Category Archives: jesus

My Name Is Legion, For We Are Many

This was posted by Joe Wallack over at FRDB. It is a more in depth explanation of the “Legion” I posted in my lengthy email about the history of early Christianity:

“We have also demonstrated that the “Gerasenes” or the area around the city of Gerasa does not fit the geographical requirements of the Jewrassic Pork story as Gerasa is about 35 miles from the Sea of Galilee. In addition, the story seems to be completely based on the Impossible and therefore has no Historical core. This opens up the Possibility that the author had a Literary reason for selecting Gerasenes and did not intend to narrate a historical event but rather intended to make a Theological point.

“Mark” is commonly thought to have been written shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem c. 70 CE. Looking through significant events leading to the destruction as documented by Josephus we see possible Parallel references between:

1) Rome’s Historical conquest of Jerusalem


2) Jesus’ Fictional conguest of Jerusalem

1) Start of Mission to Conquer Jerusalem:

—The Historical Roman campaign starts from Caesarea.

—Jesus Fictional campaign starts from Caesarea:

—–Mark 8:

“27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.[b]”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

32He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

2) Historical Roman capture of Roman built Gerasa temporarily taken over by Jewish Rebels

Mark 5:
“1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] 2When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil[b] spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[c]how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”

Note the following reMarkable common words/ideas with the Historical Roman campaign:

1) Gerasa – An especially noteworthy town as it was built by Rome, was populated mainly by Gentiles, was temporarily controlled by the Jewish rebels and was an important conquest on the way to Jerusalem. Also, a major rebel leader, Simon, was from Gerasa.

2) Legion – This name for the Demon is especially telling as it is also the primary name for units of Roman soldiers.

3) Pigs – Using pigs is telling as this would be the primary animal Jews associated with Gentiles. Also, one of the conquering Legions had a Boar as it’s standard.

4) Two thousand – This is close to a casualty figure from the Historical Gadara conquest (twenty-two hundred).

5) Drowned – In the Historical Gadara campaign the most horrific method of suffering and execution was drowning.

Thus with a Narrative that can not be Historical it’s quite Possible that “Mark” intended a Figurative comparison of Jesus’ Peaceful conquest of Jerusalem with Rome’s violent conquest of Jerusalem. And, in an Irony that I think “Mark” would really appreciate, “Jesus” did eventually conquer Rome peacefully which is probably the best evidence for Christianity.”

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Posted by on September 3, 2009 in allegory, jesus, josephus, legion


Propheciezed or Derived?

So was Jesus’ life really predicted according to Jewish scripture? Or was his life derived from Jewish scripture?

The first line of evidence for this is the fact that the Hebrew Bible is split into three types of writings: Torah (Law), Neviim (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). Prophecy ended in Israel on the deaths of the last prophets; Zechariah, Malachi, etc. Daniel, who is considered a prophet according to Christians, was not considered a prophet in Judaism since he lived after the time period that prophecy had ended.

Accordingly, the psalms are not prophetic. They are simply the hopes and dreams of Jews written to songs. The word “psalm” comes from the Greek word ψαλμος (psalmos) which was derived from the verb ψάλλω (psallo). When I fingerpick my guitar, I ψάλλω it. Psalms are songs to be sung, usually accompanied by a stringed instrument which is plucked with fingers. So the psalms are listed among the Ketuvim, along with Daniel. Though in John, Jesus fubs and calls the Psalms “Torah”:

Psalm 82:6

I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’

John 10:34

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’

(Why does Jesus say “your law”? Isn’t it his law too, being Jewish?) Jesus’ entire crucifixion scene, according to Christians, was “predicted” by the 22nd psalm. But this makes no sense since the psalms aren’t prophetic. Therefore, Jesus’ crucifixion scene must have been derived from the 22nd psalm!

Psalm 22:1

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46

the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, […] “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Psalm 22:18

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture

Matthew 27:35

When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots

Psalm 22:7

All they that saw me laugh me to scorn, they shoot out the lip, they shake their heads

Matthew 27:39

And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads

Psalm 22:8

He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him

Matthew 27:43

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if He will have him

Though Luke changes Jesus’ last words, they are still derived from a psalm:

Luke 23:46

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father into thy hands I commend My Sprit…

Psalm 31:5

Into thine hand I commend my spirit

Other aspects of the crucifixion are derived from other psalms:

Matthew 27:24

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

Psalm 26:6

I will wash mine hands in innocency

Matthew 27:34

And they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall…

Psalm 69:21

They gave me also gall for my meat, ……and they gave me vinegar to drink

John 13:18

He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.

Psalm 41:9

Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me

Mark 15:28 says “and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “He was counted with the lawless ones” (Isaiah 53:12)”. But Mark 15:28 doesn’t show up in some earlier manuscripts, so some Bibles either leave it out, or have a little annotation to denote this. So it means this “prophecy” was inserted into the text at a later time period. But what if that was endemic to the entire text? That an original author wrote a narrative gospel and another author realized that there were “similarities” between Tanakh texts and the gospels?

Also, the name “Barabbas” literally means “son of the father” or “descendent of the father” (Bar Abba). The reason why it’s “Barabbas” in the text is the same reason why it’s “Jesus” in the text. These stories were originally written in Greek and so the ending of a noun in Greek depends on its grammatical context. So for example, if I said “They crucify Barabbas” in Greek it would be αυτοι σταυρώνει Βαραββαν. Notice the ending – it’s a “ν” which is “n” in Greek – it literally says “Barabban”. If I wanted to say “Barabbas writes the good news” it would be Βαραββας γραφει τα ευαγγελια. Barabbas ends with a sigma – “s”. If I wanted to write “What does your father want, Barabbas?”, in Greek it would be τι κανει ο πατερας σου θελει, Βαραββα; which would literally be “What does your father want, Barabba?”

So that entire sequence is really between Jesus, who is supposed to be the actual “Son of the Father” and his polar opposite – a violent insurrectionist – who is literally named “Son of the Father”. Some manuscripts of Matthew even have Barabbas named “Jesus Barabbas”. So one “barabba” is sacrified for sin while the other “barabba” is released. This seems to mimic the scapegoat ceremony in Leviticus 16. Or, seems to be derived from Leviticus 16. Of course, this probably slipped passed the overzealous redactor who inserted “prophecies fulfilled” in the text, or that entire scene might have said at the end “and so they released Barabbas to fulfill Leviticus 16” which doesn’t really make sense.

Of course, there’s also the derived virgin birth (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14), the derived “slaughter of the innocents” (Matthew 2:18, Jer. 31:15), the derived “flight from Egypt” (Matthew 2:15, Hosea 11:1). What if the entire narrative itself was derived from the Hebrew Bible? This process is called “Midrash” – no wonder Christians are so zealous that Jesus “fulfilled” so many “prophecies”. But it seems like it was the other way around. Jesus didn’t fulfill any prophecies, the “prophecies” gave life to Jesus.

Another idea is that the original gospel Mark was written as a play. What if the reason that so much of the Passion sequence is derived from the psalms is because the Passion sequence, also, was supposed to be played to music?

And of course, keeping with Gnostic tradition, Mark ends his midrash of the Hebrew Bible at 16:8; which Matthew and Luke didn’t like:

The terms “Abrupt Ending” [Mark 16:8] carry with them a begging of the question.

It is only abrupt if you assume a longer ending. There is nothing incomplete, nothing rushed, nothing out of place – it ends, and moreover it ends with what is decisive historically: nobody knows. Jesus slips through un-noticed so the scriptures may be fulfilled and those of us in on the secret can inherit everlasting life.

As you add in the specious material after 16:8 the problems start to mount. In the original ending you had to explain the historical silence regarding Jesus. It is done so effectively with stupid, fearful disciples, and an ignorant Jewish church.

So when you re-introduce the spectactular appearance before multitudes after death, now you are back to explaining why nobody noticed him.


Jerome tells us in his 120th epistle that the long ending of Mark “is met with in only a few copies, almost all the codices of Greece being without the passage”. (The earliest manuscript we have with the ending is the Codex Washingtonianus (5th c.) which itself has a large interpolation after v.14, attesting to the volatility of the Markan ending (as do the variations in many other manuscripts).

Either the vast majority of manuscripts of Greece (in the late 4th c.) were an aberration or Irenaeus’s source (in the late 2nd c.) was. We have earlier sources again as non-witnesses, both Matthew and Luke, neither of which support the long ending, a strange occurrence for they usually follow Mark.


The gospels of Matthew and Luke diverge wildly after more or less following Mark’s [Passion Narrative] through 16:8. That was the end of Mark’s gospel.

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Posted by on August 26, 2009 in gnosticism, jesus, midrash


The "Accident of Birth"

Where people were born at determines their religion. I’ve read a lot of conversion to Christianity stories (I was born a default Christian), and they all seem to have this element. Bible Scholar Bart Ehrman, former preacher John Loftus, Kenneth Daniels, users on FRDB such as OneInFundiville, christ on a stick, and many others all had some point in their life when they felt like something was “missing”. Some sort of hole in their soul.

Then, they turned to Christianity.

Mostly because they wanted what they saw other “real” Christians had. The friendship, community, fellowship… whatever it is. Just like they shared that common feeling of longing and turned to Christianity, the reasons that they deconverted from Christianity was the desire for “truth”.

I noticed that pattern though: conversion to Christianity was due to sociological, community centered needs. For brotherhood, fellowship, etc. To fill a hole that they felt that they had. All of that is subjective. All of that is emotion driven. Placing subjectivity above all else.

The reason they turned away from Christianity was because of a switch – they started valuing objectivity instead of subjectivity. They wanted to know if Christianity was true objectively; as in “true regardless of how I personally feel about it – without any biases“.

Which is pretty much the point of John Loftus’ “Accident of Birth”. The reason for every single conversion to Christianity story I’ve read is that they simply latched on to their surrounding culture’s popular “hole-filling” meme. If any of the above people had been born in Saudi Arabia, then they wouldn’t have turned to Christianity, they’d have had Muslim parents and Muslim friends and turned to Islam. If they had been born in Utah with Mormon friends and Mormon parents, they’d be Mormons. Born in South America they’d be ardent Catholics. Born in Israel, they’d have turned to Judaism. India? Hinduism. Japan? Buddhism. Africa? Ad nauseum.

Ever since the time of Revelation, every despot or slave that has attained to power, be he violent or ignoble, has made it his first aim and his final purpose to destroy our law, and to vitiate our religion, by means of the sword, by violence, or by brute force, such as Amalek, Sisera, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Titus [Jewish-Roman war of 70 CE], Hadrian [Bar-Kochba Revolt of 133 CE], may their bones be ground to dust, and others like them.


The second class consists of the most intelligent and educated among the nations, such as the Syrians, Persians, and Greeks. These also endeavor to demolish our law and to vitiate it by means of arguments which they invent, and by means of controversies which they institute. After that there arose a new sect which combined the two methods, namely, conquest and controversy, into one, because it believed that this procedure would be more effective in wiping out every trace of the Jewish nation and religion. The first one to have adopted this plan was Jesus the Nazarene, may his bones be ground to dust.

[…] He impelled people to believe that he was a prophet sent by God to clarify perplexities in the Torah, and that he was the Messiah that was predicted by each and every seer. He interpreted the Torah and its precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment, to the abolition of all its commandments and to the violation of its prohibitions. The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to him.

Daniel had already alluded to him when he presaged the downfall of a wicked one and a heretic among the Jews who would endeavor to destroy the Law, claim prophecy for himself, make pretenses to miracles, and allege that he is the Messiah, as it is written, “Also the children of the impudent among thy people shall make bold to claim prophecy, but they shall fall.” (Daniel 11:14).

The first to take up this course was Jesus the Nazarene, may his bones be ground to dust. He was of Israel. Later, arose a madman who followed his example since he had paved the way for him. However, he added a further object, namely to seek dominion and complete submission to himself; and what he has established is well known.

– Moses Maimonides, Letter to Yemen c. 1100 CE

Moses Maimonides expresses his disdain over Jesus and Mohammad (called “the madman”). Though, this is only Maimonides’ view of Jesus and Mohammad, and not the view of all Jews.

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the son of Mary. Say: “Who then hath the least power against God, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every – one that is on the earth? For to God belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For God hath power over all things.”[Qur’an 5:17]

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger — they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them [Quran 4:155 – 159]

116. And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.[Surah 5:116]

Quran 2:113 “The Jews said that the Christians follow nothing (i.e. are not on the right religion); and the Christians said that the Jews follow nothing(i.e. are not on the right religion); though they both recite the Scripture. Like unto their word, said (the pagans) who know not. Allah will judge between them on the Day of the Resurrection about that wherein they have been differing.”

Here Mohammad, writing the dictates of Allah himself, expresses his views, or Allah’s views, of Jesus. According to the divinely inspired book that most of the Middle East follows – and that 1 billion Muslims follow – calling Jesus Allah himself is blasphemy. Jesus himself says in the Quran that he is not Allah.

Consequently, Muslims are somewhat “docetic” (from the Greek δοκεω::dokeo – to seem) since they say that Jesus only “appeared” to be crucified and thus never actually died, and was taken directly up to heaven. [Quran 4:155 – 159 posted above]

As for Mormonism, Joseph Smith, Jr., founded the Latter Day Saint movement. He told his associates and family that he had located a buried book of golden plates written by ancient American prophets (“reformed Egyptian”). Smith said the Angel Moroni, who was the guardian of these plates, had directed him to these writings and that his mission was to publish a translation of this book which he expected would revolutionize Christian thought. This work, published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon, served as a foundation for Smith’s small Church of Christ.

This is basic, sacred, unquestionable truth for millions of Mormons.

A vision given to Joseph Smith the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon, at Hiram, Ohio, February 16, 1832. Prefacing his record of this vision the Prophet wrote: “Upon my return from Amherst conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left, that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term ‘Heaven,’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision.” It was after the Prophet had translated John 5:29 that this vision was given
– Doctrine and Covenants, 76

Joseph Smith then reveals that there’s more than one heaven that people get sent to according to their deeds on Earth. The Celestial Heaven, the Terrestial Heaven, and the Telestial Heaven – in descending order of awesomeness.

The Celestial Kingdom will be the residence of those who have been righteous, accepted the teachings of Jesus Christ, and made and lived up to all of the required ordinances and covenants during their mortal lives. It will also be the residence of those individuals that accepted and received the ordinances and covenants in the post-mortal spirit world (Doctrine and Covenants 137:5-9). All children who die before the age of eight automatically inherit the celestial kingdom.(Doctrine and Covenants 137:10). The celestial kingdom will also be the permanent residence of God the Father and Jesus Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 76:62).

The Terrestial Kingdom is the second heaven. According to Doctrine and Covenants section 76, those who will inhabit the terrestrial kingdom include those who lived respectably but “were blinded by the craftiness of men” and thus rejected the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ when it was presented to them during their mortal lives (Doctrine and Covenants 76:75). It also includes persons who rejected the “testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it” in the spirit world(Doctrine and Covenants 76:74) and those who “are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus” after having received it (Doctrine and Covenants 76:79).

The Telestial Kingdom is the third heaven. According to Doctrine and Covenants section 76, those who will inhabit the telestial kingdom include those “who received not the gospel of Christ, nor the testimony of Jesus” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:82). It also includes “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie”(Doctrine and Covenants 76:103). Because of their refusal to accept Jesus as their Savior, these individuals will suffer in hell for their sins for 1000 years during the millennial reign of Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 76:84, 105-106). After the 1000 years, the individuals in hell will be resurrected and receive an immortal physical body and be assigned to the telestial kingdom (Doctrine and Covenants 88:100-101).

In Doctrine and Covenants 1:30, the LDS Church is the “only true and living church upon the face of the whole Earth”.

So which religion is “right”? Depends on where and when you were born…

A Letter to a Friend Regarding The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. Paris, May 12, 1797

In your letter of the twentieth of March, you give me several quotations from the Bible, which you call the Word of God, to show me that my opinions on religion are wrong, and I could give you as many, from the same book to show that yours are not right; consequently, then, the Bible decides nothing, because it decides any way, and every way, one chooses to make it.

But by what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? for this is the first point to be settled. It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Mahometans calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so. The Popish Councils of Nice and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time the person called Jesus Christ is said to have lived, voted the books that now compose what is called the New Testament to be the Word of God. This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a law.

The Pharisees of the second temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the authority there is, which to me is no authority at all. I am as capable of judging for myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their religion, they had a self-interest in the vote they gave.

You may have an opinion that a man is inspired, but you cannot prove it, nor can you have any proof of it yourself, because you cannot see into his mind in order to know how he comes by his thoughts; and the same is the case with the word revelation. There can be no evidence of such a thing, for you can no more prove revelation than you can prove what another man dreams of, neither can he prove it himself.

It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so. The Koran says, that God spake unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No.

Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don’t is all the reason you can give for believing or disbelieving except that you will say that Mahomet was an impostor. And how do you know Moses was not an impostor?

For my own part, I believe that all are impostors who pretend to hold verbal communication with the Deity. It is the way by which the world has been imposed upon; but if you think otherwise you have the same right to your opinion that I have to mine, and must answer for it in the same manner. But all this does not settle the point, whether the Bible be the Word of God, or not. It is therefore necessary to go a step further. The case then is: –

You form your opinion of God from the account given of Him in the Bible; and I form my opinion of the Bible from the wisdom and goodness of God manifested in the structure of the universe, and in all works of creation. The result in these two cases will be, that you, by taking the Bible for your standard, will have a bad opinion of God; and I, by taking God for my standard, shall have a bad opinion of the Bible.

The Bible represents God to be a changeable, passionate, vindictive being; making a world and then drowning it, afterwards repenting of what he had done, and promising not to do so again. Setting one nation to cut the throats of another, and stopping the course of the sun till the butchery should be done. But the works of God in the creation preach to us another doctrine. In that vast volume we see nothing to give us the idea of a changeable, passionate, vindictive God; everything we there behold impresses us with a contrary idea – that of unchangeableness and of eternal order, harmony, and goodness.

The sun and the seasons return at their appointed time, and everything in the creation claims that God is unchangeable. Now, which am I to believe, a book that any impostor might make and call the Word of God, or the creation itself which none but an Almighty Power could make? For the Bible says one thing, and the creation says the contrary. The Bible represents God with all the passions of a mortal, and the creation proclaims him with all the attributes of a God.

It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. That bloodthirsty man, called the prophet Samuel, makes God to say, (I Sam. xv. 3) `Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’

That Samuel or some other impostor might say this, is what, at this distance of time, can neither be proved nor disproved, but in my opinion it is blasphemy to say, or to believe, that God said it. All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes.

What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the reason given for it. The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account in Exodus xvii. (but which has the appearance of fable from the magical account it gives of Moses holding up his hands), had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico. This opposition by the Amalekites, at that time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and oxen, camels and asses, that were born four hundred years afterward, should be put to death; and to complete the horror, Samuel hewed Agag, the chief of the Amalekites, in pieces, as you would hew a stick of wood. I will bestow a few observations on this case.

In the first place, nobody knows who the author, or writer, of the book of Samuel was, and, therefore, the fact itself has no other proof than anonymous or hearsay evidence, which is no evidence at all. In the second place, this anonymous book says, that this slaughter was done by the express command of God: but all our ideas of the justice and goodness of God give the lie to the book, and as I never will believe any book that ascribes cruelty and injustice to God, I therefore reject the Bible as unworthy of credit.

As I have now given you my reasons for believing that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is a falsehood, I have a right to ask you your reasons for believing the contrary; but I know you can give me none, except that you were educated to believe the Bible; and as the Turks give the same reason for believing the Koran, it is evident that education makes all the difference, and that reason and truth have nothing to do in the case.

You believe in the Bible from the accident of birth, and the Turks believe in the Koran from the same accident, and each calls the other infidel. But leaving the prejudice of education out of the case, the unprejudiced truth is, that all are infidels who believe falsely of God, whether they draw their creed from the Bible, or from the Koran, from the Old Testament, or from the New.

When you have examined the Bible with the attention that I have done (for I do not think you know much about it), and permit yourself to have just ideas of God, you will most probably believe as I do. But I wish you to know that this answer to your letter is not written for the purpose of changing your opinion. It is written to satisfy you, and some other friends whom I esteem, that my disbelief of the Bible is founded on a pure and religious belief in God; for in my opinion the Bible is a gross libel against the justice and goodness of God, in almost every part of it.

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Posted by on July 27, 2009 in islam, jesus, mormonism, moses maimonides, muhammad, thomas paine


The History of Early Christianity, part 2

And here is part two of my lengthy email to her. Part three coming soon.

Well, after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, four new major (for this email) religions sprout out from the rubble of the 2nd Temple: the Ebionites, Rabbinic Judaism, proto-Catholic Christianity, and Christian Gnosticism. The first two groups are thoroughly Jewish, the last two are thoroughly Greek/Roman (Gentile) phenomena. Most importantly, the Ebionites were Jewish-Christians who still maintained Jewish practices/full Torah observance (following all 613 mitzvahs [commandments] – yeah, there are more than just “ten”) and said that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, but he was just a regular person. Not God, not the *literal* but *adopted* “son of God” (a common title among revered Jews; see Slight digression, “son of God” was also a title used for Roman Emperors. describes the “good tidings” [ευαγγελια / “gospel”] of the “son of God” [υιος του θεος] and savior [σωτηρας / soteras] Augustus, who was so revered we get the month “August” from him), was born by normal means from Mary and Joseph, who’s crucifixion didn’t serve any theological or atonement purpose, and didn’t pre-exist as Philo’s Logos. This makes sense since the Ebionites’ name derives from the Hebrew word for “poor”, which is “ebion” – this means they could read and write Hebrew. Ebionites literally means Poor Ones, meaning that they placed special value on poverty (Matt. 19:16 – 24).

Also, since they could read Hebrew, this meant that they weren’t restricted to using the LXX, which meant they saw through the “arguments” that formed the basis for Jesus’ divinity and virgin birth. Both arise from using the LXX and not Hebrew version of the OT. Hebrew has those certain language nuances I mentioned earlier that are absent from Greek that Greek *only* speaking Jews or Gentiles would be unaware of – hence the abundance of Greek words in Christian literature such as:

The Greek Iesous (Jesus) instead of the Hebrew Yeshua (Joshua) [All instances of “Joshua” in the LXX are transliterated as “Jesus”; so Moses’ successor “Joshua” in the LXX is “Jesus”; the “Book of Joshua” in the LXX is the “Book of Jesus”]
Christ (Anointed / Messiah)
Catholic (universal)
Presbyter (elder)
Ecclesia (gathering / assembly [church])
Baptize (dunk)
Pet[e]r (Rock, root word for [petr]ified)
Episcopal (literally “epi” “scopos”: “over seer” – bishop)
Apocalypse (to unveil; revelation), apocrypha (hidden)
Apostle (ambassador)
Evangelist / angel (good news proclaimer / messenger)
Gospel (it’s actually ευαγγελια – “evangelia” which is “good news” or “good tidings” [ευαγγελιον – “evangelion” is good message; singular]. Good news was then transliterated into “god spell” from which we get “gospel”. The root for ευαγγελια also forms the root for “eulogy” which is basically “good words” [also the root for euthanasia – ευ θανατος “good death”, eugenics, eucharist, etc – notice that evangelia is a combination of ευ and “αγγελια” – the word for “angel (messenger)”].)
Deacon (diakonos/diakonon – literally “dia – through” and “konos – the dust” which is a “servant”; the dust kicked up by the servant as he/she waits on people; or a “Minister”: vis Mark 1:16 και οι αγγελοι διηκονουν αυτω – “and the [pl.] angels served him” – though some translations might say “and the angels ministered to him”)
Epistle (letter)
Canon (from the Greek κανόν, “kanon”, which means “rules” or “measuring stick”)
And “Bible” (comes from the Greek word “βιβλίο – biblio” which means “book”).

Also, a lot of words associated with the “Old Testament” are Greek in origin as well, like “Genesis”, “Deuteronomy” (δευτερο νομοι – deutero nomy: second laws) , “Exodus”, “Moses”, “Psalms”, etc. Another line of evidence that modern Christianity is descended from the LXX.

The Ebionites held that only members of Jesus’ family were rightful leaders of the new Church (like James the Just – see gThomas 12), and that Paul was a Greek who converted to Judaism, apostatized, and later started having gnostic visions of a “Son of God” redeemer – a fusion of Jewish theology and Greek philosophy. There might be some truth to their claim due to Paul citing the LXX in his arguments instead of the Hebrew Bible, as I mentioned above. A well trained Pharisee wouldn’t cite the LXX and confuse the word “lord” with YHWH if they could read Hebrew.

Any time people fuse Greek philosophy with Jewish theology, a system of thought that resembles Christianity always pops up. Paul, also, is not the first person to preach “non-circumcision” in Judaism. Like I wrote earlier, Hellenistic influence was always creeping in on Judaism, Hanukkah is pretty much a celebration of circumcision Jews over non-circumcision Jews. I think I’m the only one to notice this, but it seems as though Jesus clearning the Temple in the gospels might be a literary device used as allegory by the gospel authors “reversing” the Hannuka celebration. Victory of the non-circumcison Jews (Christians) over the circumcision Jews. However, I don’t have the pedagogy or the time to flesh that out more.

But think about it this way: the 2nd Temple was HUGE. It was like the size of a football stadium. It wasn’t just a religious temple, it was also a military fortress. Did Jesus really cleanse the Temple of “the money changers” in such a huge arena without being tackled and arrested; and then kept out the money changers while preaching freely? During the preparation for the biggest holy day in Judaism where hundreds of thousands of people were probably clamoring about, coming in from all over the Roman empire (the equivalent of policing a stadium during the Super Bowl)? When Judah Maccabee did this, he had an *army*. I don’t know about you, but I’d have a pretty hard time clearing a temple that’s like the size of a football field of probably hundreds of money changers’ booths and successfully keeping them out while preaching… all by myself. Imagine trying to kick out some vendors by yourself during Woodstock without the cops/security (or in 33 CE some Roman or Jewish troops) arresting you. So, yeah, it might just be another allegory and not a historical event (if it was historical, then Jesus would have needed an army or a large group of supporters which might look like an insurrection…).

Another significant event happens in Jewish history in the year 132. The Roman Emperor Hadrian starts erecting a statue to Jupiter on the sacred grounds of the rubble of the Second Temple. An abomination… standing where it doesn’t belong… causing desolation. This incites the Jews to go to war again with Rome and the *actual* Jewish messiah comes – Simon Bar Kochba. He leads this rebellion against Rome and re-acquires Jerusalem, re-establishing the Kingdom of Israel. He reigns as prince in Jerusalem for 3 years. During this time period, the Ebionites are severely persecuted. Both by the Jews for refusing to accept Simon as the real messiah and by the proto-Orthodox Christians for refusing to accept Jesus’ divinity, virgin birth, and atonement. Of course, the Romans pretty much did the equivalent of nuking Jerusalem to reclaim it, killing Simon (who is officially thus far the last actual prince of Israel), and purging Jerusalem of all Jews. In the aftermath of the war, Rome consolidated the older political units of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria into the new province of Syria Palaestina (Palestine). The new name was derived as an insult from the name of the enemies of the Jews, the Philistines who had occupied the coastal plain in ancient times.

Also, the Roman emperor Hadrian attempted to root out Judaism because he saw that as a major factor in the continued rebellions over the past 60 years (there was also the “relatively” minor Kitos War inbetween the First Jewish-Roman war and the Bar-Kochkba Revolt, where a Roman “Legion” with an ensign of “pigs” were stationed in Caesarea – “Gadara”, “Gerasa” or “Gergesa” – “C” and “G” are somewhat interchangable in Greek. What’s the name of that demon that gets exorcised into pigs?? Another allegory). He prohibited the Torah law, the Hebrew calendar, and executed Judaic scholars.

Some scholars posit that the attempted outlawing of Judaism is what prompted the writing of the gospels; using allegory to separate Christians (like the situation with Barabbas) from Jews and to show that Romans (represented by Pilate, the centurion who claims that “this man really was the Son of God”, etc) were actually supportive of Christ[ians]. It’s also odd how the Pharisees are always depicted as the “bad” guys in the gospels yet Jesus only has one run in with the Sadduccees and it ends with the Sadduccees basically saying “hey you’re right!” and we never hear from them again. In the gospels the Pharisees are depicted as being stubborn and legalistic in regards to the “Law” (Torah), yet it was the Sadduccees who were the strictly legalistic branch of the Jews, since their power base, being the “ruling class” of the Jews, was dependent on the Law. The Pharisees were actually more interested in the spirit of the Law and not adhering to it literally. Why would Jesus be at odds with the sect of Jews who were interested in the allegorical and non-dogmatic application of the Law and yet only have one run in with the class of Jews who *were* actually insanely legalistic? Why would Jesus be at odds with the Pharisees – who were *anti-slavery?* The *Sadduccees* were pro-slavery! But… Jesus never does condemn slavery… (another odditiy of Paul’s letters is that he complains about the Law and only mentions the Pharisees, even though during his lifetime it was the Sadduccees who were the legalistic ones).

Now for the most important part of the Christian Bible. A Christian Bishop named Marcion who was probably born around 70 – 80 AD “breaks off from the ‘orthodoxy'” (a very subjective designator in this time period) being kicked out of the church in Rome around 110 and starts what is later called by his detractors “Marcionism”. Marcion affirmed that Jesus was the Savior, but Jesus’ teachings were incompatible with the god of the Torah and that Jesus was actually the savior sent by a higher, hitherto unknown god of love and mercy (more Plato inspired theology). This god, from one of the higher heavens (2 Cor 12:2), sent his son Christ as a blood sacrifice to the lower, brutal, bloodlusting god of the Jews (possibly 2 Cor 4:4 – who is the “god of this age”??) for the redemption of all mankind. Marcion then was the first person to separate the Torah and make a distinction between “Old” and “New” and in 140 he compiled the first “New Testament” with 10 of Paul’s letters (the ones above minus the “Pastorals”) and one gospel, that seems to share a lot of similarities with our current Luke.

Notice that this happens in 140, five years after the failure of the Bar-Kochkba revolt, and in an environment that was trying to make Jewish theology illegal. Paul, for Marcion, was this new god’s chief apostle, whom Paul knew via personal revelation (just like Paul’s current corpus says like in Gal. 1:11 – 17, 1 Cor 11:23, and elsewhere). Marcion’s teachings made a lot of logical sense (why would God sacrifice himself to himself to save us from himself? It makes more sense for a God of love to sacrifice its son to a separate war-like God), and lot of his arguments against the brutality depicted in the Torah (called the Antithesis; cf the supposed “morality” in Numbers 31 or Deut. 22:28-29) are still used to this day.

The “orthodoxy” then scrambled to compete with this by arguing for their own “New Testament” against Marcionism. A simple, narrow popularity contest is what prevented you (and all of Western civilization) from being Marcionites. According to radical critic Hermann Detering (and some other scholars), Simon Magus may be a cypher for Paul, [] with Paul having originally been detested by the proto-Orthodox church due to the popularity of Marcionism, and the name changed when Paul was rehabilitated by virtue of forged epistles correcting the genuine ones. Simon Magus is sometimes described in apocryphal legends in terms that would fit Paul. Furthermore while the Christian proto-Orthodoxy frequently portrayed the major “Gnostic” leader Marcion as having been a follower of Simon Magus (according to Irenaeus, Simon Magus was the “father of all heresies”), Marcion nowhere mentions even the existence of Simon, and instead identifies himself as a follower of Paul. The Ebionites, also, had a huge disdain for Paul – in what’s regarded as some of their writings called the “pseudo-Clementines”, Peter is seen at odds with Simon Magus which most scholars conclude is Paul. The Ebionites argued in their writings that Peter never argued for the abolition of the Law or considered a “curse” like Paul did so there was no way they could have gotten along.

The three Pastoral epistles and “Acts of the Apostles” (maybe even canonical Luke and 2 Peter) were more than likely written to counter Marcion as well, which means they were written almost 100 years after Paul lived. No Christian prior to Marcion seems to be aware of the existence of Acts of the Apostles. Hence, the name change of Paul in Acts, which Paul himself never mentions in his letters. Other “Acts” type literature is also dated to the 2nd century, such as “Acts of Pilate”, “Acts of Peter and Paul”, “Acts of John”, “Acts of Thomas”, “Acts of the Twelve”, etc. This also explains why there are so many letters written by “Paul” in the NT, because the proto-Orthodox church used his letters in their own canon to capitalize on the popularity of Marcionism. From another perspective, why would Jesus go out of his way to pick 12 disciples, teach them the secrets of the coming Kingdom of God, send them out to evangelize during his time on Earth (or “LXX” number of apostles in Luke), just so that he can later knock a guy off of his horse months (or years) after his resurrection to make this guy’s evangelism take up half of the documents for his New Covenant?

While Christians earlier than Marcion (like Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius) write a word or two about Paul or quote one or so of his letters, it seems as though Marcion is the first to actually collect “all” of Paul’s letters – minus the Pastorals. There’s a possibility that every single one of the 10 uncontested and contested Pauline epistles were written by Marcion and distributed throughout his churches. It might even be possible that Marcion was writing about *himself* in those letters, since he did found a lot of churches in the Roman empire. Marcion is also the first Christian to use “Luke” in arguments – even before the earliest proto-Orthodoxy use of the gospel material like Justin Martyr.

Irenaeus is a name you should know. He has a work called “Against Heresies” that he wrote in 180 in which he attacks Marcion (conveniently after his death), the Ebionites, the Nazarenes, and the various Gnostics (like Valentinians, Sethians, Cerinthians, etc.[interestingly enough, the Gnostic Valentinus was a disciple of a “Theudas”, and Theudas was supposedly a disciple of Paul]). In his work, Irenaeus finally gives names to, and argues for, four gospels in the orthodoxy’s “New” Testament:

Matthew also published a gospel in writing among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter & Paul were preaching the gospel and founding the church in Rome. But after their death, Mark, the disciple & interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing what Peter used to preach. And Luke, Paul’s associate, also set down in a book the gospel that Paul used to preach. Later, John, the Lord’s disciple — the one who lay on his lap — also set out the gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia Minor – Against Heresies 3.1.1 (the first Christian document that gives names to the gospels)

It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground [1 Timothy 3:15] of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. – Against Heresies 3.11.8 (arguing for only four gospels even though there were more in circulation at the time)

As you probably can tell, 3.1.1 is the order that the gospels appear in the NT. However, Irenaeus’ credibility is questionable. We know now that his depiction of Gnostics is incorrect due to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in the 1940s containing over 30 manuscripts of Gnostic gospels; he was writing more to warn his proto-Orthodoxy about Gnosticism, not trying to accurately describe it. Also, no Hebrew version of Matthew has ever been found; Matthew was writing originally in Greek due to his use of the LXX. Unless, of course, Irenaeus is referencing the Hebrew written gospel used by the Ebionites (but he would consider their gospel “heretical”). Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies” is the first Christian apologetic writing that actually names the gospels of “Luke” and “John” (possibly also the first mention of the names “Matthew” and “Mark”, piggybacking on Papias’ Mark “Logia” [literally “words” – a sayings gospel]). Prior to Irenaeus, no other Christian writes “according to John” or “according to Mark”, etc. they just quote what we find is a phrase specific to John or specific to Matthew etc. Marcion, writing before both Justin Martyr (150s) and Irenaeus (180s) called his “Luke” the “Gospel of the Lord”. Marcion is actually the earliest Christian to quote any gospel directly in his writings. Quite ironically, if we Anglicized “Marcion” (like “Jesus” is the Anglicized version of “Ιησου::Iesou”) his name would be “Mark”.

So, just to bring this point home: the gospel names Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John are first given to the canonical gospels in 180. Prior to 180, no one knows of any gospel *authors* called Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John and no one knows of any documents called “the gospel *according to John*”, etc.

However, it’s generally agreed by NT scholars that Mark was the first gospel written, and that Luke and Matthew edited and expanded Mark because they didn’t like his version and used another source called “Q” (like I mentioned to you before) that might be similar in form to the Gospel of Thomas or Papias’ “Logia”, and John was written last. gThomas might have even been written before Mark.

Reading these gospels in their chronological order, Jesus goes from the *adopted* son of God in Mark (like what the Ebionites believed, and what Paul writes in Romans 1:3) via baptism (in Mark, the spirit descends like a dove *into* him, and *immediately* forces him into the desert/wilderness – like being possessed – if you read it in its original Greek) and loses his power/adoption on the cross (thus Mark 15:34-35, with the Temple veil being spilt in two. According to Josephus, the Temple veil was a huge picture of a starry sky, the symolism harkening back to when the sky split open and the spirit descended into him from John’ baptism [Mark and Matthew both have Jesus quote Psalm 22:1, while Luke quotes Psalm 31:5]), to the *literal* son of God in Matthew/Luke (thus trying to *explain* the baptism since he was *already* the son of God), and then to God *himself* (or Philo’s “Logos” – the Word – the baptism now completely gone) in John. Each gospel also gets progressively more gnostic, changes Jesus’ last words on the cross, and gospels written after John are relegated to the Gnostics – though the “Gospel of Peter” was considered canonical for a while as well, it’s a bit more Gnostic-like than John (the True Cross is able to talk and says the word “Yea” wtf lol) – it eventually fell out of favor for possibly promoting “Docetic” (Jesus was just a spirit with the illusion of being human) Christology. There are actually some who say that a prototype version of John was written by the “Gnostic” Cerinthus (who was schooled in *Alexandra, Egypt*… hint hint) and was edited by the person who wrote 1 John to make it more “orthodox” by insisting on the Christ made flesh (google the “Egerton gospel”).

If James had been the brother of Jesus, why does no Christian know any stories about the life of Jesus from the age of 12 to 30? Surely the brother of Jesus would have had his brains picked clean by Christians eager to know what Jesus had been like. Therefore, the evolution of Jesus from being the adopted son of God to being God himself makes more sense, given the lack of any details of Jesus’ childhood and if he wasn’t considered the son of god from birth.

Also, Mark originally ends without any resurrection appearances; the women just run away scared and don’t tell anyone (16:8). The part after 16:8 is called the “Long Ending”, but the language in the LE is different than that found in the rest of Mark’s gospel. NT scholars are almost unanimous that the part after 16:8 isn’t original to Mark. So, Matthew and Luke have the first resurrection appearances. John also further corrects the resurrection appearances (also Paul’s account of resurrection appearances) by having the “Doubting Thomas” scene and the scene where Peter gets to reaffirm his love for Jesus three times to make up for him denying Jesus three times in the Synoptics (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) – which is odd if Mark was supposed to get his info from Peter but doesn’t have this reconciliation. Reading Mark, it actually looks like the author of Mark was *discrediting* Peter and the disciples (e.g. “are you still so dull?” and “get behind me satan!”, the Parable of the Sower with the “word” getting lost on the *rocks*… rock=peter: Peter, even though he was anxious for the “word” abandons Jesus at the end, etc.).

And then, since Matthew and Luke didn’t like this discreditation, they edited Mark’s narrative to rehabilitate the disciples (e.g. “for you are Peter [“rock”], and on this rock…” nullifying the Parable of the Sower). This is an evolving Christology, an evolution common to many myths; John is the most popular, yet least historical – if at all – gospel out of the four. As a matter of fact, it seems as though the (Greek speaking) gospel writers, writing after Paul, got ahold of a LXX, Paul’s letters, and simply picked “prophecies” for Jesus to fulfill in their narratives (this process is called “midrash”), with some getting a bit overzealous about the prophecies fulfilled.

For example, Matthew is the worst of it – the word “Nazarene” or “Nazareth” never appears in the LXX, but somehow the writer of Matthew thinks this is fulfilling a prophecy in the LXX. Matthew also thinks that Isaiah 7:14 is a messainic prophecy, but it isn’t. Isaiah is telling Ahaz to wait for YHWH for support instead of making alliances with Assyria. The “sign of Immanuel” is a timetable for when YHWH will destroy Ahaz’s enemies. By the time the child Immanuel reaches puberty (Is. 7:15 – 20) – telling Ahaz to wait for about 15 years – the time it takes for the woman in their company to give birth and have the child reach puberty – the two kingdoms (Is 7:16) which are about to invade that Ahaz is fretting over will be defeated, (See and 7:14 doesn’t say “virgin” in Hebrew. It *does* say “virgin” in the LXX though; a line of evidence that Matthew was written by a Greek speaker. Matthew also thinks that Hosea 11:1 is a messainic prophecy, but he conveniently leaves out the very first sentence of Hos. 11:1 which says “When Israel was a child, I loved him” so he could get “And out of Egypt I called my son” and apply it to Jesus. Also, Matthew quote-mines Jeremiah 31:15 for the “slaughter of the innocents”, but he also conveniently leaves out the rest of Jer. 31 which is about the Babylonian captivity, saying that Rachel’s children will “return from the land of the enemy”.

Anyway, Proto-Catholic Christianity is centered in Rome, whereas Ebionite Christianity is centered in Jerusalem (Aelia Capitolina after the destruction of Jerusalem after the Bar Kochba revolt, though the Ebionites joined the rest of the Jewish diaspora after Bar Kochba). In my opinion, the Ebionites are probably what the real, prior to Paul Christians were. The religion of Cephas/Peter, John, and James (Jesus’ brother), while the religion of Paul was closer to Gnosticism. The Ebionites continue surviving until proto-Catholic, Pauline Christianity is favored by Constantine for the “official” Roman religion circa 330 AD. Thus the Catholic Church is formed. When the first official Pope is named, the Ebionites and the Desposyni (relatives of Jesus) came to the gentile Pope and tried to re-claim the now official church but were dismissed. The Ebionites and Desposyni (along with the Gnostics) become further marginalized, finally disappearing around the 5th century (no, I’m not advocating some sort of Da Vinci code scenario!). The oppressed in the proto-Catholic church thus become the oppressors… Part 3.

References: (The Septuagint or LXX) (this is my web site! yay!) (Philo’s and Josephus’ writings about Pilate) (The argument by most scholars that Mark was written first) (The Maccabees and Hanukka) (Essene’s Dead Sea Scrolls) (Eusebius’ “Church History” written c. 300) (Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies” written c. 180) (2008 Oxford conference about the “Synoptic Problem” by Christopher Tuckett) (Sanhedrin 43a – Yeshu ha-Notzri) (Sanhedrin 107b another exerpt about Yeshu) (Sanhedrin 67a a passage about a ben Stada / ben Pandira) (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) (Biblical Archaeology Review article on the “Teacher of Righteousness”) (Biblical Archaeology Review article about similarities / differences between Jesus and the “Teacher of Righteousness”),8599,1820685,00.html (Gabriel’s Revelation) (another comparison between the Essenes and Jesus) (a verse-by-verse exegesis of the gospel of Mark) (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).

Comments Off on The History of Early Christianity, part 2

Posted by on July 13, 2009 in Adonai, adoni, christ, early Christianity, ebionites, Hashem, jesus, LXX, paul, septuagint, YHWH, YHWH pronunciation


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 ( – 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: 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: 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: (The Septuagint or LXX) (this is my web site! yay!) (Philo’s and Josephus’ writings about Pilate) (The argument by most scholars that Mark was written first) (The Maccabees and Hanukka) (Essene’s Dead Sea Scrolls) (Eusebius’ “Church History” written c. 300) (Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies” written c. 180) (2008 Oxford conference about the “Synoptic Problem” by Christopher Tuckett) (Sanhedrin 43a – Yeshu ha-Notzri) (Sanhedrin 107b another exerpt about Yeshu) (Sanhedrin 67a a passage about a ben Stada / ben Pandira) (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) (Biblical Archaeology Review article on the “Teacher of Righteousness”) (Biblical Archaeology Review article about similarities / differences between Jesus and the “Teacher of Righteousness”) (another comparison between the Essenes and Jesus),8599,1820685,00.html (Gabriel’s Revelation) (a verse-by-verse exegesis of the gospel of Mark) (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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