From Saul to Paul by getting a patronus Pauli

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!”


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