Dealing with truth anyway

Listening to Pink Floyd – Echoes, in Pompeii


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

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

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

But there are snakes in the grass.

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

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

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

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

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

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


On the data we find:

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

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

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

The objectives of the authors of the NT matter too:

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

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

These conclusions are supported by the discussion below.





Let us see what snakes there are:

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

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

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

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

(C) Other data are:

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

(D) Complications are:

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

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

Sergius Paulus in Acts 13.7 in Greek and Latin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sergius Paulus in Pliny the Elder

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

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

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

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

Sergius Paulus in archeology
Blackwell Companion to Paul

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

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

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

Dismissed sources

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

Revision on Soli ?

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

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

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

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

Lucius put into the name

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

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

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

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

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

A troubling stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

We see two lines with names separated by dots:

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

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

Confusion on a troubling stone ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Saul change his name in 58 AD ?

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

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

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

The options for Vergeer’s suggestion are still open.

The gens Pauli are problematic anyway

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

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

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


Appendix: Naming conventions in Rome, Republic and Empire

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Caveats are:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





From Saul to Paul

Vergeer points to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The text in Acts, with some notes:

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

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

Vergeer refers to Paul’s death, see below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

In an email to me Van Minnen states additionally:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vergeer on the “change of a single letter”:

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

The actual process might have been in the reverse.

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

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

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

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

Brandon’s hypothesis on Jesus vs Paul

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Implicit support for Voskuilen’s macabre parallel

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

The NT cover up a rebellion

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

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

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

The NT is propaganda

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

Paul’s change allowed the success

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

Son of God appalls Judaism


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is the Son of Man

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

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

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

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

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

Collecting the implied support for the macabre parallel

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

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

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

Potential explicit critique on the macabre parallel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surprisingly, Vergeer becomes rather critical in illogical fashion.

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

Observe on logic:

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

Observe on historical facts:

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

Observe on emotions:

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

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

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

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


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

Obey the authorities or God

This isn’t much of a discussion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

First a point about a key translator from Greek though.

A key translator was Erasmus (1466-1526)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erasmus by Holbein, 1523 (Source: wikimedia commons)

Erasmus by Holbein, 1523 (Source: wikimedia commons)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Greek original has no ἐξουσία:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us continue with taxation.

Give Caesar what is of Caesar

Vergeer continues his criticism on Voskuilen’s 2002 book:

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

This provides a problem:

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

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

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

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

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

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

KAISAROS SE-BASTOU (Source: Incitatus Coins)

KAISAROS SE-BASTOU (Source: Incitatus Coins)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How many Jews were there in the Roman empire ?

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

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

Rather the legal issue of special rights for Judea

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

Vergeer’s summary statement

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

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

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

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

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



Appendix 1. A speculation on the brothers Matthias and Josephus

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

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

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

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

A speculation thus is that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wikipedia portal on Matthias gives:

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

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

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

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

Appendix 2. Stephan Huller on Mark = Marcus Julius Agrippa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following is purely for reference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lapis [Perseus dictionary at Tufts]

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

Appendix 3. PM on a modern rebel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bedrock certainties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C. Bedrock certainties on method are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voskuilen & Sheldon: Paul was from the Roman CIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voskuilen & Sheldon 2008

Voskuilen & Sheldon 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Academics for comedy and against the fringe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saul of Tarsus is a basket case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nazoraios ~ crown of the high priest

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

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

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

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

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

Literary analysis can give remarkable results

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

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

Macdonald 2000, Price 2011, Brodie 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two mythicist critics of Brodie

Salm disagrees with Brodie on this point:

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

Salm 2008

Salm 2008, archeology only

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

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

Carrier 2014

Praise and defence for Thomas Brodie

Wikipedia reports:

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

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

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

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

To his defence, I would say:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huller 2011

Huller 2011

Appendix 2. More on René Salm
Archeology and René Salm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also on archeology and Salm, 2012.

Salm on human folly

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

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

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

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

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

Some points of critique

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salm 2008

Salm 2008, archeology only

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

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

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

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

Adair 2013

Adair 2013

Paul = Flavius Josephus ?

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

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

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

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

Ellis 2008

Ellis 2008

Listening to Synaulia Elenhs Karaindrou.

Humour can be used to distort history.

Distortion of history doesn’t always result into humour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taylor (ed) 2015

Brian in the Kabbalah, though spelled Briah

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

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

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

Briah from Nazareth ? Jesus nazoraios ?

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

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

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

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

Pontius Pilate affixed a sign onto the cross:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krijbolder’s nazoraios is nasorayya

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

Doing a new search on this

His reference to Moses and a snake gives this:

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

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

Asklepios, Museum of Epidaurus (Source: wikipedia commons)

Asklepios, Museum of Epidaurus (Source: wikipedia commons)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How rabbinate Judaism might have changed nazoraios into notzrim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As one should recollect, Plato advised the state, to banish all those who used artistic forms of expression, as such expressions carried in them the possibilities of multiple hermeneutical meanings, to escape proper criticism. Plato was thus against artistic and poetic freedom. Up to this very day of ours, mankind bears the toll in its ears of this biased verdict, prohibiting unbiased appreciation of pre-Platoon allegorically styled and extrapolated Hebraic minded forms of expression.

Very few apart from Pierre Krijbolder have properly appreciated this separation in mental digesting characteristics of semantics by the naturally authentic pre-Platoon expressing brain on the one hand by the rather limited hermeneutical post-Platoon brain, on the other hand. The difference in alignment of the unit of symbol for meaning is tremendous. Two entirely different worlds of semiotic brain setups.” (Hagen, main page, some typo’s corrected)

Obviously, when the New Testament is merely a vessel to propagate theological and halakha ideas in poetic form, then modern literally minded researchers of the historical Jesus are barking up the wrong tree.

Yet, some history could be recovered. Krijbolder suggests that Jesus stands for a new theological concept. There would be aspects or phases in the concept: birth, baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection have metaphorical meaning about the relation of the new theological concept with the other theological concepts (not necessarily sects) of the period. We are back to the mundane decoding of metaphors:

“So the general picture presented by Krijbolder is this: within the mainstream Essenism (Jesus of Bethlechem or young Jesus), a new sub-movement led by former Qumran sect chief priests, was gradually developed; the baptized Jesus. These former Qumran chief priests taught the spiritual law interpretation that required the sadducean law orientation, whereas the main stream Essenism followed the pharisaic law orientation. The reason was, that those former Qumran priests, must have recognized in the immortality of the soul doctrine illustrative for the mainstream Essenism, a motivation that was lacking in the Qumran-movement. Only the pharisaic law orientation seemed to provide the window, for such motivation. So they walked over, leaving then the Qumran-movement or symbolically John the Baptist, as beheaded allegorically.” (Hagen, “about” page, typos corrected)

Thus: Essenes (Therapeutae) & Qumran Sadducees → Nazoraios (as a new kind of Pharisees). I am not sure whether it is historically correct to associate Qumran with the Sabians. But Robert M. Price in his review of Eisenman’s New Testament Code agrees:

“The Teacher of Righteous was James the Just (though Arthur E. Palumbo, Jr., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Personages of Earliest Christianity, 2004, may be right: as per Barbara Thiering, John the Baptist may have been the first to hold that office, with James as his successor).” (Robert M. Price)

We saw before that Christianity relies on Original Sin. For the notion of Original Sin it indeed is important to have an immortal soul. Thus Judaism originally fled from Egyptian religion, like Protestants with iconoclastic rejection of false gods. The Torah emphasizes the law rather than the Egyptian notion of an immortal soul that is judged by Osiris in the Hall of Ma’at. With a twist of history, Jesus leads the way back to Egypt. Jesus as a person is a myth, but as a concept is historical.

PM 1. Krijbolder 1976 doesn’t benefit from the recent time shift hypothesis that puts events around 70 AD rather than 30 AD (Eisenman, Einhorn).

PM 2. A downside of the Krijbolder / Hagen website is that Hagen’s use of English is somewhat crude and at times difficult to follow. He also includes his own analysis, and at times one cannot see what is from Krijbolder and what is from Hagen. He also included in the English book version a new section on the Turin Shroud that makes for historical nonsense. Thus he has saved Krijbolder’s important work from oblivion but there is still work to make it more accessible. Hagen own views and interpretations are also relevant and he should state those more clearly. However, I read the book with great interest and with quite an impact on my understanding (skipping the part on the Shroud) and can recommend it.

NB. This text is also archived on this website under the denominator “Anatomy of Holland”. Krijbolder’s book dates from 1976. His analysis apparently has been structurally neglected or ridiculed in Holland, which again slows the Dutch closed mind. Consider the waste of time since 1976 ….

Krijbolder 1999

Krijbolder 1999


If the Life of Brian is given a make-over, I would suggest to put in more snakes.

Since Joan Taylor speaks about the historical Jesus as a Jew, he cannot be a concept or metaphor – unless she means that Jew is a concept or metaphor too.


Professor Taylor on nazoraios and nasorayyo

Joan Taylor, “The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea” (2012) p171-172, (Amazon reviews),  tells the following about the nasorayya – and I only looked at these pages and not the rest of the book.

Taylor 2012

Taylor 2012

Remarkable points:

  • Judaism after 70 AD did not become rabbinic overnight. It took some efforts, as Yohanan ben Zak(k)ai shows.
  • The name “Samaritans”, how they call themselves, means guardians of the law !
  • Samaritans in the Talmud are called by others kuthim or Cutheans, apparently referring to Kutha in Iraq. It this might be a midrash (not a “lie”). It reminds of the kittim apparently also used for the foreigners, Greek & Roman. Wikipedia gives Kittim ~ Kiton on Cyprus ~ Citium ~ “It was often applied to all the Aegean islands and even to “the W[est] in general, but esp[ecially] the seafaring W[est].“” This reminds of the Sea Peoples and the collapse in 1177 BC, and the Philistines (Palestina). Also, Paul’s visit to Cyprus to buy figs, and where he met Bar-Jesus, might only be a midrash on that he got his theology (fig tree) from the kittim.
  • Taylor suggests that the Essenes would be called ‘Herodians’. I don’t understand why she suggests this. Mark 12:13-17 has “13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. (…) 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” But it is not clear that these Pharisees or Herodians would be Essenes. See also Mark 3:6 on the Sabbath. (I didn’t read her book though.)
  • She mentions different translations of nazoraios but (at this occasion) doesn’t indicate the problems, and doesn’t touch on the question what the proper translation would be. Her reference to Jesus in the (post 70 AD) Talmud as ha-Notzri is too simple (but perhaps covered by the references she gives).
Joan Taylor p171

Joan Taylor p171


Taylor p172

Joan Taylor p172


Joan Taylor p172 footnotes

Joan Taylor p172 footnotes

C.K. Barrett, Acts: Volume 1: 1-14

C.K. Barrett, Acts: Volume 1: 1-14, p 140, 1994, reprinted twice in 2006, gives the “traditional” view that nazoraios would be “from Nazareth”. This is clearly deficient. (And a good occasion to practice your German too.)

Barrett p140

Barrett p140

The Sabians, discussed by Paul Carus, editor of the Monist, 1915

The editor of the Monist (pdf p295, here at JSTOR) looks at the Sabians – the baptists whom we already met with Queen Helen of Adiabene.

  • “The word Sabian means “baptizer”. It is derived from the Hebrew tsaba and ought to be pronounced Tsabian, with a sharp German z as initial. (…) we have good reason to assume that the Christians adopted baptism from them.”
  • The Babylonian link for the Mandaeans would fit the location of Adiabene.
  • The mediator between God and mankind, who descents and also visits hell, reminds of Jesus.
  • There are seven heavens, like in the Ascension of Isaiah, that Richard Carrier referred too, while the Torah would have three heavens. The Talmud curiously has seven heavens. Check Genesis on the plural “heavens“. I hope that someone can give a reliable exegesis, but perhaps they are already trying since LXX (with Judaic gnostic cosmology).
The Monist p295

The Monist p295

Carus suggests that St. John the Baptist had founded an independent “perfected” religion, and that he was reduced in the NT to only a precursor of Christ.

Thus the Sabians would have a subsect with the name “Disciples of John”:

  • with baptism
  • with a spiritual Christ (anointed one)
  • similar to a faith in Apollos – a name that sounds similar to Paulos
  • someone’s left hemisphere creates the new word gnosistic.

Apparently the source is The Odes of Solomon, that wikipedia dates to perhaps the 2nd century. It would be some half-way-house between Christianity and Gnosis: “Thus, the Odes may be seen as existing in a time and place where gnosistic terms among non-gnostic Christians were still acceptable (…)”.

The Monist p296

The Monist p296

Listening to Poulopoulos “O dromos” (the road) or Live 1998 (more symphonic)

I am still trying to get clarity about Richard Carrier’s book “On the historicity of Jesus“.  Carrier assumes that Paul existed, but how important is that ? Might Jesus and Paul be modeled after the same messianic preacher(s) ? (Simon Magus ?) We may wonder whether Ha•lâkh•âhꞋthe way – gives more clarity. I already looked at the issue of nazoraios, netzer and notzrim in The simple mathematics of Jesus(2012). New is the question now whether it helps to determine Paul.

See the Table on what we have achieved till now. The distinction between the Christian Church and the observers of the Torah (Halakha) in Qumran is obvious. In addition, the earlier exegesis on Original Sin showed that Simon Magus looks like a real heretic. We saw evidence of this in Paul of the Acts and the Gospel according to Mark. But the link Jesus ~ Paul is severed when Jesus would be associated with Qumran. James the Just would be a Qumran-Sadducee similar to a sedentary monk, and Jesus would be a wandering Pharisee preaching in synagogues, but their messages might be the same.

If nazoraios would mean guard, then (a) Qumran could be guardians of the law, in principle open to the masses of the circumcised, and (b) Gnosis could mean guardians to some secret knowledge, available only for the few, but with mass following of those who would not have ears to hear, and (c) Paul would be somewhere inbetween with Gnostic ideas about some celestial saviour but openness to the masses of the goy. A discrete table doesn’t give the spectrum.

Table on Original Sin Torah & no Gnosticism Gnosticism & no Torah
Observe the law (Torah) Qumran (James the Just) Logically impossible
Believe in Jesus (no Torah) Christian Church (NT with neutralised Torah) Paul ~ Simon Magus (abolished Torah)

See the Venn diagram for all combinations. In the exegesis we found that the true situation is that the Torah contains Gnosticism, even though this is denied by Judaism and Christianity. The Table thus only looks at the official positions and neglects the column T & G. Plato and the Romans (no T & no G) are not relevant for this table right now either.

Venn diagram for Torah and Gnosticism

Venn diagram for Torah and Gnosticism

The discussion is put in the Appendix because it is too long for a blog. You would only read that Appendix when you would be surprised by some conclusions.

PM 1. On Plato and the Romans: At a later point we should integrate with the notion that the Old Testament (OT) uses Homer and Plato (Thomas Brodie) and that the New Testament (NT) uses Homer too (Dennis MacDonald). In my own analysis the Bible is based upon astrology with the Zodiac, and by implication this would also hold for Homer and perhaps Gilgamesh. (The multiplication of names for similar people in the NT derives partly from the need to fill the 12 positions in the Zodiac.)

PM 2. We also think about the importance of Jesus for education: to neutralise religious fundamentalism, the pandering of Armageddon, and the idea of a 3rd Temple in Jerusalem and/or Gerizim.


The conclusions from the Appendix and the earlier blog entries are:

  1. A significant portion of rabbinic Judaism has allocated Jesus to Qumran, claiming that he would not have broken with Judaism and the Torah. Nazoraios would be a confused translation. Jesus would be a netzer (offshoot) and his followers in Qumran the netzarim. Paul would be the apostate, the notzrim, who would be the military guards that keep Judaism contained and captive.
  2. Rabbinic Judaism has clarified this view internally, but has kept a lower profile on this externally, since the confusion helped keep them safe and the guards off-guard.
  3. The claim that Jesus would belong to Qumran however is not necessarily proven. The theological allocation may be part of rabbinic Judaism’s strategy to defend themselves. They can say to Christians that Christians misunderstood Jesus and that he belongs to Judaism. In that manner they can win converts, like Yirmeyahu.
  4. We observed earlier that Judaism doesn’t quite understand the Torah yet. With Greek logic we can determine: (a) there is Original Sin in the Torah but it is denied, (b) there is Gnosticism in the Torah but it is denied.
  5. Suppose that Jesus had been in Egypt and had some logical training in Alexandria, and arrived at these same observations, and in his view still was with the Torah, but told his deducations to Judaism. When they denied it, then it would be inconsistent for them to hold that Jesus still belonged to Judaism (even though he still did in his own analysis).
  6. It is rather pretentious of Judaism that they hold that their large Jewish Bible would not contain logical inconsistencies. Rabbinic Judaism uses the Talmud to keep up with the times. The laws of the Torah are interpreted creatively to make them fit new challenges. Fundamentalism has merely different political objectives (and more abuse of cognitive dissonance).
  7. The example that Jesus didn’t accept divorce while Judaism accepts some rules, might be a reference to Simon Magus and his Helen (Maria Magdalene), and should not be considered as a serious example.
  8. Yirmeyahu’s claim that his rewritten Gospel according to Matthew would fit the Torah, so that all Jews can become netzarim, makes one wonder what would be the surplus value. How would the offshoot differ from the real stuff ? The problem of James the Just was the malbehaviour of the Temple Sadducees, but there is no Temple now.
  9. Yirmeyahu’s suggestion that Jesus would be a military leader, and belong to Qumran, suggests that Qumran would lean to a military solution, and that Yirmeyahu himself as netzer also leans to such an approach, while he wants others to join up. We indeed need guards around this.
  10. We need additional study on the relation of Jesus to Qumran and to Paul.
  11. There grows a tentative hypothesis however. If Jesus (Saviour) is a mythical concept, then this concept can be used by various factions for their own interpretation. Some in Qumran might merely & peacefully intend observance to the Torah, in opposition against Temple Sadducees who don’t do it properly (with high priests who do not descent from Levi and who accept a king from Rome and not from David). Some in Qumran and elsewhere might desire a military uprising. Simon Magus might wish to keep peace with the Romans and do something about the Temple Sadducees too, but rather something Gnostically. It may be that these are the only factions in 70 AD, and that the true Christian Church only arose in 135 AD with the final touch of turning Simon Magus into a domesticated Paul.

Babylonian god Marduk guards his son, named wisdom (justice & love ?)

Nebuchadnezzar II (c. 623-562 BC) is known for:

“Both the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem‘s temple are ascribed to him. He is featured in the Book of Daniel and is mentioned in several other books of the Bible.

The Akkadian name, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur, means “O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son”. Nabu, son of the god Marduk, is the Babylonian deity of wisdom. In an inscription, Nebuchadnezzar styles himself as Nabu’s “beloved” and “favourite”. His name has previously been mistakenly interpreted as “O Nabu, defend my kudurru“, in which sense a kudurru is an inscribed stone deed of property. However, when contained in a ruler’s title, kudurru approximates to “firstborn son” or “oldest son”. “ (wikipedia, portal and not source)

The English version of the name derives from the Hebrew Nebhukhadhnetztzar. Wikipedia doesn’t explain how usur and nezzar relate.

Looking at a website for Akkadian we cannot find usur but there is nasiru:

nāṣiru [Army → Military]
1) protective , watch- , defensive , preventive , benevolent (?) , patronizing (?) , affectionate (?) ; 2) (noun) : a guardian / guard , a protector / patron (?) / tutor (?) , a preserver , a keeper ;

Cf. naṣāru
Comparison with other Semitic languages :
    Syriac : natora  ܢܵܛܘܿܪܵܐ “a guard / gardian , keeper “

The upshot of this excursion is a big question mark. An Akkadian root usur would be preserve, protect, and there may be a related root NZR for protect, guard that perhaps links up to Hebrew.

The Netzarim of James the Just: dead since 135 AD but resurrected in our time

There is a remarkable website by Clint Van Nest (1943). He converted to Judaism, moved to Israel, changed his name into Yirmᵊyâhu (Jeremiah), converted to the “original teachings of Jesus”, and is now pâ•qid (overseer, bishop), or the proclaimed first bishop since 135 AD of the Qumran sect of the Netzarim of James the Just.

He is not an academic historian of antiquity. Let me quote a bit more from his presented cv:

“Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu, né Clint Van Nest (1943), descended from his great-x6 grandfather, Pieter Pieterse Van Nest, who immigrated to New Amsterdam—before there was a New York or United States—in 1647, just 27 years after the pilgrims in the Mayflower.

(…) He is a member of Mensa and an American vet of the United States Air Force Air Intelligence Agency (security clearance: Top Secret, Crypto, Codeword), having attended Syracuse University and served in Germany, where he lived for 2½ years (…) earned a B.Sc. in Business Administration (B.S.B.A.), having been offered honors in logic, from the University of Fla. (Gainesville) in 1968 with a major in management and minors in quantitative analysis and economics. He entered the UF Graduate School M.B.A. program but was unable to attend due to personal circumstances. Having  obtained his B.S. degree, he worked as a Safety Engineer (becoming a member of A.S.S.E.) for a large insurance company in New England and Toronto, Canada, consulting for some of the largest corporations, in a multitude of diverse industries, in Ontario and Quebec provinces. Moving back to Florida, he worked as Personnel & Safety Director for a trucking (250 drivers, large, 20 yard3 dumptrucks) and construction firm (draglines, dozers, etc.) in Central Florida, reporting directly to the owner.

(…) Yet, Ha•lâkh•âh requires that every community must have a Beit Din. Inescapably, י--ה had arranged that Yi•rᵊmᵊyâhu was the first and only candidate in the legitimate Jewish community since 135 C.E. whom He required by Ha•lâkh•âh to fill the position of the 16th Pâ•qid and restore the Nᵊtzâr•im Beit Din that the Roman Hellenists had eradicated in 135 C.E.” (

Note that he writes Yahweh (י–ה) with dashes since God’s name must not be pronounced. The name of Jesus must be dashed when it refers to the Son of God, but not when just to a name like Joshua. Think of the scene in Jurassic Park when you would not want to make a sound. Think of the interdiction to worship false gods and display an image of God. Think of iconoclastic Protestants.

“Because we teach and practice the authentic Judaic teachings of Ribi Yehoshua [… Jesus …] —not Displacement Theology—we are the only group who have restored the Netzarim to be accepted in the legitimate Jewish community in Israel—genuinely like Ribi Yehoshua and the original Netzarim. Consequently, the ‘Netzarim Quarter’ is the only web site of legitimate Netzarim / Nazarene Judaism.” ( glossary)

“Christianity is a Displacement Theology that inherently dangles from the premise that Christ’s “grace” has displaced Tor•âh, that Christians have displaced ‘natural Jews’ to become the ‘true, spiritual Jews’ of ‘true, spiritual Israel’; i.e. thereby displacing historical Israel and the Jews as the Biblically-recognized servants of י--ה. Christian Displacement Theology includes ALL doctrines that hold that “salvation” has been redirected to Christians or that Tor•âh-observant Jews without J*esus are lost.” ( glossary)

If you haven’t read my earlier analysis on the logic of this displacement, check this page.

Apparently there is no wikipedia article on Yirmeyahu yet that might give an overview of the situation (with criticisms and such). There is another website that mentions him, and basically gives the same history about Jesus the neitzer. And as said above: I looked at this “history” before.

The advantage of Yirmeyahu’s website is that it gives Hebrew roots that serve our present purposes. It seems that a few dots can make a difference. However, I have copy-pasted this Hebrew but unfortunately it seems that this does not work properly. If you search in English then you should be able to find the proper passages on his website.

Other people suggest that the Hebrew Bible was originally created in Greek around 270 BC. Spinoza suggests that it reads as a book by one author. Thus it would only later be translated into Hebrew, and it would be somewhat of a problem to regard the Hebrew Bible as an independent source (“oral tradition”). This seems less relevant for the nazoraios around 70 AD.

Three accepted ways in Judaism

Yirmeyahu states on the Halakha:

In the 1st century there were three, and only three, interpretations of Oral Law recognized by the BeitDin ha-Jâ•dol—which was the ultimate and undisputed earthly Judaic authority:

  1. The interpretations of the Qum•rân Kha•sid•im BᵊnTzâ•doq Tzᵊdoq•im [ … Qumran Sadducees …], who called their Oral Law interpretations Ma•as•ëh [… practice …].
  2. The interpretations of the Roman-vassal Hellenist Pseudo-Tzᵊdoq•im of the Beit ha-Mi•qᵊdâsh in Yᵊru•shâ•layim, who called their Oral Law interpretations—which they codified in an attempt to terminate oral transmission by the other two min•im—their “Book of Decrees.” [… Temple Sadducees …]
  3. The interpretations of the Pᵊrush•im[.. Pharisees …], who called their Oral Law interpretations, the interpretations endorsed by historical Ribi Yᵊho•shua [… Jesus …], Ha•lâkh•âh. [… worship in knesset, houses of assembly, synagogues, shul …]

Yirmeyahu explains that also findings are acceptable that are derived from the Torah by using strict formal (but “discrete”) logic, “(including science)”. I presume that he hasn’t dwelled long on a more elegant or accurate statement. Hellenization in the form of Aristotle’s logic would be acceptable, but other forms of Hellenization could be a problem.

Neitzer as an offshoot that suits the mother tree

Jesus would be acceptable, and be a neitzer. Yirmeyahu gives the following glossary for netzarim (plural of neitzer):

ם" is the masc. plural of נֵצֶר, which, in turn, is related to the Aramaic נִצְרָא“wicker (woven straw, as from these offshoots – basket, hat, chair, etc.)”. As can be seen from Yᵊsha•yâhu [… Isaiah …] 11.1 and 60.21, inter alia, Neitzër referred more specifically to the basal-sucker offshoot(s) from the root or trunk of an olive tree—which stood around the mother tree like little sentry-guard(s)—and transplantable young green shoots sprouting from the trunk… used (according to the dictionaries) to weave wicker-baskets.” (not all Hebrew characters properly copied, see, glossary) (PM. Yirmeyahu also makes the subtle distinction between internal guarding (care) and external guarding (protect).)

Netzarim (offshoots) (Source:

Netzarim (offshoots) (Source:

(Neitzer / Netzarim / James the Just) versus (Notzrim / Christians)

There is also a non-accepted offshoot, the Hellenizing Jews, such as the Notzrim:

No•tzᵊr•im; confinement or containment guards or keepers—guards or keepers who keep something in, plural); the singular noun is נוֹצֵר, also spelled נֹצֵר, (no•tzeir), meaning a “sentry,” and the sing. adj. is נוֹצְרִי (no•tzᵊr•i), from נָצַר (nâ•tzar; to guard as a sentry). These are also the Hebrew terms—used among Jews—for “Christian(s).” Contrast this term against neitzër and its cognate, Nᵊtzâr•im.” (, glossary) (Thus: offshoot → sentry → guard)

Thus, the Christians keep the Jews captive.

Note: if the Christians guard the Jews, by keeping them captive, then this would be care and not protection from outside dangers.

Theory of schisms

According to Yirmeyahu there are four relevant dates or periods with schisms with excommunications from accepted Judaism. One in 175-164 BC during the Seleucids (Jason / Jesus), one in  80 AD after the fall of Jerusalem with Paul and his Christians, one in 135 AD when Jews were expelled from Jerusalem, and then the period of Nicaea 325 AD.

“At that time [B.C.E. 2nd century], the prayer was known as the ‘[Bᵊrâkh•âh] to Him Who humbles the arrogant.’

A century later [B.C.E. 1st century] the imprecation was directed against the (Roman-collaborating) Hellenist Tzᵊdoq•im, and it was designated as the “Bᵊrâkh•âh concerning the Tzᵊdoq•im.”

(…) Ca. 80 C.E., 35 years after the Nᵊtzâr•im kâ•reit of Paul the Hellenist Apostate, under Rab•ân Ja•mᵊl•iy•eil (“Gamliel II”), this malediction was invoked, yet again against the alienated Roman-collaborating Hellenist Tzᵊdoq•im who, since the destruction of their Hellenized “Temple” and despite the Roman culpability (blamed on Pᵊrush•im intransigence, no doubt), increasingly closed ranks with their Hellenist Roman patrons – including, most likely especially, Paul the Hellenist Apostate.

(…) Roman gentiles achieved predominance over the Nᵊtzâr•im in 135 C.E., when the Hellenist Roman gentiles drove all of the Jews out of Yᵊru•shâ•layim. Especially thereafter, the Nᵊtzâr•im were confused with gentile Christians (probably due in large measure to followers of Paul the Hellenist Apostate) and suspected of collaborating with their Hellenist counterparts: the Roman occupiers.” (netzarim, glossary)

Jo(c)hanan ben Zak(k)ai and a 3rd Temple ?

Johanan ben Zakai (30-90 AD) in 70 AD let himself be smuggled out of Jerusalem in a coffin. He predicted Vespasian that the latter would be ruler, and was rewarded with the freedom to create the rabbinate tradition in Javne. However, JbZ did not say that that Vespasian was the messiah. He neither said that the Torah was invalid since someone not from David would rule Judah. JbZ copied Temple rites except for (major ?) sacrifices and it is said that on his deathbed he wished for the arrival of the true messiah.

“During the siege of Jerusalem in the Great Jewish Revolt, he argued in favour of peace; according to the Talmud, when he found the anger of the besieged populace to be intolerable, he arranged a secret escape from the city inside a coffin, so that he could negotiate with Vespasian (who, at this time, was still just a military commander). Yochanan correctly predicted that Vespasian would become Emperor, [PM: he might have heard about Josephus having made an earlier forecast / TC] and that the temple would soon be destroyed; in return, Vespasian granted Yochanan three wishes: the salvation of Yavne and its sages, the descendants of Rabban Gamliel, who was of the Davidic dynasty, and a physician to treat Rabbi Tzadok, who had fasted for 40 years to stave off the destruction of Jerusalem.

(..) More enigmatic were the Talmud’s record of his last words, which seem to relate to Jewish messianism: “prepare a throne for Hezekiah, the King of Judah, who is coming”” (wikipedia) (Later in 135 AD there was such a proclaimed messiah again.)

Rabbinate Judaism has been able to do without a Temple in Jerusalem. But the Torah would logically force them to wish for a king of David and a priest of Zadok in a Temple in Jerusalem. Unless they adhere to Gerizim.

Yemen, an archive for ancient fundamentalism, allows to recover Jesus

The Charlie Hebdo assassinations reminded of fundamentalism in Yemen. Yirmeyahu also found the Teimanim from Yemen who preserved the ancient Jewish “pristine tradition”.

Yirmeyahu rewrote the Gospel according to Matthew into a proper Judaic version (called NHM, order here). He suggests that the Teimanim provide a clue for some missing pieces to recover the true teachings of Jesus.

16th Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu ha-Tza•diq [… thus 16th bishop Yirmeyahu the Sadducee or the Righteous … thus meaning himself …] had long recognized a gaping and glaring lacuna: While NHM had demonstrated that the structural framework of the life and teachings of historical Ribi Yᵊho•shua [… Jesus …] was Tor•âh, the Judaic literature had preserved very few clues about his interpretations of Oral Law (and the Christian-redacted, Hellenized Greek literature was apostate and misleading). The Judaic literature tells us primarily that he was a Ribi. [… from the period before the Rabbi’s …] Therefore he was a Pᵊrush•i [… Pharisee ….] and Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT then demonstrates that

  1. he taught that Ha•lâkh•âh (rather than the Qum•rân Ma•as•ëh [… practice … see Q4 MMT …] or the Hellenist Tzᵊdoq•i Χειρογραφον τοις Δογμασιν) was the authoritative Oral Law and
  2. his teachings, recorded in NHM, demonstrate that he was of the school of Beit Hi•leil. [… Hillel the Elder, deceased 10 AD …]

The lacuna, of course, is that many subsets of Ha•lâkh•âh have subsequently evolved in the various Diaspora countries through assimilation (Ash•kᵊnazi, Sᵊphârâd•i, Mi•zᵊrakhi, etc.). The lacuna could only be restored authentically by retrieving and adopting the correct–most pristine–version of Ha•lâkh•âh to fill the lacuna! This became his next project.

In 1998, while researching ancient Judaic music, Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu discovered that the one Jewish community least affected and influenced by the outside world since the 1st century C.E., preserving the most pristine tradition of reciting Tor•âh and the most pristine reflection of 1st century Pᵊrush•i Ha•lâkh•âh, are the Tei•mân•im. Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu immediately determined to switch from the Ash•kᵊnazim synagogues where he had been praying and searched for a Beit ha-kᵊnësët Tei•mân•i, finding Beit ha-Kᵊnësët Mo•rëshët Âv•ot – Yad Nâ•âm•i only a block from his home! How wondrously י--ה had worked! Pâ•qid Yirmᵊyâhu immediately applied for membership. After a meeting with their וַעַד during which he straightforwardly explained his positions, just as he had in Florida and to the Chief Rabbi. He was accepted and became a member of the עֲמֻתָּה. He and his family have prayed there regularly until 2012″. (website

Torah tree, Jesus offshoot, and the false Jesus of the Christians

Yirmeyahu presents Jesus as a proper offshoot of Judaism (netzarim), and the apostle Paul as the apostate (notzrim, meaning guard):

“The Neitzër” was the title of the prophesied Mâ•shiakh (Yᵊsha•yâhu [… Isaiah …] 11.1 and 60.21) and historical Ribi Yᵊho•shu’a [… Jesus …]

The plural, Nᵊtzâr•im, describes his original Pharisee Jewish followers, including the first 12, who were specifically identified in NT by the name Nᵊtzâr•im (…).

The term Neitzër was displaced by apostate Hellenist Turkish-Jew, Paul‘s Χριστιανος and, later, the telltale terms in the Greek mss. were de-Judaized (Hellenized) by the post-135 CE Christian NT redactors —unsupported by LXX —to Ναζαρηνος

The plural, Nᵊtzâr•im (referring to his followers), was de-Judaized (Hellenized) in the NT to Ναζωραιος (nazoraios) where it is clearly translated as “Nazarenes” in Ma•a•vâr 24:5 (as well as confused, elsewhere, with Nazoraeans / Nazirites).

Thus, while the נְצָרִים continued to live harmoniously among their fellow Pharisee Jews, the נָצְרִים were Hellenist gentiles, outside and alien to the Pharisee Jews and understood by Pharisee Jews as gentile Hellenist sentries of the Hellenist Roman occupiers. (…)  the נָצְרִים [… notzrim, Christian …]  Church was the most bitter enemy of the נְצָרִים, (netzarim, nowadays led by bishop Yirmeyahu …] whom they loathed as Jews.” (, glossary netzarim)

Joshua / Jesus saves militarily and not spiritually

Yirmeyahu has a remarkable lemma in his glossary about Joshua / Jesus (יְהוֹשֻעַ). There is nothing in the Torah that forbids the defence against another country (or the Romans). Jesus’s name (Joshua) would indicate a military saviour (liberator), not a spiritual one:

“Yᵊho•shua; י--ה [is] national-salvation or military-salvation; contracted to the cognomen יְשוּעַ (Yᵊshua), from the unused root verb יַשַׁע (to deliver nationally or militarily, to save nationally or militarily). This term is never used of the Hellenist (idolatrous) concept of “personal salvation” in the Bible or in Judaism. The verb is used in the hiph•il: הוֹשִׁיעַ (ho•shia; he saved nationally or militarily, delivered nationally or militarily or came to the rescue nationally or militarily). The verb is used in the same sense as its English counterpart was used in the old west: “The calvary will save us”—except for Jews ha-Sheim will save us (nationally and militarily from our enemies). There is no support for the idolatrous “personal salvation” doctrine of Christianity. At the personal level there is, instead, ki•pur—restricted to those who do their utmost to keep Tor•âh.

The book in Ta•na”kh is named after Yᵊho•shua Bën-Nun (Hellenized to ‘Joshua’). [… this refers to the Exodus when Joshua entered the Holy Land …]

‘Historical Yᵊho•shua‘ [… Jesus …] generally refers, by contrast, to the 1st-century human Jew, a pᵊrush•i Ribi, […Pharisee …] named Yᵊho•shua Bën-Yo•seiph Bën-Dâ•wid of Nâ•tzᵊr•at. Notice that even the name explicitly identifies Y–H, not Yᵊho•shua, as salvation! [… thus Yahweh is the saviour, not Jesus …] See Shᵊm•ot 15.2; Yᵊsha•yâhu 12.1-4; 25.9; Yon•âh 2.10; Tᵊhil•im 3.9; 13.6; 14.7; 18.51; 21.6; 28.8; 53.7; 62.1-2, 7; 67.1-3; 68.20-21; 70.5-6; 74.12). His Mâ•shiakh [.. .messiah …] is His agent, not the reverse; not the Provider of expiation. By means of the Mâ•shiakh—His Mâ•shiakh BënYo•seiph Bën– Dâ•wid (Tᵊhil•im 89:20-53)—י--ה provides expiation. Mâ•shiakh is merely His instrument, symbol or illustration; as were the animal sacrifices.”  (, glossary)

There is also the word salvation with two “synonyms” ransom and redemption:

שׁוּעָה (Yᵊshu•âh; salvation) is a fem. noun.

The Judaic meaning of יְשׁוּעָה relates to two associated synonyms:

פָּדָה (pâd•âh; ransom paid for the release of a living being),

גְאֻלָּה (gᵊul•âh) “is dependent upon תְּשׁוּבָה (tᵊshuv•âh) and performance of positive מִצווֹת (Mitz•wot) [Shab•ât 118b; Yom•â 86b; BB 10b; Sanh. 97b]” (“Redemption,” EJ, 14.1-2). Thus, gᵊul•âh is also dependent upon performance of the Mitz•wâh of צְדָקָה (tzᵊdâq•âh). (…)  It is connected with family law and reflects the Israelite conception of the importance of preserving the solidarity of the clan.(, glossary)

This reading relates to the legalistic approach of the Torah: if you stick to the law, then you ought to be safe. If you transgress, you pay a fine (ransom, redemption), and that is that. Sin isn’t a legal concept.

However, we established on Original Sin that the Torah implicitly has the notion. Especially in a period with expectations of the End of Time, people would be more sensitive for what would happen to them. Secondly, using Google translate, Hebrew does have words for sin and sacrifice:

We are reminded that Jesus was indicated in early writing also with symbols like IΣ (Iesous Soter), and that perhaps the first story about spiritual salvation was written in Greek, and later translated into Aramaic and Hebrew by a less professional translator. Or, someone is called Carpenter but is a shoe salesman. However, it would be ironic indeed when a teacher of love and forgiveness would have the name Marshall or Sargent.

Judaism and Jesus fit. Judaism (incl. Jesus) and Christianity don’t fit

Yirmeyahu arrives at a logical advice:

“Syncretizing selected elements of the Judaic concept of a Mâ•shiakh with their native pagan mythology, Roman gentiles de-Judaized (Hellenized) ‘historical Yᵊho•shua‘ to a mythical and counterfeit, antinomian, antithetical man-G-o-d idol: Ιησους ⇒ transliterated to Hebrew יֵשׁוּעַ ⇒ Anglicized to Jesus (cf. Who Are the Nᵊtzâr•im? (WAN) and The Nᵊtzâr•im Reconstruction of Hebrew Ma•tit•yâhu (NHM)). These two are mutually exclusive, diametric opposites. You cannot serve two masters. To believe in one necessarily constitutes rejection of the other.” (glossary Yehoshua)

But Yirmeyahu is too fast

This story sounds fairly consistent, but there is also the question why Jews don’t believe in Christ. That Jesus is the Son of God was made official by the Notzrim only in Nicaea in 325 AD. When we strip him of Paul’s meddling, the question is rather why not all Jews are netzarim ?

Rabbi Michael Skoba offers some answers but focused on messianism. On the more practical issue of Torah observence, he says:

“The Messiah will lead the Jewish people to full Torah observance. The Torah states that all mitzvot remain binding forever, and anyone coming to change the Torah is immediately identified as a false prophet. (Deut. 13:1-4)

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable. For example, John 9:14 records that Jesus made a paste in violation of Shabbat, which caused the Pharisees to say (verse 16), “He does not observe Shabbat!”” (Rabbi Michael Skoba)

In various battles, the Romans attacked on the Sabbath, when observant Jewish warriors could not respond. Thus Jesus’s rejection of this rule would fit his military profile. It is difficult to judge Skoba’s “throughout” though. Some cases might derive from Paul. Apparently, Yirmeyahu was capable of rewriting the Gospel according to Matthew such that it fits the Torah. One wonders in which it differs.

Curiously the rabbi also says that he is waiting for the true messiah – with first everyone believing in the God of Israel and observing the Torah, and subsequently of course an unspecified Armageddon:

“The world is in desperate need of Messianic redemption. (…) The Messiah can come any day, and it all depends on our actions. God is ready when we are. For as King David says: “Redemption will come today ― if you hearken to His voice.”” (Rabbi Michael Skoba)

And Armageddon it must be, for God’s Kingship will last only a single day. As the rabbi quotes:

“As it says: “God will be King over all the world ― on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One” (Zechariah 14:9)”

Listening to The Band, The Last Waltz

As a teacher I look warily at the disarray on Jesus:

  • School education still presents the New Testament (NT) as the story that is being told about Jesus. There is truth here: indeed, that story is being told. This is proper information about what the religious Christians believe. But there is also falsehood here: because it is not explained that those stories are invented and that Jesus is Santa Claus for adults.
  • At the academies, scholars lock themselves up in arcane discussions targeted at their peer-reviewed journals. Theologians assume the existence of God anyhow. New Testament Studies assume the existence of a historical Jesus. Historians tend to link up to the former. It might often be religious people who study this subject anyhow, because who else would be interested in reading the weird “revelations” of ancients prophets and monks ? Even the more critical historians feel forced to join the specialisation, for that is the name of the game of being an academic.
  • Outside of the academies, there is growing outrage about the historical untruths. People with diverse backgrounds like from electrical engineering to accounting start reading the common sources and start asking questions based upon logic and common sense. Over the years they can build up a respectable amount of knowledge and analysis, but of course they don’t publish in the academic journals, since their objective is quite different.

Each author is at a danger of creating his or her own Jesus. This is wonderful in terms of creativity for widening the scope for analysis. It seems that the academies have concentrated for the last 50 years on the Q hypothesis, and that they are now awakening to the notion that this is a dead end street. The latter might be regarded positively: that this has been established with quite some certainty now. It also is a huge waste of time, intelligence and effort. At its base lies the human weakness of disingenuity. If you apply mere logic, the Q hypothesis is absurd: see last weblog entry.

Beware of Biblical scholars

Consider the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). They were discovered between 1946 and 1956. Somehow their research became a monopoly of a group with a Catholic background, who launched the idea that the DSS would concern the period of 200 – 0 BC. It was due to Robert Eisenman and others that this monopoly was broken in 1991, at least 30 years later. It was also due to chance that photo’s had been made and that those were outside of reach of that monopoly. Eisenman has now established that crucial scrolls would apply up to the period of 70 AD, when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans. Hence some members of the DSS sects fled Jerusalem and Qumran just before the arrival of the Romans to hide their scrolls. Lena Einhorn confirms independently with the “time shift hypothesis” that events of 66-70 AD have been re-edited in the New Testament towards one generation (40 years) earlier.

“Professors Robert Eisenman and James Robinson indexed the photographs and wrote an introduction to A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which was published by the Biblical Archaeology Society in 1991.” (Wikipedia)

Who doesn’t shudder when hearing about that 30 year delay and misdirection ? Well, surprisingly, many Biblical scholars don’t wink, and continue in their allegiance to their faith, in neglect of the standards of science. Which is why it is important that scientists from other realms knock on the door and ask what is happening here.

Enter Michael Baigent from the fringe

The mention of photography allows an easy bridge to Michael Baigent (1948-2013). A lot has already been said about him, but these points seem important:

  • Boycott Dan Brown with his Da Vinci Code, since the script has been taken from Baigent, even though copyright laws apparently allow such feat. The reports about the law suit make for awkward reading, though a cynic might be amused. One can understand that Baigent lost under current laws – and not having Brown’s wife under oath in the witness stand. Brown did give a reference to Baigent but a reference is not enough when so many of the ideas are used.
  • Baigent’s script and Brown’s novelification have had quite an impact on popular perception of antiquity and the origin of Christianity. People will not believe the link of the Holy Grail to Christs’ bloodline, but they did start to wonder whether the Gospels are not just stories too. Baigent’s role in this deserves broad notice.
  • Baigent has a surprising feeling for fringe issues with the freedom to speculate, see his website. My suggestion would be, not that Dan Brown or would-be-Dan-Browns use these to write more fiction bestsellers, but that scholars take these as clues for interesting story lines: to tell what truthfully can be told. See the series “Ancient aliens debunked” as an example. And let the Baigent bloodline then share in the monetary proceeds.
  • Baigent’s major point may not be fiction at all. This concerns his warning about rabble-rousing about Armageddon.

Let me quote a bit more extensively from the website of his book “Racing towards Armageddon” (another book I didn’t read) to suggest that Baigent has something important to tell. Think about the fun movie “This is the End” that also plays into our culturally created delight and fear for the End of Time:

“This book explores the power of ideas to both create and change the beliefs that define people and nations. Bad ideas lead to bad outcomes. And as bad outcomes go, the belief in Armageddon is one of the worst.

(…) Fifty-nine percent of all American Christians – according to polls in 2002 – believe that the events described in Revelation will occur in their lifetime; amongst fundamentalist Christians the figure reaches seventy-seven percent. In the last days, they believe, the Messiah – Jesus – will return, win the great battle against Satan (the Antichrist, the Beast) and convert the entire world to Christianity. Thereafter he will rule from Jerusalem.

(…) I wrote this book out of a sense of outrage: that the lunatics were openly taking over the asylum and no one seemed to care. I had spent years talking to journalists about the matters explored in this book in an attempt to get them interested in chasing this story. But my many attempts had no effect. For some reason this area was too toxic – perhaps because working in it would probe areas which would reveal limits to our modern liberal desire for tolerance of all diversity, however destructive that might be to our own way of life. Finally, realising that this story would never be written unless I did it myself, I opened my lap-top and began.

(…) We have discovered the importance of tempering religious and ideological fervour through the checks and balances of democratic laws. And it is frightening to discover, as you will in this book, that there are powerful forces within our democracies which want to remove these laws for something more primitive and brutal.

(…) The extreme fundamentalism which I am writing about in my book is like a destructive virus infecting our culture. We need to stop it. To dismiss the appeal to biblical prophecy made by its leaders.

(…) It is self-evident that the trouble with prophecy is that it can become self-fulfilling; if we believe something to be true we may make it happen. There are many extremist Christians and Muslims who believe in a last-days cataclysm. Will this belief create a new reality in the Middle East?  This seems entirely plausible.

(…) Today those from the intolerant edge are making a concerted attempt to take over the centre; the fanatics are outflanking the complacent. Moderates of all faiths have reason to worry: do those self-confident, certain and aggressive voices from the edge truly speak for religion? We need to ask a blunt and unwelcome question: how long dare we be tolerant of intolerance?

(…) Before we cross the point of no return we must pose a blunt and difficult question: in this book, I ask, has the era of belief in one anthropomorphic God had its day?

(…) The most important message for readers is to keep asking questions; especially of all those who express belief systems which make claims of certainty and truth.(Michael Baigent)

Readers of my work may thus understand my puzzled interest in these issues:

Baigent 2009

Baigent 2009

A key agenda for academics and educators

A key agenda for academics and educators would be to get their act together and work towards inoculation against the rabble-rousing. Points to consider are:

  1. Define what rabble-rousing is. See Robert M. Price on the inverted logic that causes fundamentalism and zealotism. See David Brin on the hormonal feedback from religious rage, and consider that religion can be a hard drug.
  2. Academics are oriented at being original. Papers for journals might mention agreement but tend to contain some disagreement, e.g. something new. It are teachers who codify the findings into what should be passed on to the new generation. Academics should reconsider what would be the bedrock certainties that would be important to suggest to the younger generations, and join up with teachers to distill these. Do not exclude the so-called fringe, such as listed here on, but consider the arguments.
  3. Educators can already start by introducing common sense and diversity of opinion into courses. Many students and pupils love hearing about pyramids, Stonehenge, aliens, and what have you.
  4. Repair the errors mentioned above. Does it matter that Jesus is anthropomorphic as Baigent calls it, or might he also be a hippopotamus ? Or should we join Judaism, as the Protestants of Egypt who iconoclastically removed all such images from the Holy Land ? More seriously: teaching content does not concern a religion, i.e. some input, but teaching content concerns the process of studying more of such inputs. Thus the bedrock certainties concern critical thinking and research methods.
  5. Once the academics have their act together and rewritten the history of the origins of Christianity, thus with much more uncertainty than now is the standard, they should support the educators, so that those would not be the most conservative bottleneck. It might be wise to already start educational update programmes at universities to help highschool and elementary school teachers make the change.

My proposal is to start with the deconstruction of the Christian Bible. When Europe and the USA have reoriented their mind on the origin of Christianity – with Putin’s Russia again lagging behind – then it will be easier as a next step to consider Islam. The problems of the Middle East are primarily political and it doesn’t seem wise to complicate the resolution of those by introducing the issue of religion as a stumbling stone.

(Here the stepping stone would rather be the introduction of the separation of state and religion, like already happened in the West. Such separation doesn’t give religion full freedom to indoctrinate whatever they want, since the state would monitor basics, but religious leaders would be able to understand that this is the limited freedom that they get.)


This was written listening to Pink Floyd Cymbaline and Atom Heart Mother

The logical primacy of Salvation from Original Sin

I discovered this great discussion by Robert M. Price on the syllogism of atonement. See also wikipedia on Atonement in Christianity for some terms in this theological issue.

Price (whom you can trust) and wikipedia (that you cannot trust, especially because MIT students turn it into their math books) both seem to miss the main purpose of atonement:

  • The core meaning of Jesus’s sacrifice is to take away the power of the priesthood in Jerusalem. See the argument in my earlier blog on the importance of logic for our understanding of the origin of Christianity. This angle is not discussed by Price or wikipedia (in its version today).
  • The derivative meaning of this atonement is that the common folk can do without circumcision and eating laws, so that the faith can be spread to gentiles as well. This angle is discussed by Price and wikipedia. This angle causes its theological questions, but is less relevant than the core issue.

Admittedly, creation of a gentile church is the practical vessel to take away the power from the priests in Jerusalem. But creation of a gentile church is logically impossible if the faith would contain laws that render primacy to Jerusalem.

Using Atonement we might find who created Christianity: someone with a purpose to get rid of the primacy of Jerusalem.

Incidently, on a minor issue, Price refers to a confusion of criminal and tort law. I don’t think that this confusion applies. The idea that some hero sacrifices his or her life for the rest of the family is fair enough. The soldiers of WW II who gave their lives for our freedom are rightly honoured. What they did might still be called a sacrifice. The sacrifice of Allies in WW II sets us free, but of course doesn’t save us from our sins. This also differs from a sacrifice in a temple, or the delusion by a suicide terrorist.

On a major issue, though, Price also has a great explanation for how fundamentalism and zealotry come about:

“How can the Christian be sure everyone needs Christ’s atonement? This is what we are asking when we tell the pushy evangelist that his faith is fine for him, but that we prefer another way. Why do I have to go your way? The answer, the real, psychological answer, is that “It has to be the way for everybody without exception. If it’s only for some people, I won’t know if I am one of the ones it will work for!”

Sometimes, like Paul, who claimed to have been the chief of sinners, an evangelist will say, “If it worked for me, it can work for anybody.” But what this really means is, “Since it will work for everybody, then I can be sure, deductively, that it will work for me.” The revival chorus celebrates “All sufficient grace for even me.” I must have certainty! So for me to be sure the gospel will redeem me, I have to believe that you need it, too. Hence I cannot be satisfied thinking you might not need it. If I admit that something else might do the trick for you, I have to suspect that something else might work better for me, too. And since the much-vaunted claims that “Christ changed my life” are usually more statements of faith than accurate descriptions of experience, this suspicion would be fatal. I might then have to recognize that Christ is not living up to the advertising rhetoric and get back on the road looking for another panacea. And I’m sick of that.” (Robert M. Price, “Damnable Syllogism”, 1997)

For completeness, let me refer to these angles: (1) Earlier I enjoyed applying social psychology to economic theory. (2) Price’s suggestion to focus on truth and love requires a focus on democracy, see the high priests of high treason.

Who is a Jew ?

Affiliation to tribe, nation or religion must have been an issue since the dawn of mankind. When a word exists, then it is tempting to think that it has some meaning. If it walks like a duck and if it talks like a duck, then it must be a duck. Wittgenstein might hold that “the meaning of a word is its use”, but the temptation of ontology is strong. The question Who is a Jew ? therefor receives attention in Wikipedia (a portal and not a source).

I am inclined to go along with Neil Godfrey’s query whether the view in antiquity wasn’t rather focused on religion (Yahweh) rather than tribe (Judah) or nation (Judea). But, even in those days: when you worshiped Yahweh but discovered that you had to pay taxes to Jerusalem, and that the kingship had been hijacked by the tribe of Judah and the priesthood by the tribe of Levi, then you might start to feel that ethnicity apparently was an issue.

Notably, king Herod was an Idomite even though Herod is a good Greek name, and he said that he was from the tribe of Benjamin. He was considered an usurper since he didn’t descent from David, something that Jesus corrected. Apostle Paul also acknowledged that he was from the tribe of Benjamin. He didn’t call himself a Jew but a Hebrew. Hence the Epistle to the Hebrews is a statement that Jewishness / Judaism was out. Jesus descended from David, but after his ascension to heaven, the king came from the worldly authorities (at that time the Romans) and the priests came from the Christian Church (CC).

The wikipedia article clarifies (in wordy words) how the Jews discovered that a father may be unknown but that the mother can always be established. The Roman period apparently changed the emphasis of “Jew” from religion to tribe:

“According to historian Shaye J. D. Cohen, in the Bible, the status of the offspring of mixed marriages was determined patrilineally. He brings two likely explanations for the change in Mishnaic times: first, the Mishnah may have been applying the same logic to mixed marriages as it had applied to other mixtures (kilayim). Thus, a mixed marriage is forbidden as is the union of a horse and a donkey, and in both unions the offspring are judged matrilineally. Second, the Tannaim may have been influenced by Roman law, which dictated that when a parent could not contract a legal marriage, offspring would follow the mother.” (wikipedia 2015-01-31)

For Jewish men, the identifier remained circumcision, as established at the hill of foreskins when Joshua after the Exodus crossed the Jordan and entered the Holy Land. Jewish women however don’t need circumcision.

Circumcision (Central Asia 1870s) (Source: Wikipedia commons)

Circumcision (Central Asia 1870s) (Source: Wikipedia commons)

I come to this topic because of the intriguing story of Queen Helen of Adiabene. She is said to have converted to Judaism (wikipedia: around 30 AD, and deceased around 56 AD) but then decided to have a bath every day. This would be the sect of the Sabians (Mandaeans) – sometimes wrongly spelled as the Sabaeans of Yemen. Helen’s story is related in Eisenman’s book on James.

Apparently Helen had to take baths since women can’t circumcise to join the Jewish faith.

The importance of not-circumcising (and appreciating women)

The Jewish War of 66-70 AD was rather a Regional Conflict, with forces from elsewhere joining in. Gary Goldberg tells what Josephus hides:

“What Josephus doesn’t tell us is the names of the people who appointed the new generals, nor why those chosen arrived at those positions. We can try to surmise some of those involved.

Prominent of those who had fought Cestius, hence may have been these leaders, included: relatives of King Monobazus of Adiabene; Niger of Peraea; Silas the Babylonian; and Simon son of Gioras (2.19.2 520).

The only identifiable feature of these men is that they all originate outside of Jerusalem: the royal Adiabeneans; Niger a native of Peraea across the Jordan River and former governor of Idumaea; Silas perhaps a descendant of one of the Babylonian Jews who had been settled in Batanaea east of Galilee by Herod the Great; Simon, we find later, was a leader and possibly civil magistrate in the toparchy of Acrabatene.

Does this mean the Jerusalem revolt was driven by outsiders? That is doubtful — more likely is it that Josephus did not want to name any of his Jerusalem companions, many of whom he grew up with, and so only identified non-Jerusalemites. And other than the Adiabeneans, the men he named were all dead at the time he wrote the War; perhaps other early leaders were not.”  (Gary Goldberg,

This also shows the importance of Paul and the mission to the gentiles: while circumcision is required for Judaism, it is not required for Christianity. Helen’s sons Monobazus and Izates were enlisted without circumcision (at first). And Simon bar Giora might be Simon Peter.

Ralph Ellis increased the heat by suggesting that Izates would be Jesus, but this would seem to be unlikely.

But let us hold on to the notion that we want to use atonement to get clarity in this issue.

Messianic claimants according to (Jona Lendering) has a list with messianic claimants. A problem here is that he also lists Jesus of Nazareth, since Lendering thinks that this Jesus was a historical figure, where he uses sources that Richard Carrier regards as unreliable. Here is my analysis that Lendering creates his own Jesus. A problem is that Lendering doesn’t respond to my criticism, perhaps since I am no trained historian but only apply logic and common sense. Perhaps a historian of antiquity can copy my criticism to Lendering. The following of course is more speculative, since I am still puzzled and puzzling.

Uncovering Paul ~ Simon Magus

The basic historical fact is that the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) were not destroyed, and thus must date from before 70 AD. Eisenman in the New Testament Code determines, looking at the texts, that the DSS must discuss events up to the period close before 70 AD. Lena Einhorn in the time shift hypothesis confirms this in an independent analysis. Thus the Liar must have been identified before 70 AD.

Eisenman in James, the brother of Jesus mentions that there is a curious historical parallel of Queen Helen with Simon Magus and his Helen. Why don’t we accept an identification ?

Gary Goldberg as an important website on Josephus, and he lists parallels to the Bible. A crucial event is the famine around 44 AD. Thus we might have:

  • (Simon Magus ~ Paul),  (Simon’s Helen ~ Queen Helen from Adiabene) ~? (Mary Magdalene or Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή for Jesus ?). In standard Aramaic “mgdl” (magdal, magdla) means “tower”. This might be her Palace. But it might also refer to magos and perhaps the main work by Simon: the Apophasis Megale – at least Krijbolder suggests there would also be “mag’d” for “great”. Note: Aramaic “mgd” (mged, ma/egda) means “precious goods” – the beloved disciple ?.
  • (Helen sends for grain from Egypt and figs from Cyprus) ~ (Paul meets Bar-Jesus on Cyprus) ~ (Paul ~ Simon Magus ~ Bar-Jesus ~ Elymas ~ Atomos) ~ (Paul ~ The Egyptian) ~ (according to Josephus there was an Atomos / Simon who had dealings with Felix and Drusilla, and according to Acts Paul was held captive by Felix and Drusilla) , while grain and figs meet the nazirite rule to stay away from death (not eat meat and be vegetarian)
  • Simon (Paul ?) thus has an important early role for the uprising (Helen is rich)
  • However, Paul continues emphasizing the abolition of the Jewish rules on circumcision and eating – perhaps trying to widen the uprising to the Romans by appealing to Gnostism – and this falls sour on the party of James with adherence to the Torah. Someone is depicted as the Liar in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS).
  • The Christian Church (CC) doesn’t want Paul’s gnosticism and is motivated to diminish his role. But they are limited in doing so, given Paul’s important role for the cause, and his texts already circulating.

This reading fits the analysis by Roger Parvus, who argues that Paul’s role was inverted by a later interpolator. Historically he would first join and later oppose James, while the Acts turned this around: with first persecution and then conversion.

“If this is right, it would mean that the interpolator not only retained but transformed the element of enmity between Paul and the early church. And not only retained but transformed the element of a second visit to Jerusalem after fourteen years. It would mean that he also retained but transformed the elements of “appearance” and “privacy” that characterized the Simonian gospel. He attached those elements to the gospel in a new way, one that was inoffensive to proto-orthodoxy.” (Roger Parvus, part 5)

The Acts may have assigned the name Paulus to Simon Magus. The name “Paulus” means “small”. It can be understood as a reference to “Atomos” and to the gnostic reference by Simon Magus to an “indivisible” core (mustard seed) in each human, that links up to God. The Acts used Josephus’s mention of some Saulus to historically anchor the story of first persecution and later conversion.

But what counts as proof in these matters ? (Check this website on using archeology.)

More questions: Paul ~ Josephus and Banus ~ Ebionites ?

I keep wondering whether Paul can’t be Josephus: born in 37 AD and thus 33 in 70 AD. Why would Josephus only write history ? Why would he not think about religion ? In that case he could adopt a “nom de plume” as Paulos himself. Josephus great-grandfather was Matthias Curtus (“humpback, short”).

Josephus the Philosopher published Against Apion under his own name, defending Judaism as an older religion than the upstart Greeks. I didn’t read it. But why would he not write more ?

If it is true that Josephus foretold Vespasian that he would be emperor, because the Jewish stories about a messiah applied to him, then Vespasian might have asked Josephus later on whether the Jewish scriptures had more useful things for him, and why the Jews after 70 AD were hesitant on his rule if he indeed was that messiah. With such a question, Vespasian would effectively demand a religious foundation for his rule, i.e. the abolition of the Torah rule that the king would descent from David. Thus Josephus might have been forced to create Christianity, that both keeps the Torah (precious to Josephus) but that abolishes the davidic king and the levite priesthood, see the earlier blogtext.

This Josephus the Philosopher could well follow the path given by Philo, to link up the Torah to Plato: and arrive at a gnostic version that we also see in Simon Magus. For Josephus we indeed have the story that he was taken prisoner and taken to Rome. For Simon Magus the proof of existence is weaker. (Though there are some super-sceptics who insist that also the existence of Josephus needs proof, with the hypothesis that he and his works are also part of deliberate creation.)

Josephus born in 37 AD and Helen of the famine of 44 AD don’t link up easily. It still may be that the creators of the New Testament used both Simon Magus and Josephus to create both Jesus and Paul.

I was struck by the Ebionites that I hadn’t heard much about before. When Josephus mentions that he stayed with some Banus for three years, this might perhaps be those Ebionites. The original word in Hebrew or Aramaic is different and the common translation dates of a later period. It would mean that Josephus would have tried at an independent translation.

There are some (other) events in the destruction of Jerusalem that suggest of parallels in the gospels. The story of Simon bar Giora reminds of both Simon Peter and Jesus.

And what about the parallels by Daniel Unterbrink and Riaan Booysen ?

Daniel Unterbrink complains about the lies in the NT, and wrote four books on this: The Three Messiah’s, Judas the Galilean, New Testament Lies, and Judas of Nazareth.. He has degrees in Accounting and Education, but (recently) collaborates with Barrie Wilson, retired professor of Humanities and Religious Studies.


  • Reveals the biblical Jesus as a composite figure, a blend of the political revolutionary Judas the Galilean and Paul’s divine-human Christ figure
  • Matches the events depicted in the New Testament with historically verifiable events in Josephus’ history, pushing Jesus’ life back more than a decade
  • Demonstrates how each New Testament Gospel is dependent upon Paul’s mythologized Christ theology, designed to promote Paul’s Christianity and serve the interests of the fledgling Gentile Christian communities

Surprisingly he arrives at an early death by the true Jesus (Judas of Galilee) around 19 AD, similarly like Booysen.

I was struck by Riaan Booysen‘s parallels (though he is a PhD engineer and not a trained biblical scholar):

“If Simon Peter was indeed Josephus’ Simon bar Gioras, a vicious and violent man, would the other disciples of Christ not also have been like that? In fact, would they not have followed their master in this respect? In Barbelo I show that John the Beloved was non other than Josephus’ John of Gischala, the cruellest of all the three rebel faction leaders during the Jewish revolt against the Romans. The third was led by Eleazar, most likely Christ’s Lazarus. Regarding Christ, there are numerous subtle suggestions and outright accusations that he was a violent man (…)

(…) In Barbelo I argue that Christ, Simon Magus and Paul of Tarsus were one and the same person. Paul was rightfully accused of being Josephus’ Egyptian, who led a rebel army of 4 000 ‘terrorists’ against the Romans (Josephus’ number is 30 000). In other words, even the New Testament inadvertently acknowledge that Paul (Christ) was a violent man. According to a specific version of the Toledot Yeshu, Christ had more than two thousand armed followers with him on the Mount of Olives.

(…) To conclude, it is clear that numerous accusations of violence had been levelled against Christ and his disciples. If they had truly been the peace loving, meek and tearful men the New Testament would have us believe, not one such an accusation should have been made. In fact, it is certain that many similar accusations must have been suppressed by the early church. “ (Booysen, subtext “The Violent Messiah”)

For Simon bar Giora (see again Gary Goldberg above), wikipedia records two points that also drew the attention of Robert Price in this review of Eisenman:

“In spring 69 CE, the advancing Roman army forced Simon ben Giora to retreat to Jerusalem,[4] where he camped outside the city walls and once again began harassing people. Within Jerusalem, John of Giscala had set himself up as a despotic ruler after overthrowing lawful authority in the Zealot Temple Siege. In order to get rid of him, the Jerusalem authorities decided to ask Simon to enter the city and drive John away. Acclaimed by the people as their savior and guardian, Simon was admitted.” (wikipedia) This reminds of how Jesus entered Jerusalem on his two donkey’s (Simon and John), hailed by the people.

(…) In August 70, five months after the siege began, Jerusalem fell to Titus. Simon escaped into the subterranean passages of the city. By means of stone cutters he tried to dig away into freedom, but ran out of food before he could finish. Clothed in the garments of a Judean king he rose out of the ground at the very spot where the Temple had stood, was taken prisoner and brought to Rome.” (wikipedia) This reminds of “being buried but with a disappearing body” and “the mocking of Jesus as King of the Jews” and “Peter goes to Rome”.

Decoding the New Testament is sometimes complex, but we should not make it more complex than it is. The creators of the NT could create their story from simple clues.

But it doesn’t help that even the Bible translations give different versions. Simon bar Giora is Simon son of John and Simon son of Jona. In John 1:42 we find in, fortunately with a footnote that Cephas is Aramaic for “rock” (and somehow I always want to relate this to Capernaum (Kefar Nahum):

Common English version: “Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, “Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.” This name can be translated as “Peter.”

King James version: “And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. “

Stephan Huller: ““Simon barjona” would mean “Simon the revolutionary”. (… in Rome …) Simon was thrown off the Tarpeian Rock (a clear play on his title Kepha).”

Stephan Huller also warns about linking up Simon Magus with Paul.

Indeed, we have no evidence that the Romans really took Simon bar Giora to Rome, to parade him and then kill him. They took a person who came out of the caves under Jerusalem and who dressed up as a king. Perhaps a loyal follower of Simon took his place, and Simon himself escaped later unseen ?

“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. Yet I think it ties into an even more significant play on words in the gospel. For the Aramaic word kepha sounds a lot like the verb to deny, kipha, and, as early as Celsus, Peter is identified as the “denier” of Christ. One of the clear literary purposes of the gospel, at least as far as Marcionites interpreted the text, is to demostrate that Simon was instructed over and over again by Jesus that “little Mark” was to be his messiah, but he steadfastly refused to comply with the Lord’s teaching. We must remember again that Jesus wasn’t the true Christ according to this tradition. The Marcionites went out of their way to show that it was Simon who wrongly identified Jesus in this manner. Take a look at the classic rejection of the “Jesus is Christ” doctrine in the gospel (which is still read in the Marcionite manner by members of the Islamic tradition).” (Stephan Huller)

Decisions, decisions …

The following was written listening to Van Morrison.

The Torah was created with the legalism that developed from the Code of Hammurabi and not with the mathematical logic from Plato, Aristotle and Euclid. Legalism can run astray – “jede Konsequenz führt zum Teufel”. Hence we know that there is the letter of the law and the intention of the law:

“God has two thrones, one for judgment, and one for “ẓedaḳah” (benevolence, justice, and mercy; Ḥag. 14a).” (Jewish Encyclopedia, “Gnosticism“)

Volcanoes and/or lightning and thunder

Judaism also developed from a moon god Iah with the symbolism of volcanoes and/or lightning and thunder. Fire would stand for reason and the message (Moses) and thunder for the voice (Aaron). Observe the duality. I cannot avoid a full quote of a blogtext by Stephan Huller. My interest now concerns his reference to “two powers” but I do not want to quote him out of context on his other argumentation:

“According to the two powers tradition there were two powers in the Deuteronomy narrative’s account of the Sinai theophany – the god whose voice was heard from heaven and Eeshu, ‘his fire.’  I’ve taken the incredibly audacious step of identifying the being whose name ‘Eesu’ in Greek but spelled Iesous (the pronunciation attributed to itacism = ἰωτακισμός).  I have also argued that the spelling of the ‘Jesus’ in the actual manuscripts of the early Church ΙΣ (the manuscripts never identify the Christian Lord as Ἰησοῦς. Indeed Irenaeus in the second century explicitly denies that Ἰησοῦς is the proper name of the Lord arguing instead for yeshu (and demonstrating that with an acronym YSU ‘the Lord of heaven and earth’ perhaps from Genesis chapter 2).

Here’s my observation.  Eeshu creates Moses in his image (as his earthly ‘twin’) – that is bringing him into his presence and impressing his ‘image’ or ‘likeness’ upon his person.  Doesn’t the early Christian tradition argue for the same practice?  There are so many ‘twins’ (Thomas) and ‘brothers’ (James) and ‘brothers of brothers’ (James and John, Peter and Andrew).  There is also a clear ‘adoption rite’ where individuals are baptized and made a brother of Jesus, ‘the firstborn of many brothers.’  There is even the Islamic pseudepigraphal notion of Judas (or ‘Simon’ in the Basilidean tradition) literally taking on the appearance of Jesus.  Note also the parody in the Pseudo-Clementines where Faustus ‘takes on’ Simon’s image and is hunted down by the authorities who want the Magus. 

The author of Deuteronomy declares that when the Israelites were terrified of the two powers (i.e. the voice in heaven and his fiery presence on earth) the Lord promises to send ‘one like Moses’ – a prophet – who will instruct them.  Doesn’t this sound like the heretical understanding of the paraclete especially when applied to ‘Paul’ by the Marcionites, the Valentinians and the ‘orthodoxy’ (Archelaus) in the Marcionite stronghold of Osroene (locked in a battle with Mani who says he is the Paraclete, the twin of Jesus)?  Why do the heretics always resemble Jewish sectarianism against their orthodox adversaries (who ‘confess’ a belief in the monarchia but do not act, think or believe like any Jews known to anyone in history but nonetheless claim to be the ‘true Israel’). ” (Stephan Huller, 2015-01-09)

Philo and the second god

Neil Godfrey has this surprising quote from Philo from Alexandria on duality:

“Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own image? (Genesis 9:6). Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word [Logos] of the supreme Being (Questions on Genesis II.62)” ( 2010-07-28)

Godfrey gives some explanations but the one by Margaret Barker seems somewhat more convincing:

“Another scholar, Margaret Barker (The Great Angel) is not persuaded by Segal’s explanation. She believes it is far more likely that Philo took the ideas of a mediating divinity from existing Jewish beliefs and adapted or described them in terms of Greek philosophy. That is, he did not attempt to play with the facts of Jewish beliefs to make them sound palatable to Greek philosophers. He merely used philosophical language to describe Jewish beliefs.” (Vridar, idem).

The distinction between a supreme being and its derivatives (emanations) however is quite gnostic.

Wikipedia presents ‘monotheism with duality’

We find the following statement in the wikipedia portal (not source). Note that “God of Israel” is dubious given the distinction between the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and the Kingdom of Judah. See Appendix A on God’s indivisibility, and bold face by me:

“The conception of God in Judaism is strictly monotheistic. God is an absolute one, indivisible and incomparable being who is the ultimate cause of all existence.  (..) The God of Israel has a proper name, written YHWH (Hebrew: יְהֹוָה, Modern Yehovah Tiberian Yəhōwāh) in the Hebrew Bible. The name YHWH is a combination of the future, present, and past tense of the verb “howa” (Hebrew: הוה‎) meaning “to be” and translated literally means “The self-existent One”. A further explanation of the name was given to Moses when YHWH stated Eheye Asher Eheye (Hebrew: אהיה אשר אהיה‎) “I will be that I will be”, the name relates to God as God truly is, God’s revealed essence, which transcends the universe. It also represents God’s compassion towards the world. In Jewish tradition another name of God is Elohim, relating to the interaction between God and the universe, God as manifest in the physical world, it designates the justice of God, and means “the One who is the totality of powers, forces and causes in the universe”.” (Wikipedia, “God in Judaism”, 2015-01-30)

For mathematics this is inconsistent bullocks. With this text you can drive people crazy.  It states something like: “monotheism = compassion + justice” or 1 = 1 + 1. You may try for a formalisation in propositional logic or set theory: “monotheism = compassion (and ?)(or ?) justice”, but then you have to explain whether mercy can take priority over justice, or conversely. Justice & mercy might be heaven, no justice & no mercy would be hell, but what when only one is lacking ?

Indeed, there is the “Akedah“: the willingness by Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and the willingness by Isaac to be slaughtered, only to obey the law that Yahweh imposes on them. Their submission causes mercy, and Yahweh sends a lamb instead. Jesus however becomes the lamb, and the mercy extends to the believers in Christ who are saved from Original Sin. These are striking stories, but rather artificial, with childish simplicity. There are rather more complex cases in reality. The Torah dodges the real questions, like why women can’t be priests (if only by mercy). A proper modern answer however can be found in democracy, see the tale of the high priests of high treason.

Just to be sure: A hypothesis that Genesis derives from Plato

This present discussion has the underlying hypothesis that the Christian Church (CC) intended to link up Plato’s Demiurge with Torah’s Yahweh. A remarkable analysis is that Genesis might actually derive from Plato, see Godfrey’s report here. See an anthropological mechanism for the whole Bible. Of course, look also for Egypt and Babylonia. Plato is said to have visited Egypt. Godfrey discusses Greenberg, who is no academic egyptologist (his website). J.P. Allen provides an academic source. Alice C. Linsley taught philosophy & ethics at college and this is her take on Plato and Egypt.

Conclusion: the Torah is gnostic

Obviously, the distinction between an all-powerful god and the derivative minions of justice and mercy is very gnostic.

Now, gnosticism is as much a mess as the Torah, or religion overall – see this grand comparison map. I can put some tentative observations in Appendix C, but one could make it one’s life to get more clarity. I put some observations on snakes in Appendix B.

For now, it suffices to conclude these points:

  1. The official (though inconsistent) view that the Torah had a monotheistic Yahweh allowed the true Christian Church (CC) to link up to Plato. Yahweh ~ Demiurge, since these were recognised as unique god(s). In this link-up the Demiurge was not an evil force but the supreme being.
  2. Philo tried to apply Greek logic to the Thora, and came up with the One and his minions. In this, he apparently relied on existing Jewish Gnostism (JG). His effort to link up to Hellenism showed a problem however. Plato linked the Demiurge to the creation of the material world, which in Judaic thought would be done by only an emanation. Philo implicitly invited the Christian Gnostics (CG) to present the Demiurge as an evil force.
  3. Hence my earlier weblog: that Simon Magus looks like a real heretic.  The CC really wanted to get rid of the priesthood in Jerusalem, and CG had to be eliminated.
  4. The problem of the Torah & Philo had already been “solved” before by Egyptian religion or syncretic Serapis: the distinction between Osiris (Father, the One), Isis (Spirit, Mercy) and Horus (Son, Demiurge). This solution also leaked through into Christian Gnosticism early on, and later Christianity and eventually also the Neo-Platonists. Plotinus (204/5 – 270 AD) presented the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. These correlations of functions are not perfect, since Jesus might also be presented as bringing mercy, for example when Simon Magus presents him as a ransom for the Demiurge. What counts is the (undeveloped) logic or set theory behind some trinity.
  5. It is not clear yet who actually forms the CC in the years 70-100 AD …. Who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews ?
Appendix A. Simon Magus ~ Atomos ~ Elymas Bar-Jesus ~ Paul

Incidently, the wikipedia article on God in Judaism describes God as “indivisible and incomparable”. The use of the negative is suggestive of the phenomenon of apophasis. Apparently Simon Magus wrote a book Apophasis Megale (the Great Apophasis). Wikipedia translates this as Great Declaration, but doesn’t link to the lemma on apophasis, so that you are less likely to see that it is a wrong translation. Perhaps “The Great Negative” might be a better translation. (See my earlier short focus on nothing.) Subsequently, Simon Magus is reported to have dwelled on this notion of the indivisibility of God. This quote is allocated to him:

“This indivisible point which existed in the body, and of which none but the spiritual knew, was the Kingdom of Heaven, and the grain of mustard-seed.” (Wikipedia, Simonians)

Subsequently, others have linked this to Josephus mentioning of a priest called Atomos, supposedly a Jew from Cyprus. Since Simon Magus is supposed to come from Samaria, there would be a problem with “Jew” and “Cyprus”. However, modern-day wikipedia also correlates Israel (Samaria) with Judea, and this will also have happened in the past, even by a Jewish author like Josephus. (PM. Godley’s discussion of “Jew”.) Perhaps the reference to Cyprus only reflects a short visit. The reference calls attention to Elymas (“Wise”, “magus” ?) a.k.a. Bar-Jesus, who is in conflict with Paul on Cyprus. Perhaps the Acts merely wish to create a smoke-screen on Paul’s true identity ?

Appendix B. Snakes in this story

Some Gnostic sects are the Naassenes (reminding of nazoraios, but without r), the Sethianism and the Ophites in general. I tend to associate these sects with the Therapeutae since we still see medical doctors using the caduceus symbol with a snake. Snake poison would be a powerful medicine. It remains to be seen how this further relates to Hippocrates from Kos, but the god Asclepius who was associated with Serapis at least had his staff with a snake. And, just to be sure, since we are discussing Original Sin indeed, there is also a link to Apophis & the tree of life (not necessarily knowledge), and there is also a contention that Ophiuchus should be a 13th astrological sign in the zodiac.

Appendix C. A bit more on the relation between Torah and Gnosticism

This appendix essentially compares a Jewish encyclopedia article with an introduction of a Hag Nammadi library.

Starting with the latter, we can distill these characteristics for Gnostism:

  1. “The Greek language differentiates between rational, propositional knowledge [not Gnosis], and a distinct form of knowing obtained by experience or perception [Gnosis].”
  2. “heterodox segment of the diverse new Christian community”. Thus no Mithra or so.
  3. “Stephan Hoeller explains that these Christians held a “conviction that direct, personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of existence is accessible to human beings, and, moreover, that the attainment of such knowledge must always constitute the supreme achievement of human life.”” This would explain that Simon Magus ~ Paul thought that he could rely on “revelation” as a source of knowledge about Jesus.
  4. “Clement of Alexandria records that his followers said that Valentinus (100-160 AD) was a follower of Theudas and that Theudas in turn was a follower of St. Paul the Apostle. This is remarkable, and at least shows an awareness of Josephus (if it is the same Theudas). Following might merely be on ideas, not in person.
  5. “By 180 C.E. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, was publishing his first attacks on Gnosticism as heresy”. But we may assume that the problem already existed with the Bar-Kochba Revolt in 132-135 AD and when Marcion presented his proposal to abolish the Torah (called heretic in 144 AD).
  6. “The complexities of Gnosticism are legion, making any generalizations wisely suspect.” (…) “we will outline just four elements generally agreed to be characteristic of Gnostic thought. “
  7. First: “One simply cannot cipher up Gnosticism into syllogistic dogmatic affirmations. The Gnostics cherished the ongoing force of divine revelation–Gnosis was the creative experience of revelation, a rushing progression of understanding, and not a static creed.” (Already seen in 1 and 3 above.)
  8. Second: “says Bloom, “is a knowing, by and of an uncreated self, or self-within-the self, and [this] knowledge leads to freedom….” This reminds of Socrates: gnothi seauton. But he probably was more matter-of-fact. In the Gnostic case the “indivisible point” of Simon Magus comes to mind: “By all rational perception, man clearly was not God, and yet in essential truth, was Godly. This conundrum was a Gnostic mystery, and its knowing was their treasure.” Obviously we in 2015 still have not resolved the conundrum of consciousness and the ability of a student of mathematics to imagine a perfect circle. But beware of deceit: “The creator god, the one who claimed in evolving orthodox dogma to have made man, and to own him, the god who would have man contingent upon him, born ex nihilo by his will, was a lying demon and not God at all. “
  9. Third: “its reverence for texts and scriptures unaccepted by the orthodox fold. (…) Irritated by their profusion of “inspired texts” and myths, Ireneaus complains in his classic second century refutation of Gnosticism, that “…every one of them generates something new, day by day, according to his ability; for no one is deemed perfect, who does not develop…some mighty fiction.”” One can understand the feeling. Compare nowadays the productive Michael Baigent, and Dan Brown with the Da Vinci Code not adequately referring either (at least morally, see justice and mercy).
  10. Fourth: “This is the image of God as a dyad or duality. While affirming the ultimate unity and integrity of the Divine, Gnosticism noted in its experiential encounter with the numinous, contrasting manifestations and qualities. In many of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts God is imaged as a dyad of masculine and feminine elements. “ Though this is called unorthodox, we find some aspects also in the Torah, as explained. But if you don’t refer and don’t do the syllogisms, then you might think indeed that you are being unorthodox.

The article on Jewish Gnosticism allows us to observe that Paradise can be visited, and thus Original Sin overcome, via Gnosis, and, that also Paul attests of this (II Cor. xii 1-4) (point 7 below). Thus, Paul destroys the argument of the Epistle of the Hebrews that it was Jesus who is required – which is the position of the CC. There is also a strong defence of monotheism of the Torah (points 8 and 11 below):

  1. The Gnosticism relevant for Christianity (CG) had Jewish (JG) origins: “It is a noteworthy fact that heads of gnostic schools and founders of gnostic systems are designated as Jews by the Church Fathers. Some derive all heresies, including those of gnosticism, from Judaism (Hegesippus in Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.” iv. 22; comp. Harnack, “Dogmengesch.” 3d ed. i. 232, note 1). It must furthermore be noted that Hebrew words and names of God provide the skeleton for several gnostic systems. Christians or Jews converted from paganism would have used as the foundation of their systems terms borrowed from the Greek or Syrian translations of the Bible. This fact proves at least that the principal elements of gnosticism were derived from Jewish speculation, while it does not preclude the possibility of new wine having been poured into old bottles.” This does not preclude foreign influence however (Serapis, Egypt).
  2. “Cosmogonic-theological speculations, philosophemes on God and the world, constitute the substance of gnosis. They are based on the first sections of Genesis and Ezekiel, for which there are in Jewish speculation two well-established and therefore old terms: “Ma’aseh Bereshit” and “Ma’aseh Merkabah.”” But the article argues that the Jewish priesthood regarded the discussion as improductive.
  3. “In the gnosticism of the second century [BC ?] “three elements must be observed, the speculative and philosophical, the ritualistic and mystical, and the practical and ascetic” (Harnack, l.c. p. 219).”
  4. “The speculations concerning the Creation and the heavenly throne-chariot (i.e., concerning the dwelling-place and the nature of God), or, in other words, the philosophizings on heaven and earth, are expressly designated as gnostic.” But discussion is discouraged: “”Forbidden marriages must not be discussed before three, nor the Creation before two, nor the throne-chariot even before one, unless he be a sage who comprehends in virtue of his own knowledge [“hakam u-mebin mida’ato”]. “
  5. Judaism remains monotheistic, but the Gnosis allows a distinction between God and the Demiurge: “The characteristic words “hakam u-mebin mi-da’ato” occur here, corresponding to the Greek designations γνῶσις and γνωστικοί (I Tim. vi. 20; I Cor. viii. 1-3). The threefold variation of the verb in the following passage is most remarkable: “In order that one may know and make known and that it become known, that the same is the God, the Maker, and the Creator” (… reference …); these words clearly indicate the gnostic distinction between “God” and the “demiurge.” “ But this presents the gnostic view, while for the CC the Yahweh ~ Demiurge still would be valid.
  6. “Gnosis is neither pure philosophy nor pure religion, but a combination of the two with magic, the latter being the dominant element, as it was the beginning of all religion and philosophy. “
  7. “”Four scholars, Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Aḥer [Elisha b. Abuyah], and Rabbi Akiba, entered paradise [ = πασάδεισος]; Ben Azzai beheld it and died; Ben Zoma beheld it and went mad; Aḥer beheld it and trimmed the plants; Akiba went in and came out in peace [references]. (…) Paul (II Cor. xii. 1-4) speaks similarly of paradise (…)” The latter is remarkable: apparently Original Sin can be overcome, and Paradise can be visited by Gnosis. (Trimming the plants: restrict knowledge about this.)
  8. Very important: “Jewish thought was particularly sensitive in regard to monotheism, refusing all speculations that threatened or tended to obscure God’s eternity and omnipotence. R. Akiba explained that the mark of the accusative, , before “heaven and earth” in the first verse of Genesis was used in order that the verse might not be interpreted to mean that heaven and earth created God (“Elohim”: Gen. R. i. 1), evidently attacking the gnostic theory according to which the supreme God is enthroned in unapproachable distance, while the world is connected with a demiurge (comp. Gen. R. viii. 9, and many parallel passages). “
  9. “The archons of the gnostics perhaps owe their existence to the word = ἀρχή. The first change made by the seventy translators in their Greek version was, according to a baraita (2d cent. at latest), to place the word “God” at the beginning of the first verse of Genesis. Rashi, who did not even know gnosticism by name, said it was done in order to make it impossible for any one to say, “The beginning [‘Αρχή as God] created God [Elohim].””
  10. On duality of man and woman: “Genesis v. 2 was amended to: “Man and woman created he him” (not “them”), in order that no one might think He had created two hermaphrodites.” and “It may be mentioned here, in connection with these views about original hermaphroditism, that even the earlier authorities of the Talmud were acquainted with the doctrine of syzygy (Joel, l.c. i. 159 et seq.). The following passages indicate how deeply the ancients were imbued with this doctrine: “All that God created in His world, He created male and female” (…)”
  11. “The Jews of course emphatically repudiated the doctrine of the demiurge, who was identified by some Christian gnostics with the God of the Old Testament and designated as the “accursed God of the Jews,” from whom all the evil in the world was derived (…). The monotheism of the Jews was incompatible with a demiurge of any kind.” Incompatible with a Gnostic Demiurge, but compatible with the CC interpretation of Plato.
  12. “God has two thrones, one for judgment, and one for “ẓedaḳah” (benevolence, justice, and mercy; Ḥag. 14a).” (Possibly the origin of the separation of State and Religion.)
  13. “The official view, and certainly also the common one, was that founded on Scripture, that God called the world into being by His word (see Ps. xxxiii. 6, 9: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast”). According to tradition, however, it required merely an act of His will, and not His word (…) There were materialistic ideas side by side with this spiritual view. “ Note: The Gospel of John has the beautiful: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. But if the Logos is the Gnostic Demiurge, second to God, then John leads us into a theological morass. The Apocalypse might be the result of a false start.)
  14. Freedom of thought if the Torah rituals were observed: “Gnosis was regarded as legitimate by Judaism. Its chain of tradition is noted in the principal passage in Ḥagigah, Johanan b. Zakkai heading the list. Here is found the threefold division of men into hylics, psychics, and pneumatics, as among the Valentinians. Although these names do not occur, the “third group,” as the highest, is specifically mentioned (Ḥag. 14b), as Krochmal pointed out before Joel. The ophitic diagram was also known, for the yellow circle which was upon it is mentioned (Joel, l.c. p. 142). Gnosis, like every other system of thought, developed along various lines; from some of these the Jewish faith, especially monotheism, was attacked, and from others Jewish morality, with regard to both of which Judaism was always very sensitive.”

My last weblogs assumed that the Torah had a notion of Original Sin. In this, I followed the reasoning of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the philosophy of Paul ~ Simon Magus.

However, rabbi Tovia Singer argues that Paul gives a distorted view of the Torah.

“This stunning misquote in Romans stands out as a remarkable illustration of Paul’s ability to shape scriptures in order to create the illusion that his theological message conformed to the principles of the Torah. By removing the final segment of this verse, Paul succeeded in convincing his largely gentile readers that his Christian teachings were supported by the principles of the Hebrew Bible.

Deuteronomy 30:14 Romans 10:8
But the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach).

(…) throughout his epistles Paul sidesteps any statement in the Jewish scriptures that could undermine his teaching on original sin. For example, immediately after the sin of Adam and Eve is narrated, the Torah declares that man can master his passionate lust for sin. In Genesis 4:6-7, God turns to Cain and warns him,

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? If, though, you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you shall master over it.

For Christian architects like Paul, Augustine, and Calvin, this declaration of man’s capacity to restrain and govern his lust for sin is nothing short of heresy.  Moreover, the fact that the Torah places these assuring words immediately following the sin in the Garden of Eden [ftnt] is profoundly troubling for the church. How can depraved humanity control its iniquity when the Book of Romans repeatedly insists that man can do nothing to release himself from sin’s powerful grip?  Yet notice that there is nothing in the Eden narrative that could be construed as support for Paul’s teaching on humanity’s dire condition. On the contrary, in just these two inspiring verses, the Torah dispels forever the church’s teachings on original sin.

(…) In Jewish terms, sin is not a person, it’s an event, and that event happened yesterday.  In chapter after chapter, the prophets of Israel beseech those who lost their way to turn back to the Merciful One because today is a new day.” (Rabbi Tovia Singer.)

Matthew is supposed to have written for the Jews, but Singer holds that what he wrote turned them away because of his lack of proper understanding …

Let us first regard normal sin, in relation to the Torah law, and find that mercy is not automatic:

  • Yahweh offered the law so that his chosen people could follow these and know that he would be satisfied.
  • Perhaps Yahweh did not count it as “sin” if his commandments were not obeyed. But, he would not regard it as positive. On the day of judgement it would not be counted in favour. When it was determined who would go to heaven, why would you be selected ? Not being selected (e.g. being neglected) would be a punishment.
  • Thus, we may hold that the very notion of “law” implies the notion of “sin”.
  • A fortiori, we have Torah texts in which Yahweh sends out punishment.
  • Thus mercy is not automatic.

Let us next consider Original Sin. Yahweh required Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge. They disobeyed, and hence they and their descendants are no longer in Paradise. Let us define Original Sin ~ Eating Apple ~ Original Punishment ~ Not being in Paradise. All humanity suffers from that Original Sin (with pain and death). There is nothing in Torah law that you can do redeem this sin, i.e. so that you would directly enter Paradise. You only can obey Torah law during your life and hope for the best afterwards. There is no guarantee that your soul will be allowed into Paradise. Especially since Yahweh is a rather fickle god. Thus:

  • Singer likely is right that the Torah has no explicit statement on Original Sin.
  • He is wrong about the logical implications from the Torah.
  • Obviously Paul should not have changed the Torah quotes.
  • He should have explained that those were inadequate for saving your soul, for above reasons.
  • It doesn’t seem unreasonable that Paul could presume that the Torah had the equivalent of Original Sin.
  • When Christian teaching to Judaism isn’t very effective, this might be because Judaism neglects the logic in the Torah, or adopts an irrational hope for the mercy of Yahweh, or they don’t believe in the fairy tale of Paradise.
  • Rabbi Tovia Singer should have told us this analysis instead of giving this rather simplistic criticism of Paul.

For completeness I refer to the wikipedia article as a portal to more views.

Addendum January 30, 2015

I just discovered that Paul ~ Simon Magus found a way to still get to Paradise without Jesus, namely by means of Gnosis. His assertion would be another argument for the Christian Church to get rid of Gnosis.

“It is not expedient for me, doubtless, to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I can not tell; or whether out of the body, I can not tell: God knoweth); such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man. . . . How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” Paul (II Cor. xii. 1-4)

Robert M. Price makes a distinction in the purposes of a Gospel – to relate a narrative – and an Epistle – to argue a case. See his The marginality of the cross (2004-2005). And I write this listening to Yes: Tales from topographic oceans.

Two blogs ago I showed how the Epistle to the Hebrews (thus not the Gospels) gave the logic of the true Christian Church (CC). Yahweh’s covenant with Moses is demolished, and Jesus’s sacrifice creates the new covenant. Every believer is saved from the Original Sin created by Adam in Paradise: if only you believe in Christ – without the need to adhere to eating laws and such. Logic requires that Jesus’s sacrifice is a real sacrifice, and not some spiritual event only. By the sacrement of the Last Supper everyone can eat Jesus’s flesh and drink his blood, thus partake in Jesus’s death and the release from Original Sin. Indeed, who is dead has no obligations to an earlier contract anymore. And when a new law is written, the old law is kept on record to warrant where the authority derives from.

If Jesus’s death serves a purpose, why not let him die of old age and set a good example in that manner ? Why the choice of crucifixion, with all that suffering involved ? Some gnostics held that Jesus as celestial being could not suffer anyway, but the true Christian Church really wanted him to suffer. Why, what is the purpose of that suffering ?

Just to be sure, a search in said Epistle gives “sacrifice” from sin, and not “ransom”:

“If he had offered himself every year, he would have suffered many times since the creation of the world. But instead, near the end of time he offered himself once and for all, so that he could be a sacrifice that does away with sin.” (, The Common English version, Hebrews 9.26)

Also, who is responsible ? Is it Satan / The Snake who has seduced / abducted the soul ? In that case it would suffice to pay him a ransom to release the human soul from such slavery of the flesh. If it is the human soul all by himself who is responsible then it would be a veritable sin, and then we would need punishment and sacrifice to have justice done.

See here for a short discussion of Original Sin in the Torah.

Christian Church versus Gnostics

There was a difference of opinion anyway:

  • The true Christian Church (CC) created a merger of Yahweh of the Torah with the Demiurge of Plato. This had the advantage of a claim of an ancient religion, all the way back to the creation of the world.
  • The gnostics (a) moved Plato’s Demiurge to the second place as relevant only for the material world, (b) inserted a world spirit as more important in the top position, and (c) abolished the Torah as no longer relevant.
  • The agreement was on a new covenant, the replacement of circumcision by baptism, and the opening up of Judaism to the hellenistic world.
  • The disagreement was on the ancient claim and the importance of Plato and the flesh. Key gnostic Simon Magus presented Jesus’s sacrifice as a ransom for the Demiurge, like a price paid for release from slavery of the flesh. He was ridiculed by the CC by comparing him how he paid a ransom to relieve his lover Helen from prostitution. The CC insisted that Jesus’s sacrifice meant a salvation from sin. Simon Magus ridiculed this by saying that sin no longer existed when the law of the Torah that defined sin was abolished anyhow. This however is a feeble wisecrack, when the major problem for the gnostics was that they had to tell the supporters of Plato that this greatest of the Greek philosophers had made the mistake of overlooking the true God of the spiritual world. The CC embraced Plato and the importance of the material world. The suffering by Jesus logically established the importance of the flesh.
  • Logic required that one party was right and the other party was the heretic.

The logic of the CC is very legalistic, quite in the spirit of the Torah or the courts in Alexandria. We know that Egypt was a very hierarchical society. See (war) historian Richard A. Gabriel Jesus the Egyptian: The Origins of Christianity and the Psychology of Christ. See D.M. Murdoch, Christ in Egypt. Christianity is much rooted in the syncretic religion of Serapis. Christianity is targetted at widening the syncretism of Serapis with Judaism. The Torah resists syncretism since the covenant with Moses assigns supreme power to the king and priests in Jerusalem. The only solution for Alexandria is to design a new covenant. The Torah can be kept as a sign of diplomatic kindness.

The gnostic approach to abolish the Torah is too radical and needlessly harsh, and would block the syncretism for the Jewish priests with their vested interest in the Torah. If you throw out the Torah, adherents to the Torah would not be motivated to look into the argument that the Torah itself leads to its abolition. Gnosticism was very popular in Egypt and Samaria, the area of the old kingdom of Israel that had been more affected by the Babylonian period compared to the kingdom of Judah. But the target was Judea and Jerusalem that stuck to the Torah. Ergo, gnosticism has to go.

Robert M. Price says the same (earlier than me but only now discovered by me):

“Blood of the covenant” represents a midrashic attempt to understand the death of Jesus as a sacrifice performed to seal or renew a covenant between God and the Jewish people, as in Exodus 24:8. Such a theology is spelled out in great detail in the Epistle to the Hebrews.” (Price, op. cit.) (check

Gospels instead of Epistles

The Gospels however only relate a story, and don’t argue a case. For the gospel of Mark it has been suggested that there still is a lot of influence from Marcion (a gnostic related to Simon Magus), who presented a canon with full elimination of the Torah. In the Gospel of Mark we find the “ransom”:

“Mark 14:24, “This is my blood of the [new?] covenant, which is poured out for many” and its twin text, Mark 10:45, “For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” “ (Price, op. cit.)

Matthew however is directed at the Jews and emphasizes the release from sin:

““This is my blood of the [new?] covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). We should love to know the precise significance of the added phrase “for forgiveness of sins.” Does it imply something deeper, a la Paul and the Epistle to the Hebrews, about the expunging of the moral failures and flaws of the contrite heart, in contrast to the apparently purely ritual expiation of ritual trespasses entailed in the Mosaic sacrifice system? If the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus is taken to inaugurate a new covenant, as in several manuscripts of both Matthew and Mark, would this added moral and/or psychological dimension be the relevant novelty?” (Price, op. cit.)

Points to note are: (1) Price assigns the Epistle to the Hebrews to Paul, but actually the author is debated, and it would not be Paul when he would be equated with Simon Magus, who would speak about “ransom”. Given the elegance and determination of the logic in the Epistle, I would deem that the author must be well educated, and likely in Alexandria (rather than perhaps gnostic or Jewish-Christian Antioch). (2) Price emphasizes the moral content of sin, while at stake is the theological issue of the Original Sin (the arrogance of Adam to want to know as much as God himself), not for itself, but because of the logical argument in Hebrews against the priesthood in Jerusalem.

Blood versus suffering

Price calls attention to a nice midrash:

A final Matthean parallel to the scene of Exodus 24:8 must claim our attention. To what, precisely, was Moses directing the attention of the Israelites on that fateful day when he bade them “Behold the blood of the covenant”? Back up just a little, if you please: “Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people, and they said, ‘All that Yahve has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which Yahve has made with you in accordance with all these commandments” (Exodus 24:7-8). These words seem to possess a familiar ring, and yet what a surprise to realize where their counterparts occur! “Once Pilate realized he was getting nowhere, only that a riot was brewing, he took water and washed his hands in plain view, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood! See to it yourselves!’ And all the people said, ‘His blood be on us and all our children!’” (Matthew 27:24-25). (Price op. cit.)

Indeed, the theme of flesh comes with the theme of blood. But, in practice, Jesus might have made a small cut and sealed the new covenant with his blood, without much suffering. Thus the issue of blood is secondary. The real point remains that the suffering is needed for the logic in Hebrews that we are not dealing with a spiritual event only.

Price holds that Matthew still embraces the Torah

We now cannot avoid a longer quote from Price, in which he argues that Matthew’s Christians would still have to observe the Torah apart from the new covenant by Jesus (bold face by me):

“But for our purposes, the point is that the passage would complete the parallel between Exodus 24:7-8 and various portions of Matthew, implying strongly that the evangelist intended the death of Jesus as a saving event in the particular sense that it inaugurated a new covenant of faithful observance of the Torah and the commandments of Jesus, the new Moses.

We are far here from any sort of Paulinism, much less any traditional orthodox soteriology. One might invoke the theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is usually located in the Paulinist orbit: does it not similarly suppose that Christ brought a new covenant, sealed in his blood? And is not the result apparently the wholesale dispensing with the ritual regulations of the Torah? Not at all. (Our task here is to expound the teaching of the gospels, not the epistles; the relevant issue is whether Hebrews casts any light on Matthew.) The sympathies of Hebrews would seem to lie more in the direction of the Dead Sea Scrolls community, given (among other things) the mention of repeated baptisms (Hebrews 10:22) and the esoteric doctrine of Melchizedek (chapter 7). It is not evident that the writer to the Hebrews envisioned believers as forsaking ritual observance. All his talk about the superannuation and obsolescence of the temple sacrifice system is better understood as a kind of theodicy for the fall of the temple in 70 CE. [ftnt] The end of the sacrifices need not have entailed suspension of other laws, as the Javneh deliberations of Rabbinic Judaism make perfectly clear. But absolutely no doubt can remain about Matthew: he certainly believed exhaustive legal observance was incumbent upon every disciple. Matthew 5:17-19 even condemns Pauline Christians for so much as relaxing commandments, and the least important ones at that. Remember, too, that Matthew 23:23 congratulates the Pharisees for tithing garden herbs, though he faults them for neglecting weightier issues (unlike the Q original, preserved for us only in Marcion’s text, where Luke 11:42 lacks “without neglecting the others”).

Is the cross central to this plan of salvation? Hardly. One senses that Matthew would have been quite satisfied with a Jesus who died at a ripe old age, like his brother Simon bar-Cleophas, like Johannon ben-Zakkai, and like Moses, at 120 years. Matthew can make a place for the cross, as inaugurating the New Covenant, but this is just because he finds the fact of Jesus’ death unavoidable. The Dead Sea Scrolls sect lived the life of the New Covenant, too, but they did it without any doctrine of human sacrifice. (Indeed, Robert Eisenman suggests [ftnt] that the Markan/Matthean “new covenant in my blood” is a pun on and derivative from the Qumran term “new covenant of Damascus,” since the Hebrew for “blood” is dam, while “cup” is chos. Paul and others, initially part of the Dead Sea Scrolls community and partakers of their communal “messianic” meals, Eisenman postulates, carried the idea of the supper (and even the original Hebrew phraseology for it) with them when they apostatized from the Torah-zealous movement and preached a law-free gospel to Gentiles instead. The “Covenant of Damascus” thus became the “covenant of the blood cup,” assimilating the rite to the Mystery Cult sacraments with which the Gentile converts were already familiar. Thus the connection with the death of a divine savior, Jesus, would represent a secondary understanding of the ritual.” (Price op. cit.)

We can find the same reasoning in Price’s review of Eisenman’s 2006 book The New Testament Code.

This might well be. Researchers like Price and Eisenman are more at home in these issues than I am. Let us at least make these observations:

  1. The distinction between an Epistle and a Gospel may well allow for the situation that Matthew only relates a story without being quite aware of the logical significance of the crucifixion for the theological argument. But his change from Mark’s “ransom” to “sin” suggests that he wants more distance from the gnostics.
  2. While Mark’s use of “ransom” points to a desire to link to the gnostic view, his very Gospel consists of a creation of a human form in the flesh on Earth, which doesn’t fit the view of a celestial being. Mark would belong to the gnostic view that Jesus’s flesh is a ransom for Plato’s Demiurge of the material world (and no real sacrifice since sin doesn’t apply for the spiritual world).
  3. The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) sect (sects) then is not as determined / focused / obsessed as the Epistle to the Hebrews (then likely from Alexandria) to beat Jerusalem at their own game. (The Epistle provides an argument that the Torah itself must conclude to its own abolition.)
  4. The DSS sect would rather keep the Torah and plead for the appointment of a Zadok high priest, rather than the abolition of the authority of Jerusalem and Torah, which the Epistle to the Hebrews does.
  5. The pun on Damascus indeed seems like a pun, but it leads too far to conclude that death of Jesus would be secondary. Simon Magus still presents this death as a “ransom” to get rid of the Torah.
  6. The adherence to other rules in the Torah (other than the supremacy of Jerusalem, circumcision and eating laws and such) depends upon Jesus, as explained by the Gospels themselves. Matthew at least creates some ambiguity here, but it is known that his Gospel is targetted at the Jewish-Christians. (You might not adhere to some eating laws, but as soon as you belong to a community, you still must pay to support the priest and so on.)
  7. It is not entirely clear from this, yet, that the gnostic Simon Magus really had first joined the Torah-zealous movement.
Price on Luke

Luke presents the Gospel to the civilised world and wants to get rid of the primitive human sacrifice.

“The Third Evangelist’s antipathy for cross-based soteriology is well known, if not entirely understood.” (Price, op. cit.)

““Scripture stipulates that the Christ must needs suffer and, on the third day following, return from the dead, and that [a message of] repentance and forgiveness should be preached in [association with] his name to all nations, radiating outward from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). What is “missing” from this scenario? Any link between the death of Jesus and the efficacy of repentance for forgiveness. True, if Jesus had not died, repentance would not be preached in his name. If Christ had not died, our faith should be in vain. But there is not a word of his death enabling or effecting our salvation.” (Price, op. cit.)

“It appears that someone has sought to import into Luke’s text some of the “butcher shop religion” (Harry Emerson Fosdick) that Luke sought so fastidiously to avoid.”  (Price, op. cit.)

“We saw that Matthew retained the two scant Markan references to Jesus’ coming death as a ransom for many, supplying a more elaborate theological context, that of the new covenant and its sealing in sacrificial blood. Luke does just the opposite: he cuts them both! Where Mark had Jesus say, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45), Luke has, “which is the greater personage, the one who reclines at table? Or the one who serves? Surely, it is the one who reclines, no? And yet I conduct myself among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). Conspicuously absent are both the Son of Man references (given the context, a simple mark of self-abnegating humility anyway) and the business about him dying, much less as a ransom.” (Price, op. cit.)

Price on John

Price’s discussion of John is a repetition of these steps:

“On our topic, as with some others, the Gospel of John seems conflicted, pointing in two directions. It would be no surprise if the cause were simply the evangelist’s own lack of closure, a failure to think systematically. But, given the patterns that seem to form, it appears more likely to me that our present text of John is the result of a late harmonization of the recensions cherished and redacted by two competing Johannine factions: the Gnosticizing group condemned in 1 and 2 John and the Catholicizing group who condemned them as false offshoots.” (Price, op. cit.)

More on Eisenman

In his review of Eisenman’s 2006 book, Price finds:

“And the first achievement of The New Testament Code hard won through this methodology, is the realization that the Dead Sea Scrolls stem from the mid to late first century CE (equivocal Carbon dating results no longer even being relevant), and that they represent the sectarian baptizing Schwärmerei known variously as the Essenes, Zealots, Nasoreans, Masbotheans, Sabaeans–and Jewish Christians headed by James the Just. Endless references to the armies of the Kittim and “the kings of the Peoples” make the date clear even before we get to the catalogue of terminological and conceptual links between the Scrolls, the New Testament, and the Pseudo-Clementines. I should say that in all these comparisons Eisenman has established a system of correspondences fully as convincing, and for the same reasons, as the Preterist interpretation of the Book of Revelation by R.H. Charles and others. I just do not see any room for serious doubt any more. Teichner was right; Eisenman is right: the Scrolls are the legacy of the Jerusalem Christians led by the Heirs of Jesus: James the Just, Simeon bar Cleophas, and Judas Thomas. The Teacher of Righteous was James the Just (though Arthur E. Palumbo, Jr., The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Personages of Earliest Christianity, 2004, may be right: as per Barbara Thiering, John the Baptist may have been the first to hold that office, with James as his successor). The Spouter of Lies who “repudiated the Torah in the midst of the congregation” was Paul. It was he who “founded a congregation on lies,” namely the tragically misled “Simple of Ephraim,” converts from among the Gentile God-fearers who knew no better. The Wicked Priest was Ananus ben Ananus, whom Josephus credits with lynching James on the Day of Atonement.” (Price op. cit.)

This time window of the DSS fits the time shift hypothesis by Lena Einhorn, that the events really happened around the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple in 70 AD, and were only placed narratively a generation (of 40 years) earlier, (a) to not alert the Romans, (b) to present this destruction as punishment for not listening to Jesus.

Still, this hodge-podge or sects makes one doubt what the real goal of the DSS sect(s) would be. I take my clue from the teacher of righteousness. It may well be that it started 159 BC when the Maccabees failed to appoint a proper descendent from Zadok, and that over time the messianistic interpretation grew. We can allow that Theudas / John the Baptist and later James took over as leader of the main group. There still is no natural explanation how Paul or Simon Magus would first join up and later dissent again. Perhaps before 70 AD there was a natural reason to join forces against the clique in Jerusalem, and differ forces after 70 AD when that clique was gone ?

Enter Roger Parvus

In an amazing recent series of discussions, Roger Parvus looks again at the older hypothesis that Paul = Simon Magus.

  • He shows how CC interpolations reduced the gnostic (ransom) view and inserted the CC (sacrifice) view.
  • The CC story that Paul originally was Saul who persecuted the CC is analysed as an inversion of the true story: that Simon Magus originally was a partner in the CC but later deviated from the flock.
  • This still doesn’t explain the relation of the CC to the DSS sect(s), and how the CC got to dominate the Torah-abiding group led by James (though perhaps lack of good leadership after his death).

This weblog text for today is already too long. Continued tomorrow.

For today we at least understand why the CC was so determined to get rid of gnosticism.