Monthly Archives: February 2015

To find the historical Jesus, we apply the time shift hypothesis by Lena Einhorn (2006, 2012) and Robert Eisenman (2006), and Ralph Ellis (1998). The New Testament (NT) describes events around the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple in 70 AD, but these events are projected one generation back into time to 30 AD, in order not to alert the Romans and to allow Jesus the prediction of that downfall.

To find the historical Jesus, we also observe that he has at least two aspects: priest and warrior.

We already met Simon bar Giora, who after the fall of Jerusalem hid in the tunnels below the city, but after some days, when his food resources ran out, resurrected into the sunlight, dressed like a king, and proclaiming himself to be king of the Jews. He was captured, paraded in Rome, and executed. He may have been thrown from the Tarpeian Rock – whence perhaps his name Simon the Rock – Simon Petra – Simon Kephas. See Appendix 1 on the rock. (I didn’t check Richard A Horsley 1999.) The violent nature of this side of Jesus is emphasized in these points by Riaan Booysen – but see some criticism too. Overall, we see that properties of Simon bar Giora may be allocated to both Jesus (King of the Jews) and Simon Peter. This is a way for the writers of the NT to create a somewhat new story and still remain somewhat realistic w.r.t. the period.

Simon however is a warrior and cannot provide for the parables and theological points.

Jesus thus is too much to be true. The two aspects are too complex to fit one historical person. As a priest and theologian his teachings are too complex for a warrior. As a warrior his deeds that lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple are too much for a priest and theologian. If Jesus had been a single historical figure then he would have broken down from internal tensions and we would have never heard from him. Jesus must be a composition of at least two historical persons – and perhaps two might be sufficient.

For comparison, consider Gaius Julius Caesar, who was both Pontifex Maximus of Rome and brutal in his military conquests (Alesia) but forgiving for his enemies when they submitted to his rule, and after his death was deified as Divus Julius. Caesar already combines the two aspects to some degree but apparently his own writings mostly deal with mundane affairs and not theology. Even Caesar is not enough to become Jesus, apart from that he wasn’t circumcised either.

The figure of Jesus must also be based upon someone with an awareness of the finer issues of theology. There are good reasons that this would be James the Just, a.k.a. James the brother of Jesus, most likely the leader of the Qumran sect.

Thus, we hypothesize that the historical Jesus ~ (James the Just & Simon bar Giora). For the divine dimension we can still look at the Ascension of Isaiah or Gnosis or the Samaritans. (For modern times, see Appendix 3.)

The present discussion looks at those reasons for James.

Horsley 1999

Horsley 1999

What is known about James the Just ?

Two important books are Eisenman James the Brother of Jesus (JBJ) (1997) and The New Testament Code (NTC) (2006). However, JBJ was written before Eisenman’s acceptance in NTC that key Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are relevant for 70 AD. For now, we will only use what is available online. See a note in Appendix 2 below.

Information about James is somewhat dispersed. The murder of James may be mentioned by Flavius Josephus (FJ). There is only brief mention in Acts. However, Acts also contains a longer discussion of the murder of Stephen, and there are reasons to assume that Stephen ~James:

  • Both Jesus and James / Stephen claimed to see the Son of Man at the right hand of God – which theologically means the dismissal of the Jerusalem priesthood. See the theological argument here.
  • Both got killed for that same reason.
  • Both were killed under the responsibility of the Jerusalem priesthood, fulfilling the scheme of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The only difference is that Acts turn James into Stephen who is stoned without permission by the Romans, and that the gospels have Jesus crucified with complicity by the Romans. Compare this with the murder of high priest Jonathan in 58 AD under instigation of Festus.

There may be some layers of editing here.

  • The insurgents could combine the priests and the Romans into joint culprits.
  • Roman Christian editors turn it into an argument for Jewish submission to Rome.
  • The (generations of) editors of the NT divide James’s death in three ways: (i) as Jesus to prove the NT point that the priests of Jerusalem are finished, (ii) as Stephen to cover up that James is used for Jesus (in a combination with Simon), and (iii) as himself but more in the background since the NT cannot avoid mentioning James as himself.

Eisenman (1997) observes that James is a cardboard figure like the other figures in the NT, but still, given his prominence, remarkably vague. However, this may be the result of above decomposition of his real role, required for the creation of the NT, rather than from suppression by Church editors. Though James seems a cardboard figure, he still would be historical, since the Dead Sea Scrolls clearly speak about a teacher of righteousness.

JBJ sees a link between Jesus, James and Stephen. We pursue that link, and insert the military aspect of Simon bar Giora. The NT hides the events of 70 AD and thus we need that military commander with the INRI crown too.

“Mentioned in various contexts in the New Testament, James the Just has been systematically downplayed or written out of tradition. When he suddenly emerges as a principal personality and leader of ‘the Jerusalem Church’ or ‘Community’ in Acts 12:17, there is no introduction as to who he is or how he has arrived at the position he is occupying. Acts’ subsequent silence about his fate, which can be pieced together only from extra-biblical sources and to some extent seems to have been absorbed into the accounts both about the character we now call ‘Stephen’ and even Jesus himself, obscures the situation still further.” (Robert Eisenman, in James the brother of Jesus, 1997, Introduction).

Eisenman 1997

Eisenman 1997

The role of Alexandrian logic

We don’t quite know what James ~ Jesus originally preached, though. The various Dead Sea Scrolls need not be consistent. The Sadducees had more room to collaborate with the Romans than the Pharisees, and James might have been like the latter, or have his own theological points to oppose both Sadducees and Pharisees.

I follow Roger Parvus that Paul originally was law abiding and only later turned against circumcision. The NT reverses his Paul / Saul role, and we reverse it back. Thus there is the distinction between a young Paul & a group abiding to the Torah / Tanakh versus the later Paul who abolishes the Torah / Tanakh, with also the curious distinction between the preachings of Jesus and the believing in Jesus.

Most likely:

  • Jesus ~ James ~ Stephen was killed for being more Torah-abiding than the Sadducees could live with. The reference to Melchizedek is in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the removal of the Levi priesthood still fits a fundamentalist who abides to the core of the Torah.
  • The argument of the removal of the Levi priesthood was later improved upon with Alexandrian logic by using the human sacrifice, and then used to abolish the Torah and create a gospel for the gentiles.
From man to myth versus Men are pasted onto myths

While James & Simon bar Giora thus form the historical backbone for the figure of Jesus, there is of course the divine element that is provided by Melchizedek (supposedly a king but rather an angel of righteousness) and the ancient myths about a dying and resurrecting god. We can compare the situation with Santa Claus. Provided that the bishop of Myra existed, then he would be a historically selected counterpart that the Church pasted upon the neolithical myth of Wodan flying in the sky on his horse Sleipnir. When historical persons are pasted upon an already existing myth then this is different from a myth that develops out of a historical person. This may be called the issue of the origin of the myth.

Jesus would be not only the Davidic messiah or King of the Jews but also the new high priest in the order of Melchizedek. We found that the Epistle to the Hebrews argues in Alexandrian logical fashion that the priesthood in Jerusalem is theologically finished. Checking whether others had thought about the same lines, we found that this text at Crandall argues the same. (It may be wise to adjust a browser view option for readability.) A bonus is that it discusses the Qumran text 11QMelchizedek (11Q13) on Melchizedek and the Jubilees. Jesus’s arrival would be celebrated with the 10th Jubilee and a great liberation of all slaves – including the Jews who felt like slaves of the Romans.


We put the conclusions up front, and refer to the discussion below and some grounds from elsewhere.

The interpretation becomes:

(1) The myth of a dying and resurrecting god has neolithical origins. Historical figures can be imprinted on that myth. It would be unreasonable to argue the converse. Jesus as a historical person cannot resurrect anyway.

(2) James the Just would be historical as the leader of the Qumran community, and dies in 63 AD. His death is described by Flavius Josephus (FJ), and represented in Acts as the stoning of Stephen. James would be the priest-aspect in the figure of Jesus – with the reference to Melchizedek.

(3) The translation of Son of Man might be problematic, but not for the key occurrence in the confession(s) to the high priest that got both Jesus and James ~ Stephen killed.

(4) Simon bar Giora would be historical as one of the leading revolutionaries, eventually claiming to be their final leader, and dies in 70 AD. His death is described by FJ. He would be Simon Peter. He would be the military-aspect of Jesus – with the reference to King David.

(5) Jesus combines both aspects, but too much to be true. We find interpolations that are not convincing.

(6) It is more reasonable to assume that the figure of Jesus was created from both James the Just and Simon bar Giora. This creation by copying causes some problems in the stories where those historical figures occur themselves. But we may be able to trace how the editors handled those situations.

(7) The situation has become more complex because of the different objectives of generations of editors. Untangling the Jameses and Simons we can determine also a Basic Passion Story (BPS) about an event in 41-46 AD.

(8) The core is that James died in 63 AD and Simon bar Giora in 70 AD, and that their persons were combined in the story of a preacher annex liberator Jesus, who was executed on the Roman cross but resurrected in the euangelion of the New Covenant.

(9) The phrase Jesus is Santa Claus for grown-ups is warranted. For Santa Claus there is the bishop of Myra as the historical excuse, and for Jesus there are James and Simon bar Giora as the historical pegs. In these cases, historical figures are pasted upon already existing myths. There was no preacher Jesus who set an example that inspired a world religion of two millennia.

The main point remains that we will never know. Too much has been lost in history. The main relevance of this discussion is for education. See the bedrock certainties indicated before.






Let us consider the steps of the argument, starting with the Jubilee.

Numerical versus theological difference: 70 + 7 = 77 or 70 * 7 = 490

StackExchange has also a beta on Biblical Hermeutics. One of the questions is not really beta but rather old and worn. It is why Matthew 18:21-22 gives a translation difference between 70 + 7 = 77 and 70 * 7 = 490.

The answer uses that 7 * 7 = 49. The 50th year is a Jubilee. Thus we are speaking about 10 Jubilees – or a cycle of 500 years. As the Biblical texts on the Jubilee speak about the liberation of slaves, then Jews who would regard themselves as slaves of the Romans would want liberation too. The answer by Frank Luke “it is not an important theological difference” does not convince.

Let us first look at prophet Daniel who gives this clue, using a week for a year-week or 7 years – and who rather describes a past but is taken by apocalypters to be a real prophet (or creating a self-fulfilling prophecy):

“24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.  25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” (Daniel 9.24-25, KJV) (7 + 3 * 20 + 2 = 69)

The stack exchange question on Jesus in Matthew 18:21: Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” 

The question by El’endia Starman: “The NIV has 77 whereas the NLT has 490. Interestingly enough, the footnotes for each on BibleGateway say that it could also be translated the other way. So, in this case, the difference between 77 and 490 seems to be purely the translator’s decision. This suggests that the Greek is ambiguous somehow…and I’m curious as to why.”

NIV: 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

NLT: “22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

KJV: 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

NA28: “22 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις ἀλλ’ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά.

Frank Luke deserves a hat-tip for explaining how the problem arises:

“The ambiguity comes from a difference between the Hebrew Old Testament and the Septuagint (a Greek translation). Jesus is teaching to forgive by reversing the statement of Lamech in Genesis 4.

Gen 4:24 “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” (NASB)

The NASB follows the Hebrew which has שִׁבְעִים וְשִׁבְעָֽה (shib’iym wshib’ah), which means “seventy-seven.”

Instead the Septuagint has ἑβδομηκοντάκις, (hebdomekontakis), which means “seventy times seven.”

If Jesus quoted the Septuagint, then He said “seventy times seven.” If He quoted the Hebrew, then He said “seventy seven (times).” A case could be made for either as both the Hebrew Scriptures and Greek translations of the same were in use in the Land.” (Frank Luke, on StackExchange, 2012-09-20)

But translation matters.

Peter’s question isn’t a mere correction on Gen 4.24 but induces a calculation that the end of submission to foreigners is near. LXX would take precedence over NASB.

When Alexander’s general Ptolemy Lagides – son of Lago, mr. Rabbit – took Egypt , he got Canaan included. Ptolemy created the syncretic god Serapis for both Greeks and Egyptians. For the Jews, the septuagint (LXX) was created. There is an argument by Russell Gmirkin that the Hebrew version was actually based upon LXX – check that rabbits aren’t mentioned. In addition, the Hebrew translators perhaps didn’t want to wait another 500 years.

Son of Many

It is sobering to read in wikipedia (a portal and no source) that the researchers cannot agree on son of man, like they didn’t on nazoraios:

“Son of man is an expression in the sayings of Jesus in Christian writings, including the Gospels. The meaning of the expression is controversial. Interpretation of the use of “the Son of man” in the New Testament has remained challenging and after 150 years of debate no consensus on the issue has emerged among scholars.” (Wikipedia)

Mogens Mueller  (2014, p321-322) lists the options given by Douglas Hare 1999, commenting “Of the six, the first three are easily excluded”:

  1. It was a well-known apocalyptic title.
  2. It was easily perceived as a title, even by those who may have been ignorant of its meaning.
  3. It was genuinely ambiguous, so that hearers/readers would not be immediately certain whether it was titular or nontitular
  4. It was a special idiom that was used only for general statements in which a speaker could refer to himself indirectly but not exclusively.
  5. It was an everyday expression meaning ‘a man’ or ‘someone’.
  6. It was an easily recognizable circumlocation for ‘I”. [ftnt]

Maurice Casey (1942-2014) would agree that translation matters. He may be best known for his attention for the translation of Aramaic br ‘nash(a) and what this son of man would mean. He reasons that if we can recover statements by Jesus – which would be in Aramaic – then Jesus would exist as a historical person. Jesus might also be a modest preacher and healer and no religious fanatic. The son of man expression in Aramaic could just be a figure of speech for “someone” or a reference to himself as “this person, me, myself”. Thus Casey would take the position that the myth would originate from a person. His view might fit the Dennis Potter film “Son of Man” (1969).

In this nice interview Casey declares himself a non-believer since 1962 and only interested in proper history.

“Jesus, his family, his disciples—his entire world—spoke Aramaic, while the New Testament was written in Greek. And therein lies a huge problem. Separating later and less trustworthy material from older, more plausible writing is greatly helped by teasing out the Aramaic originals behind Greek Gospel accounts. For centuries this was almost impossible, because there wasn’t enough Aramaic writing, especially idiomatic writing, available. “Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were found after the war, you just couldn’t do it,” Casey says. “And though most are in Hebrew, the Aramaic scrolls—the Book of Enoch for one—are written in a more popular style, full of stories and idioms.” With numerous examples (…) Casey makes a compelling case that Mark’s Aramaic underlay makes it both old and genuine in its storytelling: “one short step away from eyewitness testimony.” “ (Interview by Brian Bethune with Maurice Casey, Macleans 2010-12-23)

One wonders. Jesus might not have existed, been created in Greek, and then parts have been translated into Aramaic. That Jesus spoke Aramaic is an assumption.

(I suppose that the Epistle by James would require even more attention now. Has it been written in Aramaic ? NA28 gives his proper name Jacob – a fitting reference to the patriarch who cunningly took the birthright from Esau. One question is whether James wrote that Epistle by James indeed. The above creates the hypothesis that Jesus ~ (James & Simon bar Giora). What are consequences that might be tested ? For example, it would be somewhat strange if James would really write the Epistle by James and therein refer to Jesus, if that would be himself. Indeed, we find only two occurrences of “Jesus” or “Christ”, both in “Jesus Christ”, and these could be interpolations.)

Rembrandt: Jacob wrestling with the angel (Source: Wikimedia commons)

Rembrandt: Jacob wrestling with the angel (Source: Wikimedia commons)

Indeed, son of man sounds somewhat strange for a concept in Greek uios tou anthropou. But once the reference to Daniel 7.13 and Psalm 110.1 has been given, using the Greek septuagint, then its use should no longer surprise.

13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.” (Daniel 7.13)

“1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Psalm 110.1, KJV) NB. The psalm gives words that are spoken by David. King David’s lord is Melchizedek, who is being seated on the right hand of Yahweh. See this earlier discussion of Melchizedek. There is also Thomas Aquinas on the right hand of God.

Mogens Mueller (2014) also discusses Casey’s work here, but I can only read some parts, don’t know Aramaic, and wonder what would be the use, given the logic of the case.

No doubt: Aramaic obviously is an important source. The Leon Levy DSS site explains: “While the majority of Dead Sea Scrolls [DSS] were written in Hebrew, the collection also includes many Aramaic and Greek texts, as well as some Arabic texts and a small number of Latin fragments.” See Appendix 1 for translation problems, and Stephan Huller’s suggestion that Paul ~ po’olo.

The hiding of the DSS can be dated to 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and Qumran. Thus, it is remarkable that some passages can be found there already, and in Aramaic. But the discussion about passages indicates that we don’t have the main part of the gospel of Mark yet. This is the real issue. Passages can get into texts in various ways.

A search on “Son of Man” in Mark (KJV) gives 15 instances. They fit Christology of course. If I understand Casey correctly then much is not by the original preacher but added by the later Church. We might follow Casey’s suggestion and replace with “this person, me, myself”.

But would we do so also for the key confession that got Jesus and James / Stephen killed ?

Mueller 2014

Mueller 2014

The key statement that got Jesus killed

There is the crucial confession for the high priest that got Jesus killed. Jesus only acknowledges being the son of god – like King David, which differs from Trinity, see here. He only quotes Daniel and Psalms on the son of man. It is only the inference of others whether he claims such himself.

As far as I understand, Casey has not argued that Jesus’s statement for the high priest was a result of translating wrong from Aramaic …

61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? 62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” ( Mark 14.61 KJV)
The “I am” concerns kingship only. The text after “I am” only cites Daniel and the Psalm (above).

Overall, my suggestion is that it is important that Jesus gives a quote about the Son of Man here. It is a citation, so that a listener or reader may only draw a conclusion by inference. But why cite it at all, in answer to a question ? Only to suggest such an inference, one would think. One is invited to make at least the inference that the endtime has come.

An assumption is that the high priest was aware of the argument in 11QMelchizedek (11Q13). It may well be that Ptolemy, once LXX had been written, had started to deduce the logical ways to undo the Levi monopoly.

The other son of man occurrences in the NT would be less important. I cannot judge whether Casey’s work on those other translations is important for other reasons but they drop to the background because of the value of this key case, about which seems to be little disagreement.

For completeness, I refer to this text by Stephanie Fisher 2012 on Richard Carrier’s critique on Casey. See my earlier review of Casey’s failed book against mythicism. See my first response on Carrier’s book OHJ.

The same statement got Stephen killed

Let us first look at the death of Stephen, then secondly at the death of James, and thirdly about James ~ Stephen.

Stephen has 7 occurrences in Acts, KJV. The murder of Stephen is described in Acts 7, when he is speaking to the high priest (and others). Acts describes, as an all-knowing writer, what Stephen sees. But his verbal statement is the same as Jesus’s.

1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so? 2 And he [Stephen] said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, (…)  52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. 54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7, KJV)

March 10: FJ on Stephen

FJ reports about Cumanus (48-52 AD) who beheaded a Roman soldier who tore up the Torah. The writers of the NT would have kept the idea that the Torah is finished, and that the OT must be replaced by the NT. The Roman soldier remains anonymous. FJ mentions some Stephen, but he is only the victim of robbers who started the sequence of events. The NT nevertheless turns Stephen into the saint who preaches the same as Christ and who gets killed for it. All this is a fine example how the editors of the NT have used bits and pieces from FJ to compose a new story. In addition, the Christian interpolator in the works of FJ creates a link to a death of some James ten years later.

“Now there followed after this another calamity, which arose from a tumult made by robbers; for at the public road at Beth-boron, one Stephen, a servant of Caesar, carried some furniture, which the robbers fell upon and seized. Upon this Cureanus sent men to go round about to the neighboring villages, and to bring their inhabitants to him bound, as laying it to their charge that they had not pursued after the thieves, and caught them. Now here it was that a certain soldier, finding the sacred book of the law, tore it to pieces, and threw it into the fire.  Hereupon the Jews were in great disorder, as if their whole country were in a flame, and assembled themselves so many of them by their zeal for their religion, as by an engine, and ran together with united clamor to Cesarea, to Cumanus, and made supplication to him that he would not overlook this man, who had offered such an affront to God, and to his law; but punish him for what he had done. Accordingly, he, perceiving that the multitude would not be quiet unless they had a comfortable answer from him, gave order that the soldier should be brought, and drawn through those that required to have him punished, to execution, which being done, the Jews went their ways.” (FJ War 2.12.2)

“Now before this their first mourning was over, another mischief befell them also; for some of those that raised the foregoing tumult, when they were traveling along the public road, about a hundred furlongs from the city, robbed Stephanus, a servant of Caesar, as he was journeying, and plundered him of all that he had with him; which things when Cureanus heard of, he sent soldiers immediately, and ordered them to plunder the neighboring villages, and to bring the most eminent persons among them in bonds to him. Now as this devastation was making, one of the soldiers seized the laws of Moses that lay in one of those villages, and brought them out before the eyes of all present, and tore them to pieces; and this was done with reproachful language, and much scurrility; which things when the Jews heard of, they ran together, and that in great numbers, and came down to Cesarea, where Cumanus then was, and besought him that he would avenge, not themselves, but God himself, whose laws had been affronted; for that they could not bear to live any longer, if the laws of their forefathers must be affronted after this manner. Accordingly Cumanus, out of fear lest the multitude should go into a sedition, and by the advice of his friends also, took care that the soldier who had offered the affront to the laws should be beheaded, and thereby put a stop to the sedition which was ready to be kindled a second time.” (FJ Antiquities 20.5.4)

Three Jameses

In those days the calendar was important, for agriculture and the religious sacrifices and celebrations. Julius Caesar imposed a new calendar on the empire.  The Sadducees were willing to go along with this Sun calendar, while the Pharisees wishes to maintain the Lunar calendar. Who says calendar says astronomy and in those days astrology. See my essay The simple mathematics of Jesus (SMOJ) (2012).

Mark has 15 occurrences of “James”, mostly with John or Peter, giving Jesus’s 3 main leaders apart from the 12 apostles. (1) James and John are sons of Zebedee, called “boanerges” – “the sons of thunder”, see Mark 3.17 KJV. (2) Mark 6.3. has Jesus as the “brother of James”. (3) There is of course James, son of Alphaeus. For now, we neglect the latter.

To understand these names, it may help to think about the zodiac with the 12 houses, and the four cardinal points. One possible allocation is: North ~ Polar Star ~ Simon Peter with the key to paradise, that is the region in the sky with stars that never set (or die), with also the sign of Draco as the snake. West ~ John / Mark (Mars). East ~ James (Venus). South ~ Judas Thomas (Theudas) (Thomas means twin.) Jesus would be in the middle as the sun (or sometimes in the South position). The clear layout of the zodiac becomes fuzzy as James is split into three facets.

“First, since Judas Thomas/Thaddaeus is also called “Lebbaeus,” an apparent variant of James’ title “Oblias” (the Bulwark = the Pillar), we must suppose that the Heirs of Jesus and the Pillars were synonymous, which in turn makes the Pillar John a brother of Jesus. (Eisenman supposes there must have been a Pillar named John; it is his connection with the cipher “James son of Zebedee” that presents the difficulty.) Thus there is no problem accepting the Pillar John as the real brother of James the Just and of Judas Thomas and Simeon bar Cleophas. All were counted as Pillars or Bulwarks whose presence in Jerusalem kept the city safe. And remember the curious business with James and John being christened “Boanerges,” taken to mean “sons of thunder,” but (with John Allegro) more likely representing the Sumerian Geshpuanur (the prefix becoming a suffix as is common in Near Eastern names), meaning “upholder of the vault of heaven,” a title of one of the Dioscuri [Castor and Pollux] or heavenly twins (Acts 28:11). This is to make James and John at once both brothers and cosmic pillars. And since the two cosmic pillars upholding the roof of Solomon’s Temple (symbolic of the firmament of the heavens, as in all ancient temples) were called Boaz and Jachin, one may wonder whether Boanerges has something to do with Boaz, James/Jacob with Jachin. Like James, John is said (by Polycrates) to have worn the priestly ephod, and this would fit the Zealot-like rebel priesthood ideology of James and Judas Thomas (Theudas).” (Robert M. Price 1998, reviewing Robert Eisenman, James, the brother of Jesus)

Acts has 7 occurrences of “James”. The puzzle becomes ever intricate.

The Zebedee brothers James and Simon. Basic Passion Story (BPS)

In 6 AD there was a census, Judas of Galilee revolted and was likely crucified. In 46 AD his sons James and Simon were crucified.

“Then came Tiberius Alexander as successor to Fadus; he was the son of Alexander the alabarch of Alexandria, which Alexander was a principal person among all his contemporaries, both for his family and wealth: he was also more eminent for his piety than this his son Alexander, for he did not continue in the religion of his country. Under these procurators that great famine happened in Judea, in which queen Helena bought corn in Egypt at a great expense, and distributed it to those that were in want, as I have related already. And besides this, the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have showed in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified.” (FJ, Antiquities, 20.5.2)

Acts 12 let James be killed simply.

“1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.” (Acts 12.2 KJV)

His brother Simon should be John/ Mark, the other Boanerges. However, the editor of Acts partly transforms him into Simon Peter who would be Simon bar Giora. Simon of Zebedee is killed, since he is “going into another place” but he might also live on, since Simon Peter bar Giora continues till 70 AD.

“3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)  (…) 6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. 7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. 8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. (…) 17 But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.” (Acts 12.3-17, KJV) (In this verse Simon Peter may not know that James has been killed.)

SMOJ (2012:93-94) discusses this scene – partly following Hanhart – as a precursor to the NT story. Some of the clearest points apart from calendar intricacies:

  • It is Passover.
  • The sandals and girding refer to Exodus.
  • The guards refer to the three days between death and resurrection.
  • The sleeping guards refer to the other crucified and/or those sleeping at the grave.
  • There is a door to a new week.

The story itself may come from Agrippa’s earlier kind treatment of Simon of Zebedee in 41-44 AD when he wanted Agrippa blocked from the Temple.

“4. However, there was a certain male of the Jewish nation at Jerusalem, who appeared to be very accurate in the knowledge of the law. His name was Simon. This man got together an assembly, while the king was absent at Cesarea, and had the insolence to accuse him as not living holily, and that he might justly be excluded out of the temple, since it belonged only to native Jews. But the general of Agrippa’s army informed him that Simon had made such a speech to the people. So the king sent for him; and as he was sitting in the theater, he bid him sit down by him, and said to him with a low and gentle voice, “What is there done in this place that is contrary to the law?” But he had nothing to say for himself, but begged his pardon. So the king was more easily reconciled to him than one could have imagined, as esteeming mildness a better quality in a king than anger, and knowing that moderation is more becoming in great men than passion. So he made Simon a small present, and dismissed him.” (FJ, Antiquities, 19.7.4)

It may be called the Basic Passion Story (BPS) of ca. 41-44 AD, that codifies the miracle that Simon wasn’t killed. Simon of Zebedee still was killed by Tiberius Alexander anyhow in 46 AD. This BPS was later got reworked after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, but was not discarded and kept as a substory. Of course, we are still hypothesizing.

This should explain both the Boanerges and the potential confusion with Simon Peter bar Giora.

James the Just, brother of Jesus, may live till 63 AD

One reason why James ~ Stephen is that James the Just doesn’t die in Acts.

The key role for James in Acts is that he gives a verdict to allow Paul his gospel to the gentiles, without circumcision:

“12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. 13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: (…) 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:  20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. (..) 22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: (..) 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:” (Acts 15.12-24, KJV)

Then later again:

18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. (…) 21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. (…) 27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,” (Acts 21.18-27, KJV)

In the Epistle to the Galaten, Paul claims that James gave permission for his gospel to the gentiles, replacing circumcision with baptism. His phrase “whatsoever they were” might refer to his seeing their spirits – which suggests that James the Just already had died.

1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. (…) 6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” (Epistle to the Galaten 2.1-10, KJV)

This assumes that the writer of Acts knew about understatement. Paul’s “going to Jerusalem with Titus” might refer to the siege of Jerusalem. And “who seemed to be somewhat in conference” would refer to the uprising and defence of the city. This would fit the other hypothesis that Paul is Matthias, brother of FJ, and Barnabas is FJ (“son of the same father”).

Agrippa II and Tiberius Alexander were also at the Siege with Titus. A hypothesis that they would be Paul doesn’t look strong since they were educated as rulers, and we have no indication that they were preaching as much as Paul, while Matthias was raised to be a priest and is otherwise a clean slate.

FJ on the death of James the Just

Remember the list of high priests. It may have been based also upon the following data. In 63 AD Ananus ben Ananus is replaced by Joshua (Jesus) ben Damneus. Ananus executed James, was terminated in office and his fast replacement Joshua (Jesus) ben Damneus held the office for less than a year.

“But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, [ftnt] who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. [ftnt] Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.”  (FJ, Antiquities 20.9.1)

The text “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James” might be an interpolation. We don’t know what the original text was. Apparently he was important enough for people to protest and for Albinus and Agrippa to act like that. The opposition between Ananus and Damneus may give a clue, but there is no information about Damneus. One can quickly think of all kinds of scenario’s but those are useless without more information.

For our scenario to work: (1) It is unlikely that FJ would have referred to Christ, for reasons discussed elsewehere. (2) FJ could have referred to James in such a manner that a later Roman Christian interpolater could recognize James the Just, and inserted this reference. (3) Even if this James is merely the brother of Jesus, son of Damneus, and not linked to James the Just, then we might point to the historical occurrence of some Teacher of Righteousness and the NT report on the death of Stephen.

March 10: Doherty on James

Earl Doherty suggests, following R.G. Price (not to be confused with R.M. Price), and I tend to follow both, that the original passage may have been “the brother of Jesus, son of Damneus, whose name was James, and some others”. Since Jesus, son of Damneus, becomes high priest after this incident, he would be the more important person for this passage, and FJ then provides proper identification. The replacement of Ananus is at issue, not why he killed James.

The interpolator then changed “son of Damneus” into “who was called Christ” (or check the original Greek construction). Thus, there need not be any relation to James the Just, leader of Qumran, the Teacher of Righteousness. The only clue we might have is that an interpolator thought that such a link might exist, sufficiently strong to do the interpolation. Then see point (3) at the end of the former section.

Relation to Stephen: Robert Eisenman versus Ralph Ellis

We can take clues from Eisenman JBJ (1997) but he has no time shift yet. He points to parallels nevertheless. Ralph Ellis, King Jesus (2008), uses these parallels and applies a time shift. Eisenman’s parallels:

  • the trial is by the whole Sanhedrin (for Jesus, Paul and Stephen)
  • the accusation is blasphemy (for James we must guess)
  • Paul and Stephen have a long speech to an angry mob
  • “Of course there is a 20-year gap between them (…) It is almost as if the two documents are totally remaking each other’s chronology.” (Eisenman quoted by Ellis, King Jesus, p 42-43).

Eisenman’s conclusion:

“The ‘Stephen’ in Acts is a fictitious stand-in … for the attack by Saul on James … which was evidently considered so embarrassing by the early Church writers that it was unmentionable – but not forgotten. This is basically the only difference (between the two attacks).” (Eisenman quoted by Ellis, King Jesus p41-42)

Ellis must be taken more seriously as a student of the period. Earlier, I discovered that the Greek “translation” nazoraios has to do with the Hebrew nezer for the crown of a high priest. I had not seen this in online texts by academics, and was surprised to see it mentioned by Ralph Ellis in King Jesus. I was even more surprised when Ellis mentioned that the Greek word tarsos means basket – which thus indicates that Paul would be like a new Moses. Ellis also proposed the time shift hypothesis in 1998. These are not random hits by Ellis, and my suggestion to the academia is to consider and discuss his points and scenarios, and then provide proper reference.

Ellis makes an point that becomes obvious only when you start thinking about it. Judas Iscariot is vilified as the murderer of Jesus – who never existed – and it would be awkward for the story to let Judas be the hero who teaches the gospel of Jesus. Similary, when Saul / Paul murders James the Just – half the historical Jesus – then it is awkward when Paul becomes the main preacher of Jesus (with adaptation of the gospel). Hence, it is better to let Saul / Paul murder some Stephen.

Ellis’s next question: Why the choice of the name Stephen ? We only need a Greek dictionary. We find that Stephen simply refers to nazoraios.

“στέφᾰνος, , (στέφω) that which surrounds or encompasses, πάντῃ γάρ σε περὶ σ. πολέμοιο δέδηεν the circling fight, Il. 13.736; of the wall round a town, Pi.O.8.32; σ. πόλεος Anacr.72, cf. Orph.A.761,897; cf. στεφάνη I.2; καλλίπαις σ. circle of fair children, E.HF839. II. crown, wreath, chaplet, h.Hom.7.42″ (Liddell-Scott-Jones 99490)

James apparently was crowned as a high priest – either once in the Temple, or within the sect of Qumran, or perhaps we also have to think about the temple in Leontopolis / Alexandria. There would be the dissent between the Boethusians who Herod appointed from Alexandria (“Egyptians”) and the original priests in Jerusalem. See Antigonus of Sokho. Whence James got his alleged crown may remain a mystery.

Ellis 2008

Ellis 2008

PM. Ellis also argues that Jesus would have been a real king and descendent of Cleopatra. I wonder about the lack of theology. Ellis also proposes Paul ~ FJ, and, while I have considered that scenario myself independently too, I currently find it safer to try Paul ~ Matthias brother of FJ, since Matthias is a blank canvas.


Appendix 1: Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic. Rock vs stone. Paul ~ po’olo
1.1 An interesting suggestion

Stephan Huller has the interesting suggestion that the authors of the NT used Deuteronomy 32.4 for two names: Simon Peter and Paul, and we can now include James the Just.

“Mark must have taken the title ‘Paulos’ owing to his interpretation of tamym po’olo (Deut 32:4) in Book Four Chapter Two of this work. The basic point being that at the end of time God will reform the man created after Adam into a ‘perfect work’ through the agency of his glory.” (Stephan Huller)

KJV follows the Hebrew text with Rock, while LXX has no such thing. 

“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” (Deuteronomy 32.4, KJV)

“θεός, ἀληθινὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ, καὶ πᾶσαι αἱ ὁδοὶ αὐτοῦ κρίσεις· θεὸς πιστός, καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἀδικία, δίκαιος καὶ ὅσιος κύριος.” (Deuteronomy 32.4, LXX, German Bible Society)

For Deuteronomy, the online explanation with CEV has: “The Hebrew text has “rock,” which is sometimes used in poetry to compare the Lord to a mountain where his people can run for protection from their enemies.”

Thus there are some problems in translations between Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, which causes the question whether Simon Peter the Rock is really a rock or a stumbling stone or even non-existent. Stephan Huller suggests that Peter is only kephas, a mere stone, and that the true leader is Paul, or in Aramaic tamym po’olo or in English his work is perfect (Deutoronomy 32.4).

1.2 Aramaic

A problem with this suggestion is that Huller plunges his readers into Aramaic, while his readers generally will not know Aramaic. We have seen Maurice Casey getting busy with all occurrences of son of man while he lost focus on the most important occurrence (which is without doubt). We have seen above curious problem between LXX and Hebrew. It is very frustrating for a reader to be exposed to tamym po’olo without any reference, for there might be snakes in the grass.

When we google and check some sites, then we find the CAL Aramaic lexicon, and it appears that tamym = D to make perfect (and we may guess what the D stands for). Subsequently, work = p’l’. Or with copy-paste: pˁl, pˁlˀ   (pˁāl, pˁālā)   v.n.  labor, work.

Other meanings are, however, wage, reward, and possessions. We find for Hebrew Sa’ul = “asked for, prayed for” and Matthew = Matityahu = “gift of Yahweh”. W.r.t. the name there might be a link to Matthew, the brother of FJ.

1.3 A rock in Greek LXX

Above, the Hebrew inserted a rock where LXX has none. We thus wonder whether this holds for all rocks. However, there is at least a rock in Exodus – and some authors regard Mount Sinai as a reference to the great pyramid.

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb [ Mount Sinai ]; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus, 17.6, KJV)

“ὅδε ἐγὼ ἕστηκα πρὸ τοῦ σὲ ἐκεῖ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας ἐν Χωρηβ· καὶ πατάξεις τὴν πέτραν, καὶ ἐξελεύσεται ἐξ αὐτῆς ὕδωρ, καὶ πίεται ὁ λαός μου. ἐποίησεν δὲ Μωυσῆς οὕτως ἐναντίον τῶν υἱῶν Ισραηλ.” (Exodus, 17.6, LXX, Germain Bible Society)

Moses has also the rock of meribah – strife:

“And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.” (Numbers 20.11, KJV)

1.4 Other strange translation differences

Another example is Shiloh. Yahweh’s covenant that gives kingship to the tribe of Judah need not be eternal, for there is always Shiloh. This term is not used in LXX. There is some discussion whether Greek LXX or Hebrew was earlier, and which is the translation.

“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Genesis 49.10, KJV) (Using the Hebrew version)

“οὐκ ἐκλείψει ἄρχων ἐξ Ιουδα καὶ ἡγούμενος ἐκ τῶν μηρῶν αὐτοῦ, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ τὰ ἀποκείμενα αὐτῷ, καὶ αὐτὸς προσδοκία ἐθνῶν.” (Genesis 49.10, LXX, German Bible Society)

Shiloh: perhaps “he whose it is,” a Messianic title”  (Strong, Biblehub 7886. Shiloh)

We may wonder whether the writers of the NT intended a link between Sa’ul and Shiloh.

1.5 There are disputed rocks in Greek vs Hebrew

In that same Gen. 49 the Hebrew refers to a rock or stone, but the Greek original has κατισχύσας, which means overpowerer. There is also reference to a shepherd, so one presumes that the shepherd throws stones to get the flock going.

But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)” (Genesis 49.24, KJV)

καὶ συνετρίβη μετὰ κράτους τὰ τόξα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐξελύθη τὰ νεῦρα βραχιόνων χειρῶν αὐτῶν διὰ χεῖρα δυνάστου Ιακωβ, ἐκεῖθεν ὁ κατισχύσας Ισραηλ·” (Genesis 49.24, LXX, German Bible Society)

Online, we find this discussion by an exasperated reader, who tries to learn the languages and translations. We may  wonders why God had made his message so unclear.

1.6 Stephan Huller on rock vs stone

Let us return to Stephan Huller’s suggestion that Simon Peter is called Kephas, which is a mere stone, and which differs from a foundation rock. Peter would even be a stumbling stone. The proper translation issue may have to do little with Hebrew is rather between Aramaic kephas and Greek petra or lithos.

See the earlier discussion in Appendix 1 of the weblog entry on bedrock certainties.

Appendix 2: Eisenman on James the Just

My contribution in these weblog texts lies merely in logic and common sense. The above was basically written with reading only small online sections of Eisenman “James the Brother of Jesus” (JBJ) (1997). Perhaps I should read it, but I am no historian and biblical scholar, and it is not clear what I should do with all those details. My purpose is to arrive at an outline for education, and not test the nitty gritty details in Biblical scholarship. For my purposes it currently seems to suffice to take main points from summaries and book reviews by others, and check the overall logic in those. If some detail would upset the framework for education, reviewers trained in history apparently missed its importance too. But Eisenman’s book on James at least should be mentioned – like also his book The New Testament Code (NTC) (2006).

While I am challenged to read JBJ and NTC, I find: JBJ and NTC are not available at the Royal Library in The Hague, and neither at the library of Leiden University, nor at protestant Free University. The library of Groningen University that has the Qumran institute has copies of JBJ but not of NTC. The library of Amsterdam University has JBJ and a book review of NTC.

Appendix 3: Modern times

For completeness: It may be that the Samaritans have a role in this, and once we discuss bereshit then the modern Sofi Tsedaka cannot be avoided.

Listening to Markopoulos / Solomos – Eleutheroi Poliorkemenoi


A river meanders from source to destination, swimmers dive in midstream.

Most readers of this blog have not read The simple mathematics of Jesus (SMOJ) (2012). It is all in the game. Be warned though: there is more upstream.

Richard Carrier – in his test on the mythical vs historical Jesus in his book OHJ – relied on a more or less traditional Paul of the Acts. I am wondering whether that is consistent.  A mythical Jesus but a traditional Paul ? Perhaps a realistic Paul might throw light on a historical Jesus ? The question under discussion – for already one month – is what that alternative for Paul would look like. (My first reaction to Carrier’s OHJ was on January 16.)

Categories for truth and falsehood

The Origin of Christianity is a mer à boire. Eventually when technology progresses all data en hypotheses will be in a database and then computer programs can create stories depending upon your preferred probability priors – with different pooled estimates for the different communities. The following is also intended to convey some of the problems.

Information in the works by Flavius Josephus (FJ) and the New Testament (NT) and Other sources might overlap or not. Since True information will be inside or outside of a source, there are 2 x 2 x 2 = 8 categories of overlap or not. The 8th option would be something that would be true but for which there is no source. This might be expert intuition or phantasy – but it would still be true within this universe of assumed truth. Check the Venn Diagram on the right.

In addition we might have False “information”. Thus in total there are 16 categories. Logically there would be only 8 categories, since a negation of false again is true. For a database it might make more sense however to store a direct falsehood rather than rework it. For example, if the NT were to hold that “Jesus died in 30 AD” (as an estimate date) then it is more efficient to record it in category -7, rather than turn this into “It is false that Jesus died in 30 AD” in category 7.

We would use number 0 for statements that have not been allocated, say in purgatory in the middle. Believers might shift them all to 8 and disbelievers might shift them all to -8, but that would somewhat reduce the value of those categories. The problem is rather the ranking of the statements for processing. The believers and disbelievers might actually agree on the ranking itself but only disagree where to start: at the beginning or the end. (Always at the beginning, but where that is depends upon the chosen perspective.)

FJ = works by Flavius Josephus, NT = New Testament

FJ = works by Flavius Josephus, NT = New Testament

I have assigned the numbers so that :

  • 1 would be supported by all sources
  • 1-4 cover the whole of FJ, our most important source (with the NT copying FJ in 1 & 3)
  • 5-7 reflect decreasing reliability.

Obviously, subcategories are possible. FJ and NT can be split into the various works, creating a finer grid, but also moot questions like whether the NT overall supports something that is in one gospel but not another (like the Star of Bethlehem). One can use higher numbers to create such a finer grid, and a database could handle the associated negative numbers for the falsehoods (another example of the use of negative numbers).

We would have double entry bookkeeping. “Archeology shows that there is no Nazareth in the year 30 AD” in 6 is an archeological qualifier for “Jesus came from Nazareth” in -7. There is also a risk of The battle of the databases because of disagreements on those valuations.

A remarkable point arises when we would succeed in decoding the NT so that all that seems false suddenly appears to be only a coded message. Like Eisenman in his New Testament Code we would have a Gestalt-switch in which pieces of the puzzle fall into their places, and the database would need to be re-valued. Note that Eisenman doesn’t quite fully subscribe to the time shift hypothesis yet.

Categories 1 – 4: Beware of FJ

Christian editors might have fully re-edited the works of FJ to eliminate gross inconsistencies with the NT.

While 1 & 2 find support in Other sources, 3 & 4 are tricky:

  • Category 4 is tricky since we must rely on the internal consistency of FJ itself.
  • Since the NT is not independent but derivative upon FJ, the former point actually also holds for 3.
  • The FJ ~ NT parallels mentioned by Goldberg might not quite distinguish between 1 and 3.

For example in Category 2, Halley’s comet of 66 AD might be identified: “Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year.”  (War 6.5.3 288-309). And perhaps there is a parallel in the NT – when we decode with the time shift hypothesis.

Remember the pro-Roman view in the NT and the pro-Jewish view in FJ – apart from various otherr angles – so that it might be difficult to speak about matching of data. There is Steve Mason’s warning:

“If perspective is unavoidable even where we have video cameras and satellite relays, how much more does it figure in any text from the Greco-Roman world?” (Mason, “Josephus and the New Testament“, p301)

Remarkable is also Mason’s discussion of John the Baptist by FJ:

“(…) he was a good man and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice [dikaioyne] towards their fellows and piety [eusebeia] towards God, and so doing to join in baptism. (…) Notice also that Josephus reduces the content of John’s preaching to the maxim “piety toward God and justice toward one’s fellow’s”. This is Josephus’s usual way of describing Jewish ethical responsibility. [ftnt] (…) He even claims that the first two oaths sworn by Essene novices were “to behave with piety toward God and with justice toward their fellows” (War 2.139) This terminology, which summarizes the popular morality of the Greco-Roman world, is part of Josephus’s apologetic arsenal: he wants to present Judaism as a philosophical tradition that embraces the world’s highest values. [ftnt]” (Mason, p214-215)

The latter reminds of Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40 with the two maxims: to honour God and love one’s neighbour as oneself – which isn’t quite justice. See the discussion in The simple mathematics of Jesus p62 that refers to Euclid’s axiomatic development of geometry. Hellenizing influence on Judaism might be shown in that Jesus axiomatically reduced Moses’s Ten Commandments to those two maxims.

Category 7: What might be true in the NT just by itself?

The NT is a theological tract, intended to induce worship of God and obedience to his (not her) priests. It is not supposed to be historical. It might invoke an air of history, as one of the ways to buy into people’s awe for ancient knowledge and respect for scholarship.

To be most effective, a good religious parable has two layers: the induced message alongside the surface appearance of a “true story”. Grown-ups no longer accept the story of Santa Claus, but they may accept another story that looks more like serious history,  like the story of Jesus as Santa Claus for grown-ups.

The creators of the NT were only human and ran against limitations in their capacity at phantasy. You cannot make up everything. Even the Wizard of Oz is a parable about the gold standard (yellow brick road) versus greenback money (emerald city). The creators of the NT used existing stories to work with. The works by FJ were plundered. Thus, most of the “history” in the NT is in categories 1 & 3 above.

Subsequently, what might be truths in the NT itself – category 7 ? If we are very strict then this category might be entirely empty. It is useful to allow for general external information about human behaviour that would not be too dependent upon that particular period of time.

  • We can derive the theology. For example, we have determined that the Epistle to the Hebrews formulates a logically closed argument to take away the power of the priests in Jerusalem.
  • We might recover the literary models, say the use of Homer (see Dennis Macdonald).
  • We can try to recover what the creators tried to hide, to recover their purposes.
  • There may be small bits that follow from internal consistency.

This kind of analysis is related to the distinction between Halakha (The Way) en Aggadah (Understandings), with PaRDeS methods – and Sod in Category 8 or -8. Paul might be a pre-rabbinic supporter of aggadah with a rejection of halakha. Thus, when the NT is called a source here, then it is only as a literary product with religious intentions, and we can use mathematics to check on patterns.

An example of the last is that Charles Vergeer found – in this entry – that Paul is called “Saul” in Acts before Acts 13.9 and thereafter is called “Paul” (Category 7). This tiny piece of evidence suggests that the association with governor Sergius Paulus on Cyprus, conventionally around 45 AD, might be meaningful in some sense (Category 7 in terms of “may be”). Charles Vergeer suggested that Paul’s name derived from receiving patronage by Sergius Paulus. Compare how Josephus got patronage from the Flavians (Hypothesis: category 8 or -8). Check this caveat on name conventions and why Saul might not need become Sergius Saulus. The label “patronus Pauli” will be useful for analysis till we determine who this patron might be. Vergeer also pointed to events in Rome around 58 AD (category 6) that would have implied a loss of power of Paul’s patrons, so that they could no longer protect Paul: which caused his beheading. But we don’t really know whether he died then and there (Hypothesis: category 8 or -8).

Vergeer has a strong point in a possible link to Philippi and Corinth, cf. the Epistles in the NT. In the Epistle to the Philippians there is mention of Epaphroditus, which is a name that we also find mentioned by Josephus.

Our objective is to find out more about the alternative Paul. Let us see whether we can push this idea of patronage closer to Category 1.

Time shift of Paul’s patronage by a patronus Pauli

Vergeer used the time-scale of the NT, so that he referred to Sergius Paulus around 45 AD. However, there is the time shift hypothesis by Eisenstein and Einhorn, holding that the NT basically deals with the events around the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and that those are projected onto one generation earlier in 30 AD. Eisenstein looks at the Dead Sea Scrolls and internal consistency (Category 1), and Einhorn uses elementary statistics on FJ and NT (Category 3 and 4).

Thus, Paul would have been present around 70 AD, and we should look for a potential patronus Pauli around that time, which the writers of the gospels projected back into time to a meeting with Lucius Sergius Paulus on Cyprus.

We already saw that 58 AD is a crucial year. Not just because of the beheading of a largely fictional Paul but also because Felix, procurator of Judea, is recalled to Rome and replaced by Festus. We know quite a bit about the situation in Rome in this period.

We may wonder why Festus got selected. We already observed before that Pompeius Paulinus returned in 58 AD from his command in Germania Inferior. He might be another candidate to succeed Felix, and be supported by his son in law Seneca. If Paulinus would become patron of Saul, then we would have the gens Pompeii and Pompeius Saulus, or on a smaller scale patronus Palinus. However, we use the term patronus Pauli only as a technical term. There may be other candidates too.

FJ is only 21 years of age in 58 AD.

In this period we encounter the freedmen brothers Marcus Antonius Pallas in Rome and Marcus Antonius Felix as procurator in Judea. Their background is available in the Appendix. There is no known connection between the names Pallas and Paulus.

Something completely different – Life of Matthias alongside Life of Brian

Below I will quote from FJ and NT to support some arguments. There are different readers:

  • Established students of the Origin of Christianity will become bored since they already have seen those quotes many times before.
  • New readers will be overwhelmed.

It will be useful to keep this discussion interesting and to have a key to hold on to.

In earlier weblogs I already wondered about these key points – and not add some other ones:

  1. Paul of Tarsus reminds of tarsos = basket, hence Moses, hence an Egyptian.
  2. What if FJ’s elder brother Matthias actually became Paul ? See this earlier discussion.
  3. What if Matthias ~ Saul ~ Egyptian ~ Paul ~ presented in the Acts as a new Moses ?
  4. We cannot use identity signs since there has been too much editing later on. If the fit becomes convincing then we would be able to identify the editing.
  5. FJ writes in his books that the Egyptian disappears and is never heard from again. Actually, the Egyptian might have been arrested, and taken by Felix to Rome, with 21-year old FJ coming along to save the life of his elder brother (age unknown).
  6. Spoil-sports of this scenario will hold that Saul escaped in a basket and henceforth was nicknamed tarsos, which he then used to argue that he was from Tarsus. But this doesn’t sound quite convincing (certainly not in terms of literary composition of a tract in theology).

Why is this not ludicrous from the start ? Why might this even be an interesting idea ?

We know hardly anything about Matthias.

Well, that is good. He is a clean canvas and we can paint almost any picture. What we paint is bound to remain in category 8 or -8, unless we might be able to appeal to some internal consistency for the whole puzzle. (That we know so little about M might make him suspect, but he might also have been a bore – thus suspicion is no real argument.)

This new hypothesis should allow experienced students to read the same old quotes with fresh inspiration, while new readers have a key to hang on to. Both readerships can link the information to a Life of Matthias rather than Life of Brian.

Core points are – with some repetition to see how the pieces fit together:

  • The simple mathematics of Jesus p 128 mentions some loose ends, and one is: “(4) We see surprising elements. When FJ becomes a member of the Sanhedrin around 64 (for the F [Pharisees]): what is the situation for his father (S [Sadducees]) and brother Matthias ? Perhaps Matthew ? There is also a tax collector with that name, and a text editor might not assign names to persons by chance. See also that successor of Judas [ – Matthias]. Suppose that Josephus is silent about his brother, who then writes a story about Jesus using the life of his brother Josephus as a model. It is fun to speculate about this infinity of possibilities.”
  • In this space of possibilities we can now drop the possible patronage by some patronus Pauli.
  • Assume that FJ’s elder brother Matthias was The Egyptian, was captured in 58 AD by Felix, and dispatched to Rome, with FJ at age 21 coming along to plea for his freedom.
  • Matthias saves his life by accepting the patronage by some patronus Pauli.
  • That FJ calls M “Egyptian” might be a reference for a longer stay and education in Alexandria, as the eldest son. Perhaps even a family nickname.
  • The paragraph in the Acts in which is asked Paul whether he is the Egyptian, would merely copy some information from FJ: Category 3 for the question and -3 for the answer.
  • (That the denial is a give-away confirmation causes problems of classification. Potentially the NT becomes a fully true book again once everything is decoded, as we observed above.)
  • The invention of Tarsus is required to be able to deny being the Egyptian but still claim citizen rights.
  • The tarsos = basket would refer to Moses from Egypt – with also the theological suggestion that Matthias as Paul is the New Moses.

Acts 21.30-40 relay about Paul and the Egyptian. When the Chief Captain makes a link between speaking Greek and a provenance from Egypt, the idea is that people in Alexandria speak Greek.

30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. 31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. 33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. 34 And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. 35 And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him. 37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? 38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? 39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. 40 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,” (Acts 21.30-40, KJV)


The further testing of this compound hypothesis is moved to the separate section below.

In summary, conclusions are:

  1. The murder of high priest Jonathan in 58 AD put Matthias in violent protest on the Mount of Olives as the Egyptian. The events caused a recall of Felix to Rome. Matthias was brought along as a captive, and FJ came along to save his life.
  2. There can be conceptual & psychological & religious consistency between being Matthias, the Egyptian, and Paul (with eventual the gospel to the gentiles).
  3. Elsewhere, Roger Parvus has described that the Acts give an inverted description of Saul and Paul.
  4. There would be two trips of FJ to Rome, while PACE and Goldberg’s timeline would have one (and do not recognise the inconsistency).
  5. Matthias’s patronage by a patronus Pauli is likelier on the first trip in 58 AD then the second in 62 AD.
  6. The patronage need not amount to very much, merely a restoration of earlier appeasement.
  7. The scenario explains some explanatory gaps in PACE.
  8. PACE does’t mention that FJ might want to hide the identity of the Egyptian. There now is a good motive.
  9. The prospect of fitting with later developments look good.
  10. There are still ample alternative connections for some patronus Pauli, e.g. via Rome-Alexandria.
  11. The scenario puts more credibility on Paul than the vague “Paul of Tarsus” (with a curious “nickname”), while it would not be clear who else might be Paul.







Consistency of being the Egyptian and accepting Roman patronage

FJ and his brother M are from Sadducee stock. If we want that Matthias is the Egyptian and later accepts a patronus Pauli, then the psychological gap should not be too big. (Though stories about remarkable conversions abound – psychologists should be able to tell more about these likelihoods.)

At bottom:

High priest Jonathan seems to have had a policy of appeasement with the Romans. If Matthias is angered by the murder, then it is because Felix betrayed this moderation. Once Felix would be punished and the Romans promise improvement, then Matthias might be realistic enough to return to the policy of appeasement. When he wants his father en himself to become high priests, then he would have to deal with the Romans in that position too. Thus, patronage by some Romans would not seem like a bridge too far.

Consistency with Paul’s gospel to the gentiles (with hypotheses)

The next question is whether Matthias might even have ideas about a gospel to the gentiles.

Judaism isn’t monolithic:

  • The Sadducee elite does Temple service and adheres to Mosaic law with the Ten Commandments and basic issues like circumcision. They don’t recognise an immortal soul. They have most room to collaborate with the Greeks and Romans.
  • Pharisees are closer to the common people: they perform at circumcision, bar mitzvah, marriage and burials. They adhere to the Halakha with eating laws and such. They preach an immortal soul, perhaps also to keep discipline amongst their sheep. They hardly can collaborate with Greeks and Romans.
  • Sadducees look down upon Halakha as “not from God and Moses, but man made”.
  • The Essenes seem to be a bag of mixtures.

The link to Egypt is important. Education in Alexandria would have turned Matthias skeptic about Judaism and its divisions.

  • Philo of Alexandria developed a syncretic philosophy himself, that in various ways fits somewhat with later Christendom and in other ways with Gnosticism.
  • See our discussion about Torah and Gnosis, with elements that many seem to miss.
  • Philo also reports about Therapeutae in Egypt, likely influenced by Pythagoras, Plato and the syncretic Greek-Egyptian god Serapis, also influenced by Asclepius.
  • Those Therapeutae could link up to some Essenes.
  • An (advanced) education in Alexandria puts more emphasis on logic.

Matthias might have had a basic education with the Essenes in Qumran, but moved on the Alexandria, and the event of 58 would indicate the split from Qumran to a more Hellenized and likely somewhat gnostic Paul, laying the foundations for later and wiser Christian editors. (Category 8 or -8.)

A good education in Aristotelian logic in Alexandria might have shown Matthias that the Sadducees are rather hypocritical. They depend for their income (sacrifices, taxes) upon the common people, but they let the people believe other things than what they believe themselves. It would be more harmonious if people paid taxes for what they believe in. It reduces criticism when people find out.

See also Goldberg on the class conflict. Sadducee Matthias could remain Sadducee and not switch to Qumran, but oppose hypocrisy out of initial conviction and a better trained feeling for logic. FJ says that he himself joined the Pharisees, but this may be out of calculation – either the doing or the saying so.

PM. If FJ himself was law-observing then the war would cause him to emphasize religious tolerance: say with fighting on the Sabbath and not requiring circumcision from gentile allies. This isn’t quite the same as Paul’s position to abolish Halakha anyhow. FJ, in looking back on his life:

“23. At this time it was that two great men, who were under the jurisdiction of the king [Agrippa] came to me out of the region of Trachonius, bringing their horses and their arms, and carrying with them their money also; and when the Jews would force them to be circumcised, if they would stay among them, I would not permit them to have any force put upon them, but said to them, “Every one ought to worship God according to his own inclinations, and not to be constrained by force; and that these men, who had fled to us for protection, ought not to be so treated as to repent of their coming hither.” And when I had pacified the multitude, I provided for the men that were come to us whatsoever it was they wanted, according to their usual way of living, and that in great plenty also.” (Vita, quoted in the FJ ~ NT parallels by Kenneth Humphreys) (See also Goldberg‘s parallel, and that my earlier discussion that Jewish women aren’t circumcised.)

FJ’s meeting of Poppaea in 58 AD – inconsistency about his two trips to Rome

To understand the following we first need some data.

There are some crucial periods for the procurators, and there is FJ’s inconsistency on Rome. For FJ I use Whiston at Project Gutenberg, PACE, and Gary Goldberg’s with a timeline and such.

Steve Mason analyses the composition Vita, FJ’s autobiography or Life, and concludes:

“Further, the interpretation of the Life that I have proposed here integrates it fully with the Antiquities, to which it is attached. The Life also becomes broadly consistent with the War. When Josephus now changes the details, it is not because, having shifted political allegiances, he wishes to make subtle new points, as scholars have often thought. Such motives would not explain the general sloppiness of detail in this book. Rather, Josephus exploits his brief period of command in Galilee to make some claims about his aristocratic virtue in support of his magnum opus. In the spirit of his age, which we find also among the gospel writers, he shows not the slightest hesitation in changing details or disregarding precision altogether in the interest of making his present rhetorical points.” (Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament, p131).

Mason seems to hold that there was only one trip to Rome, and that FJ used data from Antiquities to creatively retell his Vita. In Antiquities we find a trip under Festus with priests not in bonds, without mention of FJ partaking at age 26. Later in Vita there is a trip under Felix with priests in bonds, and FJ (“at age 26” while he would be 21) partaking and meeting Poppaea, wife of Nero. Perhaps the 62-63 trip is embellished in Vita, but FJ in Antiquities might have had a reason to cover up the first trip.

The data and considerations:

  • Procurators of Judea: Felix (52 – 58),  Festus (59 – 62), Albinus (62-64), Gessius Florus (64-66)
  • FJ is born in 37 AD. In 58 AD he is 21 years of age.
  • Nero is just as old: “Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus, born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in December 37 CE, Josephus’ nearly exact contemporary.” (Steve Mason in PACE, footnote 100)
  • FJ mentions in Vita (published around 99 AD) that he took a trip to Rome in the period of Felix with Jewish priests in bonds. This must be in 58 AD at the latest, and likely in this year when Felix is called back to Rome because of the murder of high priest Jonathan.
  • I will presume that the ship departing in 58 also arrives in 59 AD.
  • FJ meets Poppaea, the future wife of Nero. Since Nero and Seneca were still close, it should not be unlikely that FJ also met Seneca.
  • FJ mentions in Antiquities (published around 94 AD) another travel by priests to Rome in 62-63 AD under Festus. These priests are not in bonds. FJ doesn’t mention whether he partakes or not. FJ claims: Poppaea helps the priests.
  • About the first trip in 58, FJ says that he is 26 years of age which would hold for the second trip.
  • Given the role that FJ assigns to Poppaea for that second trip (wishful thinking, boasting ?) it may well be that FJ was on that second trip too (so that he could witness that). Who would miss the opportunity to cement relations in Rome ? (But then, it was Nero, who had already murdered his mother in 59 AD.)

Given the later publication of Vita, it might be that FJ confused the dates and procurators, and that there was only one trip. However, it would concern his own life. The binding of priests, shipwreck, meeting Poppaea, and reference to “small and trifling occasion” should make for proper distinction between the two trips. It is more likely that he made a single error of putting in the wrong age. Which error indicates that he was on that second trip too. On the other hand, Mason makes a strong case for rhetorical motives.

Some quotes – with wikipedia a portal and no source:

54 – 65 AD: “On October 13, 54 A.D., Nero became the emperor of Rome. For five years Burrus and Seneca were able to control Nero and Agrippina. Under Poppaea‘s influence, Nero had his mother [Agrippina the Younger, 15-59 AD] killed, and this meant trouble for Seneca as well. In 62 A.D., Seneca retired and Burrus died. After this happened, Nero lost all control. Finally in 65 A.D., Nero accused Seneca of being involved in a conspiracy to kill him. Nero ordered Seneca to commit suicide, which he did with his faithful wife by his side. Nero prevented Paulina from dying, but Seneca went ahead as ordered.” (

58 AD: “Poppaea then married Otho, a good friend of the new Emperor Nero, who was seven years younger than she was. Nero fell in love with Poppaea and she became Nero’s mistress. According to Tacitus, Poppaea divorced Otho in 58 and focused her attentions solely on becoming empress of Rome and Nero’s new wife. (…) Tacitus claims that Poppaea was the reason that Nero murdered his mother. Poppaea induced Nero to murder Agrippina in 59 so that she could marry him. Modern scholars, though, question the reliability of this story as Nero did not marry Poppaea until 62. (…) The historian [ ! ] Josephus, on the other hand, tells us of a very different Poppaea. He calls her a deeply religious woman (perhaps privately a Jewish proselyte) who urged Nero to show compassion, namely to the Jewish people. However, in 64, she secured the position of procurator of Judaea for her friend’s husband, Gessius Florus, who was harmful to the Jews.” (Wikipedia on Poppaea)

On the procurators:

59-62 AD: “Now when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero, the principal of the Jewish inhabitants of Cesarea went up to Rome to accuse Felix; and he had certainly been brought to punishment, unless Nero had yielded to the importunate solicitations of his brother Pallas, who was at that time had in the greatest honor by him. Two of the principal Syrians in Cesarea persuaded Burrhus, who was Nero’s tutor, and secretary for his Greek epistles, by giving him a great sum of money, to disannul that equality of the Jewish privileges of citizens which they hitherto enjoyed. So Burrhus, by his solicitations, obtained leave of the emperor that an epistle should be written to that purpose. This epistle became the occasion of the following miseries that befell our nation; for when the Jews of Cesarea were informed of the contents of this epistle to the Syrians, they were more disorderly than before, till a war was kindled.” (Antiquities, 20.8.9)

The murder of high priest Jonathan in Judea 58 AD

Gary Goldberg provides us key information.

Felix Arranges the Assassination of High Priest Jonathan 
A 20.8.5 162-4 
Felix also bore an ill-will to Jonathan, the high priest, because of his frequent admonitions to improve the administration of Jewish affairs; for Jonathan feared that he himself would have complaints made of him by the multitude, since he it was who had requested Caesar to send Felix as procurator of Judea. So Felix contrived a method whereby he might get rid of one who had become so continually troublesome to him; for such continual rebukes are annoying to those who are disposed to do wrong. For such reasons Felix persuaded one of Jonathan’s most trusted friends, a citizen of Jerusalem named Doras, to bring the robbers upon Jonathan, in order to kill him; and this he did by promising to pay a great deal of money. Doras complied with the proposal, and contrived for the robbers to murder him in the following way. Certain of those robbers went up to the city as if they were going to worship God, while they had daggers under their garments, and by thus mingling themselves among the multitude they slew Jonathan. 

  The account written earlier, in War 2.18.3 [must be 2.13.3], does not implicate Felix in the assassination. 
   Josephus states that it was Jonathan who had originally requested Felix be sent as governor, which was done by Emperor Claudius, who was friendly with the Jewish royal family. As Felix and his brother Pallas were freed slaves who rose high in Claudius’ administration, Jonathan may have thought Felix would be a gentle administrator. However, after only two years  Nero succeeded Claudius, and under the new administration that the governor’s corruption accelerated.. 

Quoted from

PACE assigns FJ’s first trip to his second trip

Curiously, the discussion at PACE – managed by Steve Mason – does not discuss the inconsistency of FJ’s claims of a trip at age 26 under Felix, and the estimated tenure of Felix (52-58).

PACE gives a majority view of a recall of Felix in 59 or 60 AD, but the coinage of Kokkinos fits with the murder of high priest Jonathan. PACE says that Jonathan was a former high priest – which is true because he was so on occasion before 58 too –  but should he not be better be the high priest when he was murdered ? In Wikipedia’s list of high priests, Jonathan ben Ananus of 58 is not documented yet.

Footnote 95: “Antonius Felix according to Tacitus ( Hist. 5.9), Claudius Felix according to the mss. of Josephus at Ant. 20.137. The Epitome there has “Claudius sent Felix” (see Schürer-Vermes 1.460 n. 19; but Kokkinos 1990). Felix was the brother of Marcus Antonius Pallas, the influential freedman of Claudius’ mother Antonia. Pallas served as the emperor Claudius’ financial secretary ( a rationibus) and seems to have played a major role in the affairs of the imperial court (Suetonius, Claud. 28-9; Tacitus, Ann. 12.53). Although—and because—he was granted the exceptional honor for a freedman of receiving the insignia of a senior magistrate (praetor: Pliny, Ep. 8.6), Pallas created many aristocratic enemies: Pliny called him a “dirty rotten scoundrel” ( Ep. 7.29). He was later put to death by Nero. Near the end of the Antiquities Josephus has introduced Felix as the brother of this notorious official, evidently assuming an audience who know the name of Pallas: Ant. 20.137. Matching Tacitus’ description of Felix as a man who, “practicing every kind of cruelty and lust, wielded royal power with the instincts of a slave” ( Hist. 5.9), Josephus first describes the successful freedman’s lust for the already-married but still teen-aged Judean princess Drusilla (daughter of Agrippa I and sister of Agrippa II), which led her to “violate the ancestral laws” and marry this gentile ( Ant. 20.143-44). It was under Felix’ watch, according to Josephus, that Judean political life deteriorated sharply. The governor’s determination to do wrong drove him to introduce knife-wielding assassins ( sicarii) into the city and to murder the former high priest Jonathan (20.162-64). He thus opened a Pandora’s box, which he could not close even though he aggressively tried to stamp out militant and religious radicals (20.167-72). He also sided arbitrarily with the Syrian inhabitants of Caesarea Maritima against the Judeans there (20.173-78), creating further tensions. Cf. War 2.247-70 and Krieger 1994:141-71. The dates of Felix’ tenure as procurator are uncertain and depend on a large number of variables (see Schürer-Vermes 1.460 n. 17, 465-66 n. 42). Most scholars posit either 52 or 53 CE as his first year, though the matter is complicated by Tacitus’ confident description ( Ann. 12.54), not paralleled in Josephus, of an earlier sharing of power in Samaria and Judea by Cumanus and Felix. Estimates for the year of his recall range from 54 through 61 CE, with the majority view favoring 59 or 60. Kokkinos (1998:385-86) makes a case from the coinage for 58 CE.” (Life, Translation Mason, Whiston Section 1.1.3, PACE footnote 95)

Footnote 93: “After Josephus’ 26th birthday. Since he was born in Gaius’ first year (cf. § 5: March 18, 37 – March 17, 38), his 26th birthday fell between March 18, 63, and March 17, 64 CE. Josephus’ departure for Rome was, therefore, probably in the sailing season (spring to autumn) of either 63 or 64.

The murder of Jonathan in 58 put the Egyptian on the Mount of Olives

When we look at War 2.13.3, we find that the slaying of Jonathan ben Ananus [Ionathes] is linked to Felix’s recall to Rome and replacement by Festus.

We also see The Egyptian, who responds by wanting to attack the Roman garrisons in Jerusalem. It is a long quote but crucial for our purposes to discover who Paul is and who changed his name into Paul.

“3. When the country was purged of these, there sprang up another sort of robbers in Jerusalem, which were called Sicarii, who slew men in the day time, and in the midst of the city; this they did chiefly at the festivals, when they mingled themselves among the multitude, and concealed daggers under their garments, with which they stabbed those that were their enemies; and when any fell down dead, the murderers became a part of those that had indignation against them; by which means they appeared persons of such reputation, that they could by no means be discovered. The first man who was slain by them was Jonathan the high priest, after whose death many were slain every day, while the fear men were in of being so served was more afflicting than the calamity itself; and while every body expected death every hour, as men do in war, so men were obliged to look before them, and to take notice of their enemies at a great distance; nor, if their friends were coming to them, durst they trust them any longer; but, in the midst of their suspicions and guarding of themselves, they were slain. Such was the celerity of the plotters against them, and so cunning was their contrivance.

4. There was also another body of wicked men gotten together, not so impure in their actions, but more wicked in their intentions, which laid waste the happy state of the city no less than did these murderers. These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretense 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 show them the signals of liberty. But Felix thought this procedure was to be the beginning of a revolt; so he sent some horsemen and footmen both armed, who destroyed a great number of them.

5. But there was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him; these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place; and if he could but once conquer the Roman garrison and the people, he intended to domineer over them by the assistance of those guards of his that were to break into the city with him. But Felix prevented his attempt, and met him with his Roman soldiers, while all the people assisted him in his attack upon them, insomuch that when it came to a battle, the Egyptian ran away, with a few others, while the greatest part of those that were with him were either destroyed or taken alive; but the rest of the multitude were dispersed every one to their own homes, and there concealed themselves.

6. Now when these were quieted, it happened, as it does in a diseased body, that another part was subject to an inflammation; for a company of deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those that continued in obedience to the Roman government, and saying, that such as willingly chose slavery ought to be forced from such their desired inclinations; for they parted themselves into different bodies, and lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war.

7. There was also another disturbance at Cesarea,—those Jews who were mixed with the Syrians that lived there rising a tumult against them. The Jews pretended that the city was theirs, and said that he who built it was a Jew, meaning king Herod. The Syrians confessed also that its builder was a Jew; but they still said, however, that the city was a Grecian city; for that he who set up statues and temples in it could not design it for Jews. On which account both parties had a contest with one another; and this contest increased so much, that it came at last to arms, and the bolder sort of them marched out to fight; for the elders of the Jews were not able to put a stop to their own people that were disposed to be tumultuous, and the Greeks thought it a shame for them to be overcome by the Jews. Now these Jews exceeded the others in riches and strength of body; but the Grecian part had the advantage of assistance from the soldiery; for the greatest part of the Roman garrison was raised out of Syria; and being thus related to the Syrian part, they were ready to assist it. However, the governors of the city were concerned to keep all quiet, and whenever they caught those that were most for fighting on either side, they punished them with stripes and bands. Yet did not the sufferings of those that were caught affright the remainder, or make them desist; but they were still more and more exasperated, and deeper engaged in the sedition. And as Felix came once into the market-place, and commanded the Jews, when they had beaten the Syrians, to go their ways, and threatened them if they would not, and they would not obey him, he sent his soldiers out upon them, and slew a great many of them, upon which it fell out that what they had was plundered. And as the sedition still continued, he chose out the most eminent men on both sides as ambassadors to Nero, to argue about their several privileges.” (War 2.13.3)

PACE has question marks – plug in Matthias the Egyptian

Let us consider the hypothesis that the Egyptian is Matthias, elder brother of FJ. An essential part of the hypothesis is that M had studied in Alexandria and had returned to the Temple, and became livid that Felix murdered Jonathan.

FJ in his later report for Vespasian needed to hide Matthias’s name, and used a general label, which was copied by the author of the NT. (A false phantasy is category -8, but if true it would be category 3.)

PACE doesn’t mention that FJ might want to hide the identity of the Egyptian. They point to some curious things about this Egyptian that however fit the hypothesis about Matthias. The label Egyptian is not ethnic but derives from other considerations, which the writer of the NT is well aware of by including the information about speaking Greek which FJ doesn’t mention:

Footnote 1640: “On this figure see also Ant. 20.169-72; Acts 21:38. It is striking that the man should be known by this ethnic label—rather than by his name, and not by his Judean identity: for Josephus he was an Egyptian who harmed the Judeans. But was he not also a Ioudaios? (If not, how did he attract such a following, and why did he have such an interest in Jerusalem?) In Alexandrian politics the label “Egyptian” was a slur: Egyptians of native ancestry were sharply distinguished from Alexandrians, whose ancestry (though thoroughly mixed by the 1st cent. CE) and culture derived from Greco-Macedonian roots, as also from the Judeans, who continually angled for equality with the Alexandrians. In the Apion Josephus is keen to disassociate Judeans from their widely presumed Egyptian ancestry (e.g., 2.8); most revealing is his attack on Apion for asserting the Egyptian ancestry of the Judeans while denying his own Egyptian identity (“he falsely claimed to be an Alexandrian”; Apion 2.28-30; see Barclay ad loc. in BJP 10).

That Josephus identifies this man only as “the Egyptian” could mean either that this was the only way the man was known (odd, given that there must have been many Judeans from Egypt and Alexandria passing through Jerusalem; it is hard to imagine someone being known as “the American” in London), that he does not know his name (curious, given that he claims to know the names of even obscure troublemakers), or that he intends disparagement by this label.

Most remarkable is Acts’ use of the same epithet in place of a name—and apparent misuse of it, by having the Egyptian leading sicarii into the desert (Acts 21:38). That might suggest the author’s dependence upon Josephus.(War, 2.13.5, Niese Section 261)

FJ’s first trip to Rome in 58 AD: The Egyptian

The Egyptian doesn’t get a name, which is curious for Josephus who knows so much. But in 58 FJ is only 21 years, and likely not so interested in writing his history.

However, in Antiquities we find another detail: the tumbling of walls remind of Jericho, with Joshua, the Saviour. Now FJ is silent about the context of the murder on Jonathan and the planned attack on the Roman garrison.

This must be in or before 58 AD: “6. These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God. And many that were prevailed on by them suffered the punishments of their folly; for Felix brought them back, and then punished them.

Moreover, there came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of five furlongs. He said further, that he would show them from hence how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down; and he promised them that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down.

Now when Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and came against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen from Jerusalem, and attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He also slew four hundred of them, and took two hundred alive. But the Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, but did not appear any more. And again the robbers stirred up the people to make war with the Romans, and said they ought not to obey them at all; and when any persons would not comply with them, they set fire to their villages, and plundered them.” (Antiquities 20.8.6, The Egyptian)

That the Egyptian “disappeared” is a sweet lie, sweet, since the label indeed isn’t mentioned anymore. (It may be a literary thing. The Gospel according to Mark had an empty grave too.)

FJ’s first trip to Rome in 58 AD: Felix recalled to Rome

Since FJ is born in 37 AD he would be 21 years of age in 58 AD when Felix still reigned.

“3. But when I was in the twenty-sixth [Category -4, not seen by PACE] year of my age, it happened that I took a voyage to Rome, and this on the occasion which I shall now describe. At the time when Felix was procurator of Judea there were certain priests of my acquaintance, and very excellent persons they were, whom on a small and trifling occasion he had put into bonds, and sent to Rome to plead their cause before Caesar.

These I was desirous to procure deliverance for, and that especially because I was informed that they were not unmindful of piety towards God, even under their afflictions, but supported themselves with figs and nuts. [This might be zealots – nazirites who have to stay away from death]. Accordingly I came to Rome, though it were through a great number of hazards by sea; for as our ship was drowned in the Adriatic Sea, we that were in it, being about six hundred in number, swam for our lives all the night; when, upon the first appearance of the day, and upon our sight of a ship of Cyrene, I and some others, eighty in all, by God’s providence, prevented the rest, and were taken up into the other ship.

And when I had thus escaped, and was come to Dieearchia, which the Italians call Puteoli, I became acquainted with Aliturius, an actor of plays, and much beloved by Nero, but a Jew by birth; and through his interest became known to Poppea, Caesar’s wife, and took care, as soon as possible, to entreat her to procure that the priests might be set at liberty. And when, besides this favor, I had obtained many presents from Poppea, I returned home again.” (Vita, 3)


  • Poppaea would indeed already be the mistress of Nero, though not yet his official spouse (in 62 AD).
  • There would be no need for FJ to meet Seneca but it might still be feasible that FJ and / or some of the priests including Matthias accept patronage by some Romans in order to get their liberty.
  • If FJ himself accepted the patronage by the Pauli, then he would call himself Paulus Josephus. Then he would later change his patronage to the Flavians, unless the Church redacted this too.
  • For the priests who were in bounds, it depends upon why they were in bounds, for them to accept patronage by the Pauli.
  • If FJ’s brother Matthias would be The Egyptian and now switch to Paulus Matteus, then we might assume tough discussions between the brothers on the boat trip. (For the film: FJ causes the shipwreck to get rid of witnesses.)
  • It has been suggested e.g. by Ralph Ellis, King Jesus, that Poppaea liked young men and that FJ was an exotic, witty and seductive young man, so that the true persuasion derived from charm and such. It depends upon FJ’s religious convictions whether he would use such tactics. But of course he was young, and Poppaea might have tainted him. As Ellis remarks: the willingness to eat and drink with the Romans without insistence on special food might already be quite a feat.

The most peculiar is that the priests are bound because of a small and trifling affair. Well, for a small affair people might not want to go to Nero, and would have to be bound of course. It is more likely that it wasn’t a small affair though.

We are also invited to believe that Felix was so incompetent and impatient to put people in bonds and dispatch them to Rome on a “small and trifling” reason . Alternatively, these were real important priests, like Matthias.

Felix is recalled to Rome in 58. It is conceivable that he wants to bring along some evidence. Matthias is an important captive.

FJ’s second trip to Rome 62-65 AD

PACE has no comment that FJ would be on this trip. But he could be, if the reference to 26 years of age is an indication.

62-65 AD: “11. About the same time king Agrippa built himself a very large dining-room in the royal palace at Jerusalem, near to the portico. Now this palace had been erected of old by the children of Asamoneus and was situate upon an elevation, and afforded a most delightful prospect to those that had a mind to take a view of the city, which prospect was desired by the king; and there he could lie down, and eat, and thence observe what was done in the temple;

which thing, when the chief men of Jerusalem saw they were very much displeased at it; for it was not agreeable to the institutions of our country or law that what was done in the temple should be viewed by others, especially what belonged to the sacrifices. They therefore erected a wall upon the uppermost building which belonged to the inner court of the temple towards the west, which wall when it was built, did not only intercept the prospect of the dining-room in the palace, but also of the western cloisters that belonged to the outer court of the temple also, where it was that the Romans kept guards for the temple at the festivals.

At these doings both king Agrippa, and principally Festus the procurator, were much displeased; and Festus ordered them to pull the wall down again: but the Jews petitioned him to give them leave to send an embassage about this matter to Nero; for they said they could not endure to live if any part of the temple should be demolished; and when Festus had given them leave so to do, they sent ten of their principal men to Nero, as also Ismael the high priest, and Helcias, the keeper of the sacred treasure.

And when Nero had heard what they had to say, he not only forgave them what they had already done, but also gave them leave to let the wall they had built stand. This was granted them in order to gratify Poppea, Nero’s wife, who was a religious woman, and had requested these favors of Nero, and who gave order to the ten ambassadors to go their way home; but retained Helcias and Ismael as hostages with herself. As soon as the king heard this news, he gave the high priesthood to Joseph, who was called Cabi, the son of Simon, formerly high priest.” (Antiquities, 20. 8.11 at PACE)

Comments would be:

  1. Agrippa’s ability to look into the Temple courtyard has military implications, and similarly the wall that would block his view again. It is strange that FJ assumes that his readers would not be aware of this.
  2. The fire in Rome of 64 is curiously absent from his report. (For the film: FJ started that fire too.)
  3. FJ is back in time in Jerusalem in 65-66 when the uprising starts so that he can take a command post. His brother’s reputation will have helped. But Matthias has changed to the moderates now (Category 8 or -8).
  4. Apparently FJ leaves when Poppaea and Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD) fall out of favour and have to die.
  5. In 66 there is Halley’s comet – not unexpected in some circles that kept records.
  6. Around 62 Seneca the Younger is forced to retire. It is unlikely that there would be a link now. If Pompeius Paulinus is the patronus Pauli (with a need to explain the difference between “Pauli” and “Paulini”) then the patronage would have been established in the first trip.
Appendix: The freedman brothers M.A. Pallas and M.A. Felix

Check the names of the two freedman brothers:

FJ reports:

Around 31 AD: “Now Sejanus [20 BC – 31 AD] had certainly gained his point, had not Antonia’s boldness been more wisely conducted than Sejanus’s malice; for when she had discovered his designs against Tiberius, she wrote him an exact account of the whole, and gave the letter to Pallas, the most faithful of her servants, and sent him to Caprere [Capri] to Tiberius, who, when he understood it, slew Sejanus and his confederates; so that Tiberius, who had her in great esteem before, now looked upon her with still greater respect, and depended upon her in all things.” (Antiquities 18.6.6.)

52-58 AD: “Then Claudius sent Felix, the brother of Pallas, to manage the affairs of Judea. After completing the twelfth year of his reign, Claudius granted to Agrippa the tetrarchy of Philp, and Batanea.(…)” (Antiquities 20.7.1 quoted on

According to Tacitus Annals xii 53-54 the brothers are descendent from kings of Arcadia – and note that this does not lay far from Corinthe, which town is related to the gens Aemilii Pauli. Potentially some of these Pauli were involved ? Marcus Antonius Pallas may have chosen his name from Pallas Athena however.

Our problem is solved since it is used as an example:

“Names of Freedpeople: When slaves were freed, they occupied a middle status between the freeborn and the enslaved; they were referred to as liberti or libertini, which we translate as “freedpeople.” While they were still enslaved, they had a single name, either a part of the name they had carried before they were enslaved or a name given to them by their master, often coming from mythology, referring to their country of origin, or referring to a personal characteristic. The slave’s name, like everything else, was completely at the discretion of his/her owner. However, there were specific conventions that governed the names of freedpeople. A freedman took the praenomen and nomen of his former master, who was now his patron, plus his slave name as a cognomen; if he had been freed by a woman, he took her father’s praenomen and nomen plus his slave name (e.g., Marcus Antonius’ daughter Antonia freed a slave named Pallas, who was then called M. Antonius Pallas).” (

Apparently, his brother Felix became a free man in the same manner.

Mark Anthony had three daughters Antonia. Claudius’s mother Antonia Minor (36 BC – 37 AD) would make more sense, given the important position of Pallas within the government. See this Dict. of the Bible.

Thus, based upon only these data, the involvement of the gens Pauli seems unlikely for Pallas.

However, there is a route from FJ to Felix to Pallas to some potential patronus Pauli at the court.

PM 1. Another key is that Caesar Augustus’s niece Antonia Minor (36 BC – 37 AD) (see also here) was great-aunt of Nero, and by marriage and adoption was his grandmother (link via Claudius), while Alexander the Alabarch in Egypt looked after her estates.

PM 2. There is Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus who died around 47 AD from the natural cause of a knife in his chest. One of Claudius’s wifes Messalina’s half-brother was Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix (22-62 AD):

  • “[After Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus died, Claudia Antonia, daughter of Claudius & Aelia Paetina, the precursor of Messalina] married Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix, Messalina’s half-brother, in order to strengthen the bloodline of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Pompeius had no children with Antonia.”
  • “In 56 two years after the accession of Roman emperor Nero, the imperial freedman Pallas and the Praetorian prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus were accused of conspiring to have Felix declared emperor. The conspirators were put on trial, but Felix does not appear to have been implicated. Nero however, began to watch his brother-in-law closely, afraid of his connection to the imperial family.” (wikipedia)

Listening to Pink Floyd – Echoes, in Pompeii


In the last entry I adopted the suggestion by Charles Vergeer that Saul accepted patronage by a patronus Pauli and for that reason changed his name into Paul. This happens in Acts 13.6-9 when he met governor Sergius Paulus on Cyprus. The parallel is that Josephus received patronage by the Flavians. Vergeer suggests that Sergius Paulus would be linked to the gens Pauli (gens Aemilii Paulli).

(Addendum 2015-02-24. (1) This same suggestion was mentioned by Maurice Casey with reference to an article by Peter van Minnen 1994. A check showed that this article doesn’t state such an explicit link so that this can only be an inference by Casey himself. I have inserted a section in the last weblog entry. (2) The following was written before I was able to check the Van Minnen 1994 article. It all increases the caveat.)

Vergeer suggested also that Paul, after being in Cyprus around 45 AD, hoped for protection in 58 AD by Lucius Annaeus Seneca a.k.a. Seneca the Younger (4 BC – 65 AD). Seneca was married to Paulina and the idea was that Paulina would belong to the gens Pauli too.

But there are snakes in the grass.

I took the suggestion from a book review which is no full study targetted at this issue.

Just to be sure: the idea and connection is interesting. Seneca in 54 – 62 AD had good connections with emperor Nero. Seneca was his mentor – called for help in tutoring Nero but unfortunately rather late when Nero didn’t want to be tutored anymore.

54-62 AD: “From 54 to 62, Seneca acted as Nero’s advisor, together with the praetorian prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus. Seneca’s influence was said to have been especially strong in the first year. Tacitus and Dio suggest that Nero’s early rule, during which time he listened to Seneca and Burrus, was quite competent. However, the ancient sources suggest, over time, Seneca and Burrus lost their influence over the emperor. In 59 they had reluctantly agreed to Agrippina’s murder, and afterward, Tacitus reports that Seneca wrote a dishonest[vague] exculpation of Nero to the Senate.” (Wikipedia on Seneca the Younger) (NB. The article about Publius Suillius Rufus holds that Sejanus accuses him, but in 58 AD it is Suillius who accuses Seneca who has him banned to the Baleares.)

Also, Paul in Acts 18 goes to Corinth where he is judged by governor Gallio, who happens to be Seneca’s elder brother, who has been adopted by Gallio. We may wonder whether Paul would have known about that family connection too.

“12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,” (Acts 18.12, KJV)

The discussion of the snakes is below. The conclusions can be put up front.


On the data we find:

  1. Based on Roman name conventions (Appendix), Sergius Paulus belongs to the gens Sergii, and Saul would rather change his name into Sergius Saulus – compare Flavius Josephus.
  2. Pompeia Paulina belongs to the gens Pompeii. Adoption remains a possibility though: her father Pompeius Paulinus might be a Paulus adopted by some Pompeius.
  3. Pliny the Elder refers to a Sergius Paulus – but without clear link to Cyprus.
  4. Archeological inscriptions generate explanations that are rather confusing for non-experts. (a) The name is used in Rome – but that is not Cyprus. (b) An inscription mentions a proconsul Paulus in Cyprus, but the period is unclear (to me). (c) An inscription of a Paullus Sergius (+ something ?) might confirm a gens Paulli (if the something isn’t there). But it is in South-West Turkey which is not Cyprus – and it might link to the Paulli of Macedonia too.
  5. Overall: The inscriptions draw a blank for Vergeer’s suggestion, while the very name “Sergius Paulus” superficially rejects it.

However, the scene & name change on Cyprus in Acts 13.6-9 is very remarkable, including the link to Philippi and Corinth. The idea that Paul got patronage from a patronus Pauli (now indicating the patron by the protegee) is too good to let it sink in this stadium. It may require additional assumptions to make it work.

We are not stuck with Seneca and Paulina. Saul might meet proper gens Pauli, some who actually had more interest in Judea than Seneca. Archeologists have been looking for confirmation of Sergius Paulus but may not have been looking for links to the gens Pauli.

The objectives of the authors of the NT matter too:

  • One option is honesty but partial incompetence:
    • They knew only about a proconsul Paulus and plugged in that name from Pliny that seemed to fit.
    • As Josephus accepts patronage, they wanted someone in the NT to do so too.
  • Another option is (competent or incompetent) duplicity. There is always the conspiracy card.
    • To suggest a gens Sergii but leave a clue for the gens Pauli.
    • To select Cyprus for that location since Citium ~ Kiton ~ Kittim.
    • To enhance Paul’s claim for Roman citizenship – like they also emphasize that he would be from Tarsus while he need not be.
  • There still is the time shift hypothesis: real events took place around 70 AD but the NT projects it a generation earlier, around 30 AD.

Thus, it is useful to keep an open eye in the future for new data and insights that would confirm or contradict the idea that Paul’s change of name signifies his adoption of patronage. The idea still allows the generation of new hypotheses that can be tested.

These conclusions are supported by the discussion below.





Let us see what snakes there are:

(A) We need to distinguish the story in the NT and the historical data – and our imagination:

  • Paul getting a patronus Pauli might be either historical or conflict with historical data.
  • Whatever history, the NT might still suggest that Paul got a patronus Pauli and hoped to be saved in Rome.
  • The writers of the NT might also have an objective to hide Paul’s patronage.

(B) Looking at naming conventions in the Roman Empire (Appendix) – we find:

  • Sergius Paulus means a gens Sergii and not gens Pauli.
  • Pompeia Paulina is daughter or sister of Pompeius Paulinus – and gens Pompeii is not gens Pauli. But the father might be a Paulus adopted by some Pompeius.

(C) Other data are:

  • Pliny the Elder in Natural History mentions a Sergius Paulus, but it is not clear whether he comes from Cyprus.
  • There is an inscription about a proconsul Paulus at about the time of emperor Claudius.
  • There are other inscriptions about Lucius Sergius Paulus but these concern a gens Sergii.

(D) Complications are:

  • For Tarsus: tarsos = basket, which may refer to Paul as a new Moses. Also, Moses came from Egypt, which might refer to The Egyptian in the works by Flavius Josephus.
  • Given the time shift hypothesis, Saul may have gotten a patronus Pauli at a later period. The writers of the NT projected this back to an earlier period, and may have abused Sergius Paulus.

Let us look in more detail at the historical data under B & C and continue at another time with A & D.

Sergius Paulus in Acts 13.7 in Greek and Latin

The name change occurs only in Acts 13.7. in the original Greek we find Sergius Paulus and in the Vulgata Clementina we find the same order. Presumably the original Greek kept the Roman name sequence.

“7 ὃς ἦν σὺν τῷ ἀνθυπάτῳ Σεργίῳ Παύλῳ, ἀνδρὶ συνετῷ. οὗτος προσκαλεσάμενος Βαρναβᾶν καὶ Σαῦλον ἐπεζήτησεν ἀκοῦσαι τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ.” (Acts 13.7, NA28, German Bible Society)

“qui erat cum proconsule Sergio Paulo viro prudente. Hic, accersitis Barnaba et Saulo, desiderabat audire verbum Dei.” (

The Roman naming conventions (Appendix) are Praenomen (home name), Nomen (gens), Cognomen (sub-gens, nickname).

  • Compare with Gaius Julius Caesar: the gens Julii and publicly known as Julius Caesar.
  • Compare with emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus. When Josephus accepted his patronage, he called himself Flavius Josephus.
  • Thus Sergius Paulus decodes as: gens Sergii and cognomen Paulus.

This does not fit a patronage by the gens Pauli. On the surface at least.

Sergius Paulus in Pliny the Elder

The collected Natural History of Pliny the Elder can be found at The editor explains Pliny used abstracts by Sergius Paulus. His name still concerns a gens Sergii.

The editor also suggests that this must be from the person mentioned in the Acts – but it is not clear here how the provenance from Cyprus is established. But he seems to link the perhaps Gnostic heresies of Elymas to the interests of Sergius Paulus:

“and from the nature of his pursuits we are enabled to perceive the reason why, at one time, he was the patron of Elymas the Sorcerer”. (editor of Pliny, p28)

“The Roman writer Pliny the Elder also makes reference to a “Sergius Paulus” whom he used as a source along with others in Book 2 and 18 of his work on “Natural History.” It is also interesting to note that Pliny mentions that the island of Cyprus was overrun with those who practiced sorcery just like Elymas who the Bible says tried to deceive Sergius Paulus. Pliny writes: “There existed different groups of magicians from the time of Moses such as Jannes and Lotape , of whom the Jews had spoken of. And in fact many thousands yearly follow after Zoroastrian ways especially during recent times on the Island of Cyprus.” (Bible History net)

Sergius Paulus in archeology
Blackwell Companion to Paul

A main document is Stephen Westerholm (ed) (2011) “The Blackwell Companion to Paul“.  The companion does not adopt the time shift hypothesis yet.

  • The accepted inscription is L. Sergius Paullus in Rome, thus of the gens Sergii.
  • Thus in Rome, and no link to Cyprus.
  • The other inscriptions are dismissed.
Westerholm (ed) on Sergius Paulus ((c) Wiley)

Westerholm (ed) on Sergius Paulus ((c) Wiley)

Dismissed sources

Another document online is by dr. H. Wayne House, who mentions the dismissed sources in more detail and in a less critical tone.

Revision on Soli ?

The Soloi / Soli inscription apparently has been discussed by Mitford with different dating outcomes in both 1947 (below, time of Claudius) and 1980 (above, 2nd century).

Apparently discovered in 1877 on the northern coast of Cyprus in Soli. It has a reference to a proconsul Paulus. Only the nomen and no prae- or cognomen. It refers to the time of the proconsul (not his being there at the same time when the stone was cut). But there can be more proconsuls in the family. Potentially the Apollonius dedicating this stone to his father might be a Greek version of Latin Paulus too. (Perhaps he had some time to write letters too ?)

“Apollonius to his father….consecrated this enclosure and monument according to his family’s wishes….having filled the offices of clerk of the market, prefect, town-clerk, high priest, and having been in charge as manager of the records office. Erected on the 25th of the month Demarchexusius in the thirteenth year [of the reign of Claudius—54 AD]. He also altered the senate by means of assessors during the time of the proconsul Paulus.” (Keith Hunt with permission of H. Wayne House.  See Philip Schaff and David Schley Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Oak Harbor,WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997). p 734. Discussed by T. B. Mitford, Annual of British School at Athens 42 (1947), 201-06, quoted from Sergius Paulus, (last visited November 11, 2011))

It is a pity that the Companion to Paul does not indicate the reason of Mitford to change his or her mind on the period. Addendum 2015-02-24: Nobbs p 283 in D.W.J. Gill cs. (eds) gives the reason that the term dekaprootoi for magistrates wasn’t used before Hadrian (c. 126).

Lucius put into the name

Wikipedia (today) turns Sergius Paulus’s name into “Lucius Sergius Paulus“. This is based upon a stone found in Rome in 1887, for which a historian claims to know the sequence of events too.

“A remarkable memorial of this proconsul was recently (1887) discovered at Rome. On a boundary stone of Claudius his name is found, among others, as having been appointed (A.D. 47) one of the curators of the banks and the channel of the river Tiber. After serving his three years as proconsul at Cyprus, he returned to Rome, where he held the office referred to. As he is not saluted in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he probably died before it was written.” (Easton 1897)

Observe that a possibility that cannot be ruled out is turned into a fact:

“The third inscription is written in Latin, and discovered in Rome, reading Lucius Sergius Paullus (Latin spelling of name in contrast to Paulus for the Greek), was discovered in Rome. [9] It served as a boundary stone erected by emperor Cludius Caesar, and discovered in 1887.

Witherington considers this inscription the most helpful because “we have a clear reference to one Lucius Sergius Paulus, who was one of the curators of the Tiber River under Claudius. There is nothing in this inscription that would rule out the possibility that this Sergius Paulus was either at an earlier or a later date a proconsulon Cyprus, and in fact various classics scholars have been more ready than some NT scholars to identify the man mentioned in Acts 13 with the one in the Latin inscription.  [10]”  (Keith Hunt with permission of H. Wayne House) [9] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 501 – 02. [10] Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles : A Socio – Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 399 – 40.

A troubling stone

There is a stone with a different order: Paulli Sergii and not Sergius Paulus as in the NT.

  • We have a gens Paulli, provided that the cognomen didn’t drop too.
  • Are these two persons Paulus Sergius and Lucius Sergius (+ something ?) or just one ?

This stone was found in Antioch in Pisidia – in the South-West of Turkey – and the weblink doesn’t give a date and name of discovery. It is not known whether there is a connection with Cyprus.

2015-02-24 addendum: Interestingly, in Acts after Paul has met Sergius Paulus, he moves on to Antioch in Pisidia:

“14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.” (Acts 13.14, KJV)

Mark Humphries sees a connection to the governor on Cyprus and estates held around Pisidia, see here. It does not say much about patronage yet, however. But it fits Vergeer’s suggestion that Paul was more effective as a preacher later on in cities like Philippi and Corinthe, that had influential gens Aemilii Paulli.

We see two lines with names separated by dots:

  • On the first line: .. VI – PAVLLI – SER :  potentially (a) Sexti Paulli Sergii, or (b) (…something… Paulli Sergii (and unknown what is missing next)
  • On the second line:  … L – SERG : potentially (c) Lucius Sergius (+ something ?).

However, there is a drawing at that has: “CRV F PAVLLI SER”.  Thus “F” (filius ?) instead of “I -“. We can compare with the other “I -“. Indeed, the foot of the F looks like the foot of the P. But the top of the F might derive from a higher inscription. This weblink gives a discovery date of 1912. See also the scholarly sources there.

Confusion on a troubling stone ?

The following discusses another stone from 1912 or the same one. If it is the same inscription then the discoverer Ramsay may have given a wrong interpretation for the name: namely “Lucius Sergius Paullus, the younger son of Lucius“.

Given the name that Ramsay reported, it cannot be the inscription in the picture of Yalvac. But it might be another source for Wikipedia to turn the Biblical “Sergius Paulus” into “Lucius Sergius Paulus”.

Also the name “Sergia Paulla” indicates that we have a gens Sergii and not a gens Paulli.

“David Williams mentions additional inscriptions that might relate to the family of Sergius Paulus. In addition, William Ramsay and John George Clark Anderson discovered in 1912 an inscription near Pisidian Antioch that mentions a “Lucius Sergius Paullus, the younger son of Lucius.” In 1913 Ramsay discovered the woman’s name “Sergia Paulla” on an inscription in the same region. These discoveries played an important part in his theory that the family of Sergius Paulus was Christians.” (H. Wayne House, ftnt 2, referring to David J. Williams, New International Biblical Commentary: Acts [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990], 227-228)) (It is not clear why they would be Christians.)

Conclusions from inscriptions
  • It is important to establish why Mitford 1980 rejected his or her earlier acceptance of 1947 of a proconsul Paulus on Cyprus around 50 AD.
  • This proconsul may well have been a Paullus Sergius of the gens Pauli or a Lucius Sergius Paulus of the gens Sergii who preferred his cognomen.
  • These unfinished archeological findings make ethnomethodology and literary analysis more important.
Seneca and Paulina in 58 AD

Unfortunately, there is little known about Paulina. We recover that her full name is Pompeia Paulina. She cannot be from the gens Pauli since it would be gens Pompeii.

Remember the naming conventions for women (Appendix). In the Republic she would be from the gens Pompeii. In that convention her father had the cognomen (nickname) Paulinus. However, the changing conventions in the Empire would allow that she would come from the gens Paulini – not Pauli – but took the more fanciful Pompeia. This would depend upon the fancy of her father.

We find a reference that she would be the daughter or sister of Pompeius Paulinus. He would be consul suffectus around 54 AD (with double ll). He is mentioned by Tacitus in 13.53 in Lower Germany and in 15.18 together with Lucius Piso.

Given the rules of names for adopted children, it is possible that Paulus was adopted by some Pompeius, giving Pompeius Paulinus.

Curiously – it is a small world – he was governor of Holland in 54-58 AD. A nice report of Dutch activity in that period – the Frisians:

“Thereupon the Frisii moved up their youth to the forests and swamps, and their non-fighting population, over the lakes, to the river-bank, and established themselves in unoccupied lands, reserved for the use of our soldiers,(…)” (Tacitus 13.53-54) (Thus the Dutch were pushed back by the Romans, where-after they started building dikes to reclaim land from the sea.)

It is an even smaller world: he appears to have been a commander for Pliny the Elder:

“Pliny’s last commander there, apparently neither a man of letters nor a close friend of his, was Pompeius Paulinus, governor of Germania Inferior AD 55-58. Pliny relates that he personally knew Paulinus to have carried around 12,000 pounds of silver service on which to dine on campaign against the Germans (a practice which would not have endeared him to the disciplined Pliny).” (Wikipedia)

Seneca the Younger writes to some Paulinus in his book Hardship and Happiness. Editor Gareth Williams:

“The Paulinus addressed in this book is in all likelihood Pompeius Paulinus, a knight of Arlete (modern Arles) who, as praefectus annonae probably from 48 to 55 CE, was responsible for overseeing the Roman grain supply; it is now generally accepted that he was the father of Pompeia Paullina, Seneca’s wife (..)”

Judith P. Hallett, in her book Fathers and Daughters in Roman Society: Women and the Elite Family, however holds that Paulina and her father were siblings. Referring to his command in Lower Germany and Holland:

“Paulinus surely owed his occupation of this important post to Nero’s tutor and counselor Seneca, wed to Paulinus’s sister.”

Regrettably, Nero thought that Seneca was involved in a Piso conspiracy, and asked him to commit suicide. Paulina wanted to join him but cruel Nero stopped her from doing so.

Forced suicide by Seneca and Blocked suicide by Paulina (Source: Wikipedia commons)

Forced suicide by Seneca and blocked suicide by Paulina (Source: Wikipedia commons)

Did Saul change his name in 58 AD ?

In 58 AD not only Pompeius Paulinus returned from Holland to Rome but also Marcus Antonius Felix was called back from Judaea. To determine a successor for Felix, perhaps Paulinus was considered a candidate too. Relations between Seneca and Nero were still good.

In Vergeer’s time reckoning, Paul might have been brought along by Felix to be judged by Nero. In Vergeer’s model, Paul is already old.

In the time shift hypothesis, we would still have a younger Saul. Would he have come along with Felix too ? Perhaps Paulinus discussed the options that were left for Saul. Rather than Paulinus Saulus he preferred the shorter Paulos. Or the editors of the NT liked it better.

The options for Vergeer’s suggestion are still open.

The gens Pauli are problematic anyway

According to Wikipedia, the gens Pauli actually ended in 160 BC. When we see their name occur in higher offices then it is because they found it fanciful to remind of the heroic past.

The Aemilii Paulli vanished with the death of Lucius Aemilius Paullus, the conqueror of Macedonia, in 160 BC. His sons, though grown, were adopted into the families of the Fabii Maximi and the Cornelii Scipiones. (…) The family of the Aemilii Lepidi came to prominence at the beginning of the third century BC, and from then to imperial times was one of the most distinguished in the state. In the first century BC they revived several old names, including the praenomina Mamercus and Paullus, and the cognomina Paullus and Regillus.” (wikipedia)

The list of consuls for the first century seems to give only Lucius Aemilius Paullus (consul 1), executed by Augustus for a conspiracy, after which the Paulli seem somewhat out of favour.


Appendix: Naming conventions in Rome, Republic and Empire

Naming conventions are, according to (wikipedia is too tedious):

  • Men: “In more formal circumstances, a man would be called by his praenomen and nomen or cognomen; in very formal circumstances and inscriptions, all three names were used”. For example: Gaius (for family, praenomen) Julius (gens, tribe, nomen) Caesar (branch, friends, cognomen).
  • Women in the Republic: All female children of citizen families were named with the feminine form of the clan into which they were born; hence, all women whose fathers had the nomen Julius were named Julia, and all women whose fathers had the nomen Cornelius were named Cornelia. In public, they would be identified by the possessive form of their father’s cognomen (e.g., Julia Caesaris, “Julia, the daughter of Caesar”), or if married by the possessive form of their husband’s cognomen (e.g., Clodia Metelli, “Clodia, the wife of Metellus”). If families had more than one daughter, they were distinguished by the words maior and minor (“elder” and “younger”), or prima, secunda, tertia, etc.”
  • Women in the Empire: “Starting with Augustus, names of the most prominent women did not necessarily follow the Republican convention, but rather reflected the family connections that were most significant to the namers. For example, the two daughters of Augustus’ daughter Julia, who was married to Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, would normally have been named Vipsania; instead one was called Julia and the other Agrippina.”

For adoptions, the explanation at wikipedia however is convenient: it creates a cognomen based upon the nomen and added with “-inus” or “-anus”. Compare Octavianus.

Listening to Kaiti Koullia – Bolta sta Dodekanissa mix
Kaiti life here.


Charles Vergeer reviewed Thijs Voskuilen‘s master’s thesis and book Alias Paulus (2002) – all in Dutch.

After my discussion of some of Voskuilen’s ideas, I now look at some of Vergeer’s points:

  • That merit attention for themselves independently
  • In particular that Paul derived his name from accepting patronage by a patronus, in the same manner as Josephus joined the Flavians.
  • To see whether Vergeer’s statements support that the New Testament (NT) would argue for Jewish submission to Rome
  • In particular whether Vergeer’s statements support Voskuilen’s macabre parallel – roughly: Romans were to Jews like nazi Germans.

Not relevant for us here is Voskuilen’s question whether Paul would have been a spy for the Romans. We look at the other points mentioned above.

Caveats are:

  • Vergeer doesn’t apply the time shift hypothesis that the true events occurred around 70 AD.
  • He however supports Brandon’s hypothesis that 70 AD was important for the effect that Paul’s view got the upper hand over the gospel of Jesus of 30 AD. Though Paul supposedly died around 58 AD the church of Jesus supposedly perished in Jerusalem.
  • Also, we found that Greek tarsos means basket, see here, which causes the suggestion (1) that Tarsus is not the historical provenance of “Paul of Tarsus”, and (2) that Paul’s role is modeled after Moses, as Thomas Brodie has suggested based upon literary analysis. This possibility is mentioned by neither Vergeer nor Wikipedia.

PM 1. Vergeer’s review was written in the form of an open letter to Voskuilen: when we quote Vergeer then this reads similarly. PM 2. Thereafter Voskuilen collaborated with professor Mary Rose Sheldon on the book Operation Messiah (2008) in English. I have read neither book, and am only feeling the water. Thus I cannot judge whether Vergeer’s criticism has been answered in the second book.


I put the conclusions up front, so that you may decide whether you are interested in the corroboration below.

(1) Paul derived his name quite likely from accepting patronage by a Roman group that had a similar name.  Compare Josephus who accepted the patronage by the Flavians. Since we don’t know which group was relevant for Paul, a useful analytical name will be patronus Pauli (now indicating the patron by the protegee …). Vergeer suggests Sergius Paulus and also refers to the gens Aemilii Paulli. Gens means people, tribe. Wikipedia suggests that the gens Aemilii Paulli ended in 160 BC, but there was still a consul of that nomen in 1 AD. But there are alternatives.

(2) This doesn’t exclude word plays on this name – e.g. using paulos = small – but those are derivative of (1).

(3) The Paul of the NT likely is a mix from various sources. The NT is a theological book and hence the emphasis lies on Paul as a new Moses. The authors of the NT would have used information about a historical Jew who got patronage by a patronus Pauli. But if we would recover who the “historical Paul” was then he might well look different from the Paul depicted in the Acts.

(4) In combination of the above: also the assignment of an earlier Saul, who becomes Paul, may be a creation. Here we must think in the reverse: starting from Paul and working back to selecting some Saul in the works by Flavius Josephus (FJ). The situation is complicated by that FJ also did his own cover-ups, while it is suggested that his works have been edited again by the later Church.

(5) Who has higher authority, state or church, is an issue that is logically empty. A civil power can always claim to have power only because of God’s will. Priests can claim supremacy with ease. E.g. when pope Leo crowned Charlemagne as emperor, such an appeal to higher authority came in handy. Given the emptiness of the logic, it is a political issue based on other considerations. See my earlier text on high priests of high treason.

(6) What matters here however is how actors like Paul framed this issue for themselves. This is too difficult to recover here. The Church has interpolated enough to create ambiguity. The discussion below doesn’t generate sufficient traction for us in recovering the original Paul, either as religious zealot, or philosophical gnostic, or pragmatic realist who got depicted as one of the former. (Other sources are not excluded for the future of course.)

(7) Vergeer points to the interpretation of exousia as a spiritual authority by God, rather than government authority. He holds that the Epistle to the Romans is pure Jewish tradition to assign all authority to Yahweh. However, there is the split between pre 70 AD and post 70 AD. The Christian editing of the NT shifts support to the Romans.

(8) Vergeer correctly explains that Jesus’s “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (Mark 12.17, KJV) might be interpreted as a rejection of Caesar and an acceptance of the authority of God. See below for a longer discussion about the proper translation. However, there is again the split between pre & post 70 AD. The Christian editing of the NT shifts support to the Romans.

(9) Given points (6-8) and other arguments, we find on balance support for the Voskuilen macabre parallel. Vergeer might personally see a different balance and have his hesitations e.g. because of the macabre character: occupation isn’t genocide. The point is: the original words by Jesus might be closer to Judaism and an uprising against the Romans, but the later edits flip the switch.

(10) While the above puts the split at 70 AD, the reality might be different. Given the time shift hypothesis that already fills up much of the agenda for 70 AD, it might actually be that the split occurred later.

(A speculative option is e.g. the Kitos war of 115-117, when Lukuas of Cyrene burned Alexandria, and the intellectuals there decided to defend themselves with what they had: their pen. And with some pleasure they baptised their gospel after him. However, the report about Lukuas in wikipedia is based upon Eusebius, and thus this idea is still quite premature.)





From Saul to Paul

Vergeer points to:

  1. It is in Acts 13.9 where Saul meets Sergius Paulus.
  2. Rome depended upon patronage. Think e.g. of patronage by the gens Aemilii Pauli.
  3. It is here that Saul becomes Paul. Acts quickly says “Saul who also is called Paul” and continues using the latter name.
  4. The adoption of this name means that apostle Paul enters into patronage.
  5. We see the same when Josephus enters into the patronage of the Flavians and henceforth calls himself “Flavius Josephus”.

NB 1. Vergeer’s text is a review of a book by Voskuilen and no report of a study on patronage. See this caveat for this analysis. Notably, in the name conventions, Sergius Paulus would be of the gens Sergii, and Saul would get the name Sergius Saulus. Compare with Flavius Josephus. However, depending upon the parameters of patronage, Sergius Paulus might have patronage linked to his cognomen. For now, we keep that caveat in mind, and continue following Vergeer’s point in principle.

NB 2. For the time shift hypothesis: If Sergius Paulus is too early for the events around 70 AD, then it still would be a key idea that Paul joined up, given this essential piece of information given in the Acts. Then it would be with someone else, and projected back into time.

We can check Vergeer’s observation by two searches on for the pre-13.9-Saul and post-13.9-Paul naming. The subsequent inference is that Cyprus is crucial. There are more possible explanations for why it would be crucial, but Vergeer’s suggestion is quite convincing.

The kindergarten story is that Saul changed only one letter to Paul, and that this happened on the road to Damascus. Wikipedia – no source but a portal – doesnt have this kindergarten story but does neither mention above key association with a patronus Pauli. Wikipedia gives rather silly “explanations”: that many Jews had two names, and that Saul preferred Paul to get closer to his gentile audience.

Paul the Apostle (Greek: Παῦλος Paulos; c. 5 – c. 67), originally known as Saul of Tarsus (Hebrew: שאול התרסי‎; Greek: Σαῦλος Ταρσεύς Saulos Tarseus),[1][2]  (….)  Although it has been popularly assumed that his name was changed when he converted from Judaism to Christianity, that is not the case.[19][20] His Jewish name was “Saul” (Hebrew: שָׁאוּל, Modern Sha’ul, Tiberian Šāʼûl ; “asked for, prayed for, borrowed”), perhaps after the biblical King Saul, a fellow Benjamite and the first king of Israel. According to the Book of Acts, he inherited Roman citizenship from his father. As a Roman citizen, he also bore the Latin name of “Paul” —in biblical Greek: Παῦλος (Paulos),[21] and in Latin: Paulus.[22][Acts 16:37] [22:25-28] It was quite usual for the Jews of that time to have two names, one Hebrew, the other Latin or Greek.[23][24][25]

In the book of Acts, when he had the vision which led to his conversion on the Road to Damascus, Jesus called him “Saul, Saul”,[26] in “the Hebrew tongue”.[27] Later, in a vision to Ananias of Damascus, “the Lord” referred to him as “Saul, of Tarsus”.[28] When Ananias came to restore his sight, he called him “Brother Saul”.[29]

In Acts 13:9, Saul is called Paul for the first time on the island of Cyprus — much later than the time of his conversion. The author (Luke) indicates the names were interchangeable: “…Saul, who also is called Paul…“. He thereafter refers to him as Paul, apparently Paul’s preference since he is called Paul in all other Bible books where he is mentioned, including those he authored. Adopting his Roman name was typical of Paul’s missionary style. His method was to put people at their ease and to approach them with his message in a language and style to which they could relate as in 1 Cor 9:19-23.” (Wikipedia 2015-02-12)

The text in Acts, with some notes:

“4 So they [Saul and Barnabas], being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus [Citium – Kiton – Kittim – foreigners. See how Queen Helen of Adiabene around 44 AD sent for figs from Cyprus because of the famine in Canaan. Figs might stand for spiritual teachings too, see Jesus cursing the fig tree – a bit different from the apple tree in paradise]. 5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John [a.k.a. Mark – Stephan Huller then thinks about Marcus Julius Agrippa] to their minister. 6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus [Elymas, potentially Simon Magus, another inspiration for NT writers to create Paul]: 7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. 9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, 10 And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the deputy [Sergius Paulus], when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” (King James, Acts 13.4-12)

The conversion of Sergius Paulus to Christianity in line 12 is hard to believe. It would rather mean that Paul strengthened his relation with the Romans.

Vergeer refers to Paul’s death, see below:

“Who wonders why Paul in the Fall of 58 suddenly appeals to the Emperor should know that this Caesar Nero had just turned 21 and left the burden of governing to his praeceptor, the most important of the amici principis, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, married with [Pompeia] Paulina, a girl from the gens Paulii [sic]”.

NB. Here is the same caveat. Pompeia Paulina would be of the gens Pompeii. But her father Pompeius Paulinus might be in the position to consider offering Saul patronage. Normally we would have Pompeius Saulus for the gens, or Paulinus Saulus for more personal patronage, but there might be exceptions. As long as we don’t know who offered Paul patronage, the label patronus Pauli can be used.

Vergeer, criticising Voskuilen’s neglect of patronage (my emphasis):

“Yet, for whom is interested in the connection between Paul and the Romans, some information wouldn’t hurt. In Damascus his life is in danger, in Jerusalem he can only appear in secrecy, and then is banned by the brothers of the lord from Judea as fast as possible to Tarsus. Only by the protection of a rich Cilician [?] Jew, Barnabas, becomes it possible to get started again. When subsequently the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus becomes his patronus then the doors are opened for him. Which ones ? In Ephesus, that of the prison, and in Athens he is ridiculed. Success is only evidenced in Philippi and Corinth. Philippi is a town in modern Greece but back then it wasn’t a Greek town. It is a Roman colony in Macedonia. The name was Colonia Augusta Iulia Victrix Philippensis. Brutus committed suicide in Philippi after the defeat against Octavian. It was a so-called colonia civium Romanorum and the population consisted for a large part out of Roman army veterans. All inhabitants of a colonia had Roman civil rights. You can read in Cassius Dio (51, 4) how the town was populated with veterans and supporters for Mark Antony who were expelled from Italy. Corinth was destroyed after the conquest of Macedonia and Greece by the Roman army commander L. Aemilius Paulus, and it was rebuilt as a stronghold of Rome. After the glorious campaigns and triumphus in Rome the gens Paulii [sic] traditionally had a lot of power and influence there, and they let relatives and clients be appointed in various offices.”

Addendum 2015-02-20: Vergeer has a strong point in a possible link to Philippi and Corinth, cf. the Epistles in the NT. In the Epistle to the Philippians there is mention of Epaphroditus, which is a name that we also find mentioned by Josephus.

Is it with l or ll and i or ii ? Maurice Casey comes to the rescue

One would wish that historians provide documentation that allows for a quick check. Vergeer consistently writes gens Paulii but a google doesn’t give a result. Wikipedia gives a gens Aemilii Paulli related to said Macedonian conquest. See wikipedia also on Paulus ~ Paullus: “The name exists since the Roman times and derives from the Roman family name Paulus or Paullus – in particular in the Roman patrician family of the Gens Aemilia (…).”  Maurice Casey comes to the rescue:

“He was ‘circumcised on the eighth day … a Hebrew from Hebrews’ (Phil. 3.5), so his parents were Aramaic-speaking Jews, and observant at least when they could be. He was also a Roman citizen, as we know from Acts. To be born both a Jew and a Roman citizen, this far east and as early as this, his mother, or both his grandmothers, must have been slaves, and his father, or both his grandfathers, must either have been slaves too, or they must have served in the auxiliary legions, in which case they could be granted Roman citizenship when they retired from active service. Hence Paul’s Roman name, Paul, and the fact that Luke lets slip that Saul was also called Paul just when he encountered the proconsul Sergius Paulus, governor of Cyprus (Acts 13.9). Sergius Paulus was a distinguished member of the Roman gens Pauli [ ! ], to a member of whom one or more members of Paul’s family had been enslaved. This explains Paul’s Graeco-Roman name. None of this is known to mythicists, for the highly regrettable reason that it is hardly known to conventional scholarship either. I have seen it properly presented only in a 1994 article by the classicist Peter van Minnen, which New Testament scholars have generally ignored. [1]” (Maurice Casey, “Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?” (2014) p 151.)
[1] Peter van Minnen, “Paul the Roman citizen”, in: Journal for the Study of the New Testament 56 (1994), pp. 43-52.
(PM. Van Minnen is referenced by John B. Polhill “Paul and his letters” (1999) p 36 ftnt 11, but this doesn’t help us much. There would be a provenance in Cilicia but that is just Tarsus – which might also be tarsos = basket.)


  • Casey uses the NT as a literal source of history which cannot be done scientifically.
  • See my review of his 2014 book for major criticism.
  • Casey basically agreed that Paul’s name derived from an association with the gens Pauli. Perhaps we are free to interprete this as a support of the notion of arbitrage to some patronus Pauli.
  • However, Casey’s reference on a link between Sergius Paulus (normally of the gens Sergii) and the gens Aemilii Paulli, is to an article by Peter van Minnen: and when we check that reference then the situation appears different – see below.
  • He lets Luke slip info on Paul’s name, but misses Vergeer’s observation & inference that it is no slip.
  • When you don’t have that observation and inference, then the human mind looks for other explanations for the occurrence of the names Saul and Paul, rather than maintaining a state of blessed skepticism.
  • My impression is that Acts do not speak about a patronus Pauli before Cyprus. The possible variations are too many for a simple check.
  • That Paul can speak Greek might also be explained by his true provenance from the hierarchy in Jerusalem and subsequent education in Alexandria. The slave background might be a cover-up.

For completeness, in an online review “humble numismatist” Guy Mannering states:

“he confidently asserts that members of Paul’s family had at one time been enslaved to the family of the Roman gens Pauli, which is presumably how he came by his Roman citizenship, this claim deriving from the 1994 work of classicist Peter van Minnen which Casey says has been ignored by most NT scholars (he does not discuss the strong possibility that Paul’s Roman citizenship is a Lukan invention.)”

Addendum 2015-02-22: On the 1994 article by Peter van Minnen

See above reference by Maurice Casey to Peter van Minnen, “Paul the Roman citizen,” JSNT 56 (1994), pp. 43-52. It seems that Casey gave a wrong representation of the article:

  • The article does not mention a gens Pauli.
  • Maurice Casey’s reading of the article is an inference of his own.
  • Van Minnen suggests that Paul was a freedman (Libertus), and mentions that freedmen (Libertini) could take the name of the gens of their former master. But he does not make Casey’s inference that Paul would derive his name from such a “gens Pauli”.

In an email to me Van Minnen states additionally:

  • “we don’t know to which gens Paul belonged”
  • “there is no gens Pauli” (differing from gens Aemilii Paulli)
  • “Sergius Paulus belonged to the gens Sergia” (Sergii)
  • “Paulus just means “small” and it is a nickname for Romans of various gentes”.

The article argues the following. Acts 22.22-29 have Paul’s claim that he was born a Roman citizen. Acts 6.9 mentions a separate synagogue for freedmen (“libertini”). Van Minnen suggests that Saul from Tarsus (Cilicia) would be amongst those who are listening to Stephanos, though he is not explicitly mentioned at that point.

“9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.” (Acts 6.9, KJV)

“9 ἀνέστησαν δέ τινες τῶν ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς τῆς λεγομένης Λιβερτίνων καὶ Κυρηναίων καὶ Ἀλεξανδρέων καὶ τῶν ἀπὸ Κιλικίας καὶ Ἀσίας συζητοῦντες τῷ Στεφάνῳ,” (Acts 6.9, NA28, German Bible Society)

Indeed, these acts proceed to the stoning of Stephanos, in which Saul is mentioned – and a search shows indeed that Acts mention him for the first time.

“58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” (Acts 7.58, KJV)

58 καὶ ἐκβαλόντες ἔξω τῆς πόλεως ἐλιθοβόλουν. καὶ οἱ μάρτυρες ἀπέθεντο τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν παρὰ τοὺς πόδας νεανίου καλουμένου Σαύλου, (Acts 7.58 NA28)

In this analysis Van Minnen take Acts rather literally.  It is not clear to me whether Van Minnen – but I presume he doesn’t – links paulos ~ small ~ neanios ~ neaniskos, in which the stoning of Stephen is depicted allegorically as the birth of a new baby branch of the belief, namely the gospel to the gentiles. Remember that Acts 7 relate of Moses’s tent / tabernacle in the desert, and that Saul / Paul would be a tentmaker. We can return to these issues later on.

Scha’ul → Saoul → Saulos → Paulus. Okay, but perhaps in the reverse

Vergeer on the “change of a single letter”:

“That is not true of course. The man was called Scha’ul. In Acts 9.4 a Jew like Ananias speaks to him as Saoul. That Jewish name, then written in Greek, can be made more civilized in two ways. Flavius Josephus always adds the “os”. Like “der Rudy” already sounds more German than only “Rudy”, then Saoulos starts looking like something. Luke makes the name even more acceptable for the Greek world by dropping the Aramaic o-sound: Saulos. Subsequently the step must be made from S to P and from Greek “os” to the Latin “us”: from Saulos to Paulus.”

The actual process might have been in the reverse.

Roger Parvus suggests rather persuasively: (1) that Paul originally belonged to the brothers, and only later became an apostate, and (2) that the foe to friend conversion of Saul to Paul is an inversion of what really happened, namely friend to foe, from Paul to “Saul”, from more or less acceptable Paul into the “spouter of lies”. Parvus deconstructs texts in the NT to try to discover the “young Paul” before he became an apostate of the church of Jesus.

A subsequent question: What if Paul was an altogether different person X ? So that Saul to Paul is a cover-up for X to Paul ? This would still fit the scheme friend to foe. This X would still accept circumcision like Jesus but later change his opinion and becomes the apostate Paul. In that case the creators of Acts used some historical figure in the historical works of Josephus, someone who fitted the description of a persecutor – who thus happened to be Saul – to cover up the truth about X.

So who was X ? Vergeer doesn’t consider the idea of some X. Thinking about X leads to a speculation that I put in an Appendix 1 below, since it leads too far at this point. To indicate the uncertainties, I also mention another suggestion by Sephan Huller in Appendix 2. Perhaps these appendices are the more exiting part of this weblogtext. But we should not depart from the main line of enquiry.

Let us proceed with the main task of extracting key information from Vergeer’s review.

Brandon’s hypothesis on Jesus vs Paul

If I understand this correctly, Vergeer supports the hypothesis by S.G.F. Brandon (1907-1971), professor at Manchester, holding that, while Jesus died around 30 AD, the Pauline change came because of 70 AD. Using wikipedia as a portal with some risk again:

“His thinking on New Testament themes grew out of The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church (1951). [This is not further explained here. See below.]

His most celebrated position is the controversial one, that a political Jesus was a revolutionary figure, influenced in that by the Zealots; this he argued in the 1967 book Jesus and the Zealots: A Study of the Political Factor in Primitive Christianity. The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth (1968) raises again, amongst other matters, the question of how the Fall of the Temple in 70 CE shaped the emerging Christian faith, and in particular the Gospel of Mark.

He was a critic of the myth-ritual theory, writing a 1958 essay “The Myth and Ritual Position Critically Examined” attacking its assumptions.

Brandon also claimed that the Pauline epistles and the accounts of Jesus Christ found in the Gospels represented two opposing factions of Christianity.”


“It is a pity that you don’t mention anywhere the turning point (from Jerusalem to Rome, which is your theme but also of the Acts): the war of 66, the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70, and the triumphus of Vespasian and Titus in Rome in the Spring of 71. This is the thesis by Brandon. And subsequently the turn, brought by the Gospel written by Mark in this Spring in Rome (…)”

I take Vergeer’s exact dating of the Gospel of Mark as a literary flower. In the discussion about the Voskuilen macabre parallel we already concluded that it would really bite after 70 AD. Thus, though Voskuilen doesn’t mention this himself, Vergeer would agree with the application of the parallel after 70 AD.

Amazon lists the 2nd edition, Brandon (1957), and allows reviews. I copy a positive review and warn you that there is also a negative one.

“I have read many books on the Historical Jesus and find none of them to have been as insightful as Brandon’s book. This book deserves to be reprinted. I am also amazed that none of the scholars I have read–and I have read widely–mention this book. It is almost as if it had fallen off the edge of the earth. I think this is because Brandon openly discusses the two most taboo subjects in modern Historical Jesus scholarship: 1) The Fall of Jerusalem and its impact on the Jesus Community in Jerusalem 2) The likelihood that the most important early Jesus community, the ebionites, who were the remnants and descendents of the original group of disciples, never left orthodox Judaism and continued to worship at the temple. Moreover Brandon asserts that this group in Jerusalem thought Paul was an apostate. Apparently, the destruction of Jersualem either totally destroyed the original group of ebionites as they tried to defend the temple, or forced them out of Jerusalem to Palestine where they were marginalized. The anti-jewish gnostic tradition articulated by Marcion as one of its earliest proponents seeded othodoxy with its well established anti-judaism. One of the implications of Brandon’s arguments is that while the Orthodox thinkers were busy branding the Gnostics heretics, they were busy editing the gospels to counter gnostic and ebionite theology. As a result, gnostic and ebionite theology became two of the most powerful negative influences on orthodox tradition. Interestingly, the Ebionites became for the othodox the greatest heretics because they were Judiazers, underscoring the orthodox anti-semitic tradition.
This is a major book. A must read. It is hard to find but available if you are persistent.” (Roger Easson, 2006, some typo’s corrected)

S.G.F. Brandon 1957 (2nd edition)

S.G.F. Brandon 1957 (2nd edition)

Implicit support for Voskuilen’s macabre parallel

See the former weblogtext on Voskuilen’s macabre parallel – roughly that Romans would be like nazi Germans, and that Christianity would be worship of a creed of nazis who won. Vergeer gives implicit support but some of his later arguments modify that. Let us take the first step.

The NT cover up a rebellion

“Let us establish first of all that we are fully agreed about the most important issue: the traditional Christian view of Jesus, Paul and the origin of Christianity is so unreliable and untrue, disingenious even, that it is ready for demolition, like the Berlin Wall.

Jesus was a Jew (and no Christian) who set himself up as a leader of a movement that deliberately wanted a violent clash with the authority of the Roman occupiers. When that liberator, Joshua, led his armed troops to the capital and took control over the Temple, the Romans responded bloodily. Once he is arrested, then Pilate needs no moment of doubt about the verdict.

This historical incident – it wasn’t more that that [Vergeer thinks about 30 AD and not 70 AD] – was later turned upside down by the texts in the New Testament that contain no criticism about the Romans and that are already full of dislike about the Jews. The process by Pilate is completely unbelievable: while this military authority took direct action, quenched the uprising in blood, and nailed the rebels onto the cross, the evangelists present a hesitating, nice gentleman who rather wants to let Jesus go free. That things are lied about and turned upside down here, doesn’t require higher education.”

The NT is propaganda

“That Jesus would have spurred his followers to obediently pay taxes to the occupiers, that his people and family didn’t follow him but various Greek and Roman (civilised) persons and preferably high army officers immediately believed him, that Judas (the Jew) betrayed him, that the high priests said that they didn’t honour “no other king that the Caesar” – all of this is outright clearly historically completely impossible and nonsensical, and only propaganda for the evangelion.”

Paul’s change allowed the success

“You would have a hard time to bring this evangelion to the civilised world of the Roman Empire: Son of God is born – and by the proper authorities immediately and rightly crucified as a slave. That the propagation of this creed didn’t have any chance if it remained only a messianistic sect amongst the Jews, i.e. the church of Jerusalem around James, and only got a chance in the form that was given to it since Paul: that we agree upon.”

Son of God appalls Judaism


“Put the term “Son of God” under a loupe. I recognise the confusion so well because I made the same error in [1] and only repaired it in [2]. “Son of God” was a heathen term and scandalizing to Jews. Appalling: to think that the Eternal had a son walking around somewhere on earth, and a loser on top of that, a human who was crucified as a criminal.” [1] Een naamloze (1997)which book title translates as A Nameless Man. [2] Het panterjong (2000)– which book title translates as The Young Panther.

Vergeer suggests that the centurion “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15.39, KJV) only could mean, with Mark’s full understanding, the Arian heresy, that Jesus was only a common man but would become a god after his death – just like the ordinary human being Julius Caesar after his death was proclaimed by the Senate & People (in that order) of Rome to have become Divus Julius. (Vergeer doesn’t say so, but the text in Mark might actually be a midrash on this very comparison. Francesco Carotta holds this in extenso.)


“A Jewish high priest on the other hand has a similar text by asking: “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14.61, KJV) This is a text with an entirely different meaning. A Jewish high priest cannot ask another believing Jew, really, whether he is the son of Yahweh. Only much later the Christians would think of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit [or Ghost]. For the strict monotheism of the Jews that wasn’t even a horrible teaching but even something utterly inconceivable and unspeakable.”

The online provides a footnote for the CEV translation that might be missing in print (for why otherwise not provide a better translation ?): Son of God” was one of the titles used for the kings of Israel.

One would suppose that the high priest would have studied other religions so that he would be no pussy on this. Also, the high priest would know about Psalm 2.7 in which David decrees that God declared him as his son:

“I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Psalm 2.7, KJV)

7 διαγγέλλων τὸ πρόσταγμα κυρίου: Κύριος εἶπεν πρός με Υἱός μου εἶ σύ, ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε· (Psalm 2.7, LXX, German Bible Society)

At first it is not quite clear, though, who that “Blessed” would be. Growing wary of Bible translations: the Greek original has εὐλογητοῦ that I roughly understand as “well spoken off” – or indeed “blessed”. This however still is somewhat vague. Checking Strong, we find that the epitheton ornans is used in the Bible only for God.

“61 ὁ δὲ ἐσιώπα καὶ οὐκ ἀπεκρίνατο οὐδέν. πάλιν ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς ἐπηρώτα αὐτὸν καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ εὐλογητοῦ; 62 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ ὄψεσθε τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκ δεξιῶν καθήμενον τῆς δυνάμεως καὶ ἐρχόμενον μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ. (Mark 14.61-62, NA28, German Bible Society)

Conclusion: the high priest could indeed ask Jesus whether he was the “son of god”, and his question would mean whether Jesus compared himself to David, king of the Jews, the anointed, the military messiah.

Vergeer’s position is consistent with the question by the high priest being about David as son of God:

“The question by the high priest meant: You, who have let yourself be anointed to king of Israel, a few hours ago by this false high priest Simon [Peter] whom you have appointed yourself: did this royal anointment happen by the tainted hands of an apostate or was it really by the way of God, and do you thus bear the title ‘Son of the Blessed Name’, he who comes in Name of the Eternal ?”

Vergeer holds: “Christianity got the chance to develop precisely because of this ambiguity in words and terms.” Perhaps this is always so for syncretism. All in all, though, it seems rather sure, as Vergeer indicated, that law-abiding Jews would be appalled by a “Son of God” as seen in later Trinity – but they would understand the reference to David. The high priest might use that phrase since everyone would understand that he would be speaking about David.

Jesus is the Son of Man

But Jesus’s reply and reference to the Son of Man is important too: “And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14.62, KJV). He refers to Daniel 7.13.

Since Jesus confirms that he is the messiah and the son of the blessed (David), and indicates that he means Daniel’s son of man, then his discussion with the high priest falls entirely within the parameters of Judaism. (It seems that later Judaism has added conditions.)

The deviation with Judaism arises because of the centurion with the Arianism and Divus Julius parallel. The syncretic confusion of terms turns the Davidic son of god into the Son of God of the Trinity.

Hence Vergeer is right that the “Son of God” is appalling to Jews.

Remember though that this version of Mark came about somewhat later. An earlier version by Marcion might not have featured this centurion.

Collecting the implied support for the macabre parallel

Vergeer’s position on the Voskuilen macabre parallel is one of the major issues for the present discussion. Vergeer doesn’t explicitly say so but implicitly supports it.

  • Jews would have a hard time to accept that there is no criticism about the Romans and that (texts) are already full of dislike about the Jews
  • Jews would not accept that the high priests said that they didn’t honour “no other king that the Caesar”
  • Jews would not agree with Paul’s form for the gentiles (no circumcision)
  • Jews might not buy into the messianistic sect of James, but might not agree with the response: immediately and rightly crucified as a slave
  • the “Son of God” blessing by the centurion is appalling (“messiah” is different)
  • Jews might recognise the propaganda for what it is.

The implicit support however must be qualified, since the NT is no history, and Paul modifies the original creed according to James. It might be that the original evangelion (say Marcion) wasn’t so bad as what it later became (say Matthew).

Potential explicit critique on the macabre parallel

It may be that the book reviewed by Vergeer has a somewhat different perspective. I took Voskuilen’s macabre parallel (VMP) from an interview in De Groene (2002). I also reworked the interview version into a neat table, with some rephrasing in English that might perhaps not be fully to Voskuilen’s satisfaction. However, that table neatly exposes the Gospel of Matthew as propaganda – and we took this Gospel since it is directed to Jewish readers.

When we test Vergeer’s position w.r.t. the VMP then this concerns this table, and we must make amends when his discussion has a different context.

The crucifixion of the messiah king is one element in the VMP. Another element is that the resurrection turns the political uprising into a spiritual event. This does not necessarily mean that the Romans invented the resurrection. But once the notion was mentioned in some circles, it was in the interest of the Romans to push its towards spirituality.

Within Judaism there are different notions about the soul. Sadducees reject an immortal soul and Pharisees accept it. The new claim for Jesus is a resurrection into the flesh. The high priest would recognise this as an ancient Egyptian idea, for Osiris, and he would regard it as heresy.

Questions w.r.t. Jewish readers of Matthew thus are quickly answered:

  • Would they actually believe such a resurrection ? Well, it would turn them into apostates.
  • Would they accept that some other Jews would believe it ? Well, apostates only.
  • Would they recognise the propaganda (turning an uprising into something spiritual) ? They would: in combination with the other points. Resurrection by itself is just a weird idea.

Surprisingly, Vergeer becomes rather critical in illogical fashion.

When you bravely set out that this whole “business of crucifixion-and-resurrection” (p. 78) (a) was “ridiculous for the Jews”, then you neglect that Jewish history since the uprising by the Maccabees showed an increasing belief in, or expecting, some form of life after death. Two centuries later, at the time of Paul, it even was the belief of the majority party, the Pharisees. Just because you hold it to be ridiculous it doesn’t follow (b) that it is”‘dubious whether it ever happened”. You are not clear on “it”. If you doubt the historicity of the crucifixion, then I really wouldn’t care. If you doubt the resurrection, then explain what you mean by that. Of course nothing happened on that first Easter morning: dead is dead, and corps remains a corps. Regrettably. But at this time in history some people, Cephas as the first and later others and eventually also Paul himself, believed that it didn’t stop there with the anointed one, and that God had risen him from death. That too is a historical fact, that, partly by the letters by Paul, cannot be denied. But you run on, from ridiculous to dubious and then to “probably it (again the same “it” ?) is all Saul’s invention”.

Observe on logic:

  • The relevant point is that Cephas and Paul become apostates of Judaism when they would start believing that Jesus was resurrected into the flesh.
  • Voskuilen’s assessment that the resurrection was “ridiculous for the Jews” is accurate, when properly read as “ridiculous for Judaism”.
  • That Judaism can have apostates like Cephas and Paul does not invalidate that assessment. Of course they remained genetically themselves, Jews, but the issue concerns the religious canon.

Observe on historical facts:

  • Vergeer accepts the NT as proof that some people actually believed the resurrection.
  • But the only proof by NT is that it forms a text, written by some unknown people, that expresses that some (other) people would believe this.
  • Mark has only an open grave, and the resurrection is in Matthew, Luke and Acts, and John.
  • Whether those reworkers of Mark actually believed it, or whether it was some propaganda at some point (that subsequently was believed by again others), cannot be established on prima facie evidence.
  • Thus Vergeer’s fact hangs in the air – but we haven’t see all his cards.
  • Our own card is that we showed earlier that Christianity had the theological objective to take away the power of the priests in Jerusalem, and that the suffering in the flesh by the Son of God was the theological argument that made this possible. The historical proof is the Epistle to the Hebrews, not for what it describes about what people are doing, but for its logical argument.
  • Remember: the NT is a theological document and serves theological purposes. Historians can of course use it for their research but should be wary of creating their own history.

Observe on emotions:

When people become annoyed, it is difficult to assess why. One princess was tormented by only one pea. Others are haunted by legions of mosquitoes or cranks or what have you. Voskuilen’s book eventually got Vergeer annoyed. It is only proper to report on this, lest you think otherwise. But it is no pretty sight, even though it provokes Charles Vergeer to write a few lines of literature.

“Like the dreamer and enthousiast for Mozart directly is identified by professionals by his reference to all what he has learned about his idol by the film Amadeus, thus the Doughty Dodo who steps on the slippery ice floor of science and the theories on the origin of early Christianity, and who presents the remarkable similarities, or the – whether or not supposed – connection between early Christianity and the Isis-Osiris, Andonis or Heracles cults. We can only nod and nod in affirmation … and then return to the texts that concern something entirely different.”

La Princesse sur un pois - Bertall (1820-2882) (Source: wikimedia)

La Princesse sur un pois – Bertall (1820-2882) (Source: wikimedia)


Let us consider Vergeer’s other points. If we would find another argument that destroys the implicit support for the VMP then this would affect the conclusion.

Obey the authorities or God

This isn’t much of a discussion.

Since the authorities are in power, it is only because God has put them there.

Thus, the reference to a higher authority does not make much sense. Except to a rebel, perhaps – see such a rebel in Appendix 3. A fortiori, when not civil authorities but priests are in power, then they will explain that this is because of God naturally.

History shows the swings between military and priesthood. See the high priests of high treason. The following discussion is only interesting for our purposes to trace who Paul was.

In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul would support Roman authority. However Vergeer finds it pure traditional Judaic theocracy.

Charles Vergeer points to a crucial translation difference between the original Greek and later Latin or English versions. In the original Greek, Paul might point to the supremacy of God which actually undermines Roman authority. Thus Vergeer suggests that Paul is no spy but a rebel. Voskuilen’s book loses its thrust. Vergeer:

“Hurray for the trashcan and down with trying to keep up a reputation.”

First a point about a key translator from Greek though.

A key translator was Erasmus (1466-1526)

A key translator was Erasmus. Let me first report from a quite convincing paper in Dutch by Fred Neerhoff, formerly assistant professor in electronic systems in Delft.

Up to the Renaissance, the Church used the Vulgate, the late fourth-century Latin translation. Due to the Islam conquest of Constantinople in 1453 scholars fled to the West and earlier Greek sources became available. Another route was via Spain, with the Bagdad Caliphate assisting in the downfall of the apostate Caliphate in Cordoba.

Erasmus (1466-1526) was a major force in getting the Greek ‘original words of Christ’ accepted alongside the Vulgate. He invented his own pronunciation of Greek, for which the Greeks are still angry.

  • At that time, the word “humanist” was used for who studied antiquity and the humanities as opposed to traditional scholasticism.
  • Thus, calling Erasmus a “humanist” has nothing to do with the modern meaning of humanism that implies agnosticism.

Erasmus was at pains to stay friends with the Vatican and opposed Luther (1483-1546). The Praise of Folly was a satire to induce an return to moral values but within the Church. His association with the Vatican explains why his translation of Greek sources was accepted by the Church. Erasmus like Luther was a virulent antisemitic though, which makes the modern misunderstanding about “humanism” rather sour.

The Economist newspaper has a blog on religion and policy, called “Erasmus”. Its explanation is: “This blog, named after the Dutch Renaissance humanist and scholar, considers the intersections between religion and public policy.” Also wikipedia suggests the term “Renaissance humanist” as a distinction from modern “humanism”, but few readers will decode this and most readers will be confused.

My proposal is that The Economist adapts its blog subtitle to the historically non-confusing: “named after the antisemitic Renaissance author of The Praise of Folly”.

Erasmus by Holbein, 1523 (Source: wikimedia commons)

Erasmus by Holbein, 1523 (Source: wikimedia commons)

The Erasmus column this week refers to the separation of state and religion. This highlights our discussion of the confrontation by Paul with the Roman authorities.

“Lest we get on our high horse and think this [violence in the name of religion] is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ…Michelle and I returned from India, an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity, but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have on occasion been targeted by other peoples of faith…acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi.” (Barack Obama, quoted by The Economist, “Erasmus” blog, “Obama and Christianity. In God’s name, dismount”)

“To put the point simply, if you think your side is too virtuous to sin, it probably will sin, terribly. That’s why, as Mr Obama put it, “getting on our high horse” is to be avoided. Whatever you think of the relative merits of the great world religions, that argument still holds good.” (The Economist editor)

A crucial observation – which might make this a useful intermezzo:

  • The Greek version was available for the Gospel writers Mark, Matthew and Luke, and thus we should judge their intentions from the Greek version, say for 70-325 AD.
  • The Vulgate is relevant for 400-1592 AD.
  • The Clementine Latin Vulgate is only relevant for the period 1592-2000.

The key word is ἐξουσία. Vergeer translates it as power of the angels rather than authorities. The term would occur four more times, and it conveys a quite different message when it is translated wrong consistently.

Strong #1849 tells us more on the concept of ἐξουσία.

I don’t copy this. See the link for the ambiguity of the concepts: physical or mental power, over all mankind or just your spouse (whichever is more difficult). Thayer’s 6th category also allows for angels indeed: “the leading and more powerful among created beings superior to man, spiritual potentates”. (Ardel Caneday discusses the idea to translate exousia as “liberty”, and rejects it.)

Romans 13.1 in Contemporary English, King James or the Clementine Vulgate (

Obey the rulers who have authority over you. Only God can give authority to anyone, and he puts these rulers in their places of power.
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
1 Omnis anima potestatibus sublimioribus subdita sit : non est enim potestas nisi a Deo : quæ autem sunt, a Deo ordinatæ sunt.

The Greek original has psyche. A spiritual soul indeed would answer to spiritual powers.

“1 Πᾶσα ψυχὴ ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ὑποτασσέσθω. οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξουσία εἰ μὴ ὑπὸ θεοῦ, αἱ δὲ οὖσαι ὑπὸ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι εἰσίν.” (German Bible Society)

Stoic pneuma (breath) would have levels: tonos (everything), physis (plants), psyche (animals, spiritus animalis, soul), logica psyche (mind). It would fit: psyche = anima = soul, and only the CEV goes astray by turning soul into you, a person (in the flesh). But isn’t it Descartes’s error, to separate body and mind ? To what extent is all this religious stuff a mere power struggle over simplistic logical categories ?

But there still might be some ambiguity. Perhaps we read too much into this.

  • Perhaps the ancients didn’t buy into the celestial interpretation: that psyche would refer to the celestial beings, with neglect of the civil authorities.
  • Perhaps Erasmus didn’t either.
  • Gnostics would, and we established why Christianity found it heresy.

Taxes are a different issue. Tax collectors aren’t quite the power of angels.

6 You must also pay your taxes. The authorities are God’s servants, and it is their duty to take care of these matters.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 6 Ideo enim et tributa præstatis : ministri enim Dei sunt, in hoc ipsum servientes.

The Greek original has no ἐξουσία:

 “6 διὰ τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ φόρους τελεῖτε· λειτουργοὶ γὰρ θεοῦ εἰσιν εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο προσκαρτεροῦντες.” (German Bible Society)

Now, why would Vergeer hold that power of angels is the proper translation ? Remember that he only wrote a short review and no exegesis. He refers to the four occurrences, and the systematic meaning, but this short text by him does not prove the case. I am inclined to think that it is elsewhere in his work or sources, but I still would need to see the argumentation.

He indicates however quite impressively about the portent of the Epistle to the Romans:

“This is no preaching of submission or pretending it, or whatever, of the Roman authority. This is pure original Jewish tradition: honour the Eternal, the Name, the only source of authority. Israel was a theocracy: the king had no authority but exercised his power as an anointed of the Name. In Rome it were the senate and the people who exercised authority, and the Caesar derived his power and authority from the tribunicia potestate – and outside of the pomerium from his infinitum et maius imperium proconsulare – and sometimes from being consul. The gods were celebrated but the state was not under the authority of Jupiter or the xii dei consentes. Paul’s point of view really did no service to Roman politics. Paul’s position is that of the Zealot: only the Lord has authority, only the Lord is the power. By that, Paul takes all power from any government whatever.” (Vergeer, review)

This argument is strong, given Vergeer’s background, subtle references and eloquent reasoning. But the doubt is not gone. It is a pity that Google doesn’t generate much corroboration yet.

It remains a begging of the question: A rebel (see Appendix 3) will choose that God stands above the authorities, a conservative will regard the authorities as given by God. Their positions are hardly determined by the texts. The texts are rather used to justify a position that has been taken on other grounds. If a Religious Book doesn’t have the proper text, one selects another translation or another book, or writes one oneself. Indeed, you might refer to God, but you still need to write a book to discover what God wants. The argument for exousia is ambiguous enough so that this would not be the cause for a schism.

Let us continue with taxation.

Give Caesar what is of Caesar

Vergeer continues his criticism on Voskuilen’s 2002 book:

“It looks in your study as if Paul’s main objective is to teach the Jews that they must be obedient, submissive to the Roman government, and bravely pay their taxes to Rome. That is the image that indeed, because none of this is new, has been put in Paul’s mouth by later Christian exegesis of Paul texts. But he himself did not say so entirely, rather the opposite.”

This provides a problem:

  • Paul’s texts have been edited by the Church, and it is not likely that they left much that they couldn’t work with.
  • The interpretation of exousia would hence still be ambiguous. We saw above that Vergeer’s reference to the power of angels is not obvious.
  • It is only after Gutenberg that commoners got the opportunity to read “what Paul really said”. And only after Luther that this became a rule for Protestantism (if they still read).
  • The common situation in Catholism would be that a priest reads the word of God (originally in Latin) and affixes a homily to explain what the word of God actually meant.
  • The discussion about exegesis was only for theologians, and the Church would control this.
  • What Paul had said originally would matter for Voskuilen’s idea that Paul was a spy for the Romans, but this is not an issue that we are much interested in here.
  • Jesus’s quote on giving to Caesar would apply to 30 AD, Paul would bring his change afterwards, with most impact after 70 AD. When the Romans could adapt Paul’s message after 70 AD then this suffices for the Voskuilen macabre parallel.

Vergeer nicely points out something that had already occurred to me – coins minted by Caesar belong to him – but not in the following detail and not with actually looking at a coin.

“(…) this famous exclaim by Jesus on the Temple square about the paying of the heavy taxes for Rome. Since that exclaim apparently had become known under the Roman Jews so that it could not be suppressed, Mark chose to turn it upside down. It seems as if Jesus intends: “pay to the Caesar for it is due to him”. But he said and intended: “Give God what is due to Him and give Caesar what is of him, i.e. let Caesar look after himself.”

The double entendre with the genitivus becomes clearer and acerber when we do what Mark describes what Jesus did. Take a coin with the image of the Caesar in your hands. Jesus said so but no theologian will then do it. And you, Voskuilen, neither. Take a Roman silver tetradrachm, minted in Syria for Caesar Augustus, according to the print in IB, that is the twelfth consulate year of Augustus, short before the birth of Jesus. On the image side there is the name of the emperor, Caesar Augustus, in Greek and in genitivus: “of Caesar Augustus”. Thus: “What is of him, give it to him.” Let him suffocate in his own money.”  

[For your information: Latin: Caesar is the noun, Caesaris genitivus, Caesari dativus.
21 Dicunt ei : Cæsaris. Tunc ait illis : Reddite ergo quæ sunt Cæsaris, Cæsari : et quæ sunt Dei, Deo” (Matthew 22.21, Clementine Vulgate)
Greek: Strong 2541: Καίσαρ is the noun, Καίσαρος genitivus, Καίσαρι dativus.
ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τὰ Καίσαρος ἀπόδοτε Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ θεῷ. καὶ ἐξεθαύμαζον ἐπ’ αὐτῷ.” (Mark 12.17, NA28, German Bible Society)
λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· Καίσαρος. τότε λέγει αὐτοῖς· ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ θεῷ.” (Matthew 22.21, NA28, German Bible Society)]

Looking at a coin was a nice suggestion, and I indeed found such a coin at the British Museum,  curiously also of the BM series – did they do that on purpose ? (The BM link.) I had a horrible minute to decipher that it says “KAISAROS SE-BASTOU”. Well, this is crazy nonsense, where is Augustus ? Until, after some other horrible minutes, I discover that Augustus was translated as Sebastos in the Greek speaking provinces ….  With genitivus Sebastou. Why don’t give people instructions on such essentially simple issues so that you can check them directly ? Anyway, the image below is from Incitatus Coins And Antiquitiesand by even more chance of the IB series.

KAISAROS SE-BASTOU (Source: Incitatus Coins)

KAISAROS SE-BASTOU (Source: Incitatus Coins)


  • Since Jesus speaks in parables, we can only guess at the meaning.
  • The phrase by Jesus – rendered by the text writers of the NT – implies some separation of church and state / Romans. Jesus obviously prefers God (or king David).
  • The phrase does neither necessitate nor exclude the interpretation that Vergeer attaches to it (Let Caesar look after himself, and suffocate in it). Jesus does not forbid the use of Roman money, and thus you could use that money to pay your taxes.
  • It is actually a foundation for monetary theory: The government prints money so that you can pay your taxes with it. See my paper Money as gold versus money as water (2013).
  • Vergeer’s view on Jesus and taxation does still support the Voskuilen macabre parallel. This applied certainly after 70 AD, when Christian editors got more control over the creed.
Paul’s death in the Acts

The Acts 25 hold that Festus would have indicated that Paul would be innocent according to Roman Law, but that he should be judged by the priests in Jerusalem on theological heresy. Paul, pointing to being a Roman citizen, appeals to Caesar, and is shipped to Rome.

Scholars find it weird that an appeal is done when Acts hold that there is no verdict. Vergeer calls Acts a cover-up, and holds that Festus’s verdict was the gallows.

Vergeer hold that Acts has two parts: first about Peter, till he dies, then about Paul, with his death. Both deaths are covered up. Summarizing Vergeer’s view: Herod Agrippa I just before his death in 44 executes the followers of David: including Simon Peter, John and his brother Jacob (James). Peter drops from the text once he has been liberated from prison by a celestial being – which is a midrash for death. Paul’s end in prison is left to the imagination too. A point for first year students in Roman Law:

“An appeal in Roman Law does not concern the accusation but the verdict. The dossier with the facts and grounds for the accusation does not get discussed another time – it has already been looked at and decided upon. (…) Caesar only judges about the verdict that has been given in his name. If it would appear that the verdict was unlawful then the Caesar could annul it.” (Vergeer, review)

Vergeer thus interpretes the Acts such, that Paul was beheaded (proof ?) in Rome at the Via Laurentina and buried on the westside of Via Ostiense. He points to Tischendorf,  and an inscription that indicates Paul’s grave.

Since Vergeer doesn’t have the time shift hypothesis, he is stuck with this explanation why Paul in 58 lost his support by his patronus Pauli and thus was executed:

“Unfortunately, exactly in 58, during Paul’s sea journey to Rome, the crisis around the accusation against Publius Suillius Rufus of transgressing the lex Cincia erupted. The extremely corrupt Rufus defends himself vehemently, and on his part accuses Seneca of complicity and worse. Awkward, because he was often right. Seneca causes Rufus to be banned but realises that his authority is permanently weakened. Which is bad news for his clients who depend upon his influence for law suits in the court of the Caesar. (…)

Since Church history and worldly history are forever kept far apart so keenly, one hardly comes across such connections – but someone who intends to highlight the role of Paul as spy for the Romans should have had some notion of this.”

Fortunately, for us with the time shift hypothesis, Paul can live for some more years till the crucial date of 70 AD arrives. We might even discover who he actually is.

Decapitación de San Pablo - Simonet - 1887 (Source: Wikimedia commons)

Decapitación de San Pablo – Simonet – 1887 (Source: Wikimedia commons)


How many Jews were there in the Roman empire ?

Vergeer states that “the Jews” (his quotation marks) would be 10% of the population of the Roman empire, with a strong representation in the cities and trade, also in Italy. I had wondered about that estimate when looking into the question how many Jesuses had been crucified.

There is much to gain from skepticism. Google doesn’t generate much information on this. A skeptical comment is by anthropologist Gregory Cochran (Utah) – also known for his book on continued genetic human evolution in the last 10,000 years. conventionally uses Josephus’s number for Rome and multiplies it with an average household of five, to arrive at 40,000 Jews in Rome. But would you trust Josephus on numbers ?

Rather the legal issue of special rights for Judea

Rather than numbers, it seems that the problem of Judea for the Romans is one of legal precedent. Because of how Judea entered the Roman Empire, it already had achieved special religious rights. This property became ever more problematic over time. It threatened to inspire others to demand such rights too, while abolition would be one-sided and not speak well for Rome’s claim of legal justice. Thinking about the issue in this manner increases the motivation of Rome to find other ways to get rid of the Jerusalem priesthood.

Vergeer’s summary statement

Vergeer provides this summary statement when closing his review of Voskuilen’s book:

“The base taken from Eisenman is very healthy and is shared by me: Christianity has little or nothing to do with the original intentions of the group around Jesus that aspired at the realisation of the rule of the Eternal One by the realisation of the kingship in His Name by the son of David – who therefor was naturally opposed to the Roman occupiers. Instead, the New Testament and early Christianity have become a sort of defence of the Roman point of view. The real events have been depicted upside down. I subscribe to this but I subsequently decline to follow you like a camel in the mist, that wanders and rambles about in his own world of vagueness and phantasy.”

We see thus confirmed that, overall, we are on safe ground when concluding that the Voskuilen macabre parallel applies when the NT takes shape after 70 AD.

I consider it fairly important to reach this observation, since various statements by Vergeer in his review of Voskuilen’s work suggest that Paul would oppose the Romans: but once we keep track of the period that applies – potentially original views from before 70 AD – then it fits.

(And we didn’t look at whether Paul was a spy, since that didn’t concern us here.)



Appendix 1. A speculation on the brothers Matthias and Josephus

The following is speculative, but I also write science fiction and thus I have to think like an author at times. History doesn’t always develop in linear fashion. The NT is intended to convey a message, and a plot may be intricate.

Flavius Josephus (born 37 AD) had an elder brother Matthias. While FJ appears very talented, we hear little about M, both in the works by FJ himself and the NT.

FJ played an important role in the destruction of Jersusalem, and it is strange that FJ isn’t mentioned in the NT – unless perhaps as a model for both Jesus and Paul. The same could hold for M. But perhaps the NT doesn’t mention M since FJ doesn’t.

Brian Ellis King Jesus originated much of the following reasoning and arrives at the suggestion that Paul = FJ. However, data about FJ can also be used to create Paul. Looking at the arguments it seems that Paul might rather be M.

A speculation thus is that:

  • M ~ X ~ got patronage by a patronus Pauli ~ Paul ~ Saul ~ “The spouter of lies”
  • FJ ~ Josephus Barnabas ~ “son of the same father”.

FJ ~ Barnabas must save his elder brother twice: In the defection from “Damascus” / Qumran (depicted by the basket), and in travelling with him to Cyprus where M gets patronage by a patronus Pauli.

Since Matthias is older than FJ there might still be the option that M ~ Simon Magus, who would be important with the famine in 44 AD and Queen Helen. But it may also be that data about Simon Magus have been used to create Paul.

There is a curious passage in the NT after Judas Iscariot is expelled.

23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (King James, Acts 1)

Wikipedia on Joseph Barsabas is rather bleak, but on Eisenman:

“Robert Eisenman has read the shadowy figure of “Joseph Justus” as either a not-so-subtle cover for James the Just, or a cloned conflation who represents in a single figure all the Desposyni—rejected, according to the author of Acts in favor of an otherwise unknown Matthias.”

Alternatively, “barsabas” is deconstructed by some as “son of the father”. My suggestion is to consider “son of the same father”. We might have found FJ and M. The “Barnabas” would be a refererence to that “Barsabas”.

FJ thus would have various names, depending upon the situation or sect that he would participate in: (1) Josephus, (2) Flavius Josephus, (3) Joseph called Barsabas, surnamed Justus – Joseph Justus – member of the sect of James the Just, (4) Barnabas. There is also (5)  “Joseph Barnabas” – the alleged founder of the Cypriot orthodox church. FJ would be an observing Jew (though see later on that). This would partly fit and further not contradict the etymology in the wikipedia portal text on the latter Joseph Barnabas:

“His Hellenic Jewish parents called him Joseph (although the Byzantine text-type calls him Ιὠσης, Iōsēs, ‘Joses’, a Greek variant of ‘Joseph’), but when he sold all his goods and gave the money to the apostles in Jerusalem, they gave him a new name: Barnabas. This name appears to be from the Aramaic בר נביא, bar naḇyā, meaning ‘the son (of the) prophet’. However, the Greek text of the Acts 4:36 explains the name as υἱός παρακλήσεως, hyios paraklēseōs, meaning “son of consolation” or “son of encouragement”. A similar link between ”prophecy” and ”encouragement” is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14:3).” (Wikipedia) (see also a conventional text)

The scenario: The true M with his younger brother FJ (born 37 AD) originally joined the Brothers of the Lord of James the Just. Perhaps they were both in the Qumram boarding school, see last weblogtext. M defected from circumcision and got into gnosis from Alexandria. On Cyprus he entered into patronage Pauli, either before 70 AD or in 70 AD when shipped as a prisoner to Rome. But Cyprus might merely indicate that there is influence from foreigners.

This M is split by the writers of Acts into two persons: (1) Matthias who is elected to succeed Judas, to give M a place in the Acts as if there is nothing to hide, (2) Pious Paul who converts from Saul. If there were rumours about a split and horrible acts by M, then the writers of the Acts could point to Saul, and say “you are confused because read here …”.

FJ also covered up M. Perhaps he indeed described M as Saul. Sa’ul would mean “asked for, prayed for”; and Matthew = Matthias = Matityahu = “Gift of Yahweh”. The meanings don’t differ too much, especially under the philosophy: “you get what you asked for”.

The Wikipedia portal on Matthias gives:

“After the capture of Jerusalem, Matthias survived the siege and became a Roman Prisoner of War. Through Josephus’ intervention, Matthias was released from Roman imprisonment. After his prison release, little is known on Matthias.”

If Damascus merely stands for the particular sect & religious view, then Jerusalem occupied by that sect might also stand for Damascus. The release from Jerusalem might be an escape from Damascus as a new Moses. When FJ and M were transported to Rome, they might also have been lodged on Cyprus for a while, where M joined the Pauli. Matthias might have had time and the protection of his patronus Pauli to develop his views on how to proceed with the Jewish faith in the new world after 70 AD. His advantage was that his names Matthew and Paul fitted the books that were going to be written.

But, indeed, most of this is speculation, and while FJ was brilliant, perhaps M was not interested in such matters.

PM. The NT thus has two Moseses: Paul of the Basket and Peter the Rock. But Cephas actually means stone and is not the rock of Moses. For this, see Stephan Huller.

Appendix 2. Stephan Huller on Mark = Marcus Julius Agrippa

Stephan Huller’s work is relatively difficult to find. There no home page with cv and list of publications and such. There is apparently no online summary on what his decoding of the figures in the NT has resulted in – or I haven’t found it yet. You can buy his book The Real Messiah. This might seem fair, since he apparently has no position at a university that pays for his research, but there are so many books to buy and read. The decoding of an apparently first century inscription of the throne, that now is kept in the San Marco in Venice, is intriguing, and apparently it has been published in a journal, but where, and what does it mean for how scholars look at these issues ? But perhaps we should be happy that at least some information is available:

  • Reviews by Robert M. Price, on a draft book, and on The Real Messiah (1999), but note the 2011 ebook.
  • There are blogspots The Real Messiah and another one using his name. There are no categories or sitemaps, but google helps for search. Keep notes, otherwise you may not be able to recover where you read something. Take time in reading, it is at times rather hard.

This statement should perhaps also find a more central place somewhere on a personal website, and is an example of the needlessly complex writing style:

“Readers of my Real Messiah know that the rather simpleminded division of Jewish history into periods of Agrippa I (37 – 44 CE) and Agrippa II (44 – 100 CE) is based on a collection of writings associated with Josephus but preserved through Christian sources. The rabbinic tradition only knows of one Agrippa. I don’t accept the division of history developed from Christian texts of Josephus just as I hope to prove that the Christian texts of Josephus DELIBERATELY misinformed us about the location of the Jewish temple in Egypt (it was in the Boucolia just outside of the eastern walls of Alexandria and not in Leontopolis which is a confusion based on Isa. 19:18). I am one Jew at least who does not feel that our history is in any way inferior to the corrupt ‘Christianized’ texts of Josephus.” (Stephan Huller, 2010)

When I understand Stephan Huller correctly, the War of Words is like this, see below for the Isaiah verses:

  1. Simon bar Giora claimed to be the foundation rock (Isaiah 28.16) for a liberated Canaan
  2. Since he caused the destruction of Canaan, and was executed at the Tarpeian Rock (proof ?), the original Marcion gospel would have portrayed him as a stumbling stone (Isaiah 8.14-15) (in this case also a stone that stumbled itself)
  3. The later Christian interpolators changed this back into the foundation rock, but now of the Christian Church (Isaiah 28.16 again)
  4. The statement “You are Petros and on this petra I will build my church” has a conventional discussion: see this “wordplay” and the argument that there is no real discussion, for otherwise Luther would have used it already
  5. But now there is a new angle, which is: (a) points 1-3 above, (b) a combination with also other factors that allow an identification of who Simon Peter actually was.
Tarpeian Rock, Rome, nowadays (Source: wikimedia commons)

Tarpeian Rock, Rome, nowadays (Source: wikimedia commons)

It is an indication of the uncertainties in this matter that Huller’s arguments are so strong. His decoding is:

  1. Simon bar Giora (Simon the Strong) = the “brother of Josephus”. Is this biological ? Huller doesn’t write “also Brother in the Lord”. The name Simon might refer to Matthias’s ancestor Simon Psellus (Simon the Stutterer). But this contradicts the report above that FJ would save M in 70 AD. FJ gave one of his sons the 2nd name Simonides.
  2. Also Simon bar Giora = St. Peter = Simon Peter = Simon Cephas.

Indeed, we should make codes no more complex than needed. I find that there is a lot of elegance in this suggested decoding.

  • A “problem” would now be that Matthias can no longer be Paul, as in Appendix 1. Simon bar Giora didn’t have the protection of a patronus Pauli, and didn’t walk away after the destruction of Jerusalem (protected by FJ) and start writing his Letters.
  • The crux of the matter might be how much the brothers differ. While FJ is law-observing but willing to join the Flavians, is M either more law-observing so that he becomes Simon bar Giora or is he more open to the gentiles so that he becomes Paul ?
  • How reliable is that report that M survived after 70 AD ?

In Huller’s scenario, Marcion would be the “little Mark” apostle and “secretary” of Marcus Julius Agrippa (I = II). Huller suggests: Christian interpolators turned Marcion into Paul. This might fit a joining up of “little Mark” with a patronus Pauli on Cyprus, though, so that the interpolators had material to work with.

“All we need to realize finally is that Marcion himself was the Apostle of the Marcionite tradition. In other words, only with the Catholic tradition does “Paul, the Pharisaic disciple of Gamaliel” emerge. Why did Polycarp falsify the pre-existent Marcionite canon? He was trying to neutralize the traditional hatred that Christianity directed toward the “separate” Jewish religions. Thus the Pharisees rejected Marcus Julius Agrippa’s claims to be the messiah.

If we bracket Josephus’ “revisionist history” of the Jewish War (a similarly rewritten history, heavily edited by Catholic Christians), we see from other traditions that it was the Pharisees who rose up against Agrippa (it probably read that way in the now “lost” parallel history by Justus of Tiberius). We shall see that the Apostle was originally named “Mark” rather than “Paul” as the later Catholic tradition claimed.

The two men at his side were real historical individuals “Titus the associate” was the future Flavian Emperor of the same name, and Barnabas (or “Barsabbas” as he is also called) was “Justus” Agrippa’s secretary during the volatile period of the revolt. His enemy “Simon” (whom we know as “Simon Peter” and “Cephas”) was “condemned” (Galatians 2:11) just as Agrippa’s rival of the same name was defeated and punished during the Jewish War: Simon bar Gioras [Giora], the brother of Josephus.” (Stephan Huller, April 2008)

See also Huller’s other text: “Was Peter really Simon bar Giora?with the strong statements:

“While most scholars have attempted to connect “Simon Magus” to Paul, we should pay careful attention to the pattern in later Catholic writings to have the newly “purified” Catholic personna “deny” or “attack” his association with his previous incarnation. So it is that “Paul” now a devout Pharisee, is made to declare that he is not the “apostle” who desecrated the temple. In the same manner “John” becomes the enemy of “Marcion” and now also “Peter” the sworn adversary of “Simon” in the Clementia.”

“Neither “Simon Magus” nor “Simon Peter” as we have come to know them was a real historical figure. They developed over time as reactions to the historical Simon bar Giora who likely claimed that he was the messianic “rock” prophesied by Moses. That the gospel writer chose to identify him as a “stone” – i.e. kepha – rather than a true “rock” is significant enough.”

See the Encyclopedia Judaica for a this account that reminds of INRI:

“Josephus relates that Simeon suddenly appeared among the Temple ruins, as though out of the bowels of the earth, dressed in white and covered with a purple mantle. At the sight of him the Romans were terrified, but after recovering from their fear, bound him in chains. His strange appearance was probably connected with messianic expectations on his part; or by submitting to the victorious enemy he may have deliberately invited martyrdom.

(…) Nevertheless, from extant information it would appear that Simeon b. Giora was the leader of a clear eschatological trend in the movement of rebellion against Rome, and possibly filled the role of “king messiah” within the complex of eschatological beliefs held by his followers. His exceptional bravery and daring, mentioned by Josephus, undoubtedly attracted many to him, and won him preeminence among the rebel leaders. In contrast to the bitter hostility that existed between him and John of Giscala, there was a measure of understanding between him and the Sicarii at Masada.

Conspicuous among Simeon’s characteristics was the enmity he bore toward the rich and the sympathy he showed to the poor, even to the extent of freeing slaves. This approach of his doubtless had its origin in his party’s social outlook, opposed as it was to the existing order also in regard to the economic system and social justice.”

The following is purely for reference.

On the reference to Isaiah: since one doesn’t trust translations anymore, I also include LXX. I wonder whether 8.15 in LXX has disappeared in KJV. Also, the difference between rock and stone doesn’t reflect in the difference between petra and lithos, but in the adjectives “founding stone” and “corner stone”, both lithos.

“And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (King James, Isaiah 8.14-15)

“Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” (King James, Isaiah 28.16)

“8.14 καὶ ἐὰν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πεποιθὼς ᾖς, ἔσται σοι εἰς ἁγίασμα, καὶ οὐχ ὡς λίθου προσκόμματι συναντήσεσθε αὐτῷ οὐδὲ ὡς πέτρας πτώματι· ὁ δὲ οἶκος Ιακωβ ἐν παγίδι, καὶ ἐν κοιλάσματι ἐγκαθήμενοι ἐν Ιερουσαλημ.

15 διὰ τοῦτο ἀδυνατήσουσιν ἐν αὐτοῖς πολλοὶ καὶ πεσοῦνται καὶ συντριβήσονται, καὶ ἐγγιοῦσιν καὶ ἁλώσονται ἄνθρωποι ἐν ἀσφαλείᾳ ὄντες.” (LXX 8, German Bible Society) (Lithos and petra(s))

“28.16 διὰ τοῦτο οὕτως λέγει κύριος ᾿Ιδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιων λίθον πολυτελῆ ἐκλεκτὸν ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἔντιμον εἰς τὰ θεμέλια αὐτῆς, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ.” (LXX 28, German Bible Society) (Lithos, no petros)

Liddell-Scott-Jones 85262-4 has: petra = (1) rock; freq. of cliffs, ledges, etc. by the sea. (2) hollow rock, a cave, (3) mass of rock, or boulder, (4) stone as material, as a symbol of firmness. Liddell-Scott-Jones 85305 has: petros = stone, in Hom., used by warriors, of a boulder forming a landmark. They explain: the usual Prose word is λίθος 65279. The latter has 9 options, but none refer to “rock”. A nice reference is to a platform to speak from, or an altar, say for taking oaths. Nice is Lapis, the stone that is a surname of Jupiter in Rome, with the convention to take an oath on Jupiter’s rock.

Lapis [Perseus dictionary at Tufts]

the stone, a surname of Jupiter at Rome, as we see from the expression Jovem Lapidem jurare. (Cic. Fam. 7.12; Gel. 1.21 ; Plb. 3.26.) It was formerly believed that Jupiter Lapis was a stone statue of the god, or originally a rude stone serving as a symbol, around which people assembled for the purpose of worshipping Jupiter. But it is now generally acknowledged that the pebble or flint stone was regarded as the symbol of lightning, and that, therefore, in some representations of Jupiter, he held a stone in his hand instead of the thunderbolt. (Arnob. ad v. Gent. 4.25.) Such a stone (lapis Capitolinus, August. De Civ. Dei, 2.29) was even set up as a symbolic representation of the god himself. (Serv. ad Aen. 8.641.) When a treaty was to be concluded, the sacred symbols of Jupiter were taken from his temple, viz. his sceptre, the pebble and grass from the district of the temple, for the purpose of swearing by them (per Jovem Lapidem jurare ; Liv. 1.24, 30.43; Fest. s. v. Feretrius). A pebble or flint stone was also used by the Romans in killing the animal, when an oath was to be accompanied by a sacrifice; and this custom was probably a remnant of very early times, when metal instruments were not yet used for such purposes. (Fest. s. v. Lapidenm Silicem ; comp. Liv. 1.24, 9.5; Plb. 3.26; Plut. Sull. 10.)

Appendix 3. PM on a modern rebel

At 2009, “chris geo” argues: “I am a Greek speaking American. My wife was raised in Greece and spent 17 years there. So we decided, let’s look up Romans 13. …New American Standard Bible (NASB)   1 Every (A) person is to be in (B) subjection …  Greek Version (1550 AD) … Every governing soul …  There ya go. It’s a statement for revolution. NOT submission to government!! This is according to the GREEK text, which is the ORIGINAL TEXT!”

The Dutch uncontrolled hate & rage about the new Greek crisis with Tsipras & Varoufakis may require an explanation.

But first remember Keynes.

Keynes on loans and debt

J.M. Keynes gave the argument twice:

  • After World War 1: that victors and creditors should allow Germany to recover.
  • After World War 2: that the USA as victor and creditor (also of the UK) should give easy terms to the rest of the world, to allow for their investments and exports.

Thus there is not only the responsibility of the debtor. There is also the responsibility of the creditor. The latter responsibility might even be larger since the creditor has more leeway.

The Press Conference of January 30 2015

Jeroen Dijsselbloem was mortally insulted when Yanis Varoufakis killed the Troika. Dijsselbloem had gone to talk and help in Dutch Polder Model fashion. His attitude was Calvinistic, as the Dutch tend to be. Varoufakis slammed this door shut, and they departed in ice.

Helena Smith for The Guardian:

“Send off for Joren Dijsselbloem ended with incredible stand-off as Varoufakis socked him one over the troika. The Dutchman looked enraged, bending forward to whisper something in Varoufakis’ ear to which the Greek finance minister did not respond. Greek finance ministry staff standing behind me said “Oh my God.”” (The Guardian, 2015-01-30)

Varoufakis & Dijsselbloem Press Conference, Jan 30 2015 ((c) Aris Messinis, AFP)

Varoufakis & Dijsselbloem Press Conference, Jan 30 2015 ((c) Aris Messinis, AFP)

To understand this:

  • This crisis concerns money, which is an issue that is dear to the Dutch heart and mind.
  • The Dutch find themselves exposed as greedy fools who have lent money to Greece, while they should have seen that it wouldn’t come back.
  • Holland is Calvinistic, with sin & eternal damnation, and looking elsewhere to avoid responsibility. (Catholics in Holland are still rather Calvinistic, and differ from those in Southern Europe or the Orthodox Greeks.)
  • Holland is a rather small country, and the natural temptation is to pick on an even smaller country.
  • Germany and Holland with their surpluses on the external account are a prime cause for the crisis, but Holland will not criticise Germany, let alone exert self-criticism.
  • The directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) censors the proper analysis since 1990, so that the Dutch public and young policy makers like Dijsselbloem have been trained for at least 25 years to see the world in a distorted mirror.
Jean-Claude Juncker stands with empty hands

Jean-Claude Juncker felt forced to embrace and hold hands with Alexis Tsipras, to show that the EU still loves Greece. However, Juncker doesn’t offer much. He stands with empty hands, so to say. The Tsipras-Varoufakis approach is fickle and incompetent at heart, see the earlier discussion.

The proper resolution must be looked for in Northern Europe, and Holland in particular.

Juncker takes the initiative to hold hands with Tsipras (Source: screenshot)

Juncker takes the initiative to hold hands with Tsipras (Source: screenshot)

Hence, let us look deeper into the issue of the Dutch uncontrolled hate & rage about Greece.

Dijsselbloem seemed rather controlled in his rage, but beware of appearances

Just to be sure:

  • Dutch behaviour and statements might seem to be controlled and polite. Do not be deceived.
  • Controlled hate & rage are properly defined as: both dealing with the emotion and maintaining one’s logical capacities.
  • The Dutch hate & rage show from the inability to apply logic and common sense & decency.
  • Dutch upbringing of children is targeted at conformity. This means the sublimation of emotions into the illogical conventions of the day.
  • Thus hate & rage are not shown, and they neither are a cause to think again and to analyse their origin.
  • Logic and analysis may be a cause for non-conformity and thus must be avoided.
  • We might also say that the Dutch hate & rage are repressed, but this neglects the consequences of such repression. It is better to say that they are uncontrolled, since this causes an awareness of such consequences.
  • I am just a tentative psychologist in suggesting this diagnosis. See my earlier suggestion how to apply social psychology to economics. The master is Daniel Kahneman with prospect theory. The value of a gain may be less than the regret of a loss.

One of the Dutch parameters thus is:

The value of a logical insight may be less that the regret of not conforming to social convention.

The young Dutch fail in holding their own elders accountable

The proper response of the younger Dutch generation would be to hold their elder Dutch generation accountable for past policy errors like the euro and the censorship of science since 1990.

But the young Dutch coat the eminences grises of Dutch politics like Ruud Lubbers, Wim Kok and Wim Duisenberg (deceased) in teflon.

It is easier to blame the Greeks, even when they are young.

The Dutch government consists of a coalition of VVD and PvdA that betrays campaign promises. Prime minister Mark Rutte (VVD) is a neoliberal ideologue. He recently got the Rathenau prize but the kind people who gave the prize made a conceptual error. The social-democratic PvdA with Dijsselbloem has lost compass and integrity decades ago. The political opposition parties are escapist, like the fickle D66, the xenophobic Geert Wilders or the (Maoist) Socialist Party (SP).

The distinction between PvdA and SP might be somewhat enlightening. The PvdA (in government) belongs to the European Socialists (Socialist International), who apparently also want to change “socialist” into “social-democratic” ( PES). Their logo has a rose in a fist, and one also hopes that the rose has no thorns (or perhaps it should). Their international outlook should make that the PvdA should want to help their Greek labour brothers. Instead, the SP (in opposition) is nationalistic, similar to the nazi’s but without the antisemitism and only a mild aversion to immigration. Their emblem is a tomato, and they want that the Greeks throw their own tomatoes. Mao’s principle was not to follow convoluted Western socialist ideology but to follow popular sentiment so that the party can grow. Following Mao, the SP is opportunistic but with tight organisational control so that internal democracy consists out of following the leader who has the best nose for popular sentiment. (Dutch readers could look here.)

Dutch economists and journalists fail

Dutch economists and journalists fail in properly analysing the situation and reporting to the general public. Even the professionals blame the Greeks and want their money back. They don’t explain in adequate fashion what the Dutch export surplus means and how austerity blocks even the Dutch national investments. (And observe the perfidity, that low investments mean higher unemployment, which the Dutch translate as more wage moderation so that they can export more, implying the “exporting of unemployment”.)

There is one report that I can agree with for 99%: that is by Michel Verbeek on Sargasso (2014-12-30 in Dutch), who is not an economist but a biologist now working as a computer system manager (his own weblog), and who applies common sense to try to understand the economic crisis.

My 1% disagreement is that you need my own analysis to complete the picture, see here. Fellow economists are advised to read my books DRGTPE (before the crisis, free PDF) and its supplement CSBH (2012, during this crisis, paywall).

Diagnosis and treatment of the European crisis

The ship is not lost. Diagnosis and treatment w.r.t. the European crisis are:

  • The European Monetary Union (EMU, euro) is a political project, and advised against by many (though too few) economists.
  • The current EMU treaty fails and a new one is required.
  • The EMU is also a product of a breach of scientific integrity, see the censorship and abuse of power w.r.t. Bernard Connolly in 1995.
  • The situation might also have been different had my analysis not been censored in Holland in 1990. If Dutch parliament had done an inquiry in 1991 into the Dutch export surplus then many of these problems could have been resolved.
  • Greece squandered its loans and the rich Greeks left the country with the proceeds.
  • The Troika suffers from neoliberal economic ideology & incompetence.
  • See my suggestions for a solution approach as I already explained to Varoufakis in 2012. (A kind reminder, no rage.)
  • Overall, see the lecture Cause and cure of the crisis (2014).
PM. A short term escape route for Tsipras & Varoufakis

Professor Bagio Bossone already pointed to this provision:

“Article 14.4 of the ESCB statute states that: “National central banks may perform functions other than those specified in this Statute unless the Governing Council finds, by a majority of two thirds of the votes cast, that these interfere with the objectives and tasks of the ESCB. Such functions shall be performed on the responsibility and liability of national central banks and shall not be regarded as being part of the functions of the ESCB.” (ESCB 2008).” (Bagio Bossone, VoxEU 2013) (Check the Statute.)

If Tsipras & Varoufakis find a bit more than 1/3 of the vote that give them the benefit of the doubt, with measures that would conform with the overall objectives and tasks of the ESCB, then they might be able to prevent a collapse of the Greek economy, now that the ECB has stopped supporting the Greek banks. I would tend to favour that idea, and advise Dijsselbloem to do so too.

Listening to Litany by Saleas & Theodorakis
and Lianotragouda tis Glykias Patridas by Theodorakis
and Mousiki Bradya by Biky Moscholiou

I am still trying to get some clarity on Richard Carrier’s book On the historicity of Jesus (2014).

Given the chaos in the research on Jesus, and Carrier’s critique about his fellow historians, I already proposed last week to focus on the importance of Jesus for education

My question for today is: What are bedrock certainties that educators would use to develop the educational programme ? Derivative from these foundations are the topics that teachers would discuss with the pupils and students. Observe this logic:

  • Elsewhere I suggested that philosophy as a field runs astray since they don’t have an empirical base. The proper solution is that philosophy adopts the research in the education of mathematics as its empirical base. The later namely combines both abstract thought and the empirics of education of these thoughts.
  • The proposal on Jesus is parallel. Jesus would concern the philosophy of religion and the empirical base would be the research of the education of mathematics on such issues of religion. One key point in such education is that you should beware that abstraction leads you astray. One aspect in such education concerns also the history of religion, and of course Jesus in particular.
  • As a teacher of mathematics my proposal for a multidisciplinary approach is in The simple mathematics of Jesus (SMOJ) (2012). What have I learned in the two years since December 2012 ? The first is that SMOJ is still valid, and that you will benefit from considering it. The following builds on.
  • Historians of antiquity are invited to open up to other sciences and educators. Let the historians leave the sheltered darkness of the academia and step into the sun of public interest. Let them state what topics should be in the highschool textbooks and for what reasons. This will allow the other sciences and educators to help deconstruct confusion, and help attain true reason and common sense.
Panels or elements leading to a meta level

The subject is too large and must be broken up into pieces that can be handled.

SMOJ used “panels” as building blocks. I see to my pleasure that Richard Carrier uses “elements”. The following discussion tries to identify such building blocks at a meta level, for both analysis and development of a teaching programme. SMOJ did so implicitly, by selecting the panels that would fit such a programme. It helps to be explicit about this.

I am no historian but an econometrician and teacher of mathematics, and I look at the issue of the mythical vs historical Jesus from these very perspectives. I do this with respect for proper history writing, dismay for incompetence w.r.t. science & methodology, admiration for creative hypothesizing, and protest to distortion. My comments are mostly questions, since the final educational programme will come about in said multidisciplinary fashion.

Bedrock certainties

Bedrock certainties might not exist, but let us see what these might look like.

A. Bedrock certainties on Jesus are:
  1. We will never know for certain whether there was only a myth or indeed some historical Jesus. Too much of the data have been lost. There are too many possibilities that we cannot properly test.
  2. Carrier proposes systematic use of probability theory, but this generates only a probabilistic outcome (for who chooses those) and no certainty.
  3. Historians are no judges. History writing as a science is targeted at identifying the uncertainties and not at trying to be like a judge and decide what “really happened” (according to the judge).
B. Bedrock certainties on humanity are:
  1. Man is a story-telling animal. Language is the bread & butter of being human. Humans think by recognising patterns, and those patterns are relayed in language.
  2. The notion of abstraction, which in mathematics causes perfect concepts like line and circle, basically applies to thinking and language in general. It requires hard work to determine which is which, just like in mathematics. Notions like soul and god might have use for human communication. Wittgenstein’s dictum “the meaning of a word is its use” is correct but too vague, see my note on the common error of not properly defining abstraction. Plato was too vague here too, which produces confused mathematicians who have a “platonic conception” of their profession without quite knowing what they mean by that. See also the consequences for brain research, and the requirement to re-engineer mathematics so that brain research doesn’t climb up a tree of their own making.

Derivative of these is that stories about the self and society will be created by use of patterns and abstractions of all kinds of phenomena: volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami’s, stars, comets, kings and queens, tea-leaves …. Little Red Riding Hood is the story of a Moon eclipse, when the Earth blocks the Sun and the Earth atmosphere fractions light that creates a red moon. The wolf is darkness that eats the Moon. But LRRH arises again. Once you understand the code, the method of coding and telling of stories does not differ very much from a discussion in elementary school about “atoms” and “electrons”. But some stories have very complex codes.

Robert M. Price’s reminds us of the importance of having an open mind. He recommended thinking about Stephan Huller’s proposals – though Price recommends thinking about everything, see his brutal reading list. Still, Huller recently had a recommendable similar observation on the unavoidable property of language. (See other good observations by him in the appendix below on the rock in Jerusalem and the stone in Gerizim.)

Robbert Dijkgraaf, now president of IAS in Princeton, still writes a column for a Dutch newspaper:

“Where lies the origin of religion?  (…) We can now see the birth of gods happening before our eyes. In particular via cable television, namely the American Weather Channel. (….) for what John Steward in the Daily Show called so aptly ‘Blizzapocalpsegeddon’. (…) Up to recently only real hurricanes and typhoons got a name. The management of the Weather Channel however has decided that every atmospheric phenomenon deserves its own name. (…) We are back at zero. After mankind has freed itself from supernatural explanations, in a long struggle via humanism, scientific revolution and enlightenment, now the modern media lead us back towards anthropomorphic thought. (…) A human being has difficulty to distinguish the diffuse cloud of dots from natural phenomena. Our imagination likes to draw lines between the dots (..) Perhaps we should embrace the inclination to project  in nature the human or superhuman. Perhaps a new series of gods and demons helps to solve the most important problems that threaten the world. Time for a re-entry of Hephaistos, now as the god of climate change (…) And of course Poseidon with his storms, floods and earthquakes. I can easily imagine how CNN with its arsenal of animations, graphs and experts would report about this new Olympus.”  (Robbert Dijkgraaf, NRC-Handelsblad  2015-02-07, “Webcam on the Olympus”)

I regard this newspaper column as somewhat important since it underlines the metaphorical nature of language. It is plain wonderful that Dijkgraaf as a physicist shows this understanding. Also, the irony in the column can be appreciated. At least, I suppose that Dijkgraaf doesn’t really propose to create a god of climate change. However, irony is fun but not quite adequate to pinpoint what the proper solution is. Just to prevent misunderstandings: it remains important what metaphor you select.

(In this case: (1) It would be wrong to create a god of climate change. We should create institutions and policies to deal with it. Admittedly, this is my field of economics, but I hope that you agree that economics is better than vague & false gods. See my suggestion to create national Economic Supreme Courts. (2) Rather than enhancing the belief in gods, it would be proper to counter the negative aspects of the belief in the gods of current religions. In sum: it is somewhat a pity that Dijkgraaf selected the option of a fun column without thinking about or explaining the proper metaphors. There is a history of Holland here: see also my warning that he might become Darth Vader at IAS.)

C. Bedrock certainties on method are:

It follows that the major methods of research on Jesus are:

  1. Decoding requires identification of (theonomical rather than theological) concepts and of the interests of the parties involved. Pierre Krijbolder 1976 pioneered this ethnomethodology on Jesus – but there may be precursors.
  2. The main method of analysis is logic – and, okay, probability analysis to manage the database, since probabilities would indicate levels of priority. We already deduced: (a) The theological argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews (part of the NT canon) is that the Jerusalem priesthood loses its power. Thus Jesus also concerns a Jewish framework and story. (b)  The Torah recognises Original Sin even though this is denied. (c) The Torah is Gnostic even though this is denied. Below we will see (d) Voskuilen’s macabre parallel that destroys Matthew as a proper gospel and exposes it as propaganda.
  3. The main method for finding data is literary analysis.
  4. Another main method for finding data is archeology. Up to now the findings on Jesus or David are negative. It is a compliment for the integrity of archeology that they state this result instead of creating what they think is missing. But, given the lack of data, we must look to literary analysis for data on Jesus.

A result already is: Eisenman and Einhorn independently came upon the time shift hypothesis, holding that the NT shifts the events of 70 AD to 30 AD, one generation earlier.

  • This hypothesis would rather be logical given the data, and it becomes difficult to call it a “hypothesis”.
  • Carbon-dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) may be out of the question nowadays given all the contamination by the unscientific handling.
  • The time shift hypothesis remains complex. What Josephus wrote about 70 AD was coded by the NT writers into what he wrote about 30 AD; and we must decode this. While Josephus naturally cannot be trusted as a historian. Richard Carrier quotes Thomas Brodie:

“it is not possible, in any reliable way, to invoke Josephus as an independent witness to Jesus. Unreliable witness cannot be used to condemn someone to death. And neither can it be used to assert that someone lived.” (Brodie quoted by Carrier)

Having these bedrocks, let us finish the logic that deconstructs Matthew, and then continue with Brodie on literary analysis. First, though, two smaller observations

The concundrum hasn’t been caused by Jesus but by Constantine

From the above, it might seem that Jesus forms the core of the problem. However, the true problem lies with Constantine, for whom there might be more historical sources.

Christianity arose from Constantine, because of his Christian mother and political calculation that he needed the legions from Egypt (rather than Mithra). Thus all our discussion here is a result of political outfall. Had politics taken another route, we would be discussing the theological issues of the angels on the hairpin of Mithra or the deeds of Loki in Valhalla or whatever. However, there is also the force of history that Alexander caused a clash between Greek thought (Plato and mathematics) with Oriental and Egyptian thought (mystery priesthoods). It took the Romans all those centuries from Caesar to Constantine to develop some merger into the Church of Rome. They tried to get away from it, but there may be some hidden psychological necessity that causes this kind of merger (mathematical priesthood ?).

In the writing of history on Jesus, it thus might be advisable to first defuse potential emotional hang-ups by discussing Constantine. Christians might argue that Constantine’s choice was ordained but the historical path shows ample variation to allow a skeptical discussion about such ordination.

Secondly, my personal position is that Jesus is Santa Claus for grown-ups. Originally there were myths about Wodan flying in the sky on his horse Sleipnir, but the eight legs were not credible and thus changed into reindeer, while the Catholic Church inserted the Bishop of Myra, who is now depicted in Dutch stories as Sinterklaas riding his horse on rooftops. The mayor of Gouda had to arrest 90 people last year November, who think that Sinterklaas’s black helpers derive from slavery, but actually these are the spirits of the night who attack the Sun and who have to be scared away with firecrackers. See the Egyptian Gods in the Hall of Ma’at, when Osiris – with the same bishop crown – judges whether the children have behaving last year and deserve their Christmas presents. How simple can explanations be, once you think about them ?

However, the story that there is a historical Jesus deserves proper attention, both from fairness and curiosity, and of course from scientific integrity. Jesus might have been a historical figure who has been pasted onto the resurrection stories of the dying and rising Sun, OR, Jesus might have been a real person who did remarkable stuff and onto whom the myths have been pasted. It is a crucial question, for people who think that special people may have special inspiration. Also, the notion of mathematical abstraction is quite intriguing, and mankind has to find ways to deal with its consciousness.

Voskuilen & Sheldon: Paul was from the Roman CIA

Thijs Voskuilen in 2002 wrote his master’s thesis in history at the University of Groningen. He argued that Paul was a Roman spy – see the frumentarii, originally wheat merchants.

One of Verkuilen’s 2002 sources was dr. Mary Rose Sheldon, Colonel, professor of history at the Virginia Military Institute, who holds at least since 1997 that the Romans were experts in political manipulation, espionage and dirty tricks. Voskuilen and Sheldon jointly wrote the 2008 book: Operation Messiah: St Paul, Roman Intelligence and the Birth of Christianity.

(Remember that there was a famine around 44 AD and that Queen Helen of Adiabene paid for grain from Egypt and figs from Cyprus. She was baptised and her son needed no circumcision. There is the complaint against Simon Magus that one cannot buy God’s love. Also Marcion apparently was given his money back. Note that the figs might also be a midrash on the fig-tree and the new faith derived from the Kittim. One never knows.)

Spy Paul would have pretended to have his vision on the road to Damascus merely to infiltrate in the sect that still followed a deceased Jesus, which would be Torah-abiding Jews, linked to the sicarii. Paul would have derived the resurrection from a cult about Herakleitos from the area around his native Tarsus. Google doesn’t give me a quick source for such a cult. Currently I have conflicting information.

(1) Hippolytus claims to quote Heraclitus on resurrection.
“No one working on Hellenistic philosophy would rely on Hippolytus’s accounts to suggest that Stoics or Heraclitus believed in bodily resurrection.”
(Jonathan Klawans, Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism, p 227-228)
(3) Henri van Praag has argued that Zeno of Citium (334-262 BC) who started the Stoa actually had roots in Judaism (Dutch reference in SMOJ).

And what was the order of the events ? Roger Parvus has recently argued rather persuasively that Saul / Paul was first a member of the nazoraios sect but later became an apostate. To hide this, the Acts would have reversed the events.

That there were spies must be correct, but I am skeptic whether Paul operated like some 007. The theology is too complex. But perhaps Verkuilen’s analysis has evolved from 2002 to his book of 2008.

“Saul of Tarsus is one of the best known and most beloved figures of Christianity. This man, later known as St. Paul, set the tone for Christianity, including an emphasis on celibacy, the theory of divine grace and salvation, and the elimination of circumcision. It was Paul who wrote a large part of the New Testament, and who called it euangelion, “the gospel”. There is another side of Paul, however, that has been little studied and that is his connection to the Roman military establishment and its intelligence arm. While other scholars and writers have suggested the idea that Paul was cooperating with the Romans, this is the first book-length study to document it in detail. By looking at the traditional story through a new lens, some of the thorniest questions and contradictions in Paul’s life can be unravelled. How did he come to work for the Temple authorities who collaborated with the Romans? How was he able to escape from legal situations in which others would have been killed? Why were so many Jews trying to have Paul killed and to which sect did they belong? These and other mysteries will be solved as the authors follow Paul’s career and his connections to Roman intelligence.” (Verkuilen and Sheldon, Amazon, book cover)

Voskuilen & Sheldon 2008

Voskuilen & Sheldon 2008

Earlier, Richard Carrier argued against Joseph Atwill that the Romans would not create a plot like Atwill proposed, but now the story would be that they allowed Paul to do so. See my first reaction to Carrier’s OHJ.

Voskuilen’s macabre parallel – Matthew’s inversion of reason

Whatever Voskuilen’s theory on the spy business, the following holds independently.

Biblical scholars reading the Gospels have come up with the hypothesis that they may be directed to particular audiences. Mark to the Romans, Matthew to the Jews, Luke to the Gentiles in general.

Voskuilen wondered in 2002 whether Matthew knew what he was doing.  Would Matthew’s story really induce Jews to forgive and love the Romans ? He gives the following parallel, that he himself rightly calls macabre (Dutch, De Groene 2002).

Matthew wishing to convert Jews Voskuilen’s macabre parallel
Romans occupy Israel and Judea Germans occupy Israel and Judea
Romans crucify their messiah king Germans gas their messiah king
Jews should pay taxes to the Romans Jews should pay taxes to the Germans
Jews should turn the other cheek to the Romans Jews should turn the other cheek to the Gestapo
The messiah king is not political but spiritual The messiah king is not political but spiritual
Yahweh wants the Romans to rule Jerusalem Yahweh wants the Germans to rule Jerusalem
The messiah king is worshiped in Rome as a state religion. The Vatican is in Rome The messiah king is worshiped in Berlin as a state religion. The Vatican is in Berlin
Churches show the crucified messiah king Churches show the gassing messiah king

Matthew must be off this world to think that he can convert people in this manner.

  • The Talmud calls Christianity by the name of the Notzrim. We saw before, thanks to Yirmeyahu, what this word means to them: guardians, who keep us captive. (He also claims that nazoraios would be wrong Greek translation.)
  • Matthew indeed depicts Jesus as descendant from David and more observing of the Torah laws – while Acts and Luke with the Pauline interpretation abolish circumcision and such. Matthew thus puts some sugar on the macabre situation. His Torah-observant readership is supposed to be so dumb not to see the horror below the sugar.
  • The theological model is that the crucifixion is required by God indeed. Thus Judas and the Romans are only executing God’s will – so don’t blame them.
  • The theological model of the Ascension of Isaiah makes some sense in translating Winter Solstice when the forces of darkness are celestial, since the hero of the story is this too. However, when the hero is put into the flesh, then also the forces of darkness much be put into the flesh. To depict the Romans as devils in the flesh is rather inconsistent w.r.t. the message of love. It seems that Matthew did not quite think through all consequences of the flesh idea.
  • Alternatively, Matthew was aware of the latter consequence, and then this Gospel exists for the Romans, to provide the rationale: The Jews have no excuse for not joining up, for let them read Matthew to see his example. This pushes a religion down someone’s throat.
  • Do you wish to be with the Germans, in this situation ?

Addendum 2015-02-24: Earlier we found that the Epistle to the Hebrews gave the remarkable logical argument that it is the Tanakh itself that argues that the priesthood in Jerusalem loses power. Later, we discovered the same argument made in this document at Crandall. Thus, the Voskuilen macabre parallel would not be so macabre if the Hebrew readership would only consider this logical argument. But the logic presumes some premisses, like (Paul’s faith) that Jesus indeed had been the Davidic messiah sacrifice. Jewish readers might dismiss that as part of the propaganda too.

In the upcoming 2015 book by Joan Taylor on the Life of Brian, Steve Mason has an article ‘What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?’ Brian and Josephus on Anti-Roman Sentiment. Its summary suggests that there were rather peaceful times in say 20-50 AD, and that Voskuilen’s macabre parallel is acutely relevant if Matthew was written after 70 AD when Jerusalem and Temple were destroyed. It is not clear to me what Mason actually thinks about the time shift hypothesis.

“Like Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur a century earlier, Monty Python’s Life of Brian assumes the same gathering-storm or cork-popping picture of Judaean-Roman relations that has undergirded most published research on pre-70 Judaea. Some recent scholarship has challenged that model by exposing the lack of evidence for an anti-Roman animus that could explain the outbreak of war and highlighting instead the unique conditions that generated revolt in 66. In this paper I re-examine Judaean-Roman relations in the decades before the war. Like many other well known conflicts, I argue, the war in Judaea began from local causes. From a realist perspective, Jerusalem was uniquely privileged as the regional hegemon in southern Syria; Roman legates were particularly solicitous of its elite. Judaeans were concerned chiefly with hostile neighbours, from whom Rome’s interests protected them — until the train wreck of Nero’s later years.” (Steve Mason, Aberdeen) (After the fire in Rome in 66 AD, Nero raised taxes for a rebuild.)

Academics for comedy and against the fringe

Monty Python’s film Life of Brian has a surprising role in this part of this discussion. Academics apparently love this comedy but they dislike the fringe that should cause amazement too.

Consider last year’s academic conference and upcoming book on Brian: conference videos, and my earlier comment. Some hold that the comedy might actually be historically quite accurate, but it assumes a historical Jesus and events around 30 AD, rather than a myth combined with events around 70 AD. The comedy inspired some historical research though. The key problem for non-academic fringe authors might only be to get their ideas filmed, so that academics have a hook to fish for a wider audience for their own confusions.

“Ever since Philip Davies first wrote on the film 15 years ago, other scholars too have turned their gaze to consider exactly what Life of Brian does in regard to Jesus scholarship, and have increasingly delved into its curious corners to reflect on what it says both about the tumultuous times of Jesus and also contemporary scholarly discussions.  Biblical scholarship has moved on greatly in the past 25 years, and various aspects of Life of Brian correlate with themes now intensely explored. Every Bible scholar knows what ‘blessed are the cheese-makers’ means among us!” (Bart Ehrman, weblog 2014, quoting from the conference, and not writing this himself) (See below for the cheesemakers.)

This brings us to the fringe. My intention is to amply refer to their work so that you can see the usefulness. This also explains why this current text is a bit long. Now the fringe can be read in context. If I would deal with the fringe separately then prim readers would quickly neglect the argumentation.

In the proper scheme of the world, the fringe would also participate in the educational project.

Below I will look at some contributions from Stephan Huller, René Salm and Ralph Ellis. I invite them not to hold it against me that I put them at the fringe for now. I am no historian and in that respect not qualified to judge. While their books are neglected or looked down upon by some, or even many, they can at times more or less make as much sense as those from the academia. (This is a carefully crafted statement that can go two ways.)

Earlier Richard Carrier lashed out at Joseph Atwill, but in the above we saw the Operation Messiah book, that shows that there are some reasons to think into that direction. In my first reaction on Carrier’s OHJ I already included a plea for moderation. Subsequently I saw that Aaron Adair lashed out at Ralph Ellis. Moderation again had been wiser, see below.

Since literary analysis is important, it stands to reason that the input from creative writers from the non-academic fringe could be important. Their state of creative mind may be closer to the writers of the New Testament than the state of literally focused mind of academics who need to write another paper for a peer reviewed journal. Let us now look at literary analysis.

Thomas Brodie’s literary analysis: Jesus ~ Yahweh and Paul ~ Moses

Thomas Brodie relied on literary analysis and suggests the following as the true story on the origin of Christianity. Observe that I did not read his book, and refer to a review by non-academic author René Salm.

“the figure of Paul joined the ranks of so many other figures from the older part of the Bible, figure who, despite the historical details surrounding them, were literary, figures of the imagination” (146).(Thomas Brodie, quoted by René Salm, part 2)

“Along with many others, I have begun to show the increasing evidence that the New Testament portrayal of Paul is modeled significantly on the Old Testament picture of Moses, and that the portrayal of Jesus is largely a synthesis of the Old Testament account of God and of all that God does, often through people. [183]

So the starting point for the history of Christianity is as follows. The story/narrative and institutions of Christianity are an adaptation of the story and institutions of Judaism. But the leading figures in the story, Jesus and Paul, were not the originators either of the story or institutions. Rather, the account of them is modeled on the old story in such a way—complete, complex, detailed, artistic—that they emerge as scriptural figures formed by others. [184]” (Thomas Brodie, quoted by René Salm, part 2)

Saul of Tarsus is a basket case

I was rather shocked when I read the following lines. Why does this midrash not belong to the standard explanations about Paul ? And observe that I refer to fringe author Ralph Ellis.

“The gospels say that Saul was born in Tarsus, but this may only be a reference of his being lowered down the walls of ‘Damascus’ in a basket – for tarsus (ταρσός) means ‘basket’. This is also a convenient biblical description, for Moses too was ‘born in a basket’.” (Ralph Ellis, King Jesus, p82)

(Here Ellis creatively turns it directly into a metaphor ‘born in a basket’. Moses was not born in a basket but merely put into a basket and set floating in the Nile. If he got a bit wet – perhaps also as babies do by themselves – then this might indeed be seen as rebirth via baptism. I don’t know how important baptism was in Egypt. Perhaps Judaism replaced Egyptian baptism by circumcision – baptism by blood since there is little water in the desert so far from the Nile. It might also be a rationale for a more ancient custom, and it is a method for group control.)

To check this, consider Liddell-Scott-Jones. (I sold my copy in highschool but fortunately there is internet.) We again see the wicker-basket, like we saw before that the offshoots in nezer were used to make wicker-baskets. Such weaving is like writing texts, too, of course. Thus we also have a midrash on teachers. But, suddenly, we also see John Cleese and Terry Jones jumping onto the scene with their cheesemakers.

ταρσ-ός, Att. ταρρός, : also with heterocl. pl. ταρσά, τά, Opp. C.3.470, Anacreont.9, APl.4.283 (Leont.), Nonn.D.1.270, al.: (τέρσομαι) :—frame of wicker-work, crate, flat basket, for drying cheeses on, ταρσοὶ μὲν τυρῶν βρῖθον Od.9.219, cf.Theoc.11.37: generally, basket, Ar.Nu.226.” (TLG Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon, entries 105393-5)

The Life of Brian statement “Blessed are the cheesemakers” must be chance or destiny, but not deliberately related to this link to Tarsus. The statement is quoted above by Ehrman from the London conference, but it is not explained why the statement is so well-known in the circles of Biblical research. See Gary Goldberg at for a discussion.

  1. Historical Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
  2. A first listener hears “Blessed are the cheesemakers”.
  3. Mrs. Gregory asks, like a student: “Ahh, what’s so special about the cheesemakers ?”
  4. Gregory, like a professor: “Well, obviously, this is not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.”
  5. It shows how noise may turn into so-called wise views in peer reviewed publications.
  6. This likely is how the scene is appreciated in circles of research on Jesus.
  7. The link of Saul of Tarsus with a basket useful for cheesemaking surfaces just now for me. Ellis already gave the link to basket, but cheesemaking surfaces only for me by my check on LSJ. Gary Goldberg doesn’t mention the association. A Google didn’t show it yet either. It would seem to be unlikely that Biblical scholars already linked the Monty Python scene to an implicit relation of Jesus to Saul of Tarsus (the man of the cheesemaking basket) – with an implicit suggestion that Jesus blessed Paul’s change of final Christianity.
  8. I just mention this rather weird bit of chance, or destiny, for otherwise new stories would evolve.

Finally, there is Saul’s association with Moses. The statement that Saul would come from Tarsus is now less likely as a piece of history. Tarsus is rather a midrash on both his future Greek name and the rebirth like Jonah from the Whale or as Moses in his basket.

“9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. (…) 22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. 23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: 24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. 25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. 26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” (KJV, Acts 9) (CEV is not much different)

In this passage, Damascus would stand for Qumran, or metaphorically for the teachings of the nazoraios (if he is located there). Saul is sent into the world as a Moses to preach the gospel. What more clues might we derive from these words ? Saul indeed seems to have an adventure like 007, but the NT is a complex midrash and no simple detective story. Who is Barnabas ? He hasn’t been decoded yet. When Barnabas knew about the vision and events in “Damascus”, then it is likely that he already was a companion. What about these terms: “disciples” (students, taliban), “night” (forces of darkness) and “wall” (fortress, tower) ? To make it historical: perhaps Qumran had a defence-tower without a gate, so that people used such a basket ? A question for archeology.

Nazoraios ~ crown of the high priest

Earlier I discovered that the Hebrew root nzr might also refer to the crown of the high priest. In terms of discovery this is modest. I meant to say: that this is not mentioned in the standard texts which translate nazoraios as the equally unexplained nazarene, or link in wrong manner to Nazareth instead. This other root nzr is mentioned in other books, that you have to look for however.

To my great surprise I saw this translation with crown also mentioned in Ellis’s King Jesus. Two points however: (1) While nzr as a noun refers to that priestly crown, it is not clear yet how we get to the adjective, and then the Greek translation nazoraios. (2) In Ellis’s book Jesus might be both king and priest, for real. Ellis does not link to Richard Carrier’s use of the Ascension of Isaiah for the mythical Jesus as a celestial high priest. Either might be true. It seems likelier that Jesus is a myth but there may also have been persons whose biographies have been abused to put on some flesh. (And we should beware of doing the same.)

What if Qumran was a boarding school with also a military section ?

To my other surprise, Ralph Ellis provides the hypothesis that Qumran was a boarding school with teachers comparable to the Knights Templar. Ellis provides some arguments: (1) smaller benches, (2) spelling errors in DSS, (3) smart distance from Jerusalem. I may add: the “baths” might actually be places to make paper (I read somewhere). Supposedly the Order has some secret teachings but these need not be gnostic. To join the Order one gives up all worldly possessions to the Order. The story about the rich young man and the camel is not an argument against richness but a plea to join the Order. Having a taliban mixture of a boarding school and a military branch would solve a major question about the link between the “Blessed are the peaceful” and the “I come with a sword”.

This suffices for now, and let us return to Thomas Brodie en literary analysis.

Literary analysis can give remarkable results

Literary analysis has been a major method in Biblical analysis for ages. Rene Salm has a timeline of authors who questioned the historical Jesus, starting with Spinoza. (On a tangent, see my comments on both the Crazy Centuries and the Dutch Spinoza Price.)

Dennis Macdonald (2000), Robert M. Price (2011) and Dominican friar Thomas Brodie (2012) got some amazing results. See an overview page at vridar on Brodie. I have read none of these books but am orienting myself via the reviews.

Macdonald 2000, Price 2011, Brodie 2012

Macdonald 2000, Price 2011, Brodie 2012, images not in proportional size

MacDonald is known for his controversial theories wherein the Homeric Epics are the foundation of various Christian works including the Gospel of Mark and the Acts of the Apostles. The methodology he pioneered is called Mimesis Criticism. If his theories are correct, and the earliest books of the New Testament were responses to the Homeric Epics, then “nearly everything written on [the] early Christian narrative is flawed.” According to him, modern biblical scholarship has failed to recognize the impact of Homeric Poetry.” (wikipedia)

See this review of Macdonald by Richard Carrier (with no date).

If I am right that the New Testament is based upon astrology and the zodiac, then the analysis that it is also based upon Homer causes that also Homer would be based upon astrology and the zodiac. And this might then also hold for Gilgamesh. This is a question for scholars of these texts.

The use of Homer and Plato may actually hold for Septuagint (LXX) as well. The Hebrew version of the OT may be derivative. When the NT is based upon LXX, then the influence of Greek thought arrives in two ways, both from 300 BC and 70 AD. (Ref 1 and Ref 2, clue “rabbits”.)

The cover text of Price (2011): “The Christ-Myth theory … “Worse Than Atheism”? New Testament scholar Robert M. Price, one of America’s leading authorities on the Bible, has assembled in his book evidence that shows that almost the entire “biography of Jesus” is a conscious reworking of earlier literature.It is one thing to say “There are no gods” or “Jesus was not a god, just a man.” It is quite another thing to say “Jesus of Nazareth never existed at all” or that “Christ is a myth.” But scholars have been saying exactly that since at least 1793 when the Enlightenment scholar Charles Dupuis began to publish his 13-volume Origine de Tous les Cultes, ou Religion Universelle, which elucidated the astral origins not only of Christianity but of other ancient religions as well. New Testament scholar Robert M. Price, one of America’s leading authorities on the Bible, here summarizes much of the scholarship that has led him and a growing number of modern scholars to conclude that Christ — a partial synonym for Jesus of Nazareth — is mythical. Most usefully, Price has assembled evidence that shows that almost the entire “biography of Jesus” has been created from Greek Old Testament stories and themes and even incorporates motifs from Homer, Euripides, and perhaps Aesop. Because readers will have a hard time “taking it on faith” that the Jesus biography is merely a reworking of previous material, broad swaths of “Old Testament” context are quoted in association with each New Testament equivalent, so readers can judge for themselves whether or not Dr. Price’s claim be true: the “Live of Christ” was not fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies; it was, rather, a conscious reworking of earlier literature.”

Thomas Brodie: “Christianity, insofar as it was a new religion, was founded by a school of writers, or more likely, by a religious community many of whose members were writers.” (185). (quoted by René Salm, part 3)

“The New Testament authors did not just lie back and, in a process of hearing or re-reading, simply let the Old Testament flow over them. Far more than readers, they are writers, holding sensitive instruments in their hands. They bring to the older text the full apparatus of their sophisticated wide-awake craft, and they generally bring that craft not to isolated quotes but to the texts in their entirety. They are proactive. Some texts they swallow whole, almost; other they distil; or reverse; or adapt in ways that are strange—so that the old cloth becomes a new thread. And having thus produced something new—the new thread—the active writer does not cease. In a highly complex process, the thread is interwoven with other threads to produce a new text, literally a new *textus*, ‘woven’ (Latin *textere*, ‘to weave’), and the pattern of the weaving can open up a new country. So when the twenty-seven countries are placed together—the twenty-seven books of the New Testament—a whole new continent lies open.” (134) (Thomas Brodie, quoted by René Salm, part 3)

Two mythicist critics of Brodie

Salm disagrees with Brodie on this point:

“many of the pseudo-gnostic logia and parables in Christian literature have no such [literary] antecedents, and yet they form an integral part of the teaching of “Jesus”—perhaps even the heart of his teaching.”
However, while we have no such antecedents, they may still have existed in some form before. PM. Elsewhere, in Salm’s text on (early gnosticism) that I consider quite relevant, Salm refers to e.g. the Ascension of Isaiah, that is crucial for Richard Carrier – but that I think might also be replaced by the Epistle to the Hebrews, that is part of the canon.

Salm 2008

Salm 2008, archeology only

Richard Carrier (2012) has this short review of Brodie. Some of his points are:

  1. “Others will complain of his theology, as he attempts to argue in Beyond that he can still be a good Catholic (and a member of the church hierarchy) even if he believes there was no historical Jesus. His attempt to make sense of that is nonsense, IMO (..)”.
    This fits the earlier discussion that the Christian Church adopted a Jesus in the flesh and rejected gnosticism as a heresy. Only flesh would generate the suffering that theology required for the release from Original Sin, in order to take away the power of the priests of Jerusalem. See this analysis.
  2. “The non sequitur is common among myth proponents: the Gospels are obvious contrived myths, therefore Jesus didn’t exist. The premise is true (many have well proved it already, but I will marshal the best evidence in my book on this next year). But the conclusion does not follow.
    Agreed. Suppose that archeologists find a grave of a male with carbon dating around 30 AD, with an inscription something like “Here lies Jesus, deceased as INRI in 30 AD”, or phrased in terms which would fit for the period. The grave would date from before the period that the Gospels were written so that there is no interpolation. I would tend to regard this as proof that such a Jesus existed, even though it is possible that INRI would stand for something quite different. Thus, deductions on the NT, Josephus and DSS do not generate certainty. Results may be more probable given the evidence, but not certain.
  3. This quote must be longer: “Meanwhile, the false premise has to do with his treatment of the Pauline epistles. Really the only evidence for historicity there is is a scant few obscure passages in the Pauline epistles (e.g. references to “brothers of the Lord”), so they are really the most important evidence to deal with, and he deals with them almost not at all. In fact, his answer to them is to declare them all forgeries, and Paul himself a fiction. Brodie makes no clear case for this conclusion, and what arguments he does have are fallacious (e.g. the letters have certain features that forged letters sometimes share–except, so do authentic letters), and the position as a whole is too radical to be useful. Not that it hasn’t had serious defenders before this. But it constitutes a whole additional fringe thesis one must defend successfully first, before one can use it as a premise in an argument for the ahistoricity of Jesus. And I am skeptical that that can really be done (see my comments here and here). Certainly none of his arguments in Beyond are convincing on this subject.”
    This is partly incorrect. I haven’t read Brodie so I cannot check the assessment. I only look at the logic of the argument here. Simply assuming that Paul doesn’t exist is too simple of course, and I presume that it merely wasn’t the first priority of Brodie. It might be a good strategy to show that Paul doesn’t exist, for that would make it rather easy to prove that Jesus doesn’t exist either. (Some Epistles and Acts would disappear, and Luke as the Author of the Acts would be unreliable. Matthew has been shown absurd via the Voskuilen macabre parallel. Mark by itself is rather thin evidence for a religion, especially for an established Church based upon Paul who doesn’t exist.) However it apparently is more conventional to first get some clarity on the non-existence of Jesus and then work from there to Paul. But observe that Carrier in OHJ doesn’t present a theory about Paul. Carrier’s Paul would still be the Paul of the NT that he determines as unlikely. Something is fishy here. Which explains why my recent texts have looked at Paul. (But Carrier might agree that Paul is a Roman spy, and apologise to Atwill w.r.t. the deliberate meddling by the Romans.)
  4. “In fact, Brodie presents absolutely no theory of Christian origins at all. And that is perhaps this book’s most decisive failing. You simply cannot argue successfully for ahistoricity without testing a theory of Christian origins without Jesus against the best (i.e. most defensible and least speculative) theory of Christian origins with Jesus.”
    (1) This is not quite true. Brodie presents the origin: in literary creation. Surely, this explanation requires more flesh onto it: who did so, and why ? But the core has been given. (2) Indeed, giving a scenario that works is a difficult but rather fair criterion. Destruction of theories by other people is possible but you need alternative scenario’s. This is one of the reasons why the world should be so happy with authors who are now pushed to the fringe. This is also a reason why it isn’t too bad when traditional academics come up with different Jesuses, except that the requirements for their methodology are higher, for the very fact that they are academic researchers and have signed up to the creed of scientific integrity.
Carrier 2014

Carrier 2014

Praise and defence for Thomas Brodie

Wikipedia reports:

“(…) the committee advised that they judged Beyond the Quest to be ‘imprudent and dangerous’ (a phrase from the Order’s own legislation). Accepting this assessment, the Provincial continued the sanctions on Tom Brodie – that he withdraw fully from ministry and from all forms of teaching, writing, or making public statements.(…)

In July 2013, the theology magazine, Doctrine & Life, from Dominican Publications, published assessments of Tom Brodie’s book, from the pens of four internationally recognised scholars – biblical specialists Seán Freyne, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor and Gerard Norton, and theologian Fergus Kerr. (…)

On 29 August 2013, the Master, Fr Bruno Cadoré, appointed a committee to examine the book and report to him. This committee, made up of three professors from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, had the Master’s Assistant for the Intellectual Life, Fr Michael Mascari, as non-voting chairman.(…)

Following this meeting the committee formally advised the Master that the publication was ‘imprudent and dangerous’, the standard set out in the legislation of the Order, and recommended that the sanctions imposed on Thomas Brodie by the Province of Ireland were appropriate. In a letter dated 3 March 2014, Fr Bruno Cadoré concurred with the judgement of the committee and instructed that the sanctions already in place be maintained. Despite the restrictions placed on him, Tom Brodie remains a brother of the Irish Province, and the Province continues to care for him and provide for him. From the point of view of the Order, the matter is closed.” (Wikipedia on Brodie)

To his defence, I would say:

  • Brodie comes across like a subtler and stronger scholar for the literary approach than Carrier appears to value.
  • Studying the relation between the OT and NT is eminently sensible (see here).
  • Doing it with much error is inadvisable, see the example of Maurice Casey.
  • A main proposition is that a believer has nothing to fear and only to gain from new knowledge.
  • We should honour inspiring insights even though those may need time to test.
  • My impression is that Brodie deserves some grace since it is a pity to hear that he apparently didn’t feel free enough to speak his mind earlier.
  • My advice is that he receives assistance in getting a number of articles accepted in the journals.
  • Roman Catholic dogma is that Jesus is both God and man. When Brodie has come to see that Jesus did not exist as a historical man, then he runs against that dogma, even while he still has a docetic (not gnostic) view. (It would be Arianism that Jesus would only be man.) The purpose of the dogma was, as analysed here, to take away the theological supremacy of the priesthood from Jerusalem. If Brodie would agree with the latter (based upon acceptable divine revelation), then there might be an argument that the existence of Jesus in the flesh would not matter.
  • Religions need to treat their apostates better.  If there is purgatory in heaven, let there be one on earth. To evict Brodie from the Church without further pension or impose a ban of public silence are medieval methods. Those might be current Church Law but then need revision.

We have seen some surprising connections. Some more connections are put into appendices.

  1. Speaking about bedrock certainties causes an association with Simon Peter (rock or stone?). This appears to be a fruitful association, and Stephan Huller provides useful insights.
  2. We have benefitted from Rene Salm’s discussion of Brodie. But there are other aspects, such as on archeology, research ethics, and some items of critique.
  3. We saw some good points by Ralph Ellis. But he received severe but also over the top criticism by Aaron Adair. The praise and defence of Ellis has a different character than this for Brodie. It is important, but this text is already too long, and thus it is put in another appendix.

We have indicated some bedrock certainties for the development of an educational programme on Jesus. We also indicated the methodology of mainly using logic and literary analysis. Of course probability theory and other methods are interesting or on occasion relevant. But one cannot do everything at the same time, and it helps to have some priorities. Of course, I still need to make up my mind on Carrier’s suggestion to put more emphasis on probabilistic reasoning.

Application of logic and literary analysis already had some results. I will try to summarise these in a sequel.


Appendix 1. A big rock in Jerusalem and a small rock (stone) in Gerizim

The suggestion to look for bedrock certainties invites a short story on rocks.

Jerusalem has a big rock (Yahweh) and Gerizim has a small rock (Melchizedek ?) – perhaps rather a mere stone. The New Testament (NT) speaks about a stumbling block (sin) but perhaps of wood and not stone.

Stephan Huller suggests that Simon Peter / Petros (Greek) / Cephas (Aramaic) translates as stone rather than rock, with also a midrash onto kipha ~ to deny, which reminds of Simon Peter’s triple denial of knowing the captive Christ before the cok crows (three days before Jesus resurrects). Huller wonders also about another interpretation, see this discussion by Steve Caruso who investigates Galilean Aramaic for a profession.

Wikipedia legend: "Samaritans pray before the Holy Rock on Mount Gerizim" (Source: Wikimedia commons)

Wikipedia legend: “Samaritans pray before the Holy Rock on Mount Gerizim” (Source: Wikimedia commons)

There are the Dositheans, perhaps given in Josephus and/or the Bible as Theudas ~ Thaddaeus:

“Dositheos (occasionally also known as Nathanael, both meaning “gift of God”) was a Samaritan religious leader, founder of a Samaritan sect, often assumed to be a gnostic. He is reputed to have known John the Baptist, and been the teacher of Simon Magus. He therefore counts as one of the supposed founders of Mandaeanism.” (Wikipedia)

Remember the Babylonian occupation before Alexander, and link this up to Huller’s question why Gerizim gets such attention while it is a rather small hill.

“We began with an understanding that a Samaritan sect identified themselves with the Persian word ‘friends’ or dustan. (..)

It has long puzzled me how the Samaritans (and the Jews to a lesser extent) could have believed that mount Gerizim was a gateway to heaven given the fact that it doesn’t at all resemble an impressive mountain.  It is rather better described as a hill.  The idea that a ladder extended up to heaven from this point is explained by the Samaritans themselves by claiming that the top of Gerizim disappeared and went up to heaven!  This seems to imply that the religion adopted beliefs from somewhere else and adapted it to their rather unimpressive mound.

It would seem the Persian religion is the original source for this idea and specifically a mountain range that exists in north Iran on its border with the Caspian Sea.  It is here for instance that Arda Viraf is said to have ascended up to Garothmana [highest of three heavens] by means of a high mountain (… with a quote also about some Armageddon at the end of the world ….)” (Huller, June 6 2014)

Huller mentions the importance of astrology for current Samaritans, but also emphasizes the strict logic in their original beliefs, and perhaps these can be combined:

“I mean, there is a beauty about Judaism and Samaritanism that you never get with Christianity. It’s logical and rational. It’s like mathematics (albeit simple mathematics you might teach in kindergarten). The Samaritans fixate on two things – Moses and Mount Gerizim. The ‘one who is to come’ is going to be intimately connected with BOTH of these concepts or the Samaritans are going to exit the room as fast as a fat lady crossing the street for free ice cream samples.” (Stephan Huller, June 2 2010) (This reminds of the transfiguration with Moses and Elija but no David. Jesus’s clothes were white afterwards, like with the Samaritans, but wikipedia’s article on the mount (today) doesn’t mention Gerizim as a likely location.)

Huller distinguishes between Jesus and Christ. “Jesus wasn’t a Jewish messiah. All the stuff that we have learned to accept from Irenaeus of Rome has nothing to do with the original expectation of Christianity which would have developed naturally from Jewish sources. Jesus might have been representative of anointed high priest or a prophet but not THE messiah. How do I know this? Because unlike Christianity the Jewish religion develops as a kind of a kindergarten mathematical equation. It’s all laid out and it has been all laid out for thousands of years.” (Huller, idem) (Translate this as: See the Jewish criteria for THE messiah, bringing the rule of the Torah for all. Jesus would be a Jew, but not the messiah according to Judaic criteria. Judaism is logical in this, Christianity not. However, we saw that the Torah is inconsistent on Original Sin and Gnosticism. See also for the Epistle of the Hebrews how Jesus provides the argument that the Torah itself implies its abolition.)

Huller 2011

Huller 2011

Appendix 2. More on René Salm
Archeology and René Salm

Above I referred to archeology. We already rejected on linguistic grounds that nazoraios refers to Nazareth. Still, Nazareth might make for fuddled science, apart from the other integrity in archeology.

The bone of contention is that Nazareth may not have a community around 30 AD but became a community only after 70 AD, starting with fugitives from destroyed Jerusalem. Thus it would be historical nonsense that the Gospels allocate Jesus to Nazareth. SMOJ has a longer discussion on this. The Gospel writers after 70 AD might simply not be aware about the situation around 30 AD. It doesn’t seem to matter, given the other nonsense in the Gospels, but for archeologists it is their turf, and Rene Salm happens to find it quite interesting.

I refer to Salm’s website, who is no archeologist but reviews their work. Robert M. Price has this review of Salm’s 2008 book on the archeology of Nazareth. “And yet it is the entire absence of archaeological evidence that has wrought great devastation to the credibility of the Bible (not to mention the Koran!).” But Price is no archeologist either.

Neither is Skippy the Skeptic, who invoked Hell in order to discover who Salm is. Skippy’s readership – though hopefully not from Hell – recovered a review by professor Ken Dark of Reading (UK) who denounced Salm’s discussion of the reported archeological findings.

“To conclude: despite initial appearances, this is not a well-informed study and ignores much evidence and important published work of direct relevance. The basic premise is faulty, and Salm’s reasoning is often weak and shaped by his preconceptions. Overall, his central argument is archaeologically unsupportable.” (Ken Dark on Rene Salm’s book on the reported Archeological findings on Nazareth, quoted by “Joshua” 2009 on Skippy’s website)

A new round is Salm’s long 2013 article that debunks Ken Dark’s claimed expertise on Palestina of that period. Salm announces a sequel on his earlier book, to appear in Spring 2015.

“Dark also makes serious errors of a rudimentary nature, errors which reveal him to be embarrassingly unfamiliar with the subfield of Palestinian archaeology. Those errors, unfortunately, nullify his major conclusions regarding the Sisters of Nazareth convent site. They include false datings for kokh-type tombs in the Galilee, as well as the direct application of Judean chronologies to Galilean evidence, resulting in a chronology for Nazareth which is approximately two centuries too early.” (Salm on Dark, 2013, p2)

Readers like me, who know nothing about these matters, can only hope that other archeologists can confirm that Salm gives a correct report about their work. Professor Ken Dark will of course have a hard time doing so. While the Dominican Order has asked fr. Thomas Brodie to maintain public silence, the University of Reading should rather not do so for Ken Dark, since he has academic freedom & the obligation to explain his justifications and possible errors. L’enfer, ce sont les autres.

See also on archeology and Salm, 2012.

Salm on human folly

It seems fair to quote Salm, albeit a bit lengthy, on the need for scientific integrity at the academia, and for Biblical Studies in particular. His comparison of gradeschoolers is not intended as a put-down, but as a serious diagnosis of a state of mind, also called cognitive dissonance.

“In his book The End of Biblical Studies (2007) Hector Avalos writes that “attending a session of an annual meeting [of the SBL] is a study in irrelevance” (p. 308). It’s probably one of the milder statements in the book. In fact, scholars have only themselves to blame. For decades now they’ve not only busied themselves with minutiae in which no one else is interested but have (more egregiously) confined their vision to the safe parameters of Sunday School and synagogue—which is, after all, the historical vision of your average gradeschooler. I submit that this linkage between scholars and gradeschoolers should be kept in mind for, despite their demonstrated erudition, biblical scholars are amazingly timid when it comes to challenging the cultural delusions that presently pass for religious history. Biblical scholars examine minutiae with care but steadfastly refuse to connect the dots. It’s a curious situation, a little like going to the store and paying the money but not bringing home the bacon. Well, we all know the reason: aligning themselves with popular opinion and institutional power, scholars continue to steadfastly refuse to seriously consider anything which might shake the tent of tradition. I mean, their jobs are at stake.

Over half the U.S. teaching posts in biblical studies are in confessional institutions of higher learning (Avalos:316). Since there are not many teaching posts to begin with, that leaves very few positions where any serious consideration of non-traditional views could be expected. But, of course, even in public institutions there is enormous pressure to toe the traditional line and not to make waves, if only because tenure for religious studies professors in public institutions is declining precipitously and part-time employment is greatly increasing. I commiserate. Biblical Studies profs have families to feed, papers to grade, and all those minutiae to examine—besides vacations in Disneyland to plan and the unceasing pressure of publishing. Life is tough—except perhaps during the summer, and when on sabbatical in Oxford, and when attending all those conferences paid for by the boss…

Where does that leave an idea like “Jesus didn’t exist”? Mercy! Is there any idea better calculated to get religious studies professors running for the exits? With Jews the situation is similar—simply substitute “David” for “Jesus” in the above question and watch the room empty of academics.

(..) “Faith-inspired research” is an oxymoron. What passes for religious research in confessional settings across the U.S. is not research but apologetics. Biblical studies in the U.S. have historically not been “research” so much as a defense of the tradition against the continuing progress of science. At heart, biblical studies as currently conducted are not science but obstructionism. They are a quest for legitimacy. In sum, the intermingling of Christian (and Jewish) faith-based perspectives within the field of religious studies is a powerful reason why, year after year, those studies don’t “get anywhere” despite the frenetic activity of thousands of scholars. Individuals, however, are only partially to blame. As mentioned above, the hands of scholars are quite tied by what they are permitted to “find” and what is “forbidden.” Hence the “intellectual blockade” noted above.” (Rene Salm, website statement 2012)

Some points of critique

There are some points or critique w.r.t. Salm’s analyses, but these points should not distract from the overall relevance.

(1) Check this discussion of Jesus and his potential Samaritan homeland – that would imply that it are interpolations that Jesus would belong to Galilee or Judea. I would rather see a stricter separation between the myth and the cults and their leaders, and critiques by academics.

(2) Discussing nazoraios as “guardian”, and comparing with Buddhism, Salm states: “Over and over, in various ways, Jesus teaches the Golden Rule: as you do to others, so it will be done to you (Mt 7:12)”. However: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is something what a lawmaker might impose externally, while it is a psychological inversion to arrive at the internal moral rule: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18, cited in the Golden Rule lemma in wikipedia).

(3) Thus, given Leviticus, the difference between the OT and NT is not as large as sometimes suggested. The main difference lies in the objective of the Christian Church to take away the power from the priesthood in Jerusalem.

See Salm’s other website for other work by him, and here on the distinction between OT and “offshoot” NT.

(4) While Jew (Judah) and Hebrew (other tribes) crucially differ for the political rule by the king from David and the priest from Zadok, Salm is at risk of confusion: “Yet, I would venture a working definition: “A Jew is someone of Hebrew stock for whom the Torah is the revealed word of God, and for whom the Hebrews are Yahweh’s ‘chosen people.’” This definition is broad enough to encompass heterodox and orthodox Judaisms—it even includes the Samaritans with their unique Pentateuch.”

(5) With the following quote I would tend to agree. Earlier, we diagnosed that the Torah is inconsistent. It is such a big book, how can it not be ? However, it contains gnosticism while this is denied by its usual teachers. Salm uses the word “dilemma”. However, a dilemma is only such, when it is explicitly presented as such. Otherwise it is a plain (hidden) inconsistency. Writers of religious texts gloss over these problems, with the strategy to lure you along.

“A good case can also be made that the prophet was a gnostic. The Jesus of the gospels taught “secret meaning” (Th 1; Mk 4:11; Mt 13:35), a secret Father (Mt 6:6), and a kingdom which is “not of this world” (Jn 18:36)… Now, gnosticism has always been outside the pale of Judaism. In rabbinic eyes the gnostic is arrogant, while in Jewish scripture we often read how he who relies on his own intellect and effort unaided by Yahweh is deluded. At the same time, Judaism values wisdom and the search for understanding. Hence, a great dilemma has ever existed in the religion: how to encourage the seeking of understanding while, at the same time, maintaining the requisite distance between man and the divine. After all, Yahweh is worthy of worship only if he is transcendent.” (Salm, rebel against Judaims)

Salm separates Paul from Gnosticism. He can do this, when he defines Paul as the gospel to the goy and the replacement of the Law by a belief in Christ. But if Paul ~ Simon Magus, then the authentic Paul would really be gnostic, and then the Paul, whom Salm is talking about, exists only as an interpolated, redacted, edited version created later by the Church, i.e. someone else.

“Brodie is only half-right: he concludes that Christianity was produced out of normative Jewish elements, a thesis which obtains for the Pauline kerygma (and the Great Church based upon it) but not for gnosticism which, in fact, lies at the heart of pre-Pauline Christianity (“Nazoreanism”).” (Salm, idem)

Salm also cites Friedlander, suggesting that gnosticism might relate to asceticsm (the Cynics of antiquity). However, this would not apply when Ralph Ellis is right on the suggestion that Qumran would be a boarding school with a Knights Templar type of brotherhood.

“Friedlander notes the radically anti-social aspects of Jesus’ teaching: “This is the refrain which continually recurs. A man must surrender all his possessions to follow Jesus (Mt 19: 21); he must even renounce the closest family ties. This is no mere figurative expression. A man, in order to become a disciple, must renounce father and mother, wife and children (Mt 10:37; Lk 14: 26)… All this and much more of Jesus’ ascetic teaching is foreign to Jewish religious thought and practice. (175)” “ (Salm, idem)

Salm 2008

Salm 2008, archeology only

Appendix 3. Praise and defence for Ralph Ellis. Why Aaron Adair should apologise
Praise with caveat

I have read a bit in Ralph Ellis, King Jesus (2008), and I find much to praise, with the obvious caveat:

  • He writes very accessible.
  • He asks good questions – like concerning the link between Josephus and Paul. In literary analysis we see Jesus ~ Yahweh and Paul ~ Moses. Convention has that Paul existed, critique has that Paul has been created by the authors of Acts, Luke and his Epistles while using Josephus for data, and Ellis wonders with reason whether Paul actually was Josephus. The latter might be wrong but it is a question that needs to be tested.
  • He comes up with pieces of data that I don’t see with scholars – linking nazoraios to crown, linking Paul’s Tarsus to Moses’s basket  and diagnosing Qumran as a boarding school where pupils were were taught and the teachers adhered to a code like the Knights Templar.
  • He creates wider views – and indeed Vespasian had strong links with Britain. But if the change in astronomical precession to the astrological sign of pisces was known universally – generating the midrash of fishermen – then this might also be known independently by Romans in Britain. The association of Osiris ~ Asar ~ Arthur is intriguing (with a round table with 12 knights) but the alphabet is flexible. Of course, early writers would also have used their creativity. A historian must shut up when he or she has nothing to tell, so there is a temptation to keep on telling something.
  • With the caveat: Who am I to judge ? I am no historian or linguist (but will also be silent if I have nothing to tell).
Why Aaron Adair should apologise

I scanned a discussion by Aaron Adair on Ellis’s other book Jesus, King of Edessa (2013) on Ellis’s Jesus ~ Izates suggestion. I am shocked about the verbal lashing by Adair. There is absolutely no reason for this. I didn’t read this particular book, and indeed only scanned Adair’s criticism. Given what I read on King Jesus it seems safe to conclude that Ellis cannot be 100% wrong. Perhaps overall Ellis is 99% wrong, but then 1% could be useful. This may be a better score than the Churches, or the Biblical scholars who pursued the logically absurd Q-hypothesis. Either Adair lashes out to those authors in the same fashion or he should apologise to Ellis. In his reply, Ellis also pointed to Tom Verenna’s use of the Gospels as a source for history. We should suppose that Adair also lashes out to Verenna’s confusion in this, or apologises to Ellis. Overall, the same appeal to good manners and awareness of creativity holds as I already said w.r.t. Richard Carrier’s abuse of language w.r.t. Joseph Atwill. Of course I am disgusted about distortion too. In that case it should suffice to select a core issue, and another author might be called in to resolve the issue. In that case, I would be more inclined to read the argument and do more than a first scan.

Adair 2013

Adair 2013

Paul = Flavius Josephus ?

What about testing whether Paul is Flavius Josephus (FJ) ? Complex interpolations aside, this would only hold if the latter would regard circumcision and other Torah laws as mere options but no requirement. I don’t know much about FJ – though, by now, I read quite a bit of & about him.

One question for example is whether FJ’s marriages and children show something about his religious views. Athalya Brenner (ed), Are We Amused?: Humour About Women In the Biblical World, p104-106 discusses some points, also referring to Biblical scenes in Dutch paintings of the Golden Age. This book however doesn’t seem to generate data but only questions that can be asked when you think about humour and women and the Bible and FJ. His first wife seems to have died in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the second was a captive woman whom he married for Vespasian but later rejected for religious reasons, and subsequently he had two Jewish wives, with sons whose names reflect an allegiance to the Flavian-Herodians. The son “Hyrcanus” might refer to Jewish independence by John Hyrcanus but also to FJ’s benefactor at that period. The “Simonides” could refer in FJ’s lineage. The “Justus” is ambiguously Roman or Jewish.

“Vespasian arranged for the widower Josephus to marry a captured Jewish woman, who ultimately left him. About 71, Josephus married an Alexandrian Jewish woman as his third wife. They had three sons, of whom only Flavius Hyrcanus survived childhood. Josephus later divorced his third wife. Around 75, he married as his fourth wife, a Greek Jewish woman from Crete, who was a member of a distinguished family. They had a happy married life and two sons Flavius Justus and Flavius Simonides Agrippa.” (Wikipedia on FJ)

These few  data are ambiguous. FJ could still be an observing Sadducee priest who collaborated with the Romans given their obvious power. There is no indication that he would go as far as Paul, either an authentic gnostic Simon Magus (if he existed) or the domesticated version in the NT. Others may have more data.

Ellis 2008

Ellis 2008

Listening to Synaulia Elenhs Karaindrou.

Humour can be used to distort history.

Distortion of history doesn’t always result into humour.

Professor Joan Taylor (London) has edited a book that will appear in August 2015: Jesus and Brian. Exploring the Historical Jesus and His Times Via Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

This book is announced to supports a historical Jesus rather than a mythical Jesus. From the publisher’s website, and see also their table of contents and authors:

“Monty Python’s The Life of Brian film was known for its satirical humour being clever and cutting. Less well known is that the Monty Python film contains references to what was, at the time of its release, cutting edge biblical scholarship and Life of Jesus research. This research, founded on the acceptance of the Historical Jesus as a Jew who needs to be understood within the context of his time, is implicitly referenced through the setting of the Brian character within the tumultuous social and political background of his time.

This collection is a compilation of essays from some of our current times’ foremost scholars of the historical Jesus and the first century Judea, and includes contributions from Martin Goodman, Geroge Brooke, Joan Taylor, Bart Ehrman, Amy-Jill Levine, James Crossley, Philip Davies and Helen Bond. The collection opens up Life of Brian to renewed investigation and in so doing, uses the film to revitalise the discussion of Christian history, biblical studies, and Life of Jesus research. The volume also features a contribution from Terry Jones, who not only directed the film, but also played Brian’s mum.”  (

It is okay to document the scholarship behind the very amusing film. Thus I have no criticism about that idea. It would also be difficult to make a movie when Jesus is only a myth: Jesus is Santa Claus for grown-ups.

However, the film Life of Brian dates from 1979, thus 35 years ago, and the scholarship of the historical Jesus (up to then) has been exposed as biased. Below we will see that Pierre Krijbolder in 1976 in Holland already analysed Jesus as a metaphor only – and the mythical Jesus had precursors before 1976 who were and still are suppressed in the Academia. The London Department of Theology & Religious Studies claims to offer “a unique integration of Humanities and Social Science disciplines as a framework for the study of religions”, but, since theology assumes the existence of God, one wonders what is happening there. My proposal is to use theonomy for the scientific study of such human delusions

One should hope that the book is not some kind of disguised propaganda for a historical Jesus, while abusing a fun movie. Since the book isn’t there yet, all this is only for your information.

In the Appendix I discuss a few pages from another book by prof. Taylor.

Taylor (ed), "Jesus and Brian", 2015

Taylor (ed) 2015

Brian in the Kabbalah, though spelled Briah

My intention is to see whether the education of mathematics can do something with the story of Jesus. The idea is that abstraction, such as for a circle, might also be relevant for other notions and patterns.

I want to stay far away from the Kabbalah, that I after a superficial glance regard as mystic nonsense (but it might have some weird logic). However, when Brian & Jesus are tossed into Google then we find a reference to the Sefer Yetzirah. I just mention this, in case professor Taylor forgot to tell you:

“”Yetzirah” is more literally translated as “Formation”; the word “Briah” is used for “Creation”. The book is traditionally ascribed to the patriarch Abraham, while modern scholars haven’t reached consensus on the question of its origins.” (wikipedia Sefer Yetzirah)

Briah from Nazareth ? Jesus nazoraios ?

Humour is a serious issue. A more serious question then is what nazoraois would mean.

I have been burdening you with this question. My discussion is mostly a rehash of what Biblical scholars already know, or have distorted, for centuries – see the Appendix.

In The simple mathematics of Jesus (SMOJ) (2012) my conclusion was that the word nazoraios is not so interesting. There are too many possibilities that seem to have some reasonable interpretation. It is unlikely that we can recover its original meaning.

But I want to finish my view on Richard Carrier’s book on the historicity of Jesus, and I am still wondering whether the Epistle to the Hebrews and now the word nazoraios would allow us to say more on Paul.

Pontius Pilate affixed a sign onto the cross:

“The acronym INRI (Latin: Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum) represents the Latin inscription which in English reads as “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” and John 19:20 states that this was written in three languages—Hebrew, Latin, and Greek—during the crucifixion of Jesus. The Greek version reads ΙΝΒΙ, representing Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ Bασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων. “ (Wikipedia, INRI)

Nazarenus might be Latin for Greek Nazoraios – I cherish my highschool years in gymnasium – but it doesn’t linguistically fit from Nazareth. Scholars have been puzzling and distorting over this for ages.

There is an idea that it could refer to nazirite but transformed in such manner that the Romans would not become suspicious. As if the Romans are fools. Well, according to Obelix they are.

“A Roman inspector worth his salt will regard that as nonsense and will look for the hidden message. Not every nazir is a Samson. But the prophecy is about Samson. Solved. The presumption is also that that inspector at the Ministry of Colonian Affairs in Rome would not look at reality but only at texts and would not be able to solve cryptograms.” (SMOJ p122)

Obelix's running gag. (c) Rene Goscinny cs.

Obelix’s running gag. (c) Rene Goscinny cs.

Krijbolder’s nazoraios is nasorayya

Krijbolder 1976 (in Dutch) rejects that nazoraios could mean from Nazareth and mentions as options: (1) from neser, netzer (offshoot), (2) nasi (prince or “risen up”, apparently related to resurrection) “with a suggestion of Moses and a snake”. (3) nasar (obeying the law, observant), like the Mandaeans who call themselves nasorayya. He chooses the latter. I am not convinced.

Doing a new search on this

His reference to Moses and a snake gives this:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3.14, KJV) This refers to Numbers: “And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. (…) And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers, 21.4-9, KJV)

Perhaps stuck on a stauros ? Richard Carrier also has a quote on a “Standing One”, and refers to Ben Stada (while Latin would be stare and status). It reminds of the rod of Asklepios, the god of medicine, son of Apollo. Asklepios was important for the syncretism into Serapis. The Essenes / Therapeutae were an important sect, according to Josephus. Note that his staff should not be confused with the caduceus with the two snakes of Hermes / Mercury, “the messenger of the gods, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves”.

Asklepios, Museum of Epidaurus (Source: wikipedia commons)

Asklepios, Museum of Epidaurus (Source: wikipedia commons)

Coincidence has it, that the name Monty Python also refers to a snake, the Python in mythology, or Seth in Egypt.

There is Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer. This is the small 13th sign of the zodiac (December 1-18) – and Paulos means small after all. Perhaps there is a link to the Star of Bethlehem – where Beth = House (of the zodiac) and Lehem = Bread (metaphor of Knowledge, that is easy to distribute), and December is the sowing season in Canaan (with donkey & oxen pulling the plow). My suggestion remains to also look at astrology, since that is what they did back then.

This leads to the suggestion that Moses’s brass snake found its way onto the now golden head band of the Jewish high priest. Or, Moses as a high priest already had a uraeus on his head band, copied from the Egyptians, and put it onto a stake so that it was easier to see.

John Day (ed) “King and messiah” on the Hebrew “nezer”, relating to a head attire (crown, golden head band) for the high priest, see Ps 89.39. (this weblog before, though also with an Egyptian root NZR- fulfill)

This would fit with the Epistle to the Hebrews that announces Jesus as the celestial high priest in the order of Melchizedek:

“In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author affirms that Jesus’ high priesthood is according to the order of Melchizedek, which means that it is more ancient than and superior to the Levitical high priesthood, founded on Aaron, the brother of Moses. The implication of Jesus’ superior priesthood for his Jewish readership is that Jesus is a better means of salvation than the Temple cult, which, in the author’s view, is now superseded. In order to understand it more fully, the author’s argument about Jesus as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek must be interpreted in light of second-Temple theological reflection on the figure of Melchizedek, with which the readers of the letter no doubt were familiar. It seems that the author makes use of his readers’ views about Melchizedek in order to explain his understanding of the salvation-historical significance of Jesus’ death.” (document at Crandall university, Toronto, Canada)

Uraeus on crown, mask of Tutankhamun (Source: wikimedia commons)

Uraeus on crown, mask of Tutankhamun (Source: wikimedia commons)

How rabbinate Judaism might have changed nazoraios into notzrim

Yesterday I considered the interpretation of netzer (offshoot). This apparently is a preferred interpretation in circles of Judaism. We also saw that the Talmud has been using the word notzrim = Christians for ages. There is a subtle change of meaning from offshoot → sentry → guard. Judaism thus would regard Christendom as the guards who hold Judaism captive.

There is a difference between how you call yourself and how others call you. We may consider this scenario:

  • It may well be that the sect (X) that developed Jesus as a concept had the intention of “Jesus nazoraios” to mean the “saviour crowned as the new high priest“, to distinguish this from a military saviour and liberator. (Yirmeyahu pointed out that Joshua of the Exodus is a military saviour.) (The Aramaic or Hebrew form of nazoraios still is not clear to me.)
  • The later Christian Church (CC) used the concept to take away theological primacy from the priesthood in Jerusalem. See how the Epistle to the Hebrews develops the logical argument that the Torah itself proves that the Torah should be abolished.
  • It is not clear what the relation between X and CC is: they need not be quite related except for the point that the concept is adopted.
  • Rabbinate Judaism might have accepted X as still abiding to the law, but when CC took over, they started calling the nazoraios (in its Aramaic or Hebrew equivalent) the notzrim, to express the change of perspective. (Yirmeyahu’s suggestion that nazoraios would be a confused translation then would not be accurate.)
Not Brian but Brain. Tribute to Pierre Krijbolder, “Jezus de Nazoreeër” (1976)

My analysis on Jesus benefited greatly from the book by Pierre Krijbolder (1976 in Dutch, 1999 in English). The English website is now maintained by Jan Hagen who has a degree in law. The link between these two persons consists of ethnomethodology.

Krijbolder applied this to the New Testament, and Hagen recognised this from his studies in law and in particular metajuridica. Hagen used the syllabus by professor Jacques ter Heide, now deceased. Professor Jan Broekman (Leuven, Penn State, law) worked with Ter Heide, and has written extensively on the subject. Recent works are with Penn State Law professor Larry Catà Backer: Lawyers Making Meaning, (Springer, 2013) and also with Professor Backer, Signs in Law—A Source Book (Springer, 2014). I didn’t read these books, but I get the draft:

“The idea is to analyse legal texts from a higher level of abstraction (called “meta”). The text is raw material and input for a complicated interaction or an activity field between actors: prosecution, defence, judge and legislators, and the social environment (notably represented by the media).” (The simple mathematics of Jesus, p 19)

“The book by Pierre Krijbolder should be considered at the same time as the end of all religion, but also the beginning of true empirical knowledge based spiritual thought. In this regard the title ‘Jezus de Nazoreeër’ is sort of misleading, to most people. While Jesus is historically rescued by this study, it is not as a biological person: only in an abstract sense Jesus has been historically rescued, as a model of spiritual thought and its complementary mental behavior attitude. Now this purely abstract Jesus, has never been disproven by any scientist or historian.” (Jan Hagen)

The notion that there is allegory or metaphor in the Bible is easy enough to understand. At first a reader wonders what the new contribution would be. Krijbolder and Hagen however have a good point: they want to better distinguish the literal-mathematical mind from the poetic-artistic mind. These may also be seen as different faculties of the brain.

The simplest “popular” distinction is the lateralization of the hemispheres, with the Greek “sun god” / Apollo / visual / literal / logical / mathematical approach on the right and the Judaic “moon god” / Yahweh / hearing / linguistic / poetic / creative attitude on the left. See the Krijbolder book cover. The Greek are Indo-European from the Eurasian Steppes, and supposedly Judaism developed from shepherd tribes guarding their flocks at night, and Chaldean nightly star gazers.

In semiotics (actually a rather vague collection of insights) notions can be like abstract viruses or memes that have a life of their own, and that affect behaviour even when you are not aware of it (“the word becomes flesh”). We should be careful in abusing the word “brain”, though. What is relevant is that there are different cultural modes that relate to the different faculties of the brain.

“As one should recollect, Plato advised the state, to banish all those who used artistic forms of expression, as such expressions carried in them the possibilities of multiple hermeneutical meanings, to escape proper criticism. Plato was thus against artistic and poetic freedom. Up to this very day of ours, mankind bears the toll in its ears of this biased verdict, prohibiting unbiased appreciation of pre-Platoon allegorically styled and extrapolated Hebraic minded forms of expression.

Very few apart from Pierre Krijbolder have properly appreciated this separation in mental digesting characteristics of semantics by the naturally authentic pre-Platoon expressing brain on the one hand by the rather limited hermeneutical post-Platoon brain, on the other hand. The difference in alignment of the unit of symbol for meaning is tremendous. Two entirely different worlds of semiotic brain setups.” (Hagen, main page, some typo’s corrected)

Obviously, when the New Testament is merely a vessel to propagate theological and halakha ideas in poetic form, then modern literally minded researchers of the historical Jesus are barking up the wrong tree.

Yet, some history could be recovered. Krijbolder suggests that Jesus stands for a new theological concept. There would be aspects or phases in the concept: birth, baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection have metaphorical meaning about the relation of the new theological concept with the other theological concepts (not necessarily sects) of the period. We are back to the mundane decoding of metaphors:

“So the general picture presented by Krijbolder is this: within the mainstream Essenism (Jesus of Bethlechem or young Jesus), a new sub-movement led by former Qumran sect chief priests, was gradually developed; the baptized Jesus. These former Qumran chief priests taught the spiritual law interpretation that required the sadducean law orientation, whereas the main stream Essenism followed the pharisaic law orientation. The reason was, that those former Qumran priests, must have recognized in the immortality of the soul doctrine illustrative for the mainstream Essenism, a motivation that was lacking in the Qumran-movement. Only the pharisaic law orientation seemed to provide the window, for such motivation. So they walked over, leaving then the Qumran-movement or symbolically John the Baptist, as beheaded allegorically.” (Hagen, “about” page, typos corrected)

Thus: Essenes (Therapeutae) & Qumran Sadducees → Nazoraios (as a new kind of Pharisees). I am not sure whether it is historically correct to associate Qumran with the Sabians. But Robert M. Price in his review of Eisenman’s New Testament Code agrees:

“The Teacher of Righteous was James the Just (though Arthur E. Palumbo, Jr., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Personages of Earliest Christianity, 2004, may be right: as per Barbara Thiering, John the Baptist may have been the first to hold that office, with James as his successor).” (Robert M. Price)

We saw before that Christianity relies on Original Sin. For the notion of Original Sin it indeed is important to have an immortal soul. Thus Judaism originally fled from Egyptian religion, like Protestants with iconoclastic rejection of false gods. The Torah emphasizes the law rather than the Egyptian notion of an immortal soul that is judged by Osiris in the Hall of Ma’at. With a twist of history, Jesus leads the way back to Egypt. Jesus as a person is a myth, but as a concept is historical.

PM 1. Krijbolder 1976 doesn’t benefit from the recent time shift hypothesis that puts events around 70 AD rather than 30 AD (Eisenman, Einhorn).

PM 2. A downside of the Krijbolder / Hagen website is that Hagen’s use of English is somewhat crude and at times difficult to follow. He also includes his own analysis, and at times one cannot see what is from Krijbolder and what is from Hagen. He also included in the English book version a new section on the Turin Shroud that makes for historical nonsense. Thus he has saved Krijbolder’s important work from oblivion but there is still work to make it more accessible. Hagen own views and interpretations are also relevant and he should state those more clearly. However, I read the book with great interest and with quite an impact on my understanding (skipping the part on the Shroud) and can recommend it.

NB. This text is also archived on this website under the denominator “Anatomy of Holland”. Krijbolder’s book dates from 1976. His analysis apparently has been structurally neglected or ridiculed in Holland, which again slows the Dutch closed mind. Consider the waste of time since 1976 ….

Krijbolder 1999

Krijbolder 1999


If the Life of Brian is given a make-over, I would suggest to put in more snakes.

Since Joan Taylor speaks about the historical Jesus as a Jew, he cannot be a concept or metaphor – unless she means that Jew is a concept or metaphor too.


Professor Taylor on nazoraios and nasorayyo

Joan Taylor, “The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea” (2012) p171-172, (Amazon reviews),  tells the following about the nasorayya – and I only looked at these pages and not the rest of the book.

Taylor 2012

Taylor 2012

Remarkable points:

  • Judaism after 70 AD did not become rabbinic overnight. It took some efforts, as Yohanan ben Zak(k)ai shows.
  • The name “Samaritans”, how they call themselves, means guardians of the law !
  • Samaritans in the Talmud are called by others kuthim or Cutheans, apparently referring to Kutha in Iraq. It this might be a midrash (not a “lie”). It reminds of the kittim apparently also used for the foreigners, Greek & Roman. Wikipedia gives Kittim ~ Kiton on Cyprus ~ Citium ~ “It was often applied to all the Aegean islands and even to “the W[est] in general, but esp[ecially] the seafaring W[est].“” This reminds of the Sea Peoples and the collapse in 1177 BC, and the Philistines (Palestina). Also, Paul’s visit to Cyprus to buy figs, and where he met Bar-Jesus, might only be a midrash on that he got his theology (fig tree) from the kittim.
  • Taylor suggests that the Essenes would be called ‘Herodians’. I don’t understand why she suggests this. Mark 12:13-17 has “13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. (…) 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” But it is not clear that these Pharisees or Herodians would be Essenes. See also Mark 3:6 on the Sabbath. (I didn’t read her book though.)
  • She mentions different translations of nazoraios but (at this occasion) doesn’t indicate the problems, and doesn’t touch on the question what the proper translation would be. Her reference to Jesus in the (post 70 AD) Talmud as ha-Notzri is too simple (but perhaps covered by the references she gives).
Joan Taylor p171

Joan Taylor p171


Taylor p172

Joan Taylor p172


Joan Taylor p172 footnotes

Joan Taylor p172 footnotes

C.K. Barrett, Acts: Volume 1: 1-14

C.K. Barrett, Acts: Volume 1: 1-14, p 140, 1994, reprinted twice in 2006, gives the “traditional” view that nazoraios would be “from Nazareth”. This is clearly deficient. (And a good occasion to practice your German too.)

Barrett p140

Barrett p140

The Sabians, discussed by Paul Carus, editor of the Monist, 1915

The editor of the Monist (pdf p295, here at JSTOR) looks at the Sabians – the baptists whom we already met with Queen Helen of Adiabene.

  • “The word Sabian means “baptizer”. It is derived from the Hebrew tsaba and ought to be pronounced Tsabian, with a sharp German z as initial. (…) we have good reason to assume that the Christians adopted baptism from them.”
  • The Babylonian link for the Mandaeans would fit the location of Adiabene.
  • The mediator between God and mankind, who descents and also visits hell, reminds of Jesus.
  • There are seven heavens, like in the Ascension of Isaiah, that Richard Carrier referred too, while the Torah would have three heavens. The Talmud curiously has seven heavens. Check Genesis on the plural “heavens“. I hope that someone can give a reliable exegesis, but perhaps they are already trying since LXX (with Judaic gnostic cosmology).
The Monist p295

The Monist p295

Carus suggests that St. John the Baptist had founded an independent “perfected” religion, and that he was reduced in the NT to only a precursor of Christ.

Thus the Sabians would have a subsect with the name “Disciples of John”:

  • with baptism
  • with a spiritual Christ (anointed one)
  • similar to a faith in Apollos – a name that sounds similar to Paulos
  • someone’s left hemisphere creates the new word gnosistic.

Apparently the source is The Odes of Solomon, that wikipedia dates to perhaps the 2nd century. It would be some half-way-house between Christianity and Gnosis: “Thus, the Odes may be seen as existing in a time and place where gnosistic terms among non-gnostic Christians were still acceptable (…)”.

The Monist p296

The Monist p296

Listening to Poulopoulos “O dromos” (the road) or Live 1998 (more symphonic)

I am still trying to get clarity about Richard Carrier’s book “On the historicity of Jesus“.  Carrier assumes that Paul existed, but how important is that ? Might Jesus and Paul be modeled after the same messianic preacher(s) ? (Simon Magus ?) We may wonder whether Ha•lâkh•âhꞋthe way – gives more clarity. I already looked at the issue of nazoraios, netzer and notzrim in The simple mathematics of Jesus(2012). New is the question now whether it helps to determine Paul.

See the Table on what we have achieved till now. The distinction between the Christian Church and the observers of the Torah (Halakha) in Qumran is obvious. In addition, the earlier exegesis on Original Sin showed that Simon Magus looks like a real heretic. We saw evidence of this in Paul of the Acts and the Gospel according to Mark. But the link Jesus ~ Paul is severed when Jesus would be associated with Qumran. James the Just would be a Qumran-Sadducee similar to a sedentary monk, and Jesus would be a wandering Pharisee preaching in synagogues, but their messages might be the same.

If nazoraios would mean guard, then (a) Qumran could be guardians of the law, in principle open to the masses of the circumcised, and (b) Gnosis could mean guardians to some secret knowledge, available only for the few, but with mass following of those who would not have ears to hear, and (c) Paul would be somewhere inbetween with Gnostic ideas about some celestial saviour but openness to the masses of the goy. A discrete table doesn’t give the spectrum.

Table on Original Sin Torah & no Gnosticism Gnosticism & no Torah
Observe the law (Torah) Qumran (James the Just) Logically impossible
Believe in Jesus (no Torah) Christian Church (NT with neutralised Torah) Paul ~ Simon Magus (abolished Torah)

See the Venn diagram for all combinations. In the exegesis we found that the true situation is that the Torah contains Gnosticism, even though this is denied by Judaism and Christianity. The Table thus only looks at the official positions and neglects the column T & G. Plato and the Romans (no T & no G) are not relevant for this table right now either.

Venn diagram for Torah and Gnosticism

Venn diagram for Torah and Gnosticism

The discussion is put in the Appendix because it is too long for a blog. You would only read that Appendix when you would be surprised by some conclusions.

PM 1. On Plato and the Romans: At a later point we should integrate with the notion that the Old Testament (OT) uses Homer and Plato (Thomas Brodie) and that the New Testament (NT) uses Homer too (Dennis MacDonald). In my own analysis the Bible is based upon astrology with the Zodiac, and by implication this would also hold for Homer and perhaps Gilgamesh. (The multiplication of names for similar people in the NT derives partly from the need to fill the 12 positions in the Zodiac.)

PM 2. We also think about the importance of Jesus for education: to neutralise religious fundamentalism, the pandering of Armageddon, and the idea of a 3rd Temple in Jerusalem and/or Gerizim.


The conclusions from the Appendix and the earlier blog entries are:

  1. A significant portion of rabbinic Judaism has allocated Jesus to Qumran, claiming that he would not have broken with Judaism and the Torah. Nazoraios would be a confused translation. Jesus would be a netzer (offshoot) and his followers in Qumran the netzarim. Paul would be the apostate, the notzrim, who would be the military guards that keep Judaism contained and captive.
  2. Rabbinic Judaism has clarified this view internally, but has kept a lower profile on this externally, since the confusion helped keep them safe and the guards off-guard.
  3. The claim that Jesus would belong to Qumran however is not necessarily proven. The theological allocation may be part of rabbinic Judaism’s strategy to defend themselves. They can say to Christians that Christians misunderstood Jesus and that he belongs to Judaism. In that manner they can win converts, like Yirmeyahu.
  4. We observed earlier that Judaism doesn’t quite understand the Torah yet. With Greek logic we can determine: (a) there is Original Sin in the Torah but it is denied, (b) there is Gnosticism in the Torah but it is denied.
  5. Suppose that Jesus had been in Egypt and had some logical training in Alexandria, and arrived at these same observations, and in his view still was with the Torah, but told his deducations to Judaism. When they denied it, then it would be inconsistent for them to hold that Jesus still belonged to Judaism (even though he still did in his own analysis).
  6. It is rather pretentious of Judaism that they hold that their large Jewish Bible would not contain logical inconsistencies. Rabbinic Judaism uses the Talmud to keep up with the times. The laws of the Torah are interpreted creatively to make them fit new challenges. Fundamentalism has merely different political objectives (and more abuse of cognitive dissonance).
  7. The example that Jesus didn’t accept divorce while Judaism accepts some rules, might be a reference to Simon Magus and his Helen (Maria Magdalene), and should not be considered as a serious example.
  8. Yirmeyahu’s claim that his rewritten Gospel according to Matthew would fit the Torah, so that all Jews can become netzarim, makes one wonder what would be the surplus value. How would the offshoot differ from the real stuff ? The problem of James the Just was the malbehaviour of the Temple Sadducees, but there is no Temple now.
  9. Yirmeyahu’s suggestion that Jesus would be a military leader, and belong to Qumran, suggests that Qumran would lean to a military solution, and that Yirmeyahu himself as netzer also leans to such an approach, while he wants others to join up. We indeed need guards around this.
  10. We need additional study on the relation of Jesus to Qumran and to Paul.
  11. There grows a tentative hypothesis however. If Jesus (Saviour) is a mythical concept, then this concept can be used by various factions for their own interpretation. Some in Qumran might merely & peacefully intend observance to the Torah, in opposition against Temple Sadducees who don’t do it properly (with high priests who do not descent from Levi and who accept a king from Rome and not from David). Some in Qumran and elsewhere might desire a military uprising. Simon Magus might wish to keep peace with the Romans and do something about the Temple Sadducees too, but rather something Gnostically. It may be that these are the only factions in 70 AD, and that the true Christian Church only arose in 135 AD with the final touch of turning Simon Magus into a domesticated Paul.

Babylonian god Marduk guards his son, named wisdom (justice & love ?)

Nebuchadnezzar II (c. 623-562 BC) is known for:

“Both the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem‘s temple are ascribed to him. He is featured in the Book of Daniel and is mentioned in several other books of the Bible.

The Akkadian name, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur, means “O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son”. Nabu, son of the god Marduk, is the Babylonian deity of wisdom. In an inscription, Nebuchadnezzar styles himself as Nabu’s “beloved” and “favourite”. His name has previously been mistakenly interpreted as “O Nabu, defend my kudurru“, in which sense a kudurru is an inscribed stone deed of property. However, when contained in a ruler’s title, kudurru approximates to “firstborn son” or “oldest son”. “ (wikipedia, portal and not source)

The English version of the name derives from the Hebrew Nebhukhadhnetztzar. Wikipedia doesn’t explain how usur and nezzar relate.

Looking at a website for Akkadian we cannot find usur but there is nasiru:

nāṣiru [Army → Military]
1) protective , watch- , defensive , preventive , benevolent (?) , patronizing (?) , affectionate (?) ; 2) (noun) : a guardian / guard , a protector / patron (?) / tutor (?) , a preserver , a keeper ;

Cf. naṣāru
Comparison with other Semitic languages :
    Syriac : natora  ܢܵܛܘܿܪܵܐ “a guard / gardian , keeper “

The upshot of this excursion is a big question mark. An Akkadian root usur would be preserve, protect, and there may be a related root NZR for protect, guard that perhaps links up to Hebrew.

The Netzarim of James the Just: dead since 135 AD but resurrected in our time

There is a remarkable website by Clint Van Nest (1943). He converted to Judaism, moved to Israel, changed his name into Yirmᵊyâhu (Jeremiah), converted to the “original teachings of Jesus”, and is now pâ•qid (overseer, bishop), or the proclaimed first bishop since 135 AD of the Qumran sect of the Netzarim of James the Just.

He is not an academic historian of antiquity. Let me quote a bit more from his presented cv:

“Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu, né Clint Van Nest (1943), descended from his great-x6 grandfather, Pieter Pieterse Van Nest, who immigrated to New Amsterdam—before there was a New York or United States—in 1647, just 27 years after the pilgrims in the Mayflower.

(…) He is a member of Mensa and an American vet of the United States Air Force Air Intelligence Agency (security clearance: Top Secret, Crypto, Codeword), having attended Syracuse University and served in Germany, where he lived for 2½ years (…) earned a B.Sc. in Business Administration (B.S.B.A.), having been offered honors in logic, from the University of Fla. (Gainesville) in 1968 with a major in management and minors in quantitative analysis and economics. He entered the UF Graduate School M.B.A. program but was unable to attend due to personal circumstances. Having  obtained his B.S. degree, he worked as a Safety Engineer (becoming a member of A.S.S.E.) for a large insurance company in New England and Toronto, Canada, consulting for some of the largest corporations, in a multitude of diverse industries, in Ontario and Quebec provinces. Moving back to Florida, he worked as Personnel & Safety Director for a trucking (250 drivers, large, 20 yard3 dumptrucks) and construction firm (draglines, dozers, etc.) in Central Florida, reporting directly to the owner.

(…) Yet, Ha•lâkh•âh requires that every community must have a Beit Din. Inescapably, י--ה had arranged that Yi•rᵊmᵊyâhu was the first and only candidate in the legitimate Jewish community since 135 C.E. whom He required by Ha•lâkh•âh to fill the position of the 16th Pâ•qid and restore the Nᵊtzâr•im Beit Din that the Roman Hellenists had eradicated in 135 C.E.” (

Note that he writes Yahweh (י–ה) with dashes since God’s name must not be pronounced. The name of Jesus must be dashed when it refers to the Son of God, but not when just to a name like Joshua. Think of the scene in Jurassic Park when you would not want to make a sound. Think of the interdiction to worship false gods and display an image of God. Think of iconoclastic Protestants.

“Because we teach and practice the authentic Judaic teachings of Ribi Yehoshua [… Jesus …] —not Displacement Theology—we are the only group who have restored the Netzarim to be accepted in the legitimate Jewish community in Israel—genuinely like Ribi Yehoshua and the original Netzarim. Consequently, the ‘Netzarim Quarter’ is the only web site of legitimate Netzarim / Nazarene Judaism.” ( glossary)

“Christianity is a Displacement Theology that inherently dangles from the premise that Christ’s “grace” has displaced Tor•âh, that Christians have displaced ‘natural Jews’ to become the ‘true, spiritual Jews’ of ‘true, spiritual Israel’; i.e. thereby displacing historical Israel and the Jews as the Biblically-recognized servants of י--ה. Christian Displacement Theology includes ALL doctrines that hold that “salvation” has been redirected to Christians or that Tor•âh-observant Jews without J*esus are lost.” ( glossary)

If you haven’t read my earlier analysis on the logic of this displacement, check this page.

Apparently there is no wikipedia article on Yirmeyahu yet that might give an overview of the situation (with criticisms and such). There is another website that mentions him, and basically gives the same history about Jesus the neitzer. And as said above: I looked at this “history” before.

The advantage of Yirmeyahu’s website is that it gives Hebrew roots that serve our present purposes. It seems that a few dots can make a difference. However, I have copy-pasted this Hebrew but unfortunately it seems that this does not work properly. If you search in English then you should be able to find the proper passages on his website.

Other people suggest that the Hebrew Bible was originally created in Greek around 270 BC. Spinoza suggests that it reads as a book by one author. Thus it would only later be translated into Hebrew, and it would be somewhat of a problem to regard the Hebrew Bible as an independent source (“oral tradition”). This seems less relevant for the nazoraios around 70 AD.

Three accepted ways in Judaism

Yirmeyahu states on the Halakha:

In the 1st century there were three, and only three, interpretations of Oral Law recognized by the BeitDin ha-Jâ•dol—which was the ultimate and undisputed earthly Judaic authority:

  1. The interpretations of the Qum•rân Kha•sid•im BᵊnTzâ•doq Tzᵊdoq•im [ … Qumran Sadducees …], who called their Oral Law interpretations Ma•as•ëh [… practice …].
  2. The interpretations of the Roman-vassal Hellenist Pseudo-Tzᵊdoq•im of the Beit ha-Mi•qᵊdâsh in Yᵊru•shâ•layim, who called their Oral Law interpretations—which they codified in an attempt to terminate oral transmission by the other two min•im—their “Book of Decrees.” [… Temple Sadducees …]
  3. The interpretations of the Pᵊrush•im[.. Pharisees …], who called their Oral Law interpretations, the interpretations endorsed by historical Ribi Yᵊho•shua [… Jesus …], Ha•lâkh•âh. [… worship in knesset, houses of assembly, synagogues, shul …]

Yirmeyahu explains that also findings are acceptable that are derived from the Torah by using strict formal (but “discrete”) logic, “(including science)”. I presume that he hasn’t dwelled long on a more elegant or accurate statement. Hellenization in the form of Aristotle’s logic would be acceptable, but other forms of Hellenization could be a problem.

Neitzer as an offshoot that suits the mother tree

Jesus would be acceptable, and be a neitzer. Yirmeyahu gives the following glossary for netzarim (plural of neitzer):

ם" is the masc. plural of נֵצֶר, which, in turn, is related to the Aramaic נִצְרָא“wicker (woven straw, as from these offshoots – basket, hat, chair, etc.)”. As can be seen from Yᵊsha•yâhu [… Isaiah …] 11.1 and 60.21, inter alia, Neitzër referred more specifically to the basal-sucker offshoot(s) from the root or trunk of an olive tree—which stood around the mother tree like little sentry-guard(s)—and transplantable young green shoots sprouting from the trunk… used (according to the dictionaries) to weave wicker-baskets.” (not all Hebrew characters properly copied, see, glossary) (PM. Yirmeyahu also makes the subtle distinction between internal guarding (care) and external guarding (protect).)

Netzarim (offshoots) (Source:

Netzarim (offshoots) (Source:

(Neitzer / Netzarim / James the Just) versus (Notzrim / Christians)

There is also a non-accepted offshoot, the Hellenizing Jews, such as the Notzrim:

No•tzᵊr•im; confinement or containment guards or keepers—guards or keepers who keep something in, plural); the singular noun is נוֹצֵר, also spelled נֹצֵר, (no•tzeir), meaning a “sentry,” and the sing. adj. is נוֹצְרִי (no•tzᵊr•i), from נָצַר (nâ•tzar; to guard as a sentry). These are also the Hebrew terms—used among Jews—for “Christian(s).” Contrast this term against neitzër and its cognate, Nᵊtzâr•im.” (, glossary) (Thus: offshoot → sentry → guard)

Thus, the Christians keep the Jews captive.

Note: if the Christians guard the Jews, by keeping them captive, then this would be care and not protection from outside dangers.

Theory of schisms

According to Yirmeyahu there are four relevant dates or periods with schisms with excommunications from accepted Judaism. One in 175-164 BC during the Seleucids (Jason / Jesus), one in  80 AD after the fall of Jerusalem with Paul and his Christians, one in 135 AD when Jews were expelled from Jerusalem, and then the period of Nicaea 325 AD.

“At that time [B.C.E. 2nd century], the prayer was known as the ‘[Bᵊrâkh•âh] to Him Who humbles the arrogant.’

A century later [B.C.E. 1st century] the imprecation was directed against the (Roman-collaborating) Hellenist Tzᵊdoq•im, and it was designated as the “Bᵊrâkh•âh concerning the Tzᵊdoq•im.”

(…) Ca. 80 C.E., 35 years after the Nᵊtzâr•im kâ•reit of Paul the Hellenist Apostate, under Rab•ân Ja•mᵊl•iy•eil (“Gamliel II”), this malediction was invoked, yet again against the alienated Roman-collaborating Hellenist Tzᵊdoq•im who, since the destruction of their Hellenized “Temple” and despite the Roman culpability (blamed on Pᵊrush•im intransigence, no doubt), increasingly closed ranks with their Hellenist Roman patrons – including, most likely especially, Paul the Hellenist Apostate.

(…) Roman gentiles achieved predominance over the Nᵊtzâr•im in 135 C.E., when the Hellenist Roman gentiles drove all of the Jews out of Yᵊru•shâ•layim. Especially thereafter, the Nᵊtzâr•im were confused with gentile Christians (probably due in large measure to followers of Paul the Hellenist Apostate) and suspected of collaborating with their Hellenist counterparts: the Roman occupiers.” (netzarim, glossary)

Jo(c)hanan ben Zak(k)ai and a 3rd Temple ?

Johanan ben Zakai (30-90 AD) in 70 AD let himself be smuggled out of Jerusalem in a coffin. He predicted Vespasian that the latter would be ruler, and was rewarded with the freedom to create the rabbinate tradition in Javne. However, JbZ did not say that that Vespasian was the messiah. He neither said that the Torah was invalid since someone not from David would rule Judah. JbZ copied Temple rites except for (major ?) sacrifices and it is said that on his deathbed he wished for the arrival of the true messiah.

“During the siege of Jerusalem in the Great Jewish Revolt, he argued in favour of peace; according to the Talmud, when he found the anger of the besieged populace to be intolerable, he arranged a secret escape from the city inside a coffin, so that he could negotiate with Vespasian (who, at this time, was still just a military commander). Yochanan correctly predicted that Vespasian would become Emperor, [PM: he might have heard about Josephus having made an earlier forecast / TC] and that the temple would soon be destroyed; in return, Vespasian granted Yochanan three wishes: the salvation of Yavne and its sages, the descendants of Rabban Gamliel, who was of the Davidic dynasty, and a physician to treat Rabbi Tzadok, who had fasted for 40 years to stave off the destruction of Jerusalem.

(..) More enigmatic were the Talmud’s record of his last words, which seem to relate to Jewish messianism: “prepare a throne for Hezekiah, the King of Judah, who is coming”” (wikipedia) (Later in 135 AD there was such a proclaimed messiah again.)

Rabbinate Judaism has been able to do without a Temple in Jerusalem. But the Torah would logically force them to wish for a king of David and a priest of Zadok in a Temple in Jerusalem. Unless they adhere to Gerizim.

Yemen, an archive for ancient fundamentalism, allows to recover Jesus

The Charlie Hebdo assassinations reminded of fundamentalism in Yemen. Yirmeyahu also found the Teimanim from Yemen who preserved the ancient Jewish “pristine tradition”.

Yirmeyahu rewrote the Gospel according to Matthew into a proper Judaic version (called NHM, order here). He suggests that the Teimanim provide a clue for some missing pieces to recover the true teachings of Jesus.

16th Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu ha-Tza•diq [… thus 16th bishop Yirmeyahu the Sadducee or the Righteous … thus meaning himself …] had long recognized a gaping and glaring lacuna: While NHM had demonstrated that the structural framework of the life and teachings of historical Ribi Yᵊho•shua [… Jesus …] was Tor•âh, the Judaic literature had preserved very few clues about his interpretations of Oral Law (and the Christian-redacted, Hellenized Greek literature was apostate and misleading). The Judaic literature tells us primarily that he was a Ribi. [… from the period before the Rabbi’s …] Therefore he was a Pᵊrush•i [… Pharisee ….] and Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT then demonstrates that

  1. he taught that Ha•lâkh•âh (rather than the Qum•rân Ma•as•ëh [… practice … see Q4 MMT …] or the Hellenist Tzᵊdoq•i Χειρογραφον τοις Δογμασιν) was the authoritative Oral Law and
  2. his teachings, recorded in NHM, demonstrate that he was of the school of Beit Hi•leil. [… Hillel the Elder, deceased 10 AD …]

The lacuna, of course, is that many subsets of Ha•lâkh•âh have subsequently evolved in the various Diaspora countries through assimilation (Ash•kᵊnazi, Sᵊphârâd•i, Mi•zᵊrakhi, etc.). The lacuna could only be restored authentically by retrieving and adopting the correct–most pristine–version of Ha•lâkh•âh to fill the lacuna! This became his next project.

In 1998, while researching ancient Judaic music, Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu discovered that the one Jewish community least affected and influenced by the outside world since the 1st century C.E., preserving the most pristine tradition of reciting Tor•âh and the most pristine reflection of 1st century Pᵊrush•i Ha•lâkh•âh, are the Tei•mân•im. Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu immediately determined to switch from the Ash•kᵊnazim synagogues where he had been praying and searched for a Beit ha-kᵊnësët Tei•mân•i, finding Beit ha-Kᵊnësët Mo•rëshët Âv•ot – Yad Nâ•âm•i only a block from his home! How wondrously י--ה had worked! Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu immediately applied for membership. After a meeting with their וַעַד during which he straightforwardly explained his positions, just as he had in Florida and to the Chief Rabbi. He was accepted and became a member of the עֲמֻתָּה. He and his family have prayed there regularly until 2012″. (website

Torah tree, Jesus offshoot, and the false Jesus of the Christians

Yirmeyahu presents Jesus as a proper offshoot of Judaism (netzarim), and the apostle Paul as the apostate (notzrim, meaning guard):

“The Neitzër” was the title of the prophesied Mâ•shiakh (Yᵊsha•yâhu [… Isaiah …] 11.1 and 60.21) and historical Ribi Yᵊho•shu’a [… Jesus …]

The plural, Nᵊtzâr•im, describes his original Pharisee Jewish followers, including the first 12, who were specifically identified in NT by the name Nᵊtzâr•im (…).

The term Neitzër was displaced by apostate Hellenist Turkish-Jew, Paul‘s Χριστιανος and, later, the telltale terms in the Greek mss. were de-Judaized (Hellenized) by the post-135 CE Christian NT redactors —unsupported by LXX —to Ναζαρηνος

The plural, Nᵊtzâr•im (referring to his followers), was de-Judaized (Hellenized) in the NT to Ναζωραιος (nazoraios) where it is clearly translated as “Nazarenes” in Ma•a•vâr 24:5 (as well as confused, elsewhere, with Nazoraeans / Nazirites).

Thus, while the נְצָרִים continued to live harmoniously among their fellow Pharisee Jews, the נָצְרִים were Hellenist gentiles, outside and alien to the Pharisee Jews and understood by Pharisee Jews as gentile Hellenist sentries of the Hellenist Roman occupiers. (…)  the נָצְרִים [… notzrim, Christian …]  Church was the most bitter enemy of the נְצָרִים, (netzarim, nowadays led by bishop Yirmeyahu …] whom they loathed as Jews.” (, glossary netzarim)

Joshua / Jesus saves militarily and not spiritually

Yirmeyahu has a remarkable lemma in his glossary about Joshua / Jesus (יְהוֹשֻעַ). There is nothing in the Torah that forbids the defence against another country (or the Romans). Jesus’s name (Joshua) would indicate a military saviour (liberator), not a spiritual one:

“Yᵊho•shua; י--ה [is] national-salvation or military-salvation; contracted to the cognomen יְשוּעַ (Yᵊshua), from the unused root verb יַשַׁע (to deliver nationally or militarily, to save nationally or militarily). This term is never used of the Hellenist (idolatrous) concept of “personal salvation” in the Bible or in Judaism. The verb is used in the hiph•il: הוֹשִׁיעַ (ho•shia; he saved nationally or militarily, delivered nationally or militarily or came to the rescue nationally or militarily). The verb is used in the same sense as its English counterpart was used in the old west: “The calvary will save us”—except for Jews ha-Sheim will save us (nationally and militarily from our enemies). There is no support for the idolatrous “personal salvation” doctrine of Christianity. At the personal level there is, instead, ki•pur—restricted to those who do their utmost to keep Tor•âh.

The book in Ta•na”kh is named after Yᵊho•shua Bën-Nun (Hellenized to ‘Joshua’). [… this refers to the Exodus when Joshua entered the Holy Land …]

‘Historical Yᵊho•shua‘ [… Jesus …] generally refers, by contrast, to the 1st-century human Jew, a pᵊrush•i Ribi, […Pharisee …] named Yᵊho•shua Bën-Yo•seiph Bën-Dâ•wid of Nâ•tzᵊr•at. Notice that even the name explicitly identifies Y–H, not Yᵊho•shua, as salvation! [… thus Yahweh is the saviour, not Jesus …] See Shᵊm•ot 15.2; Yᵊsha•yâhu 12.1-4; 25.9; Yon•âh 2.10; Tᵊhil•im 3.9; 13.6; 14.7; 18.51; 21.6; 28.8; 53.7; 62.1-2, 7; 67.1-3; 68.20-21; 70.5-6; 74.12). His Mâ•shiakh [.. .messiah …] is His agent, not the reverse; not the Provider of expiation. By means of the Mâ•shiakh—His Mâ•shiakh BënYo•seiph Bën– Dâ•wid (Tᵊhil•im 89:20-53)—י--ה provides expiation. Mâ•shiakh is merely His instrument, symbol or illustration; as were the animal sacrifices.”  (, glossary)

There is also the word salvation with two “synonyms” ransom and redemption:

שׁוּעָה (Yᵊshu•âh; salvation) is a fem. noun.

The Judaic meaning of יְשׁוּעָה relates to two associated synonyms:

פָּדָה (pâd•âh; ransom paid for the release of a living being),

גְאֻלָּה (gᵊul•âh) “is dependent upon תְּשׁוּבָה (tᵊshuv•âh) and performance of positive מִצווֹת (Mitz•wot) [Shab•ât 118b; Yom•â 86b; BB 10b; Sanh. 97b]” (“Redemption,” EJ, 14.1-2). Thus, gᵊul•âh is also dependent upon performance of the Mitz•wâh of צְדָקָה (tzᵊdâq•âh). (…)  It is connected with family law and reflects the Israelite conception of the importance of preserving the solidarity of the clan.(, glossary)

This reading relates to the legalistic approach of the Torah: if you stick to the law, then you ought to be safe. If you transgress, you pay a fine (ransom, redemption), and that is that. Sin isn’t a legal concept.

However, we established on Original Sin that the Torah implicitly has the notion. Especially in a period with expectations of the End of Time, people would be more sensitive for what would happen to them. Secondly, using Google translate, Hebrew does have words for sin and sacrifice:

We are reminded that Jesus was indicated in early writing also with symbols like IΣ (Iesous Soter), and that perhaps the first story about spiritual salvation was written in Greek, and later translated into Aramaic and Hebrew by a less professional translator. Or, someone is called Carpenter but is a shoe salesman. However, it would be ironic indeed when a teacher of love and forgiveness would have the name Marshall or Sargent.

Judaism and Jesus fit. Judaism (incl. Jesus) and Christianity don’t fit

Yirmeyahu arrives at a logical advice:

“Syncretizing selected elements of the Judaic concept of a Mâ•shiakh with their native pagan mythology, Roman gentiles de-Judaized (Hellenized) ‘historical Yᵊho•shua‘ to a mythical and counterfeit, antinomian, antithetical man-G-o-d idol: Ιησους ⇒ transliterated to Hebrew יֵשׁוּעַ ⇒ Anglicized to Jesus (cf. Who Are the Nᵊtzâr•im? (WAN) and The Nᵊtzâr•im Reconstruction of Hebrew Ma•tit•yâhu (NHM)). These two are mutually exclusive, diametric opposites. You cannot serve two masters. To believe in one necessarily constitutes rejection of the other.” (glossary Yehoshua)

But Yirmeyahu is too fast

This story sounds fairly consistent, but there is also the question why Jews don’t believe in Christ. That Jesus is the Son of God was made official by the Notzrim only in Nicaea in 325 AD. When we strip him of Paul’s meddling, the question is rather why not all Jews are netzarim ?

Rabbi Michael Skoba offers some answers but focused on messianism. On the more practical issue of Torah observence, he says:

“The Messiah will lead the Jewish people to full Torah observance. The Torah states that all mitzvot remain binding forever, and anyone coming to change the Torah is immediately identified as a false prophet. (Deut. 13:1-4)

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable. For example, John 9:14 records that Jesus made a paste in violation of Shabbat, which caused the Pharisees to say (verse 16), “He does not observe Shabbat!”” (Rabbi Michael Skoba)

In various battles, the Romans attacked on the Sabbath, when observant Jewish warriors could not respond. Thus Jesus’s rejection of this rule would fit his military profile. It is difficult to judge Skoba’s “throughout” though. Some cases might derive from Paul. Apparently, Yirmeyahu was capable of rewriting the Gospel according to Matthew such that it fits the Torah. One wonders in which it differs.

Curiously the rabbi also says that he is waiting for the true messiah – with first everyone believing in the God of Israel and observing the Torah, and subsequently of course an unspecified Armageddon:

“The world is in desperate need of Messianic redemption. (…) The Messiah can come any day, and it all depends on our actions. God is ready when we are. For as King David says: “Redemption will come today ― if you hearken to His voice.”” (Rabbi Michael Skoba)

And Armageddon it must be, for God’s Kingship will last only a single day. As the rabbi quotes:

“As it says: “God will be King over all the world ― on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One” (Zechariah 14:9)”

Listening to Stavros Xarhakos, the beautiful Aman … Amen

How can, will, must Angela Merkel deal with the new Greek minister of finance Yanis Varoufakis (who wrote this book on the Minotaur that I didn’t read) ?

My earlier weblog discussion on Varoufakis was in May 2012 and it still gives my position.

I read the Modest Proposal by Varoufakis & Holland – not the version with Galbraith joined up – and discovered that I didn’t need to write a reaction. It is better that they, on their turn, read my analysis.

In 2011 I got two emails from Varoufakis that he would read my Economic Plan for Europe (for economists) and get back to me. Apparently the paper & plan did not inspire him, or, there was another reason not to further respond.

Parts of my analysis have been published in the international community of economic research or in an online Greek newspaper. Unfortunately without a response by Varoufakis. Well, other economists didn’t react either. Somehow I still think that when your economy is in Depression like in Greece, Spain or Portugal, you would want to show some interest in a new analysis by an economist from Northern Europe, even an economist from Holland who gives severe criticism about his own minister of finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem – but no.

Bull leaping in Crete (Source:

Bull leaping in Crete (Source:

Varoufakis now is in the spotlights. I am afraid that it will not help to focus on Greece, since no Northern European country will trust proposals coming from them. Varoufakis already lost his “benefit of the doubt credibility as a new face”, by killing the Troika in his first contact with Dijsselbloem, and sending confusing signals about a “write-off” versus “a swap for growth bonds”.

Instructive reads are by Frances Coppola earlier on the Modest Proposal and recently on what would really work for recovery and reform. See also Klaus Kastner who has been trying to talk sense to Varoufakis for some years now. Paul Krugman has some kind of Game Theory tabulation of the Game of Chicken, with the Greek population held at ransom. Angela Merkel would not want Syriza to win but neither wants the blame caused by Greek unreliability and incompentence. The problem is that Krugman hasn’t studied my new analysis.  Martin Wolf in the Financial Times with his overview of the Game of Chicken rather than stalemate. For the solution approach, I would include Economic Supreme Courts, resolution of the cause of the Great Stagflation, rational use of money, National Investment Banks, and for Greece and Southern Italy Investment Zones under International Law (leases like Hong Kong originally).

Jos Collignon - The caged mouse that roared (Source: (c) Collignon, reproduced here with permission)

Jos CollignonThe caged mouse that roared (Source: (c) Collignon, reproduced here with permission)

Rather than Greece, it is more important to look at Holland. Like we had “Greek statistics” there is also “Dutch economics”. This has an abuse of power and censorship of economic science. I call on the world to boycott Holland till scientific freedom of thought is restored in Holland. See here.

Observe: the reason that you will not find so much of my work in the peer reviewed journals is that, of course, censorship must be lifted before the work can be published.

To return to the opening question: How can, will, must Angela Merkel deal with the new Greek minister of finance Yanis Varoufakis ? Well, it is part of the phenomenon of an economic crisis without national Economic Supreme Courts that this question will be hotly debated, with a rather risky outcome too.

PS 1. See also “Cause and Cure of the Crisis

PS 2. Bull-leaping is something else than the Minotaur, but I need a damsel in the picture to represent dr. Merkel.

PS 3. When I was in gymnasium I could draw the ancient plan of the Labyrinth at Knossos from memory, but these brain cells have been lost, while the current economic crisis anyhow is a maze:

maze refers to a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path and direction; while a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single path to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not difficult to navigate.” (quote in wikipedia)

PS 4. The title Modest Proposal is a satire by Jonathan Swift of 1729, that the poor people of Ireland offer their children for consumption by the rich, so that they at least serve some purpose. Copying this title by Varoufakis suggests satire, or it is a wrong choice. This fickleness on the title is a telling sign. I haven’t further checked Varoufakis’s work. If he did more on mathematics and Game Theory than econometrics as an empirical study, then we might see another case that mathematical abstraction can lead astray into wishful thinking. In that case I should perhaps read the version written jointly with Galbraith, whom I regard as an excellent and empirical economist. But the problem is not that I haven’t read this yet, but that they haven’t read my work (or responded with questions about what they don’t agree with or don’t understand yet). You cannot communicate something new if it isn’t read.

Listening to The Band, The Last Waltz

As a teacher I look warily at the disarray on Jesus:

  • School education still presents the New Testament (NT) as the story that is being told about Jesus. There is truth here: indeed, that story is being told. This is proper information about what the religious Christians believe. But there is also falsehood here: because it is not explained that those stories are invented and that Jesus is Santa Claus for adults.
  • At the academies, scholars lock themselves up in arcane discussions targeted at their peer-reviewed journals. Theologians assume the existence of God anyhow. New Testament Studies assume the existence of a historical Jesus. Historians tend to link up to the former. It might often be religious people who study this subject anyhow, because who else would be interested in reading the weird “revelations” of ancients prophets and monks ? Even the more critical historians feel forced to join the specialisation, for that is the name of the game of being an academic.
  • Outside of the academies, there is growing outrage about the historical untruths. People with diverse backgrounds like from electrical engineering to accounting start reading the common sources and start asking questions based upon logic and common sense. Over the years they can build up a respectable amount of knowledge and analysis, but of course they don’t publish in the academic journals, since their objective is quite different.

Each author is at a danger of creating his or her own Jesus. This is wonderful in terms of creativity for widening the scope for analysis. It seems that the academies have concentrated for the last 50 years on the Q hypothesis, and that they are now awakening to the notion that this is a dead end street. The latter might be regarded positively: that this has been established with quite some certainty now. It also is a huge waste of time, intelligence and effort. At its base lies the human weakness of disingenuity. If you apply mere logic, the Q hypothesis is absurd: see last weblog entry.

Beware of Biblical scholars

Consider the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). They were discovered between 1946 and 1956. Somehow their research became a monopoly of a group with a Catholic background, who launched the idea that the DSS would concern the period of 200 – 0 BC. It was due to Robert Eisenman and others that this monopoly was broken in 1991, at least 30 years later. It was also due to chance that photo’s had been made and that those were outside of reach of that monopoly. Eisenman has now established that crucial scrolls would apply up to the period of 70 AD, when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans. Hence some members of the DSS sects fled Jerusalem and Qumran just before the arrival of the Romans to hide their scrolls. Lena Einhorn confirms independently with the “time shift hypothesis” that events of 66-70 AD have been re-edited in the New Testament towards one generation (40 years) earlier.

“Professors Robert Eisenman and James Robinson indexed the photographs and wrote an introduction to A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which was published by the Biblical Archaeology Society in 1991.” (Wikipedia)

Who doesn’t shudder when hearing about that 30 year delay and misdirection ? Well, surprisingly, many Biblical scholars don’t wink, and continue in their allegiance to their faith, in neglect of the standards of science. Which is why it is important that scientists from other realms knock on the door and ask what is happening here.

Enter Michael Baigent from the fringe

The mention of photography allows an easy bridge to Michael Baigent (1948-2013). A lot has already been said about him, but these points seem important:

  • Boycott Dan Brown with his Da Vinci Code, since the script has been taken from Baigent, even though copyright laws apparently allow such feat. The reports about the law suit make for awkward reading, though a cynic might be amused. One can understand that Baigent lost under current laws – and not having Brown’s wife under oath in the witness stand. Brown did give a reference to Baigent but a reference is not enough when so many of the ideas are used.
  • Baigent’s script and Brown’s novelification have had quite an impact on popular perception of antiquity and the origin of Christianity. People will not believe the link of the Holy Grail to Christs’ bloodline, but they did start to wonder whether the Gospels are not just stories too. Baigent’s role in this deserves broad notice.
  • Baigent has a surprising feeling for fringe issues with the freedom to speculate, see his website. My suggestion would be, not that Dan Brown or would-be-Dan-Browns use these to write more fiction bestsellers, but that scholars take these as clues for interesting story lines: to tell what truthfully can be told. See the series “Ancient aliens debunked” as an example. And let the Baigent bloodline then share in the monetary proceeds.
  • Baigent’s major point may not be fiction at all. This concerns his warning about rabble-rousing about Armageddon.

Let me quote a bit more extensively from the website of his book “Racing towards Armageddon” (another book I didn’t read) to suggest that Baigent has something important to tell. Think about the fun movie “This is the End” that also plays into our culturally created delight and fear for the End of Time:

“This book explores the power of ideas to both create and change the beliefs that define people and nations. Bad ideas lead to bad outcomes. And as bad outcomes go, the belief in Armageddon is one of the worst.

(…) Fifty-nine percent of all American Christians – according to polls in 2002 – believe that the events described in Revelation will occur in their lifetime; amongst fundamentalist Christians the figure reaches seventy-seven percent. In the last days, they believe, the Messiah – Jesus – will return, win the great battle against Satan (the Antichrist, the Beast) and convert the entire world to Christianity. Thereafter he will rule from Jerusalem.

(…) I wrote this book out of a sense of outrage: that the lunatics were openly taking over the asylum and no one seemed to care. I had spent years talking to journalists about the matters explored in this book in an attempt to get them interested in chasing this story. But my many attempts had no effect. For some reason this area was too toxic – perhaps because working in it would probe areas which would reveal limits to our modern liberal desire for tolerance of all diversity, however destructive that might be to our own way of life. Finally, realising that this story would never be written unless I did it myself, I opened my lap-top and began.

(…) We have discovered the importance of tempering religious and ideological fervour through the checks and balances of democratic laws. And it is frightening to discover, as you will in this book, that there are powerful forces within our democracies which want to remove these laws for something more primitive and brutal.

(…) The extreme fundamentalism which I am writing about in my book is like a destructive virus infecting our culture. We need to stop it. To dismiss the appeal to biblical prophecy made by its leaders.

(…) It is self-evident that the trouble with prophecy is that it can become self-fulfilling; if we believe something to be true we may make it happen. There are many extremist Christians and Muslims who believe in a last-days cataclysm. Will this belief create a new reality in the Middle East?  This seems entirely plausible.

(…) Today those from the intolerant edge are making a concerted attempt to take over the centre; the fanatics are outflanking the complacent. Moderates of all faiths have reason to worry: do those self-confident, certain and aggressive voices from the edge truly speak for religion? We need to ask a blunt and unwelcome question: how long dare we be tolerant of intolerance?

(…) Before we cross the point of no return we must pose a blunt and difficult question: in this book, I ask, has the era of belief in one anthropomorphic God had its day?

(…) The most important message for readers is to keep asking questions; especially of all those who express belief systems which make claims of certainty and truth.(Michael Baigent)

Readers of my work may thus understand my puzzled interest in these issues:

Baigent 2009

Baigent 2009

A key agenda for academics and educators

A key agenda for academics and educators would be to get their act together and work towards inoculation against the rabble-rousing. Points to consider are:

  1. Define what rabble-rousing is. See Robert M. Price on the inverted logic that causes fundamentalism and zealotism. See David Brin on the hormonal feedback from religious rage, and consider that religion can be a hard drug.
  2. Academics are oriented at being original. Papers for journals might mention agreement but tend to contain some disagreement, e.g. something new. It are teachers who codify the findings into what should be passed on to the new generation. Academics should reconsider what would be the bedrock certainties that would be important to suggest to the younger generations, and join up with teachers to distill these. Do not exclude the so-called fringe, such as listed here on, but consider the arguments.
  3. Educators can already start by introducing common sense and diversity of opinion into courses. Many students and pupils love hearing about pyramids, Stonehenge, aliens, and what have you.
  4. Repair the errors mentioned above. Does it matter that Jesus is anthropomorphic as Baigent calls it, or might he also be a hippopotamus ? Or should we join Judaism, as the Protestants of Egypt who iconoclastically removed all such images from the Holy Land ? More seriously: teaching content does not concern a religion, i.e. some input, but teaching content concerns the process of studying more of such inputs. Thus the bedrock certainties concern critical thinking and research methods.
  5. Once the academics have their act together and rewritten the history of the origins of Christianity, thus with much more uncertainty than now is the standard, they should support the educators, so that those would not be the most conservative bottleneck. It might be wise to already start educational update programmes at universities to help highschool and elementary school teachers make the change.

My proposal is to start with the deconstruction of the Christian Bible. When Europe and the USA have reoriented their mind on the origin of Christianity – with Putin’s Russia again lagging behind – then it will be easier as a next step to consider Islam. The problems of the Middle East are primarily political and it doesn’t seem wise to complicate the resolution of those by introducing the issue of religion as a stumbling stone.

(Here the stepping stone would rather be the introduction of the separation of state and religion, like already happened in the West. Such separation doesn’t give religion full freedom to indoctrinate whatever they want, since the state would monitor basics, but religious leaders would be able to understand that this is the limited freedom that they get.)