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Category Archives: ben Sira

The History of Early Christianity, part 1

This was originally an email I was going to send to someone, but I decided not to send it to her. So I thought I would post it here instead of letting it go to waste. Maybe and hopefully, if she’s curious enough, she’ll stumble upon this blog. I’m going to split this into two posts because it’s pretty lengthy; one of the reasons why I didn’t send it to her. I didn’t want to beat her over the head with all of this – it’s a lot to digest. The other reason being that it went against the opening theme of the email that was about going out and learning things for yourself instead of simply accepting things uncritically.

I think when I put all of the contents of that email in a Word doc, it was around 50 pages! Ridiculous. Anyway…

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” – Hillel the Elder, c. 100 BCE.

“Jesus” was a common name in the Second Temple time period. I’m going to list a couple of them that eerily share a lot with the Jesus of Christianity.

Yeshu ha-Notzri was a member of a Jewish sect called “Notzrim” around 100 BCE. He was charged with practicing sorcery and tried by the Sanhedrin. For 40 days a town crier was sent out into the streets of Jerusalem asking if anyone would come forth and speak in his defense. When no one came, he was executed; he was hanged on the eve of Passover. He apparently also had five disciples. How much of that is true or false, no one knows. It’s one of the many notes on Sanhedrin trials found in the Jewish Talmud. As you know, Jesus’ actual name is “Yeshua”. Translating this directly into English is “Joshua”, not “Jesus”. But “Yeshua” in Greek is “Iesou” (Ιησου), and “Iesou[s]” in English is Jesus. In my opinion, it seems as though “Iesous” was back-translated in to Hebrew to end up as “Yeshu”; the “I” sound in Greek, the “Y” sound in Hebrew, and “J” sound in our modern English are all generally the same sound, so you could say “Yeshu” or “Jesu”, the “s” in Hebrew can be pronounced as either a regular “s” or an “sh” (It seems pretty obvious to me that the Hebrew “Yeshu” was derived from the Greek “Jesu”). And the ending of the word in Greek depends on its grammatical context.

For example, “Jude”, “Judas”, and “Judah” are all the same name in Greek but change depending on the grammatical context, kinda like we would say either “an apple” or “a pear”; so “Jesus” could be pronounced as either “Jesu” or “Jesus” (or “Jesun”) in Greek. In Mark 1:1, it says “αρχη του ευαγγελιου ιησου χριστου” (the beginning of the good news [of/by] Jesu Christ) but just a few lines later at Mark 1:9 it says “ιησους της γαλιλαιας” (Jesus of Galilee [“from Nazareth” is argued to not be original, since this is the only time in Mark’s gospel he uses “Ναζαρετ – Nazareth” instead of “Ναζαρηνος – Nazarene” and all of its grammatical variations, the significance of which I’ll explain later]). Later at Mark 15:1 is another grammatical variation of “Jesus”, it says “ολον το συνεδριον δησαντες τον ιησουν” which says literally “all of the conference bound [the] Jesoun”.

“Jesu” is the neutral version of the name and the actual transliteration of Yeshua/Joshua, whereas if Jesus is doing something, it becomes “Jesus” (which is why this is the version that occurs the most in the NT), if Jesus is having something done to him, it changes to “Jesoun”. And just to be thorough, here is Numbers 13:16 LXX:

και επωνομασεν μωυσης τον αυση υιον ναυη ιησουν / And Moses named Hosea son of Nun Jesus

But it’s literally “Jesun” since Jesus/Joshua is having something done to him – the naming.

Next, Jesus ben Sira was a Jewish sage living around 180 BCE who wrote a non-canonical Tanach (Old Testament) book called “the Book of Sirach”. This Jesus was a wandering Jewish preacher who apparently was always close to getting killed due to his teachings. His works included mixing Jewish theology with Greek Homer-styled heroes.

Jesus ben Pandira might have started or belonged to the Essenes (that Jewish sect that I told you about before besides the Pharisees and Sadduccees). He was reported to have been a miracle worker and upset the Maccabean king (106-79 BCE) by continually preaching about the end times, and was eventually executed by being hanged from a tree – on the eve of Passover. Ben Pandira might be the Essene “Teacher of Righteousness”; the Essene suffering, benevolent teacher.

So, next, around 10 BCE to 10 AD there was some Hebrew “scripture” inscribed on a tablet called “Gabriel’s Revelation” in which the angel Gabriel is talking to a messiah claimant, saying that even though he died, he would be brought back to life in three days. Some scholars think that the messiah claimant referred to here is a Jew named Simon, who was one of Herod’s slaves who revolted (the Jewish historian Josephus writes about him in his work “Antiquities of the Jews” 17.10.6), and that the community that produced this tablet is the same community that the Dead Sea Scrolls belonged to – Jesus ben Pandira’s Essenes. The Dead Sea Scrolls also contain themes of baptism, asceticism, allusions to “living water”, a “new covenant” celebration, and a “messianic banquet”.

Also during this time period, a Hellenized Jew named “Philo” had schools in Alexandria, Egypt. His schools focused on mixing Jewish theology with Greek philosophy. The thing he’s most known for is this concept called the “Logos”. The Logos was literally what the gods (in Stoicism, YHWH in Judaism) used to make the world. Kinda like how we would use gloves to handle radioactive material since we can’t touch it directly. “Logos” in Greek means “logic” or “word / speaking” (it’s also the root word for the “-logy” suffix in all of our sciency words like bio[logy], paleonto[logy], geo[logy], etc.). The logos, Philo taught, was also sorta the blueprint for humans, and functioned as a “high priest” in heaven (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philo%27s_view_of_God#The_Logos – you should read the whole article; ironically Philo’s non-Jewish version of god is a lot like mine). All High Priests are anointed with olive oil once taking office – they are “YHWH’s anointed” (Greek: χριστου κύριου – actually the “lord’s anointed”) – ergo… the logos, the high priest, is a “christ”: “χριστος” (notice the parallels between “Jesus the high priest” in Zechariah 3 and Jesus the “high priest” Hebrews. Of course in your English Bible, the high priest is called “Joshua” in Zechariah 3).

Philo is also a contemporary of Jesus and would have definitely taken notice of him (and Philo even visited Galilee once), but never writes about him… but he does write about his other contemporary – Pilate, which I’ll get to later.

Another major thing that happened in this time period (3rd – 1st centuries BCE) was the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek so that the reading of the Hebrew Bible wasn’t restricted to the Pharisees or other Jews who could read and write Hebrew. This tome was called the “Septuagint” or the “LXX”: literally “Seventy”. It gets its name from the tradition that 70 Hebrew scholars translated the Hebrew bible into Greek. When Martin Luther translated the Bible into his native tongue – German – it brought the Bible to the common person, letting anyone who could read the ability to read it without depending on the priesthood for translations, ushering in the Protestant Revolution. The same thing happened with the LXX – Jews who could only read Greek were allowed to read the Torah/Tanach without depending on the Pharisees or other Hebrew educated Jews for translations. The LXX also made Judaism mainstream. It meant Jewish thought could be teased against Plato and Homer etc. and its influence could spread. Without “it” (there were many variations, all called “Septuagint”), Judaism would have remained an insular national cult. This allowed any gentile Greek who could read and get their hands on a LXX to perform exegesis and midrash on the Hebrew Bible and fuse it with their own philosophies (a *very* key point), making up stories based on LXX characters. Later, when the writers of the gospels quote the Tanach, they’re not quoting the Hebrew version, they’re quoting the LXX… “mistranslations” and all. It’s not so much that there were “mistranslations”, it’s just that languages never have a one-to-one relationship. I’m sure there are jokes, double entendres, etc. you know in German that wouldn’t make sense in English, and vice-versa. Every reference to Tanach texts in the NT does so by quoting the LXX. None of them quote the actual Hebrew version.

For example, in Hebrew, there are two words for “lord” – Adonai and adoni. Adonai is “LORD” and adoni is “lord”; the first refers to YHWH only, and the second is simply a human title. This is because Jews, if they’re reading from the Hebrew Bible and come across YHWH (יהוה), they’ll say “LORD” – Adonai (or they’ll say “HaShem” – The Name). Greek only has one word for “lord” – kyrios (κυριος). This is a critical point here – the tetragrammaton (יהוה or YHWH – Yahweh) is never written in the LXX. The writers of the gospels and Paul wrote in Greek and used the LXX for their arguments. This means that they couldn’t read Hebrew and thus were unaware of the difference between the two “lords” in Hebrew, and unaware of any being named YHWH. I reiterate – Paul, James, Jude, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and for some reason Jesus himself were **all unaware of a being named YHWH**. All references to YHWH in the LXX use either “kyrios” or “theos”, so the writers of the NT only used those words as well. The most glaring example of this confusion by the gospel writers is Psalm 110 (NIV):

“The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

In Hebrew, the first LORD is pronounced as “Adonai” but would be really pronounced YHWH (vowels aren’t really written in Hebrew, so for example your name in Hebrew is actually שרה or SRH) if Jews were to forsake the aversion of saying Ha Shem out loud. The second “lord” is “adoni”, and in this case is referring to a *human*… King David (the Psalm begins with “a psalm for/about King David”. “My lord” = King David). Adoni is *never* used for a divine entity, only for *humans*. The second “lord” is, in English, improperly capitalized (you can read the actual Hebrew here: http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt26b0.htm and see that יהוה only appears one time in verse 1, not twice; Hebrew reads from right to left). However, this distinction between the two types of “lord” doesn’t exist in Greek or in the LXX. So when, for example, the writer of Matthew wrote 22:41-44 and quotes Psalm 110, he thinks that both lords have the same divine “lord” status. Both “lords” are gods. Thus you get the inaccurate idea that the “lord / adoni”, a god (in Matthew’s case, Jesus) sits at the right hand of the “lord” (YHWH). A Pharisee (trained in Hebrew) would have pointed out the two *very* different types of “lords” immediately, and not sulked away with their tail between their legs. This also seems to imply that Jesus spoke Greek *instead* of Hebrew or Aramaic, which doesn’t make sense.

The implication that Jesus spoke in Greek and not Hebrew/Aramaic shows up again in John 3:1-8… “[born] again” (γεννηθη άνωθεν – gennithi anothen [our word “genesis” comes from the Greek]) makes sense in Greek as a double entendre, but not in Aramaic/Hebrew, since in Greek the word for “again / anew” can also mean “from above” (anothen). The more specific word in Greek for “again” would be either “pali” (or in koine Greek “palin” …lol) or as is used in 1 Peter 1:23 “αναγεγεννημενοι – anagegennimeni”… literally “reborn [pl.]”. This double meaning is completely absent in the Hebrew/Aramaic word for “anew”. “From above” and “anew” are two separate words/phrases in Aramaic. The writer of John thus implies that Jesus and Nicodemus are speaking in Greek to each other, since Nicodemus wouldn’t have had the confusion/reaction that he had if Jesus was speaking in Aramaic and said “born from above”.

Paul makes the same “mistake” meshing the two different “lords” and showing ignorance of YHWH in Romans 10:9 – 13 (and elsewhere):

“Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. For the same Lord is Lord of all. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Paul is using Joel 2:32 (Joel 3:5 LXX) as a proof text for the divinity of Jesus. His argument only makes sense if Joel 2:32 reads “lord” – as does the LXX. If Paul had rabbinic training (or could read Hebrew) then he would certainly know that Joel was talking about a specific name – YHWH (the referent for Adonai). Joel in Hebrew doesn’t say “lord”, it says YHWH. Not once does the book of Joel say the word “lord”.

To try expressing this another way, whenever the phrase “YHWH El” or “YHWH Elohim” appears, Hebrew literate Jews would read it “the LORD God”. Sometimes it’s written as YHWH El (the LORD God), sometimes just YHWH (the LORD). If someone can’t read Hebrew, they might think that the singular “lord” (kyrios) is a different being than the “lord god” (kyrios theos), but seems to have similar “powers” as the “LORD God”. Since non-Hebrew literate readers of the LXX find “lord” and a different “lord god” they might think that these are two different beings (sorta like Philo’s “Logos”, hmm…) – yet Hebrew literate readers would recognize that YHWH (Adonai – Lord) is the same being, regardless of the qualifier “God”. Notice in Joel 2:32 that “the LORD God” is never mentioned. Just the LORD. Of course, Paul couldn’t read Hebrew, so he didn’t know that this “LORD” character is YHWH, and not some other “LORD” (in Paul’s case, Jesus). Now you know how the phrase “my name is the LORD” is actually supposed to be (“my name is YHWH”).

As a slight side note, however, the gospel of John implies that YHWH’s name is “I Am”, which he got from Exodus 3:14. It’s still not quite, since “I am” in Hebrew is אהיה (ehyeh or ahyah) and not יהוה. John uses multiple “I am” statements to imply that Jesus is God – but he’s still unaware of The Name יהוה since that would have been written in the LXX as “lord” and אהיה would be written in the LXX as “I am” (εγω ειμι – ego eimi). But notice in the very next verse, Exodus 3:15, YHWH says his actual name that he says he should be called “from generation to generation” (but, in our English and the LXX, it says “LORD” and not YHWH). And in the subsequent generations, the Jews have to be reminded again and again that their “God” is “Yah” (“god” = el… “yah” or “jah” – Elijah, means “my god is jah”; “shua” in Hebrew means “salvation”, “Yah-Shua” [Jesus’ Hebrew name] means “Yah is salvation”; but don’t take these theophoric names too prophetically, since “Judas” – the betrayer – his name comes from Yahuwdah which means “praise to Yah”).

This Jewish person I correspond with sometimes had this to say about Exodus 3:14:

Without gong into detailed Hebrew ‘word studies’ and elaborately documented ‘proofs’, my personal opinion on Exodus 3:14 is approximately;

“I am the causing to be, what I am causing to be”

A ‘play’ on The Name ‘YHWH’ and the causative verb forms ‘yah’he and ha’yah’ יהי and היה (and ‘it (he) WAS)’-(and ‘it (he) BECAME’)

The core idea being of a past, present, and future (self-existent) FORCE, causing, and bringing into ‘being’ all that -ever ‘was’ -now ‘is’-ever ‘shall be

The LXX version of Ex 3:14 has YHWH say “εγω ειμι ο ων” which in Greek is “I am the being” (ων is the Koine Greek version of οντος which forms the root to one of my favorite words “ontology” lol). It’s probably the closest the Greek translators could come to describing the “pun” that only makes sense in Hebrew.

Another interesting side note about “adoni” is that’s no coincidence that this is the name of one of the Greek gods “Adonis” who, oddly enough, was a dying and resurrecting god. “Adoni” (lord) is where Adonis gets his name.

So, if Paul knew Hebrew, his argument in Romans would look like this (for this instance I’ll translated YHWH as “Jehovah” as JWs do):

“Whoever calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved. For the same Jehovah is Jehovah of all. If you confess with your mouth that Jehovah is salvation is Jehovah and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

This makes absolutely no sense. Like I wrote above, “Jesus” isn’t Jesus’ actual name, it’s “Yah is salvation” (Yahshua or Yahoshua).

Anyway, for this reason alone, the vast majority of converts to Christianity were gentile Greeks (“ger toshav” – you should google it!) and non-Hebrew literate Jews. Conversions of Hebrew-literate Jews was almost non-existent (1 Peter 3:10-15 quotes Psalm 34:12-16 and also betrays ignorance of YHWH). If you talk to any Jews today, these are some of the same reasons that they give for not being Christians – that Christians don’t understand the language nuances of Hebrew, and don’t understand what the Jewish Messiah is *actually* supposed to do. Why would Christians refer to Jesus by the Greek name “Jesus” instead of the Hebrew name “Joshua”? Or call themselves the Greek word “Christian”? Why the lack of Hebrew words in Christian literature? All of the evidence indicates that the early Christians didn’t understand Hebrew and “exploited” the ignorance of Hebrew on all of their proselytes. How, then, can non-Hebrew literate people claim to know the Hebrew Bible better than people who *can* read Hebrew? It doesn’t even seem as though any of the “Apostolic Fathers” (Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, Clement) were Jews.

It seems as though if it weren’t for the LXX, there would be no Christianity – other than the Ebionites; which I’ll explain later.

Also, during this time period there were many factions of Jews besides the Pharisees and the Sadduccees. There were the Notzrim, the Zealots, Herodians, Essenes, Nazirites (not really a “sect”, but whatevs), etc. But the main four that are probably most important for this email are the Pharisees, Sadduccees, Essenes, and Notzrim. Just so I can stop typing “Notzrim”, that Hebrew word in (Greek) English is, for all intents and purposes, “Nazarenes”.

Yes, the Nazarenes were around before Jesus and had nothing to do with a town called “Nazareth”. “Yeshu ha-Notzri” means “Jesus the Nazarene”. While it’s debated whether our English “Nazarenes” (Greek “Nazoraios” Ναζωραιος) derives from the Hebrew “Notzrim” (Aramaic “Natzoriya”), “Notzrim” and “Naztrat” have two different meanings in Hebrew. “Notzrim” means “Nazarene” as a religious group (or simply a close knit group) like the Pharisees, and “Naztrat” means “someone from Nazareth (Nazarene)” in *modern* Hebrew. The term “Naztrat” or town called “Nazareth” is never found in the Talmud or any other Jewish writings until after Christianity’s prominence. However, “Nazarene” (Notzrim) is, and is used to refer to Christians all throughout the Talmud. The town “Nazareth” seems to first appear in non-Christian literature when Constantine’s Christian mom, Helen, either “found” or “founded” the town circa 330. I really have no idea if the town Nazareth existed during Jesus’ lifetime. There’s evidence that people lived in the area *now* known as Nazareth in the first century, but whether it was actually called “Nazareth” back then is up for grabs.

There’s also the possibility that “Nazarene” is a Greek mistranslation of a “nazirite” vow (Numbers 6:1-21).

The Nazarenes prior to the Christian era were claimed to have been descendants of the House of Joseph… meaning that they had a completely divergent view of the “Christ” or “Messiah” – he wouldn’t be a “seed of David” (since that’s via the lineage of the House of Benjamin), he would be from the House of Joseph. Their messiah was supposed to re-establish the northern kingdom. The Nazarenes called themselves “sons of Joseph” due to their heritage. Also complicating/conflicting matters, the modern day Samaritans claim lineage from the House of Joseph. Apparently, the Nazarenes were popular among the Samaritans; with the Samaritans claiming that Mount Gerizim as the true place where sacrifices to YHWH were to be performed, and not Jerusalem (see John 4:19). Samaritans also claim that the only inspired texts were the first five books of the OT (the Pentateuch) written by Moses.

There might have been a lot of mixing of religions before a lot of this was written down and reified. The gospel of Matthew, which was said to have been written to try to convert Jews, is the only gospel that’s antagonistic towards Samaritans. John, on the other hand, is antagonistic towards Jews and has “many Samaritans” believing in him – but if Jesus is a Davidic seed, it is insanely unlikely that Samaritans would accept a Davidic Messiah, since they don’t acknowledge lineage from the House of Benjamin.

We’ll skip what happens in Christian history from the year 1 AD to 33 (really, no one knows) and go straight to the earliest Christian writings by Paul which were written around the 40s – 50s, or, at the most written before 70. The reason for a no-later-than 70 date I’ll also write about later. There are 13 letters ascribed to Paul. 14 if you count “Hebrews”, but this has been contested ever since it was introduced by the proto-Orthodoxy around 1,850 years ago. For all intents and purposes, “Hebrews” was anonymously written, just like the canonical gospels. Seven of Paul’s letters share a near scholarly consensus that they’re authentically written by “Paul”, or at least written by the same person. There are three letters that have no consensus, and three that are almost unanimously agreed by New Testament scholars to not be by “Paul”, or at least not by the same person. The seven that are generally agreed to have been written by “Paul” are 1 & 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans, Phillipians, and Philemon. The three that have no consensus are Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, and Colossians. The three agreed forgeries are 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus – called the “Pastoral Epistles”. From my own reading I think that “Paul”, or the same person, did write Ephesians and Colossians but not 2 Thessalonians.

Reading all of the authentic and non-consensus Pauline letters, there’s something “wrong” with Paul’s version of Christ. Paul’s Christ does nothing of value while he was on Earth other than have a last supper, get “handed over” (cf. 1 Cor 11:23 vs. Rom 8:23), crucified, and “resurrected”. Paul’s Christ never gets baptized by John, does no miracles, no wisdom sayings or parables, never clears the Temple, and never heals anyone or raises anyone from the dead (wouldn’t Jesus’ marital status – either “celibate” or “married” have been a highly potent line of argument in 1 Cor 7?). Paul also never mentions his crucifixion by Pilate in Jerusalem (that part is mentioned in the Pastorals, which was written to counter a specific “person” which I’ll write about later) or any sort of “empty tomb”. Some things are certain in Paul’s letters though – he’s the Son of God, was crucified at some point in the past, and was resurrected (and is going to come back and destroy the world while resurrecting all those who are “asleep” in Christ). However, Paul’s account of his resurrection is that he “appeared” to the apostles (on a similar note, Paul [and all other epistles] never makes any mention of any “disciples”, or people that his Christ actually taught physically or any “ministry” in the sense of “preaching”). Paul makes no distinction between the way he appears to himself and the way he appears to Cephas (Peter – may or may not be the same person), the 500, the “twelve” (why are the twelve mentioned separately from Cephas [pronounced “kee-fas”]? Isn’t he part of the twelve? Thus the possibility that Cephas and Peter are two different people), and James. The prima facie conclusion (that is, without any biases from later gospels) is that Christ appeared to them all the same way – in visions.

Paul’s writings are very proto-Gnostic. More on that later, since it’s extremely important to the canonization process and “New” Testament (or you can read this as well: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhlintro.html). This silence about the earthly life of Jesus by Paul is shared with the epistles of “1 Peter”, “1, 2, 3 John”, “Jude”, and “James” up to writings like Ignatian epistles, Polycarp’s epistles, 2 Peter, and the Didache (short for “The Teaching [Didache / διδαχη, where we get the phrase “didactic”] of the Twelve”) circa 100 AD. This is where we start to get “whispers” of gospel material – vague quotes, works, biography, etc. of Jesus. But never direct word-for-word quotes like what Paul does with the Tanach – or more accurately, with the LXX. In the mid-100s we start getting direct quotes of gospel material, but no author names. Like Justin Martyr’s “Memoirs of the Apostles” in 150. He quotes from what we find are Matthew, Luke, and Mark (possibly John) but he never names those authors outright (side note – Justin never describes “talking in tongues” as being among the gifts that Christians possess upon being saved, which means that, at the least, his version of Mark didn’t have the part after 16:8 which most scholars agree is a later addition to the text. Justin doesn’t seem to be aware of Paul or considered to be “Simon” the Magician, and was a contemporary and *antagonist* of a “Marcion”; the reason for me mentioning that will be brought up later). Similarly so with Tatian’s subsequent “Diatesseron” which literally means “through four” in Greek – it was a single version of the four gospels without any contradictions (my website name “diapente” means “through five”).

Now, back to the Jews. Two very significant events happen in Jewish history from 70 AD to 132 – 135 AD. Probably the most important events for *all* modern Jews. Since the time of Alexander the Great’s conquest of the “known world” in the 300s BCE up to the first century AD, Jews are pressured for assimilation by the Greek culture and had been conquered by the more brutal Romans since the 50s BCE. Jews are pissed off. Their high priests are just Roman lackeys, some Jews want to maintain their Hebrew roots while other Jews want to assimilate to Greek culture (which was actually one of the causes for the celebration of Hanukkah about a hundred years prior around 150 BCE – the traditionalist Jews cleared the Temple of Hellenistic influence; this is in 1 & 2 Maccabees which isn’t included in Protestant Bibles but is present in Catholic Bibles). The Sadduccees are the “ruling class” of the 2nd Jewish Temple culture, the Essenes were highly ascetic Jews who were insanely dedicated to Judaism but somewhat anti-social and highly selective, the Nazarenes are “Jews” who are Jewish by ethnicity but want to re-establish the northern kingdom of Judah (where Galilee is at), want to re-establish the lineage of Joseph from the Torah (calling themselves the “Sons of Joseph”) and are sort of “anti-Pharisee/Torah”, and the Pharisees are the “regular”, Torah-educated Jews: the Rabbis. All of these Jewish sub-groups want freedom from each other, Roman rule and Greek assimilation, and Messiah-ism is rampant. Hundreds, if not thousands, of “messiahs” pop up starting mini rebellions, doing random displays of trying to recreate the miracles of Moses and other prophets, etc. and all are put down by the Romans. Romans like to kill, and they’re pretty brutal. However, Pontius Pilate was even more brutal. He was actually too brutal even for his superiors and was eventually fired for his wanton murder and execution of Jews. The polar opposite of how he’s presented in the gospels.

As a matter of fact, the situation between Jesus (Christ) and Jesus (Barabbas) displaying Pilate’s “mercy” almost certainly never happened. In the gospels, Pilate is presented as merciful, reluctant, and scared of the Jewish mob. According to Philo (in his work “On The Embassy of Gauis”), Pilate was “inflexible, he was stubborn, of cruel disposition. He executed troublemakers without a trial.” He refers to Pilate’s “venality, his violence, thefts, assaults, abusive behavior, endless executions, endless savage ferocity.” Philo, for the most part, got along with the Romans. He was the head of a delegation to the Roman Emperor Caligula, yet this is the way he speaks about Pontius Pilate. Not only that, but Philo and Pilate were contemporaries.

Josephus also has a very negative view of Pilate. According to Josephus, at one point there was a minor uprising, somewhat peaceful, of Jews because they were demonstrating against Pilate’s spending money from the Temple on building an aqueduct. Pilate had soldiers hidden in the crowd of Jews while addressing them. After giving the signal, Pilate’s soldiers randomly attacked, beat, and killed scores of Jews who weren’t even being unruly; he just liked killing Jews. Note that Josephus is writing this account *for the Romans!* You would think that, if anything, he would present a Roman official in a better light if his audience were his Roman superiors. Accordingly, Pilate was fired for massacring some Samaritans who went up to Mount Gerizim where a messiah claimant went to demonstrate a miracle.

There’s no way he would have had some tradition of letting one prisoner go and no way he would have been scared of a mob of Jews. He would have just killed them all. Also, Jesus Barabbas is a nonsense name – “Barabba[s]” or “bar Abba” (remember, this was originally written in Greek and thus the endings change depending on the grammatical context – so in the text appears “Barabbas” and “Barabban”) is Aramaic for “son of the father”, which is a surname that makes no sense. This is a literary creation of the author of Mark and scholars really have no consensus on why he would do it. Possibly, Jesus Barabbas was the historical Jesus who really was an insurrectionist and was rightfully arrested and executed, and Pilate’s “washing his hands” was symbolic of removing the blame for Jesus’ death on the Romans and placing it on the Pharisees (or all Jews in gJohn) so that Christianity wouldn’t be seen as being at odds with Roman authority (giving a clue as to when these stories were written – which I’ll explain in the next couple paragraphs). The surname “Barabbas” given because the historical Jesus was known for praying to the Father and always refered to himself as “the son”. This also makes sense of why Paul’s letters, and other epistles written in the 1st century (1 Peter, James, Jude, 1,2,3 John) make no mention of any miracles or wisdom sayings attributed to Jesus.

Either that, or Mark put this in to mimic the “scapegoat” ceremony in Leviticus 16. Jesus, the real “son of the father” just so happens to meet “bar Abba” (son of the father) who is his complete opposite? And Pilate, who executed troublemakers without trial, supposedly had a ceremony for releasing insurrectionists because it was a Jewish holiday? He had no respect for Jewish customs! And releasing an “insurrectionist” would make Pilate himself an accomplice to insurrection. So possibly an allegorical representation of Lev 16.

Another somewhat important aside, Josephus was born in 37 CE. In his autobiography, he says that when he turned 16 (which would be around 53 CE), he wanted to get a thorough introduction to the three major “philosophies” of Judaism – he names the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes as the three. Later on, he mentions a fourth “philosophy” of Judaism led by a Galilean named “Judas” which scholars have dubbed the “Zealots” which supposedly only had 4,000 followers. According to Acts of the Apostles, this was a time period when thousands of Jews and Greeks were being converted to Christianity, yet Josephus doesn’t mention any of these mass conversions that should have been happening during his lifetime.

Finally, in the year 66, the first Jewish-Roman war breaks out – during the reign of Nero – and the Jews are crushed. Most importantly, the Second Temple is destroyed in 70. This is a HUGE cataclysm for Jews and sparks the beginning of Rabbinic Judaism – the current form of Judaism. In the Apocalypse of John of Patmos (the book of Revelation), he writes about an “anti-Christ” who’s “number” is six hundred and sixty six. Greek (and Latin and Hebrew) don’t have separate “text” for writing numbers. So if a Greek wanted to write the number “12”, they’d either write δωδεκα (twelve) or use Greek letters to add up to 12, like βι; “β” is the number 2 and “ι” is the number 10 – so βι would be “12”. So, if someone’s name adds up to a certain number, you could just “write their number” instead of spelling out their name… !

Nero was pretty much a bastard. He killed his own mother and sister, reinstated persecutions against Jews, and supposedly “fiddle while Rome burned”. At the end of Nero’s reign, during the First Jewish-Roman war, he fled Rome because he knew he was going to get assassinated. When some members of the Roman Senate found him, he decided to commit suicide instead of being exiled and/or murdered. So Nero, this huge bastard who started the war with the Jews, simply “disappears” one day from the point of view of the common person. Depending on who is talking, “Nero” can be spelled either as “Nero” or “Neron” – the difference between the two names being the letter “N”. “N” has the value of 50 in Greek.

There are actually two versions of the “number of the beast” in John’s Revelation. The most commonly known one “six hundred sixty six”, and another that appears in some earlier manuscripts of Revelation – six hundred sixteen(here). What an odd coincidence: 666 minus 616 = 50… the value of “N”.

Also around this time, there was another veeeery interesting “Jesus” named Jesus son of Ananias described by Josephus in his book “War of the Jews” 6.5.3:

An incident more alarming still had occurred four years before the war at a time of exceptional peace and prosperity for the City. One Jeshua son of Ananias, a very ordinary yokel, came to the feast at which every Jew is expected to set up a tabernacle for God. As he stood in the Temple he suddenly began to shout: ‘A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Sanctuary, a voice against the bridegrooms and brides, a voice against the whole people.’ Day and night he uttered this cry as he went through all the streets. Some of the more prominent citizens, very annoyed at these ominous words, laid hold of the fellow and beat him savagely. Without saying a word in his own defence or for the private information of his persecutors, he persisted in shouting the same warning as before. The Jewish authorities, rightly concluding that some supernatural force was responsible for the man’s behaviour, took him before the Roman procurator.

There, though scourged till his flesh hung in ribbons, he neither begged for mercy nor shed a tear, but lowering his voice to the most mournful of tones answered every blow with ‘Woe to Jerusalem!’ When Albinus — for that was the procurator’s name — demanded to know who he was, where he came from and why he uttered such cries, he made no reply whatever to the questions but endlessly repeated his lament over the City, till Albinus decided he was a madman and released him. All the time till the war broke out he never approached another citizen or was seen in conversation, but daily as if he had learnt a prayer by heart he recited his lament: ‘Woe to Jerusalem!’ Those who daily cursed him he never cursed; those who gave him food he never thanked: his only response to anyone was that dismal foreboding. His voice was heard most of all at the feasts.

For seven years and five months he went on ceaselessly, his voice as strong as ever and his vigour unabated, till during the siege after seeing the fulfilment of his foreboding he was silenced. He was going round on the wall uttering his piercing cry: ‘Woe again to the City, the people, and the Sanctuary!’ and as he added a last word: ‘Woe to me also!’ a stone shot from an engine struck him, killing him instantly. Thus he uttered those same forebodings to the very end.

Interestingly, this Jewish historian, writing for his Roman benefactors, writes about more alarming stories like these (like an insurgent Jesus son of Sapphias, who gathers a bunch of *fishermen* and *poor people* to start a rebellion in Josephus’ hometown Galilee – and when one of this Jesus’ followers betrays him, this Jesus is arrested and his band of fishermen and poor people abandon him), gives pages and pages about all of these bandits, crazy people, messiah claimants, etc., multiple Jesuses who seem to be an “episode” of the Gospel’s Jesus’ ministry, but never writes about the Jesus of Christianity – even though Josephus was from Galilee and lived from 37 to 100… and Josephus’ father was a member of the Jewish priesthood, someone that would have had first hand experience of the Jesus of Christianity.

The current corpus of Josephus has a single paragraph about the Jesus of Christianity in his other book “Antiquities of the Jews” but considering that he calls him “the Christ” in that book (a word he doesn’t use anywhere else) and only has one paragraph describing him – while on the other hand writes pages about bandits and crazy people – makes his passing remark about the Jesus of Christianity (it’s called the “Testimonium Flavium” in scholarship) more than likely an interpolation by later Christians. The way that books were copied prior to the printing press makes unintentional interpolations happen all the time. Possibly, a Christian scribe copying Josephus’ work read the part about Pilate and wrote in a margin of the text (implying that he wasn’t intentionally trying to forge Josephus’ work) a couple of words about the Jesus of Christianity. A later scribe, not knowing that these couple of words are more like an anotation or note and not the original work, simply and mistakenly inserted the note of the margin into the body of the work.

Josephus actually thought that the Roman General Vespasian was the Messiah:

What more than all else incited them [the Jews] to the [1st Roman] war was an ambiguous oracle … found in their sacred scriptures, to the effect that at that time one from their country would become ruler of the world. This they understood to mean someone of their own race, and many of their wise men went astray in their interpretation of it. The oracle, however, in reality signified the sovereignty of Vespasian who was proclaimed Emperor on Jewish soil”

– Josephus’ Jewish War 6.5.4

Anyway, after the war, the Pharisees (who become Rabbinic Jews) begin consolidating power (mostly by murdering the Sadduccees, since the Sadduccees’ power base – the Temple – was destroyed), the Essenes mysteriously disappear, and what happens to the Nazarenes? Part 2

References:
http://bibledatabase.net/html/septuagint/ (The Septuagint or LXX)
http://www.deusdiapente.net/science/Bible%20Research/LifeOfJosephus.pdf (this is my web site! yay!)
http://www.deusdiapente.net/science/Bible%20Research/On%20Pilate.pdf (Philo’s and Josephus’ writings about Pilate)
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/mark-prior.html (The argument by most scholars that Mark was written first)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maccabees (The Maccabees and Hanukka)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rule_of_the_Blessing (Essene’s Dead Sea Scrolls)
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2501.htm (Eusebius’ “Church History” written c. 300)
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103.htm (Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies” written c. 180)
http://www.webcitation.org/5YBgZFADe (2008 Oxford conference about the “Synoptic Problem” by Christopher Tuckett)
http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_43.html (Sanhedrin 43a – Yeshu ha-Notzri)
http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_107.html (Sanhedrin 107b another exerpt about Yeshu)
http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_67.html (Sanhedrin 67a a passage about a ben Stada / ben Pandira)
http://mama.indstate.edu/users/nizrael/jesusrefutation.html (a lengthy diatribe by a Jewish guy arguing against Christianity. While lengthy and doesn’t cite sources, he does provide good linguistic arguments since he apparently knows Hebrew)
http://www.bib-arch.org/online-exclusives/dead-sea-scrolls-15.asp (Biblical Archaeology Review article on the “Teacher of Righteousness”)
http://www.bib-arch.org/online-exclusives/dead-sea-scrolls-16.asp (Biblical Archaeology Review article about similarities / differences between Jesus and the “Teacher of Righteousness”)
http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/deadsea.html#Essenes (another comparison between the Essenes and Jesus)
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1820685,00.html (Gabriel’s Revelation)
http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark01.html (a verse-by-verse exegesis of the gospel of Mark)
http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=220039 (this is a pretty radical deconstruction of the gospel of Mark but it makes some pretty good arguments that Mark is a pro-Paul, anti-Peter work).

 
 
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