Category Archives: josephus

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


Dating Acts of the Apostles

Conservative Christian apologists want Acts of the Apostles (AoA) to be dated as early as possible. Looking at all of the evidence, however, indicates that AoA is a late 2nd century work. Here are some arguments for early dates and for later dates

Early Date for AoA

1. Doesn’t mention the death of Paul or Peter, which by tradition was around 64 CE
2. Reference to a “Theophilus” who was supposedly a High Priest in the 40s CE
3. Unfamiliar with and contradicts Paul’s letter to the Galatians

Later Date for AoA

1. Usage of Josephus (90s CE)

Josephus is the only known source to name Theudas. Additionally, he is named as an insurrectionist. The author of Acts makes a chronological mistake, “After him (Theudas) Judas the Galilean rose up.” But this mistake is based on the fact that Josephus mentions these two out of chronological order! The author of Acts is following the order of mention (Theudas then Judas) in Josephus Antiquities 10.5.1-2 without a careful reading of the context.

2. Glut of other ΠΡΑΞΕΣ (praxes – “acts”) type material in the 2nd century.
3. Theology similar to Polycarp (c. 125 CE) and the Pastoral Epistles
4. First witness to AoA and Pastoral Epistles is Irenaeus (c. 175 CE)
5. First witness to a collected Pauline epistle canon is Marcion (c. 140 CE), thus the first emphasis on the popularity of that apostle
6. Motivation to tame the elevated status of Marcion’s Paul and the elevated status of James to the Ebionites/Thomas
7. Written in third person, with unnatural transitions to first person plural (“we”) passages coinciding with sea voyages and unnatural transitions back to third person after sea voyages.
8. Theophilus was also the name of an eclectic Christian in the 2nd century (who I wrote about here) who seems to not know about the Jesus story.

Based on all of the internal and external evidences, I would conclude that AoA was written no earlier than Josephus and no later than Irenaeus. Dating it earlier than that seems to be based solely on apologetical grounds. It seems unreasonable that AoA would be written in the 40s or 60s CE and sit invisible and unused in Christian polemics until 110 – 130 years later. Also considering the unstable nature of papyrus used in the 1st century makes it even more unlikely that it would sit invisible without someone taking care of it (or copying it) to make sure it wasn’t destroyed.


John the Baptist vs. John the Baptist

Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.

Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him.

-Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.2

Here Josephus says that John the Baptist was insanely popular and didn’t baptize for the remission of sin. Herod subsequently arrests and kills John because he’s too popular and thought he might start a rebellion.

Mark 1

4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 6

17For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

Here Mark says that John the Baptist was insanely popular and did baptize for the remission of sins. Mark also says that he arrested John because he spoke ill of him, not because he was popular.

Josephus’ John the Baptist has a fate that seems closer to the Jesus of Christianity: popular and executed due to his popularity and fears of starting a rebellion. But why would Josephus write that about John the Baptist, yet write so little about Jesus, who was also supposed to share a similar fate? Are Josephus’ mentions of the Jesus of Christianity wholly interpolations?

I don’t have access to the Greek versions of “Jewish War” and “Antiquities”, but in the English versions the only two times that Josephus writes the title “Christ” are both in reference to the Jesus of Christianity – even though Josephus argued that the Roman General Vespasian was the Christ (but still avoiding that word)

Now if any one consider these things, he will find that God takes care of mankind, and by all ways possible foreshows to our race what is for their preservation; but that men perish by those miseries which they madly and voluntarily bring upon themselves; for the Jews, by demolishing the tower of Antonia, had made their temple four-square, while at the same time they had it written in their sacred oracles, “That then should their city be taken, as well as their holy house, when once their temple should become four-square.”

But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how,” about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. However, it is not possible for men to avoid fate, although they see it beforehand. But these men interpreted some of these signals according to their own pleasure, and some of them they utterly despised, until their madness was demonstrated, both by the taking of their city and their own destruction.

– Josephus, Jewish War 6.5.4

It seems… inconsistent for Josephus to argue that Vespasian was the Christ yet avoid that word and then in another book simply assert that Jesus is the “Christ” without even explaining what that word means or arguing for why he’s calling him “Christ” (remember, Josephus is writing these two books for the Romans).

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Posted by on August 3, 2009 in christ, john the baptist, josephus


Greek, The New Testament, and the Essenes

This information is taken from the rational response squad, who I think are kinda cultish. Even so, this is a very good argument for why the NT was written in Greek and not the native tongue of Jesus and his disciples:

  • All four canonical gospels were written in Koine Greek, which reflects Greek education – the same education that Pliny the Elder / Younger, Julius Caesar, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Eratosthenes, Virgil, and Apollinus of Rhodes would have received. All four canonical authors would have had to attend gymnasion, the Greek school for filospohia, aglhteon, and grammatikov, or literary education – how to read and write, to learn to “know one’s letters”
  • Hellenized Jews were also welcome to attend gymnasion as long as they had enough money to afford it. Often Jews of high standing in a community could attend gymnasion.
  • The gospels are derived from a common form of literary creation[,] dependent on model use — something taught rigorously at gymnasion — where the author would use earlier literature as a foundation for building tropes, archetypes, and narrative to formulate plot and even name characters.

So, how could illiterate Palestinian fishermen who spoke Aramaic learn Koine Greek just out of nowhere? Unless they really weren’t fishermen and they were some of the higher class Jews. Reading and writing at this time period wasn’t just for anyone – only the highest class people would go to school and actually learn to read and write. If Jesus and his disciples were carpenters and fishermen – professions that don’t earn a lot of money and require no formal education – from some backwater of the Roman empire, why and how would they learn to read and write Koine Greek?

Also of note, I was reading the bio on John Allegro and it said that he was one of the people responsible for translating the scribes found at Nag Hammadi – which is where we get a lot of information about Gnosticism from. He said that the parallels between the Essenes and Christianity are intriguing, to say the least.

The Essenes were an ascetic sect of Jews from the Hellenistic period up until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. These Essenes mysteriously disappeared after the temple’s destruction, which is also around the time that Christianity started gaining ground. Most of what we know about the Essenes comes from Philo the Jew and [Flavinus] Josephus.

Josephus mentions the Essenes and their “river bathing rituals” which could be construed as a direct description of baptism or just a common religious meme from that time period and locale.

I think there’s an obvious connection between either the Essenes directly, former Essenes seeking some direction after the destruction of the Temple, or people who were incredibly influenced by Essenes theology. John the Baptist seems to fit the description of an “Essene” perfectly – and supposedly Jesus “continued” his ministry. The stories of Peter seems unequivocally to be nothing more than a dramatized mnemonic of the role of the Essene main “Overseer” (the Essene title ‘caiaphas’ – or ‘cephas’ as a word play on the Aramaic “stone”, ‘kepha’), recognized by many scholars as the equivalent of the later Christian “Bishop”. Essenes in their writings have a “Teacher of Righteousness” – which could be one of the possible influences of the creation of the Jesus that Christians have in their minds today. Maybe not a direct copypasta, but maybe some of the characteristics of the Essenes’ “Teacher of Righteousness” – their beloved, inspirational, and suffering Teacher, who they arguably regarded as a latter-day Joshua ben Nun (Jesus son of Fish) were ‘put into’ Jesus’ character. After all, Philo and Josephus were Jews who learned Greek education and they knew about the Essenes – it’s entirely possible that whoever wrote the gospels of the New Testament knew about Essenes theology as well – and injected their prior Essenes theology and sayings into the gospels.

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Posted by on September 3, 2008 in Christianity, dead sea scrolls, essenes, greek, greek education, gymnasion, josephus, koine greek, nag hammadi, new testament, philo


Secret Book of James

So I’ve been reading about Cerinthus, who was apparently someone who John, son of Zebedee (the purported author of the gospel of John and the Book of Revelation) really didn’t like. It seems as though Cerinthus was a gnostic and the gospel of John was written in retaliation to Cerinthus’ beliefs. However, another sect of Christians pejoratively called “Alogi” (literally ‘without logic’) said that gJohn was actually written by Cerinthus. Neither camp – modern Christians or the Alogi – have any evidence either way as to who wrote gJohn. Attribution of gJohn as being written by the actual Apostle John was done in an ipse dixit fashion by Ireneaus. Who really doesn’t have any more authority than the Alogi other than his say so. Anyway, reading on wikipedia, some scholars think that the Secret Book of James was written to Cerinthus.

James is mentioned by (Jew) Josephus in his “Antiquities of the Jews” as the “brother of Jesus [son of Damneus]”. I wonder who Damneus is, since Joseph is supposed to be Jesus’ father. Anyway, according to the Secret Book of James, James is the one who continues Jesus’ ministry after Jesus is executed for sedition. This also follows the theme of gJohn and the Gospel of Mary where Peter fails to get Jesus’ message and James does. Near its beginning the Apocryphon (revelation) of James mentions another “secret book”, which may have described a different revelation from Jesus to James. But if this other book actually existed, it has apparently been lost.

The Apocryphon also says that this story takes place “550 days” after Jesus’ resurrection, but before his ascension! I thought he was supposed to ascend up to heaven after 40 days (10 days before pentecost)? Not 550 days!

Of course, all of this goes contrary to what the churches teach, since most churches – oddly enough – follow more of a Pauline Christianity (Christians don’t have to follow Jewish laws) moreso than a James/Cerinthus/Gnostic Christianity (Christians do have to follow Jewish laws, Jesus wasn’t god, etc.)

Which is also really weird because Valentinus, who I think is like the most influential Gnostic, was also a follower of Paul.

Anyway, none of these writings exist until Eusebius and Constantine – so who knows what they did to the writings to suit their own agenda…

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Posted by on September 2, 2008 in cerinthus, gnosticism, james, josephus, paul, valentinus

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