumran and the extracanonical Daniel Apocalypse (4Q246)”, essay contained in: Current Research and Technological Developments on Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 20, edited by Parry & Ricks. (Brill, 1995).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[30] ibid, p.35f

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[39] Allison, ibid, p.74

[40] Allison, ibid, p.51

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

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



PART 11 of my Historical Jesus series

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

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

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

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

So the Damneus idea is stretched.

I have a new theory how this came about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see this by two comments from Origen.

CONTRA CELSUM 1.47 ( Origen)

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


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


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

This is literally what it says in Greek:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ἰησοῦ τοῦ λεγομένου Χριστοῦ (genitive).

(Iêsou tou legomenou Christou)

Jesus who (was) called Christ

(Antiquities of the Jews 20:200).

Ἰησοῦς ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός (nominative)

(Iêsous ho legomenos Christos)

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

ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός (nominative)

(ho legomenos Christos)

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

Ἰησοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον Χριστόν (accusative)

(Iêsoun ton legomenon Christon)

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

Ἰησοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον Χριστόν (accusative)

(Iêsoun ton legomenon Christon)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Out of all the Bandits, messiahs and prophets dealt with by Josephus in the lead up to the Roman Jewish War 66-70CE, there are two exceptions to the rule of a negative portrayal. That is Jesus and John the Baptist.

I suspect it was not just the TF that was changed. The same would have happened to the Baptist passage. We all know how Josephus felt about messianic figures and he usually described them in a negative way. I will give one speculative example to show how easily this could be done.

Here’s an extract from the Baptist passage:

And when the others banded together for they were highly delighted (ήσθησαν) to listen to his words-Herod feared that the powerful influence which he exercised over men’s minds might lead to some act of revolt ; (Ant18.5.2)

ἥσθησαν ‘they were glad’ may have been a correction for ἤρθησαν ‘aroused’ to revolt.

By cleverly changing one letter ρ -> σ, would have toned down the whole passage, hiding the real reason Herod had the Baptist executed, mainly because he roused the crowd to sedition. It changed it from a political calling by the Baptist. It makes John as naive (αγαθός, agathós) and Herod Antipas as arbitrary. [4]

The following on baptism was meddled with:

“For in exactly this way one receiving the baptism appeared to him not to be obtaining a payment for their sinful deeds, but for purification of the body, inasmuch as the soul was already completely purified by righteousness.” [5]

Christians did not like that baptism atoned for sins, (it’s as if this would bypass Christ), so they negated the passage by putting in the word “not” and “but”. We have textual evidence where Rufinus’ Latin variant reverses the meaning of the Greek by saying that baptism can serve to wash away sins. In Origen’s copy it hadn’t been interpolated yet: “John the Baptist, baptizing for the remission of sins” as reported in Cels 1.47.

       In the DSS community rule we have an example where Jews found that baptism did atone for sins in the ritual baths. (1QS 3:6–12. Cf 4Q414 and 4Q512 which discuss the purification, repentance and atonement in more detail). Elsewhere in Life 11, Josephus says of Bannus “washing with cold water day and night frequently for sanctification, and I became his zealot.” 

This shows that there was originally a passage there that Christians had to “fix”, just like the TF, Christians would not have meddled with such passages if they did not originally exist.

       The Slavonic also knows nothing of John being imprisoned at Machaerus which makes more sense, as this castle was lost to Herod due to his war with Aretas. It simply says John was imprisoned, this is more original than the textus receptus of the Baptist passage (Ant18.5.2) as in the paragraph before (Ant18.5.1) Josephus says that the castle was subject to Arestas [Some MSS such as Niese are not clear on this].

Both executions are very different, Johns on a whim of a single Jewish ruler for fear of fuelling revolutionary instincts, where Josephus is very critical of Antipas action, saying that God destroyed his army because of it. Even in the spruced up version of the TF do we not find even a hint of criticism directed against Pilate. In the Baptist passage we do find sympathy for John. Jesus was crucified which carries a seditious overtone. All this points to the passage to being originally negative.



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

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

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

[4] Robert Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist, (English Translation), (Lincoln MacVeagh the Dial Press, 1932) p.68-9.

[5] Richard Carrier, Mason on Josephus on James. Carrier discussed the Baptist passage on this blog:


Figures like Jesus

PART 7 of my Historical Jesus series

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

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

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


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

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

In one of the Tanakh images Hebrews uses, the author sees Jesus as the true Joshua who had led his people to the promised land (Hebrews 4:8-11).

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

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

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

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

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

As Horsley said, “For just at the time of Herod and Jesus, several significant movements emerged among the Judean and Galilean people that were beaded by figures acclaimed by their followers as kings or by figures who promised to reenact the deliverance of Israel from foreign rule in Egypt.'” [7]

Lena Einhorn [8] noticed many parallels between Jesus and the ‘Egyptian’. The Egyptian gathered at the Mount of Olives before his battle with the Romans. (War 2.13.5). Jesus was arrested at the Mount of Olives.

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

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

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

The gospel of John uses the word σπεῖρα,(speira), that is a cohort consisting of 500 to 1000 Roman soldiers and the word χιλίαρχος, (chiliarchos), for their commander, this is a commander of one thousand. (John 18:11). The Egyptian passages in Josephus works use the same words. This led Lena Einhorne to see this as a parallel to the ‘Egyptian’ but a much more likely explanation is that the evangelist John used Josephus and more specifically the ‘Egyptian’ passages. It has been shown that Luke had used Josephus by such scholars as Mason and Carrier. [9] When I reconstructed the Testimonium Flavianum [10], it was a passage that held so little information that the evangelist John simply started to use other passages as a framework for his gospel.

It was Morton Smith who hit the nail on the head when he observed what is really significant about the passage in Acts 5:33-39, is not that Luke got his fake history wrong (again putting Theudas before Judas and making up a story about Gamaliel) but that “Even this Christian propaganda shows that the Christians themselves expected Jesus to be seen as the same social type as Judas and Theudas.” [11] (Emphasis is Morton Smiths).

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


1.Bar Kokbha

“the Jerusalem Talmud tells of the recruitment of four hundred thousand fighters who were in Bethar during the siege of the city. Half of them were recruited after they stood the loyalty test of a severed finger; and the other half, after they had uprooted a cedar of Lebanon while riding a horse.” [12]

“Jerusalem Talmud Ta‘anit 4.5: “Ben Kozebah was there, and he had 200,000 troops who had cut their little finger . . . Whoever cannot uprooted a cedar of Lebanon while riding on his horse will not be registered in your army. So there were 200,000 who qualified in one way, and another 200,000 who qualified in another way.” [13]

Here is the gospel parallel:

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

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

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

“you have rejected us O God; God, you do not march with our armies.”[14]

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

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

2. Simon bar Giora 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Judas the Galilean

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

“Under his administration [Coponius] it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt; and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords.” (War 2.118). (I take the emphasis from Unterbinks book and reproduce some parallels Unterbink noticed. [15]

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

“And they began to accuse him, saying, we have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be a king messiah (christ)…. He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” (Luke 23:2-5)

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

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


So Lena Einhorn thought Jesus was the ‘Egyptian’ in her book A Shift in Time. Daniel Unterbink in his book The three Messiahs says he is Judas the Galilean. Then you have Eisenman in his James, the brother of Jesus book who has said the Jesus movements were suspiciously like the ‘Samaritan’ passage in Ant 18.4.1. [16] The reason Jesus sounded like all those other messianic figures is that he was one of them.

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


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

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

  1. when Paul says, what Christ has accomplished

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

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

  1. Paul says that the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power, dunamei. (1Cor. 4:20) With the close association between powers, or miracles, and the kingdom of God in the Synoptic Gospels, it is not unreasonable to assume that Paul here is reflecting a knowledge of this association in the life of Jesus. [17]

          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:

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

“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.” (Ant 17.10.8).

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

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. [18] This crazy messianic claim has support in the earliest layers of NT literature. Paul has reworked this claim as a metaphor:

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

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

    As N T Wright stated:

“The various ‘Passion predictions’ should not be dismissed as ex eventu prophecies of Jesus’ death, projected back into Jesus’ life as an apologetic device….. Neither are these predictions the melancholic musings of a man with a martyr complex. Rather, they represent the realistic reflection of someone proclaiming God’s kingdom, challenging Israel’s official (Sadducean) and unofficial (Pharisaic) leaders, attracting crowds, exciting eschatological fervour, imbibing messianic dreams, challenging boundaries about who is ‘in’, and making a powerful protest in the Temple which appears to be a symbolic foretelling of its downfall. (There are curious modern parallels. The Pakistani minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, himself a Catholic Christian, never married because he ‘knew’ that one day he would be killed by Islamic extremists. This belief came true on 2 March 2011, when he was ambushed by militants.) Jesus knew what risks he was taking, what opposition he would face, and how the story was going to end.” [19]


Eisenman [20] made some good observations that can be used to date the epistles.

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

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

Douglas Campbell [21] shows Paul’s King Aretus IV incident provides an anchor date for Paul’s epistles in general. It looks like he ran out of Damascenes, but escaped to carry on further missionaries. Richard Carrier shows that Aretas could have briefly held Damascus between 35-37 CE period. [22]

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

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

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

Scott Bignell wrote an article on many other indicators for dating the epistles, see footnote [24]

         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.” [25]

Paul mentioned other missionaries and therefore there were active missionaries in the Jesus movement. (He mentions Andronicus and Junia in Rom. 16:7. He mentions Priscilla and Aquila in 1 Cor. 16:19, (cf Romans 16:3-5). He was also very jealous of Apollo in 1Cor. 1:12 and 16:12), What they preach is the oral tradition about Jesus. Yet Jesus was not the only messiah of these times. “Christianity was not alone in the production of messiahs; indeed, its Christ competed for converts with the christs of other apocalyptic sects, including the formidable cult of John the Baptist.” [26]

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Richard Horsley, ‘Messiah, Magi, and Model Imperial King’, in Christmas Unwrapped Consumerism , Christ, and Culture, (ed. Richard Horsley and James Tracy; Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2001), pp. 139-61, quote at p.141.

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

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

[10] 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.

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

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

[13] ibid footnote 200

[14] ibid, p. 97.

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

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

To quote:

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

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

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

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

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

[21] 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.

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

[23] 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)


[25] 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.

[26] Hoffmann, R. Joseph, Celsus, On The True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians, Translation and Introduction, (Oxford, 1987), p.7.


Appendix of the Testimonian Flavianum reconstructed

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

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

And there is about this time Jesus,

Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον Ἰησοῦς, 

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

σοφὸς ἀνήρ, εἴγε ἄνδρα αὐτὸν λέγειν χρή

for he was a doer of miraculous works,

ἦν γὰρ παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής, 

a teacher of men 

διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων 

who receive true things with pleasure,

τῶν ἡδονῇ τἀληθῆ δεχομένων, 

and many Jews, 

καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους,

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

πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ ἐπηγάγετο·

He was the Christ. 

ὁ Χριστὸς οὗτος ἦν·

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

καὶ αὐτὸν ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ᾿ ἡμῖν 

Pilate had condemned him to a cross, 

σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου

those who had first loved him did not cease; 

οὐκ ἐπαύσαντο οἱ τὸ πρῶτον ἀγαπήσαντες· 

For he appeared to them

ἐφάνη γὰρ αὐτοῖς 

on the third day

τρίτην ἔχων ἡμέραν 

Living again

πάλιν ζῶν,

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

τῶν θείων προφητῶν ταῦτά τε καὶ ἄλλα μυρία 

concerning him.

περὶ αὐτοῦ θαυμάσια εἰρηκότων

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

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

Here is the model textus restitutus of Ant 18.3.3:

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

And there is about this time a certain man,

 Γίνεται δὲ κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον ἀνήρ τις 

a sophist and agitator. 

ταραχτικός τε σοφιστής 

He was one who wrought surprising feats. 

ἦν γὰρ παραδόξων ἔργων ποιητής 

A teacher of men 

διδάσκαλος ἀνθρώπων 

who revered him with pleasure. 

τῶν σεβομένων αὐτὸν ἡδονῇ 

Many of the Judaens, 

καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν Ἰουδαίους, 

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

πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τοῦ Γαλιλαίου ἐπηγάγετο 

he was believed to be a King: 

ἐνομίζετο βασιλεὺς εἶναι

[For he opposed paying the tax to Caesar.] 

[ἀντεῖπε γὰρ τὸ διδόναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι.]

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

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

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

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

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

καὶ αὐτὸν ἐνδείξει τῶν πρώτων ἀνδρῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν 

Pilate condemned him to be crucified. 

σταυρῷ ἐπιτετιμηκότος Πιλάτου

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

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

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

αὖθις ἐνεωτερίσθη εἰς ἀφθονίαν, πιστευσάντων ὅτι ἐφάνη αὐτοῖς πάλιν ζῶν

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

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

only Him, who is their leader in sedition.

εἰ μὴ καὶ τοῦτον, ὅσπερ ἐστὶν αὐτοῖ τῆς στάσεως ἀρχηγέτης

and this tribe has until now not disappeared.” 

εἰς νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦδε οὐκ ἐπέλιπε τὸ φῦλον τοῦτον

The Messiah Ossuary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critical response to Steve Mason commentary on the Slavonic Testimonian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

[2] ibid, p.87

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

Historical Jesus

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

These are the two papers I will be expanding on:

Dave Allen, An Original Negatve Testimonium. R M Price, ed.,Journal of Higher Criticism 15/1 (Spring 2020), 67-90.

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. I have also added an appendix, link below, so you can compare the textus receptus to the model textus restitutus that I have reconstructed in part two.

Part 1 The Original Testimonian Flavianum

Part 2 Analysis of the Testimonian Flavianum

Part 3 Rebellion in the Patristics!

Part 4 Rebellion in the epistles!

Part 5 Rebellion in the gospels!

Part 6 Historical, Political and Religious Background

Part 7 Figures Like Jesus (Includes A JOSHUA INSPIRED CULT).

Part 8 Christ, Christianity and Jewish Messianists

Part 9 Nazareth/Nazorean Question

Part 10 Josephus’ Sources

Part 11 James and John the Baptist passages in Josephus Antiquities.

Part 12 Attributing the fall of Jerusalem


Part 14 Pauls Revelatory Being

Part 15 Kingdom of God.

Appendix 1 Reconstructed TF

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