If Antioch means a Council of War

Damascus is considered as a code word for Qumran. Let us look into the possibility that Antioch might stand for a faction in a Council of War.

Antioch has 29 hits in 28 verses in the King James Version. There are more Antiochs, like on the Orontes and in Pisidia. Some references may be to real cities. A reference might also be more metaphorical.

Apparently high priest Jason / Jesus (175 BC) wanted to turn Jerusalem into a Greek polis like Antioch on the Orontes, with perhaps Greek citizen rights:

“Beside this, he promised to assign an hundred and fifty [talents] more, if he might have licence to set him up a place for exercise [gymnasium], and for the training up of youth in the fashions of the heathen, and to write them of Jerusalem by the name of Antiochians.” (2 Maccabees 4.9 KJV) (cf. “let the children come to me”)

It is in Antioch that the word Christian is coined – though it is not specified which Antioch. In Acts 11, the gospel to the gentiles starts, with permission by Simon Peter.

“1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. (…18…) Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (..25…)  And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11.(25) KJV)

Acts 13.1-3 seems like a War Council with a schism

Acts 13.1-3 seems to refer to Antioch on the Orontes since Saul & Barnabas later continue to Antioch in Pisidia. But the verses provide us with a somewhat surprising list of names.

“1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (Acts 13.1-3 KJV)

The surprising names are:

  • Apparently the Bible has only one occurrence of that name Niger. FJ has a Niger of Peraea involved in War Councils, see Goldberg’s chronology 3, November 66-March 67.
  • For Manaen, Manahem, Menahem, Menachem (conventionally “comforter, consoler, mediator, advocate, Holy Ghost, paraclete” – but see below) here is the hypothesis by Lena Einhorn that he would be Simon Peter, using her time shift hypothesis.
  • Allow for a flexible time shift: There is Lukuas of Cyrene who was one of the leading rebels in the Kitos war 115-117 AD. As Lukuas ransacked Alexandria, the intellectuals there had a good reason to finally get rid of these rebelling Jews. They may have answered by the means that they commanded, their pen, to rewrite the OT into the NT. Remember also Simon of Cyrene who carried Jesus’s cross, as some final helping hand. Editors of the NT in 120 AD may well have borrowed Lukuas’s name to express the continued rebellion – and perhaps this is where the evangelist Luke got his name too.
  • For Saul / Paul & Barnabas we discussed the hypothesis that Barnabas ~ Flavius Josephus and that Saul / Paul ~ his brother Matthias.

Let us consider some of these characters and roles.

A key event for Paul in Antioch

Some have little doubt that Acts 13.1-3 is a key event in the gospel by Paul. We already saw the start of the gospel to the gentiles in Acts 11 and thus Acts 13 only indicates that Paul takes the leadership. When Paul writes letters about an (additional) female companionship, we are reminded that a high priest has two wives in order to remain pure and be able to stay away from blood.

Maria Pascuzzi in a review of Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, ‘Paul: His Story’ writes:

“(…Paul…) emerges as anything but an endearing character. (…) This unflattering characterization of Paul is, at times, exaggerated. So too is the author’s assessment of the impact of the Antioch incident on Paul, cited as the most decisive moment in his life after his conversion. Murphy-O’Connor claims that the incident resulted in a total rupture between Paul and the Antiochene community, after which Paul, isolated and lacking Antioch’s authoritative backing, unfolds a ministry mired in polemic. Conflict is not just a component part of Paul’s story. As Murphy-O’Connor presents it, it is Paul’s story! Paul is in conflict with subverters of his law-free gospel, detractors discrediting his apostolic legitimacy, or defectors enticed by more rhetorically eloquent preachers. Was the Antioch incident the watershed in Paul’s life that the author alleges? Unfortunately, there are few clues in Paul’s letters to suggest that this incident was viewed by Paul as decisive for his ministry and thought about the law. Murphy-O’Connor treats this as an all-decisive event, but the evidence does not support the claim, even if Paul did see Antioch as significant.” (Maria Pascuzzi, H-Catholic July 2005)

Translations matter. The “Separate me” required by the Holy Ghost might be interpretated in various ways. In another case a person’s ears are cut off so that he no longer is pure enough to become a high priest. The modern Google Translate gives excommunicated for ἀφορίσατε (aforisate), and Bible Hub gives “set apart”.

Non-academic writer Joseph Atwill suggests that in Antioch at least Saul is castrated for becoming lax on circumcision and causing the murder of Stephen (James the Just). See the Appendix. I don’t think that this argument is so strong. A castrated Paul could no longer be a high priest so one can imagine that he concentrates on the gentiles. Atwill overall suggestion is that the NT is black comedy written by Romans to subdue the Judeans and at the same time make fun of them. It seems that this may cause more questions than that it solves.

The NA28 original and CEV translation are, and check the verses by terms 13.2 and 13.3.

“1 The church at Antioch had several prophets and teachers. They were Barnabas, Simeon, also called Niger, Lucius from Cyrene, Manaen, who was Herod’s close friend, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and going without eating, the Holy Spirit told them, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have chosen them.” 3 Everyone prayed and went without eating for a while longer. Next, they placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul to show that they had been appointed to do this work. Then everyone sent them on their way.” (Acts 13.3 CEV)

1 Ἦσαν δὲ ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ κατὰ τὴν οὖσαν ἐκκλησίαν προφῆται καὶ διδάσκαλοι ὅ τε Βαρναβᾶς καὶ Συμεὼν ὁ καλούμενος Νίγερ καὶ Λούκιος ὁ Κυρηναῖος, Μαναήν τε Ἡρῴδου τοῦ τετραάρχου σύντροφος καὶ Σαῦλος. 2 Λειτουργούντων δὲ αὐτῶν τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ νηστευόντων εἶπεν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον· ἀφορίσατε δή μοι τὸν Βαρναβᾶν καὶ Σαῦλον εἰς τὸ ἔργον ὃ προσκέκλημαι αὐτούς. 3 τότε νηστεύσαντες καὶ προσευξάμενοι καὶ ἐπιθέντες τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοῖς ἀπέλυσαν. (Acts 13.1-2 NA28, German Bible Society)

In Liddell_Scott-Jones we find ἀφορ-ίζω for both positive and negative separation: ordain or banish. Also, to put or lay hands on someone may be interpreted in various ways. One can bless a person or beat him – check epithentes and the verb ἐπιτίθημι. Thus, we have little information, other than:

  • the separation itself
  • the persons involved
  • the events before and after.

Thus rather than thinking about a congregation in the city of Antioch on the Orontes, we may think about different views, philosophies or tendencies, and perhaps even the moods in a War Council.

What connections to Cyrene ?

A search on Josephus.org on Cyrene gives only this discussion on Masada and Eleazar (the Lazarus of the NT):

“Finally, in late 73 CE Flavius Silva approached Masada. The Sicarii were still awaiting the End, which they thought would be presaged by heavenly chariots, not Roman legions. It is likely that some Sicarii fled from Masada and the countryside to Egypt when Silva approached, for it is remarkable that immediately after the fall of Masada Josephus tells of Sicarii in Egypt and Cyrene, although he had given no hint of any such agitation there previously.” (Goldberg website)

Checking at Project Gutenberg and PACE, there is a surprise sicarius Jonathan who would have fled from Masada and who accuses FJ himself:

“Nay, indeed, lest any Jews that lived elsewhere should convict him of his villainy, he extended his false accusations further, and persuaded Jonathan, and certain others that were caught with him, to bring an accusation of attempts for innovation against the Jews that were of the best character both at Alexandria and at Rome. One of these, against whom this treacherous accusation was laid, was Josephus, the writer of these books. However, this plot, thus contrived by Catullus, did not succeed according to his hopes; for though he came himself to Rome, and brought Jonathan and his companions along with him in bonds, and thought he should have had no further inquisition made as to those lies that were forged under his government, or by his means; yet did Vespasian suspect the matter and made an inquiry how far it was true. And when he understood that the accusation laid against the Jews was an unjust one, he cleared them of the crimes charged upon them, and this on account of Titus’s concern about the matter, and brought a deserved punishment upon Jonathan; for he was first tormented, and then burnt alive.” (FJ War 8.11.3)

Thus there are various elements that a writer of the Acts can use to create verse 13.1-3, with an opponent of FJ ~ Barnabas and a separation of ways with such various characters involved.

March 15: A flexible time shift hypothesis

Up to now, I used the term time shift hypothesis for the idea that events in the NT supposedly from the time of Pontius Pilate around 30 AD actually code for real events around 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem. Let us now use the phrase flexible time shift hypothesis for the phenomenon that passages may apply to various events in time. The NT was composed over a longer period of time, with layer over layer, and portions were added and deleted (depending upon the effect on the readership or audience). We for example saw a Basic Passion Story for the release by Agrippa of Simon of Zebedee in 41-44 AD. Perhaps at that time it was a major story, but eventually it dropped to a lower level of interest.

Stuart Waugh has this observation on the Kitos war (from Lusius Quietus) and Lukuas (a.k.a. Andreas) 115-117 AD;

“(…) the Bar Kochba revolt (…) simply wasn’t as big a deal as it has been made up to be. While it was a long nasty brutal guerrilla war which inflicted some horrific casualties, it was also extremely localized and had little impact on the larger Empire. Although many modern zealous Zionists want to paint the picture of a bigger war, the archeology simply doesn’t support it. In fact much about the War and the build up, and even the Roman construction of Aelia Capitolina, is misreported or simply wrong. And the more I examine the Marcionite text, the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, Romans Law and the various Historical reports, the less of a big deal this revolt seems to be in the big picture.

On the other hand the Parthian War and the Jewish insurrections in the Ptolemaic regions of the Roman empire appears to have been a very big deal. The Arch of Titus is testimony to that, even if it was Hadrian who completed it. There were so many conflicts in those few years that the Arch of Titus depicts more than just the Parthian conflict, as witness the relief to the left of Lusius Quietus’ battles in Dacia. The Jewish ethnic riots in Cyrene were so severe that the Roman baths had to be rebuilt afterwards – a plaque was discovered of Hadrian rededicating the bath house in the aftermath of tumulto Iudaico sometime after 120 CE. (Note, Quietus was send to “quiet” the rebellions in Cyprus and then Egypt, and it was his name that gave us the English word ‘to quiet’.)” (Stuart Waugh, 2013-09-22)

Lusius Quietus' Moorish Cavalry in Dacia, on Column of Trajan (Source: wikimedia commons)

Lusius Quietus’ Moorish Cavalry in Dacia, on the Column of Trajan (Source: wikimedia commons)

Thus we should allow that Lukuas has been written into the New Testament, both as helping Jesus carrying the cross and partaking in that Council of War.

March 16: More on Manaen, Manahem, Menahem, Menachem

The most important point w.r.t. Manahem perhaps should be that Bible translators and researchers should write his name in consistent manner, for it is silly and irritating how much time can be lost simply in checking all versions.

Wikipedia has an article “Menahem” with a picture of a “Manahem” which shows the idiocy – and it appears to concern a king of Israel in the Old Testament (Northern Israel to be distinguished from Southern Judea) – while the Manahem who started the Jewish rebellion in 66 AD is not important for an article on himself.

Currently I follow Josephus, in the Whiston translation, who introduces Manahem as the person who started the violent rebellion around 66 AD that led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

As said, Einhorn ventures the hypothesis that Manahem is Simon Peter, and she writes “Menahem”. I agree with Einhorn that portions of Manahem have been used by the NT editors to create Simon Peter. However, he need not be fully him.

It seems that portions of Manahem have also been used to create Jesus, King of the Jews. For FJ describes in two passages in War 2.17.8-9 how Manahem started the rebellion, took the state and attire of a king, and was eventually slain by his compatriots, all in 66 AD. Later in 70 AD we see Simon bar Giora in the attire of a king, being captured by the Romans and executed in Rome. It is nice to see how the responsibility shifts from Jews to Romans. Thus at least these two characters have been used to create Jesus, King of the Jews. Since Manahem was slain so early in the rebellion my impression is that Simon bar Giora had a longer impact.

FJ calls Manahem the son of Judas of Galilee but he may also be a grandson. Judas started the rebellion in 6 AD because of the population census and tax plans by Quirinius (“Cyrenius”). “Jesus” may only be a code word for the start of the Jewish rebellion at that time. FJ reports about 60 years later – and check Einhorn for links in the NT:

“[433] In the mean time, one Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean, (who was a very cunning sophister, and had formerly reproached the Jews under Cyrenius, that after God they were subject to the Romans,) took some of the men of note with him, and retired to Masada, where he broke open king Herod’s armory, and gave arms not only to his own people, but to other robbers also. These he made use of for a guard, and returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem; he became the leader of the sedition, and gave orders for continuing the siege; but they wanted proper instruments, and it was not practicable to undermine the wall, because the darts came down upon them from above. But still they dug a mine from a great distance under one of the towers, and made it totter; and having done that, they set on fire what was combustible, and left it; and when the foundations were burnt below, the tower fell down suddenly. Yet did they then meet with another wall that had been built within, for the besieged were sensible beforehand of what they were doing, and probably the tower shook as it was undermining; so they provided themselves of another fortification; which when the besiegers unexpectedly saw, while they thought they had already gained the place, they were under some consternation. However, those that were within sent to Manahem, and to the other leaders of the sedition, and desired they might go out upon a capitulation: this was granted to the king’s soldiers [Agrippa / TC] and their own countrymen only, who went out accordingly; but the Romans that were left alone were greatly dejected, for they were not able to force their way through such a multitude; and to desire them to give them their right hand for their security, they thought it would be a reproach to them; and besides, if they should give it them, they durst not depend upon it; so they deserted their camp, as easily taken, and ran away to the royal towers, – that called Hippicus, that called Phasaelus, and that called Mariamne. But Manahem and his party fell upon the place whence the soldiers were fled, and slew as many of them as they could catch, before they got up to the towers, and plundered what they left behind them, and set fire to their camp. This was executed on the sixth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul].” (FJ, War 2.17.8)

“[441] But on the next day the high priest was caught where he had concealed himself in an aqueduct; he was slain, together with Hezekiah his brother, by the robbers: hereupon the seditious besieged the towers, and kept them guarded, lest any one of the soldiers should escape. Now the overthrow of the places of strength, and the death of the high priest Ananias, so puffed up Manahem, that he became barbarously cruel; and as he thought he had no antagonist to dispute the management of affairs with him, he was no better than an insupportable tyrant; but Eleazar and his party, when words had passed between them, how it was not proper when they revolted from the Romans, out of the desire of liberty, to betray that liberty to any of their own people, and to bear a lord, who, though he should be guilty of no violence, was yet meaner than themselves; as also, that in case they were obliged to set some one over their public affairs, it was fitter they should give that privilege to any one rather than to him; they made an assault upon him in the temple; for he went up thither to worship in a pompous manner, and adorned with royal garments, and had his followers with him in their armor. But Eleazar and his party fell violently upon him, as did also the rest of the people; and taking up stones to attack him withal, they threw them at the sophister, and thought, that if he were once ruined, the entire sedition would fall to the ground. Now Manahem and his party made resistance for a while; but when they perceived that the whole multitude were falling upon them, they fled which way every one was able; those that were caught were slain, and those that hid themselves were searched for. A few there were of them who privately escaped to Masada, among whom was Eleazar, the son of Jairus, who was of kin to Manahem, and acted the part of a tyrant at Masada afterward. As for Manahem himself, he ran away to the place called Ophla, and there lay skulking in private; but they took him alive, and drew him out before them all; they then tortured him with many sorts of torments, and after all slew him, as they did by those that were captains under him also, and particularly by the principal instrument of his tyranny, whose name was Apsalom.” (FJ, War 2.17.9)

Ralph Ellis on Manahem as a treasurer or tax farmer

Non-academic author Ralph Ellis – who academic researchers should take more seriously – suggests that Manahem might rather be a title rather than a personal name – see King Jesus page 80-81. While the conventional explanation for “Menahem” is comforter or paraclete – see said wikipedia article – Ellis suggests a better explanation:

“One suspects that ‘Manahem’ is probably a title, for this important person does not get many mentions in the texts of Josephus and the name appears to have been derived from the Hebrew maneh (…) meaning ‘counting’ or ‘money’ (from which the English term is also derived. Remember that the entire dispute between the Galilean Sect and the Jerusalem authorities revolved around taxation, which is why Jesus was ridiculed for associating with ‘tax-collectors and sinners’. [ftnt] (Some Bibles translate ‘tax-collector’ as ‘publican’, but the primary meaning of telones (…) and publicanus is the former.) Therefore, a good nickname for the Galilean Sect might be the ‘Bankers’, which is why the character called Manahem was given this particular nickname. But this means that Manahem could actually be any of the sons of Judas-Zamaris of Gamala, including Jesus, James and Simon. It is also worth noting that an earlier Manahem, who lived during the reign of King Herod, was explictly called an Essene, by Josephus. [ftnt]” (Ellis, King Jesus page 81)

Indeed, see biblehub on maneh (also translated as pound).

The last reference is to Antiquities, apparently about a period BC concerning Herod the Great:

“[373] Now there was one of these Essens, whose name was Manahem, who had this testimony, that he not only conducted his life after an excellent manner, but had the foreknowledge of future events given him by God also. This man once saw Herod when he was a child, and going to school, and saluted him as king of the Jews; but he, thinking that either he did not know him, or that he was in jest, put him in mind that he was but a private man; but Manahem smiled to himself, and clapped him on his backside with his hand, and said,” However that be, thou wilt be king, and wilt begin thy reign happily, for God finds thee worthy of it. And do thou remember the blows that Manahem hath given thee, as being a signal of the change of thy fortune. And truly this will be the best reasoning for thee, that thou love justice [towards men], and piety towards God, and clemency towards thy citizens; yet do I know how thy whole conduct will be, that thou wilt not be such a one, for thou wilt excel all men in happiness, and obtain an everlasting reputation, but wilt forget piety and righteousness; and these crimes will not be concealed from God, at the conclusion of thy life, when thou wilt find that he will be mindful of them, and punish time for them.” Now at that time Herod did not at all attend to what Manahem said, as having no hopes of such advancement; but a little afterward, when he was so fortunate as to be advanced to the dignity of king, and was in the height of his dominion, he sent for Manahem, and asked him how long he should reign. Manahem did not tell him the full length of his reign; wherefore, upon that silence of his, he asked him further, whether he should reign ten years or not? He replied, “Yes, twenty, nay, thirty years;” but did not assign the just determinate limit of his reign. Herod was satisfied with these replies, and gave Manahem his hand, and dismissed him; and from that time he continued to honor all the Essens. We have thought it proper to relate these facts to our readers, how strange soever they be, and to declare what hath happened among us, because many of these Essens have, by their excellent virtue, been thought worthy of this knowledge of Divine revelations.” (FJ, Antiquities 15.10.5)


It leads too far to draw strong conclusions here. We scratch the surface and already find some interesting possibilities. There is a danger of reading too much into the texts but perhaps there is some illumination here.


Appendix: Joseph Atwill on a supposed castration of Paul

Joseph Atwill:

“The first mystery concerning Paul is why did the author of Acts change his name from ‘Saul’ to ‘Paul’, a word that means ‘tiny’. The truth behind Saul’s nickname is viscous humor that makes fun of the fact that Paul was not merely circumcised but castrated. The story of Paul’s castration is black comedy and is given in Acts 13 1-9.

Prior to the scene in Acts 13 Saul/Paul had attacked a member of the ‘way’ – Stephan – who has been preaching for ‘Jesus’, in other words, Stephan had been preaching for the Flavian Christ. Following this event Saul shows up in Antioch with a group that includes a ‘stepbrother’ of Herod. Then the ‘Holy Spirit’, for some reason, orders Saul ‘separated’ – the Greek word used can also mean ‘severed’ – and the group then “placed their hands on him” – the word used for “placed” can also mean ‘attack’. Following the event Saul becomes ‘Paul’, a word that means ‘tiny’. In other words, Paul has been ‘severed’ – or castrated – by the group led by Herod’s ‘stepbrother’ as revenge for his participation in the attack on a member of the ‘Way’ – the Caesars’ version of Judaism. This was how Saul became ‘Tiny’.

To digress, this analysis shows not only the reason why the Romans named the character ‘Paul’, but why they gave him his original name of ‘Saul’. Saul was the Jewish king that had demanded David obtain ‘a hundred Gentile foreskins’ and the Romans named their character ‘Saul’ to imply that his ‘circumcision’ involved – like the one ordered by his OT ‘forerunner’ – more than a single foreskin. The author of Acts ‘clarifies’ the relationship by actually mentioning the OT Saul in the passage where ‘Saul’ becomes ‘Tiny’ – Acts 13:21. The author also notes that the OT Saul’s reign had the space of forty years. This ‘foresees’ the forty years between the beginning of Paul’s ‘ministry’ at approximately 40 CE and the start of Domitian’s reign in 81 CE – a roughly forty year cycle parallel to the one which linked Jesus to Titus.

(Joseph Atwill, weblog April 9 2013)

Atwill’s suggestion for me at this stage creates more questions that it solves. His overall suggestion is that the NT is black comedy written by Romans to subdue the Judeans and at the same time make fun of them. It is a possibility, but one with drawbacks.

(1) There should be an explanation why the attack would be needed, and what the meaning of the Holy Spirit is. Saul would be silly to first kill James and then think that he could drink tea with his followers. Thus the story likely is different. I would like to see wider context: that Eisenman interpretes Stephen as James, so that we know that we are speaking about the same sequence of events, and why Atwill might disagree with NT and Eisenman.We should try to check again what Eisenman says about the scene.

(I tend to agree with Eisenman that Stephen ~ James ~ The Way. Paul / Saul participated in his execution. Subsequently Paul and Barnabas were expelled. The Holy Spirit indicates the new idea of the mission to the gentiles – the Flavian Christ. This seems a different reading than Atwills. With Atwill’s reading I don’t understand why the expulsion would be needed.)

(2) Castration requires much explanation. Why this measure ? Would it not kill an adult ? I found a source that somewhat took away some of my hesitations: A Brief History Of Castration: Second Edition, by Victor T. Cheney.

I suppose that “an eye for an eye” is their world, but then they would kill him instead of castration. wouldn’t they ? Merely black comedy is not enough. They might also cut off his ears, which would be more of a visible thing. I suppose that Atwill explains this in the book, but I am afraid that he has to explain this now to his audience, because now it may be a reason not to buy the book.

My impression still is that an adult who has been castrated against his will might well collapse psychologically, and not have the energy that Atwill allocates to Paul. I suppose that he discusses the issue in his book. But his website could provide the main argument.

(3) Theologians might very well understand models of black comedy. It would be important to recover their arguments why they reject it.

(4) Since we will never know what is the true story about Jesus, the main issue is what can be sensibly told in highschool so that students get a foundation to deal with a confusing world. The idea that the NT is black comedy likely leads too far. People will not understand typology and black comedy when it isn’t discussed with them first. Okay, it is in the Caesar Messiah, but every class starts with a recall of last session & where are we now, and I would like to see this on the internet too.

(5) As a final caveat: The weblog text on Atwill’s Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah requires mention of Hamlet’s Mill, by Giorgio de Santillana (a professor of the history of science at MIT) and Hertha von Dechend. An important section of our literary legacy derives from stories about astronomical events reworked into human drama. Atwill now links Shakespeare to the New Testament but there may well be a common source. But of course Atwill’s new thesis must be judged on its own arguments.


Comments are closed.