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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

Abe

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

Me

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

 

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.

 

Was Jesus 33 years old? Or 50?

The thirty Aeons are not typified by the fact that Christ was baptized in His thirtieth year: He did not suffer in the twelfth month after His baptism, but was more than fifty years old when He died.

– Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.22

Irenaeus, the first Christian who names the gospels – the first Christian who says “according to Mark”, “according to John”, etc – says that Jesus was over 50 years old when he was killed.

Some people have a theory that the gospels themselves were written in reaction to the Bar Kochba revolt in 133 CE. Jesus’ “anachronistic” prophecy about the abomination causing desolation standing where it doesn’t belong (the Emperor Hadrian erected a statue of Jupiter on the sacred ground of the demolished 2nd Temple which sparked the Jewish revolt), false Christs (Bar Kochba), the diaspora (people fleeing to the hills)… all of that is due to the author of the gospel(s) writing a contemporaneous reaction to Bar Kochba.

Why would Jesus say “let the reader understand”? (Mark 13:14, Matthew 24:15)

That’s him breaking the fourth wall. Quite possibly, since Jesus only does this in Mark and Matthew but not in Luke or John, that Mark/Matt were written first and Luke and John were written “in reaction” to Mark/Matt. Luke supposedly wrote to explain the delayed parousia, which is why in that gospel Jesus’ interpretation of the “mini apocalypse” is different than Mark.

The first Christian to cite a narrative gospel was Marcion in 140 CE. There doesn’t seem to be any direct evidence of narrative gospels prior to Marcion. Papias cites an unordered sayings written by Mark, a disciple and interpreter of Peter. Ignatius writes a couple of things that seem to be from Matthew, but he never quotes Matthew directly, and they’re not “exactly” how they are in Matthew – meaning that he might just be reciting traditions.

So the gospels being written later than what the vast majority of scholars say they were written (70 CE for Mark, the first gospel written) makes sense of Irenaeus’ assertion of a 50 year old Jesus. Hell, even John could have been written first! But still… this needs to explain the existence of Christianity itself without any sort of narrative gospels for almost 100 years. It might be that Mark, therefore, has Jesus retroactively preaching “a generation” (which is traditionally 40 years) prior to the destruction of the Temple… the 30s CE. Was there a historical Jesus? I don’t know either way. Christianity could be explained by Philo’s and Paul’s teachings, which were also happening in the 30s or 40s CE. Both of which taught a mediating, heavenly “Christ” functioning between humans and YHWH.

Who knows.

Anyway, if current Christianity takes Irenaeus’ authority on the names of the gospels and how many gospels should be in the canon, why don’t they take his authority on how old Jesus was when he was killed? After Marcion, the next two Christians (that I know of) who cite narrative gospels are Justin Martyr and his student Tatian. But they cite unnamed “Memoirs of the Apostles” and “Diatessaron”, respectively… which seem to be harmonizations of our current gospels. Thus they wouldn’t have the contradictory birth narratives of Jesus found in Luke and Matthew. Luke has Jesus being born during Quirinus’ census (6 CE) and Matthew has Jesus being born during the reign of Herod the great (who died in 4 BCE). Both of those dates have Jesus being around 30 during the reign of Tiberius.

There might not have been gospels with our current birth narratives prior to Irenaeus, which is why he has a 50 year old Jesus.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2009 in abomination causing desolation, bar kochba, irenaeus, paul, philo

 

εν αρχη ην ο λογος

En archee een ho logos.

XLII […] 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 [παράκλητος::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.”

– Who is the Heir of Divine Things, XLII

(62) Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own image? (Gen 9:6). Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word of the supreme Being; since it is fitting that the rational soul of man should bear it the type of the divine Word; since in his first Word God is superior to the most rational possible nature. But he who is superior to the Word holds his rank in a better and most singular pre-eminence, and how could the creature possibly exhibit a likeness of him in himself? Nevertheless he also wished to intimate this fact, that God does rightly and correctly require vengeance, in order to the defence of virtuous and consistent men, because such bear in themselves a familiar acquaintance with his Word, of which the human mind is the similitude and form.

– Questions and Answers on Genesis, 2.62

These sure read like Christian homilies. But they’re not. They’re from Philo’s work Who Is The Heir Of Divine Things and Questions and Answers on Genesis, written 100 years prior to the gospel of John.

εν αρχη ην ο λογος / In the beginning was the WordJohn 1:1.

How would a supposedly illiterate Palestinian fisherman (John) read Philo’s work and deign that Jesus is Philo’s “Logos” in perfect Koine Greek?

But wait a minute – this group of Christians in the 2nd century said that this Logos gospel was heretical because they said it was written by a Gnostic named Cerinthus! According to Irenaeus, Cerinthus was “schooled in the knowledge of the Egyptians” and that John wrote the gospel now bearing his name to refute Cerinthus! Schooled in the knowledge of the Egyptians. Philo established schools in Egypt. Maybe John simply reinterpreted Cerinthus’ Logos gospel, thus leading to the one found in Bibles today.

The evidence points that way… maybe if there were evidence of some gospel that was like an intermediary between the Synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) and the gospel of John there might be another piece of evidence in favor of Cerinthus’ proto-Logos gospel.

…wait, there is! Lo and behold the Egerton Gospel. A gospel that shares similarities with both the Synoptics and John, that was found in Egypt.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2009 in alogi, cerinthus, john 1:1, logos, philo, word

 

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

 
 
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