Craig Evans’ take on Secret Mark critically examined: Part Two

Craig Evans’ take on Secret Mark critically examined:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Craig A. Evans

In the previous post I examined Craig Evans’ attempt to link the mystery of the kingdom of God to forbidden sexuality in Secret Mark and came to the conclusion that the text does not support such an interpretation, as Jesus and the youth according to the preserved text of Secret Mark are not said to be involved in anything sexually. If so, you cannot claim that Morton Smith already before his discovery showed interest in subjects which are supported by the discovery.

But we could also investigate if Smith really linked the mystery of the kingdom of God to forbidden sexuality. In order to link these subjects, you must assert that Smith made a point of the mystery of the kingdom of God having something to do with forbidden sexuality. This is the real issue to be dealt with.

It is repeatedly said by different people, and now by Craig A. Evans, that Morton Smith “linked Mark 4:11 (‘To you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God . . .’) with secrecy and forbidden sexual activity”. But is this really so?

This argument is quite tricky to deal with. The reason for this is mainly due to the fact that Morton Smith made no real linkage between the mystery of the kingdom of God and secrecy and forbidden sexual activity. But since he mentions these things in close connection to each other, it might seem as if he did. And since the relationship between these entities is so indistinct, it also becomes difficult to unveil where the forgery proponents get lost. We need to know what Smith really is trying to say. The problem for me then is more of a pedagogic nature.

Of course this has already been quite thoroughly investigated by Scott Brown and Allan Pantuck. Brown showed in 2006 in Factualizing the Folklore: Stephen Carlson’s Case against Morton Smith, that the arguments presented by Stephen Carlson misrepresented what Smith actually wrote. And Pantuck made a similar rebuttal to the arguments presented by Craig Evans at the Toronto conference this year (basically the paper I am examining). So my attempt now will simply be a repetition of what previously has been elucidated by these two scholars.

Anyway, Evans’ claim that Smith published three studies where he made this connection; 1) in the 1951 English release of his Hebrew doctoral dissertation as Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, 2) in a “1955 review of Vincent Taylor’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark” and 3) in his article “The Image of God” from March 1958, just a few month before he made his discovery at Mar Saba.

1) Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels (1951)

Smith’s dissertation was about Rabbinical (Tannaic) verbal parallels to Gospel material. Smith is comparing the Gospels to the Talmud, the Old Testament and so on. In the chapter referred to by Evans, Smith is in Allan Pantuck’s words “considering how the Gospels portray the words of Jesus in much the same way as the rabbis portray the words of the Law.” (Allan Pantuck, Reply to Evans, p. 2–3)

Evans then quotes the passage where Smith according to Evans links the mystery of the kingdom of God with secrecy and forbidden sexual activity. Like Stephan Carlson before him, Evans simply quoted those parts that would allow him to draw the conclusion he sought to find. He then continues …

I have quoted about one half of a lengthy paragraph. It is part of Smith’s discussion of human comprehension and what can and cannot be taught openly. The paragraph that has been partially quoted explores the idea that the early Church seems to have held to a doctrine of secrecy. Evidence of this, Smith thinks, is found in Mark 4:11, where Jesus explains to his disciples, “To you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God . . . ,” and in Paul, who says that he and other Christian leaders “speak wisdom among the perfect [or mature] . . . the wisdom of God in a mystery” (1 Cor 2:6–7).26 Following these two New Testament citations Smith suggests a comparison with the rabbinic distinction “between material suitable for public teaching and that reserved for secret teaching.” The secret teaching includes forbidden sexual relationships and Ezekiel’s vision of God’s chariot throne. The paragraph concludes with a further comparison with the Torah, which according to the rabbis was to be taught openly, and the teaching of heretics, which was to be taught secretly. Smith believes the evangelists Mark and John edited and presented the teaching of Jesus in response to this rabbinic teaching. (Craig Evans, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, p. 9)

So, according to Evans Smith suggested …

a)      that the early Church held to a doctrine of secrecy,

b)     a comparison with the rabbinic distinction “between material suitable for public teaching and that reserved for secret teaching.”

c)      that the secret teaching includes forbidden sexual relationships and Ezekiel’s vision of God’s chariot throne.

But in order to more easily follow Smith’s train of thoughts, I will quote the entire pertinent passage from Smith’s book Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels from 1951:

Further, I think the passage in Sifre on Deut. to have been based on the fact that an important part of primitive Christianity was a secret doctrine which was revealed only to trusted members.  Such a doctrine is suggested by the words put in the mouth of Jesus, speaking to his disciples: ‘To you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to those outside all things are in parables, that they may surely see and not perceive,’ etc.  And Paul himself wrote in I Cor. 2.1–6 ‘and I, coming to you, brethren, came not proclaiming the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom . . . that your faith might not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.  But we speak wisdom among the perfect, and a wisdom not of this age . . . but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery.’ A similar distinction was recognized by the Tannaïm between material suitable for public teaching and that reserved for secret teaching, as we learn from Hagigah T 2.1 (233): ‘The (passages of the Old Testament dealing with) forbidden sexual relationships are not to be expounded to three (at a time,) but may be expounded to two; and the account of creation not to two, but it may be expounded to a single hearer; and (Ezekiel’s vision of) the chariot may not be expounded to a single hearer unless he be learned in the Law and of good understanding.’  In spite of this the composers of T L thought, as has been seen, that there was an important difference between the words of the Law, which were taught openly, and the teachings of the heretics, which were taught secretly.  (Morton Smith, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, 1951, p. 155–156)

Smith is not at all linking the mystery of the kingdom of God with forbidden sexual activity. What he is doing is showing that there is a difference between the outer teaching for the general audience and the inner teaching preserved for the disciples or a smaller group; and that this is true both among Christians and the Jewish rabbis. And while doing this he is providing examples to prove his point.

The Christian examples he takes from Mark 4:11: “To you is given “the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to those outside all things are in parables, that they may surely see and not perceive,” and from Paul, 1 Cor 2:1–6: “But we speak wisdom among the perfect, and a wisdom not of this age”.

Then Smith says that a “similar distinction was recognized by the Tannaïm between material suitable for public teaching and that reserved for secret teaching”. He is accordingly referring to a “similar distinction” between the inner and outer teaching made by the Jewish rabbis. Notice that he is only claiming that both Christians and Jews have a similar distinction between teaching meant for the people and teaching meant for a small group of chosen individuals. That is the point Smith wants to make and in order to do so, ha also exemplifies this from the Tannaic literature by referring to the Mishnaic tractate Hagigah 2.1, which Smith then quotes:

“The (passages of the Old Testament dealing with) forbidden sexual relationships are not to be expounded to three (at a time,) but may be expounded to two; and the account of creation not to two, but it may be expounded to a single hearer; and (Ezekiel’s vision of) the chariot may not be expounded to a single hearer unless he be learned in the Law and of good understanding.” (Morton Smith, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, 1951, p. 155–156)

According to this text there are three subjects that could only be expounded to a few people: 1) Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot could only be expounded to a sage, 2) the account of creation (from Genesis) could only be expounded to a single hearer, and 3) the passages of the Old Testament dealing with forbidden sexual relationships could only be expounded to two hearers.

According to Smith this shows that also the rabbis made distinctions between inner and outer teaching. The fact that one of the tree examples in Hagigah happened to be about forbidden sexual relationships, was not the issue for Smith; it was the fact that it only could be expounded to a few. Smith did not link the mystery of the kingdom of God with the forbidden sexual relationships; he simply gave a few examples which would prove his point of similarities between the Tannaic and Christian teachings.

Incidentally, these “forbidden sexual relationships” refers to the Levitical laws from primarily the Book of Leviticus. And although homosexuality is one of the sexual activities that are forbidden, there are a vast number of other sexual behaviors which are equally forbidden; that is incest, sodomy, intercourse with a woman who has her period, or is married to another man, intercourse with an animal, castration and so on. Homosexuality is simply one of the forbidden sexual relationships referred to in that part of the Hagigah.

2) The 1955 review of Taylor’s commentary on Mark

Evans writes the following:

In his 1955 review of Vincent Taylor’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark Smith vigorously challenges Taylor’s denial that Mark 4:11 envisioned secret rites. Against Taylor, Smith reminds us that Mark represents Jesus “as teaching in secret and commanding secrecy on many occasions,” which is based on the “recollection that Jesus (also for a wide variety of reasons) practiced secrecy.” The first part of Smith’s statement will elicit no objection from those persuaded by William Wrede’s interpretation of Mark (wherein the point of secrecy was to hide the messianic identity of Jesus), but the second part of Smith’s statement is quite another matter. Jesus “practiced secrecy,” we are told, “for a wide variety of reasons.” What could Smith have had in mind? Could one of those reasons have had to do with teaching regarding prohibited sexual activities, as perhaps hinted at in his dissertation? And as hinted at in subsequent publications, not to mention his remarkable discovery at Mar Saba? (Craig Evans, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, p. 10–11)

I am quite surprised that Evans even tries to cast suspicion on Smith by alluding to this classical review by Smith.

Taylor claims that there “is no case” in “the NT, and especially in the Pauline Epp.” in which μυστήριον (mystêrion) “connotes secret rites or esoteric knowledge communicated to ‘initiates.’” Taylor then refers to Mark 4:11 and says that in this “passage and its parallels, it is used of a knowledge concerning the Kingdom of God which has been imparted to the disciples, but not to the people in general.” It is this assumption by Taylor to which Morton Smith is responding. He writes:

This looks self-contradictory, but perhaps T. intended to distinguish between ‘the disciples’ and ‘initiates,’ or some word such as ‘Elsewhere’ should be understood before the first sentence. However, the secrets to which μυστήριον refers in the rest of the NT are not always ‘open,’ e.g. 1 Cor. 2.6 f. (cf. 3.1–3); Col. 2.2; Eph. 5.32. In 1 Cor. Paul says plainly that there is a wisdom which he preaches among the ‘initiate’ (τελείοις), but which he cannot yet preach to the Corinthians because they are still ‘carnal.’ Paul, therefore, claimed to have a secret doctrine. As for Jesus, Mark, of course, represents him as teaching in secret and commanding secrecy on many occasions. The worst error of the ‘Messianic secret’ theories — as Cadbury has remarked — was that they tried to explain all or most of these occasions by reference to a single motive. Actually, the early Church had a wide variety of motives for attributing secret doctrine to Jesus, and among them may well have been the recollection that Jesus (also for a wide variety of motives) practiced secrecy. Every such attribution, therefore, must be judged individually. (Morton Smith, Comments on Taylor’s Commentary on Mark, HTR, Vol. 48, No. 1, Jan., 1955, p. 29)

As can be seen, Smith is never referring, or even alluding, to any prohibited sexual activities. That “the early Church had a wide variety of motives for attributing secret doctrine to Jesus, and among them may well have been the recollection that Jesus (also for a wide variety of motives [not “reasons”, as Evans quote Smith]) practiced secrecy”, does of course not imply that Smith “had in mind” a “teaching regarding prohibited sexual activities”. Why would he? He was simply responding to Taylor’s assertion that mystêrion (μυστήριον) never “connotes secret rites or esoteric knowledge communicated to ‘initiates” in the NT.

In fact Smith does not even think that the expression “the mystery of the Kingdom of God” was something Jesus originally said. Smith continues namely…

Mk. 4.11–12 is probably an answer to Jewish polemic. The Jews are saying, ‘Jesus was not the Messiah, because if he had been he would have been recognized by our scholars. He was heard and rejected.’ The Christian answer is, ‘They never heard his true teaching. He revealed the mysteries [sic!] of the Kingdom only to his disciples; for outsiders he had only parables. Thus he fulfilled God’s command to prevent the Jews from believing.’

So, if Smith did not think that Jesus taught the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but the Christians later invented that saying, how could he then have thought that this saying was a reference to secret sexual practices taught by Jesus? There is nothing in Smith’s review of Vincent Taylor’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark which suggests that Smith believed that the secrecy practiced by Jesus had anything to do with prohibited sexual activities; as Evans is suggesting.

3) The article “The Image of God” (March 1958)

This is what Evan says:

In an article that appeared in March of 1958, just a few months before Smith visited Mar Saba, Smith once again mentions the Hagigah passage from the Tosefta. This time, however, he also mentions Clement of Alexandria and cites his work Stromateis. This interesting article calls for a few more comments. Twice Smith mentions Hagigah, one time in reference to the story of the Jewish sage Aher, who “used the spiritual power acquired by his mystical esperience [sic!] to lead good Jews into heresy.” Smith mentions Hagigah a second time in reference to “the teaching about the throne of God,” which was “to be kept most secret of all.” Smith adds that this teaching “quite possibly was not committed to writing.” In a footnote to this final part of the statement Smith references Clement of Alexandria, where in Strom. 1.1.13–14 he discusses secrecy, the secret elements of Jesus’ teaching, and how it is incumbent on him (Clement) to omit some of the teaching, and to impart what teachings he thinks he is permitted to impart cautiously, lest his readers “stumble by taking them in a wrong sense.” Here we have echoed themes articulated in the paragraph from the 1951 dissertation quoted and discussed above.

It is quite difficult to follow Evans’ logic here. You have to study the footnotes, which I have not included in the quotation, in order to realize the connections Evans is trying to establish. According to Evans Smith mentions the tractate Hagigah twice. I don’t know what Evans wants to make out of the fact that Smith is saying that the “vegetable symbols originally outranked the astral” and that it “is probably older”; and then supports this statement with this footnote:

The symbolism persisted, of course, after the destruction of the Temple. When Aher entered paradise “ he cut down the plants ” , i.e. used the spiritual power acquired by his mystical experience to lead good Jews into heresy (T. Hag. 2.3, ed. Zuckermandel, p. 234). … (Morton Smith, The Image of God: Notes on the Hellenization of Judaism, with Especial Reference to Goodenough’s Work on Jewish Symbols,” BJRL 40 (1958): p. 505, n. 1)

This has nothing to do with anything Evans is intimating and it is not even referring to the same paragraph in Hagigah as the one dealing with forbidden sexuality.

The next reference to Hagigah is according to Evans “in reference to ‘the teaching about the throne of God,” which was ‘to be kept most secret of all.’” Evans then says that “[i]n a footnote to this final part of the statement Smith references Clement of Alexandria, where in Strom. 1.1.13–14 he discusses secrecy, the secret elements of Jesus’ teaching, and how it is incumbent on him (Clement) to omit some of the teaching, and to impart what teachings he thinks he is permitted to impart cautiously, lest his readers ‘stumble by taking them in a wrong sense.’” Evans believes that “we” thereby “have echoed themes articulated in the paragraph from the 1951 dissertation”. But is this really so? This is what Smith writes:

It is upon the tree of life that God rests when he comes to the Garden of Eden—on this rabbinic, pseudepigraphic, Christian and magical texts agree.(2)  This legend, plus the fact that the tree of life is the symbol of the saint, enables us to understand the cryptic saying of Resh Laqish, “ The patriarchs, they are the throne of God “.(3)  We should not expect this doctrine to be developed in the preserved rabbinic material, since the teaching about the throne of God is specified as that to be kept most secret of all,(4) and quite possibly was not committed to writing.(5)

2 …
3 …
4 Hagigah 2. 1 and parallels.
5 Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Strom. I. 1. 13-14 etc.

Smith is simply supporting his view that “the throne of God” is to be kept secret by referring to Hagigah 2.1, where as we have seen the Mishna forbids any public teaching regarding Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot or the throne. It is true that Hagigah 2.1 also refers to all sorts of forbidden sexuality, but this is not what Smith is referring to in this case. It is amazing that someone can suggest that Smith is alluding to forbidden sexuality by referring to a certain passage, although he explicitly refers to another subject in that passage.

Smith then refers to (or cites) Clement, Stromata 1.1.13-14 etc., to support that this secret teaching was not committed to writing. That he chose Clement to support this idea is of course quite expected. As Scott Brown puts it:

Again, Smith was discussing secret doctrines, and Clement is the most obvious Christian example of the widespread philosophical attitude that the most profound doctrines should not be put in writing: (Scott G. Brown, Factualizing the Folklore: Stephen Carlson’s case against Morton Smith, HTR, July 1, 2006, p. 325)

But all this does of course not support anything of Evans’ suggestions. The mystery of the kingdom of God and Mark 4:11–12, are not mentioned; neither is any forbidden sexuality. The reference to Hagigah 2.1 is to another prohibition and not to sexuality. And just because this tractate happens to be in a footnote followed by a footnote reference to Clement of Alexandria, does not support that Smith linked them to each other.

Summary

Evans claim that Smith already before he made his discovery of the Clement letter with two extracts from a Secret Gospel of Mark in the summer of 1958, had expressed similar ideas as those found in Secret Mark. Apart from the fact that those elements are not found in Secret Mark, Smith never made the connections Evans is saying that he did. According to Evans:

Prior to the discovery of the Clementine letter at the Mar Saba Monastery Smith had published three studies (1951, 1955, 1958) in which he discusses (1) Mark 4:11 (“the mystery of the kingdom of God”), (2) secrecy and initiation, (3) forbidden sexual relationships, including union with a god, (4) omitted Markan material with Johannine traits, and (5) Clement of Alexandria, usually in reference to his Stromateis, who believed it was necessary to omit some of Jesus’ secret (potentially offensive) teaching. (Craig Evans, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark, p. 14)

It is of course not a bit strange if a scholar who has studied both Christianity and Judaism, also in his writings has mentioned Mark 4:11–12 and the mystery of the kingdom of God, and secret teaching as well, since also this was part of his study field. But the point is if he made the connection between the elements Evans believes can be found in Secret Mark. And the answer is definitely no.

In his dissertation and book, the Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels from 1951, he does not link the mystery of the kingdom of God with secrecy and forbidden sexual activity. He is simply showing that there is a difference between the outer teaching and the inner teaching and supporting this with examples to prove his point. Then he happened to chose Mark 4:11 as one of the Christian examples and Hagigah as the Jewish example to prove his point, and one of the subjects in that tractate was about all kinds of forbidden sexual relationships. That is all there is.

The 1955 review of Taylor’s commentary on Mark shows nothing at all. Smith is never referring, or even alluding, to any prohibited sexual activities. Evans’ belief that Smith would have alluded to “teaching regarding prohibited sexual activities” is totally unsupported.

And in his 1958 article “The Image of God”, Smith never even mentions the mystery of the kingdom of God, nor refers to any forbidden sexuality. He simply happened to put two footnotes next to each other, one referring to Clement where he suggest that not everything should be put in writing, and the Hagigah, where it said that the throne of God is to be kept secret.

Next, I will look into Evans’ suggestion that Smith would have supported the idea that Mark should have omitted material with Johannine traits and that this is also true regarding Secret Mark.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-30

Annonser

Craig Evans’ take on Secret Mark critically examined: Part One

Craig Evans’ take on Secret Mark critically examined:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Craig A. Evans

Craig A. Evans has written an article on the Clement letter including the Secret Gospel of Mark as being a forgery, Doubting Morton Smith and Secret Mark, which has been favourable received among the forgery proponents. This has also triggered a debate between James F. McGrath here and here, and Craig Evans here. At the end of his article Evans writes that the full text of his “York paper will be published under the editorship of Tony Burke and Phil Harland.” Since he at his homepage publishes the paper Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt, which he says is a “Paper presented at a conference hosted by York University, Toronto, April 2011. To be published in conference volume”, I suppose that this is the York paper to be published.

Anyway, I will take a look at Evans’ York Paper, Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt. Evans has obviously skipped some of his not so well thought-out arguments, which he put forward in his book Fabricating Jesus and to an even greater extent when he acted as an “expert” for Lee Strobel in Strobel’s book The Case for the Real Jesus (see my article One Thousand and One Untruths: How Reliable Is the Account of Secret Mark by Lee Strobel and Craig Evans?).

Evans’ paper is some sort of summary of most of the arguments which are put forward as evidence that the Clement letter is a forgery and that Morton Smith is the forger. On the whole Evans’ arguments are a rehash and a repetition of arguments already put forward by Stephen Carlson, Francis Watson, Bart Ehrman and others. One could say that Evans’ paper makes a nice summary of all those arguments. I will therefore obviously not be able to answer and try to refute every single argument. This is on the other hand not necessary, since most of the arguments already have been met and often fairly thoroughly refuted by others and some also by me.

I will however concentrate on those issues on which Evans spends most of his time. He says that the reason why he views the find with grave suspicion is “that Smith possessed knowledge of distinctive elements of the Mar Saba find, prior to his finding it”:

“… what I find most troubling is that themes of interest to Professor Smith, as seen in his publications before the finding of the Clementine letter, are found in the Clementine letter. And these are not just themes of interest to Professor Smith, they are quite unusual themes and, apart from Professor Smith himself, they are themes advanced by no one else. In what follows two unusual themes will be explored: (1) The “mystery of the kingdom of God” and prohibited sex, and (2) Markan materials omitted from Mark that exhibit Johannine traits.” (p. 8)

I will begin with the “’mystery of the kingdom of God’ and prohibited sex”.

In order to make such a connection Evans need to show a) that Smith actually made a “linkage between secrecy and prohibited sex”, b) that such a linkage would be seen as something quite unusual and c) that the teaching of the mystery of the kingdom of God in Secret Mark has to do with prohibited sex, or sex whatsoever.

We can leave point b) aside, since the probability that Smith by chance would have dealt with issues he later were to discover are difficult to calculate and therefore to evaluate. But in order for Evans’ equation to work both a) and c) must be true. Because if Smith made no linkage between secrecy and prohibited sex, it makes no difference if the teaching of the mystery of the kingdom of God in Secret Mark would turn out to be about prohibited sex. And the other way around, if the mystery of the kingdom of God in Secret Mark has nothing to do with prohibited sex, it makes no difference if Smith would have linked secrecy with prohibited sex. As it turns out, neither of the assertions seem to be true.

Although, as I said, this paper by Evans constitutes a vast improvement compared to previous attempts by him, it still has logical fallacies and also factual errors on issues on which he should not, or even could not, be unaware of.

Already in the first paragraph Evans says the following:

“What makes the find controversial is that in one of the passages quoted from this Gospel Jesus teaches a naked young man the ‘mystery of the kingdom of God.’”

But you only need to have the ability to read in order to see that the young man is not naked:

“And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body.”

As anyone who can read ought to be able to see, the youth is not naked as he wears a linen cloth. If you wear a linen cloth you are not naked. “He only wore a pair of trousers and a t-shirt over his naked body”. This means that he is dressed. One could of course argue that the youth intended to take off the linen cloth, but this will have to be a pure speculation built on no facts at all. And Evans does not even discuss this possibility, but simply asserts that the young man was naked. On top of this he also extends this assumption on page 27 to include Jesus as well, when he writes that “Jesus (in the nude?) instructs a new convert”. For sure he this time has a question mark, yet no discussion around the body of evidence for making such an assumption.

Now, one could say that this is just a trifle; some failed wording. But by saying that the youth was naked, Evans is actually dishonestly presenting something which is not true. The real problem here is though that this faulty assumption then forms the basis for much of his further conjectures.

Evans says that “forbidden sexual activities are hinted at throughout the Clementine letter, including and especially the first quotation of the longer edition of Mark”(p. 15–16). And it is correct that Clement is accusing Carpocrates for distorting the meaning of Secret Mark and the Carpocratians for dealing with carnal and bodily sins. But Clement also elsewhere in his unquestioned writings accuses the Carpocratians for these things, so this is nothing new. The real issue is what is said in the Secret Gospel of Mark, as this is where the mystery of the kingdom of God occurs. Evans (and others) can only make the connection if he can show that Jesus and the youth were indulging in some sex-act when Jesus was teaching the youth the kingdom of God. And there is nothing in the text that supports such a theory. The reasons for this are …

1)      The excerpts from Secret Mark never say that there were any sexual activities between Jesus and the youth.

2)      There is no example anywhere else, neither in Christian nor other writings, that the mystery of the kingdom of God would be a veiled expression for (forbidden) sex.

3)      Jesus is also teaching the other disciples the mystery of the kingdom of God without anyone considering this to have anything to do with sexuality.

4)      A youth wearing nothing but a linen cloth is also present in Mark 14:51–52, and the fact that he is stripped of his clothes, does not hint at (and has not been interpreted as) anything sexual.

5)      The fact that the youth later is described as the one whom Jesus loved,  does not imply anything sexual, as Jesus also elsewhere is said to have loved other people. And besides, the Greek word agapê, which primarily refers to Platonic love, is used.

6)      Clement, who for certain represented the view among those in the Alexandrian Church where this Gospel was used, did not find anything sexual in the text. On the contrary, he quoted the passage in order for Theodoros to see the obvious himself.

So, even IF Smith would have linked the mystery of the kingdom of God to forbidden sexuality, this has no impact on Evans’ arguments since they are not linked in Secret Mark, and (homo)sexuality is no issue in the text.

To be continued …

A Quest for Secret Mark’s Authenticity: A Chain is as Strong as its Weakest Link

I wrote this article more than a year ago, and had it published at my web site. But since it went by without being much noticed and as I think it has some good points, I have decided to publish it once more and then here on my blog.

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A Quest for Authenticity:
A Chain is as Strong as its Weakest Link

by Roger Viklund

It is said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This means that if a number of arguments are presented in favour of a particular opinion and these arguments are dependent upon each other, then that opinion itself is no stronger than the weakest argument. If that argument is a dubious argument, then it does not matter if the other arguments are solid. On the other hand, if you can produce a chain of arguments leading from the beginning to the end; and every argument in that chain is intellectually persuasive, then this chain would reasonably produce a very strong case. If the chain cannot be broken by cracking one of the links, the chain would form what could be considered to be a proof or at least strong evidence.

What I will do here is to try to present such a chain of arguments leading up to a reasonably solid ground for authenticity of the Secret Gospel of Mark and as a result thereof also the Clement letter. In this I will focus on the elements which form the separate links in the chain and leave most of the other circumstances outside the discussion, as I believe that motives, opportunities and other circumstantial evidence are irrelevant if a solid case for authenticity can be presented. I will also, as a second chain, argue for the longer secret/mystic gospel being the original Gospel of Mark, preceding the canonical version in the Bible.

I will take my stand in the Secret Gospel itself, beginning from the very start and advancing to modern time; quite the opposite approach compared to what is often seen, where the investigation begins with Morton Smith and the discovery at Mar Saba in 1958. In order to make my case as clear as possible, I will also try to keep this article as short as is defensible, not arguing in detail for every position, but instead presupposing that the readers are aware of the history of the letter and Mark’s literary techniques with intercalations, framing stories and so on.

The first Chain: A Claim for Authenticity

Authenticity Link One

The Secret Mark fragments form both an intercalation
and a framing story within the Gospel of Mark

For convenience I will designate the Secret Mark fragments in connection with the intermediate section from the Gospel of Mark (10:35–45) as an intercalation, even though I know that some people consider it not to be an intercalation. Regardless of what one thinks is characterizing an intercalation; the parts from Secret Mark do interact with the Gospel of Mark in a way which is typical of how the Gospel of Mark is composed. When Mark (to me a code word for whoever wrote the gospel) is telling a story, he has a habit of incorporating an additional story and letting these two stories unfold simultaneously by letting the focus shift from one story to the other. He does this so that the stories illuminate each other, thereby highlighting Mark’s theological intention. The technique is called intercalation or Markan sandwich technique. The course can be described as letting an A-event progress while a B-event is put inside the A-event. The course is A, then B and finally A again, or better, A1, B, and finally A2.[1]

Below, I reproduce Secret Mark fitted in its context in the Gospel of Mark; both the Greek text and an English translation.

Mark 10:32–34, Alexandrian text type, GNT Morph

ἦσαν δὲ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἀναβαίνοντες εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ ἦν προάγων αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἐθαμβοῦντο οἱ δὲ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἐφοβοῦντο καὶ παραλαβὼν πάλιν τοὺς δώδεκα ἤρξατο αὐτοῖς λέγειν τὰ μέλλοντα αὐτῷ συμβαίνειν ὅτι ἰδοὺ ἀναβαίνομεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδοθήσεται τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς γραμματεῦσιν καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτὸν θανάτῳ καὶ παραδώσουσιν αὐτὸν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν καὶ ἐμπαίξουσιν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐμπτύσουσιν αὐτῷ καὶ μαστιγώσουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀποκτενοῦσιν καὶ μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἀναστήσεται

SecMk1 (the A1-story)

καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς βηθανίαν καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ μία γυνὴ ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτῆς ἀπέθανεν· καὶ ἐλθοῦσα προσεκύνησε τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· υἱὲ Δαβὶδ ἐλέησόν με· οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμησαν αὐτῇ· καὶ ὀργισθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπῆλθεν μετ’ αὐτῆς εἰς τὸν κῆπον ὅπου ἦν τὸ μνημεῖον· καὶ εὐθὺς ἠκούσθη ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου φωνὴ μεγάλη· καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπεκύλισε τὸν λίθον ἀπὸ τῆς θύρας τοῦ μνημείου· καὶ εἰσελθὼν εὐθὺς ὅπου ἦν ὁ νεανίσκος ἐξέτεινεν τὴν χεῖρα καὶ ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν· κρατήσας τῆς χειρός· ὁ δὲ νεανίσκος ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἤρξατο παρακαλεῖν αὐτὸν ἵνα μετ’ αὐτοῦ ᾖ· καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου ἦλθον εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ νεανίσκου· ἦν γὰρ πλούσιος· καὶ μεθ’ἡμέρας ἓξ ἐπέταξεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ ὀψίας γενομένης ὁ νεανίσκος πρὸς αὐτὸν· περιβεβλημένος σινδόνα ἐπὶ γυμνοῦ· καὶ ἔμεινε σὺν αὐτῷ τὴν νύκτα ἐκείνην· ἐδίδασκε γὰρ αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὸ μυστήριον τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ· ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἀναστὰς; ἐπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου.

Mark 10:35–45 (the B-story), Alexandrian text type

καὶ προσπορεύονται αὐτῷ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης οἱ υἱοὶ Ζεβεδαίου λέγοντες αὐτῷ διδάσκαλε θέλομεν ἵνα ὃ ἐὰν αἰτήσωμέν σε ποιήσῃς ἡμῖν ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς τί θέλετέ με ποιήσω ὑμῖν οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ δὸς ἡμῖν ἵνα εἷς σου ἐκ δεξιῶν καὶ εἷς ἐξ ἀριστερῶν καθίσωμεν ἐν τῇ δόξῃ σου ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω ἢ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ δυνάμεθα ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω πίεσθε καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθήσεσθε τὸ δὲ καθίσαι ἐκ δεξιῶν μου ἢ ἐξ εὐωνύμων οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὸν δοῦναι ἀλλ’ οἷς ἡτοίμασται καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ δέκα ἤρξαντο ἀγανακτεῖν περὶ Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωάννου καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν τῶν ἐθνῶν κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι αὐτῶν κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν οὐχ οὕτως δέ ἐστιν ἐν ὑμῖν ἀλλ’ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ μέγας γενέσθαι ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος ἔσται πάντων δοῦλος καὶ γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν διακονηθῆναι ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν

Mark 10:46a + SecMk2 (the A2-story), Mark 10:46b

καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ καὶ ἦσαν ἐκεῖ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ νεανίσκου ὃν ἠγάπα αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ καὶ Σαλώμη· καὶ οὐκ ἀπεδέξατο αὐτὰς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ Ἰεριχὼ καὶ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ ὄχλου ἱκανοῦ ὁ υἱὸς Τιμαίου Βαρτιμαῖος τυφλὸς προσαίτης ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν

Mark 10:32–34, NASB

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, [saying,] ”Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. ”They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill [Him,] and three days later He will rise again.”

SecMk1, Morton Smith’s translation

And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.

Mark 10:35–45, NASB

James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on [Your] left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. “But to sit on My right or on [My] left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Hearing [this,] the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:46a, SecMk2, Mark 10:46b

Then they came to Jericho. And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar [named] Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.

Although of course also other writers in antiquity sometimes tended to interweave stories into other stories, the specifically Markan techniques for doing so have explicit characteristics. Actually, “Mark employs the sandwich technique in a unique and pronounced manner.”[2] This realization has led to more and more scholars arguing that “the purpose of Mark’s sandwich technique is not in itself literary but theological”.[3] Scholars disagree also upon what should be called an intercalation or not, but at least six passages are generally accepted as intercalations[4] and at least a dozen more are disputed. Among these six there are stylistic features they have in common. These can be summarized in five typical characteristics of a Markan intercalation.[5]

  1. The A2-story is repeating the opening theme from the A1-story in order to draw attention to the relationship between the two A-stories.
  2. The B-story is independent of the A-story and also complete in itself.
  3. There are different protagonists in the A- and B-stories.
  4. Both the A-story and the B-story are set to contrast the other story theologically and thematically and they should be reciprocally interpretative.
  5. The A1-episode should continue and be fulfilled by the A2-episode.

The two quotations by Clement can be seen as the A1-story and the A2-story (SecMk1 and SecMk2). The B-story is made up of the part in between these stories, Mark 10:35–45, the request by James and John to accompany Jesus in his Kingdom. How well does this then fulfil the five criteria?

The first criterion: SecMk2 is repeating the opening theme of SecMk1, but only if Mark 10:46a is added, and this shows that they should be seen as a unit from the beginning.

SecMk1: Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς βηθανίαν καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ μία γυνὴ ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτῆς  ἀπέθανεν.
And they come into Bethany, and there was a certain woman whose brother had died.

Mark 10:46a + SecMk2:    Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ καὶ ἦσαν ἐκεῖ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ νεανίσκου ὃν ἠγάπα αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς.
And they come into Jericho, and there was the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved.

Both passages begin with “and they come into” and thereafter the place. Then another “and” after which the same woman is mentioned and she is in both cases identified as the sister of the youth … and so on. This means that the first criterion is fulfilled, as the A2-story “contains an allusion at its beginning which refers back to A1, e.g., repetition of a theme, proper nouns, etc.” in order to draw attention to the relationship between the two A-stories and so the reader not “fails to link A2 with A1”.[6] One could of course argue that Mark 10:46a (Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς, and a place name) is such a common phrase in Mark (also in Mark 5:38, 8:22, 11:15, 14:32) that this should not be counted as a repetition. Still it is a repetition of SecMk1, and the rest of the sentence is in itself enough to make the connection. On top of that there is also another typical Markan intercalation sign in this story. Tom Shepherd describes this Markan technique in his doctoral thesis:

Also, a previously unmentioned character is introduced, or a new name is given to a group previously introduced in the first part of the outer story. This new character or newly named group is the subject/actor of the first or second sentence of the reentered outer story.[7]

That is in the first or second sentence of the A2-story. This also perfectly fits the Secret Mark-intercalation, since Salome, a person who is not mentioned before in the Gospel of Mark, is introduced in the first sentence of SecMk2. Also the youth’s mother (provided she is not Jesus’ mother) is a new character, never previously mentioned. John Dart, who happens to believe that Secret Mark was the original composition by Mark, believes the mother to be Jesus’ mother. He writes:

The rebuff of the women by Jesus, without direct explanation, is not unprecedented in Mark. Earlier, Mark has Jesus express disdain for his mother and siblings at 3:31–35 and at 6:4, apparently for believing Jesus was “mad” and a prophet pretender, respectively. Mother is ignored again in Secret Mark’s 10:46.[8]

The second criterion: In SecMk1 (A1) Jesus raises a youth from the dead and then teaches him “the Mystery of the Kingdom of God”. In SecMk2 (A2) one of the persons from SecMk1 (A1) is back, namely the sister of the youth. The B-story is on the other hand in itself complete and independent of the A-story, and it concerns seemingly another subject, namely that James and John strive to drink the cup of Jesus and request to be elevated to his Kingdom to sit on each side of him. The second criterion is therefore fulfilled, as “the B-episode forms an independent unit of material”.[9]

The third criterion: There should be different characters in the A- and B-stories. The exceptions are normally Jesus and the disciples, as they (at least Jesus) are part of almost every story. But if the disciples are present in both stories, they are not supposed to play a major part in both.[10] Also this criterion is fulfilled. In the B-story the disciples, and then particularly James and John, are the protagonists. In the A-story (SecMk1) the protagonists are the youth, his sister, Salome and the mother of either the youth or Jesus. The disciples are only mentioned at the beginning, and then as a group.

[Mark] brought two stories together not only in the telling, but also in the way the characters of the stories have so many parallels and contrasts to one another. And yet, the evangelist also held the stories apart by lack of character cross over between stories …[11]

Mark 10:46a has Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ – ”And they come to Jericho”. It is then interesting to note that according to Clement, Mark 10:46a instead read: “And he comes to Jericho” (καί ἔρχεται εἰς Ἰεριχὼ). Thereby the disciples’ involvement in the A-story is even more abridged.

The fourth criterion: Particularly this criterion, where the A- and B-stories should contrast each other theologically and thematically and also be reciprocally interpretative, is a late discovery, which according to Scott Brown was not fully accepted until the 1980s:

It was during the second half of the 1960s and the 1970s that a sizeable number of scholars came to appreciate intercalation as a device that permits stories to be mutually interpretative. Yet this perspective only began to dominate in the 1980s.[12]

J. D. Crossan emphasizes that “a Markan intercalation is not just a juxtaposition of two events”. Instead it is “a literary-theological technique, with both sides of the hyphen equally important.”[13] The two stories, the outer framing and the inner intersection, should at the same time be unrelated, with different protagonists operating in different environments and scenarios, and related by a more subtle understanding that they relate to a similar subject, yet often expressed more symbolically, thereby illuminating each other.

Also this criterion is seemingly fulfilled in the Secret Mark-intercalation. The A1-story and the B-story are tied together by the conception of death and ritual inauguration. In order to reach the place of honour, James and John need to drink Jesus’ cup; to “drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with”. (Mark 10:38) In SecMk1 the youth is dressed in a linen cloth, and has prepared himself to undergo what could be interpreted as an initiation rite, being taught “the Mystery of the Kingdom of God”. Symbolically he could be said to undergo Jesus’ baptism, which in that case is not a baptism of water but one of spirit and knowledge. If so, he tries to achieve Jesus’ glory by drinking his cup, the same as also James and John immediately afterwards requests.[14]

As James Edwards says, there “are many examples in ancient literature where an author interrupts one story with another in order to achieve a desired effect.” And he refers to both the Odyssey and the Iliad and from Hebrew Scriptures for instance 2 Maccabees, Hosea and 2 Sam 11:1-12:25. But he also says that to the best of his knowledge “the use of an inserted middle to give new meaning or to resolve a tension in a host passage can be seen” only in Hebrew Scriptures, and even then seldom. Still these stories differ from the ones in Mark, as “their B-episodes are intentional commentaries on the flanking A-episodes, whereas in Mark the B-episode is (with the exception of 4:1-20) always an independent narrative.”[15] “Almost always the insertion is the standard by which the flanking material is measured, the key to the interpretation of the whole.”[16]

The fifth criterion: Point 5 is however not fulfilled as the story from SecMk1 is not continuing and getting its fulfilment in SecMk2. Although the story in some way continues, as the sister of the youth who showed Jesus to the grave in SecMk1, and perhaps also the youth’s mother, now wish to meet Jesus, even if he rejects them. But SecMk1 is of course not fulfilled by SecMk2, as the first story is complete in itself.

This fifth criterion is seen by many as the ultimate criterion for an intercalation and therefore this story is by them considered not to be an intercalation, at least not a typical one. There are though other intercalations within the Gospel of Mark where the A2-story really is not needed to fulfil the A1-story, for instance in the intercalations in Mark 11:12–25 and Mark 6:7–32. In for example the A2-story in Mark 6:30–32 the travel-weary disciples simply reports back to Jesus what they already had done. This A2-story is really not necessary to fulfil the A1-story. SecMk1 is also unusually long to be an A1-story, and SecMk2 is unusually short to be an A2-story. But John Dart refers to Mark 6:30–32 as an example of why, according to him, “the postscriptlike conclusion” should not be considered to be too short an end frame.”[17] And on top of this; if Mark 11:1–12:12 is seen as a triple intercalation, then Mark 11:1–10 (11) is also a completed A1-story just like SecMk1.[18]

Whether the Secret Mark fragments inserted in the Gospel of Mark, shall be called an intercalation or not, is on the other hand simply a matter of semantics, and is totally irrelevant for my line of argument. I settle for noticing that four out of the five criteria put forward for identifying an intercalation are fulfilled, thereby showing that whoever wrote these two passages from the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark was aware of at least four out of the five techniques which the author of the Gospel of Mark utilized when he composed his intercalations. And if that person was aware of these four, he would for sure also have been aware of the fifth, since it is the most obvious one and easiest to detect.

The framing story

On top of that, also a framing story is attained where Mark 10:32–34 in interplay with SekMk1 are mirroring the language and the narrative of the actual ending of the Gospel of Mark (16:1–8), and both these “frames” are enclosing the extensive part which as a unit deals with Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem.

Authenticity Link Two

Ancient authors were unaware of Mark’s literary techniques

If someone else than the author of the Gospel of Mark has written the Secret Mark fragments, we would need to presuppose that this author was aware of Mark’s literary techniques, as presented in the previous authenticity link. Is there any way that someone in antiquity could have discovered these techniques? How does one prove that ancient authors were not aware of Mark’s literary techniques? One could of course point out the obvious, that no one shows any signs of knowing them. No Christian writer in the first centuries (and probably also later) says anything about the Gospel author’s literal techniques, neither directly nor show any awareness of them. But one could also take a broader perspective, and see that no one even cared for evaluating any author’s technique. The church fathers saw the gospels more like one testimony from God and they defended a passage in one gospel by referring to another gospel or to an epistle.

Notice that I do not claim that no one could have imitated Mark’s writing style, such as forming phrases and using words similar to those found in the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s style would be fairly easy to imitate, in antiquity as well as in modern time, by someone who had read the gospel thoroughly. It is after all just a short passage which needs to be invented, and Mark’s language is rather simplistic. Instead of focusing upon the language, I am specifically referring to the intercalation and the framing story.

How could anyone in antiquity have detected these techniques and then afterwards also been able to imitate them? Remember that no form of textual criticism like science has evolved into today was known in antiquity. And it has been a long and painstaking road to walk until just a few decades ago before we came to realize all the techniques that we so far know are being used in Secret Mark. Simply the fact that it took modern scholars so many years to discover Mark’s techniques would make it quite unlikely that the ancients would have been able to do the same thing (and all of this secretly). The only true examples we have to make comparisons with are the different endings of the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:9ff), where certainly not Markan techniques are being utilized.[19] The ones who wrote these endings did not even manage to write in a typical Markan language, but were instead using words and expressions alien to Mark.

We are to believe that whoever managed to forge Mark could imitate his writing style, creating a framing story in interaction with the already finished Gospel of Mark and on top of that also an intercalation, where the author could identify and implement four distinct Markan characteristics which by science was only discovered at different times during the last centuries. Yet at the same time he was doing this, he would refrain from using the obvious sign of an intercalation, a sign which at least would be possible to discover if someone set out to analyze Mark’s literary techniques.

And as previously said, James Edwards claims that although there are many examples in ancient literature of sandwiching techniques being used, only seldom and then only in Hebrew Scriptures is there an inserted story that gives new meaning to the “host passage”. And even then “their B-episodes are intentional commentaries on the flanking A-episodes, whereas in Mark the B-episode is … an independent narrative.”[20]

There are those who believe that these techniques could have been more common in antiquity than we are aware of, and also that they could have been imitated subconsciously. I do not think so, since it is not just a matter of literal construction but mainly of theological. It is obvious for instance in one of the classical intercalations (Mark 14:53–72), where Peter denies Jesus thrice before the rooster crows twice, that the division between Jesus’ trial and Peter’s denial is not primarily done in order to increase the excitement, but to highlight the difference between a coward and someone willing to stand up for the faith, even if it costs him his life. This division is done to strengthen the supporters’ faith, and is not just a literal technique learnt in some rhetorical school. There is a huge difference between realizing what standing up for the faith means to me, and to unveil the technique used to create this insight and afterwards also being able to imitate it.

For those reasons, no one in antiquity could (within a reasonable way of using probabilities) have written Secret Mark, apart from the one who also wrote the canonical Gospel of Mark.

Authenticity Link Three

Medieval authors were unaware of Mark’s literary techniques

Could then someone later on have made the forgery? I am specifically referring to the period from the 3rd century (after Clement’s days) to the 18th century (before the letter was copied into the end papers of Vossius’ book). I would regard this as equally or even more unlikely. Equally unlikely, since the awareness of Mark’s literary techniques did not radically increase during this period. More unlikely, since a forger during this period also would have had to forge Clement, quite a difficult task, and by many regarded as almost impossible to do before 1936,[21] when the first concordance of Clement’s words was released.[22]

It is therefore not a realistic scenario to envision that someone would have made up this letter during this period and that a monk at Mar Saba in the 18th century took that text, which he thought was genuine, and copied it onto the end leaves of Vossius’ book.

Authenticity Link Four

Was the letter invented by someone else than Smith in the 18th, 19th or 20th century?

It is also unrealistic to believe that the letter was produced in the 18th, 19th or 20th century by someone else than Smith. The reason for this is though quite another than what previously has been argued for. Someone who would invent this letter in the 18th century would not have had the problem of producing the actual writing. Still in the 18th century that person could not have been aware of all the Markan literary techniques in order to produce the Secret Mark fragments. And he would also have faced the same problem as everybody else before 1936 in composing the Clement-part of the letter. Someone writing in the 1940s or 1950s could possibly have known all these things, but then the circumstance under which the letter was found makes this scenario really impossible to embrace. If someone would have gone through all the painstaking work of producing, what by many has been seen as the forgery of the century, then this person reasonably must have made sure that the letter also was found. To produce the forgery and then stick the book into a bookshelf at the Mar Saba library and hoping that someone eventually will find this forgery by pure chance and that this someone also will realize the importance of the discovery, is so unrealistic that I cannot really consider it to be an alternative at all. It is really out of the question.

Authenticity Link Five

Could Smith himself have forged the letter?

Morton Smith could in my opinion hardly have forged the letter. Out of these five links, this is probably though the weakest one, with far less hard facts to back it up. Apart from the option that both the Clement letter and Secret Mark are genuine, the only other realistic scenario seems to be that Morton Smith forged the letter. Of course, nothing so far presented as indications that Smith forged the letter can really be considered as evidence. It all basically comes down to casting suspicion on him. There are though a number of reasons that makes it quite unlikely that he forged the letter.

The sheer difficulty in imitating Mark, both literary and using his techniques, imitating Clement, both literary and implementing his world view, and imitating a fluid rapid cursive 18th century Greek handwriting, is in itself a strong argument in favour of Smith not having forged the text. He, like everybody else, could not possibly have managed to do it even if he had wanted to. On top of that, his correspondence with Gershom Scholem shows “him discussing the material with Scholem, over time, in ways that clearly reflect a process of discovery and reflection.”[23] And according to Helmut Koester, Smith was struggling to understand the document, even had problem to decipher the Greek handwriting. Not what one, according to Koester, would have expected from a forger.[24] But still, Smith could have been the cleverest forger ever to have appeared! This is at least what the proponents of this theory often claim.

But if so, there are some very strange facts to be considered. One of my main reasons for claiming that Secret Mark is not an ancient forgery is the fact that both an intercalation and a framing story occur within Mark if the excerpts from the Mar Saba letter are inserted. One of my main reasons for claiming that Smith did not invent the letter is the same, yet partly for a different cause. One could say that these typical Markan techniques could easily be imitated by a skilled scholar in modern times. But the problem here is that just four out of five characteristics of an intercalation are achieved. And the four that are achieved are the more subtle ones, some of which were poorly understood in 1958. There is of course one sign which is the most obvious sign of an intercalation and that is that the A1-episode should continue and be fulfilled by the A2-episode. This one, which is recognized by all as the obvious sign, is not fulfilled.

What a shrewd forger, who manages to make an uncharacteristic intercalation, leaving out the obvious sign, yet including signs that just a few scholars started to realize and which by then (1958) was not generally accepted! We are to believe that Smith besides being able to produce an almost perfect forgery, yet had the nerve to exclude from that forgery the most typical sign which everybody would recognize as a marker for an intercalation. At the same time he chooses to include markers which were only proposed by a few, not accepted or perhaps not even recognized by the majority, and which in 1958 no one would even have known if they in the future would be accepted. This is what Scott Brown says:

But the biggest problem for any theory of imitation is the fact that longer Mark contains more Markan characteristics than any imitator living before the 1980s is apt to have noticed. Although Mark has been studied intensively since the theory of Markan priority began to dominate in the last third of the nineteenth century, specialists in Mark have only quite recently begun to discern and articulate many of the Markan literary techniques used in the longer text … And these scholars have been able to build upon each other’s research. Indeed, it is only in the last few decades that scholars of Mark realized that Mark was capable of employing intelligent literary techniques.[25]

This line of argument can be pushed even further, as there obviously are elements within Secret Mark that correspond to Matthew, Luke and John. This is often put forward as signs of Secret Mark being a late pastiche, where the author has drawn on different sources.[26] But what a stupid forger who is perfectly imitating Mark, yet borrowing from the other gospels although he is trying to make it look as if it is written by Mark!

Smith then should at the same time have been the most shrewd forger and stupid forger. Or, he was so clever as to insert esoteric elements, yet leaving out the obvious signs, in order to fool those clever enough to realize this. By this way of arguing you cannot lose. You will find signs of forgery either way, as your arguments work both ways.

As a result, the most reasonable way of interpreting this is that no forger in modern time would have included the subtle elements of an intercalation and at the same time left out the obvious one; no forger would have accomplished such a perfect forgery, yet at the same time included elements which could be suspected for being taken from the other gospels. Compared to all the other achievements which a forger in such case would have made, it would have been a piece of cake to include the obvious sign for an intercalation and to exclude the passages which echo Matthew, Luke and John.

Summary

This chain of links accordingly says that 1) the Secret Mark part contains typical Markan techniques; 2) these techniques could hardly have been discovered in order to imitate them in antiquity, especially not when the most obvious one is left out; 3) it would have been equally difficult to discover and imitate them in the time from Clement to the 18th century, and on top that also extremely difficult to imitate Clement; 4) the way the discovery was made, it is really implausible to think that someone in the 18th–20th century, even if that someone could have accomplished this forgery, would have hid it in the back of a book at Mar Saba where it possibly never would have been discovered; and 5) if Morton Smith against all odds would have been able to produce the forgery of the century, we are still to believe that he managed to include signs of an intercalation not yet fully understood in 1958, while he would have excluded the most obvious criterion, and he also would have been so clumsy as to echo expressions from the other gospels.

The Second Chain: A Claim for Secret Markan Priority

I will in the same way argue that Secret Mark was the original Gospel of Mark, preceding the canonical Gospel of Mark. In this section I will presume that Secret Mark is genuine and written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Mark, relying on my arguments in The first Chain: A Claim for Authenticity. Of course Clement seems to be claiming the opposite; the secret parts were added by Mark after he had completed the gospel which now is in the Bible. However, this is not absolutely certain. Clement says that Mark “transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress toward knowledge.” It is reasonable to think that this “former book” was the version known to us from the Bible, at least basically, since the summary Clement makes of the material into which the Secret Mark material is fitted, is in accordance with the Gospel of Mark, and he gives no indication of that the former book would be any other than this book. But still, we do not know this for sure. I will nevertheless disregard what Clement says regarding both the authorship and the order in which the gospels were written. I am so to say specifically investigating the order in which they were written, not the order in which they were made public (which might differ). I will examine how the text from Secret Mark interacts within the Gospel of Mark and base my judgment solely on that.

Although it is never explicitly said in the letter, there is still every reason to presuppose that there were more material in the additional parts than what is quoted by Clement, and reasonably rather much more. Clement only alluded to the specific parts which were part of Theodoros’ concern. Because of this there is also reason to be cautious, since in reality we are making exegesis on a material which is far too small and incomplete to let us draw any firm conclusions. In the letter Clement states that Mark made use of material in form of notes, which of course is quite likely no matter what. Whenever you produce a book, whether fiction or science, you first have to collect the basic facts, the material, and organise it before you can actually write it down. If we are to believe that the author first wrote the shorter version and then added more material for the secret/mystic longer version, then he anyway would have had to prepare for the insertion. And if so, then he also technically must have written it, because you can hardly prepare for something you have not written. If so, you would at least need to rewrite also the original material for the new material to fit.

Priority Link One

Secret Mark 2 part of the original gospel

This time I take my stand in the second part of Secret Mark quoted by Clement, which are to be inserted in Mark 10:46 after Jesus and the disciples comes to Jericho. The strange part in Mark 10:46 is of course the way the story is rendered:

And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people …

Why would Mark even mention that they came to Jericho if they immediately afterwards left without doing anything? Of course one can say that this was just a simple editorial detail in order to make Jesus and the disciple leave the town to get to the place where they could cure the blind man. That explanation is in some ways reasonable, but it is the manner in which this was done that makes it strange.

When I examined the Gospel of Mark, I found a total of 42 passages, including Mark 10:46, where Jesus, the disciples and others are said to arrive at a place.[27] Not all of these 42 examples are entirely representative; as Jesus in some cases is brought to the site and as several examples are from Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, where it is fairly obvious that something will happen. But at least the majority of these 42 cases should be representative.

On those 42 occasions it is not once said that Jesus arrives somewhere … stop, and that he immediately afterwards leaves the site. The only exception is Mark 10:46. In those cases where he or someone else soon leaves a place it is always said why they went there or what was done there. However, there are some passages that require further investigation. Mark 8:27 reads: “Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples …”. Here it is not explicitly said that Jesus did anything. But “Mark” still solved or settled this issue quite elegantly, partly by talking of several villages in the area; partly by letting the story carry on during the walking-tour. Another example is Mark 11:11–12:

And he entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple; and when he had looked round at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry.

This is the most matching example I have found. Yet the differences between this and Mark 10:46 are significant. It is for sure said that Jesus is leaving Bethany, directly after he arrives there. But it should be noted that in the sentence before, the reason why he went to Bethany is made clear; it was late at night and he obviously needed somewhere to sleep for the night. He is also said to have arrived there at night and to have left in the morning. A totally unambiguous construction!

And here an additional commentary can be made. As David Blocker and I showed in our article A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?, in the Hebrew version of Matthew, which probably is relying on ancient material, Jesus is actually said to have done something in Bethany during the night (apart from sleeping). He is said to have explained to the disciples the Kingdom of God. That is to say, also in Matthew 21:17 there seems to originally have been an ancient tradition about Jesus teaching the Kingdom of God to the disciples during the night; something originally found in the Gospel of Matthew but now lost, leaving a passage where Jesus enters and leaves Bethany.

“Mark” also uses other techniques. In Mark 14:3, he simply says: “And being in Bethany” without it ever being told that Jesus came there. In Mark 6:6 Jesus “went around teaching from village to village”, and in Mark 9:30, he “passed through Galilee”. In Mark 11:1 Jesus is said to have sent two of his disciples when they “came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives”. It is literary constructions like these we would have expected to find also in Mark 10:46 if the purpose was just to inform us that the miracle occurred in the vicinity of Jericho, or after Jesus had just passed Jericho. We also have the same unobjectionable construction in Mark 7:31, which says that Jesus “went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis.” Mark did not write: “And they came to Sidon. And he left Sidon and went to the Sea of Galilee.”

As far as I can tell, Mark 10:46 is the only example in the entire Gospel of Mark where the arrival to a place is not accompanied by a reason why he got there; that something special happened there, but he just left the place again. “And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho …”. But if the part which Clement says he quoted from the Secret Gospel of Mark is added to Mark 10:46, then the text makes sense:

And they came to Jericho. And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them. And as he went out of Jericho …

One can of course argue that this oddity in the Gospel of Mark was something that a later imitator tried to correct, by simply inserting this sentence so that the visit Jesus made to Jericho would make sense. But then we have to assume that Mark originally accomplished this rather awkward construction, and (as far as I can tell) the only “mistake” he has done. This so to say contradicts that the Secret Gospel of Mark would, as Clement says, be written by Mark after he had written his former book; reasonably the biblical Gospel of Mark. For then we must still assume that Mark achieved this “awkward” design in his original version. This is one argument in favour of the part with the sister, the mother and Salome waiting for Jesus in Jericho being part of the original version of the Gospel of Mark, and I would say a strong argument.

Priority Link Two

SecMk1 interacting with SecMk2

Since it makes more sense that the second quote from Secret Mark (SecMk2) was part of the original composition of the Gospel of Mark, also the first quote (SecMk1) must reasonably have been there from the beginning, since that part is interacting with the second part. For instance are the same characters repeated in the opening verses and it would have made no sense to mention “the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved” in SecMk2 unless that sister and that youth would not have been previously introduced, as they are in SecMk1. Therefore also SecMk1 with the raising of youth from the dead ought to have been part of the original composition of the Gospel of Mark.

Priority Link Three

SecMk1 interacting with Mark’s ending

SecMk1 must reasonably have been there also in order to interact with the ending of Mark (16:1–8), in order to form the framing story. Otherwise “Mark” could hardly have composed Mark 16:1–8. The reason for this is that the ending of Mark is mirroring not only what is stated in the resurrection passage from Secret Mark (SecMk1) but also what is said in the sentences before this (Mark 10:32–34). These parts are therefore a unit which interacts with Mark 16:1–8, and all of this had in all likelihood to be composed at the same time.

If you do not know what will be in SecMk1 and how it will interact with the surrounding material in Mark, how could you then compose the grave-act (Mark 16:1–8)? How could you compose the grave-act if you later are to compose a framing story? And if SecMk2 is part of the original version and interacts with SecMk1 which in turn interacts with the intersecting material, how could SecMk1 then not have been written? One could of course argue the Secret Gospel of Mark was “published” afterwards, and that is possible but also impossible to know, since the text does not reveal when it was made public. But if one simply dismisses Clement’s statement about the secret or mystic parts being added to the former book by Mark (whether this is the Gospel of Mark or a predecessor), assuming that Clement is unaware of the process, and solely study how the Secret Gospel material interacts with the material in the Gospel of Mark, it is difficult to reach any other conclusion than that the original composition of the Gospel of Mark also included the additional secret/mystic material. We do not know how much more material this was, but it is reasonable to think that the material intended for the advanced was removed by someone, the author or someone else, and the remaining material became sometime later on known to the broad mass of people as the Gospel of Mark.


[1] John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus, Harper-San Francisco, 1995, p. 62, 100–101.

[2] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 216.

[3] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 195–196.

[4] Mark 3:20–35, 5:21–43, 6:7–32, 11:12–25, 14:1–11, 14:53–72.. James R. Edwards identifies nine sandwiches, Mark 3:20–35, 4:1–20, 5:21–43, 6:7–30, 11:12–21, 14:1–11, 14:17–31, 14:53–72, 15:40–16:8. Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989) 197–198.

[5] I am here following Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005, p. 165–179; and specifically p. 173.

[6] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 197.

[7] Tom Shepherd, The Definition and Function of Markan Intercalation as Illustrated in a Narrative Analysis of Six Passages, Andrews University, 1991, 315, as quoted in Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel, p 167. Se also, Tom Shepherd, The Narrative Function of Markan Intercalation, New Testament Studies, 41 (1995), 522–540.

[8] John Dart, Decoding Mark, Trinity Press International, 2003, p. 41–42.

[9] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 197.

[10] Tom Shepherd, The Definition and Function of Markan Intercalation as Illustrated in a Narrative Analysis of Six Passages, Andrews University, 1991, 317–318; as referred to by Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel, p 168.

[11] Geert van Oyen, Tom Shepherd. The trial and death of Jesus: essays on the Passion narrative in Mark, Leuven, Peeters, 2006, p. 237.

[12] Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005, p. 178.

[13] John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus, Harper-San Francisco, 1995, p. 101.

[14] Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press (2005) p. 168, 175.

[15] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 200–203.

[16] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 216.

[17] John Dart, Decoding Mark, Trinity Press International, 2003, p. 42.

[18] Scott G. Brown, Mark 11:1–12:12: A triple intercalation? (The Catholic Biblical Quarterly; jan 1, 2002). Also argued for by Brown in Mark’s Other Gospel, p. 171–173.

[19] Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press (2005) p. 227–8.

[20] James R. Edwards, Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives, Novum Testamentum XXXI, 3 (1989), 200–203.

[21] Otto Stählin: Clemens Alexandrinus (1936).

[22] Bart D. Ehrman, Response to Charles Hedrick’s Stalemate, Journal of Early Christian Studies – 11:2 (Summer 2003) s. 155–163; Lost Christianities: the battles for Scripture and the faiths we never knew (2005), s. 78. Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery; refers to Quentin Quesnell (p. 12, 35) and Andrew Criddle (p. 36).

[23] Anthony Grafton, Gospel Secrets: The Biblical Controversies of Morton Smith ”The Nation”, January 26, (2009). Guy G. Stroumsa, ed. Morton Smith and Gershom Scholem, Correspondence 1945–1982, Boston (2008).

[24] Helmut Koester, Was Morton Smith a Great Thespian and I a Complete Fool? Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 2009, p. 58.

[25] Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel : Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery. Waterloo, ON, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005, p. 227.

[26] For instance by Raymond E. Brown, Per Beskow, F.F. Bruce, Craig A. Evans, Robert M. Grant, and Edward C. Hobbs.

[27] Mark 1:9–10, 1:14, 1:21, 2:1, 3:20, 5:1–2, 5:21–22, 5:38, 6:1–2, 6:6, 6:32–33, 6:34, 6:53, 7:24, 7:31, 8:10–11, 8:13–14, 8:22, 8:27, 9:2, 9:30, 9:33, 10:1, 10:10, 10:46, 11:1, 11:11, 11:15, 11:27, 14:3, 14:16, 14:17–18, 14:32, 14:37, 14:40, 14:41, 14:53, 15:1–2, 15:16, 15:22–23, 15:42–43, 16:2–3.

Smith did not photograph the manuscripts which Tselikas believes Smith used as a model for both imitating the Greek handwriting and learning how to make ink

Allan J. Pantuck

Allan J. Pantuck

Now Allan J. Pantuck’s Response to Agamemnon Tselikas on Morton Smith and the Manuscripts from Cephalonia has been published at Biblical Archaeology Review. Pantuck summarizes the arguments made by Agamemnon Tselikas in his Handwriting Analysis Report as such:

“Dr. Tselikas believes that although the handwriting of the Clement letter is consistent with that of the 18th-century it does not match the handwriting of any other scribe at the Mar Saba monastery, and he believes that the letter is a forged imitation of 18th century Greek script made by Smith using four 18th-century manuscripts from the Thematon monastery of the Greek island of Cephalonia as a model for the handwriting. According to Tselikas, the handwriting of these four Cephalonia manuscripts which Smith had seen and catalogued while visiting Greece in 1951, is similar to the hand of Clement letter. At the very least, here lies a theory which can be tested against known facts.

Pantuck continues:

“A fundamental question at the heart of Tselikas’ hypothesis is whether Smith photographed the Cephalonia manuscripts in order to later study and develop the necessary fluency to copy the scribal hand in order to forge the Clement letter.”

But although Smith took more than 5,000 photographs of manuscripts in Greece during his travels in 1951 and 1952, he did not photograph any of the four manuscripts on which Tselikas builds his case. Pantuck gives three reasons to why we can be sure of this.

1)      They are not among those manuscripts that are marked as being photographed in Smith’s publication Notes on collections of manuscripts in Greece.

2)      They are not listed in the Brown University library catalogue list. Smith deposited in that library the photographs and the negatives from his 1951/52-tour.

3)       They are not listed in Smith’s own catalogue list, which apart from containing the information in the Brown University-list, also lists the photographs and negatives that Smith were to send back to Greece after he had studied them.

Smith accordingly did not take any photographs of the manuscripts which Tselikas thinks form the basis for Smith’s handwriting imitation when forging the Clement letter:

“We can also assume that Morton Smith between his first and second trip to the monastery, wrote the text under the model of the manuscripts of Themata monastery, but also of other which he had seen and had photographed during his visit to Greece.” (Agamemnon Tselikas, D. TEXTOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS)

It could be said, although Pantuck never mentions this, that Tselikas also suggested that Smith would have learned how to make 18th century ink by copying two recipes found in two of those manuscripts:

Interesting note: In the last leaves of the manuscript 3 are found two recipes and ink manufacturing written by an other contemporary of the scribe hand. (Agamemnon Tselikas, The manuscripts of the Monastery of Themata in Cefalonia).

Images of these two pages were also published:

“The first page containing the recipe of the preparation of ink in the manuscript 3 of Themata manuscript”

“The second page containing the recipe of the preparation of ink in the manuscript 3 of Themata manuscript” (Anexe 2. Recipe of Ink)

But if Smith did not photograph these manuscripts, he of course nor had access to the ink recipes.

Pantuck then goes on to say “that the handwriting of the four Cephalonia manuscripts itself does not actually appear to be particularly similar to the handwriting of the Clement letter.” This was one thing that immediately struck me when I first heard of Tselikas’ theory long before he published it. The writing was not particularly similar to the handwriting of MS65 where the Clement letter is found. Since then and through the efforts of Stephan Huller I have seen much Greek 18th century handwriting which for certain more resembles the handwriting of the Clement letter than the Cephalonia manuscripts handwriting does. Pantuck presents a few examples and summarizes this by saying:

“With even such a limited comparison, it is clear that these are four different hands and that the handwriting in the Cephalonia manuscripts is not even as similar to the Clement letter as the completely unrelated handwriting from Zagora”

Agamemnon Tselikas

Maybe it was due to the fact that Pantuck dared to question Tselikas’ expertise on the handwriting that Tselikas felt offended. I do not know. But he anyway responded to Hershel Shanks:

“I read the article you sent me about the criticism made by Dr. Alan Pantuck of my report on the manuscript of Clement. I have only one remark: that Dr. Pantuck restricts his criticism only to one section, while not taking into account either the textological observations or the facts on the presence of the Ignatius edition in the library of Mar Saba. I respect the opinion of anybody, but I do not proceed to such personal criticism. Anyone who has a critical ability must have his opinion itself without any influence. I’ve written previously to you that without any bias I did my research on this topic. I spent much of my precious time for many days and many dozen of hours, here in Athens and in Jerusalem, to contribute my scientific experience and means in order to enlighten the issue. The resulting comments and opinion I exposed in my report. Of course some agree or disagree. But most certainly I have no interest in the opinion of those who, without scientific basis and method, write several non-existent and fantastic things in their blogs. To me these are parasites of real and true science.” (Agamemnon Tselikas: Response to Allan J. Pantuck)

I must say that I am amazed at Tselikas’ reaction. This reaction must be due to the fact that Pantuck wonders why Tselikas suggests that Smith would have imitated the handwriting found in those manuscripts, when in fact they are not particularly similar to the handwriting of the Clement letter? Since they are precisely the four manuscripts on which Tselikas himself published in 1982, “Tselikas’ theory of imitation appears to be dictated by the desire to connect the Clement letter to manuscripts that Smith is known to have seen.” To build one’s “opinions of historical possibility” is according to Pantuck not a correct scientific method. Instead we should rely on “verified historical evidence”.

That Pantuck was “not taking into account either the textological observations or the facts on the presence of the Ignatius edition in the library of Mar Saba”, does of course not reduce the strength of his criticism founded on facts regarding one or two of Tselikas’ major arguments. That is the way real and true science work. You focus on a particular subject and then investigate that subject. As it now turns out, we can be fairly certain that Smith did not have access to photographs of the very manuscripts Tselikas argue form the basis for Smith’s imitation of Greek handwriting and it is also obvious that there is no particular manuscript we know of which has served as a model for imitation.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-20

Skrev Suetonius kristna eller krestna?

Jag tänkte sammanfatta Erik Zaras korta sammanställning A Minor Compilation from Suetonius’ Nero, redogöra för handskriftsläget och därutöver också resonera något kring frågan om Suetonius skrev kristna eller krestna.

Erik Zara inleder med att hänvisa till en tidigare artikel The Chrestianos Issue in Tacitus Reinvestigated (2009), där han visade att den äldsta bevarade handskriften av Tacitus’ Annales (15:44) från tiohundratalet, den andra mediceiska handskriften, ursprungligen hade stavningen chrestianos, alltså krestna, och att detta (direkt av skribenten eller senare av någon annan eller av skribenten själv) ändrades till christianos, alltså kristna. Även om detta inte är något bevis för vad Tacitus ursprungligen skrev, ger det ändå stöd för att han skrev krestna. Däremot finns inga belägg för att Tacitus skulle ha kallat Kristus för Chrestus. Detta ställer i och för sig till problem eftersom det är ologiskt att tänka sig att Tacitus i samma mening skulle växla mellan vokalerna e och i när han avsåg två ord med samma rot.

Zara påpekar att det även i senare skrifter förekommer stavning med e men att det överhuvudtaget finns få referenser till gruppen som kristna avseende första århundradet. Bland romarna är det frånsett just Tacitus endast Suetonius som omtalar dem i samröre med kejsar Nero. Suetonius skriver som bekant dessutom om Chrestus när han i samband med behandlingen av kejsar Claudius säger följande: ”Judarna, som ständigt och jämt gjorde uppror på anstiftan av Chrestus, fördrev han från Rom” (Claudius 25:4). Det är dock mycket tveksamt om han verkligen avser Jesus här (se min serie Suetonius som Jesusvittne med start här).

Emellertid hänvisar Suetonius vid ett annat tillfälle (Nero 16:2) med relativ säkerhet till kristna, och han skriver då: ”De kristna, ett slags människor som ägnade sig åt en ny och ond vidskepelse, bekämpade man med dödsstraff”. Zara har i sin ministudie undersökt ett antal av de viktigare handskrifterna gällande stavningen av kristna i Nero 16:2 och funnit att i inget enda fall stavas namnet med e utan alltid med i.

Låt mig klargöra något om de bevarade handskrifterna från Suetonius’ Kejsarbiografi. Det följande är en sammanfattning eller snarare parafrasering av det Donna W. Hurley skriver på sidorna 21–22 i Divvs Clavdivs av Suetonius

På 800-talet fanns handskrifter av Suetonius’ Kejsarbiografi i väst. När Einhard skrev sin biografi över Karl den store, (Vita Caroli) hade han tillgång till Suetonius’ bok om Augustus. Och Servatus Lupus, som var abbot i Ferrières, skrev år 844 ett brev till klostret i Fulda i Tyskland och begärde att antingen det tvåvolymsverk som där fanns av Suetonius’ de Vita Caesarum (“que … in duos nec magnos codices divisus est”), eller en kopia därav, skulle skickas till honom, eftersom texten inte fanns tillgänglig i hans del av Frankrike. Senare fick också Lupus tillgång till ett exemplar av texten fast det inte är känt om det var handskriften från Fulda. Denna är emellertid numera försvunnen.

Den äldsta bevarade handskriften är Codex Memmianus, eller som den också kallas, Parisinus 6115. Denna tros ha skrivits i Tours i mellersta Frankrike ca år 820. I så fall fanns det en handskrift i Frankrike när Lupus efterfrågade en, även om han inte kände till den. Memmianus är den sista i sitt slag, och har således inte kopierats. Den är dock besläktad med flera andra handskrifter; mest tydligt Gudianus 268 från 1000-talet och flera andra från 1100-talet. Dessa tillhör det som normalt kallas X-familjen och anses alla stamma från en försvunnen förlaga X såsom beskrivs i ”trädet” inunder. X-familjen är den ena av de två huvudgrupperna; den andra är Z-familjen. Denna är bevarad genom yngre handskrifter, där den äldsta är från sent 1000-tal och flera från 1100- och 1200-talen.

Nedanstående schema är hämtat från sidan 4 i William Hardy Alexander, Some textual criticism on the eight book of the Vita Caesarum of Suetonius,; från University of California Publications in Classical Philology, Vol. 2, nr 1, s. 1-33, 17 november 1908. William Hardy Alexander har i sin tur hämtat schemat från belgaren M. Léon Preud’hommes Troisième étude sur l’histoire du texte de Suétone, De vita Caesarum från 1904 och endast lätt modifierat detta.

Ω. Tidig förfader till P, skriven med versaler, möjligen från 400-talet.
P.  Förlaga till alla kända handskrifter av De Vita Caesarum.
X.  Förlaga till den första gruppen handskrifter.
Z. Förlaga till den andra gruppen handskrifter.
x.  Förlaga till B och x’.
x’. Förlaga till a b c f.
E. Förlaga till A och D.
A. Codex Memmianus, Parisinus 6115, 800-talet.
B. Codex Vaticanus Lipsii, nr. 1904, 1000-talet, innehåller bara de tre första biografierna och en kort del av Caligula.
C. Codex Wulfenbuttelanus eller Gudianus 268, 1000-talet.
D. Codex Parisinus 5804, 1300-talet.
a. Codex Mediceus 68.7 (av Roth, efter Jac. Gronovius, benämnd Med. 3), 1000-talet.
b. Codex Parisinus 5801, 1100-talet.
c. Codex Mediceus 66.39 (av Roth, efter Jac. Gronovius, benämnd Med. 1), 1200-talet.
f. Codex Montepessulanus 117, 1200-talet.
α. Codex Londiniensis, Brit. Mus. 15 C III, 1100-talet.
β. Codex Parisinus 6116, 1100-talet.
γ. Codex Parisinus 5802, 1200-talet..
δ. Codex Mediceus 64.8 (av Roth, efter Jac. Gronovius, benämnd Med. 2), 1200-talet
ε. Codex Suessionis 19, 1200-talet
ζ. Codex Cantabrigensis, kk. 5, 24, 1200-talet
η. Codex Sionensis, 1100-talet
θ. Codex Dunelmensis, C III 18, 1100-talet
κ. Codex Sionensis, 1100-talet
λ. Codex Londiniensis, Brit. Mus. 15 C IV, 1200-talet

Både X och Z anses bygga på en gemensam förlaga, P, som inte finns bevarad. Orsaken till detta är att alla handskrifter börjar med Julius Caesar: annum agens sextum decium, således: ”på sitt sextonde år” (Iul 1.1). Början av verket är alltså förlorad och då samtliga handskrifter saknar den inledande texten är det rimligt att de alla stammar från en gemensam förlaga där inledningen saknades. Denna första handskrift Ω tros ha skrivits på 400-talet och då med enbart stora bokstäver. Det brukar antas att även handskriften i Fulda som Lupus efterfrågade saknade denna inledning och kan ha varit den förlaga P (Preud’homme) eller Ω (Ihm) som alla nu kända handskrifter bygger på.

Fler än hälften av de över 200 bevarade handskrifterna skrevs efter år 1375 fram till att boktryckningen tog över.

Av de två familjerna X och Z anses X vara den som bäst ha bevarat originaltexten, även om Z i vissa fall företräder en bättre läsart. Dessutom finns de fyra äldsta codexarna (A B C a) inom X-familjen. Men alla handskrifter anses stamma från en gemensam förlaga eller arketyp.

Zara har alltså kontrollerat 14 av de viktigare handskrifterna. 13 av dessa finns i Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana i Florens, Italien, och därutöver har han undersökt den äldsta handskriften, Codex Memmianus (Parisinus 6115). Han anser att samlingen i Florens måste ses som representativ eftersom den innehåller de viktiga 1100-talshandskrifterna Codex Mediceus 68.7 och 66.39 från X-famljen och dessutom flera av de viktiga handskrifterna från från Z-familjen, som 64.8, 20 sin. 3 och 64.9.

I alla 14 handskrifter sägs att det är de kristna som straffades av Nero. I 10 av handskrifterna skrivs kristna med förkortningen xpiani (alltså chriani), efter modellen att man som regel skrev heliga namn (Nomina sacra) förkortade. I de flesta av dessa tio fall markeras de tre utelämnade bokstäverna ”ist” med ett streck över bokstäverna p och i (r och i). I de övriga fyra fallen skrivs två gånger christiani (en av dessa är Memmianus), chrstiani och xani med ett litet i ovanför x. I tabellen under återges alla 14 läsarter:

xani (i skrivet ovanför x) – Laur 20 sin.4, fol. 92r
xpiani (streck ovanför pi) – 20 sin.3, fol. 69v
xpiani (streck ovanför pi) – 64.3, fol. 94r
chrystiani (punkt ovanför y) – 64.4, fol. 115v
xpiani – 64.5, fol. 121v
christiani (dessutom ”christianis” i marginalen) – 64.6, fol. 126r
xpiani (streck ovanför pi) – 64.7, fol. 91r
xpiani – 64.9, fol. 94r
xpiani (streck ovanför pi) – 89inf.8/1, fol. 83v
xpiani (streck ovanför pi) – 89inf.8/2, fol. 77v
xpiani (streck ovanför pi) – 66.39 (Med 1), fol. 119r
xpiani (streck ovanför pi) – 64.8 (Med 2), fol. 50v
xpiani (streck ovanför pi) – 68.7 (Med 3), fol. 131v
christiani – Parisinus 6115 (Memmianus), fol. 86r

Man kan alltså konstatera krestna inte förekommer i någon av dessa viktiga handskrifter utan att namnet skrivs kristna, även om olika förkortningar förekommer. Med detta som utgångspunkt kan konstateras att den gemensamma förlagan för alla handskrifter synes ha haft i och inte e. Denna förlaga är P, en hypotetisk text som är från allra senast början av 800-talet, då Codex Memmianus (A) är från ca år 820. Men P antas i sin tur vara en avskrift av ytterligare en hypotetisk 400-talstext skriven med endast versaler och utan mellanrum, och hur stavningen var i denna förlaga vet vi inte. Eftersom (vad jag vet) ingen citerar Suetonius’ kristna-passage från denna tidiga period har vi ingen absolut kännedom om vad Suetonius skrev mer än att det på kanske 600 eller 700-talet i den handskrift som kom att utgöra förlagan för kommande avskrifter stod kristna och att det inte finns några tecken alls på att Suetonius skrev krestna.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-17

The Traditional Translation and Interpretation of the Last Supper: Betrayal of the Original Text

The following is a guest post by David Blocker – an interesting article on the Last Supper. It is a long article, especially if you include the footnote material, which by the way also has a lot of interesting material.

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This is an amended version of an article originally published in The Journal of Higher Criticism, Spring 2005, and an essay posted from 2/28/06 until October 26, 2009 on Yahoo Geocities.

(Revision 13 published in Journal of Higher Criticism, Spring 2005).

(Revision 14.0 posted on Internet (Yahoo Geocities) from 2/28/06 to 9/2009).

The Traditional Translation and
Interpretation of the Last Supper:
Betrayal of the Original Text

(Revision 26: 2011, 08)

 

The events of the Last Supper were of sufficient importance to the early Christians that they canonized the episode.  They memorialized the Last Supper by regularly re-enacting it as a sacramental ritual.  Traditionally, the Last Supper is regarded as a celebration of the Passover (a Seder).  However, it has been proposed that the Seder did not come into existence until after the Roman destruction of the JerusalemTemplein 70 CE ([1]).  This calls for a re-evaluation of the underlying historical significance of the Last Supper ([2]).

Alternative translations of the canonical Gospel accounts of the Last Supper will be presented here.  The new translations lead to an interpretation of the events surrounding the Last Supper that is consistent with Jesus’ historical context and which is not theologically motivated.  They demonstrate that Jesus chose Judas to act as his messenger to the Judean authorities.  Judas did not betray Jesus.  Instead, Judas facilitated Jesus’ voluntary surrender to the High Priest.

The redactors of the canonical Gospels subtlety altered their sources to create a tale of betrayal and desertion in order to discredit Jesus’ followers and obscure the revolutionary nature of Jesus’ activities.  This was but one of the changes in the Jesus legend that permitted an insular Judean sect to evolve into a universal Hellenistic religion.

The incidents leading up to the Last Supper in the Gospel attributed to John differ from those in the Synoptic Gospels.  In the Johannine Gospel, Jesus repeatedly provokes the Judean authorities ([3]) ([4]).  They respond by trying to capture him or summarily stone him, just as they would stone his brother a generation later ([5]).  Jesus’ altercation in theTemple (John 2:13-17) and his actions atBethany captured the public’s attention (John 11:1-45) and incurred the enmity of theTempleEstablishment (John 11:46-53).  When Jesus enteredJerusalem, he attracted a mob of supporters (John 12:11-15), which would have been of concern to both the Judean hierarchy and to the Roman authorities.

According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ final public demonstration at Passover led to his arrest ([6]).  He staged a processional entry into Jerusalem ([7]), attacked the financial agents of the Temple, and spoke out against the continued existence of the Temple ([8]) (11).  He appears to have seized control of the Temple courtyard for three days ([9]).

The Temple demonstration, no matter when it occurred during Jesus’ career, or what form it took, was a challenge to the legitimacy and authority of the Roman appointed High Priest ([10]).  This action also questioned the right and ability of the Romans to exert control over Judean religion and politics ([11]).  Jesus’ demonstration either received less support from his fellow Judeans than he had anticipated, or did not neutralize the Roman garrison inJerusalem.  Consequently, Jesus had to be concerned about the Roman response to his act of overt defiance to the secular and sacerdotal establishment.

According to the Johannine Gospel, the High Priest stated that Jesus’ arrest would stave off Roman reprisals against the citizens of Judea([12]).  In fact, after the Romans seized Jesus, they did not take their usual wide spread reprisals ([13]).  According to the canonical gospel accounts the Romans seemed content with making an example out of Jesus alone, and did not hunt down or arrest any of his immediate followers ([14])

The traditional English language translation of John Chapter 13 v. 21-30 is given below.  It is followed by two new alternative translations using definitions from Liddell and Scott’s Classical Greek-English Lexicon ([15]).  The alternate word choices have just as much, if not more validity, than the traditional word choices.

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The Traditional Translation of John 13 (NIV) ([16])

JN 13:21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”

JN 13:22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.

JN 13:23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.

JN 13:24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

JN 13:25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

JN 13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the bowl.”  Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.

JN 13:27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him ([17]).

“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him,

JN 13:28 but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.

JN 13:29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor.

JN 13:30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Two alternative translations based on the Greek text are given below.  These translations use word choices that are determined by context, not by orthodox theology.  A brief explanation accompanies each new translation.

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The First Proposed New Translation of John 13 based on the Greek Textus Receptus ([18]):

JN 13:21: Saying these things troubled Jesus in the spirit and (he) declared ([19]) and stated ([20]):

“This is the truth, this is the truth, ([21]) I am telling you that one of you must hand me over ([22]) ([23]).”

JN 13:22: The disciples were disturbed by what he had said, and (they) looked at one another.

JN 13:23 One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining (leaning) against him.

JN 13:24 Simon Peter then nodded at this one and said to him: “Tell (us) who it will be.  From whom does he demand this ([24])?

JN 13:25Then falling back against the chest of Jesus, that one asked him: “Lord, who will it be?

JN 13:26 Jesus replied as follows: “It is the one for whom I shall dunk a morsel (of bread).

After dunking the morsel (in wine) ([25]), he took (it) and gave it to Judas the relative of Simon Iscariot ([26]).

JN 13:27 And after the morsel ([27]), Jesus thereupon told him: “Do what you must do and do it immediately.”

JN 13:28 But of those reclining, no one understood what he had demanded of him ([28]),

JN 13:29 because some thought that since Judas held the purse ([29]), Jesus had asked him to buy the things we ([30]) need for the feast, or that he should give something to the poor.

JN 13:30 Therefore after accepting the morsel ([31]), that one ([32]) immediately went out, and night fell.

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According to this translation, Jesus had decided to turn himself over to the TempleHierarchyand chose Judas to be his emissary.  Sharing food from his plate was the final blessing he bestowed on Judas before sending him on an abhorrent and dangerous mission.  Sharing food with Judas, with the other disciples as witnesses, demonstrated Jesus’ particular love and trust for Judas ([33]) and showed that he bore him no ill will.

Another possible translation of John 13 has Jesus performing a well-documented Judean practice used to facilitate decision making.

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The Second New Translation of John 13, Based on the Greek Textus Receptus Saying these things troubled Jesus in the spirit and (he) declared ([34]) and stated ([35]):

“This is the truth, this is the truth ([36]) I am telling you that one of you must hand me over ([37]).”

The disciples were disturbed by what he had said and (they) looked at one another.

One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining (leaning) against him.

Simon Peter then nodded at this one and said to him: “Tell (us) who it will be.  From whom does he demand this?”

Then falling back against the chest of Jesus, that one asked him: “Lord, who will it be?”

Jesus replied as follows: “It is the one whose fragment ([38]) I shall draw out ([39]).

After drawing out the fragment, he took (it) and presented it to Judas the relative ([40]) of Simon Iscariot.

And after ([41]) the fragment ([42]) Jesus thereupon commanded him, “Do what you are obligated to do, and do it without delay.”

But of those reclining, no one understood what he had demanded of him.  Some thought that since Judas held the purse, Jesus had asked him to buy the things we ([43]) need for the feast, or that he should give something to the poor.  Therefore after accepting the fragment, that one immediately went out, and night fell.

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This translation depicts the drawing of lots to determine who would approach the TemplePriestson Jesus’ behalf.  Judas was selected to be the emissary who would negotiate Jesus’ surrender to the TemplePriestsand their Roman overlords. In this context, Psomion (fragment) describes not a piece of bread but a shard of pottery or other small object that could be used as a marker for drawing lots.

The Tanak (Torah) contains precedents for casting lots to make decisions and to determine the outcome of elections ([44]).  There are also New Testament examples of Judeans and Romans casting lots to make important decisions ([45]).  The Jewish historian Josephus (b. 36 CE – d. c. 96 CE), a near contemporary of Jesus, recorded several examples of Jewish revolutionaries who drew lots in order to make decisions ([46]).

Neither of the above interpretations of the Last Supper is driven by orthodox Christian theology.  Each is based on a literal translation of the Greek New Testament Textus Receptus.  Both translations offer consistent explanations of the events associated with the Last Supper and are congruent with the customs and political situation then current inJudea.

Both of the new translations imply that Jesus realized his coup attempt had failed.  Instead of fleeing into the wilderness surrounding Jerusalemor committing suicide ([47]) Jesus decided to hand himself over to the Temple Authorities ([48]).  He sacrificed himself rather than subject his followers and the people of Jerusalem to Roman retribution ([49]).  Jesus selected Judas, either deliberately or by lot, and ordered him to perform the onerous task of turning his leader over to the authorities.  Following Judas’ departure, Jesus gave his followers his final instructions and then went outside the city walls to await his arrest ([50]) ([51]).

The Johannine Gospel preserves the most complete, but still heavily, edited account of the Last Supper ([52]).  The authors of the Synoptic Gospels subjected their sources to more extensive modification.

The gospels attributed to Mark, Matthew and Luke follow a similar sequence after Jesus’ announcement that he must be handed over to the authorities.  First the Eucharist is inserted into the narrative, Jesus questions the disciples’ devotion, and then predicts Peter will deny his association with him ([53]).

The Markan account of the Last Supper parallels the Johannine account up to the point where Jesus’ disciples protest his announcement.  Jesus still states that he is to be turned in but his interaction with Judas has been omitted.  Instead, Jesus merely announces that someone sharing his bowl would turn him over.  The Markan author does not even make it clear whether it is a bowl for hand washing or a bowl of shared food.  The text makes it appear as if Jesus was making a prediction and not deliberately selecting an emissary.  The Markan Gospel has Judas act on his own without authorization from Jesus.  The text presents him as a traitor.

In the Johannine Gospel, the selection of Judas is followed by Jesus’ final discourse instructing his disciples about what to expect and do after his death ([54]).  This sermon is not in the Markan text. The Markan redactor removed the discourse and inserted the Eucharist ([55]) in its place.  This is followed by Jesus’ departure for the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26).  While waiting for Judas to lead the authorities to him, Jesus questioned Peter’s steadfastness (Mark 14:30) and reprimanded the disciples for selfishly napping during his time of foreboding and distress ([56]).  These deviations from the Johannine text make the rest of the disciples appear as unfaithful as the traditionally depicted Judas.

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The Traditional Translation of Mark 17 v. 14-20 (NIV) ([57])

MK 14:17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.

MK 14:18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me–one who is eating with me.”

MK 14:19 They were distressed, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”

MK 14:20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.

MK 14:21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

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The Translation of Mark 14 v. 17-20 Without Theological Bias

He arrived with the twelve when evening came.

While they lay down and ate, Jesus said: “I must honestly tell you that one of you eating here with me must turn me in.”

They began to protest, and one by one they said to him: Not me!

Then he said to them: (It is) one of the twelve, the one immersing (his hand?) with me in the bowl.  I will do what is expected of me, but misfortunate will be upon that man who delivers me up.  It would have been better for him had he never been born.

The gospel attributed to Matthew, like Johannine text, preserves the disciples’ objections to Jesus’ announcement that one who had shared a bowl with him would turn him over to the authorities. The Johannine account of Jesus’ active selection of Judas was deleted from the Matthean text.  Judas’ denial (Matthew 26:25), which was challenged by Jesus, echoes and amplifies the other disciples’ questioning of Jesus’ judgment (Matthew 26:22).  Judas was dismissed without either the benefit of a blessing from his leader (the Blessing Hypothesis), or the consolation of knowing that he had been “chosen by God” (the Lottery Hypothesis).  The Matthean text vilified Judas by presenting him as a lying traitor rather than a faithful servant.

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The Traditional Translation of Matthew 26:20-25 ([58])

MT 26:20 Now when the even was come, he sat down MT 26: with the twelve.

MT 26:21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

MT 26:22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

MT 26:23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the bowl, the same shall betray me.

MT 26:24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him ([59]): but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.

MT 26:25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

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An alternate and more literal translation of Matthew 26 v 20-23 follows.  It must be kept in mind that the original Greek manuscripts did not have any punctuation or spaces between words.

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The Translation of Matthew 26:20-23 Without Theological Bias:

And eating with them he said: In all truth, I tell you that one of you must hand me over.

They were extremely upset, and each one told him: Not I, Lord!

And he said in reply: One who has placed his hand in the bowl with me ([60]), will be the man who hands me over ([61]).

I will do what is expected of me, but unfortunate will be the man who must hand me over. He would have been better off had he never been born.

And Judas, the one to turn him in, said:” Not I (literally: “Not I am ([62])”), Rabbi.”

He replied: But you have stated (admitted) it.

If anything, this new translation is even more damaging to Judas’ reputation than the traditional translation since Judas is presented as a deliberate liar.

In the gospel attributed to Luke, Judas was characterized somewhat differently, though in the end, he is still vilified.

The Lucan redactor had shifted the Johannine statement “Satan entered into Judas ([63])”, from the Last Supper account, to a much earlier meeting with the chief priests ([64]).  In the traditional Lucan account, Judas’ actions were premeditated, not spontaneous.  Judas had been bribed and demonized well in advance of the Last Supper

The gospel attributed to Luke ([65]), unlike the two other Synoptic texts, places the account of the Eucharist (Luke 22:19-20) before Jesus’ announcement of his impending “betrayal” (Luke 22:21-22).  In the other Synoptic accounts, Mark and Matthew, Judas departs before Jesus reveals the mystery of the Eucharist to the remaining disciples.  In these texts, Judas is cut off from fellowship with the Christian community since he left before the revelation of Christianity’s most important ritual.

In the Lucan story, Judas’ initial act of disloyalty (Luke 22:1-6) took place before his participation in the fellowship ceremony of the Last Supper (Luke 22:19-20).  Therefore, Judas not only betrayed his master, but also his comrades and all the subsequent generations of Christians who reenact the Last Supper through the ritual of the Eucharist.

The Lucan redactor did not retain the Johannine text where Jesus selects Judas as his emissary.  The Lucan redactor also expunged the protests of the disciples from his Last Supper account.  Unlike the other canonical texts, the disciples do not object when Jesus offhandedly announces that he will be turned in ([66]).  Instead they squabble among themselves about who would do it ([67]), and who would succeed Jesus once he was gone ([68]).  They appear unconcerned about their master’s fate and only interested in themselves.

Following the disciple’s quarrel, the Lucan story has Jesus predict that Peter will disavow him ([69]).

Finally, where the Matthean redactor has a remorseful Judas return the 30 silver pieces to the Temple before committing suicide (Matthew 27:3-5), the Lucan redactor has the unrepentant, and therefore irredeemably evil, Judas struck dead by a vengeful God (Acts 1:18).

In addition to demonizing Judas, the Lucan gospel utterly discredited the other disciples.  They are depicted as being inconstant, cowardly ([70]), and selfishly concerned about their own welfare and personal status ([71]).  The Lucan Gospel was written as the prelude to Acts of the Apostles, which presents Paul as a new and improved cosmopolitan apostle who will replace the inadequate original Galilean disciples.

At the beginning of this essay, two hypotheses about what actually happened at the Last Supper were proposed. The first hypothesis has Jesus offering Judas a morsel of food from his bowl as a final blessing before sending him out to be his emissary to theTempleauthorities.  The second hypothesis proposes that Judas was chosen by lot.  Each hypothesis represents a more authentic translation of the Johannine account than the traditional interpretation.  The only difference between the two hypotheses is whether Judas was chosen deliberately or by chance.  This has no significant effect on the narrative sequence of the reinterpreted Last Supper account.

In spite of the canonical gospels having undergone considerable redaction, the original Last Supper narrative can be recovered.  The reconstruction of the Last Supper is presented below.

Jesus and his followers seized control of theTemplecourtyard (according to the Synoptic Gospels) or otherwise provoked a confrontation with the authorities (according to the Johannine Gospel).

Jesus and his immediate followers retreated from public view to a private room after their attempt to take over theTemplefailed (Synoptic version), or after Jesus realized he had failed to win significant popular support after enteringJerusalem(Johannine version).

He announced to his inner circle that one of them must turn him over to the authorities.

They protest this announcement and each asks not to be chosen for this task.

Jesus pulled either a token or piece of bread from his bowl and then announced that he had selected Judas to approach the authorities on his behalf.

He told Judas to carry out his assignment quickly and Judas departs.

Jesus then discussed who was to succeed him and left the city to await his arrest ([72]).

The Johannine Gospel implies that Jesus deliberately turned himself over to the authorities who were growing increasingly worried about both his activities and the growing number of followers ([73]).  The rationale for Jesus’ self sacrifice was first stated in a speech attributed to Caiaphas ([74]) and then reiterated ([75]) after Jesus was taken into custody.

The Johannine gospel twice states that Jesus saw to the safety of his followers ([76]), by taking individual responsibility for his actions ([77]) and handing himself over to the authorities.  However, this was phrased in oblique language, so that casual or unsophisticated readers would think that Jesus was acting to fulfill a prophecy, rather than taking deliberate action to save his followers at the expense of losing his own freedom and life.

Each of the Gospels has an account of Jesus’ capture.  Jesus leaves Jerusalemwith his disciples ([78]) and awaits his arrest outside the city walls. The historical precedent for the so-called “Agony in the Garden” is suspect since this incident appears only in the Synoptic gospels ([79]) ([80]) ([81]).

The Johannine Gospel clearly states that Jesus was arrested by a Roman tribune leading a cohort accompanied by Jewish auxiliary troops or minor Templeofficials ([82]).  The Synoptic gospel writers make no mention of any Roman involvement in Jesus’ arrest ([83]).  The Synoptic texts make the arrest the responsibility of the major Judean religious and political factions ([84]).

In the Johannine Gospel, Judas plays no role in the arrest, other than to tell the authorities where they can find Jesus.  Jesus identifies himself to the arresting party ([85]), and then utters the Tetragrammaton in order to overpower them, before allowing himself to be arrested ([86]).  The author of the Gospel of John was trying to show his readers that Jesus’ surrender was entirely voluntary.  He wanted to demonstrate that, Jesus had the supernatural ability to subdue his captors.  The Johannine Gospel is the only canonical gospel where Jesus clearly stated that he surrendered in order to assure his companions’ freedom ([87]).

The Synoptic Gospels all have Judas play an active role in the arrest by specifically identifying Jesus with a kiss of greeting ([88]), thus sealing his perfidy.  The Synoptic Gospels contain no indication of Jesus being able to protect himself by using the Tetragrammaton.  Judas’ actions become the central mechanism of Jesus’ arrest.

All four canonical gospels show Peter did not accept his leader’s decision to not resist his arrest.  Peter lashed out at the High Priest’s representative ([89]).  In spite of this act of violent resistance neither Peter, nor any of the other disciples were taken into custody.  Only Jesus was taken away.  This implies some prior agreement with the arresting party.  This also suggests that the arresting party was under the command of Romans.  The Romans had no interest in intervening in a scuffle between Judeans once they had Jesus in their custody.

Jesus’ attempt to seize the Temple([90]) ended in abject failure.  When a Judean messianic leader failed to achieve his goals, his disillusioned followers usually disbanded since they believed that they no longer had divine sanction ([91]).  They were often hunted down and exterminated by the Romans ([92]).  In the case of the Jesus movement, neither of these outcomes occurred.

The foregoing arguments suggest that the canonical Gospels’ Last Supper narrative was based on earlier source material that did not contain an act of betrayal.  Instead, Jesus sacrificed himself rather than allow his followers and the citizens ofJerusalemto fall victim to Roman reprisals after his failed coup.

The citizens ofJerusalemwere forgiven their trespasses against Roman law and spared from death when Jesus handed himself over to the Romans.

Judas, far from being a traitor, acted honorably.  He carried out his leader’s onerous command that he contact theTempleauthorities and negotiate Jesus’ surrender to them.

Jesus was transformed from a defeated insurrectionist and failed messianic pretender into a paradigm of noble behavior and heroic self-sacrifice.  His family, led by his brother Jacob, took control of the post-crucifixion Jesus sect ([93]). The sect experienced posthumous growth, since Jesus’ martyrdom gained the admiration of those who had initially rejected him.  Rather than dwindling away, the Jesus sect started to gain more adherents ([94]).

Following the crushing defeat of the Zealots in 70 CE, the Hellenized adherents of the Jesus sect had to distance themselves from its revolutionary Judean origins. The Jesus sect had to disguise its revolutionary origins in order to survive. Its adherents could no longer afford to be seen as members of a Judean sect that venerated a man who had challenged the Roman Empire.  The Jesus sect became less Judean and more like a Hellenic mystery cult ([95]).

One of the first steps in this process was to revise its foundation legends and create a new set of sacred texts.  In the new texts, Jesus was not the leader of a liberation movement opposing the Romans and their quisling High Priest ([96]).  Instead, he was presented as a peaceful philosopher who was deserted by his feckless disciples and succumbed to Judean duplicity.

While the dating of the Gospels is controversial, it is generally agreed that the synoptic gospels were written after the first Jewish Revolt ended in 70 CE.  They were written in Greek for the Hellenized populace of theRoman Empire, and drew on Aramaic source material (52).  The Gospel writers wanted to present Jesus in a favorable light to an audience that was still harboring anti-Judean feelings from to the war thatRomehad recently waged against the Judean separatists.

The canonical texts were designed to distance Jesus from his Judean environment and downplay any anti-Roman opinions he may have harbored.  The Hellenized Gospels had the additional task of supplanting any texts that the messengers (Greek: apostles) from militant Messianic or Zealot sects had been circulating in Diaspora Judean communities before and during the Jewish Revolt.  In all likelihood, the authors of what were to become the canonical gospels wrote hastily.  They probably used texts already in circulation as models, and did not expect their efforts to become examples of timeless prose or the foundation documents of a world religion.

The canonical gospel texts, particularly the Synoptic gospels, used the Last Supper as the basis of an anti Judean polemic.  Their principle subtext is the disciples’ lack of understanding, their short sighted ambitions, and their betrayal and desertion of their leader ([97]) ([98]).  Roman participation in the capture and execution of Jesus was minimized, and responsibility for the act was shifted to the Judeans.

Jesus’ disciple, Judas, is depicted as a traitor.  The High Priests, when they called for Jesus’ execution, were presented by the canonical gospels, as acting on behalf of the Judean populace ([99]), rather than on behalf of the Roman administrators who appointed them and kept them in power.  The Gospels conceal the fact that the High Priests were actually agents of the Roman government ([100]).  Only the Johannine Gospel addressed the High Priest’s fear of being deposed by the Romans if Jesus fomented a major disturbance ([101]).  The intense strife between religious factions and socio-economic classes that characterized 1st century CE Judea in the works of Flavius Josephus was downplayed by the canonical gospels.

The redactors of the new gospels created a tale about Judas the traitor ([102]) ([103]).  Each subsequent version of the canonical gospels, from John to Luke, increased the harshness of the character assassination of Jesus’ closest followers.  The so-called betrayal in the canonical Gospels was a fiction created by its pro-Roman authors.  The tale of Judas being bribed with 30 pieces of silver was created by the authors of the Synoptic gospels in order to provide an Old Testament precedent (Zechariah 11:12-13) they could claim as fulfilled prophesy.

The author of the Gospel attributed to John had no knowledge of Judas accepting a bribe.  In order to vilify Judas and provide Judas with a motive for betraying Jesus, a later redactor inserted verse 13:27 into the text of the Johannine gospel.  This actually removes much of Judas’ personal responsibility for the “betrayal” of Jesus since an external force was supposedly influencing him.  The so-called betrayal was not a conscious premeditated act but the result of a last minute supernatural Satanic intervention.  The Synoptic Gospels correct this narrative and polemical defect by stating that Judas had been corrupted by men and gave into greed well before the Last Supper.

The gospel stories about Judas’ death were created to draw attention away from his subsequent career.  The only individual associated with Jesus named Judas in the early non-canonical literature is Judas (or Jude), his brother ([104]).  While there are discrepancies between the surviving stories about this Judas, most state that he was executed for causing civil unrest ([105]).

The original Last Supper narrative recorded by the earliest members of the Jesus sect commemorated the self-sacrifice of their leader who saved them from Roman wrath and celebrated Judas’ loyalty and obedience to Jesus.  The political significance of the Last Supper story was altered and given an eschatological meaning when the Messianic Judaism of the Jesus sect was supplanted by the Hellenized Pauline version of Christianity.

D.Blocker

(My thanks to Roger Viklund who provided editorial assistance for this revision.)

—————————————————————————————————-ENDNOTES:


[1])                   Jonathan Klawans, Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder?; Biblical Archeology Review, Vol. XVII Number 2, Oct 2001, p. 24.

[2])                   Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John’s account of the Last Supper dismissed the actual supper with a short phrase (John 13:4, “got up from supper”), and did not record any events that can be associated with Jewish Passover rituals.

It was the events that followed the supper, the foot-washing episode (John 13:4-12), the announcements that he was to be “betrayed” (John 13:21 et seq.) and that Peter would deny him (John 13.38), and the “Final Discourse” (John 14-17) that were recounted by the Gospel of John, and later passed into popular legend or were mined for their theological significance.

It was the events peripheral to the supper, not the supper itself, that were preserved by the Gospel of John.

[3])                   Jesus’ increasingly provocative actions and hostile confrontations with the Judean leadership that lead to his arrest are summarized below.

Jesus fled to Galilee after being marked for death in Judea (John 7:1).

At the feast of Suhkot (late Fall) (John 7:2), Jesus slipped back into Judea (John 7:10) and returned to theTemple, where he was surrounded by crowds.

He debated with hostile and threatening adversaries (“Why do you seek to kill me?” John 7:20).  These adversaries appear to be orthodox Judean authorities (not the theologically unsophisticated crowds of common people, i.e. the am ha-eretz)) since he is debating the fine points of religious observance with them (John 22-23).  Jesus continued to hold forth in the Temple (John 7:28-29).  He was threatened with arrest but managed to avoid seizure (John 7:30).

Possibly the following day, the temple authorities sent their guards to take Jesus captive (John 7:32), but they cannot approach him because of the crowd surrounding him (John 7:43-44).

The council of authorities were dismayed by his mob of supporters (John 7:49).  Nicodemus stood before the council and voiced his objection to the attempted arrest and death sentence because of their doubtful legality without a proper prior hearing (John 7:50-51).  Nicodemus is accused of being Jesus’ fellow traveler (John 7:52). The council adjourns for the day (John 7:53).

Jesus continued to hold forth at the Templethe next day (John 8: 1-2).  His audience wondered if Jesus has a death wish (John 8:22).  Jesus acknowledged that his opponents want to kill him (John 8:40).  Jesus continued to provoke the orthodox religious authorities (John 8:41 to John 10:41).

He returned to the Templeat the Feast of Dedication (winter) and continues to confront the authorities (John 10: 22-23). He was threatened with stoning on the Temple precincts (John 10:31), presumably by Priests or Levites.  Jesus demands that they justify their decision to stone him (John 10:32). He escaped (John 10:39) and again fled from Judea to go to the far bank of the Jordan River (John 10:40) where he attracts more followers (John 10: 41, “Many came to him…” NRSV).

Jesus returned to Judea, and went to Bethanyjust outside the city of Jerusalemimmediately before Passover ((Spring). (John 11:7. “He said to his disciples,… “Let us go toJudea again.”…”).

The Roman appointed High Priest had enough of Jesus.  A council of Priests and religious authorities condemned Jesus in absentia (John 11:47-57).  Jesus was declared an outlaw who is to be denied safe haven (John 11:57) and arrested wherever found.

Jesus stages a “triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalemand is attended by huge crowds (John 12 9-12)

Jesus went into hiding (“…When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.” John 12:36)

Jesus had a final meeting in Jerusalemwith his disciples (John 13:1), and left the city (John 18:1).  When separated from the crowd that had previously surrounded and protected him, a large group of Roman soldiers and Temple functionaries arrest Jesus (John 18:3).

[4])                   In the following texts, Jesus lead an attack on theTemple, was captured and then rescued by his followers.  He returned toJerusalem at a later time and was re-captured and finally executed.

Various versions of the Toldoth Jesu:

Samuel Krauss, Das Leben Jesu, Berlin. 1903.

J. P, Osier, L’Evangile de Ghettoe , Berg International Editeurs, Paris, 1984.

The Samaritan Chronicle (The Kitab al Tarihk of Abu Fath, translated into English with notes by Paul Stenhouse, MSC, Ph.D, Mandelbaum Trust, University of Sydney 1985, ISBN No. 0 949269 75 1, p. 147).

In the Gospel of John, Jesus caused a disturbance in the Temple (John 2:13-17, “The Cleansing of the Temple”), then later returned to Jerusalem causing a second disturbance (John 12:9-12) which was one of the factors that led to his arrest and execution.

[5])                   Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1.

[6])                   The Romans and their client kings had very little tolerance for any one who attracted large crowds, encouraged demonstrations or fomented rebellion.

John the Baptist was imprisoned and executed because he appealed to large crowds.  Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation, 18.5.2.

The Samaritan Prophet’s messianic demonstration at MountGerizimwas brutally suppressed by Pontius Pilate’s cavalry. Ibid.,18.4.1-2.

Theudas’ demonstration outside of Jerusalemwas broken up, and many were killed or captured.  Theudas was executed. Ibid., 20,5,1.

An Egyptian “false prophet” lead a mob against Jerusalem.  The mob was dispersed, and many were killed or captured.  Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, Whiston Translation, Book 2, Chapter 13.

[7])                   Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, Matthew 21:1-11.

[8])                   Mark 13:1-4, Matthew 24:1-3.

[9])                   Mk 11:15, Mk 14:49, Lk 19:45, Lk 19:47, Mt 21:12, Mt 21:23.

[10])                 After the Hasmoneans were deposed, the High Priest was appointed by Herod the Great, then by his sons and then by the Roman administrators of Judea.  Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation; Book 20 Chapter 10, 274-251.

Herod and then the Romans (except for the period when Vitellius was governor) maintained control over the Templecult by holding the High Priests vestments hostage in the Antonia Fortress. Ibid., Book 18, Chapter 2.1-3.

Quirinius, the governor of Syria, and the procurators of Judeawho followed him, deposed and appointed the High Priests at will.  Ibid., Book 15, Chapter 4.

S.G.F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, Charles Scribner’s Sons New York, 1967, p. 67-68.  Summarizes early procurator’s history of appointing and deposing high priests.

With the onset of Roman occupation and Herodian rule of Judeain 37 BCE, both the legitimate Zadokite High Priests and the Hasmonean usurpers were deposed.  The High Priests were subsequently selected from a small group of aristocratic families.  During most of this time the Romans exerted further control over the Templecult by storing the High Priest’s vestments in the Antonia fortress and only letting the High Priest take temporary possession of them during festivals.  The High Priest derived his powers from the sacred vestments, which the Romans kept hostage.  Joachim Jeremias; Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus; Part 3, Chapter 8. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969.

There is also a tradition that the position of High Priest had become a commodity that could be purchased from the Roman governors of Judea.  See Haim Cohn, The Trial and Death of Jesus, Konecky and Konecky, Old Saybrook, CT, undated; ISBN 1-56852-502-8; p. 22 and p. 343, footnote 9.

[11])                 The Clementine literature suggests a possible rational for the assault on theTemple.  Jesus wanted to drive out the Roman appointed high priests and eliminate the sacrificial cultus, which the Romans used as a tool to controlJudea.

Clementine Recognitions, Book 1, Chapter 37:

“… by these things they might be taught that a people who offer sacrifices are driven away and delivered up into the hands of the enemy, but they who do mercy and righteousness are without sacrifices freed from captivity, and restored to their native land.  But it fell out that very few understood this; for the greater number, though they could perceive and observe these things, yet were held by the irrational opinion of the vulgar: for right opinion with liberty is the prerogative of a few.” *

Clementine Homilies, Homily 3, Chapter 56:

“But to those who affirmed that He was in the temple, He said, ‘Swear not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet.’ And to those who supposed that God is pleased with sacrifices, He said, ‘God wishes mercy, and not sacrifices’ —the knowledge of Himself, and not holocausts.”

* John 8 31-36 has Jesus debating the nature of truth and freedom in rather obscure terms with the “the Jews”.  His opponents seem to be members of a group who support the status quo, and are benefiting from the Roman occupation.  They deny being anyone’s slaves (John 8:33).  The passage in John might be an obscurely rewritten reference to a debate about gaining freedom from outside domination of theTemple.

[12])                 John 11:50, John 18:14.

The TempleHierarchyalso had to balance their fear of Roman reprisals against their fear of the Jerusalemmob (Mk 14:1-2).

[13])                 Varus crucified 2000 rebels, while quelling the Judean revolt that followed the death of Herod the Great.  Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation; Book 17, 9-10.

“They (the Romans) make a desert and call it peace”; Caius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 55-c.117); Agricola, sec. 30.

[14])                 The canonical gospels contain hints of violent disturbances both in the Temple (Luke 13:1) and elsewhere in the city of Jerusalem (Luke 13:4, Mark 15:7, Luke 23:19).  The release of Bar Abbas suggests some participants in the disturbances were amnestied, though the amnesty may not have been universal.  Jesus was crucified alongside “robbers” (Greek: Lestai, Mark 15:27).  Flavius Josephus applied this term (Lestai) to revolutionaries (for a discussion of the vocabulary used to describe Judean revolutionaries, brigands and bandits see S.G. F Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, NY, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967, Chapter 2).

[15])                 A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon. Oxford, Impression of 1963.

[16])                 Rev. Alfred Marshal with a forward by Canon J.B. Philips; The New International Version/ INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, the Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation, p. 426-427;Grand RapidsMichigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.

[17])                 The phrase “Satan entered him” can be deleted from the text without affecting its narrative sense.  The implication that Judas is a traitor is thus removed from the narrative.  This short passage might be an interpolation into the original text.

[18])                 The alternative translation was written using the INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT as a template.

The New International Version/ INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, the Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation. Rev. Alfred Marshal with a forward by Canon J.B. Philips.Grand RapidsMichigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.

[19])                 The word used in the Greek text is Martyr:  to bear witness, to testify or declare, to witness that a thing is.  A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon. Oxford, Impression of 1963, p. 426.  The use of the word in the sense of being “sacrificed for a cause”, i.e. a martyr (a victim) is a later usage.

[20])                 “declared and stated” is redundant.  Doubling is a common Semitic usage.  Its use in a Greek text suggests the Greek was translated from a Semitic (Hebrew or Aramaic) source.

[21])                 Semitic doubling suggesting the Greek text was translated from an Aramaic or Hebrew text.

[22])                 To Betray vs To Hand Over.

The word paradosei (paradidomi) is used in the sense of “hand over” in the majority of the places it appears in the Koine Greek text of the New Testament.  It typically does not have the pejorative connotation of “betray”.

With but two exceptions, the word paradidomi is translated in the standard English versions of the gospels as “to betray” or “betrayer” only in the passages that deal with Judas Iscariot or the arrest of Jesus.  (R.E. Whitaker and J.R. Kohlenburger III; Wm. B The Analytical Concordance to the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament; p. 67. Grand RapidsMichigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co.; 2000).

The exceptions occur only in the Gospel of Matthew; i.e. Mat 10:21: “ Brother will betray brother to death” and Mat 24:10: “ …will fall away and betray one another.” (See below, Footnote (A)).

In the first instance the text could be satisfactory translated as “Brother will hand over brother to be put to death”, and in the second instance the text could have just as well been translated as ”…will draw apart from each other and hand over one another.”

Both translations of paradidomi as arrest refer to John the Baptist (Ibid. p. 39).  Both Mark 1:14 (Now after John was arrested…) and its parallel Matt 4:12 (Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested…) refer to John being handed over to Herod.  There is no tradition of John having been betrayed and there is no justification to translate paradidomi as betray in this context (See below, Footnote (B).

Paradidomi is translated as ripe in Mark 4:29. “As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it…” (Ibid. p. 520).

This is adequately translated “As soon as the ripe grain is handed over (to the workman), he puts the sickle to it”.

Paradidomi is translated as risked in Acts 15:26: ”…who have risked their lives.” (Ibid. p. 520).

In this context “…who have surrendered their lives” or “…who have given up their lives” are more appropriate translations than “risked their lives”.

Paradidomi is used twice in Mark 10:33.  The New American Standard Bible translates the verse as “saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles…”.  The King James Version, New American Bible and New Revised Standard Version also translate both occurrences of paradidomi as “to deliver” or “to hand over”.  On the other hand, the New International Version translates the passage as “ “…and the son of man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.  They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles…” “

Paredidou is used in Acts 8:3, where Saul hands his prisoners over for imprisonment.

Each appearance of paradidomi and how it is translated into English in the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament is given below. (Ibid. p. 766).

Hand over:    43 times
Betray:          37
Give up:        8
Hand on:       6
Betrayer:       5
Entrust:         4
Arrest:          2
Commend:    2
Commit:        2
Abandon:      1
Deliver:         1
Give:             1
Give over:     1
Pass on:        1
Put:              1
Ripe:            1
Risk:             1
Transfer:       1
Turn over:     1

The word paradidomi is translated in the majority of its appearances in the New Testament as “to hand over”.  Only in the context of the arrest of Jesus is paradidomi translated as “betray”.  This usage is based on tradition and is not demanded by the context in which the word appears.  Even in the context of Jesus’ arrest paradidomi can be and should be understood as “handed over”.

A strictly literal translation of paradidomi rather than one owing to tradition changes the nature of Judas’ deed.  Judas becomes a reluctant but faithful messenger instead of being an avaricious traitor.  John 13:2 (”…the devil having now put it into the heart of Judas of Simon Iscariot, to betray him.”)  is probably a later interpolation designed to vilify Judas.  The text’s redactors did not go far enough and did not replace the original paradidomi (hand over) with prodotes (betray) (See below, Footnote (C)), allowing the reconstruction of the original meaning of the text.

This line (John 13:2) also leads to the conclusion that Mark 14:10-11 and its Synoptic parallels Luke 22:3 and Matthew 26:14-16 were not in the original source material.  The passages about Judas going to the high priests before the Last Supper are late polemical insertions into the texts. There was no reason for Judas to make an approach theTempleAuthorities, until after he had been selected to arrange Jesus’ surrender.

In John 19:30 the verb paredoken must be understood in the sense that Jesus gave up his spirit or handed over his spirit (to God), and not that he betrayed himself.

Paul, writing within a generation of Jesus’ execution, is unaware of any early tradition of Jesus being betrayed.  Instead, in Ephesians 5:2, and by implication in Romans 8:32, he writes that Jesus gave himself up (paredoken) for the good of the community.

The most blatant example of translator bias occurs in 1 Corinthians 11:23.  In most translations (See below, Footnote (D)), the Lord “delivered to Paul”, and in turn Paul “delivers”, but Jesus was “betrayed”.  This in spite of the fact it is different tenses of the same Greek word that are being translated.

In Luke 24:20, the word is used in the sense of “deliver” and not betray.  “…our high priests and overlords delivered him up to a death sentence and crucified him.”

The New Testament usage of paradotheise that is least likely to be interpreted as “betray” occurs in Jude 3: “I had a necessity to write to you, exhorting you to earnestly contend for the faith which was once entrusted (delivered) to the saints.” (NIV)

Flavius Josephus in his writings uses the word παραδίδωμι (paradidomi) with the meaning “to give up”, “deliver” or “hand over”.  It is not used in the sense of “betray”.  An example is given below.

Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1 (200). “With Festus dead and Albinus only on his way, Ananus thought he had now a good opportunity to act on this. He assembled a judiciary Sanhedrin and brought before them James, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, and some others, and after condemning them as lawbreakers, gave them over (παραδίδωμι:  handed them over) to be stoned.”

Footnote (A): Mat 10:21 and Mat 24:10 might contain a veiled reference to Judas’ relationship to Jesus.  The context of the word paradidomi implies a connection to Judas.

Footnote (B):  The text of the Du Tillet manuscript of Hebrew Matthew 4:12 contains no sense of John’s having been betrayed.  The Textual Nature of an Old Hebrew Version of Matthew, George Howard, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 105, No. 1 (Mar., 1986), pp. 49-63, p. 59.

Footnote (C): Josephus used the word prodotes (Traitor, betrayer) in reference to his own actions when he betrayed his fellow revolutionaries at Jotapata and joined the Romans.  “I willingly surrender to the Romans and consent to live; but I take thee to witness that I go, not as a traitor (prodotes), but as thy minister” (War III, 354).  Josephus did not merely “turn himself over” to the Romans, he deceived his compatriots by engineering their murder, and then turned against his nation in order to preserve his own life.  He justified his actions to himself and to his readers by claiming he was following God’s will.

Footnote (D):  The KJV, Rheims New Testament, NASB, NIV, and New Revised Standard Version translations all contain an inconsistent and pejorative translation of paredidoto in 1 Corinthians 11:23. Only the New American Bible translation translates the word using neutral language: “For I received (parelabon) from the Lord what I also handed to (paredoka) you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was handed over (paredidoto), …”

[23])                 The New Testament translations contained in the volumes cited below consistently use “hand over” when referring to Judas, instead of labeling his act a “betrayal”.

The difference in vocabulary makes Judas seem like the victim of satanic possession, or a weak willed individual who succumbs to the priest’s bribes, since a less pejorative term is used to describe his actions.  Given that he is not called a traitor, he appears more like an opportunistic victim of circumstance and becomes the passive conveyor of Jesus person who is acting with Jesus’ complete fore knowledge or implicit permission.

The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Southern Dialect, otherwise called Sahidic and Thebaic ,  Vol. 1 to 7, George William Horner, Oxford at the Claredon Press, 1911.

The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Northern Dialect, otherwise called Memphtic and Boharic, Vol. 1 to 4, George William Horner,Oxford at the Claredon Press. 1898.

Paula Fredriksen, a mainstream Christian apologist, admits that paredidoto is incorrectly translated as “betray” by modern translators “in deference to the Judas story”.  (Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000, p. 118.)  This strikes me as sanctioning a deliberate falsification, since she uses indirect language and fails to condemn the translators for their bias.

[24])                 Another phrase doubling.

[25])                 Wine was the beverage which was most likely present at a feast day meal.

[26])                 The Greek text does not make Judas’ relationship to Simon clear.  The Gospels have deliberately obscured this information.  Most translators assume that Judas is Simon’s son, but there is no reason to rule out his being a brother.  Coincidentally there was a Jude or Judas and a Simon among Jesus’ brothers (Mk 6:3; “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James (Jacob) and Joses (Jesus?) and Judas and Simon.”).

[27])                 The phrase “Satan entered him” can be deleted from the text without affecting its narrative progression.  This eliminates the insinuation that Judas is a traitor from the narrative.  This phrase might be an interpolation.  However, the Greek author could have placed it as a warning to the reader that he was to understand “paradidomi” as betray and not in the standard sense of “to deliver”.

[28])                 The passage:  “Jesus thereupon told him: “Do what you must do and do it immediately.”  But … no one (else) understood (knew) what he had demanded of him…”, suggests a prior arrangement between Jesus and Judas.  Judas already knows what he must do, presumably based on a prior discussion with Jesus that was not included in the canonical narrative.  The other disciples had no knowledge of the task assigned to Judas.

[29])                 The fact that Judas was the group’s treasurer, implies that they considered him to be particularly honest, reliable and trustworthy.  This in itself would make him an unlikely candidate to be a traitor.  If he had the ability to abscond with all of the group’s funds, why would a small bribe from the high priest persuade him to betray his leader?  It would have been safer and more profitable to be a thief.

[30])                 Note that the use of the first person pleural in the Greek Textus Receptus implies that a first person narrative was used as a source.  This portion of the text might be related to one of the sources of Acts of the Apostles, the so-called “we document”.

It is also possible that most or all of the verse John 13:29 is an interpolation intended to vilify Judas.  The entire verse can be deleted from the text without disrupting the chapter’s narrative sequence.

[31])                 Jerome uses the word “buccelam”, (Latin: small mouth-full) to translate psomion in his Latin Vulgate translation of the Greek New Testament.  Jerome understood this text in the same sense as my first hypothesis, that Jesus gave Judas a bit of bread probably dipped in wine.  Jerome’s Latin translation of “after the mouthful” can be interpreted that Judas ate the piece of wine dipped bread that Jesus had proffered him.

Note the similarity of Jesus offering Judas a bit of food dipped in wine to the Eucharist where the officiating priest offers a congregant a bit of bread dipped in wine.

Was the Eucharist originally a re-enactment of Judas’ loyalty and unquestioning obedience to his leader, instead of the mystical rite of symbolic cannibalism that Paul later promoted?

[32])                 “that one”

In the original Greek text of Jn 13:30 Judas was referred to as “that one” (Greek: εκείνος), instead of by his name or the pronoun “he”.  The unnamed disciple leaning against Jesus was also referred to as “that one” in the Greek text of Jn 13:25.

[33])                 A similar practice is still current among Hasidic Jews led by a charismatic rabbi.  At the end of a communal meal the rabbi bestows his blessings on his favored followers by giving them bits of food from his plate.  Robert Eisenberg, Boychicks in the ‘Hood, Travels in the Hassidic Underground,NY,NY: HarperSanFrancisco/HarperCollins, 1996; p. 128-129.

[34])                 Martyr:  to bear witness, to testify or declare, to witness that a thing is.  A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon, p. 426. Oxford, Impression of 1963.

[35])                 “Declared and stated…”.  A doubling or Semitism.

[36])                 A text doubling.

[37])                 See Footnote (22) above for a discussion of the translation of paradidomi as betray or hand over.

[38])                 Psomion: Diminutive of Psomos: A morsel, a crumb.  Psomos: A bit, morsel, especially of meat of bread.  A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon, p. 799. Oxford, Impression of 1963.

Psomion: a diminutive of psomos, a morsel, denotes a fragment… John 13:26 (twice), John 27.30.  W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 1064. Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1997).

Psomion: Dim. of Psomos, a morsel a crumb.  Psomos , a bit , a morsel a scrap,…  The Classic Greek dictionary in two parts,New York City,NY: Hinds and Noble Publishers, Cooper Institute; 1901).

[39])                 Draw out: A translation of Bapto.  Bapto (Greek): dip in, dip under, immerse, to fill by dipping in (Author’s note: as in: “to fill my hand with”). “to draw out (i.e. scoop out,) and present to him”.  From Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon.

This translation assumes that the Greek text was originally translated from an Aramaic original.  The Greek redactor either did not fully understand what was occurring or wanted to disguise what was occurring from his Hellenic readers.  He translated the Aramaic word for drew or pulled out with the more neutral Greek word for dipped.  He may have done the same with the word psomion, selecting a neutral word for small piece often associated with foodstuff, rather than using a word like chip or shard (i.e. ostrakon) to indicate that Jesus was drawing a marker out of the bowl.

[40])                The Greek text does not make relationship of Judas to Simon clear.  The Gospel authors have obscured this information.  Most translations presume that Judas is Simon’s son, but there is no reason to rule out his being a brother. There was a Jude or Judas and a Simon among Jesus’ brothers (Mk 6:3; “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James (Jacob) and Joses and Judas and Simon.”).  Acts 1.13 refers to Judas as “Judas of James”, i.e. James, the other brother of Jesus and Simon.  No Joses ever appears as an individual in the New Testament narrations. Joses is only a name on a list (Mark 6.3) or used to describe Mary (Mark 15.40 and Mark 15.47).  Note that in written Hebrew and Aramaic Joses and Jesus are indistinguishable since written Semitic languages at this time did not have written vowels.  In the Gospel attributed to Matthew, which was written after Mark, Joses has been replaced with Joseph on the list of Jesus’ brothers (Matt.13.55).

Judas Iscariot (Matt. 10:4, Matt. 26:14, Mark. 3:19, Mark. 14:10, Luke. 6:16, Luke. 22:3, John. 13:2, John. 12:4) and Simon Iscariot ((John 6:71, John 13:26, also Simon the Cananaean (Matt 10:4 and Mark 3:18), and Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13)) are both called “Iscariot”, suggesting the term is either a descriptor or represents their affiliation.

The homonym Sicariot immediately springs to mind. The Greek speaking authors of the New Testament texts could have mispronounced or misspelled a Latin word (sica, Latin for curved dagger.  Sicarri, dagger-men, i.e. thugs) and added the suffix iot to produce Iscariot.  Unlike the earlier text of Mark, Matthew and Luke did not make any attempt to conceal Simon’s Zealot affiliation.

[41])                 At this point in the Greek text a verb is needed to either describe how Jesus handed over the “morcel” to Judas, or what Judas did with it.  Since the verb is missing it is unclear if Jesus “handed over” something to Judas, or if Judas swallowed a morsel of bread or pocketed (or more properly pursed or pouched) an ostrakon.  The omission of the verb may have been the deliberate action of an early redactor or copyist who wanted to keep what originally transpired at the Last Supper hidden from later readers who had not been fully initiated into the Christian mysteries.

[42])                 The phrase “Satan entered him” can be deleted from the text without affecting its narrative progression.  The sense of Judas being a traitor is then removed from the narrative.  This short phrase might be a later interpolation into the text.

[43])                 Note that the use of the first person pleural in the Greek Textus Receptus implies this text was derived from a first person narrative.  This portion of the text might be related to the so-called “we document”, one of the sources of Acts of the Apostles.

It is possible that part or all of the verse John 13:29 is an interpolation intended to vilify Judas.  The entire verse can be deleted from the text without disrupting the chapter’s narrative sequence.

[44])                 Nicholas Rescher, Luck, the Brilliant Randomness of Everyday Life, p, 115; New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux; 1995; citing Thomas Gataker, Of the Nature and Use of Lots, 1619. Gataker’s book contains an extensive discussion of the role chance and use of drawing lots in the Torah.

The daily priestly duties in the Templewere assigned by drawing lots.  M Yom ii. 1-5, Tamid 1, 2; 2, 5; 3, 1; T. Yoma 1, 10 .

The ritual objects “Urim and Thummin” attached to the High Priests breastplate (Exodus 28:30) were used to perform divination (cast lots in order to determine God’s will) (Levitcus 167:10, Numbers 26:55, Num. 27:21; Deut. 33:8; 1 Sam. 14:41).

The High Priest selected the goat of Azazel on Yom Kippur by casting lots (Leviticus 16:7-10).

[45])                 Three examples of drawing lots in the New Testament texts:

1) Choosing a priest to burn incense.  Luke 1:8-10. ”..according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. ( New American Standard Bible (©1995))”

2) The division of Jesus’ garments by the Roman soldiers guarding him.  Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19: 23-24.

(Note the significance of the “seamless tunic”:

Jesus’ tunic was described as being seamless (John 19:23) which was a requirement for the High Priest’s tunic (Exodus 28:31-32, Exodus 39:27-31 and Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 3.7.4)

The High Priest’s ritual garments were held hostage by the Roman garrison in Jerusalemand only released to the High Priest during festivals (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation; Book 15, Chapter 4).

If John 19:23 is from an original source rather than a later interpolation, it implies that Jesus had usurped the sartorial privileges of the High Priest. This was a declaration that he was replacing the Roman appointed High Priest, and that he was freeing theTemple cultus from the Romans who held the priestly vestments hostage.)

(From Suetonius (ca. 70 CE- after 130 CE), The Twelve Ceasars, The Divine Augustus, 94: “… When Augustus was assuming the gown of manhood, his senatorial tunic was ripped apart on both sides and fell at his feet, which some interpreted as a sure sign that the order of which the tunic was the badge would one day be brought to his feet. …” (underlining added for emphasis.)  This is but one of many text parallels between the canonical gospels and the The Twelve Ceasars. This is a topic which begs for additional investigation.)

3) A new apostle was selected by drawing lots.  Acts of the Apostles 1:23-26.

Since Judas, according to my analysis, was not a traitor, he most likely did not commit suicide shortly after Jesus was executed, and therefore did not need replacement (see footnote (88)).  The author of Acts may have been trying to hide the real reason Jesus’ survivors performed an election by lot: they were choosing a new leader.  “Luke’s” intended audience may have heard of an election so it had to be included in the narrative, but its rationale was disguised.

A further example of drawing lots, this time from a non-canonical Christian text, “The Acts of Thomas”:

“…-and we portioned out the regions of the world, in order that each one of us might go into the region that fell to him, and to the nation which the Lord sent him.  By lot, then, Indiafell to Judas Thomas, also called Didymus. …“  The Acts of Thomas, Chapter 1.  Sources for this text include ”, M.R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament, Oxfford, Claredon Press, 1924”, and “  Wilhelm Scheemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha:Writings Related to the Apostles, Apocalypses and Related Subjects, John Knox Press, Louisville, 1992, p. 322-411.

Note that lots were drawn both to promote fairness and to determine God’s will in apportioning the world to the apostles.

[46])              1) Josephus and his companions, when besieged by Vespasian’s troops, drew lots to determine the outcome of a suicide pact.  Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, translated by William Whiston, Book 3, Chapter 8:3.

2) After they wrested control of the TempleMountfrom the Roman appointed High Priest in 66 CE, the Zealots used a lottery to “elect” a new High Priest.  Phineas was one of a group of priests eligible for the High Priesthood.  Phineas was “elected by God” to serve as the revolutionaries’ High Priest when his lot was drawn.  Ibid., Book 4, Chapter 3:7.

3) According to Josephus the defenders ofMasadacommitted mass suicide rather than let themselves be taken alive by the Romans.  They drew lots to choose the men who would slay their companions.  Ibid., Book 7, Chapter 9:1.

The archaeologist, Yigel Yadin, claims to have discovered the ostrakons used by the defenders to draw lots.  Yigel Yadin, Masada, Herod’s Fortress and the Zealots Last Stand; p. 201. NY,NY: Welcome Rain; 1998.

[47])                 Flavius Josephus claimed that Judeans and Zealots would rather commit suicide than violate their principles or allow themselves to be captured by the Romans:

Phasaelus commited suicide rather than submit to the indignity of torture. Antiquities of the Jews 14. 13, 6-9; War of the Jews , Whiston Translation, Book 1, Chapter 13, Section 6-8.

TemplePriestsallow themselves to be slain rather than protect themselves and cease the performance of Templerituals. War of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 8, Section 5,  Antiquities of the Jews,  Book 14 chapter 4, Section 3.

A Revolutionary throws his sons out of a cave and then leaps to his death. War of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 16, 4.

Survivors of the siege of Jotapata kill themselves rather than allow themselves to be killed or captured by the Romans.  Ibid., Book 3, Chapter 7, Section 35 ( Line 331).

Josephus enters a suicide pact.  Ibid., Book 3, Chapter 8, Section 7.

Some of the inhabitants of Joppa commit suicide rather than drown or face Roman soldiers. Ibid., Book 3, Chapter 9, Section 3 (425).

Mass suicide at Gamala rather than submit to Romans.  Ibid, Book 4, Chapter 1, Section 10 (79-80).

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalemthrew themselves off the Templewall to escape the Idumeans.  Ibid. Book 4, chapter 5, Section 1 (311-312).

Captured Judeans prefer to submit to torture and die rather than violate their principles.  Ibid.  Book 4, Chapter 5, Section 3.

Judeans trapped on roof of the Templecloisters throw themselves to the ground rather than surrender to the Romans.  Ibid. Book 6, Chapter 5, Section 2 (284).

Suicide pact at Masada.  Ibid. Book 7, Chapter 9.

Simon, son of Saul, killed his family and then himself, rather than be taken by the citizens of Scythopolis.  Antiquities of the Jews, 18,22,4.

[48])                 Matthew 20:28.  Mark 10:45.  These passages should be read literally and not as religious allegory.

[49])                 The Roman response to rebellion was harsh:

Carthagerazed in 146 BCE.  Polybius, The Histories, Books XXXVI-XXXXIX

Mass crucifixion of rebellious slaves following Third Servile War in 71 BCE.  Encyclopedia Britannica, see entry on Spartacus.

Pompey’s army kills 12,000 Judeans and captures Jerusalemin 63 BCE.  Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, Whiston translation; Book 1, Chapter 7.

After quelling the Judean revolt following the death of Herod the Great, Varus crucified 2000 rebels.  Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston Translation, Book 17, 9-10.

King Agrippa’s arguments against rebellion against Rome.  Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, Translated by G.A. Williamson and revised by E.M. Smallwood, p. 156-162.  Penguin Books; 1981.

“They (the Romans) make a desert and call it peace”; Caius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 55-c.117); Agricola, sec. 30.

[50])                 John 14 through 17, John 18:1.

[51])                 The narrative sequence describing Jesus’ surrender can be expanded to include John 13:1-17, where Jesus washed his follower’s feet.

The foot washing can be seen as Jesus’ apology to his followers for setting himself above them, and failing to achieve his objectives at theTemple.

After this apology, he picks the man who will turn him over the authorities, and gives his immediate followers final instructions.  He then left the city he recently tried to seize, to await his arrest outside its gates (John 14 through 17, John 18:1).

A full discussion of the apologetic significance of the foot-washing (John 13:1-17), is beyond the scope of this essay.

[52])                 This assumes that the Gospel of John preserves the earliest account of the Last Supper.

The passages that deal with the Paraclete (Greek: Parakletos, English: Comforter) in Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (John 14:17 to 16:17) suggest that an Aramaic text predating the end of the Jewish Revolt underlies the Gospel of John.

Paraclete is a literal translation into Greek of the Hebrew name Menahem (English: Comforter).  The passages about the Paraclete make concrete sense if they refer to Menahem, the Sicariot leader, who seized control of Jerusalem at the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt in 66 CE (Josephus, The Jewish War; Translated by G.A. Williamson, revised by Mary Smallwood, Penguin Books, 1981, p. 166-168.  From The Talmud: Lam. 1:16 and Per. 2:4 4a; Lam.R. 1:16 51, quoted by “The Book of Legends”, Bialik and Ravnitzky,; p. 197-198; English Translation,  Schocken Books Inc; NY; 1992.  First published in Hebrew,Odessa 1908-1911).

Jesus allegedly stated that his successor Menahem/ The Paraclete/Comforter would bring justice to his enemies, i.e. those who do not believe in him (John 16:8-9, 11), and continue teaching as he did (John 14:26, 15:26,).

Menahem slaughtered Roman soldiers who had already surrendered, killed members of the priestly family that had presided over the execution of Jesus and the assassination of Jesus’ brother Jacob, and promulgated Sicariot doctrines.  Menahem was killed when he tried to legitimize his messianic claims by entering the Templedressed as a king (Josephus, The Jewish War; translated by G.A. Williamson, revised by Mary Smallwood, Penguin Books, 1981, p. 166-168.).

The passages about Menahem in Jesus’ Farewell Discourse appear to be a prophecy after the event inserted into an Aramaic language precursor of the Gospel of John.  The interpolation must have been done by Menahem’s Sicariot followers during the brief period Menahem was ascendant in Jerusalem.  It was propaganda designed to recruit members of the Jesus sect to the Sicariot cause by demonstrating that Menahem was a legitimate successor to Jesus. The Aramaic text was later literally translated into Greek.  After additional redaction, it was distributed as the Gospel of John.

[53])                 Luke 22:34, Matthew 6:34, Mark 14. 30.

[54])                 John 14 through 17.  Had Jesus actually been prescient and able to foresee his resurrection, these detailed instructions would have been unnecessary.  He would have known that he could resume teaching following his post-mortem return.

[55])                 Eukarist Parallels and Origins

The officiating priest at the Eucharist giving the communicant a bit of bread dipped in wine parallels Jesus giving Judas a bit of bread dipped in wine.  This suggests that the Eucharist commemorates the blessing Jesus gave Judas as a reward for his unquestioning loyalty and obedience and for the steadfastness required to hand his leader over to the hated authorities.

Paul took the Last Supper events out of their Judean context and turned Jesus’ blessing into a symbol of blood sacrifice like those found in Mithraic and other pagan rituals.  The Pauline usurpers of the Jesus sect did not adhere to the Judean dietary tradition (See sub footnote a).  The symbolic consumption of Jesus’ blood and living flesh would be a direct affront to Judean sensibilities since their sacred texts and traditions prohibited the consumption of blood, the blood of sacrifices or flesh torn from animals (i.e. flesh containing blood) ( See sub footnote b).

These dietary prohibitions were adhered to by Jesus’ immediate successors and were a prerequisite for converts to the Judean Jesus sect but not Paul’s break away cult (See sub footnote c).

Paul created a religion for non-Judeans that deliberately excluded observant Jews from its ranks. The symbolic consumption of blood would prevent Jews from participating in Christianity’s central ritual.

The foregoing argues in favor of the Blessing Hypothesis as the correct explanation of the Last Supper.

If the Lottery Hypothesis is correct, the creation of the Eucharist ritual from the Last Supper events requires an additional step.  First the drawing of lots was disguised as the handing over a morsel of food when the text was translated from Aramaic to Greek.  Next the act of dipping the morsel in wine was added in order to introduce symbolic blood sacrifice.

I originally wrote this essay with only the Lottery Hypothesis in mind.  When I later conceived the Blessing Hypothesis extensive rewriting of the introductory portion of the essay was required.  While the Lottery Hypothesis is still an attractive explanation, I now tend towards the validity of the Blessing Hypothesis since it offers a simpler explanation of how the Eucharist ritual evolved.

Sub footnotes:

a) Galatians 2:12.

I Corinthians 8:8.

b) Genesis 9:4 “But the flesh which is the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”

Leviticus 17:10

Leviticus 17:12-15. “12 … No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood … ”

Leviticus 20:26.

Deuteronomy 12:15, 16, 23-25.

Acts 15:18-20. “18 Known to God from eternity are all his works, 19 therefore I judge that we should not trouble those among the Gentiles who are turning to God 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled and from blood.”

c) Galatians 2:12.

[56])                 Mark 14:33-41.  This episode which further denigrates the disciples has no counterpart in the Johannine gospel.

[57])                 Rev. Alfred Marshal with a forward by Canon J.B. Philips; The New International Version/INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, the Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation, p. 202-202. Grand RapidsMichigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.

[58])                 Ibid., p. 118-119.

[59])                 Note the similarity of Matthew 26:24 to John 13:27.  In John 13:27 Judas has been ordered to do what his leader expects of him without delay.  In Matthew 26:24 Jesus says he will do what is expected of a messianic claimant who wishes to fulfill the demands of prophetic texts. Both passages occur in the same place in the Last Supper narrative and both refer to someone being expected to carry out his obligations. In the current Matthean text the sentence is awkwardly split into two clauses, one about Jesus meeting his obligations, the other about Judas being cursed for his actions.

It is possible that there was prototype text where the entire passage referred sympathetically to Judas, which would result both in a smoother text and one which is in better agreement with John 13:27.

The hypothetical Matthean prototype text would read as follows “Do what you have been told to do and do it expeditiously.  Unhappy is the man (or have pity on the man) who must hand me over.”  The text was later altered to meet the demands of orthodox Christian polemic.

[60])                 Either to share food from the bowl or to place his marker for drawing lots in the bowl.

[61])                 Translation based on drawing lots: “The one dipped by my hand from the bowl will be the one who must turn me in.”

[62])                 The Greek text of Judas’ reply is even more damning than can be expressed in a grammatical English translation.  The Greek text reads “Not I am” which is both a denial of being a traitor and a denial God’s name (Exodus 3:14).  In one phrase the Matthean redactor has Judas doubly damn himself.  The reader sees that he is both a liar and a blasphemer who negates God’s name.

[63])                 John 13:27.  This might be a later interpolation of a marginal gloss into the body of the text.

[64])                 Luke 22:1-6.

[65])                 Rev. Alfred Marshal with a forward by Canon J.B. Philips; The New International Version/INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, the Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation, p. 336-339. Grand RapidsMichigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.

[66])                 Luke 22:22.

[67])                 Luke 22:23.

[68])                 Luke 22:24. “And there was also strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.”  They were arguing about who was to succeed Jesus.

[69])                 Luke 22:34.

[70])                 Luke 22:34.

[71])                 Luke 22:24.  Matthew 20:20-28.  Mark 10:35-45.

[72])                 This narrative sequence could be expanded to include John 13:1-17, where Jesus washes the feet of his followers.  The foot washing can be construed as Jesus’ admission of defeat and his apology to his followers for setting himself above them, putting them at risk and then failing to achieve his goals.

[73])                 John 11:48. “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

This passage voices the very real concerns of Jesus’ contemporaries who had managed to accommodate themselves to the Roman occupation ofJudea. They viewed Jesus as a political subversive who threatened the status quo and increased the risk of the Romans using force to re-establish their authority.

In 66 CE, the Judeans who wanted independence from Romefinally managed to seize the Temple, slaughter the Roman garrison and appoint their own High Priest.  They initiated a four year long war that resulted in the destruction of the temple cult and made Judeathe personal property of the Imperial Flavian family. See Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War.

[74])                 John 11:49-50.  “…consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not….”

[75])                 John 18:14.  “Now Caiaphas was he which gave counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.”

[76])                 John 17:12, John 18:9 (…of them which thou gavest me I have lost none…), and possibly John 6:39.

[77])                 John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

John 18:8 “I told you that I am he, so, if you seek (want) me, let these men go (free).” (Additional words in parenthesis added by author of this essay to clarify the translation from the Greek.)

The Gospel of John, to a much greater extent than the Synoptic Gospels (see this and the four preceding footnotes), emphasizes that Jesus turned himself over to the authorities in order to protect his followers.  In Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28 Jesus stated that he would give his life as a “ransom for many”. The context of this passage has been spiritualized to the point that it is difficult to tell if the phrase “ransom for many” was once to be taken literally.  There is no parallel passage in the Gospel attributed to Luke.

It is noteworthy that in the preceding verse (Mark 10:42, Matthew 20:25), Jesus made an ironic and derogatory remark about Gentile rulers’ usurpation of power, which the Lucan text (Luke 22:25) turns into an offhand compliment: “…those in authority over them are called benefactors”.

[78])                 Matthew 26:36, Mark 14:32, Luke 22:39, John 18:1.

[79])                 Mark 14:35-36, Luke 22:44, Matthew 26:37-39.  Luke presents the most elaborate and dramatic account of the “Agony in the Garden”.  Most early manuscripts do not contain Luke 22:43-44 (a) suggesting it is a late interpolation into the canonical texts.

(a) From footnote F483, NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, The Lockman Foundation, PO Box 2279, La Habra, CA 90631, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995.

[80])                 “to defend the law with their own blood and with their noble sweat in the face of sufferings unto death” (4 Macc 7:8) might be the literary inspiration for Luke 22:43-44.

[81])                 There is a remarkable literary resemblance between the “Agony in the Garden” (Luke 22:44) and the arrest of Jesus, the failed Messiah (Luke 22:50), and the “Agony in the Palace” and the arrest of Vitellius the failed Emperor (see below: Tacitus, Histories, 3. 84.  See also: Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Vitellius 16-17).

Both suffer misgivings and fear after their enterprises fail, both are eventually deserted by their followers, both are captured by a tribune leading a cohort.  One of their captor’s has his ear cut off.  Jesus one-ups the Roman Emperor by rebuking the assailant and healing the ear.  Both Jesus and Vitellius were stripped of their clothing and then lead away to be mocked and killed.  Jesus was crucified between two “thieves”.  Vitellius sees where two prior claimants to the Imperial throne died.  Both Vitelllius and Jesus summon up a final dignity and die with a memorable quotation on their lips.

This suggests a Lukan redactor was trying to address two audiences.  An unsophisticated audience would hear only of Jesus’ noble suffering, while a sophisticated Roman reader would see the deliberate parallel drawn between the ignominious capture of Vitellius and the arrest of Jesus.  Was this a subtle warning to well read members of Roman society that some Christian anecdotes were literary fictions rather than historical reports?

From: Tacitus’ Histories:

[3. 84] When the city had been taken, Vitellius caused himself to be carried in a litter through the back of the palace to theAventine, to his wife’s dwelling, intending, if by any concealment he could escape for that day, to make his way to his brother’s cohorts at Tarracina. Then, with characteristic weakness, and following the instincts of fear, which, dreading everything, shrinks most from what is immediately before it, he retraced his steps to the desolate and forsaken palace, whence even the meanest slaves had fled, or where they avoided his presence. The solitude and silence of the place scared him; he tried the closed doors, he shuddered in the empty chambers, till, wearied out with his miserable wanderings, he concealed himself in an unseemly hiding-place, from which he was dragged out by the tribune Julius Placidus. His hands were bound behind his back, and he was led along with tattered robes, a revolting spectacle, amidst the invectives of many, the tears of none. The degradation of his end had extinguished all pity. One of the German soldiers met the party, and aimed a deadly blow at Vitellius, perhaps in anger, perhaps wishing to release him the sooner from insult. Possibly the blow was meant for the tribune. He struck off that officer’s ear, and was immediately dispatched.

[3.85] Vitellius, compelled by threatening swords, first to raise his face and offer it to insulting blows, then to behold his own statues falling round him, and more than once to look at the Rostra and the spot where Galba was slain, was then driven along till they reached the Gemoniae, the place where the corpse of Flavius Sabinus had lain. One speech was heard from him showing a spirit not utterly degraded, when to the insults of a tribune he answered, “Yet, I was your Emperor.” Then he fell under a shower of blows, and the mob reviled the dead man with the same heartlessness with which they had flattered him when he was alive.

[82])                 Centuries of received orthodox interpretation and the subsequent mistranslation of the Greek Johannine text into vernacular texts concealed the Roman participation in the arrest of Jesus.  The terms used to refer to Roman commander and cohort are unequivocally translated when they appear in the Book of Acts.  Furthermore, the context clearly shows that the Romans are being referred to.

In most English versions of the Gospels, these words have been translated using ambiguous synonyms which conceal the participation of a Roman tribune and cohort in the arrest and imply a greater degree of Judean involvement.

John 18:12. “Then the band (speira)(Footnote (A)) and its captain (chiliarchos) (Footnote(B)) and the officers (huperetes)(Footnote (C)) of the Jews took Jesus and bound him.”

In Acts 21:31 (…a report went up to the commanders (chiliarchos) of the cohort (speira)…) the same italicized Greek words unequivocally refer to the Roman garrison inJerusalem’s Antonia fortress.

Acts 23:10,15,17,19,22,26; 24:7 uses Chiliarchos to refer to a leader of a cohort.

The word speira is used in Matthew 27:27, Mark 15:16, Acts 10:1, and Acts 27:1 to describe a Roman military unit.

Based on the usage above and the definitions below, John 18:12 is more accurately translated as follows:

“Then the cohort and its Tribune and its Judean servants (assistants/underlings) took Jesus and bound him” or

“Then the cohort and its Tribune and its Judean auxiliary troops took Jesus and bound him.”

Footnotes:

(A) speira: a body of soldiers, the Roman Manipulus,= two centuries: but also a cohort. Liddell and Scott GREEK_ENGLISH LEXICON abridged, 25th edition, p. 664. Chicago,Illinois: Follett Publishing Co.; 1934.

(B) chiliarchos: the commander of a thousand men, used to translate the Roman Tribunus militum, a legionary tribune. Liddell and Scott GREEK_ENGLISH LEXICON abridged, 25th edition, p. 783.

(C) huperetes: Any laborer: an assistant, servant, inferior officer… 2. The servant who attended each heavily armed soldier. Liddell and Scott GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON abridged 25th edition, p. 736.

 

Artemidorus lists different kinds of slaves in what appears to be in order of ascending status: servers (theraontes), underlings or helpers (huperetai), stewards (oikonomoi) and financial managers (hoi kata ton oikon tamias). (The interpretation of dreams (Artemidorus Oneirocritica, 1.74), as cited by Dale B Martin in Slavery as Salvation, the metaphor of slavery in Pauline Christianity, p. 34.New Haven: CTYaleUniversity Press; 1990).

The Jews who accompanied the cohort that arrested Jesus were therefore not of high status.

The only other literature with any claim to antiquity that contain a detailed description of Jesus’ capture is the assortment of documents lumped under the name “Toldoth Jesu” (Generations of Jesus).  There is not enough space here to join in the acrimonious debate about the origin of these texts.  The Toldoth Jesu texts attribute the capture of Yeshu to Jews acting at the behest of the “elders” or priests.

If these Jewish texts are early (compiled prior to the Christianization of the Roman Empire), their authors might have been trying to curry favor with their Roman overlords by showing how they took the initiative to remove a dangerous radical from their midst.

If the Toldoth Jesu is a late work, its authors would have drawn on Christian traditions which placed the responsibility for Jesus’ arrest on the Judean leadership.  The author of the Toldoth Jesu was taking vicarious literary revenge on the nominal founder of the religion which was now oppressing him.

The Wagenseil text* of the Toldoth Jesu says: “The people ofJerusalem, who were armed and well-equipped, seized Yeshuh.”  This is a veiled reference to Roman soldiers who had swords and armor.  Ordinary Judeans were not allowed arms, and theTemple police only had staves.

*Joh. Christophorus Wagenseilius, ”Tela Ignea Satanae. Hoc est: Arcani et horribiles Judaeorum adversus Christum Deum et Christianam Religionem Libri anekdotoi” (Altdorf, 1681), 2 vols., containing six treatises, of which the last is ”Libellus Toldos Jeschu.  English translations of this text are readily available.

[83])                 Matthew 26:47.  “…a great multitude with swords and staves from the chief priests and the elders of the people.”

Matthew 26:55.  “And in that same hour Jesus said to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief (See note A below) with swords and staves for to take me?”

Mark 14:43.  “…a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”

Mark 14:48.  “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?”

Luke 22:52.  “…the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders which were come out to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief with swords and staves.”

The Synoptic authors did not remove all of the evidence of Roman participation in the arrest of Jesus from their texts.  The description of the weaponry carried by the crowd implies Roman participation and a greater degree of discipline than the word multitudes or mob suggests.

The phrase “swords and staves” indicates a mixed force of Judean constabulary and Roman troops.  The Romans were armed with swords.  The Templepolice were equipped with staves (see note (B) below).  Matthew, following Mark, left in both mentions of the crowd being armed with swords.  The author of Luke removed the first mention of swords from his text, but left the second in place since he probably did not want to censor a saying attributed to Jesus.

Footnotes:

(A)  The New International Version translates as “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out…?” instead of “as against a thief/robber/bandit” as in other translations (KJV, NAS, NAB, NRSV).  Rebel or bandit is probably the most accurate translation of the Greek text’s ληστην (lêstên).

(B) “…they are high priests and their sons treasurers (of theTemple) and their sons-in-law officers (captains of theTemple)!”

“And their servants (ie Templeconstables and bodyguards) come and beat us up with staves!” Tosefta, Menachoth 13.21;  cf b. Pes 57a; see also t Zeb 11 16-17;  y.Ma’as Sh 5:15.

Dio Cassius reported that during the Bar Kochba Revolt, the revolutionaries had armed themselves with defective weapons liberated from Roman armories.  The Judeans could not otherwise obtain swords.  The Cambridge History of Judaism, Vol. 4, the late Roman-Rabbinic period, edited by Steven T. Katz, 2006, p. 108.

[84])                 Matthew 26:47.  “…a great multitude with swords and staves from the chief priests and the elders of the people.”

Mark 14:43.  “…a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”

Luke 22:52.  “…the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders which were come out to him…”

The Synoptic Gospels variously implicate the sacerdotal hierarchy, the Judean upper classes and their hired supporters.  The Roman appointed High Priests, who had been granted control of theTemplecult, did not have popular support.  They used their position to enrich themselves at the expense of the ordinary Judeans.

Josephus recorded that the High Priests appropriated the tithes intended to support the legitimate hereditary priesthood.  The High Priests used the funds to curry favor with the Romans and to increase their personal hoards of money (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston translation, 20.9.2).

The Talmud contains similar memories of the Roman appointed High Priest’s malfeasance:

“At first did they bring the hides of holy things to the room of bet hap parvah and divide them in the evening to each (priestly) household which served on that day.  But the powerful men of the priesthood would come and take them by force.  They ordained that they should divide it on Fridays to each and every watch.  But still did violent men of the priesthood come and take it away by force…Beams of sycamore were in Jericho and strong fisted men would come and take them by force, until their owners consecrated them to Heaven (i.e. donated them to the Temple).”  T.Men. 13.18-19, cf. tZeb. 11:16-17, b Pes. 57a.

“Abba Saul ben Betnith and Abba Jose ben Johanan of Jerusalem say:

— “Woe to me from the house of Boethus! Woe to me from their rods!”

— “Woe to me from the house of Qadros (i.e. Kantheros)! Woe to me from their pens!”

–“Woe to me from the house of Elhanan ( in Greek: Ananus or Annas)! Woe to me from their house of whispers!”

— “Woe to me from the house of Elisha! Woe to me from their pens!”

— “Woe to me from the house of Ismael ben Phiabi!

For they are high priests and their sons treasurers (of the temple) and their sons-in-law officers (of the temple)!”

“And their servants come and beat us up with staves!”.  Tosefta, Menachoth 13.21;  cf b. Pes 57a; see also t Zeb 11 16-17;  y.Ma’as Sh 5:15.

For readily accessible English language translations of the Talmud see:

Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky, “The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from Talmud and Midrash, translated by Walter G. Braude”, B Pes. 57a. New York:  Schocken books; 1992.

Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, editor, The Babylonian Talmud, translated into English with Notes, Glossary and Indices, Pesachim 57a, p. 284-285. London: Soncino Press; 1978.

Since the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate could be left out of the narrative, he was transformed into a weak willed pawn of the “Jewish mob” (Matthew 27:24, Mark 15:15, Luke 23:24, John 19:12).

The historical Pilate was actually a ruthless apparatchik who had no compunction about using his troops to massacre insubordinate Judeans.

The contemporary author Philo wrote that Pilate’s time in office was characterized by “his venality, his violence, his assaults, his abusive behavior, his frequent executions of untried prisoners and his endless savage ferocity” (Embassy to Gaius, 302).

The first century historian, Flavius Josephus, gave examples of Pilate’s willingness to use violence against his subjects:

Pilate used disguised cohorts to savagely quell a riot in Jerusalem(Jewish Wars 2.175-177 and Jewish Antiquities 18.60-62).

In 36 CE, Pilate ordered his infantry and cavalry to slaughter Samaritans who had gathered at the foot of MountGerzim.  Lucius Vetellius (the governor of Syriaand father of Aulus Vitellius, one of the Roman Emperors of 69 CE) removed Pilate from office and sent him to Rometo answer for this excessive use of force (Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18: 85-89).  This raises the question, “What was considered excessive force by a culture that considered the mass butchery of men and animals in the arena a routine entertainment?”

[85])                 John 18:4-5 (NAB).  “Jesus…went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?”  They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.”  He said to them, “I AM”.  Judas his betrayer was also with them.”

Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, it was not necessary for Judas to identify Jesus, since Jesus stepped forward and volunteered his identity to the cohort.

[86])                 John 18: 6 (NAB). “When he said to them, “I AM,” they turned away and fell to the ground.”

Matthew 26:52-53.  Without actually demonstrating his abilities, Jesus stated that he could have used his supernatural power to escape arrest, but chose not to.

[87])                 John 18:8-9 (NAB). “…So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”  This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.”

[88])                 The Kiss of Greeting.

Mark 14:45, Luke 22:47 and 48, Matthew 26:48 and 49.

There is no reference to a kiss of greeting in the Gospel of John.

In the Synoptic Gospel tradition, Judas’ kiss completes his betrayal of Jesus.

The early Christian community had a tradition of a kiss of greeting exchanged between members (1Peter 5:14: “Greet one another with a kiss of love.”).

Another early Christian community had a tradition that the resurrected Jesus greeted his brother Jacob with a kiss:

“(31,1-10) And the Lord appeared to him (Jacob).  Then he stopped (his) prayer and embraced him.  He kissed him saying, “Rabbi, I have found you!  I have heard of your sufferings, which you endured….”

“(31-15, 32,1-10) The Lord said,”…Therefore your name is James (Jacob) the Just…Now since you are a just man of God you have embraced and kissed me.”  The Nag Hammadi Library in English; James M. Robinson, General Editor; HarperSan Francisco; First Harper Collins Paperback edition 1990; The First Apocalypse of James, p 264-265.

This suggests that there was an early Christian custom of a kiss of greeting or recognition.  Judas’ kiss in the Synoptic Gospels could be a satirical reference to this practice and a device used by the Synoptic authors to vilify him.  It might also be a true record of Judas’ farewell to his leader and the origin of the Christian kiss of greeting.

Paul is aware of a “sacred kiss” and refers to it in his writings (Romans 16:16, 1Corinthians 16:20, 2Corinthians 13:12, 1Thessalonians 5:26).

The Toldoth Jesu, a sardonic rabbinical biography of Jesus, has Judas making “impure” contact with Jesus in order to render Jesus unclean and unable to pronounce the Tetragrammaton.  The loss of Jesus’ magical powers, derived from knowing the vocalization of the Tetragrammaton, leads to his capture.  Samuel Krauss; Das  Leben Jesu nach Judischen Quellen; S. Calvary; Berlin, 1902.

The authors of the Gospel of John and the Toldoth Jesu, both knew of a tradition where Jesus derived his power from knowledge of the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus declines to use his power and permits himself be arrested.  In the Toldoth Jesu was defiled and his power taken from him so that he could be arrested.  Jesus was not allowed the nobility of self-sacrifice in the satirical version of his biography.

[89])       John 18:8-11.  Jesus identifies himself to the arresting party, and asks that his followers be left alone.  Peter attacks the High Priest’s representative.  Jesus orders Peter to stop resisting, and states he (Jesus) has accepted his fate and will not contest his arrest. Jesus is bound and led away, and no further action is taken against the disciples.

Mark 14:43-47.  Judas identifies Jesus to the arresting party so that “he may be led away safely.”  One of the disciples attacks the high priest’s representative.  The Gospel of Mark does not name Peter as the assailant.  Jesus reprimands the arresting party for cowardice since it had not taken him into custody at an earlier time in a more public venue.  The disciples are depicted as abandoning their leader and fleeing, when Jesus was taken away.

Luke 22:50.  Jesus reprimands Judas for betraying him. The disciples ask if they should resist arrest.  Without waiting for a reply, one of the disciples attacks a member of the arresting party.  The Gospel of Luke does not name Peter as the assailant.  Jesus is presented as showing his disapproval of this action by healing the wound inflicted by his disciple.  Except for Peter who denies his association with Jesus, there is no further mention of the disciples’ actions.

Matthew 26:47-53.  Jesus greets Judas when he arrives leading the arresting party.  One of the disciples slashed a member of the arresting party without first asking Jesus for permission.  The Gospel of Matthew does not identify Peter as the assailant.  Jesus reprimanded the assailant and said that the fate of those who take up arms against the Romans or their representatives would be a violent death.  Jesus is presented as disavowing armed rebellion and any disciple who resistedRome and her representatives.  The Matthean author was distancing Jesus from Judean revolutionary parties. The disciples abandon Jesus and flee as Jesus is led away.  Peter later disavows his association with Jesus.

Only the Gospel attributed to John identified Peter as the disciple who disobeyed Jesus and resisted the troops sent to arrest him.

Sequencing the canonical gospels John, Mark, Luke and then Matthew demonstrates a pattern of increasing vilification of the disciples and condemnation of resistance to Roman authority.

Evan Powell demonstrates a similar progression of themes dealing with supernatural mythologies, eschatology, and moral issues if the canonical gospels are ordered from John to Matthew (Evan Powell, The Unfinished Gospel; Chapter 7: Gospel Patterns.  Westlake Village,CA: Symposium Books, 1994).

The Synoptic accounts of the arrest of Jesus, the man accused of being King of the Jews, bear a striking resemblance to the accounts of the arrest of Aulus Vitellius, the man who tried to be the Emperor of the Romans.  This shows the Synoptic Gospels were composed after 69 CE, the year of three Emperors.

Vitellius was abandoned by his companions, experienced fear and misgivings, was initially not recognized by his captors and was mocked before his execution.  (Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Vitellius Chapter 16-17).

A member of Vitellius’ bodyguard cut off the ear of Vitellius’ captor, a tribune of the guards.  (Tacitus, The Histories, Book 3, Chapter 84).

[90])       Jesus’ “cleansing” theTemple was an attempt to unseat the Roman appointed High Priest.  Presumably, Jesus planned to install a High Priest more to his liking, probably a Zadokite or a Davidite.

When Judean rebels seized the Temple in 66 CE, they replaced the Roman appointed high priest with one chosen by lot from among the Kahens (Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, translated by William Whiston, Book 4/Chapter 3:7.

[91])       The passages below all document the Judean assumption that a successful revolt indicates God’s approval, failure the lack of divine support.  The disparity of the sources indicates that knowledge of this belief was widely dispersed.

Acts 5:34-39.

Clementine Recognitions, Book 1, Chapter 65.

Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1.

[92])       For examples of the Roman’s ruthlessness in eliminating native opposition to their rule see:  Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, Translated by G.A. Williamson and revised by E.M. Smallwood, Chapter 7. London: Penguin Books; 1981.

[93])       Clementine Homilies 11:35.

Clementine Recognitions 1:43 and 1:74.

Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 7:19 and 2:2.

Jerome, Illustrious Men 2.

Gospel of Thomas, Logion 12.  Nag Hammadi Documents.

[94])       Acts 5.14, 6.1, 6.7.

Clementine Recognitions Book 1, Chapter 43.

Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus, Whiston translation; Book 18 Chapter 3:3.

[95]        )         The Lucan gospel and the Matthean Gospel appear to have been composed with different target audiences in mind.

The Lucan nativity was placed in an Arcadian setting.  Jesus’ birth was attended by shepherds as is befitting a Greek wise man and miracle worker such as Apollonius of Tyana.

The Matthean gospel has Persian Magi attending the birth of Jesus.  Jesus is proclaimed king.  He is being imbued with the qualities of an Eastern demi-god such as Mithra.

This suggests that the Lucan Gospel was designed for a Hellenized audience.  Jesus was presented in the familiar guise of a mortal philosopher who used his wisdom to acquire great powers.  The Lucan redactor placed familiar Hellenic concepts into Jesus’ speeches.  The similarities between materials in the surviving works of the Greek philosopher Epictetus to sayings attributed to Jesus in the Lucan text require further investigation.

The Matthean text was addressed to Greek speaking listeners familiar with Eastern or Persian traditions of powerful demi-gods.  The Matthean text’s quotes from the Torah, while the Lucan gospel uses free quotations from the Greek Septuagint. The Matthean text appears to target a Greek speaking Jewish audience that was familiar with Eastern pagan beliefs.  This describes the Jewish community inAlexandria.

Further investigation of this topic is left as an exercise for the reader.

[96])                 For an old, but still informative discussion about the relationship between Jesus and the revolutionary Judean sects see: S.G. F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967.

The Gospel of Mark goes to great lengths to show that during his lifetime Jesus distanced himself from any public statements about being a populist leader, messianic claimant or miracle worker (Mark 1:23-25, 1:34, 1:40-45, 5:43, 7:36, 8:26, 8:29-30).  William Wrede proposed that the “Messianic Secret” was a myth created to explain why those close to him did not know of his miraculous deeds, or that he was the Messiah.  William Wrede, The Messianic Secret, James Clark 1917 (original edition 1901).

On the other hand, the author of Mark may have felt it necessary to create the “Messianic Secret”, because he was responding to competing traditions or texts that presented Jesus as an aggressive messianic claimant.  This would have placed Jesus in direct conflict with the Roman system that claimed only the Emperor wielded imperial power, and that the only legitimate kings where those the Emperor had appointed as his local representatives.  “The Messianic Secret” was a device created to present a Greek speaking audience with an otherworldly modest and apolitical Jesus who had no intention of recruiting followers for a temporal army.

Jesus is presented as a reluctant messianic candidate in John 6:14-15, and in the Slavonic version of Josephus’ Jewish War.

John 6: 14-15 (NIV), “14… They began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

However, when the Jerusalemcrowds greeted Jesus as their king (John 12:12-13) he did not deny that he claimed kingship, and the belief that Jesus was a messianic claimant penetrated Jerusalem’s ruling class (John 12:42).

When he was interrogated by the High Priest, Jesus stated he did not conceal any of his teachings.  John 18:20.  “I have spoken openly to the world, I have always taught in the synagogues and in theTemple, where all the Jews come together, I said nothing secretly.”

From the Slavonic version of Josephus’ Jewish War:

“But it was his habit rather to remain in front of the city on theMount of Olives… *

And there 150 servants and a multitude of people joined him…

And many souls were aroused **, thinking that by him the Jewish tribes would free themselves of the Romans…

They bade him enter the city, kill the Roman troops and Pilate, and reign over them…

Later when news of this came to the Jewish leaders ***, they assembled to the chief priests and said. “We are powerless and too weak to oppose the Romans, like a slackened bow.  Let us go and inform Pilate what we have heard; and we shall be free of anxiety; if at some time he shall hear of this from others, we shall be deprived of our property, ourselves slaughtered and our children exiled ****.”

And they went and informed Pilate *****.  And he (Pilate) sent (soldiers?/horsemen?) and killed many of the people and brought in that wonder worker******.”  H. and K. Leeming with L Osinka;  Josephus’ Jewish War and its Slavonic Version;  Brill,LeidenBoston, 2003;  p. 261.

The above passage from the Slavonic version of Jewish War is not in the received Greek text.  Jesus’ arrest was instigated by the “Jewish leaders” who betrayed him to Pilate.  There is no mention of any betrayal by Judas.  The Jewish leaders were responding to Jesus’ large following that attributed messianic ambitions to him, and their fear of being deposed by the Romans for not having kept Jesus under control.

The compiler of the Samaritan Chronicle (The Kitab al Tarihk of Abu Fath, translated into English with notes by Paul Stenhouse, MSC, Ph.D, Mandelbaum Trust, University of Sydney 1985, ISBN No. 0 949269 75 1) knew of Jesus and his capture by the Roman governor (p. 147) and a subsequent Jewish Revolt, but he had no knowledge of a Samaritan prophet who was attacked by Pilate.  His account suggests that the Samaritans wereRome’s allies against the Judeans during the Jewish Revolt.

Footnotes:

* John 11:18 and 12:12, Jesus atBethany, on the slopes of theMount of Olives.

** John 11:45, “…many of the Jews…put their faith in him.”  John 12:11, “…many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.”

*** John 11:46.

**** John 11:48, “…the Romans will come and take away our place…”

***** John 11:53, “…from that day on they plotted to take his life.”

****** The Slavonic Josephus’ Wonder Worker has a strong resemblance to the Samaritan Prophet whose uprising was quelled by Pilate’s troops (Flavius Josephus Jewish Antiquities 18:85-89).

[97]) New Testament verses that denigrate Jesus’ disciples or his family.

The canonical gospels are full of material that is openly contemptuous of the people in Jesus’ immediate circle.  Verse after verse describes the disciples’ individual ambitions, greed, selfishness, unreliability and stupidity.  The canonical gospels also contain passages whose only apparent purpose is to discredit Jesus’ close relatives.

This is hardly the material one would expect in the foundation texts of Christianity, particularly when the first leaders and disseminators of the Jesus movement were his close relatives (Jacob, Simeon and Judas) and his disciples.  The purpose of these texts is to discredit the relatives and original disciples of Jesus, and legitimize Paul as Jesus’ true inheritor.

The following is a lengthy but not all-inclusive list of the verses that denigrate Jesus’ close associates.

Luke 2:49-50.  Jesus rebukes his parents for their ignorance.

Mark 3: 21.  Jesus’ family attempts to keep him from public view because of his rumored insanity.

Mark 4:13.  Jesus was exasperated by the disciples’ slowness to understand him.

Matthew 8:26, Mark 4:40, Luke 8:25.  Jesus questions his disciples’ lack of faith in him.  Mark 4:40.  He accuses the disciples of cowardice.

Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21.  Jesus rejects his immediate family.

Matthew 14:24-26, Mark 6:48-50.  Jesus’ sudden appearance during a storm terrifies the panicky disciples.

Mark 6:52.  The disciples do not understand what Jesus accomplished by multiplying the loaves and harden their hearts toward him.

Mark 8:4.  “How can anyone provide all these people with bread in this lonely place?”  The disciples have no faith in Jesus’ abilities in spite of already having seen him miraculously  feed the multitudes (see above).

Mark 8:12.  Jesus is annoyed by the Pharisees.

Mark 8:14.  The disciples forget to take bread with them when setting off on a voyage.

Mark 8:17-21.  The disciples’ stupidity and slowness once again frustrate Jesus.

Mark 8:32-33.  Peter disagrees with Jesus, and is rebuked by Jesus; “Get behind me Satan.”

Mark 9:6.  The disciples are terrified (Luke 9:33, Peter babbles stupidly).

Mark 9:18, Matthew 17:16, Luke 9:40.  The disciples are impotent and cannot exorcise an unclean spirit.

Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6.  Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith.

Mark 9:32, Matthew 17:23, Luke 9:45.  Another statement of the disciple’s fearfulness and ignorance.

Mark 9:33-37, Matthew 18:1-5, Luke 9:46-48.  The disciples argue among themselves about which one of them is the greatest and ask Jesus to resolve the dispute.  He chides them.

Mark 9:38-41, Luke 9:49-50.  The disciples prevent a man from acting in Jesus’ name.  Jesus rebukes them.

Mark 10:13-16, Matthew 19:13-15, Luke 18:15-17.  The disciples are cruel to little children and their parents by not letting them approach Jesus.  Jesus is pained and rebukes the disciples.

Mark 10:28-31, Matthew 19:27, Luke 18:28.  Peter expresses doubt.

Mark 10:32. The disciples are bewildered and afraid.

Luke 12:40-48.  Peter is yet again puzzled by a parable.  Jesus subtly mocks him with a parable that implies his future leadership abilities may not be adequate.

Matthew 14: 28-33.  Peter displays fear, doubt and lack of faith in his chosen leader.

Matthew 15:15-16.  Jesus accuses Peter of stupidity and lack of understanding.

Matthew 16:8-9, Mark 8: 16-21.  Further demonstration of the disciples’ inability to understand Jesus’ teachings.

Matthew 16:23.  Jesus compares Peter to Satan, says he is a hindrance and understands only worldly affairs, not those of God.  (See also Mark 8:33, for similar accusation though its phasing is slightly less vituperative.)

John 12:16.  The disciples are slow in understanding.

Matthew 20:20-28.  The other ten disciples are indignant when they learn that the Zebedee’s mother has demanded they be given special privileges.

Mark 10:35-45, Matthew 20:24-26. The other ten disciples are indignant when they learn that Zebedee’s sons have asked for special privileges.

Mark 11:20-25.  Peter displays his obtuseness. / Matthew 21:20.  Jesus addresses the disciple’s lack of faith.

Matthew 26:8-13.  Jesus rebukes the disciples when they object to his having been anointed.

John 11:16.  In a single phrase, the impetuous Thomas Didymus, shows his willingness to die a violent useless death (in contrast to Jesus’ later purposeful self sacrifice), and his utter incomprehension of Jesus’ intentions and abilities.

John 13:7-8.  Jesus tells Peter of his current knowledge is deficient but might improve with time, then reproaches Peter for his recalcitrance.

Mark 14:29.  Peter professes his loyalty (though the reader knows he will abandon Jesus)

Mark 14:31.  Peter and the rest of the disciples swear their undying devotion to Jesus, though they will all abandon him in Mark 14:50-51.

Matthew 26:33-34, Mark 14:34, Luke 22:34.  In spite of Peter’s protestations of loyalty, Jesus prophesies that Peter will deny being associated with him by morning.

John 13:38. Jesus predicts that Peter will disown him, but will later have the chance to redeem himself.  This is a more sympathetic treatment of Peter than in the Synoptic Gospels.

John 14:5. Thomas demonstrates that he is ignorant and spiritually lost.

John 16:14-31.  The disciples are very slow to comprehend what Jesus is saying to them.

Luke 22:24-30.  The disciples argue among themselves about who is the most important, and presumably which one of them will succeed Jesus.

Matthew 26:40, 43, Mark 14:37 and 40.  The disciples fall asleep and fail to keep watch with Jesus.

Matthew 26: 56, Mark 14: 50-52.  The disciples abandon Jesus and flee.

Mark 14:51-52.  That text specifically notes the fleeing young man wore a linen cloth.  Linen was worn by the priests.  This might have been a clue to his identity.

Matthew 26:70-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:55-62, John 18:17, 25-27.  Peter denies his association with Jesus.

John 20:9.  The disciples do not understand what is obvious to the gospel reader.

(Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11.  The empty tomb.  Petronius Arbiter’s story about the Ephesian Matron in the “Satyricon” may be a satire of the Christian account of the crucifixion and resurrection.)

Luke 24:11.”The story appeared to them to be nonsense and they would not believe.”  The disciples reject the women’s story of the empty tomb.

Mark 16:7-8.  The Marys and Salome are terrified by the messenger at Jesus’ tomb.  They flee in terror and “said nothing to anyone”, thereby disobeying the messenger’s directive to carry a message to Peter and the disciples.  This was probably written to discredit Mary and her followers.

John 20:13, 15.  Mary Magdalene fails to recognize Jesus.

John 20:17. Jesus orders Mary not to touch him.

Mark 16:11. The male disciples do not believe Mary Magdalene’s report of having seen Jesus. This passage contradicts Mark 16: 8 where she said “nothing to anyone”, suggesting the “long ending of Mark” is a poorly reconciled later addition to the main body of the text.

Mark 16:13.  Two male disciples reporting that they had seen Jesus are disbelieved by the remainder, demonstrating their lack of faith.

John 20:19-24.  Ten mourning disciples, who meet, presumably to keep Kaddish, receive Jesus’ post-mortem Apostolic blessing.  Thomas was not with them, an insult to his late master’s memory, and he did not receive the blessing.

Mark 16:14.  The post mortem Jesus appears before the “eleven” disciples” while they are eating and rebukes them for their disbelief, and their hardness of heart for not believing the reports that he had risen.  Note similarity to the “doubting Thomas” episode in the Gospel of John.

John 20:25.  Obstinate Thomas.

John 20:29.  Jesus subtly rebukes the Doubting Thomas (see note below*).  Jesus gives his blessing to those who need no convincing of his return from the tomb, but still withholds it from Thomas.  A topic for future research would be to determine the relationship between Thomas or Judas Thomas, and Judas Iskariot.

Matthew 28:17.  Some of the disciples remain “doubtful” after seeing the resurrected Jesus.

Luke 24:37-45.  The disciples were frightened by Jesus and required reassurance.  In spite of all the time they had spent with him, he still has to open their minds so they could understand his Scriptural interpretations.

 (*There is a similar episode in which a doubting disciple has to be convinced that his resurrected master is a palpable man, not a ghost, in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (8:12).  Apollonius was an itinerant wonder worker who was a near contemporary of Jesus.  Philostratus’ “The Life of Apollonius of Tyana” in two volumes, translated F.C. Conybeare, Loeb Classical library 16 (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press 1912).)

[98])                  Destroying the reputation of the disciple called “Thomas called Didymus (the Twin)”: An additional example of a New Testament text intended to denigrate Jesus’ disciples and family.

John 20:24-29 was designed not only to discredit the disciple called Thomas with orthodox Christians, but to render Thomas and his followers unacceptable to the Zealots and other disciples of Judas the Galilean (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.1, 18.1.6, 18.4.6, 20.5.2;  Jewish War 2.8.1, and possibly Antiquities of the Jews 17.10.5;  Jewish War 2.4.1)

In John 20:24-28, Thomas first expressed doubt about the resurrection.  This was designed to cast doubt on Thomas’ loyalty to the Christ sect by demonstrating he initially did not accept its doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus.  If the followers of Thomas inherited their leader’s doubts about the resurrection they would also be unacceptable members of the orthodox branch of Christianity.

Having been shown a “proof” of the resurrection, Thomas was made to exclaim “My lord and my god (John 20:28)”.

This formulation was unacceptable to the Zealots, Essenes and other Judean groups that advocated the independence of Judea fromRome.

According to Flavius Josephus, in 7 CE “a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, encouraged his countrymen to revolt, and accused them of cowardice if they paid taxes to the Romans, or accepted mortal men as their master (lord), having formerly served God alone. This deceiver had his own sect, which was quite different from the others.”  (Jewish War 2.8.1)

The founder of the Judean succession movement taught that no man could be accepted as a supreme overlord, in contraindication to Thomas’ abject submission to Jesus.  A Christian apologist might make an argument that Thomas was submitting to a god not a man, but the text of John 20 makes it clear that Thomas was submitting to a solid living breathing man, not a vision of an insubstantial god.  If Thomas was declaring that Jesus was a god, in addition to being his human overlord, Thomas was then placing himself outside the tenants of Judean monotheism.

Flavius Josephus repeatedly confirmed that the Judean separatists would endure horrible privations and tortures rather than accept an alien master.

“Their (The Sicarii’s) courage, or perhaps we should call it madness, or the strength of their opinions, amazed everyone.  For though all imaginable kinds of tortures and physical pain were used on them, none of them could be forced to yield and to confess, or even give the impression of confessing, Caesar as their master (lord), but in spite of all that was inflicted on them, they stuck to their own view, as if receiving these tortures, even fire itself, with bodies that felt no pain and a soul that almost was glad at it. Most astounding of all to the onlookers was the courage of the children, for none of them was so defeated as to call Caesar master. So far does the power of courage prevail over the weakness of the body.”  (Jewish War 7.10.1 (417-419))

“But Judas, a Gaulonite from a city called Gamala, with the support of the Pharisee Sadduc, stirred them to revolt by calling this taxation nothing but an introduction to slavery and urging the nation to reassert its freedom. This would allow them to regain prosperity and retain their own property, as well as something still more valuable, the honour and glory of acting with courage. They said that God would surely help them to achieve their goals, if they set their hearts on great ideals and not grow tired in carrying them out. What they said was eagerly listened to and great progress was made in this bold project, so that indescribable troubles came on the nation as a result of these men.”  (Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.1)

“Judas the Galilean was the originator of the fourth way of Jewish philosophy, which agrees in most things with the views of the Pharisees, but is intensely devoted to freedom and claims God as the only Ruler and Lord. They are prepared for any kind of death, and even accept the deaths of relatives and friends, rather than call any man lord. 024 Since their immovable resolve is well known to many, I shall say no more about it, nor do I fear that what I have said of them will be disbelieved. What I do fear is that I have understated the indifference they show in the face of misery and pain”. (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.6.1 (023-0240))

Writing in the 3rd century CE, Hippolytus reiterated Josephus’ contention that the Judean separatists refused to apply the formulation “Lord” to any ruler and adhered to their monotheism with a single minded intensity that did not allow room for a sold terrestrial manifestation of a man god.

Hippolytus further stated that the Zealots were not a separate group related to the Pharisees (See Antiquities of the Jews 18.6.1 and 18.23), but were instead a fanatically observant sect of the Essenes.

“The Essenes have, however, in the lapse of time, undergone divisions, and they do not preserve their system of training after a similar manner, inasmuch as they have been split up into four parties.

“For some of them discipline themselves above the requisite rules of the order, so that even they would not handle a current coin of the country, saying that they ought not either to carry, or behold, or fashion an image: wherefore no one of those goes into a city, lest (by so doing) he should enter through a gate at which statues are erected, regarding it a violation of law to pass beneath images.

“But the adherents of another party, if they happen to hear any one maintaining a discussion concerning God and His laws— supposing such to be an uncircumcised person, they will closely watch him and when they meet a person of this description in any place alone, they will threaten to slay him if he refuses to undergo the rite of circumcision.

“Now, if the latter does not wish to comply with this request, an Essene spares (him) not, but even slaughters (him). And it is from this occurrence that they have received their appellation, being denominated (by some) Zelotae, but by others Sicarii.

“And the adherents of another party call no one Lord except the Deity, even though one should put them to the torture, or even kill them.

“…

“And so it is that they despise death, rejoicing when they can finish their course with a good conscience. If, however, any one would even put to the torture persons of this description, in order to induce any among them either to speak evil of the law, or eat what is offered in sacrifice to an idol, he will not effect his purpose; for one of this party submits to death and endures torment rather than violate his conscience.” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 9, Chapter 21. Different Sects of the Esseni)

Hippolytus’ depiction of the Essenes supplying the membership of the Zealot movement provides an explanation of how one of the most notorious military leaders of the Judean revolt against Romecould have been an Essene (See Flavius Josephus, Jewish Wars 2.567; 3.11 et seq. for the military career of John the Essene).  The Zealots were Essenes who were motivated by a particularly strict interpretation of their doctrines to reject pagan Roman domination of their homeland.

The formulation “no respecter of persons”, that appears in the New Testament and in the early Christian fathers, and may be a rephrasing of the Zealots avowal to “call no man Lord”

“For we (The Temple Authorities) and all the people bear thee (Jacob, aka James the brother of Jesus) testimony that thou art just, and art no respecter of persons.”  From Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History II. 23, quoting Hegesippus’ Memoires.

“But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” (James 2.9)

“… God shows no personal favoritism to no man …” (Galatians 2:6)

“34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 36The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all): …  (Acts 10:34-35)”.

This passage manages to combine both the Zealot dogma of withholding worship from mortal rulers and the conflicting Christian dogma of submission to Jesus the man who was made into a god.

The term “Lord and God” that the disciple Thomas allegedly applied to Jesus is the same term that the later Roman Emperors applied to themselves.

The second Roman Emperor Augustus, who preferred to be referred to as the “first citizen” ofRome, rather than as its absolute ruler rejected the appellation “Lord”.

“He (Augustus) always shrank from the title of Lord (Latin: Dominus) as reproachful and insulting. When the words “Oh, just and good Lord!” were uttered in a farce at which he was a spectator and all the people sprang to their feet and applauded as if they were said of him, he at once checked their unseemly flattery by look and gesture, and on the following day sharply reproved them in an edict. After that he would not suffer himself to be called Sire even by his children or his grandchildren either in jest or in earnest, and he forbade them to use such flattering terms even among themselves.”  (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Augustus 53)

Dominus, “master or lord” (equivalent to the Greek Kyrie) in the time of theRomanRepublic indicated the relation between master and slaves.

Tiberius also shrank from having the word applied to him (Suetonius, Tiberius xxxvii).  It was first adopted by Caligula and then by Domitian, and from the time of Trajan it became a standard title for an emperor.

Tiberius, Augustus’ successor also tried to minimize imperial pomp and prerogatives and during his lifetime did not want to be seen as a god.

“He (Tiberius) so loathed flattery that he would not allow any senator to approach his litter, either to pay his respects or on business, and when an ex-consul in apologizing to him attempted to embrace his knees, he drew back in such haste that he fell over backward.  In fact, if anyone in conversation or in a set speech spoke of him in too flattering terms, he did not hesitate to interrupt him, to take him to task, and to correct his language on the spot.  Being  once called “Lord”, he warned the speaker not to address him again in an insulting fashion.  When another spoke of his “sacred duties,” and still another said that he appeared before the senate “by the emperor’s authority,” he forced them to change their language, substituting “advice” for “authority” and “laborious” for “sacred”.”

Gaius was the first Roman Emperor to openly demand that he be referred to as a deity.

“After he (Caligula, The Emperor Gaius) had assumed various surnames (for he was called “Pious”, “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars”), chancing to overhear some kings, who had come to Rome to pay their respects to him, disputing at dinner about the nobility of their descent, he cried: “Let there be one Lord, one King.”  And he came near to assuming a crown at once and changing the semblance of a principate into the form of a monarch.  But on being reminded that he had risen above the elevation both of princes and kings, he began from that time on to lay claim to divine majesty … (Suetonius, Gaius 22)

Caligula also ordered that a giant statue proclaiming his divinity be erected in the JerusalemTemple(Philo, Embassy to Gaius XXX 203, Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. XVIII.8.1).

The Emperor Domitian formalized “Lord and God” as an Imperial title.

“Just as arrogantly he (Domitian) began a letter, which his agents were to circulate, with the words: ‘Our Lord and God instructs you to do this!’ and ‘Lord and God’ became his regular title both in writing and conversation”. (Suetonius, Domitian 13)

“Lord and God” is identical to the appellation that Thomas supposedly addressed to Jesus.  It is more than likely that the author of John 20:28 wrote it in response to Domitian’s edict that he be addressed as “My Lord and God” and by doing so was proposing Jesus as a rival to Roman Imperial divinity.  John 20:28 was probably composed during or shortly after the reign of Domitian (81-96 CE).

In John 20:28 Thomas was portrayed as first expressing grave doubts about the resurrection of Jesus, and then applying a Imperial Roman title to Jesus and proclaiming Jesus a god, after implied contact with Jesus’ body.

The first would have damaged the reputation of Thomas and his followers among proto orthodox Christians who had unhesitatingly accepted Jesus’ resurrection and divinity as a valid religious doctrine.

The second would have offended the Zealots and their allies.  Thomas had called a man his Lord or Master.  The Zealots had vigorously rejected this act, even to the point of preferring death over accepting the domination or lordship of another man.  Since Jesus had been executed, the orthodox Jewish Zealots would have believed that Thomas had incurred corpse impurity through contact with Jesus’ body (Numbers 2 19:4, 14 et seq.).

The disciple Thomas Didymus (Hebrew: twin, Greek: twin. The name is a tautology concealing his real identity) is a stand in for Judas.  Elsewhere in the early Christian literature, Thomas Didymus and Judas Thomas appear to be the same person.  Renaming Judas or Judas Thomas as “Twin Twin” is an act of literary obfuscation designed to prevent identifying Judas Iscariot the relative of Simon Iscariot (John 6:71, Matthew 10:4) with Judas, the brother of Jesus and of Simon (Mark 6:3 Matthew 13:55-56).

The gospel writers had to eliminate Judas from the narrative once they had accused him of being an ignominious traitor, instead of being a reluctant messenger from Jesus to theTemplePriests.

The final author of the Gospel of John was less successful in eliminating Judas from the post arrest narrative than were the authors of the Synoptic Gospels

He retained Judas as the nameless disciple who accompanied Peter to the High Priest’s palace and introduced Peter to the doorkeeper (John 18:16).  The Johannine and Synoptic Gospels agree that Judas was the only disciple who had had an audience with the high priest prior to Jesus’ arrest (John 18:3, also Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22: 1-6, Matthew 26:14).  Therefore, Judas unlike Peter, had a reason to have been known to the High Priest’s doorkeeper.

The Johannine writer eliminated Judas’ post arrest appearances from the narrative by concealing his name, but preserving his actions in the text.  The Synoptic authors had Peter enter the High Priest’s court yard without an introduction or escort, thus eliminating the need for Judas’ presence in the story.

In John 20:24-29, Judas is brought back into the story as Thomas, the Judas part of his name having been dropped.  The Johannine writer split Judas Thomas into Judas and Thomas Didymus, and may have even tripled him by adding the gloss “not Iscariot” to the mention of Judas at John 14:22.

The texts of the New Testament contain numerous passages designed to sully the reputations of Jesus’ immediate disciples and family members.  In this case a specific disciple, Judas Thomas, who left influential traditions in the Eastern Church, had been targeted.  If he had had a significant following after the execution of Jesus, and as a close associate of Jesus, possibly with Zealot leanings (hence the sobriquet Iscariot or sicariot), it would have been in the interest of the early Pauline church to discredit him by minimizing his appeal to both the Zealots and to potential Greek speaking converts to the Jesus sect.

The Gospel of John, by presenting the various literary manifestations of Judas as a traitor, as the skeptical and mistrustful disciple who required extra ordinary proofs of Jesus’ resurrection, as the denier of the Zealot ideal of calling no man Lord, and as someone who brought corpse impurity upon himself, succeeded in destroying the reputation of Judas and whatever doctrine he represented.

[99])                 John 19:6.  As soon as the chief priests and their attendants saw him, they shouted. “Crucify, Crucify”.

[100])               John 19:15.  “Answered the Chief Priests, “We have no King but Caesar.””

This is a much different sentiment than that held by the Judean Patriots who recognized no authority but God: “…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.” (Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, 2.8.1)

The Book of Acts also presents the secular leaders ofJudea, the pro Roman Herodian family, more favorably than they are depicted in other sources.

Paul has a meeting with Herod Agrippa II and his frequently married sister Berenice (Acts 25-27) and expresses his approval of their religious sensibilities.  A reader of Josephus, or someone acquainted with Roman gossip would know that Berenice had an incestuous relationship with her brother Herod Agrippa II and later became the mistress of Titus, the heir to the imperial throne.  A more detailed discussion is in “Josephus and the New Testament”, Steve Mason, Hendrickson Publishers, 1992, p. 99-100.

[101])               John 11:48, ”…the Romans will come and take away our place … ”

[102])              John 19:10-11. “10…Pilate said don’t you realize that I have the power either to free you or to crucify you?”  11 Jesus answered, “You have no power over me except that given to you from above.  Therefore the one who handed me over to you has a greater sin.” “

Jesus surrendered to the High Priest with the expectation that he would be tried under Jewish, not Roman law.  The implication is that Jesus regarded the Priestly establishment as Quislings (they served the interests of the Roman occupation) and the Herodians, the foreign Idumean family, that the Romans had imposed on Judeaas its ruling elite, as usurpers.  It was the High Priests who actually turned Jesus over to the Romans for judgment (John 18:28).

Luke 24:19-25 is a summary of Jesus’ career.  There is no mention of a betrayal by Judas.  It is the High Priest and Jerusalem Hierarchy who handed (“betrayed”) Jesus to his Roman executioners.

“The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, … Luke 24:20.”

[103])               The “betrayal” of Jesus and the vilification of Judas were not part of the very earliest Christian traditions.

Matthew 19:28 includes Judas as one of the recipients of a heavenly throne.

Matthew 26:50 (Friend, do what you have come here to do) presents Judas not as a traitor, but faithful follower who has carried out his leader’s difficult orders.

Mark 14:44 (…take him and lead him away safely) has Judas acting not as a disinterested mercenary, but as a loyal follower still expressing concern about his leaders well being.

Paul was unaware of any betrayal or any scandal involving Judas in particular, or the disciples in general.  (In Corinthians 15:5, Paul states the Twelve witnessed the resurrected Jesus.  This implies Judas was still considered a disciple in good standing when Paul wrote his letters.  Paul’s epistles were written before the canonical Gospels).

[104])               Mark 6:3; “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James (Jacob) and Joses and Judas and Simon.”

[105])               Additional information or myths about most of the personages in the canonical gospels can be found in non-canonical Christian texts, Josephus’ histories or the rabbinical literature.

However, there is a strange silence surrounding the “traitor” Judas Iscariot.  It is as if he had no existence outside of the canonical gospels.  His appearances in the canonical texts are brief.  His character and motivation were never fully elucidated.  The accounts of his death (Matthew 27 3-10; Acts 1:18-19) are contradictory suggesting that they are independent fictions.

There is a New Testament Epistle attributed to, and a rich non-canonical literature about, Judas the brother of Jesus (Mk 6:3) who was also known as Jude, Judas Thomas, Thomas Judas and Thomas.  The Gospel attributed to John treats Judas and Thomas Didymus as separate individuals but vilifies both of them.

The Gospel of John might contain an additional mention of Judas.

In John 18:15-16 an unnamed disciple followed the captive Jesus and entered the High Priest’s palace, where this disciple was known to the high priest and his household staff.

Judas was the only disciple present at Jesus’ arrest, who had had face to face contact with the chief priests.  He had met with them in order to arrange Jesus’ arrest (John 18:3, also Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22: 1-6, Matthew 26 14).  Judas had been a member of the arresting party and could safely accompany its return to the high priest’s palace.

Josephus mentions that a Theudas (possibly a contraction of Th(omas J)udas) was executed for leading a revolt during the procuratorship of Fadus (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities 20:97-99 (5.1)).  Most of the legendary Judases were martyred during this period of time.

There has been too much loss, fragmentation and censorship of early Christian documents to ever allow indisputable conclusions to be drawn.  It is not impossible that Judas, Jesus’ messenger to the authorities, was also his brother.

The identity of “Judas” is discussed at length by Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus; NY, NY: Viking, 1997; Chapter 24 and 26.

See also Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 39-41 for additional discussion of Thomas the Twin.

Kristendomen som en flavisk uppfinning?

Jag fick en fråga häromdagen om vad jag ansåg om Joe Atwills teori om kristendomen som en flavisk uppfinning. I sin bok Caesar’s Messiah (som jag för övrigt har läst, även om det var ett tag sedan) lägger han fram sin teori som lätt förenklat går ut på att Jesus egentligen är kejsar Titus (regerade 79–81 vt). Fast de paralleller Atwill huvudsakligen åberopar är de som gäller Titus’ fälttåg mot judarna och framför allt belägringen av Jerusalem, där huvudkällan är Josefus.

I själva verket är evangelierna enligt Atwill konstruerade av den romerska flaviska kejsarmakten för att locka judarna bort från sin egen religion till denna nya, och därmed få dem att upphöra att vara så bångstyriga och upproriska. Syftet skulle alltså ha varit att få lugn och ro bland judarna så att ”Pax Romana” kunde råda. På så sätt utgör Josefus’ historieverk om kriget och evangelieberättelserna två sidor av samma mynt, där evangelieberättelserna snarare är en parodi på Josefus’ verk.

Atwill hittar påtagliga paralleller mellan evangelierna och Josefus vad gäller främst struktur och ordning, så att de följer samma mönster.

Det finns fler som har framfört liknande teorier. Francesco Carotta (vars teori om den korsfäste Dionysos-Orfeos som Julius Caesar, jag redogjorde för här) har i boken War Jesus Caesar? 2000 Jahre Anbetung einer Kopie, framfört liknande tankar. Jag har dock inte läst Carottas bok liksom heller inte Daniel T. Unterbrinks The Three Messiahs: The Historical Judas the Galilean, The Revelatory Christ Jesus, and The Mythical Jesus of Nazareth. Därför kan jag heller inte utvärdera deras teorier, men jag kan kanske säga något rent generellt ändå om teorierna.

I alla dessa fall (utgår jag från) förutsätts någon form av konspiration, genom att det är en medveten akt iscensatt av en liten grupp som leder till religionens uppkomst (och detta var också avsikten med deras handling). Ordet konspirationsteori är ett av många ord som används för att förlöjliga och brännmärka ”motståndarna”. Med efterledet ”-teori” fastslås också att påståendena inte har stöd i fakta utan blott är teorier. Nu har jag ju sett att man brännmärker folk med detta ord även när konspirationen har stöd i fakta och alltså inte är en konspirationsteori eftersom det finns fakta att backa upp påståendena. Det är knappast en konspirationsteori att påstå att ett antal sammansvurna den 15 mars år 44 fvt lät mörda Julius Caesar. En teori är heller ingen konspirationsteori om inte ett antal personer verkligen konspirerar; det vill säja i hemlighet och med illasinnade motiv går samman i syfte att åstadkomma något till deras fördel.

Man är, vill jag påstå, lika naiv om man tror att konspirationer inte förekommer som om man tror att varje världshändelse är följden av en konspiration. Konspirationer förekommer i såväl det lilla som i det stora närhelst det finns mycket att vinna på att gå samman för ett gemensamt mål. Rent generellt kan sägas att ju större makt, ju större värden, desto större incitament för en sammansvärjning. Samtidigt kan ju också just det stora skeendet vara svårare att verkligen kontrollera och sammansvärjningen att hålla hemligt inom en liten krets.

Men nog sagt om den saken. Konspirationer förekommer ibland men långt ifrån alltid, och en teori som inkluderar en konspiration kan vara mer eller mindre väl underbyggd. Om man utgår från att någon medvetet diktar samman en religiös urkund i syfte att skapa en religion och förmå en hel folkgrupp att byta ut sin religion mot en snarlik men mer ”ofarlig”, måste detta ses som en konspirationsteori.

Är den då sannolik? Jag anser att den inte är det och huvudorsaken till att jag inte tror på den (jag bortser då från ett antal detaljer som också skulle göra det svårt) är att religioner inte uppkommer på det sättet. De uppkommer snarare som ett utbrott bortom allas kontroll. En liknelse vore att betrakta en religion som en flod. Man kan likna den och dess uppkomst vid ett vattendrag, större ju mäktigare religionen är. Det är tidsandan som skapar de föreställningar som ligger till grund för religionen, och dessa föreställningar ackumuleras ungefär som vatten byggs upp i en damm framför en vall. Trycket ökar och ökar och slutligen brister dammen och vattnet forsar ut. Vad som explicit orsakar denna dammkollaps är svårt att veta. Men givetvis beror det på en eller flera karismatiska figurers förkunnelse. Med andra ord skulle Jesus eller Paulus ha kunnat starta eller i varje fall bidraga till det stora utflödet av vatten.

En religion är som en egen organism som väller fram längs upptrampade stigar eller längs landskapets fåror. Ingen kan egentligen (eller igenklien, som man numera tycks uttala detta ord) iscensätta något sådant, utan man kan bara gräva nya fåror för att försöka leda strömmen i önskad riktning. Detta är huvudorsaken till att jag inte tror att den flaviska dynastin skapade kristendomen från ingenting. Att skapa dammen och sedan låta den rämna är knappast något som åstadkoms genom en medveten strategi, även om det naturligtvis teoretiskt är möjligt – åtminstone att skapa den reva som får den att rämna. Men annars sker raset genom intensiva regnfall så att dammen inte längre förmår att stå pall för trycket.

Jag tror heller inte att någon kunde förutse det som komma skulle. Det blev det som det blev. Sedan vattnet väl forsat ut kunde de ”katolska” kyrkofäderna blockera många flöden (som de ansåg vara kätterska) och också gräva nya fåror (som passade kyrkans struktur och prästernas makt), och därmed leda flödet i den riktning som de önskade, men de hade inget med själva utbrottet att göra.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-14

Another Ancient text which stated that Jesus went to The Mount of Olives and told his followers about the Kingdom of God.

When David Blocker and I wrote the article A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?, we also had some material which we for different reasons decided not to include. One was a 9th century Old Saxon text called The Heliand, which I primarily rejected because Bethany is never mentioned in the text. But all the same, the text presents Jesus teaching the Kingdom of God in the vicinity of Bethany and it therefore gives some sort of parallel. It should of course anyway be made public, and hence I let David Blocker reveal what is said in the Heliand. Over to David …

Another Ancient text which stated that Jesus went to The Mount of Olives and told his followers about the Kingdom of God.

The Heliand (”Saviour”) is an epic poem in Old Saxon, written in the first half of the 9th century.  The poem is a paraphrase of the Bible that recounts the life of Jesus in the style of a Germanic saga.  The poem is probably derived from the Diatessaron, a Gospel Harmony that was based on early versions of the Canonical Gospels.

The following passage is an excerpt from the English language translation of the Heliand.

There was a great mountain nearby outside the hill fort (Jerusalem). It was broad and high and beautiful.  The Jewish people called it Olivet by name.  Christ the Redeemer went up the mountain then with his followers, and the night surrounded him sothat none of the Jews really knew he had been there, when as light came from the east, he stood at the shrine, the chieftain of the people.  There he stood receiving groups of people and telling them so much in the words of truth that there is not a single person in this world , here in the middle realm so clever- not one of the sons of men- who could ever get to the end of those teachings which the Ruler spoke at the altar in the shrine.  He always told them with his word that they should get themselves ready for the Kingdom of God, every human being should, so that on that great day they will be honored by their Chieftain.” (The Heliand: the Saxon Gospel.  A translation and commentary by G. Ronald Murphy, S.J., Oxford University Press, 1992.  p. 129) (underlining added for emphasis)

In summary: Jesus left the Temple to spend the night on the Mt. of Olives.  He was with his followers.  Early in the morning, he taught about the Kingdom of God.

This text in the Heliand corresponds to Matthew 21:17, and more especially Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew 21:17, where Jesus taught about or enlightened his hearers about the Kingdom of God.

Three disparate texts in non related languages, Secret or Longer Mark ([i]), Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew ([ii]) and the Heliand, have Jesus leave the Temple, go to the Mount of Olives (Bethany is located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about two miles east of Jerusalem) where he spent the night, and provided instruction about the Kingdom of God.

The Heliand is probably derived from the Diatessaron.  This suggests that research into a possible relationship between Secret Mark and the Diatessaron may be of value.

D. Blocker, August 08, 2011


[i] ) Excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark from Clement’s Letter to Theodore: “And they come into Bethany … he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God.”

[ii] ) “He left and went out to Bethany and (spent the night) there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.” (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, p. 103)

Morton Smith was very busy and would not have had time to forge the Clement letter

A Swedish version of this post can be found here
En svensk version av denna text finns här.

We have established that (at the latest) in a fourteenth century Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is said to have spent the night in Bethany teaching his disciples the Kingdom of God (see: A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?). Unlike what is said in Secret Mark, there is no mystery of the kingdom of God being taught and there is also not just one disciple but many involved. So, as someone wrote to me, “it’s interesting but not compelling evidence. It probably won’t change any minds.” Yet it is a strange coincidence that an obscure Hebrew version of Matthew should have Jesus teaching the kingdom of God during the night in Bethany, with no indication elsewhere in any Greek, Latin or other texts that Jesus should have done so, before the discovery of the Mar Saba letter in 1958.

“The Cave” proposes only two possible alternatives, namely …

a) Secret Mark relies directly on Shem Tov’s Matthew (likely as a hoax)
b) Shem Tov’s Matthew relies, directly or indirectly, on Secret Mark” (Blocker and Viklund on Hebrew Matthew and Secret Mark)

There is though another possibility, although unlikely, it seems to me. Since the settings are not identical, the tradition could have been invented separately by the Hebrew community and by a forger of Secret Mark. Why this would happen, I do not know, but stranger things have indeed happened.

But if you at least find it to be a remarkable coincidence that these things are said in the Hebrew Matthew, then the thing to resort to if you thinks Smith forged the Clement letter, is that he found the Hebrew text at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTC) after he came to Columbia University in 1957.

The JTC is only a few streets away from Columbia University where Smith had his office, and we know that Smith spent some time at the JTC. Four of the available manuscripts containing the Hebrew text of Matthew are at the JTC. They were for sure inaccessible since they were not transcribed, nor translated, written in quite difficult handwriting and interspersed with anti-Christian commentary; and Smith showed no particular interest in Medieval Hebrew manuscripts.

Yet all the same, those who believe Smith forged the text often come up with all sorts of solutions on how he would have manage to accomplish such a deed as it would be to forge Clement’s letter to Theodoros. He for sure must have been able to imitate the style of both Mark and Clement. To imitate someone like Clement in his own native language is a really difficult task by someone living today and not having Greek as his native language. On top of this he would have chosen to write it down in a difficult 18th century monastic hand with all its different characteristics.

If you then find it too unlikely that Secret Mark just happened to express an idea found in a practically unknown obscure Hebrew 14th century text of Matthew, and you still think Smith forged the Clement letter, there is only one realistic scenario left. Smith must have found this Hebrew text at JTC after he entered his duties at Columbia University; i.e. sometime during the year preceding his discovery at Mar Saba in the summer of 1958.

But this is highly unlikely, because he was so occupied at this time and to make a forgery of this kind means that Smith would have needed a long, long time to make all the preparations, including to achieve all the abilities needed for the project. I do not think he would have been able to accomplish this even if he spent almost his whole life preparing for the task. But all the same, he would have had just one year at his disposal, if he by chance would have found the text almost immediately as he arrived.

So, it is then interesting to read what he himself writes on the issue regarding the time he had available. The letter presented below was written by Smith in December 1957 to his good friend and mentor Gershom Sholem (1897–1982) regarding a book by Sholem which he obviously had promised Sholem to read.

“The Department of History[1]
Columbia University
New York 27, N.. Y.
December 9, 1957

Dear Gershom,
This is an apology for having done nothing on your book since I saw you last, and having every expectation of doing nothing for the next twelve months to come. The fact is that my courses and preparation for courses to come are taking every bit of my time. I have some 95 students in my general course on ancient history, and this has meant a great deal of paper work. That course and another, on classical literature, which I am teaching, I had never given before; the subjects covered lie somewhat outside my former field; and consequently I have had to work constantly on preparation for them. I’m standing the strain all right, but by summer I shall be dead tired, so I am planning to spend the whole of the summer in the Near East – from mid-June to mid-July in Jordan, a week in Israel (when I hope to see you and Thanya[2]), a week in Istanbul, a month in northern Greece, hunting for collections of manuscripts in the monasteries of Chalcidice (excluding Athos), and a week each in Rome, Paris, and London. This means that when I get back I shall have another term of keeping up with my courses, but I hope that by a year from now all will be in hand, and I shall be able to get back to Reshit HaKabbalah. If you do not wish to wait this long for the completion of the work (longer, in fact, since if I start it again in January 59 I shall not be through before fall of that year; you know my speed) I shall be quite willing to turn over to you the part completed to date. For myself, however, I should like to go on and finish the translation of the work, and seriously intend to do so as soon as I can get time.”

Smith apologizes for not having had time to do anything on Gershom Sholem’s book because his courses take every bit of his time. He has never given courses on ancient history and on classical literature before, since they are a bit outside his field and he has to make a lot of preparations. He says that he is expecting of doing nothing for the next twelve month to come but that he will spend all summer in the Near East.

One might notice that the visit to Israel for a week mentioned by Smith, should have been the week following upon his stay at Mar Saba. Still there is no indication in this letter that he meant to go there.

All the same, I find it almost impossible to believe that Smith could have spent anywhere near the time needed to procure the abilities needed to make a forgery like the Mar Saba letter in this period of his life. If so, we again must assume that Smith, the “evil hater of Christianity”, disguised his evil plan by giving his friend the impression that he had much to do, while he in reality was using all his time to make the forgery – neglecting his duties towards his students.

Yet, we also know that Smith wanted all of his literary remains destroyed after his death and the fact that so much has remained is not anything Smith had control of after his death. These were letters which Smith wanted to have destroyed. If his purpose for writing the letters were to mislead the posterity, then he would not have ordered them to be destroyed.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-08


Morton Smith var strängt upptagen och hade inte tid att förfalska Klemensbrevet under sin tid i New York

En engelsk version finns här.
An English version can be found here.

Vi har konstaterat att Jesus i en hebreisk version av Matteusevangeliet från 1300-talet allra senast, sägs ha tillbringat natten i Betania undervisande sina lärjungar om Guds rike (se: A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?). Till skillnad från vad som sägs i Hemliga Markus, är det inte Guds rikes mysterier som lärs ut och det är heller inte bara en utan flera lärjungar inblandade. Som någon skrev till mig, ”det är intressant, men inte tvingande bevis. Detta kommer förmodligen inte att ändra några uppfattningar.” Ändå är det ett märkligt sammanträffande att det i en föga känd hebreisk version av Matteusevangeliet sägs att Jesus undervisade om Guds rike på natten i Betania, utan att det finns något tecken i någon grekisk, latinsk eller annan text om att Jesus skulle ha gjort det, före upptäckten av Mar Saba-brevet 1958.

Signaturen “The Cave” är av den åsikten att det bara finns två möjliga alternative, nämligen:

a) Hemliga Markus bygger direkt på Shem Tobs Matteus (troligen ett lurendrejeri)
b) Shem Tobs Matteus bygger, direkt eller indirekt på Hemliga Markus” (Blocker and Viklund on Hebrew Matthew and Secret Mark)

Det finns dock en annan möjlighet, även om den för mig ter sig osannolik. Eftersom omständigheterna inte är identiska, kan denna tradition oberoende av varandra ha hittats på av såväl den judiska gemenskapen som av en förfalskare av Hemliga Markus. Varför det skulle ha skett vet jag inte, men märkligare saker har förvisso hänt.

Men om man åtminstone ser det som ett extraordinärt sammanträffande att dessa saker förekommer i Hebreiska Matteus, så återstår om man ändå anser att Smith förfalskade Klemensbrevet, att Smith fann den hebreiska texten på Jewish Theological Seminary (JTC) efter att han anlände till Columbia University 1957.

JTC ligger endast några få kvarter från Columbia University där Smith hade sitt kontor och vi vet att Smith tillbringade viss tid på JTC. Fyra av de kända handskrifterna som innehåller den hebreiska texten av Matteus finns på JTC. De var förvisso svåråtkomliga eftersom de inte fanns transkriberade eller översatta, är skrivna i rätt svårtolkad handstil och texten dessutom är uppblandad med kommentarer som är starkt kritiska mot kristendomen. Dessutom visade Smith inget intresse för judiska medeltida handskrifter.

Oavsett detta brukar de som tror att Smith har förfalskat brevet föreslå alla möjliga förklaringar på hur han lyckades åstadkomma den enorma bedrift som det innebär att förfalska ett brev som detta. Han måste ha lyckats att perfekt imitera både Markus och Klemens. Att imitera någon som Klemens på dennes egna modersmål är en mycket svår uppgift för en modern människa som inte har grekiska som sitt modersmål. Dessutom skulle han ha valt att skriva brevet i en mycket svår grekisk 1700-talsstil med alla dess egenheter.

Om man då finner det alltför osannolikt att Hemliga Markus bara råkade ge uttryck för samma tanke som påträffas i en praktiskt taget okänd hebreisk 1300-talstext av Matteusevangeliet, men man samtidigt anser att Smith förfalskade Klemensbrevet, är det enda återstående realistiska scenariot att Smith måste ha träffat på denna hebreiska text på JTC efter att han tillträdde sin tjänst på Columbia University; dvs. någon gång under det år som föregick hans upptäckt av brevet i Mar Saba sommaren 1958.

Men detta är ytterst osannolikt eftersom han var så upptagen under denna period, och för att kunna åstadkomma en förfalskning av denna magnitud skulle Smith ha behövt mycket lång tid till sitt förfogande. Detta innefattar den tid han behövde ägna åt förberedelser för att kunna tillägna sig alla nödvändiga förmågor. Jag tror inte att han skulle ha lyckats med ett sådant projekt även om han skulle ha tillbringat större delen av sitt liv med att förbereda sig för uppgiften. Men oavsett detta, så hade han nu bara haft ett år till sitt förfogande – under förutsättning att råkade hitta texten i stort sett genast som han kom till New York och Columbia.

Därför är det intressant att ta del av vad han själv skriver rörande hur mycket tid han har över för annat. Brevet som återges här inunder skrev Smith i december 1957 till sin gode vän och mentor Gershom Sholem (1897–1982) angående en bok av denne som Smith uppenbarligen lovat honom att läsa.

“The Department of History[1]
Columbia University
New York 27, N.. Y.
December 9, 1957

Dear Gershom,
This is an apology for having done nothing on your book since I saw you last, and having every expectation of doing nothing for the next twelve months to come. The fact is that my courses and preparation for courses to come are taking every bit of my time. I have some 95 students in my general course on ancient history, and this has meant a great deal of paper work. That course and another, on classical literature, which I am teaching, I had never given before; the subjects covered lie somewhat outside my former field; and consequently I have had to work constantly on preparation for them. I’m standing the strain all right, but by summer I shall be dead tired, so I am planning to spend the whole of the summer in the Near East – from mid-June to mid-July in Jordan, a week in Israel (when I hope to see you and Thanya[2]), a week in Istanbul, a month in northern Greece, hunting for collections of manuscripts in the monasteries of Chalcidice (excluding Athos), and a week each in Rome, Paris, and London. This means that when I get back I shall have another term of keeping up with my courses, but I hope that by a year from now all will be in hand, and I shall be able to get back to Reshit HaKabbalah. If you do not wish to wait this long for the completion of the work (longer, in fact, since if I start it again in January 59 I shall not be through before fall of that year; you know my speed) I shall be quite willing to turn over to you the part completed to date. For myself, however, I should like to go on and finish the translation of the work, and seriously intend to do so as soon as I can get time.”

Smith ursäktar sig för att han ännu inte hunnit ta sig an Gershom Sholems bok eftersom hans undervisning tagit all hans tid. Han har tidigare aldrig undervisat i antikens historia eller i klassisk litteratur, eftersom dessa ämnen låg något utanför hans områden och han därför måste förbereda sig extra mycket. Han skriver att han inte förväntar sig att hinna göra något med boken under de kommande tolv månaderna men att han avser att tillbringa sommaren i Främre Orienten.

Man kan notera att det veckolånga besök i Israel som Smith här nämner, borde vara den vecka som följde direkt på hans besök i Mar Saba. Men det finns inget i detta brev som indikerar att han vid den tiden hade planerat för det besöket.

Hur som helst finner jag det vara näst intill omöjligt att tro att Smith vid denna tid skulle ha kunnat frigöra ens en bråkdel av den tid som borde ha behövts för att tillägna sig de nödvändiga förmågorna för att kunna utföra förfalskningen. Om han mot förmodan ändå skulle ha gjort det, måste vi anta att Smith, den ”ondskefulle kristendomshataren” lät förkläda sin ondskefulla plan genom att låtsas vara fullt upptagen medan han i själva verket använde all sin tid till att skapa förfalskningen – och därmed också ha underlåtit att fullfölja sina förpliktelser gentemot sina studenter.

Men vi vet också att Smith krävt att hela hans litterära kvarlåtenskap skulle förstöras efter hans död, och det faktum att mycket ändå har bevarats är något som Smith inte hade kontroll över efter sin död.  Smith ville inte att dessa brev skulle bevaras till eftervärlden. Hade han medvetet skrivit dem för att förvilla eftervärlden skulle han inte ha beordrat att de skulle förstöras efter hans död.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-08


A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?

This essay was co-authored by
David Blocker and Roger Viklund

A PDF file of the essay can be found here.

Abstract

The 14th century polemical treatise Even Bohan written by Shem-Tob ben Shaprut contains a Hebrew version of the complete text of the Gospel of Matthew.  In this text, Jesus is said to have spent the night in Bethany where he taught the disciples about the Kingdom of God.  The Secret Gospel of Mark contains a similar passage.  If the two texts can be shown to be interrelated it would provide strong evidence that the Secret Gospel of Mark is not a modern forgery.

The Secret Gospel of Mark also demonstrates that the redactional history of the Jesus tradition is complex.

 

The History of the Texts

The Even Bohan is an anti Christian treatise written by the Spanish Jewish philosopher Shem-Tob ben Isaac Shaprut of Tudela.  It was initially composed between 1380 and 1385 CE.  Shem-Tob issued several revisions of the Even Bohan, adding five more books to his original twelve.  The twelfth book includes a complete Hebrew text of the Gospel of Matthew, which is interspersed with anti-Christian commentary.

George Howard extracted the text of Matthew from the Even Bohan, translated it into English and published it in 1987 (George Howard, The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text.  Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987).  A second revised edition was published in 1995 (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995).

George Howard wrote:

”In my judgment, Shem-Tob the polemist did not prepare this text by translating it from Latin Vulgate, the Byzantine Greek, or any other known edition of the Gospel of Matthew.  He received it from previous generations of Jewish scribes and tradents.”  (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Preface to the Second Edition)

Howard also wrote:

“Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew is the most unusual text of the First Gospel extant. It contains a plethora of readings which are not to be found in any of the Christian codices of the Greek Gospel. Its unusual nature may be explained by the fact that it underwent a different process of transmission than the Greek, since it was preserved by Jews, independent from the Christian community. A textual profile of Shem-Tob’s Matthew reveals that it sporadically agrees with early witnesses, both Christian and non-Christian. Sometimes it agrees with readings and documents that vanished in antiquity only to reappear in recent times. The profile thus suggests that a Shem-Tob type text of Matthew was known in the early Christian centuries.” (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, p. 190–191)

This Hebrew Gospel of Matthew should not be confused with the so-called Gospel of the Hebrews ([i]).  The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew is a version of the Gospel of Matthew, and George Howard argues convincingly for its antiquity ([ii]).

The Secret Gospel of Mark is a text referred to in a letter attributed to Clement of Alexandria, a late second and early third century Christian scholar.  Two excerpts from the Secret Gospel of Mark are quoted in the letter.  A copy of the letter was discovered by Morton Smith in 1958, when he was cataloguing texts at the Mar Saba Monastery in Israel ([iii]).

 

Dissimilar texts of Matthew 21:17

There is a subtle but noteworthy difference between the Greek and the Hebrew versions of Matthew 21:17.

In the Greek text of Matthew 21:12–18, Jesus drove out all who were buying and selling from the temple courts.  Then, after he cured the lame and the blind, Jesus went to Bethany:

“21:17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. 18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.”

In this account, Jesus spend the night in Bethany, and no other significant events were reported as having occurred there ([iv]).

Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew (21:17) contains additional information about what Jesus did when he spent the night in Bethany.  George Howard’s translation is as follows:

“He left and went out to Bethany and (spent the night) there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.” (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, p. 103, our emphasis)

Compare this to the long excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark in Morton Smith’s translation:

And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.” (our emphasis)

The Shem-Tob Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, contains a verse (Shem-Tob Matthew 21:17) which has a direct counterpart in the Secret Gospel of Mark. Moreover, there is no corresponding overlap between Canonical Matthew and the Secret Gospel of Mark. The verse in Hebrew Matthew contains the first and last sentence of the paragraph from Secret Mark that Clement of Alexandria recorded in his Letter to Theodore (the phrases about Jesus’ interaction with the “certain woman” and Lazarus are excluded).

The Hebrew text of Matthew is preserved in nine manuscripts which date between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries ([v]).  Verse 21:17 is transcribed by Howard as

Howard translates this as:

“He left and went out to Bethany and (spent the night) there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.”

Since neither of us knows Hebrew, we asked for a second opinion from Professor Stephen L. Cook ([vi]), who replied:

“As it stands, the text appears to say “So he left, and he went out to the house of Hannaniah and he went there and there he was seeking for them the kingdom of God.”

The house of Hannaniah is of course Bethany (Beit Hannaniah).  However, there are two noteworthy deviations from Howard’s translation.  In Cook’s translation, Jesus was “seeking for them” the Kingdom of God, while Howard translates the same passage as Jesus was “explaining” it to them.

Nevertheless, both translations imply that some form of instruction took place, either in the form of a didactic explanation, or as a set of directions (i.e. how to seek or get to the kingdom of God).  The Hebrew word דורש, transcribed as Doresh, has two meanings.  One is to demand something, which does not fit the context; the other is “to enlighten” or “to tell”, which does fit.  According to the text, Jesus told (taught) them, or enlightened them about the Kingdom of God.

The second deviation is that Professor Cook left out the passage that Howard put in brackets indicating that Jesus spent the night in Bethany.  This, however, is because the text translated by Cook came from a manuscript, Ms. Add. no. 26964, British Library, London, where the passage in brackets is missing.

Howard’s translation, on the other hand, is a reconstruction based on several other manuscripts (mss A, B, D, E, F and G) (v).  Ms. Add. no. 26964 has וילך שם, transcribed as Vayelech Sham, which means “and he went there”, just as Professor Cook translated it.  The other six mss have וילן שם, transcribed as Vayalun Sham, which means “and he slept there”, or as Howard translates it: “and he spent the night there”.  This also corresponds to the Greek text of Matthew, where the word ηὐλίσθη (êulisthê) is used, which means to “lodge” ([vii]), i.e. “spend the night”.

Below is the actual page from Ms. Add. no. 26964 with the relevant part marked by us.  As far as we can tell, Howard has correctly transcribed the text.

The additional text, (spent the night), is present in the manuscript Howard called A; (Ms. Heb. 28. Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden) and other manuscripts.  A copy of the actual page from Howard’s manuscript A is presented below with the relevant part marked by us.

This document has the complete phrase “and he spent the night there” (וילן שם) instead of the British Library manuscript’s truncated phrase “and he went there” (וילך שם).

 

Parallels and Differences

The word “mystery” is not in the Hebrew text.  Hebrew Matthew 21:17 refers only to “the Kingdom of God” but not to “the mystery of the Kingdom of God” as in Secret Mark.

According to Secret Mark, after he raised the youth from the dead and taught him about the Kingdom of God, Jesus returned to the other side of the Jordan ([viii]).  According to Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew, after he taught the Kingdom of God, Jesus returned to Jerusalem ([ix]).

The Gospel of John (John 1:28) stated that John the Baptist performed baptisms at “Bethany beyond the Jordan”.  This “Bethany beyond the Jordan” appears to be the place where Jesus raised the youth in the Secret Gospel of Mark.

This “Bethany beyond the Jordan” seems to be at a different location from the Bethany in Matthew 21:17 (located an evening’s walk from Jerusalem), which John 11:18 stated was 3 km (2 miles) from Jerusalem.

The apparent duplication of Bethany’s encountered in the Gospels can be explained with the following arguments.

First, some early manuscripts of the Gospel of John used the place name Bethabarah rather than “Bethany beyond the Jordan”.  Second, Origen indicated that there was only one Bethany ([x]).  The apparent duplication of Bethany’s was due to confusion of similar place names.  Third, and most importantly, it is likely that Secret Mark followed the narrative sequence in the Gospel of John rather than the Synoptic Gospels.  Instead of returning to Jerusalem after spending the night at Bethany, as he did in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus, following the Resurrection of Lazarus, went to the Jordan River, just as he did in the Gospel of John ([xi]).

In light of this, there are striking intertextual similarities which need to be taken under consideration.

1)      In both Secret Mark and Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew, a significant incident occurred in a village called Bethany.

2)      In both texts, Jesus taught [the mystery of] the Kingdom of God.

3)      In both texts, he taught his disciples, or a recently converted disciple.

4)      In both texts, the teaching was done at night.

The Hebrew Matthew of the Even Bohan has many similarities to writings other than just the Greek Gospel of Matthew.  It reflects readings in other ancient manuscripts such as Codex Sinaiticus and the Gospel of Thomas ([xii]).

Finally, a fairly long passage from the Gospel of Mark was incorporated into in the text of Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew ([xiii]) (xvii).

While there is some controversy regarding the dating of its various sources, Shem-Tob Matthew appears to reflect both well established ancient texts, and texts that have only recently been discovered.  It seems likely that it has preserved an otherwise lost tradition of Jesus’ night-time teaching of (the mystery of) the Kingdom of God in Bethany.  Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew used information found in the now lost longer version of Mark quoted in Clement’s letter to Theodore.  This information about teaching in Bethany is not found in the shorter standard version of the Gospel of Mark.

The Secret Gospel of Mark and Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew share a common tradition. Since it has been demonstrated that Secret Mark is related to an obscure text that was written down in the fourteenth century, it is improbable that the excerpts from Secret Mark are a modern forgery.


Was Morton Smith aware of Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew?

Was Morton Smith aware of Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew and could he have used it to forge Secret Mark?  This is unlikely for several reasons.

Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew had not been transcribed for general distribution, and was not translated into English and published until 1987.  Prior to then, neither Morton Smith, nor anyone else, had easy access to, let alone knowledge of a Hebrew text of Shem-Tob Matthew ([xiv]).  Smith of course knew Hebrew and theoretically could have found the manuscripts of Shem-Tob Matthew.  One manuscript is in the British Library in London, one is in Leiden, three are in Oxford and four are in the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York ([xv]).  The Jewish Theological Seminary is just a few streets away from Columbia University where Smith had his office, and Smith did spend time at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

As far as we can tell, Smith did not work with the Gospel of Matthew during the 1950s and is not known to have transcribed or translated a Hebrew version of any Gospel.  Moreover, Smith was not particularly interested in medieval Jewish manuscripts.  As Allan Pantuck tells us: “He once reconstructed a passage of the Dead Sea Scrolls from a book at JTS, but even in this case, he had Shaye Cohen assist him” ([xvi]).  Smith was appointed to the Columbia faculty in the fall of 1957, and discovered Secret Mark during the summer of 1958.  He had almost no time to find the JTS manuscripts, understand their significance, and then craft a forgery in preparation for his 1958 summer trip to the Mar Saba Monastery.  In fact, he wrote in a letter that his heavy class load severely limited his time to do additional work (xvi).  Smith also would have had to delete the same phrase from his forgery that was missing from the London Library manuscript, but not from all of the JTS manuscripts.  Therefore Smith’s having forged Clement’s letter becomes a virtual non-issue.

It would take an extraordinary stretch of the imagination to believe that Morton Smith burrowed into a seventeen volume handwritten medieval Jewish text, found a sentence in the Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew, that is subtly different from the standard Greek text and then used this sentence as the basis of the beginning and end of a forged invented version of the Gospel of Mark.  He would have to have inserted the word “mystery”, replaced the disciples with a youth, used the Gospel of John to locate Bethany, and correlated his forgery with episodes from the Gospel of John and a narrative lacuna in the Gospel of Mark.  This scenario should be eliminated by applying Occam’s razor.

Another “Raising” scene from the Gospel of Mark in Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew

We have made another discovery.  At this point in time, we are not sure if it is just a strange coincidence based on stylistic similarities of the source materials, or if it represents the result of deliberate text borrowing by an ancient redactor in order to preserve a hidden tradition.

As previously stated, Shem-Tob Matthew contains a large block of text taken from the Gospel of Mark (xvii). The text of Mark 9:20–28 was inserted into Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew between Matthew 17:17 and Matthew 17:19.  This is the only large block of text from another Gospel that has been inserted into Hebrew Matthew.

Mark 9:20–28 is about Jesus healing a boy with a dumb spirit.  Jesus rebuked the spirit, and ordered it to leave the boy:

“And [the spirit] cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house …” (Mark 9:26–28 from the Greek text of the Gospel of Mark)

This is the parallel text from Howard’s translation of the Hebrew text of Shem-Tob Matthew:

“… the boy was left as dead so that many were saying that he was dead. Jesus took him (by the hand), stood him up and he arose. When Jesus entered the house … ([xvii]).”

This should be compared to the raising of the youth in the Secret Gospel of Mark:

“And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth …”

(Bold text added for emphasis)

The Greek in the two passages is very close.

Secret Mark:
… ἐξέτεινεν τὴν χεῖρα καὶ ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν· κρατήσας τῆς χειρόςἦλθον εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ νεανίσκου

Mk 9:27–28:
ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς κρατήσας αὐτόντῆς χειρὸς ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέστη καὶ εἰσελθόντα αὐτόν εἰς οἶκον
(Color added for emphasis)

Secret Mark:
… he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand … came into the house of the youth.

Mk 9:27–28:
But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house …

Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that Secret Mark has parallels with the only lengthy passage from the Gospel of Mark that was incorporated into Shem Tob Matthew?

The parallel texts are about Jesus taking the hand of a seemingly dead youth, raising him, and then “coming into a house”.  Furthermore, in each example, the “raising episode” is followed by Jesus offering instruction to his disciple(s) (see Matthew 17:19–21), which further emphasizes the text parallels.

Additionally, where Secret Mark fills in a narrative gap in the received Greek Text of Mark (iv); the interpolation of the Markan text into Shem Tob Matthew fills in a narrative gap in the text of Matthew by adding supplementary details about the raising of the young boy.

Finally, Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew 17, Mark 9:20–28, and Secret Mark’s raising of the youth, and the Raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of John (John 11) have considerable narrative overlap.

All this of course might just be due to a series of coincidences.  However, these coincidences are found in a text where Jesus, while in Bethany at night, is said to have taught the disciples the Kingdom of God.  One cannot help wondering if an otherwise lost tradition has been preserved at least in part in this Hebrew text of Matthew: a tradition that is also found in the Secret Gospel of Mark.

Concluding Remarks

The Secret Gospel of Mark suggests that the Gospels have a complex history of redaction and transmission.

There is a tradition in Shem-Tob’s fourteenth century Hebrew Matthew, that while spending the night at Bethany, Jesus taught the Kingdom of God to his disciples.  This tradition was practically unknown prior to the discovery of brief quotations from the Secret Gospel of Mark.  This and other narrative and vocabulary parallels lend credibility to Secret Mark being an ancient text and not a modern forgery.

David Blocker, Roger Viklund, © August 5, 2011

Endnotes:


[i] )  The Gospel of the Hebrews is attested by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Hegesippus, Origen, Eusebius, Cyril, Epiphanius, Jerome and others.

[ii] )  George Howard writes:

“ … Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew predates the fourteenth century, being preserved primarily by the Jewish community.”  (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995, p. 234)

[iii] )  Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark, London Victor Gollancz Ltd. 1974 ISBN 0-575-01801-1.

[iv] )  This is analogous to the passage in Mark 10:46 where the Greek text states that Jesus entered and then left Jericho without anything else occurring:

“And they came to Jericho; and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples …”

There is an apparent lacuna in the verse, concerning what occurred at Jericho. This verse is augmented in Secret Gospel of Mark:

“And after the words, ‘And he comes into Jericho,’ the secret Gospel adds only, ‘And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them.’”

The Secret Gospel of Mark fills in the lacuna in the standard version of Mark, by telling what occurred when Jesus passed through Jericho.

[v] )  George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995, p. xii, p. 102–103.

[vi] )  Dr. Stephen L. Cook is the Catherine N. McBurney Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Virginia Theological Seminary.

[vii] )  The New International Version/Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1976, p. 93.

[viii] )  From Clement’s Letter to Theodore quoting the Secret Gospel of Mark:

“And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.”

[ix] )  Shem Tob Matthew 21:17-18:

“17He left and went out to Bethany and spent the night there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.  18It came to pass in the morning that he returned to the city hungry.” (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995, p. 103)

[x] )  From the Secret Gospel of Mark:

“And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.”

According to some manuscripts of John 1:28, John the Baptist baptized at Bethabarah or Betharabah instead of Bethany,

“’These things happened in Bethabarah on the other side’
EVIDENCE: C2 K Pi Psic 083 0113 f1 f13 33 some Byz syr(c,s) one syr(pal) cop(south)

“’These things happened in Betharabah on the other side’
EVIDENCE: Sb 892variant”.  (A Student’s Guide to New Testament Textual Variants, Bruce Terry, Professor of Bible and Humanities, Chair, School of Biblical Studies, Ohio Valley University, http://bible.ovc.edu/terry/tc/lay09jhn.htm, Retrieved July, 2011)

Church fathers such as John Chrysostom and Origen believed the place was called Bethabarah.  For instance Origen said in his Commentary to the Gospel of John (i, 28) that he could not find a place named Bethany along the Jordan, but there was a place called Bethabarah, which according to tradition, was linked to John the Baptist?

”We are not ignorant that in nearly all codices Bethany is the reading. But we were persuaded that not Bethany, but Bethabara should be read, when we came to the places that we might observe the footprints of the Lord, of His disciples, and of the prophets. For, as the Evangelist relates, Bethany the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, is distant from Jerusalem fifteen furlongs, while the Jordan is distant one hundred and eighty furlongs. Neither is there a place along the Jordan which has anything in common with the name Bethany. But some say that among the mounds by the Jordan Bethabara is pointed out, where history relates that John baptized”. (Breen, A.E. (1907). Bethany Beyond the Jordan. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved August 2, 2011 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02532a.htm)

Flavius Josephus mentioned a village called Bethezub (Jewish War 6.3.4 ) which from the text’s context, might have been located beyond the Jordan.

This implies that the so-called Bethany on the other side of the Jordan was in fact called Bethabarah.

[xi] )  The canonical and synoptic Gospel of Mark (11:11–15) and Gospel of Matthew (21:17–19), state that Jesus left the city of Jerusalem, spent the night in Bethany, and returned to Jerusalem the next day.

There is no exact parallel in the Gospel of Luke.  The Gospel of Luke does not mention a visit to Bethany.  There was a daily teaching at the Temple (Luke 19:47) which might parallel the nocturnal teaching at Bethany in Secret Mark and Shem-Tob Matthew.

In Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew 21:17-18, Jesus left Jerusalem for Bethany where he spent the night explaining the Kingdom of God.  He returned to Jerusalem the next day.

In the excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark contained in Clement’s Letter to Theodore, Jesus went to Bethany, raised and taught Lazarus and then returned to the other side of the Jordan.

In John 11, Jesus traveled from the “place where he was” outside of Judea (John 11:6–7) to Bethany, where he freed Lazarus from his tomb (John 11:41–44).  The Temple Priests issued a death warrant for Jesus (John 11:53, 57).  Jesus went into hiding and left for a region near the desert, a town called Ephraim (John 11:54).  Six days before Passover, Jesus returned to Bethany (John 12:1) and then went to Jerusalem the next day (John 12:12).

The texts are quoted below:

Mark 11:11–15:

“11And he entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. 12On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. … 15And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the Temple …”

Matthew 21:17-18:

“… and leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.  18In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry.”

Shem-Tob Matthew 21:17-18:

17He left and went out to Bethany and spent the night there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.  18It came to pass in the morning that he returned to the city hungry.”

Secret Mark: 

“And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.”

John 11 et seq.:

John 11:17: “When Jesus arrived … 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.”

John 11:54: “he left for the region near the desert to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples.”

John 12:1: “… Jesus came to Bethany, …”

John 12:12:  “On the next day, when the great crowd … heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they … went out to meet him.”

Ephraim is traditionally located about twelve miles northwest of Jerusalem where the mountains descend into the Jordan Valley (From: Footnote to John 11:54, New American Bible, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, D.C. 1970).  Ephraim was mentioned by Josephus as being a small town near Bethel (Josephus, Jewish War 4.55).  Ephraim has been identified with the modern et-Tayibeh, about 4 miles NW of Bethel (F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids Michigan. 1983, p. 252).  et-Tayibeh is located in the Jordan Valley, between tributaries of the river.

In the Gospel of John, like the Secret Gospel of Mark, Jesus left Bethany and went down into the Jordan Valley after he released a youth from a tomb.  The location of Ephraim is not certain, but even if Jesus did not actually cross over the Jordan when he went to Ephraim, he was in close proximity to the Jordan; that is he was situated just across from the Jordan.

In his letter to Theodore, Clement wrote: “After these words follow the text, ’And James and John come to him’, and all that section.”  This corresponds to Mark 10:35* (parallel Matthew 20:20) where the Zebedees requested precedence over the other disciples.  This took place when Jesus was going up to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32) after having first gone beyond the Jordan to teach (Mark 10:1).

At this point it is evident that the relationship between the texts is far from straightforward, and reveals that there was a very complex history of redaction and transmission of the Jesus legend.  The links between texts are exposed by examining non canonical gospels.

We have demonstrated that there was a tradition of Jesus teaching and crossing the Jordan, and then returning to Jerusalem.  This tradition is found in both in the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John, and its presence is implied in the Secret Gospel of Mark.  In both the Gospel of John and the Secret Gospel of Mark, Jesus went down into the Jordan Valley, after releasing a young man from his tomb.

* Mark 10:35-37:

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’”

[xii] )  George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995.  Part 2.  Analysis and Commentary.

[xiii] )  See discussion in this essay’s chapter “Another “Raising” scene from the Gospel of Mark in Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew”.

[xiv] )  A translation of the du Tillet version of Hebrew Matthew had been published in 1927.  du Tillet Hebrew Matthew is a different text type from Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew.  The text of du Tillet Hebrew Matthew 21:17 is the same as the verse in canonical Matthew.  Schonfield’s translation of du Tillet Hebrew Matthew gives no indication that the Shem-Tob text of this verse was different from the verse in the canonical text.  Schonfield, Hugh J.  An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew’s Gospel, T & T Clark, 1927, p. 142.

[xv] )  The list of manuscripts consulted by Professor George Howard:

“Ms. Add. no. 26964. British Library, London. (Serves as the printed text for Matthew 1:1-23:22.)
A         Ms. Heb. 28. Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden.
B          Ms. Mich. 119. Bodleian Library, Oxford
C          Ms. Opp. Add. 4° 72. Bodleian Library, Oxford.
D         Ms. 2426 (Marx 16). Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, (Serves as the printed text for Matthew 23:23-end.)
E          Ms. 2279 (Marx 18). Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.
F          Ms. 2209 (Marx 19). Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.
G          Ms. 2234 (Marx 15). Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.
H         Ms. Mich. 137. Bodleian Library, Oxford.”
(George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press. 1995, p. xii)

[xvi] )  Personal communication with Allan Pantuck, July 22, 2011.  Alan J. Pantuck was one of Morton Smith’s students and is a current defender of Morton Smith’s literary estate.  Alan J. Pantuck, MD, MS, FACS, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California.

[xvii] )  George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press. 1995, p. 85, 87. The text of Mark 9:20–28 was inserted into Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew between Matthew 17:17 and Matthew 17:19.

Byggde Suetonius på Tacitus?

Jag tänkte fortsätta med att återigen publicera någon annans inlägg här på min blogg. I går fick jag av signaturen S B G mig tillsänt en intressant sammanställning över vad som talar för och emot att Suetonius använde Tacitus’ redogörelse för Neros straffande av kristna i samband med branden i Rom, som förlaga för sitt omnämnande att Nero straffade de fördärvligt vidskepliga kristna.

Personligen betvivlar jag att han gjorde detta; dels för att där inte finns någon säker språklig eller ens innehållsmässig samstämmighet mellan passagerna, dels för att det inte går att säkert visa att Suetonius heller i andra fall byggde på Tacitus. Fast det är samtidigt svårt att föreställa sig att Suetonius inte skulle ha läst Tacitus’ verk. Enligt de vanligaste tidsrekonstruktionerna skrev Suetonius sitt verk om kejsarna blott några år efter att Tacitus utkom med sitt verk Annalerna. Suetonius och Tacitus kände varandra och ingick båda i den ”inre kretsen” i Rom. Det förfaller underligt att Suetonius inte skulle ha studerat Annalerna, ett nyutkommet större historieverk som behandlade den tid, det område och de händelser som Suetonius själv skulle avhandla. Därtill var verket skrivet på latin, ett av de två språk som Suetonius författade på, och dessutom av en vän till honom. Jag utgår därför från att Suetonius åtminstone ögnat genom Annalerna. Men han behöver för den skull inte ha haft verket som en direkt källa annat än som vaga hågkomster av det han läst.

Byggde Suetonius på Tacitus?

Författare: (S B G)

Tacitus Annales 15:44 i sammanfogad översättning:

För att sålunda omintetgöra ryktet, anklagade och grymt bestraffade Nero de som var hatade för sina laster, och av folket kallades krestna. Namnets upphovsman, Kristus, avrättades under Tiberii regering genom prokuratorn Pontius Pilatus. Och undertryckt för tillfället, utbröt den fördärvliga vidskepelsen åter och spridde sig ej blott i Judéen, det ondas ursprung, utan även i staden, där allt sedeslöst och avskyvärt sammanströmmar och vinner anhängare. Sålunda greps först de som erkände, och på deras angivelse dömdes en oerhörd mängd, ej så mycket för anklagelsen om mordbrand som på grund av mänsklighetshat. Vid deras död drev man gäck med dem. Somliga insveptes i djurhudar och sönderrevs av hundar, och andra korsfästes; åter andra antändes och brukades att som facklor upplysa nattens mörker. Nero upplät sina trädgårdar för denna förevisning, och gav även spel på Cirkus; klädd som kusk blandade han sig i folkskaran eller stod på kuskbocken. Härav följde att de som visserligen förtjänade de mest exemplariska straff, fick medlidande, ty man ansåg att de dog inte till allmänt bästa, utan till mättande av en enda mans grymhet.

Suetonius Nero 16.2:

Med straff ansattes de kristna, en människoklass utövande en ny och skadlig vidskepelse.

Likheter:

– Kristna straffades hårt under Nero (hårdheten implicit i S..)
– De kristna förtjänade straff (explicit hos T., implicit p.g.a. sammanhanget i S.)
– De kristna var en utpräglad grupp (”genus hominum” och ”vulgus chrestianos appellabat”)
– Kristendomen betraktas som en vidskepelse (superstitio) och inte som en religion (religio)
– Vidskepelsen (kristendomen) var ny (explicit i S., implicit i T., som sätter tidsramar för auctor nominis verkan till Tiberii regeringstid och Pilatus tid som procurator)
– Vidskepelsen var ondskefull eller skadlig (T: exitiabilis och mali, S: maleficae)
– Händelsen ansågs uppenbarligen värd att notera och torde ha omfattat ett icke obetydligt antal personer (explicit i T., kanhända implicit i S. p.g.a. sammanhanget)

Skillnader:

– S. nämner inte namnets upphovsman
– T. nämner termen chrestiani som en dåtida (64 vt) folklig form (appellabat och ej appellat)
– S. nämner inte vidskepelsen judeiska (eller judiska, om man får tro A. Lund) ursprung
– S. kopplar inte straffandet till branden i Rom
– S. begränsar inte förföljelserna till Rom (vilket fått Lardner et alia att tro att även i provinserna straffades kristna; jfr CIL II 231*)

Tänkbara förklaringar till skillnaderna:

– S. kände inte till sektens grundare eller ansåg honom överflödig att nämna i sammanhanget
– Att termen chrestiani användes år 64 betyder INTE att termen christiani inte användes år 120
– S. kände inte till vidskepelsens upphovsplats, eller fann den obetydlig i sammanhanget (som ju var ‘bra saker som Nero gjorde’)
– S. tog fasta på att de krestna inte främst dömdes p.g.a. branden, utan p.g.a. ”mänsklighetshat” (odio humani generis convicti sunt), och dessutom är hans tes (vilken han bland tidiga författare är ensam om att vara så kategorisk med) att Nero öppet beordrade branden (Nero 38; jfr dock Annales 15:38 – ”osäkert om genom en slump eller genom furstens elakhet”).
– S. uppger inte heller att förföljelser förekom utanför Rom
– Ibland gör de båda författarna olika trovärdighetsbedömningar trots samma källäge, och trots att Suetonius torde ha känt till Tacitus skiljer de sig stundom åt (t.ex. Suetonius Nero 34.4 jfr Tacitus Annales 14.9, Suet. Tiberius 61.4 jfr Annales 6.19, Suet. Nero 35.3 jfr Ann. 16.6, samt jfr de fullständiga beskrivningarna av Neros mors död i Ann. 14 och Suet. Nero 34).

Slutsats

Det kan inte uteslutas att Suetonius använder Tacitus källa, eller att de använt samma källa. Man kunde kanske ha förväntat sig att S. skulle nämna branden, särskilt för att understryka att Nero var så ond att han straffade oskyldiga; dock tycks S. ha uppskattat straffandet av de kristna, och de var sannolikt inte så populära att läsarna hade tyckt mer illa om Nero för att han skyllde branden på denna vidskepliga grupp. De olika ordvalen (”folket kallade”, respektive ”människoklass”, ”fördärvlig” respektive ”skadlig”) tycker jag dock talar emot att S. använt T., och för en gemensam källa.

S. B. G.

A Guest Post and an Appetizer on The Shared Agonies of Vitellius and Jesus

Inom kort kommer jag att publicera en intressant artikel som jag har skrivit tillsammans med D. Blocker. Jag kommer dessutom att låta publicera en längre artikel som han har skrivit och till dess att dessa båda artiklar är klara, låter jag återge ett mycket kort utdrag ut den artikel som Blocker själv har skrivit och vars ideer är hans egna och inte nödvändigtvis mina. Detta är ännu blott ett utkast.

I am co-authoring a very interesting essay together with David Blocker, and also plan to host an essay by a guest author in the near future. Here is a very brief excerpt from the guest essay. It is still in the rough draft stage, but it will hopefully still be enjoyable. Needless to say, I do not necessarily agree with everything said.

And I might also give the quotation from the Gospel of Luke:

“And there appeared unto him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)

The shared agonies of Vitellius and Jesus.

There is a remarkable literary resemblance between Jesus’ Agony in the Garden (Luke 22:44) and the arrest of Jesus the failed Messiah (Luke 22:50), and the Agony in the Palace and the arrest of Vitellius the failed Emperor (see below, Tacitus, Histories, 3. 84.  See also Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Vitellius 16-17).

Both suffered misgivings and fear after a leadership crisis, both were deserted by their followers, both were captured by a Roman tribune leading a cohort.  One of their captors had his ear cut off.  Jesus one-upped the Roman emperor by rebuking the assailant and healing the ear.  Both Jesus and Vitellius were stripped of their clothing and then lead away to be mocked and killed.

Jesus was crucified between two “thieves”.  Vitellius is shown where two prior claimants to the Imperial throne died.

Both Vitelllius and Jesus summon up a final dignity and die with a memorable quotation on their lips.

Most early manuscripts do not contain Luke 22:43-44 * indicating that it is a later interpolation into the canonical text.  This suggests a Lukan redactor was trying to address two audiences.  An unsophisticated audience would hear only of Jesus’ noble suffering, while a sophisticated Roman reader would see the parallel drawn between Jesus’ arrest and the ignominious capture of Vitellius.

Would it be going too far to say that this passage was a subtle warning to well informed members of Roman society not to take Christian anecdotes too seriously?

From: Tacitus’ Histories:

[3. 84] When the city had been taken, Vitellius caused himself to be carried in a litter through the back of the palace to the Aventine, to his wife’s dwelling, intending, if by any concealment he could escape for that day, to make his way to his brother’s cohorts at Tarracina. Then, with characteristic weakness, and following the instincts of fear, which, dreading everything, shrinks most from what is immediately before it, he retraced his steps to the desolate and forsaken palace, whence even the meanest slaves had fled, or where they avoided his presence. The solitude and silence of the place scared him; he tried the closed doors, he shuddered in the empty chambers, till, wearied out with his miserable wanderings, he concealed himself in an unseemly hiding-place, from which he was dragged out by the tribune Julius Placidus. His hands were bound behind his back, and he was led along with tattered robes, a revolting spectacle, amidst the invectives of many, the tears of none. The degradation of his end had extinguished all pity. One of the German soldiers met the party, and aimed a deadly blow at Vitellius, perhaps in anger, perhaps wishing to release him the sooner from insult. Possibly the blow was meant for the tribune. He struck off that officer’s ear, and was immediately dispatched.

[3.85] Vitellius, compelled by threatening swords, first to raise his face and offer it to insulting blows, then to behold his own statues falling round him, and more than once to look at the Rostra and the spot where Galba was slain, was then driven along till they reached the Gemoniae, the place where the corpse of Flavius Sabinus had lain. One speech was heard from him showing a spirit not utterly degraded, when to the insults of a tribune he answered, “Yet, I was your Emperor.” Then he fell under a shower of blows, and the mob reviled the dead man with the same heartlessness with which they had flattered him when he was alive.

“to defend the law with their own blood and with their noble sweat in the face of sufferings unto death” (4 Macc 7:8) might be the literary inspiration for Luke 22:43-44.

D. Blocker ,  2005-2011

Footnote:

* From footnote F483, NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, The Lockman Foundation, PO Box 2279, La Habra, CA 90631, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995.