Category Archives: josephus

Lord and God

Quotes from Philo’s lucubrations about why the LXX has both lord and god as a description of the god of the Jews:

Questions and Answers in Genesis (57) Why God places a cherubim in front of the Paradise, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life?. The name cherubim designates the two original virtues which belong to the Deity, namely, his creative and his royal virtues. The one of which has the title of God, the other, or the royal virtue, that of Lord

Questions and Answers In Genesis (51) Why is he said to have built an altar to God, and not to the Lord?. In passages of beneficence and regeneration, as at the creation of the world, the sacred writer only refers to the beneficent virtue of the Creator, by which he makes everything in its integrity, and he implies this by concealing the royal name of Lord, as one which bears with it supreme authority; therefore now also, since what he is describing is the beginning of the renewed generation of mankind, he borrows for his description the beneficent virtue, which bears the name of God; for he used the kingly attribute, which declares his imperial power, by which he is called Lord, when he was describing the punishment inflicted by the flood.

Who Is The Heir of Divine Things? (205) And the Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic and most ancient Word a pre-eminent gift, to stand on the confines of both, and separated that which had been created from the Creator. And this same Word is continually a suppliant to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador, sent by the Ruler of all, to the subject race. (206) And the Word rejoices in the gift, and, exulting in it, announces it and boasts of it, saying, “And I stood in the midst, between the Lord and You;” neither being uncreate as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities, like a hostage, as it were, to both parties: a hostage to the Creator, as a pledge and security that the whole race would never fly off and revolt entirely, choosing disorder rather than order; and to the creature, to lead it to entertain a confident hope that the merciful God would not overlook his own work.

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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Adonai, greek, Hashem, josephus


Is This A Christian?

I was reading chapter 18 of Josephus’ “Antiquities” and came across this section:


4. About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder [Here Josephus goes on a tangent about members of the temple of Isis being crucified for tricking some noblewoman into sleeping with her stalker]

18.3.5. There was a man who was a Jew, but had been driven away from his own country by an accusation laid against him for transgressing their laws, and by the fear he was under of punishment for the same; but in all respects a wicked man. He, then living at Rome, professed to instruct men in the wisdom of the laws of Moses. He procured also three other men, entirely of the same character with himself, to be his partners. These men persuaded Fulvia, a woman of great dignity, and one that had embraced the Jewish religion, to send purple and gold to the temple at Jerusalem; and when they had gotten them, they employed them for their own uses, and spent the money themselves, on which account it was that they at first required it of her. Whereupon Tiberius, who had been informed of the thing by Saturninus, the husband of Fulvia, who desired inquiry might be made about it, ordered all the Jews to be banished out of Rome; at which time the consuls listed four thousand men out of them, and sent them to the island Sardinia; but punished a greater number of them, who were unwilling to become soldiers, on account of keeping the laws of their forefathers. Thus were these Jews banished out of the city by the wickedness of four men.

Wait, what? Here we have a Jew who apparently transgressed the laws of Moses, fled to Rome, and then started preaching about his interpretation of the laws of Moses. He then instigates a scheme to get some money and as a result of his shenanigans has all of the Jews banished from Rome. This sounds similar to an account in Seutonius: “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.” The only problem is that Tiberius (d. 37 CE) is the one who banished the Jews from Rome in Josephus and Claudius (c. 40 CE) is the one who does it in Seutonius.

Could Josephus and Seutonius be relating two different causes to the same event?

Seutonius gives it hardly any mention, whereas it is pretty important to Josephus. I think Josephus might have a more accurate portrayal of this event.

What’s obvious, however, is that the Testimonium is completely spurious. It’s obvious that a Christian interpolator inserted it into this chapter because this chapter speaks about Pilate, crucifixions, and Jews interpreting the laws of Moses and Jews being kicked out of Rome. The TF breaks the flow of this section where Josephus is relating all of the terrible things that happened to the Jews during Pilate’s tenure; its removal does not take anything away from the main point of this section. Its insertion, however, is jarring. Like listening to a music major play parallel 5ths.

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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in josephus, testimonium flavinium


Are Josephus’ Essenes a Catchall for Gnostics?

I think the evidence for it is very slim, but Josephus’ Essenes might be a catchall for Gnostics. Though how Josephus describes the Essenes in more detail they seem to be more like a sect full of “Daniels” – Jewish prophets for Gentile kings. Simon the Essene (AJ 17.13.3), for example, seems to follow the same pattern of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Josephus says that the Essenes “live the same kind of life as do those whom the Greeks call Pythagoreans” (AJ 15.11.4)

By the time Josephus had been writing, however, Neo Pythagoreanism was flourishing. This is probably just a modern way of separating the doctrines of Pythagoreans from later (Neo) Pythagoreans contemporary to Josephus. This is from Wikipedia:

Neopythagoreanism was a revival in the 2nd century BC—2nd century AD period, of various ideas traditionally associated with the followers of Pythagoras, the Pythagoreans. Notable Neopythagoreans include first century Apollonius of Tyana and Moderatus of Gades. Middle and Neo-Platonists such as Numenius and Plotinus also showed some Neopythagorean influence.

They emphasized the distinction between the soul and the body. God must be worshipped spiritually by prayer and the will to be good. The soul must be freed from its material surroundings by an ascetic habit of life. Bodily pleasures and all sensuous impulses must be abandoned as detrimental to the spiritual purity of the soul. God is the principle of good; Matter the groundwork of Evil. The non-material universe was regarded as the sphere of mind or spirit.

Does Josephus mean that their philosophy was the same, or their mystical practices were the same? Josephus makes the same claim about the Pharisees (their way of living is like the Stoics from Josephus’ autobiography). Obviously, the Pharisees and Stoics don’t share the same belief systems, but quite possibly their overall philosophy is the same. In this respect, maybe Josephus is saying that the Essenes’ overall philosophy of asceticism is similar to the Pythagoreans.

The thing is, though, that Neopythagoreans had a lot of influence on 2nd century Gnostics. And Essenes seem to disappear right around the time that Gnostics start emerging. If anything, it should have been the Gnostics that lived like Neopythagoreans, not Essenes.

Some other things that Josephus writes about Essenes:

  • Most don’t marry, but some do (JW 2.8.12)
  • They seem to have wandering preachers. But if not preachers, they take in those of their kind in different cities, which seems to mirror the Didache (JW 2.8.4)
  • JW 2.8.11: “For their doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue forever; and that they come out of the most subtile air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward”

So, who knows. There are a lot of things contrary to what we know about Gnostics that the Essenes seem to practice, but what we know of both groups is obscured by what’s lost in history.

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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in essenes, gnosticism, josephus, pythagoreanism


Some Interesting Coincidences

This is just a coincidence I noted when someone brought up Caligula’s attempt to deify himself and build a statue in his likeness in the Jewish Temple c. 40 CE

Andrew Criddle

Caligula sought c 40 CE to have his image venerated in the Jerusalem Temple. This episode has probably helped shape the present form of Mark 13.

For information about Caligula’s plans for erecting his image in the Jerusalem temple see josephus antiquities 18 and Philo Embassy to Gaius

These texts refer to Caligula by his true name Caius/Gaius


I am interested. Do you happen to know where I can find more information on that?


Ιt’s also interesting to note that he was assassinated before he could follow through with it. If he had done it, the Jews would have probably went to war with Rome 26 years earlier than what history records.

Antiochus IV set up a statue of Zeus in the temple and the Jews went to war with the Greeks (and their Hellenized Jewish sycophants) over it. The Roman Emperor Hadrian set up a statue of Jupiter on the sacred ground of the temple and again 300 years later and the Jews went to war with Rome over it; even though they had their asses handed to them two times prior (1st Jewish/Roman war and the Kitos War). Both were “abominations” (the Hebrew word is interchangeable with “idol”) that caused desolation.

No doubt Gaius attempting to deify himself and erect a statue in his likeness in the temple would have infuriated the entire Judean populace. Though if Jesus is talking about Gaius and his potentially desolating abomination, then he would have to be alive sometime in the late 30s or very early 40s (40, 41). According to Josephus, this was around the time John the Baptist was imprisoned and killed.

DC Hindley

The timeline is believed to go something like this:

Winter 39/40 CE = Petronius, governor of Syria, receives Gaius’ order to erect a statue and proceeds to head towards Judea with 2 legions.

April/May 40 CE = Petronius negotiates with Jewish elders at Ptolemais. Sends report to Gaius.

June 40 CE = Gaius receives Petronius’ report and writes back urging him to expedite execution of his order.

August 40 CE = Petronius receives Gaius’ reply but hesitates to act on it.

End of September 40 CE = Agrippa I faints when he learns what Gaius has ordered and appeals to his childhood buddy, persuading him to send an order to Petronius to abandon the plan.

Beginning of November 40 CE = Petronius has more negotiations with the Jewish elders. Sends a request to Gaius not to erect the statue.

Ending of November 40 CE = Petronius receives Gaius’ order to abandon the plan that was sent in Sept.

Beginning of January 41 CE = Gaius receives the petition from Petronius sent in early November, and responds with an order for Petronius to commit suicide for stalling instead of acting.

24 January 41 CE = Gaius is murdered.

Beginning of March 41 CE = Petronius receives the news of Gaius’ death.

Beginning of April CE = Petronius receives Gaius’ letter ordering him to commit suicide, sent in early January, but naturally ignores it. Hey, the man’s dead!

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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in caius, caligula, gaius, jesus, john the baptist, josephus, mark 13:14, philo


Anointing in Josephus

I’ve noted a couple of times that it’s incredibly suspicious that the only two times that Josephus writes the word “Christ” is when he just so happens to be refering to the Jesus of Christianity. One person at FRDB claimed that by the time Josephus wrote, he didn’t know what “christ” meant. I countered that Josephus had to have known what “christ” meant: it means “anointed one”, and Josephus uses the word “anoint” many times in Greek.

So here (from here) are all of the instances in Antiquities where Josephus writes the word “anoint” or some other variation of it.

και πασαν την σκηνην χριων

“chrion” – anoint

ο προφήτης χρίει τον Σαουλον

the prophet anointed (chriei) Saul

6.8.1 (x3)
εί χρίσει τω ελαίω τον νεανίσκον

anoint (chrisei) the oil [on] the young one

7.14.5 (x2)
και περιχρίσαντας το αγιον ελαιον αποδειξαι βασιλέα


και τω ελαίω χρίσαντες εισήγαγον εις την πόλιν

and anoint (peri-chrisantas) [with] the holy oil to make [him] king […] and anointed (chrisantes) him with oil, and brought him into the city

7.14.(10 or 11)
και Σολόμωνα δεύτερον εχρισαν τω ελαίω

and Solomon [a] second [time] was anointed (echrisan) [with] the oil

Έλισσαιος δ’ ο προφήτης ενα των αυτου μαθητων δους αυτω το αγιον ελαιον επεμψεν εις Άραμώθα χρίσοντα τον Ιηουν

[But] Elisha the prophet sent one of his students to Ramoth (or Aramotha/Arimathia) with holy oil to anoint (chrisonta) Jehu.

και τω ελαίω χρίσας Ιώδας απέδειξε βασιλέα

and Jodas/Jehoiada anointed (chrisas) [him with] the oil and made him king

χρισάμενος μύροις την κεφαλήν

anoint[ed] (chrisamenos) his head

And here are the two times that Josephus writes what we call “christ”:

ο χριστος ουτος ην
this was the christ


τον αδελφον Ιησου του λεγομένου Χριστου, Ιάκωβος ονομα αυτω
the brother [of] Jesus called Christ, his name Jacob

Of course, I think both of these passages are interpolated, since Josephus in “Jewish War” 6.5.4 says that the one predicted in Jewish scripture to be declared ruler of the world was Vespasian. Yet Josephus doesn’t use that title (christ) for Vespasian while it’s pretty obvious that Josephus has already established that the word “anoint” has a connection to Jewish leadership.


Posted by on February 3, 2010 in early Christianity, jesus myth, josephus


Are the Gospels Historically Reliable?

1. None of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses (they were written in third person). This is the conclusion of a vast majority of NT scholars. The earliest witness to gospels with names attached to them comes from Irenaeus c. 175 CE. The earliest witness to any gospel narrative period is Marcion c. 135. No one prior to Irenaeus says “the gospel according to Matthew” or any other such similar phrase.

Even if they were written by eyewitnesses, eyewitness testimony is dishearteningly unreliable.

2. Matthew and Luke are not independent accounts. They are reimaged versions of Mark, since the authors did not like Mark’s low (adoptionist/separatist) Christology. Why would an eyewitness (supposedly Matthew) copy almost verbatim huge swaths of a non-eyewitness (Mark) in his gospel? (for Luke, “Theophilus” was also the name of a Christian in the late 2nd century who appears to not know about the Jesus story – so it makes sense that it would be addressed to him [Theophilus, to Autolycus]).

3. Mark has John the Baptist doing baptisms specifically for the cleansing of sin. Josephus has John the Baptist specifically not doing baptisms to cleanse someone of sin, “but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.2).

4. Mark has Jesus being insanely popular, drawing insane crowds everywhere he goes and renowned all throughout Galilee and Judea. Jesus’ popularity of this magnitude is not corroborated by any other contemporary Jewish writer (Photius, Bibliotheca 33). Jesus’ popularity seems to be a plot device.

5. Mark has Jesus being stalked by the Pharisees everywhere he goes, implying that the Pharisees were the ruling class of Jews prior to 70 CE. The ruling class of Jews during Jesus’ lifetime were the Sadducees, the Pharisees didn’t gain power until the fall of the temple. Meaning that this is a post-70 conflict between Christians and Jews projected into the past.

6. Mark has Jesus go to Gerasa to evict the demon “Legion” from someone and into a herd of pigs, where they stampede into the sea. Gerasa is about 30 miles from the Sea of Galilee so it would have taken over an hour for them to run that far.

7. Mark says that the Pharisees and “all the Jews” had to wash their hands before eating. This only applied to priests.

8. Mark has Jesus clear out the temple of the money changers and singlehandedly preventing anyone from bringing any merchandise through the temple court. The temple wasn’t just some run of the mill temple, it was also a military fortress. There’s no way he would have been able to do this singlehandedly without being immediately arrested (or without a lot help, which would have looked like an insurrection).

9. Mark has Jesus call Daniel a prophet. Daniel is not a prophet according to Judaism, as he wrote (c. 165 BCE) after the time period that prophecy had ended.

10. Mark has the Sanhedrin giving Jesus a trial on a Friday night, during Passover. Trials could only be held on Mondays or Thursdays, not at night, and definitely not on high holy days like Passover. Mark also has the Sanhedrin convicting Jesus for claiming to be the messiah. Claiming to be the christ is in no way blasphemy. There were multiple characters with the title “christ” in the LXX.

11. Mark has Pilate give Jesus a fair trial. Pilate was actually known for executing troublemakers without trial, as he was impatient and hot-headed (Philo, Embassy of Gaius 38.301-303). Not only that, but Pilate presumably gave Barabbas a fair trial as well. Pilate then releases one prisoner because it was a Jewish holiday. Pilate actually had no respect for Jewish customs and almost started a rebellion due to his disrespect. Mark then has Pilate being afraid of the Jewish mob (who for some reason have done a complete 180 in how they view Jesus), when in actuality Pilate had no qualms about assassinating a mob of complaining Jews (Josephus, Antiquities… 18.3.2). Pilate was eventually recalled back to Rome for massacring a bunch of unarmed Samaritans who were following a messiah claimant on Mt. Gerizim.

12. Barabbas is Aramaic for “son of the father”. It just so happens that Jesus — the supposedly real son of the father — meets his polar opposite and his opposite is released, which seems to mimic the scapegoat ceremony of Leviticus 16, where one goat is released and the other goat is sacrificed for sin (some manuscripts of Matthew actually have Barabbas’ given name as “Jesus”).

13. The entire crucifixion scene quotes numerous times from Psalm 22. The Psalms are not prophetic, thus these lines must have been purposefully lifted from that Psalm.

14. All four canonical gospels have emphatically conflicting Easter narratives; consider the Easter Challenge. There’s also no tradition of any “empty tomb” prior to Mark’s gospel. And most common tombs did not have circular stones in front of them that could be “rolled away” (16:3) prior to 70 CE.

15. For some reason all throughout Mark, only demons, the reader, and people who are not named know that Jesus is the messiah. Everyone who is “known” doesn’t know. This makese sense as literature or entertainment, not history.

16. John, who according to tradition, was the son of Zebedee and apostle, was a fisherman. Fishermen in antiquity weren’t widely known for their literacy. John calls Jesus “the Word”:

(205)[…]And the Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic and most ancient Word a pre-eminent gift, to stand on the confines of both, and separated that which had been created from the Creator. And this same Word is continually a paraclete to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador, sent by the Ruler of all, to the subject race.

(206) And the Word rejoices in the gift, and, exulting in it, announces it and boasts of it, saying, “And I stood in the midst, between the Lord and You; neither being uncreated as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities, like a hostage, as it were, to both parties: a hostage to the Creator, as a pledge and security that the whole race would never fly off and revolt entirely, choosing disorder rather than order; and to the creature, to lead it to entertain a confident hope that the merciful God would not overlook his own work. For I will proclaim peaceful intelligence to the creation from him who has determined to destroy wars, namely God, who is ever the guardian of peace.”

Oh wait, that’s not from John’s gospel… that’s from Philo’s (20 BCE – 50 CE) “Who is the Heir of Divine Things”. How could an illiterate Aramaic speaking fisherman from the first century read Philo’s work (in Greek, not Aramaic), and say that Jesus was Philo’s “Logos”, who Philo himself reappropriated from the Stoics?

17. John has Christians being kicked out of synagoges during Jesus’ lifetime. This doesn’t actually happen until after the council of Jamnia c. 90 CE.

18. John has Jesus being seen as “the messiah” for a group of Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim. The Samaritans reject Davidic authority and thus would not have seen a Jew as their messiah (Jews destroyed their temple on Mt. Gerizim c. 110 BCE).

19. John has Jesus philosophizing about his own awesomeness in long winded discourses throughout this gospel, which is contrary to the shorter speeches in the synoptics. There’s no way anyone who was a witness to any historical Jesus c. 33 would have remembered these long speeches for nearly 70 years. Thus they must be an invention of the author.

20. John has Jesus claim to be god himself, and the only way towards salvation. This would have gotten Jesus arrested and stoned immediately for claiming equality with YHWH. The Jews almost went to war with Rome c. 41 because Caligula declared himself a god in the flesh and wanted a statue of himself erected in the temple. And Jesus claiming that he’s the only way towards salvation would have been nonsense to Jews while the sacrificial system was still functioning.

21. John has Jesus say “your law” when refering to the laws of Moses as though he’s not Jewish.


Josephus’ enemy – Justus

Since the article in Wikipedia on Justus is short, I thought I would just post it here:

Justus of Tiberias was a Jewish author and historian living in the second half of the 1st century CE. Little is known about his life, except as told by his political and literary enemy Josephus Flavius.

Justus was born in Tiberias, a highly Hellenistic Galilean city and was a man of learning. He was close to the Tetrarch Agrippa II and became a leading citizens of his hometown.

During the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73), he ran into conflict with Josephus, the leading Jewish general in Galilee. When the Romans had reconquered Galilee, Justus sought sanctuary with the Tetrach Agrippa. Vespasian, who led the Roman troops, demanded that Justus be put to death, but Agrippa spared him and merely imprisoned him. The tetrarch even appointed Justus as his secretary, but later dismissed him as unreliable.

Justus wrote a history of the war in which he blamed Josephus for the troubles of Galilee. He also portrayed his former master Agrippa in an unfavourable light, but did not publish the work until after Agrippa’s death. Justus also wrote a chronicle of the Jewish people from Moses to Agrippa II. Both his works only survive in fragments.

Flavius Josephus, Justus’ rival, criticized the Tiberian’s account of the war and defended his own conduct in the Autobiography, from whose polemical passages we derive most of what we know about Justus’ life.

Now on to my point:

Justus’ history of the Jews was still extant by the ninth century. Photius (c.810-c.895 CE) the Patriarch of Constantinople read it and recorded, in his still extant Bibliotheca, a summary of its contents. In this he states that “suffering from the common fault of the Jews, to which race he belonged, he (Justus) does not mention the coming of Christ, the events of his life, or the miracles performed by him.” (Bibliotheca, 33). How would Justus, who lived in Galilee, have missed out on recording the ministry of Jesus?

And Photius called this a “common fault of the Jews” who lived at this time. Meaning that it was common for Jews to have not written about the Jesus of Christianity. I take that as another strike against the historicity of the gospel accounts.

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Posted by on October 26, 2009 in jesus myth, josephus, justus, photius

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