Time shift and Paul: categories of truth & falsehood

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 Josephus.org 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.” (vroma.org)

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 Josephus.org.

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 Josephus.org)

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).” (vroma.org)

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)

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