Josephus, Pilate and Paul


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I've got a work in progress that deals with some of my bible research that I'll be sharing on the forum under various topic headings. I'm locking this thread so that continuity of the text can be maintained. If you wish to discuss it, there is a separate thread for that here:,39804.0.html

Josephus, Pilate and Paul: It’s Just a Matter of Time
Observations and Speculations on Parameters for a Historical Pauline Chronology
(by LKJ)

Pauline studies have taken on an all-new importance in recent years due to the development of new critical methods. As more and more research indicates that the search for a historically situated Jesus of Nazareth, as depicted in the gospels, only leads to negative returns, the focus has turned to Paul and the realization is growing that what we know as Christianity today was, essentially, invented by Paul. Perhaps “invented” is too strong a word since he certainly had a full field of inspiration all around him in the theological speculations of his time that we now understand were abundant and varied. While it appears that “Christian churches” – ecclesia populated by individuals following something or other referred to as Chrestus – existed even before Paul, Paul’s writings influenced those organizations and, ultimately, became foundational for a particular variation of early Christianity. Thus, if, in the end, we find that there is no “Jesus of Nazareth” – which seems rather certain – what then to make of what Paul was claiming about the Cross of Christ?

It seems to me that it is actually necessary to dispense with any reference to the later invention of Jesus of Nazareth of the gospels in order to get a full grip on who Paul was and what he was thinking and doing with such passionate conviction and intensity. It appears that something moved him powerfully and we might very much want to know what it was. Thus, situating him in an accurate historical context might be helpful in trying to figure out what, exactly, it was that he was actually saying.

Thus, in trying to sort out the problem of a Pauline chronology, one first has to firmly reject the use of Acts which is little more than a "historical novel" where the author picked out some authentic names and events from historians extant in his time and wrote his novel around them. Richard Pervo and others have made this abundantly clear in their detailed studies. The letters of Paul can be considered to be historical documents (with some care: see Douglas Campbell’s study) but Acts is not. There is so much of Josephus and Paul himself in the gospels and Acts that any rational historical approach would naturally conclude influence flowing from Josephus and Paul toward the later gospels and Acts. But, it's pretty clear that there is very little of this approach in biblical studies because of the a priori privileged position given to the gospels and Acts, the assumption that they are histories and not myths fables or historical fiction.

Paul was historically prior to Josephus, but Josephus is the only historian who has survived to give us a picture of the times in which Paul lived and worked. But the problem involved here has to do with using Josephus as a historical source – both from the point of view of the modern researcher AND from the point of view of the ancient authors of gospels and Acts who could not know that much that Josephus wrote was seriously embellished or even falsified. Despite problems of editorial redaction and transmission of the text, his first work, Wars, is probably the most reliable since it was written with Imperial support. On the other hand, this factor can strongly suggest that many representations were skewed in favor of the Flavians. So, with Josephus hiding or disguising many of his own doings while also doing the same for his sponsors, effectively writing Jewish and Imperial apology, the end result is a so-called history that must be handled very carefully. Obviously, the most reliable reports would be those items that were generally known to the Greek speaking/reading public anyway, though such things can still be “spun”. Josephus was definitely spinning and blowing smoke everywhere while still trying to establish himself in the eyes of his readers as a truthful historian.

The end result of this is, if the gospel writers and author of Acts utilized Josephus to compose their alleged histories – as they most certainly did, along with other texts and techniques that are not the topic of this short discussion - we find ourselves already on a double layer of shifting sand and must take great care to try to cross check if possible anything we accept as factual when we use Josephus as our historical source.

This realization leads us to reject ANY use of Acts or the gospels as historical checks. Pervo makes this abundantly evident in his analysis of the speech put into the mouth of Gamaliel in respect of Judas and Theudas. It is evident that the author of Acts was being rather careless in his use of Josephus who, in his text, mentions Theudas first, and Judas second, as though they acted in that chronological order, though it is clear in Josephus that Judas was historically the earlier character and was brought up as a digression. This reversed order was carried over into Acts due to carelessness and reveals starkly the novelizing activities – and one of the sources - of its author. Further studies by Thomas Brodie and D. R. MacDonald – and others - reveal other sources used in the composition of the gospels and Acts. It seems that creating a religious “history” was quite an industry in the second century and the writers were using anything and everything to hand to do it. All of this makes a good, critical examination of the Pauline texts even more crucial for the understanding of the origins of Christianity as we know it.

However, setting aside the theological/Christological/redactional problems that have obviously invaded the letters to some extent, we can consider the authentic letters of Paul to be the earliest Christian literature/witness extant and thus, properly seen as crucial to figuring out the whole dating/historicity of Jesus problem.

Using the letters of Paul can be problematical too as the work of Baur, Knox, Tyson, BeDuhn, Campbell, Ludemann and Trobisch (and others) reveal. However, the problems encountered there are more along the line of theology, Christology and ecclesiology, and not so much chronology and I don’t intend to engage in those issues here; I am mainly concerned with a particular problem of chronology because I think that situating Paul accurately within what might be said to be real history, might go a long way toward helping us understand what he was thinking and doing.

Although Paul does make mention of a few things that may be linked to actual historical events or personages, he does not do so in such a way as to make anything very secure in respect of real history. In one place only does he mention a historically anchored person, King Aretas of the Nabateans; though it has been suggested that “The Man of Sin” of II Thessalonians was the emperor Caligula (Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (31 August AD 12 – 24 January AD 41)). If that is the case – and it is a decent enough argument – then that can give a fairly secure date for the text of II Thessalonians of around 40 AD. Off to the side, it is interesting that Paul might have been writing his letter at around the same time that Philo was in Rome on his Embassy to Gaius. Tagging 40 AD as the time of II Thessalonians helps only a little because there are, apparently quite a few years of Pauline activity prior to the penning of that epistle.

Douglas Campbell’s conclusions about the order of the letters based on the internal evidence, and with no resort to Acts, places them in this order:

• I Thessalonians
• II Thessalonians
• Laodiceans (known as Ephesians in our NT)
• Colossians
• Philemon
• 1 Corinthians
• II Corinthians
• Galatians
• Philippians
• Romans

Campbell demonstrates, strictly from the epistolary data, that Laodiceans, Colossians, and Philemon were all written at the same time and in the same place and under the same general circumstances. He opines that it was after the second meeting in Jerusalem with the “pillars” that he describes in Corinthians and Galatians. His arguments are close and meticulous and deserve a careful reading.

It was following the events inferred from the Laodicean cluster of letters that Corinthians and Galatians were written and it is there that we find a few crumbs of chronological data. Paul does give us a few temporal periods between one thing and another though, unfortunately, as mentioned, without tying any of these remarks to an externally verifiable historical date or personage. He says, effectively, that this meeting occurred 17 years after the beginning of his ministry. A rather simple perspective that would suggest that all of his letters resulted from the issues surrounding the second meeting in Jerusalem, and that this meeting was in the early to mid 40s, results in putting the beginning of Paul's ministry between 23 and 27 AD which would be a serious problem for the accepted "Jesus timeline".

Douglas Campbell has done a masterful job of analyzing the letters for chronological clues with the interesting result that several letters that were rejected as authentic by both Baur and the later Westar scholars, achieve rehabilitation as authentic. The arguments are detailed, acute, and convincing. There is only one main weakness there and it has to do with Campbell’s attempt to establish a second chronological hook: Campbell’s reliance on an assumption regarding the above-mentioned King Aretas. He utilizes Josephus and Tacitus as his historical yardsticks and this is where the problem comes into play.

As noted, the larger, overarching problem is the need to fit the Pauline timeline into some sort of Jesus timeline and it is standard that everyone accepts that Jesus was “crucified under Pontius Pilate” – it’s part of the creed, even. Jesus had to have been crucified under Pilate before Paul’s “conversion” and the beginning of his ministry, but that can’t be too late because of the Herod Antipas/ King Aretas problem. Campbell decides that the only time Aretas could have ruled Damascus was during a short period when he was having a set-to with Herod Antipas over the divorce of Aretas’ daughter and this story comes from Josephus. He thus places Paul’s conversion at Damascus followed quickly by his missionary activity in Arabia, Syria, and Cilicia, followed by his escape from Damascus and his first visit to Jerusalem, all jammed into the period from 34 to 40/41AD. He then places the second visit to Jerusalem in 49/50, following which the Laodicean cluster was written, and then the Corinthian/Galatians/Philppians/Romans cluster. In this way, he is able to stretch that backward, the requisite 17 years, so that Paul’s conversion lands around 33/34 AD, just in time. The key to anchoring this, of course, is the Aretas/Antipas story fixed by Josephus around 36/37 AD. It certainly works, though it is a bit cramped. The Aretas story provides the context for Paul’s escape from Damascus in a basket, and his subsequent first visit to Jerusalem three years after his conversion following which he went on his merry way and a couple of years later he wrote I and II Thessalonians in 40/41 AD which took place in the 14 year period between his first and second visit to Jerusalem.

There are two problems that I see here: the first is the historicity of the Aretas/Antipas engagement. Whether or not it happened is actually irrelevant to whether or not Paul was being pursued by the governor of Damascus on behalf of Aretas if Aretas was, most certainly ruling Damascus. What is relevant is that one can no longer so firmly fix the date: it could have happened at any time between 9 BC and 40 AD, the period of the rule of Aretas. That realization unpegs Paul from a definite time window, but that is all.

The second problem is more severe: the timing of the governorship of Pontius Pilate and that, I will argue, was much earlier than tradition holds and that, in fact, the tradition of that time period was created and texts were manipulated to support it. In this sense, it is useful to have unpegged Paul from a narrow window of time because he clearly tells us about his adventures in Damascus and they could have happened earlier as well, in concert with the earlier time period of Pontius Pilate.

The severity of the problem of redating the governorship of Pontius Pilate has multiple and far reaching ramifications for all of early Christian “history”. Yet, at the same time, it frees Paul from the entanglements of a Jesus of Nazareth that he had clearly never heard of. And most definitely, Paul, as the foundation of Christian theology, Christology, eschatology, ecclesiology, needs to be freed from that sticky mess of myth and fantasy if Christianity as a viable response to our world is to survive.

In the following discussion, it may not seem apparent how a particular item bears on the topic, but please bear with me to the end; it will be worth it.


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The Aretas-Antipas Problem

Aretas was a real, historical person and there are coins and inscriptions proving his historical existence. Though he didn’t merit a personal mention by Tacitus, we will see that there was a reference to “the Arabs” that most likely included Aretas. Tacitus began his Annales at the death of Augustus and supposedly, the main interactions with Aretas occurred (according to Josephus) at the time of the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC, though the later event that Campbell relies on was also recounted, rather dubiously, as we will see.

Josephus tells us that Aretas was the most powerful neighbor of Judea and things were apparently loose enough that he could take part in political affairs by virtue of the fact that there was much intermarriage between his house and the Herodian house. Josephus also tells us that Aretas was not on particularly good terms with Rome and it was only with great hesitation that Augustus recognized him as king and didn’t send the army to depose him. But that “attitude” could be just Josephus’ spin because the facts seem to suggest otherwise. What Josephus apparently couldn’t deny was that Aretas was acknowledged by Augustus and that he took part in the expedition of Varus against the Jews in 4 BC, putting his considerable army at the disposal of the Roman general. In Roman terms, that would definitely win friends and influence people.

Regarding Damascus and who was in charge, there are several references to it in Wars, the last of which suggests that it is a “foreign city”. See: I.4.8; I.5.3; I.6.2; I.12.1; I.18.4-5; I.20.3-4; From Eleazar’s speech at Masada in VII.8.7; and finally, I.21.11, where Herod the Great is described as bestowing benefits on foreign cities:

11. And when he had built so much, he showed the greatness of his soul to no small number of foreign cities. He built palaces for exercise at Tripoli, and Damascus, and Ptolemais; he built a wall about Byblus, as also large rooms, and cloisters, and temples, and market-places at Berytus and Tyre, with theatres at Sidon and Damascus. He also built aqueducts for those Laodiceans who lived by the sea-side; and for those of Ascalon he built baths and costly fountains, as also cloisters round a court, that were admirable both for their workmanship and largeness. Moreover, he dedicated groves and meadows to some people; nay, not a few cities there were who had lands of his donation, as if they were parts of his own kingdom.
There is another mention of Damascus in the context of the Jewish War against Rome that has interesting elements that were probably utilized by the author of Acts in his efforts to infuse his composition with verisimilitude. Costobarus is the husband of Herod the Great’s sister, Salome, and here it is said that one Saul is his brother: II.20.1-2:

1. After this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink; Costobarus, therefore, and Saul, who were brethren, together with Philip, the son of Jacimus, who was the commander of king Agrippa's forces, ran away from the city, and went to Cestius. ….Cestius sent Saul and his friends, at their own desire, to Achaia, to Nero, to inform him of the great distress they were in, and to lay the blame of their kindling the war upon Florus, as hoping to alleviate his own danger, by provoking his indignation against Florus.
Florus was the Roman procurator of Judea from 64 to 66, so it is pretty obvious that this Saul can have nothing to do with the apostle Paul who, by the way, is only referred to as “Saul” in Acts; Paul never indicates or suggests that his real name was Saul. In view of Paul’s own statements about his activities and whereabouts at various points, the further parts of the above passage are interesting:

2. In the mean time, the people of Damascus, when they were informed of the destruction of the Romans, set about the slaughter of those Jews that were among them; and as they had them already cooped up together in the place of public exercises, which they had done out of the suspicion they had of them, they thought they should meet with no difficulty in the attempt; yet did they distrust their own wives, which were almost all of them addicted to the Jewish religion; on which account it was that their greatest concern was, how they might conceal these things from them; so they came upon the Jews, and cut their throats, as being in a narrow place, in number ten thousand, and all of them unarmed, and this in one hour's time, without any body to disturb them.
It’s very suggestive that Paul’s own mild statement that he persecuted the “church” were turned into a rather violent sort of activity by the author of Acts. But, as noted, is way too late for our Paul though it might indicate something of the results of his claimed activities in Damascus in prior years: that the wives of the Damascenes were quite taken with the Jewish religion or, perhaps, some form of Paul’s teachings.

However, there is a further passage in Wars that may very well have given ideas and shape to the author of Acts in his novelization of the reconciliation of the Pauline and Petrine ideas and activities. Again, it refers to an individual named Simon, a son of one Saul and I would suggest that this name and the activity of the individual is what attracted the attention of the author of Acts and he thought he might make use of the dynamic in his portrayal of Paul in his former life as an antagonist toward the Jerusalem James Gang. This Simon ben Saul was a “man of reputation among the Jews”, who, for some reason or another, was at war with his own people (Jews).:

4. It will deserve our relation what befell Simon; he was the son of one Saul, a man of reputation among the Jews. This man was distinguished from the rest by the strength of his body, and the boldness of his conduct, although he abused them both to the mischieving of his countrymen; for he came every day and slew a great many of the Jews of Scythopolis, and he frequently put them to flight, and became himself alone the cause of his army's conquering. But a just punishment overtook him for the murders he had committed upon those of the same nation with him; for when the people of Scythopolis threw their darts at them in the grove, he drew his sword, but did not attack any of the enemy; for he saw that he could do nothing against such a multitude; but he cried out after a very moving manner, and said, "O you people of Scythopolis, I deservedly suffer for what I have done with relation to you, when I gave you such security of my fidelity to you, by slaying so many of those that were related to me. Wherefore we very justly experience the perfidiousness of foreigners, while we acted after a most wicked manner against our own nation. I will therefore die, polluted wretch as I am, by mine own hands; for it is not fit I should die by the hand of our enemies; and let the same action be to me both a punishment for my great crimes, and a testimony of my courage to my commendation, that so no one of our enemies may have it to brag of, that he it was that slew me, and no one may insult upon me as I fall." Now when he had said this, he looked round about him upon his family with eyes of commiseration and of rage [that family consisted of a wife and children, and his aged parents]; so, in the first place, he caught his father by his grey hairs, and ran his sword through him, and after him he did the same to his mother, who willingly received it; and after them he did the like to his wife and children, every one almost offering themselves to his sword, as desirous to prevent being slain by their enemies; so when he had gone over all his family, he stood upon their bodies to be seen by all, and stretching out his right hand, that his action might be observed by all, he sheathed his entire sword into his own bowels. This young man was to be pitied, on account of the strength of his body and the courage of his soul; but since he had assured foreigners of his fidelity [against his own countrymen], he suffered deservedly.
Again, it cannot refer in any way to the apostle Paul, even assuming he was formerly called Saul, because it is way too late. But elements of it sure could have been used for novelistic inspiration about Paul and retrojected into the past.

Returning to Campbell’s efforts to date Paul’s episode in the basket, he avers that this could only have taken place during a brief window when Aretas might have been ruler of Damascus as a result of a little war between him and Herod Antipas.

According to the Gospel of Matthew (14:3–5) and the Gospel of Luke (3:18–20), it was the proposed marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias that John the Baptist opposed and which resulted in his execution. Josephus says that John the Baptist was executed because he was acquiring too much political clout among the masses and then says that it was because of the execution of John that “God” brought punishment on Antipas by making him lose the war between him and Aretas that was apparently begun over a territorial dispute. John the Baptist’s death was dated to 36/37 AD, another problem in and of itself considering that the NT claim that John the Baptist was executed at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus which would then have to be dated later than 36/37 creating an impossible chronological conflict. How could Jesus begin his ministry that late, be executed even later, and then have Paul in a Damascus ruled by Aretas when Aretas died in 40 AD? Plus, how to have a somewhat developed Jerusalem Church for Paul to be persecuting? Thus we see why we simply cannot use the gospels or Acts in any historical or chronological way.

The story in Josephus informs us that the daughter of Aretas was married to Herod Antipas, one of the heirs of Herod the Great. At some point, she discovered that Antipas was planning on divorcing her in order to marry his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias was (at the time of this plan) married to Herod II, the son of Herod the Great and Mariamne II. There are a few problems with the story so I guess we had better quote it almost entirely. It should be noted that it follows, in book XVIII, this paragraph:

XVIII 4.6. About this time it was that Philip, Herod's brother, departed this life, in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberius, after he had been tetrarch of Trachonitis and Gaulanitis, and of the nation of the Bataneans also, thirty-seven years.
The 20th year of Tiberius would be 34 AD. Counting backwards, the thirty-seven years would take us to 4/3 BC.

He had showed himself a person of moderation and quietness in the conduct of his life and government; he constantly lived in that country which was subject to him; he used to make his progress with a few chosen friends; his tribunal also, on which he sat in judgment, followed him in his progress; and when any one met him who wanted his assistance, he made no delay, but had his tribunal set down immediately, wheresoever he happened to be, and sat down upon it, and heard his complaint: he there ordered the guilty that were convicted to be punished, and absolved those that had been accused unjustly. He died at Julias; and when he was carried to that monument which he had already erected for himself beforehand, he was buried with great pomp. His principality Tiberius took, [for he left no sons behind him,] and added it to the province of Syria, but gave order that the tributes which arose from it should be collected, and laid up in his tetrarchy.
This Philip was Philip the Tetrarch AKA Herod Philip II, the son of Herod the Great and his sixth wife, Cleopatra of Jerusalem. He was half brother of Herod Antipas and Herod Archelaus. Philip was married to his niece, Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Herod II AKA Herod Philip I. This Salome appears in the NT in connection with the execution of John the Baptist and both Mark and Matthew wrote that Philip was her father.

Herod Philip II, the husband that Herodias wanted to divorce, died in 33/34 AD as described above, which would have eliminated the ultimate need for her to divorce him if, she in fact did, though certainly, Antipas was not relieved of the problem of needing to divorce his wife, assuming that the two were set on marrying. So the alleged problems that arose between Aretas and Herod Antipas must have occurred around this time and, according to Campbell, the resulting mini-war between them would have resulted in Aretas’ temporary rule over Damascus. That means that Campbell has to constrain his dating of Paul’s story about being let down in a basket to escape the governor of King Aretas, to that period which makes it VERY close to the alleged time of the crucifixion and hardly gives time for any resurrection visions, the establishment and growth of any “Jerusalem church” or much else, for that matter.

But here, Campbell is making an assumption that Aretas didn’t have the rule of Damascus all the time. As I have noted above, a close reading of the text of Josephus strongly suggests that Damascus may very well have been ruled by Aretas from 9 BC to 40 AD. Josephus refers to it as a "foreign city (Wars 1.422. See also 2.215.) So Paul’s interlude in Damascus under the rule of Aretas could have happened any time during that period. Yet, as we have said, this doesn’t affect the timeline overmuch, it only frees Paul from a definite peg.

Now, let’s look at the story that follows on from the above passage, the description of the life and death of Philip the Tetrarch, where no mention is made of his having been divorced from his wife, Herodias:

Ant. XVIII, Chapter 5.1. About this time Aretas (the king of Arabia Petrea) and Herod had a quarrel on the account following: Herod the tetrarch had married the daughter of Aretas, and had lived with her a great while; but when he was once at Rome, he lodged with Herod, who was his brother indeed, but not by the same mother; for this Herod was the son of the high priest Sireoh's daughter. However, he fell in love with Herodias, this last Herod's wife, who was the daughter of Aristobulus their brother, and the sister of Agrippa the Great . This man ventured to talk to her about a marriage between them; which address, when she admitted, an agreement was made for her to change her habitation, and come to him as soon as he should return from Rome: one article of this marriage also was this, that he should divorce Aretas's daughter.

So Antipas, when he had made this agreement, sailed to Rome; but when he had done there the business he went about, and was returned again, his wife having discovered the agreement he had made with Herodias, and having learned it before he had notice of her knowledge of the whole design, she desired him to send her to Macherus, which is a place in the borders of the dominions of Aretas and Herod , without informing him of any of her intentions. Accordingly Herod sent her thither, as thinking his wife had not perceived any thing; now she had sent a good while before to Macherus, which was subject to her father and so all things necessary for her journey were made ready for her by the general of Aretas's army; and by that means she soon came into Arabia, under the conduct of the several generals, who carried her from one to another successively; and she soon came to her father, and told him of Herod's intentions.
Note that Josephus says that Macherus was “subject to her father”, i.e. Aretas. Yet, elsewhere, Josephus says that the fortress was passed to Herod Antipas on the death of Herod the Great and after his deposition and banishment in 39 AD, was passed to Herod Agrippa I until 44 AD at which point it came under Roman control. Wars I.8: “Machaerus, that lay upon the mountains of Arabia.” I.16 where, apparently, Machaerus is the name of one of the generals of the Romans under Ventidius Bassus, a protégé of Julius Caesar who later followed Antony . III.3.3.: “Now the length of Perea is from Machaerus to Pella, and its breadth from Philadelphia to Jordan; its northern parts are bounded by Pella, as we have already said, as well as its Western with Jordan; the land of Moab is its southern border, and its eastern limits reach to Arabia, and Silbonitis, and besides to Philadelphene and Gerasa.” VII.6 where it is noted that “it lay so near to Arabia”. The point is, it is unlikely that Macherus was subject to Aretas unless he had laid claim to it suddenly, and this was the true cause of the alleged set-to as may be discerned in the next sentence.

So Aretas made this the first occasion of his enmity between him and Herod, who had also some quarrel with him about their limits at the country of Gamalitis. So they raised armies on both sides, and prepared for war, and sent their generals to fight instead of themselves; and when they had joined battle, all Herod's army was destroyed by the treachery of some fugitives, who, though they were of the tetrarchy of Philip, joined with Aretas's army. So Herod wrote about these affairs to Tiberius, who being very angry at the attempt made by Aretas, wrote to Vitellius to make war upon him, and either to take him alive, and bring him to him in bonds, or to kill him, and send him his head. This was the charge that Tiberius gave to the president of Syria.
This Vitellius, “president of Syria” during the reign of Tiberius is rather problematical as we will discover further on so keep him in mind. Curious that the penultimate sentence of the above passage is “send him his head” considering all the ink (and paint) that has been spilled over the head of John the Baptist who immediately enters, stage left:

2. 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.
Very odd. First we have the daughter of Aretas fleeing to the fortress of Macherus which was allegedly under the control of her father, then we have John the Baptist being sent there for execution because the fortress belongs to Antipas! This is a very funny business. Keep in mind that we are probably in the year 35/36 AD.

Most of the information that is regularly repeated about this Vitellius person comes, actually, from Josephus and therefore, in my opinion, must be looked at carefully. According to Tacitus, there was a Lucius. Vitellius, consul in the years 34, 43, 47 who was the father of the Vitellius who became emperor, briefly.

We made note above, in the passage about the death of the Tetrarch Philip, that Josephus declared it was in the 20th year of the reign of Tiberius and the 37th year of the reign of Philip himself, i.e. 34/35 AD. Both Tacitus and Dio Cassius (59.24) confirm that, in the 20th year of Tiberius, the consuls were Lucius Vitellius and Fabius Persicus… It is in the following year, 36 AD, that Dio has recorded the Parthian putsch for power which was resisted by locals who sent to Tiberius to ask for a king from among their hostages at Rome. There was then the Tiridates-Artabanus to-do. Tacitus notes that, in 35 AD, in respect of sorting out the Artabanus/ Tiridates/ Mithridates business, Tiberius put L Vitellius in charge as he was governor of Syria. We can assume that he gave this assignment in 35, and Vitellius headed out and the events took place in 35/36. However, of any upset with the Arabs or Aretas, the witnesses external to Josephus, make no mention. Yet, there is one tiny remark in Tacitus Annales 6.44.5 that is suggestive:

Yet the withdrawal had every appearance of flight; and, a start having been made by the race of the Arabs, the others left for their homes or for the camp of Artabanus, until Tiridates’ own return to Syria with a few men provided a general redemption from the disgrace of desertion.
In short, it seems that in the years 35, 36 and possibly into 37, while Vitellius was governor of Syria, the Arabs (at least forces sent by King Aretas to support the Romans’ intention to install Tiridates) were somewhat occupied already and were unlikely to have been dallying about with Antipas over a border dispute or a daughter scorned. In other words, for some reason, Josephus, or a later redactor, is novelizing here. Compare Josephus historical fiction below with the taciturn Tacitean statement above:

3. So Vitellius prepared to make war with Aretas, having with him two legions of armed men; he also took with him all those of light armature, and of the horsemen which belonged to them, and were drawn out of those kingdoms which were under the Romans, and made haste for Petra, and came to Ptolemais. But as he was marching very busily, and leading his army through Judea, the principal men met him, and desired that he would not thus march through their land; for that the laws of their country would not permit them to overlook those images which were brought into it, of which there were a great many in their ensigns; so he was persuaded by what they said, and changed that resolution of his which he had before taken in this matter. Whereupon he ordered the army to march along the great plain, while he himself, with Herod the tetrarch and his friends, went up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, an ancient festival of the Jews being then just approaching; and when he had been there, and been honorably entertained by the multitude of the Jews, he made a stay there for three days, within which time he deprived Jonathan of the high priesthood, and gave it to his brother Theophilus. But when on the fourth day letters came to him, which informed him of the death of Tiberius, he obliged the multitude to take an oath of fidelity to Caius; he also recalled his army, and made them every one go home, and take their winter quarters there, since, upon the devolution of the empire upon Caius, he had not the like authority of making this war which he had before. It was also reported, that when Aretas heard of the coming of Vitellius to fight him, he said, upon his consulting the diviners, that it was impossible that this army of Vitellius's could enter Petra; for that one of the rulers would die, either he that gave orders for the war, or he that was marching at the other's desire, in order to be subservient to his will, or else he against whom this army is prepared. So Vitellius truly retired to Antioch; but Agrippa, the son of Aristobulus, went up to Rome, a year before the death of Tiberius, in order to treat of some affairs with the emperor, if he might be permitted so to do. I have now a mind to describe Herod and his family, how it fared with them,
I think anyone with two firing neurons can see what a load of nonsense the text above actually is and how it was developed from the bare facts of the war between Tiridates and Artabanus. Further, based on the preceding story of the death of Philip the Tetrarch, which contains no mention of being divorced by his wife who married his brother, we certainly might assume, given only that text, that Herodias married Herod Antipas only afterward and because she was an available widow. That doesn’t exclude the divorcing of a daughter of Aretas by Antipas, but it is doubtful that this led to a war.

However, we must consider the fact that the above text included the little tale of John the Baptist and how executing him brought Antipas into misfortune because Josephus’ god is stage directing everything. Could this be a later Christian interpolation? It doesn’t really feel that way to me because, as I have said, Josephus is the most astonishing apologetic embellisher and novelizer so it is entirely in keeping for him to have spun the above tale just so he could get Vitellius to worship in the Jewish temple and show how friendly the relations between the Jews and Roman imperial family were. Further, from his own autobiography, we find Josephus having a relationship with a fellow who may very well be the prototype for John the Baptist. In his Life of Flavius Josephus, he tells us that he tried out all the three main Jewish philosophies, that of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Then he says:

Nor did I content myself with these trials only; but when I was informed that one, whose name was Bannus, lived in the desert, and used no other clothing than grew upon trees, and had no other food than what grew of its own accord, and bathed himself in cold water frequently, both by night and by day, in order to preserve his chastity, I imitated him in those things and continued with him three years. (1.11-12)
Now, notice that Josephus suggests that Herod Antipas executed John the Baptist for political reasons while in Mark 6, it is said that he was executed because he protested against Herod’s intention to divorce and marry his brother’s wife. What this looks like, clearly, is that the elements of Josephus’ dramatic apologetic story were utilized in the composing of the gospel account without the author even realizing that Josephus was blowing hot air and smoke. So, I think that the passage is Josephan though that doesn’t exclude a bit of later textual adjustment in respect of the theology of JtB and his baptizing. However, there is a little problem in conflating John the Baptist with Josephus’ “Bannus” and that is the fact that Josephus was born in the first year of the reign of Gaius, the successor of Tiberius, i.e. 37 AD. So, if he was novelizing, he retrojected it into the past.

On the other hand, Josephus makes no mention of this little war between Aretas and Antipas in Wars, nor does he even mention Lucius Vitellius, the governor of Syria, though he makes numerous references to Vitellius the son and temporary emperor.

Further, if you look at the abrupt way the story enters the text, there is a slight sense of vertigo. Nevertheless, that isn’t terribly unusual for Josephus. Yes, it is true that one could go from the last sentence of Chapter 4 in Book 18, to the first sentence of Chapter 5, section 4 without missing a beat but, again, that doesn’t always mean an external interpolation; Josephus was perfectly capable of making up creative digressions on his own! Because of the change in emphasis of the reason for the death, and the realization that the story of Aretas vs. Antipas is clearly made up, and most likely by Josephus himself, possibly to protect or honor Bannus, his teacher, and to give an opportunity to glorify Jewish and Roman relations, not to mention memorializing his own birth year (keep an eye on the number 37), I think it is not an interpolation.

The conclusion is, I think, that we must decline to accept this story as factual whoever wrote it and thus it offers us no possibility of utilizing it to date the time the apostle Paul was let down in a basket from the walls of Damascus while fleeing from the agents of King Aretas who Douglas Campbell assumes only had a narrow window of rulership there while being in conflict with Antipas. Of more interest is the conflict of ownership of the fortress, Macherus, but that takes us away from the present topics.

Again, let’s leave Damascus in the hands of Aretas between 9 BC and 40 AD and not try to lock Paul into that cramped time window of the conflict between Aretas and Herod Antipas over Herodias.


FOTCM Member
The Problem of Pontius Pilate

Moving along, we have an even bigger fish to fry: Pontius Pilate. By now, we have some idea of how freely Josephus novelized and how he utilized every trick in the book to effect apology for the Jews, his imperial masters, and blow smoke over his own involvement in rebel activities and philosophies. But we should notice that this doesn’t mean that he wasn’t writing some real history; one just needs to check things.

Pontius Pilate is the chronological hook for the entire Christian creation of Jesus of Nazareth. It has always been assumed that his presence in the gospels is proof of their historicity. Further, the chronology has been tied to the statement in the gospel of Mark that Jesus began his ministry in “the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar” (Luke 3.:1). Naturally, if Jesus began his ministry in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, and was then tried and executed under Pontius Pilate, Pilate must have been governor at that time. And, according to a remark in Josephus, he ended his term with the death of Tiberius which we know occurred in 37 AD. Another remark in Josephus says he was there for ten years, so it is all simple! Count backwards from 37 AD and you have Pilate coming to Judea in 27, and that gives you the window for the activities of Jesus which began in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, i.e. 29. It all fits so beautifully! Well, of course, there’s the nagging problem of whether the gospels can agree on whether that ministry was one year or three and was Jesus crucified in 29, 30 or 32 or 33.

The crucifixion of Jesus under the governorship of Pontius Pilate is considered to be one of the main historical facts agreed upon by almost universal consent. Bart Ehrman states that the crucifixion of Jesus on the orders of Pontius Pilate is the most certain element about him. John Dominic Crossan says that the crucifixion of Jesus is as certain as any historical fact can be. And so on. Scholars may agree on the historicity of the crucifixion, but they differ considerably on the reasons and even the exact date, not to mention how historical the gospels are in respect of whether or not Jesus really knew he was going to be crucified. It’s all a huge industry discussing this crucifixion of a Jesus person under Pontius Pilate. It reminds me a lot of something that OT scholar and archaeologist, Donald B. Redford, once said about debates over the history of early Israel, and I think it applies here:

Scholars expended substantial effort on questions that they had failed to prove were valid questions at all. Under what dynasty did Joseph rise to power? Who was the Pharaoh of the Oppression? Of the Exodus? Can we identify the princess who drew Moses out of the river? Where did the Israelites make their exit from Egypt: via the Wady Tumilat or by a more northerly point?

One can appreciate the pointlessness of these questions if one poses similar questions of the Arthurian stories, without first submitting the text to a critical evaluation. Who were the consuls of Rome when Arthur drew the sword from the stone? Where was Merlin born?

Can one seriously envisage a classical historian pondering whether it was Iarbas or Aeneas that was responsible for Dido’s suicide, where exactly did Remus leap over the wall, what really happened to Romulus in the thunderstorm, and so forth?

In all these imagined cases none of the material initially prompting the questions has in any way undergone a prior evaluation as to how historical it is! And any scholar who exempts any part of his sources from critical evaluation runs the risk of invalidating some or all of his conclusions.
Please take careful note of Redford’s comment: “any scholar who exempts any part of his sources from critical evaluation runs the risk of invalidating some or all of his conclusions.” The seriousness of this cannot be overstated. You see, people have died by the millions because of this book called The Bible and the beliefs of those who study it. And they are dying today in astonishing numbers for the same reasons!.

So, if we clearly understand at the outset that the letters of Paul are primary evidence, while later texts – not just including the gospels, but mainly the gospels - are secondary or worse, then we have good reason to notice that, in the Pauline corpus, the name Pilate only occurs in 1Timothy6:13, widely acknowledged to be inauthentic!

If Paul was converted only a few years after the execution of Jesus, then he certainly must have lived during the time of Pilate and would have been aware of the crucifixion, but he makes absolutely no reference to it at all. How can this be? Pilate and his doings were so obnoxious that even Philo, in Egypt, one of Paul’s contemporaries, wrote about him! Of course, we also notice that Philo, too, makes no reference to the crucifixion of a messianic claimant under Pilate though he does mention extrajudicial executions in large numbers.

This is a very bothersome thing though, of course, it can be apologetically explained away, and often quite convincingly. But what I am going to argue here is that there has been a big, big, error made in the early Christian compositions and that error has required some very creative – though slight – editing of sources, and the error consists in the fact that Pontius Pilate was not the governor of Judea from 27 to 37 AD, nor was he even there for ten years. I will argue that the text of Josephus rather indicates quite clearly that Pilate was sent to Judea upon the accession of Tiberius in 14/15 AD, and that he was there for only a few years, being censured and recalled at the time that Germanicus was sent to straighten out the affairs of the Syrian province. Later Christian redactors noticed the problem and sought to adjust things by adding governors and a couple of very small, but well-placed, text adjustments regarding the chronology that forced the Josephan text into congruence with the Christian timeline.

There are actually more problems with the Josephan text than just the chronology of Pilate: Josephus was very busy confabulating and writing what he thought was good copy for apologetic purposes. It has been noted that he wrote Wars to not only justify his Flavian masters and scare the bejeebies out of anybody else who might think about rebelling against Rome, but also to depict the Jews themselves as victims of ideologues and demagogues that he refers to regularly as robbers, tyrants, pirates, and so forth. What he is busy trying to cover up is the fact that he was one of them only the strength of his convictions were less than skin deep. Obviously, his goals were not met because he followed up Wars with Antiquities, and a more blatant apologetic work has seldom been written. Even then, he didn’t accomplish much because he had to write Against Apion. It is in that work that one clearly perceives the battle Josephus was waging. Then, being attacked by even other Jews, he made more of a muddle, revealing and concealing, with his short autobiography. It reminds one of lines from Walter Scott’s Marmion: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Josephus was a deceiver and dissembler from the beginning. If you don’t think so, just read his autobiography. Nevertheless, he was constrained by a reading public to use historical facts and events as the skeleton on which he fleshed out his apologetics and it is this that makes him useful as long as controls are in place to deal with his deceptions and apologetics.

For the most part, aside from just a couple of places where it is obvious, the biggest chronological problems of Josephus’ text are created by Josephus himself pretty much as we have already seen in the Aretas debacle. Since nobody else really knew what was going on in Palestine/Judea, Josephus was able to maneuver his characters apologetically without disturbing the real history too much. He borrowed Vitellius briefly to have him make a foray that came to nothing for ridiculous reasons, all the while making much of the relations between Rome and Palestine in his effort to normalize Jews and Judaism in the face of the terrific anti-Judaism that arose after the Jewish War. What I am focusing on here, however, is just a short study of a particular problem, but I think that the reader who is interested in the topics will see that there is a wide and deep field for study of these issues and it is long past time that Josephus was subjected to intense scholarly scrutiny and criticism.

The late Alvar Ellegård, a linguist, wrote A Statistical Method for Determining Authorship which has probably been superseded by later work in this field. He applied his methods to early Christian texts in order to try to situate them in a historical context and chronology. It’s not perfect, but his work is a really good effort to apply scientific historical methods to the problems of Christian historiography. His book, Jesus, One Hundred Years Before Christ is brilliant in many ways and well worth reading. He begins his study with the writings of Paul which are, as all NT scholars admit, the earliest unquestionably Christian writings. As Ellegård points out, based on the accepted Christian chronology, Paul must have been about the same age as Jesus of Nazareth so his silence on the life and works of this alleged messiah is quite remarkable.

Ellegård then goes on to list six texts that he believes were produced by Christian – or more likely Chrestian – communities in the 1st century in addition to the letters of Paul: The Pastor of Hermas, Didache, The First Letter of Clement, the Letter of Barnabas, the Letter to the Hebrews, and the Revelation of John. The major portion of the latter, he believes, was written right around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, probably just prior to it, and intended to give encouragement to the rebels to hold out for the coming of their messiah. Ellegård points out that, of course, these texts have been subjected to later editing, but in general, on linguistic grounds, they can be situated earlier than the gospels. He gives close and detailed arguments for why he dates these texts as early as he does. His suggestion is that the early Christian communities began as Essene type gatherings all around the Empire.

None of the early texts that Ellegård has identified ever uses the term “Christian’; they are always referred to as the Elect, the Saints, the Church of God. Also, they have almost nothing to say about an earthly Jesus or his teaching or theology. What they do focus on is a death/resurrection, though none of them even give an indication of this having occurred in a temporal context. None of them ever claim to have seen or heard an earthly Jesus nor do they claim to know of anybody who did. It seems that their sources are “revelations” that they have from interpreting OT passages and other literature such as Enoch and various prophetic works. In contrast to Paul, who addressed mainly gentiles, the other six documents apparently address a Jewish Diaspora audience. Their arguments are consistently based on the Septuagint version of the Hebrew scriptures. I don’t wish to argue Ellegård’s case here – he wrote an entire book to do it, after all – what I do want to get to is the fact that he went a good way toward ordering early texts chronologically via linguistic analyses and that is very helpful in noting what texts are dependent on what other texts. And this leads us to a somewhat startling realization.


FOTCM Member
Ignatius on the Warpath

It is Ignatius of Antioch who first mentions Pilate in a Jesus context. And Ignatius most definitely was writing long after Philo and Josephus. (Remember, Philo was a contemporary of Pilate (and Paul) while Josephus hadn’t yet been born.) Ignatius and his letters constitute a whole problem all to itself. If he existed at all, and if he wrote any letters at all that were not later creations, we still find there the first connection between an alleged Jesus and Pontius Pilate:

Magn. 11: “You must be completely convinced of the birth, the passion and the resurrection which happened under the governorship of Pontius Pilate.”
It is also in the letters of Ignatius that we find the first witness to the alleged lineage and parents of Jesus:

Trall 9-10: Jesus Christ, who came from David’s seed, who was truly born from Mary, who ate and drank, and was truly persecuted under Pilate, truly crucified, and who died, seen by the inhabitants of the heavens, the earth, and the underworld, who has also been truly raised from the dead… For if he has only seemingly suffered… why am I in chains… Is it for nothing that I deliver myself to death? In that case I am lying against God.
Phil 9-9: Some people say, “if I do not find it in the ancient records, I do not believe in the gospel.” And when I said, “It is written”, they said, “That is just the question.” For me, the ancient records are Jesus Christ, the inviolable ancient records are his cross, his death, and his resurrection and the faith which comes from him… For the most beloved Prophets have announce him, but the gospel is the completion of immortality.
It’s obvious that the “ancient records” that Ignatius is relying on are the Hebrew Scriptures and his term “the gospel” simply applies to the “good news” that exegetes extracted from their interpretive readings of those texts, including Paul himself who declares clearly that his revelation came “not beyond what is written”. (I Cor.4:6) We also see that, in terms of Christian writings that have gone before, this insistence of an earthly Jesus/Messiah seems to be a new thing. Nobody else in early Christian writings has made this claim.

Ignatius comes off sounding like a schoolboy whose classmate has told him there is no Santa Claus. “Yes there is! He lives at the North Pole, his wife is Mrs. Claus, he has eight reindeer and tons of elves helping him!”

But, there is a bit more along the same line:

Smym. 2: …baptized by John… nailed [to the cross] under Pontius Pilate and the tetrarch Herod… the resurrection made a sign to his saints and his believers, Jews and Gentiles, in the body of his church.
Smym 3: When he came to Peter and those who were with him, he said to them… touch me, and see that I am no lifeless demon. And after his resurrection he ate and drank with them as a human being of flesh and blood.
Ignatius was fighting a battle against an enemy, obviously, and he needed to firmly establish his control over his flock via the apostolic succession which had to come from a physically existent Jesus. In the end, it might be said that this was the ultimate reason for creating Jesus and his disciples: to have a power structure from which early church leaders could draw their ineluctable authority. Jesus to the apostles to the bishops consecrated by apostles. Never mind that these apostles and consecrations and lists of bishops were made up much later and retrojected into the past.

Ignatius is also the source of the first datable mention of Mary and John the Baptist. He offers no evidence whatsoever other than the “ancient records”, by which he means the prophecies of the Old Testament, messianic interpretations of which were inferred or created by exegesis though he could also be referring to Josephus. (It’s always been a problem that Josephus has John the Baptist dying after Jesus.)

In short, these letters of Ignatius sound very much like frauds retrojected into the past, based very loosely on clues he could extract from the life and words of Paul, historical elements from Josephus, and with the Marcionic “heresy” in view.

Nevertheless, we have here the idea that the earliest testimony to the connection between Pilate and a Jesus wasn’t very clear as to what, exactly, that connection was. That was probably created on the spot during the later writing of the gospels utilizing possibly Ignatius, Josephus, Paul, the six texts mentioned above, Greek myths and legends, and whatever else came to hand. Notice very particularly that in the above, Pilate is in no way implicated in the actual events but is simply mentioned as a marker of a period of time and this marker could easily have been picked up by a reading of Josephus (or Philo).

One of the troubling aspects about Pilate is that he was an obscure, equestrian class official with a small military unit under his command, ruling over a very minor part of the Roman Empire. He is attested by Philo, Josephus and Tacitus, though the last mentioned being very problematical. An inscription with his name and title on it was discovered at Caesarea Maritima in 1961. It doesn’t refer to anything datable except the emperor Tiberius who reigned 22 years.

Yet, thanks to the gospels, after his few hours of alleged interaction with Jesus, for about 1500 years, Christians chant every Sunday that Jesus Christ “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” I think we have a gross misunderstanding due to Josephus tendency to novelize and apologize and the fraudulent claims of Ignatius fighting his war against heretics to thank for that falsehood.

Philo is extremely negative about Pilate and he lived in Alexandria, far away from the “scene of the crime”. Josephus, on the other hand, is less condemnatory, though his descriptions of Pilate’s actions are extremely negative. This creates a big problem when we consider the gospels’ representation of Pilate as sort of the Diet Coke of evil: just one calorie! Poor Pilate is not allowed to let Jesus go because the bad Jews made him do it! That is patently ridiculous as a close reading of Josephus and classical history will show. The Roman governor was entirely able to release Jesus to implement his decision that he was not guilty of anything, and certainly, the Pilate described by Philo and Josephus would not have brooked any interference from the Jews.

In Philo, we find an interesting remark about persecutions of the Jews in “On the Embassy to Gaius” (Caligula) XXIV. (159-161) that is a flashback to the time of Tiberius, the grandfather of Gaius:

And in the reign of Tiberius things went on in the same manner; although at that time things in Italy were thrown into a great deal of confusion when Sejanus was preparing to make his attempt against our nation; for he knew immediately after his death that the accusations which had been brought against the Jews who were dwelling in Rome were false calumnies, inventions of Sejanus, who was desirous to destroy our nation …And he sent commands to all the governors of provinces in every country to comfort those of our nation in their respective cities, as the punishment intended to be inflicted was not meant to be inflicted upon all, but only on the guilty; and they were but few. And he ordered them to change none of the existing customs, but to look upon them as pledges, since the men were peaceful in their dispositions and natural characters, and their laws trained them and disposed them to quiet and stability.
What Philo appears to be saying is that it was Sejanus who was responsible for a persecution of the Jews in Italy and that this was only revealed after the death of Sejanus. Probably, the persecution that was meant was the expulsion in 19 AD which plays a big part in this present discussion. Sejanus was executed in 31 AD and, apparently, at this point in time, Philo suggests that Tiberius sent edicts around to counter some of those that had been made by his former second-in-command.

Further on in the text, Philo quotes a letter that Herod Agrippa wrote to Gaius in defense of the Jews where he, too, includes a flashback to the time of Tiberius (Embassy, XXXVII (298) XXXIX (306) :

“What again did your other grandfather, Tiberius Caesar, do?... during the three and twenty years that he was emperor, he preserved the form of worship in the temple as it had been handed down from the earliest times, without abrogating or altering the slightest particular of it.

“Moreover, I have it in my power to relate one act of ambition on his part, though I suffered an infinite number of evils when he was alive; but nevertheless the truth is considered dear…

Pilate was one of the emperor’s lieutenants, having been appointed governor of Judaea. He, not more with the object of doing honour to Tiberius than with that of vexing the multitude, dedicated some gilt shields in the palace of Herod, in the holy city; which had no form nor any other forbidden thing represented on them except some necessary inscription, which mentioned these two facts, the name of the person who had placed them there, and the person in whose honour they were so placed there. But when the multitude heard what had been done, and when the circumstance became notorious, then the people, putting forward the four sons of the king, who were in no respect inferior to the kings themselves, in fortune or in rank, and his other descendants, and those magistrates who were among them at the time, entreated him to alter and to rectify the innovation which he had committed in respect of the shields; and not to make any alteration in their national customs, which had hitherto been preserved without any interruption, without being in the least degree changed by any king or emperor.

“But when he steadfastly refused this petition (for he was a man of a very inflexible disposition, and very merciless as well as very obstinate), they cried out: ‘Do not cause a sedition; do not make war upon us; do not destroy the peace which exists. The honour of the emperor is not identical with dishonour to the ancient laws; let it not be to you a pretence for heaping insult on our nation. Tiberius is not desirous that any of our laws or customs shall be destroyed. And if you yourself say that he is, show us either some command from him, or some letter; or something of the kind, that we, who have been sent to you as ambassadors, may cease to trouble you, and may address our supplications to your master.’

But his last sentence exasperated him in the greatest possible degree, as he feared least they might in reality go on an embassy to the emperor, and might impeach him with respect to other particulars of his government, in respect of his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemend, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity.

Therefore, being exceedingly angry, and being at all times a man of most ferocious passions, he was in great perplexity, neither venturing to take down what he had once set up, nor wishing to do any thing which could be acceptable to his subjects, and at the same time being sufficiently acquainted with the firmness of Tiberius on these points. And those who were in power in our nation, seeing this, and perceiving that he was inclined to change is mind as to what he had done, but that he was not willing to be thought to do so, wrote a most supplicatory letter to Tiberius. And he, when he had read it, what did he say of Pilate, and what threats did he utter against him!

But it is beside our purpose at present to relate to you how very angry he was, although he was not very liable to sudden anger; since the facts speak for themselves. Immediately, without putting any thing off till the next day, he wrote a letter, reproaching and reviling him in the most bitter manner for his act of unprecedented audacity and wickedness, and commanding him immediately to take down the shields and to convey them away from the metropolis of Judaea to Caesarea, on the sea which had been named Caesarea Augusta, after his grandfather, in order that they might be set up in the temple of Augustus. And accordingly, they were set up in that edifice. And in this way he provided for two matters: both for the honour due to the emperor, and for the preservation of the ancient customs of the city.

Now the things set up on that occasion were shields, on which there was no representation of any living thing whatever engraved. But no, the thing proposed to be erected is a colossal statue. Moreover, then the erection was in the swelling-house of the governor; but they say, that which is now contemplated is to be in the inmost part of the temple, in the very holy of holies itself…
Now, notice that in this account, we see a Pilate who would never back down if he had either condemned or released a prisoner. The entire gospel story is just ridiculous in the light of this historical data. However, we can also see how a reading of this account might incline a novelistic disposition to select Pilate as the evil procurator who did in Jesus.

Further, notice in the account that it is quite clear that there was an exchange between Tiberius and Pilate and that Pilate came to heel and did as he was told, moving the shields to Caesarea Augusta/Maritima and this is the probable reason for the existence of the “Pilate stone.” Nor is there any indication at all that Tiberius died before Pilate got his just deserts.

Also notice that it is in no way possible to date the events in this little digression in the letter of Agrippa to Gaius Caligula. It is also thought by some scholars that the letter is authentic or very close, because Philo would have had access to it. In fact, since he was there with Agrippa at the time, it is possible that he assisted in the composing of the document, the memories of the time of Tiberius being his own.

Now, in order to really examine the situation that Josephus presents us, we have to go back in time a bit to get the proper perspective on the Josephan problem of Pilate because it actually begins at the time of the death of Herod the Great.

To be continued....


FOTCM Member
The Problem of the Death of Herod the Great

First of all, we are told that prior to the death of Herod the Great, there was the "Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing" by Judas and Matthias which came about as follows:

Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6:

1. …. But Herod now fell into a distemper, and made his will, and bequeathed his kingdom to [Antipas], his youngest son; and this out of that hatred to Archelaus and Philip, which the calumnies of Antipater had raised against them. He also bequeathed a thousand talents to Caesar, and five hundred to Julia, Caesar's wife, to Caesar's children, and friends and freed-men. He also distributed among his sons and their sons his money, his revenues, and his lands. He also made Salome his sister very rich, because she had continued faithful to him in all his circumstances, and was never so rash as to do him any harm; and as he despaired of recovering, for he was about the seventieth year of his age, he grew fierce, and indulged the bitterest anger upon all occasions; the cause whereof was this, that he thought himself despised, and that the nation was pleased with his misfortunes; besides which, he resented a sedition which some of the lower sort of men excited against him, the occasion of which was as follows.

2. There was one Judas, the son of Saripheus, and Matthias, the son of Margalothus, two of the most eloquent men among the Jews, and the most celebrated interpreters of the Jewish laws, and men well beloved by the people, because of their education of their youth; for all those that were studious of virtue frequented their lectures every day. These men, when they found that the king's distemper was incurable, excited the young men that they would pull down all those works which the king had erected contrary to the law of their fathers, and thereby obtain the rewards which the law will confer on them for such actions of piety; for that it was truly on account of Herod's rashness in making such things as the law had forbidden, that his other misfortunes, and this distemper also, which was so unusual among mankind, and with which he was now afflicted, came upon him; for Herod had caused such things to be made which were contrary to the law, of which he was accused by Judas and Matthias; for the king had erected over the great gate of the temple a large golden eagle, of great value, and had dedicated it to the temple. Now the law forbids those that propose to live according to it, to erect images or representations of any living creature. So these wise men persuaded [their scholars] to pull down the golden eagle; alleging, that although they should incur any danger, which might bring them to their deaths, the virtue of the action now proposed to them would appear much more advantageous to them than the pleasures of life; since they would die for the preservation and observation of the law of their fathers; since they would also acquire an everlasting fame and commendation; since they would be both commended by the present generation, and leave an example of life that would never be forgotten to posterity; since that common calamity of dying cannot be avoided by our living so as to escape any such dangers; that therefore it is a right thing for those who are in love with a virtuous conduct, to wait for that fatal hour by such behavior as may carry them out of the world with praise and honor; and that this will alleviate death to a great degree, thus to come at it by the performance of brave actions, which bring us into danger of it; and at the same time to leave that reputation behind them to their children, and to all their relations, whether they be men or women, which will be of great advantage to them afterward.

3. And with such discourses as this did these men excite the young men to this action; and a report being come to them that the king was dead, this was an addition to the wise men's persuasions; so, in the very middle of the day, they got upon the place, they pulled down the eagle, and cut it into pieces with axes, while a great number of the people were in the temple. And now the king's captain, upon hearing what the undertaking was, and supposing it was a thing of a higher nature than it proved to be, came up thither, having a great band of soldiers with him, such as was sufficient to put a stop to the multitude of those who pulled down what was dedicated to God; so he fell upon them unexpectedly, and as they were upon this bold attempt, in a foolish presumption rather than a cautious circumspection, as is usual with the multitude, and while they were in disorder, and incautious of what was for their advantage; so he caught no fewer than forty of the young men, who had the courage to stay behind when the rest ran away, together with the authors of this bold attempt, Judas and Matthias, who thought it an ignominious thing to retire upon his approach, and led them to the king. And when they were come to the king, and he asked them if they had been so bold as to pull down what he had dedicated to God, "Yes, [said they,] what was contrived we contrived, and what hath been performed we performed it, and that with such a virtuous courage as becomes men; for we have given our assistance to those things which were dedicated to the majesty of God, and we have provided for what we have learned by hearing the law; and it ought not to be wondered at, if we esteem those laws which Moses had suggested to him, and were taught him by God, and which he wrote and left behind him, more worthy of observation than thy commands. Accordingly we will undergo death, and all sorts of punishments which thou canst inflict upon us, with pleasure, since we are conscious to ourselves that we shall die, not for any unrighteous actions, but for our love to religion." And thus they all said, and their courage was still equal to their profession, and equal to that with which they readily set about this undertaking. And when the king had ordered them to be bound, he sent them to Jericho,…

4. But the people, on account of Herod's barbarous temper, and for fear he should be so cruel and to inflict punishment on them, said what was done was done without their approbation, and that it seemed to them that the actors might well be punished for what they had done. But as for Herod, he dealt more mildly with others [of the assembly] but he deprived Matthias of the high priesthood, as in part an occasion of this action, and made Joazar, who was Matthias's wife's brother, high priest in his stead. Now it happened, that during the time of the high priesthood of this Matthias, there was another person made high priest for a single day, that very day which the Jews observed as a fast. The occasion was this: This Matthias the high priest, on the night before that day when the fast was to be celebrated, seemed, in a dream, 7 to have conversation with his wife; and because he could not officiate himself on that account, Joseph, the son of Ellemus, his kinsman, assisted him in that sacred office. But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.
In the preceding text, we have a number of interesting things to consider though not all of them are pertinent to the topic at hand.

First, notice the disposition of his property made by Herod. This will become an issue further on.

Second, notice the story about Judas and Matthias and this, in particular: “two of the most eloquent men among the Jews, and the most celebrated interpreters of the Jewish laws, and men well beloved by the people, because of their education of their youth; for all those that were studious of virtue frequented their lectures every day.” I would suggest that this little bit of description later went into the NT as part of the story about Jesus.

Third, this: “But the people, on account of Herod's barbarous temper, and for fear he should be so cruel and to inflict punishment on them, said what was done was done without their approbation, and that it seemed to them that the actors might well be punished for what they had done.” This also seems to have made its way into the gospels as a description of the attitude of the former fans of Jesus after he was allegedly arrested.

Fourth and fifth: Keep in mind Joazar, the high priest who replaces Matthias, and notice Joseph, “son of Ellemus", or Heli, who figures in the faked genealogy of Jesus, not to mention the odd add-on about Matthias the rebel and Matthias the high priest being two different individuals. With just such an insertion as this a whole context can be changed. And if, ultimately, Josephus proved to be a member of the rebels of his own time, he might very much want to separate them from the priests.

Sixth, the eclipse:

Theologians have placed the alleged “birth of Jesus” before the spring of 4 B.C because of this reference to an eclipse, shortly following which, Herod the Great dies in the story before Passover. Jesus has to be born before Herod dies or there’s no “Wise Men from the East” and “Slaughter of the Innocents”. The result is, however, that by selecting the eclipse of 13 March 4 BC as the chronological hook, they force a whole lot of events into a period of just 29 days. However, it is well nigh impossible for all the events mentioned by Josephus (not to mention the claims of the gospels and theologians) to have transpired in that short window.

There are two other possible candidates for the right eclipse that would have been visible in Palestine: 15 September 5 BC,Central at 10:30 pm, (which could then preserve the 4 BC death of Herod) or 10 January 1 BC. With the first one, you have 7 months in which all the things Josephus describes could have happened, with Herod dying the following year. With the second one, you have a little over three months of time in which all the doings must take place. Either would work. However, if we select the latter as the correct one, then Herod the Great's death has to be moved forward to 1 BC.

Ernest Martin has written a fascinating little book on the topic entitled "The Star of Bethlehem: The Star That Astonished the World." I've adapted his list of the events that occurred between the eclipse and the death of Herod and his subsequent funeral just to give you an idea of the problem.

Following the executions of Judas, Matthias and their followers, the following things are recorded as happening in the life of Herod:

1) On that night, an eclipse.

2) The morning after the eclipse, Josephus informs us that Herod’s condition worsened. He had already been ill for several months and this accelerated decline was attributed by the people to the execution of the Righteous Teachers, Judas and Matthias.

3) Herod, via his physicians, then tried “one remedy after another” and after these efforts, each of which must have taken some days or a week each, at least, Herod was advised to go take mineral baths. He traveled 25 miles to the resort, tried the baths for at least a week before deciding that they were doing no good, and then went back to Jericho.

4) Back at home, Herod, knowing his death was getting closer, plotted his revenge on the Jews who he felt did not love or appreciate him after all he had done for them, as follows:

He commanded that all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation, wheresoever they lived, should be called to him. Accordingly, they were a great number that came, because the whole nation was called, and all men heard of this call, and death was the penalty of such as should despise the epistles that were sent to call them. And now the king was in a wild rage against them all, the innocent as well as those that had afforded ground for accusations; and when they were come, he ordered them to be all shut up in the hyppodrome, and sent for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, and spake thus to them: "I shall die in a little time, so great are my pains; which death ought to be cheerfully borne, and to be welcomed by all men; but what principally troubles me is this, that I shall die without being lamented, and without such mourning as men usually expect at a king's death." For that he was not unacquainted with the temper of the Jews, that his death would be a thing very desirable, and exceedingly acceptable to them, because during his lifetime they were ready to revolt from him, and to abuse the donations he had dedicated to God that it therefore was their business to resolve to afford him some alleviation of his great sorrows on this occasion; for that if they do not refuse him their consent in what he desires, he shall have a great mourning at his funeral, and such as never had any king before him; for then the whole nation would mourn from their very soul, which otherwise would be done in sport and mockery only. He desired therefore, that as soon as they see he hath given up the ghost, they shall place soldiers round the hippodrome, while they do not know that he is dead; and that they shall not declare his death to the multitude till this is done, but that they shall give orders to have those that are in custody shot with their darts; and that this slaughter of them all will cause that he shall not miss to rejoice on a double account; that as he is dying, they will make him secure that his will shall be executed in what he charges them to do; and that he shall have the honor of a memorable mourning at his funeral. So he deplored his condition, with tears in his eyes, and begged them by the kindness due from them, as of his kindred, and by the faith they owed to God, and begged of them that they would not hinder him of this honorable mourning at his funeral. So they promised him not to transgress his commands.

6. Now any one may easily discover the temper of this man's mind, which not only took pleasure in doing what he had done formerly against his relations, out of the love of life, but by those commands of his which savored of no humanity; since he took care, when he was departing out of this life, that the whole nation should be put into mourning, and indeed made desolate of their dearest kindred, when he gave order that one out of every family should be slain, although they had done nothing that was unjust, or that was against him, nor were they accused of any other crimes… (Book 17, VI.5-6)
Notice the elements of the Massacre of the Innocents contained within the above passage. Clearly, there was no such event as Herod sending around his soldiers to kill babies, but he certainly was planning to raise a hue and cry as soon as he was dead by a massacre of innocent citizens!

5) Even though, by any measure of time, considering travel times in those days and Herod’s condition, we are well past the allotted 29 days between the March eclipse and the Passover. But there is more:

17 VII.1. As he was giving these commands to his relations, there came letters from his ambassadors, who had been sent to Rome unto Caesar, which, when they were read, their purport was this: That Acme was slain by Caesar, out of his indignation at what hand, she had in Antipater's wicked practices; and that as to Antipater himself, Caesar left it to Herod to act as became a father and a king, and either to banish him, or to take away his life, which he pleased. When Herod heard this, he was somewhat better, out of the pleasure he had from the contents of the letters, and was elevated at the death of Acme, and at the power that was given him over his son; but as his pains were become very great, he was now ready to faint for want of somewhat to eat; so he called for an apple and a knife; for it was his custom formerly to pare the apple himself, and soon afterwards to cut it, and eat it. When he had got the knife, he looked about, and had a mind to stab himself with it; and he had done it, had not his first cousin, Achiabus, prevented him, and held his hand, and cried out loudly. Whereupon a woeful lamentation echoed through the palace, and a great tumult was made, as if the king were dead. Upon which Antipater, who verily believed his father was deceased, grew bold in his discourse, as hoping to be immediately and entirely released from his bonds, and to take the kingdom into his hands without any more ado; so he discoursed with the jailer about letting him go, and in that case promised him great things, both now and hereafter, as if that were the only thing now in question. But the jailer did not only refuse to do what Antipater would have him, but informed the king of his intentions, and how many solicitations he had had from him [of that nature]. Hereupon Herod, who had formerly no affection nor good-will towards his son to restrain him, when he heard what the jailer said, he cried out, and beat his head, although he was at death's door, and raised himself upon his elbow, and sent for some of his guards, and commanded them to kill Antipater without tiny further delay, and to do it presently, and to bury him in an ignoble manner at Hyrcania.
It seems reasonable that the above activities would have required a few days time. But we have just a little way to go:

6) Herod changes his will. This apparently took a few days to get written up and signed:

Book 17, VIII 1: And now Herod altered his testament upon the alteration of his mind; for he appointed Antipas, to whom he had before left the kingdom, to be tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and granted the kingdom to Archelaus. He also gave Gaulonitis, and Trachonitis, and Paneas to Philip, who was his son, but own brother to Archelaus by the name of a tetrarchy; and bequeathed Jarnnia, and Ashdod, and Phasaelis to Salome his sister, with five hundred thousand [drachmae] of silver that was coined. He also made provision for all the rest of his kindred, by giving them sums of money and annual revenues, and so left them all in a wealthy condition. He bequeathed also to Caesar ten millions [of drachmae] of coined money, besides both vessels of gold and silver, and garments exceeding costly, to Julia, Caesar's wife; and to certain others, five millions. When he had done these things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven.
7) After Herod’s death, a grand funeral was planned and carried out. It probably took some time to organize this. Josephus tells us that the whole army was represented in the funeral and it would have taken a number of days to summon and assemble them. Then followed a slow procession of the funeral cortege. This procession probably traveled about a mile a day, traveling 25 miles in total to reach the destination where Herod was to be buried. The public mourning period was 30 days, so Herod would just have been tucked in for eternity by the time this period was over.

8) After Herod’s death, Archelaus gave an audience to the people, made changes in the army, gave out promotions, liberated prisoners (Herod’s sister and her husband had not followed through on his order to execute the dignitaries – they had been set free upon his death), and sat in judgment on lawsuits. He did all these things “and many other things” before the beginning of Passover.

Thus, the conclusion is that the partial eclipse of 13 March 4 BC was NOT the eclipse mentioned in Josephus. There is absolutely no way possible that all of these events could have occurred between that March eclipse and the beginning of Passover 29 days later.

To be continued...


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Having concluded that the 13 March 4 BC lunar eclipse was NOT the eclipse mentioned in Josephus because it would be simply impossible for all of the events mentioned to have transpired in 29 days, the next question is: which eclipse was it?

I've already mentioned Ernest L. Martin's book "The Star of Bethlehem" and his work to figure out which eclipse actually fits the historical events. One has to filter while reading this work because his underlying agenda is to prove that "Jesus of Nazareth" was born at the time of a dramatic planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Venus (his "Star of Bethlehem") which occurred in 3 and 2 BC and to do this, he must have Herod still living at that point, so his targeted eclipse is the one that occurred on 10 January 1 BC. Driven by this idea, he actually did a great deal of excellent work bringing many obscure items to light and showing them in context; he just didn't realize that they really weren't proof that Jesus was born at that time at all, but rather that the events of the time were attached to the Jesus myth after the fact. Martin asks this question:

Recognizing that the January 10, 1 BCE eclipse is the one mentioned by Josephus has much historical value in another way. Scholars have wondereed for years why Josephus referred only to this one eclipse out of the hundreds that occurred over the generations that he covered in his histories. Why single out this one? Indeed, during the reign of Herod there were at least 32 lunar eclipses visible in Palestine (20 partial and 12 total). There must have been special reasons for heralding this single eclipse associated with Herod's death. ...

Other than the historical importance of Herod's death itself, it should be remembered that it was also the very day following the martyrdom of the two illustrious rabbis whom the whole nation admired and esteemed. This was an important event for commemoration to the Jewish people. But there was a national event even more disastrous than that. The occasion of the rabbi's deaths led directly to 3000 Jewish worshippers at the next Passover being slaughtered in the temple precincts. This massacre, which was ordered by Archelaus (the successor to Herod) resulted in the unusual cancellation of the whole Passover services...

This was a most extraordinary event. ... Nothing like it had ever happened before. ... This slaughter of the 3000 Jewish worshippers in the temple led directly to a major war between the Jews and the Romans that occupied the whole of the following summer and autumn. Josephus said that this war was no minor skirmish. It was the most significant conflict to occur in Palestine from the time of Pompey in 63 BCE to the Roman/Jewish War of CE 66 to 73. In order to subdue this Jewish rebellion, the Roman had to muster their three legions in Syria, plus auxiliary forces (about 20,000 armed men in all), to put down the rebellion that erupted. At the end of the war, 2,000 Jews were crucified and 30,000 sold into slavery. ...and what started it? It was the death of the rabbis associated with the eclipse of the Moon near Herod's death.
Martin's discussion following the above points out the obvious: the wrong dating of this eclipse and the death of Herod makes the Roman records three years out of sync with reality. He shows convincingly, with excellent evidence, how records (written and archaeological) can be reconciled. While we cannot pursue this fascinating line of evidence here, there is something that is of some relevance to showing the general environment of the empire at the time, particularly in respect of Rome's relationship to Palestine. The topic is the participation of the future emperor, Gaius, in the "War of Varus" in Palestine. Again, Martin:

So, Gaius, instead of going to Armenia went first to Egypt and hurriedly continued on to Idumaea to bring the war in Palestine to an end. He then went to Jerusalem where he failed to allow the customary devotions to be given "to the Jewish God." (Suetonius, Augustus, 93.) From there, he and Varus must have gone to Antioch with two of the legions while one legion was left in Judaea. He would have arrived in the provincial capital of Antioch by late 1 BC or at the beginning of CE 1. He would then have joined forces with the one or two legions he sent to Syria from the Danubian reserves. This would have given him the needed reinforcement he required for his own operations soon to occur against the Armenians. ...

Two other historical documents which now make sense whereas before they were a puzzle to historians. There is an eyewitness account of The War of Varus which tells about the person who secured the victory. This Jewish writer who lived in Judaea (and wrote a work called "The Assumption of Moses) said that the war was conducted by a "king" who had come from the west to gain the triump. The reference has normally been applied to Quintilius Varus because historians up to now have assumed the war mentioned by this Jewish writer took place in 4 BCE. This, of course, was three years before Gaius Caesar arrived on the scene in late 1 BCE. ... Gaius came directly from the west to end the war and he had all the credentials to be called a "king." ...

The next point is more significant. In 1960 an inscription was found in Greece that mentioned these activities of Gaius while he was on his mission to the east. It refers to some splendid victories. Though it does not specify exactly what they were, what was written on this inscription has an important bearing on our question under discussion. The inscription states, "Gaius, the son of Augustus, who was fighting the barbarians for the safety of all mankind." ...

Added to this, we have the Pisan cenotaph (another inscription) which mentions this same expedition of Gaius and it states that Gaius' victories were accomplished "beyond the Roman frontiers." The region of Idumaes in 1 BC would fit the description preciesly. The areas of Galilee, Judaea, Peraea (across the Jordan River) and Idumaea were formerly the lands controlled by Herod. Though Herod was associated politically with the Empire in close alliance, his kingdom was technically outside imperial territory. It only became provincial in CE 6/7 when Quirinius assumed the governorship of Syria and Palestine. However, in 1 BCE, Idumaea was still "beyond the Roman frontiers." ...

Besides this, there were other reasons to call the area of Palestine "barbarian" at that time. Rome would have considered the Jewish rebels as fighting against the philosophical and political concepts within the Hellenistic principles that then dominated Roman thinking If there were any people at the time who would naturally have been against such Roman philosophical thinking and would have been called "barbarians", it would have been the Jews of Palestine after the death of Herod. ...

This belief is further strengthened because the inscription found in 1960 stated that Gaius had been fighting "for the safety of all mankind." The Romans must have considered their victory of great consequence. After all, as stated before, there were Jews who had messianic convictions at that time scattered throughout the Empire as well as Parthia. What if all the Jews decided to fight against Rome? This, of course, was an unlikely proposition but the potential for such a thing was always there. There was also the possibility for fifth column subversion by the Jews as well as their active aggression against the Empire which gave Rome concern. Putting an end to the resistance in Palestine must have given the Romans the feeling of having accomplished a major victory ... "for the safety of all mankind."

Such an appraisal is reflective of Roman beliefs at this period. Tacitus, a century later, gave ordinary Roman opinion of the Jews when he said they customarily hated "all mankind." Even the apostle Paul felt that Jewish social beliefs at the time were "contrary to all men." (I Thessalonians 2:15) Josephus records a plethora of Gentile antipathy against the Jews within this period... The emperor Claudius wrote to the people of Alexandria in CE 41 saying that the Jews and their opinions were "a general plague infecting the whole world." ... If there were ever a people "out of step" with the rest of the world at that time, it was the Jews. It is well within reason that those mentioned on the inscription as being like "barbarians" that Gaius subdued "for the safety of all mankind" were the final Jewish insurgents in Idumaea who fought in The War of Varus.
There are a couple of major items in the above recitation which is only excerpted in part. The first is, of course, the necessity to subtract three years from the timeline leading up to Pontius Pilate, and the second is the fact that Quirinius assumed the governorship of Syria AND Palestine in 6/7 BC. But, let's go back to Josephus.

Recall the terms of Herod’s changed will:

…he appointed Antipas, to whom he had before left the kingdom, to be tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and granted the kingdom to Archelaus. He also gave Gaulonitis, and Trachonitis, and Paneas to Philip, who was his son, but own brother to Archelaus by the name of a tetrarchy; and bequeathed Jamnia, and Ashdod, and Phasaelis to Salome his sister,
The fact that Herod had previously said he would leave the kingdom of Judea to Antipas, but then changed his mind and gave it to Archelaus, while tossing Antipas only Galilee and Perea, set up a serious conflict between the two. Not only was it necessary for Augustus to confirm the terms of the will of Herod the Great, but there was going to be a legal contest about who got the kingdom. But, before Archelaus could depart for his “confirmation”, things took an ugly turn. In the following excerpt, notice carefully how Josephus spins the two revered teachers, Judas and Matthias, and their followers who he had previously described as "two of the most eloquent men among the Jews, and the most celebrated interpreters of the Jewish laws, and men well beloved by the people, because of their education of their youth; for all those that were studious of virtue frequented their lectures every day." (As I already mentioned, this is the model for the character, Jesus of Nazareth, in the gospels.)

Book 17, 9:1. At this time also it was that some of the Jews got together out of a desire of innovation. They lamented Matthias, and those that were slain with him by Herod, who had not any respect paid them by a funeral mourning, out of the fear men were in of that man; they were those who had been condemned for pulling down the golden eagle. The people made a great clamor and lamentation hereupon, and cast out some reproaches against the king also, as if that tended to alleviate the miseries of the deceased. The people assembled together, and desired of Archelaus, that, in way of revenge on their account, he would inflict punishment on those who had been honored by Herod; and that, in the first and principal place, he would deprive that high priest whom Herod had made, and would choose one more agreeable to the law, and of greater purity, to officiate as high priest. This was granted by Archelaus, although he was mightily offended at their importunity, because he proposed to himself to go to Rome immediately to look after Caesar's determination about him. However, he sent the general of his forces to use persuasions, and to tell them that the death which was inflicted on their friends was according to the law…

2. So when the king had suggested these things, and instructed his general in what he was to say, he sent him away to the people; but they made a clamor, and would not give him leave to speak, and put him in danger of his life… they had more concern to have all their own wills performed than to yield obedience to their governors; thinking it to be a thing insufferable, that, while Herod was alive, they should lose those that were most dear to them, and that when he was dead, they could not get the actors to be punished. So they went on with their designs after a violent manner…
Allow me to insert here a note that it was a group of young men - students of the revered rabbis - who were executed by Herod. This is undoubtedly the inspiration for the NT story of the "massacre of the innocents", the students of Judas and Matthias, children of Jews.

3. Now, upon the approach of that feast of unleavened bread, which the law of their fathers had appointed for the Jews at this time, which feast is called the Passover and is a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt, when they offer sacrifices with great alacrity; and when they are required to slay more sacrifices in number than at any other festival; and when an innumerable multitude came thither out of the country, nay, from beyond its limits also, in order to worship God, the seditious lamented Judas and Matthias, those teachers of the laws, and kept together in the temple

And as Archelaus was afraid … he sent a regiment of armed men, and with them a captain of a thousand, to suppress the violent efforts of the seditious before the whole multitude should be infected with the like madness… But those that were seditious on account of those teachers of the law, irritated the people by the noise and clamors they used to encourage the people in their designs; so they made an assault upon the soldiers, and came up to them, and stoned the greatest part of them, although some of them ran away wounded, and their captain among them; and when they had thus done, they returned to the sacrifices which were already in their hands. Now Archelaus thought there was no way to preserve the entire government but by cutting off those who made this attempt upon it; so he sent out the whole army upon them, and sent the horsemen to prevent those that had their tents without the temple from assisting those that were within the temple, and to kill such as ran away from the footmen when they thought themselves out of danger; which horsemen slew three thousand men, while the rest went to the neighboring mountains.
Obviously, Archelaus was not off to a good start. But, supposedly, immediately following this massacre, he headed out for Rome BUT, before he could even get on a ship:

3. … Sabinus, Caesar's steward for Syrian affairs, as he was making haste into Judea to preserve Herod's effects, met with Archelaus at Caesarea; but Varus [president of Syria] came at that time, and restrained him from meddling with them, for he was there as sent for by Archelaus, by the means of Ptolemy. And Sabinus, out of regard to Varus, did neither seize upon any of the castles that were among the Jews, nor did he seal up the treasures in them, but permitted Archelaus to have them, until Caesar should declare his resolution about them; so that, upon this his promise, he tarried still at Cesarea. But after Archelaus was sailed for Rome, and Varus was removed to Antioch, Sabinus went to Jerusalem, and seized on the king's palace. He also sent for the keepers of the garrisons, and for all those that had the charge of Herod's effects, and declared publicly that he should require them to give an account of what they had; and he disposed of the castles in the manner he pleased…
This Varus is Publius Quinctilius Varus. Varus' was a member of a patrician family that had fallen on hard times. Things began to look up for them when Varus became consul, in 13 BC. He was governor of the province of Africa from 8 to 7 BC and he hit the jackpot when he was appointed governor of Syria. Velleius Paterculus said that Varus entered the rich province as a poor man, and left a poor province as a rich man. (II. 117.2) He was known for his harshness and high taxation. Josephus, who is blowing smoke over the rapaciousness of the Roman rulers tries to present Varus as lenient. However, according to a popular TV documentary presentation of that period, the authors of which I haven’t been able to track down, the Jews, at the time of Varus, nearly en masse, began to boycott Roman pottery which disappears almost entirely from the archaeological record. If this is true, it is a silent testimony to the cruelty of this man. Coins have been found which show that Varus was governor of Syria in the 25th, 26th, and 27th years after the Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC), i.e. 6 to 4 BC, and there is evidence presented by Martin that he was reassigned to the province in 2 BC following a 2 year governorship of Sentius Saturninus. Later, Varus became infamous for losing three entire legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest where he committed suicide. I’d love to divert onto that story, but we must stick to the plan. Keep Varus in mind, and especially, Sabinus as we will come back to him soon.

Meanwhile, as already mentioned, Archelaus, Antipas, and the whole Herodian circus are in Rome and Josephus takes some time lovingly describing the alleged debate before Augustus as to who was going to get what, borrowing heavily from the work of Nicolaus of Damascus, Herod the Great’s friend and chronicler. Obviously, since Nicolaus' work was available at the time Josephus was writing, he didn't have a lot of wiggle room but we will soon see how creative he could be with the materials he had to work with.

As Josephus would have it, Archelaus’ massacre of 3000 rebels apparently didn’t help things any because next, there was a "revolt of the Jews" against Sabinus just after the revolt of the Jews against Archelaus. Remember this:

But after Archelaus was sailed for Rome, and Varus was removed to Antioch, Sabinus went to Jerusalem, and seized on the king's palace.
Since Nicolaus of Damascus had also sailed with the Herodian party, Josephus is free to invent things. The opening line of the following refers to the debate over the inheritance going on in Rome and we hear that there was a revolt that Varus had already settled before leaving:

Book 17, Chapter 10: 1. But before these things could be brought to a settlement, Malthace, Archelaus's mother, fell into a distemper, and died of it; and letters came from Varus, the president of Syria, which informed Caesar of the revolt of the Jews; for after Archelaus was sailed, the whole nation was in a tumult. So Varus, since he was there himself, brought the authors of the disturbance to punishment; and when he had restrained them for the most part from this sedition, which was a great one, he took his journey to Antioch, leaving one legion of his army at Jerusalem to keep the Jews quiet, who were now very fond of innovation. Yet did not this at all avail to put an end to that their sedition; for after Varus was gone away, Sabinus, Caesar's procurator, staid behind, and greatly distressed the Jews, relying on the forces that were left there that they would by their multitude protect him; for he made use of them, and armed them as his guards, thereby so oppressing the Jews, and giving them so great disturbance, that at length they rebelled; for he used force in seizing the citadels, and zealously pressed on the search after the king's money, in order to seize upon it by force, on account of his love of gain and his extraordinary covetousness.
One gets the distinct impression that Josephus is trying to "spread the blame" a bit so as to save face for his Roman masters. Notice that it is Sabinus who is the bad guy acting, for all the world, like the rapacious Varus. I think that if we replaced the name "Sabinus" with "Varus" in the above extract, the entire passage would make a lot more sense. We will come back to Sabinus eventually:

2. But on the approach of pentecost, [50 days after Passover] which is a festival of ours, so called from the days of our forefathers, a great many ten thousands of men got together; nor did they come only to celebrate the festival, but out of their indignation at the madness of Sabinus, and at the injuries he offered them. A great number there was of Galileans, and Idumeans, and many men from Jericho, and others who had passed over the river Jordan, and inhabited those parts. This whole multitude joined themselves to all the rest, and were more zealous than the others in making an assault on Sabinus, in order to be avenged on him; so they parted themselves into three bands, and encamped themselves in the places following:—some of them seized on the hippodrome and of the other two bands, one pitched themselves from the northern part of the temple to the southern, on the east quarter; but the third band held the western part of the city, where the king's palace was. Their work tended entirely to besiege the Romans, and to enclose them on all sides. Now Sabinus was afraid of these men's number, and of their resolution, who had little regard to their lives, but were very desirous not to be overcome, while they thought it a point of puissance to overcome their enemies; so he sent immediately a letter to Varus, and, as he used to do, was very pressing with him, and entreated him to come quickly to his assistance, because the forces he had left were in imminent danger, and would probably, in no long time, be seized upon, and cut to pieces; while he did himself get up to the highest tower of the fortress… So Sabinus gave thence a signal to the Romans to fall upon the Jews, although he did not himself venture so much as to come down … a terrible battle ensued; wherein, though it is true the Romans beat their adversaries, yet were not the Jews daunted in their resolutions, even when they had the sight of that terrible slaughter that was made of them; but they went round about, and got upon those cloisters which encompassed the outer court of the temple, where a great fight was still continued, and they cast stones at the Romans, partly with their hands, and partly with slings, as being much used to those exercises.
Now, it is not unusual that the Jews were slinging stones at the Romans, but remember this from the rebellion against Archelaus that happened just a bit ago:

…so they made an assault upon the soldiers, and came up to them, and stoned the greatest part of them, although some of them ran away wounded, and their captain among them; and when they had thus done, they returned to the sacrifices which were already in their hands.
But this "War of Varus" that we are surely witnessing here. And it seems rather certain that it was occurring in the late Spring/early Summer of 1 BC.

And this sort of fight lasted a great while, till at last the Romans, who were greatly distressed by what was done, set fire to the cloisters so privately, that those that were gotten upon them did not perceive it. This fire being fed by a great deal of combustible matter, caught hold immediately on the roof of the cloisters; so the wood, which was full of pitch and wax, and whose gold was laid on it with wax, yielded to the flame presently, and those vast works, which were of the highest value and esteem, were destroyed utterly, while those that were on the roof unexpectedly perished at the same time; for as the roof tumbled down, some of these men tumbled down with it, and others of them were killed by their enemies who encompassed them. There was a great number more, who, out of despair of saving their lives, and out of astonishment at the misery that surrounded them, did either cast themselves into the fire, or threw themselves upon their swords, and so got out of their misery. But as to those that retired behind the same way by which they ascended, and thereby escaped, they were all killed by the Romans, as being unarmed men, and their courage failing them; their wild fury being now not able to help them, because they were destitute of armor, insomuch that of those that went up to the top of the roof, not one escaped. The Romans also rushed through the fire, where it gave them room so to do, and seized on that treasure where the sacred money was reposited; a great part of which was stolen by the soldiers, and Sabinus got openly four hundred talents.
Sabinus was under siege and the Jewish army of Archelaus (formerly Herod’s army), which was supposed to be supporting the Romans, apparently defected to the rebels. However, 3000 troops under “Rufus and Gratus”, sided with the Romans. (Keep Rufus and Gratus in mind.) It is at this point that Josephus reports:

4. Now at this time there were ten thousand other disorders in Judea, which were like tumults, because a great number put themselves into a warlike posture, either out of hopes of gain to themselves, or out of enmity to the Jews.
He lists and describes a whole crew of messianic contenders and their activities which are fascinating, but not relevant to our goal just here so I omit all that. The main thing is that Varus received the message from Sabinus, and headed out for the war zone. Here we encounter Aretas, keeping in mind that this is supposed to be the same Aretas who later on has the to-do with Antipas that we discussed at the beginning in relation to Paul and his Basket Adventure:

Book 17.10.9. As soon as Varus was once informed of the state of Judea by Sabinus's writing to him, he was afraid for the legion he had left there; so he took the two other legions, [for there were three legions in all belonging to Syria,] and four troops of horsemen, with the several auxiliary forces which either the kings or certain of the tetrarchs afforded him, and made what haste he could to assist those that were then besieged in Judea. He also gave order that all that were sent out for this expedition, should make haste to Ptolemais. The citizens of Berytus also gave him fifteen hundred auxiliaries as he passed through their city. Aretas also, the king of Arabia Petrea, out of his hatred to Herod, and in order to purchase the favor of the Romans, sent him no small assistance, besides their footmen and horsemen; and when he had now collected all his forces together, he committed part of them to his son, and to a friend of his, and sent them upon an expedition into Galilee, which lies in the neighborhood of Ptolemais; who made an attack upon the enemy, and put them to flight, and took Sepphoris, and made its inhabitants slaves, and burnt the city.

But Varus himself pursued his march for Samaria with his whole army; yet did not he meddle with the city of that name, because it had not at all joined with the seditious; but pitched his camp at a certain village that belonged to Ptolemy, whose name was Arus, which the Arabians burnt, out of their hatred to Herod, and out of the enmity they bore to his friends; whence they marched to another village, whose name was Sampho, which the Arabians plundered and burnt, although it was a fortified and a strong place; and all along this march nothing escaped them, but all places were full of fire and of slaughter.
One wonders, naturally, whether this early “invasion” of Aretas, at the invitation of the Romans, was the inspiration for Josephus' novelized version in respect of Antipas, Herodias, and Vitellius? In any event, continuing to read about the events of this war one realizes that it really was quite a rebellion though Josephus has shifted the responsibility for starting it from Varus to Archelaus and Sabinus.

Emmaus was also burnt by Varus's order, after its inhabitants had deserted it, that he might avenge those that had there been destroyed. From thence he now marched to Jerusalem; whereupon those Jews whose camp lay there, and who had besieged the Roman legion, not bearing the coming of this army, left the siege imperfect: but as to the Jerusalem Jews, when Varus reproached them bitterly for what had been done, they cleared themselves of the accusation, and alleged that the conflux of the people was occasioned by the feast; that the war was not made with their approbation, but by the rashness of the strangers, while they were on the side of the Romans, and besieged together with them, rather than having any inclination to besiege them. There also came beforehand to meet Varus, Joseph, the cousin-german of king Herod, as also Gratus and Rufus, who brought their soldiers along with them, together with those Romans who had been besieged; but Sabinus did not come into Varus's presence, but stole out of the city privately, and went to the sea-side.
What a handy way to get rid of Sabinus and send him off into obscurity with the loot when, in all likelihood, it was Varus who got the lion's share of the plunder!

10. Upon this, Varus sent a part of his army into the country, to seek out those that had been the authors of the revolt; and when they were discovered, he punished some of them that were most guilty, and some he dismissed: now the number of those that were crucified on this account were two thousand. After which he disbanded his army, which he found no way useful to him in the affairs he came about; for they behaved themselves very disorderly, and disobeyed his orders, and what Varus desired them to do, and this out of regard to that gain which they made by the mischief they did.

As for himself, when he was informed that ten thousand Jews had gotten together, he made haste to catch them; but they did not proceed so far as to fight him, but, by the advice of Achiabus , they came together, and delivered themselves up to him: hereupon Varus forgave the crime of revolting to the multitude, but sent their several commanders to Caesar, many of whom Caesar dismissed; but for the several relations of Herod who had been among these men in this war, they were the only persons whom he punished, who, without the least regard to justice, fought against their own kindred.
The likelihood of the above whitewash of Varus and this rebellion actually being historical as Josephus has written it is vanishingly remote to anyone who has a good general grasp of how the Empire operated at the time.

Here is where we come to something rather puzzling, or so it seems to me. In Wars, Josephus says:

Book II, Chapter 6:
1. But now came another accusation from the Jews against Archelaus at Rome, which he was to answer to. It was made by those ambassadors who, before the revolt, had come, by Varus's permission, to plead for the liberty of their country; those that came were fifty in number, but there were more than eight thousand of the Jews at Rome who supported them.
In rather lurid terms, these ambassadors pleaded to have their country joined to Syria and give them a Roman governor. They wanted no part of Archelaus. Nicolaus of Damascus defended the Herodian kingship and Archelaus. Here we have something of a doublet. 1) the argumentation that was said to have taken place between Archelaus and Antipas for possession of the kingdom according to the two wills of Herod the Great and 2) the argumentation of the Jewish embassy pleading for a governor.

Which really happened? And if both happend (doubtful), when?

Notice that the text says these ambassadors came before the revolt, yet we are to understand that there was already a revolt in progress just before Archelaus left, and immediately after, and all due to the nastiness of the Roman governor. So, if that is the case, why would the Jews want a Roman governor?

You see how Josephus blows smoke?

In any event, the result of this was:

Wars II, 6.3. So Caesar, after he had heard both sides, dissolved the assembly for that time; but a few days afterward, he gave the one half of Herod's kingdom to Archelaus, by the name of Ethnarch, and promised to make him king also afterward, if he rendered himself worthy of that dignity. But as to the other half, he divided it into two tetrarchies, and gave them to two other sons of Herod, the one of them to Philip, and the other to that Antipas who contested the kingdom with Archelaus. Under this last was Perea and Galilee… but Batanea, and Trachonitis, and Auranitis, and certain parts of Zeno's house about Jamnia… were made subject to Philip; while Idumea, and all Judea, and Samaria were parts of the ethnarchy of Archelaus, although Samaria was eased of one quarter of its taxes, out of regard to their not having revolted with the rest of the nation. He also made subject to him the following cities, viz. Strato's Tower, and Sebaste, and Joppa, and Jerusalem; but as to the Grecian cities, Gaza, and Gadara, and Hippos, he cut them off from the kingdom, and added them to Syria. … Salome also, besides what the king had left her in his testaments, was now made mistress of Jamnia, and Ashdod, and Phasaelis. Caesar did moreover bestow upon her the royal palace of Ascalon… but he put her house under the ethnarchy of Archelaus. And for the rest of Herod's offspring, they received what was bequeathed to them in his testaments
There is some issue here in considering the terms "Ethnarch" and "Tetrarch". The word Tetrarch suggests four rulers ("ruler of a quarter"); however Josephus, in the context of describing Herod’s legacy, only mentions three. He refers to Archelaus, who had "one half of that which had been subject to Herod", and for Philip and Antipas "the other half, divided into two parts" so something is definitely wrong with this picture. Here I'm going to do something that, as a general rule, I do NOT do: bring in a testimony from one of the gospels: Luke refers to Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene ( a small realm on the western slopes of Mount Hermon), in his list of rulers at the time of John the Baptist, alongside Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, and Philip. (Luke 3:1) Since it is rather certain that Luke used Josephus as one of his sources, this may be a clue as to what the text of Antiquities said before some slight, but effective, editing took place.

According to Josephus the emperor Claudius in 42 AD confirmed Agrippa I in the possession of Abila of Lysanias already bestowed upon him by Caligula, which had formed the tetrarchy of Lysanias:

"He added to it the kingdom of Lysanias, and that province of Abilene" (War 2, 12:8 and Ant. xix.5, 1)
In support of the excerpt from Luke, and the only reason I decided to use it, there is a temple inscription found at Abila, naming Lysanias as the Tetrarch of the locality and is dated to the reigns of either Augustus or Tiberius so there is a good likelihood of the Tetrarchy actually being exactly that: four rulers of more or less Ethnarchic authority.

In any event, all of the above is a whole lot of goings-on in Judea while Archelaus and the gang were dancing attendance on Augustus. And notice, particularly, Archelaus was NOT really put in charge of things as one might be given to believe, but that in fact, the kingdom WAS put under the ultimate oversight of the Syrian provincial governor whoever that might be.

And finally, all of this was settled and set in motion at the end of 1 BC and early 1 AD, not three years earlier.


FOTCM Member
Now, let’s look at Josephus’ two versions of the ethnarchy of Archelaus:

Wars II.7 3. And now Archelaus took possession of his ethnarchy, and used not the Jews only, but the Samaritans also, barbarously; and this out of his resentment of their old quarrels with him. Whereupon they both of them sent ambassadors against him to Caesar; and in the ninth year of his government he was banished to Vienna, a city of Gaul, and his effects were put into Caesar's treasury. But the report goes, that before he was sent for by Caesar, he seemed to see nine ears of corn, full and large, but devoured by oxen. When, therefore, he had sent for the diviners, and some of the Chaldeans, and inquired of them what they thought it portended; and when one of them had one interpretation, and another had another, Simon, one of the sect of Essenes, said that he thought the ears of corn denoted years, and the oxen denoted a mutation of things, because by their ploughing they made an alteration of the country. That therefore he should reign as many years as there were ears of corn; and after he had passed through various alterations of fortune, should die. Now five days after Archelaus had heard this interpretation he was called to his trial.

4. I cannot also but think it worthy to be recorded what dream Glaphyra, the daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia, had, who had at first been wife to Alexander, who was the brother of Archelaus, concerning whom we have been discoursing. This Alexander was the son of Herod the king, by whom he was put to death, as we have already related. This Glaphyra was married, after his death, to Juba, king of Libya; and, after his death, was returned home, and lived a widow with her father. Then it was that Archelaus, the ethnarch, saw her, and fell so deeply in love with her, that he divorced Mariamne, who was then his wife, and married her. When, therefore, she was come into Judea, and had been there for a little while, she thought she saw Alexander stand by her, and that he said to her; "Thy marriage with the king of Libya might have been sufficient for thee; but thou wast not contented with him, but art returned again to my family, to a third husband; and him, thou impudent woman, hast thou chosen for thine husband, who is my brother. However, I shall not overlook the injury thou hast offered me; I shall [soon] have thee again, whether thou wilt or no." Now Glaphyra hardly survived the narration of this dream of hers two days.
It's not hard to see the model of the dream of the pharaoh of Egypt interpreted by Joseph in Genesis 41 as the basis of the first part of this passage. The version of the story in Antiquities is longer:

Antiquities 17.13 1. When Archelaus was entered on his ethnarchy, and was come into Judea, he accused Joazar, the son of Boethus, of assisting the seditious, and took away the high priesthood from him, and put Eleazar his brother in his place. He also magnificently rebuilt the royal palace that had been at Jericho, and he diverted half the water with which the village of Neara used to be watered, and drew off that water into the plain, to water those palm trees which he had there planted: he also built a village, and put his own name upon it, and called it Archelaus. Moreover, he transgressed the law of our fathers and married Glaphyra, the daughter of Archelaus, who had been the wife of his brother Alexander, which Alexander had three children by her, while it was a thing detestable among the Jews to marry the brother's wife. Nor did this Eleazar abide long in the high priesthood, Jesus, the son of Sie, being put in his room while he was still living.

2. But in the tenth year of Archelaus's government, both his brethren, and the principal men of Judea and Samaria, not being able to bear his barbarous and tyrannical usage of them, accused him before Caesar, and that especially because they knew he had broken the commands of Caesar, which obliged him to behave himself with moderation among them. Whereupon Caesar, when he heard it, was very angry, and called for Archelaus's steward, who took care of his affairs at Rome, and whose name was Archelaus also; and thinking it beneath him to write to Archelaus, he bid him sail away as soon as possible, and bring him to us: so the man made haste in his voyage, and when he came into Judea, he found Archelaus feasting with his friends; so he told him what Caesar had sent him about, and hastened him away. And when he was come [to Rome], Caesar, upon hearing what certain accusers of his had to say, and what reply he could make, both banished him, and appointed Vienna, a city of Gaul, to be the place of his habitation, and took his money away from him.

3. Now, before Archelaus was gone up to Rome upon this message, he related this dream to his friends: That he saw ears of corn, in number ten, full of wheat, perfectly ripe, which ears, as it seemed to him, were devoured by oxen. And when he was awake and gotten up, because the vision appeared to be of great importance to him, he sent for the diviners, whose study was employed about dreams. And while some were of one opinion, and some of another, [for all their interpretations did not agree,] Simon, a man of the sect of the Essenes, desired leave to speak his mind freely, and said that the vision denoted a change in the affairs of Archelaus, and that not for the better; that oxen, because that animal takes uneasy pains in his labors, denoted afflictions, and indeed denoted, further, a change of affairs, because that land which is ploughed by oxen cannot remain in its former state; and that the ears of corn being ten, determined the like number of years, because an ear of corn grows in one year; and that the time of Archelaus's government was over. And thus did this man expound the dream. Now on the fifth day after this dream came first to Archelaus, the other Archelaus, that was sent to Judea by Caesar to call him away, came hither also.

4. The like accident befell Glaphyra his wife, who was the daughter of king Archelaus, who, as I said before, was married, while she was a virgin, to Alexander, the son of Herod, and brother of Archelaus; but since it fell out so that Alexander was slain by his father, she was married to Juba, the king of Lybia; and when he was dead, and she lived in widowhood in Cappadocia with her father, Archelaus divorced his former wife Mariamne, and married her, so great was his affection for this Glphyra; who, during her marriage to him, saw the following dream: She thought she saw Alexander standing by her, at which she rejoiced, and embraced him with great affection; but that he complained to her, and said, O Glaphyra! thou provest that saying to be true, which assures us that women are not to be trusted. Didst not thou pledge thy faith to me? and wast not thou married to me when thou wast a virgin? and had we not children between us? Yet hast thou forgotten the affection I bare to thee, out of a desire of a second husband. Nor hast thou been satisfied with that injury thou didst me, but thou hast been so bold as to procure thee a third husband to lie by thee, and in an indecent and imprudent manner hast entered into my house, and hast been married to Archelaus, thy husband and my brother. However, I will not forget thy former kind affection for me, but will set thee free from every such reproachful action, and cause thee to be mine again, as thou once wast. When she had related this to her female companions, in a few days' time she departed this life.
As you can see, the version in Antiquities is somewhat elaborated with many details and flourishes. The number of years increased (by only one, so we won't quibble over it but assume that Wars is the correct version), the detail of the replacement of the high priest, the threatening tone of the Glaphyra story in Wars is softened in Antiquities, etc. The building projects are added as well as the bringing of water from a distant source to water palm trees.

On the matter of the high priest, recall that the people petitioned Archelaus at the very beginning to give them back an acceptable high priest and Josephus said he did. Let’s review a couple of details quickly:

Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6: [Herod the Great] deprived Matthias of the high priesthood, as in part an occasion of this action, and made Joazar, who was Matthias's wife's brother, high priest in his stead.
Josephus then goes off on a tale about the holiness of Matthias who Herod deprived of the position of high priest.

Now it happened, that during the time of the high priesthood of this Matthias, there was another person made high priest for a single day, that very day which the Jews observed as a fast. The occasion was this: This Matthias the high priest, on the night before that day when the fast was to be celebrated, seemed, in a dream, 7 to have conversation with his wife; and because he could not officiate himself on that account, Joseph, the son of Ellemus, his kinsman, assisted him in that sacred office.
Then he comes back to the immediate concern which is the burning of the Golden Eagle Rebellion rabbis and their followers:

But Herod deprived this Matthias of the high priesthood, and burnt the other Matthias, who had raised the sedition, with his companions, alive. And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon. […]
One surely gets the impression that Josephus "protests too much" that there are two Matthiases. But there may be more. Martin points out that the Megillath Taanith (Scroll of Fasting which records festivals, etc), which was composed not long after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, mentions two semi-festival days during which no mourning was permitted. One of the days is Kislev 7 which corresponds in most years with December. The other was Schebat 2 which corresponds with late January or early February. An early Jewish commentator who wrote quite some time after the composition of this text added a brief remark to Kislev 7 (December 5th in 1 BC) "The day of Herod's death." This has been disputed by Moise Schwab who says that Schebat 2 (January 28 in 1 BC) ws the day commemorating Herod's death which, in the retrocalculations; that is, Herod's death on January 28th would put it exactly 18 days after the lunar eclipse of that year. But what about Kislev 7, which the early commentator associated with Herod's death? It appears that this date may have been the day of the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing. Such an event may very well have inspired a commemoration especially if we keep in mind Josephus' description of the men involved:

Judas, the son of Saripheus, and Matthias, the son of Margalothus, two of the most eloquent men among the Jews, and the most celebrated interpreters of the Jewish laws, and men well beloved by the people, because of their education of their youth; for all those that were studious of virtue frequented their lectures every day.
And hasn't Matthias the high priest also been described by Josephus as a man of extraordinary virtue? And didn't Herod take the rabbis captive, along with the youths who followed them, and transferred them to Jericho where they were tried and executed? Why was he afraid to do this in Jerusalem?

The Megillath Taanith records an unknown fast day, Tebeth 9 (January 6th in 1 BC). Martin proposes that this was the day of the trial and sentencing after which, three days later, on January 9th, the rabbis were burned alive on the night of the eclipse.

Chapter 9: The people assembled together, and desired of Archelaus, that, in way of revenge on their account, he would inflict punishment on those who had been honored by Herod; and that, in the first and principal place, he would deprive that high priest whom Herod had made, and would choose one more agreeable to the law, and of greater purity, to officiate as high priest. This was granted by Archelaus, although he was mightily offended at their importunity, because he proposed to himself to go to Rome immediately…
And now, Book 17.13:

1. When Archelaus was entered on his ethnarchy, and was come into Judea, he accused Joazar, the son of Boethus, of assisting the seditious, and took away the high priesthood from him, and put Eleazar his brother in his place.
So, we have Matthias who may actually have been the same Matthias who was one of the leaders of the Golden Eagle rebellion being deprived of the priesthood and Joazar – Matthias’ brother-in-law - installed by Herod the Great. Then, some unnamed high priest demanded by the people replaces Joazar, and then, suddenly we learn that it is Joazar who was high priest during the rebellion all along and is NOW being replaced with an Eleazar who is the brother of Joazar? I guess that makes Eleazar also a brother of Matthias’ wife. One feels just a bit vertiginous with all these high priests under the shells being moved about.

Nor did this Eleazar abide long in the high priesthood, Jesus, the son of Sie, being put in his place while he was still living. (17.13.341)
I don't want to digress onto the problem of the various Jesuses mentioned by Josephus in both Antiquties and Wars, just note that there is not another mention of anyone named "Sie" anywhere else in the texts though there were other Jesuses who were high priests and some of them, in Wars, were implicated in the Great Rebellion.

Apparently, when a high priest was appointed, custom had it that he normally stayed in the office until he died. Josephus tells us regarding Herod the Great's first act of this kind:

Book XV, Chapter 3, 1. So king Herod immediately took the high priesthood away from Ananelus… He was one of the stock of the high priests and had been of old a particular friend of Herod; and when he was first made king, he conferred that dignity upon him, and now put him out of it again, in order to quiet the troubles in his family, though what he did was plainly unlawful, for at no other time [of old] was any one that had once been in that dignity deprived of it. It was Antiochus Epiphanes who first brake that law, and deprived Jesus, and made his brother Onias high priest in his stead. Aristobulus was the second that did so, and took that dignity from his brother [Hyrcanus]; and this Herod was the third, who took that high office away [from Ananelus], and gave it to this young man, Aristobulus, in his stead.
Now, back to Archelaus who, as Josephus tells us in Antiquities, has undertaken magnificent building projects including "he diverted half the water with which the village of Neara used to be watered, and drew off that water into the plain, to water those palm trees which he had there planted" (17.340). Next we have Archelaus marrying his brother's widow, having a dream interpreted by Simon the Essene, five days after which the “other Archelaus” finds him and hauls him off to Augustus and exile.

Glaphyra then has a dream and "a few days" later she dies. This was "in the tenth year of Archelaus's government." Archelaus is exiled to Gaul. (17.342) It was the ninth year in Wars.

Now, there is something odd about Josephus’ tale of Archelaus. In Wars, he tells much the same story about the trip to Rome, the legal arguments about who gets what from the will of Herod the Great, the decision made, etc. So, since this is in Wars, we can assume that it is mostly historical. But then, when we come to the Varus War that apparently had gotten underway in Archelaus’ absence, we find a number of interesting items:

Book II, Chapter 3.1. Now before Caesar had determined any thing about these affairs.... Letters also were brought out of Syria from Varus, about a revolt of the Jews. […]
We are told that the revolt has begun while Archelaus and the family are dangling attendance on Augustus. The following description of the war appears as though it is part of the report of Varus:

4. ... There were also a great many of the king's party who deserted the Romans, and assisted the Jews; yet did the most warlike body of them all, who were three thousand of the men of Sebaste, go over to the Romans. Rufus also, and Gratus, their captains, did the same, [Gratus having the foot of the king's party under him, and Rufus the horse,] each of whom, even without the forces under them, were of great weight, on account of their strength and wisdom, which turn the scales in war. ....
Apparently, Herod's army that had devolved onto Archelaus deserted to the rebel side. However, here we meet the famous Rufus and Gratus, captains of the men of Sebaste.

Chapter 41. At this time there were great disturbances in the country, and that in many places; and the opportunity that now offered itself induced a great many to set up for kings. And indeed in Idumea two thousand of Herod's veteran soldiers got together, and armed and fought against those of the king's party; against whom Achiabus, the king's first cousin, fought, and that out of some of the places that were the most strongly fortified; but so as to avoid a direct conflict with them in the plains.
The above is just a little confusing; it seems to say that two thousand of Herod's soldiers rebelled and fought against the "king's party", i.e. Archelaus, and Achiabus, Archelaus' cousin fought against them.

In Sepphoris also, a city of Galilee, there was one Judas [the son of that arch-robber Hezekias, who formerly overran the country, and had been subdued by king Herod]; this man got no small multitude together, and brake open the place where the royal armor was laid up, and armed those about him, and attacked those that were so earnest to gain the dominion.
Now, one is oddly reminded of "Judas, the son of Saripheus" when we encounter Judas of Sepphoris. In fact, in Wars, when the story of Judas and Matthias is told, we read:

Wars, Book 1, chapter 33. There also now happened to him, among his other calamities, a certain popular sedition. There were two men of learning in the city [Jerusalem,] who were thought the most skillful in the laws of their country, and were on that account had in very great esteem all over the nation; they were, the one Judas, the son of Sepphoris, and the other Matthias, the son of Margalus. There was a great concourse of the young men to these men when they expounded the laws, and there got together every day a kind of an army of such as were growing up to be men.
So, clearly, the Judas of the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing was NOT burnt alive along with his pal, Matthias. However, we are a bit puzzled to find Judas of Sepphoris being said to be the son of "that arch-robber Hezekias" who, according to Antiquities 14.159-60, had been executed by Herod forty-five years earlier. In Ant. 17.271, this same Hezekias is called "Ezekias."

5. There was also Judas, the son of that Ezekias who had been head of the robbers; which Ezekias was a very strong man, and had with great difficulty been caught by Herod. This Judas, having gotten together a multitude of men of a profligate character about Sepphoris in Galilee, made an assault upon the palace [there,] and seized upon all the weapons that were laid up in it, and with them armed every one of those that were with him, and carried away what money was left there; and he became terrible to all men, by tearing and rending those that came near him; and all this in order to raise himself, and out of an ambitious desire of the royal dignity; and he hoped to obtain that as the reward not of his virtuous skill in war, but of his extravagance in doing injuries.
We will see a son of Judas of Sepphoris/Galilee who does a similar deed in respect of Masada many years further on. There are so many interesting threads to follow that it is difficult to stay on course here. The point I wish to make, repeatedly, is we must be extremely cautious about extracting any historical facts from the works of Josephus!

2. In Perea also, Simon, one of the servants to the king, relying upon the handsome appearance and tallness of his body, put a diadem upon his own head also; he also went about with a company of robbers that he had gotten together, and burnt down the royal palace that was at Jericho, and many other costly edifices besides, and procured himself very easily spoils by rapine, as snatching them out of the fire. And he had soon burnt down all the fine edifices, if Gratus, the captain of the foot of the king's party, had not taken the Trachonite archers, and the most warlike of Sebaste, and met the man. His footmen were slain in the battle in abundance; Gratus also cut to pieces Simon himself, as he was flying along a strait valley, when he gave him an oblique stroke upon his neck, as he ran away, and brake it.
This Simon of Perea is the subject of discussion in Israel Knohl's book "Messiahs and Resurrection in the Gabriel Revelation". Gabriel's Revelation, also called Hazon Gabriel (the Vision of Gabriel) or the Jeselsohn Stone, is a three-foot-tall stone tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew text written in ink, containing a collection of short prophecies written in the first person and dated to the late 1st century BC. The unprovenanced tablet was found near the Dead Sea some time around the year 2000 and has been associated with the same community which created the Dead Sea scrolls. Knohl, an expert in Talmudic and biblical language at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, read in line 80 of the inscription a command from the angel Gabriel "to rise from the dead within three days". Because the manner of death of the individual is described in the text, and rather closely matches that of Josephus' description of the death of Simon of Perea, Knohl suggested that this command was directed at Simon. Knohl believed that the finding "calls for a complete reassessment of all previous scholarship on the subject of messianism, Jewish and Christian alike".

The point I would like to make about this connection is that there is certainly more to this rebellion than Josephus lets on and he is very, very busy obfuscating who was who and connected to who else and why. With that in mind, let's look at the next "messianic king" that Josephus mentions:

3. At this time it was that a certain shepherd ventured to set himself up for a king; he was called Athrongeus. It was his strength of body that made him expect such a dignity, as well as his soul, which despised death; and besides these qualifications, he had four brethren like himself. He put a troop of armed men under each of these his brethren, and made use of them as his generals and commanders, when he made his incursions, while he did himself act like a king, and meddled only with the more important affairs; and at this time he put a diadem about his head, and continued after that to overrun the country for no little time with his brethren, and became their leader in killing both the Romans and those of the king's party; nor did any Jew escape him, if any gain could accrue to him thereby. He once ventured to encompass a whole troop of Romans at Emmaus, who were carrying corn and weapons to their legion; his men therefore shot their arrows and darts, and thereby slew their centurion Arius, and forty of the stoutest of his men, while the rest of them, who were in danger of the same fate, upon the coming of Gratus, with those of Sebaste, to their assistance, escaped. And when these men had thus served both their own countrymen and foreigners, and that through this whole war, three of them were, after some time, subdued; the eldest by Archelaus, the two next by falling into the hands of Gratus and Ptolemeus; but the fourth delivered himself up to Archelaus, upon his giving him his right hand for his security. However, this their end was not till afterward, while at present they filled all Judea with a piratic war. (Wars)
The version in Antiquities is more elaborate, but says basically the same things; there is a slight change in the spelling of the name: Athronges. About this fellow's name, we are told:

Rapoport has explained the name "Athronges" by the Hebraized Persian word "orange," or "melon" (see Fleischer in Levy, "Neuhebr. Wörterb." i. 77), and identified it with Ben Baṭiaḥ, "Son of the Cucumber" (that is, like a cucumber), the popular hero, the size of whose fist has become proverbial in ancient rabbinical literature (Kelim xvii. 12; Tosef., Kelim, B. M. vii. 2); the form of his hand having, as Rapoport thinks, given rise to both terms. At a later time, legend identified him with the leader of the insurrection, Abba Saḳḳara, the nephew of Johanan ben Zakkai. ( Richard Gottheil, Kaufmann Kohler, Jewish Encyclopedia, online)
Curiously, Josephus doesn't associate this Athronges/Athrongeus with any particular location. We notice his four brothers. We also notice, particularly, that he was apparently brought to heel by Archelaus though this was "afterward" and that Archelaus let him go. Then it is noted that "their end was not until afterward..." so perhaps this Anhronges shows up again? I think so, and it was after Archelaus was exiled:

Wars, Book II, Chapter 8 1. And now Archelaus's part of Judea was reduced into a province, and Coponius, one of the equestrian order among the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power of [life and] death put into his hands by Caesar. Under his administration it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt, and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans and would after God submit to mortal men as their lords. This man was a teacher of a peculiar sect of his own, and was not at all like the rest of those their leaders. […]
We notice in Josephus' description of the "Fourth Philosophy" of Judas the Galilean:

Ant. Book XVIII, Chapter 1.1 .... for Judas and Sadduc, who excited a fourth philosophic sect among us, and had a great many followers therein, filled our civil government with tumults at present, and laid the foundations of our future miseries, by this system of philosophy, which we were before unacquainted withal, concerning which I will discourse a little, and this the rather because the infection which spread thence among the younger sort, who were zealous for it, brought the public to destruction. ... Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord. And since this immovable resolution of theirs is well known to a great many, I shall speak no further about that matter; nor am I afraid that any thing I have said of them should be disbelieved, but rather fear, that what I have said is beneath the resolution they show when they undergo pain.
Notice what Josephus had written about Athronges/Athrongeus: "his soul, which despised death..." It is easy to see how Judas of Sepphoris/the Galilean could have been conflated with a legendary strong man "the size of whose fist has become proverbial in ancient rabbinical literature". We should also recall the descriptions of the teachings given by Matthias and Judas to the young men who were tasked with the Golden Eagle Rebellion, that it was a good thing to die in the service of their god. Judas the Galilean is certainly Judas the great teacher of the Golden Eagle Rebellion and, probably, Athronges/Athrongeus who, along with his four brothers, was captured by Archelaus and subsequently let go since it is not said that they were killed, which is surprising.

Ant. Book XVII, Chapter 10.7 ...Yet were they afterwards subdued; one of them in a fight with Gratus, another with Ptolemy; Archelaus also took the eldest of them prisoner; while the last of them was so dejected at the other's misfortune, and saw so plainly that he had no way now left to save himself, his army being worn away with sickness and continual labors, that he also delivered himself up to Archelaus, upon his promise and oath to God [to preserve his life.] But these things came to pass a good while afterward.
Coming back now to Cyrenius and Coponius, Josephus tells us a lot more about Cyrenius/Quirinius than he ever told us about Varus and Sabinus and that seems to be odd. But then, we do have more background on Quirinius in Tacitus than on Varus. But he notes here that, despite the fact that Coponius has the authority "Cyrenius came himself into Judea..." So, it plays again along the same model that was set by Varus and Sabinus after the death of Herod the Great, only ostensibly 9 years later, (6 AD without the adjustment of the date of the eclipse, 9 AD with the adjustment.)

We have established that Archelaus embarked upon his rule of his ethnarchy probably in 1 AD and that his reign lasted (most likely) 9 years, so he was exiled in 9 AD. It strikes me as curious that the same year Archelaus was exiled to Vienna, Varus and three Roman legions were destroyed in the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest by an anti-Roman alliance that was led by Arminius, who had acquired Roman citizenship and received a Roman military education.

In Wars, the period following the exile of Archelaus is covered very briefly. Above, in Chapter 8 of Wars, we saw that "Coponius, one of the equestrian order among the Romans, was sent as a procurator" and immediately faced the rebellion against taxation led by Judas the Galilean.

Apparently, while that was going on:

Wars, Book II, Chapter 9 1. And now as the ethnarchy of Archelaus was fallen into a Roman province, the other sons of Herod, Philip, and that Herod who was called Antipas, each of them took upon them the administration of their own tetrarchies; for when Salome died, she bequeathed to Julia, the wife of Augustus, both her toparchy, and Jamriga, as also her plantation of palm trees that were in Phasaelis. But when the Roman empire was translated to Tiberius, the son of Julia, upon the death of Augustus, who had reigned fifty-seven years, six months, and two days, both Herod and Philip continued in their tetrarchies; and the latter of them built the city Cesarea, at the fountains of Jordan, and in the region of Paneas; as also the city Julias, in the lower Gaulonitis. Herod also built the city Tiberius in Galilee, and in Perea [beyond Jordan] another that was also called Julias.

2. Now Pilate, who was sent as procurator into Judea by Tiberius...
It is obvious that Josephus intends us to understand that, following Coponius, Pilate is the next procurator. That would fit with the general tendency of things thus far. From 9 AD until the death of Augustus in 14, Coponius was procurator, replaced by Pilate upon the ascension of Tiberius. That would put Pilate in Judea in 14/15 AD.


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However, things are a bit more complex in Antiquities. When Archelaus is exiled, we are introduced right away to "Cyrenius" who is not mentioned at this point in Wars:

Ant. Book XVII, Chapter 13.5 … So Archelaus's country was laid to the province of Syria; and Cyrenius, one that had been consul, was sent by Caesar to take account of people's effects in Syria, and to sell the house of Archelaus.
It almost sounds like the strictly fiscal role of Sabinus after the death of Herod the Great. However, Josephus expands things a bit further on:

Ant. Book XVIII, Chapter 1. 1. Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator, and one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to be a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance. Coponius also, a man of the equestrian order, was sent together with him, to have the supreme power over the Jews. Moreover, Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus's money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it, by the persuasion of Joazar, who was the son of Boethus, and high priest; so they, being over-persuaded by Joazar's words, gave an account of their estates, without any dispute about it.
"Cyrenius" is Publius Sulpicius Quirinius. He was consul in 12 BC, when he was 39, so he would have been 60 years old when he came to Syria in 9 AD after the exile of Archelaus. That is a bit odd. At that age, he should be retired. Apparently, Quirinius served as governor of Syria with nominal authority over Iudaea until 12 AD, when he returned to Rome as a close associate of Tiberius. Nine years later he died and was given a public funeral. Searching through Wars, we find two references to Cyrenius/Quirinius, both of which mention Judas the Galilean:

Wars Book II, Chapter 17.8. In the meantime, one Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean, [who was a very cunning sophister, and had formerly reproached the Jews under Cyrenius, that after God they were subject to the Romans,] took some of the men of note with him, and retired to Masada, where he broke open king Herod's armory, and gave arms not only to his own people, but to other robbers also. These he made use of for a guard, and returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem...
In Antiquities, there is a Manahem who is an Essene and acquainted with Herod the Great but no mention of a Manaham, son of Judas the Galilean. (15.10.5) Two other sons of Judas are mentioned in Antiquities:

Ant. XX, Chapter 5. ... 2. Then came Tiberius Alexander as successor to Fadus... the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have showed in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified.
The way Josephus writes this is as though there were no other sons but we know he had another who shows up at Masada at the beginning of the Great Rebellion as we will see below. Tiberius Alexander was procurator of Judea under Claudius, from 46 to 48. That puts him there in the period of Paul. In Acts 12:2, the story about James, the brother of John, being executed and Peter seized, was probably inspired by this passage in Josephus.

The next reference to Cyrenius in Wars is just prior to the siege of Masada in 73 AD conducted by Lucius Flavius Silva and the Roman legion X Fretensis.

Book VII, Chapter 8.11. When Bassus was dead in Judea, Flavius Silva succeeded him as procurator there; who, when he saw that all the rest of the country was subdued in this war, and that there was but one only strong hold that was still in rebellion, he got all his army together that lay in different places, and made an expedition against it. This fortress was called Masada. It was one Eleazar, a potent man, and the commander of these Sicarii, that had seized upon it. He was a descendant from that Judas who had persuaded abundance of the Jews, as we have formerly related, not to submit to the taxation when Cyrenius was sent into Judea to make one....
"Descendant"? Does that mean grandson? One of the sons of the sons of Judas executed 25 years earlier? Or was he, too, a son exactly as Manaham was said to have been?

Since Josephus regularly refers to Judas the Galilean as the initiator of the revolt against the tax census of Cyrenius/Quirinius, it is clear that this is the same person as the following:

Ant. XVIII, Chapter 1. .... Yet was there one Judas, a Gaulonite, 1 of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty... They also said that God would not otherwise be assisting to them, than upon their joining with one another in such councils as might be successful, and for their own advantage; and this especially, if they would set about great exploits, and not grow weary in executing the same; so men received what they said with pleasure, and this bold attempt proceeded to a great height. All sorts of misfortunes also sprang from these men, and the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree; one violent war came upon us after another, ... for Judas and Sadduc, who excited a fourth philosophic sect among us, and had a great many followers therein, filled our civil government with tumults at present, and laid the foundations of our future miseries, by this system of philosophy, which we were before unacquainted withal, concerning which I will discourse a little, and this the rather because the infection which spread thence among the younger sort, who were zealous for it, brought the public to destruction.
So, we have had a "War of Varus" in 1 BC/AD immediately following the death of Herod the Great, possibly triggered by the actions of Archelaus and Sabinus. We have Judas the Galilean who seems to be the same Judas of Sepphoris who was the great expounder of the law who encouraged the Golden Eagle Rebellion that led to, at the very least, the execution of a group of young Jews and possibly one of their teachers, Matthias, who we don't find showing up again as we do find Judas.

Josephus tells us a lot more about Cyrenius/Quirinius than he ever told us about Varus and Sabinus and that seems to be odd. But then, we do have more background on Quirinius in Tacitus than on Varus. But he notes that, despite the fact that Coponius has the authority "Cyrenius came himself into Judea..." So, it plays again along the same model that was set by Varus and Sabinus after the death of Herod the Great, only ostensibly 9 years later.

The 9 year period is very mysterious because, during that time, it seems Archelaus was on the scene and was involved in the capture of the Arthronges gang - and then let them go. I suspect that Arthronges was just a folk name for Judas of Sepphoris/Galilee, the warrior, and he then shows up again as "Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala" creating the same problems for Cyrenius that he had created during the Varus War. (Gamala overlooks the Sea of Galilee and Sepphoris is also nearby.)

Most amazing of all is that Joazar, son of Boethus, reappears as high priest! However, here, instead of fomenting rebellion, he is credited with quelling it. (18.3)

Ant. Book 18. Chapter 2. 1. When Cyrenius had now disposed of Archelaus's money, and when the taxings were come to a conclusion, which were made in the thirty-seventh year of Caesar's victory over Antony at Actium, he deprived Joazar of the high priesthood, which dignity had been conferred on him by the multitude, and he appointed Ananus, the son of Seth, to be high priest; while Herod and Philip had each of them received their own tetrarchy, and settled the affairs thereof. [2 September 31 BC]
Now wait a minute! Our list of priests looks like this:

Joazar son of Boethus, appointed by Herod to replace Matthias
Mystery unnamed priest appointed by Archelaus on the demand of the people?
Joazar, son of Boethus accused by Archelaus of assisting the sedition/war
Eleazar (brother of Joazar) Appointed by Archelaus to replace Joazar
Jesus son of Sie replaced Joazar "while he was still living"

And now we learn that Joazar, the high priest in office at the time of the arrival of Cyrenius/Quirinius was supposed to have been selected by the multitude? That would mean he is the "mystery priest" and that all that business about changing priests is just blowing smoke.

In any event, earlier we saw that Josephus was born in 37 AD, The tetrarch Philip died after reigning 37 years; Herod the Great died 37 years after he was made king by Antony and Octavian (Augustus) and now we have the 37th year of the victory of Octavian over Antony. What if the text originally read “Cyrenius had now disposed of Herod’s money…” and the date was the same as the year Herod died, thirty seven years after he had been made king by Antony? What if the War of Varus was so destructive that it took quite a few years for recovery? Recall the archaeological claim mentioned at the beginning that there was a considerable period of time when Roman pottery disappears from the record. Taken with the oddities reviewed thus far, along with those to come, these numbers are just too coincidental to blithely assume that there is no prestidigitation going on here. The doublet factor that is going to get even worse would suggest that a fake history for the period of Archelaus has been created.

We do know a few things about Cyrenius/Quirinius because he is mentioned by Tacitus: Annales 2.30.4; 3.22.1; 3.48.1. Tacitus briefly recaps his career when his death is mentioned, but never mentions his appointment as governor of Syria which one might expect him to do considering all the things he did mention. Plus, there is the fact that he would have been 60 years old if he was sent to Syria in 9 AD. Even without the eclipse date adjustment of three years, he was still what was considered old in Roman terms. So, on the whole, I suspect that if Cyrenius/Quirinius played this role at all, he did so in conjunction with Varus, that Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was Augustus special tax man and he has been replaced in the tale by Josephus for political reasons. Sabinus may have accompanied him as his legate; and he was there at the time that Varus was governor and the census took place upon the death of Herod, not at the time of the exile of Archelaus because it seems that Archelaus may never have ruled his ethnarchy.

Just like Sabinus and Archelaus Coponius has a set-to with the Jews at Passover, only this time it is attributed to Samaritan issues.

Ant. Book 18.2: As Coponius, who we told you was sent along with Cyrenius, was exercising his office of procurator, and governing Judea, the following accidents happened. As the Jews were celebrating the feast of unleavened bread, which we call the Passover, it was customary for the priests to open the temple-gates just after midnight. When, therefore, those gates were first opened, some of the Samaritans came privately into Jerusalem, and threw about dead men's bodies, in the cloisters; on which account the Jews afterward excluded them out of the temple, which they had not used to do at such festivals; and on other accounts also they watched the temple more carefully than they had formerly done. A little after which accident Coponius returned to Rome, and Marcus Ambivius came to be his successor in that government; under whom Salome, the sister of king Herod died and left to Julia, [Caesar's wife,] Jamnia, all its toparchy, and Phasaelis in the plain, and Arehelais, where is a great plantation of palm trees, and their fruit is excellent in its kind.
Is that the same plantation of palm trees that Archelaus was supposed to have brought water to?

And what is that about dead bodies being scattered around in the temple on Passover? A shadow of the rebellion under Varus Sabinus/Archelaus? A triplet, now?

"After him came Annius Rufus, under whom died Caesar..." (18.32)
From Antiquities, we have a the following list:
Varus and Sabinus
Archelaus, a shadow either 9 or 10 years
Now, Cyrenius/Quirinius and Coponius
Marcus Ambivius (Ambivulus)
Annius Rufus
Death of Augustus AD 14

Then we come to Valerius Gratus who is said to have served from 15 to 26 to be replaced by Pilate which opposes what Josephus says in Wars.

"[Tiberius] sent Valerius Gratus to be procurator of Judea, and to succeed Annius Rufus.
Now, wait a minute. Where have we seen the names Gratus and Rufus juxtaposed before? Remember back during the rebellion against Sabinus that was quelled by Varus helped by Aretas et al? Recall that many of the Herodian army went over to the rebels EXCEPT:

…yet did the most warlike body of them all, who were three thousand of the men of Sebaste, go over to the Romans. Rufus also, and Gratus, their captains, did the same, [Gratus having the foot of the king's party under him, and Rufus the horse,] each of whom, even without the forces under them, were of great weight, on account of their strength and wisdom, which turn the scales in war.
Gratus had a number of adventures in Wars, including chasing down and killing Simon of Perea which may be the event that was recorded in the “Gabriel Revelation” on the Jeselsohn Stone.

A close scrutiny of the text reveals another interesting bit of data from the period of the “Sabinus Rebellion” that left such a mark on the archaeology of Palestine. Antiquities 17.10 which describes a number of messianic figures, all of whom are accused of wanting to be king.

Anyway, getting back to Josephus’ account in Antiquities of the governorship of the highly questionable Gratus who followed the equally highly questionable Annius Rufus as the alleged governor of Judea:

This man deprived Ananus of the high priesthood, and appointed Ismael, the son of Phabi... He also deprived him in a little time, and ordained Eleazar, the son of Ananus, who had been a high priest before, to be high priest; which office when he had held for a year, Gratus deprived him of it, and gave the high priesthood to Simon, the son of Camithus; and when he had possessed that dignity no longer than a year, Joseph Caiaphas was made his successor. When Gratus had done those things, he went back to Rome, after he had waited in Judea eleven years, when Pontius Pilate came as his successor." (18.33-35)
Notice the last bit of text in bold. It would only require a change in the number of years, or the addition of whole sentence about years, to change everything. And it is looking more and more like serious prestidigitation is going on here. Let’s recap our high priests:

• Joazar son of Boethus, brother of Eleazar deposed 9 AD and Ananus put in his place.
• Ananus, son of Seth - Supposed to have been high priest from 9 AD to 15? 5 years more or less?
• Ismael, son of Phabi - "deprived him in a little time" which sounds like months.
• Eleazar, son of Ananus - one year
• Simon son of Camithus - one year
• Joseph Caiphas

Then Gratus departs leaving him in office.

Apparently, neither the alleged Marcus Ambivius nor the putative Annius Rufus saw fit to change the high priests. Or if they did, Josephus makes no remark about it despite the fact that he’s constantly tabulating - or making up - the high priests. (He certainly makes up different characters to paper over Judas the Galilean!) Notice then that Valerius Gratus, however, appointed four in rapid succession.

All of this is very problematical, especially if we recall how it is presented in the possibly more realistic Wars:

II.9:1. And now as the ethnarchy of Archelaus was fallen into a Roman province, the other sons of Herod, Philip, and that Herod who was called Antipas, each of them took upon them the administration of their own tetrarchies; for when Salome died, she bequeathed to Julia, the wife of Augustus, both her toparchy, and Jamnia, as also her plantation of palm trees that were in Phasaelis.

But when the Roman empire was translated to Tiberius, the son of Julia, upon the death of Augustus, who had reigned fifty-seven years, six months, and two days, both Herod and Philip continued in their tetrarchies; and the latter of them built the city Cesarea, at the fountains of Jordan, and in the region of Paneas; as also the city Julias, in the lower Gaulonitis. Herod also built the city Tiberius in Galilee, and in Perea [beyond Jordan] another that was also called Julias.

2. Now Pilate, who was sent as procurator into Judea by Tiberius, sent by night those images of Caesar that are called ensigns into Jerusalem.
Notice that in Wars there is no account of the revolving-door governors and it is more or less matter of fact that when the transfer of the Empire was made on the death of Augustus, a new procurator was sent out by Tiberius; that is, Pontius Pilate.

Along with the arrival of Pilate there are several other events. In Antiquities, Josephus next says (18.39) “About this time died Phraates, king of the Parthians” i.e. 16 AD followed by the first Artabanas drama. (Tacitus, Annales, 2.3 ff. Also: 2.58)

Then, we hear that Silanus is “president” of Syria(18.52). This would have to have been C. Silanus, (cos. 10). None of the other Silanus family prospects would fit during the time of Pilate if it is dated later as the tradition has it, but this one would fit here. Tacitus tells us that this Silanus was arraigned in 22 AD for extortion in the cities of Asia. (Tacitus, Annales, 3.66 and 4.15.3)


At this time died Antiochus, the king of Commagene… so the senate made a decree that Germanicus should be sent to settle the affairs of the east….” (Ant. 18.54)
That would be 18 AD. We also hear that another Silanus is consul in AD 19 along with Norbanus.

The important point of all this is to argue the fact that Pontius Pilate was in Judea a lot earlier than is generally thought to be the case, and he probably was not there for 10 or 11 years. All of the Josephan text of Antiquities - a highly unreliable work when dealing with the period from the end of the histories of Nicolaus of Damascus until Josephus' own time - before and around and after the mention of Pilate relates to the years 16 to 19, at least, possibly 15 to 19.


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According to Philo, Pilate was a nasty piece of work. Josephus agrees more or less, but tends to try to humanize him. The following are two parallel passages about Pilate from Josephus:

Wars II.9 2. Now Pilate, who was sent as procurator into Judea by Tiberius, sent by night those images of Caesar that are called ensigns into Jerusalem. This excited a very great tumult among the Jews when it was day; for those that were near them were astonished at the sight of them, as indications that their laws were trodden under foot; for those laws do not permit any sort of image to be brought into the city. Nay, besides the indignation which the citizens had themselves at this procedure, a vast number of people came running out of the country. These came zealously to Pilate to Cesarea, and besought him to carry those ensigns out of Jerusalem, and to preserve them their ancient laws inviolable; but upon Pilate's denial of their request, they fell down prostrate upon the ground, and continued immovable in that posture for five days and as many nights.

3. On the next day Pilate sat upon his tribunal, in the open market-place, and called to him the multitude, as desirous to give them an answer; and then gave a signal to the soldiers, that they should all by agreement at once encompass the Jews with their weapons; so the band of soldiers stood round about the Jews in three ranks. The Jews were under the utmost consternation at that unexpected sight. Pilate also said to them that they should be cut in pieces, unless they would admit of Caesar's images, and gave intimation to the soldiers to draw their naked swords. Hereupon the Jews, as it were at one signal, fell down in vast numbers together, and exposed their necks bare, and cried out that they were sooner ready to be slain, than that their law should be transgressed. Hereupon Pilate was greatly surprised at their prodigious superstition, and gave order that the ensigns should be presently carried out of Jerusalem.

4. After this he raised another disturbance, by expending that sacred treasure which is called Corban upon aqueducts, whereby he brought water from the distance of four hundred furlongs. At this the multitude had indignation; and when Pilate was come to Jerusalem, they came about his tribunal, and made a clamor at it. Now when he was apprized aforehand of this disturbance, he mixed his own soldiers in their armor with the multitude, and ordered them to conceal themselves under the habits of private men, and not indeed to use their swords, but with their staves to beat those that made the clamor. He then gave the signal from his tribunal [to do as he had bidden them]. Now the Jews were so sadly beaten, that many of them perished by the stripes they received, and many of them perished as trodden to death by themselves; by which means the multitude was astonished at the calamity of those that were slain, and held their peace.
Antiquities XVIII 3. 1. But now Pilate, the procurator of Judea, removed the army from Cesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there, in order to abolish the Jewish laws. So he introduced Caesar's effigies, which were upon the ensigns, and brought them into the city; whereas our law forbids us the very making of images; on which account the former procurators were wont to make their entry into the city with such ensigns as had not those ornaments. Pilate was the first who brought those images to Jerusalem, and set them up there; which was done without the knowledge of the people, because it was done in the night time; but as soon as they knew it, they came in multitudes to Cesarea, and interceded with Pilate many days that he would remove the images; and when he would not grant their requests, because it would tend to the injury of Caesar, while yet they persevered in their request, on the sixth day he ordered his soldiers to have their weapons privately, while he came and sat upon his judgment-seat, which seat was so prepared in the open place of the city, that it concealed the army that lay ready to oppress them; and when the Jews petitioned him again, he gave a signal to the soldiers to encompass them routed, and threatened that their punishment should be no less than immediate death, unless they would leave off disturbing him, and go their ways home. But they threw themselves upon the ground, and laid their necks bare, and said they would take their death very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed; upon which Pilate was deeply affected with their firm resolution to keep their laws inviolable, and presently commanded the images to be carried back from Jerusalem to Cesarea.

2. But Pilate undertook to bring a current of water to Jerusalem, and did it with the sacred money, and derived the origin of the stream from the distance of two hundred furlongs. However, the Jews were not pleased with what had been done about this water; and many ten thousands of the people got together, and made a clamor against him, and insisted that he should leave off that design. Some of them also used reproaches, and abused the man, as crowds of such people usually do. So he habited a great number of his soldiers in their habit, who carried daggers under their garments, and sent them to a place where they might surround them. So he bid the Jews himself go away; but they boldly casting reproaches upon him, he gave the soldiers that signal which had been beforehand agreed on; who laid upon them much greater blows than Pilate had commanded them, and equally punished those that were tumultuous, and those that were not; nor did they spare them in the least: and since the people were unarmed, and were caught by men prepared for what they were about, there were a great number of them slain by this means, and others of them ran away wounded. And thus an end was put to this sedition.
You can see how the story grows in the telling. That is definitely NOT Philo’s version of the story! Notice also the repeating theme of building aqueducts or transporting water in some way which was a significant feature of the Archelaus tale.

Now, notice in the above from Wars, there is no mention of prior prefects or procurators or whatever of Judea other than Coponius, back in chapter 8 (117), the mention of whom precedes the discussion of the four philosophies as in Antiquities. I would argue that all of these things taken together strongly indicate that Tiberius sent Pilate immediately upon his taking over the government, i.e. in 14/15 AD. And, as Philo wrote, his governorship was a disaster and Tiberius was the one who had to order him to remove the shields – not ensigns with images – to Caesarea.

Now, certainly the "Pilate Stone" confirms that Pilate was there and that he was prefect, not procurator. Tacitus’ mention is no help because it is later hearsay if it is even authentic. Philo’s discussion of Pilate really sheds no light on the chronology either because it is retrospective and undatable. Plus, Josephus thinks that army standards were involved while Philo says gilded shields with inscriptions. So we have sort of a hybrid: golden eagles?

At the end of the Pilate sedition that Josephus says was solved because Pilate was awed by either the Jew’s superstitions or courage, and not because Tiberius came down on him and ordered him to make things right, we come to the Testimonium Flavianum (TF). There’s been enough ink spilled on this one to float an aircraft carrier and frankly, if people can’t see how completely it disrupts the text and how totally out of character it is for Josephus, in any version, I just don’t know what to say.

What does seem clear to me is that whatever stood in that spot originally, assuming that something else did, and what we have is a text replacement and not an outright insertion that breaks the text, must have been something that was a “sad calamity” that “put the Jews into disorder because that is what the lead-in of the next paragraph refers to. Of course, the TF could be removed without any disruption in the flow at all, so it’s not necessary to assume that something else stood there that was a “sad calamity”. However, since the two tales that follow the TF, as far as I can see, have no purpose in that location whatsoever, especially not in historical terms, as we will see in a moment, it might be conjectured that they may have originally been intended to convey some message about whatever stood originally in the TF spot. Because, certainly, they feel like Josephan, novelized gossip.

Let’s look at the first story.

XVIII.3.4-5 (65-80) 4. About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder, and certain shameful practices happened about the temple of Isis that was at Rome. I will now first take notice of the wicked attempt about the temple of Isis, and will then give an account of the Jewish affairs.

There was at Rome a woman whose name was Paulina; one who, on account of the dignity of her ancestors, and by the regular conduct of a virtuous life, had a great reputation: she was also very rich; and although she was of a beautiful countenance, and in that flower of her age wherein women are the most gay, yet did she lead a life of great modesty. She was married to Saturninus, one that was every way answerable to her in an excellent character.

Decius Mundus fell in love with this woman, who was a man very high in the equestrian order; and as she was of too great dignity to be caught by presents, and had already rejected them, though they had been sent in great abundance, he was still more inflamed with love to her, insomuch that he promised to give her two hundred thousand Attic drachmae for one night's lodging; and when this would not prevail upon her, and he was not able to bear this misfortune in his amours, he thought it the best way to famish himself to death for want of food, on account of Paulina's sad refusal; and he determined with himself to die after such a manner, and he went on with his purpose accordingly.

Now Mundus had a freed-woman, who had been made free by his father, whose name was Ide, one skillful in all sorts of mischief. This woman was very much grieved at the young man's resolution to kill himself, [for he did not conceal his intentions to destroy himself from others,] and came to him, and encouraged him by her discourse, and made him to hope, by some promises she gave him, that he might obtain a night's lodging with Paulina; and when he joyfully hearkened to her entreaty, she said she wanted no more than fifty thousand drachmae for the entrapping of the woman.

So when she had encouraged the young man, and gotten as much money as she required, she did not take the same methods as had been taken before, because she perceived that the woman was by no means to be tempted by money; but as she knew that she was very much given to the worship of the goddess Isis, she devised the following stratagem: She went to some of Isis's priests, and upon the strongest assurances [of concealment], she persuaded them by words, but chiefly by the offer of money, of twenty-five thousand drachmae in hand, and as much more when the thing had taken effect; and told them the passion of the young man, and persuaded them to use all means possible to beguile the woman. So they were drawn in to promise so to do, by that large sum of gold they were to have.

Accordingly, the oldest of them went immediately to Paulina; and upon his admittance, he desired to speak with her by herself. When that was granted him, he told her that he was sent by the god Anubis, who was fallen in love with her, and enjoined her to come to him. Upon this she took the message very kindly, and valued herself greatly upon this condescension of Anubis, and told her husband that she had a message sent her, and was to sup and lie with Anubis; so he agreed to her acceptance of the offer, as fully satisfied with the chastity of his wife.

Accordingly, she went to the temple, and after she had supped there, and it was the hour to go to sleep, the priest shut the doors of the temple, when, in the holy part of it, the lights were also put out. Then did Mundus leap out, [for he was hidden therein,] and did not fail of enjoying her, who was at his service all the night long, as supposing he was the god; and when he was gone away, which was before those priests who knew nothing of this stratagem were stirring, Paulina came early to her husband, and told him how the god Anubis had appeared to her. Among her friends, also, she declared how great a value she put upon this favor, who partly disbelieved the thing, when they reflected on its nature, and partly were amazed at it, as having no pretense for not believing it, when they considered the modesty and the dignity of the person.

But now, on the third day after what had been done, Mundus met Paulina, and said, "Nay, Paulina, thou hast saved me two hundred thousand drachmae, which sum thou mightest have added to thy own family; yet hast thou not failed to be at my service in the manner I invited thee. As for the reproaches thou hast laid upon Mundus, I value not the business of names; but I rejoice in the pleasure I reaped by what I did, while I took to myself the name of Anubis." When he had said this, he went his way.

But now she began to come to the sense of the grossness of what she had done, and rent her garments, and told her husband of the horrid nature of this wicked contrivance, and prayed him not to neglect to assist her in this case. So he discovered the fact to the emperor; whereupon Tiberius inquired into the matter thoroughly by examining the priests about it, and ordered them to be crucified, as well as Ide, who was the occasion of their perdition, and who had contrived the whole matter, which was so injurious to the woman. He also demolished the temple of Isis, and gave order that her statue should be thrown into the river Tiber; while he only banished Mundus, but did no more to him, because he supposed that what crime he had committed was done out of the passion of love. And these were the circumstances which concerned the temple of Isis, and the injuries occasioned by her priests. I now return to the relation of what happened about this time to the Jews at Rome, as I formerly told you I would.
Now, certainly, upon reading the above story one might think that it was something that really happened at Rome and aren’t we thankful that Josephus has preserved it for us even if we suspect that he may have embellished only a little? If we try to find it by cross-checking with other historians, we have no luck because, of course, we think we are in the time of Pilate – 27 to 37 AD according to the accepted chronology – and that is where we might be inclined to look. However, the knowledgeable reader would be aware that the temple of Isis in Rome was not destroyed at that time and a very knowledgeable reader would get a feeling of déjà vu reading this tale because it is so similar in dynamics to an account of a legal case in Tacitus Annales 13.44-45:

About the same time Octavius Sagitta, a tribune of the people, who was enamoured to frenzy of Pontia, a married woman, bribed her by most costly presents into an intrigue and then into abandoning her husband. He had offered her marriage and had won her consent. But as soon as she was free, she devised delays, pretended that her father's wishes were against it, and having secured the prospect of a richer husband, she repudiated her promises.

Octavius, on the other hand, now remonstrated, now threatened; his good name, he protested, was lost, his means exhausted, and as for his life, which was all that was left to him, he surrendered it to her mercy.

When she spurned him, he asked the solace of one night, with which to soothe his passion, that he might set bounds to it for the future. A night was fixed, and Pontia intrusted the charge of her chamber to a female slave acquainted with her secret. Octavius attended by one freedman entered with a dagger concealed under his dress. Then, as usual in lovers' quarrels, there were chidings, entreaties, reproaches, excuses, and some period of the darkness was given up to passion; then, when seemingly about to go, and she was fearing nothing, he stabbed her with the steel, and having wounded and scared away the slave girl who was hurrying to her, rushed out of the chamber.

Next day the murder was notorious, and there was no question as to the murderer, for it was proved that he had passed some time with her. The freedman, however, declared the deed was his, that he had, in fact, avenged his patron's wrongs. He had made some impression by the nobleness of his example, when the slave girl recovered and revealed the truth. Octavius, when he ceased to be tribune, was prosecuted before the consuls by the father of the murdered woman, and was condemned by the sentence of the Senate under "the law concerning assassins."
All the elements of the story concocted by Josephus are there in Tacitus' report of an actual legal case. Of course, we can see that these elements have been creatively utilized. But there is a problem here: In Tacitus, the event he recounted occurred in 58 AD. One could say that the story must have been something of a big scandal and stuck in Josephus' mind to be pulled out, decomposed, reworked in his own way for his own purposes except for one odd little detail. When reading the Tacitus text, one can’t help but notice that just a couple paragraphs above the tragic murder story, there is an account of other affairs that includes the name “Saturninus”. (13.43.2) That would suggest that the tale had been obtained from a written work and they eye of the Josephan author had fallen upon, and registered, the name "Saturninus". That means it could not have been Josephus himself because Tacitus' work was published a number of years after Antiquities was published.

But before we delve too deeply into that, let’s look at the next one since it appears that they are a pair and they go together for some obscure reason in Josephus’ mind. The following tale is about Jews defrauding a Roman noblewoman named Fulvia who, oddly, is also married to a Saturninus, and it only raises the eyebrows even higher.

18.5.5. 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.
These two stories following just after the Testimonium Flavianum, pose a number of interesting problems. Taken together, they combine a Roman rejection of the Egyptian worship and Jewish worship. Tacitus records the banishing of the religion of the Egyptians and Jews in the reign of Tiberius, 19 AD, as follows:

Annales 2.85.4: Measures were also taken for exterminating the solemnities of the Jews and Egyptians; and by decree of Senate four thousand descendants of franchised slaves, all defiled with that superstition, but of proper strength and age, were to be transported to Sardinia; to restrain the Sardinian robbers; and if, through the malignity of the climate, they perished, despicable would be the loss: the rest were doomed to depart Italy, unless by a stated day they renounced their profane rites.
Notice that the number four thousand is present in both Tacitus and Josephus so we are certainly dealing with the same event. In Tacitus, it is noted that the four thousand are “descendants of franchised slaves, all defiled with that superstition…” which suggests that they were converted to Judaism and Josephus’ text is about Romans being converted to Judaism. So, clearly we are talking about the 19 AD event of expulsion under Tiberius since several essential particulars match between Tacitus and Josephus, though Tacitus is more, ummm... taciturn?

So, what are these stories doing right there in the midst of the governorship of Pontius Pilate which was supposed to extend from 27 to 37? These two events allegedly precede a banishing of Jewish and Egyptian rites from Rome as well as a the exiling of many Jews from Rome by Tiberius, something that occurred in 19 AD without question. So why does Josephus begin the TF with “Now there was about this time…” and the following stories with “About the same time also another sad calamity…” If the TF is authentic it is clearly being placed in the context of the 19 AD event. If it is not authentic, if it is redacted or a replacement text, it is still in the context of 19 AD! If there was nothing there at all and the previous section about Pilate’s attack on the Jews flowed right into the Paulina and Fulvia stories, it is STILL in the 19 AD context!

Further, when the history continues in the next chapter, we come upon an even greater problem: a sudden leap to the Vitellius and Artabanus story that leads into the Antipas-Aretas conflict we began with. Why is this so problematical?

Well, notice that the first mention of Pilate is at Ant. 18.2.2, at the very end of the paragraph:

When Gratus had done those things, he went back to Rome, after he had waited in Judea eleven years, when Pontius Pilate came as his successor.
Now, as we have already noted, this Gratus is highly suspect and by a reasonable count of years we are nowhere near 27 AD. But what is telling is that Josephus then recounts the death of Phraates, king of the Parthians. This is also covered by Tacitus in Annales 2.4ff, dated to 16 AD. Josephus noted in 18.2.4 (52) that Silanus was president of Syria. Tacitus, too, notes that Q. Caecilius Metellus Creticus Silanus was governor of Syria (2.5). So we are tracking well.

The next event reported by Josephus is the death of Antiochus, king of Commagene. This was 17 AD. At this point, Josephus notes that the Roman senate decreed that Germanicus should be sent to settle the affairs of the east. Tacitus, too, notes this (2.42) along with the following:

But Tiberius had removed from Syria Creticus Silanus, who was connected with Germanicus by marriage… and placed in charge Cn Piso, temperamentally violent… implanted in him by his father Piso (who in the civil war helped the resurgence of the party in Africa … against Caesar and then, after following Brutus and Cassius, was allowed to return …
Then, at the very end of Josephus chapter 2, there is a brief remark about the death of Germanicus due to being poisoned by Piso. When Josephus comes back to Pilate in Chapter 3 (18.55 ff), it is immediately following his remark about the death of Germanicus and it appears to be him going back to Pilate after a digression forward onto the other matters (the building projects of the Herodians and the Artabanus business which was why Germanicus was sent out to the East to begin with). So, now he comes back to Pilate and it is logical to assume that he re-set his narrative to the beginning of the administration of Pilate, 15 AD and here’s why I think so: after his discussion of the effigies which arrived with Pilate, Josephus mentions again the corban/water issue that was noted in Wars. (In Wars, it was 400 furlongs, in Antiquities, it was 200, but who’s counting?) It was this use of temple funds that caused the next upset and led to Pilate planting sicarii in the crowd.

The Testimonium Flavianum follows immediately, and the two tales about the expulsion of the Jews follows that, so we are certainly in the temporal environment of 19 AD.

When we pick up the historical narrative in Judea again, i.e. with Pilate, in Chapter 4 (18.85): here we have a disruption due to Samaritans. Notice that Coponius also had problems with Samaritans (more doubling?). (18.31) Pilate apparently killed a number of them and the Samaritans complained to Vitellius, who is now, suddenly, governor of Syria when just before, as noted, it was Silanus. Vitellius pulls rank on Pilate, sends Marcellus to handle Judea, and orders Pilate to Rome. But, Josephus then tells us that Tiberius was dead before Pilate could get there!

That is an absolutely astonishing leap from 19 to 37! 18 years, in fact. So, how the heck did that happen?

I would suggest that the text originally said that the person Pilate was being sent to for judgment and/or correction, was Germanicus and it was HE who was dead before Pilate reached him. That is, after all, in keeping with the whole general context of the surrounding passages. There’s just no justification for a jump of 18 years in the context of the text itself.


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But let’s stop a moment and think about this sudden appearance of Vitellius who has such a fun part to play in the Antipas-Aretas story and was surely in Judea in 37 AD.

There are several Vitelliuses in Tacitus but only two would have qualified for proconsular duties: 1) L. Vitellius, consul 34, 43, 47 who is our Vitellius of later adventures; 2) A. Vitellius, consul in 48 who is too late to consider. BUT, we also find a Vitellius who was a “friend of Germanicus”. We find him in Germany in Annales 1.70; in 2.6 he heads off to do a census of the Galliae; in 2.74, we find the most interesting mention: It is immediately following the death of Germanicus, and takes place in Syria:

There was next a debate between the legates and other senators who were present as to who should be placed in charge of Syria. And, after only modest exertions from the others, for a long time the issue was between Vibius Marsus and Cn. Sentius. Then Marsus yielded to the seniority and keener contention of Sentius. (Epigraphic evidence shows that the appointment of Cn. Sentius Saturninus (suffect consul 4 AD) was confirmed by Tiberius.) and he, for his part dispatched to the City (Rome) a woman infamous for poisonings in the province and particularly dear to Plancina, by name of Martina, in response to demands from Vitellius and Veranius and the rest, who were drawing up charges and accusations as if against persons already cited as defendants.
So, that means that a Vitellius was with Germanicus in Syria at the time he died. This is supported later in Annales 3.9-10 when Piso is being arraigned for poisoning Germanicus back in Rome:

On the next day Fulcinius Trio arraigned Piso before the consuls. Yet Vitellius and Veranius and the other of Germanicus’ companions maintained that there was no role for Trio; nor were they accusers themselves, they said, but as informants and witnesses of events they would deliver Germanicus’ instructions.
Next: 3.13:

Then Fulcinius embarked on past irrelevancies, namely the fact that Piso’s tenure of Spain had been marked by corruption and greed (Piso had been legate there in 9/10 AD) … After this, Servaeus and Veranius and Vitellius with like enthusiasm (and with much eloquence on Vitellius’ part) cast the charge that in his hatred for Germanicus and his enthusiasm for revolution Piso, by licensing maltreatment of the allies, had corrupted the common soldiers to such a degree that the basest of them called him “parent of the legions.” Conversely, they said he had been savage to all the best men, especially to the companions and friends of Germanicus. Finally, he had annihilated the man himself by curses and poison: hence the rituals and abominable offerings by himself and Plancina, his claiming the state by arms, and – to ensure his appearance as the accused – his defeat in the line of battle.
Another brief mention 3.17, and then 3.19:

A few days after Caesar [Tiberius] initiated the senate’s granting of priesthoods to Vitellius and Veranius and Servaeus. … That was the end to the avenging, though Germanicus’ death was bandied about in various rumors not only among those men who lived then but also in following times. So is it the case that all the greatest matters are ambiguous, inasmuch as some people hold any form of hearsay as confirmed, others turn truth into its converse, and each swells among posterity.
P. Vitellius, later commited suicide under indictment for something in 31 AD following the fall of Sejanus. Tacitus’ narrative is missing the end of 29 AD, all of 30, and most of 31. That period is, of course, the very period in which Jesus is said to have been crucified in Judea under Pontius Pilate, and might have included some pertinent information that contradicted such a claim. So, we don’t know what Vitellius was being charged with – possibly revolutionary actions against Tiberius? Being in cahoots with Sejanus? Being a friend of Germanicus? P. Vitellius’ wife, Acutia, was arraigned on some charge in 37 AD.

As to the governor of Syria named Vitellius, as we already know, he was there in 35-37. Annales 6.41 mentioned as sending troops to the “nation of the Cietae” including the legate M. Trebellius; that was in AD 36.

And, we are reminded, in all of the above, that Cn. Sentius Saturninus took over as governor of Syria/Judea immediately after the death of Germanicus so the name could be said to have been handily available for use.

Thus, the Testimonium itself is given in a very 19 AD context all the way around. It appears that Pilate came in 15 or 16 and was “sent down” in 19 because he was so incompetent. Bottom line is, it seems that if anybody was crucified/executed under Pontius Pilate, and this was described in a text such as the TF, or occupied its place, it certainly happened 11 years earlier than supposed. (More or less.)

There’s another possible way to think about this text. Notice that Josephus refers to the messianists as robbers, pirates, brigands, tyrants, etc, leading people to rebel against Rome and get themselves killed and Jerusalem destroyed. Yet, Josephus has a lot to hide because, according to his autobiography, he tried joining the Essenes/ Zealots/ Zadokites himself when he was young and hung out with a John the Baptist type whose name, Bannus, interestingly, was a translation of "Bath". When the Romans won, (or perhaps before, hard to say), Josephus completely turned and became convinced (or at least said it), that the Jewish god was on the side of the Romans because the Jews had been so wicked in rebelling.

Josephus tries to make a clear distinction between the Essenes and the “Fourth Philosophy” of Judas the Galilean whom he apparently blames most heartily for the revolt (in which he, himself, willingly participated if you read between the lines), and the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem and possibly a million Jews. But as noted numerous time, Josephus was blowing a lot of smoke over the whole affair, busily dissembling and covering his own backside while trying to clean up the image of the Jews as a whole. I think it would be not an unreasonable assumption that Josephus was very familiar with the Essenes and their ideas, and our knowledge of this group has been greatly enhanced by the discovery of the hidden texts at Qumran. When one reads these texts, it seems that the community at Qumran was rather close in ideology to Josephus’ Judas the Galilean and his Fourth Philosophy.

So, while he is trying to keep the Essenes clean, he is separating out the revolutionary messianism and apocalypticism and assigning it to a Fourth Philosophy which I think he just made up as a category to hold the violent elements of the sect. If you read some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, you can almost feel the incandescent hatred of the brotherhood for the Romans and all they represented. Further, one finds that the sect referred to its members as “saints” and “the elect” and its totality as the true “church of god” and “The Way”, all terms that show up in early so-called Christian literature, even Paul’s writings. That means that Paul was undoubtedly familiar with the Essenes as well, at least in terms of the chapters scattered around the empire to which Josephus and Pliny give witness. When Paul went to Jerusalem, he probably met the leaders of the coming rebellion: the three Pillars, James, Cephas/Peter, John. That leads to the ineluctable conclusion that the so-called early Jerusalem church was nothing more than the Essene/Zadokite/ Zealot/ Sicarii groups fomenting rebellion against Rome. And that leads to the idea that what they were doing in their evangelizing was gathering recruits, supporters, and funds to conduct their war and they were using messianic hopes to promote it, to gather support, and to maintain the spirits and loyalty of the revolutionaries.

However, it seems that Paul had very different ideas about what a messiah should mean, do, represent. It is in the context described above that we can gain an understanding of the conflict between Paul and the Jerusalem James Gang. The Three Pillars were intent on creating a war and Paul was intent on preventing one.

In Hugh Schonfield's "Essene Odyssey", he writes about the secrecy of the Essenes at Qumran as well as their tendency to use codes and ciphers. If we accept that Josephus was, at least partly, in on all of this (and how could it be otherwise considering the tales he tells and his own involvement?), then we can think that he, too, would sometimes use codes, ciphers, allusions, and other methods of saying things that he could not otherwise say directly.

His first book, "Wars", was written under heavy scrutiny and he undoubtedly did a LOT of covering up of his own activities or shifted responsibilities, or ascribed different motives for things. He was also busy covering up for his masters, the Flavians, making them look good. That doesn't mean that he wasn't basically sticking to the events and order of events because there were readers that would call him on things otherwise.

Years after, he wrote "Antiquities" and there is much discussion about the differences between "Wars" and the later work. It seems pretty clear that he was servicing a slightly different agenda. Then he wrote his bio and I think that was published pretty much of a piece with "Antiquities". He claims that he tried all the philosophies, but eventually chose the Pharisees... that HE was a pharisee. Well, it seems pretty clear from the events and his activities that he was one of the rebel leaders that he denounces so viciously over and over again, though he claims that "they made me do it!" and offers covert reasons for going along with things - that he was constantly trying to persuade people to give up their "innovations".

So, all the while he is blowing smoke over some things, he IS trying to write an entertaining, apologetic history that is real history - at least as far as he can go. And I hope that I'm not giving him too much credit! Very often, he writes things that are completely odious!

So, considering the time he was writing, and the company he kept, he must have known Paul, or at least knew of him, and the two tales told in the context of the time of Pilate may have been simply indicating the time of the beginnings of certain trends and the source of those trends (Paul) by telling these stories. I don't think he could have been suggesting that Paul was in Rome that early, but that his particular "heresy" and activity began at that point in time, the time of Pontius Pilate in Judea which was the same time as the death of Germanicus, who, incidentally, was seen as a savior figure for a very long time.

What all that suggests is that there was something about 19 AD that has been rather thoroughly effaced from the record. There was the death of Germanicus which was a great tragedy felt by everyone who saw him as the new Julius Caesar/Messiah. But perhaps, it was also the time of the execution of some other Judean individual who was then claimed to have been spiritually resurrected by the Essene/James Gang, and these claims were used to keep up the faith and rejection of the Roman rule. It may be that Josephus was indicating the "arising of the three pillars of Jerusalem", Peter, James and John, at that time, touting and tootling their messiah. Perhaps what was originally there was the account of the capture and execution of Judas the Galilean; that would certainly be an event that would rile up the Jews en masse, even including those at Rome.

None of it is simple. You simply see elements here and there scattered through time and space and when each of them are picked out and lifted from the period, they fit together like puzzle pieces of a LATER story that was claimed to be history.

There are many theological elements in Philo that show up in Paul's thought as well as some interesting little historical tidbits that one can compare as a corrective to what Josephus wrote.

What we see from the above was that Tacitus was certainly capable and willing to include such "trivial" stories in his history and if such doings as Josephus writes about in his tales of Paulina and Fulvia had been behind the expulsion of certain Jews in 19 AD, considering the great length Tacitus went to talking about the death of Germanicus, he most probably would have included them. But he didn't. Either Josephus made those stories up to cover up something or to send a coded message, or someone else, writing later, did so. And since the general trend of the stories is such as to indicate Pauline Christianity as we understand it coming down through Paul's letters themselves, it seems quite possible that this was what those stories are talking about: the origins of something that the author couldn't/didn't want to, address directly.

So, whatever it was, it appeared to have its beginnings in 19 AD - at least a major thrust - and Josephus/pseudo-Josephus is both revealing and blowing smoke around it all at the same time. The sore thumb that sticks out is the Testimonium Flavianum which absolutely does not fit in the context there as it is written and this is something of a red flag that something else was in that spot in the text and has been effaced and/or covered up.

If one takes the two tales set adjacent to each other and thinks about them, a few items stand out.

The first tale he presents, modeled on the 58 AD event recorded by Tacitus, is all about a Roman woman taken in by an individual who is pretending to be a god of the Egyptian cult of Isis.

The second tale, is a Roman woman taken in by a "temple cult" of Judaism, so to say.

Notice it is Paulina who is cast as being taken in by the Egyptian worship while that it is Fulvia who is cast as the one taken in by the Jews. Are these two elements important? Is Josephus telling us that Paul, himself, was taken in by Egyptian rites/mysteries and that it was Caesar worship that was taken over by a false sort of Judaism because, according to the researches of Francisco Carotta, it was Fulvia, the wife of Marc Antony, who was, ultimately, responsible for the funeral rites of Julius Caesar which created the model for the Christian passion. It is suggested that she may even have penned a little commemorative "passion play" that later was redacted into the gospel of Mark.

Irenaeus protested vehemently against the rumor that Christianity was simply a re-working of the Egyptian rites. He wouldn't have been making this protest if it were not something that was widely thought.

So that little story, placed as it is following an equally puzzling story that might be another part of Josephus delivering a coded message, really sets the antennae going especially

Let’s look again at the role of Saturninus who is husband to both Roman women taken in by religious frauds according to Josephus.

In addition to the Saturninus we discovered was a friend of Germanicus, there was a Gaius Sentius Saturninus who was appointed Roman consul in 19 BC. Around 14/13 BC, Sentius Saturninus was appointed the proconsular governor of Africa. From 9 BC – 7 BC Sentius Saturninus served as Legatus Augusti pro praetore (or imperial governor) of the Roman province of Syria. It was his second son, who was our Saturninus of 19 AD, who replaced Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso as governor of Syria, and compelled him to return to Rome to stand trial for the murder of Germanicus Caesar.

Tertullian (c.160 - 225AD), the Christian law expert from Carthage in North Africa, wrote that Jesus was born while Gaius Sentius Saturninus was Legate of Roman Syria, i.e. between 9-7 BC. Could it be that he was confusing things? That the “birth of Christianity” as effected by messianic visions, occurred in 19 AD under the influence of the psychological/emotional trauma of the death of Judas the Galilean compounded by the Empire-wide mourning for the savior Germanicus?

All in all, it looks like Pontius Pilate was in Palestine from 14 to 19 AD at the most, and it is really beginning to look like the Testimonium Flavianum is pasted over something else much more interesting which the two following tales were intended to interpret.


FOTCM Member
Now, let’s get back to the purpose of this discussion: the Pauline Chronology.

Like the gospels, the Josephan text has acquired such authority that one assumes that, at least in the essentials, the contents are true. I hope that the above review of problematical portions have disabused the reader of this notion. There are so many inconsistencies and contradictions that the problem of non-corroboration by other sources becomes acute. Many of the things that Josephus claims happened are of such import that one would expect them to be reported in other texts of the time, but we do not find that to be the case. If there was a historical Jesus crucified under Pilate about 30 AD, there should be some indication of it in the records; but there is not. Both of the passages in Josephus about Jesus as the Christ are obvious interpolations. What is more, the first one is interpolated into a context that clearly belongs to the wrong time. Perhaps the first "correction" was due to noticing that an event that concerned Pilate's execution of a revered teacher was in that position and it was removed and placed in the time of Herod and a replacement text composed. Then it was noticed that the time was all wrong, so additional years and prefects/procurators were added. Considering what can be seen in the above examples, even the short passage about James appears in a more questionable light. The Tacitean mention that Christians are disreputable people who worship someone who was executed under Pilate was simply a report about what the Christians of the time were saying themselves.

I have already suggested that greater reliance might be placed on Josephus first book, "Wars", than his later, blatantly apology for the Jews mainly because it was an Imperially sponsored project designed to be read by a Greco-Roman audience many of whom, knew full well the events of the time. There, we notice that Josephus does not fiddle with the Roman side of things though he does appear to feel free to invent some things on the Jewish side. In Wars, as pointed out, it is as plain as it can possibly be that Pontius Pilate was Tiberius' man and was sent to Judea upon Tiberius acession to power. Philo's digression about Pilate doesn't help with the dating issue, but it helps to know Pilate better and the impression is certainly that it was longer ago than just ten years (i.e. from 30 to 39/40). The tone of Philo's passage makes more sense if he is reminding the emperor of things that happened twenty years ago (or more).

All of these elements, taken together, argue for the fact that Pilate was in Judea much earlier than biblical "history" suggests - or allows - and that he also left much earlier and in disgrace. One gets the impression that Josephus really knew nothing about the reign of Archelaus and, since his behavior was similar to that reported of Pilate, simply gave him some bits of Pilate's history and said less about Pilate for reasons of political discretion. Interestingly, Eusebius, quoting early apocryphal accounts, stated that Pilate suffered misfortune in the reign of Caligula (AD 37–41), was exiled to Gaul and eventually killed himself there in Vienne. (Historia Ecclesiae ii:7) One might wonder why this association was made.

Nevertheless, the looping stories, doublets, triplets, argue for the fact that Josephus was making up a lot of his material between the death of Herod the Great up to his own times. The story of the Golden Eagle rebellion alleged to have occurred during the reign of Herod may very well be a retrojection of the Pilate affair if one recalls the fact that Philo said what Pilate brought into the city were golden shields. Philo, with his connections and the fact that he was quite a bit older than Josephus, probably gave a far more accurate version of the events. I think that those who attribute fact finding abilities to Josephus give him too much credit and, perhaps, forget the conditions of Judea in the years before Josephus' birth.

Of course, the Golden Eagle event was said to be the trigger for the rebellion that caused Archelaus to kill 3000 Jews at Passover but I actually have doubts about several aspects of that affair. First, with his craving for the approval of the Jews, would Herod the Great really have been likely to have decorated his masterpiece, the Jewish temple, with a golden eagle? I don't think so. it seems rather certain that Varus' War took place. So what really triggered it? Perhaps it was simply the rapacity of Varus and his legates and Josephus was busy rewriting history for his new masters? Maybe Archelaus was innocent, lived a boring life, and died naturally. Or, perhaps he was involved in supporting the rebels, as is suggested by his letting go the brothers of Athronges, a cover for Judas the Galilean, and it was for this kind of activity he was banished to Vienna (assuming he was).

If the Jewish records of unknown feast and fast days mentioned by Martin do not relate to the deaths of Matthias and their students, what do they commemorate? Possibly Herod's execution of his son and his own death.

If the Golden Eagle event did not happen just prior to the death of Herod, when did it happen? Probably in the time of Pilate. And Pilate was in Judea from 14/15 AD until 19 and was likely ordered to present himself to Germanicus who died before he got there.

The bottom line is this: removing Pilate from Judea at the time alleged for the crucifixion of a "Jesus of Nazareth" - and there appears to be a good case for it - not only pulls the rug out from under the entire crucifixion/resurrection story, but also destroys the timeline of the Jesuine "history". It also means that millions upon millions - even billions - of people, for 1500 years, have been reciting a lie every Sunday when they declare their beliefs in the Nicene creed or the Apostle's Creed.

Paul's epistles are unanimously agreed by all scholars to be the earliest Christian documents, yet Paul shows complete ignorance of the events of the gospels. Indeed, the gospels give strong indications to have been composed using Paul's ideas and words as their foundation and framework. There was, apparently, a messianic cult in Judea with headquarters in Jerusalem, with which Paul had a very problematical relationship. Actually, it is assuming to even say that: we don't know what the Jerusalem ecclesia with which Paul had connections was about though Josephus gives us some idea when he describes the character Judas the Galilean and his Fourth Philosophy and his rebel associates. By making the logical connections with the group that left behind what are now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have a more complete picture of these zealots, militant Essenes, sicarii, and so on. We also get the strong impression that Josephus was, at least for a time, one of them. One even wonders if Josephus could be "The Liar" of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He certainly fits the bill better than Paul who was always far away and had very little, if anything, to do with the Jerusalem activities (though the author of Acts does his damnedest to locate Paul there as often as possible).

Paul was off in his own world, for the most part, busily creating his own cult with elements borrowed from many sources. From his fevered Old Testament exegeses, he develops a cult figure who is an atoning sacrifice. The cross element - if not the entire idea of a victorious crucifixion - is so obviously a representation of the death and funeral and apotheosis of Julius Caesar that it is surprising that this is not more widely acknowledged. In order to claim this event for the Old Testament god, he finds it necessary to anchor it in OT prophecies. However, it is fully acknowledged by scholars that he gives no historical setting for this event, gives no biographical details of a "real man", and essentially goes to some extremes to actually avoid such.

Lets turn back now to those odd stories that are placed by someone, at some time, in the Josephan text just after the Testimonium Flavianum. Keep in mind that, while the stories are seemingly typical Josephus scandal mongering, the fact that one of them is modeled on a legal case written up by Tacitus certainly gives one pause. Yes, Josephus could have read about it in the Roman archives to which he may have had access at one point in the writing of his history of the Jewish War, but the adjacence of the name "Saturninus" in the Tacitean text, and its use twice (in both stories), suggest either a coded message, or simply that someone had Tacitus text open before them. Of course, it could be both: someone working from the text of Tacitus to create a coded message.

In reference to Paul, the Josephan story about Fulvia would make a lot of sense if it was actually inspired by events during the reign of Claudius, then retrojected to 19. In Claudius (25) Suetonius refers to the expulsion of Jews:

Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.
Obviously, a lot of ink has been expended on this remark! But, since it is highly unlikely that a hypothetical Christian interpolator would have called Jesus "Chrestus", placed him in Rome in 49, or called him a "troublemaker", the overwhelming majority of scholars conclude that the passage is genuine.

However, all of those pejorative terms could very well have applied to the apostle Paul based on his own record of events in his missionary journeys and in relation to the Jerusalem James Gang.

The Latin original of this statement is:

Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit
This can be understood in one of two ways: either Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because there was a tumult, or he only expelled those Jews that were causing the disorder.

The expulsion event Suetonius refers to is difficult to date precisely because he wrote topically, not chronologically. But, we can say it is after 41, and before 54 AD. Cassius Dio's reference in History 60.6.6-7 says:

As for the Jews, who had again increased so greatly that by reason of their multitude it would have been hard without raising a tumult to bar them from the city, he did not drive them out, but ordered them, while continuing their traditional mode of life, not to hold meetings.
This is dated to the year 41/42 AD. However, Dio does not mention any Chrestus or the exiling of Jews. Notably, he mentions no reason for the action at all! Some scholars thus conclude that this event and that reported by Suetonius are two separate items. A middle ground can be found in assuming that there was some sort of tumult caused by someone and those individuals were expelled and the meetings of the Jews curtailed.

The 5th-century Christian writer Paulus Orosius makes a possible reference to the event, citing two sources:

"Josephus reports, 'In his ninth year the Jews were expelled by Claudius from the city.' But Suetonius, who speaks as follows, influences me more: 'Claudius expelled from Rome the Jews constantly rioting at the instigation of Christ [Christo, or rather xpo].' As far as whether he had commanded that the Jews rioting against Christ [Christum] be restrained and checked or also had wanted the Christians, as persons of a cognate religion, to be expelled, it is not at all to be discerned."
We recognize the citation from Suetonius, but the quote from Josephus is not present in the extant texts. It is that which gives the date of 49AD, the “ninth year of Claudius.” There is a lot of arguing back and forth over this, but we can note this, even if we have eschewed Acts as a historical source, that it is there that the expulsion is dated in reference to the mention of the proconsul Gallio (18:12) and an inscription found at Delphi preserving a letter from Claudius concerning Gallio, dated during the 26th acclamation of Claudius, sometime between January 51 and August 52. That does not, in any way, suggest that Acts is an accurate history or that the apostle Paul had any dealings with Gallio, whose character was probably borrowed from some text or other to give historical verisimilitude to the novelized version of early Christian history. However, knowing already that the author of Acts was using Josephus as a source, it is entirely possible that the Josephan reference existed and Orosius just reported it. On the other hand, Orosius could have been writing from memory and was actually referring to the 19 AD expulsion, not 49 AD. If we accept both, then we have two dates of possible events, 41 AD and 49 AD, involving some sort of unrest among Jews in Rome and the only thing I think we can derive from that is that something happened on either, both, or between those two dates and it may have involved Paul.

Let’s look at the Fulvia story again:

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,
This is the slur directed at Paul in Acts.

and by the fear he was under of punishment for the same; but in all respects a wicked man.
If Eisenmann is correct, this is how the James gang perceived Paul.

He, then living at Rome, professed to instruct men in the wisdom of the laws of Moses.
Paul at Rome teaching his version of Judaism, as apostle to the Gentiles? It wouldn't be the laws of Moses per se if he was accused of transgressing the laws.

He procured also three other men, entirely of the same character with himself, to be his partners.
Could be the "pillars", or just 3 of Paul's fellow helpers (e.g., Timothy, Titus and Silvanus), but the 3 is suggestive.

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;
Sounds like a variation on the collection gathered for Jerusalem by Paul and his churches.

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.
Again, this is an accusation made against Paul that he refers to in his letters. This, of course, makes one wonder: Did Paul make that final 3rd trip to Jerusalem? If not, this is exactly what they would say about him. The slander had already been going around before writing Romans that there were selfish ulterior motives for the collection. Paul was in a double-bind. Either go to Jerusalem with the money and risk getting lynched, or continue his mission and have his character assassinated.

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. 11 Thus were these Jews banished out of the city by the wickedness of four men. (18.5.5)
This could be telling us, in code, that the expulsion of Jews during the reign of Claudius was simply Paul’s conflict that is exposed in his letters following him there. Clement said he had been exiled, well, maybe that was when it happened? I've suggested that it was retrojected into the past, but perhaps the author was simply trying to indicate what he thought of Christianity in a way that would pass the censors? Maybe he didn't realize that the time indicated was 19 AD? Maybe he thought it was the "right time" of the crucifixion according to later authorities and after other interpolations had been made to put Pilate in Judea 10 or more years later?

But, from the point of view of the most likely dates of Pilate and his doings, and the possible execution of Matthias and Judas during the procuratorship of Pilate between 14/15 and 19 AD, maybe the things that inspired the James Gang happened just a tad earlier than we suppose? That would put everything that Paul did earlier also (and forget Gallio, the Lukan author took that name from elsewhere and spun a tale around it.)

If Suetonius' report is about Paul in Rome, and you anchor Paul in Rome between 41 and 49, then you only have to work backwards by the numbers Paul gives, more or less. And you aren’t blocked by any 30 AD crucifixion date. You have a whole 11 additional years to work with if one is concerned with a crucifixion at all, which I think is not the case. Yes, maybe some Essene/Zealot/Zadokite/Nazorean rebel leader was executed - Judas the Galilean - and his followers claimed he had become “Sky Man” or something and would bring the wrath of God back with him just to keep their spirits up. But Paul was working to bring about a very different reality: peace and reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles.


FOTCM Member
Some More Prosopography

According to the "biblically" understood history, Valerius Gratus was the Roman Prefect of Judea province under Tiberius from 15 to 26 AD. He succeeded Annius Rufus and was replaced by Pontius Pilate. Here is the list from Antiquities again:

Varus and Sabinus
Archelaus, a shadow either 9 or 10 years
Cyrenius/Quirinius and Coponius
Marcus Ambivius (Ambivulus)
Annius Rufus
Death of Augustus AD 14
Valerius Gratus 15 to 26

We know who Varus is: Publius Quinctilius Varus is certainly attested even if the Roman history doesn't exactly fit with Josephus' history due to the misdating of the eclipse. Syme dates him based on the biblical dates that have been imposed on Josephus.

There are a few problems with identifying Coponius. The Coponia were a plebeian family, prominent at Rome during the first century BC. The most famous was Gaius Coponius, praetor in 49 BC, and a partisan of Pompeius. He was proscribed by the triumvirs in 43, subsequently pardoned, and ended up a respected member of the Senate. Relying, again, on Josephus, Syme says: "When Judaea was annexed (AD 6), Coponius, a Roman knight of a respectable family from Tibur, became its first governor. (RR. p. 476) We find that a Marcus, Gaius, and Titus Coponius are mentioned by Cicero. (De Oratore i. 39, ii. 32; Brutus 52; Pro Balbo 53; Pro Caelio 24) But there is actually no specific mention of this Coponius on the Roman records side. However, since we find this Coponius in Josephus Wars, we have some confidence that he was there, doing that.

Syme points out that in the last years of Augustus, 4 to 14 AD, some new names show up indicating the advancement of novi homines, most of them military... the two Poppaei came from an obscure community in Picenum. "The most striking example of continuous service is afforded by the novus homo from Picenum, C. Poppaeus Sabinus (cos. AD 9). During 25 years this man had charge of Moesia, for most of the time with the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia as well." (Syme, The Roman Revolution, Oxford, 1939, pp. 362, 396)

We know who Cyrenius is: Publius Sulpicius Quirinius: "P. Sulpicius Quirinius (cos. 12 BC) passed through a long career of faithful service to Augustus and to the State. Among his achievements (perhaps before his consulate) was a campaign against the Marmaridae, a tribe of the African desert dwelling to the south of Cyrene. At some time in the twelve years after his consulate Quirinius governed Galatia and subdued the Homonadenses (Tac. Ann. 3.48; Strabo, p. 569, 9-8 or 4-3 BC). In AD 2, after the disgrace and death of Lollius, Quirinius took his place with C. Caesar. Three or four years later he was appointed legate of Syria, in which capacity he annexed Judaea after the deposition of Archelaus the ethnarch, introduced Roman rule by ordering a census and crushed the insurrection...(AD 6)". (Syme, RR, p. 399) Here we notice that Syme obtains his dates, again, from the biblical dates that have been imposed on Josephus because of the wrong dating of the eclipse.

We don't find any "Marcus Ambivius" or anything similar. In "Coins of the Jews" by Frederic William Madden, a coin is indicated as being struck during the procuratorships of Ambivius and Rufus. However, the text says "This coin may have been issued by Coponius." In other words, there is actually nothing on the coins to indicate the procurator's name. It is simply assumed, based on the biblically imposed timeline of Antiquities and its little collection of names that cannot otherwise be attested, that the coin(s) were struck under this or that procurator.

No Annius Rufus either. There is an L. Tarius Rufus (cos. suff. 16 BC), who was another novus homo but he is obviously too old to show up in Judaea at the time indicated.

Can we find Valerius Gratus in Tacitus? No, though we do find a number of other Valeriuses.

Now, if we are working from the date that I think is valid, i.e. 15 to 19, the only Valerius that would have been eligible would have been Marcus Valerius Messalla Messalinus who was consul in 3 BC. We learn about him that, at the death of Augustus, during a debate in the senate afterward, "Messala Valerius added that the oath in Tiberius' name should be renewed annually..." (Annales 1.8)

This Valerius was the son of the famous orator M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus. He (the son) shows up again, surprise surprise, around the death of Germanicus!

Annales 3.18 where Tiberius is dealing with the "vengeance" for the death of Germanicus: "Valerius Messalinus proposed that a golden statue should be set up in the temple of Mars the Avenger..." Tiberius demurred.

Not much else of interest. He apparently was never in Syria/Judea.

There is another M. Valerius who is consul in 20 AD and was, apparently, the son of Marcus Valerius Messalla Messalinus who was consul in 3 BC.

There is another possible: Marcus Valerius Messala Volesus who was consul in 5 AD and had been proconsul of Asia in 11/12 AD.

It is unlikely, with the name, that this alleged Prefect of Judea would have been an equestrian.

We have to remember that many of these names that get tossed around about Judea by Josephus are known to have been there ONLY because he said so.

Anyway, it looks like Valerius Gratus is a bust.

Let me come back to Silanus already mentioned. Gaius Junius Silanus (cos. 10 AD) Tacitus tells us that this Silanus was arraigned in 22 AD for extortion in the cities of Asia. (Tacitus, Annales, 3.66 and 4.15.3)

About this arraignment:

"C. Silanus, the proconsul of Asia, arraigned by the allies for extortion, was seized simultaneously by Mamercus Scaurus, one of the consulars, Junius Otho, a praetor, and Bruttedius Niger an aedile, and they cast at him the charge that he had violated Augustus' divinity and spurned Tiberius' sovereignty... The number of accusers was increased by Gellius Publicola and M. Paconius, the former the quaestor of Silanus, the latter his legate.

"There was held to be no doubt that he was liable on charges of savagery and of taking money...

"Tiberius, in order that his intentions for Silanus might be received more justifiably with the help of an example, ordered the documents of Divine Augustus concerning Volesus Messala (likewise a proconsul of Asia) and the senate's decision passed against him to be read out. ..."
The above provides us with a clue that the earlier Marcus Valerius Messala Volesus who was consul in 5 AD and had been proconsul of Asia in 11/12 AD must have had charges brought against him as well.

Anyway, they are all ganging up on Silanus, but Tiberius has a bit of mercy on him at the request of Silanus' sister, "Torquata, a Virgin of old-time sanctity." (An inscription was found that attests to her having been a Vestal Virgin for 64 years.) The story is in Annales 3.66 - 70.

So, it seems that Silanus was sent directly to Asia after his consular year and was there probably 11/12. But that creates an even greater difficulty for Josephus because he has him as "president of Syria" somewhat later.

There was a C. Appius Junius Silanus who was consul in 28 and could possibly have been sent out in 29 or 30. Here's what Tacitus says about him:

"With Junius Silanus and with Silius Nerva as consuls, a foul beginning to the year was made with the dragging to prison of the illustrious Roman equestrian Titius Sabinus owing to his friendship with Germanicus." (4.68)
Now, isn't it interesting that there is a Sabinus hanging out with Germanicus, too, recalling that there was an alleged Sabinus causing problems by going after Herod the Great's estate when Archelaus headed off for Rome. But that was much earlier, 1 BC. So perhaps this Sabinus was a son of the "agent of Augustus", i.e. C. Poppaeus Sabinus? But if so, Tacitus would likely have mentioned that fact and he doesn’t.

Apparently, Silanus' prosecution was delayed and we find him again in 32 AD:

"Annius Pollio and Appius Silanus along with Scaurus Mamercus and Sabinus Calvisius were arraigned for treason..." (6.9)
This Silanus was, apparently, murdered by Claudius' freedman, Narcissus, in 42, which one deduces from a passing reference at 11.29.1.

The name "Annius Pollio" is interesting. Was that where Josephus got the idea for "Annius Rufus"? I'm just struck by the names "Rufus and Gratus" appearing in juxtaposition after they appeared several other times in Josephus' text as army captains in the rebellion.

Basically, we are having a real hard time lining any of these real people and events up with the novelized version by Josephus.

Let’s come back to Sabinus who was connected to the death of Herod the Great as the agent of Augustus (allegedly) and later, one by that name as a friend of Germanicus. Annales 4.17 - 19 excerpts:

AD 24:
"With Cornelius Cethegus and Visellius Varro as consuls... [Tiberius] was being hounded by Sejanus, who repeatedly censured the fact that the community was split as in a civil war: there were, he said, people calling themselves members of "Agrippina's faction"... [widow of Germanicus] ... It was for this reason that he attacked C. Silius and Titius Sabinus. Ruinous to each of them was their friendship with Germanicus, but to Silius was also the fact that, as controller of a mighty army for seven years and, after winning the triumphal insignia in Germany, as victor in the Sacrovirian war... Silius' wife was Sosia Galla, resented by the princeps on account of her affection for Agrippina. The decision was made to seize them both, deferring Sabinus for a time..."
And we read of the dragging to prison of Sabinus already mentioned. In short, it is either the same alleged person who was the "agent of Augustus" in 4 BC, or his son. But if it was the son, it is odd that Tacitus does not mention the family connection because he is usually very diligent about those things.

In other words, it looks like, again, Josephus has used the name of one of Germanicus' friends/staff/entourage to take some position or other in his novelized tale the Sorrows of Judea.

Let’s look now at the Paulina story and the worship of Isis. We learn from the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology:

Her worship in all parts of Greece is amply attested by express statements of ancient writers and numerous inscriptions. …

In the western parts of Europe the worship of Isis became likewise established, and many places in Sicily, Italy, and Gaul, are known to have been the seats of it. According to Appuleius (Met. xi. p. 262), it was introduced at Rome in the time of Sulla: at a later time her statue was removed from the capitol by a decree of the senate (Tertull. ad Nation. 1.10, Apolog. 6; Arnob. ad v. Gent. 2.73); but the populace and the consuls Piso and Gabinius, in BC 58, resisted the decree.

A further decree of BC 53 forbade the private worship of Isis, and ordered the chapels dedicated to her to be destroyed. Subsequently, when the worship was restored, her sanctuaries were to be found only outside the pomoerium. This interference on the part of the government was thought necessary on account of the licentious orgies with which the festivals of the goddess were celebrated.

In BC 50, the consul, L. Aemilius Paulus himself, was the first to begin the destruction of her temples, as no one else ventured to do so. (V. Max. 1.3.3.) But these decrees do not appear to have quite succeeded in destroying the worship of Isis, for in BC 47 a new decree was issued to destroy the temple of Isis and Serapis. By a mistake, the adjoining temple of Bellona was likewise pulled down, and in it were found pots filled with human flesh…

As it had thus become evident that the people were extremely partial to the worship of those foreign divinities, the triumvirs in BC 43 courted the popular favour by building a new temple of Isis and Serapis in the third region, and sanctioning their worship. (D. C. 47.15.) It would appear that after this attempts were made to erect sanctuaries of Isis in the city itself, for Augustus forbade her worship in the city, while outside of it there seem to have been several temples, which were subjected to government inspection.

The interference of the government was afterwards repeatedly required (Tac. Ann. 2.85; Suet. Tib. 36; J. AJ 18.3.4; Hegesipp. 2.4); but from the time of Vespasian the worship of Isis and Serapis became firmly established, and remained in a flourishing condition until the general introduction of Christianity.
Notice the mention of Aemilius Paulus in 50 BC... Interesting little play on names by Josephus assuming he was aware of the actions of Paulus. Certainly, there was no destruction of the temple of Isis in 19 AD though there was a suppression of the worship as Tacitus reports. Noticing exactly what Tacitus wrote, it is possible that it wasn’t just Jews that were among the four thousand transported, but worshippers of Isis as well.

The relationship between early Christianity and Isis worship seems to have been connected to the activities of Valentinian and he was probably the object of Irenaeus' ire. Now, interestingly, many of the ideas of Valentinian are curiously reminiscent of Paul, especially in Ephesians which many scholars are pleased to exclude as non-authentic but which Douglas Campbell insists IS authentic and the clearest statement of what Paul taught extant.

Going now in another direction, there's another interesting thing about this. Notice that the Markan gospel has the following:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar--when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene-- (Mark 3:1)
Based on all the clues I have gathered together here, it seems rather certain, that Pontius Pilate was never in Judea in the "fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius". However, if you made that "in the fifth year of Tiberius", it would fit exactly.

Also notice that many scholars believe the original beginning of Mark's gospel was 3:1 and that the longer intro was added later. So one might say that we may have here a historical record not of Jesus of Nazareth, but of the initiating of the ministry of Paul: "In the FIFTH year of Tiberius", i.e. 19 AD. That gives him 22 years of work before he travels to Rome sometime between 41 and 49 AD. That’s plenty of time for all the extensive adventures he recounts in his epistles.

2Co 1:8-9 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

6:4-5 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;

2Co 11:22 -27 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman--I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death.
Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.

11:32-33 In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.

Gal 1:13 -2:1 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother.

In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy."

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.

2Co 12:1-4 It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows-- was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. …

12:6 10 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Notice the claim above that, “three times I was beaten with rods”. To be beaten with rods was a Roman punishment that was almost never inflicted on Roman citizens, thus, we can be sure that the claim in Acts that Paul was a Roman citizen, was false. It was a plot device to get Paul from Jerusalem to Rome. I suspect that Paul never made the third visit to Jerusalem and the confrontation between the Jews and Paul that is depicted as having occurred in Jerusalem, actually occurred in Rome and resulted in Paul being exiled from the city.

One should notice that there are three endings in the epistle to the Romans, not two that are widely discussed. The first one is at Romans 15:13. I would suggest that, , after the confrontations that took place as described in I and II Corinthians, it seems that Paul may have been so hounded that he did not return to Jerusalem with the collection. In fact, one may wonder if the thread about the collection was not a later creation designed to clear Paul from accusations of fiscal misappropriation and became a plot device for the book of Acts to get Paul to Jerusalem and utilize a false assertion that he was a Roman citizen to get him to Rome on appeal.

Thus, beginning with Romans 15:15, we find an ending added later to make it look like Paul was planning on going to Jerusalem to support the plot device in Acts. This addition is just not credible considering all that has gone before as described in the epistles. The item about Paul planning to go to Spain may, however, have been derived from an authentic tradition. Chapter 16 is widely agreed to have been a separate letter of recommendation that was later tacked on to Romans.

I think that Paul went directly to Rome after all the persecutions he experienced from the James Gang in their drive to gain supporters and funds for their revolution. He was not making a collection and he did not have any reason to hang out with those people considering the increasing rebellion in Palestine. Paul was working as hard as he could to prevent the disaster that he could see coming if the Jews stood up against Rome and if the Gentiles continued to perceive the Jews as exclusivist and xenophobic. If he began his ministry in 19 AD in his early twenties, he would have been in his fifties by the time he made it to Rome. Perhaps he was exiled from Rome for a period as Clement suggests in his brief recap of the career of Paul. Perhaps he did go to Spain. And perhaps he returned to Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem and wrote chapters 9 through 11 of Romans in his grief and despair that his life’s work aimed at preventing this tragedy had been in vain.

And perhaps the entire James Gang, the putative apostles of the mythical Jesus of Nazareth, that were actually the revolutionary followers of Judas the Galilean, all perished, along with their delusions of messianic salvation, in the fires of Jerusalem.


FOTCM Member
Okay, I'm done. Any further additions can be edits to the existing entries.

Re-opening the thread.


Dagobah Resident
Thank you Laura for sharing such elaborate and mindblowing research and conclusions.
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but to me it seems that early "church" was ponerized to the max (this kind of "church" survived to our times with additional misleading interpretations (dogma)) and seems that Josephus and Paul were shady figures who followed their own agenda and somehow managed to "sell" number of lies by transforming them in incontrovertible truth.
For years I was wondering why someone needs three kind of gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) to explain Jesus life and why they have pretty obvious differences in narrative style? If someone is dealing with historic facts than why should use three different stories unless they are just that "stories" that needed to serve the purpose of propaganda. And of course what to do with Gnostic gospels and their own "stories"?
I must say that got even more obvious with Paulkovich's research about silent historians from "time" of Jesus that simply stayed mute about supposed messiah. Paulkovich says he found little to no mention of the supposed messiah in 126 texts written in the first to third centuries, with only one mention of Jesus in Josephus Flavius's book, but he claims it is fabricated.
Even in the Bible Paulkovich says Paul, often credited with spreading what would become Christianity, never refers to Jesus as a real person.
‘Paul is unaware of the virgin mother, and ignorant of Jesus' nativity, parentage, life events, ministry, miracles, apostles, betrayal, trial and harrowing passion,’ he writes.
‘Paul knows neither where nor when Jesus lived, and considers the crucifixion metaphorical.’ He also says that silence from Jesus himself is telling, with no personal accounts being written. ‘Perhaps the most bewildering "silent one" is the mythical super-savior himself, Jesus the Son of God ostensibly sent on a suicide mission to save us from the childish notion of "Adam's Transgression" as we learn from Romans,’ he says. ‘The Jesus character is a phantom of a wisp of a personage who never wrote anything. So, add one more: 127.’ He continues: ‘Christian father Marcion of Pontus in 144 CE denied any virgin birth or childhood for Christ - Jesus' infant circumcision was thus a lie, as well as the crucifixion! ‘Reading the works of second century Christian father Athenagoras, one never encounters the word Jesus (or Ἰησοῦς or Ἰησοῦν, as he would have written) - Athenagoras was thus unacquainted with the name of his savior it would seem.’ And he claims even the book of Mark in the Bible, which contains the story of Christ’s resurrection, was doctored later on. 'The original booklet given the name "Mark" ended at 16:8, later forgers adding the fanciful resurrection tale,’ he says.
‘Millions should have heard of the Jesus "crucifixion" with its astral enchantments: zombie armies and meteorological marvels recorded not by any historian, but only in the dubitable scriptures scribbled decades later by superstitious yokels.’

Although Paulkovich pointed in the right direction, the layers of history facts vs fiction you presented to us is mind blowing, Fomenko did marvelous job explaining how ancient history was forged via "re-fabrication, rewriting, repetition" and false chronology up to the time (and work) of Joseph Justus Scaliger and Denis Pétau, but being able to pinpoint facts about the birth of church and NT is absolutely astonishing. :scared:

And one small digression, this is how Qur'an explained Jesus (Isa) death of the crucifixion:
That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;— Qur'an, sura 4 (An-Nisa) ayat 157-158

This belief is also found in the Gospel of Basilides, the text of which is lost save for reports of it by other early scholars like Origen (c.185 – c.254). Basilides (Βασιλείδης), was a leading theologian of Gnostic tendencies, who had taught in Alexandria in the second quarter of the second century. His teachings were condemned as heretical by Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130 – c.200), and by Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170 - c.236), although they had been evaluated more positively by Clement of Alexandria (c.150 – c.215). Of course, this view is disregarded by mainstream Christianity which only accepts the 4 gospels contained in the New Testament as genuine, the other 28, seldom publicised, are viewed as heretical. That's lot of gospels to hold one simple "truth."

I'm holding my breath for more data.


FOTCM Member
I've added a lot more explanatory text to the next to last entry so ya'll might want to re-read that one.
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